2 Knock Out Films

So what are they?  Where to Invade Next and Room.  One doc one fiction and both tremendous.

Michael Moore has taken his boat ride to Cuba with 9/11 rescuers who couldn’t get adequate medical care in their own country and find what they need in Cuba, from Sicko, and made that gesture into a film. Did you know Italian workers can get 8 weeks of paid vacation time/year, 5 months of maternity leave, paid, and a 13th month of salary routinely? Did you know that half of the members of corporate Boards of Directors have to come from the workers in Germany? Or that Finland is far ahead of the U.S. in achieving educational goals by spending less time in school, requiring little or no homework, having no standardized testing, and relying on innate curiosity to drive students to learn?

How about Norway’s prisons, even for murderers, where prisoners have apartments with their own keys and freedom of movement as they learn how to become responsible member of society? Or Slovenia’s free university education for anyone, including foreign students? (It’s just one of dozens of countries to do so.) Or the gourmet meals Moore enjoyed in France, 3 or 4 courses, with scallop appetizers and fantastic main courses, followed by cheese and desert, not at a restaurant, but at a middle school? Or the Constitutional right to equity that women enjoy in Tunisia but not in the U.S.?

The list goes on. Moore has gone to numerous countries, not to expose their corruption and failures but what they do right. And they do a lot that we don’t even know about, even though in many cases, the idea first came from here. Penchants for insularity and attitudes of superiority have cost us dearly. Presidential candidates lie about our greatness when most of the industrial world, and beyond, is doing better than we are with such basic issues as health, education and welfare. The film is a genuine eye opener and could easily form the platform base for Hillary or Bernie, if they were brave enough to say we can actually learn from people different from ourselves.

Room is a different kettle of fish. A young woman and her five year old son have been confined to a single room for seven years when the film begins. We learn she’s been abducted and help captive, that her son has no clue what the rest of the world is like. It is, in fact, only the pretend world he sees on TV, and the view from the too high to reach skylight is like the Reality that Plato’s prisoners fail to turn around to see.  But they are not duped by illusions; they are held captive by a pervert.

The film’s power resides in 1) the fact that much of it is told from the pov of the five year old boy who is just beginning to grasp what lies beyond his room, 2) the incredible performance by Brie Larson as the fiercely protective mother of a son whose father is not to be spoken of, trusted, or believed for a moment, and 3) from the totally not fairy tale aftermath to freedom when Joy and Jack, the captives, must contend with friends and family and media that cannot comprehend or accept what these two brave souls have gone through. The film packs a visceral punch far beyond that of most films. It hits at our wounds from childhood and how we are all trapped inside the rooms and stories we are given and create. It forces us to ask how hard are we willing to struggle to escape, what price we are willing to pay, with what risk to body and soul? It’s no wonder Larson is up for an Oscar and very likely to win, but even more, this is a film up for consideration as one of the most painful, probing, disturbing, and emotionally powerful films of recent years.  It operates in a zone far beyond the formulaic dimensions of the otherwise truly best films of the year, Spotlight,  The Big Short and Revenant. And, perhaps because of that, it’s not an Oscar nominee, but it is one  of the most memorable films I’ve seen in quite some time.

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Primaries and Primates

They’re all primates, these candidates, even if some don’t seem much more evolved than our evolutionary predecessors. But they all have a way of tapping into hopes and fears, for better or, more often, for worse.

The Republican candidates are a gang of teen-age trouble makers, eager to mock their elders (one of whom has already been elected President), denounce their peers, and denigrate their opponents. No integrity, decency or wisdom limits their thoughts. They are invincible, invulnerable, immortal, and dumb as all teens with a not yet fully formed brain are, especially males (and some females, think Carly) who aspire to be one.

The Democrats have a woman who we’re told we better vote for or else if we ever want to see women burst through this particular glass ceiling (but maybe think Carly again before you get down for that one). We also have a shoot from the hip, tell it like it is outsider who, like some of the Republicans, thinks it’s all rigged and needs radical overhaul, but not dismantling so much as democratizing.

He, Bernie, just won in New Hampshire. And what does Hillary’s camp do? Congratulate him and say how much she looks forward to more intense debate on issues and principles? Nope. More like, Yeah, he won, but it’s only New Hampshire. After she too spent huge amounts of time and money there.  Does that sound a wee bit peevish and disingenuous?  Isn’t that part of her problem: she sounds like she says what’s convenient or opportunistic or what votes have heard before and she thinks they want to hear again.

A news report said, “One troubling sign: Mr. Sanders was the choice, nearly unanimously, among voters who said it was most important to have a candidate who is “honest and trustworthy.””

There you have it in a nutshell. Bernie may not have all the answers and may not have the experience and expertise of a Clinton, but he has heart, and soul, and honesty. And voters can’t get enough of it. And if they start out Republican, they think the bluster puss with New York values has it too. But his racism and elitism and contempt for others will bring him down eventually.

It’s really a question of what can the Democrats do to win back Congress more than how to sweep aside the juvenile delinquents who think they belong in the White House.

All in my humble opinion, of course.