Category: Harvey Karten



In making yet another excuse for avoiding governmental support for health insurance, President George W. Bush callously stated, “If they don’t have insurance, they can go to the emergency room.” True enough that everyone in America can get medical care even if they have no money, but there’s no way you can compare the treatment you get in an emergency room with what you can get from your own doctor or, at an even higher level, from your boutique health providers with whom you can contract for a sizeable annual fee. And the worst kind of emergency room, one which requires the typical patient with a non-life-threatening problem to wait ten, fifteen, yes even twenty hours to see a doctor, can be found at public hospitals which are financed by taxpayers and which, by Act of Congress during the 1980s, are required to treat all comers whether undocumented, uninsured, or just plan poor.


Even if you are a cinephile who goes to movies directed by David Lynch and early Darren Aronofsky, you may find William Eubank’s film THE SIGNAL bizarre. Eubank, whose 2011 freshman effort LOVE deals with an astronaut lost and alone in space (sounds familiar), has thereby certified his sci-fi credentials, but if a book were to come out based on THE SIGNAL, you might find the prose either banal or confused. This is because the movie itself has only a bare patina of narrative coherence. Instead, Eubank’s cinematographer, David Lanzenberg, and Colin Davies as visual effects supervisor, concentrate on cinematic eye candy, dazzling the senses with a flurry of blinding fast motion (as when the principal character is fitted with robotic legs that allow him to run faster than a rapidly moving vehicle) and a number of slow-motion studies that essentially show chards of glass, wood, and whatever else can be found in Meghan Rogers’ production design to fly through the roof.


If you seek the classic study of brainwashing, look no further than John Frankenheimer’s incredibly tense film THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. In a movie ahead of its time, Russian and Chinese agents program Americans to go back to their own societies, formerly captive people who will kill on command. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, arguably one of the top ten thrillers of all time, features a performance by Frank Sinatra at the top of his career.


A point made in this political doc by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin—heretofore known for TROUBLE THE WATER, about two residents who became refugees in their own country when the New Orleans levees broke—is that there is one way that the person living in a box under a highway has same power as a billionaire: and that is in the vote. While this is technically true, the theory misses the power that the media, especially tv, and personal appearances during a campaign, heavily influence the way we vote. It’s easy for seemingly independent folks like us to say that they are not influenced by the barrage of commercials—that it does not matter whether Barack Obama’s face is thrust upon us more than Mitt Romney’s—that we vote according to our beliefs. But this ignores the effect that psychology (call it brainwashing if you must) influences our beliefs and therefore our actions; hence the fellow with the more active campaign has the big advantage.


Except for a few idealistic souls, doctors locate where the money is. There are so many of these white-coated professionals on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that you wonder why you’re about the only person you know who never draped a stethoscope prominently about your neck. OK, maybe a number of physicians locate in simple, middle-income suburbs rather than Beverly Hills or Scarsdale, but how many would go to a place that is so rural that it is not considered even a village, but proudly calls itself a harbor? One? You might be lucky if that many park their bandages there, and to get that one person, a big-city plastic surgeon, to give up a life of money raising cheekbones, you’d have to offer something besides filthy lucre.


In the musical “My Fair Lady,” Professor Higgins, falling for his pupil Eliza Doolittle, sings, “Damn, damn, damn, damn/ I’ve grown accustomed to her face.” And now, in the film NIGHT MOVES, three principal characters are damning…a dam! Kelly Reichardt, who cut her director’s teeth on fare taking place in the great outdoors such as MEEK’S CUTOFF (emigrants in 1845 wonder whether to trust a Native American guide) and OLD JOY (two friends spend time in the Cascade Mountains), is in her metier with NIGHT MOVES, a quiet thriller about three radicals who are determined to blow up a dam in Oregon. (Christopher Blauvelt filmed the action in Ashland, Phoenix and Medford with stock that could serve the interests of the Oregon Tourism Commission.)


When a boy gets a bar mitzvah in America, we declare him to be a man, though given the extended childhoods that people have in modern, rich countries, we say this with a grain of matzoh. The thirteen-year-olds in Lukas Moodysson’s WE ARE THE BEST! are hardly men, well, hardly women, but they’re not aware of this reality, nor would they choose to be the kinds of adults they see around them. “Boring!”


There are Words (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Faulkner, Hemingway), and there are words (teen texts, teen phone talk). Similarly there are Pictures (Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir) and there are pictures (snapshots on Facebook). An educated person should know the difference, that’s what teachers are for.


Those of us who ever wondered what life brought to L’AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE’s characters Xavier (Romain Duris), Wendy (Kelly Reilly), Martine (Audrey Tautou) and Isabelle (Cecile De France) are in for a great treat. There is a third part to this story, which director Cedric Klapisch is eager to tell.


If you’ve been keeping up with the tsunami of books, articles and movies about America’s onward rush to obesity and diabetes, you won’t find anything new in Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary. (Soechtig’s previous feature, TAPPED, deals with America’s love of bottled water.) Nonetheless, FED UP deserves accolades for the stunning graphics (you’ll see labels stating 25g of sugar converted instantly to percentage of sugar in the total package, for example), for its pace, which is faster than that of a Japanese bullet train heading from Tokyo to Kyoto, and for its relative absence of mind-numbing one-on-one talking-heads interviews. The message is clear: Americans are eating wrong and, in fact, look all over the world at countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia and Denmark, and you’ll find that we’re all facing an epidemic of obesity. More people are malnourished because of plenty than because of starvation.