Daily Archives: May 10, 2019

Beautifully Fake and Just Plain Phony

From the Chicago Reader (February 23, 2007). — J.R.

NAT TURNER: A TROUBLESOME PROPERTY ****

DIRECTED BY CHARLES BURNETT | WRITTEN BY BURNETT, FRANK CHRISTOPHER, AND KENNETH S. GREENBERG

WITH CARL LUMBLY, TOM NOWICKI, TOMMY HICKS, JAMES OPHER, WILLIAM STYRON, ERIC FONER, MARY KEMP DAVIS, OSSIE DAVIS, EKEWUEME MICHAEL THELWELL, AND BURNETT

THE ASTRONAUT FARMER *

DIRECTED BY MICHAEL POLISH | WRITTEN BY MARK AND MICHAEL POLISH

WITH BILLY BOB THORNTON, VIRGINIA MADSEN, BRUCE DERN, MAX THIERIOT, TIM BLAKE NELSON, BRUCE WILLIS, KIERSTEN WARREN, AND RICHARD EDSON

Very little is known about Nat Turner, the black slave in Virginia’s Southampton County who led a revolt by more than 50 other black slaves in August 1831. Over two days they slaughtered 57 white men, women, and children, and after the rebellion was suppressed, 60 to 80 slaves were summarily executed and mutilated. As one historian notes in Charles Burnett’s hour-long TV documentary, Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003), screening Sunday at the DuSable Museum of African American History, we have precise information about Turner’s victims but know almost nothing about the slaughtered blacks.

Most of what’s known about Turner is based on his unverifiable “confession” to a white lawyer, Thomas Gray, before he was executed.… Read more »

McCarthyism Made Simple [GUILTY BY SUSPICION]

From the Chicago Reader (March 22, 1991). — J.R.

GUILTY BY SUSPICION

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Irwin Winkler

With Robert De Niro, Annette Bening, George Wendt, Patricia Wettig, Sam Wanamaker, Barry Primus, Gailard Sartain, Chris Cooper, Ben Piazza, and Martin Scorsese.

There are plenty of bones one can pick with Guilty by Suspicion, the first Hollywood feature devoted in its entirety to the film-industry blacklist (The Front dealt with TV). Of course there are plenty of bones one can pick with just about any movie, if one is so inclined. But critics, at least, seem more inclined to be so inclined with movies that deal with political subjects. This is not to say that most critics reprove such movies on political grounds; on the contrary, they usually harp on other aspects. But one still winds up feeling that it’s frequently the politics that gets their hackles up.

Having seen this movie more than a week later than most of my colleagues, due to some interesting circumstances that I’ll discuss later, I’ve had ample opportunity to read and (more often) hear some of their carping, most of it hyperbolic invective about the acting and directing. Some of them have expressed so much antipathy for the picture that I went to the first screening at Webster Place last weekend expecting the worst.… Read more »

Digging Up Nazis: A Comedy [THE NASTY GIRL]

From the Chicago Reader (March 15, 1991). — J.R.

THE NASTY GIRL

** (Worth seeing)

Directed and written by Michael Verhoeven

With Lena Stolze, Monika Baumgartner, Michael Gahr, Fred Stillkrauth, Elisabeth Bertram, Robert Giggenbach, and Hans-Richard Muller.

We’re told at the outset of Michael Verhoeven’s The Nasty Girl that Anja Rosmus inspired this film. What we aren’t told is who Rosmus is or how closely this film is based on what happened to her in the 1980s.

Born in 1960 and raised in the Bavarian city of Passau — where Adolf Hitler spent part of his childhood and where Adolf Eichmann was later married — Anja Elisabeth Rosmus, the daughter of two schoolteachers, had a comfortable, middle-class, Catholic upbringing. When she was 20, she won first prize in a national essay contest, writing about privacy and public freedom in European politics and history. The following year she entered another national essay contest, this time settling on a local topic: “An Example of Resistance and Persecution: Passau, 1933-1939.” Having been brought up to believe that her hometown was a bastion of resistance against the Nazis, largely through the efforts of the local Catholic church, she thought she was undertaking a project that would enhance local pride and was surprised by the defensiveness and hostility she encountered from certain quarters outside the church.… Read more »