As the Obamacare enrollment numbers moved from so horrible that the White House had no details to sufficiently tolerable that details were suddenly everywhere, supporters of the Affordable Care Act began to make a provocative assertion.
The first hour of “The Immigrant” is stunning in its cinematography that’s both gritty and glowing, its set-up of the plot, its immediate insights into the main characters and its perfect rendition of the look and texture of the lower east side of New York in 1921. Marion Cotillard plays Ewa, a young Polish woman escaping to America with her consumptive sister and hoping to be met at the ship by her aunt and uncle. Instead, the sister is remanded to the Ellis Island infirmary for six months, no one shows up to greet them and Ewa is scheduled for a hearing prior to being deported for low moral behavior on the ship. Cotillard is an actress whose face, even in repose, conveys all sorts of emotional undertones and this is a part that gives her free rein to express the full range of human responses - disappointment, gratitude, fear, anger, shame, love and forgiveness. She manages to do all this with unusual restraint, considering the drama of her situation. Joaquin Phoenix plays Bruno Weiss, an oversized character who is both burlesque impressario and pimp, and though he isn’t averse to using his stable of women, he also genuinely cares for them and pays them a fair share of their earnings. He first appears at Ellis Island and rescues Ewa from the line for rejects, paying off the immigration agents to remand her to him and bringing her into the double-edged quagmire of protection at the price of degradation.
Bad jobs and economic numbers, the disaster of socialized medicine, a collapse of American power and prestige in the world, and scandals coming out of their ears. No wonder the Democrats are sucking salt heading into November’s midterm elections.
Most of us are in awe of students who manage to get accepted to Princeton - it seems like they would surely be the creme de la creme with perfect SAT scores and grade point averages to match. At the very least, such students would have mastered the rudimentary rules of grammar that are essential for clear writing. So it was with disappointment that I read the following sentence written by Princeton student Tal Fortgang and printed in the NYT of May 3rd: While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life, someone sacrificed themselves so that I can lead a better life.” This was from an essay titled “Check Your Privilege,” first published in The Tory, a campus magazine.
The underlying problem with “Chef,” written, directed by and starring Jon Favreau is that he is the big enchilada and he has very little zing. The plot is so derivative that it seems pre-eaten and the film must rely on the personalities of the performers rather than smart dialogue or character development; in this category Favreau is missing both seasoning and charisma. To make matters worse, he has cast Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johannsen as the two women in his life; you’d need someone with the screen presence of a Ryan Gosling or a young Jeff Bridges to play opposite these smoldering females - not a tattooed schlub who’s not too interesting outside the kitchen. We’re living in weird times when unattractive men like Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Seth Rogen are big box office stars playing schlemiels who become the love interest of extremely beautiful women. In real life, such women might very well be interested in these actors but only because they are so successful - not for their looks or sad sack qualities.
Critics have gushed over “Ida,” the new film by Pawel Pawlikowski, perhaps mesmerized by the moody gray cinematography that telegraphs the message that this somber art film is weighty and meaningful. The plot concerns a young novitiate about to take her vows who is sent by the Mother Superior to meet her only living relative, a woman who had previously spurned the convent’s attempts to summon her. Obediently, the young laconic woman goes to meet this unknown aunt from whom she discovers that she is actually a Jew whose parents were killed during the holocaust. Unfortunately, this film comes after this year’s “The Jewish Cardinal,” “Aftermath,” “The German Doctor” and numerous movies from previous years that touch on the subject of what happened to the Jews of Poland. We are no longer shocked or even startled by the news that a young Polish nun in the 1960’s might have been a Jewish child - orphaned, rescued and brought to a convent.
Clayton D. Lockett has gained international attention for having taken 43 minutes to die in an execution he was sentenced to after being convicted of murder, rape, kidnapping, assault and battery, burglary and robbery. If you read The New York Times, you will see his crimes summarized in 7 brief words in an article that consumes almost a full page: “shooting a woman and burying her alive.” (NYT 5/1/14)