May 11 2013

Another Criterion pick: The Bicycle Thief is realistic desperation

maureen

May 8 SPOILERS

The Bicycle Thief, directed by Vittorio de Sica, was filmed on the streets of Italy in 1948 using mostly non-actors and Roman street settings. Considered a classic of “neorealism” the film is a social commentary on the effects of poverty and defeat. The economy has tanked, and the nation is recovering from Mussolini and from being on the losing end of World War II. De Sica points an unwavering lens on the reality of soup lines, unemployment, tight apartments in decaying neighborhoods, stressed, reactive sniping and scrambling for position. Everywhere there is evidence of a fraying, hungry culture. Continue reading


Dec 29 2012

Law and grace in Les Miserables

maureen

SPOILER ALERT

Les Miserables is a study in the conflicting motivations of law and grace.

Paroled after twelve bitter years of imprisonment for stealing bread to feed his family, Jean Valjean meets people who are pivotal in setting him on the course of grace. First Monseignor Myriel offers him forgiveness and protection even though the desperate Valjean steals from his church. In doing this he reflects redemptive, magnanimous grace that changes the course of Valjean’s life. In his new life Valjean supports the principles of grace and compassion, but has not fully integrated his attitude into his business practices.  He must face the consequences that his negligence has on Fantine. Continue reading


Nov 23 2012

Lincoln is profoundly human

maureen

Lincoln centers on the political maneuverings surrounding the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln is portrayed as a real politician who was willing to play the political game in order to get what he wants. Human beings who support good causes are still human beings. Even an idea so pure and profound as “liberty for the captives” in the hands of politicians, even Abraham Lincoln, must be accomplished through bribery, deception, and compromise.

Lincoln is populated with flawed people who are keenly aware they are living in historic times. Lincoln is concerned with getting the amendment passed. Tommy Lee Jones’ sardonic Congressman Thaddeus Stevens is concerned with the message the amendment communicates. He tries to hold true to his ideal of equality, but ends up misrepresenting his true beliefs in order to appeal to less radical Republican factions who want assurances that free does not really mean equal. They fear that free slaves might one day get the vote. Others are concerned with ending the war and vote based on whether they think passing the amendment will hasten or delay its end. And each considers how his actions and beliefs will be perceived by his constituents. Continue reading


Dec 8 2011

Admonitions to love the misfits from Dan Pearce and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

maureen


Yesterday a couple of people I know reposted the same article on facebook entitled I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay . Despite the title, the author, Dan Pearce, is not issuing an indictment against the prejudices of the Christian Church but rather a call to love others. Even if we disagree with another’s beliefs or lifestyle, even if we don’t like something about another’s cultural or religious practices, Pearce contends that hatred is not an appropriate response and does not reflect the nature of Jesus. In fact he lists admonitions to love from every major religion.

Pearce also lists groups of people who are frequent victims of rejection and disgust: “gay people, people who dress differently, people who act differently, fat people, people with drug additions, people who smoke, people with addictions to alcohol, people with eating disorders, people who fall away from their faiths, people who aren’t members of the dominant local religion, people with non-traditional piercings, people who just look at you or me the wrong way.” Maybe it’s because it’s Christmastime but as I read through Dan’s list I had this vision of the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. As a sometime inhabitant of the Island I appreciated Dan’s passion and kindness. Continue reading


Mar 15 2011

Fables and Proverbs in Please Give

maureen


SPOILERS. What are our motives for charity? Does giving out of guilt cancel out the good we do? Nicole Holofceners’ award-winning screenplay explores motives behind acts of charity with Please Give. She may not have intended them but I saw lots of little fables in her storytelling.

Kate and her husband Alex run a trendy mid-century furniture store on 10th Ave. They purchase items at estate sales for a fraction of what they make reselling them.  Alex gleefully explains to customers who ask where they get their stuff, “we buy them from the relatives of dead people.” Business is good enough for Kate and Alex to purchase the apartment of their 91-year-old neighbor Andra so they can expand their home after she dies. Kate feels so guilty that much of her life hinges on the grief of others that she becomes obsessed with charity.

Continue reading