koch on film


“Pieces of April” (-)

After reading several good reviews of this film, particularly Elvis Mitchell’s review in The New York Times in which he stated that it was an “intelligent and touching farce,” I decided to see it. I saw it the day it opened at the Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema, one of my favorite movie houses, and the theater was only about ten percent occupied. Clearly the movie underground had sent out the “avoid” warning; unfortunately, I had not heard the drums.

The film opens in a Manhattan tenement with April (Katie Holmes) a young, white woman in bed with Bobby (Derek Luke), a young black man. It is Thanksgiving Day and April has invited her family to her home for dinner and to meet Bobby for the first time. There are scenes of April, who knows nothing about preparing a meal, trying to cook the turkey. Her stove is broken and she spends a half-hour trying to find a neighbor’s oven to use. Those incidents are all too cute and at times even silly.

April’s family lives in New Jersey: It consists of her mother Joy (Patricia Clarkson); father Jim (Oliver Platt); brother Timmy (John Gallagher, Jr.) sister Beth (Alison Pill). An element of overwhelming sadness is introduced when we learn that Joy had a double mastectomy and is dying of breast cancer.

The family is clearly dysfunctional, and their car ride from New Jersey to April’s apartment is painful to watch with everyone doing their shtick. Although the grandmother, who comes along for the ride, is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, she appears to be one of the most normal and responsible family members.

The family arrives at April’s home and meets Bobby, being unaware of his race prior to the meeting. They immediately leave. After that a lot happens, most of which is predictable and politically correct but very little believable or well acted. Don’t worry — it has a happy ending.

The audience applauded at the end of the film. The only reason could be that they were related to the director, actors or screen writer. Why the critics lauded this film, I cannot fathom. I was happy when the lights went up and I could leave.

“Yossi & Jagger” (+)

This Israeli film, in Hebrew with English subtitles, has a simple plot.

An Israeli Defense Force squad in an outpost on the Lebanese, Syrian and Israeli border is being visited by a Commanding Officer (Sharon Reginiano). He is accompanied by two female soldiers: Goldie (Hani Furstanberg), his occasional lover, and Yaeli (Aya Koren). Yaeli is searching for Jagger (Yehuda Levi) whom she secretly adores. Unknown to her, Jagger is having a secret homosexual relationship with his squad leader, Yossi (Ohad Knoller).

The locale is covered with snow which is unusual in that area except for the Golan Heights. One evening when the squad is required to perform an ambush, they themselves are caught in a trap. This is not an exciting war picture, although the injuries and death on patrol do impact, nor is it an explicit sex film. Other countries and Hollywood have long ago explored both motifs with far better effect. Nevertheless, the dialogue between the two lovers is sensitive and affecting and their acting is excellent.

All NATO armies and Israel permit soldiers who are publicly homosexual to fully participate in the military, except for the United States which has its infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. That policy has been responsible for more military discharges on the grounds of sexual orientation than ever before.

– Ed Koch

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