recently seen three movies I can recommend , and two of them
will probably leave town soon, so, if you want to catch them
on the big screen, see them this week. They are: "Pieces
Of April" and "The Weather Underground".
"Pieces Of April" is a small film about a dysfunctional
family. All the action takes place in about five or six hours
on Thanksgiving Day. The film is shot with a digital camera,
which gives it an appropriate home movie feel. That effect is
echoed by the still camera one of the characters totes around
and uses frequently. Each snapped shot temporarily freezes a
frame, and serves as a sometimes not-so-subtle reminder that
this particular family gathering had best be preserved for posterity.
The wonderful Patricia Clarkson is getting a lot of work these
days. Here she plays very good reason why almost everyone in
the family is hoping for a reconciliation. Its a simple
story made palatable by a bevy of quirky characters who traverse
a script balanced with humor and pathos. "Pieces Of April"
deserves a larger piece of the movie-going audience than it
will probably earn. Its smart and funny and well acted.
And easy to recommend.
"The Weather Underground" is a reminiscence.
Its a sympathetic portrait of a handful of young white
radicals who successfully eluded the best efforts of the FBI
to apprehend them. They plotted and carried out a series of
symbolic bombings, in which, apparently, no one was injured.
They operated in the late sixties and early seventies and were
never caught. But after the war in Vietnam ended and the seventies
drew to a close, most of them surrendered. Ironically, because
the FBI violated so many laws in its feckless pursuit of the
Weathermen, only a few served time in jail.
The filmmakers blend newsreel footage of speeches, anti-war
rallies, and some of the most horrific moments of the Vietnam
War with reflective commentary by the protagonists as they are
now. One owns a bar in New York City. One teaches math at a
community college in New Mexico. Others are engaged in legal
social activism. The one critical observer included in the documentary,
Todd Gitlin, former President of Students For A Democratic Society,
(a group from which the Weathermen defected), comes off as petulant
and carping, his frustration with the Weathermen still evident.
While I like this film and recommend it to you, my own views
are closer to Gitlins than to the subjects of the documentary.
But few, at least in Santa Cruz, who remember the nightly tv
news coverage of the war in Vietnam will fail to understand
what motivated the Weather Underground. For the war footage
alone, this documentary should be required viewing for all of
The third film I want to recommend wont open until this
weekend. And I dont want to say much about it. Almost
every frame should be savored and experienced with fresh eyes,
unmitigated by a critics intervention.
"In America" is that rarest of movies, the
one you wait months and months and maybe years for. You see
a handful of good movies during the course of a year of watching,
but inevitably you begin to wonder if ever again someone will
make a great movie. I think this one is it. Great actors, including
two children youll never forget, great writing, and a
humanity that will leave few viewers untouched makes "In
America" the best film of the year. Theres wisdom
in the title of Jon Kabat-Zinns book: Wherever You Go,
There You Are. Its a wisdom hard won by the lead character
in "In America". Dont miss it.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.