Here’s what I’ve been paying attention to in my world to avoid the nonsensical but-far-from-funny farce of Washington DC. A MOOC about history and constitutional issues in the Muslim world; books about the controversial Mitford Sisters in the war years and about troubled detectives and dastardly deeds in darkest Scandinavia; a Netflix series, The Crown which is the most enticing period drama this year, almost better than Downton, about the world as lived by Queen Elizabeth in the early years of her reign and…finally…movies. All chock full of a real world far less tawdry than our current DC drama.
Three movies have stood between me and despair. Enticing, thoughtful, heartwarming movies. Let’s begin with Moonlight because it is surely Oscar material and also the most difficult to describe. I’m sure it’s clear, or at least will be when you read this, that I am about as far from an informed movie reviewer as one could get—on the other hand I do love them and I go on this annual winter movie binge so why not share some thoughts?
Moonlight is basically about a black kid growing up in the Liberty City ghetto of Miami. A Gay Black Kid. And we all know if there’s one nasty prejudice that’s been shared by all races, colors, creeds, it’s homophobia. It’s not an easy story but so immediate, so hating, so loving, you come away profoundly affected, not the least because the acting is absolutely top form. I’m attaching the link for the excellent NYT review so please read it. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/21/movies/moonlight-review.html?_r=0
I want to share some thoughts that may or may not make sense. Moonlight is a coming-of-age story in the best and deepest sense of the word. A vulnerable gay kid growing up under the most bleak of circumstances. What struck me rather forcefully is that because this film is not about a black kid growing up gay and there’s an accompanying story with white people around, and it’s not about the great divide between blacks and whites, and it doesn’t give us any messages about race—it becomes this moving, thoughtful, beautiful, gay-kid-growing-up story. It’s so tender and personal and insightful with all of the characters, places, situations. So how to say this: To Me: because it all takes place within the black American world it simply becomes about this kid and his story. Like Boyhood plus. I loved this film. Second film in a row on Sunday and I never moved a muscle—almost shed a tear now and then but it’s not really a sentimental film either. It’s just really really fine moviemaking.
Queen of Katwe. Here’s where I can do some travel name-dropping. I’ve spent a few days in Kampala, Uganda with my friend Jill so of course I took this all very personally. I admit to not seeing slums quite as dire as Katwe but did see a variety of situations from comfortable middle-class to pretty grim housing situations. Queen of Katwe is the classic feel-good story. Poor kid makes good under the most difficult of circumstances. What makes it most interesting is that it takes place in the Ugandan slums of Katwe (whose fascinating history you might want to check out on Wikipedia), and that everyone except the two stars (Oyelowo is British Nigerian and Nyong’o is Kenyan Mexican) is Ugandan. No whites of African or European origin are thrown in for good measure and middle class Ugandans have major roles as well as the dispossessed of Katwe. So I loved this film too. It’s not quite as powerful as Moonlight but it made me happy—and that’s okay once in awhile. And of course the actors, both Hollywood and local, are brilliant. David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o…need I say more. Also Madina Nalwanga, not a name yet but really fine. http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/10/05/496425623/photos-theyre- all-kings-and-queens-of-katwe
A Man Called Ove. Okay so I felt very much at home here. Old cranky but good-hearted Swedish guy (old cranky Swedish guys are a lot like old cranky Norwegian guys) has life tragedies of the universal sort: fired from his job, deceased wife to whom bad things had happened, annoying neighbors, a deep desire to kill himself—well maybe that latter isn’t universal but you see where I’m going. May as well say this up front, It’s a solid film of the sentimental sort but…of course…I enjoyed it especially because It Is Scandinavian. And there were a lot of old white people in the audience that looked just like me—not like the evil-voter kind of old and white! It’s a nice film, but maybe one you don’t have to see right away, although don’t miss it forever unless you really dislike cranky old white guys—oh dear, we have a new government full of them don’t we? Ove is much smarter and nicer than that though.