The Death of a Nation (2018)

Death of a Nation

In the first five minutes of the movie, Hitler (Pavel Kriz) commits suicide. Even he wanted out of this film.

With about twenty or so minutes left in the new Dinesh D’Souza documentary Death of a Nation, I realized he had changed my view on something that I held very dear to my heart. Until that moment, I was a firm believer in never having your cellphone on during a movie. Well, Mr. D’Souza, congrats, you have changed my belief. If only I had done that sooner.

I try to stray away from politics, but this film kept nipping at my heels the last few weeks, especially the zero percent on rottentomatoes (yes, the audience rating is at 90, but look closer at how many other reviews those positive reviewers have done before hand). For those of you have not even heard of this film, it is as pure propaganda as they come. D’Souza is easily one of the most right winged people known to mankind. He basically equates liberals to Nazis and slave owners. While I am sure there are some who agree with him on somethings, I find it hard to believe anyone would like how he explaining them. I would say boring, but that is to insult the six fine letters used in that word.

In Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times (1936), there is a timeless sequence when the tramp is on a lunch break at work. Instead of eating normally, the company has made a choice to feed him with a machine as he works. The imagery of that scene reminds me of how D’Souza is giving us this information. He is truly shoving it down our throats without a chance to swallow.

Another set of images that came to mind was from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The scene was when the history teacher (Ben Stein) was reciting information (“Anyone?”), and we see the dumbfounded looks of the students. That was my reaction to this film.

Parents, I honestly don’t know. I mean, if you believe what D’Souza is saying, then sure, I guess you can take your kids. Even then though, they will be bored.

Not sure if it matters, but I would consider myself a centralist (though I do lean toward the right). Just putting that out there because I am sure there are some who may think of me as someone who just doesn’t get it. Some of you may be thinking I know nothing of politics and should just stick to movies.

You are right. I know hardly anything about politics, but I do know a lot about movies.

And this one was atrocious.

 

Overall: Zero Stars (my first ever film to get this rating, so congrats?)

Won’t you be my Neighbor? (2018)

won't you be my neighbor

“I like you Mister Rogers.”

I was one of the last of the Mister Rogers generation, toward the end of one of the great running children shows in history, probably second only to Sesame Street (which Rogers himself guess starred on). Won’t you be my Neighbor? is not the biography of the man Fred Rogers, but of the show he brought to countless kids, and, more important, the ideals it presented.

Director Morgan Neville (Oscar winner for 30 Feet from Stardom) starts when Rogers had the idea of the project. After his first show fell thru, the one we all know started in 1968, going up until August of 2001 (not including a response he made to the 9/11 attacks). We see interviews from those who knew and worked with him, including his wife and two sons. One of the key questions asked is if he was in real life the way he acted on screen, to which one of his sons answers, “Yes.”

 

Fred Rogers was not without his sense of humor. There are clips of subtle pranks pulled on him such as putting on the wrong pair of shoes, and a photo that made its way into his camera (for which his response is golden). Still, the determination in this mans mind and eyes are evident every time he was on screen. For me, the most powerful scene is when we see Rogers before the Senate explaining why money is necessary for what would become PBS. If the words don’t impact you, the reaction from Senator John Pastore will.

Another powerful part of the film is the story of a child named Jeff Erlanger. Anyone familiar with Rogers should know the name, but I still won’t say more, because the scene is mesmerizing on its own power.

(If you haven’t guessed by now, tears are going to happen in the course of this film, and maybe after).

Parents, there is some swearing from some of the people being interviewed, and we do see some of Eddie Murphy’s famous “Mr. Robinson” parody from SNL and one from Johnny Carson. Some of the kids in the theater I was at were laughing, though I doubt they understood all of it. I would say middle pre-teen and up.

It is rather ironic for a man as revered as Fred Rogers to know that he absolutly hated TV. It was that main reason why the ordained minister started the show in the first place. It has been fifteen years since his death, but it is beyond clear that his lessons and ideals will live on as long as people look for them.

If there was ever a movie we needed these days, it is this one.

Heck, the title itself is a question we need to ask more.

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

Life, Animated (2016)

life-animated

Owen Suskind, the autistic man at the center of “Life, Animated”

Seldom have I been able to find it harder to start talking about a movie. Then again, seldom have I had an emotional response than the one I had when I first saw Life, Animated, clearly one of the best films of the year.

It is a documentary of Owen Suskind. He, along with interviews of his parents and older brother Walt, tells what it is like living with autism. We learn he was diagnosed at age 3, and was virtually quiet most of his childhood. His only time he was social was when he would watch Disney movies with the family.

The movie does not bore us with the facts we could find online about autism, or spend too much time talking to doctors and researchers. We just get a glimpse at the life of an extraordinary mind that (like others on the spectrum) see the world in a totally different way.

I guess there is no way around it: I should mention that I myself am autistic (I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome back in High School).My escape as a kid was movies, and I can still remember the covers of every Disney film we owned (I moved on to more than Disney films. I assume it was to broaden my horizon.) There is a part in this movie where Cornelia (Owen’s mom) says how, while the world changes (believe me, change is very difficult for people with autism), the movies stay the same. I could not have put it better myself.

Parents, there is one awkward reference made in the film by Owen’s older brother Walt. It is about how to get Owen to learn about sex (being that he watches only Disney movies, obviously nothing more happens past the kiss). Aside from that reference, and some occasional swearing, the movie’s ok for Middle School and up.

While it may be obvious, I feel it should still be noted that not everyone with autism is the same. Those that have it have varying degrees. Nevertheless, if Life, Animated is not the best movie about what it is like living with autism (with the possible exception of Rain Man) , I have yet to see it.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****