Volume 80, Number 7 | July 14 -21, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Restrepo” (+)
The film is named for Juan Restrepo, an American soldier killed in an Afghanistan valley. Members of his company, expanding the footprint of American forces in the area, adopted his name for their unit: Outpost Restrepo. The documentary was made by a reporter, Sebastian Junger, and a photographer, Tim Hetherington — who spent an extended period of time with the Army unit in the valley outpost. Their film depicts the daily activities of the unit, including firefights and horseplay.

Inevitably, a comparison must be made with the celebrated movie “The Hurt Locker” — which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. That movie, depicting U.S. soldiers in the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit during the Iraq war, was extraordinary in terms of grasping the attention and emotions of movie audiences.

“Restrepo” is not as powerful, because it cannot compete with a docudrama creating dramatic events. The filmmakers appear to have deliberately avoided showing death scenes. Nevertheless, it is very powerful. Anyone watching the film has to be overcome with the senselessness of the sacrifices made by these men.

When the company was relieved of its duty and sent to Italy for R&R, members of the unit were individually interviewed. Each, speaking in a totally unaffected manner, made clear what others writing about wars have concluded (from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” to Sebastian Junger’s book “War,” on which the film is based) — that the principal factor in times of war is the fraternal bond established among soldiers. They believe their lives are protected by their fellow soldiers, and they will protect their comrades at all costs. Yes, they are fighting for their country — but at the moment of combat, the lives of their buddies count the most.

As I watched this movie, I asked myself why our troops are still in Afghanistan. Why are we defending a corrupt Karzai government that is negotiating with the Taliban to bring those inflicting such harm and terror on their fellow Afghan citizens into their government as partners? We now have more than 100,000 Americans fighting a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won. When will the American people start marching in the streets against this war, as they did when they successfully ended the Vietnam War by bringing down President Johnson who decided not to run for reelection?

1hour, 36minutes. Rated R. Documentary. Screening at, among other places, the Angelika Film Center (18 West Houston St., at Mercer St.). Call 212-995-2000 or visit www.angelikafilmcenter.com.

“Cyrus” (-)
If any movie can put you to sleep, this is the one. It is billed as a comedy but, believe me, it is dead weight from beginning to end. I saw the film with my sister, Pat, over the July 4th weekend at a theater in the lovely town of Montclair, New Jersey. She poked me whenever she saw my eyes closing making it impossible for me to doze off — so I had to suffer and watch the entire movie.

The four principals are John (John C. Reilly) who has been divorced for several years from his continuing good friend, Jamie (Catherine Keener). Marisa Tomei, a really splendid actress, plays the role of Molly — a single mother with a 21-year-old son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill). Cyrus has a lot of personal problems, primarily related to his relationship with his mother. John meets and is attracted to Molly — which unsettles Cyrus, who enjoys his mother’s affection. She, lying above the covers, sometimes sleeps with him in his bed.

None of the familiar Freudian issues are treated seriously. The movie is an absolute waste of your time.

Pat Thaler said: “This film is billed as a comedy in the newspaper ads. It is anything but. It isn’t funny and, more than that, it deal with a serious pathological attachment between mother and son in the most superficial (but unfunny) way. Even good acting doesn’t save this movie. The only reason you might elect to see it is if all the other films are sold out — that’s why we got stuck with it.”

1hour, 32 minutes. Rated R. Comedy. Screening at, among other places, Regal Union Square Stadium 14 (850 Broadway). Call 800-326-3264 x628.

“The Kids Are All Right” (+)
This is a good but not great film — good because it mainstreams a gay-themed movie that will be well received everywhere, and not great because it doesn’t give viewers any significant insight into the lives of a lesbian couple or their teenage kids.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been in a long-term relationship. Undoubtedly, they would be married if California, where they live, allowed same-sex marriages. The pair have a 15-year-old son, Laser (Josh Hutcherson), and an 18-year-old daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska).  Bening and Moore are fine in their roles. The characters of the two children, like their mothers, are not sufficiently mapped out.

The plot revolves around the children seeking out their sperm donor father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). They meet him and learn that he is an organic farmer, straight, and still single. Responding to their question as to why he donated his sperm, he tells them it was like giving blood, but even better — meaning that it was a good, decent, and caring thing to do.

To make the picture interesting, sex and lust rear their heads, and Jules commences an affair with Paul. It might happen in real life, but it doesn’t ring true in the film that a lesbian, apparently very emotionally and sexually involved with her long-term partner, would suddenly be aggressively heterosexual with a relative stranger.

The audience laughed throughout the picture and applauded when it ended.  Moviegoers will identify with the couple’s problems, which are the same for heterosexual couples with teenage children. The film seeks to establish an understanding of the need to provide equity for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.” I saw the film at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas at Broadway and 62nd Street.

A day or two after seeing this film, I watched “The Crying Game” on the IFC television channel. It involves an IRA soldier, Fergus (Stephen Rea), who becomes involved with another male, Dil (Jaye Davidson), living the life of a woman. That older film is superb and far more absorbing than the “The Kids Are All Right,” which has a sitcom quality to it. If you’ve never seen “The Crying Game,” it is definitely worth renting.

Henry Stern said:  “The Kids Are All Right” is notable as a full Hollywood treatment of a new dilemma: What, if any, should be the relationship between a sperm donor and the children he sired with two mothers. The picture is well-crafted, with inside jokes and grimaces by the performers which convey meaning. The plot had a bit of soap opera in it, but so what? The important aspect of the film is that it depicts a long-term lesbian relationship which is taken for granted and viewed as wholesome. The heterosexual coupling that takes place is considered shameful and regretted by all parties. The implicit message in the movie, if any, is: Be what you are.

1 hour, 44 minutes. Rated R. Comedy. Screening at, among other places, AMC Loews Village 7 (66 Third Ave.). Call 888-262-4386.

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