Dr. M and I hail from a generation when the reviews of influential film critics played a determinative role in which movies you decided to see. Social media changed that, the availability of many critical reactions diluting the formerly dominating voices of the Siskels, the Eberts and the Kaels.
Despite today’s proliferation of opinions, we still adhere to the newspaper reviews. Why? Habit and laziness. And you don’t have to access an “app”. (Or is it an “ap”? You can’t do it if you can’t spell it.) Using the paper, you go to the “Entertainment Section” and there it is. There’s nothing to it. You just need to know how to read.
Most movies debut on Fridays, to take advantage of the weekend attendance. Friday mornings, we open the paper, we check out the latest movie reviews, and if they like something, we go, often that very evening, because our lives are relatively empty.
The trouble is, many veteran film critics, forced to sit through uninspired programming tailored to… not them… end up as a consequence overpraising any movie that is not fast and furious, in which no major municipality is decimated.
Then we go to the movie they recommended, and it’s like, “They went crazy about that?”
I feel sorry for film critics. They signed on for the job because they were passionate about movies. The movie business then took a profits-maximizing “Right” and now they’re critiquing Armageddonal carnage and capes.
No Marty. No Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. (There are still a few Wes Andersons, Richard Linklaters and Nicole Holofceners making personal movies, but mostly it’s “We blew up ‘The Mother Ship’ real good! Then we hired a comedy writer to throw in some memorable punchlines. “Oh really. You’re cold.” Star Wars – 2015)
All this to introduce my reaction to The Tenth Man, a slight, Argentinian movie over-hyped by a beleaguered Los Angeles film critic because it’s about ordinary people rather than the end of the world as we know it.
In The Tenth Man, a former denizen of Buenos Aires returns from New York to introduce his scheduled-to-arrive girlfriend to his father, but his girlfriend is delayed permanently in New York and his father is too busy to meet with him.
The lead character is played, not by a Channing Tatum lookalike, but by a balding, bulging middle-aged actor, a physiognomical cross between Louie C.K. and Jason Alexander.
There is no chance of this man becoming an international heartthrob. Which is the essence his “Everyman” appeal, reflective of the film’s overall ambience, reminiscent of an unmade Argentinian bed.
The guy’s preoccupied father heads up not the South American counterpart of a Fortune 500 corporation but an overtaxed (Jewish) volunteer community trying to help their needy constituents any possible way they can. (Finding Velcro sneakers for a man too ill to tie his own laces. Lifting needed prescription drugs from the empty apartments of recently deceased community members who passed away with a few pills still remaining in the pharmacy bottles.)
As the narrative unfolds, the “lost” visitor gradually relaxes, surrendering to the needs of the community as well as its cultural, Jewish underpinnings.
I like these kinds of movies, a spiritually impacted person awakened to life’s nourishing possibilities. It doesn’t have to be Jewish, or religious in any traditional way. One of my favorite films is Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero (1983), where the lead character, a no-nonsense American businessman discovers wonder and redemption in the genuine simplicity of Scottish villagers, augmented by magical meteor showers.
It’s nice watching someone transitioning from empty to fulfilled. (I find “There’s hope for everyone” to be is a resonating message.) Nobody rescues the universe in The Tenth Man. But they were able to procure meat for the Purim celebration.
Which in its life-sized way is equally heroic.
And there you have it – an “Okay-Plus” movie (for me, Dr. M didn’t care for it) with a holiday accomplishment. And for the lucky few of us, a bonus, liturgical sing-along.
“gahC miruP, gahC miruP,
gahC hehpaY midaliY’L…” *
(* Written right to left for your Hebraical convenience.)