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Death Defying Acts

In 1926, 13 years after his mother's death, illusionist Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) has begun debunking mystics, psychics and others who claim to have paranormal powers. He offers $10,000 to anyone who can quote his mother's dying words to him.

Death Defying Acts


Mary and Benji charm Houdini, spending time with him out of the public eye. However, Benji starts feeling isolated as her mother and the magician begin a relationship. She also has distressing dreams about being trapped in an underwater tank, and an angel-like figure with red hair. While initially suspicious and hostile, Houdini's protective manager, Mr. Sugarman (Timothy Spall), eventually tells Mary and Benji the truth: Houdini, busy doing a show, was unable to visit his mother on her deathbed, and is racked with guilt.

Mary, wearing Houdini's mother's wedding dress, performs the heavily-publicized act surrounded by a crowd of reporters. When she has a crisis of conscience and attempts to leave, Benji begins seizing on the ground. She utters the words of the Kaddish, addresses Houdini as "Ehrich" (his real given name), and asks (in a mix of German and German-accented English) where he is. Houdini says, "I'm here, Mama," and begins crying next to Benji. (Whether her fit is genuine or staged is not specified.) When a note written to confirm the veracity of the experiment is shown to be blank, Houdini reveals to the press the "eternal shame" he feels because he wasn't able to reach his mother before she died. Thus, he was unable to comfort her in her moment of death, and doesn't know her final words.

At a movie theater in Scotland, Benji weeps while viewing newsreel footage about Houdini's death, in which he faces the camera and appears to bid goodbye. In a voiceover, Benji states that, "Houdini changed our lives. And for a wee short while, we taught him how to love."

We hope! We dream! Why not, it's free! And in these eight short plays we see that strange and humorous occurrences may even become reality. Cell/Block: In a death-row prison cell, a condemned man's prayers are rewarded when his comically incompetent attorney is finally exposed. The Actress: Sitting on a park bench, a young actress' doubts are turned to thoughts of a brighter future when an elderly lady shares the wisdom of her old friend, Laurence Olivier. They Call Me Louis: On a city street in the early hours of a frigid winter morning, a poor black man's dream for a better life is fulfilled by a most unlikely benefactor. The Good Deed: Alone in a tavern, a young man, grieving over the loss of his father, has his spirits revived when barroom regular, Barney Cahill, surprises him with tales of his dad's not-so-mundane life. Thomas: Mary Worthy struggles to repair her broken marriage and return to a happier time, but now, weakened by illness, she's shown the way back by a mysterious houseguest. Untitled Number Two: An art gallery's quiet is upset by two art critics' contrasting views of a painting. When told of the actual meaning of the work, the embarrassed pundits quickly exit, more tolerant (we hope) of each other's opinions. Vinny's Vision: At the Motor Vehicle Bureau, a bizarre experience gives Vinny and his friends a most unconventional idea for solving their buddy's depression. The Sweet By and By: Mary Fitzgerald has lost a loved one, but through her faith, she's certain they'll "meet again on that beautiful shore." Mary's neighbor, however, is more concerned with how Mary managed to bury her husband in the building's backyard.

It is 1926, and Harry Houdini is the most famous performer in the world. Audiences pack theaters to watch him perform his now-legendary death-defying acts. But despite his fame and fortune, Houdini is a man haunted by his past. Thirteen years ago, his beloved mother passed away, leaving her son tortured with regret that he was not at her side when she died...and did not bear witness to her final words to him. Now driven to the point of obsession, Houdini offers a $10,000 reward to anyone who can contact his mother from beyond the grave and reveal her dying words to him. Enter Mary McGregor and her young daughter, Benji. Poor and uneducated, they live by their wits in the slums of Edinburgh, with Mary using her feminine wiles and deceptive ways in a psychic act that is part burlesque and part occult. When Mary and Benji learn of Houdini's public offer, they set their sights on the world's greatest illusionist and escape artist as the ultimate score. But Houdini proves to be not such an easy mark, especially under the watchful eye of his manager. As Mary moves closer to Houdini, her charms soon overwhelm him, and he realizes that he may be falling for this mysterious woman. But what began as a con now evolves into something much more complicated and dangerous than anyone could ever dream -- even as Houdini embarks on one of the most spectacular stunts of his career....

Capital punishment, that contentious old emblem of the American criminal-justice system, is under fire. In recent months, California and Maryland followed eight other states in suspending operation of their death chambers. In 2006, the number of executions nationwide dropped to 53, the fewest in a decade, as governors, legislators and even some prosecutors questioned whether the ultimate punishment can be administered fairly and humanely.And so, one might assume that a conversation with Bryan Stevenson, the celebrated death penalty defense lawyer and professor, might have an upbeat, even triumphant tone. One would be incorrect.

As Stevenson familiarized himself with such obscure subspecialties as obtaining an emergency stay of execution, the issue of race surfaced in case after case. Black defendants were overrepresented among the condemned, and murders of white victims seemed to lead prosecutors to seek death sentences.

During this period, Amsterdam and other anti-death-penalty strategists decided to try another frontal constitutional assault. They selected a case from Georgia and asked the Supreme Court to declare the death penalty unconstitutional once and for all because it systematically discriminated on the basis of race.

Phyllis (Debra Monk), a therapist, informs her best friend, Carol (Lavin), that Sam, Phyllis's husband, is about to leave her. Carol acts shocked at the news, but Phyllis isn't taken in. She knows that the woman that Sam is leaving her for is actually Carol.

Brooklyn based artist Mark Lombardi created graphic artwork portraying the opaque global network of financial and political elites, including their ties to international terrorism. His masterpiece - "BCCI" - was investigated by the FBI after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. By that time, however, the artist was dead from an apparent suicide one year earlier, just as his career was reaching new heights. "Mark Lombardi: Death-Defying Acts of Art and Conspiracy" investigates an artist whose works transformed contemporary power structures into visual art and whose death left many questions regarding this system's intentions and breadth. 041b061a72


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