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Moving Mountains, by Robert Hornak

28 Jun


If you can maneuver around the initial wall of overly-warm sentimentality that stands thick in the middle of Little Boy, and if you don’t mind the multiple themes tossed at you like a juggler trying to impress a children’s birthday party, then you’ll eventually get to a colorful-if-shaky treatment of that most nagging of Christian mandates: “Have faith.”


An Unproductive Meeting, by Robert Hornak

18 Apr

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.19.10 PM

Elvis & Nixon, a stumbling fantasia based on a real meeting, the proof of which is a hand-shaking photograph that is famously the most-requested item from the National Archives, puts forth apocryphal assumptions of how and why Elvis Presley managed to maneuver past the wall of paranoia that was the Nixon White House, hoping to become a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in order to go undercover amongst his own celebrity circles – to “protect this country from sliding into anarchy.” The movie, as was the actual event, is set in December 1970, before Nixon had fully installed his now-infamous Oval Office recording system, so the reasons for the granting of the meeting and the content of the eventual conversation are left to the imagination of the screenwriters. Unfortunately for anyone who nurtures a real appreciation for the overwhelming richness of these idiosyncratic monoliths, the writers, who have a supreme opportunity to concoct some choice banter, play it instead as a quick, barely-scratched-surface intersection of awkward groping for common ground, neither one coming off as someone with actual secrets or legitimate motives, and the titular photo-op finally flops, neither funny nor especially interesting.


Tolerance, by Robert Hornak

1 Feb

lenny bruce

Whether or not you are Charlie Hebdo, current events make it obvious that comedy can be a lightning rod for dubiously justified anger.  It’s always been so, as Mike Celestino’s ambitiously-scoped documentary That’s Not Funny illustrates, but the shock is that these days the expression of that anger can run the broad gamut from heckling a comedian to storming the offices of a leftist humor magazine with automatic weapons.  Perhaps perversely, one aches while watching the film, which was produced before the Paris attack, wishing Celestino had just waited a few more months so he could include that most tragic of examples.  But there’s enough grist for the mill in the history of American comedy to help him preach his sermon, and Celestino covers it all.


The Self-Hating Hero, by Robert Hornak

7 Feb

Barney’s Version, based on a book I haven’t read, isn’t a very good movie. It’s a kind of legitimization of self-hatred and an apotheosis of The Curmudgeon As Suitable Suitor. The mid-movie revelation of the main character’s looming Alzheimers and the last minute litany of good things bestowed upon mankind by him all seem tacked on to make sure we get the point, which is this: there’s nobody in the world so ensnared by their loathing of themselves and others that they can’t be redeemed by a swelling orchestral cloud over their backlit headstone.


Life is Sweet, by Robert Hornak

28 Jan

Mike Leigh’s new film, Another Year, is nominally a reflection on the ways in which we cultivate the relationships around us, but more so it’s a dissection of the prickly dynamic between the emotionally strong and weak. Fortunately the film overcomes the prosaic symbolism of a garden, managed over the span of a year, by burrowing into the disparity between those who wish to give others help and those who clearly cannot be helped until they first help themselves. It’s a set up of character conflict that promises drama, but Leigh doesn’t seem as interested in anything as fabricated as drama, in the sense of any “movie” drama we’re trained to expect. Instead, the four pieces of his story – each corresponding to a season of the year – demonstrate the filmmaker’s gift for recording simple life moments, some triumphant, some humiliating, all of it true and awkward and real.