See These Films

1) Mud. 2) Take Shelter. 3) A Place at the Table.

Like most everyone, when I plop down big bucks to see a film, I want to be be transported far from my familiar surroundings. But I most enjoy believable stories, so films set in outer-space, or featuring cataclysmic events, or starring super-heroes don’t really do it for me. Which means I usually seek out independent films that play at our one screen, decrepit, “hippy” theatre.

Friday night, Costco coupons in hand, Ms. PressingPause and I were standing in a longish line at the local cineplex. Knowing Ironman 3, Oblivion, Star Trek into Darkness, and Hip Hop Hemingway were about to start, I said, “None of these people are seeing Mud.” What a shame that I was right.

Worth every bit of our $15. The Jeff Nichols film transports you to rural Arkansas a decade or so ago. Think river life, snakes, boat engines, beans and franks, motorcycles, pick up trucks, Piggly Wigglies, and snakes. So damn authentic it reminded me of Winter’s Bone. It’s a wonderful counterpoint to Hollywood’s steady diet of intelligence insulting romantic comedies. See it for the cross cultural experience and for a greater appreciation for just how hard it is to find and nurture love.

Afterwards, for an incredibly poignant window into mental illness, find and watch another phenomenal Jeff Nichols film. Take Shelter (2007).

A Place at the Table is a powerful documentary that explores hunger in America. It will be available via instant streaming on Netflix sometime in June. See it to meet some hungry families, to better understand hunger’s underlying causes, and to learn about solutions. Given our economically segregated neighborhoods, it’s easy to lose touch with hungry people. I see that disconnect in some of my friends and in myself. The lack of understanding largely explains the associated lack of empathy. The further removed from experiencing hunger you are, the more important it is you see the film.

Lots of new readers last week. Welcome and thanks for the continuing support.

What I’ve Been Watching

Midnight in Paris. A few summers ago, on the way home from co-teaching in Eastern Washington, Mike, an ace co-worker friend and I got into a discussion about nostalgia. I believe it’s a powerful phenomenon that greatly influences people. Mike basically took the opposite position. Saying people succumb to positive selective perception and wrongly assume the past was better than it actually was. In his view, people would be better off if they just embraced the present and resisted nostalgia’s pull. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is Mike’s exact argument. A fun and funny film that raises interesting questions about memory, history, and the relationship between the two.

Win Win. The best high school wrestling movie of all time (are there others?). Great cast and an engaging, authentic story. Laugh out loud funny at times too. Truly excellent. Kyle, the central character is a troubled, thoughtful, hard-nosed, caring sixteen year old who demolishes every adult’s negative preconceived notions of adolescents. Should be required viewing for all high school teachers. The GalPal thought parts of it were “contrived and Hollywoodish” but she’s wrong. Believable throughout. The GalPal and I were the youngest couple at Olympia’s downtown hippy theatre and everyone was taken by Kyle. If more 16 and 66 year olds were friends, it would be a definite win win.

Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert. Far-fetched, whimsical story. I imagine when they pitched the idea to the studio they said, “Audrey Hepburn in Rome” and the suit said, “Great, write the script.” She was beautiful, but freakishly thin. Of course, Costco cheesecake had not been invented.

The Class

Finally got around to watching this French film about a culturally diverse Parisian junior high school. Here’s a solid, albeit incomplete review. I can’t think of a film that better captures the organic nature of classrooms. Sometimes we lose touch with what should be obvious, teachers are seriously outnumbered, and because of that, their power is tenuous. Teachers, let disrespectful comments slip at your own peril.

If you lack patience, and prefer mindless entertainment, skip it. It’s a walk, not a jog, run, or sprint. On the other hand, “The Class” was a nice reminder that it’s important to slow down sometimes.