Category: Harvey Karten



Exuding a cross between MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING and a plot that could have come out of an urban Woody Allen movie, Julie Delpy’s 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK finds family to be a menace in this madcap, anarchic comedy about cross-cultural dysfunction and individual neuroses. The mayhem becomes repetitious and annoying (but so did Woody Allen in his pushing an Italian tenor to try out for an operatic role in TO ROME WITH LOVE). Still there is enough humor and even an occasional burst of belly laughs to be found in a movie that finds the writer-director sharing the stage with Chris Rock.


Based on its marketing campaign, there’s a possibility that Columbia is not particularly trying to get the under-30 market interested in HOPE SPRINGS. If the youths do not attend, more’s the pity, because they might become enlightened to what their passionate relationships will turn into twenty or thirty years down the road. Or two years, if you go by what some psychologists believe to be the tenure of passion. “Naah, that won’t happen to us” is the usual retort of young people who think that dreaming day and night of their loved ones will go on forever. “That’s my parents’ generation, not us. And we certainly will never get divorced.”


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the most radical of the major organizations for animal rights, would like us all to go vegan, not primarily for environmental reasons but for the welfare of the animals themselves. Mark Hall, who directs the documentary SUSHI: THE GLOBAL CATCH, is more moderate. He, and some of the interviewees have no ethical problems regarding the rights of fish or, for that matter, any members of the animal kingdom. They explore the fish industry, specifically the sushi segment, for environmental reasons.


“If you see a fork in the road, take it,” says a wise man in a quote that frames Fernando Merielles’ 360. If this gives the impression that the film will be like a Zen koan, impenetrable for some in the audience but allowing epiphanies by others, that effect would be incorrect. Instead, 360 comes across as basically naturalistic rather than stylized, a straight story despite its frequent reappearances of the many characters and diverse and sundry plot lines, most of which deal with the consequences of adultery and thoughts of the same. Meirelles, whose CITY OF GOD in 2002 deals with two young men who choose different paths in Rio’s slums, takes a break from depictions of violence in favor of explorations of ethical violations in the sexual sphere.


There’s an impression held by some in the movie industry that if you feel a woman’s breast, the MPAA ratings committee will bestow an “R.” If you cut off her breast, that could be a PG-13. This is an exaggeration, sure, but we wonder whether the ratings cops care more about protecting kids from lovemaking than shielding them from the gore of violence. After all, THE HUNGER GAMES, which depicts children killing children, was given a PG-13 rating while WHORES’ GLORY which, without real violence, explores the oldest profession in three countries would surely be stamped R.


At about the time that Greeks were discussing the meaning of justice with Socrates in a country far from China, some Chinese clans were making war. Chen Kaige takes us to the 5th Century B.C., an era that finds high-school history lessons rich with discussions about the European continent. We wonder why our ambitious teens are not apprised of developments in what is now the world’s most populous country, one which presumably kept written records about the various and sundry dynasties.


If you could turn your girlfriend or wife into anything you want—have her do what you want when you want, even visit your mother every weekend and like it—would you go for it? Sounds great, but is it? See RUBY SPARKS and you’ll change your mind. The movie, written and performed by Zoe Kazan, who is Paul Dano’s real-life girlfriend, is imaginative, though not wholly original. The idea of creating a living being out of either nothing or some non-human material is reminiscent of the Greek legend of Pygmalion and Galatea, wherein Pygmalion, a sculptor, makes an offering at the altar of Venus, who grants his wish. He kisses her and her lips are warm. He touches her breast and she comes to life. The legend inspired the musical “My Fair Lady,” though Professor Higgins is simply a molder of a lower-class woman into the haute societé.


In May of this year Charles Hopper, a 63-year-old former CEO of Lehman Brothers, hanged himself in the garage of his Connecticut home. What? A guy making well over one million dollars annually is depressed? Turns out that he had a problem: not an emotional problem or marriage dilemma but a MONEY problem. How does a guy with this kind of salary wind up owing? Look to the effects of the 2008 stock market crash and housing bust. A graphic example of this riches to rags theme can be seen in Lauren Greenfield’s doc, THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES. The two principals, especially the male, are uncompromisingly honest about their views notwithstanding how their commentaries damage.


“Have you come back to your city to die?” asks Bane (Tom Hardy), a most evil presence (not to be confused with Bain) in this final spurt of the Batman trilogy. “No, I’ve come to stop you,” replies Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), dialogue that should probably give you the idea that you’re not watching Shakespeare. There is a Shakespearean theme, however, in that the hero, the Masked Crusader, is a flawed character who, having received a bum leg eight years previously, has retired to his palatial home where he broods like Hamlet and seems determined to hang up his cape for the last time.


While mature, general audiences might be suckers for sentimental movies with Hollywood endings, sometimes called “Hallmark” pictures, critics are often loath to give their kudos to the category. Perhaps this is because we journalists have seen a large number of movies and realize that some of the best do show the mean sides of life. Though beautiful women sometimes marry virtual princes, realistic enough since good lookers attract good lookers, it would be unrealistic for Snow White to marry the Hunter given the class differences. If, however, Ms. White did have nuptials with the man who saved her, we might say that’s a Hollywood ending.