“Tougher Than a Tank”
Marine Eddie Ryan was hit in the head by friendly fire in Iraq, and his condition was so grave that his parents came to his bedside expecting to say goodbye. Against all odds, Ryan not only survived but was soon able to speak and use his left arm. He maintained his sense of humor, even if certain emotional cues were now absent due to his injuries. The medical bills were fearsome, and the VA would only cover a certain amount of treatment.
Noah Cass, a fellow Marine who had served with Ryan, deemed this unacceptable. Tapping into an extensive network both inside the military and outside, Cass set about raising funds for Ryan’s care. As the documentary “Tougher Than a Tank” opens, Cass is about to run from his home in Connecticut to Ryan’s home in upstate New York as part of a fundraising campaign. Cass is joined by two of his buddies from childhood—neither a Marine but both tough as nails and willing to run beside Cass to bring attention to Ryan’s cause.
We also meet Ryan’s dedicated parents. His father, also a former Marine, decrees that Ryan paradoxically somehow manages to lift up even his father when the weight of it all gets too heavy.
Co-directors Tim O’Donnell and Jon Mercer have fashioned a heartfelt documentary, which is equal parts a literal journey for Cass on his run and for Ryan, whose path back to any semblance of normality is challenging, but which he faces with determination and a smile, always offering up the cry of the Corps: “Oorah!”
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“Prince of Luna Park”
Documentarian Daniel Lombroso, who made the searing “White Noise” last year, is back in his capacity as a staff filmmaker for the New Yorker. In “Prince of Luna Park,” Lombroso exposes us to a rather quirky bit of New York City—which never typically lacks for same. From Coney Island, Alberto Zamparela lords over a worldwide empire of amusement park rides—emphasis on “lords” as he is far from a cuddly carnival barker. His son Alessandro works for him at Luna Park on Coney Island, and even in the short running time, we get the sense that the arguments between father and son have been loud—and frequent.
Lombroso presents us with an unorthodox American immigrant success story while at the same time showing a family that is as unique and as dysfunctional as any of our own. And when the covid-19 pandemic comes along, things only get worse, threatening the family empire.
Even if you’ve never owned a carnival ride, or ridden one, there is much here to relate to in terms of universal family dynamics. In a recent New Yorker writeup on the film, Lombroso declares why the themes behind “Prince of Luna Park” are so universal: “The real takeaway is: Can someone free themselves from the grip of their father, or are we all destined to become our fathers?”
An excellent question to ponder while observing Lombroso’s film.
“Prince of Luna Park” is available at NewYorker.com.
(featured image: “Tougher than a Tank”)