The Distinguished Citizen

The Distinguished Citizen is one bold movie that answer the question “Can you go home again?” as well as the question “Should you?” From Argentina, it’s the story of a Nobel Prize winning writer, Daniel Mantovani who’s been turning down invitations to speak left and right. He’s dropped out of the literary circle and he hasn’t returned to his home town in decades.

For some reason, he does accept an invitation from the mayor of his hometown to participate in a series of cultural events. It’s not for nostalgia or to see family since both his parents have died long ago. He’s been questioning fame, literary awards, writing and culture for some time. His ideas are unique and not easy to take so you expect trouble when he gets back home, and you’re right to do so.

Mantovani lives in a sleek, ultra modern home in Barcelona. While he’s not lavish in his tastes, it’s clear that he’s sophisticated and used to his travels going smoothly. From the time he arrives at the airport, a six hours drive from his town, things are off. The mayor sent an irresponsible driver whose car is a beater to pick Montovani up. The rust bucket does break down in the middle of nowhere on a “short cut” and the driver doesn’t have a cell phone. We’re set to expect a terrible time for this trip.

Though his assistant has secretly written the town and hotel with a list of his usual requests, e.g. a latex mattress, taboo questions, special food, he seems embarrassed and doesn’t care or want such things. So we figure Montovani won’t be a bad guest who needs to learn something from his former neighbors and friends, which is the usual way such films move.

Montovani is no angel and in fact can be hard to like. He brings a lot of problems on himself like when a teenage groupie throws herself at him in his hotel room. He soon learns she’s the daughter of his former girlfriend who’s married one of his childhood friends.

The film’s full of bold, controversial lines about culture, i.e. how it’s not necessarily a fragile, feeble thing that needs our protection. I didn’t necessarily agree with Montovani all the time, but he made me think and The Distinguished Citizen kept me interested from the start.

nebraska

nebraska film

The bland, flat small town culture of middle America (if you buy into that as a reality) is the setting for Nebraska starring Bruce Dern. Dern plays an old codger who believes he’s won a magazine sweepstakes. He’s intent upon collecting his $1,000,000 in person as he doesn’t trust the mail with that much money. So he starts walking from Montana to Nebraska, the headquarters of this promotion company. His wife and oldest son think he’s lost it and that they should put him in a home. They’re tired of the police picking the old man up on the road to Lincoln.

David, his more sympathetic son, who works at a big box electronics store and whose life is going no where, agrees to drive to Nebraska with his father. What follows is a drive through flat, bleak countryside with humor, sometimes wry, sometimes hokey. As is true of any road movie, the men encounter mishaps. In Nebraska the father wanders off and gets hurt. They then decide to spend a few days with family in small town Nebraska. The wife and oldest son, who were dead set against this trip, show up for a visit too.

When I worked in Hollywood, I met so many people who viewed their hometowns with disdain. It seems like that feeling fills Nebraska. Now I’m sure there are hokey, drab losers in Montana and Nebraska, not everyone fits this stereotype. I know people in both states, one from a tiny town in Montana and they can be educated, witty, and adventurous. So this reductionist version doesn’t do much for me.

NEBRASKA-Official-Film-Clip-What-a-Whore-YouTube

It’s dull to watch even “beautiful losers” for two hours or more. What is the point? Now this movie didn’t bore me, but it did drag and it’s not a must see. I’m glad I just paid $5, any more would irk me.

Nebraska has some good jokes and touching moments but it minimizes the strengths of the people and places it shows. The black and white cinematography reminded me a bit of Ozu or the photos by Dorthea Lange, but not as good.

Bruce Dern does a capable job as the cantankerous father, whose past keeps popping up, but most of the other characters are so one dimensional. It was rather weird how many of the townsfolk talked in long paragraphs to people they didn’t know at all. I can’t see this as earning many awards, though it’s been nominated. Go figure.

No

no

The Chilean film No chronicles the story behind the advertising campaign for the referendum to force Pinochet, the dictator, to hold elections. In 197x Chile held an election to determine whether to hold elections for the head of state. Should Pinochet keep his position or would he have to run to stay in office?

Each side was given 15 minutes of TV airtime a night for the 27 days leading up to election day. The Si side was pro-Pinochet and No was in favor of ousting him via and election. While the No backers expected a straightforward campaign showing all Pinochet’s atrocities, the ad exec thinks that’s too much of a downer, that they should go for exuberant like Coca Cola, etc. In addition to this conflict, Pinochet’s hoodlums follow and intimidate the people working on the No campaign.

It’s an earnest, compelling film that taught me about a chapter of Chilean history

Moneyball

Moneyball was a cool movie about statistics and sports of all things. Alan Sorkin won me over with his script and his ability to make a potentially dry subject, compelling. Brad Pitt’s performance of a one time golden boy of baseball, who never lived up to his promise worked as did Jonah Hill’s. Hill played Peter, an the overlooked statistician who discovered how to build a team with limited cash to maximize wins. Pitt’s Billy Bean, the general manager of the Oakland A’s has the vision to see that if he’s going to win, he’s got to be bold, to take a risk on a nerd.

I got sucked into the quest for this duo’s attempt to beat the house with naysayers all around them.