The Depress-A-Thon: Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father by Jamie

I’m not one for openly showing much in the way of emotion. There are times when I’ll waver between the ups and the downs but as for things like weeping openly, well, it just isn‘t me. This doesn’t seem to apply to movies however. I am, as I’m sure I’ve said before, a bit of a crier when it comes to film. For some reason the over-the-top reality of film just seems more realistic to me. I can’t explain why.

Then there are documentaries which are based on truly horrific real life events. They manage to combine the horror of having these things actually having happened and the over-the-top hyper reality of film. By mentioning the hyper reality of film I don’t in anyway mean that any part of these documentaries are not based in truth but rather I mean that the very nature of films means that you can have many years worth of tragic and terrible events condensed down into an hour and a half, making the experience that much more intense. Such is the case with the subject of today’s review, ‘Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father.’

Fuck. This film fucking broke me in ways that I didn’t think possible. It manages to be both a beautiful tribute to a human being that the people in his life genuinely seemed to love and an horrific recounting of a series of tragic events and for that I must say I was truly blown away. The film managed to strike such a perfect balance between two different parts of the story that just seemed to highlight and intensify both.

Right, now I suppose I should go some small way into explaining the basic story of the film without giving away too much. This could be difficult but is absolutely necessary because you simply have to see this film. Might as well just get that out of the way up front. Ok, so the story then. The basic premise is that the film maker, Kurt Kuenne, had a childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, who is murdered by his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Jane Turner. Kuenne decides to travel to visit and interview various friends and relatives of Andrew in an effort to create a kind of video scrap-book for his infant son so he can get an idea of the kind of man that the father he would never know was. Wow. That was a tortuous sentence.

So yeah, that’s all I can really reveal about the plot of the film without giving away many of the twists and turns that cause the emotion to run so high whilst watching this film. What I can say is that the director is certainly a film maker of some talent. He uses some pretty interesting editing techniques to just ramp things up at the appropriate times. In particular his use of dialogue from the various interviews and statements from those involved repeatedly throughout the film in order to massively emphasis a specific point is especially effective.

I’d also be somewhat remiss if I didn’t mention the true heroes of this film David and Kathleen Bagby, Andrew’s parents. Some of the things they go through in this film will have you on the very verge of disbelief. They seem to have the patience of saints despite the horrific trials they are put through on an almost daily basis. And the way they deal with the events of the film at the very end is truly, truly heroic.

If there is one complaint about this film that I could have, it’s this. The director narrates the film and there was something about it that just kept reminding me about the Primus song ‘Mephisto & Kevin’ from the South Park Chef Aid album. I’ve since re-listened to the song and the voices don’t sound that familiar, there’s just something about the talking style and delivery that seems quite reminiscent of it. It’s not really a criticism of the film, just something that bugged me slightly. It’s definitely a problem with me and not the film.

Well, it’s gonna have to be a short one today because going any deeper into it would risk revealing some of the plot points of this truly fantastic film. Was it depressing? Yes, massively so. Did it make me cry? I’m not ashamed to say that it did. Would I watch it again? Surprisingly, yes. There are certainly some films that have been featured in The Depress-A-Thon which I always be hesitant to watch again. The primary examples being ‘Threads’ and ‘Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door’. Still despite this being as depressing as it is, it is also a truly wonderful tribute not only to Andrew but also his truly amazing parents and, for that at least, it is certainly worth watching again. Five pints out of five.

The Depress-A-Thon: Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door Repost by Jamie

Yes, it’s another repost in the Depress-A-Thon but this time it’s a video review! Aren’t you lucky?

The Depress-A-Thon: Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door Repost by Jamie

Yes, it’s another repost in the Depress-A-Thon but this time it’s a video review! Aren’t you lucky?

Horrific Real Life Theatre: Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door by Jamie

Wow. A review of one of the most depressing films of all time.

Horrific Real Life Theatre: Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door by Jamie

Wow. A review of one of the most depressing films of all time.

Last Year In Film: The Hottie And The Nottie by Jamie

I can’t think of many films that have actually made feel physically ill. I can watch the most horrific scenes of gore-laden violence and not feel sick. There are times however that something pushes me over the edge and makes me feel a little bit woozy. One scene that sticks out in particular is the scene in The Fly when Jeff Goldblum is pulling out his finger nails. There, I just dry heaved whilst thinking and writing about it. Thankfully it’s just one scene. The problem is, you see, I have a major problem when it comes to nails and the disgusting things that can happen to them. Even talking about them can bring me close to puking. It’s weird, I know, but that’s just the way it is. Still, at least it was only one scene and the awesomeness of the rest of the film helped me to overcome it.

This particular film has a running joke early on involving the titular Nottie’s infected toe nail. I knew from the first time it was shown on screen that I was going to have a problem here. I could feel the bile rising in my throat and when the joke finally got to it’s conclusion, the toe nail flying off and getting stuck on someone’s lip, I had to pause the film and go stand by the toilet for a few moments, just in case. I didn’t throw up in the end but it’s still the furthest a film has ever pushed me towards it, so let’s just say I was in a pretty bad mood for the rest of it.

Ok, that’s that out of the way then. The rest of the film is pretty much the usual vapid, pointless gross out teen comedy with one exception. This usual, vapid, pointless gross out teen comedy stars Paris Hilton! And boy does she suck! I’ll give you a moment to insert your own Paris Hilton/Sex tape joke here. Ok, we done? Let’s move on. How does Paris Hilton keep getting work? Seriously?… Fine, insert your own Paris Hilton/Blowjob joke here. Let’s continue. Paris cannot act for shit. Every line she delivers is flat, with only the tiniest flicker of what might be emotion but probably isn’t. There’s also the problem that she’s playing a character who apparently cares about people who are less fortunate and less attractive than she is and I’m sorry but I just can’t but that for one second. And really? Is Paris Hilton that attractive? There’s something about the shape of her head which just seems odd to me. Also I’m a boob man and Paris is definitely lacking in that area.

Now to be fair, the rest of the cast were alright, nothing stellar but passable and there were a few moments when I couldn’t help chuckle a little, in particular when the main character comes to a costume party as Speed Racer complete with the Mach 5 around his waist. In general, however, this movie left me feeling kinda pissed off. After all, the main message seems to be “Hey, ugly girls, everything will be alright as long as you clean yourself up good, get your teeth fixed and get your mole removed. Then men will be able to look past your physical appearance and see the good person you really are underneath.” Still you can maybe give the movie a pass on this just because the Nottie is so ridiculously hideous and beleaguered with so many hideous physical problems that it becomes pretty goddamn ridiculous. You could maybe give it a pass but I choose not to. Fuck you movie. Fuck you. Damn, I wonder how many times I’ve used that phrase in these Razzie nomination reviews. Probably too many times. Still only two more of these Worst movie nominations and then we get to go back to the Oscar nominations. And really, how bad can The Happening and The Love Guru be?

So the rating. Well, it wasn’t as bad as Disaster Movie or Meet The Spartans but it was still pretty fucking awful. I guess I can give it one pint out of a possible five maybe just for the Speed Racer costume. Laterz.

Last Year In Film: The Reader by Jamie

A quick warning, spoilers ahead.

The Reader is the charming tale of Hanna Schmitz, who meets a fifteen year old boy, Michael Berg, fucks him over the duration of a summer and getting him to read to her before leaving him. Years later he becomes a law student and, whilst sitting in on a trial, learns that his former lover is a Nazi war criminal who is sentenced to life in prison for not letting three hundred Jews out of a burning church. Michael grows up to become a lawyer and Ralph Fiennes who is conflicted due to his love for a Nazi war criminal and a decision he made during the trial which potentially caused her to have a harsher sentence. In his guilt he records tapes of the books he used to read to her when he was fifteen. Using these tapes Hanna learns to read and write and begins to send Michael letters which he refuses to reply to. After twenty years Hanna is about to be released from prison and Michael is contacted and informed that he is the only person Hanna has been in contact with and that he has to take care of her. So he goes to see Hanna and is very cold with her. Hanna seems to take umbrage with this and kills herself. So there you go a basic quick summary and what a cheery summary it was too.

So, The Reader then. It’s the one film out the best picture nominations that I was probably the most dubious about. From what I’d heard the story sounded as though it could be a little slow and really not up my alley. In fact, I went into this film expecting to hate it. Well, I’m ready to admit right now that I was wrong. The Reader was a truly fucking fantastic film. The story was well paced and always managed to keep my interest. The acting was amazing and I was quite pleased to see that they didn’t go overboard with the German accents though this did seem to occasionally result in the accents slipping slightly, especially in particularly emotional scenes. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the appearance of my favourite Swiss actor Bruno Ganz as Professor Rohl, Michael’s law professor at Heidelberg University. If you don’t know who Bruno Ganz is then I suggest you stop reading this review, go and watch The Downfall in which Ganz plays Hitler during the final days of Nazi Germany and then come back.

The film’s fairly unique in that it’s the only film about the Holocaust that I can think of that deals with the horrific events without ever being set at any time during World War II itself. This provides a unique opportunity in that it really deals with German guilt after the fact and the feeling of the first generation born after the atrocities and the massive burden that they have inherited as a nation from their parents. This is particularly poignant from Michael’s point of view as he is so disgusted by the acts that Hanna has committed that he cannot bring himself to present evidence that may make her sentence more lenient, a decision that will leave him conflicted for the remainder of his life.

Perhaps the strangest part of this film is that Hanna seems to be far more ashamed of her illiteracy than the crimes she committed during her time as an SS officer. In fact she only ever hints that she feels even the slightest bit of remorse for her role in the Holocaust, leaving the viewer completely unsure of whether she’s remorseful or not. This makes her a character that it’s very hard to feel sympathy for and, perhaps to some degree, that’s the point. Maybe you’re not supposed to feel sorry for her. After all she was complicit in one of the most horrific events in recent history. On the other hand, you’ve also known her as a person for the first part of the film, before you find out about her past, and as such you’ve seen that she’s capable of love, kindness and understanding and you also know that there is no way she could have possibly written the report which leads to her harsher sentence. It pretty much leaves you as conflicted as Michael is himself.

So I guess all that’s left to say is was Kate Winslet deserving of her Best Actress award at the Oscars for this role? Well, I can’t really say yet as I haven’t seen the performances of the rest of those nominated yet, so it’ll have to wait until I’ve watched all of those but I will say that she is excellent in this film and it’s surely mostly down to her performance that you feel anything for what should be an unsympathetic character at all. It’s also worth mentioning the episode of Extras that Kate Winslet was in where she mentions that if you really want an Oscar than doing a Holocaust movie makes it pretty much guaranteed. Interesting stuff.

Anyway that’s about it. Over all I give The Reader four pints out of five.


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