Director George Ratliff's shift into narrative cinema isn't completely unlike his hair-raising Trinity Church documentary Hell House. Though intriguingly unexplored, the idea of religious fundamentalism gets breached in a scene when the young Joshua (Jacob Kagon) takes a trip to church with his grandmother (Celia Weston). He later announces that he is prepared to accept Christ; his mother (Vera Farmiga) responds by reminding her mother-in-law and Joshua that she is a "big, fat Jew". The father (Sam Rockwell) takes his son's eccentricities and disturbing statements ("you don't have to love me") with a shambling good nature, only truly breaking down when the family dog dies. In a wicked twist, Ratliff only hints at the father's possible infidelity and revels in the lame AM radio rock he sings as he enters his apartment palace.
Continue reading: Joshua (2007) Review
The Weather Underground, a smart new documentary about this legendary splinter faction, starts off at the fractious 1969 SDS meeting, and its early scenes are full of the belief, which suffused American leftists at the time, that it was just a matter of time before the military-industrial complex came crumbling down. Intellectual Todd Gitlin (one of the original founders of SDS and the most succinct critic of the Weathermen in the film) compares their beliefs to the same ideology used by Stalin and Mao, namely that when revolutionaries like the Weatherman envision a perfect society around the corner, they become convinced that in order to get there, the deaths of "ordinary people" don't count. One of the more charming and down-to-earth ex-Weathermen interviewed for the film, Brian Flanagan, puts it even more simply: "When you feel you have right on your side you can do some pretty horrific things." This paranoid mentality - which the film shows was exacerbated by the FBI's often illegal campaign against groups like the Black Panthers - explains how this group of mostly middle-class whitebread college kids went from carrying signs to building bombs.
Continue reading: The Weather Underground Review