Michael Bergeron
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Architecture of Oppression: “Snowden” and “Max Rose”

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The architecture of oppression gets a fine-tooth comb over in Oliver Stone’s Snowden. Fascinatingly told even to those familiar with the story, this biopic presents facts in a non-linear manner. The audiences’ eyes are opened at the same time as the lead character to the skullduggery of government agencies.

Leon casino, When the events that led up to Edward Snowden becoming the current most famous American charged with espionage were revealed via The Guardian and subsequently televised news, some arched their eyebrows and some shrugged with nonchalant indifference.

Movies have been spinning tales of the government spying on their citizens well before the internet age. Consider films like Three Days of the Condor (1975), The President’s Analyst (1967), or Enemy of the State (1998). They all depicted covert surveillance of citizens by the state. Even The Simpsons Film (2007) lampooned the concept of a giant NSA room with cartoon characters monitoring every phone call being made.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Snowden with enough authority yet gullibility to make the character work. Excellent supporting players include Shailene Woodley (the girlfriend), Nicolas Cage and Rhys Ifans as agency types, and Ben Schnetzer and Scott Eastwood as cynical co-workers. Those familiar with the documentary Citizenfour will recognize the alternate storyline of filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and reporters Glenn Greenwald (Zachery Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), who were instrumental in helping Snowden disseminate his top secret files.

Stone keeps events in a realistic context while on occasion using imagery that conjures Big Brother. For instance, one scene has Gordon-Levitt being addressed by his superior (Ifans) via Skype, only the image of Ifans’ face is wall sized. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle adds selected shots that give the proceedings an observational feeling.

At the screening I attended the movie was followed by a live Q&A with Stone, Woodley, Gordon-Levitt and, from Moscow, Snowden himself. One quote from Snowden that stood out was his sage advice that “when people argue that they don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide, is like arguing that you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

Snowden opens wide today.

Max Rose features Jerry Lewis in a serious turn as an old dude in his nineties whose life undergoes retrospection when he’s moved by his son (Kevin Pollack) and into an assisted living facility. His family insists they sell Rose’s house to pay the expenses.

While that causes a slow burn of sorts to Max’s lifestyle, what really irks him is the suspicion that his deceased wife had an affair behind his back with a family friend, played by Dean Stockwell. Max Rose may come as a surprise to those only familiar with Lewis as a comedian. There are few if any laughs and even better there’s no saccharin to this story of regret and the ravages of old age.

In an exclusive engagement the drama Max Rose moves into the downtown Sundance Cinemas Houston this weekend.