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Dad (1989): United States – directed by Gary David Goldberg

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some language and mature themes

In a lot of ways Dad represents the worst of the motion picture industry.  It is not truly awful, and therefore able to be enjoyed in its badness.  And yet it is good in very few ways.  It is an entirely manipulative movie, mediocre in its execution, and nearly excruciating to watch at times on account of its generic lameness.  There may be some spoilers ahead, but I refuse to excuse myself.

There are undoubtedly some interesting themes to be mined from the story. John Tremont (Ted Danson) is a Wall Street executive, busy buying up companies and closing them down.  He has an ex-wife, a kid he rarely sees (Ethan Hawke), and a mother and father who aren’t doing too well.  When his mom, Bette (Olympia Dukakis), falls ill with a heart problem he leaves his job to take for his elderly father, Jake (Jack Lemmon).  Jake has been so reliant on Bette that he can no longer perform even the simplest tasks on his own.

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Julien Donkey-Boy

Julien Donkey-Boy (1999): United States – directed by Harmony Korine (uncredited)

Rated R by the MPAA – contains language and disturbing themes and content

Julien Donkey-Boy, Harmony Korine’s second feature after Gummo [review here] is rather different from his debut.  It’s interesting to note that it is also called Dogme #6, the sixth of the Dogme films.  It has a certificate at the beginning certifying that it’s a Dogme film.  Dogme films were created by a couple Dutch filmmakers, Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vintenberg, and the goal was to reduce film to its most essential elements.  No props were to be brought in, no artificial light could be used, only diagetic sound (ie. no soundtrack, all sound and music is happening on the screen) only hand held cameras, etc.  The concept is interesting, but the execution is usually less than engaging, although the first Dogme, Festen (The Celebration), has a powerful story backing up its unique production.

With Julien Donkey-Boy Korine opted for low-quality cameras, most of them handheld, and the film looks terrible.  Many of the images are so out of focus or fuzzy that they merely suggest what is happening and the viewer’s brain has to fill in the pieces.  This isn’t a bad technique for experimental short films, or Stan Brakhage’s work, but it is distracting and detrimental to a feature film.

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Zemlya (Earth)

Zemlya (1930): Soviet Union – directed by Aleksandr Dovzhenko

Not rated by the MPAA – contains brief nudity and peeing in a tractor

And now for something that almost no one will have any interest in.  Zemlya is a bit of an older movie.  It’s silent, was made in 1930, and is Russian.  It’s about some old timey Russian farmers and how their lives change a little bit with the introduction of technology.

Actually, I’m not sure that’s exactly what it’s about.  Here’s the story: we start with the death of an old man.  He’s been plowing the fields for 75 years with his oxen.  His son and grandson are standing by as he perishes.  Shortly after this the government sends the village a tractor.  It’s a great cause for celebration and soon it’s tearing through the earth like the oxen could never imagine.

There’s a funny scene when the tractor stops working on its way to the village.  It has run out of water for the radiator and the men are starting to panic.  Pretty soon it hits them: urine is mostly water!  So a couple of them supply the tractor with their extra fluids and it goes on its merry way.

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