Movie documentary: Boys State

youth politics

Boys StateOK, I’ve decided that I need to try to systematically see more movies. Recent movies. Normally, I would be at the cinema a lot this month, but I’m not. Luckily, I saw this list  of Ty Burr’s “Watch these 10 recent movies.”

Currently, I don’t have Netflix or Disney+ or Hulu, or HBO Max. But only since the end of December, I do have Apple TV+. I bought a new phone, which I haven’t figured out how to operate yet. But it came with a free year of the streaming service. And Boys State is available presently on that platform.

It is a “documentary about the Texas version of the one-week civics program where high school kids divide into parties and run for office.” As a political science junkie, this could be heaven or horrific. I found it closer to the former. “It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2020, where the film won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize.” Then it was released in August.

One may be potentially seeing “the next generation of politicians.” The program is sponsored by the American Legion across the country, with separate tracks for boys and girls. Alumni include political figures as diverse as Bill Clinton, Samuel Alito, Dick Cheney, Cory Booker, and Rush Limbaugh.

Politics, and tricks

Are the young men better than what we have now, or are they just emulating the mistakes of the adults they admire? “They are fascinatingly complex.” For certain. “Boys State shows that those [noble] aims can only do so much to keep the uglier side of that process at bay,” Erik Adams of AV Club noted.

One candidate for governor took a position diametrically opposed to what he believed because thought it would be more palatable to the constituents. Steven, on the other hand, was “a young man whose political skills are second to his open-mindedness and decency. In short, there’s hope.”

I highly recommend Boys State.

Movie on ZOOM review: Radium Girls

poisoning from painting watch dials

Radium GirlsIn early December, I got to see the 2018 movie  Radium Girls. It had screened at the Tribeca Film Festival back when it was first made. An April 2020 cinema release date had been scheduled, then postponed because of COVID.

In the fall of 2020, the movie was offered in a few theaters. I managed to see it in a showing co-sponsored by the Coalition of Labor Union Women. And following the film was a question and answers with directors Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler.

Watching a movie on Zoom has its problems. Among other things, this one began with the sound that was off for several minutes before the film was restarted.

It is an intriguing storyline. “In the 1920s, a group of female factory workers advocates for safer work conditions after some of their colleagues become ill from radium exposure.”

From Wikipedia: They contracted “radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint. The painting was done by women at three different United States Radium factories.” The one in Orange, New Jersey was highlighted in the film.

“The women in each facility had been told the paint was harmless.” They “subsequently ingested deadly amounts of radium after being instructed to ‘point’ their brushes on their lips in order to give them a fine tip.” Given the lengthy number of reports about the case, I was surprised that I had never heard about this story until the film.

The verdict

As for the film: it was…pretty good. I wanted to love it, I suppose. I must agree with much of the criticism that was leveled at the small-budget project. “The anger inspired by what happened to these women is invigorating, but that fury is rarely felt from what Radium Girls offers as a cinematic experience.” That’s what Roxana Hadadi from wrote.

And yet, I will still recommend it. The actors, and especially Joey King, are quite good. Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter writes: “The film fulfills a vital function with its dramatization of an important chapter in America’s history of labor reform.”

So if the plot leading to the trial is a bit threadbare and contrived, I’m still glad I watched Radium Girls. The narrative is, unfortunately, still relevant when some industries are “rolling back protections for workers” a century after the events portrayed in the movie.

People in the Capital District will recognize recently-retired news anchor Jim Kambrich in the small but pivotal role of a judge.

You can watch Radium Girls for $12 here.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel Is a cleverly oddball screwball comedy caper, yet melancholy tale of murder,

Grand_Budapest_HotelIn the first scene of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a young woman or girl walks through a cemetery, and I realize “She looks like a Wes Anderson character.” Is it the sensible shoes, or the way she walked? Not sure. Strange, because I had only seen two earlier Anderson films, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), which I did not love, and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), which I enjoyed greatly.

This is “The adventures of Gustave H [Ralph Fiennes] , a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero [newcomer Tony Revolori], the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend” during a period when the world is rapidly changing. The tale is told by Mr. Moustafa [F. Murray Abraham], owner of the title structure. It’s a cleverly oddball screwball comedy caper, yet the melancholy tale of murder, theft, and love.

It’s so well made that one forgets how much skill is involved. It includes some stop-motion animation bits which I can only imagine would be diminished on home video. I laughed aloud more than a few times, almost all in the second half.

I rather liked this summary from James Berardinelli of ReelViews: “It offers an engaging 90+ minutes of unconventional, comedy-tinged adventure that references numerous classic movies while developing a style and narrative approach all its own.” Some elements of homage, yet its own film.

LOTS of familiar faces in the large cast, well used. Special props to Tilda Swinton, who plays an 84-year-old woman. My friend Steve Bissette noted that the highlights for him “included Willem Dafoe’s monstrous boogeyman/family hit man and Harvey Keitel’s appearance.”

He called the film an “absurdist faux-continental adventure and among Anderson’s most entertaining confections (and that’s saying a lot), with the usual precocity those who don’t enjoy Anderson’s work will revile and those of us who do savor.”

This was one of those exceedingly rare times we went out on a Friday night, to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, and actually saw at least five people we knew, two in that very showing. So people really DO go out on date night. I never knew…
I read a review of someone recently seeing Frozen. The reviewer wondered “Why on earth did this movie become a cultural touchstone?… It just wasn’t nearly as fantastic as people have made it out to be…” Then she answers her own question: “I suspect I would have enjoyed it much more if I hadn’t gone into watching it with the knowledge that it has become so popular. I was expecting a lot more, and I think high expectations kind of ruined it for me.” I totally agree, And if she saw it on video, rather than in the theater – I don’t know – THAT would be significantly important in a first viewing.


Fridays in Lent: The Life of Brian

The character Brian is CLEARLY not Jesus, established very early on.

LifeofbrianfilmposterOne does forget that not everybody is aware of certain cultural icons. On one hand, I cannot name a single Justin Bieber song off the top of my head. Couldn’t tell you the identity of a single member of One Direction, even though I saw them on some morning show this past summer while getting physical therapy.

On the other hand, one of my colleagues, who’s in her early 30s, made a casual reference to the 1979 Monty Python film The Life of Brian in front of one of our interns, who’s probably in her mid-20s. No glint of recognition whatsoever.

So I sent her a snippet that always makes me laugh, What have the Romans ever done for us, and that classic tune Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, a song that pretty much ended the London Olympics in 2012.

The controversy over this movie at the time of release continues to amaze/amuse me. The character Brian is CLEARLY not Jesus, established very early on. Yes, there WERE other would-be messiahs in Jesus’ time. I just bought this movie on DVD in the last year or two and will have to watch it again soon. Maybe not next week, but soon.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial