January 26, 2004

OSAMA – A Movie Review – Golden Globe Winner

Plight of the Muslim Woman – A Journey Into Despair
By Fred H. Arm
The winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes last night is the first feature-length film from Afghanistan. Shot by fledgling writer/editor/director, Siddiq Barmak, "Osama," the film exposes the desperation and terror of a beautiful twelve-year-old girl (Marina Golbahari) during the Taliban era in Afghanistan. She becomes her widowed mother (Zubaida Sahar) and grandmother’s only hope for survival since the Taliban rule decreed that her female family and thousands of others like them cannot appear in public without a male relative as escort. The Taliban has also decreed that women would not be permitted to work.

The girl, her mother, and a young street urchin, Spandi, (Arif Herati) survive a violently suppressed demonstration launched by Afghan women. The girl and her mother had secretly worked in a hospital until the Taliban dismissed all the staff and closed its doors. Faced with imminent starvation, the girl's mother decides to disguise her daughter as a boy, so that she will have an opportunity to work. They decide upon the name Osama as the disguised young male. The film reaches critical mass when Osama, as a boy, along with Spandi, are taken to a Taliban training camp where it becomes increasingly difficult to keep her sex a secret. Marina Golbahari’s innocent beauty and ability to express a wide range of emotions is sure to flower into the making of a talented and beautiful actress.

The film is the epitome of everything negative surrounding the Muslim world’s treatment of women. You cannot help but to despise the Taliban’s inhuman treatment of women and the palpable fear that even the men experience in a land run by religious and hypocritical zealots. You could consider the film a downer, however, it plays like a thriller, with tensions kept high by focusing intently on the girl. It presents a believable and disturbing window into the soul of a society devastated by repression and war.

Director Barmak shot this film on a shoestring budget with inexperienced actors, and created a cinematic masterpiece. He incredibly elicits professional performances from amateurs, building tension and intensity from the first opening scenes of the Taliban spraying crowds of women clad in shapeless blue Burkas. Since Barmak received much of his training in Iran, the film is typical of the Iranian style of filmmaking by ending abruptly with no resolution of the conflict. It is a film worthy of high praise; however, be prepared for experiencing a great deal of anger and anguish by witnessing the subjugation of Muslim women and children without much resolution or hope.

Opens in the Bay Area on February 27, 2004 and on Feb. 6th in Los Angeles and New York

Posted by fredarm at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2004

The Lord of the Rings III – A Woeful Movie Review

An Orgy of Ugliness, Death, and Destruction
By Fred H. Arm
As you can no doubt surmise, I was not very taken with the (hopefully) last of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy. Although I was extremely impressed with the special effects, the story itself was as tedious as reading the book. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the idea of the diminutive Hobbit heroes, Frodo (Elijah Wood), a sweet, gentle dwarf and his flabby sidekick Sam (Sean Astin), from some yah-yah land called Hobbiton, traipsing across the geography while risking life and limb so that he could ultimately drop an evil ring into an erupting volcano while wholesale death and destruction rage on nearby. It seems that the film was primarily interested in exposing the violence-hungry audiences of the world with as much death, suffering, ugliness, and gore as they could cram into their painfully long (3 ˝ hours) cinematic colossus.

It is easy to cheer the slaughter of the adversaries since most of them were masterpieces of ugliness, decay, and disease. Some of the evil crowd depicted an orthodontist’s fantasy come true with teeming examples of really bad dental decay and deformity exploited at every opportunity. To compound the repulsiveness, director Peter Jackson must have scoured the dermatology handbook for examples to create puffed out, discolored, and distorted skin tissue; lesions, cancerous oozings, and other disgusting aberrations. Of course, there were also the obligatory humpbacks or other physical anomalies to add to your visual distress so that when the heroic saviors sliced and diced them by hundreds you would not feel so bad.

One cannot help but admire Gandolf (Ian McKellen), the wise wizard with his flowing white beard. He is not only all knowing, omnipotent, and full of convenient magic when it suits him, but for a guy in his sixties he rides like a cowboy stuntman and brandishes his sword in battle like a twenty-something. Since this is all a fantasy, why not do something far-fetched now and then?

The good guys in this piece of prolonged carnage are extra nice and the female love objects like Arwen (Liv Taylor), are truly heavenly to look at. Frodo and Sam look like they would be terrified to walk around in downtown Carmel, let alone to take on the hideous lineup that seem to lurk behind every bush. Why they put up with the whims of the numskulls who insist on slaughtering the entire leper colony entourage is beyond my comprehension.

If you see this movie just to enjoy the special effects, it is well worth the price of admission. However, if you want to see a good film, well that is another matter entirely. If you enjoy lots of blood and destruction, this piece is for you. There is enough carnage in this flick to make war films like “Saving Private Ryan” or “War and Piece” seem like a walk in the park. It is one helluva commentary on the American public who seem to enjoy a lot more violence than they are willing to admit. It is hardly a wonder that Americans so easily rallied to Bush’s deceptive war cries when the Nation ostensibly professes to be such a peace-loving people.

Posted by fredarm at 09:51 AM | Comments (6)

January 17, 2004

Our Broken Town

Healing Is Long Overdue
By Fred H. Arm
The continual lament by citizens and politicians alike about the abysmal state of financial affairs that Richmond is in surely must signal that something radical must be done. When they want to cut our fire protection, libraries, parks, police protection, and the like, sends us a signal of a malignancy that needs serious attention. When the administrator himself that holds the City’s cash does not know how much money is in the kitty, we are in big trouble.

Sure, I Can understand how we got into this mess. So what. It is like a teen-ager who for years was receiving too much allowance; suddenly finding him/herself with only half the income is in a state of shock. Still, our so-called leaders now either have to show what they’re made of or be replaced. Unfortunately, no one seems courageous enough to make the first move. Perhaps now is the time to get rid of all the slackers and start over again.

A city, state, or country has a compact to receive the money of the people by way of taxation and in exchange to provide the services the populous demands and needs. If you hire a contractor to build your house for a specified fee who later comes whining to you that he is paying too much in pensions, health care, salaries or whatever and needs to cut the services he promised to provide to you, you have every legal and moral right to find another contractor who will provide these services for the compensation available. Why should our compact with the bureaucrats be any different?

Perhaps it is time for the citizens to take action themselves rather than relying upon the incompetents in place to correct their own shortcomings. The simplest action would be to go to court on behalf of the citizens and ask a judge to appoint a receiver. Under such judicial oversight, perhaps we can put to work some of the unemployed who are competent, willing and able to restore the services of this city without lining their own pockets and those of special interest groups. Much like surgical intervention when a serious cancer has taken over your body, a removal of the malignancy may allow the organism to begin healing itself. Stop complaining and do something about it!

Posted by fredarm at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2004

A Bonnie New Year To All

2003 – A Year To RememberHappy-New-year.gif

At last, 2003 has passed as the virgin year beckons. 2003 had many moments of joy, sadness, regret, and shame. This was the year we went to war on false pretenses. A time when our leaders eroded the US Constitution. When our troops captured an evil dictator and hopefully sent a signal that our boys would soon be home. It was a year when the media made Jessica Lynch a war hero, only to find out later her heroics were a myth.

It was a year when everything we bought was made in China and our industrial leaders sent thousands of jobs to the Far East. A year when the leader of the New York Stock Exchange, who was applauded for getting the exchange up and running after 9/11, was forced from office, becoming the symbol for corporate greed. This was the year America’s most famous housewife was indicted for insider trading; when major corporate leaders fell like ten pins after having been exposed for their crooked deeds; and when Libya’s Khadafy offered his mea culpa seeking to re-enter the commercial mainstream.

In Richmond, we almost lost our firehouse. We saw the City spend $100,000.00 on a gambling study only to see the Indians turn their tails and abandon us. We saw the City emptying the City Hall to take up temporary quarters at the rate of $100,000 a month when they are essentially bankrupt. It was a year when City Administrators left their jobs like rats abandoning a sinking ship.

It was a year when we recalled the old guard and elected a governor whose main claim to fame was his portrayal of a homicidal robot. It was a time when we cheered our lawmakers for ending Spam, only to see it preempted and eroded by Congressmen bowing to special interests. It was a year when we discovered that the State was billions of dollars in the red and that the amount of money spent every year on a single prison inmate in our prisons is enough to send them to Harvard instead--yet education and welfare had their scrawny necks on the chopping block as a potential remedy for the crisis.

It was a year to say goodbye to beloved local filmmaker Nicolas Armington. More adieus to comedian Bob Hope, politician Dan Moynihan, actress great Katherine Hepburn, noted director Elia Kazan, newscaster David Brinkley, noted actors Gregory Peck, John Ritter, dancer Donald O’Connor, singer Johnny Cash, Art Carney, Fred Rogers and Gregory Hines. We finally saw an end to the infamous despot Idi Amin, the father of the Atom Bomb Edward Teller and the controversial Strom Thurmond. Some will be missed and others will live on in infamy.

2003 ushered in a hope that the jobs would return, that the economy would turn around, our boys would come home, and that our politicians would be able to balance their budgets. We have our wish lists that give us strength to commit to another year. Perhaps this will be the year that our dreams will be fulfilled and peace will reign once more. You never know.

What does it all mean in the long run? Not much really, just another chapter in the book of the Twenty-first Century as we all speedily race along to meet our makers.

Posted by fredarm at 07:48 PM | Comments (0)