The quality that always brought audiences to science fiction is what if question. What if there is life in outer space, what beings would we possibly encounter? What if we can travel through time, how would that affect history and the future?
In 1968, a new science fiction film premiered. Based on the book of the same name, Planet Of The Apes was the story of astronaut George Taylor’s (Charlton Heston) experience on a new planet. After his ship crash lands, Taylor discovers that the dominant species are apes and humans are second class creatures. Unable to communicate because of damage to his throat, Taylor is roped in with the rest of the humans. Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) soon realize that Taylor is not the average human. Will Taylor regain his voice and his liberty or will he spend the rest of his life in subjugation to the apes?
In 2001, Tim Burton took the helm of the reboot. Starring Mark Walhberg as Captain Leo Davidson and Helena Bonham Carter as Ari, one of the more benevolent apes, Burton and the rest of the creative team attempted to put their own spin on Planet Of The Apes while still retaining most of the elements of the original films and the novel.
While the 1968 film has the underbelly of the social and political unrest of the late 1960’s, the 2001 film is less political, but not as Burton-ish has one might expect.
Do I recommend them? The 1968 film, yes. The 2001 film, that depends on how loyal the audience is to the film in its previous incarnation.
An acute observer of Hollywood might say that a film’s success might rely on the reputation of the stars of the film.
In the new Coen Brothers film, Hail, Caesar, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is what is known around Hollywood as a “fixer”. His job is to make sure that his movie stars always have a spotless reputation. For his stars to keep that spotless reputation, Eddie may have to fudge a few facts or pay off a few people. That means that his hands are always full.
First there is the missing leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), star of the Roman epic with the religious message, Hail Caesar. Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) is the singing cowboy who suddenly switches genres and finds himself in the lead role of a sophisticated drawing-room drama with Lawrence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) directing. DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is the Esther Williams like star who finds herself in the family way without a husband. Not quite the ideal situation for a woman in the early 1950’s. Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) is the Gene Kelly like triple threat actor/singer /dancer.
If dealing with the talent is not enough of a headache, Eddie is also dealing with the twin gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), who try to pretend that each is the only gossip game in town.
I wanted to see this movie because I adore movies from this era. In a satirical wink, wink, nudge, nudge to not just the films, but the politics of the early 1950’s, The Coen Brothers show that Hollywood and politics has not changed at all in 60 years. I went because the trailer was very funny. The film does not live up the trailer, sadly.
Most New Yorkers above a certain age who lived in the city in the early 1990’s remember the Crown Height riots. Between August 19th and 21, 1991, the rising tension between the African-American and Hasidic Jewish communities exploded into violence and destruction.
Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale, by Andrew Kane uses the Crown Heights riots as the third act of his novel. Instead of using generalizations about both communities, Mr. Kane focuses on three different characters and how the long simmering tensions affect them.
Paul Sims is the only child and son of an assimilated Jewish family living on Long Island. While Paul has all of the material comforts that any child would ever want, neither of his parents are able to provide the parental warmth and support that he needs. He finds the support and encouragement in Rabbi Weissman, his bar mitzvah tutor. Paul also falls for the Rabbi’s daughter and only child, Rachel. Drawn to the Hasidim, Paul abandons the secular life he was raised in and goes back to the life of his ancestors.
Rachel Weissman has only known the life of a dutiful daughter of the Hasidim. She knows that her life is already planned out of her. Rachel wants to go medical school and become a doctor, but that is expressly forbidden, especially for the daughter of a respected Rabbi. A few blocks away, Joshua Eubanks lives in a world where violence, drugs and gangs are an everyday part of life. After getting in trouble with the police, Joshua is given to opportunity to redeem himself by working as a janitor at Rabbi Weissman’s temple. Joshua also falls in love with Rachel, who returns his love but is unable to fully express her feelings.
Neither Joshua or Paul know that they are half brothers. As they grow up, stay in love with Rachel and watch as the enmity between their two communities builds, neither knows how the tension will finally explode into mistrust, violence and destruction.
This book is incredible. A Shakespearean tragedy wrapped in the thorny issues of race, religion, politics and class, this book grabs the reader and does not let go until the last page.