Pubdate: Thu, 30 Sep 2010
Source: Ashland Daily Tidings (OR)
Copyright: 2010 Ashland Daily Tidings
Author: Chris Honore


"Cash Crop" is all about marijuana. But it also is about much more.

The film, absent talking heads, absent a polemic voice-over, takes the 
audience on a road trip from the Mexican border to the northernmost 
counties of California - Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino - commonly known 
as the Emerald Triangle, where marijuana as a cash crop has replaced the 
anchor industries of fishing and timber. And so the film creates a nicely 
framed contradiction - call it widespread cognitive dissonance - between 
the use and farming of marijuana and the federal and local laws that 
continue to criminalize pot.

It's impossible to watch "Cash Crop" and not be reminded of the train wreck 
called prohibition. Consider the reality on the ground today, specifically 
in California: it's been reported that marijuana as a crop produces some 
$14 billion in annual sales, is the mainstay of many communities and is 
referred to as the California Green Rush. Nationally, marijuana is thought 
to be, by some researchers, a pervasive part of the American economy and 
the No. 1 crop in 12 states and among the top three in 30 states.

 From small, mom-and-pop farms, with back-to-the-land characters, to much 
larger operations, it becomes clear that weed, as its often referred to in 
the film, is not only part of people's lives - from recreational to 
medicinal use - but its is viewed as a civil right. A choice. And who, 
folks ask, should decide what is pharmacologically efficacious? Big Pharma?

"Cash Crop" explores these questions nicely while never being tedious. Next 
month, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, a ballot initiative slated 
to legalize marijuana for cultivation and sale. Fourteen other states have 
similar proposals in the works. Clearly, our culture and attitudes are 

And therein is the rub. Though the feds know that there is a rising tide to 
decriminalize marijuana, it still is enforcing federal laws that create a 
tension between Washington and the rights of states to act according to the 
wishes of their citizens. If you're in California, you're no longer in Kansas.

"Cash Crop" is a journey north, a window into American culture wherein Adam 
Ross, the award-winning director, parallels small vintners and pub owners 
with cannabis growers of all types, implicitly pointing out the lack of any 
real distinction between alcohol and pot in terms of social norms. In fact, 
one local sheriff comments that he has never been called to a domestic 
disturbance because of marijuana.

Embedded in the film is the question: When will our lawmakers catch up with 
the people and finally admit that, as a Mendocino County sheriff dryly 
comments, it's time to "move on?" A county supervisor candidly points out, 
"The fact of the matter is, Americans like their marijuana."

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

The year is 2001. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, who famously said, "Greed 
is good. Greed is right. Greed works"), a Wall Street bandit and a man with 
panache even in prison clothes, walks out of prison after an eight-year 
stretch for insider trading. Holding a cell phone the size of a lunch box, 
he looks around. No one is there to meet him.

Fast-forward to 2008, and there's a financial tsunami on the way, one that 
feels a lot like 1929, headed toward the nation's arbitragers and 
investment banks. Its momentum will shred esoteric instruments known as 
credit-default swaps and the real estate market in general.

Wall Street is awash in debt and a Lehman Brothers clone is about to go 
down, taking thousands of traders with it. Jake Moore (Shia LaBeof) is one 
of those traders. In desperation, having lost his mentor and his job, and 
since he is engaged to Gekko's estranged daughter, Winnie (Cary Mulligan), 
he seeks out Gordon for advice, and things get complicated.

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" has a nice intensity. It runs along the 
precipice of financial double-dealing, while men stare at computer screens 
and place huge bets with other people's money, always in the shadow of 
imminent disaster.

While the story is familiar, it is nevertheless solidly entertaining. But 
what is compelling about "Money Never Sleeps" is the actors who deliver 
superb performances.

Testimony to Douglas' talent, spanning almost four decades, is his ability 
to embrace a wide spectrum of characters from the anti-heroes (or 
existentially challenged) of "Wall Street," "Fatal Attraction," "A Perfect 
Murder," "Basic Instinct" and "Falling Down," to the urbane roles found in 
"American President" and "Wonder Boys." He has demonstrated a strong 
comedic talent in "Romancing the Stone," and "The Jewel of the Nile." In 
other words, Douglas is always eminently watchable.

A character actor that has been remarkably consistent and durable is Frank 
Langella. In "Money Never Sleeps" he portrays Lewis Zabel, Jake's mentor 
and the head of the company that's about to crater. He gives a fine 
performance as an old-school trader who remembers a time when Wall Street 
wasn't scorched earth (or so he insists).

Both LaBeof and Mulligan also deliver convincing portrayals of 
twenty-somethings who are finding their way in what is referred to by 
Gordon as the time of the ninja (no income, no assets). But as the film 
telegraphs, Gordon and the ninjas are back, as is Wall Street.

Easy A

As long as there is a stage of life known as adolescence, and as long as 
there are places called high school, where said age group is asked to 
congregate under the guise of getting an education, well, there will be 
movies made about this intense, vital and quirky subculture.

In truth, films about teenagers too often head over a cliff of stereotypes, 
cliches and caricature with plots that are immensely shallow and 
uninteresting. Occasionally, a gem comes along that even though it might 
not get high school quite right, it's still charming and funny. That would 
be "Easy A."

What makes the film entertaining, and likely hugely appealing to teens, is 
due in great part to Emma Stone, portraying a very bright, geeky, 
kind-hearted Olive Penderghast. Surrounded by mean girls, in the guise of 
teen Christians who strive for purity and abstinence, she manages to 
navigate the halls of Ojai High with a sense of self and an understanding 
of her marginalized standing in the school's social hierarchy.

Inadvertently, she runs afoul of the high school's gossip network and finds 
herself the target of malicious stories about her virginity - splashed from 
text to cell phone to computer. How she frees herself from the web of 
misunderstanding and fabrications makes for an interesting tale, one that 
happens to coincide nicely with a book her English class is reading: "The 
Scarlet Letter."

Surprisingly, the supporting cast is exceptional, led by Patricia Clarkson 
and Stanley Tucci as Olive's very accepting and hip parents. They are 
wonderful and clearly are having a hoot. And they're not clueless. The 
movie also pays homage to the fine teen moviemaker John Hughes, whose 
signature film, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986), will always be the gold 
standard for great teen comedies. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D