Koch on Film


By, Ed Koch

“The Manchurian Candidate” (-)

For the life of me, I cannot understand why so many critics gave this flick kudos. I found it boring.

Some plot changes occurred from the earlier “Manchurian Candidate” released in 1962. The plot in this flick begins in Kuwait and Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. A company of infantrymen is led into a trap and captured, and devices that can control them from afar are implanted in their bodies. An American corporation is behind a conspiracy to elect a president using one of these soldiers whom they will be able to control.

Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) is an army major and leader of the infantry company who suspects foul play. One of his men, Ray Shaw (Liev Schreiber), is selected by the corporation as the vice presidential candidate with plans to have him push aside Senator Jordan (Jon Voight) who was selected for the presidency by the party leaders. U.S. Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), poorly modeled on Hilary Clinton, is Ray’s mother who is having an incestuous relationship with him, if only in her desires. Using her position of power in the party, she is able to obtain for Ray the vice presidential nomination of the party. Streep has been given high marks for her performance by other reviewers. I thought she made the role a caricature.

Without mentioning all of the improbable ins and outs and without ruining the suspense of which there is little, I can assure you that the country is saved. I would suggest that you avoid this movie and rent the original version which has a terrific cast including Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury. It’s been a long time since I have seen that film, and I might have a different view of it today, but it has to be better than this current version.

“We Don’t Live Here Anymore” (+)

Good but not as great as it could have been due to the banal dialogue.

Jack (Mark Ruffalo), a college teacher, lives with his wife Terry (Laura Dern) and their children in New England. Hank (Peter Krause) and his wife Edith (Naomi Watts) are very good friends, and the couples spend a lot of time together. Jack appears to be pretty secure while Hank frets over having his book rejected by various publishers. He finally receives some good news from The New Yorker magazine which wants to publish one of his poems.

On one occasion when the couples are socializing, Jack and Edith go to the store to pick up some beer. Pretty soon they are embracing and kissing in the car and planning their next liaison which takes place the following day in a neighboring forest where they strip and have sex. Hank and Laura each suspect what is happening and out of frustration they have their own fling. What happens as anger and tension mount is interesting, and several moments of suspense occur when it appears that tragedies other than marital separations might occur.

While the acting is excellent and the plot is interesting, the dialogue never rises to good, let alone brilliant. Four intelligent people, particularly in a college setting, caught up in a mid-life crisis accompanied by the grief of their children would have made much more insightful comments than any of them provided.

Let me give you some kiddy dialogue that occurred between me and my three-year-old grandniece, Perri, in Amagansett this year. I was reading to her from a children’s book which she knew backwards and forwards. When I finished reading I said to her, “Perri, I love you very much.” She replied, “Uncle Ed, I love you too.” I said, “Perri do you know what love means?” She replied, “Yes, it means hugs and kisses.”

The two couples in this film who wanted to save their marriages should have known that hugs and kisses are a very important part of love. Those couples needed a lot more of them.

In spite of the banal dialogue, the movie is still worth seeing.

– Ed Koch