Category Archives: film

Cornered

Yesterday, I was walking at an outdoor mall with my husband after attending a poetry reading, enjoying a gorgeous spring day, when two guys approached—one with a big fuzzy mike and the other hidden behind a video camera. An introvert’s greatest fear suddenly leap-frogged into my ordinary day. I frowned at them. But the camera was running, so I moderated my frown. I wanted them to know I didn’t want to be filmed, but they already were filming; I decided I didn’t want to look like a nasty woman on film.

“Hi! We’re from a local university. Can I ask you a quick question?” the one with the mike asked. I didn’t answer. He said, “It’s just one question.” I said nothing, feeling like a stalkee and wanting to stalk away, but that camera was staring me in the face with the guy walking in closer and closer. I was a bug under a microscope. With a pin stuck in it. I thought, What if I can’t answer the question? What if I can’t answer it and it’s a very simple question that everyone should know the answer to? Like those quizzes that show how stupid Americans are. What hemisphere is North America in, the north or the south? Uuuuuh. Duuuuuh. Can you name the capital of Iraq? Uuuumm, how many tries do I get?

I squirmed. I wanted to say leave me alone, go away, get that camera out of my face. Unpin me! I thought of how rude people in Michael Moore movies always look. Rude and stupid—throwing up their hands in front of their faces or trying to hurry away, making everything worse, so much worse. I thought, Michael Moore isn’t here; these guys look nothing like Michael Moore—they’re skinny, they’re young. That didn’t help much. I imagined my face on a big screen and people I know saying, “Oh my God that’s wyrdbyrd; how rude and stupid she looks.”

I uncharitably wished it was my husband who had been cornered. But I’m pretty sure he was sidling away, distancing himself. He was probably having similar thoughts, of the male variety: Do I look rude and stupid? Do I look like a Michael Mooree? Oh God let me out of here; unpin me.

“Do you know who Ron Mason is?” the young man asked and further visions of me appearing before the world, a twenty-foot vision of my clueless face in full digital color, floated into my mind.

“No,” I said in a curt voice meant to cover discomfort and insecurity.

“Thank you, that’s all,” he said, and I fled, pondering Ron Mason. With my haphazard attention to the news, and such an ordinary name, he could be anybody: a scientist who’s discovered a cure for cancer; a surprise candidate for president; the leader of the most famous band in the world; someone who’s been on every television in the nation for the past twelve hours after committing an atrocious act. Someone everyone but me has heard of. I asked my husband, Have you heard of him? No, he said. Well there’s that; If I’m stupid, so is he.

Naturally, I looked up Ron Mason. But not right away—not until today; maybe I wanted to pretend I didn’t care. Turns out he’s a film dude and I sighed a little sigh of relief, thinking these must be film students checking if anyone’s heard of their idol. But not too much relief, because then I imagined my face, wearing my new REI sunglasses, the ever-present groove between my eyes, gigantic on a screen in some classroom, and a bunch of eighteen and nineteen year olds laughing gleefully. And oh yeah, I haven’t had my hair done in five weeks.

But that’s my private face, I want to say to the two men, how dare you commandeer it for your own purposes. That’s my private grey hair peeking out at the roots. Unfair, unfair!

I admit to feeling more sympathy for those people who, cornered, appear rude and stupid and, yes, unattractive, in Michael Moore films. It’s a bit delicious when it’s someone else—particularly someone with obnoxious opinions—but not the least bit of fun when it’s you. I mean me.

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under film, lifestuff

The Chicago 8 (er, I mean 10)

chicago10.jpg

I happened to catch part of Fresh Air in the car today, on my way to meet a friend for lunch. Terry Gross was interviewing Brett Morgen, director of the new documentary Chicago Ten. Now this sounds like an excellent movie. Listen to the interview, or read a little about it, here.

At the end of the interview Morgen says:

The film is set in sixty-eight, but I never thought I was making a film about 1968. I thought I was making a film about today . . . telling a story that is ultimately about the time that I’m living in and the war I’m living through.

What the film is ultimately trying to do is to put a mirror up to the audience and challenge them—to ask them—how far are you willing to go? We’re not suggesting that people need to get beat over the head to make a statement. Ultimately what the film tells you is that each person needs to make that decision for themselves and all we’re doing is asking them to take a moment to ask, Am I doing enough?

Am I doing enough? It’s a question we should frequently ask ourselves. A film that helps us do that is a good thing.

Background, from the NPR site (see link, above):

Outside the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, protesters rallied to show disapproval of the Vietnam War. They hadn’t been granted demonstration permits, however, and for a week, they were involved in violent conflict with Chicago police.

Less than a year later, eight of the protest leaders — the so-called Chicago 8 — were indicted by a federal grand jury on counts of, among other things, conspiracy and incitement to riot. All were eventually found not guilty on conspiracy, but five were found guilty of violating the 1968 Anti-Riot Act. In 1972, those convictions were reversed.

I know an ageless hippie chick who probably knows something about the Chicago Eight (or ten)!

And lunch? Dim sum. Yum. My friend was taking me out to celebrate my birthday and I realized, whilst listening to Terry on the radio, that we have known each other since I was pregnant with my daughter in 1985! How wonderful to have a friend who’s been around that long—we played volleyball together for a long time (until I injured my shoulder thirteen years ago), worked together for eight years, have celebrated one another’s birthdays every February and October. He watched my daughter grow up—in fact, tutored her for her SAT and also in physics. He attended her college graduation in December. He is a true friend! I am so blessed.

– – – – – – – – – –

Finally figured out how to add to the blogroll. Duh. At gartenfische, I use a separate page for my blogs and links, so I had to be really smart and use all my brain cells. I should’ve asked Scout, she could’ve told me. So I’ve got a blogroll! At least the beginnings of one. This is the non-religious blogroll, for the religious variety, see gartenfische.

3 Comments

Filed under film, politics

Christmas Things x 3 Meme

gingerbread.jpg

Tagged by Jan!

What are your three favorite Christmas songs and who sings them?

Of course, I have to start right out cheating. There are so many great Christmas songs that I decided instead to list favorite Christmas albums.

karencarpenter.jpg

Christmas Portrait by the Carpenters (The Carpenters may have been 70s corny, but she had the most gorgeous voice and this is a classic Christmas album—if only they didn’t overplay it in stores at Christmas time)
Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens (Cranky turned me on to this one; I’m lovin’ it)
A Marian Christmas (especially Biebl’s Ave Maria—heavenly!) by the Choir of Trinity College

What are your three favorite Christmas foods?

Fudge with nuts
Grandma’s popcorn balls (which I have never managed to make without them falling to pieces, even with her recipe)
Candy cane cookies (my mother’s recipe, almond flavor—yum!)
Can I also say pumpkin pie, please? (it’s not like we get to eat it all year ’round)

What are three Christmas Secrets?

I’m afraid I can’t think of three. This one is probably similar to everybody else’s. When I was around ten years old, my mother remarried and they went out and spent what must have been oodles and oodles of money on gifts for my sister and I.  Well, Mom “hid” them under a sheet in her room and told us not to look.  Yeah right. My favorite was “Charlie,” a ventriloquist doll. Honestly, I can’t remember what the other gifts were, just that there were a lot of them (shows that spending a lot doesn’t necessarily make it memorable).

What are your three favorite Christmas movies?

The Bishop’s Wife (Cary Grant plays an angel—it’s great)
It’s a Wonderful Life (Jimmy Stewart)
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott)
Little Women (Susan Sarandon, Winona Rider)—cheating again; I have to add one more, though it’s schmaltzy, it’s still a lovely holiday movie.

Now, taggees, if you’re game, are:

Heather, Charlotte, Moonmaid (and YogaMum, if you’re not too bogged down—I hesitate to do this, in case it’s like the straw on the camel’s back, so feel free to say no). I’ve picked people with a lot going on (why did I do that? I dunno. Maybe you need to take a break and think about silly little things for a bit.)

camel2.jpg

4 Comments

Filed under film, food, lifestuff, memes, music, silliness

Salt Of The Earth, 1953

In 1951, while the cold war raged and Joseph McCarthy ruthlessly hunted communists real and imagined, a few filmmakers decided to share the true story of a miners’ strike in New Mexico. There was a hitch, of course: These particular men had been blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Commission. Director Herbert J. Biberman was one of the Hollywood Ten convicted of contempt and jailed in 1947 for refusing to testify about their membership in the Communist Party and against colleagues who may (or may not) have been members.

salt2.jpg

In addition to Biberman, Paul Jarrico (Salt producer), Michael Wilson (writer), and actors Will Geer and Rosaura Revueltas were blacklisted (in 1950); as a result, the film had to be made independently. Even then, they encountered harsh and unceasing opposition, but independence meant freedom from studio agendas and politics. Salt of the Earth simply could not have been made under studio control; it would have been an entirely different movie—dampened and ineffective. The film was created collectively—the typical studio hierarchy thrown out in favor of collaborative decision making.

juan-chacon.jpg
Juan Chacón, union president, lead actor

Other than four professionals, including Revueltas and Greer, the actors were the actual miners, union members and their wives. Male lead, Juan Chacón, was a union leader.

Producer Paul Jarrico, who visited the original miners’ strike in New Mexico (which lasted from October 1950 to January 1952), and came up with the idea for the movie, said, “There was a concerted effort to stop the making of the film. We had started the film in quite a normal fashion with contracts with Pate Lab to develop our film and rental of the equipment from Hollywood, people who supplied such things.

“A whistle was blown by Walter Pigeon, the then president of the Actors Guild. The FBI swung into action and we found ourselves barred from laboratories, barred from sound studios, barred from any of the normal facilities available to film makers.”

The footage was developed secretly, at night, by a sympathetic lab technician and delivered in unmarked canisters. Much of it was edited in an airless women’s restroom in an unused theater outside of Los Angeles.

This is how powerful McCarthy and his crusade was, how the public mood had been influenced: When the crew arrived in Central, New Mexico to begin filming, they were met by a citizens’ committee and ordered to leave town. The following day they moved production to Silver City and were warned to “get out of town . . . or go out in black boxes.” They filmed at a nearby ranch.

During the two months of filming, the filmmakers and crew were continually persecuted. Vigilantes fired shots at the set. Members of the crew were harassed and physically attacked. Planes buzzed overhead. The film-in-making was the source of considerable controversy, protest and later, suppression. Even Howard Hughes was involved, advising the government on methods to hamper the movie’s completion.

Rosaura Revueltas, the female lead and a well-known Mexican actor, was deported before the filming of her scenes was complete.

salt.jpg

Though the film was lauded by the miners’ union, and employed many of those miners, other unions refused to show it because the makers were blacklisted. The powerful International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees ordered its projectionists not to run the film and studios threatened to withhold film bookings from uncooperative theaters. It was denounced by the House of Representatives and the FBI investigated its financing. The American Legion called for a nationwide boycott.

It finally opened in New York City to a huge crowd and favorable reviews, but the opposition in this country was considerable; it was shown only thirteen times before Biberman and Jarrico gave up, taking the movie to Europe, where it was well received, winning awards. It was finally released in the U.S. in 1965.

The movie advocated for workers, Mexican-Americans and women—addressing class, ethnic and gender conflicts largely ignored by the media at the time.

In fact, Salt was one of the first films to address women’s issues sincerely and openly—this, in a decidedly anti-feminist era. The film raises the irony of men fighting for their own rights while treating their wives as second class citizens. In the conservative years following World War II, women were being actively forced back into the home, and the media was playing its part. The women in Salt of the Earth are bold and, though initially submissive, by the end of the film, they stand up for themselves and their families and demand respect. It is a beautiful sight.

Do yourself a favor and watch this phenomenal movie. It will touch you as few do—the emotions are real, not manufactured. It is courageous, as few films are. And problems created by the opposition’s tactics do not detract from its value (these include occasional subpar sound and some mismatched edits because of Revuelta’s forced deportation).

hollywoodten.gif
The Hollywood Ten and their attorneys; director Herbert J. Biberman is front left

This is a ten minute clip in case you’ve got time (here and there, the quality is worse than the movie’s, but it’s a great snippet nonetheless):

And here is an excellent article about the making of Salt of the Earth.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Speaking of McCarthy and blacklisting . . .

High Noon (1952) was written by Carl Foreman and reflects his experiences as a blacklistee in Hollywood. The town marshall, representing Foreman—played by Gary Cooper (ironically, a “friendly witness” for the House Un-American Activities Commission)—is spurned by the town citizens when outlaws (representing the HUAC) arrive to antagonize him.

According to Foreman, “They were either capitulating to these gangsters—political gangsters from out of town—or they were being executed by them here. And I could see that my time was coming sooner or later— it was just being delayed by a couple years or so—and I wanted to write about that. I wanted to write about the death of Hollywood. So all that shaped the writing of High Noon. That was very conscious, see.”

(Not long ago, I wrote a bit on gartenfische about watching HN between puppy distractions.)

– – – – – – – – – – – –

If you haven’t seen it, Good Night and Good Luck, George Clooney’s movie about Ed Murrow’s defiance of McCarthy and his methods, is a worthwhile watch (great music, too).

3 Comments

Filed under film

The Bicycle Thief, Wow

bicycle-thief1.jpg

I can’t explain this whopping oversight. Somehow, I managed to not see The Bicycle Thief until the other night (and no, I’m not five years old, and even took film classes in college). Incredible.  Other than Salt of the Earth, it’s the best social commentary movie I can think of. It reminded me of Salt, with the realism, the shots of ordinary, unglamorous, real people faces. You’ve probably seen it—probably everybody but me has seen it before now—but if not, you’ve got to. It’s a package , of course—the story, the filming, the scenery, but the expressive faces of the father and son make the movie.

Have you seen it? (Of course you have, but if you haven’t, please do.) What’s your favorite movie with a social message? (I realize that’s a limiting term, but hey, you know what I mean.)

bicyclethief7.jpg

bicyclethief6.jpg

 

bicyclethief.gif

Next time . . . a bit about Salt of the Earth, an incredible, beautiful movie from 1956.

3 Comments

Filed under film