THE POPCORN REEL EDITOR'S DESK - a
weekly word about the movies
OCTOBER GOES OUT IN STYLE: THIS IS THE WEEKEND OF FILM WEEKENDS
Monday, October 23, 2006
This Friday three films open in wide release
across the United States that are sure to stir up a lot of discussion.
October has been a very busy month in North America with at least 50 different
films opening this month alone. It is this particular Friday the 27th,
though, the Friday before Halloween arrives, that will surely have audiences
talking about these three films.
"The Bridge" is a chilling documentary about suicide and depression and their intersection at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Eric Steel has already come in for harsh criticism by local officials in San Francisco and other areas for the filming of 24 people who jumped to their deaths in 2004 from the bridge. This film is one heck of a powerhouse -- and while it will turn off many viewers because of the cameras capturing actual suicide jumps into the watery grave of the San Francisco Bay below, it presents an excellent starting point for an honest and meaningful exploration of the conditions of mental breakdown and illness, courtesy of the late loved ones' relatives in some wrenching interviews. Not for the faint of heart, but worth 90 minutes of your life.
"Death Of A President"
"Death Of A President" directed by Gabriel Range, is a film that has had Britain buzzing for the last month or so. Its audiences have been raving at the too realistic film docudrama which portrays the controversial and highly provocative dramatization assassination of U.S. president George W. Bush outside a Chicago hotel in October 2007. "Death" has been playing on television in Britain via Channel Four, which made the film. As for audiences stateside, there has already been a buzz even before its release -- from people, the film's website points out, who haven't seen the film yet. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York State has called the film "despicable", while actor-director Kevin Costner says that "it's awfully hard if you're his children, his wife, his mother, his dad; there's a certain thing we can't lose as human beings, which is empathy for maybe the hardest job in the world. Whether we think it's being performed right or not, we can't, like, wish . . . or think that's even cute."
Mr. Costner is right -- but some people might use many of the actor-director's words and apply them to those loved ones who have been lost to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the horrors of 9/11/01, and to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. The film "Death" should be given a chance. No one is wishing or hoping for the death of any head of state no matter how much one may agree or disagree with that particular dignitary. But "Death of A President" should be given a chance -- a chance for viewers who actually see the film -- to make up their own minds about it.
"Deliver Us From Evil"
"Deliver Us From Evil" is probably the year's best documentary. Amy Berg, its director, spent five months interviewing Oliver O'Grady, a convicted priest and rapist of young children and older adults for the film as part of an examination of the Catholic Church's willful cover-up and protection of O'Grady, who over many years was shuttled from parish to parish by church higher-ups in Northern California each time allegations and investigations about his sexually abusive conduct arose -- and he continued to rape and molest kids as young as nine months old when he was shifted to a new parish each time. The film is shocking and heartbreaking and reminds us that the institutions that many supposedly trust -- corporations safeguarding your money, churches, etc., are anything but above board in some instances -- they cannot be trusted -- as Enron and Cardinal Roger Mahoney demonstrate. Both of those are mentioned in "Deliver", but the main focus is Mahoney, who like the rest of those in the know in the Catholic Church, helped abuse the trust of hundreds of thousands by lying and arguably perjuring himself before a court. Berg's film provokes deep anger and thought, which can only help the attention that it's getting right now.
When you add Stanley Nelson's "Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple", a remarkable documentary, to these films, you get a sense that October is one of the best months of 2006 for films, filmmakers and audiences.
Omar P.L. Moore
The Popcorn Reel
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