After Last Train Home, Friday's second documentary, Human Terrain, was a bit of a disappointment. The end result of trying to blend (at least) three subjects into one was disjointed. I would have appreciated a film that more fully investigated the military's Human Terrain System*, wherein soldiers are trained to understand the language and culture of Iraq's and Afghanistan's citizens. (You decide whether the goal is to reduce casualties and "win hearts and minds," or to gather intelligence. Or both.) I also would've appreciated a film that more fully investigated the controversial role of anthropologists and other social scientists in the program. However, the film veered off to focus on a particular scholar-humanitarian embedded with U.S forces, Michael Bhatia, and the allotted 75 minutes didn't do justice to the subject matter or to the memory of Bhatia.
I was expecting a much better film than Human Terrain. It could've easily been a four-star movie; I was being generous to give it three stars.
Suffering from a severe case of self-pity after having been dumped by his girlfriend, the title character in Harmony and Me just sorta floats along from one daily situation (work, piano lessons, a wedding, a funeral, etc.) to another. Mostly, these situations, and the film itself, serve as a vehicle to highlight the quirky characters, including Harmony's obligatory dysfunctional family. It worked for me. Four stars.
Our first from the "Wisconsin's Own" series, Feed the Fish, followed a best-selling children's author in a writing slump and his best friend from sunny California to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for the annual Polar Bear Plunge. We encounter yet more quirky characters--who seemed like real Wisconsinites to me ;)--in this heartwarming fish-out-of-water, buddy/male-bonding, and romantic comedy combination. I left the theater with a smile. Four stars.
*Especially if the film had spent more time talking with and filming the troops, rather than the military mucky-mucks touting the program.
Friday's Film Ratings (outta 5):
Last Train Home ****
Human Terrain ***
Harmony and Me ****
Feed the Fish ****