Sunday, March 7, 2010

2009 at the movies

  I will be watching the Oscars tonight, and hope I stay awake for the presentation of the Best Documentary.  I am rooting for THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA, the film about Dan Ellsberg which I saw at Goucher College on March 1, 2010.  It is one not to miss.


 Most of my favorite films for 2009 were ignored in the Academy Award nominations. But consider checking them out.


Leslie and Andrew Cockburn gave us a view of foreclosures in Baltimore and elsewhere with AMERICAN CASINO. Everyone is suffers from the Wall Street casino, except for the bankers


 Carey Mulligan in Lone Scherfig’s AN EDUCATION is another girl falling victim to a smooth male operator [Peter Sarsgaard].  Will this lecher prevent her from realizing her dreams to go to Oxford?


 Watch the ravages of PTSD with Jim Sheridan’s BROTHERS [Jake Gyllenhall & Toby Maguire].  Sam Shepard and Natalie Portman fill out this family drama.  The scenes in Afghanistan are not for all to watch.


Michael Moore did it again with CAPITALISM A LOVE STORY.  David A. Love, JD wrote “Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, looks and sounds a lot like a huge conspiracy theory.  Too bad all of it is true.”


One of the best films I have seen which speaks out in favor of nonviolence is Uli Edel’s DER BAADER-MEINHOF COMPLEX. The Red Army Faction is on the rise then on its demise, as it went over the edge in taking on the German State.


I was convinced to see DOUBT, and I was rewarded by the experience.  Three boffo actors, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, try to find some truths in a Catholic school, where father doesn’t necessarily know best.


Maybe the most beautifully-filmed movie was EARTH, a documentary by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield.  They used their sophisticated cameras to follow a number of animal species struggling to survive during the climate crisis


Another magnificent film with a strong female protagonist is EVERLASTING MOMENTS, which confirms that some men are irredeemable. Jan Troell's expansive movie is set in the early decades of 20th-century Sweden.  The female lead is married to a lout, but she finds a reason to live when it is discovered she is a talented photographer.


Robert Kenner’s documentary FOOD, INC indicts the corporate takeover of the family farm. Eric Schlosser, author of FAST FOOD NATION, and Michael Pollan, author of THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA, are the talking heads that provide the evidence for the indictment. The film’s only misstep is that it fails to sound a clarion call for the vegetarian diet


 The corruption in Italian politics is endemic in IL DIVO. Director Paolo Sorrentino aims his camera directly on Toni Servillo as the controversial Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and what we see sinks the democratic soul as he is in bed with the Mafia,


IN THE LOOP could have been an instant classic; however it is marred by the constant spray of vulgarities uttered by almost every character. Nevertheless, it is worth watching this black comedy about two unnamed countries [England and the U.S.] planning an illegal invasion of another unnamed country [Iraq]. Directed by Armando Iannucci, the ensemble cast includes Mimi Kennedy and James Gandolfini


  Clint Eastwood’s INVICTUS is not a great movie.  But it should be seen, as Morgan Freeman becomes Nelson Mandela


The brutality of the Israeli occupation is evident in Eran Riklis’ LEMON TREE, a subtle look at the effect on one Palestinian, who desperately tries to preserve a grove of lemon trees cultivated by her family for generations.  Hiam Abbass plays the widow whose essence is the grove.


ME AND ORSON is very witty, as art can be created amidst chaos and egomania. The me is Zac Efron in Richard Linklater's feature set in 1937 as Orson Welles [Christian McKay] is doing Shakespeare. McKay channels Welles, just as you would imagine the great man. ME AND ORSON WELLES, Richard Linklater's new coming of age feature set in 1937 stars Disney teen throb Zac Efron, star of High School Musical, who stretches himself as an actor playing the young aspiring actor Richard who lands a job with Orson Welles (played by newcomer Christian McKay) and his legendary Mercury Theatre Company. The whirlwind experience of working with the boy genius and appearing in Welles' soon-to-be groundbreaking production of Julius Caesar as Lucillus sets his life on a new course. In that same week, he also finds romance with older woman Sonja (Claire Danes). Experiencing romance and immersed into a creative process few are afforded, Richard also learns a few lessons about crossing swords with the imperious and brilliant Welles. He must grow up fast.--© Freestyle


REVANCHE is very well done, as it explores the ramifications of a killing by a police officer, somewhat accidentally, of a suspect.  Gotz Spielman of Austria takes us to the darker side of human interactions.


Danny Boyle’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was a movie I tried to avoid, until convinced by others that it should be seen.  It was a very difficult film to watch, as children are exploited in every which way.  As actors, the children are riveting, and their struggles are noteworthy.


 Probably the best mainstream Hollywood movie of 2009 was Kevin McDonald’s STATE OF PLAY with Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren.  How many movies touched the subject of tax dollars going to a mercenary corporation, much like Blackwater?  And other issues, including political corruption and the new media, are raised in this very smart film.

Ang Lee’s TAKING WOODSTOCK is just a lot of fun. Find out how Woodstock was able to become a famous concert.


Matt Damon as whistleblower Mark Whitacre won me over in THE INFORMANT, a true story, which confirms it takes a thief to catch one. Steven Soderbergh tells the story of price-fixing by Archer Daniels Midland.   


 I have not seen THE HURT LOCKER, but I cannot believe it is more powerful about the madness of war than Oren Moverman’s THE MESSENGER. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster are damaged military souls who have the unenviable job of telling loved ones that a family member has died in combat.  The post-traumatic stress disorder seeps out of the pores of the protagonists.


 THE READER, with Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet, raises the question, How can one have feelings for someone involved in horrific crimes? Stephen Daldry takes to the screen Bernhard Schlink’s novel.

Maybe the best film, and possibly the most disturbing, which I saw in 2009 is WOMAN IN BERLIN.  Try to imagine striving to survive when the rapacious Red Army takes over the destroyed city.  It is difficult to pass judgment of the German characters depicted on the screen including an anonymous female reporter (Nina Hoss).  The horrors and moral compromises of war set the stage for director Max Färberböck’s

Drama based on a true story.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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