“The Zookeeper’s Wife”, directed by Niki Caro and written by Angela Workman, is another story of local resistance to Nazi occupation, and of the moral dilemmas people face when a foreign enemy knocks on the door. Th film is based on the non-fiction book by Diane Ackerman.
As the film opens, Jan Zabiniski (Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife Antonina (Jessica Chastain) run the bucolic zoo in Warsaw in the late summer of 1939. Antonina makes a great show of greeting visitors, and the animals have the run of their lives. One night she interrupts a party to help an elephant deliver a baby (that is, bring the baby to life).
On September 1, 1939, the Nazi Blitzkrieg arrives with sudden aerial bombardment. Animals escape and the family has to prepare to endure. But the Nazi zoologist Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl) draws her into a discussion of saving the zoo by using it as a breeding farm. Externally, there is a lot of talk about the Nazis as legitimate permanent political authority, that will persist “when the war is over”.
But soon the family’s Jewish friends take shelter in own their property, out of sight of the Nazis. One of them has an insect collection, and kids draw “cave art” with fingerpainting in the basement. The city is divided into “free” and ghetto. Then the Jews are transported East and the ghetto is torched. Eventually the family secretly shelters over 300 people.
The film traces the family through all of World War II until the Soviets take over occupation after the end of the war.
The film may seem politically relevant today, as some faith-based groups resist the new anti-immigration crackdown by providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants in the U,S.
I visited Warsaw for one day in May 1999, having ridden the train north from Krakow, where I had visited Auschwistz-Birkenau for one day.
“Song to Song” is another mediation by Terrence Malick. Set in and around Austin, Texas (mostly), it echoed “The Tree of Life” (2011). The film presents stream of consciousness of the five major characters as soliloquies, as if they were talking to themselves and living primarily for their own worlds.
The main protagonists are two male musicians (BV, Ryan Gosling; Cook, Michael Fassbender) and their women friends (Faye, Rooney Mara;, who has affairs with both; Rhonda, Natalie Portman, who gets involved with Cook, and Amanda, Cate Blanchett, who sees BV). Holly Hunter plays Rhonda’s self-sacrificing mom.
The plot moves along the vertices of this pentagon, and even includes some incidental lesbianism. But BV is the perfect male with zero body fat, in a world where men, like red cardinals, should be noticed for beauty as much as women (although it doesn’t lead the men to gay affairs here).
There is some stuff about the music business, and a threat of litigation over copyright or trademark, in a situation that probably wouldn’t unfold this way in real life.
The scenery is gorgeous (as are the continual outdoor party settings, including probably SXSW). . It moves out from downtown Austin to the Hill Country and probably Lake Travis. It visits San Antonin’s Riverwalk and the Maya monuments in Mexico once. It goes to the Texas Gulf coast, Galveston, a couple times. And key scenes, especially the closing one, are shot on Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg, TX, which I visited a few times when I lived in Dallas in the 1980s.
The music intersperses rock with a brooding classic score, including music from Mahler’s Second Symphony (the third movement scherzo), Ravel, Debussy’s Nocturnes, and Holst’s “The Planets”. There is one surreal animated trip through Saturn’s rings.
“Song to Song“
When and how viewed:
Landmark E St, 2017/3/29, evening, Washington DC, small audience
“Finding Altamira” (2016), directed by Henry Hudson, about challenging religious precepts with science, something quite daring in the 19th Century.
In 1879, explorer Marcelino Sanz de Sautuloa y de la Pedrueca (Antonio Banderas), an amateur explorer, investigates a vaguely known cave in northern Spain. His daughter Maria (Allegra Allen) notices the prehistoric paintings and in time makes the discovery known.
The local Catholic church establishment sees this as a threat, as personified by the Monsignor (Rupert Everett). Pretty soon Marcelino is pilloried and “unpopular” in a way common today for people who don’t go along with their peers. This film certainly seems timely given Donald Trump’s populist strategy and his apparent disdain for science as privileged and elitist.
There is plenty of dialogue about the tension between individualistic rationalism and the ability to “love people”. There are lines to the effect, that God made the world, and created it for his own glory; to maintain otherwise (including questioning the virgin birth) is anathema, to demand excommunication from the church. Even Picasso would see this as “decadent”. Marcelino’s wife, Conchita (Golshifteh Farahani) challenges the monsignor, saying she will place her husband before God but not before “you”.
The cave art is thought to be 35000 years old, maybe Neanderthal.
The piano music background includes Mozart (Sonata 15), Scarlatti (who draws comment), and a transcription of the Prelude to Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde”.
The film has some interesting animation sequences of the bison in the drawings as the child dreams.
The documentary “Ovarian Psycos”, by Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle, aired on PBS Independent Lens on Monday March 28, 2017. Slightly condensed from its 72 minutes.
The film covers the efforts of Latino women in East Los Angeles to motivate other residents in their neighborhood to care more about their homes by organizing informal (non-competitive) bicycle rides through the area.
Some of the women came from the most troubled areas in Central America, like El Salvador.
The film also covered the problems of nutrition – the need for food distribution and healthier foods to counteract Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
One of the rides is whimsically called “clitoral”.
I am reminded of the musical work “A Little Breeze” (“Eine Brise”) for 111 cyclists by Mauricio Kagel. That’s been performed in the streets of Greenwich Village in NYC, not sure about Los Angeles.
“LIFE”, directed by Daniel Espinosa and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, is a monster movie, maybe “The Monster Movie” (a wordmark claimed by “An American Werewolf in London” (1982)). It reminds me not only of the “Alien” franchise (I missed Ripley), but even “The Thing” (1982, especially) and “The Blob”, maybe even “It Crawled out of the Woodwork“. It is not “pro-life” in a narrower political sense.
“Life” also takes place in a confined volume, a space station, with its internal three dimensions and various vaults and locks (rather like a submarine). People working in such an environment indeed need “unit cohesion” and have no privacy. Sam Nunn would notice. But I always wonder if you need Imax and a huge screen for a film that focuses on closeups, however gory. I could have wondered the same thing for “Gravity” (2013).
The premise is simple enough. The crew has custody of a same brought back from Mars. Eventually were are told that this one life form may have destroyed all life there, so it wouldn’t be cool for it to show up on Terra.
Conveniently (for the storytelling), one of the crew starts feeding the sample. What looks amorphous develops gray flaps, and then a mollusk-like structure with tentacles. Then, like “Alien”, it gets arthropod-like mouths (successively enclosed). The monster (like “The Thing”) can take on the appearance of what it has just eaten, or invaded. There are a couple scenes where the tentacles embrace the victims, as if out of gay love, and then “f—“ the prey in both the mouth and rear end, consuming him from within. There is even a follow up scene of vomiting blood in a weightless environment. In the past, a certain Dallas critics named Joe Bob would have said “check it out”.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the pilot David Jordan, and continues a trend set in four of his last five movies, starting with “Nightcrawler” (2014), of having shaved his arms. He hasn’t done a bicycle road racing or swimming movie yet (does he want to play Michael Phelps some day?) The rest of the cast includes Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, and Ariyon Bakare.
If you compare this film to “Alien” (especially the first one in 1979), it lacks the variety of showing landscapes on another planet. In “Alien” we got to see a cave with egg cases, and a mummy of life form that might have been partially silicon-based. In “Alien 3” (1992), I remember that Ripley gets clippers for “private parts”.
In the end, there will be a Hobson’s choice, so to speak, of who returns to Earth. And, unfortunately, it looks like there will be a sequel. But I thought that for “The Thing”.
There weren’t many people in the auditorium when I saw it Saturday afternoon. But Sunday afternoon, I happened to drive by a multiplex on Maryland Route 60 just north of Hagerstown and noticed a very full lot. Very interesting. And I recall a moment standing in line to see Alien in 1979 in north Dallas and seeing a young man who had been horribly burned. The sight stayed in my memory.
Congratulations to Columbia Pictures (Sony) for playing its entire logo.
The music score by Jon Ekstrand opens with a triadic passage (was that G Major) that resembles “Thus Spake Zarathrustra” (Richard Strauss, as starting “2001: A Space Odyessy” (1968)), and the closing credits offer a complete, coherent orchestral tone poem (ending on the same triadic motive, in triumph but then dying away) that deserves concert performance. There are intervening dance-like episodes with a flavor resembling Shostakovich.
“Bwoy”, directed and written by John C. Young, is a suspenseful tale, centered around online chat and Skype sex, and the need for men to allow themselves to become vulnerable in order to help others.
Brad (Anthony Rapp), introduces himself to us with his chat comments through a mobile app mapped to a large desktop in his bedroom. He is 42 years old, blondish, still youthful (sometimes he says he is 39) and says he wants to be a “daddy” to a young man. Pretty soon he hooks up to Yenny (Jimmy Brooks) in Jamaica. Besides providing the opening setting for the first James Bond film “Dr. No” (:Three Blind Mice”), Jamaica is known for its homophobic culture.
It gets pretty graphic, but pretty soon Brad is sending him increasing amounts of money, even allowing one session of emotional blackmail.
But gradually, we learn the circumstances of his life in upstate New York. He works for credit card company as a primary bill collector (that’s not the same as a collection agency, which I worked for in 2003, and the script makes that clear). He’s married to an attentive black woman Marcia (De’Adre Aziza), who would seem to be intervening less than expected. A few years back, he lost his young son to a swimming pool accident. And he seems to have lost his license to practice medicine. So he is scraping by on the contingent job market.
Two thirds into the 85-minute movie, at the point of no return, it seems as though Yenny gets murdered on Skype, right before Brad’s watch. Brad will need to make a dangerous rescue journey, borrowing even more money and getting more deeply into his own debt, to redeem himself as a human being.
This is a movie about risk taking and about exploitation, and about the moral responsibilities that come with privilege. It’s interesting that the movie, screened at Human Rights Campaign in Washington by Reel Affirmations, was also sponsored by DC Center Global, which assists asylum seekers. Right now, unlike the case with refugees, there seems to be no way to host asylum seekers with the normal legal supervision that would mitigate risk; the entire ability to help them seems to ride on social capital.
Randy Shulman authors an interview with Anthony Rapp on Metro Weekly.
“All of Me” (“Llevate mis amores” or “Take my Love”), by Arturo Gonzales Villasenor (Mexico, 2014, in Spanish), pretty much inverts the parable of the Rich Young Ruler.
A group of women at Patronas, Mexico, labor on homemade woodstoves to cook meals and gather water for migrants, who reach for it from the traveling freight train called “The Beast”. They’ve done it since 1995. Most of the migrants come all the way from Central America. Some have stopped out of fear of getting in trouble with the law, but the group still goes on, 7 days a week.
Most of the film, besides showing the harrowing food pickup, comprises interviews with the women. At the film’s midpoint, one of them relates an incident where a boy mangled his foot falling under a wheel. Although they stopped his bleeding, the women found no one would treat him until someone paid for his care. (Sound familiar?) Eventually, the Red Cross took him to a hospital where the foot was amputated and a prosthesis provided.
The women, and a few men, describe the limited economic opportunities of agricultural and manual labor. One of the men got a factory job, hazardous work welding inside pipes, and was still always in debt. One of the women is shown cleaning a pig sty, in front of farm animals who (like “Babe”) don’t yet know they will be eaten.
One woman’s daughter was about to go to college and wanted to become a journalist, but had to face the idea that if the local gangs didn’t like what she wrote, they would come after her and her family.
There are some night scenes, toward the end, in stark black and white, almost recalling the Holocaust.
This is a real food bank. I’m reminded, of course, of Community Assistance (like at Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington VA or the Arlington Food Assistance Center near Shirlington). Volunteering in these activities is safe. Volunteering along an illegal migrant rail route is only for men and women “of faith”, which others don’t have a right to define for them. There is no debate.
All of this, of course, Donald Trump wants to stop. So why can’t Mexico get its own house in order? It’s the rich and the poor, as always.
Much of the film is within sight of Mount Popocapetel, the highest volcano in the country. A high school friend climbed it in 1962 and almost dies on it.
“All of Me“
Arturo Gonzales Villasenor
2014; 2016 US theatrical; DVD pre-book 2017/3/14, DVD street date 2017/4/11
“Beauty and the Beast”, directed by Bill Condon, has a simple enough moral: physical beauty may be skin deep, but real love is soul-deep. I’ve been there before. I heard that speech in 1978.
The film is Walt Disney Studio’s remake of the 1991 play of the setting of the Broadway play, about 1990, by Alan Menken (lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. That in turn is based on the fairy tale by Linda Woolverton. So, we have children’s literature.
When I worked as a substitute teacher, I did an English class (10th grade) where the assignment was to write a fairy tale. One of the boys wrote a tale starting, “Once upon a time there lived a banana”. Imagine where that could go.
In fact, for all the artistry surrounding talking teacups and living heirlooms in a dark castle in medieval France, this sort of classic works better for me on stage, like “Wicked”. Yes, the songs are wonderful.
As for the morality tale, the prince (Dan Stevens) gets transmuted into a beast after he turns away a homeless old hag. He’s really worse off than “the Rich Young Ruler” in the New Testament. In nearby towns (or maybe Paris), Belle (almost out of “Days of our Lives” in the past), played by Emma Watson, has to fend off a suitor Gaston (Luke Evans), who warns her about the fate of spinsters – they drop out of eternity. She runs away to the castle (the climate transmutes from summer to winter without much change of altitude, just like in “The Shack”) and meets the prince, and of course falls in love with him.
So she looks beyond the obvious. I could just pretend that she is attracted to hairy men (after all, Caucasians evolved in colder climates, where that sort of natural selection of a cis-gender manly-looking secondary sexual characteristic might be logical). Maybe he just looks Neanderthal (and it’s possible that Europeans benefited from the best Neanderthal genes, as they took over). Gaston will follow her, with guide Maurice (Kevin Kline), and Josh Gad will play LeFou (sounds like the name of a government teacher). In the final scene, though, Beast changes back. It seems that “smooth” (or “thmooth” – that is, immature) is what is “desirable”, even for men, after all. David Skinner (author of the 1999 essay “Notes on the Hairless Man”) will celebrate in the world of conservatism.
I do recall in the early 1970s, before “My Second Coming” (Chapter 3 of my “Do Ask, Do Tell I” book) a couple of women tried to encourage me to adopt an “alternative” appearance to appeal to them — head shaving, hippy beads, body art — as if I could cover up my physical flaws and get away with it. That confounded my own idea of virtue.
“Beauty and the Beast”
2.35:1 Imax, 3-D
When and how viewed:
Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/3/21, afternoon, small audience
I received, from author Stephen Hawley Martin, a complimentary review copy of his Second Edition (2017) “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”. I think the first edition was in 1995.
The author believes that consciousness generates the Universe and permeates it. Consciousness exists apart from matter and energy – you could wonder if it has anything to do with dark energy, or with unused dimensions in string theory. Consciousness tends to aggregate into concentrates that seek some sort of physical vehicle for expression. Since ultimate conscious entities can make choices, in theory conscious entities – expressed (on this planet at least) with reproductive life forms, oppose entropy, which would cause the Universe to degrade.
Human being (and animal) individual consciousness comes about as genetics and “morphogenetic” influences cause a “soul” or conscious entity to become expressed or “received” by a physical body. Many other sources talk about “free will” and self-awareness as connected to microtubules within neurons able to deal with quantum uncertainties.
Martin’s book, which is a bit random in its presentations style, focuses most on evidence from “near death experiences” or NDE’s, and many examples of reincarnation. He mentions AMORC, or the Rosicrucian Order, as well as the Monroe Institute (20 miles south of Charlottesville VA) which he says the CIA has used to train agents in remote viewing. He cites cases of intelligent people with very little cerebrum matter, and notes that even plants can “behave” despite not having brains.
I think there is a logical question. Do most newborn babies develop a “new” soul, or are most actually reincarnations? If the universe expands infinitely and has infinitely many centers of consciousness, there could be an “infinite series” of reincarnation – but then again, some series will converge! He mentions AMORC’s (Rosicrucian) teaching that typical reincarnation cycles last about 140 years.
The author suggests that homosexuality may result when the person was of the opposite sex in the previous incarnation (although this idea runs the risk of confusing sexual orientation with gender identity or fluidity, very different concepts). It’s all too easy to imagine the “Putin” argument that acceptance of homosexuality can lower procreation (and give returning souls another chance).
He also talks about “life between lives”, as being “what you want”. Some souls “get stuck” as “asylum seekers” and become ghosts. The sites “Afterlife Knowledge” and Mike Pettigrew’s give a geography of the Afterlife. Note the “hollow heavens” available to those with strict religious beliefs; “Focus 27” seems to be the most advanced level. The author notes that a lot of souls got “stuck” after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but not after 9/11, because the deaths were more instantaneous. That would suggest that the way you die does affect your next course in the Afterlife.
The soul life might be the “real life”, whereas earthly life is like a “dream” (as in the song “Row your boat”); In a dream during sleep, you don’t remember how you got there, although you know who you are. This is the concept of Christopher Nolan’s movie “Inception” (2010). Other films worth mention here are “Cocoon” (Ron Howard, 1985), or even the “Chiller”, “The Disembodied” (1957). The appropriate term for a person who has passed away is “discarnate”. We could also ponder “Our Home: Astral City” (2011, Brazil), “What Dreams May Come” (1998, Robin Williams), and “Defending Your Life” (1991).
Martin mentions the “life review” that occurs at time of passage, that seems to give the person access to every moment in his or her life as if on a video. The term reminds me of “content evaluation” in the POD book industry. As evidence of his theory, Martin also notes that people with Alzheimer’s disease often become lucid and get most of their memory back just before they pass on, as if the memory came from a repository of cosmic consciousness.
Martin also talks about Grace as a cosmological concept that matches up with that in the Christian and other faiths, as organizing nature. He explains telekinesis (or maybe self-teleportation as with young Clark Kent in “Smallville”) as instances of “mind over matter”.
He does mention angels a couple times, and I’ve wondered if these are immortal physical beings, or maybe someone like Jason Ritter’s hero character Sean Walker in NBC’s series “The Event“, someone who doesn’t know he is an alien, and almost immortal, until the end. In my own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I play with the idea that a soul could experience another (younger) person’s body through “consolidation” (through a fictitious virus) but the process backfires when one of the persons separates as piece of ball lightning and then reconnects himself.
Martin mentions the Myers-Biggs personality charts (p. 173), and considers himself “INTJ” (introverted-intuitive-thinking-judging), about 2% of the population. I fall into that category (“feminine subjective” by Rosenfels), and can be unpopular, viewed as a spectator rather than a participant.
I think the concept of relation between soul and living person can be put into analogy with a phonograph recording of a performance of a music work. This concept may have been more applicable in the past before the Internet and digital age with cloud storage. But an “instance” recording of a work can wear out (bad styli in the past) and need to be replaced, but the actual work and performance still lives forever. You could even draw a comparison to object-oriented programming, with “classes” and “instances”, where rebirth is “instantiation” (or “construction”).
I have visited the grounds of the Monroe Institute (Aug. 2014), but you have to arrive very early for a one day event. The long sessions with Hemi-Sync require a considerable time commitment. I visited the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose CA in 1975.
Stephen Hawley Martin
“Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”
Mikhail Barynin was in person for the QA for his stunning wilderness documentary “24 Snow” (produced by Egor Makarov), at the SC Environmental Film Festival, presented in partnership with Moscow’s ECOCUP. He spoke only Russian, and a woman translated for him, before a full house at the Carnegie Science Center today.
The film introduces its hero, Sergei, in a remote wildnerness camp with just two wooden cabins, everything weighted with snow, and a temperature of -60 C. We learn he breeds horses for a living, and spends a lot of time away from his family, like a nomad, occasionally visiting Siberian villages.
The dialogue is in Yakut, and the scenario is in the Sakha (northeastern Siberia). The digital photography presents almost extraterrestrial scenery, with mountain ridges that look metallic in color and large lakes and rivers with flowing ice. The ruins of smaller Soviet industrialized towns appear. But there are festivals, and tents set up for kids to play in. The cramped life within cabins and yurts is shown. In the countryside, people do not have electricity
Toward the end there is a disturbing scene where Sergei has to kill some of his horses.
Vladimir Putin has provided economic inducements, including free land, to people who will settle Siberia and live off the land and have big families. One of the biggest motivations for the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law was the idea that speech making homosexuality sound acceptable would further depress Russia’s birth rate. Putin has even called for “procreation days”.