Daily Archives: June 29, 2007

License To Wed

As someone who’s been developing an allergy to Robin Williams over the years, I didn’t exactly welcome the idea of his playing the clergyman from hell as he conducts a souped-up version of a rigorous marriage preparation course for a Chicago couple (Mandy Moore and John Krasinski). But even if I could have put up with the unpleasantness of this as comedy, I still would have balked at the eventual portrayal of this monster as an angel in disguiseeven as he’s monitoring the couple’s every move from a surveillance van to make sure they don’t indulge in premarital sex. Director Ken Kwapis (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) gives this script by many hands a certain gloss it doesn’t deserve. PG-13, 100 min. (JR)… Read more »


Susan Minot adapts her own novel with the help of Michael Cunningham (The Hours) about a dying woman (Vanessa Redgrave) coming to terms with her two daughters (Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette) and memories of her youth in the 50s (where she’s played by Claire Danes). Despite the show-offy cast, it took me a while to warm to these people and their self-consciously idyllic settingsas well as to the slick direction of former cinematographer Lajos Koltaibut I was eventually won over. With Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Patrick Wilson, and Hugh Dancy. PG-13, 118 min. (JR)… Read more »

Short Films By Michelangelo Antonioni

Even after one factors in the 1985 stroke that left Michelangelo Antonioni mainly paralyzed, the ambiguous degree to which his wife Erica has been responsible for most of his subsequent work (some of which she cosigns), and the overall decline in the quality of most of his films since the 70s, the shorts in this program, all commissioned and showing in excellent prints or on video, are truly all over the map. They range from his beautiful documentaries of the late 1940s (about people working in the Po River valley, Roman street cleaners, the production of popular photographed comic strips called fumetti, superstitions, and the manufacture of rayon clothes) to his more uneven travel sketches of the 1990s (about Rome, Sicily, and the island of Stromboli). In between are so-so works about rock carvings in the Villa Orsini and a cable car (1950) and bathing in the Ganges (1989), plus a truly awful music video from 1984. 110 min. (JR)… Read more »


Indy director T. Arthur Cottam stiffly plays an obnoxiously quirky indie director of the same name who’s shooting a supposedly serious movie in a trailer park. It seems like large chunks of this dull 2006 mockumentary are supposed to be funny, but I’m not sure whyunless one automatically assumes political incorrectness (in this case the sexual exploitation of a mentally disabled character in the film within the film) automatically equals comedy. I also found the storytelling hard to follow, though maybe that’s just because I was never engaged. But Filthy Food (2006), the five-minute Cottam short playing with this featurean audacious bit of comic porn featuring pieces of fruitis a blast. 89 min. (JR)… Read more »


Asked who the greatest French poet was, Andre Gide said, “Victor Hugo, alas.” I feel the same way about Michael Moore. He qualifies, sometimes lamentably, as our most important political filmmaker, in part just because the media do such a poor job of delivering basic news to us. His blistering attack on the American health care system and the abuses of medical insurance companies offers eye-opening contrasts with national health services in Canada, England, and France, and, atypically, he delays appearing on-screen for some 40 minutes to keep the focus on this country’s victims. When his comic persona finally does come in, there’s something a bit irritating about him asking so many questions he already knows the answers to, sometimes paying more heed to the audience members he perceives as clueless than to the people he’s talking to (like when he asks some Cubans on the street, “Is there a doctor here in Cuba?”). But this is still essential viewing–informative, corrosive, and even sometimes hilarious. PG-13, 123 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. a Century 12 and CineArts 6, Crown Village 18, Davis, Gardens 1-6, Landmark’s Century Centre, River East 21, ShowPlace 14 Galewood Crossings. –Jonathan Rosenbaum … Read more »

Dumb Like Me [SICKO]

From the Chicago Reader (June 29, 2007). — J.R.



One of the standard charges leveled against Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) was that it was preaching to the converted. I don’t think this is entirely true: Moore credits himself with helping to turn this country against the war in Iraq, and if we look at when the opinion polls started to shift, his claim doesn’t seem entirely unwarranted. The sad fact is that his screed scored in part because it delivered some basic facts about the aftermath of 9/11 that the mainstream news media had failed to put across.

For better and for worse, Moore’s Sicko scores for similar reasons. It spends more than two hours attempting to preach to the unconverted that (1) this country’s health care system is a disgrace, especially when it comes to medical insurance, and that (2) it could easily be much better. There are fewer jokes this time around, and Moore makes a point of not even appearing on-screen for a good 40 minutes, putting more emphasis on his arguments and less on his comic persona.

It’s an honorable tactic and the arguments are strong. But when he finally turns up in the flesh, there’s something even more rancid than usual about the way he plays dumb.… Read more »