Saturday, November 17, 2007

half nelson

I’m learning there are movies I love that I shouldn’t bother mentioning. At least not with zeal. Like I did not too long ago recommending Kitchen Stories to a Norwegian-American, sure that he would love the subtlety of the way that story’s told; certain that the sacrifice that’s made at movie’s end would devastate him as it did me.

It didn’t.

The Story of the Weeping Camel is another one that I regret ever mentioning to anyone, because of course no one will ever watch it. Would you be caught dead renting a movie called “The Story of the Weeping Camel”? Of course you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t have been caught buying a ticket myself -- I only saw it because I got free passes. (But it’s so good! But forget I mentioned it.)

Then there was Kung Fu Hustle. Popped it in for movie night with friends and laughed uproariously -- until I realized too late that I was the only one. Everyone else was horrified. (Mostly. They warmed up about midway through.) [1]

Half Nelson may be another one. Watched it last night after I tucked in Mr. Hoo and his IV drip at the hospital and returned home late to a quick dinner of scrambled eggs and the very last dregs of my sister’s homemade chutney (sweet mercy so good) (‘specially with a little dollop of Greek yogurt on there as well) and popped in the movie for company.

So subtle. So well-played. Brilliant performances by all the principles. Unnerving story line -- a high school history teacher / girl’s basketball coach / frustrated writer who dopes up in the margins of his life, is discovered by one his students -- a young girl surrounded by her own tough challenges as a kid in the inner city. A young girl who had anchored in him. Which makes her discovery of her teacher in a stall in the girls’ locker room with a crack pipe that much more complicated. She’s black, he’s white. She’s 13, he’s not.

Somehow, by the end, their friendship gets them where they need to go. Still: it’s messy, and ambiguous, and unresolved. But solid.

Made my heart ache in ways it hasn’t since I was 13 and looking for a hero.

Definitely one of those movies I’m glad I watched alone, because if I’d seen it with someone else I’d be wondering about their reaction -- did it effect them in the same way? And if it didn't there would be that post-movie conversation that would drain away the rich broth of emotion that the movie left me steeping in.

So let’s pretend I never mentioned it.

[1] If you happen to be one of those who really dug Kung Fu Hustle, and have a thing for the Iron Chef, check out The God of Cookery (if you can find it) -- produced by some of the same folks who were involved in Hustle, and definitely of the same flavor. You won’t be disappointed. I don’t think. But what the hell do I know.


mrtn said...

I got free tickets to a surprise showing of Weeping Camel. I confess: I am shallow. I got bored and left halfway through. I mean, I can sit through lyrical passages and subtle, slow stories with the best of them, but sweet lord almighty.

Lolabola said...

well now I have to see that.

suttonhoo said...

mrtn: I rest my case. BUT I will say that, by leaving early, YOU MISSED THE BEST PART. ;)

& lolabola: okay. but I can't be held responsible.

p.s. I wonder if anyone paid to see that movie, or if Nat'l Geographic bankrolled its entire distribution...

a.m. said...

On a Christmas day some years ago in
Brooklyn, my wife and I went to see "The Life Aquatic" in a packed theater.

I started laughing out loud at the subtle visual puns and foreshadowing that was going on... It was amazing. Who could come up with this stuff? Kentucky Air? A three legged dog on a Philippino pirate ship! I nearly wet myself.

I was the only one laughing.

It still ranks as one of the top films I have seen. I get a lot of blank stares for that statement.

a.m. said...

btw: LOVED Kung Fu Hustle as well. Have no fear, you have good movie taste, even if it does take you away from Titanic fare.

suttonhoo said...

a.m.: I LOVED that movie!

but yeah -- you're the first person I've run into that feels the same way. ;)

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