Saturday, February 13, 2016

Two Tasty Indie Comedies


Angry Michael Moore and Gentle Jewish Comedy “Dough”

By Skip Sheffield

For this week’s art house films we have Michael Moore’s latest angry tirade “Where to Invade Next” and the Jewish comedy “Dough.”
In “Where to Invade Next,” Moore explores how life is much easier in European and one African country in which basic needs such as medical care, higher education, healthy food and paid vacations are provided by the state rather than private, for-profit providers as in the USA.
I can just hear naysayers ranting that Moore is subversive, un-American, socialist or even Communist. The “invasion” is undertaken by Moore himself as he visits various countries and plants an American flag, declaring they are “conquered.” Obviously the whole scenario in tongue-in-cheek, but Moore does raise the valid point that Americans are work and profit-obsessed to the detriment of enjoying the finer things in life.
It is no mistake that the first country Moore visits is Italy, where “La Dolce Vita” is a way of life. Moore hitched a ride ironically and intentionally on the U.S. Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. Moore visits a young Italian couple, Gianni and Christina Fancelli, who describe their work and lifestyle. The couple receives eight weeks paid vacation per year. The entire country of Italy pretty much shuts down in the month of August, while everyone goes on holiday. Lunch is a leisurely two hours, usually spent at home. Women receive fine months’ paid maternity leave.
How does anything get done? You might wonder. Moore visits Lardini Men’s Fashions, where some of the finest suits in the world are produced. He visits Ducati, the world-class motorcycle company revered by enthusiasts the world over.
Next stop is France, where Moore visits school children in their cafeteria, enjoying gourmet-quality healthy lunches. Moore smuggles in a Coca-Cola and none of the kids even wants to taste it.
Finland enjoys the highest standard of education in the world, and it is all free. U.S. is number 29.
Even in Slovenia the standard of living is higher than the U.S.A. In Norway they gave up on their war on drugs 15 years ago and crime went down.
Call Michael Moore a crank, but his points are well-taken. America spends 60 percent on the military, with dubious results. America has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world, and one of the highest rates of recidivism (near 80 percent of prisoners are re-arrested).
It is possible to love the U.S.A. and at the same time admit we are a bit uptight and no fun. It helps to travel and see how others live. If you can’t, this is an educational, satirical travelogue.

A Feel-Good “Dough”

“Dough” is a niche film under the subhead Jewish comedy. Jonathan Pryce plays Nat Dayan, the aging proprietor of a London Kosher bakery that has been in his family more than 100 years. Nat’s son Stephen has become a lawyer and wants no part of the bakery business. Nat’s customers are either dying of old age or leaving. His apprentice (Andrew Ellis) has been lured away by an entrepreneur (Ian Hart) who is starting a rival super market. After a fruitless search, Nat decides to give young African Muslim Ayyash (Jerome Holder) a chance despite their difference in religion. Ayyash needs a “cover job” because his real occupation is dealing pot for a local mob boss.
One day when cops unexpectedly arrive, Ayyash ditches a bag of weed into the dough. The resulting Challah is a huge success, though no one knows why the bread makes them feel so good.
A humorous subplot is the tentative romance between Nat and the recently-widowed landlady Joanna (Pauline Collins), who is threatening to sell the building from under Nat.

“Dough” is a gentle, kinder comedy that shows with understanding, people of differing views can work together.

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