Thursday, June 30, 2011

“A Little Help” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the comedy/drama “A Little Help”, starring Jenna Fischer from the hit TV sitcom “The Office” (as well as a bunch of familiar names & faces in much smaller roles). 



When a young woman suddenly becomes a widow, she’s forced to raise her pre-adolescent son all by herself – but will the influence of family and friends be more of a help or hindrance? 



As hard as Laura (Fischer) works at her job as a dental hygienist, her husband Bob (Chris O’Donnell) is also putting in plenty of extra hours this summer as a real estate agent – or so he would have everyone believe, at least.  Is he really racking up the overtime or is he merely cheating on Laura with a young woman from his office?  Either way, the stress from all of this activity appears to be getting to him and eventually, his heart gives out as he succumbs to arrythmia.  Suddenly finding herself alone, Laura must raise her 12 year old son Dennis as a single parent. 

Laura finds herself completely overwhelmed not only by her situation, but also, by her family, who manage to add even more stress to her life just when she needs it the least:  her imperious mother (Lesley Ann Warren) who disapproves of the way Laura’s raising her son; her nosy sister, who goes behind Laura’s back to hire a malpractice attorney to sue the doctor who treated her late husband; her stripling son Dennis, who tells new schoolmates that his father died saving office workers from the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  Add to that her father (Ron Leibman), an ineffectual retiree who can only live in the past, boasting about decades-old career highlights as a sportswriter for The New York Post. 

Complicating matters is her brother-in-law Paul, who knew her in high school.  As his marriage to Laura’s sister begins to appear imperiled, both he and Laura turn to each other for solace in their misery.  Laura’s tenacious lawyer is seeking a big payday on what he believes to be an open-and-shut case – the only problem is that the woman with whom Bob may have been having an affair is being deposed by the physician’s defense attorney, which could significantly hamper Laura’s case.  On top of all this, Laura has been complicit in her son’s lie about his father, putting both at great risk of being discovered.  Amidst this tumult, will Laura find a way to get her life back on track? 



Prior to the screening, our instructor characterized this movie as a comedy, which set it up (in my mind, at least) as something that would be light and amusing – however, I think labeling this as a comedy is something of a mistake because there are actually quite a few serious moments and at times, I found it a little uncomfortable to watch.  This is not to say that the movie isn’t good – the writing and characters are quite complex – it’s just that I don’t believe my expectations were properly set and as a result, I got something rather different from what I thought we would be given. 

Normally, this might be somewhat of an irrelevant point, but I think it speaks to how the distribution company will market the movie.  If you look at the above poster and the trailer below, its advertising may be positioning it as a pure comedy, which I believe is somewhat misleading.  If you like movies with quirky characters in oddball situations, then there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy “A Little Help” – however, know that quite a few of the situations aren’t exactly conducive to belly laughs; this especially includes the ending of the movie, which somewhat resolves the story in an arguably realistic way. 

After the screening, there were a couple of interviews, one with writer/direct Michael Weithorn and another with one of the movie’s actors, Daniel Yelsky, who played the adolescent son, Dennis.  Yelsky, now 14, appears both taller and thinner than he did in the movie, his voice deepening considerably in the two years that he’s had to mature since its filming.  For Weithorn, this was his first feature film.  He has an extensive background in television as a writer and show-runner (producer) of situation comedies; while he’s directed a few sitcom episodes throughout the years, this was the first time he’s ever written or directed more long-form material. 



Sunday, June 26, 2011

“Larry Crowne” – Movie Review



This weekend in  my movie class, we had a bonus screening of the romantic comedy “Larry Crowne”, starring Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts. 



When a middle-aged man suddenly finds himself unemployed and unemployable, he returns to school to improve his chances of landing a new job – but will a romantic entanglement with one of his teachers hurt his chances?



Larry Crowne (Hanks) is one of U-Mart’s best workers, winning Employee Of The Month eight times.  Despite this, the management decides to let him go because his lack of formal education prevents them from advancing within the company.  Having suffered through a divorce not long ago, Larry’s life is now in a total shambles as he is forced to go on unemployment during his job search while paying off the mortgage on a house that is now worth less than the amount he owes.  Finding a new job in this economy and at this stage of his life, however, proves to be a daunting task, to put it mildly. 


Convinced that his difficulties arise from the fact that he only has a high school diploma, Larry decides to take courses at a nearby junior college in the hope that this will help him get a new job.  One of the classes he takes along the way is in public speaking, which is taught by Mercedes (Roberts), an angry, bitter burn-out of a teacher whose career dissatisfaction and failing marriage are increasingly leading her to medicate herself with alcohol.  Sick and tired of being forced to teach unmotivated students who have only signed up for her course because it is a requirement for all students, she would be just as happy to cancel the class altogether. 


When Mercedes and her husband finally break-up, she coincidentally runs into Larry one night after she’s been out drinking.  Trying her best to seduce one of her best students, they both stop just short of crossing the line into what would have been an inappropriate tryst.  Subsequently, she is embarrassed by this and fearful that Larry might cause her to lose her job, should the school’s administration learn of the incident.  But can Larry somehow manage to succeed in his studies and still manage to have the relationship he wishes with Mercedes? 



It would be a facile response to be immediately dismissive of this movie on so many counts – a romantic comedy that’s a major studio release with two of Hollywood’s biggest stars – especially since I have a particular prejudice against Julia Roberts (never much cared for America’s Sweetheart and, at this stage, likely never will).  Yet, on some level – no matter how superficial it may be – “Larry Crowne” does seem to wish to be something it isn’t and couldn’t ever be:  simultaneously socially relevant and entertaining.  Sadly, the film fails miserably at both attempts. 

Make no mistake about it, despite Roberts’ presence, she is clearly taking a distant backseat to Hanks in this vehicle – not only is he the star, but also, the director, co-writer and co-producer.  In almost every sense imaginable, this truly is a Tom Hanks film; apparently, he’s stopped just short of serving the food at the Craft Services table.  Unfortunately for this talented multi-Academy Award winner, the movie does not succeed because it tries to be far too cute, too optimistic and too unrealistic.  Basically, there are way too many contrivances in “Larry Crowne” to allow you to buy into any realism. 

That said, however, the overwhelming majority of the class genuinely seemed to enjoy this movie.  There was one courageous woman who was willing to cast a dissenting vote, stating that she felt the movie wasn’t particularly funny or entertaining; I agree with her statements and would only add that this story trivializes the pain that most ordinary people have been feeling in this economy over the past several years.  Our instructor also added that he had some misgivings about the film, stating that it really asks a lot of the audience in the sense that it expects a significant suspension of disbelief.  I totally agree with this assessment and as a result, cannot recommend “Larry Crowne” unless you are immense Hanks/Roberts fans.  The question is, will you still be their fans after seeing this movie?


Friday, June 24, 2011

Where The Buffalo Roam: A Bourbon Tasting




Recently, I attended a rather unique tasting – it was called “Bourbon, Barbeque And Bluegrass”, featuring various bourbons from the Buffalo Trace distillery, along with some rather tasty barbeque and it was all accompanied by a bluegrass band playing music to add to the southern atmosphere.

Although I have attended these tastings in the past, I always enjoy making a return visit because I seem to manage to learn something new. One such tidbit was about the barrels used to age the bourbon. According to the distributor’s representative, they actually lose money on the barrels when they are re-sold to Scotch manufacturers. I was absolutely astonished by this because I always assumed that the barrels would be re-sold at a profit since they were actually adding value to them after aging the bourbon in the casks for a period of years. Alas, I was informed that while the distillery purchased each barrel for $125, these heavily-charred new American oak barrels were re-sold for the bargain-basement price of a mere $75 to age Scotch! By the way, another thing I found out was that while similar types of barrels may be used to age rye, it is only the bourbon barrels that are re-sold to the scotch manufacturers, not the used rye barrels.

While the focus of the evening was to taste bourbons (and the occasional rye), there were some cocktails mixed. I would like to share with you one that you’ve got to add to the Must-Try category in the event you’re assembling a bucket list.

Among the cocktails offered at the tasting was something called The Salve Germainia , created by Philip Pepperdine of St-Germain– an eclectic mixture of Buffalo Trace bourbon and St-Germain elderflower liqueur, the recipe is as follows:

  • 2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • ½ oz. St-Germain
  • 2 dash Angostura Orange Bitters

Basically, you put all of the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice, then stir and strain into a whiskey glass, also with ice; optionally, add a lemon peel for garnish.

Unless you’ve tasted this one, you have absolutely no idea what a brilliant cocktail this is, despite its seeming simplicity. Not only is its taste unforgettable, but the aroma will just knock you out – between the nose of the bourbon, the scent of the liqueur and the smell of the bitters, this cocktail is something you may have as much fun inhaling as you will drinking. Until I tried this cocktail, I had no idea that Angostura made Orange bitters. They may be a little difficult to come by, but it’s worth the effort to buy some … if for no other reason than to merely make this particular drink!

As you may already know, both bourbon and rye may contain corn and rye in their ingredients, but in order to be bourbon, 51% of the ingredient must be corn. However, while bourbon is often thought to be associated with Kentucky, it doesn’t necessarily have to be made in Kentucky in order to be called bourbon. A true Kentucky-made bourbon will state “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” on its label.

Well, that’s about it for now. Have you ever tried Buffalo Trace bourbon? Made any interesting cocktails using this particular whiskey? If so, please post a comment and share it with the rest of us.



Monday, June 20, 2011

"The Names Of Love" - Movie Review

This weekend, my movie class held a bonus screening of a French romantic comedy called  “The Names Of Love” . 


When a middle aged man meets a free-spirited young woman about half his age, they begin an improbable romance – but when things seem to get serious, will a personal tragedy end the relationship?


At the age of 47, scientist Arthur Martin is resolved to spending his life as a bachelor.  Awkward and nervous around women – and even more so if they’re attractive – he’s never had much success with romance.  Arthur is as nondescript as his name would imply and believes he has nothing much to offer a woman – as a result, he decides to devote himself to his career as a scientist and winds up never having any kind of social life.  That all comes to an abrupt halt, however, when he has a chance meeting with Baya, a young woman in her 20’s, who is an exotic Algerian beauty that is the embodiment of a free-spirit. 

Lacking a true career path of her own, Baya has a rather unique obsession – raised in a very left-wing environment, she becomes a promiscuous adult who dedicates her life to seducing right-wing men and converting their political philosophy to her own.  A true believer in the old hippy platitude of “Make love, not war”, her political ideals prevent her from even considering bedding someone with her own beliefs because there’s no challenge and no true seduction.  Based on this, her attraction to Arthur almost makes sense because of the fact that he’s so staid, conservative and cautious that he’s boring; given that opposites sometimes attract, he, in turn, is entranced by her scatterbrained, unpredictable nature. 

Eventually, Arthur takes a big chance and throws a dinner party where he introduces his strait-laced parents to his wild and crazy girlfriend.  Fearful that Baya may say something inappropriate that could cause the evening to go awry, Arthur coaches her on what to say and – more to the point – not say around his mother and father.  Ultimately, however, Baya touches on a deeply personal matter of Arthur’s mother’s background and shortly thereafter, the mother winds up hospitalized and depressed.  Following a tragic episode that results from her hospitalization, Arthur blames Baya for the outcome and breaks up with her – but can the two lovers somehow be reunited if Arthur can overcome his grief? 


Leave it to the French to take what ostensibly would be a nice, sweet romantic comedy and almost completely drain it of its romance and comedy.  Yet that’s what seemed that co-writer and director Michel Leclerc was intent on doing with this movie.  Viewing “The Names Of Love”, you would either characterize it as “Woody Allen’s ‘Annie Hall’ with a French twist” or “a French rip-off of Allen’s ‘Annie Hall’”, depending on whether you loved it or loathed it.  Scene for scene, there are so many comparisons to Allen’s Academy Award winning classic that it’s no wonder that one of the characters even references the filmmaker at one point in the movie. 

Traditional romantic comedies don’t typically include heavy political themes, The Holocaust, nuclear power, racism or pedophilia, yet “The Names Of Love” touches on each and every one of these topics – in fact, not only touches on them, but makes them key components in the telling of the story as well.  Make no mistake about it, this is a tough, complex and challenging film to watch – not a description most filmmakers would want to hear if they’ve made something that they’re trying to market as a romantic comedy, but that’s exactly how I would describe the experience of viewing this movie. 

The overwhelming majority of the class enjoyed this film, including and especially our instructor.  That said, however, we could all agree that this film will have a tough time finding success in the United States, even if it gets glowing reviews.  Why?  Well, it’s so French that most American audiences would find it tough going to understand much of the political references, unless you are deeply entrenched in the Gallic culture.  According to our instructor, this film was hugely successful in France and was chosen to open The Cannes Film Festival.  Is there anything I could possibly recommend about this movie?  Yes.  The young actress who plays Baya is gorgeous and she spends a significant amount of the film stark-raving naked.  Lovers of retro-bush will exalt her appearance. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

“Buck” – Movie Review


This week in my movie class, we saw “Buck”, a documentary about the life of Buck Brannaman, the real-life inspiration for the movie “The Horse Whisperer”. 


Buck Brannaman is a remarkable man who has lived an equally remarkable life – and is also quite lucky to have survived the childhood he endured.  As a boy, he and his older brother Smokie were trained in roping and lariat twirling as taught to them by their strict father, who also got them both into performing their tricks publicly.  The two boys eventually became minor celebrities of a sort because of their skills – but what appreciative audiences never saw was the hellish private life of these young men who suffered cruel beatings at the hands of their violent father. 

Eventually rescued by a county sheriff who had both boys placed in a foster home, Buck was a bit aimless in life until he discovered a knack for working with horses.  After being awestruck by the performance of Ray Hunt, a legendary horse trainer out west, Buck ultimately went to work for him and learn all about the secrets behind making an errant horse compliant.  When Hunt passed, Buck took what he had gleaned during this time period and set out on his own to perform and help owners train their horses.  Along the way, he further refined his knowledge and as he gained more experience, added his own insights and techniques to the process.

As if by magic, we see Buck work with many different owners with various difficult horses and within a matter of minutes, somehow manages to transform a disobedient beast into an eminently trainable animal.  “I start out working with a human that has an animal problem and wind up helping an animal with a human problem”, as Buck characterizes his work.  He says that the main problem why horses aren’t trainable is because they don’t trust their owner – which mainly turns out to be the owner’s fault.  But when he tries to help an owner with a horse who suffered brain damage at birth, has Buck finally met his match? 


Buck comes across as a man with subtle humor, deep wisdom and understated dignity.  Horses seem to respond to his quiet leadership because he respects them and is incredibly sensitive, likely due to the type of upbringing he experienced.  At no point in this story do you ever get the sense that the filmmakers are trying to pull a fast one on you – you buy into Buck’s undeniable gift and learn to appreciate him for the admirably gentle man he miraculously grew up to be. 

As far as the movie itself is concerned, the old show business philosophy of “keep ‘em wanting more” appears to be a driving force here as the film is kept within an hour and a half time frame – yet you are left desiring to see Buck continue on his cross-country trek not just because you’re fascinated by what he is able to accomplish with the horses, but because his complex concepts about the human condition are simplified in an articulate yet homespun manner which in turn allows us to learn and understand more about ourselves and each other. 

Both before and after the screening, Julie Goldman, the film’s producer, was interviewed.  She spoke at great length not only about the technical aspects of making this movie, but about some of the challenges she encountered along the way.  While the film is only 90 minutes, she wound up shooting over 300 hours in a period of over a year.  There were many things that were recorded but never used in the final cut of the movie, including some of the weirder characters Buck met during his travels.  It is hoped that some of this will wind up appearing on a “director’s cut”/outtakes version of the DVD when it is released someday. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Glass & Tools With Dale DeGroff



Recently, I had the good fortune to attend The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, held (obviously), right here in New York City. When I saw that one of the courses was being taught by the legendary mixologist Dale DeGroff – AKA The King Of Cocktails – I immediately signed up so I could (literally) learn from the master himself. The course was called Glasses & Tools where DeGroff would talk about the history of glasses used to imbibe adult beverages over the centuries, finishing with a lesson on how to use bar tools where students were invited to build cocktails at DeGroff’s direction.

DeGroff said that he learned very early on in his career as a bartender that very often, the glass will make the cocktail – something taught to him by a very difficult, demanding boss. Using the right glass, he came to understand, was an important ingredient in cocktail preparation – as important as any ingredient you would pour, muddle or sprinkle into the libation of choice. Historically, however, this was something that was not always understood or appreciated by most people – proved by virtue of the fact that nearly everything was served in a wine glass, regardless of what it was.

While original glasses really had more of resemblance to bowls than of glasses and were made of metal, the evolution of the cocktail glass started with the Phoenicians who were the first to use glass when they realized that glass could be made from sand. Over the centuries, the style was gradually improved upon by the Mesopotamians in 50 B.C. when they discovered glass blowing to make the glass in different shapes. Later, this was further refined by the Greeks and Romans. By The Middle Ages, Venice furthered the drinking glass during the period that came to be known as “The Age Of Enlightenment”. This was a significant turning point because they figured out how to add color to the glasses around the 15th century.

It wasn’t until the 19th century, however, that the cocktail glass was finally developed in the forms that we know them today. Although the glass makers designed their glasses in a way to reflect the ancient designers, they somewhat modernized both the form and technique for manufacturing, making the process less dangerous. As an example, the Venetian glass makers from an earlier time were forced to practice their craft on a remote island because it was feared that the factories where the glasses were made might easily go on fire and potentially burn down the entire city.


During this 19th century timeframe, the saucer style champagne glass – often known as a coupe – was originally developed. Interestingly, the original purpose of the design was to extend the surface area of the glass to get rid of the bubbles in the champagne so people would find it easier to drink. By contrast, as most folks already know, today, the preferred glass for champagne is a flute – a tall, thin glass with a very narrow surface area used precisely so that the bubbles in the champagne could be better appreciated.

Well, that’s about it for now. Do you have any interesting stories about the history of cocktail glasses? Or have you ever had “a brush with cocktail greatness” either with DeGroff or someone of his ilk? If so, then please post a comment and share it with the rest of us.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

“Page One” – Movie Review



This week began the June portion of the Summer Semester of my movie class and we screened the documentary “Page One: Inside The New York Times” .



As many decades as The Gray Lady has been in existence, it has somehow managed to survive various obstacles – poor economic conditions, cutbacks of resources and scandals when the paper was in fact the news itself. In recent years, however, a new and unexpected challenge has emerged: the decline of the print media in general and the failure of many long-standing newspapers in particular. With the digital revolution in full force, many print outlets – including and especially The New York Times – have seen significant declines in their advertising revenue. As a result, they struggle to stay afloat.

For a number of years now, The New York Times has had a prominent presence on The Worldwide Web – the problem has been, however, that they have given away their content for free. Although they have always had advertisements on their Web site, the amount of revenue taken in from this has not offset the costs of providing the content. As a result, they have now instituted a new policy commonly referred to in the industry as a “paywall” – basically, a firewall that requires users to pay in order to acquire further access. You are allowed a limited number of free articles a month – after that, you must pay for a regular subscription to the site in order to see more.

In addition to that, layoffs and other cost-cutting measures have forced the paper to sometimes rework how they obtain and/or disseminate their news. For one thing, they have been cornered into making deals with some rivals – Web sites that supply content in digital form only. One of them has been Wikileaks; this is not a new concept – CNN did a similar partnership with Vice magazine to get their video content from . But will The Times’ subscription-based digital service generate enough revenue for the paper to sustain itself over the long haul or is their introduction of this policy a desperate last gasp that is merely too little and too late to save this legendary bastion of journalism?


This movie is somewhat schizophrenic in the sense that while entertaining, it is also simultaneously a little scary. Regardless of your opinion of The New York Times, it seems that we might be in grave danger of losing serious professional journalism what with all of these newspapers going out of business. It almost appears as though the entire industry is waiting for The Times to figure out how to make a go of it simply so that they can copycat their business paradigm. While competition can certainly be a good thing, the rivals with whom you are competing might not necessarily be better, just different – and that is what’s attracting people to their Web site, especially among a younger demographic.

The clear star of “Page One” is David Carr, The Times’ Media Desk reporter whose fascinating background would never lead you to believe that he’d ever wind up as a reporter for this particular newspaper. He’s quite a character and depending on whether or not you like him, you may either find the movie has too much of him or too little. One of my misgivings about the movie is that it occasionally seems like something of a love letter to The Times; while they touch on certain scandals that have rocked the paper over the years, it would’ve been interesting if the filmmakers featured interviews with the likes of Jason Blair and Judy Miller to get a different perspective on things.

While the movie was enjoyable, the best part of the class was the interview prior to the screening – our instructor discussed journalism and the technological revolution’s impacts on it with legendary writer Gay Talese. Talese, a former reporter for The New York Times, is interviewed in the documentary. A number of years ago, he also wrote a book about The Times called, “The Kingdom And The Power”. Nearing 80, he reflected on his beginnings with the paper as a copy boy, then, after returning from the war, he was re-employed by the paper, but this time as a sports reporter. He said that his goal was never to write a story that appeared on page one of the paper because he preferred to be assigned to a story that would appear on page 30; he said that the advantage to this was the fact that doing so would give him a greater opportunity to focus on more human elements of a given story and reveal things that he would not ordinarily have the time or the space for if he were assigned to a page one type story.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

“Bride Flight” – Movie Review



This morning, the summer semester of my movie class began with a bonus screening of the Dutch drama Bride Flight – most of the stars are unknown to American audiences, but in a small (yet essential) role is Rutger Hauer. 

When several Dutch women emigrate to New Zealand to become war brides after World War II, their lives intertwine over several decades  in many different unlikely ways.

In 1953, Holland has become a desolate, hopeless place in the years since World War II.  As a way of reinventing their life, a great many Dutch uproot themselves and move to New Zealand in the hope that their luck will soon change for the better.  Three young women meet on a flight to this new land and befriend each other, in addition to a devilishly handsome Frank – a few years removed from his college graduation, he is setting off to start anew as an agriculturalist in this country.  He quickly becomes friends with the other women, Marjorie, Esther and especially Ada – an especially lovely blonde; a powerful mutual attraction occurs immediately between Frank and Ada, but their romance will never be as she is off to live with her new husband – a man she felt compelled to marry as a way of comforting him after a profound personal loss … not to mention the fact that she is also now carrying his child.

Upon arrival in New Zealand, the four set out on their individual adventures.  But are they ready for what they will find?  Marjorie, eager to start a family with her new husband, has a miscarriage and is informed by her physician that she will never be able to have children of her own.  Ada’s husband is a deeply religious Christian who aspires to be an elder in the church; as a result, she is unfulfilled as a woman and despite having three children with this man, remains hopelessly in love with Frank, with whom, she has exchanged numerous billets-doux over the course of the subsequent years.  Frank has secured himself some land and sets out to grow grapes for the purpose of becoming a winemaker.  Esther, rejecting the homespun lifestyle of a wife centered around raising children to perpetuate Jewish traditions, decides upon a career as designer of women’s clothing. 

When Esther discovers she is pregnant, she arranges with Marjorie to raise the child as her own – however, over the years, tensions develop between the two women when Marjorie suspects that Esther has regretted her decision and now wants to insinuate herself into the boy’s life for the purpose of taking him from Marjorie.  Ada’s husband learns of the romantic missives, they fight and she winds up leaving him to stay with Frank.  With their romance rekindled, Frank now finds he must battle Ada’s husband if they are to stay together.  Decades later, the three women reunite at Frank’s funeral – but after all that has transpired over the years, can they somehow find a way to resolve their differences and resume a friendship?


This is one of those movies that tends to jump around considerably in time and as a result, may occasionally be a little difficult to follow as a result.  The movie begins in the present day with a now elderly Frank (Rutger Hauer), having finally realized his dream of making great wine, dying in one of his vineyards shortly thereafter; it ends with the three women converged in New Zealand for his funeral.  In between, we see them at various points in their life, during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.  Additionally, while some of “Bride Flight” is in English, much of it is in Dutch with English subtitles – in white, they are mostly surprisingly readable, except for a few scenes when they’re partially superimposed over some snow. 

As you may have surmised from the above, “Bride Flight” aspires to be a broad, sweeping epic of a movie and to a large extent, it succeeds at this.  But make no mistake about it – this romantic tale is a chick flick at its heart.  That said, however, I found it a little difficult to take due to its heavy reliance on melodrama – there are no happy endings, just as there were no happy beginnings or happy middles either, for that matter.  Despite the professional success for some, the personal life of these women seems downright miserable and depressing without any reason to believe it will improve any time soon.  The only character who seems to come out of this story relatively unscathed is the man – Frank – but then again, he’s also the first one among the movie’s central characters to succumb to his own mortality. 
The overwhelming majority of the class really enjoyed this movie considerably – including our instructor.  However, he did make one observation with which I completely agreed:  that this film will be a dismal financial failure, regardless of whether or not it gets glowing reviews.  One of the reasons for this is due to the fact that that it is, of course, a foreign film with subtitles and people generally don’t like reading at the movies.  But more to the point, the story focuses on a post-war event that was rather well-known and significant in Holland, but is relatively unknown in other areas of the world, including and especially the United States.