Tag: government

Brazil


Brazil (1985)
★★★ / ★★★★

When an innocent man was taken by the police and tortured to death, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), who worked for a passively tyrannical (and ultimately incompetent) government, was assigned to take a closer look at the computer error. Despite being aware that the many confusing bureaucracies that often led to dead-ends didn’t always serve the citizens’ best interests, Sam chose to retreat to his fantasy world when he felt overwhelmed. In his daydream, he was a powerful winged warrior who dueled a Samurai in order to rescue a beautiful woman. Reality and fantasy collided when Sam ran into Jill (Kim Greist), sharing great resemblance to the girl of his dreams, a woman suspected of terrorist activities like bombing public places. Directed by Terry Gilliam, “Brazil” was an adventurous satire that is worth viewing multiple times. There were heavy symbolisms, like a man being eaten by paperwork, and scenes that didn’t always fit into the big picture. For instance, the two electricians who seemed to gain some sick pleasure torturing Sam as they slowly took over his home. Granted, the scenes were very funny especially when Robert De Niro’s mysterious character appeared to lend Sam a helping hand. However, the picture was most fascinating when it tackled the absurd. Sam’s mother (Katherine Helmond) and her friends were obsessed with plastic surgery. Despite the many “complications,” they were willing to go back and endure the pain of having their skin cut up and stretched up to their scalp. It was almost like watching an addiction. It was hilarious but it held some semblance of truth in today’s obsession with youth and its relationship with the magic of science. What I found strange was how romantic the movie was at times. The film referenced Michael Curtiz’ “Casablanca” and its influence showed. The courtship scenes between Sam and Jill were silly and tender, yet it had darkness looming over the edge as something bigger than both of them threatened their budding relationship. It was interesting that Jill had the more masculine qualities, like driving a big truck that she called her cab, while Sam was the hopeless romantic who was hesitant to take action. Lastly, I found the final twenty minutes to be very hypnotic. While it didn’t make much sense as a whole, like in our dreams, sometimes the parts were more meaningful. What Sam went through personified the nightmare of the dystopian world that he and his loved ones happened to inhabit. “Brazil” was an ambitious and imaginative film which was not unlike watching someone’s dreams. It requires a bit of thinking from us and, more importantly, recognition that our government and society may be heading in a similar direction.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
★★★★ / ★★★★

I could immediately relate to Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) because he saw the good in people above all else. His idealism was challenged when he was appointed by Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), a friend of his father’s, to fill a recent vacancy in the United States Senate. Smith looked up to Paine but was not aware of the fact that Paine was controlled by a powerful media figure named Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold). Despite the rotting corruption in Congress, it seemed as though nothing could destroy Smith’s loyalty to his country and ideals. I was so happy to have seen this film on the 4th of July because it had a truly touching scene about what it meant to have freedom. I’m referring to the scene when Smith talked to his cynical secretary (Jean Arthur) about the concept of liberty being buried in books and people taking it for granted and not realizing how lucky they are to have it. I have to admit I teared up a bit because it described how I was in high school. Despite our class talking about important U.S. historical figures and how the government worked, I found it really difficult to connect with the material because it all felt too impersonal. Watching Smith running around the capital while completely enthralled with all the monuments and the history of the place, it inspired me to always look the world from a fresh perspective. Stewart and Arthur made a killer duo because despite the two being completely different in how they saw politics, they found a commonality and worked from there to establish a very strong bond. I was touched with the way Arthur eventually revealed her softer, sensitive side without losing what made me adore her character in the first place: her sharp wit, dry sense of humor and sarcasm. Some viewers say that the picture might be a bit too romantic but that’s exactly what I loved about it. While it did acknowledge that there was an ever-growing darkness in the world and sometimes the good guys might not necessarily win, the movie’s main purpose was to instill hope. I don’t think the movie would have worked as well as it did if the lead character didn’t completely wear his heart on his sleeve. I was also impressed with the way it framed corruption by means of a politician’s silence which culminated toward the end of the film. Based on the screenplay by Sidney Buchman and directed by Frank Capra, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” was astute, touching and, most importantly, still relevant today. It went beyond liberalism and conservatism. Its main focus was what it meant to be a true American.

In the Loop


In the Loop (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

“In the Loop,” directed by Armando Iannucci, was a political satire about the United States president and the United Kingdom prime minister agreeing on starting war and the varying reactions of people who work for their respective governments. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to understand this movie coming into it because I’m (admittedly) not very knowledgeable about politics. I mean, I have my opinions but I’m not aware of how specific things work and the specific roles of the people in charge. So I was surprised when I found myself laughing out loud at the American and British jokes that this film had to offer. The characters were fast-taking, poison-spitting loons who run around trying to achieve something but ended up being (at least in my opinion) not doing anything at all. For me, everyone stood out–from Tom Hollander as the minister of international development who kept saying the wrong things to the media, Peter Capaldi as the very intense and downright scary communications director, Chris Addison as the meek political damage control person, Mimi Kennedy as a pro-war, type A lady who nobody wants to mess with, to James Gandolfini as an anti-war general who commands attention when he enters the room. I loved the exaggeration of this picture because then it allowed those who aren’t as into politics to be in on the jokes. Another element that really helped was the way the writers wrapped the political commentaries in pop culture candy. References were made right after another and I absorbed every minute of it. (I found really refreshing because I haven’t experienced so much pop culture references in under an hour since the “Gilmore Girls” era.) However, about three-quarter into the picture, I wondered whether there really was a story. I somewhat got tired of the bantering, people running around and acting crazy. Yes, it was very fast-paced but I found myself needing a breather from everything that was going on. The next thing I knew, the movie was over without a defined falling action. Perhaps I was too caught up on the screaming and yelling. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s more of a personal taste but I mention it here because it really threw me off. I’m giving this film a recommendation because it was funnier than I expected it would be. Although I must warn those looking for a core story not to expect much because “In the Loop” is pretty much one funny scene after another that has a bucketload of razor-sharp wit and a healthy dose of cheekiness.

Food, Inc.


Food, Inc. (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★

“Food, Inc.” is definitely worth watching for the messages it wants to impart. One of those messages is that it is ultimately up to us consumers to be more aware of what we eat and where the food we choose to eat comes from. Second, do not trust the government, such as the FDA and USDA, to protect our health because the very same people whose jobs are supposed to make sure that we do not get food poisoning or die from E. coli have worked for the biggest corporations that control the food industry; those people only care about the money and will continue to only care about the money. Directed by Robert Kenner, he makes it his goal to show his audiences what the food corporations are trying so hard to keep from the masses. For instance, the chicken we eat might have been raised in a place where they never get to see sunlight, get so heavy to the point where they cannot walk so they tend to collapse and die, and live for the rest of its life in overcrowded warehouses with (literally) thousands of other chicken. There were scenes that really got to me such as dead chickens being left on the floor for days because the people in charge could not tell such chickens are dead. There are also scenes that involves killing cows and pigs in such inhumane (and unsanitary) conditions; they are the very same scenes that shows us how fecal matter can easily get into our food system. In some aspects, it covers some of the Biology that comes with raising animals and what evolution designed them to eat so I really got into it. For example, cows, chicken, pigs and even fish eat corn nowadays in order to get fatter at a faster rate. (That information is not new to me because I’ve seen another excellent documentary called “King Corn,” which I suggest you check out as well.) I also liked the fact that this film does not ignore the ones who take corporations’ bullying: the farmers, the illegal immigrants, and the butchers. It was a smart move because it made the picture that much more emotional and personal. It goes to show that the jobs that most people would tend to look down upon are quite crucial. But the one that I wanted to get to know more was the story about Barbara Kowalcyk’s struggle to pass a legislation to prevent others of dying from eating food infected with E. coli as her son did. As sad as what had happened, I thought it was inspirational how she had risen and fought (and continues to fight) for a cause that could potentially help millions of people. Lastly, I admire that this movie is not just about showing people the consequences of the corporations’ greed. It actually tells us what we can do to make wiser choices when it comes to what and where to buy certain kinds of food. (I found it refreshing that it had something positive to say about Wal-Mart because most documentaries I’ve seen tend to make Wal-Mart as a complete monster.) Because after all, when you enter the supermarket, a tomato make look like a tomato… but it’s really quite something… different.