Volume 78 / Number 4 - June 25 - July 1, 2008
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Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (-)
The three previous Indiana Jones movies were enjoyable but this one, which received warm and sentimental reviews, is boring. Perhaps with the passage of time my movie tastes have changed or they have simply matured. The series reminds me of the movie serials I went to see every Saturday in the late 30s where each chapter ended on a precipice with the protagonists in great danger of death. Here one chapter rolled into the next seamlessly.

In this latest tale, Professor Henry Jones (Harrison Ford) is searching for the source of the crystal skull which came into his possession after he escaped from a group of Russians in 1975 during the days of the Soviet Union. The group is led by Colonel Professor Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) who plays the role as though she were eating a rug.

The trail of the characters in the hunt for the skull takes them from a nuclear base in the Western U.S. to an ancient Mayan-styled edifice, the walls of which open in a spectacular fashion. Of course, stunt after stunt occurs including frequent chase scenes and boats going over immense waterfalls. None of the scenes, intended to be parodies of earlier perilous chapter movies, are particularly unique.

Early on Indie meets a teenage dude, Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), who asks for assistance in locating and saving his mother. It turns out that his mother is an old flame of Indie’s, Marion (Karen Allen). Also along for the ridiculous trip is archivist Harold Oxley (John Hurt) who taught Indie everything he knows which, in my mind, is not too much.

The ending, which I will not describe, is totally unexpected but had I thought about it given a multiple choice, I think I would have picked the right answer. All in all, I was disappointed. That is not to say that you shouldn’t take your children – ages 8-12 to see it. They will undoubtedly enjoy it as I liked the chapters so many years ago. I’m talking about the 30s when for an admission price of ten cents you got to see two movies and were given a comic book and a soda. Oh, the good old days.

HS said: After 18 years, Indiana Jones is back. Directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by George Lucas, the fourth IJ film shows the archeology professor, now 65 years old, called upon again for adventure in South America. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” is a film fully described by its nine-word title. The series began in 1981 with the wildly popular “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Those of you who want to know much more about Jones’ origin, psyche and exploits should read the Wikipedia entry for Indiana Jones.

The movie is an action-packed adventure story, with ghosts, spies, skeletons, waterfalls, earthquakes, volcanoes and a large mushroom cloud, accompanied by carnivorous red ants, chattering monkeys, natives in loin cloths and other tried and true attractions. There is a romantic plot as well, a discovery of relationships, encounters with the authorities, an attractive but cruel Soviet agent. This is a major motion picture in the Hollywood tradition. Does it have to make sense or convey deeper meaning? I don’t think so.

“Chris & Don: A Love Story ” (+)
You will enjoy every moment of this magnificent documentary about the lives and intimate relationship of American painter Don Bachardy and English writer Christopher Isherwood.

Don, born in Los Angeles, California, of a low-economic status family, hung around with his brother Ted, a manic depressive who eventually underwent shock treatments. In 1951 when Don was 16 years old, he met Christopher, an upper-class English writer 30 years his senior, and two years later their relationship began. Chris, a literary success when the two met, ultimately wrote many books, and the play “Cabaret” was based on his book, “The Berlin of Sally Bowles.” Both the musical and the movie were huge successes.

When the film opens, Chris has already died at the age of 81 from prostate cancer. His off camera voice expressing his thoughts and observations is that of Michael York who reads from Chris’s diary. Don, now about 70, has turned Chris’s office into a bedroom, sleeping in the bed Chris once used. Over the years he apparently adopted Chris’s English accent as well as his manner of speaking which included comments ranging from silly to disrespectful. Through dialogue and the use of photos, he tells us of their lives and relationship which was not only that of lovers but sometimes, because of the age difference, one of father and son. Early on Chris recognized Don’s artistic talent and paid for him to attend art school.

Don Bachardy and Christopher Isherwood led long, full and public lives together at a time when it was not easy to do. Everything in this documentary, which is definitely worth seeing, rings true. When I saw the film at the Quad Cinema, the theater was packed.

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