Posts Tagged ‘film’

Daniel Ellsberg: 40 years later

September 16, 2009

Poster for Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America, which had its first theatrical showing today.


Daniel Ellsberg had been making copies nights since 10/1/1969—7,000 pages, a few at a time– month after month, on a slow XEROX machine at a small advertising firm owned by a friend of a friend. A military analyst for the RAND Corporation, Ellberg had served as an advisor to Kissinger and Nixon. And as he told Amy Goodman today in an interview on Democracy Now, the facts pointed to

essentially an endless war in Vietnam, which is not exactly what Nixon had campaigned on. He had talked about getting out, and yet—he talked about getting out with honor, which really meant, to him, victory. And what he was hearing from the questions that I drafted for him, which were answered by the Joint Chiefs, was that the ability of a Vietnamese to operate without US air support indefinitely was never. That meant an indefinite US commitment to Vietnam. That’s not what the public was being told.

In 1971 fwhen Ellsberg leaked what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers to the NYT, he started a firestorm which would eventually lead Nixon to resign. He had decided

it’s my job to do something to get us out.

He had been inspired by Randy Keeler. He says Keeler

showed me that I could do something that I had never thought of, and that was risk my clearance, risk my career, risk my new relationship or my regained relationship with Patricia [now his wife], go to prison for the rest of my life—very heavy costs—with the possibility of informing the public in a way that would save hundreds of thousands of lives. And when I saw Randy, who was going to prison as a draft resister, rather than go to Canada, rather than to be a CO, I realized I could do what they did, and it put the question in my head: what can I do now that I’m willing to go to prison?

With the current escalation in Afghanistan, Ellsberg sees relevance today for what he did almost 40 years ago:

I look at this film, and I watch the bombs falling, and all I can see in my mind are the bombs, the same bombs, falling over Afghanistan, or Vietnamistan, and Iraq right now. And we’re really facing, at this moment, a crisis of decision that’s just like the one that’s in the film, which I failed at the time, where the President is doing something that I feel will be a disaster, and I kept my mouth shut about it, the change from 70,000 men in the spring of ’65 to an open-ended commitment, starting with another 50,000, which I knew was on the way to hundreds of thousands. …

We need people to put out, to tell the truth, and to do it, not the way I did, not after the escalation, not after the bombs have fallen, but right now. Right now. And for the Congress to hold the hearings that will entertain those people.


This Week at the Lyric: Public Enemies

August 15, 2009

Went to the later show last night to see Marion Cotillard and Johnny Depp (plus a cast including Christian Bale, the chameleonesque Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi and others) in Michael Mann’s newest effort. Will me volunteering Monday.

Contra dance tonight features Tina Liza Jones.

More later, the library is closing. But, today, inspired by David Dodd, California librarian and Greatful Dead annotator extraorinaire:

“The book list was fun, then comes along the concert list.

OK, here are the rules. Test your memory and your love of live music by listing 50 artists or bands (or as many as you can remember) you’ve seen in concert. List the first 50 acts that come into your head. An act you saw at a festival and opening acts count, but only if you can’t think of 50 other artists. Oh, and list the first concert you ever saw (you can remember that, can’t you)?”

Here’s my list….

Bonnie Raitt at the 2004 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival–the most recent time I saw her

1. Earth Wind and Fire (first concert–you don’t count glee club concerts nor musicals w. my parents, right?)
2. Iron Butterfly
3. Ike and Tina Turner
4. James Taylor
5. Alice Cooper
6. Grateful Dead
7. Taj Mahal
8. Willie Nelson
9. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
10. Joan Baez
11. The Neville Brothers
12. Bob Dylan
13. John Prine
14. John Hartford
15. Tim O’Brien
16. Molly O’Brien
17. David Massengill
18. John McCutcheon
19. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
18. Alice Gerrard
19. Guy Clark
20. Etta James
21. Loudon Wainwright III
22. Peggy Seeger
23. Mike Seeger
24.Charlie Byrd
25. Holly Near
26. Arlo Guthrie
27. Peter Rowan
28. Pete Seeger
29. Odetta
30. Trapezoid
31. Freyda and the Acoustic AttaTudes
32. Boyd Tinsley (w. Rita Dove)
33. Bonnie Raitt
34. Bruce Hornsby
35. Tracy Chapman
36. Lyle Lovett
37. Indigo Girls
38. Laura Light and the Avant Gardeners
39. David Grisman
40. Nancy Griffith
41. Fred Eaglesmith
42. Doc Watson
43. Ralph Stanley
44. Here’s to the Long Haul
45. Norman Blake
46. Steve Earle
47. Judy Collins
48. No Strings Attached
49. Tony Rice
50. Gillian Welch

and many more

Laila El-Haddad’s insider take on Gaza

December 30, 2008

Photo of Laila El-Haddad from her blog, Raising Yousuf and Noor.

Today, as you consider the doings in Gaza, you might want to read read Gaza emigre Laila El-Haddad’s “Still as death, dark is life.” This poignant piece is from a longer version at The Guardian’s Comment is Free (a 2008 Weblog awards finalists as announced yesterday):

My mother was in the Red Crescent Society clinic near the universities, where she works part-time as a pediatrician. Behind the clinic was one of the police centres that were levelled. She said she broke down at first, the sheer proximity of the attacks having shaken her from the inside out. After she got a hold of herself, they took to treating injured victims of the attack, before transferring them to Shifa hospital.

Now, three days later, they are trapped in their own home….

My mother comes to the phone. “Hello, hello dear,” she mutters, her voice trembling. “I had to go to the bathroom. But I’m afraid to go alone. I wanted to perform wudu’ before prayer but I was scared. Remember days when we would go to the bathroom together because you were too afraid to go alone?” She laughs at the thought. It seems amusing to her now, that she was scared to find her death in a place of relief; that she is now terrified of the same seemingly ridiculous scenario. It was really the fear of being alone. When you “hear” the news before it becomes news, you panic for clarity – you want someone to make sense of the situation, package it neatly into comprehensible terms and locations. Just to be sure it’s not you this time…. It is Noor’s one year old birthday January 1. She will turn one. I cannot help but think- who was born in bloodied Gaza today?

Amid others’ hype, posturing and pontificating, I find this effective because the author so quietly reports details of the daily life of her family and former neighbors during the current Israeli raids on Gaza and thus puts a human face on war.

If you’re interested in the author, here is “Disengagement from Justice,” an article she wrote for the July 28, 2005 WaPo. A Mother Under Occupation” is an interview from the June 9, 2006 broadcast of Democracy Now. You can also watch a video Tunnel Trade that she made in collaboration with filmmaker Saeed Taji Farouky’s (email) independent documentary production company Tourist with a Typewriter. She also made a film with that company on the Rafah playground, but I couldn’t find a copy available online.

As my friend Betsy in KY said,

unbearably sad. I am terrified that US won’t start moving towards more sane Mid East policy…I can’t see any justification for the disproportionate force Israel is using!

New story recommendation of the day:

  • Don’t Believe the Hype: The press bought into the $700 billion bailout, hailing it as a necessity. Why so many got it wrong—and how Paul Krugman got it right,” Howell Raines, Portfolio
  • Cash For Trash,” Paul Krugman, NYT, September 22, 2008: And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to—a share in ownership, so that if the rescue plan works, all the gains don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.
  • Katrina and Bush“, Paul Krugman, NYT, December 30, 2008: what happened with Katrina wasn’t that the administration started to fail; what happened was that for the first time its failures were visible to all.
  • “Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House,” Cullen Murphy, Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair, February 2009.

Site recommendation of the day:

The Consumerist, a soon-to-be former Gawker blog sold to The Consumer Union. Check out its guide to reading food expiration codes.

What I did today in addition to blogging:

Signed up to volunteer at the Lyric for the film Sllumdog Millionaire.

Who is reading my blog today:

Mike Leigh Misses with Happy-Go-Lucky

December 19, 2008

I’m not saying there weren’t enjoyable moments (the Tango lesson, the driving teacher) but the rave reviews for Happy Go Lucky seem undeserved for this slight slice of life. Truthfully I had to look up Leigh at IMDB (Ebert, Travers) to make sure that he was, indeed, the writer and director for such pieces of substance as Secrets and Lies (1996) and Vera Drake (2004).

Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon

December 15, 2008

Alastair Muir’s photo accompanied the NYT review of Frost/Nixon when it opened as a play.

Ron Howard is bringing to screen the performances of Michael Sheen(previously seen Tony Blair in The Queen) and Frank Langella, pictured above, from their staged version of Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan’s presentation of the back story of the David Frost television interviews with Nixon in 1977 which opened April 22, 2007 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater.) Morgan wrote the screenplay.

No word yet on whether this is coming to the Lyric, but I’d love to see it. Ron Howard was on Democracy Today December 15.

The Secret Life of Bees

December 7, 2008

From Roger Ebert’s October 15 review of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film, The Secret Life of Bees: a photo of Queen Latifah (beekeeper August Boatright, Jennifer Hudson (housekeeper Rosaleen Daise) and Alicia Keys (August’s cellist sister and incipient activiest June Boatright).

I’ll be seeing the film tonight when I volunteer at the Lyric. It also also stars Dakota Fanning (as Lily Owens, Rosaleen’s charge) and Sophie Okonedo (May, the disturbed sister.) Okonedo played the wife of the innkeeper Don Cheedle in Hotel Rwanda (2004), one of my favorite films.

The Secret Lives of Bees is based on Viking’s 2002 civil rights-era novel of the same name by Sue Monk Kidd (which we read in our book group.)

Monk explained in an interview at the link above,

In 1964 I was an adolescent growing up in a tiny town tucked in the pinelands and red fields of South Georgia, a place my family has lived for at least two hundred years, residing on the same plot of land my great-great-grandparents settled. The South I knew in the early sixties was a world of paradoxes. There was segregation and the worst injustices, and at the same time I was surrounded by an endearing, Mayberryesque life. I could wander into the drugstore and charge a cherry Coca-Cola to my father, or into the Empire Mercantile and charge a pair of cheerleader socks to my mother, and before I got home my mother would know what size Coke I’d drunk and what color socks I’d bought. It was an idyllic, cloistered, small-town world of church socials, high school football games, and private “manners lessons” at my grandmother’s. Yet despite the African-American women who prominently populated the world of my childhood, there were enormous racial divides. I vividly remember the summer of 1964 with its voter registration drives, boiling racial tensions, and the erupting awareness of the cruelty of racism. I was never the same after that summer. I was left littered with memories I could not digest. I think I knew even back then that one day I would have to find a kind of redemption for them through writing. When I began writing The Secret Life of Bees, I set it during the summer of 1964 against a civil rights backdrop. It would have been impossible for me to do otherwise.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter one:

At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.

During the day I heard them tunneling through the walls of my bedroom, sounding like a radio tuned to static in the next room, and I imagined them in there turning the walls into honeycombs, with honey seeping out for me to taste.

The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit, and I mean whole new orbit. Looking back on it now, I want to say the bees were sent to me. I want to say they showed up like the angle Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary, setting events in motion I could never have guessed. I know it is presumptuous to compare my small life to hers, but I have reason to believe she wouldn’t mind; I will get to that. Right now it’s enough to say that despite everything that happened that summer, I remain tender toward the bees.


July 1, 1964, I lay in bed, waiting for the bees to show up, thinking of what Rosaleen had said when I told her about their nightly visitations.

“Bees swarm before death,” she’d said.

Rosaleen had worked for us since my mother died. My daddy – who I called T. Ray because “Daddy” never fit him – had pulled her out of the peach orchard, where she’d worked as one of his pickers. She had a big round face and a body that sloped out from her neck like a pup tent, and she was so black that night seemed to seep from her skin. She lived alone in a little house tucked back in the woods, not far from us, and came every day to cook, clean, and be my stand-in mother. Rosaleen had never had a child herself, so for the last ten years I’d been her pet guinea pig.

Bees swarm before death. She was full of crazy ideas that I ignored, but I lay there thinking about his one, wondering if the bees had come with my death in mind. Honestly, I wasn’t that disturbed by the idea. Every one of those bees could have descended on me like a flock of angels and stung me till I died, and it wouldn’t have been the worst thing to happen. People who think dying is the worst thing don’t know a thing about life.


November 23, 2008

Photo by Loney Sebastion at Warner Bros. accompanied A. O. Scott’s NYT review of Appaloosa, directed (and written in part) by Ed Harris.

Based on Robert Parker’s 2005 novel of the same name, this film is at it’s heart a sly (offscreen) sex farce with the real love between Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) and Virgil Cole (Ed Harris.) Also starring Jeremy Irons as the villian Bragg and Rene Zellweger as the Widow French.
Peter Travers’s review and Roger Ebert‘s are worth reading.


October 31, 2008

Still photo of Sir Ben Kingsley as David Kepesh and Penelope Cruz as Consuela Castillo from Isabel Coixet’s Elegy.

When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life.

So says David Kepesh, a bit creepy and way self-absorbed older professor who has captivated his former graduate student Consuela Castillo, now that the semester is over and she is fair game.

Kepesh is another aging and angry lecher in a line of semi-autobiographical characters created by Philip Roth, this time in The Dying Animal (2001) a la The Human Stain, from 2000, which we read in our reading group. I much prefer Roth when he gets outside himself, such in another of oaur selections, the dis-utopian 2004 The Plot Against America in which he imagines a parallel U.S. in which the anti-semitic Charles Lindberg had defeated FDR for the presidency in 1940. (All three books from Houghton Mifflin.)

That said, Roger Ebert, finds the movie, not great, but nicely done, and so do I. Andrew O’Hehir, writing for Salon, admires the acting, but doubts the semi-fairy tale transformation of Kepesh at the end and so do I. In contrast, Anohla Dargis, in a review in the New York Times on August 8, 2008, writes

Comparisons between novels and screen adaptations are inevitable, particularly when a film announces its literary pedigree as this one reasonably does. The trick is not to confuse the two or assume that the best adaptation is the most faithful or makes for good cinema.

And yet, Dargis does precisely that, complaining the Kingsley is too virile and not enough of a misogynist.

Elegy has strong supporting performances –Patricia Clarkson, as Kepesh’s long-term no-strings sexual partner Carolyn, Peter Sarsgaard as his estranged son Kenneth and Dennis Hopper as his best friend George O’Hearn, with a brief appearance of singer and actress Deborah Harry as O’Hearn’s wife, Amy. Sarsgarrd, BTW, as one of his first roles, played murder victim Walter Delacroix in Tim Robbin’s 1995 film, Dead Man Walking.

Section 60: Arlington Cemetery

October 14, 2008

Image from the from the HBO site for its documentary on some of the families that come to visit the graves in Section 60, where soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill… “embedded” themselves into the fabric of daily life in Section 60, capturing landscapes, families, friends and officials. Over the course of four months in 2007, they filmed on a daily basis, earning the trust of families who shared some of their most personal moments.

On October 10, Democracy Now interviewed Alpert on this his third film in a trilogy of Iraq-related HBO documentaries, which includes Baghdad ER and Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.

Also interviewed are Paula Zwillinger, whose son, Lance Corporal Robert Mininger, was killed in Iraq on June 6, 2005 and Patricia Genevie, whose son, Private First Corporal Aaron Genevie, died April 16, 2007, in Baghdad.

A May 18, 2007 photo essay on that section of the cemetary from the Washington Post is here.

Man on Wire

October 9, 2008

Photo of Philippe Petit, crossing a high wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in James Marsh’s documentary from Stephen Holden’s April 18, 2008 review of the Tribecca Film Festival.

Saw this at the Lyric tonight, thinking I was going to see Burn After Readeing, but it was well worth it.

Right now, Marsh is filming Nineteen Eighty, based on on British writer David Peace‘s novel of the same name.