Volume 75, Number 6 | June 29 - July 5, 2005

Villager Arts & Lifestyles

Koch on Film

Batman Begins (-)

The movie received rave reviews and, when I saw it, the audience applauded at the end. The theater was sold out, clearly the movie will be a huge success. I did not like it. I don’t often like movies based on cartoons, whether they be humans playing the cartoon characters, or simply full feature length regular cartoons. But this film appeared from the reviews to be headed in a different direction. The actors were provided with good, thoughtful and provocative dialogue. The actors were first caliber, Christian Bale as Batman; Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, a guru, part of a Tibetan-appearing group called the League of Shadows, intending always to keep world class cities free of crime, even if it were necessary to burn a city down as Ducard says they did to London generations ago. This time, they are focusing on Gotham — read New York City — and are prepared to treat it as God treated Sodom and Gomorrah, described in the bible.

Under the philosophy of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), good people could be destroyed if there were enough bad people in the same city who had to be eliminated. This is a philosophy that presides in wartime, but certainly not in times of peace. Batman did not agree with that philosophy.

Morgan Freeman plays Lucius Fox, who is in charge of the scientific discoveries at Batman’s father’s created corporation, the largest in the world, that would help society. Freeman did a terrific job of acting, making the cartoon role seem very human and intense. He tells us that gear costing $300,000 to protect the American soldier in wartime on the battlefield was refused by the government because of the cost. It would be interesting to know if that was an allusion to the unarmored Humvees used in Iraq by American soldiers, some of whom died needlessly when they were blown up. It sure sounds like it was.

Michael Caine was also wonderful in his role as an English butler, making sure that the role of noblesse oblige would continue, imploring Batman to understand his obligations to the world.

Katie Holmes plays Rachel Dawes, Batman’s love interest, an assistant district attorney bent on eliminating crime and corruption. She’s fine in the role, and subject to even greater audience interest because of her recent engagement to Tom Cruise and his schoolboy antics in announcing his love. It’s not a bad movie, and you may like it. I just found it boring.

“Lords of Dogtown” (-)

In his New York Times review, A.O. Scott wrote that this film “from start to finish, is pretty much a blast.” So, with few new movies to choose from, I decided to see it.

I found it to be a degenerate film with perhaps only one guy standing out from the others as more gentle and courteous. Allegedly, it is based on the 2002 documentary, “Dogtown and Z Boys,” which was very exciting. As far as I know, that was the first film featuring skateboarding as a sport, and it appeared to be as exciting as ocean surfing.

Let me refresh your memory. In the documentary, we watched a group of Californians from Venice break into private pools which were empty of water and use the sloping walls of the pool for their skateboard antics. They all had blond hair which apparently is the hair color to have if you want to be accepted in California.

In “Lords of Dogtown,” we have the same characters. Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger) is the owner of the small skateboard manufacturing operation who takes advantage of a dozen youths. He organizes their surfboard team to give his skateboard brand notoriety. The nice guy is Stacy Peralta (John Robinson). The other characters are Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) and Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger).

As A.O. Scott describes them in his review, “their lives are a complicated and perhaps typically Southern Californian blend of hedonism and striving.” He goes on to say, “They throw punches, trash restaurants and break into suburban homes.” I came away disgusted with their lifestyle, morals and code of conduct. All in all, it was a terrible night at the movies.

- Ed Koch

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