Reviews by Ken Burke
Selma (Ava DuVernay)
In early 1965 Black Americans took a courageous stand in über-racist Alabama, demanding an end to restrictions on their voting rights, with a focus here on M.L. King.
To save you a little scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the Golden Globe winners for films and TV from 2014.
with claims to know the facts better than I do support the film’s presentation. Trying to put all of that aside in the name of artistic license regarding a filmmaker’s need to provide crisis and resolution for the sake of effective dramatic narrative structure, though (you could easily say that the protagonists had plenty of villains already in the Alabama power structure and the anti-King attitudes of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover [Dylan Baker]—whose advice to LBJ to “dismantle [King’s] family” is later illustrated by recordings sent to Coretta’s Atlanta home phone intended to reveal Martin with his various mistresses—but I can see how it’s even more effective for your story to have the President of the United States brought around to the timing of your agenda, as that gives much greater legitimacy to the victory), I do find Selma to be a powerful statement of the horrible attitudes and events that made the Voting Rights actions necessary, coupled with excellent acting from all concerned and a structure that builds proper tension even when the outcome is well known (or should be, but if the influential Texas State Board of Education gets their revisionist way on how events are to be interpreted in the schoolbooks of many states, not only will they have Moses as more of an influence on the U.S. Constitution than he ever was but they also might try to cast Wallace as the hero of the event simply because he refrained from sending Alabama troopers into all-out war with the marchers and the National Guard that LBJ had to send to protect them).
Study of complex human relationships between a middle- and an upper-class family as financial and romantic entanglements complicate the search for a hit-and-run killer.
If you’ve been able to digest all this, then you can probably accept that John, once he understood his own convoluted past, was willing to join the Temporal Agency where he’s actually the Hawke agent that we’ve been simultaneously following as this version of his older self. Just to complete the circle, though, our complex Agent finally finds the Fizzle Bomber at a NYC laundromat in March, 1975, only to discover that the Bomber is just an older version of himself, obviously suffering from a form of dementia and psychosis that’s allowed him to justify the heinous deed soon to come as an excuse for motivating the various time-trips that saved many other lives. Not content with that scenario, the Agent kills the Bomber to prevent his (own) monstrous act, then retires in 1975 NYC, even though his life, through younger John, will somehow loop past there and back again (I guess).
Bottom Line Final Comments: As I write this, the Oscar nominations for 2014-released-films haven’t yet been announced so I don’t know which ones will be competing for the Best Foreign Language Film prize (although I certainly hope that Ida [Pawel Pawlikowski, 2014; review in our June 3, 2014 posting] will be among them), but I do know that Human Capital was Italy’s submission for consideration, so clearly the deciding body there was very enamored of this high-stakes-guessing game, a film I definitely enjoyed and recommend, even if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decides to see otherwise. In the closing graphics we learn that the title refers to the term that insurance companies use to determine the policy worth of a person who dies through violent means—as did the worker whose sad fate begins this interesting story—based on a combination of factors including standard life expectancy, anticipated earning capacity, etc. What can’t be calculated, along with the emotional impact on a killed person’s survivors (an aspect of life’s circumstances not explored much here), is how manipulated factors can alter that accumulation of “capital,” as with how Giovanni and Carla come out smelling like roses (even as she brushes aside her own ruined dreams in order to better partake of the benefits of his) based on the collective misery of others (suggesting an alternative title, Human Collateral), including Dino who gambled (he thought, on a sure thing) and lost, saving himself only through a chance glance at his daughter’s laptop and extortion of the Bernaschis, leaving us with the sense that fate can be blindly cruel just as it can offer unexpected compensation (the seemingly strong connection between outcasts Serena and Luca, despite the personal humiliation that both of them have suffered).
Predestination, on the other hand, might be considered by some to be too absurd to even exist as a fictional story, but I was intrigued by its mind-bending-situations of parallel existence of multiple versions of one’s self (which we’ve seen in other circumstances, most famously—although only briefly—in the comical Back to the Future series [Robert Zemeckis; 1985, 1989, 1990], with a dramatic version more recently in Looper [Rian Johnson, 2012; review in our October 5, 2012 posting]), here given the added multi-dimensions of this character’s seeming self-creation [Talk about a “chicken or egg” conundrum!]), which may seem too cutely-calculated after the fact but is still quite fascinating to observe in story progression. In trying to find a single Musical Metaphor for these 2 films I came up empty so I decided to offer 1 for each: Human Capital deserves “Money (That’s What I Want)” (written in 1969 by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, sung by Barrett Strong, as the first [and very-appropriately-titled] hit for Motown records), so here’s The Beatles’ version in a live performance from sometime in the mid-1960s (along with Spanish subtitles, the closest I could find to Italian—hey, it sort of got me through a needed conversation with a train station agent in Genoa once, so don’t scoff) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVV7pJEV4Eg (from their 1963 U.K. With the Beatles album, the 1964 U.S. The Beatles’ Second Album). Then, with all of the identity confusion in Predestination I decided on Neil Diamond’s “I Am … I Said” (from his 1971 Stones album) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vu9cNmM4dQk, given this song’s concerns with the singer’s past and present no longer working properly to serve his unraveling needs of self-understanding.
P.S. Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.