Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One safe bet and one risky movie..

I've written a review of Tim Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" before but watched it again on DVD this past weekend.  No startling revelations to add as it was a safe bet already knowing it to be an enjoyable movie. Burton has taken the loose knit original stories and given us a more complete narrative with touches of female empowerment and Narnia like fantasy. Visually, the movie is stunning and as my friend Ben described it, "a bowl of Skittles for the eyes".  The set up is that Alice like so many female characters of her time and place finds herself in quite a dilemma. She has a mind of her own, is misunderstood and in constant danger of being married off to the worst match possible. After a tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice manages to get her "muchness" back and in a quick wrap up ending she handles her problems as easy as 1.2,3....  She even finds a career strangely enough as probably England's first young, blond, perky Imperialist (off to economically dominate China).

The second movie of the weekend was one that I had never heard of, and I made one of those quick decisions in order to exit the video store as quickly as possible. "Amreeka" is a first time directorial debut by Cherien Dabis and stars a mostly unfamiliar cast ( for me at least). It does star Hiam Abbass who has been showing up in some of my favorite indie movies lately - 2007's "The Visitor which I highly recommend and 2008's "Lemon Tree". The story here is very straight forward, understated and sweet. A mother and her teenage son immigrate to the United States from Palestine in the turbulent days following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Along with all of the problems of starting a new life, there is the added omni-present reaction of normal Americans to anyone of Arab descent following 9/11.  The worst behavior is experienced by the teenage Fandi who has to navigate the social nightmare of American high school with students who don't hold back muttering "terrorist" in his presence. I like movies that are small and don't overreach in making a point. "Amreeka" does this well. There is no inspirational speeches or worse yet a "shocking" act of violence that puts everything into perspective. The movie ends in a real world way with the main characters happy and hopeful even though no major problems have bee solved.