Saving Banksy (2017)

Whether or not you appreciate graffiti or even have a creative drive, existential questions arise about the nature of Art– mainly appropriation– and its place in Society.

Current street artists are generations of graffiti painters emerging from a covert subculture of gangs and indiscriminate vandals. To embellish a blank surface, they risk being shot/ stabbed by gangs or arrested by the authorities, one artist being imprisoned for 8 years.

The most famous street artist is the elusive, Banksy, who rose to prominence in San Francisco for images featuring simple yet poignant social commentary. Since few murals aren’t painted over to satisfy city officials who threaten massive fines and put liens on any property that leaves the images intact, they’re being removed to sell at galleries. Now fans were confronted by a new and confusing issue: vandalism and tagging of Banksy’s graffiti.

Trying to donate any of the world’s iconic pieces to a museum is a challenge (e.g. time constraints, artist permission, funds for scaffolding and lead abatement upon removal of historic material, transport, restoration, etc.), which is the primary focus of this film. “I have people who want to buy it for seven hundred thousand dollars but I can’t give it away for free.”

By the way, the DVD’s special feature– a deleted/ behind the scenes featurette– is interesting as a documentary in and of itself.

The Foreigner (2017)

The depth of the story drew me in and made me want to follow the main character further. Too bad this wasn’t a TV pilot! To cast a movie that could so easily have been yet another formulaic action flick was no small feat; actors we’ve seem before were wisely utilized for their specialty while being given enough room to break out of their characatures. Moreover, their experience and professionalism allowed the seamless fusion of cultures to tell a story that’s a genuinely fresh perspective on the balance between Justice and Revenge.

Masquerade (2012)

Why are 15 days worth of records missing from annals of the Joseon Dynasty? Though we’ll never know for sure, it’s fair to surmise that since the king was kind but cautious (some would say paranoid), it’s not impossible that arrangements were made in anticipation of a potential emergency. Like the switcheroo in American movie, […]

Wag the Dog (1997)

Who’s leading whom– isn’t the dog supposed to wag the tail? Of greatest importance is at whatever a politician is trying to distract you from looking. Incidentally, one time several major Hollywood stars (2 of whom– Oscars winners, no less– received no money up front) shot a feature length film in under a month with […]

Persepolis (2007)

I’m so glad the author of the autobiographical comic– the basis of this movie– was involved in making this version of her story. An Iranian expat, who came- of- age during the Islamic Revolution/ reign of the Shah describes her historical experiences– personal, cultural and political– in black and white. The bold stylistic choice serves […]

Little Nikita (1988)

Initially, this didn’t impress me, aside from a riveting car chase. I expected more tech(nology/nique); the Mission Impossible franchise set my expectations higher than I dared to admit. However, I was struck by the emotional component we civilians rarely think about– sleeper spies need family and friends just the same as anyone else. Still, I […]

Dave (1993)

There have been brief periods when movies were made strictly for entertainment; you weren’t forced to choose between getting hit over the head with an agenda and indulging an experimental hobby project. Who better to give a chance to showcase their range than Kevin Kline?

A small-town professor moonlighting as a POTUS impersonator faces the mother of moral dilemmas when he agrees to stand in for the real—and comatose—Chief of Staff to avoid wide-spread panic. He later realizes how much power and influence everyone around him wields when he tries to avoid getting tangled in the strings of the political puppet masters, who hired him.

Cameos galore (primarily political figures) are the sprinkles atop a sturdy sundae of seasoned actors, who portray earnest characters out of their element finding their way to a heartwarming crescendo.

The Pirates of Somalia (2017)

The title* of a book by (then still) wannabe journalist, Jay Bahadur, who planned to write an exposé based on a land he grew to love almost as much as his own. Most coming-of-age stories center around a young man’s sexual encounter with a seemingly exotic native from the country to which he has either been forced to travel or to where he escapes from stifling responsibilities. This film depicts a naively brave visit to a place few journalists dared to go at the time.   *“Deadly Waters” in UK/ Australia

Part of its charm is how the casting in no way caters to Hollywood’s distorted racial sensibilities by either rewriting the story to make Jay’s parents’ mixed-race marriage a Caucasian union or by hiring an unconvincing vaguely ethnic actor, who bears no resemblance to real-life, Jay Bahadur. Rather, the family dynamic is believable but casually presented as fact since it has no bearing on the plot. Another component of its charm is in capturing affection, both in actors’ natural chemistry and characters’ scripted interaction. Pay close attention, filmmakers; this is how it’s done. That it intrinsically avoids heavy-handed themes, canned/ preachy dialogue, contrived metaphors and overblown juxtapositions makes this film feel like a blast of fresh air on a steamy day in the desert.

I would be remiss to leave out any mention of countless profanities and blatant drug use that makes this unsuitable for classroom viewing and discussion. However, where home viewing is concerned, realism is lost the moment the camera flinches. Moreover, the goal is sympathy and consideration rather than pity, and certainly not stereotypes. To that end, many striking parallels can be made drawn between African Pirates and North American rappers. At the end of the day, Human Beings are more like than different, which should make international diplomatic relations less convoluted than they tend to be.

Mr. Bahadur returned home right before cargo ship, MV Maersk Alabama was taken hostage by the pirates about whom he wrote. This incident stimulated interest in his book, which took longer than expected to get published. But people soon realized his research challenged inaccurate perceptions about the pirates and their motives. Incidentally, trivia fans will appreciate how movie Jay’s host-turned-friend, who guides him through Somalia is the same actor, who portrayed the lead pirate of the aforementioned hijacking as portrayed in the 2013 movie “Captain Phillips.”

Across the Universe (2007)

Though the title borrows the more popular lyric/ song title, this film could’ve been aptly named “Nothing’s Gonna Change my World”; the irony being the massive upending of life as everyone knew it prior to the turbulent 1960s. To craft a plot from a collection of music not written as a cohesive narrative is tricky enough; to seamlessly infuse the playlist with a personification of the music and events that equally influenced and inspired each other is a true work of Art. The inclusion of live musical performance, choreography, imaginative cinematography, depiction of history and socio-political commentary take this mesmerizing spectacle way beyond a Beatles-inspired musical.