The Fog Of War: 9 out of 10. Errol Morris, one of the great documentary film makers, made a film featuring conversations with Robert McNamara. McNamara was Secretary of Defense under JFK and Lyndon Johnson for 7 years, head of the world bank for more than a decade, and president of Ford Motors for about as long as a cup of coffee. As Piers Handling said when introducing Morris, he doesn’t make judgments about his subjects, instead putting everything out there and letting the audience decide. It was fascinating to see this man who was instrumental in the fire-bombings of Tokyo, in the Vietnam war, in the Cuban missile crisis and the cold war in general, to see him explain these decisions and directions not with remorse, but with the questioning nature that wisdom and distance has brought him. He criticizes Curtis LeMay and praises him (or, rather, parts of his nature) in the same breath. He cries when he talks about JFK. He defends Lyndon Johnson furiously, even though audio tapes show that he disagreed with Johnson over Vietnam and tried hard to keep them out (and later withdraw). He refuses to talk about some topics, but then speaks of them anyway. He talks about the use of power and how it should have been applied differently in Vietnam, about the dangers of empire, when you suddenly realize he’s really talking about the current US administration. And I’m blown away by how similar his early footage is to how Donald Rumsfeld acts at the podium now, as if Rumsfeld modelled himself after McNamara; I found myself wondering if, in 35 years, we’ll see Rumsfeld in a documentary.
Alien: 10 out of 10, obviously. It’s the quintessential sci-fi thriller/horror/tension movie, so there was no question of that. What made it extra-special cool was that Sir Ridley Scott sat 20 feet away from us and watched it with us. Yaphet Kotto was there too, and he’s huge…I had no idea how huge the man was. People still jumped during the scary parts, even though everyone’s seen it god knows how many times. And it was weird to watch Bilbo spew white fluid and attack Sigourney Weaver sans head. Anyway, Ridley Scott spoke before the movie started about the making of it, and both he and Yaphet Kotto answered questions after. We only stayed for a few, as they were either a) specific to the craft of directing, or b) seriously sci-fi/film geek questions (e.g., “there was a real mother/martyr theme throughout the 4 movies…can you speak to that?”). But it was just super-cool to watch a classic film in a cramped theatre with the be-knighted director sitting a few rows away. I love the film festival.