Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I am not a big consumer of documentary films, but I do try to see those things that interest me. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was definitely interested. Most Americans will be familiar with Mr. Rogers even if they were not the audience for the show. Millions of kids have been exposed to his work, and he has been parodied by everyone from Johnny Carson to Eddie Murphy. The trailer evokes a simple and heart-warming approach to the work of a man who for all appearances was genuinely caring about children.

The film has received a lot of hype in the last few weeks. A local entertainment reporter was rapturous in singing it’s praise. I do think it is a fine film about a fascinating subject but be cautious of being oversold. My guess is that people offering reviews for this movie are so starved for something worthy and genuine to write about, that they may heap effusive praise on a very good film, and try to pass it off as a great film.

The work that goes into a documentary includes hundreds of hours of research and digging through archives and editing together various film elements. The Academy Award winning director of this film, Morgan Neville, has done a thorough job of finding interesting material to show us, collaborators and friends of Fred Rogers to speak to, and  just a couple of minor controversies to make the story a bit more compelling. The style of the film however is straight forward, there is nothing particularly innovative about the approach here, most of the audience interest in the film is going to stem from the subject matter and personality of the show we are looking at. The winsome charm of Fred Rogers is the draw for this movie.

We will learn a little bit about his early life, he was a seminary student when he became interested in television for children. He was an ordained minister for the Presbyterian Church, and sure to irritate many of those who would like to politicize everything, he was a lifelong Republican. Everything we see in the film suggests that he was a nice man, who believed love was an important part of a child’s life and tried to make all children feel loved. Some social critics have tried to tie his open support of children to the Millennial phenomena of entitlement. The link there is so capricious that it hardly needs to be responded to. Mr. Rogers view of a child’s need for love stem from biblical concepts not self esteem books. While he was a critic of many children’s programs, his criticism was generic to the tone, themes, violence and “bombardment” of kids as opposed to focusing on particular programs.

The need for a movie about this subject at this time seems to be fertilized by all the rancor and hostility in the world. Again, social advocates may try to make hay out of some of the themes and events covered by the documentary, but the true value is that we see a decent man, doing good in the world. He worked hard and was as unassuming in his real life as he seemed to be on television. Everyone should be able to slow down a little and connect with a man who tried to teach children to love one another and set an example for adults as well. That’s as much endorsement as a movie like this needs. “A little kindness makes a world of difference.”

Entry One in the 2018 Jaws Posts

As long time readers of this blog know, JAWS is the “Quint”essential Independence Day movie at this site. I’ve shared a number of posts on this greatest of adventure films, and there is always something to add each time. Last night gave us two distinct experiences to add to the memory file.

 

First of all, this was a film presentation, not a digital screening. This was a personal print provided by director Sacha Gervasi, a friend of the American Cinematique. It was worked out by an organization called  Cinematic Void,  which has been presenting a series of films on New England Nightmares. The print is from the 1978 re-release of the film and it has not been cleaned up or re-mastered. The host mentioned that it was extremely difficult to find film prints for Jaws, everything now being digital. They asked their personal friend Director Gervasi who accommodated them. Much like the print we saw last year of John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, there is a lot of red hue in the color palate as the film stock fades and bleeds over when projected. Never the less, it is always great to see a “film” and not just computer images masquerading as film. The grain and imperfections do diminish the look of the movie, but they also induce memories of seeing films from the time period, which do wear down after thousands of screenings.

Now second, the guys introducing the film, and many of the audience, made the mistake of describing “Jaws” as a horror film. People, this is an adventure film with horrific elements but it is hardly “horror”. While it uses some of the “B” movie tropes of horror films, like the opening scene or the jump scares when sharks and bodies appear, the vast majority of the movie is taken up by a struggle of a common man to face down political, cultural and natural obstacles in overcoming a problem. The second half of the movie is pure sea-faring adventure.

This movie is 43 years old, and yet, 600 plus people paid to see it in a sold out presentation last night.

The power of this film continues to draw in fans, as it has done for this family for forty years. This is my daughter Amanda’s favorite movie, and we dressed appropriately for the occasion.

Check out these kicks. The tie ends of her shoes are the barrels Quint uses to bring the shark to the surface. The inside sole of the shoe also has an image of the Beach Closed signs from the film. Saturday was her birthday, and she considers the movie to be a continuous gift that she receives every year. To feed that animal, check out the bed set that was one of my gifts to her .

 Sweet Dreams Kid.

(We have another Screening scheduled later in July at the Hollywood Bowl, see you there.)

“Deterrence” On MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur Project

MovieRob is my blogging colleague from Israel. He has hosted me on a Lambcast Show a couple of times and we have both been participants on other Lambcast Shows as well.Every month he solicits entries for his series he titles “Genre Grandeur”, where a theme or genre, suggested by one of the many writers he knows,  is used as an invitation for articles on his blog site. This month the subject was political thrillers and I contributed a essay on the Rod Lurie film “Deterrence”. If you click on the poster below, it will take you to that review and to Rob’s site. Spend some time there if you can, but be careful, Rob is the most prolific blogger on The Lamb, he has thousands of posts and you may not want to get too lost in time there.