Category Archives: Film

“BURTON AND TAYLOR”— Here Was Love

burton taylor

“Burton and Taylor”

Here Was Love

Amos Lassen

I loved Elizabeth Taylor. She was the most beautiful woman the world has ever known and she had a great heart. There is still so much about her that we do not know and we probably never will know it all. One thing for certain was that she loved Richard Burton and he loved her but they could not seem to make it work.

Burton and Taylor – First Photo Credit: BBC/Gustavo Papaleo

In this film produced for the BBC, film star Elizabeth Taylor invites her ex-husband – twice over – Richard Burton to her fiftieth birthday party where, as a recovering alcoholic, he refuses to get drunk with her. She suggests that they star in a stage revival of the Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” on Broadway and he does agree to that. As they announce the project, the press speculates on a romantic reconciliation but Burton has a new girlfriend and the prospect of playing king Lear. He was not happy with the “Private Lives” project, especially with Taylor’s pill popping and her lack of stage experience, which caused problems at rehearsal. The critics tear it apart when it opens but the audiences continue to come because they want to see Taylor and, when she is ill, numbers dwindle and the show is put on hold. After a two-month run , with a projected tour, the play closes and Taylor tells Burton she has always loved him and still does. Then a year later, Burton is dead.

This film is a look back at the magic that was Burton and Taylor. It is a snapshot of two stars as they embarked on the last project they would ever do together. Not only was “Private Lives” an artistic flop, but it was also the subject of constant gossip. The stage production was plagued by rumors of strife, backstage fighting, and lots of unnecessary drama that had little to do with Noel Coward and everything to do with its high-strung leads.

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In this BBC production, we have Helena Bonham Carter  and Dominic West giving their best to become two icons of the glorious Hollywood studio days as do theatre. They don’t either of them truly look like Taylor and Burton, but they do commit to embracing their essence in the emotional complexity of a tortured relationship. Helena Bonham Carter was an unexpected choice to play Elizabeth Taylor, but she does capture a sense of the charming lunacy that was Elizabeth’s trademark. In truth nobody could ever live up to the legend so she fights valiantly in a battle she can never win. She simply decides to bring herself to the role more than trying to copy Taylor and that works fine.

Dominic West has an easier job playing Burton, who was simply a man’s man with a beautiful voice. He does right by Burton’s legacy making him compassionate and yet hardheaded simultaneously. Compared to the disastrous Lindsay Lohan version of Elizabeth Taylor, this is a fine film.

It covers just a brief time period in the couple’s lives and it is  fun to see them square off in a theater rather than on a film set, and there’s plenty of rich folklore to draw from. No sides are taken here and both Elizabeth and Richard seem crazy about and towards each other the whole time. “They are poster children for the dangers of addictive love, and proof positive that exes are best left out of your business life once they are gone from your bedroom”. It is interesting that I felt I wanted them to marry each other again and if Burton had lived, I can only wonder if that might have happened.

Some thought that their venture into live theater was as a cheap device to gain more money and make a mockery out of talent but the crowd loved it  and came back for more. We see the moral struggles that Taylor and Burton faced. Burton was irritated seeing and hearing the theatergoers laugh and act  like they were seeing animals in a zoo. Burton wanted a clean show and to deliver art for those who understand and desire it but not for the masses lurking for the glamour and drama.

This is a minimalist film and it works just fine for Bonham Carter and West. They mix humor with sarcasm, sadness with hope and resignation with forgiveness. The tragedy of Hollywood’s greatest couple was the love that consumed them. They were made for each other and destined to be apart because of their temper. They were alike yet they fought to show they were not. When they were separated they sought to be back in each other’s arms and the fans loved every moment and with the media presenting their every move. Whatever they chose to do was put in second place with their life taking first place.

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It was very smart to just have a movie about a very small incident in their lives but I did want more. We see turmoil, fighting and bickering. The relationship of Taylor and Burton is stripped bare and presented before our eyes and we’re no longer distant. Instead we are enlightened.

For Helena Bonham Carter this is a great role. Many felt that Lindsay Lohan had luck with her looks in landing Taylor’s part but here we see that Bonham Carter is Elizabeth Taylor even though there will be only one Dame with violent eyes and one actress who tried to give justice here—Helena Bonham Carter shows us humor and sadness, anger and mischief. She manages to get those Taylor eyes and the twitch of the lip just like Taylor. She projects adoration, sadness, desperation and acceptance when Richard Burton/Dominic West is beside her.

West embraces the role and the actor. He may not be the perfect Burton, more morose at times and less explosive but the heart is there, the sentiments and understanding of what is required of him is sensed. William Ivory wrote the script and it all works fine. What we see is only a moment in time given and it’s intimate and well balanced.

Both Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter triumph in walking a fine line between impersonation and acting, whether it’s Mr. West who looks and sounds just like Mr. Burton, erupting into a towering rage or Ms. Bonham Carter as Taylor, assuming a pose of taught dignity or throwing a wink to both the audience and the camera that is alive with the screen presence of the original. The performances remain excellent throughout. We can only see them as imagined versions of who these people might have been. Burton is always professional as theatre has always been his first love and he won’t allow anybody, especially Taylor, to make a mockery of it.

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Taylor takes everything in her stride and because she’s Elizabeth Taylor, she knows that the audience will love her simply because, she’s Elizabeth Taylor. It’s quite obvious that even though both are romantically involved with other people, they still care for, and love each other, although neither will ever admit it out loud. There is also the fact that Taylor was always the one who got all of the attention and we see that here in a scene when they both decide to go out for dinner to a quiet restaurant, Ms. Taylor enters and everyone applauds her but when Mr. Burton enters, nobody seems to notice. This seemed to be fine with him because he really preferred not to be in the spotlight but I can only imagine that he was hurt.

And that’s okay with him. Mr. Burton prefers being out of the spotlight but as the evening progresses, they both remember the earlier years when they were at the height of their fame. Burton and Taylor did not seem to want to let go of each other  either professionally or romantically.

By the time that the play ended its run, Burton realized that the audience didn’t like the play for what it was, rather, he felt that they had been invited into his and Ms. Taylor’s private lives instead. The movie is about many things; love, addiction, failure, rejection, getting older and having regrets.

The movie felt that it was very short.  At 85-minutes, the movie remains contained within the production of the play which helps present events from becoming difficult to manage.  However, once the script and characters become comfortable the movie is practically over leaving you to wonder where the time went.  This is either proof of really great pacing or just a thin plot, too breezy to provide much impact.  The events of the play are so lightweight, with the main focus being the fear that Burton/Taylor lived out their issues on-stage, that there’s no real analysis into it.  

“THE MYSTERY OF HAPPINESS”— “Love, Friendship and the Pursuit of Happiness”

the mystery of happiness

The Mystery of Happiness (“El misterio de la felicidad”)

“Love, Friendship and the Pursuit of Happiness”

Amos Lassen

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Santiago (Guillermo Francella) and Eugenio (Fabian Arenillas) are best friends and business partners. They understand each other without words, they care for each other, they need each other. One day Eugenio (Fabian Arenillas) disappears without leaving any clues behind. Santiago notices his absence right away, but only realizes what has happened when Eugenio’s wife, Laura (Ines Estevez), tells him with certainly that Eugenio has left. Santiago and Laura begin a journey in order to find him and end up discovering that they prefer to stay together in this quest rather than finding out where he is. This is a film about love, but goes  far beyond it,  pushing boundaries and exploring the ideas of loyalty and estrangement.

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Perplexed and upset, Santiago and Laura begin a journey to find Eugenio, only to discover that true happiness can sometimes mean losing everything. The premise is simple. Santiago and Eugenio are lifelong buddies and live “a clockwork existence that starts every day as they drive side-by-side to work together, listening to the exact same radio station and laughing at the exact same time. At work they ping-pong tasks back and forth; fittingly enough they’re also paddle partners and frequently team up at the court. They hit the racetracks, they hit the sauna, they go shopping. If they can’t do something together, they certainly do it at the same time”.  

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Santiago has no problem with the routine but Eugenio did evidently. Santiago and Laura begin a journey of existential redolence as they start looking less for Eugenio and more into their own lives and what they want from them. Eugenio’s disappearance unsettles their lives in ways they can’t even begin to comprehend at first, so that Santiago must question his own life and Laura must find new purpose to her life. This is a movie about self-worth and happiness. At first Laura and Santiago act as if they are victims of a terrible disaster. They console each other between bouts of outrage and disbelief. Some questions are answered, others are completely dropped by the end. The “mystery” of the title is misleading and there is a lot of entertainment here.

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“THE PRICE OF PLEASURE”— Porn for Profit

 

te price of pleasure

“THE PRICE OF PLEASURE”

Porn for Profit

Amos Lassen

Pornography has come of age in the United States. It is now one of the most visible and profitable sectors of the cultural industries in this country. The estimate is that  the pornography industry’s annual revenue has reached $13 billion. At the same time, the content of pornography has become more aggressive, more overtly sexist and racist. This documentary features the voices of consumers, critics, and pornography producers and performers. We learn how pleasure and pain, commerce and power, and liberty and responsibility come together and become part of our sexual identities and relationships.

It seems to me that the film attempts to castigate and stigmatize both pornography and the porn industry. It does this by looking at the way it exploits and focusing on the ill effects of porn. The movie tries to turn the concept of the porn star into that of a low life individual who exploits him/herself and makes a living from that. But like other businesses, the porn industry is indeed exploitive. Included are

interviews with militant feminists and psychologists who tend to distort the truth, and we see that the film really doesn’t want to open up the floor for everyone and allow two sides of the discussion and issue. Rather it completely attacks America and American values for being so blatantly obsessed with sexuality. It never really tries to attack the roots of this obsession that can tend to involve our own sense of cynicism, curiosity, and absolute sexual awakening. The film explains that the injection of porn in our world is a statement about our desensitizing. However, in reality, it is statement about us accepting sexual practices for entertainment, comedy, and or enlightenment.

The porn industry has moved far from where it once was and this film seems to want to say that it is a way to get children to perform and it shows computer images of naked children having sex with adults (who are computer animated). There is what is called legitimate pornography in the world today as well as amateur and child pornography but these are exceptions. This is never explained. Nor is the fact that pornography is not a gateway to child pornography nor has it been proven to be ever explained.

The film was made direct-to-video film that was made in 2008 and intended, obviously, as a means of stimulating conversations in college classes on sociology, sex, and gender. The questions raised during the course of the narrative seem to be answered quickly and superficially. In a Diane Sawyer clip we learn that the industry makes $13 billion a year. The head of the Free Speech Coalition, the porn industry’s lobbyist group formed in 1991, says on camera that the lawmakers he approaches are usually apprehensive at first. But “when you explain to them the size and scope of the business”, they tend to change their minds. Those who have money have power, and those who have power can exert influence on legislators, just as the Free Speech Coalition has done so far.

“The Price of Pleasure” has a curiously voyeuristic feel to it and there doesn’t seem to be enough research and revelation here to make it anything more. I think many of us would like to know how the porn industry that had once been considered as seedy, become part of the cultural and economic mainstream?” We understand that it is all about money. On the Internet, where there exists an estimated 420 million pages of porn online, is where young people now get their first exposure to erotic images in many cases.

“The Price of Pleasure” really doesn’t really go too into the idea of pornography as something that might be traced to a base and basic instinct. We get two male teens talking about porn and three females talking about it, and that’s pretty much the extent of it. I recently heard that Time Warner and CBS are just two of the media giants that make a huge profit off of pornography every year s we see that major corporations play a part in the porn industry. This film needs more data and m more interviews with whistleblowers. This certainly isn’t the result of investigative reporting. It is, rather, a sociological overview that seems intended as a conversation starter.

The film is filled with clips and talking heads— TV clips, movie clips, Internet Web site clips, porn clips, and interviews with young people on camera. It is interesting that the picture quality of a completely nude young woman auditioning for a porn role is almost as sharp as HD, while interviews with two young women talking about the effect that porn had on their development are grainy and the picture is poor.

There is a wealth of extras:

Norm Chomsky on Pornography

Porn Performers on The Business

Generational Divide: 3 Generations of Porn Stars Speak Out

 Donkey Punch featurette

Extended Interviews with Experts Pornography as Sex Education

The film could have been so much more effective if it had covered more ground.

“ONCE UPON A TIME VERONICA”— A New Drama from Brazil

once a time veronica“ONCE UPON A TIME VERONICA”

A New Drama from Brazil

Amos Lassen

 “Once Upon A Time Veronica” (“Era uma vez eu, Veronica”),  is a sensual character study of a young woman facing emotional and professional crossroads. Veronica (Hermila Guedes) has newly graduated from fresh medical school and faces a critical period of her life. There are decisions to me made and doubts to be faced both about her career and about her life. Her father is ill and her sex life in a mess and filled with chaos. This is what we might call a backwards fairy tale. We learn about Veronica as she navigates adventures, desires and misfortunes.

 Set in Recife, Brazil, Veronica struggles to find balance in her life. She lives with her father who is suffering from a terminal illness and her job as a doctor puts her near others who are dying. She is unable to become part of a permanent relationship and this really bothers her. Veronica does not know what she wants out of life and she often sees herself as a patient who is in need of care. She unloads all of her feelings into a tape recorder. We see her as a depressed woman. She is existentially bored.

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Veronica’s story is one that takes place during her first year as a doctor, dealing with patients that either won’t take her seriously or describe vague headache symptoms. She is not achieving her goals in life because she is unable to determine what they are.  She responds with sarcasm to those who give her love and is indifferent to the man she sleeps with. As she records her feelings on tape, we sense her feelings of displacement and apathy almost as if she is a caged animal. The theme of displacement here is powerful and by the time we reach the end of the film, Veronica has bought a car and a house hoer her father and herself. She takes a job in a private hospital where she will be dealing with patients who are affluent for the most part. Perhaps Veronica has lost herself and in doing so, she is no longer displaced. We do not know if she is really happy or if depression will come back on her—we have experienced her journey as she slowly examined her life and her feelings.

The director, Marcelo Gomes, gives us a film that is tactile and experiential and it has a great deal to say about how we feel when our expectations do not match reality. The film  opens at Laemmle Theaters in LA on November 28, 2014.

“THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE UTOPIA”— Across America

theres no place like utopia

“There’s No Place Like Utopia”

Across America

Amos Lassen

In “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy followed the yellow brick road because she believed that when she reached the end, a wizard would make her dreams come true. She discovered however that the wizard had no power. Here was Dorothy looking for utopia and no one could show it to her.

Let’s look at what Utopia means: Utopia (Greek: No Place) is an imaginary, perfect society, where everyone is happy. In Utopia, man has been perfected, it is heaven on earth, all human beings are equal, and think and act the same. The idea of a mythical perfect society was first mentioned by Plato in his work The Republic in 380 BC. The word ‘Utopia’ was coined by Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book Utopia, depicting a fictional island paradise in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Wizard of Oz movie, the Land of Oz was depicted as Utopia.

In 1848, Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto that it is historically inevitable for societies to pass through four stages: feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and finally communism. In communist society, Marx described a ‘workers paradise’ where perfect happiness and universal fulfillment would be achieved though the abundance of goods and services that only a government controlled society could produce. In the modern era, socialists adopted Thomas More’s satirical idea of Utopia and Marx’s worker’s paradise as the realistic blueprint for a nation state. Ruling over ‘paradise,’ the leader of Communist society was considered to be ‘God on earth’. However, countries that adopted the Marxist model suffered economic devastation and biological destruction as 100 million were killed in peacetime through starvation, gulags, and political repression in an attempt to mold human beings to fit into Utopia.

 All through history, millions of people have believed charlatans like Mao, Stalin, Castro, and others, each of whom promised Utopia, but delivered something quite different some of which included the gulag, economic devastation, starvation, and mass murder.

Filmmaker Joel Gilbert shows us why Dorothy followed that yellow brick road. He takes us across America to see what is at the end of the rainbow and whether it is Utopia or something else. Gilbert confronts Progressives and takes us into their political fantasy of utopia. What we see is an exploration of that what is known as Progressivism, amnesty for illegals, race relations, Islam in America, political correctness, and Barack Obama himself, who promises to “remake the world as it should be.”  What has not been decided, however, is whether Utopia is the destination of America or is the truth that happiness in this country belongs at home and from home it will come.

Utopia is a fantasy, one that can never exist on earth. Yet socialists, who now call themselves “Progressives,” believe that Utopia is a realistic model for the modern nation state. Tragically, 100 million people were killed by Progressives in peace time in the 20th Century as they were recreated to fit into Utopia.

 In “The Wizard of Oz” we saw that there was no wizard. President Obama is also no wizard and his promises have turned out to be empty ones. Going back in history we see that America’s character was formed by the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. These documents created an American identity of individual freedom, free markets, free speech, and limited government. Yet, America has been under siege by a vast left wing conspiracy against these great principles for many years. Obama’s election was the culmination of an American socialist movement that Obama’s real father, Frank Marshall Davis, nurtured in Chicago and Hawaii, and that has been quietly infiltrating the US economy, universities, and media for decades. They successfully took over the Democrat party, which today is a radical socialist party. Now they have managed to fool most Americans with a simple change of terminology. There is still a strong traditional society in this country and there are still Americans who want a traditional life and lifestyle and they are willing to do what it takes to attain and keep it.

Using “The Wizard of Oz” as an extended metaphor for the trickery and fraud that underlies the quest to perfect human nature and bring about heaven on earth that Marx promised is how the director brings his message home. He takes on big themes and then tells us the story of what is happening today. Joel is the Dorothy of his film but his yellow brick road leads him to find out what happens when politics try to create utopias. Gilbert travels to Detroit, Newark, Miami, Washington, DC, Hollywood, Dearborn, Los Angeles Chicago’s South Side and Hyde Park, and Denver, as well as his hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “We visit the house where Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn live, talk to Michelle Obama’s mother through her closed door at the house where Michelle grew up, and attempt to walk down the street where the Obamas lived in Hyde Park. We speak with Jack Cashill, Jerome Corsi, David Horowitz, and former KGB agent Konstantin Preobrazhensky, who provide background and context.” We meet both ordinary and extraordinary people who are coping with what the director calls “Obama’s America”.

The film is a wake-up call—we see a “dying, deteriorating America, sick mentally and physically”. Joel Gilbert unmasks the New Leftist masters of America. He also manages to explain to Americans many complicated things and ideas and does so in a fun way. What we see is very sad— the destruction of American political life, at the hands of the Americans themselves.

“EVERY THREE SECONDS”— Five Everyday People

 every three seconds

“EVERY THREE SECONDS”

Five Everyday People

Amos Lassen

The time has come to make poverty obsolete in the world today. This film is the story of five people who have taken a stand and a step in the fight against poverty and hunger and as they did they changed both themselves and the world. We meet a youngster, a college student, a thirty something and two senior citizens who are working hard to change the world. Social justice is a very important part of how I live and so I would hope that it is the same for you.

Because our world has become so materialistic, we wonder if it is possible to find happiness today or even just know what it is. Daniel Karslake tells us in  “Every                 Three Seconds”  that in doing good we are changing both the world and ourselves.

The film takes complex issues and challenges and then makes them accessible to everyone regardless of age. The people that we meet here are inspiring because they make the world so much better to live in.  The people that we meet here are everyday heroes and thereby make us want to go  the step further.

 The DVD extras: include the Director’s Travel Vlog • Waithaka’s Artwork (short video) • Participant Media PSA 

“URANIUM DRIVE-IN”— Trying in Survive

uranium drive in

“URANIUM DRIVE-IN”

Trying in Survive

Amos Lassen

Suzan Beraza’s new documentary is the story of a community striving for one last chance at survival. The film looks at a proposed uranium mill in southwestern Colorado (the first to be built in the U.S. in 30 years) and a community’s emotional debate pitting a population desperate for jobs and financial stability against opposition from an environmental group based in a nearby resort town.

The people that live in Naturita, Colorado (519 citizens) dream of a time when the economy and opportunities for their children will be better. In the 70s and 80s time was better because of uranium mining. Mayor Tarri Lowrance weighs the possibilities for a better time and things indeed do sound better because of the possibilities offered by Energy Fuels Inc. The Toronto based company has proposed the building of Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill that will be the first to be built in the US in three decades. The mayor feels that the mill will bring life back.

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But these are also those with doubts. Listening to what is said at town meetings lets us see that no one thinks that mining is the ideal solution.

 The residents in Naturita grew up with it, saw their parents and grandparents do the work and pay the costs. Even knowing the choice is between bad options, they still have to have money to buy food.

 “Uranium Drive-In” shows us that the landscape of western America can be destroyed and that comes from our national energy policy decisions. The film offers a range of perspectives that will surely get people talking about it.

 “Beyond its provocative subject matter, we were especially impressed by the delicate and complex manner in which the film balances opposing perspectives.”

- Basil Tsiokos, Senior Programmer, DOC NYC

 “8 out of 10! Follows all sides of the controversy.” – PopMatters

 “Captivating…from mass consumerism to a small community’s livelihood, ‘Uranium Drive-In’ takes a more personal approach to an environmental issue.” – TakePart

“NUCLEAR NATION”— Nuclear Refugees

nuclear nation

“NUCLEAR NATION”

Nuclear Refugees

Amos Lassen

On March 11, 2013 a tremendous tsunami triggered by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan and rendered unoperational the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It released radiation and the residents of Futaba became nuclear refugees. Director Atsushi Funahashi brings us footage that shows the devastation that came—dead livestock left to rot, crops abandoned, homes and businesses destroyed. It was all much worse than any news report could tell and now, a year later, many still cannot return home; their houses are contaminated.

There is irony with what happened here is that Japan is a nation that has already dealt with two nuclear bombs and her citizens now question their responsibility. This film looks at what happened at Fukushima and if the same thing could be recreated on an epic scale.

The film focuses on those who were directly affected by the Fukushima reactor fallout— the evacuees from Futaba, which became their ground on March 12, 2011. We see their hardship and fortitude, but the alarming implications of corporate and governmental indifference and ineptitude. We watch the resettlement of 1,415 Futaba residents at the abandoned Kisai High School in Saitama, a suburban city near Tokyo which took place after their initial evacuation to the capital in the wake of tsunami-triggered hydrogen explosions in the towns’ nuclear plants Nos. 1, 2 and 3.  We first see a preliminary survey of makeshift and inhospitable living conditions and the focus shifts to what two specific families. The Nakais are a father and son who now have to live with the inconsolable regret of not having had enough time to search for their missing wife and mother during the hasty retreat. The Yokoyamas, a three-generation family, is close and pragmatic, even with their periodic separations and permanent uprooting.

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Idogawa, a soft-spoken, unassuming man takes us through the endless lobbying sessions with Tokyo Electric Power Co. management and government officials. The company claims to have made an “unprecedented decision” by promptly evacuating the whole town, thus saving his people from unimaginable health hazards, and this causes us to see Idogawa as an honest man of integrity and drive who displays enough humility to confess his past misjudgments and attempts to correct them. These qualities were obviously lacking at higher political and corporate levels as the film shows us. His account of what happened is frank and very, very sad and as he speaks we see how the town was dependent on the plant. The film spans ten months during which we are reminded of an apocalyptic wasteland. The story is written, narrated and filmed exclusively from the point of view of the survivors of the tsunami and the subsequent reactor vessel explosions. It changes every day and yet somehow stays the same.

The huge atomic power complex was built to serve which used it to excess. Yet when disaster struck, Tokyo, it was the residents of Futaba, Fukushima who lost everything. They lost homes, friends, families, traditions and social networks. Worst of all, they lost their standing in Japanese society. They have become outcasts, pariahs and refugees in their own country. Top Japanese officials appear to be dedicated to the preservation and strengthening of the denial that they exist. The devastation experienced by Futaba, dead livestock left to rot, crops abandoned, homes and businesses destroyed, was infinitely worse than anything reported by the newspapers. The survivors have become an inconvenient truth that the government wants to cover up.

“Nuclear Nation” is a moving requiem for the lost town, as well as a quietly outraged expose of how the people of Futaba were lied to, and neglected by the power company and by the Japanese government. “Nuclear Nation” is a film that listens patiently, and at length, to the voices of those who lost the people and things most precious to them, and mourns the people, and their way of life, that have passed away.  Constituents have been forced to be rootless and they face discrimination as a result of being exposed to radiation, and humiliation because the town’s pariah reputation.

The most memorable scene in the film comes when the mayor taking the government officials to task, calls them out as liars and condemns their stalling, waffling, and inaction in the face of his constituent’s urgent needs. In yet another scene, residents from eight towns with nuclear plants protest this governmental inaction. “Let us go home!,” they cry.

“This film will force you to reassess all the arguments for and against nuclear power.”

- The New York Times

“Worthy and troubling. Director Atsushi Funahashi uses his camera as silent witness to what, up to now, has not been fully seen and acknowledged.” – RogerEbert.com

“An assured and sobering documentary. Employing straightforward, music-free aesthetics that express the grim realities of his story, Funahashi captures both grief and outrage in equal measure, all of it tinged with the displaced and desolate citizens’ regret over having predicated their fates on the very energy-source technology that cost them so much during WW II.

“THE BEST OF THE DANNY KAYE SHOW”— “Six uncut episodes of the Emmy-winning 1963-1967 variety show”

the best of danny kaye

“The Best Of The Danny Kaye Show”

 “Six uncut episodes of the Emmy-winning 1963-1967 variety show”

Amos Lassen

Danny Kaye was at the height of his popularity when The Danny Kaye Show debuted on CBS in the fall of 1963. A pair of Broadway hits “Lady In the Dark” and “Let’s Face It” and a succession of classic films including The Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Inspector GeneralKnock On WoodUp In ArmsThe Court JesterHans Christian Andersen, and White Christmas made Danny Kaye one of the biggest stars in show business.


His international humanitarian work for UNICEF, and sold out concerts at places like the London Palladium and the Palace Theater in New York, helped make Kaye a worldwide sensation. He won the Emmy Award for best variety performer in 1964, and the show was honored with three more Emmys, including outstanding variety series. 

The Danny Kaye Show was the perfect showcase for its stars unequaled range of talents. In this collection of six uncut episodes – available now for the first time – Danny sings with Ella Fitzgerald, Nana Mouskouri and Harry Belafonte. He sings and dances with Liza Minnelli and Gene Kelly, and deftly clowns his way through comedy sketches with Art Carney, Rod Serling, Jackie Cooper, and a certain perennially 39-year old legend of comedy, who makes an unannounced cameo appearance.

Also featured in this collection are Michelle Lee, Buddy Greco, John Gary, Joe & Eddie, Lovelady Powell and Alan Young. Series regulars include Harvey Korman, Jamie Farr, Joyce Van Patten and orchestra leader Paul Weston. 

Among the numerous gems found in The Best of the Danny Kaye Show: Danny conducting the Television City Philharmonic, a spoof of The Twilight Zone with Rod Serling, and performances of Danny Kaye classics “Pavlova” written by Danny’s wife Sylvia Fine and originally seen in the film The Kid From Brooklyn, and “Ballin’ the Jack” from On the Riviera. 

Danny’s other numbers include, “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Pennies From Heaven,” and a rollicking duet with Harry Belafonte on “Hava Nagila.” 

Whether experiencing the joy that is Danny Kaye for the first time, or revisiting his extraordinary gifts, viewers of all ages will find the irresistible and legendary entertainer at the top of his game on The Best of the Danny Kaye Show. Below is a listing of what you will find on the two DVD set.

Disc 1:

Consider Yourself (from Oliver)

Bye Bye Blackbird

Cherry Pies Ought to Be You (from Out of This World)

Ain’t Misbehavin’ (from Hot Chocolates)

Top Hat, White Tie and Tails (from Top Hat)

Boo Hoo (You’ve Got Me Crying For You)

Children, Go Where I Send Thee

The Rain In Spain (from My Fair Lady) (parody)

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

(You Got) Trouble (from The Music Man) (parody)

You Make Me Feel So Young

I Could Write a Book (from Pal Joey)

By Myself (from Between the Devil)

You’ll Never Get Away

Medley:I Could Write a Book (from Pal Joey), New York, New York (from On the Town) , Long Ago and Far Away (from Cover Girl) , ‘S Wonderful (from Funny Face), Singin’ In The Rain

Ballin That Jack

Side By Side

I Like the Likes of You

Do You Ever Think of Me

 

Disc 2:

Who Will Buy? (from Oliver)

Pavlova

Raindrops

Walk On

Mama Look a Boo Boo

Telalima

Opa Ni Na Nai

Gonna Build a Mountain (from Stop the World…)

Hava Nagila

Pennies From Heaven

For Every Man There’s a Woman (from Casbah)

Maybe This Time

Let’s Talk It Over

Just An Honest Mistake

Hawaiian Wedding Song

A Fellow Needs A Girl (from Allegro)

The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing

We Like Each Other

Mood Indigo

Body and Soul

Moment of Truth

Satin Doll

Charade

Going Out of My Head

Medley: Where Or When, September in the Rain, New Sun In the Sky, Great Day, Happy Days Are Here Again

“THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD”—Dealing with Anti-Semitism in the Movies

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“The House of Rothschild”

Dealing with Anti-Semitism in the Movies

Amos Lassen

Some of you might wonder why I am reviewing a film that was released in 1934 and the answer is quite simple. Lately we have seen an overt rise in anti-Semitism all over the world and while reading about this; I decided to have a look at the image of the Jew as portrayed in some of the classic films that have come out. “The House of Rothschild” is one of those films and it actually won the Academy Award as best film in the year it was released. It has almost been a standing argument as to why filmmakers have not dealt with Nazism and anti-Semitism in the movies. There are those that say that the heads of Hollywood studios did not want controversy while others have said that it is probably because the industry moguls were Jews themselves and they did not want to bring attention to who they were. And there were others who claim that economics played a role in it and that American movie studios had strong financial interests in Germany and did not want to make anyone angry. And then there are those that say that films about the subject would indeed stir up more anti-Semitism. Finally there was the Motion Picture Association’s Production Code Office whose responsibility it was to self-censor.

Then in 1933, Darryl F. Zanuck decided to take on Nazism and anti-Semitism at his new studio, Twentieth Century Pictures, and took an idea from actor George Arliss and produced “The House of Rothschild.” Now we have to think about who would make a movie about a Jewish banking family at the time that the Nazi party was picking up strength in Germany and the reaction was that this picture was one that no one who was Jewish wanted to see made. Zanuck, however, was not Jewish and wished to attack anti-Semitism and against all kinds of resistance he made the film. If we pay attention to the listings on television we see that “The House of Rothschild” is airing on the Turner Classic Movies channel, as part of the month-long series, “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film.”

This is a movie that has been by and large forgotten and was misunderstood by many. George Arliss plays two parts— father and son Mayer and Nathan Rothschild. As Mayer Amschel, some see him as anti-Semitic.  We see him playing with coins and trying to find a way not to pay taxes. This does not promote a comfortable feeling. However, this is the reality of the way things were.

As we learn more of the family’s predicament and the excessive restrictions and attacks brought on the residents of Jew Street in the ghetto, we soon understand and we empathize with Mayer, his wife and five sons. Arliss and Zanuck took wanted to create a sympathetic portrait of Mayer and to show him as a Jew who was a persecuted minority and deprived of rights.

In order to cover any possible bad feelings by the audience toward the family, the film introduced a fictional anti-Semite, Prussian Count Ledrantz,  (Boris Karloff). In watching the film from beginning to end, Zanuck wanted to show that the restrictions that were put on Jews were discriminatory. Jews were attacked just because they were Jews but despite this they were many Jews like the Rothschilds who went after their dreams and they were able to become successful and wealthy.  Even though the film was set in Bavaria of the 18th and 19th century, American audiences understood its contemporary anti-Nazi message, some even believing it to be too pro-Semitic.

American Jews were well aware of the growing strength of the Nazis as Germany’s economic woes got worse, but Hitler’s defeat in 1932 provided some relief and many considered Nazism as a fringe group. When Hitler was named Chancellor just a few months later and democratic Germany overnight became a totalitarian state, we were shocked. There was a heightened sense of concern among those who oversaw Jewish communal life when Nazi propaganda was making its way to America. Those in the movie industry were well aware of this.

Work on “The House of Rothschild,” began just months after Hitler’s rise to power and at a time of great anxiety about rising anti-Semitism in America is important here. Many things came into play–the depressed economy, the need for a start-up film company to have important and press-worthy films and a developing Jewish communal structure was not sure how to make itself heard.

 The film is the story of the rise of the Rothschild financial empire founded by Mayer Rothschild and continued by his five sons. From humble beginnings the business grows and helps to finance the war against Napoleon, but it was not always easy, especially because of the prejudices against Jews. We see a sign stating that on Jew Street “All Jews must be inside the Jew Street by Sundown, Chancellor of Prussia.”
 The rest is for you to see in the film itself.