Lucien’s Review: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Dear ZacharyHaven’t done any documentary films on this site, have I?  A shame, because there are a lot of truly great ones.  Will do a list someday of my top 10 favorite ones. I have a new film to add to this list – Dear Zachary.  This is probably the most emotionally-powerful film I have ever seen.  I guarantee you, no matter who you are, this film will make you cry.  I’m a complete asshole with a general divorce from the human condition, and even I got all teary-eyed at points.  This is such a depressing movie, yet it is so amazing to watch.  This is one of those rare movies that comes along and sets the tone of what great film can be.  But this is not the film for people who want sunshine and rainbows all the time.  If you can’t handle the hard stuff, you won’t like this movie. And if you plan on eating something as you watch it, you won’t be able to finish.  Let’s talk about it.

The film is told by a man who was an old filmmaker friend of a man named Andrew Bagby.  After he is murdered, this guy decides to go around the country and collect the memories of this man and make them into a movie.  But the quest takes on a new light, when it is revealed that the woman who killed him is carrying his child, and is in Canada awaiting extradition.  The film tells the story of the parents of Andrew, who go to Canada so they can get custody of the only grandchild they are ever going to have, and this man Kurt as he goes to the places that Andrew lived and compiles these memories, to make into a letter to Zachary.  Yeah, doesn’t this sounds like lollipops?

What I want to talk about first is the how well this film is put together.  There are some truly fantastic scenes where the cinematography is done so well.  A scene where Andrew’s dad is at a press conference and the juxtaposition between that scene and previous scenes, along with Kurt on his own mission, is one of the greatest scenes in any movie that I’ve ever seen.  I could watch that a thousand times over.  The guy who made this may have been amateur, but he clearly has a knack for doing incredible work.  All with a digital camera and an old-timey one.  Bravo, good sir.

The other thing I really love is how this movie has great uses of silence.  Just having quiet moments, either to take in something that happened, or to let tension build for an explosion.  There was one scene in-particular where you find out something horrible that happens, and for just a few seconds, they just silently sit on the news headline.  It makes when everything blows up so intense and emotionally powerful.  Quiet is an under-appreciated art form in this day and age, but this movie uses it to great effect.

But the thing that truly makes this film great is the people.  Every one.  The way they staggered this movie, cutting between the sad stuff to uplifting stuff just makes every character seem so much better.  For such a depressing story, there are a lot of scenes that genuinely have you smiling and wishing that you could have gotten to know Andrew.  He sounded like a neat guy.  I would have a beer with him.  Well, not a beer, since I don’t like beer, but a drink.  He could have beer and I’d have a screwdriver or rum and coke.  Whatever.  I’d still have a drink with him.

Then you have the two stars of this movie – Andrew’s parents.  These two are probably the strongest people I have ever seen in any movie ever.  I can’t even imagine how awful what happened was like.  What they went through to get the only grandson they would ever have into their lives.  How they gave so much up and lost so much, yet still kept pushing forward.  But they weren’t always strong.  They talked about some of their weak moments, and it makes them human and relatable.  Only when we see them at their very worst can we truly understand the strength they have by pushing through the pain and doing what was right.  Even at the very worst, these two didn’t stop.

However, the guy making this film, Kurt, is also a neat character.  He set off on this documentary to answer a question.  He wanted to know what he viewed as the reason that he was making this.  And as the story unfolds, his reasons become more and more conflicted.  Yet he does eventually find his answers, and while I won’t say that it was perfectly cathartic, it was an answer that I think we all could understand.

As I said before, this is a film that is hard to watch.  I guarantee that you are going to cry.  But if you can look past that, and want to see a movie about some amazing people and the sad tale of their lives, then you will find a movie about so much of the best and worst that humanity has to offer, which may make you feel things you hadn’t felt before.  And maybe you’ll find your own questions to ask, not knowing what the answer will be.  I have never seen a documentary that touched me this much.  This movie has set the standard at the very peak.  Do with this whatever you will.

Final Verdict
10 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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Hell House: the Funniest Documentary I’ve Seen in a Long Time

I am starting to wonder what the reaction to this documentary was supposed to be.  I heard about this from a YouTube vlogger called Dusty Smith, who has the Cult of Dusty YouTube channel.  His review was brief, and it was very fun.  But as for me, I am going to elaborate a bit more, because I thought this was the funniest piece of Christian propaganda that I have ever seen.  For real, if this is what Christians think is scary, then they are dumb beyond any and all reason.  I haven’t laughed this much in a long time.  I hope you will to.

So, the name of this documentary is “Hell House.”  It tells the story of a haunted house, put on by the Trinity Church, in Cedar Hill, Texas.  And man, these people really got a slick business going on.  See, they sell thousands of tickets to this thing, every year.  Now, I should say, up-front, that the makers of this documentary played it straight with this production.  They took no side here.  There is no narration.  They simply captured this event, and then put it out for us to see.  And mock to death, because it’s the stupidest fucking thing ever.  And of course, like most stupid things in America, it had to come from a Christian organization.  See, Trinity Church is a Pentecostal church, so as you can imagine, they take a very hardcore view of the Bible and sin.  And, like most Christian groups in Texas, they want to “put the fear of god in them sinners!”  Good luck doing that here!

Here’s how it works – they take a bunch of kids, usually about 40 at a time, and they take them through various themed rooms, for them to see what the lives of a bunch of sinners is like.  In one room, there is a fat kid, who isn’t doing too well at a test.  He gets picked on and called retarded.  So, he whips out a gun (and I was wishing he would kill all the kids.  Sigh…) and then blows his brains out.  Naturally, since he committed suicide, he goes to Hell.  How many Christians was it said that Amanda Todd’s death was a tragedy?  Bleeding hypocrites.

Then, there is a skit where a redneck guy, who looks like he would be a wife-beater anyway, reads an email that tells him that his wife is cheating on him.  Naturally, this leads to, instead of asking her if this is true, or having a reaction like being sad (because emoting would be WAY too hard for the people doing these skits.  For real, the emotional levels in this are staggeringly and hilariously bad), he decides to up and choke the bitch.  Naturally, when he dies, he goes to Hell.  Snap, how many Christians were commanded by God to murder, and then take the virgin daughters of their victims as their fuck-slaves?  Well, this is Christianity, after all.  Contradiction is nothing new.  They live and breathe on their religion not making a lick of sense.  That’s how the mind of the dumb works.

Another skit has a girl.  She is at this rave, and gets all kinds of fucked-up on drugs.  This guy comes up and just puts something in her drink and then shoves it down her throat.  Yeah, because girls are totally okay with guys just shoving things down their throat, right?  (I swear to non-existent God, I am going to punch the first guy in the vag who makes a joke about cock) But yeah, after shoving the drink down her throat, she is totally miserable, because she got gang-raped by all these guys, and decides that the next logical solution is to kill herself.  Yes, because no woman ever has survived the experience of rape and come out stronger, right?  No, obviously, ladies, if you get raped, you are going to kill yourself.  You won’t be able to live with it.  Lies.  Anyway, she kills herself, so naturally, she goes to Hell.  Yeah, heaven-forbid that God’s Kevorkian actually show a little mercy on her.  No, instead, since to these people, God is a vengeful piece of shit (as per the Old Testament, where he was just that), he decides that she should pay for being emotionally traumatized.  By the way, this girl’s “breakdown” was hysterical.  This acting was so bad, I’ve seen middle school plays that put this shit to shame.  But to her character’s credit, she was hot.

Then, we go to a hospital, where a man is dying of AIDS.  He got AIDS because he’s gay, and in this “haunted house”‘s universe, all gay men have AIDS.  Yeah, because no straight person has ever contracted HIV from being a dumb mother-fucker and not using a condom, right?  Gee, if that were the case, then what is with that massive epidemic of AIDS in Africa?  Are all the men and women there just deciding not to be gay and lesbians for a night and having sex?  Or maybe it has something to do with the lack of contraception, thanks to all the lovely Catholic and other religious groups’ lies.  Gotta love you people!  Anyway, this guy dies, and then, because he’s gay, and according to God, being gay is a sin, he goes to Hell.

But after this skit, there is the most hilariously bad bit of misinformation in this entire place.  There has been a lot of bullshit spewed here, but this was simply amazing.  After the scene with the gay guy’s death, a girl is brought into the hospital.  See, her vag exploded after she took the morning-after pill.  Let me say that again – her VAG exploded because she took the morning-after pill!  According to this haunted house, if you take the morning-after pill, your vagina will explode.  I have a challenge to any Christians stupid enough to buy this – provide me one, ONE, piece of evidence to support this.  This is the stupidest thing ever!  The morning-after pill works by preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg.  It doesn’t make an abortion happen, you stupid Christian zealots!  And the acting of this girl was just awesome.  I really bought how pained she was by this.  After all, it was so accurate, right?  Naturally, she bleeds to death and goes to Hell.

This little train-wreck of a performance then decides to finally take us all to Hell, and show us what horrible tortures these kids are going through.  They have this guy, who looks like an even more emo (and not nearly as cool) version of The Crow.  He talks about how all these people are in Hell for a good reason, and how, if you don’t follow God, and choose to live a sinful (and awesome) life, you will end up there yourself.  And these people spew lots of lines about how what they did wasn’t so bad, like the gay guy is shouting “I was born this way!”  Yeah, very open-minded, eh Christians?

After they make their way through the most boring haunted house in existence (with the worst actors and actresses of all time), they are then taken into this room.  They are all lined up against a wall, unable to leave.  A big guy then comes in and talks to these kids, telling them that if they don’t straighten up, believe in God, and fly right, they are going to follow suit of the people they just say.  They then sit them down and tell them to pray, asking them to join their church and follow Jesus.  According to them, one in five kids do.  Yeah, because that was so scary, right? (Rolls eyes)

This documentary is hilarious.  The acting is awful.  The message is so phoned-in from half a dozen Christian zealots that you see all the time on TV or wherever.  It is an exploitative piece of bullshit that is being used by this church to scare people.  See, that seems to be the new tactic of Christians.  They know that they can’t reason with the atheists, and those who are skeptical.  The reality is that the Christian position has no basis in logic.  None.  The bible is awash with contradiction, illogical and ridiculous bullshit.  There aren’t five words of truth in any of it.  So, instead, they decide that they are going to try and scare kids.  They are going to make them too afraid not too.  I have had plenty of Christians try to do that to me.

But here’s the kicker, Christians – that won’t work for long!  With information being so readily available, there are sources after sources that debunk your complete and utter bullshit, like the Bible.  Here’s the Skeptics Annotated Bible, which goes into great lengths how utterly absurd this book is.

You are losing, Christians, because your lies are so much easier to debunk, and we can show this much easier.  Meanwhile, when you try and fight it out with reason, it was over before it began.  Ha-ha!

Until next time, a quote,

“And they do this, year after year, in state after state, and try to con and scare these people into becoming members of this cult. Just like utter and complete shit-heads would.”  -Dusty Smith, World’s Worst Haunted House – In Under 3 Minutes

Peace out,

Maverick

My Reaction to “Taxi To The Dark Side”

Something you learn about documentaries is that you almost always watch them and realize that you are going to feel rather unpleasant for the experience.  I can’t think of a single documentary I have seen that has left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  It just doesn’t happen much.  There are the really good ones like “Food Inc.” which tells the tale of food in this country and what is happening with it.  Then there are the ones like this one – “Taxi to the Dark Side.”  It tells the story of torture in the Middle East, and the activities that America has been involved with, that should not only shame the military, but should also shame all the people in this country who have sat back, knowing this is happening, and said nothing.

This film begins where the story begins, where the whole story of America and the torture legacy began – Afghanistan.  The death of a man at Bagram Prison was where this story took off.  After the increasing public demand of accountability after Abu Gharib and the photos from there got out, it started a landslide of military efforts to sweep things away, while also trying to keep up the efforts of being accountable.  It also showed how the position that this was an isolated incident with just a few bad apples was garbage because, as multiple former interrogators testified, it was impossible for them to have not know.  They were actively curious.

This documentary showed something about how our military has been used in the Middle East.  The guys who were security and interrogators in this prison were given free reign to go as crazy as they wanted to go.  They were told that they were doing a good thing.  They were also told that the prisoners they were “interrogating” were dogs, and should be treated similarly.  This is why I don’t hold the ones who did this the most responsible.  It was said by one of the men who was testifying that we can sit here and yell at them about how they did horrible things, but this was a world where you did what you’re told, you didn’t want to appear weak to your fellow soldiers, and they were told that they should be brutalizing these people.

It’s very clear that it starts in the office of Vice President Cheney.  He had a very strong view that we were not as aggressive in dealing with people in interrogations as we could or should be.”

After Bush and Cheney laid out that they wanted things to change, a man by the name of John Yoo got involved.  He was the architect who laid out this plan, to give young men the drive and opportunity to be as much of animals as they possibly could, in order to get no significant amoung of information.  Yoo and the President wrote a series of memos saying that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to suspected terrorists.  And from that, we’re off to the races.

If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there’s no law that can stop that?  That’s what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.” – Professor Doug Cassel

These people were giving those who they knew would not be able to hold themselves back a blank ticket and also a reason to be committing horrible crimes against other people.  They were telling them that this was not only acceptable, but it was expected of them.  How do decent and feeling human being justify this?  How does this sit well on their conscience?  I watched John Yoo defend this line of reasoning and I couldn’t help but feel a deep pit grow inside of my stomach when I realized that this is beyond a bit of a lack of conscience.  These people have no conscience at all!  They are all monsters.  From first to last, they are all monsters.

One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American Justice!”

The film then got away from the Middle Eastern prisons that were all nightmares, to another nightmare of our own creation, created deliberately in a place where we could be outside of the law, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The interrogations of one man puts a really unpleasant light on this entire place.  Everything from very severe sleep deprivation, using his fear of dogs against him, and even sexual assault.  The people there wanted to be “creative.”  And the higher-ups approved of this.  They approved of the whole thing.  And what started at Gitmo then traveled back to the Middle East and continued over there.

There were emails back to the Department of Justice back from the FBI personnel down at Guantanamo saying ‘you won’t believe what’s going on down here.  We’ve got to disassociate ourselves as FBI people from what is going on here in Guantanamo.”

Our own bureaus of the government were working to get themselves as far away from what was happening as possible.  This says something really ugly – that people wanted to turn a blind eye, or worse still, didn’t want to be thought of as being involved when the shit hit the fan.  Reports were being redacted, people were being shut up.  Emails spoke of how things were wrong, crimes, and there were things like “a wink-and-a-nod.” to go further.

The medical literature had a thing known as ‘force drift,’ that made it almost inevitable that the interrogators would apply greater and greater increments of force to achieve their desired results.”

This documentary, that I am linking to here ( http://youtu.be/XWerXHS893U) shows something that I have understood, and the those with two brain cells to rub together understand, but most people just don’t care – that the military was given free reign to do horrible things, and instead of looking at the problem – the people on the top who didn’t know or deliberately didn’t care were giving people who had no inclination to do the right thing the ability and the reason to be monsters.  And what’s more, I don’t honestly hold the guys who did this hostage.  I don’t hold completely those who ordered this responsible.

You know who I blame most of all for shit like this – you, America.  I blame you.  I blame all of us.  I was too young to care, but most of you weren’t.  Most of you were there, screaming for “justice” against the terrorists who attacked us, and in doing so, gave a blank check to two men who clearly have no conscience to do as they pleased.  We demanded this.  We demanded these people pay.  We are so horrible and unconscienable a people that we honestly call of death and killing and think nothing of it.

So I blame all of you, America.  I was too young when this started to understand, and now that I do, I still want people protesting.  I want people out in the streets getting angry and yelling.  If people were keeping the military and the government accountable, stuff like this wouldn’t have happened.

This was my reaction.  I feel so ashamed as an American right now, and this is why the rest of the world truly, and rightfully, looks down on us.

Until next time, a quote,

“The spine of the United States armed forces is the chain of command.  What starts at the top of the chain of command drops like a rock down the chain of command.”  -John Hutson, Taxi to the Dark Side

Peace out,

Maverick