“The Witness”: a Vietnam war amputee examines the NYC murder of his sister in 1964, and the supposed public apathy of witnesses

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Name: The Witness
Director, writer:  James D. Solomon
Released:  2015
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant
Length 88
Rating NA
Companies: Film Rise
Link: url


I remember the newspaper coverage of the murder of Kitty Genovese outside her Queens apartment building at night on March 13, 1964.  I was working at the National Bureau of Standards at the time, on my first job, in what was a somewhat depressing period of my own coming of age. But I would later go to the New York World’s Fair in August, 1964 on the train and meet college friends in the city there.  It was an adventure then, in those pre-Vietmam war LBJ days (about the time of Tonkin).

The film “The Witness” (2015, directed by James D. Solomon) starts out with barebones coverage with black and white stills of the murder, before the narrator, her brother William, gets into his quest to get behind the New York Times account  of the supposed apathy of other apartment residents who heard the screams and witnessed the murder but didn’t even call police.  Bill Clinton would later say that shows we are too much “alone.”

Actually, her attacker returned and attacked her a second time, which is what led to her final death. But William’s gumshoeing reveals complications that question whether the New York Times presentation of personal apathy was itself a fabrication.

At this point, it’s worth noting the main excuse reported from residents, “it’s better not to get involved.”  Indeed, when to get involved when someone comes knocking (and sharing that person’s risks and shoes) is a tremendous moral issue in a free society. In 2015, my car was struck in a three-way accident caused by another driver.  I was asked by the policewoman if I had tried to attend to one of the drivers.  I hadn’t, since I dialed 9-1-1 and police showed up in two minutes. But you get the drift of the question, even if nothing came of it later.

But William Genovese’s investigation leads to other fascinating leads, giving the film momentum.  He gradually discovers that Kitty bad been both charismatic in her own social circles, and a lesbian, with a girl friend.

In time, the documentary shifts to the narrative of the killer, Winston Moseley, serving life in prison.  He had been sentenced to death, but the capital punishment was overturned. He seems to have been a gifted man intellectually with a crazy streak, to go psychopathic.  There was the idea of racial anger, but his other murder victim had been black.  And he would be apprehended after an alert neighbor did notice a burglary.  He would escape from prison in Buffalo and start a brief reign of terror.  But in prison he would “reform” and try to claim he was going to be good by 1977, earning a degree.

William tries to contact Moseley for an interview, but through Moseley’s son (who does talk to him) he learns of the declination.  The son expresses the bizarre rumor that there is a connection to the Genovese crime family.

Throughout the film, we see William Genovese as a double amputee, without prosthesis, in a wheel chair.  In a flashback near the end, Genovese shows a black-and-white reenactment of the Marine battle in the Mekong Delta where he lost both legs in a blast in 1967.  His buddies came to his rescue, but observers left his sister alone. Nevertheless, he would marry and have children.

Background music included a Grieg nocturne for piano, and the slow movement of a late Beethoven quartet.

The profile of the killer reminds me of the psychology of convicted Maryland killer Jason Thomas Scott  whom I believe could have a connection to the Kanika Powell case in Laurel MD, and possibly Sean Green later in 2008 (story) .    These cases, while still unsolved, deserve full re-investigation, and maybe a documentary filmmaker could help (or maybe NBC Dateline or ABC 20-20).   There’s a Crime Watch Daily short film of the case here. The NBC Dateline show on Scott was called “The Unusual Suspect” (see index).  The obvious concern about “smart” psychopaths, especially “intermittent” in their crime, is that they could be recruited by foreign terrorists.

(Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT)

“Aquarius”: a woman in Brazil holds of greedy real estate developers, while her recovery from breast cancer provides another metaphor

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Name: Aquarius
Director, writer:  Kleber Mendonca Filho
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1 (Cinemascope)
When and how viewed:  2016/10/21 Angelika Mosaic, QA, festival, nearly sold out, large auditorium
Length 142
Rating Not available (would be NC-17, necessarily [because of cancer issues] very explicit in some scenes; this film provides a good argument for why NC-17 should be regarded as legitimate for some content intended for “grown ups”, as did the film yesterday)
Companies: Vitagraph
Link: official

Angelika theaters provided QA with actress Sonia Braga before or after shows of “Aquarius”, by Kleber Mendonca Filho, the new Brazilian drama about an elderly widow fighting off real estate developers who want her to sell her unit in a condo.  She is the last holdout.

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The film is largely “interior” (remarkable when it seems to be shot in true “Cinemascope”) and it’s not clear from the exteriors (in Recife), which building t is – although the script says that it is the two-story building “Aquarius” built in the 1940s as an old-fashioned family resort..  The developer apparently wants to raze the building and replace it with a 60-story luxury high-rise (resembling Miami Beach), an event that would exacerbate the issue of affordable housing in the city.  The film occasionally opens up, to show the coastal city with the divisions of rich and poor, and opens with some black and white historical stills.

But it is metaphor behind the story of the widow Clara (Sonia) that sets up the tricky ending – which may send any homeowner to look at his pest control situation. The film (142 minutes) comprises three parts. “Clara’s Hair”, “Clara’s Love”, and “Clara’s Cancer”, the last of which transfers as a metaphor.

The first part takes place in 1980, at a party, when Clara is a young woman who has undergone one breast removal and chemotherapy for cancer occurring unusually young.  At the time, the use of combination chemotherapy was still relatively new and grueling.  The film, while in still in part one, jumps forward three decades to show Clara fully recovered, able to unwind her hair.

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The middle section sets up some intimate situations, at least two where men come on to Clara and have to deal with discovering one breast gone.  The film obviously makes a statement about sexual attractiveness (of women) after cancer, or after any personal catastrophe (like in the film “Marathon” Oct. 18).  In the meantime, the pressure on her to move increases as the developers encourage loud parties and sex orgies in the unit above.  The film moves into NC-17 territory here. The film also brings in other families, especially several younger men, as well as a character, Diego (Humberto Currao) who has learned how to sell ruthlessness (Donald Trump style) in business school.  (Is this about Making Brazil Great?)

The third part sets up the nauseating (for the developers) conclusion, with the help of Cleide (Calra Ribas).

QA Clips:

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Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM EDT

“King Cobra”: James Franco acts creepy in a gay murder mystery involving a porn business dispute

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Name: King Cobra
Director, writer:  Justin Kelly, book by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway; James Franco produced
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Prime instant video ($6.99 HD rent) was at Reel Affirmations closing night in DC; may have limited theatrical release
Length 92
Rating Not given, but would probably be NC-17; a legitimate art film and dramatic issue-oriented narrative for grown ups.
Companies: IFC
Link: official site


King Cobra”, directed and written by Justin Kelly, is a true story based on the book “Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice” by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway.

The true story is controversial because it eventually provides a biography of actor Sean Paul Lockhart, who played the rule “Chris” in “Judas Kiss” (2011), and Sean’s tangential or accidental involvement in a bizarre murder over a rivalry in the gay porn business.

Partly because I am probably just two degrees of separation from the actor personally, I have to stick to facts, which are well summarized on imdb here.   Harlow (played by Keegan Allen) and Joe (played by James Franco, in probably his creepiest role ever) are serving life terms in Pennsylvania for the murder of rival producer Stephen (Christian Slater), which the film shows near the end, as happening when Harlow visits Stephen and feints seducing Stephen.  That’s the way to die, when your last memory is erotic.  The murder scene actually seems a little bit motivated by Hitchcock, especially “Psycho”.  Lockhart, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, had no prior knowledge of the murder plot and, although held by police briefly, was never charged and helped convict the other two men (as in imdb story).  The movie ends happily for Sean as his adult film career resumes.

The story involves a couple of interesting legal points.  When Stephen grooms Sean into the porn industry, he gives Sean the stage name of Brent Corrigan, and then trademarks the name. When Sean wants to go out and work on his own, Stephen litigates for trademark infringement.  Yes, in some industries “stage name” of a performer is very important for the business model to work, and performers and artists need to know this.  Sean, however, threatens to tell everyone that Stephen had filmed him slightly before Seann turned 18.  In addition, there’s already a nosey neighbor suspicious of the speculative possibility of child pornography next door.

Sean and Stephen seem about to reconcile, when two other producers (whose story is shown in parallel in the early part of the movie), Joe and Harlow, want to hire Sean as “Brent Corrigan”, setting up the rivalry that provides a motive for murder.

The film is now available on Amazon Instant video.  I missed it at the Reel Affirmations film festival last weekend because of a schedule conflict with a piano concert.

Sean does not play himself; rather Garrett Clayton takes the lead rule with a lot of charisma (but he is just too smooth, even his legs, in the opening scene, hinting at one of the plot twists).

The film should not be confused with a 1999 horror film of the same name about a real snake from Lionsgate/Trademark (which I saw in Minnesota).

“Marathon: The Patriot’s Day Bombing” from HBO does a sneak preview tonight in DC

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Name: Marathon: The Patriot’s Day Bombing
Director, writer:  Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Sneak, AFI-Docs, free, Landmarl E St. 2016/10/18
Length :About 100
Rating PG-13?
Companies: HBO
Link: TBD

Tonight, AFI Docs held a special free sneak preview of the HBO documentary “Marathon: The Patriot’s Day Bombing”, directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg.  It will air on HBO in mid November and show in New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

The documentary recreates most of the events of that week in April 2013 as they happened, with high quality video.  This includes the two bombings twelve seconds apart, with explicit scenes of the carnage;  then video of the shooting at MIT Thursday night, of the call from a convenience store after the carjacking, the shootout in Watertown, and the capture of Jahar.  Video shows the Tsarnaev brothers just before the bombing. Jahar is shown in his jail cell later.

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But, unlike “The Thread” (see Index), which focuses on how technology helped find the bombers, this film focuses on the hundreds injured, and the seventeen who lost limbs.

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Several of these men and women were in the audience, with prosthetic limbs,two with service dogs, one of which sat very near me.

There is a scene where the police ask a novice cameraperson to respect the victims and not photograph them on the street.

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The film focuses on the care these civilians get at Walter Reed (formerly Bethesda Naval Medical Center, across Wisconsin Ave. from NIH), from military surgeons.  It is normally very difficult for civilians injured by war-like injuries in terror attacks to get military care.  This observation would apply to the Pulse attacks.  The civilian patients bond with the military casualties, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have multiple amputations and incredible disfigurement.

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The love story of one couple, both who lost limbs, was difficult to watch.  I don’t like to use the word “victims” when others influenced by foreign ideology go to war with us as if we were personal enemies.  I personally process this as “casualty”, but I did go through the Vietnam era draft, although I didn’t go into combat.    But the willingness of people to form and keep intimate and marital relationships when challenged by unforeseeable adversities is important to resilience against potential enemies.  This is a personal issue for me, but I’ll take that up soon elsewhere.

At the end, the film covers the death penalty deliberations and sentence handed to Dzhokkar Tsarnaev under federal law (in a state that does not have the death penalty).

The QA was followed by a 7-minute short film “Wicked Strong: A Walter Reed Story

QA 1:

QA 2: In response to my question about availability of military medicine to civilians after terror attack (I also mentioned Pulse); and on the importance that healthy young adults have health insurance because it can happen to anyone (the young man in Central Park July 3). Health insurance often covers basic prosthetics but not specialized limbs for running or water use (as in a scene in Florida).  Prosthetics last about eight years before needing replacement.

Wikipedia attribution link;  by Anna frodesiak CCSA 2.0

Wikipedia attribution link second map  CCSA 3.0?

(Posted: Tuesday: October 18, 2016 at   11:45 PM EDT)

 

DC Shorts tackles “Technology Addiction”: Top films are “Rated”, “Video”, and “Get the F__K out of Paris”

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Monday night, September 12, 2016, DC Shorts held one of its “Tackling the Issues” film sets, “Technology Addiction”.  It was shown at Landmark E Street cinema in one of the larger auditoriums, about half full.   In the QA the comment was offered that some films are not online yet because other festivals will not accept them if they can be found online (although DC Shorts will, and has an online festival).

The longest film was “Modern Love”, set in Montreal (bur in English) by director Nicolas Beachemin (20 min), with QA.   A blond, already furrowed 28-year-old connects with a young woman with a blind dating app.   Over time, various circumstances hinder their meeting (like her dropping her not life-proofed phone in soapy water).  But sometimes your love is closer to you geographically than you think.

The best film of the night is one of the next two.

Rated”, by John Forston (QA), 19 minutes,a delicious satire,  presents a typical San Fernando Valley family (played by Forston’s own wife and kids) where one morning every adult has a “YRLP” rating floating in the ether above their head, visible to all.  John’s wife got only 2-1/2 stars and finds herself discriminated against as a parent at a school meeting and the by a local restaurant, which will admit only those with 4-star ratings or more.   In the QA, Forston says he was inspired to make the film by the fact that Uber lets drivers rate consumers (as does Airbnb,  I think), which means that some consumers could find themselves cut out of the markets even as customers.  It’s obvious to draw a parallel in this film to past racial segregation.  But the idea could extend to excluding people from “life” for “cosmetic” reasons, like overweight, or having too much or too little body hair, or even something like “B.O.”.  The film could also be viewed as an extension of the idea of “online reputation”, which affects small businesses even more than people because of user reviews.

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Video”, by Randy Yang, appears to be shot in Washington DC, perhaps near Logan Circle.  A white woman, and young lawyer, berates a homeless black man selling stuff on the street.  (Actually, he really wasn’t panhandling.) Two young black women videotape her and threaten to post it on YouTube immediately (using the “Capture” app).  The threat that the video could go viral would threaten the white woman’s chance to make partner in the firm.  The two women try to blackmail her to get the video deleted.  There ensues some conversations about how white people perceive black people, especially women, visually.

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So Good the See You” annoys me as a greeting in social happy hours, and here it is a comedy (10 min) by Duke Merriman on not so radical hospitality.  A couple from Manhattan visits old friend Zoe at a party in Westchester, perhaps Scarsdale.  An overheard cell phone call ruins everything, leading to a confrontation reminding me of Roman Polanski’s “Carnage”, although the vomiting was kept off camera.

Get the F__k out of Paris”, by Greg Emetaz, presents a “Survival Mom’s” idea of impending apocalypse.  Doing laundry in a ritzy area near the Seine, a young woman gets a text message from a friend in the CIA that at midnight, every cell phone in Paris is going to explode.  What really happens at midnight?  The film has some structural concepts like the short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is” in my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book. (treatment ).  The film also fortuitously (if accidentally) capitalizes on Samsung’s flammable Galaxy battery recall (WSJ story).

Syrah”, by Mike Holt (4 minutes) is a comic version of Siri, with a slightly middle Eastern flavor, albeit in the Bronx.  One of the characters looks like “Jaws” from the Hames Bond movies.

Life Smartphone” by Chenglin Xie, 3 min, China, animated, speculated what happens if everyone simply lives inside their own smartphones.  The animation resembles Danganronpa somewhat.

Still pictures: Volunteer activity at AATP “Meal Pack” Monday on Mall, and “Donald Trump”.

(Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 10:30 AM EDT)