Film Review: From Circus To Zoo: The Story of Professor Josep Weiner
The most independent movie ever made

    If you only see one movie this fall, make sure it’s this one. At once frightening and irreverent, From Circus to Zoo: The Story of Professor Josep Weiner, tells the harrowing tale of one extraordinary man’s campaign to rescue circus wildlife and train it for life in the zoo. It’s a roller coaster ride with only one speed: extraordinary.
    After completing the festival circuit, the film  was released in September by Josep Weinerzz Productions, which Weiner started in 2001 with his mother.  From Circus to Zoo was shot entirely on Mr. Weiner’s cell phone in less than a week, and is now being called “the most independent movie ever made.”  It cost around $12 to make, which according to the records he made public (under no pressure to do so), was mostly budgeted towards doctor’s fees to pay for injuries incurred during sex scenes.
    “I like to live life on the edge…of the edge,’ says Professor Weiner, writer, director, and producer.  “I hope this movie sheds light on an issue that has received too little attention from concerned citizens.”
    The citizens’ lack of concern towards the mistreatment of circus wildlife may be due to the obvious lack of mistreatment of circus wildlife.  Fed, medicated, and cared for by the strict standards self-imposed by the Circus Management Association (CMA), circus wildlife is in no way harmed or mistreated, which is no surprise given their absolute essentialness to the billion-dollar industry. In fact, most veterinarians will tell you that animals are better off being cared for by a circus than by a zoo.
    Although the facts he devoted his life to fighting against seem lost on him, Weiner’s misguided zeal is the real charm of this indie masterpiece .
    “Until every bear, monkey, lion, and elephant are sleeping comfortably in a zoo, I cannot sleep comfortably,” said Weiner in a phone interview. “Given the scarcity of animal use in present day circuses, I estimate that will be in late 2010.”
    From Circus to Zoo is being widely reviewed as one of the finest mockumentaries made in the past decade, “leaving audiences across America charmed and laughing from beginning to end.”  Given those accolades, Weiner’s insistence that it’s a documentary remains ever more puzzling.  The ending (*Spoiler Alert*), in which he is viciously mauled to death in his sleep by the very animals he has devoted his life to, particularly brings his claim into question given his tireless present-day promotion of the film.
    “I like to describe it as a romantic docudramedy,” said Wiener, author of The Middle East: The Never Ending Conflict (which after protests from several major Israel advocacy groups can now be found in the in the historical fiction section.) His utter lack of self-awareness is remarkable.
    Through the film’s appalling production value, plot, and choreography, Professor Weiner has shown that enormous studio budgets are no match for a heartfelt movie on a mission.  And for the crowd who refuses to watch a movie that anyone else has ever heard about, Weiner has certainly shown he’s not afraid to cross cultural lines.
    After several successful rescues, (*Spoiler Alert*) Weiner (who boasts he does all his own stunts) falls in love with a prominent ringmaster, Alexander Markonovitch, played byGene Hackman. He and Wiener continue to engage in a grotesquely homosexual relationship in one of the most graphic sex scenes ever shown on, or off, screen. Though it adds little to the story or cinematic value of the film, it’s certainly indicative of Weiner’s courage to push the bar.

    Watching From Circus to Zoo is like driving past an accident on the highway.  You rebuke others ahead of you for taking time to watch, but you soon find yourself doing the same.  With a combined sense of shame and fascination, you will leave this film feeling guilty for having watched, and lucky to have not been involved.

Book Review: The Middle East: The Never Ending Conflict...Or is It? (If You're Reading This in the Future)

There have been several hundred books debating the controversial issues and history behind the long and violent fued in Israel, none of which quite compare to this one in scope and insight. It offers abosultely none of either, which is a remarkable feat considering the length of this impressively uninformative work.
In his first book, The Middle East: The Never Ending Conflict...Or is it? (If You're reading This in the Future), Dr. Josep Weiner manages to shed nearly no light on a millenia old conflict with countless fascinating aspects to it. In nearly 900 pages of mostly misinformation, he includes only several provable facts, many of which have little to do with politics, religion, or the crisis for which the book is named. In one almost 150 page tangent, Dr. Weiner reviews hotels and spas in downtown Jerusalem, soley basing his critieria on their proximity to local restaurants.

Perhaps most unsettling is Dr. Weiner's utter underqualification for wririting such an analysis. As a current NYU undergraduate student, Dr. Weiner (who practices unlicensed optometry in third world countries), has taken fewer than one class in Middle Eastern history, basing most of his research on accounts from family members who have recently returned from trips to Israel. Written mostly on paper towels in between commercials, Dr. Weiner recently admitted that it takes longer to read his book than it did to write it. That may be because he copied and pasted several earlier chapters as later ones (see Chapter 3: So where exaclty is the Middle East? and Chapter 85: Why It's called the Middle East!), or because he's never actually read his own work. Published and edited by his own Josep Weinerz Publicationzz, it becomes failry obvious to the reader that the mispelled words and run on sentences (Chapter 12) escaped the nasty claws of spellcheck. It seems that until midway through the boo, he thought "Israel" was two words.

The most interesting chapters come towards the end where he attempts to predict all the events occuring in the Middle East since 1987. While most of them were incorrect, one wonders if he's ever seen a present-day map of the country. His analysis of the Six Day War shows very little understanding of Israel's location relative to other Middle Eastern countries. Additionally, his depictions of several historical figures are simply non-factual and borderline offensive to most major religions. He will attribute this to a "not having internet for a week."

Reading The Middle East: The Never Ending Conflict is like eating the Vermonster at Ben and Jerry's: The sheer absurdity that something that grotesque even exists makes you see it through till the end. And, like eating the enormous tub of iced cream, it leaves you feeling sick and dissappointed in yourself for having done it.

Music Review of "The Peach Transaction"

Listening to "The Peach Transaction" for the first time, the self-entitled debut album from the less than popular American indie band, is like being hugged by your rabbi. While you appreciate the experience, you are left feeling a bit violated.
Take the first track, "Home For Goodsies," for example. The stylish lyrics and irressistable groove, coupled with the trademark Peach Transaction back-up vocals, produces a feel good ballad and an instant club-sensation. However, its similarity to the theme song of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" is offensively obvious and leaves the listener wondering if a) they've heard this song before, and b) is this legal?
TPT left no room for the imagination regarding the latter, spending most of their album's budget on lawyers fees, guaranteeing pre-release that the minimum requirements for avoiding copyright infringement would be met.
While that not only offends the entire record industry (as well as The Peach Transaction's dwindling fan-base), it is a testament to their unheralded un-originality and their disrespect of music an an art form. They have singlehandedly reduced making music into a precise science, choosing popular songs spanning several decades (listen to: "Lauren In The Sky With Powder") and changing them just enough to not be legally responsible for copying the tunes and lyrics.
Additionally, the painfully obvious absence of instruments, replaced solely by back-up vocals and flashy dance routines, are highlighted by the group's inability to either sing nor dance.
It puzzles me, both as a fan of music and an experienced journalist, how such a talentless band with such a devious and patronizing attitude could continuously top the international charts and sell millions of albums. Seeing children and adults dancing to The Peach Transaction makes me wonder: How did they get away with this?

Download This:
"Home For Goodsies Now"