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Review: Why We Fight

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Less strident than Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and not quite as artful as Errol Morris’s The Fog of War, Why We Fight is nonetheless a war movie that merits serious thought. Eugene Jarecki’s second feature-length documentary — the follow-up to 2002’s The Trials of Henry Kissinger — this expansive and ambitious film borrows its title from the series of pro-military short pictures directed by the legendary Frank Capra during World War II. But where Capra’s output was unabashed propaganda, Jarecki’s is an eyes-wide-open assessment of war-making.
    Forty-five years ago this week, President Eisenhower devoted his farewell address to warning the nation about the “grave implications” of what he called the “military-industrial complex” — the overlapping interests of Congress, the armed forces and multi-billion-dollar arms manufacturers. Jarecki proves that when it comes to the nation’s current military entanglements, the onetime war hero was more prescient than anyone might’ve guessed.
    Ample screen time is devoted to the social and economic inequities that provide the military with its working-class enlistees, and Jarecki’s talking heads do a fine job of explaining America’s poisonous history of Middle East involvement. But appropriately, much of the film’s energy is devoted to the chain of events — the influence of right-wing think tanks, for one — that led to the Iraq war. As one of the documentary’s commentators points out, things have gotten so out of whack that voters have elected a government contractor to the vice presidency. Not even Ike could’ve predicted that one. — Kevin Canfield

DVD Review: Live Freaky, Die Freaky
Try to imagine a “claymation musical about Charles Manson” that’s not overlong, self-indulgent and obnoxious. Keep trying. Still stumped? Don’t expect Live Freaky, Die Freaky to bail you out. Coming in at seventy-seven tedious minutes, the film has all of punk rock’s crudeness and none of its economy. Surprising, given voice work from members of Rancid and Green Day, who rarely allow such sloppiness on their albums. The excess alone is irritating, but Live Freaky also suffers from a grotesquely inflated sense of its own transgressiveness. Little clay people stabbing and fucking! Whoo! Not for the meek! It’s like listening to a fifteen-year-old Marilyn Manson fan ranting about his life among “the normals” for an hour and a half. — Peter Smith
Also This Week
If you’re looking for . . .

. . . political satire from a once-adored comedic director who hasn’t had a hit in a while: Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World follows Albert Brooks to Pakistan and India, where he tries to figure out what makes Muslims laugh.

. . . blue-collar tragedy from a once-adored dramatic director who hasn’t had a hit in a while: Bubble. Stephen Soderbergh shot this rural story on digital video, with a soundtrack by Robert Pollard.

Date DVD: Junebug
In the past few years, date movies have become family movies. Hoping to double their demographic, studios have repeatedly aped the ludicrously profitable Meet the Parents, turning single sex and romance into a kind of chaperoned cinema. Again and again, fun date movies get saddled with mother-in-law jokes that would even make Don Rickles cringe. Sex becomes something cute, wrapped up in a cute family-values package. It’s not that family’s unimportant (I swear, Mom) — it’s just too important to leave to silly crap like The Family Stone. That’s one of the reasons I love Junebug, one of the very best films of last year. Phil Morrison’s skillfully shot, wonderfully acted debut tracks a man and his fiancĂ©e as they visit his home in the rural South for the first time. The underrated Allesandro Nivola is a citified and sophisticated Southern gentleman who seems caught in the great distance between his family and his new life. Embeth Davitz is a black-clad gallerista who’s using the trip to land the works of a local outsider artist. The film’s chockablock with artfully observed moments of culture clash, but as a date movie I think it underscores how all we ever really know about a lover is what we’ve seen. So when you see them back at home — that cynical man singing like a cherub at a church social, say — it opens up a world of questions. — Logan Hill

   

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