It's the Halloween
before Tuesday’s election, so the big question is -- how is the political situation reflected in horror
movies? And, specifically, those that deal with that fundamental source of
horror, the Undead.
There are basically two types of undead, zombies and
vampires (Frankenstein fits in uneasily somewhere), and I think it’s safe to
say that up until recently the zombie contingent has dominated the genre.
Wim Wenders’s great 1987 film “Wings of Desire” inspired
Lance Hammer to consider a career in moviemaking, but it took a stint at a studio
doing set design for blockbusters like “Batman and Robin” to convince him to
make films his way. His “Ballast” took
years to bring to the screen and involved spending several winters soaking up
the ambience of the Mississippi Delta where the film is set and casting
non-professional local people and devising a story with dialogue and events
that were true to the reality and people with whom he worked.
Speaking of repetition compulsion, the conflict in the Middle East shows no signs of a happy ending. The latest
major installment was the Israeli invasion of Lebanon
in 2006, a brutal campaign which ended with no clear winners but definite
losers -- the people of Lebanon.
Talented local filmmaker Jocelyn Ajami (“Queen of the Gypsies” ) visited the scenes of destruction with a group of American journalists,
scholars and politicians six weeks after the cessation of hostilities.
Why do people watch the same movie over and over? For pleasure,
no doubt, and because a great movie like a great book or piece of music doesn’t
reveal everything on a first or second or nth go-through. But then some
repeated viewing habits sound a little pathological. Like the guy in Norway who saw
“Mama Mia!” 162 times.
As George W.’s career in politics fades into history and
ignominy, could his future in show business be just beginning? Could Oliver
Stone’s “W,” which opened last weekend, be the first in what might prove to be
an entertainment gold mine?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How did “W” fare among
the critics and those in the know? Like the President himself, the film has
stirred extremes in opinions, some mutually contradictory.
Just the other day I was curled up with my copy of Cormac
McCarthy’s “The Road” thinking to myself how cozy it was reading a story about
civilization reduced to frozen ash and roving bands of cannibals while the real
world was tottering on the brink of the same! Because obviously we're doomed, since not just is the economy
tanking, but the Red Sox and Patriots are as well.
As many have suspected, there seems to
be something fishy about the poor box office showing of David Zucker’s right
wing satire, “An American Carol.” After all, who doesn’t enjoy a hearty laugh
at such witty notions as Hollywood being renamed “Bin
with billboards pitching “Victoria’s
Burkas” (okay, that is kind of funny).
Now that the main Republican talking point has been refined from “Osama
is an elitist" to “Osama is a terrorist,” it’s only a matter of time before they
bring up the old canard about him being a Muslim. Which begs the question -- so
what if he is? Nobody running for President lately has been excoriated for
being Catholic, or Jewish, or Mormon, or whatever religion
believes that man walked with dinosaurs and preachers should run witches out of
Enough with the polls. Maybe the only reliable window into the
souls of American voters is what they’re willing to line up for and pay $10 to
see on a movie screen. In which case last weekend’s box office provides an
excellent test case, with two politically antithetically movie satires playing
Many of the eulogies for the late great Paul Newman have focused on the
saintliness of the man, an aura of goodness that emanates from him both on and
off the screen. “Someone Up There Likes Me,” indeed. Truth be told, he always
had a knack for playing an asshole, whether an outlaw or a rogue or an outcast
or a downright villain, that twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes could just as
easily evince malice, irony, corruption or anarchy as benevolence and