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Monday, August 28, 2006

To See Or Not To See: Peaceful Warrior

Transcendent Zen or Pop Culture Aphorism?

by Jan Stetter

Peaceful Warrior is the name of a film that plays more like a made for TV movie with all of the bells and whistles of pop-culture-self-help-forums now available on any late night infomercial programming and on the motivational speaker circuit.

Peaceful Warrior is a movie made from the book of the same name written by Dan Millmen, a motivational speaker whose story tells his life’s journey to truth and fulfillment. In fact, a declaration at the opening of the movie states "Inspired by true events."
So, if a movie is inspired by true events and not necessarily based on true events, does this absolve the storyteller to explain the physical impossibility of Nick Nolte’s character, dubbed Socrates, to be able to leap a 12 ft. building in the flash of an eye?

Come on, everyone knows the current cliches for the search for the meaning of life. The one who is hardest to love—needs love the most. You will never be better than you are now. You will never be less than you are now. The journey is what brings us happiness not the destination. But did we have to be subjected to 120 minutes of pabulum?

Scott Mechlowicz plays the lead, gymnast, Dan Millman, in his youth. He certainly is credible as a first rate gymnast. He has the puppy dog eyes of a sad sack hit by life’s inevitable suffering and triumph only after discovering that one must always live in the moment. For the record, the moments he was on the big screen he brought great eye-candy appeal.

Nick Nolte as the gas station guru who dispenses prophetic ad nauseam decrying self adulation must be commended for his restrained performance. Nolte’s performance is what made it bearable to sit through his character’s job of dispensing a pop culture bromide of current thinking that could pass for Zen, Buddhism or a number of any other self help or religious agendas. In short, Nolte enlightens us by preaching platitudes that all sound universal.

I’m not knocking the validity of these ideas. I am just suggesting there have been better film vehicles such as Seven Years in Tibet or Gandhi to espouse the benefits of discipline and the search for enlightenment.

If the lesson learned from this movie is simply the adage... "In life, concentrate on the journey; not on the goal.” May I recommend you skip this movie and go see Little Miss Sunshine?

Monday, August 21, 2006

To See or Not To See: Little Miss Sunshine

Unanimously, Positively Affirmative

by Jan Stetter

Little Miss Sunshine is a Sundance Film festival winner and a movie not to be missed. Little Miss Sunshine refers to a beauty pageant for little girls in California. It does not refer to the youngest member of the Hoover family whose only ambition in her life of seven years is to win a crown from a beauty contest.

An outstanding cast of Hollywood talent came together to become this human, dysfunctional Hoover family. Greg Kinear heads this family as a struggling motivational speaker devoted to preparing people to be winners. In reality he hasn’t removed his own blinders in seeing that being judged a loser by someone else doesn’t really matter if you believe in your own convictions.

Toni Collette is the mother in this family who epitomizes the harried, worried, overloaded parent. She works full time to pay the bills, puts fast food on the table, cheers the hopes of her children, protects her fragile brother and tolerates her father-in-law. All in the name of loving her family.

Added to this mix of middle class existence is Alan Arkin. No one better could play the brash, cantankerous father-in-law. Arkin’s character has a sweet, unabashed adoration for his youngest grandchild, Olive, played by the irresistible, Abigail Breslin. Steve Carell as the uncle who has just been jilted by his lover, and Paul Dano as the teen idealist who chooses to remain silent to discipline himself for future rigorous training as an airplane pilot-- round out this cast of characters.

What makes this movie so engaging is that it reflects the true ironies of life: Attrition, reconciliation, anger, loyalty, courage and unbridled acceptance that this is the way of life. Inconsistencies, failed hopes, dashed dreams, surprising recoveries, ingenious game plans, and furtive commitment to meeting life’s challenges. It is the coming together as a family revealing each others’ ugly shortcomings and standing by each other in spite of them.

What makes this movie so hard to resist is the script written by Michael Arndt. It lacks the usual boring family repartee we’ve come accustomed to in movies like RV and Click. Its brutal honesty makes for moments of dark comedy and endearing tenderness. Topping that, this film was directed by wife -and -husband directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton. Their background had been in directing music videos. This was their first feature film. We can only hope they continue in this direction.

If you have ever gone on a forced family road trip in a dilapidated van – for over forty-eight hours, you’ll relate to this film. If not, see if you can relate to one of the many hysterically funny scenes in this movie; like making a fool of yourself dancing as a wannabe Chippendale’s dancer on a stage all in the name of becoming a winner on your own terms.

Enough cannot be said about the movie, Little Miss Sunshine is a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of the touching moments faced by a family who proves they know the value of standing out of synch and standing up for each other.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact jans@queencityforum.com

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

To See Or Not To See: Step Up

by Jan Stetter

“Every second chance starts with the first step”. That’s the tagline for the teen movie, Step Up.

How about every movie deserves a first chance if you promise not to do a remake of a film that has been done before?

Step Up is the story of the only white guy who can dance in the hood, living on the wrong side of the tracks. Due to vandalism, he has to do 200 hours of community service at the prestigious performing arts school that he defiled. Poor boy meets Privileged girl who is in need of a dance partner. Hmmm where do you think this is going?

Poor boy never had a dream. Privilege girl has a dream; but needs help from a street dancer who has incredible talent and versatility in dancing. Poor Boy is played by Channing Tatum. The guy can dance!! Privilege girl is played by Jenna Dewan. She has met her match.

This movie seemed like a retread of Save The Last Dance starring Julia Stiles. … a privileged classically trained high school dancer has to withdraw from her private school and go to the public school of Creative and Performing Arts. She is befriended by a popular black girl and her brother; the most popular black guy. Julia has a dream. But she has no experience or confidence in her street dancing abilities. In steps Sean Patrick Thomas (popular black guy) who partners with her and yada yada yada …makes her dream comes true.

Hey, all is fair in love and war. And this movie has lots of love. Love for dancing, love for high school romance, love for MTV like dance videos, love for searching for your dreams—no matter what.

If you love dancing, are down with hip hop, and enjoy a predictable story, then you’ll love this movie. Oh yeah it might help if you’re eighteen years old or younger.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact jans@queencityforum.com

Monday, August 07, 2006

To See Or Not To See: The Night Listener

Hailed as Hitchcock-ian Thriller
by Jan Stetter

The Night Listener is being billed a psychological thriller. However, gauging the test audience response, it seemed more like a somnolent sleeper.

The Night Listener is a movie starring Robin Williams. He plays a New York radio personality, Gabe Noone, who trustingly begins a long distance telephone relationship with a fourteen year old fan and his caregiver.

All the right elements are set for an eerie tale to unfold; Noone’s radio show airs at midnight. The studio is dark, matching the emotions of the radio host. Gabe lives alone. He is ripe for distrust, confusion and mystery to consume his life. Williams is exceptional in expressing the despair he feels by the breakup of his character’s relationship with Jess, played handsomely by Bobby Cannavale.

That mystery appears in the form of a budding author played by Rory Culkin. His haunting, raw manuscript is given to Gabe to read and review. Who better to review a story than one of the best storytellers on radio? Thus begins a series of events meant to unnerve and keep the audience at the edge of their seats. Instead a slow mundane series of revelations concerning the identity or even the existence of “Pete” ensues.

Enter Donna played by Toni Colette. Collette plays a social worker who has adopted the boy Pete and together they are living in hiding to avoid contact with the perverted people of Pete’s childhood. Toni Collette as the unstable guardian gives this movie the creepiness it begs for. Unfortunately her performance is not enough to sustain a sense of fright or suspense.

The Night Listener fails to come close to the grandeur of a Hitchcock movie. It fails to even keep the audience interested.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact jans@queencityforum.com

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ohio Green candidate touts proof of election fraud

Visits UC campus to lay out findings, positions
by Marc Beechuk

Green party gubernatorial candidate Dr. Bob Fitrakis addressed the intimate, hip environment of Mac’s Pizza Pub in Clifton Heights on Saturday July 29th.

The evening got underway when former independent candidate Justin Jeffre delivered a cynical recollection of recent major party politics. The microphone was soon turned to Dr. Fitrakis who pounded home his message about election fraud and the unanswered questions in Ohio from the 2004 presidential race.

The format had a feel of budding enthusiasm, yet still seemed to be just the loyalists who somehow caught an e-mail or timely reminder. This did not deter Dr. Fitrakis who works as a lawyer and also runs the progressive Free Press newspaper in Columbus. He laid out findings he has made traveling around to visit Ohio’s election boards. The most astounding of his claims were extra ballots, chad scraping and lost memory sticks (see http://www.bobforohio.com/).

Dr. Fitrakis went to explain that many will label him as a conspiracy theorist, considering his dismissal as part of a phenomenon he terms “coincidence-theorists.”
Throughout the discussion, Dr. Fitrakis quoted from the Old Testament and spoke of treating all people in humane fashion.

Fitrakis finished his speech with a few highly progressive points about keeping Ohio national guards out of Iraq, arresting federal agents who spy on Ohioans and making Ohio a safe haven for tortured, suspected “terrorists.”

Dr. Fitrakis has a running mate in Anita Rios at the Lieutenant Governor position. The Green Party also proudly announced Tim Kettler as their candidate for Secretary of State. Democratic candidate Brent Gray took time to speak on behalf multi-party cooperation in ending voter fraud. The event concluded with personal discussion time as Dr. Fitrakis was more than available to convey his plight.

QCFMag.com staff writer Nathan Kerr contributed

Contact marcb@queencityforum.com



Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What are you gonna do about it?

National org asks historic neighborhood what it can do to help

Citizens concerned about the direction of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood met for the first time since the historic neighborhood was named one of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Communities” in the United States.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation held the meeting on Monday, July 24, at Memorial Hall so that the national organization and the neighborhood might sort through ideas using feedback it had received over the past few months,

Led by Midwestern Director Royce Yeater, the meeting divided the more than 60 participants into five groups. The goal of the exercise was to share in a more refined conversation after convening separately.

“A mixed income neighborhood that doesn’t create forced displacement,” Yeater stated was the ultimate intent.

He continued to point out that a strategy known by Housing and Urban Development as a “weak market” strategy can turn around vacant properties, develop new properties and revitalize historic resources. The strategy stresses a simultaneus effort from a corporation, "coffee-shop" type small businesses, and strange or "funky" businesses whose quirks play into the character of a community, which are essential to the success of an ailing neighborhood like OTR.

Asked to give some success stories, Yeater pointed to the Martin Luther King neighborhood in Atlanta, GA, and Manchester Heights in Pittsburgh, PA, as two of the many that had turned around.

The groups split to focus on “economic development,” “historic and new development,” “planning school,” “gentrification and unemployment” and “financing and tourism.”

Many at the mini-conference felt a strong need for an office of planning to come out of City Hall and work closely with the city, an idea vice mayor Jim Tarbell urged the attendees to echo the need for a more independent committee than the last one in e-mails, calls and letters to city hall. The last department of planning was discontinued in 2003 by former Mayor Luken because of city budget related cutbacks.

Councilman Tarbell, the only councilmember in attendence said that the office was being recommended in the new budget.--MDA