From One Second to the Next by Werner Herzog

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From One Second to the Next by Werner Herzog

The moment I read about this new documentary short from Werner Herzog, I thought, “A public service announcement video to warn people to never text while driving? Really?” It seems like a small hair ball of a problem that should already be common sense. Having watched the short, I realized that’s precisely the problem, that texting while driving seems like a such a minor hiccup. It is not.

The half-hour short covers the story of four accidents that have caused by texting while driving. One case has a child that is paralyzed for life and is currently on life support, caused by an accident from a teenage girl who was distracted from texting. There were no skid marks. She never saw him. Another case involves a man who killed two Amish children. The driver is now perpetually left to questioning himself what was so important about his text that couldn’t wait. The other two cases was a family dealing with the monstrous medical bills from her mother’s accident and a family losing her father. What really struck me was the last man who caused the accident, who wasn’t able to recall the text message he sent after the accident happened. He couldn’t remember why it was important.

Herzog brings his brand of deep introspectiveness to the short, adding the much-needed seriousness this topic deserves. As the title suggests, life is connected by each second. It’s in-between each seconds we must throw caution, because everything can change within a second. The most disturbing part for me was, my initial reaction was exactly the type of behavior this short was trying to warn against. It is not a hairball. It is not something to handle. Reading a text is not better than sending a text. There are human lives at stake. Do not text and drive. You just do not do it.

Some statistics I found on texting while driving:

  • Texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents per year.
  • The minimal amount of time needed for a text is 5 seconds. If you are traveling at 88.5 km/hour (55 miles/hour), that would cover an entire football field without any attention paid to the road.
  • As of 2011, at least 23% auto collisions have involved cell phones. That amounts to 1.3 million car crashes.
  • 1 out of 5 drivers of all ages confess to surfing on the web while driving.
  • Text messaging is the longest eye-off-the-road time out of all the distracted driving  activities. An accident is 23 times more likely to happen if you are texting.

The documentary can be viewed here. The slogan to the AT&T campaign is “It can wait.”

Related Reviews

Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog

Bully by Lee Hirsch

Bully by Lee Hirsch

Bully follows the lives of five American students who face bullying on a daily basis.

This documentary deeply upset me. With all the problems we have in the world, it’s enraging that this problem exists to this degree.

I feel sorry for the child who took his own life over being bullied. It’s sad his voice was not heard when he was alive and that he had to take himself away to get everybody’s attention.

I am perversely happy and relieved for the child who decided to take action and scare her bullies by bringing a handgun onto a school bus and eventually had the criminal charges amended.

It broke my heart seeing one of the kids claiming he does not feel anything anymore about being strangled, punched, stabbed with pencils and verbally abused daily. Something failed in humanity here.

I was surprised there were no bus monitors on these school buses. When I was a kid, the schools never left it up to the bus driver as the sole adult on the bus, they assigned a teacher or a teacher’s assistant to be a bus monitor to watch the kids.

What can a teacher realistically do in that situation? It is battling an invisible social force. It is never just the bully that terrorizes you; it’s also the empty space around the victim that’s reinforced by other people doing nothing. The bullying behavior is a contagious hive-minded social act. Once you bear witness to somebody being humiliated, they feel like they can humiliate them too. That’s how it spreads.

It was unjust watching a teacher totally ignoring one of the kids and forcing him to shake hands with the bully who was just going to bully him again later. I agree that teachers can generally do more than the ones presented here. Those teachers clearly did not care about those students and were defending themselves on a political level. As the film shows, catching the bullying act when it happens doesn’t completely solve the problem; the schools just need to have open discussions with the students. There is a bit of that in the end, but it made me wonder if there are any schools in America that are more active on this issue.

The documentary is not complete. They could have interviewed the teachers’ side or other students or even the school bullies themselves. The director’s agenda was to enrage the audience as much as possible. It’s a one-sided argument, but it worked on me. I am enraged. I have a weak stomach for kids in pain. That said, I want to see a follow-up on these kids and the current situation in America. Did this documentary create any action? Maybe a follow-up film might be a good idea.

The MPAA rating dispute truly does not matter at all; Bully should be screened in schools and discussed in a classroom. It’s a relevant topic that exists parallel to the middle school and high school kids right now. What is the point of waiting for them to be age-appropriate to see it later in their first year in college? Hold the mirror up and disturb them now! Why wouldn’t you?

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel by Alex Stapleton

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel by Alex Stapleton

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel covers the life story and legacy of Roger Corman, his films, his struggles and his impact on modern cinema. He’s worked with many of today’s top talents, he can make a feature film in 7 days and simply does not believe in the word “No”.

Even though I haven’t seen any of Roger Corman’s productions, how I have come to know about Roger Corman was hearing about his approach to filmmaking. The idea is you get the guy who wants to be the next Federico Fellini, give him 7 days to complete a movie with 2 chase scenes and a scene in a strip club that you will only have for a hour without going over budget. What I liked about this approach is that it cuts through all the pretentious notions that filmmakers/artists often get caught up on about expressing themselves or putting their stamp or trademark onto the film. What matters most is the film and whether the audience responds to the product. It comes down to problem solving and giving the audience what they want – entertainment. After all, the only thing a filmmaker owes an audience is to never bore them.

The behind-the-scenes stories were fascinating and insightful to Corman’s journey as a filmmaker. Particularly the story of Corman’s experience with The Intruder, a film starring a young William Shatner about race relations in the south. It was a film that Corman wanted to say something from his heart and it ended up being his first commercial failure. Corman later learned the idea of supertext and subtext from a method acting class and figured out the best way to balance putting his own message was to put it underneath the entertainment (i.e. monsters, boobies, or explosions). Other worthy mentions from the documentary was the story behind 1963 Corman film The Terror, which was a film shot on the same set and cast  as The Raven (Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff) to capitalize on the new soundstage. Much of the story was improvised, it was done by 4 different directors at different points in time and the onscreen result hardly made any sense.

What made Corman a great leader was that he would push people to do things that seemed impossible. You could see how that pressure created seeds of creativity and experience which lead to mastery and success. One example was Ron Howard not having enough extras in the racing arena for the finale of Grand Theft Auto. He pleaded to Corman asking for more extras and was rejected. From what it looks like in the Grand Theft Auto excerpts, the shots with the audience members were done with tight shots. There’s another part with Pam Grier and they mention what made her distinct from other female stars was she was not afraid to get dirty and do her own stunts. I assumed that probably lead to her breakthrough with the advent of blaxploitation. It was a very Darwinistic process that I would have personally loved to be a part of.   

It was quite something to see Jack Nicholson break down and cry talking about his friendship with Roger Corman and how Corman was the only one to hire him before mainstream success.

The documentary shows the best way to learn something is just do it, learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. To know that Roger Corman still continues to make films in the present proves that as long as you have the will, the possibilities are infinite. A very positive message for any creative/aspiring filmmakers out there today.

(As a postscript note, the Vincent Price Edgar Allan Poe films look intriguing. They were a massive success at the time. I’m an Edgar Allan Poe fan so I’m going to check them out.)

Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog

Into the Abyss by Werner Herzog

On October, 24 2001, Michael Perry and his friend, Jason Burkett, decided steal a Camaro from the the Montgomery home of Sandra Stotler. Perry entered the house through the garage. Perry shot Sandra Stotler with a shotgun and the two men dumped her body in Montgomery County’s Crater Lake.

The duo then returned to the gated community where Sandra Stotler lived and waited outside the locked gate until the dead woman’s son, Adam Stotler, and his friend, 18-year-old Jeremy Richardson arrived. Perry and Burkett lured the teens to a wooded area and killed Adam Stotler and Richardson. Perry and Burkett, driving the Isuzu Rodeo Adam Stotler had been using, went back to Sandra Stotler’s home and finally stole her Camaro. They kept the Camaro for no longer than 72 hours and were finally apprehended after a gun fight with the police. Perry received a death sentence and Burkett received a life sentence.

Into the Abyss is the new documentary film from Werner Herzog, it focuses on the two convicts and various people affected by the crime. In his documentaries, Herzog always seeks what he calls the “ecstatic truth”, his theory that storytellers should never look away from the truth. It’s not enough that we know that murder exists. You have to look at it face-to-face. Once you do this, you will find a whole well of deeper truth.

That was my experience watching Into the Abyss, on the surface it covers a very depressing subject. At the helm of any  lesser director it would probably be depressing. Instead, it cuts right through and takes you to different places emotionally beyond “hey dude, murder is depressing, so be depressed while you watch this”. It’s emotionally raw, the parts about the victim’s families dealing with the victim’s deaths are powerful stories. We see that it so much more harder to grieve when one’s death was over something so meaningless. Mostly we can say that these deaths are all made from wrong choices. Did these people have a choice? Some seemingly did and some claimed they did not. It would be so much easier to judge and encapsulate how we feel about a person’s actions if we did not look at the whole truth of his predicament.

There is humor at times, but it’s not there to break tension. It comes as part of the ecstatic truth. Herzog greets the father of Jason Burkett, Delbert Burkett, who is also in prison, “How are you?” The sits down and casually snaps a “I’m fine.” Herzog half-scoffs, “How fine (are you really)?” Delbert recounts how he testified for his son in court and pleaded to the judge not to execute Jason. He blames himself for not being there as a father and never gave his son a chance for a good life.

It’s even romantic at times, the wife of Jason Burkett speaks about how she fell in love with her husband and desires to bear his child, despite that they will not be together for 40 years until he makes parole. She holds a sonogram picture of the baby and that was an unnerving moment. As she held up the picture, I wondered if the child is another seed of criminality. That’s what I saw. I think other people will have different interpretations. The film is dense enough for it.

One of the most chilling moments for me was the interview with Fred Allen, the Captain of the Death House Team in Texas, where the prisoners are brought to be executed. He describes the procedure of taking the patient to be lethally injected and his struggle with keeping the job after lethally injecting 125 convicts. A notepad is shown noting the times of the procedure of Michael Perry’s execution: when he arrived, when he was strapped to the bed, when he was injected and when he passed. That struck me still. I did not have an emotion for that.

Herzog does not narrate as he usually does and I think that was a good aesthetic choice. He only conducts the interviews. Herzog’s own views are implied in the film (he is against the idea of capital punishment), but it’s not as loud of a statement as one would experience in a Michael Moore film. It is unlike Cave of Forgotten Dreams where he needed to answer, “Why the hell are we looking at these caves for 2 hours?”  There is no question of why we need to watch this and Werner Herzog takes a step back from telling us his personal views. The viewer is left to decide how they want to judge the actions Michael Perry and Jason Burkett. Herzog provides no answers, but asks all the right questions.

Why did these three people die for a car? Why did these two kids kill for a joyride? How does death affect a family? How do you live your life knowing that you will be executed next week? Is there any real purpose to executing Michael Perry? After all, it won’t bring them back. Does anyone, including the state, have any right to take a life? Just because the law says so, does that make it right?

At the end, It left me raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I thought about the absurdity and ironies of life. Into the Abyss reflected the human predicament and how as human beings we think we know everything, but we are not even close to understanding ourselves.