Volume 78 / Number 9 - July 30 - August 5, 2008
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Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Days and Clouds” (+)
This film moved me emotionally. Although it takes place in Italy, it could be a snapshot of what is currently happening across America.

The central characters are Michele (Antonio Albanese) and his beautiful wife, Elsa (Margherita Buy). The couple, who appear to be in their 50s and very much in love, have a 20-year-old daughter, Alice (Alba Rohrwacher). Because Alice’s boyfriend is unacceptable to papa, she moves out of the parental home.

One evening Michele confesses to Elsa that he has lost his job. He was forced out of the company by two other partners and has not worked for the past two months. Since Michele cannot pay their mortgage, the couple will have to sell their home and small cabin cruiser to pay their expenses. Elsa, who restores frescos in ancient buildings as a hobby, states that she will find a good-paying job. Indeed, she secures two jobs, the second of which involves sexual advances from her boss.

How the couple copes with their financial issues will move you. Seeing Michele slip into a state of depression as a result of his job loss was very difficult to watch, especially when he seeks to collect a debt owed to him by a friend who claims he has already repaid the loan. I wept for a moment witnessing one particular scene. The movie doesn’t have a final resolution with a satisfying ending, but it is an honest-to-God display of what can happen to people.

Last week former Texas Senator Phil Gramm referred to America’s economic slowdown as “a mental recession,” and called its citizens “a nation of whiners.” He went on to say, “You just hear this constant whining, complaining, about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline. We’ve never been more dominant; we’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today.” What a dope. Regrettably, millions of people in the U.S. today are worried about how they will manage financially in their retirement years. (In Italian, with English subtitles.)

“The Dark Knight” (-)
I may be the only moviegoer in America who has seen the current Batman film and thinks it is ridiculous.

The theater was packed when we arrived for a 12:30 p.m. show on Sunday afternoon and only a few seats were available in the front row. Afraid of getting reverse vertigo from looking up at the screen, I searched a little longer and located a seat further back. Once settled, I looked forward to seeing the movie which has received so many favorable reviews. I was disappointed when it finally ended, however, and wondered if the media blitz and ensuing frenzy compelled people to say they enjoyed the film.

I like movies that display some violence and enjoy watching blood and guts being spilled on the big screen. If you feel that way, you won’t be disappointed in this one, especially the scenes involving fires and explosions. In the end, however, it adds up to nothing. As Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The story is the same old, same old of Batman saving Gotham City from vile criminals led by the super villain, the Joker. I violate no confidence when I tell you he does so once again. All the characters, especially Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) and his love, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), are stick figures. Gyllenhaal is a fine actress but her performance in this film is nothing to write home about. Other characters include Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), Police Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman), District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Wayne’s factotum who is as delicious as ever.

Much as been made of Heath Ledger’s over-the-top performance as the Joker. It has been touted as extraordinary and worthy of a posthumous Oscar. Absurd. Jack Nicholson who played the Joker in the 1989 “Batman” film was better. Ledger was a fine actor, but this picture did not provide him with a role worthy of his talents. I believe he will be best remembered for his portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain,” and his delivery of the plaintive line, “I wish I could quit you.”

HS said: “The litany of murders by various means, explosions, defenestrations, assassinations a la Anwar Sadat, strangulation and garden variety GSWs (gun shot wounds) leaves nothing to the imagination. The problem is that the plot becomes so twisted no one can keep track of it, and the movie turns into a simple platform for the grotesque, which the viewer may or may not savor.

I thought Heath Ledger was excellent as the demented psychopath.

I would recommend you see the movie, hoping some profits will go to Ledger’s two-year-old daughter. It is also slightly cooler to boast that you saw it rather than that you did not see it. And those of you who are interested in the geography of Gotham will find the picture informative. There is enough swinging from roofs and windows to make Batman an urban Tarzan, but capable of an extended dialogue with the Joker as the crime fighter dangles from a ledge by his fingerprints. Not to worry, no hero or anti-hero is killed off, they will be needed for the inevitable sequel.”

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