I missed the opening weekend of this year's San Francisco Jewish Film Festival due to other commitments, but I was in Palo Alto (just a block away from my job) for two films Monday evening.
ABOVE AND BEYOND: THE BIRTH OF THE ISRAELI AIR FORCE. This was a fascinating documentary about the early days of Israel, the Arab nations set to attack them, and the small rag-tag bunch of foreign volunteers--all of them WWII veterans--who formed the Israeli Air Force. Plots to smuggle planes into the country, planes fixed up practically by chewing gum and baling wire, and missions more dangerous than any they faced in the great war. This is just a really cool, exciting story, and the survivors are really engaging, wonderful people (especially the guy who swears all the time. He was definitely the star.)
THE SECRET LIFE OF URI GELLER: PSYCHIC SPY? So...this movie is completely tainted for me because I had recently seen AN HONEST LIAR: THE AMAZING RANDI STORY. And Randi spent a great deal of effort debunking Uri Geller. So for me, the question of whether Uri Geller was secretly a psychic spy working for the CIA (or Mossad, or both) is irrelevant--I already believe he's a fraud who was exposed by the Amazing Randi. In fact, I have no doubt that the CIA or Mossad approached him, and he did some "work" for him...I just think his work was bullshit. This movie even mentions Geller's infamous failure on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. They mention that the show hired a "stage magician" (Randi, of course, although IIRC he volunteered his services, the show didn't hire him.) who manipulated the props to stymie Geller. But the movie presents that as some sort of immoral chicanery on their part, not as pretty solid evidence that Geller is a fraud. But I suppose that's just the take of the movie--Geller is a very interesting character, and I doubt they could have gotten so many interviews with him if it was all about debunking him. Instead, we see Geller relish in the sort of 'I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you' moments. It's obvious that he's a great showman, loves being the center of attention, and that claiming to be authentic is a big part of fame. It's unfortunate that it's not as obvious that he's nothing more than a very gifted stage magician.
Total Running Time: 179 minutes
My Total Minutes: 367,973