Watched a really nice little movie last night, Sugar. It follows a Dominican baseball pitcher as he deals with the U.S. minor league system in Iowa and then in New York City, when he leaves the team. It was well done and beautifully photographed, and softly handles many of the trials and issues faced by immigrants to this country (language, friendships, work). Well worth checking out.
I also viewed The Soloist this weekend. It was ok, about a homeless classically trained cellist in Los Angeles who is befriended by a journalist looking for a good story, but the movie seemed to lack something. I thought Morton Downey Jr. was wonderful, as was Jaimie Fox. Perhaps I am losing a little sympathy for the homeless, as I think their are other ways to deal with the mentally challenged. What they portrayed certainly is not the answer, despite the hard work done by the agencies and groups who reach out to the underclass.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Watched a delightful, though sad, movie last night, titled Goodbye Solo. It is about a Senegalese cabdriver who takes on the mission of trying to thwart the apparent desire of one of his regulars, an older white man, to kill himself by jumping off Blowing Rock in North Carolina. Solo, played by Savane, is wonderful, as he struggles to reach for his desire to be a flight attendant, keep his pregnant girlfriend and her daughter happy, and his self-appointed rescue mission. There are many lighter moments as the plight and relationships of immigrant workers in the country are lightly touched upon. The photography is very nice. I wouldn’t watch it if you are seeking an uplifting experience, but it is a very worthwhile movie.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
There is something special and appealing about a movie that delves into the universal themes of love and longing, especially when it opens windows into a different culture. Director, screenwriter, and actress Nadine Labaki (Layale) presents the excellent film Caramel, a story about a group of Christian Lebanese women who work in a beauty shop (and a couple of women associated with the business). The title refers to the caramel mixture they use to remove (wax) women’s faces and legs, though it also serves as a metaphor for dealing with the unwanted detritus of relationships gone bad. Ladaki, gorgeous and sultry, is caught in the familiar "other women" role, sadly waiting for a man who will not leave his wife. The other women each wrestle with their own desires: an aging commercial actress and mother of teenagers trying to latch that elusive spot; a lesbian woman in the midst of a very traditional society, whose heartthrob enters the shop one day, and keeps coming back; a bride-to-be worried about masking the fact that she is not a virgin; a older seamstress suddenly offered a chance at a relationship; and a cantankerous, naughty, intrusive, senile crone, who provides much of the comedic sideplay in the movie. Enjoyable too is the role of a clumsy, love-smitten traffic cop who has fallen for Layale. All the women have to deal with a patriarchal and restrictive society (one women being forced to accept, and then redecorate, accommodations in a bawdy location because no one will rent her a room unless she can prove she is married) with many rules on behavior for women. The more I see films from the Middle East, I realize that many want to tell the story that despite oppression, women find many ways to resist and challenge the roles they are expected to fulfill, even if they cannot totally escape the parameters set for them. One of the best scenes occurs when Layale waxes and removes hair from the face of her smitten admirer, and the glow on his face as he leaves the shop. Hopefully she writes a sequel in which they are a couple. The only disappointment is that some storylines might have been explored, and they is little reference to broader themes of society in this contentious location.
Friday, September 4, 2009
The rabid rabble-rousers of the right have gone too far. To complain about a president making a speech to children encouraging them to stay in school and work hard, is pushing the opposition envelop a bit too far. Shame on them. I guess now that any pat on the back or encouragement from this president "automatically" has sinister political connotations! I hope America is ready for the Third Red Scare. Yet presidents, and for that matter all levels of politicians and government officials, have made talks at schools and in classrooms across this nation. The minions of Rush and his ilk scream about what Obama might say, without ever seeing his speech, and claim it is just another attempt to promote socialism (what bosh!), while they engage in politicizing to promote their racist, exclusionary, wrong-headed agenda that only maintains the status quo and allows for no improvement in society. What hypocrites these folks are. Anyone with half a brain can see that dropout rates are unacceptably high and only result in disillusioned youth, higher criminality, and rampant delinquence down the road. Will a speech keep kids on the right path? Probably not, but it certainly can’t hurt. Bush felt perfectly free to lecture children about staying off drugs (can we say "hypocrite" once more?), and all manner of public officials during the Bush years, if my memory serves me right, preached about abstinence from sex and other issues to the nation’s children. If the President says something objectionable, then take him to task. . .but at least have the courtesy to let him make the speech in the first place.