Three quick reviews for DVDs conservatives might enjoy
posted at 9:49 am on April 29, 2012 by Libby Sternberg
Are you weary of watching shows where the villain is always some variation on a deranged soldier/conservative preacher/right-wing politician/crazed gun owner/wacked-out pro-lifer?
Yeah, me, too. But I like television and movies, so I look past a lot just to enjoy a good story. We don’t head to the actual movie theater much anymore because we’ve become spoiled by the quiet of our family room, with its glowing fire in cool weather, and its lack of chattering kids and ringing cell phones the rest of the time. So, we’re DVD-viewers.
For fellow travelers, I offer some recommendations for films we’ve watched lately, not all of them, however, recent releases:
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): This tale provides the backstory for the ape movies that were to come, most notably the ones featuring Charleton Heston captured by smart chimps in a chimp-run earth. Rise is action-packed (at least one fiery explosion—huzzah!) and filled with digitalized monkeys that make their uprising suitably scary, delivering all the gasps you expect from this kind of flick. But Rise offered something more—no stereotyping. A pharmaceutical company thinks it’s got a bead on an Alzheimer’s cure with a viral potion that, in trials, makes chimps smarter. Too smart, in fact, for anyone’s good. Need I say more? Actually, I do. The typical Hollywood treatment of this kind of tale would have been to make the Big Pharma CEO a bloated white male drooling with greed over the profits to be realized. Instead, the CEO in Rise is black (David Oyelowo), and, although he’s definitely focused on profits, he shuts down an earlier trial of the magic drug when one of the chimps runs amok. The Alzheimer-cure angle also keeps the Big Pharma-researcher-as-Dr. Frankenstein stereotype at bay, too. No, in this movie, the star researcher (James Franco) has a father (John Lithgow) with the disease and is motivated by personal suffering and a desire to help a loved one. Recommend.
Buck (2011): Don’t let the trailer featuring Robert Redford (or the fact that it’s a Sundance Film Festival winner) turn you away from this beautiful story, a documentary about real “horse whisperer” Buck Brannaman, who was a consultant on the Redford pic of Nicholas Evans’s romance. In fact, the documentary has some delightful moments where Brannaman expresses his opinions of the Redford film’s approach to dealing with trained horses. Just watching Brannaman gently jollying horses to do his bidding would be enough to make this film interesting, but it’s a far richer story of a man who rose above a painful childhood and used the lessons he learned as an abused child to teach horses how to obey without scarring them. (In the trailer, the woman Brannaman addresses as “Mom” is his foster mother.) As Brannaman says in the film, you learn a lot about people from the way they treat their horses. Highly recommend!
The Ritchie Boys (2004): We discovered this gem when the computers at Netflix recommended it based on our previous viewing habits. Another documentary, it is both moving and, at moments, humorous, a story of a special military intelligence unit comprised mostly of German-American Jews that the army used to conduct “psychological warfare,” among other tasks. Trained at Maryland’s Camp Ritchie, the members of the unit ended up in the field of battle in Europe where they interrogated prisoners, devised propaganda (including a ”certificate” German soldiers could turn into Allied officers if they wanted to surrender—the Germans love order, the Ritchie Boys pointed out, and many of those certificates were, in fact, presented to Allied soldiers), provided translation help for the concentration camp victims and more. The documentary reunites a number of them, and their remembrances are heartbreaking, poignant, and sometimes even funny. Be sure to watch to the very end for an amusing story of how two of these academics tainted scholarly work about Hitler for years to come. Here’s the trailer, which doesn’t do the flick justice. Highly recommend!
Libby Sternberg is a novelist, and one of her books was optioned for film.
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