Unification News for June 2004

"House of Sand and Fog"

Movie Review
by Bruce Sutchar

Over the years, I have found it harder and harder to find a good movie on a Saturday night. When we were on MFT, we would usually all go at least once a year -- usually to some blockbuster like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Ghandi or On Golden Pond.

There were so few that I probably remember every one. When my wife and I first started having children, movies were about the only entertainment that we could physically afford to go to. We would leave the children with the baby sitter, zoom right to the local theater and then zoom home immediately upon the conclusion -- all the while hoping that the little sweeties and the baby-sitter were all still in tact.

When they got a little older, we risked everything (even the embarrassment of letting the children know that we were actually going out, not to a Church banquet or True Parents Speech, but to merely entertain and enjoy ourselves (Oh my God, forgive me)! Now one point is important to mention and that is that during the time that my wife was pregnant (basically from 1985-1993 with each of our 5 children) she was very spiritually sensitive. Therefore, we had to hone our cinema choices down from the very few good movies out there, to the fewer that had no violence, no sex, no scary parts and really no intense action. That left films like Sweet Lorraine (about a girl who goes up to the Catskills to work with her aunt during the summer season at a Jewish resort). I would last about 5 minutes (luckily, I did not snore much in those days). However, I must admit that Sweet Lorraine has remained as part of our current vocabulary, as a way to describe the value of a current movie.

So the other night, my sweetheart and I tried to see a movie, but the one that I most wanted to see, The Legend of Bobby Jones, actually received zero stars (I never really heard of that -- even Steven Seagal or Adam Sandler get at least one star). So on a whim, I stopped at the local video store and actually came home with a video. It was called The House of Sand and Fog. My wife was pleased because her piano lessons, clothes shopping for the children and food shopping had already caused her to miss both the 7pm and 9pm features that evening. So right about 9:45 (I had to postpone the showings so she could make sandwiches for our helpless teenagers, who were downstairs slaving over their video games). we sat down together to watch the DVD.

I chose this particular one because I had seen the previews (the previews are always great, even for the worst movies aren’t they?). and it looked interesting and included Ben Kingsley, an excellent actor whom I have enjoyed ever since he played Ghandi.

In retrospect, the film was probably pretty well done. There was some beautiful scenery from San Francisco, showing the fog rolling in over the Golden Gate Bridge. There were some emotional scenes concerning Kingsley’s family (who had escaped post-war Iran with little more than their lives) and there were some attempts at understanding the meaningless character of Jennifer Connelly and her "wife-abandoning, looking for an adulterous affair, spineless Deputy Sheriff boy friend. When it was finally over (and believe me I fought off sleep several times and once even announced that I was going to bed) -- I also struggled with missing the initial sketch of Saturday Night Live which my wife and I usually enjoy (a big mistake on this Saturday night).

So when it was finally over, my wife asked me to explain some of the details and nuances, but I was really too emotionally drained to say much. I have never seen a movie quite like this one. There is neither a hero nor even an anti-hero. No one wins and everyone loses (either their physical life or any semblance of honor or credibility in their cinema lives). So I really wondered, why was the screenplay ever written and why was the movie ever made. Was my life in any way whatsoever improved or stimulated? Am I in any way better off having seen the movie? Would I have missed anything, if it had not been written?

Well, of course there is art for art’s sake. And I guess there was some quality acting in the film. Yes, viewing the DVD did stimulate me to write this editorial comment, but I have to wonder, as the weather gets better, and thoughts of walking along the local golf course on a beautiful spring or summer day come to mind after a long, long winter, that maybe we would have been better off if we had gone to see, the Legend of Bobby Jones, even with its rating of zero stars. At least maybe there would have been a few nice golf shots.

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