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'The Gatekeepers' a riveting documentary

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  • Dror Moreh directs an insightful look in the minds of the men who headed Israel's secret service in his documentary "The Gatekeepers."

      Dror Moreh directs an insightful look in the minds of the men who headed Israel's secret service in his documentary "The Gatekeepers."

  • A reader complains that Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro are over-rated in their Oscar-nominated roles in "Silver Linings Playbook."

      A reader complains that Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro are over-rated in their Oscar-nominated roles in "Silver Linings Playbook."

  • Video: "The Gatekeepers" trailer

 
 

Reel Life mini-review: 'The Gatekeepers'

Dror Moreh's amazing, insightful documentary "The Gatekeepers" interviews six former directors of the Shin Bet, Israel's secret service wing, and they reveal their memories, opinions and admonitions so frankly and passionately, it's like being let in on a secret conversation.

The six directors -- Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri and Avraham Shalom -- possess widely diverse personalities; all appear to be completely at ease, almost intimate, before Moreh's camera.

These six men are so focused, frank and frightening that I wanted immediately to see the movie again. (I haven't yet.)

No subject appears out of bounds: the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish extremists, the morality of pre-emptive assassinations and bomb strikes, their disappointment in weak Israeli politicians.

Each man brings his own world view upon the events that shaped his tenure as Shin Bet's head officer.

"The Gatekeepers" has two more reasons to be a groundbreaking documentary: Moreh filmed his subjects before a flat screen upon which he later added a naturalistic background for each speaker, creating a space designed for the eye.

Moreh, who began his career as a cinematographer, also creates a startlingly dramatic process by which flat, still photographs transform into 3-D-like pop-ups. Like the popular bullet-time device from "The Matrix," this exciting device makes the photographs jump to life.

"The Gatekeepers" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago, the Renaissance Place in Highland Park and the Evanston CineArts 6. Rated PG-13 for violent images. 97 minutes. ★ ★ ★ ★

Reel Life film notes

• I'll be joining the ABC-7 news team for a brief overview of the 85th Academy Awards around 11:45 a.m. today, Friday, Feb. 22.

• Then, at around 7:45 a.m. Sunday, I get to hang out with Marissa Bailey and Ed Curren during the CBS-2 News to talk serious Oscar trash.

• Later at 6 p.m. Sunday, I'll be at the Hollywood Palms Theater in Naperville to host a Daily Herald Oscars party for our Subscriber Total Access members. (It's already sold out, but you can become a STA member and qualify for other events.)

• Academy Award-winning actress Shirley MacLaine will be at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, for an evening of memories and entertainment. (She also won the first Commitment to the Craft Award from the Chicago Film Critics Association last year.) Tickets start at $49 at oshows.com or (630) 962-7000.

'Linings' not so silver

Dear Dann: I have a problem with "Silver Linings Playbook." How did this picture make into the best picture category? Although there is some good acting on Bradley's and Jennifer's characters, that's it.

Robert De Niro's part was to just establish a dysfunctional OCD parent/family and that's all. He could have phoned his part in. As far as the actress who plays Bradley's mother (Jacki Weaver), 30 seconds of screen time and four lines should not get you an Oscar nod.

It is a nice picture but not worthy of "Argo" or "Zero Dark Thirty." Mental illness is not an easy subject to deal with, but this film does not go deep enough on its characters to warrant the best picture nod. "As Good As It Gets" is a much better film dealing with mental illness.

While I'm on a rant, did they rig the best director category also? How do two films nominated for best picture ("Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty") not get nominations for best director?

-- Beast on the Street, Hoffman Estates

Dear Beast: Thanks for the tip on the excellent "As Good As It Gets" for those who haven't seen it.

As for "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty" being denied director nominations, along with "Les Miserables," I have two theories.

1. The obvious explanation is when directors get five slots and best pictures get nine, four filmmakers have to lose out. Who would you bump out to make way for Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow? Behn Zeitlin for "Beasts of the Southern Wild"? David Russell for "Silver Linings Playbook"?

Tough call.

Here's a theory that I think holds up, and it comes from Entertainment Weekly reporting that Affleck and Bigelow fell victim to the "Home Alone" syndrome.

That's where a huge chunk of Academy voters incorrectly assumed that Affleck, Bigelow and Tom "Les Miserables" Hooper were shoo-ins, so they voted for other worthy contenders. Hence the disconnect.

I hope that answers your question, Beast. (By the way, I loved you in the Disney movie.)

-- Dann

Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!

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