August 15, 2008, - 2:50 pm

Weekend Box Office: “Henry Poole” One of Year’s BEST; Anti-Communist “Singing Revolution” Skips Estonian Anti-Semitism/Nazism, Demented But Okay Woody Allen’s Latest;

By Debbie Schlussel
**** Read my reviews of “Tropic Thunder” and “When Did You Last See Your Father?” From Earlier in the Week ****
Among this weekend’s offerings at the box office is ONE OF THIS YEAR’S BEST MOVIES, “Henry Poole Is Here.” Due to dueling movie screenings, I did not screen “Fly Me to the Moon,” and did not see “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” because the screening was on the Jewish Sabbath. I hear both are substandard. “Mirrors” was not screened for critics, a hint that it’s bad.
* “Henry Poole Is Here“: This is ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR! It’s hard to describe this movie without giving away key spoilers. But this movie is a must see.


If you are a person of faith, see this movie. It is about the power of belief in G-d and miracles. And it brought me to tears–of both sadness and, at the end, joy. It is moving without trying to be, and it’s well done. It’s about how those who do not believe, those who are atheists and agnostics, fail to see what’s right before their eyes.
Even though it had Christian and Catholic themes and I am a religious Jew, as a person of faith I loved this movie. Finally Hollywood has made a movie for us.
Luke Wilson, who does an excellent job, in this movie as the lead, a man who plops down money on a house in the neighborhood where he grew up. He’s a negative, pessimistic man who is down on life and just wants to be left alone as he drinks himself into stupor after stupor. He keeps telling people he won’t be living at the house for a long time.
Wilson’s unwelcome next door neighbor, a religious Hispanic Catholic soon discovers that a rust stain, from a bad stucco job on Wilson’s home, resembles Jesus. Soon, Catholics from all over come to see the stain, and miracles begin to happen.
I can’t say much more or it will ruin the movie for you. And this is a movie well worth seeing. I cannot say enough great things about it.
It’s sad this movie was debuted in the movie cemetery of August. Go see this movie and catch it while you can. Better seen on the large theater screen than on DVD.
* “The Singing Revolution“: Playing at arthouse theaters, this short documentary (1.5 hours) seems very long. It’s about how Estonians managed to destroy the Soviet Communist yoke of tyranny on their country through nationalistic songs about freedom at an annual singing festival, called “Laulupido”. Lollapalooza it ain’t. It’s more important than that, BUT . . .
And a big BUT:
While I’m strongly anti-Communist and love the rare documentary that shows its horrors and the victory over it by people’s yearning to be free, I couldn’t help but remember the history of Estonian anti-Semitism and pogroms against and persecution of Jews in that country, which continue even today.
The Estonians are not wholly innocent people, and they’ve not been called to task over their tyranny against the Jews in this movie. That’s a gaping hole in this movie because it purports to tell the history of Nazi and Communist domination of the country.
When the Nazi’s takeover of Estonia is mentioned, it is quickly glossed over and pawned off on the “Estonians had no choice” baloney. They had a choice, and they chose to not only fight alongside the Germans, but to endorse and participate in the Nazi mass murder of Jews. That’s a choice. And they chose it. They even had a special SS Waffen unit that was especially brutal in its treatment of Jews and other Nazi victims. And Estonians continue to choose this immoral and outrageous path in their continuing embrace of the Nazis and anti-Semitism.
Yes, they were victims of Communism, but the Estonians were also perpetrators and aided in the Holocaust–and that far outpaces and overshadows their “victimhood.” More than anything, Estonians were perpetrators, NOT victims. To skip that part of the story is to not tell their story at all. And to lie. Again, while I like any anti-Communist documentary, especially one with a happy ending, I don’t like fake-umentaries and docu-fakeries. And that’s what this is.
Plus, it was long, boring, and seemed very dated. What was 1.5 hours should have been 20 minutes. We don’t need to hear the same stuff repeated over and over and see a million little kids singing songs that sound terrible and which we can’t understand.
* “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“: I had mixed feelings about this 39th film from Woody Allen. My initial reaction is, “This is Demented, with a capital ‘D’.”
But, after all, I did like the conclusion of the movie: That if you cheat on your stable but boring relationship, you’ll only get trouble; and if you constantly seek an “exciting”, “passionate”, melodramatic relationship, you’ll only get trouble and never be happy.
Still, I’m not sure it was worth watching the salami-making in between to come out with that message.
The best thing about this movie is the beautiful scenery and architecture of Spain–the cities of Barcelona and Oviedo are the settings. Having never been there, now I don’t have to go there and spend money and give funds to left-wing, America-hating Spaniards. I’ve seen it in this movie.
The story is about two close American friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall)–who is staid, conservative, and engaged to be married to a regular and boring, but stable, guy–and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), who looks down upon stable American-style relationships and sees herself as a Barack Obama-style citizen of the world, who seeks a European-style (or what she thinks is “European”) passionate, messy, and melodramatic relationship. They travel to Spain on vacation and are staying at an older American couple’s house.
They meet a Spanish artist (Javier Bardem), who recently had a messy divorce with his ex-wife, Penelope Cruz. He invites Vicky and Cristina to fly on his plane to Oviedo, spend, the weekend with him, and have a three-some. Vicky declines, but comes along to protect Cristina. Eventually, both fall in love with and sleep with Bardem, and it ruins Vicky’s life and relationship forever. Cristina then moves in with him and eventually has a weird menage-a-trois relationship with Bardem and Cruz.
The best part of the movie is Vicky’s fiance’s monologue about Cristina’s pretentious hatred of stable married relationships and her endless, unhappy quest for something more and more deviant, complicated, and melodramatic.
Like I said, some good messages, but you have to tread through too much demented excrement and bizarre stuff to get there. Everyone is unhappy and crazy in this movie. Typical Woody Allen.

9 Responses

Is Scarlett Johansson (who seems to be in every damn movie that opens these days) Woody Allen’s latest muse? I try to avoid Woody Allen movies ever since I was tortured into seeing “Husbands and Wives.”

Ripper on August 15, 2008 at 4:15 pm

I have avoided Woody Allen films since he married his girlfiend’s daughter.

dm60462 on August 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

“Henry Poole Is Here” reminds me of the presence of G-d in our lives. If we look hard enough, we will find Him. Nothing in life is by accident or coincidence. We can defy G-d or turn away from Him but we can never ignore Him. And sooner than later He sends us a message! The world would be a poorer place without the Guy Upstairs around.

NormanF on August 15, 2008 at 6:20 pm

DS, still having loading problems. Tied me up yesterday.
Like your reviews.

Pat on August 16, 2008 at 2:42 am

“Henry Poole” looked interesting, until I saw that that no-talent,USA-hating,Mexican racist George Lopez is in it. Forget it.

OldSchoolW on August 16, 2008 at 1:09 pm

Scarlett Johansson sure is my muse! Vavooooooooom!!!!!!
It’s odd Woody Allen makes a movie about “Cristina’s pretentious hatred of stable married relationships and her endless, unhappy quest for something more and more deviant, complicated, and melodramatic.” given Allen’s well known behavior with his wife/former stepdaughter.
I’d sure like to hear Allen try to explain that contradiction.

Jeff_W on August 18, 2008 at 11:21 am

DS: Speaking of load time, would it be possible for you to add a website search engine so we don’t have to scroll through the archives looking for a specific article or movie review?
Thanks in advance,
Charles Rector

Charles Rector on August 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Regarding “Henry Poole”: the imdb site reveals “the situation escalates as a stain on Henry’s stucco wall is seen to have miraculous powers. His last-ditch hideout becomes a shrine”
This is NOT Biblical Christianity; it IS classic Roman Catholicism. The two are not to be confused.

sbrogden on August 18, 2008 at 3:07 pm

“It’s about how those who do not believe, those who are atheists and agnostics, fail to see what’s right before their eyes.”
Sorry sweetie, but such an idea only works if you even accept the initial premise that there is what you think there is in front of your eyes to start with.
And even then it is arguable that people are searching to the point of insanity for something that outside of a quite minuscule chance even exists in the first place. But hey, that’s just what we know, not what we believe.

Christopher Demetriou on April 7, 2010 at 2:50 am

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