Sunday, September 4, 2011

TV movies

Well it's Labor Day weekend, and I'm still deciding on whether to hit the stores for sales or just buy online. I'm glad for the rest, and feel like I should have taken some vacation time this summer.

Normally I'd try to see a movie, but I'm not interested in anything out in theatres right now. (I've already seen The Help and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.) In fact the upcoming movie lists look pretty dismal until about November when the Muppet Movie comes out, along with Hugo, which stars some of my favorite Holmes & Watson actors--Jude Law, Christopher Lee, and Ben Kingsley.

In the meantime I've been watching various movies on TV, such as Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three, a Cold War comedy set in Berlin. At first I didn't know it was made by Wilder, but I stumbled onto the scene of James Cagney talking with the dumb Coca-Cola heiress who has married a Communist from East Berlin. The absurd talk, and the fact that she interpreted Otto's "Yankee Go Home" propaganda as being anti-Yankee, not anti-American (she's a Southern girl from Atlanta of course) was quite amusing. So I watched the madcap comedy all the way through and was fascinated by how the characters regularly crossed the East-West border at the Brandenburg gate. The film was made before the Berlin Wall was built. It was such a charming film that I bought it on DVD, only to discover that I'd bought a PAL version set for the UK region. However, luckily I found that I had a computer program able to read the disc and could watch it from the beginning with subtitles. You really need subtitles to keep up with James Cagney's fast-talking dialogue; no wonder he was worn out by this film and retired for twenty years afterward, only to come back for Ragtime. Overall I would say that Wilder's One, Two, Three is a lovely comedy reminding me of all I like about Wilder's Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Also on TV recently was Hidalgo written by John Fusco, the same man who did Thunderheart, with such special understanding of Native Americans, and especially the Lakota. Hidalgo was apparently criticized for being marketed as "based on a true story" even though the horse race around the Arabian desert is probably just a boast made by Frank Hopkins who told tall tales about his adventures. Well, even if the story isn't true at all, as much fiction as Thunderheart was, I enjoyed it. It showed an interesting glimpse into the fakeness of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, and the story of Hopkins is similar to that of Val Kilmer's character in Thunderheart. Hopkins is a cowboy feeling guilty about the Wounded Knee massacre, and he learns to embrace the Indian heritage he hid for years. There's one truly affecting moment near the end, when one of Hopkins's opponents in the race says, "You cannot defeat me. I come from a great tribe. People of the horse." Frank says in return, "So do I." That stayed with me for days.

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