The Fisher King

The Fisher King includes several brief depictions of physically disabled people, as well as Robin Williams in a not-exactly-clinically-accurate-but-lovable! depiction of a former professor suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (After witnessing the brutal murder of his wife at the hands of a mentally ill man, he spends some time catatonic “in a mental place on Staten Island” and emerges believing he’s a knight on a holy quest.) The gunman, clearly very lonely and seeking advice on talking to a woman, had been goaded into shooting up a popular bar by radio shock-jock protagonist Jack. When he learns of the effect of his bullying, Jack in turn becomes suicidally despondent and attempts to drown himself. In a twist of fate, Jack is introduced to Parry (who is accompanied by a couple other homeless men, one using crutches) and experiences the painful flutterings of an awakening of conscience.

Parry takes him back to the basement he’s been crashing in, where it becomes obvious that he not only has auditory hallucinations but tries to enlist Jack on his quest for the Holy Grail. Jack tries to give him a little money instead, but Parry’s kind “landlord” (who wears an old-fashioned hearing aid in one ear) explains that Parry needs much more than a few dollars to regain what he had lost. Perry tells Jack the story of the Fisher King and the festering wound he received, mirroring the wounds they’ve received in life (and manifest in Jack’s bandaged hand).

Both a motorized wheelchair user and a little person wearing a business suit are milling about in the background when Parry takes Jack to see Lydia, the woman he admires from afar. Parry then shows Jack the “castle” of wealthy philanthropist Landon Carmichael, from whom Parry intends to steal the Grail. (In this high-rent district, there’s another person in a wheelchair, this time an elderly lady being pushed by a uniformed attendant.)

Jack balks at the dangerous plan and suddenly tries to confront Parry with the reality of his identity. Parry is quickly overwhelmed and has a screaming fit, running away to a nearby park where he snaps out of it to come to the aid of an injured and incoherent gay man. Jack and Parry take “Venice” to a crowded, dirty public hospital for medical attention, and Jack’s introduction to the disparities in health care between the rich and the poor.

Jack’s education continues with a trip to Grand Central, where he strikes up a conversation with a disabled veteran begging for spare change. Someone tosses a coin on the floor where the wheelchair-using man can’t reach to pick it up.

“He didn’t even look at you.”
“Well, he’s paying so he don’t have to look.”
“Say, guy goes to work every day eight hours a day, seven days a week. He starts questioning the very fabric of his existence. Then one day about quitting time the boss calls him into the office and says, “Hey Bob, why don’t you come on in here and kiss my ass for me, will you?”
“Well,” he says, “hell with it. I don’t care what happens. I just want to see the expression on his face as I jam this pair of scissors into his arm.”
Then he thinks of me. He says “Wait a minute. I got both my arms, I got both my legs. At least I’m not begging for a living.” Sure enough, Bob’s going to put those scissors down and pucker right up. See, I’m what you call a moral traffic light, really. I’m, like, saying “Red. Go no further. Boop… boop…”

A successful first date with Lydia sets up an internal conflict for Parry, and he has a showdown with The Red Knight, the symbol of his trauma. He becomes stupefied with fear, and is taken back to a mental hospital. Lydia oversees his care, providing cutesy sheets and demanding he be clad in pajamas instead of a hospital gown, but this isn’t enough to wake the prince. Jack presents the Grail and Parry magically wakes up, restored to sanity (and with no side effects from the psychoactive drugs he was probably pumped full of) and ready to lead a chorus of “the bungled and the botched” in song.

FLO

Despite blindness, multiple sclerosis, and lung cancer, photographer Flo Fox continues to shoot the streets of New York City. No longer able to hold a camera, she instructs her aides to take photos for her. Be sure to visit her website at http://www.flofox.com/.

Ninja Turtles Casts Seinfeld Alum Danny Woodburn as Splinter

from Spin-OffOnline: Ninja Turtles Casts Seinfeld Alum Danny Woodburn as Splinter
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now have their leader!

After casting Alan Ritchson as Raphael, Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, Jeremy Howard as Donatello, Pete Ploszek as Leonardo and Megan Fox as April O’Neal, director Jonathan Liebesman and producer Michael Bay have found Splinter. According to Deadline, Danny Woodburn will play the role of the mutated-rat sensei in Paramount Pictures’ Ninja Turtles.

Woodburn, who might be best known as Mickey on Seinfeld, also has recurring roles on Bones and the Disney XD series Crash & Bernstein, and appeared in Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts.

The controversial franchise reboot, which blends live-action and motion-capture, reimagines the title characters as aliens rather than pet-store reptiles who were transformed by exposure to radioactive goo. Ninja Turtles is schedule to open June 6, 2014.

Don’t miss the East Coast premiere of “KRUTCH”!

Don’t miss the East Coast premiere of “KRUTCH”!

This Just In, Less than 24 hours to Purchase Advance Sale Tickets for the East Coast Premier of “KRUTCH”.

KRUTCH is a five minute experimental short exploring sex, disability, gender and perception on the streets and sheets of New York City. Produced by Mat Fraser, Directed by Matthew Clark and Performed by Mia Gimp. There is no dialog and, audio description is available upon request.

KRUTCH is being screened as part of the 10th Anniversary CineKink Film Festival at Anthology Film Archives: 32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St.). http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/contact/directions

To purchase a 50% discount ticket use code “entourage2013” (on advance purchase only): http://cinekinknyc2013.eventbrite.com/#
Ticket Pricing: $10/door; $9/advance; $7/seniors & students. 18 and over only.

Due to limited accessibility of the Theatre and an oversight by CineKink Festival Director, there are two screenings of this film during the festival:

Accessible Option THIS Wednesday, February 27th at 9:30pm
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/337457189698647/
CineKink Link: http://cinekink.com/programs-and-events/nyc/cinekink-nyc-2013/wednesday-february-27-930-pm/

Non-Accessible Option on Saturday, March 2nd at 7:15pm
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/124198921091557/
CineKink Link: http://cinekink.com/programs-and-events/nyc/cinekink-nyc-2013/saturday-march-2-715-pm/
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Directions to Anthology Film Archives:
http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/contact/directions
Bus:
M15 to 3rd Street & 2nd Ave.

Subway:
F train to 2nd Avenue, travel two blocks north on 2nd Avenue to 2nd Street.
Accessible Station: #6 to Bleecker St./BDFM Broadway/Lafayette (Check Elevator Status in Advance). Travel one block north on Lafayette, then two blocks east on Bond St. (turns into 2nd St.) to 2nd Avenue.

Accessibility of the Theatre:
There is a 2in. step at the entrance of the building. There is a portable ramp available. The screening room has a 32in. entrance and 20ft. x 6ft. of space in front of the raked seating for wheelchair users.

Marwencol

Marwencol is the fictional miniature town creation of artist Mark Hogancamp, who uses the model-building and elaborate staged scenarios of his World War II-inspired tableaux as both occupational therapy and art therapy following an assault by a group of men which left him with physical injuries, brain damage, and a side order of PTSD. (It is explained in one of the deleted scenes from the “extras” section of the DVD that the fictional WWII era Belgian town’s name is an amalgam of “Mark” and some female friends’ names.)

Mark had had artistic inclinations before the assault, in which a group of teenage boys literally kicked his head and stomped on his face, after they had overheard him telling someone in a bar that he was an occasional cross-dresser. In the movie, he shows some of the drawings he had made prior to the attack, and explains that his hands are now too shaky to do similar drawings, so the model-making that goes into his modified dolls, miniature interior and exterior settings, and vehicles contributes to his own efforts to restore his coordination and former spatial abilities. Mark’s pre-injury drawings were used as State’s evidence in proving the extent of the damage to his brain by showing how the assault had affected his abilities afterwards.

Mark’s extensive brain injuries had the effect of separating him from certain aspects of his past. His case of amnesia is serious enough that he claims not to clearly remember having been married. He had the wedding picture and every so often, he said, he would get (mental) “snapshots”, the occasional visual memory from his past, but nothing cogent, no clear narrative of the time they were together or particulars about her. He refers to the time after the injury as his “second life”. He not only got a second chance at life when he could have died, but he had the opportunity to “start fresh” in areas of his life he otherwise might not have. He showed on camera a set of self-written and illustrated graphic novel type books which he called “the alcohol journals” in which, prior to the injury, he had documented alcohol-motivated behavior. His former employer said on camera that he had often been absent from work due to his former life as a problem drinker. Since the amnesia from the injury resulted in his not being able to remember the feelings he got from alcohol, he said he decided to stay away from alcohol for the future, thus effectively ending a path of alcohol abuse.

It is explained elsewhere in the film that Mark received only a limited amount of occupational therapy following the reconstructive surgery on his face. The extent of the damage to his brain was such that Mark had to start life after the injury from almost the beginning, having to literally learn to walk again. Samples of writing exercises are shown in which Mark was directed to practice pre-writing motions in order to re-learn the strokes to write in cursive. The powers-that-be discontinued all such rehabilitative therapy well before it could be said that Mark was restored to his former abilities. As an example of this, in one part of the film, Mark is shown walking by the side of the road with a model vehicle on a string. He explains that though a disability such as his brain injury is not obvious to others, it affects common everyday activities such as this. He cannot “walk and look around” as others do. If he takes his eyes away from the white line at the side of the road on which he is walking, he soon finds himself straying far from the line and in danger from the traffic.

Less tangible, but still in need of remediation, is the emotional fallout from the event. Mark uses the sort of doll play (stories and scenarios in a tangible, time-specific setting) commonly associated with little girls, to work out some of his feelings about the assault and his place in the world in general. Having unwittingly re-invented play therapy, Mark voices the regret that he has no one to talk to. If he had psychotherapy or counseling of any kind, it has not been continued. He presumably lives on Social Security Disability payments and works 1 day a week in a restaurant called The Anchorage, where he had worked full-time prior to the incident. Most of the women he meets are married or otherwise uninterested, so he reproduces them in doll form and adds them to his storyline. His friends are baffled but honored to be added to his “collection” and fantasy world as “good guys”. The “bad guys” are society’s easy targets: male dolls in SS uniforms, though Marwencol is an otherwise strangely peaceable town where 1/6 scale German and Allied uniformed action figures lay aside their arms, go to the miniature bar, party, and have a good time. His fantasy world has a disproportionately high female population: 27 Barbies. After having been assaulted, he clearly identifies with the female characters’ vulnerability, and stages a scenario in which the Barbies gruesomely defeat the Nazis.

Mark Hogancamp poses and photographs action figures in the fictional WWII era Belgian town Marwencol.

Mark Hogancamp poses and photographs action figures in the fictional WWII era Belgian town Marwencol.

A photographer friend gives him a camera, enabling Mark to photograph his tableaux. The photographs and story scenario become good enough for Eospus magazine to publish. The editor arranges an art exhibition in NYC at White Columns gallery for Mark’s photos and some of his dioramas. It is with mixed feelings and some trepidation that Mark puts together the pieces for the gallery show (he is afraid of having them lost, damaged, or otherwise taken away from him). However, though the PTSD causes him to fear large numbers of people and retreat from noise and hustle and bustle, he recognizes that people want to meet the artist, so being physically present in NYC for the gallery opening of his show is a necessary evil.

Ingelore

The JCC in Manhattan presents:

The remarkable story of Ingelore Herz Honigstein, who was born deaf in 1924 to Jewish parents in Germany. At the age of 13 her childhood was interrupted by the rise of the Third Reich. Mixed with re-enacted drama and archival footage, Honigstein retells her tale in spoken English and ASL.

This program is put on in collaboration with HBO.

Ingelore will be shown tonight, May 2, starting at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free, but due to limited space, advance registration is recommended. For more information, visit this page or call 646-505-5708.

Sprout Film Festival, w. captioned version of Willowbrook exposé, April 29 – May 1

The 2011 Sprout Film Festival will take place the weekend of Friday April 29 – Sunday May 1 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Fifty unique, entertaining and memorable films (Aspergers, Down syndrome, brain injury, autism, intellectual disability) from 16 different countries will be featured.

Tickets for many of the programs are still available. Discounted tickets are offered to students, elderly, groups and people with disabilities.

In addition to the film festival Sprout is honored to offer a captioned version of the Willowbrook: the Last Great Disgrace exposé through sproutflix. (Image from the film pictured.)

Focusing on an institution located in Staten Island, NY, this film, produced by Albert Primo, with reporter, Geraldo Rivera, was one of the first exposés on local television. As a result of its airing on WABC-TV in 1972, the manner of treating people with disabilities was forever changed.

Wretches and Jabberers to open at AMC Theaters starting April 1st

Wretches and Jabberers

Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability, intelligence and communication.

Wretches and Jabberers is a poignant narrative directed by Academy Award winner Gerardine Wurzburg that follows two men with autism, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette, who embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability, intelligence and communication. More information on the film can be found at wretchesandjabberers.org.

For a detailed list of cities and to buy tickets visit amctheaters.com/wretchesandjabberers.

Special offer to friends of ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival:
Enter code NYTAS for a $20 ticket for the NY Times Talk Changing the Face of Autism on Wednesday, March 30, at the New York Times building in New York City.

Mary and Max

Mary and Max

Mary, who experiences alienation in every aspect of her life, starts out with parents who are poor, weird, and unsympathetic (her father is into taxidermy, her mother is an alcoholic who seems to do nothing but yell at her) and eventually end up dead. The visible evidence that she is neglected at home makes her a pariah at school in spite of the fact that it is the other children who are overtly engaging in bad behavior (at one point, she comes to school with a coat fastened with clothespins because her pet chicken pecked off the buttons and nobody sewed them back on, and other children harrass her in the schoolyard, with one boy going so far as to pee on her sandwich in plain sight). In an attempt to remedy her loneliness, she picks Max’s name at random out of a phone book, and is lucky enough to get a reply back from someone who is obviously sympathetic and intelligent.  Max’s letters ring true to Asperger’s style: full of plain speaking, factual details, and jumping from one topic to another, but in the eyes of society and her mother, potentially dangerous and unsuitable for children. Maybe it was Max’s mention of having been a mental patient, or the frank but inappropriate discussion of his sex life (or rather, the lack thereof) that sets the mother off when she finds the first letter and throws it away, believing she is protecting her child. In spite of how this looks to her mother (and most average people), correspondence with someone who has been in her shoes as a social outcast is exactly what Mary needs. Contrary to a lot of recent portrayals, it is possible for people with Asperger’s to have friends, but in view of the fact that some of the things they do and say go against society’s notion of what is considered appropriate, this perhaps can lead to a bonding with people on the margins of society.

(Speaking of inappropriate things and portrayals of sexuality, Australia’s movie and video industry must have somewhat different standards of what is considered appropriate to show in a picture purportedly for children than prevail in the USA. Let’s just say this was the first time I’ve seen claymation genitals.)

Luckily for Mary’s emotional equilibrium, she is in a position to send another letter in which she describes the situation to Max, and comes up with a solution: he will henceforth send his letters to the address of an elderly neighbor whom she helps out.

The premise of the possibility of pen pals who can have a years-long and very intense relationship without engaging in physical contact of any sort is a theme of this and a handful of other films such as My Japanese Wife (perhaps it is increasing in popularity as global communications of every sort are becoming more widespread?)

Admittedly, some of the reactions they have to one another’s letters seem exaggerated for effect, such as the fact that Max’s objection to being used as a case study for the sake of her career in psychology sends her into a spiral of suicidality and some of Mary’s letters sent Max into “meltdown” mode and in one case, effected his return to the mental health system (where he would be told he had Asperger’s Syndrome, in spite of the fact that it was way too early in the timeline for such a thing to be possible in real life, as Asperger’s was only recognized by the American Psychological Association in 1994. And yes, someone who really does have Asperger’s really would have a problem with a purportedly serious and sensitive movie set in a specific temporal period getting a widely-known piece of factual information so glaringly wrong!)

In spite of the claymation medium, which is usually reserved for less-than-serious examples of the cinematic oeuvre, I found myself liking the overall gestalt of this picture in spite of having some problems with particular parts of it.

Movie Review by Laura Brose