Movies and books made for an interesting, relevant summer vacation


Well, I congratulated the Warwick Showcase for bringing us both “Magic in the Moonlight” and also “Calvary,” two movies that did not attract big crowds but offered stories with content as well as style. I have to add my best wishes to Imax for the 3-D presentation about the plight of lemurs in Madagascar.  A diverse and endangered species of ancient primate uniquely evolved upon an isolated island, our weird but wonderful “cousin” creature has to adapt to a diminished world, regularly burned to prepare for human development at the expense of other denizens derived equally from Eden. I believe that before World War II, Madagascar was one of several alternative avenues of survival for Jews! That’s about the only hook I can use to make the documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman relevant to our readers.

Then, I’d like to salute the East Providence cinema that took on “America,” a series of re-enactments and interviews, arranged rhetorically to confront the current anti-American academic fashion, with a return to classic narrative patriotism. The imagery and the script had many virtues. It had eloquent logic and a tone of patient dignity – up to a point. In all honesty, I think it dragged on much too long and repeated its icons and major scenes too insistently. We had to stare at the Mount Rushmore statues of our presidents, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and at the sculpture of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima just too many times. (I found myself squinting at my watch, assuming the movie was reaching its climax and summation. But alas!  Not yet.)

Nevertheless I found the movie admirable, and sat, utterly alone at the first matinee, fascinated by its unusual, even unique, perspective. And what was “Jewish” about it, other than the voice of Professor Alan Dershowitz? Only this: The Jews were in general the most generous new Americans, who projected their hopes upon the legends and lore of this land, pledged their allegiance and loyalty. The Statue of Liberty held a special meaning for the Jews not only fleeing pogroms and death camps, but also seeking not merely dreams of opportunity, but also dreams of the pursuit of happiness in its fullest, not merest, meanings.

Mostly, I am writing to remind myself and my readers that movies have a responsibility, audiences have a responsibility, and cinemas have a responsibility to add to the industry of entertainment a chance for artists and poets to ply their trades as well.

My summer vacation was made up not simply of strolling the shoreline and basking in siestas but also of books and movies!

MIKE FINK ( teaches at RISD.