Little Miss Sunshine (2006)- As good as the reviewers (and my Mom) say it is. A dysfunctional family takes a road trip to California so that 7-year-old Olive may compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Solid performances all around. Every actor is very well cast, and even though everyone shines, Steve Carrell and Paul Dano really stand out in my mind. The scenes of the family’s inability to communicate with one another (not just talk, but too really connect) are just as sad as they are funny. There’s real pain and anger behind all the sarcasm and pithy exchanges between the members of the family, and I think the films does an excellent job creating realistic characters. I won’t say much more on this one, but it is a perfect blend of humor and pathos, which is what a comedy should be, right? We laugh at other people’s pain- that’s comedy. I laughed hard throughout the whole thing, all the while feeling that I was watching the emotional death of a family… Great little film.
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)- We borrowed this on DVD from Adam and Sarah during our recent trip to Charlotte. I had seen this movie before but it is no exaggeration to say it had probably been closer to 20 years since I watched it. Mom rented it when we were kids and I remember not being all that enthralled with it. However, as an adult (and one who is a wee bit obsessed with all things Africana) I thought this film was really funny. For those of you who have not seen it, a Bushman in Botswana is chosen to rid his tribe of an “evil thing” which has corrupted the ways of his people (the evil thing is a Coke bottle, btw). At the same time, a clumsy scientist tries to get into the good graces of a newly arrived teacher, and an Angolan rebel group is fleeing from the country with the army in hot pursuit. All of these things combine to form a very funny movie which is surprisingly full of slap-stick jokes that remarkably work well within the context of the story. There were several times during the movie that, although the Africa of this movie was obviously exaggerated for the comedic aspect of the story, Katie and I found ourselves saying “That is SO true.”
Another interesting little tidbit from the IMBD site on N!xau the San Bushman:
N!xau, a San from the Kalahari Desert, was discovered by director Jamie Uys and cast in the lead role in the 1980 movie The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980). He received only a few hundred dollars for his work in that film, but was astute enough to negotiate for over half a million for his appearance in the sequel, The Gods Must Be Crazy II (1989).
Though the IMDB site says his cause of death was unknown, it has been attributed to MDR-tuberculosis. The DVD has a short documentary about going and finding N!xau. It was interesting to watch, but I didn’t think the short was very well done. The narration was pretty lame (and we didn’t get the subtitles to work until the very end and once we figured it out, we had to watch all the Bushmen parts again).
The Station Agent (2003)- This is another great little film (no pun intended). Fin McBride is a loner, a dwarf who is obsessed with trains and is so tired of being the object of people’s staring curiosity that he has long since created an isolated life with his only friend Henry, both of whom work in the model train shop below where they live. When Henry dies, Fin inherits an old train depot in rural New Jersey and leaves to go live in peaceful isolation. Needless to say, his life becomes anything but. I thought this was going to be a slow, talky film, but it was really funny and Katie and I laughed throughout. It is a solid character study, realistic, very well acted, with great music. If you get the opportunity to check it out, do so. It’s a very enjoyable film.