Ed Rampell: General Sherman, who burned Atlanta to the ground, rather famously and pithily said, “War is hell.” Stephen Marshall’s new documentary about religious fanaticism, Holy Wars, turns Sherman’s quote on its head with the clever tagline, “War is Heaven.”
Ed Rampell: I remember during small kid days the arrival of Ringling Bros.’ in New York, and the elephant march up one of Manhattan’s avenues – an irresistible photo op if ever there was one – to Madison Square Garden, where I’d join thousands of other “children of all ages” to watch the thrilling spectacle.
Ed Rampell: Freakonomics is a great documentary adaptation of Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s bestselling book that applies statistical and economics theory to various phenomena, finding extraordinary explanations and insights. Master documentarians direct various segments linked to interviews with the co-authors
Ed Rampell: This beautiful, moving film goes on to show the eventual meeting(s) of Mburu and his benefactor, who had no idea a charity was named after her. Nor that this Holocaust survivor’s small act of generosity would enable Mburu to play a role in campaigning ethnic cleansing around the world as a U.N. international civil servant, including at his native Kenya.
Ed Rampell: Readers may remember President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dubious remarks about gays at a Columbia University forum in 2007, and In Dog Sweat Keshavarz dares point his camera directly at the homosexual scene in Tehran, where same sex relationships are probably more controversial than gay marriage is here.
Ed Rampell: Mahler On the Couch is co-written and co-directed by that rarity, a father and son team, Percy (1987’s Bagdad Cafe) and Felix Adlon. Their German language movie reminds me of 1976’s The Seven-Percent- Solution based on Nicholas Meyer’s novel about Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson) being treated by Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin).
Ed Rampell: In a press conference the unelected Governor also announced that as part of the legislation the Arizona public school system was prohibiting teaching about the shootout at the O.K. Corral. “Educating students about this purported gunfight at Tombstone in 1881 could inflame racial animosity against Caucasians,” contended Brewer, noting that all of the participants in the brief but bloody barrage of bullets were whites.
Ed Rampell: This biopic purports to tell the tale of a fabled beauty who became embroiled in political turmoil, and of her romance with an Englishman. The movie’s press notes assert that, “Princess Kaiulani is the inspiring true story of the Hawaiian princess.” The problem is that this is a dubious claim. The simple fact of the matter is that Kaiulani opens with a historically inaccurate scene that never happened, and much of the movie is likewise historically suspect.
The Great Reckoning of Ragnorak: Wagner, Valhalla, Wall Street and the Twilight of Capitalism’s Gods
Ed Rampell: The audience, which included many African-American women, by and large loved the performances and philosophy. In a kind of “call and response” the performers adroitly riffed with the responsive spectators, incorporating some improv into their show since, as Jimmy Durante wisely noted: “Everyone wants to get into the act!” (Especially the sex act.)
Ed Rampell: The current production of The Stigmatized is the opera’s U.S. premiere and part of L.A. Opera’s “Recovered Voices” series, which, according to press notes, is “a multi-season initiative to revive the works of composers whose lives and careers were cut short by the Nazi regime.” Schreker’s saucy work, set in 16th century Genoa, was originally presented in Germany in 1918, and can be viewed as being part of the edgy postwar culture of the Weimar Republic that included sexually charged works in various cabaret acts and by playwrights such as Bertolt Brecht.
Ed Rampell: Unlike other thespians, such as Brando who frequently derided acting as an unworthy profession (well, if your father repeatedly put you down during your childhood as a big nothing, even if you later won two Oscars, millions and vast critical acclaim, you’d still hear your father’s voice in your addled head insulting you and belittling whatever you did), it was a joy to see the pleasure that Beau continues to take in his lifelong avocation, and the pleasure Emily also takes in this art and craft, as the latest member of this show biz dynasty. And their clear enchantment in being able to perform together in this family affair.
Ed Rampell: Mid-August Lunch may be out of step with the movie mainstream (all the more reason to feast your eyes on it), but it is very much in the Italian cinematic tradition of Neo-Realism. Like his motion picture predecessors such as Vittorio De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and Federico Fellini, Di Gregorio has cast a number of non-professional actors in the roles of the Italian mamas, and a couple of the director’s real life friends to play versions of themselves. This “amateur” casting – as the term “Neo-Realist” implies – often gives performances a more true-to-life, if less polished, quality, and it works very well onscreen here.
Ed Rampell: Cuba and the Teddy Bear reminds us of the all-important father-son, parent-child bond and relationship. Break that, and all hell can break loose. I have observed that the children I know for him that link has been torn of asunder often don’t fare well. Despite being an illiterate drug dealer, to his everlasting credit Cuba still tries his best to be a good dad, despite it all.
Ed Rampell: Kucinich’s March 17 capitulation two days after flying with President Obama aboard Air Force One to his Ohio district reveals Kucinich’s true colors and shows he’s running true to form. Kucinich’s eyebrow-raising healthcare flip-flop, like his presidential campaigns, raises the question: How Left is Left?
Ed Rampell: I highly recommend the filmic City Island, a delightful family comedy with a superb ensemble cast with an uplifting message. More than any other movie in recent memory it reminded me of William Shakespeare’s wise words ironically uttered by the foolish Polonius in Hamlet: “This above all else, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Ed Rampell: If the performers are under the covers and covered up in a play about sex, and the show’s not willing to show skin, it makes one wonder: why do a story about that particular topic in the first place? If you don’t want to show naked people and depict sex acts, why not do a play about something else?
Ed Rampell: But in a country still troubled by racism, where hate crimes are on the rise — from nooses and KKK hoods at the University of California San Diego to death threats against the first African American president — any month is appropriate for this engaging interpretation of the life and death of Emmett Till, the martyr who launched the Civil Rights movement. Three months after Till’s murder, Rosa Parks stood up by sitting down in a segregated Southern bus.
Ed Rampell: The good news is that Capitalism, A Love Story is another Michael Moore instant classic, and in his considerable, 20-year-long oeuvre – which spurred revitalization of the documentary as an art form, as well as an entertainment medium — is second in quality and power only to his 2004 masterpiece, Fahrenheit 9/11.