Sarah Palin: You Betcha!
Director: Nick Broomfield
Nick Broomfield is probably the only documentary filmmaker in the world who honestly doesn’t care if he’s able to land an interview with the subjects he’s profiling. In films like Kurt and Courtney, he sets out to explore the life of an iconic figure with little hope of actually getting his primary subject on camera. Instead, Broomfield pieces together a far more revealing profile by interviewing those occupying the protective bubble surrounding his subjects than he would actually by landing the central interview.
That pattern continues with Sarah Palin: You Betcha! a film in which the confrontational documentarian sets his sights on Alaska’s embarrassingly under-qualified presidential candidate. Without giving too much away, the Alaskan governor is pretty heavily monitored on the media front these days, especially after her notoriously inept stabs at being an interviewee during the last election.
The struggles Broomfield faces trying to capture his subjects are always inevitably the most entertaining part of his films and this is no exception. Most of his time is spent in Palin’s hometown where, troublingly, most of the people in the community have either been ostracized from the community for bad-mouthing Palin or are too terrified to even discuss her on camera. It appears that a little cult has formed around the perky Alaskan, much of which is directly related to the fire and brimstone church that her family has been a part of for years.
Hilarious beauty pageant archival footage and TV presenter bloopers are unearthed with Palin proving to be a smiling personality in the media, but a vindictive politician behind closed doors prone to use her power to settle personal vendettas. It’s an at times disturbingly revealing profile and a subversively funny documentary. After the propagandistic documentary The Undefeated that was recently released by the Palin camp, this is a much needed antidote. The only problem is that it will probably primarily play to the converted with Palin’s devoted fanbase unwilling to admit their smiling beauty queen could possibly be flawed. She certainly is flawed though, oh you betcha!
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox
Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut with Coriolanus, a Shakespeare modernization that turns stage-bound swordplay into shakey-cam urban warfare. While this is one of the Bard’s more obscure works, it plays to plenty of his pet themes including family vs. country, loyalty, betrayal, exile, and the abuse of power.
Fiennes delivers a big and bold performance in the lead while nurturing equally strong work out of his incredible cast including the dependably strong Brian Cox, the sadly underused Vanessa Redgrave, the incandescent Jessica Chastain (who is apparently in every movie these days), and the surprisingly good Gerard Butler. (Moving on from Jennifer Aniston rom-coms to Shakespeare. Who saw that coming?)
Coriolanus is an impressive piece of work that brings the play to the big screen for the first time and really my only complaint is that the modern setting felt unnecessary and I wish it had simply been a period piece. Still, Fiennes proves surprisingly adept as a director his first time out, staging action set pieces and long dialogue scenes with equal skill. Hopefully it won’t be his last Shakespeare adaptation. Now that Kenneth Branagh is busying himself with campy comic book blockbusters, we need someone handling big screen Shakespeare movies. Otherwise how are ADD-addled high school students supposed to make it through English class? By reading? I’m sorry, but that ain’t gonna happen.