Monday, December 5, 2011

"Into the Abyss" of Life and Death

“Into the Abyss” a Documentary on Death

By Skip Sheffield

More people are executed in Texas than any other state in the union. Not surprisingly, German filmmaker Werner Herzog set his death penalty documentary, “Into the Abyss,” in Conroe, Texas.
The first person we meet is the prison chaplain, Rev. Richard Lopez.
“Why does God allow capital punishment,” he wonders out loud. “Life is precious.”
Apparently life isn’t very precious in the dusty, run-down town of Conroe. Ten years previously two teenage hoodlums talked their way into a woman’s home and then brutally killed her just to steal her red Camaro. They later return and killed the woman’s teenaged son and his friend.
Now 26, Michael James Perry has been on death row for ten years. His accomplice, Jason Burkett, plea-bargained for a lesser life sentence. Perry has reached the end of the line. He will be executed by lethal injection in one week.
Like many who are facing the final curtain, Perry has found religion. He is contrite about what he has done and resigned to his fate. He is even curiously cheerful.
In painstaking detail Herzog reconstructs the events of that terrible night by interviewing witnesses, survivors and family members. Again it comes as no surprise that both Perry’s father and his brother have done jail time. His father is in for life.
Herzog makes no moral judgments other than to say he doesn’t think it is right for the state to take away the life of a human being. I don’t believe “Into the Abyss” will change anyone’s mind about capital punishment, but it does help one understand how horribly wrong a young life can go, and the damage and pain it inflicts on anyone it touches. The only thing I know for certain is that I am really glad I don’t live in Texas. If ever there were a Chamber of Commerce nightmare, this is it.

“Answers to Nothing” is Nothing Much

“Answers to Nothing” is as vapid and vacuous as it title and setting.
Written and directed by Matthew Leutwyler, “Answers to Nothing” explores the sleazy lives of sleazy characters in the sleazy City of Los Angeles.
All right, not all of the characters are sleazy. One of them is a guy in a wheelchair preparing for the LA Marathon. Another is a cop grieving over the death of his wife. For the record the cast includes Dane Cook, Elizabeth Mitchell, Julie Benz and Barbara Hershey. I would humbling suggest something more uplifting. How about “The Muppet Movie,” or “The Descendants?”

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