The Monuments Men

March 19, 2014 at 8:39 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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The Monuments Men is an ensemble movie starring:

  • George Clooney,
  • Matt Damon,
  • Bill Murray,
  • Cate Blanchett,
  • John Goodman,
  • Bob Balaban,
  • Hugh Bonneville,
  • Jean Dujardin.

With so many stars, it is hard getting everyone enough screen time. So Clooney (Frank Stokes), Damon (James Granger) and Blanchett (Claire Simone) get slightly more time than the others.

The film has the daunting task of telling a story that spans most of Western Europe, and takes place in the last three years of World war II. At times, the film feels like a series of miniatures.

Frank is in charge of small unit charged with recovering art looted by the Nazis. They also try to stop the Nazis stealing more art, as they retreat; and at the end, try to recover stolen art before it the Russians get to it. Claire is a french woman who collaborates with the Nazis in Paris to keep track of where french is sent.

From 1943 onwards, as the tide of war turns, the Germans retreat eastwards, but they take the art works – tens of thousands of them – with them. Even when most of Germany is overrun, there is no sign of the artwork. Eventually, they are found in salt, potassium and copper mines.

The members of the unit are not young men – all the young men were already in combat units. They are not particularly good soldiers: brave, unfit, with 4 weeks of basic training. Two of them are killed, perhaps in circumstances where other younger more experienced men would not. Bonneville’s character – Donald Jeffries – dies in a shootout trying to prevent the Nazis taking a statue by Michelangelo. Dujardin’s character – Jean Claude Clermont – gets caught in the cross-fire between a German patrol and an American patrol; he is lost and blinders in. Their deaths seem so needless.

A film about WWII looted artwork cannot avoid the holocaust. Much of the art was taken from Jews. There is a terrible scene down a mine, amongst looted artwork, there is are two barrels – one full gold rings, and the other full of gold fillings.

A nice history lesson.

Dallas Buyers Club

March 18, 2014 at 9:48 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I watched the Dallas Buyers Club and was not surprised that a few days later Matthew McConaughey won an oscar for his portrail of Ron Woodroof. McConaughey must have cut his food intake to get his body painfully thin – to look the part of an AIDS patient. As must have Jared Leto – who also won an oscar – for his potrail of Rayon, another AIDS patient.

Ron is a Texan: a blue collar worker, working in big oil, with a conservative attitude towards women and gays, hard drinking, fond of rodeo, and rodeo groupies. It is this last fondness that results in him getting HIV – the AIDS virus.

After passing out, he is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to life – doctors advise him to get his affairs in order, and reach a state of self acceptance. Ron is a stubborn kind of man, what Texans call ‘onery’ – “I ain’t a homo, and I ain’t checking out” (or words to that effect).

The film takes a poke at the US Food and Drug Agency: the claim is that AIDS epidemic outstripped the systems ability to trial drugs and get them to market. The medical profession is also painted out to be complicit with ‘big pharma’.

People in trouble do what they have always done, they band together and the stubborn ones like Ron find a way to save themselves. You cannot sell drugs not licensed by the FDA; but you can buy them for yourself. Ron and others like him formed buyers clubs all over the US. Ron imports drugs and supplements when he can, and smuggles them in when he can.

The film tosses out the hairy chestnut: what do you do when the law and those charged with enforcing it are killing people. Ron taught himself a lot about immunology and with some help worked out that vitamin and protein derivatives can fortify the body. Many others came to the same conclusion. Yet, the FDA would not allow any to be imported for sale.

It is surprising that no FDA officials were shot – this is Texas after all.

The double blind trials portrayed of AZT (a failed anti-cancer drug with anti-viral properties) killed patients, not only because the dosages were too high, but because half the patents in the trial got a placebo. In the case of AIDS, a double blind trial of anti-AIDS drugs kills half of the patents; in reality, most of the double blind trials were abandoned, as it became obvious who got the placebos. At one stage Ron buys stolen AZT – what did he have to loose.

Ron lived for over 2000 days – much more than the 30 days the hospital expected. Along the way Ron, develops a respect for AIDS sufferers, some he even considers to be his friends – like Rayon. When you walk in another man’s shoes you understand him, even if you still disagree with his life choices. He also prolonged the lives or many others. Sometimes the world needs ‘orney’ people like Ron.

McConaughey does a great job.

The ‘I’ Test

March 1, 2014 at 6:56 am | Posted in Dance Review, Event Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Last night, I went to a Fringe Festival event The ‘I’ Test. Billed as a dance and dance-theatre. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I liked the unrequited love and love triangle sequences.

The ‘He is so not into you’ segment was very well choreographed and danced (and acted). The man just does his thing and she literally fits herself around and on him. It was an anti pas de duexs: there was no connection emotional connection, just a physical connection; the woman is not allowed to achieve eye contact.

This set things up nicely for the ‘love triangle’. The man encounters another woman who he is interested in and who is not indifferent; but there is a second man who keeps popping up.

Good to see Anna Flaherty, Danielle Lindsay, and Emma Coppersmith – now Muted Crane Productions – again. They were joined by Andrew Paterson and James Wasmer.

The temporary Bats Theatre was nice – my first visit.

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