Volume 74, Number 28 | November 10 - 16, 2004

koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Birth” (+)
This movie received mixed reviews. Had all the reviews been negative, I still would have seen it because of my fascination with Nicole Kidman and her superb acting ability. She always gives a fascinating performance.

Kidman looks different and changes her acting style in every film. The prosthetic nose she wore as Virginia Woolf in “The Hours” totally changed her appearance, and the color and style of her hair in “Birth” made her totally unrecognizable for me. The fragility and porcelain quality of her face were no longer there. I have a similar inclination to see Johnny Depp’s films, notwithstanding the reviews which are often bad, because the pictures are. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by the changes in his appearance and acting style with each film.

“Birth” is a ghost story. Anna (Nicole Kidman) is about to marry Joseph (Danny Huston) who has been wooing her for years. Ten years earlier she was married to Sean (Michael Desautels). All we see of Sean in a flashback is of his winter run through Central Park during which he collapses and dies.

Flashing ahead to the announcement of her marriage to Joseph, we meet ten-year-old Sean (Cameron Bright). He tells Anna that she must not marry, because he is her former husband back amongst the living. No explanation is given but, of course, reincarnation is assumed. The child is examined by Anna’s brother-in-law, Bob (Arliss Howard), and plied with questions, the answers to which only her late husband would know. The child answers each question correctly.

The film contains scenes of intimacy between Anna and ten-year-old Sean suggesting but not showing inappropriate pedophilia which may make many in the audience uncomfortable. To me, they brought to mind the case of Mary Kay LeTourneau, the teacher who seduced a boy in junior high school, who ultimately fathered two of her children.

Because of the plot, you have to suspend belief in the finality of death and be prepared for a lot of questions to remain unanswered at the end of the flick. Nevertheless, I found the film to be both exciting and totally enjoyable. Kidman gives an excellent performance and Cameron Bright is superb. He reminds me of a young Jude Law, and I believe he has a great acting career ahead of him. Lauren Bacall has a cameo role as Anna’s mother, Eleanor. She is striking at the age of 77, no longer the beauty that won Humphrey Bogart, but her face is still classic. She performs the role with great flair, using her distinctive flippant acting style. The New York settings are a bonus for moviegoers.

“Team America” (+)
Not as good as its predecessor, “South Park,” but very good. It’s also totally obscene and is definitely not for children. The movie is often hilarious as it spears the Hollywood radicals, particularly Alec Baldwin, depicted as their leader. The sex scenes between two marionettes are unbelievably graphic and funny. Who knew that pieces of wood could be so lewd?

There is a plot: the good guys against the bad guys. The bad guys are led by the North Korean dictator, Kim Jon II, whose unwitting stooges are Baldwin’s Hollywood crowd, including Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Michael Moore. They get their comeuppance at the end. Interestingly, the reviews were mixed and titled towards the lower end of the star chart, although the New York Post gave it four stars. There is ideology here, but the movie spears everyone. People should enjoy the comedy, whatever their politics.

I enjoyed it much more than I did Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It was also very satisfying to see Moore skewered in this lampoon on the political scene. It is worth seeing, maybe even more so after the election.

- Ed Koch

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