JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Beats | Unfit | A Thousand Cuts (Directors: Brian Welsh, Dan Partland, Ramona Diaz) - August 10, 2020
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Beats | Unfit | A Thousand Cuts

4 4
101 min.

Three winners; no waiting!

Beats
101 minutes, 2019
Brian Welsh
Four stars

“Sometimes, we’ve all just gotta jump”!

It’s 1994; it’s Scotland, Tony Blair’s Criminal Justice Bill (aimed at hooligans who love music) has just passed. With the stroke of a pen (and royal ascent), rebellious youth will certainly walk the straight and narrow?

What was Blair smoking?

Opening with an underwear dance scene that pays homage to Tom Cruise in the 1983 hit, Risky Business, Welsh sets the tone for all that is to follow in his rave tale, which was based on co-writer Kieran Hurley’s play.

The two principals, dark-haired, brooding Johnno (Christian Ortega shines in every scene: dressed or not) and hellboy Spanner (energetically portrayed by Lorn Macdonald) work well together, whether being rambunctious youth, drugged up buds, or—possibly: it was just one kiss—right?—potential lovers.

To add spice to the plot, Johnno’s step-dad, Robert, is a cop—no surprise at all that the surrogate guardian finds his sort-of son “breaking” the law.

But the best-friend buds may soon find themselves on the other side of societal tracks, as Robert plans to move to an upscale neighbourhood where the dismal likes of Spanner would never be welcome.

Of course, everything comes to a head at an unauthorized rave, where everyone parties hearty, save and except for Spanner’s bullying brother Fido, (Neil Leiper is appropriately selfish and uncaring), and an escape sequence of the “Dream Team” where Johnno finally learns how to drive.

Taking a beating, but surviving it, the—now—worldly wise Johnno realizes that true friendship is loads better than moving on up. Surely there’s a sequel in the works? JWR


#UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump
83 minutes, 2020
Dan Partland
Four stars

“We have a duty to warn”

Client-patient privilege is an important safeguard in the legal and medical professions. But those protections have evolved over the years (e.g., the Tarasoff rule where “the Supreme Court of California held that mental health professionals have a duty to protect individuals who are being threatened with bodily harm by a patient” after a life was lost). In Partland’s telling documentary, the case is abundantly made by a covey of mental health professionals, that Donald J. Trump is unfit for office due to chronic DSM syndrome (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, including narcissism, paranoia, anti-social personality disorders—constant lying and rampant sadism).

Given the first term of Trump’s presidency, it is hard to argue against the prognosis of the man who thinks COVID-19 is under control, all the while carrying around a link to nuclear weapons that could demolish the planet in under 35 minutes.

As with Mussolini and Hitler, Trump has found the magic dust of appealing to the desperate Americans who have found no help or palatable support from the previous status quo.

The most powerful man on Earth wakes up each day rudely tweeting anyone who disagrees and hoping to find an “opportunity” to those who doubt his leadership, wisdom and judgement (“fake news” anyone?).

Clearly it’s not getting better anytime soon, unless even his base realize that the response to the current pandemic and racism is only worthy of being shown the exit—whether he can find that door or not.

Still, one can only wonder what a different world it might be today if only Hilary Clinton had locked her hubris away in a closet and let a fresh face excite the populace in 2016. JWR


A Thousand Cuts
110 minutes, 2020
Ramona Diaz Four stars

“If you don’t clap you’re an addict”

Death by a thousand cuts:

  • a form of torture and execution originating from Imperial China.
  • the way a major negative change which happens slowly in many unnoticed increments is not perceived as objectionable

“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts…I’d be happy to slaughter them.”
- Rodrigo Duterte

Diaz has crafted a portrait of an insidious leader who believes in shutting down “fake news”, bullying detractors and happily putting others to death (by his own hands or by decree), but has also stopped swearing so much because “God told me to.”

At the centre of his wrath in this production is journalist Maria Ressa and her online portal, Rappler (rap + ripple = to make waves), whose interviews and articles speak truth to power, thus setting the stage for her arrest in 2019 on a charge of cyber libel, stemming from the Cybercrime Prevention Act (2012). Time’s 2018 Person of the Year was found guilty, much to the dismay of the international community.

Sadly, Ressa and Rappler’s finances (notably the share structure and delinquent VAT payments) are currently before the courts on charges of tax evasion. As always with high-profile individuals, nothing is ever black-and-white.

No doubt, President Trump would enjoy this film, if he ever had enough time between tweets to watch it. Duterte, likewise, would come away pleased from a viewing due to the amount of screen time the wily politician receives.

For thinking people everywhere else, this cautionary tale is a must-see, even as there is a palpable feeling that freedom of speech is slipping into obscurity one unrelenting cut at a time. JWR

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