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A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Your Mommy Kills Animals

By BrianOrndorf

June 8th, 2007

You can hurl the murder, poverty, and injustice of humanity in the faces of millions, but nothing seems to rile the masses like the plight of animals. Those helpless little creatures tend to get the short end of the justice stick, battling cruelty on a routine basis. It's enough to make you want to scream...or firebomb an animal testing location?

Your Mommy Kills Animals

“Your Mommy Kills Animals” is a documentary probing this prickly issue, looking at the insular world of the animal rights activist and their kryptonite: the passionless, deliberate thinker. It’s unquestionably a flaming hot-button issue for a film to cover and one that necessitates a full-bodied level of patience with both sides of the argument. Of course that argument seems to be: animal activists - are they out of their damn gourd?

Director Curt Johnson, in a stance of directorial bravery that is seldom showcased, doesn’t appear to be taking a side towards either extreme, keeping a level head while he wades into these tumultuous waters. While no documentary can be completely objective, “Mommy” holds its ground impressively trying to tenderly extract points from both sides of the argument. With a subject that holds as much venom as this one does, “Mommy” remains amazingly poised.

The war waged in the film is one between the radical animal rights groups and those who live to reveal the hypocrisy of their actions, or at the very least pinpoint the danger of fighting fire with fire. “Mommy” details the rise of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the ivory tower of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), but it pays special attention to the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) collective.

A band of brothers dedicated to shutting down the Huntingdon Life Sciences Corporation by radical means, the group is underlined because they are one of the first to be tried for their actions under U.S. terrorism laws. Of course, it bewilders this group of unwashed twentysomething hipsters how they could be considered in the same league as Osama bin Laden, and “Mommy” splurges on an enormous amount of screentime trying to sell the absurd point that the U.S. Government considers animal activists to be the number one terrorist threat to America; however, there are several moments in the film where that branding seems completely justified.

Johnson isn’t interested in a simple smear campaign; that would be too easy. The general make-up of the average animal “defender” is young, low on smarts, and ready for an obscene amount of troublemaking. The affiliations give them a purpose, and all too often, their actions swerve into violence (the aforementioned firebombing is a popular choice) and reactionary tactics that fail to further the cause; often burying the purpose under charred remains of foolish execution.

“Mommy” does focus on these passionate pirates for Poopsie, but comments are also made by the older, rational animal advocates, who have insightful arguments and potent theories behind their passions. It was a blast of cool air on a hot summer day to hear coherent folk express themselves instead of scream obscenities and cowardly play the misdemeanor game. On the flip side, incisive arguments against the groups are made by equally composed individuals, though it’s revealed some may be swinging from the governmental teat. A shame, but a reality.

“Mommy” skips through the fields of ridiculous celebrity endorsements for animal groups, the eternal debate on fur, political motivations, and the effect the groups are having on these testing facilities. One of the better tangents centers on the fallacy of PETA and the Humane Society – two groups who have made it their mission to pimp lies for maximum profit and publicity.

To keep potential viewers aware, “Mommy” contains some footage of animal abuse and assorted cruelties. It isn’t incredibly graphic like a PETA video, but there’s enough to disturb. I’ve seen people tear up when a dog is simply scolded for bad behavior, so it’s best some viewers know what they’re getting themselves into. Thankfully, Johnson uses the footage to strengthen his points, not just adding them for shock value.

“Mommy” is a difficult movie to watch, but an important one to consider. If the production can’t quite find the bloodied core of the issue, it conveys the climate exceedingly well, conjuring fury, pity, and befuddlement often in the same instant. When it comes to creatures of nature, it’s a slippery slope, yet “Your Mommy Kills Animals” informs and entertains in the face of unimaginable stupidity and horror. If you give a damn about animals, this is a documentary you shouldn’t miss.

My rating: B+