Fiddler on the Roof – I’d been meaning to see this for some time, but the length put me off somewhat. I was familiar with some of the songs (and, in some cases, parodies of the songs), but not much beyond that. It’s based on a stage musical, which in turn was based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories about Tevye the Dairyman, resident of a small Jewish shtetl in Tsarist Russia. Zero Mostel popularized the role on Broadway, but director and producer Norman Jewison apparently thought he’d just come across as playing himself on film, so instead gave the main role to Chaim Topol, credited simply with his last name. It’s a fascinating and emotional look at life in that time and place, as well as an exploration of when tradition conflicts with morality. Tevye, and the community at large, rely on their traditions to find direction in life, but Tevye’s daughters go against these traditions with their choices of husband, whom they find on their own instead of going through a matchmaker. The first marries her childhood sweetheart, the second a Marxist revolutionary who becomes a friend of the the family, and the third a Christian. He comes around on the first two, as he feels that his daughters’ happiness is more important; but is intractable on the third, and disowns her. Still, there might be some indication of a hope of reconciliation at the end, when he finally deigns to speak to her. I think the whole dilemma really comes down to the difference between having your own beliefs and forcing them on others, even family. Nobody was trying to force Tevye to stop practicing his traditions himself, just to accept that his children might think differently. But then, I’ve also never been part of a poor, ostracized minority in a hostile nation. They made the character out to be sympathetic even when he’s in the wrong, helped out by the fact that he vocalizes pretty much every thought he has in conversations with God. Eventually, they’re all forced out of the area and have to move elsewhere, to New York in the case of Tevye’s family. I did find it weirdly amusing that the butcher who initially wants to marry Tevye’s eldest daughter Tseitl is named Lazzar Wolf, pronounced like “laser wolf,” which sounds like could have been a cartoon in the 1980s. And the man she does marry is named Motel, albeit pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable. Not that lasers or motels were things back when Aleichem invented the characters; it’s just kind of funny in retrospect.
Fahrenheit 11/9 – Michael Moore’s look at Donald Trump’s rise to power is pretty depressing, considering that he’s just gotten worse since the movie came out in 2018. Like in all Moore’s films, there’s humor, but it’s kind of harder to laugh at it than in his previous works. He talks a lot about the Flint water crisis, which makes sense as it’s a place I really only knew about from Moore himself, but has made national news, and not in a good way. Moore suggests that Trump’s initial announcement about running for President, which he didn’t even mean at the time, was a reaction to finding out Gwen Stefani made more money on The Voice than he did on The Apprentice. I have no idea if this is true, and Moore often doesn’t cite his sources, but it’s very much in character for Trump. The documentary goes on to say Trump was really surprised by his win, but since then he’s used already established authoritarian techniques to promote his agenda. The Democrats aren’t spared either, as Moore describes a general turn away from liberal values starting with Bill Clinton. He certainly isn’t the only person who’s talked about this; I see articles about it pretty often, and it definitely seems to bear out in the words and actions of mainstream Democrats. And it doesn’t help that, in the time since then, another moderate was elected to run against Trump. Sure, I’ll vote for Biden; it’s not like I have strong dislike for the man, although I’ll admit I haven’t looked into the rape allegation. While he’s still nowhere near as bad as Trump (in that respect or any other one, really), I think that’s the kind of thing where even one time should be enough to disqualify someone from public office. It’s interesting, because Biden seems to have always been the favorite of the Democratic establishment, but he came across as a bit of an unprepared doofus in the debates, especially when contrasted with so many other candidates with actual platforms. But it’s not like I see any reason to think anyone cheated in the primaries; it’s just that my own opinions and those of the people I follow online probably aren’t representative of the nation. I do, however, wonder what the appeal of the Republican-Lite candidates really is. Then again, in this particular election, there are many actual right-wing Republicans I’d rather have in office than the current guy. I’ve gotten off the track here, I suppose, but the movie did make me think of those things.
I was a little shocked when I found out Topol was only thirty six when they shot Fiddler. They did make him look older for the film, but with some people, it’s genuinely hard to tell. Gwen Stefani is fifty one, but barely seems to have changed at all in the past quarter of a century… though it’s possible she may have have had some work done. I don’t know. But then, of course, there’s Billie Burke, who appeared way more youthful than Margaret Hamilton when they did The Wizard of Oz, even though Burke was fifty four and Hamilton was thirty eight.
Sure, I’d prefer Biden in the White House instead of the current occupant, but I’d also rather drink spoiled milk than drink bleach. One is obviously less harmful, though it’s still hardly an appealing choice.
Whoops, Hamilton was actually 36 when she did The Wizard of Oz, the same age as Topol in Fiddler in the Roof. I should have double checked before I posted that comment.