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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Film Sneak Preview: South of The Border

Oliver Stone’s compelling new documentary, South of the Border, provides a series of candid conversations with several current presidents in South America about the new transformations in public policy in their respective regions. This film is an enlightening feature on how the U.S. news media may have slanted coverage about South America by overlooking some of the positive economic and political transformations taking place in this region of the world. Stone may have tried to make the coverage more balanced in his new film, but his method of storytelling often skews the boundaries between propaganda and responsible journalism.

The director traveled to Venezuela to chat with Hugo Chavez about how he has been reportedly ill portrayed by the U.S. news media. His conversation also reveals some of Chavez’ animosity about the former Bush administration and how limiting U.S. foreign policy (including the IMF) helped spur the revolution called neoliberalism – a focus on “bottom-up government,” that is based on social and economic reform on the poor and unemployed. Chavez’s candor with Stone indicates that he harbors much resentment for reported U.S. involvement on various coups that threatened to topple his government. “The best way to convey it further was to take the film on the road and talk to Chavez allies in the region,” the director says. “Every single one of them was positive about Chavez,” Stone said.

South of The Border provides similar interviews with other presidents who have come under fire, such as Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Cristina Kirchner (Argentina). The film provides some enlightening stories of those countries overcoming economic misfortunes to help spur economic and social growth.

There are several challenges that face Stone’s new film and its quest for widescreen release. The coverage is very biased and takes a strong stance against the U.S. news media. Most of the sound bites and clippings come from the Fox News Channel, which doesn’t give a well-rounded critique of the U.S. news media stories coverage on South American leadership. Stone should have used a broader selection of footage to add more validity to his claims.

The film also links most of Bush’s democratic foreign policy efforts as a cover to protect oil interests in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela. Stone’s picture should have made a concerted attempt to try and set up interviews with former members of the Bush administration who could offer counter opinions and perspectives.

South of the Border succeeds in incorporating numerous interviews and economic data in this 80-minute feature. But Stone’s feature doesn’t ask tough poignant questions to these South American leaders to help balance-out his anti-Bush crusade. Many critics could dismiss this documentary as a Michael Moore rip-off. You be the judge.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Going Mad Waiting for Season Four Mad Men Premiere

One word to describe today’s television viewer: fickle. Many shows are canceled after one or two episodes. Perhaps this is the reason why the quality of new shows is so poor big name stars are not the draw they used to be and the top-three networks are experiencing declining numbers every year. Lucky for us, cable networks are producing excellent, entertaining, and endearing shows. My latest addiction … AMC’s Mad Men.

The setting is a highly successful ad agency, Sterling Coopers, located on New York’s Madison Avenue. The twist? It’s 1960s and boy is it a different world. Drinking on the job, flirting with coworkers, harassment, sexism is not only allowed, it’s par for the course. The show focuses on the mysterious Don Draper (John Hamm) a picture-perfect debonair Creative Director who seems to have everything. But appearances can be deceiving.

Hamm’s blessed with an amazing cast of supporting actors, who transform the show into a realistic office politics drama. You will feel for each character and become engrossed in their struggles and successes. The first season introduced the characters, set the scene and familiarized audiences with everyday life at Sterling Coopers. Season two showed us that although men may dominate the workplace in the 60s, but behind every great man there’s an even greater woman. Season three showed us that there is no true security and everything you know can change in an instant.

In the first episode of Mad Men, we knew who the power players were. The stage was set early on. Each episode was a battlefield: the bit players fought for success and recognition. The stage was set early. The question was who would succeed and who would be left behind. By the final episode we learned who would join the ranks of the elite and who would fall short. Season four promises to be an entirely new playing field.
I’m going to relish season four’s fight to maintain the spoils of war. The campaigns are going to be bigger than ever and I for one support Team Draper.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Larsson's Trilogy Leaves A Mark

The film The Girl With the Dragon Tatttoo, based on Stieg Larsson’s book, should receive an Oscar nod this year for best foreign film. If you have not seen this film yet, go now. If you’re interested in reading about what happened to the film’s two leads, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, then The Girl Who Played with Fire should be the next book you read. It picks up a few months after Tattoo ended and is an irresistible page-turner that you won’t be able to put down.

Salander, a young tattooed computer hacker, becomes intrigued by a sex-trade story that her old friend Blomkvist is researching. Although she has no interest in seeing him again, she becomes the key suspect in a murder case involving two of his coworkers and friends.

Suddenly, the solitary genius has her passport photo on every newspaper in Sweden and her anonymity exposed … as well as many details from her troubled past. As Blomkvist and a group of her friends try to clear her name, Salander looks for the mysterious “Zala.” The race is on and absolutely no one is safe.

Larsson weaves a fantastic story with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed from page one to the cliffhanger ending. Salander’s character knows right from wrong, but has no qualms making criminals pay. She has turned from victim to avenger and will stop at nothing to find vigilante justice. The combination of character development and gritty suspense, have ensured that this trilogy will remain on the best-seller list for a long time.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Confessions of a TVholic

I am scared. I am frightened. I am a TV holic and the finales are upon us. What will I do when my weekly fixes of Glee, Smallville, Greys, Private Practice, Community, The Office and so many more are gone. They are leaving me for at least three months, maybe more. Now, I can deal with a summer hiatus, but I will be totally inconsolable after the series finale of Lost airs.

Yes, you heard me correctly, inconsolable. Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, and the rest of the crew kept my mind stimulated and active. The show also created a miracle… My father who hasn’t watched serial television show since Hill Street Blues became an advocate and fan of Lost. He even got my family hooked after season one took a hiatus and ran on repeats.

One of the most incredible, creative, game-changing shows is leaving us for good. It’s impact on future television shows will be felt for years to come. Let’s have a moment of silence and respect for an incredible and amazing series. Thank you for your shared experience in grieving the show.

I have another confession. I am a fickle reality-show fan. This season’s American Idol contestants have been a unique bunch. I was a Crystal Bowersox fan until a few weeks ago. However, after a few mediocre performances, I’m convinced that Lee Dewyze is da one. The show’s biggest drawback is its predictability. Big Mike will be the next to go, followed by Casey James. My only hope for the show is better choices for the performers. How can the judges be upset that the performers are not making things modern when they give them dated songs to perform. I would like to see modern artists not only help the contestants but feature their songs as well.

Another show that may struggle with its finale is Private Practice. After a season when Violet, the shrink, is in need of major therapy and Addison is in love with a character that has zero chemistry with her (sorry Taye), it’s hard to know who to root for or what you want the end result to be. Private Practice has managed to surprass Grey’s Anatomy for content and storylines. Hopefully, the finale will stick to the same quality that the season has maintained and not jump the shark.

You may find this column ridiculous, even preposterous. Perhaps, you think I should read more, attend events and get my butt out there in the real world. Fear not, I am out there interacting with others, doing things during the day and not. I will end this column with a note and a confession. Consider it my attempt at taking the first step toward healing. My name is Liz Tramer and I, I am a … TV holic.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On The Cutting Room Floor: Xtra Takes

Brotherhood Cast dances for joy on the Dallas International Film Festival Red Carpet.

Director Will Canon compares actors' personalities to characters in the film.