For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
Just handfuls of hours ago, as part of Election Day, the Senate gained
its first openly gay senator. Even to a heterosexual male like me, the
win of Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin is an encouraging step that our country
is slowly starting to accept that we aren’t all alike, that differences
should be celebrated, rather than feared.
Oklahoma-born, Christian director Cassie Jaye chronicles one gay couple’s struggle for such acceptance in The Right to Love: An American Family. The documentary follows two years in the life of the Leffew family: two professional parents raising two adopted children they love dearly, and who love them back. That the parents happen to be two men shouldn’t be an issue, yet it is, and they’re tired of being treated as second-class citizens.
In the wake of California’s Proposition 8, the Leffews do all they can to effect change, or at least to bring an understanding of who they are and what their life is like. In this case, they’re Star Wars nerds who celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth at Christmas, like so many fellow Americans. Their love, they say, is as real as any: “Whether it's legal or not, it's real in my heart, and that's what matters most.”
In my view, their critics’ cry of preserving the so-called “sanctity of marriage” is a moot point, when half of marriages fail. No doubt, homosexuals’ union will crumble just as often as heterosexuals’, so why deny them equality?
Jaye’s film is shot no-frills; it doesn’t carry a Hollywood sheen. In that aspect, it almost feels like a home movie at times, which actually bolsters its case. That said, The Right to Love is a film whose audiences are bound to be those who already agree with it. I can’t see someone who opposes same-sex marriage would ever watch it unless against his or her will. I also can’t see it changing the minds of the other side.
My hope is that at the very least, the film would prompt them to question whether they have a right to decide who can and cannot love under the blindfolded eyes of Lady Justice; at this point, that’s a start. —Rod Lott