October 2002

 

SHINDLER’S LIST (1993, 197 min.)

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For a long time, I delayed going to see SHINDLER’S LIST.  The subject matter is so grim that I was sure the movie would be painful to watch.  Stephen Spielberg’s always brilliant showmanship eases the agony, however, as one revisits these horrendous death-camp realities of WW II.  There is much to be learned from this historical dramatization of Oskar Shindler’s negotiating style.  In the worst possible circumstances and to the most despicable practitioners of fascist cruelty, he envisioned and spoke about a time when the war would be over, challenging them, and sometimes bribing them, to rise to a higher level of humanity than they exhibited.  As a wartime factory owner, he practiced a fine mixture of practical diplomacy and deceptive brilliance that enabled him to accomplish the all-but-impossible rescue of so many enslaved Jewish workers under his supervision.

THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940, 129 min.)  

If you ever wonder why unions were created, take a look at this dust-bowl journey of the Joads, “Okies” on the way to the promised land of California, only to find themselves doing virtual slave-labor for the grape growers and their gangs of thug-like enforcers.  Henry Fonda is the one to watch, ‘bout to boil over with rage and go out of control, then finding, instead, ways to help people organize.  Jane Darwell, as Ma Joad, is a perfect personification of rugged, old-time American grace and endurance.  The film is a triumph of socially progressive cinema.

 

 

HORROR FLICKS

Oh yeah, scary monsters, NOSFERATU, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, etc. as well as more realistic historical visions of distorted humanity related on this page.  And don’t forget the very sad but funny ED WOOD, with Johnny Depp and Marin Landau, and maybe the re-release of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF  –BJ

 

 

JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBURG (1961, 178 min.)     

“The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization!” Spencer Tracy’s character declares in this phenomenal dramatization of post-WWII Nazi war crimes tribunal proceedings in Nuremberg.  Undeniably heavy stuff, but deeply illuminating and graced with powerful performances by old-time acting geniuses like Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster and Tracy himself as the chief justice of this court.  Director Stanley Kramer intended his film to help people understand how the atrocities of that era could have happened, and the main reason seems to have been the common complacency and complicity of ordinary citizens who either looked the other way and remained silent or actively participated in those horrible crimes.  The absolutely unforgettable turning point occurs when Burt Lancaster, as one of the high level Nazi defendants, interrupts the devastating cross-examination of a witness (Judy Garland) by the compassionately fascist defense attorney (Maximilian Schell) with a statement to this effect: “We did know what we were doing, and we are responsible!  Where were we,” he asks, “when every village had its railway terminal for the transport of men, women and children to the death camps?  We are guilty,” he concludes, “because we went along with it.” So much about people at their very worst is revealed in this absorbing study of moral compromise in the face of unspeakable evil.

 

 

“…I’ve got this preoccupation with ordinary people pursued by large forces.” STEPHEN SPIELGERG

 

 

SCARY MOVIE MOMENTS 

 I recall the first full-length movie on a big theater screen that I ever saw.  It was about elephants and tigers inter-acting in a jungle somewhere, seems it was called BLUE HORIZONS.  One of my aunts took us, my brothers and I, to this first “Big Picture” when we were about eight or nine years old.  The really terrifying part of this experience, for me, was not the movie itself; rather, it was the preview of WOLFMAN!  There, on the giant screen, right before my all-believing eyes, a man was turning into a fierce, raging beast! That jolted me upright in my seat!  –Bill Joyner

 

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P. O. Box 3411 / Sarasota, Florida 34230

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 2002OCTOBEROCTOBREOCTUBRE2002