A Flawed Film Can Still Have Merits

DVD Movie: Che — A flawed film that is overly long at some four hours and two parts nonetheless has its merits. First and foremost is Benecio del Toro’s bravura performance as Cuban and South American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevera, though the impact of its mastery is dissipated by the sometimes glacial pace of the plot, especially in the second segment. It also gives a glimpse into the repression and exploitation found in the third world nations during the 1950s and ’60s as a result of American capitalism and its governmental foreign policy helpmate. The look and feel of the film as well feels true to the times. The lack of dynamism overall makes this a film that requires effort, and even though the payoff for that isn’t major, it does sketch out Guevera as more than a face on a poster and offer enough insight into the revolutionary politics in undeveloped Western Hemisphere nations to make viewing worth the somewhat tough going through the whole affair.

DVD Movie: The Men Who Stare at Goats — This absurdist look at Army psychological and psychic experiments and operations could be seen as the “Catch 22” of the Iraq war. It pits the militaristic mind against the cosmic thinking that came out of the human potential movement to often-hilarious effect, and boasts an excellent cast in George Clooney (who may be the most likable star in American film today), Ewen McGregor, Jeff Bridges (who does seem to be getting typecast as the burned-out middle-aged hipster he plays here) and Kevin Spacey. It’s light, breezy and laughable in tone while at the same time has enough weight to make some underlying points in a modest fashion. It’s an enjoyable hoot of a movie that stands a good cut above most recent Hollywood fare.

DVD/TV Documentary: Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East Los Angeles — Here’s an antidote to the ugly nativism arising from the right wing towards Hispanic immigrants. This one-hour look at how Mexican-Americans in L.A. from Ritchie Valens in the 1950s to Los Lobos in recent years have both integrated themselves into rock music while injecting their cultural legacy into it serves as a microcosmic example of how immigrant are absorbed into America and make this nation richer with what they bring to the table. Plus, the music is delightful, and it spotlights such less widely known acts such as Thee Midnighters from the 1960s that merit a wider hearing. It can be seen on PBS as part of the American Masters series as well as on DVD, and boasts sounds and personalities that speak highly for the role Chicano culture plays in our nation. Since demographics indicate that within the next two decades or so America will become a majority Hispanic nation, this look at a slice of our musical past carries future relevance to boot.

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2010


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