Shut Up & Sing, the film

Dixie_chicks Shut Up & Sing is a great documentary about The Dixie Chicks which was released in November of 2006. It chronicles the effects on them of Red Neck hate in the United States because of their opposition to the Iraq War, and their comments that they were ashamed that the President came from Texas. Their music was dropped from the play lists of Country and Western music radio stations in the South, and they were targeted with death threats. To listen to an NPR interview with the documentary filmaker, Barbara Kopple, click here.

In spite the death threats and stress of the impact on their careers, they stuck together, kept a sense of perspective and humor, and have survived. As with other people who were against the war, as time goes by, their unpopular voices are being vindicated as the Bush administration's foreign policy has turned into the biggest fiasco in American History which has had tragic damage on the U.S., on Iraq, and around the world.

The Dixie Chicks' latest album, Taking The Long Way, released in 2006, has been a runaway best seller and many of the songs are anthems which will only become better and more appreciated with age.

I highly recommend this movie.

Link: Shut Up & Sing (2006).

Bobby, the film

Robert_f__kennedy Bobby, the film about the assasination of Bobby F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, was released in November of 2006. Based around the true story of Kennedy's assasination is a montage of characters who were in the hotel that day. The film was written and directed by Emilio Estevez who also has a minor acting role as well. Estevez was 6 when Kennedy was assasinated.

Bobby Kennedy was the hope of many Americans for a better America. The tagline of the film is "He saw wrong and tried to right it. He saw suffering and tried to heal it. He saw war and tried to stop it."

Next year it will be 40 years since Bobby was killed. Within five years America lost many of its greatest leaders: Medgar Evers, the Field Secretary of NAACP, was killed in Mississippi in June of 1963, John Kennedy was killed in November of 1963, Malcom X was killed in 1965, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed within 3 months of each other in 1968.

Bobby was 42 when he was killed, probably would have been elected President of the United States in 1968, and would be 81 if he were alive today. America would be quite a different country if Bobby had been President instead of Richard Nixon.

I was a little disappointed that this film dwelt a great deal on incidental characters at the hotel rather than more on the person of Robert Kennedy and his policies. However, the movie is entertaining, has a star studded cast, and is well worth seeing. I recommend it.

Link: Bobby (2006).

Sicko, the film

Sicko Sicko, the film released on June 22, 2007 by Michael Moore is a movie every American should see. It depicts the fiasco of the HMO for profit health system and how it is very bad social policy not only for the 50 million Americans without health insurance but for the people With health insurance as well. Michael compares the health care systems of Canada, Great Britain, France, and Cuba with the the system in the United States which is ranked 37th in the world. The politicians get elected because of huge contributions by health care companies and pharmaceutical companies so that they can keep earning their huge profits and pay their executives their huge salaries while health care coverage is denied to patients who often die or suffer needlessly.

Of particular note is Moore's interview with Tony Benn, a former member of Parliament in Great Britain, who points out that democracies flourish when people are peaceful, confident, and healthy. A peaceful, confident and healthy population are more of a challenge for a government to manipulate into doing its bidding. On the other hand, government finds it easy to maintain control of the population when it instills fear, demoralization, and ill health in populations. Many Americans live in fear not only of dying and suffering because they have no health insurance and will therefore be denied medical care, but they are one accident or illness away from overwhelming debt and bankruptcy. Such citizens are docile workers too afraid of loosing their jobs and health insurance benefits to protest or rock the boat.

I highly recommend this film.

Link: Sicko (2007).

Ocean's Thirteen, the film

I have to say upfront I'm not a big fan of this genre of film, but it was the only thing even plausibly worth seeing in our small village Triplex. I lasted through my large popcorn with no butter. The movie is just stupid with a boring plot and its a terrible waste of talent with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, etc. It must have been easy money for these guys or they didn't have offers of better scripts. The movies coming out of Holleywood seem to be mostly crap.

I don't walk out of too many movies, but once my popcorn was gone, there seemed no point in staying longer.

Save your money.

Link: Ocean's Thirteen (2007).

I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School, the film

I Am A Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School is an award winning documentary released in 1993 about an inner city school in Philadelphia which won the the 1994 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

The film depicts the challenges and difficulties of trying to educate kids in poverty who come from single parent, drug addicted neighborhoods. I doubt that much has changed in the last 13 years.

This film is well worth watching and I highly recommend it.

Link: I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School (1993).

Running with Scissors, the film

Running_with_scissors I read the book and then I watched the movie. I think I liked the book better. Running With Scissors was distributed in 2006 and is the movie made from the supposed memoir of Augusten Burroughs. The story is so bizarre that it is hard to know how much is actual and how much exaggerated.

The story is about Augusten's parent's divorce, and his being given to his mother's psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, to raise when he is 17. Dr. Finch is very eccentric as is the whole Finch family, so eccentric in fact, that the Finch's almost make the Burrough's look sane although Mr. Burroughs is alcoholic and Mrs. Burroughs has bi-polar disorder so severe at times that she requires hospitalization.

As you watch this movie, it is unclear whether to laugh or cry. Whatever positive feeling the movie might generate in the audience comes from the observation that no matter how crazy your own family is, they sure are not as crazy as the Burrough's or the Finch's. The most touching and human moment in the film is when Mrs. Finch, who seems to really care about Augusten, helps him leave the Finch home for a new life in New York City as a writer.

The lesson of this movie seems to be that adults are pretty messed up and young people can't depend on them to provide reasonable care for them. Other than for laughs at the bizarre and sick situations, I don't see much socially redeeming value in this move. I don't recommend it.

Link: Running with Scissors (2006).

Candy, the film

Candy Candy is an Australian film released in 2006 about two heroin addicts in love. They are both in their mid 20s, she an aspiring artist, and he a would be poet who is content to allow her to prostitute herself to support them and finance their habit.

The film depicts a downward spiral amid a torrid love story which seems to imply that succumbing to the disease of addiction is a beautiful thing as long as two people in love do it together, and then it becomes powerfully ugly.

I didn't particularly like this film. I am not sure what the intended message is other than that infatuation can occur in problematic situations and be mistaken for love.

I recommend this film with reservations.

Link: Candy (2006).

Shooter, the film

Shooter Shooter, staring Mark Wahlberg, is a military thriller about a Marine sharp shooter who gets called out of retirement to help the government protect the President only to be framed as the assassin, and who then, to save his life, goes on the lam in order to try to clear himself and restore justice in a government gone amuck.

It is an entertaining movie if you like this genre, but the more interesting observation is that the lesson of this film is that the United States government is corrupt, unjust, not to be trusted, only interested in money and power, and impotent to bring about any order and justice. What it takes for justice to occur is for a highly skilled, courageous, and morally righteous ex-soldier to take things into own own hands and kill the rogue politicians and government officials.

If popular culture is a barometer of the state of our nation, it is a frightening thing to watch these morality tales of what it takes to restore honor, justice, and competence to our National government.

This film is marketed as thriller entertainment, but embedded in its story is a very sobering message which a mature audience should pay attention to and address before our nation further looses its soul.

Link: Shooter (2007).

The U.S. vs. John Lennon, the film

The_us_vs_john_lennon The U.S. vs. John Lennon is a documentary released in 2006 which depicts the movement of John Lennon from his musical career as a Beatle to one of social activist protesting the Viet Nam war and advocating for peace.

John had a great vision, an authentic life, and made a great contribution to the world both musically and prophetically. John was harassed by the F.B.I., and President Nixon and his administration who were so threatened by his anti-war activities that they wanted him deported from the United States. The parallels between the 70s and this first decade of the 21st century are striking. This documentary is well worth watching and I highly recommend it.

Link: The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006).