Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Catching up on a few movies, part 1

I'm catching up on some movies I missed.

Last night I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and found it sad, long, and disappointing. I've never read the story on which it is based, so I don't know if Fitzgerald fleshed out the character more than Brad Pitt did, but in this telling, Benjamin is mostly an onlooker, someone who observes what's going on around him without displaying much emotion, and I found that frustrating. When his lover, played by Tilda Swinton, says goodbye in a very offhand way, Benjamin barely reacts. I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that the story was by Fitzgerald, so I spent part of the movie wondering if it had been written by the author of Forrest Gump, another story about a man who observes some of the great moments in history.

Last week I watched Up, mostly because my daughter told me her friends were telling her that the bird's character reminded them of her (it reminded me of her as well). The movie was cute at times but the story didn't seem to hang together, it seemed to have been written by a committee.

And I'm halfway through watching Roots for the first time, and enjoying it very much. I don't remember what I was doing in 1977 when it was first broadcast, and I'm not sure I had a TV at the time (I can't picture one in the apartment I was living in, but I probably had one). That year I went to England for the first time to study the early years of Thomas Paine, about whom I was attempted to write a book, and maybe I was just too caught up in my research to watch the miniseries. But it's ironic because that year I was living in an entirely African-American neighborhood (4000 block of Sansom Street in Philadelphia) for the first and only time in my life.

I've got a lot of questions about Roots, so I'm planning to borrow the book from the Library. I'm so glad the mini-series began with a pretty good look at Kunta Kinte's culture, to know where he came from. I wanted more detail on the passage, though it would have been grim, and I suspect that's why there wasn't more detail.

In watching films about injustice and tragedy, I find I hold myself back from feeling all of my anger and grief, I think because I fear the resulting sense of powerlessness and feeling of shame -- shame that I'm not willing to drop everything else I'm doing and devote my life entirely to fighting the injustice. I've found it almost impossible to watch films about the plight of Native Americans, even the ending of Dances with Wolves.

Watching LeVar Burton play Kunta Kinte is really interesting, since I was a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and knew him pretty well as Giordi LaForge. His performance as Kunta Kinte is so fresh and innocent, it's really lovely, and I wish they'd found a way to age him rather than have John Amos play the older man. I enjoy John Amos (most notably as an Admiral on West Wing) but he's less expressive.

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