Minding the Gap

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I’ve been to Rockford, IL a handful of times in my life. It is not a glamorous place. Neither is McHenry, IL — where I grew up. You live in a bubble of small town existence. That might be why I was so desperate to leave, or maybe it was the memories that I’d be leaving behind. Whatever the reason, I can relate to wanting more.

That felt a bit like one of the themes of Bing Liu’s new documentary, Minding the Gap, which takes place in Rockford. The film focuses on Bing and two friends he’s known since adolescence, Zack and Keire. We are afforded a look into the intimate lives of these three that does not pull any punches.

Zack works as a roofer who is trying to get his GED so that he can provide for his newborn son and girlfriend, Nina. His parents divorced and he was subject to witnessing many an argument.

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Keire lives at home with his mother and siblings. He lands a job as a dishwasher and is eventually able to purchase a car. A smile across his face most of the time, he speaks of his relationship with his late father being turbulent.

Bing lives behind the camera for most of the doc, but gives the audience glimpses behind the curtain of a tumultuous upbringing.

The three have one thing in common: skating.

Minding the Gap is not the first I’ve heard of troubled souls finding solace at a skate park. When someone has a given family that doesn’t really work out, they’ll often build their own from scratch. Feeling like an outcast has a habit of gravitating one towards others who feel similarly. The bonds formed in that time and place run deep.

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Bing has created something extraordinary with this movie by remaining steadfast throughout the years, capturing so much of his life with Zack and Keire inside the lens of a camera. It’s profoundly touching to see them grow up and watch their lives unfold.

Happily, we’re able to follow Nina’s story as well. Her presence gives the film depth that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Mainly, my associations with skateboarding before I watched Minding the Gap were from one of my ex-boyfriends who used to drag me to the skate park on Friday nights to watch him and his friends try to break their necks all evening.

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It’s nice to get some fresh perspective on something you once thought was a bit silly as much more extraordinary.

Difficult to watch at times, Minding the Gap is moving and life-affirming. There is something remarkable about a documentary that is capable of inviting you in and submerging you in the lives inside of that film. It would seem that to Director Bing Liu, film is as second-nature to him as skateboarding. It is an extension of who he is. And we are lucky for it.

 

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Operation Finale

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I think Indiana Jones said it best with his iconic line, “Nazis, I hate these guys.” In years past, the cinema has given us some gems that are Holocaust-adjacent in nature; films like Inglourious Basterds and Sophie’s Choice in addition to more on-the-nose pictures like Schindler’s List.

These are examples of well-done films that — each, in thair own way — got it right. That’s no small feat when it comes to discussing arguably the worst moment in the history of the world.

These days, oddly enough, we seem to be seeing more Nazi activity in the actual news than we do in the darkness of a movie theater. In this particular retelling of the events that scarred us so irrevocably, we meet Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) — a man who is most well-known for aiding in justice being served for millions.

Still reeling from the loss of his loved ones, Peter is working with the Mossad — Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations — to track down what the man who devised the plans and oversaw the execution The Final Solution, Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley). With the help of fellow Mossad agents Rafi Eitan (Nick Kroll), Zvi Aharoni (Michael Aronov), and his former flame/current doctor, Hanna (Mélanie Laurent), Peter lays the plans to capture and bring to trial the man who took so much from him.

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Finale essentially follows the plotting of the apprehension of Eichmann and the subsequent stress surrounding the imprisonment of a former SSObersturmbannführer in the upstairs of a rented home for the span of about a week.

I hesitate to slander a film centered around such delicate subject matter, but outside of solid performances all around, the film felt a bit stale. The story is compelling, certainly, but the delivery is sorely lacking. It all feels a bit cluttered and disorganized.

While I appreciate the sentiment behind this brand of narrative, Finale just can’t seem to stick the landing. It’s unfortunate, but I feel there is a specific formula to movies like this one, and if it isn’t done just so, it will likely flop. Regrettably, that appears to be the case here.

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Now that I’ve gotten formalities out of the way, I’d like to also comment on something else — the accents in this movie confuse me! Either I don’t understand how accents work, or the filmmakers themselves don’t. It seemed strange to me that Ben Kingsley sounded so British, because Adolf Eichmann was most certainly German. And then Oscar Isaac — playing an Israeli man — sounded as American as my mother who lives in Wisconsin. Maybe I’m wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time, but it was perplexing.

To wrap up, I’ll say this, Operation Finale is a movie I would likely Nazi again. That pun is about as good as the movie itself.