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Inequality for All warns that capitalism is malfunctioning

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AT BERKELEY: Robert Reich (of Inequality For All) appears in this film too. There’s a short clip of him lecturing in his class at the University of California but one of his major concerns plays throughout. Cutbacks to education, which he says harm the economy in general, do specific damage at the university. Staff have to be laid off (there’s only one man left to cut all the lawns on campus); programs are reduced and tuition fees raised. Administrators spend long meetings talking about how to do that. Inevitably there’s a student protest and the main library is occupied. The film shows it developing  and takes us inside all these gatherings.  The students are fervent like back in the 1960s but disorganized. Campus police have a response chart from “routine” to “crisis.” Information officers carefully construct a reply to the students and a press release. All this is just part of the film’s expansive view of life at a modern university. 

 

It’s the latest from Frederick Wiseman, one of America’s best documentary makers. His first film was long banned for exposing abuse in a mental hospital. His most recent took us inside the Crazy Horse nightclub in Paris. Now, with his “fly on the wall” style, he lets us listen in on lectures, seminars, student discussions and administration meetings. We hear about fish “atrocities” in Walden pond, sexual metaphors in a John Donne poem, a maverick cancer researcher, dark matter, how people first learned to perceive time and more. It’s like auditing courses at UBC and since Weisman lets each speaker explain an entire thought it gets quite lengthy. By the first 7 ½ minutes, only two people have spoken. Students talk about economic hardship (“I’m solidly middle class and it sucks”); an old timer at the Free Speech Movement Café recalls the turbulent 60s and a woman with a megaphone invites all to a debate with a professor she says is undermining the constitution. Sadly we don’t see that debate. The film runs four hours but has so much that’s intellectually stimulating that it doesn’t feel that long at all. (The Cinemathque)  4 out of 5

BAD MILO: Imagine my surprise when I saw there are people who actually defend this film. It’s smarter than it looks, they’ve written. It’s a metaphor for the effects of stress on modern life and the need to conquer the demons within you. Wow. And I just thought it was a repulsive, mis-firing comedy that fails to produce laughs.

 

Stress there is, at a man’s work. The boss moves him into a smaller office (a converted washroom), pairs him with a creepy co-worker and puts him in charge of laying off people in a downsizing.  At home, his wife is pressuring him because she wants a baby. Strange rumblings sound in his gut and send him to the toilet repeatedly. A doctor finds he’s got a demon, “a physical manifestation of your dark side,” living in his intestines. It comes out now and then, through his ass (sorry for the language; it’s in line with the movie) and displays two images. Sometimes it’s doe-eyed like E.T. When enraged, it’s a gremlin with a mouth full of sharp teeth with which he kills the man’s enemies. The film gets dirtier and bloodier as it goes, turning more unpleasant but not funnier. Knowledgeable fans will be able to recognize allusions to many other “psychotronic” films. Small consolation. (Rio on Broadway) 1 out of 5   

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OUT OF THE FURNACE: It sounds grim but people who’ve seen it tell me they like it, largely for the actors’ performances. Christian Bale plays a worker at a Pennsylvania steel mill (in the so-called “rust belt” which sets a bleak tone). He cares for a terminally-ill dad, lands in jail undeservedly and then searches for his brother (Casey Affleck) an Iraq-war vet who has gotten in with a bunch of criminals and disappeared. Woody Harrelson plays a psycho leader of the pack.  This is only the second film by Scott Cooper who directed Jeff Bridges to an academy award four years ago in Crazy Heart. (5th Avenue, International Village and some suburban theatres)

NOTE: All images are movie stills provided by the producers. They are the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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