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last update 19.July.09
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Broken Noses
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Bruce Weber
with Andy Minsker, Hugh Minsker, Marian Minsker, Ed Milberger, Vivian Dehen, Henry Dehen, Dorothy Milberger, Rodney Hale, Nat Chumley, Damion Jasmer, Aaron Berry, Warren Bressler
minsker release US 4.Nov.87,
UK 11.May.09 dvd
87/US 1h15

See also:
CHOP SUEY (2001)
broken noses Weber's distinct photographic style shines in this artful, offbeat documentary that on the surface is about a boxing coach, but observes much bigger issues along the way.

Andy Minsker, age 25, is lively, friendly and extremely photogenic. He's the only coach willing to open up to cameras after the US Olympic officials nervously ban Weber from filming young boxers. Open and chatty, with a slight nervousness that makes him utterly endearing, Minsker also introduces us to the teens he trains, as well as his parents (Hugh and Vivian), stepparents (Marian and Henry) and the coach (Milberger) who inspired him.

What emerges is an insightful, moving exploration of masculinity, as Andy's young students strike cocky poses and grill Andy for details about his adult life, including how he lost his virginity. The atmosphere is bright and funny, and it's clear to see what a good guy Andy is. Even when he gets angry about his past (he wasn't unfairly left off the 1984 Olympic team), his bitterness is justified. And the way he pours himself into these boys' lives is truly inspirational.

But Weber is also looking at surfaces here, and the title is a clear reference to the imperfection that makes someone truly attractive. With gorgeous lighting and an effective combination of footage and stills, he catches the physicality of these young men in an intimate way, combined with jazz standards from the likes of Julie London and Chet Baker. Weber has always had an eye for combining beauty with machismo, and a boxing club is the perfect venue for this. He even weaves in some distinctly surreal scenes, such as Andy reading Richard II in a rose garden.

And within Andy's story, we discover that his father was also a boxer and was also denied an Olympic spot (at the height of the Cold War, his mother didn't want him to go to Helsinki). But these aren't people who wallow in the past. And as we watch Andy lounging in his room, driving around in his car or roughhousing with the boys, we are seeing a skilfully rendered portrait of a young man who has decided to make a positive difference in the world.

15 themes, language
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A Letter to True
dir-scr Bruce Weber
narr Bruce Weber, Julie Christie, Marianne Faithfull
with Palomino, Big Skye, Rain, True, Polar Bear, Guy, Cloud, Sailor, Hope, Whizzy, Jake, Tyson, Kelly Ammann, Marleine Bastein, Nat Young, Herbie Fletcher
weber's dogs release US 8.Sep.04,
UK 1.Aug.08
04/US 1h18

a letter to true Weber turns his cameras on his own life with this cleverly constructed film, which takes the form of a love letter to his beloved golden retrievers. And while it's a film about dogs, there's a lot more going on here.

The film is framed with shots of Weber writing the letter to one of his dogs, True, which talks about his life and his influences, while reminiscing about specific events and memories. It's a collage of sumptuous footage of happy dogs running on the beach, swimming in the pool, charging around the house and riding in cars. And amid frequent references to 9/11, he talks deeply about his feelings. Along the way, he also remembers meaningful encounters with Dirk Bogarde and that great dog-lover Elizabeth Taylor. And there are other sideroads into the Vietnam War, the politics of Haiti, dog experts, Australian surfers and Martin Luther King Jr, plus a montage of dogs on the streets of Manhattan.

With his usual mixture of colour and black and white footage and stills, Weber weaves together a collage that feels random and disparate, but comes together in extremely clever ways, constantly echoing the idea of peace and wartime, separation and reunion. The film is often shot from a dog's eye view (including glimpses of the camera rig that achieves this), which makes the whole film feel exploratory, especially as warm nostalgia gives way to sudden gritty realism.

Each anecdote is packed with revelations and telling details, while the film as a whole carries us along on a wave of emotion that will be especially strongly felt by dog lovers. Although anyone can appreciate the shots of dogs frolicking under palm trees on the beach or wrestling with models in a pool. And clips from movies about dogs like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin actually draw us in even more. It sometimes feels a bit random and meandering, but the imagery is so breathtaking that we don't mind at all. But perhaps the real point is that this is a film made for dogs themselves to watch.

PG themes, language, some nudity
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dir-scr Woody Allen
prd Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley
with Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Woody Allen, Ian McShane, Romola Garai, Charles Dance, Fenella Woolgar, Kevin R McNally, Meera Syal, Robert Bathurst, Julian Glover, Anthony Head
allen, johansson and jackman
release US 28.Jul.06,
UK 7.Feb.09
06/UK Focus 1h36
scoop Woody Allen's second London-set film (between MATCH POINT and CASSANDRA'S DREAM) was never released in UK cinemas, and it's fairly clear why. This is a thin movie by any standards, and one of Allen's more uneven efforts.

Sondra (Johansson) is an American journalism student visiting a family friend (Garai) in London when she has an encounter with a recently deceased hack (McShane) who gives her a tip: the wealthy Peter Lyman (Jackman) is actually a serial killer. Working with flustered magician Sidney (Allen), Sondra worms her way into Lyman's life looking for evidence. And by the time Sondra begins to fall for him, she realises that he's must be innocent. Although Sidney isn't so sure.

The plot is pure fluff, a comical noir with rom-com overtones and a breezy pace. The problem is that nothing's very funny besides some of Allen's astutely observant dialog and a few amusing situations. The script feels strangely slapdash, like it was written in little more time than it takes to watch. And while the cinematography is lovely, the editing feels awkward. The characters are all a bit sketchy, and the actors struggle to bring much personality to them.

Johansson pushes the comedy too hard, while Allen mumbles and stutters far too much; together they're a daft bundle of neuroses. Fortunately, Jackman is on hand to lend his offhanded charm to each scene. And it's his natural charisma that makes the film watchable. On the other hand, the scenes featuring the spectral McShane, regardless of the sardonic wit he brings to the role, are strained and clumsy, which also describes the scenes set in the afterlife.

There really is nothing to this film, which vanishes from memory as soon as it finishes. Sometimes this is just the kind of movie you want to watch, and fans of Johansson and Jackman will enjoy seeing them in such a strikingly unusual roles. But when there's talent of this calibre both on screen and behind the cameras, we expect a little subtext, a comment on our culture or at least 90 minutes of escapism. Even so, half-baked Woody Allen is better than about 80 percent of filmmakers out there.

PG themes
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Were the World Mine
dir Tom Gustafson
scr Cory James Krueckeberg, Tom Gustafson
with Tanner Cohen, Zelda Williams, Ricky Goldman, Nathaniel David Becker, Wendy Robie, Judy McLane, Jill Larson, Christian Stolte, David Darlow, Parker Croft, Brad Bukauskas, Reid Dawson
becker release US 31.Oct.08,
UK 18.May.09 dvd
08/US 1h33
were the world mine A playful variation on A Midsummer Night's Dream, this colourful high school comedy opts for goofy absurdity and over-sweet romance instead of anything deeper. But it's witty and engaging, and touches on strong themes along the way.

Relentlessly bullied by the school jocks, Timothy (Cohen) reverts into an internal fantasy world where everything is choreographed like a shimmery dance musical. And when it turns out that he can actually sing, his drama teacher (Robie) immediately casts him as Puck in the school production. Then he develops a crush on his lusty jock costar (Becker) and decides to give Shakespeare's love potion a try, which gets a bit out of hand, causing romantic chaos in the whole town. Of course, the world will be set to rights on opening night.

Director-cowriter Gustafson and his energetic cast are clearly having fun here, especially when the plot descends into all-out farce. And while it all feels a bit indulgent, there's a nicely scruffy texture that keeps it grounded in reality. And amid the brightly wacky tone, the likeable cast are able to bring out underlying themes that vividly portray the energy and hopefulness of teen life tinged with self-doubt, frustration, peer pressure and the constant obsession with sex.

Along the way, there are also some clever touches, such as how the controversy surrounding the all-boy stage play leads naturally into a more provocative discussion of sexuality issues (including a funny and timely sequence about gay marriage). Also intriguingly, Timothy's mother (McLane) is accepting but not happy about her son's homosexuality; the overall portrayal of homophobia is realistically complex, ranging from fear and judgment to curiosity and compassion.

In the end, though, the film feels simplistic simply because it's so overwhelmingly cute and silly. Even as it grapples inventively with big issues, it never gets much edgier than a TV movie, slipping into yet another musical number when it really should get serious. And the story's pace stalls badly when it descends into total romantic mayhem at one point (and everyone breaks into song). There's also a sense that the tidy conclusion is in a dreamworld all its own.

12 themes, language, mild violence
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