Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: The Gift

I’ve been giving a lot of money to radical organizations lately. I even broke my ban on buying novels to purchase Eric Bogosian’s “Mall”, which I bought a donated copy of at the Housing Works Bookstore & CafĂ© on Crosby St. in SoHo where I had just watched Eric give a reading. The Housing Works is a non-profit organization that raises money to help homeless people with AIDS and I wanted to give them a couple bucks. The parts of the novel Eric read were funny and the book is fairly short, so I bought it for the hell of it.

The week before Bogosian’s reading, I was at the Housing Works to hear a lecture by FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) about the relationship of the mainstream press and George W. Bush (this was a couple days before the inauguration). I wasn’t so crazy about the lecture.

Peter Hart, a writer for FAIR’s quarterly magazine, “Extra!”, talked for a little bit, but I thought he was much too vague, which was odd because Peter wrote an awesome, detailed article about the same subject for the current edition of Extra!. After Peter spoke Alexander Cockburn, who was very witty and entertaining, but he didn’t seem too interested in talking about the specific topic so I didn’t learn any specific information from him either. Alexander is a freelance radical writer, mostly for The Nation, his own newsletter called CounterPunch and I think his most recent book was “Al Gore: A User’s Manual” (those last two are and were co-written with Jeffrey St. Clair).

I’ve given FAIR a lot of money within the past year and, no, I’m not going to define “a lot” but it’s a decent amount. They’re kind of hurting for money, so whenever they send me something asking for some more I dash off a check or donate by credit card over their website. I just think they’re the greatest organization. I subscribe to “Extra!” and for each issue FAIR provides excellent analysis of the deceptive practices of the mainstream media. They really let you know the truth behind what you don’t know but think you do.

I also like giving money to organizations to get reading material, but non-fiction, unlike getting Bogosian’s “Mall”. Like I said, I subscribe to “Extra!”, but that doesn’t count as a donation (in tax terms). But they have other premiums for other donations, such as “It’s the Media, Stupid” by Robert McChesney and John Nichols. I also got a slew of books the last time I gave a check to FAIR, but they haven’t come in the mail yet and I kinda forget what they were.

The Worldwatch Institute, a global environmental organization, just sent me their “State of the World 2001”, which I haven’t read yet. But I’m in the middle of another book written by Worldwatch’s VP for Research, Hilary French called “Vanishing Borders: Protecting the Planet in the Age of Globalization”, which is not some mamby-pamby environmental mumbo-jumbo but diligently discusses the connection between business and the environment and where, if used responsibly, a global organization like the WTO could help stop the ever expanding hole in the ozone layer, for example. Of course, that’s not bloody likely in reality, but Hilary does advocate the creation of a WEO, a World Environment Organization, formed out of combining several agencies of the U.N. that already exist.

I’ve also given a couple of bucks to Human Rights Watch, but haven’t gotten any “gifts” from them except some snazzy folders and papers that contain info on what their up to.

While I’m nervous about becoming an irresponsible yuppie-type who throws some money at “do-gooder” organizations and hope they take care of the problems of the world to assuage my own “liberal guilt”, but I figure at this point in time it’s the best I can do. At least I run a goofy little website that spreads the word about these fine folks.

Oh yeah, the movie, THE GIFT. It’s about a different kind of “gift”, not ones given to help fund activist organizations (I had to tie these two topics together somehow). Cate Blanchett, who is SO amazingly cute in this movie, has a psychic “gift” that she uses to help solve the murder of a young socialite.

After the flick was over, I realized it was just an extended “Twilight Zone” episode, but Cate is just plain awesome in the movie and it helps elevate the film to another level. Sam Raimi, who got famous for directing off-the-wall horror movies like THE EVIL DEAD series, shot THE GIFT in the reserved manner of A SIMPLE PLAN. As much as I love the EVIL DEAD movies and as much as I’m a huge Raimi fan because of them, I might have to go as far to say that THE GIFT is his best horror movie. While the EVIL DEAD movies have so much spunk and manic energy to them, they weren’t the best scripted and/or acted movies ever made. THE GIFT is beautifully paced (and probably too “slow” for a lot of people) and with a great performance by Cate and some good ones by the rest of the cast (except I still can’t accept Keanu Reeves as an actor), it’s a really good flick.