Since Kate was born, the number of movies I see in theaters has dropped precipitously. The Baby-Sitter Surcharge (BSS), $20 at the very least for a standard dinner-and-movie combo, moves too many to the “wait for the video” column. The occasional hurray-we’re-free sleepover invitation usually comes on the spur of the moment, and we see what’s in town.
So it usually happens that I get to Oscar night having seen maybe one of the nominated Best Picture contenders and hardly any of the more obscure categories. But! Through the miracle of sleepovers and video, this weekend I increased my viewing of Best Documentary Feature contenders from zero to two — we saw “The Fog of War” in the theater Friday, and “Capturing the Friedmans” on video Saturday, and both rocked me on my heels. Can’t recommend them highly enough. Run, don’t walk! And so on. Even if we’d paid the BSS, they still would have been worth it.
“The Fog of War” has all the artistry you expect from Errol Morris, including the usual Philip Glass score, but it also has Robert McNamara at 85, speaking with perhaps as much honesty as you can expect from the architect of the Vietnam War. But the most interesting parts, to me, were McNamara on the Cuban missile crisis and the firebombing of Tokyo and Gen. Curtis LeMay’s role in both (I’m probably more familiar with LeMay than most, if only because he was a son of Columbus, Ohio, and he was included in our local-history units).
The first night “The Fog of War” was in town, students were lined up down the block to get in, which I at first thought was an encouraging sign but then I figured it out: They were there as a class requirement. The night we saw it, it was all gray heads, but then, spring break had already started, and most of the non-gray heads have headed off to warmer climates. One gray head I wish would see it, but fat chance: George W. Bush.
As for the sad, cursed Friedman family, I linked to David Edelstein’s Slate review because it revealed the amazing information that this movie started out being a documentary about children’s birthday-party performers and ended up being about a family riven by the sex-abuse hysteria of the mid-’80s, but had a pedophile at its head. It’s about, oh, family and guilt and love and the elusive nature of truth and about a million other things, and how often do you get all of that in 90 minutes? Not often, I’ll tell you.
I notice “Spellbound” wasn’t nominated, which is an outrage, but if it had been, oh my what a burden that would have been for Academy voters. (Local trivia note: The winner of the spelling bee in the movie is a student at the U of M.)
One Curtis LeMay story: A friend awas tasked with writing his prepared obit for the Columbus Dispatch, and let me listen to the interview tape. The “bomb ’em back to the Stone Age” comment was taken out of context, he said. Hmm. Two views: Pro and con. Bonus: He was the model for Gen. Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove”!?