AMÉRICA – movie review

AMÉRICA
Lifelike Docs
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Chase Whiteside, Erick Stoll
Screenwriter: Chase Whiteside, Erick Stoll
Cast: América, Diego, Bruno, Rodrigo, Luis
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 9/3/19
Opens: September 13, 2019 at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image

América

In “The Seven Ages of Man” found in Shakespeare’s play “As You Like It,” the Bard concludes:
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

In other words though it may be better than the alternative (only sometimes), old age is a pitiful part of life, even worse if the elderly spend it alone or adrift in a terrible nursing home. But sans everything? Not so, say directors Chase Whiteside, Erick Stoll in their documentary “América.” This is Erick Stoll’s freshman full-length movie though you might figure his politics if you see “Good White People,” his short doc about gentrification. For his part Chase Whiteside unfolds his first full-length doc, though figuring his politics from his short feature “Lifelike,” about a taxidermist, doesn’t sound political, but who knows? Documentary shorts are not easy to find even in New York.

While Americans are known to put their elderly and fragile oldsters into nursing homes, it’s a cliché that Chinese would never elect to do this but rather to care for the parents, who gave them so much, at home. Now it turns out that some Mexicans are doing the same for their grandmother, América, who is 93 years old at the movie’s opening and, though suffering from dementia, she can recognize the terrific grandchildren who are caring for her. “América” is filmed over three years first in Puerto Vallarta where Diego can be found riding a unicycle through a crowd and later demonstrating at least amateur level acrobatics with his brothers Bruno and Rodrigo.

The brothers’ grandmother América lives in the state of Colima, a woman who may no longer be a vibrant human being but who lucks out by having grandsons to take care of her. Diego is the most committed. He bathes her, talks to her, kisses her while straightening her hair, and forces her to exercise when all she wants to do is return to her bed. In one scene he demonstrates tough love by insisting that she stand up straight, though América wants at least to hold his hand.

Ironically, when she suffers a fall, her son Luis is blamed and sent to prison for eight months though he is quite innocent of bad intent, and it falls to the brothers, already submerged in América’s care, to get their father released. How they pay for a lawyer, and how they deal with a judge’s offer to release the man for 25,000 pesos ($1400) is not clear though the three argue, but finances and commitment to América are debated among the three, in one case leading to a physical fight. The good thing about the whole affair is at least the three threesome are together again. At times they come across like philosophers in conversation, though we have no idea how much education they’ve had.

We learn something about the Mexican social care system, a country that is awash with drug murders but still funds social workers who seem genuinely to care for their clients—at least while director Stoll’s camera is on them. (The directors share stunning fluency in their editing while Stoll doubles as director of photography.) At fifty-two minutes in length viewers will gain insights into extreme old age, grandchildren, and the social and legal systems of our friends to the south.

52 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

EDIE – movie review

EDIE
Music Box Films
Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Simon Hunter
Screenwriter: Simon Hunter, Edward Lyden-Bell, Elizabeth O’Halloran
Cast: Sheila Hancock, Kevin Guthrie, Paul Brannigan, Amy Manson, Wendy Morgan
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/10/19
Opens: September 6, 2019

Edie Movie Poster

The Pennsylvania Dutch have an expression, “Ve get too soon oldt undt too late schmart.” Keep this in mind when you view this small movie which is sentimental but not saccharine and which may offer insight into people that millennials in America consider to be irrelevant oldsters. People like Edie (Sheila Hancock) are never seen in commercials because folks in their seventies and eighties are not considered cool, and in fact if you look at commercials from Macy’s, our country’s largest retail store, you get the idea that everyone over thirty has gone the way of Logan’s Run.

Edie has become old. She spent the last thirty years caring for her husband who, resulting from a stroke, had not spoken or walked. Nor did she love him, as she explains to her daughter Nancy (Wendy Morgan), and now that he’s dead, she feels a sense of relief—nothing like what the psychoanalysts say is the most stressful event that an happen to a surviving spouse. She is fed up with Nancy’s insistence that she enters a nursing home, an absurd idea since she can obviously take care of herself. She proves this with points to spare in Hunter’s movie.

Hunter has apparently been inactive in the cinema community, having last directed “Mutant Chronicles” in 2009 about a 28th century soldier fighting an army of underworld mutants. Such a film does not prepare you for “Edie,” which, though featuring a woman battling nature as Major Mitch Hunter battled mutants is well rooted in the modern day. You might come away from this picture figuring, “Hey, this Simon Hunter knows not only how to direct women but is a man who with the help of co-writers Edward Lynden-Bell and Elizabeth O’Halloran getd right into the mind of an octagenarian.

Looking at an old picture postcard featuring a scene from Scotland’s Mount Suilven, she sets her mind on climbing it, though tour guides recommend allowing ten daylight hours to do the 2400 feet. Nor would most guides suggest that someone like Edie try the climb particularly given the arrival of nighttime and the pouring rain for which Scotland is known. Happily, she meets and bonds with Jonny (Kevin Guthrie), who plans to open Scotland’s largest camping store, a young man who at first thinks like Edie’s daughter Nancy but ultimately assists her in reaching the peak.

Sheila Hancock in the title role is a wonderful British actress who in this movie knows how to play the cantankerous biddy when she mistrusts someone but who can open up when a young man pays attention to her as does Jonny’s friend McLaughlin (Paul Brannigan). It’s important to note that contrary to our present time when women have proven themselves capable of running corporations and joining the bid to become president of the U.S., those who came of age during the 1950s like Edie were indoctrinated with their role of cooking, cleaning, and living for their husbands, children and grandchildren.

Cinematographer August Jakobsson photographs the landscape in tourist brochure mode, somehow finding the entire area almost free of other climbers and campers, which is exactly what Edie had hoped. The friendship between an 84-year-old woman and a lad over fifty years younger is convincing and heartwarming in a project that should make women (especially) to realize that they need not wait until their final segment of life to get off the couch, put down the iPhone, go outdoors, and welcome the thrill of nature.

102 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, NY Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN BIGFOOT – movie revewi

From Montréal’s Fantasia International Film Festival 2018

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT

Epic Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Robert D. Krzykowski
Screenwriter:  Robert D. Krzykowski
Cast:  Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Caitlin FitzGerald, Ron Livingston, Ellar Coltraine
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 7/12/18
Opens: July 20, 2018

Featuring a revisionist view of history, an element of horror, regret at a romantic opportunity not taken, Robert D. Krzkowski’s fantasy is mostly about the loneliness and melancholy of old age.  And who better to pay the part of a quiet man who rises several times to the occasion when only violence is justified than Sam Elliott?  As Calvin Barr, this New England resident lives a quiet life with his loyal Golden Retriever Ralph, and is a subject that is in the writer-director’s métier.  Though this is Krzykowki’s freshman feature-length movie, we can anticipate the subject matter by noting that his short “Elsie” in 2016 is located in the sleepy town of Campbell Falls, wherein one Ridley Hooper awakens to discover that he must rescue his little sister has been stolen by an army of creepy Shadowmen.

What emerges is a look at Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott), who has memories of his younger days, where he is played by Aidan Turner, a World War 2 hero and American soldier with a gift for languages who dons a Nazi officer’s uniform, worms his way into Hitler’s headquarters, and shoots him in the chest and in the head.  Of course we know that Der Fuehrer ended his own life by poison and a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after which his loyal followers destroyed his corpse in limestone.  Or do we?  According to Krzykowski, the assassination was covered up and it was really Hitler’s number two man who ended his life as the Russians moved in.

Using his signature gruff voice and monotone, Elliott appears with a thick head of white hair parted in the middle, his only roommate being Ralph the dog, and for our benefit, Calvin conjures up the past.  He is a resounding success as an espionage agent who infiltrates the Nazi war machine, observing two lines of prisoners bound to a train leading to a concentration camp.  Though he knows his killing of Hitler is both justified and essential, he has mixed feelings since, after all, he had taken a man’s life.

In a more pleasant setting, he dates Maxine (Caitlin FitzGerald), and is about to offer her a diamond ring in an upscale restaurant when the couple are harassed by the parents of one of Maxine’s third-grade students.  They profess their love for each other, but nothing has come of it, though events overtake the two leading to Calvin’s loneliness.  Now in 1985 the elderly gentleman is still able to fend off an attack by three thugs demanding his wallet and car keys.  Knowing Calvin’s reputation in the war and of the way he dispatched the muggers, two agents–one from the FBI, Flag Pin (Ron Livingston), the other, Maple Leaf (Rizwan Manji), from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, visit him in his cabin begging him to go to the Canadian wilds and destroy Bigfoot (Mark Streger), a monster who is spreading an epidemic that could lead to the end of the world.

Calvin is a man of few words and, in fact, he has not kept in communication with his younger brother Ed (Larry Miller), a small-town barber, who offers to give him solace if only he would use him to relieve the stress of Calvin’s loneliness.  Since the title of the film already gives away that Calvin kills both monsters, Hitler and Bigfoot, there is no surprise there.  Instead the real treat is in Sam Elliott’s performance, a delightfully underplayed execution that is threatened only by Joe Kraemer’s loud, intrusive music.  This is the kind of American myth which is however fantastical comes across as strangely believable.  And boy, do we need a myth to believe in now!

Unrated.  98 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting –  B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+