Today's DVDs & Blu-rays: Saying No to Pinochet, Halle Berry Gets The Call and More
We enthusiastically recommend Pablo Larraín's No, the true story of a marketing campaign that toppled a dictator. In 1988, General Augusto Pinochet gives in to international pressure and allows a general vote to be taken in Chile - a yes vote means Pinochet stays in power another eight years, a no vote means he goes. Gael Garcia Bernal plays René Saavedra, the ad exec that comes in to handle the campaign for the No side. Instead of trying to unmask Pinochet's faults (and there were plenty), Saavedra equates a No vote with happiness. Saavedra uses advertising strategies to sell the idea of a better life, with no specifics - no promises of more jobs or better health care, just images of families having picnics in the countryside and such. Sort of like Coke's "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" campaign, only with death squads instead of sodas. Remarkably, the campaign works - the Chilean people vote for the intangible happiness and Pinochet gets tossed out of power. The 2012 Chilean release was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. (It lost to Amour by Michael Haneke.)
The Call (a.k.a. Another Example of Good Actors Making Bad Movies) made lots of Worst Film of the Year Lists and deservedly so. We mention it here more as a warning (We're sure producers and studio execs think that just by having Berry's beautiful face on the cover of the DVD, The Call should sell a few thousand copies. That's probably true, but let's not give them any more money than absolutely necessary.)
The plot, even by Hollywood standards, is implausible. Filled with holes, the storyline is made up of a series of unlikely coincidences and even more unlikely actions by supposedly responsible, caring people. Berry plays a 9-1-1- operator who, haunted by a past mistake that cost a young girl her life, is caught up in kidnapping. We say "caught up," but that stretches the point of her actual involvement. Berry's character spends most of her time on the phone listening to the kidnap victim and looking either angry, afraid or agitated. Sometimes she flexes those Oscar-winning muscles and tries to do two at a time. (From what we can see, it's a strain.)
Focusing on the turmoil of a 9-1-1 operator seems a good idea. Lots of built-in drama as one person listens to another undergo a terrible ordeal and is unable to do anything about it. Guilt, helplessness, fear are sure to be in overdrive, giving the actors lots of opportunity to show emotion. It's in the execution that The Call fails. For a better version of this story premise, check out The Slender Thread with Sidney Poitier and Anne Bancroft. The 1965 thriller was director Sydney Pollack's first movie.
Finally, Art Car: The Movie is available online. DVD, Blu-ray and instant video versions are available, with lots of extras on each of the discs. The filmmakers tells us "we'd of course rather you buy the DVD or Blu-ray so YOU get all the extras and WE get all the money!"