Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

DC Environmental Film Festival

The 25th Washington DC environmental film festival is halfway through its 10 days. I’ve seen a few movies about the wilderness near the Arctic Circle, glaciers and other themes. I enjoy that the movies take you to see very unique spaces all over the world.

However, my favorite movies focus on animals. One took us only two states south of the Nation’s Capital where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)  created a success story with the development of a habitat for Red wolves. The species had been limited to a very few in the mid-1980s and the USFWS moved them into one part of their historic range in North Carolina.

Currently, the reintroduction faces cultural, economic, and biological challenges in Eastern North Carolina. Natures abhors a vacuum and coyotes moved in to the territory and pose a threat if the wolves interbreed with them. Most interesting, the area farmers have issues with the coyotes invading their farms. They want to shoot the beasts and sometimes they end up shooting red wolves instead.

This conflict between people near the wildlife reserve or national park and the animals in the park also occurred in Mozambique. After years of civil warring, the government and several other national governments along with non-profits focused on conservation worked to reestablish Gorongosa National Park. In this case, the planning has focused on the huge park and all the farmers surrounding its borders. Efforts have been made to help those people improve their living conditions by helping them earn money and farm more profitably.

As the panelists after the movie stated this is the new way of approaching conservation, taking the entire ecosystem into account, including people outside the protected area. It seems to be working and is something that the USFWS and other agencies of the US government ought to consider when they try to save species. You need to win over the local population to the effort.

Tale of Cranes, Wolf-Dogs and the Rescue Community

The new documentary The Wound and The Gift is an  excellent depiction of the relationship between man and animals. Using an old Japanese folk story as a framing device, the movie reveals how some people have made attempts to treat members of the animal kingdom with the respect that they deserve.

The movie focuses specifically on what it sees as the major transformation in our relationship with animals through the growing “Rescue” movement. All over the world, people are saving the lives of animals that were bred for profit, abused, or sold on the black market.

By showing people who care for a wide variety of animals, from wolf-dogs to thoroughbred horses, to a Colorado sanctuary for everything from lions to bears, the movie raises questions about how humans live in the world without being preachy or didactic.

What’s Love Got to Do With It

Columnist Richard Cohen went to see the new movie Her and came away with a stronger impression of our cultural narcissism. Critics and sociologists and historians have talked about our cultural obsession with ourselves for 50 years. The 70s were the Me generation; great historian Christoper Lasch wrote The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations at the close of that decade.

The awareness of our navel gazing is nothing new but the movie adds a twist; our ability to use technology to serve this purpose. It seems to provide a cure: we can all have our own personal technological male 0r female to serve our desires! Cohen provides several examples that embody this self focus, including selfies, watching only a cable network that provides the information you want to hear (Fox, MSNBC). He also adds that Americans have about 70 million dogs and 74 million cats and, says “…while some of them are for helping — guard dogs, etc. — most offer the service of uncomplicated affection.”

The animal companionship item is an odd example to demonstrate narcissism.In fact, it demonstrates our need to be related to others and the joy we receive from that connection. People with animals know that you spend a fair amount of time fulfilling their basic care needs. Other time is spend playing with them and showing them affection. We have relationships with the animals. We love watching them be themselves, and get an amazing amount of joy out of the things that they do. That’s far from narcissistic and someone who has a pet for their own glorification is providing a great disservice and missing out on so much.

Hollywood Oscars 2013

Since the nominations for the awards came out, I’ve been trying to see as many of the movies as possible. Last night, Silver Linings Playbook was sold out at the first theater I went to so I rode my bike across the city to a much smaller cinema and had a great time.

The critics and audiences have loved this movie. Stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence received nominations. So did Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver for their supporting roles. David O. Russell got a nod for best director too.  The movie is a romance for our times.

It’s great to see a movie that features working-class people and does not make fun of them. Usually diseases and mental instability are in a Lifetime, movie of the week problem film, or the ill person is a killer or sociopath. This movie tries to deal with the struggles honestly. I don’t think his being bi-polar would have manifested itself as it did in the movie but that’s a minor issue. I also thought Lawrence was a little young for a woman with the amount of experience in life that her character was supposed to have.

What intrigued me the most is how the characters acted out on their issues. Cooper’s character expresses violence, a culturally acceptable behavior for males when expressed in certain environments, like a boxing ring or football field. Lawrence’s character has sex with people, attempting to get them to like or at least accept her. In both cases, the character is acting out of frustration and their actions only enhance their frustration and alienation.

 

Film Society and Moonrise Kingdom

Love belonging to the DC Film Society. You get the chance to see new movies just before their big release.

the line for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom was over 200 people long and filled the entire bottom of the waiting area. I didn’t think we were going to get in. But we got in and got seats in the fourth row up. Didn’t have to strain the neck to see.

The movie is well-acted and beautifully filmed. Bruce Willis is funny as is Jason Schwartzman and Ed Norton.

Those who love Anderson will enjoy this movie for its otherworldliness.

The critics loved it, scoring a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes; audiences gave it less but a still high 87%.

I didn’t think it had anything to say about the world, life, or anything else. The director has made this kind of movie before and I think it’s time to stretch boundaries and try to comment on the world.

Outrage: Documentary Few Saw

Outrage: the actions of closeted homosexual, gay, bisexual and lesbian politicians who vote against any legislation that advances the rights and offers benefits to gay people, including gay marriage, benefits, equal protection under the law, gays in the military.

Outrage: closeted homosexual, and out gay, bisexual and lesbian politicians political operatives who run political campaigns that demonize homosexuality and strike fear into people in order to have their candidates win elections.

Outrage: the energy that motivates certain reporters and bloggers to report on the closeted political figures who are hypocritical because they demonize gay and lesbian people.

Outrage: what viewers might feel as they watch the movie Outrage

http://youtu.be/NaTsmXaw5NQ

The argument is that these repressed people with homosexual desires attack the gay, lesbian community more in order to be seen as not gay or lesbian. There is some validity to this, especially for people who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. The outing is a fight back method to force these politicians to end their hypocricy. The belief is that if everyone comes out then it will be harder for people to be anti-gay/lesbian.

There are interesting questions about the psychology of these politicians and political operatives but also about the people who marry them and what there lives must be like being with someone who is leading a double life.

What works less successfully are:

The movie does not address the page scandal that rocked Congress in the early 1980s, virtually forcing Congressman Gerry Stubbs to come out. Nor does it discuss Congressman Bob Bauman and his arrest for attempting to solicit sex from a male prostitute. These would have been interesting to establish context and to discusds how difficult it is for some people to come out.

whether being a Republican means more as an identity to these politicians and political operatives than being gay or lesbian. One could argue that the politicians are being hypocritical but also are Republicians who believe in most of the party’s creed. They care less about their gay identity, if they even have such an identity.

whether the politicians can vote against these laws because they view the laws as having no effect on their daily lives as opposed to the effect that coming out would have on their lives.

America Needs the Arts

Monday night, Kevin Spacey told a thousand people at the Kennedy Center that the United States needs the arts.

The arts, dance, painting, poetry, writing are the life blood of the nation. They are the culture, the culture that plays everywhere throughout the world. The movies that everybody loves. The books that they read. The television shows that keep them at home.

The actor quoted politicians ranging from Kennedy to Nixon, all of whom realized the importance of the arts. Winston Churchill when told that cuts needs to be made in the arts in order to pay for World War II, said, “Then what are we fighting for?”

Members of the audience went to Capitol Hill to talk with representatives and senators to argue for the importance of arts spending for the National Endownment for the Arts.

As the organization Americans for the Arts summarizes the events.

Congressional Arts Kick Off:

Who: Speakers at the Congressional Arts Kick Off include:

  • Hill Harper, film and television actor and author
  • Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts
  • Charles Segars, Ovation CEO
  • Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Committee
  • Kevin Spacey, Academy Award®-winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre
  • Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Senate Cultural Caucus
  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will receive the 2011 Congressional Arts Leadership Award. In addition, there will be a special performance by James Schlender, 2011 VSA International Soloist Awar Recipient
What: The Congressional Arts Kick Off marks the official start of the Arts Advocacy Day events on Capitol Hill.  The Congressional Arts Leadership Award will also be presented at the Kick Off.   The award, which recognizes distinguished service on behalf of the arts, is part of a series of Public Leadership in the Arts Awards given annually by Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors.
When: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
RSVP is essential for press coverage.
Please contact Catherine Brandt at cbrandt@artsusa.org.
Where: Cannon Caucus Room
345 Cannon House Office Building
Why: This high-energy event is always full of great, unexpected comments and sound bites.  This year will be no exception.


Special Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee:

Who: Witnesses providing testimony at the hearing include:

  • Alec Baldwin, Emmy Award®-winning TV, film and stage actor
  • Elizabeth Kautz, Mayor, Burnsville, MN and President, U.S. Conference of Mayors
  • Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
  • Edgar Smith, CEO of World PAC Paper, Business Committee for the Arts Executive Board Member
  • Kevin Spacey, Academy Award®-winning actor and Artistic Director of the Old Vic Theatre
What: Special Hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
When: Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Press – Please RSVP to Catherine Brandt at cbrandt@artsusa.org.
Where: Rayburn Building
Room 2359, 3rd Floor
Why: Witnesses’ testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior will focus on the importance of the arts to the nation and the need to retain current levels of funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  Their testimony will also underscore the importance of developing strong public policies for the arts and arts education.

Save Yusani: Ecuador’s Amazon

The word spread tonight about the need to save the Yusani National Park. Washington DC’s environmental film festival screened the documentary, Yusani: Two Seconds To Live at the Ecuador Embassy.

Yasuní and oil exploitation
Scientists from all over the world have qualified Yasuní as the zone with the highest biodiversity of the world. Within one hectare of Yasuní, 644 different species of trees have been identified. There are as many different species in one hectare of Yasuní, as there are in the whole of North America.
Yasuní has been declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

This biosphere reserve is also the territory of the indigenous Huaorani people and some tribes who live in voluntary isolation. These are the last free human beings of Ecuador, true warriors who live in the so-called society of abundance, because they only produce the minimum to satisfy their own needs.

The foreseeable impacts of oil exploitation in the park are: contamination, deforestation, destruction of the social fabric, extinction of cultures etc.

Hollywood stars are supporting the initiative, particularly Leonardo DiCaprio and Ed Norton.

Watch a clip here:

This area must be saved. If the ITT initiative works then this type of plan can be used in other countries to preserve environments that benefit the entire world.

I have been to the Amazon in Peru and it was an amazing experience. I can’t imagine that this kind of place with its amazing life could be gone in a generation.

Going Green

What an interesting St. Patrick’s Day. Didn’t see anybody stumbling out of the local bars to puke on the sidewalks.

Going green for me meant seeing a movie at the Environmental Film Festival. Washington, DC has one of the largest environmental festivals in the world, showing movies for twelve days in locations around the city. http://www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org/

Embassies usually show movies that are made in their home country so this one was at the Netherlands modernist building in a ritzy part of DC.

RAINBOW WARRIORS OF WAIHEKE ISLAND, THE

A group of Greenpeace pioneers look back on their lives as environmental activists. Once they belonged to the crew of the famous ship Rainbow Warrior and took part in a series of successful actions until a bomb attack put an end to it…

The movie had a lot of remarkable history about the attempts to stop whalers in the North Atlantic Ocean, to stop the transport of nuclear waste, and to stop the testing of nuclear bombs in the Pacific Ocean.

Most amazing was what these people did to save the natives living on the Pacific Island of Rongelap.

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/rainbow-warrior-bombing/the-evacuation-of-rongelap

Movies, History, Critics

Did you grow up watching Siskel and Ebert? Ever wonder about the power of critics to make or break a movie?

Go see For the Love of Movies an excellent documentary about the world of film criticism from the beginnings of the silent movie to today’s multiplex.

The movie informs you about the people and the scope of the opinions that they wrote in the major newspapers, magazines, fanzines and finally in emags and on blogs.

It is particularly fun seeing clips from movies and learning more about Hollywood publicity. Would have liked to know more about how much money, time and resources is spent on wooing “critics” to come see movies before they are even released to the regular movie critics?

Hollywood has always had its publicity hoopla and its Hollywood bohemians who were promoted in order to sell movies and the movie industry.

Critics lose their mojo and their audiences and new approaches to reviewing movies rise up. This happened in the late 1960s and again in the 1990s. Beside editing like music videos what else changed in the style of movies in the early 1990s that led to a new way of reviewing movies?