Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Three More Movies

Film Strip
Originally uploaded by baldman76.
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.


St. Izzy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
St. Izzy said...

Lizzy and I really enjoyed TGMBC (sequel, not so good); we saw it new in the theater and I saw it several times after that. Then I saw a documentary at an connected with SIL.

The money that was paid to the bushmen for their parts in the movie actually did to them what the Coke bottle did in the fiction. And worse. They stopped living as they had been, stopped being self-sufficient, and ended up dependent on welfare, living close to the government station responsible for their dole.

Itʻs been almost fifteen years and I havenʻt been able to watch the movie since seeing the documentary. It might be time to try it again.


St. Izzy said...

Thereʻs something odd going on with the comments. Preview shows that link ending where itʻs supposed to, but publishing leaves the link unterminated. Iʻm going to stop trying to fix it and hope itʻs a transitory problem at Blogger.


baldman76 said...

Two responses:

1. I have occassionally run into this same problem, where you put a link in the comment and it randomly assigns some or all of the post hyperlink status. And I couldn't get mine to work either. Actually, mine was even weirder, because it deleted the words that I wanted to be the link and made the period at the end of the sentence the link. Random.

2. I don't think I've seen the documentary that you reference, but I have seen other films that show how the influx of modernization has disrupted the lives of the Bushman (the !Kung people in the film I saw). Had a lot to do with land rights and who "owned" what, as well as the issue of wildlife preservation. The !Kung were essentially rounded up and told that they had to be sedentary (as governments don't like people that move around- hard to keep tabs and especially hard to tax).

Without any real assistance, the !Kung did indeed become welfare dependent. But what else was there for them to do? Some of the government officials interviewed had nothing but negative things to say about the !Kung, saying they were lazy and that they were essentially too dumb to help themselves (this film was produced in the era when Apartheid still had its grip on most of southern Africa). It was very sad to see. Now I am no expert on the Bushmen, so I am sure that this situation was much more complex than my little post implies. However, when all is said and done, it is always good to remember that whenever any cultural/economic shifts occur, whether in developing countries or industrial nations, the lives of real people will get pushed to side and destroyed. And its the poor and the marginal. They always lose.

That's why its our job to do what we can to help.

Consequently, the filming of TGMBC was shown in this documentary, so maybe we DID see the same film.