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My Sh!t in Auschwitz Rocked

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photo: lambstar

What could Steve Bannon have meant by this line as he opens Alison Klayman’s documentary The Brink? He’s talking about visiting Europe with his populist agenda and his Torchbearer, Duck Commander, Phil Robertson’s film. I played it over twice but am still not sure what he was really trying to say. Apparently, he was totally surprised to discover that Birkenau was built specifically for the annihilation of a race—that meant  that intelligent men sat around with coffee cups making their plans. “Normal people who weren’t devils”, as he puts it. He should see BBC/HBO’s The Conspiracy, which dramatizes the 1942 Wannsee Conference, where the European lawyers and high level SS drink champagne and discuss the Final Solution like they were planning  a campaign to push rayon over silk. Kenneth Branagh playing General Heydrich was also charming. Bannon, an unlikely warrior,  never expresses any irony as the film shows him going about the business of aiding and abetting other populist and racist causes himself.

This fascinating look into the Fritto lover who sadly gave us Mr. Cheetos is particularly eerie because Bannon is not without some charm and wit, and one keeps wondering if he truly believe what he proffers. It feels like an act. As if he’s found a niche and he thinks he can win in this niche, so he sticks to it. If he had made more successful films, would the Right have become his cause, or is he in it out of defeat?  Could he possibly be so blind to his own racism? Does he think the Populist values of recreating the White World in his image is sensible or even evolutionary?

Not once in this film is the troubled environment mentioned except as a jokey excuse for some piece of legislation. Not once do we hear of the pain epidemic, lack of decent jobs for all people, high rate of infant mortality in our country and too many more issues that he has no time for.   He travels on private planes, enjoys expensive hotels, hangs out with ex Goldman Saxers and  doesn’t consider himself an elitist?

What is Raheem, a Muslim who sounds just like John Oliver doing working for him? That should be the sequel.  This guy goes on about all the Arabs living on the Edgeware Road for the last ten years in London.  I lived in London 25 years ago and there were always Arab stores and restaurants.  He and Epstein, a Republican candidate who wanted Trump to write his name on her pregnant belly are breathtaking in their self-deception. Apparently, Ms Epstein is a Messianic Jew, and was neatly defeated by Haley Stevens.  Aw.

What is so intelligent about this film, is that the director stays quiet, only occasionally asking him a question. Instead he lets his own blindness speak for him.

I don’t know and really don’t want to know what happened in his childhood to bring him to this place. He’s good looking (underneath the rust), funny, sort of aware and has potential to be a human. Can’t we get him into one of those Steiner nursery schools where he can learn to love himself first and then just maybe others? Only if Betsy DeVos stays out of it..

 

See the film.

 

Written by nancykoan

April 2, 2019 at 12:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Written by nancykoan

March 30, 2019 at 3:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Written by nancykoan

March 30, 2019 at 3:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Woman at War, true Viking spirit.

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Iceland has very strong environmental protections, so when the lead character, Halla, in Woman At War, fights to halt the encroaching aluminum industry, we discover a serious activist with a sense of humor and a cause. Known by reputation as the  Woman of the Mountain, Halla leads a double life, directing a choir by day while secretly committing vandalism on the corporation with her Viking inspired bow and arrow. Halla is such a powerful person; we see her use her body for sport, climbing  and performing clever physical deeds…she is active in ways women are too rarely seen in film. Halla is not about being watched; she watches, constantly on the alert to protect nature and the future of nature for our world.

Halla befriends a man who may or may not be a cousin … he, too, is fighting for the land and calls his herding dog Woman. He helps Halla, but mostly she goes it alone and is fine, until her life’s journey comes to a fork. She receives a letter that her application to adopt a little girl has finally come through and a new role is in the offing, to be a  mother to a Ukrainian child

Halldóra Geirhasdóttir is such a fine actress that we witness her internal struggle as she must now contemplate a future for humanity and the environment through dangerous activism or the future of an orphaned child by giving her a homelife. She cannot do both.

Director Benedikt Erlingsson uses a sort of musical Greek chorus of indigenous singers who follow her around, reminiscent of the odd musicians who show up in a Fellini film, commenting subtly on the main players. They are amusing, but the heart of this wonderful film is Halla and her character.  When she argues with her twin sister who prefers to live in India with a guru ‘going inside’ to  Halla’s tackling the outer world, you know that it is not because Halla is unconscious. She has contemplated and made choices from a strong moral, humble fiber, characteristics we see too little of today.

The rugged landscape is beautifully filmed by Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson

Run to this film. It is funny, touching and speaks to the idea of the strong and good mother…what nature and the environment cries out for if we are indeed to keep going.

The film is playing at the IFC and Landmark Theatre.

Written by nancykoan

February 21, 2019 at 2:57 am

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Never Look Away…beauty in truth

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The film The Lives of Others, deals with the lives of  East Berliners, separated by a wall  and  freedom. The Stasi – driven paranoia never permitted peace of mind, yet people lived with dignity as best they could.  Even the Stasi operative reveals a human side. Director and writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck thrills again and even more so, with his new film, Never Look Away.

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It is no surprise that Donnersmarck studied philosophy at Oxford. Every character thinks in this film… weighing their choices, confronting their destinies and we as audience, have the pleasure of experiencing this along with them.

Starring Tom Schilling and Sebastian Koch, Never Look Away spans three eras of German history from WWII to the Berlin Wall. Young art student Kurt (Schilling)  falls in love with the daughter (Paula Beer) of an ex Nazi doctor (Koch) who disapproves of his child’s choice of partner and works at destroying Kurt’s self-esteem and their relationship. What they don’t know is that their lives are intricately interwoven through a crime that the Professor committed during the height of the Nazi regime.

This is a film that takes its time. When the allied bombs begin to fall, we see a montage… one family, separated through war, soldiers on the field, a young woman in an extermination camp (Saskia Rosendahl)…all of a family, disappearing in the ways wars make lives disappear. The music by Max Richter  delivers the power and the futility of this most horrific of human endeavors.

Kurt, in art school, cannot immediately produce. We see the artist’s process as he struggles between expression and denial. It is not until his subconscious awakens through the help of a committed teacher and his own acceptance of the truth, that he is able to say something from his heart.

The Nazi Professor remains arrogant throughout. He is a perfect example of the blindness of racism — he sees neither his daughter’s happiness nor her pain nor is able to acknowledge his deeds.  He is a man of such hubris that when leaving East Berlin, he doesn’t join his cronies  in South America, but carries on his life in the West. This is frightening indeed. He is more machine than human and is played brilliantly by Koch.

Never Look Away is a powerhouse of a film.  Honor, praise and gratitude bestowed on those who made this part of our human history so compelling.

produced by Jan Mojito Quirin Berg Max Wiedemann

Christiane Henckel von Donnersmarck

Written by nancykoan

January 24, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Posted in racism, Uncategorized

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Renee Taylor on Dieting and Other Habits

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reneeRenee Taylor has had the life I might have had if my acting career had been laced with the brio her personality; my father had been more of a gambler instead of a Sunday craps shooter and my mother had encouraged instead of competed with me when singing  Clair de Lune at the piano. With the completely opposite set of life circumstances, Renee Taylor pushed through her Bklyn/Bronx Wexler family of origin and in fact used it and its effect on her to become the charming, humorous comedienne and writer that she still is today.

Her new one woman show, My Life On A Diet ( based on her book  My Life on a Diet: Confessions of a Hollywood Diet Junkie) at Theatre at St Clement’s written with husband, and creative partner for 53 years, Joe Bologna, is sheer delight. When she first appears on Harry Feiner’s stage set which resembles a 99- cent store version of Joan Rivers’ rococo living room, you wouldn’t be so far off if you thought it was Dame Edna Everage.  Taylor is a sturdy eighty- something with if not little girl voice, a soft spoken New Yorkease, that compels you to move forward in your chair so as not to miss a moment of her story craft and superb comic timing.

Sitting comfortably at her desk, Ms. Taylor starts to recount the diets of her life, slicing them into her yearnings for stardom, her mostly good and some bad luck and her commitment to being full alive. The visual projections of her diets and of her family and friends help open the story of her life. We hear about her endless auditions, Marilyn Monroe’s insecurities, Lee at the Studio, and a myriad of survival jobs, one becoming the signature piece which helped launch her television career. Taylor is an inventive creature with a deep ability to laugh and respect herself at the same time. When she can’t brag personally, she mentions people who admired her work, like Jack Paar, Perry Como and Barbara Streisand and all of America who watched her as Fran Drescher’s mom on The Nanny. Every story leads back to her life- long fat issues and her attempts at resolving the problem with ideas as bizarre as drinking only Cristal champagne or abstaining from everything except autumn air.

Her husband Joe Bolgona died in 2017. Together they wrote and acted in wonderful comedies like Lovers and Other Strangers. By her re-telling of their sweet courtship, they surely were really Made For Each Other.

Clearly, Ms.Taylor doesn’t have to prove a thing. She’s already there. But she is such a gifted artist with a great willingness to share her infectious spirit. Altogether, this makes the story of a disappearing show biz world and a young woman’s dream to be part of it, a must for anyone who wants to think back on the past and laugh in the present.

 

Written by nancykoan

July 22, 2018 at 3:09 am

It’s More Than Just about Getting High ..The Mountain

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High wire walker over canyon - courtesy of Greenwich EntertainmentYou ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.

This poem Green Mountain by Li Bai  so simply describes the bond we feel when in the presence of a mountain. I grew up in Pennsylvania surrounded by The Seven Mountain range and I suppose took for granted that feeling of protection mixed with awe that was right outside my kitchen window.

Because I miss mountains and their majesty, I was drawn to the Australian film The Mountain. In many ways The Mountain is a beautifully filmed tone poem that moves the spirit with soaring cinematography. Director of the award- winning film The Sherpa Jennifer Peedom, was commissioned to make this film, with the intention of having it scored by The Australian Chamber Orchestra. It’s musically sound and works well, with Willem Dafoe’s narration guiding throughout.

The opening shot of a man scaling an unnamed mountain with what seems like no equipment is so daring… one could ask where do we go from here? But we go to many places, including the history of mountaineering, expedition footage and high- risk sports. I have never seen anything like this before; the walk on rope hung high between mountains suddenly puts the stroll of the great Philippe Petit at the World Trade Center in a very different zone.

All of the aerial shots are amazing, many shot with drones, and cinematographer and climber Renan Ozturk, who worked with Peedam on Sherpa, is a master.

Following the screening, I chatted to a skiier who had seen a lot of the sport footage before. Apparently, they had to cull from some of the world’s finest mountain material in order to cover many locales and for it to work with the music. I doubt many people will mind seeing these exquisite visuals over and over.

The philosophy for this film came from the Robert Macfarlane’s book Mountains of the Mind. He has a reverence for nature and her power. Man’s attempts at conquering the mountain, often seem foolhardy, but even the risk of falling won’t stop men from trying to reach the peak.

I wish Peedam had spent a little more time on the exploitation of the natural world by commercial outfits, but understandably the film was not to be a political endeavor.  She spoke by skype at a Q&A and is down to earth and caring.

The Mountain is a worthwhile experience. You feel this film, not just watch it.

Written by nancykoan

May 15, 2018 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized