Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Men in Trees

Men in Trees does not seem like a show that will last, but while on, it has some wonderful views of Alaska. Some mountains, some streams, some tight indoors. Sort of a Northern Exposure on hormones, it is quirky, but entertaining.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion

A Prairie Home Companion offers a quick look at one of the Midwest’s great sources of humorous stereotypes. Garrison Keillor has been taking us out to the middle of the country where Lutherans roam for more than two decades now, and this film. This film takes a different tack on PHC than a normal show, but one would have to do that unless one was just videotaping a real PHC show.

While one will not see much of the Midwest or Minnesota, one can get that sense of PHC’s take on the values of the Midwest. The reserved nature of the host is pitted against the wild lives of the singers. The homespun values of the quaint old radio show are pitted against the greed-driven values of the company that has bought the station and wants to close the show. Indeed a place is seen through much more than just the physical elements. The values by which life is lived are just as much an element of place as the mountains the trees.

Of course, one element that is real is Mickey’s Diner. This diner is at 36 W. Ninth St. in St. Paul. It was built in 1937-39 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This unique feature of downtown St. Paul has a clear place in the film as a site for discussion.

In the end, the general consensus has been that a fan of the show will love the movie, while a stranger to the show will wonder what is going on.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Lake House

The Lake House offers some fantastic views of Chicago and the lake shore to the north. One of those films that you have to buy into a complex change in the nature of time, some may have trouble buying the plot. Two people find love except for the fact that they live in world's two years apart. He lives in 2004 and she in 2006. Through complex messaging via a magic mailbox, they find each other.

The sense of urban Chicago is clearly established against the isolated, unique location of the lake house to the north. It is open and isolated while Chicago is a mass of buildings and people. The house is almost all glass, while Chicago is closed off from the world.

A nice little film with a lot of Chicago buildings to look at.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

American Idol V Continues

Now at the poiint of going down to the last 10, Idol has been illustrative of some regional differences with in the US. The most significant of these would be the showing of distinctly rural southerners.

Kellie Pickler is a poor southern girl who acts like she just came out of the backwoods. Even in a stunning black strapless dress she feels uncomfortable. She should have seen it as a Cinderella moment in her life, but it so conflicts with her ruralness, that she is uncomfortable in it, despite how fantastic she looks.

Bucky could not figure out the menus in Los Angeles at one piont. He longed for the simplicity of rural southern fare. He wanted corn, potatos, chicken, etc. He did not understand what he was getting with all the fancy names.

Most of the rest of the group is more urbane than this. These two stand out in their display of a section of the United States.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

American Idol V Begins

America Idol has begun its Fifth big season. As it does it shows people from a variety of places, yet it makes those places seem very similar. Whether in Detroit or Chicago [as with the first shows], the performers are the same as they were in other scites in the past. They look alike. They sound alike. A great geographic uniformity is in place.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Growing Up: the old and the new

Hollywood has regularly looked at the angst of growing up. The pain remains the same, but he nature of the growth process changes. In 1959 Gidget grew up by flinging herself into the arms of Moondoggie to the beat of real surfer music and the waves. In 2005, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants takes four sixteen-year olds through that painful blast of real life hitting you in the face with less successful results for the girls.

Plot Basics. Gidget is very young and naive. She stumbles into surfing as a neat thing to do, then falls for Moondoggie. She learns to surf, which is wildly rare for a female in a 1960s beach epic. She is, of course, let know that that is the case.

In Pants, the four leads find that they all fit into one pair of jeans even though no one looking at the four of them would think that a pair like that ever existed. To solve the problem of their sharing the jeans, and then having summer plans in four different places, they agree to share the pants via the mails. These pants put on a lot of air miles. In each case the wearing of the jeans helps the wearer find the meaning of aging and coming of age. In the end the girl who never leaves Bethesda seems to learn the most.

Geography. Gidget takes place on the beaches of Southern California. This was one of the films that brought a generation of teen film goers to envy those lucky surfers awash in beach and water and sun. The beach is only abandoned to one of those perfect 1950’s homes where Dad was puzzled by the aging of his daughter and Mom was aware that she was growing up and facing life. Beaver was not the only place with this kind of home and its impact on a generation.

The beach is one of the most real looking beaches in the movies of the times. While most have a perfectly smooth transition from sand to water, this one has a small wall and once in the water it has weeds. Of course, it has kelp so that Gidget can become entrapped and saved by the remote Moondoggie. This is typical Hollywood as it only rains on television in California when a love affair breaks. The weeds appear only when a rescue is required.

The beach life is very realistic. The surfers actually have lives, and even jobs. The one older guy, played by Cliff Robertson, is obviously there to show the kids the right way toward a better life because he is failing as a “good” beach bum.

The pants travel to both pretty good-looking sites, and the most boring of towns a teen’s mind could dream as a nightmare. The group of four starts at home in Bethesda, Maryland. It is a normal suburban place, but one senses some lower class elements of urban decay. One girl gets stuck in town to discover life, while the others go to Mexico, Greece, and South Carolina. Mexico has the most beautiful stretches of beaches one can imagine. Greece is clearly Santorini, but that may not really stick out to those who do not know what it looks like. Greece is clear, that it is Santorini may take some previous knowledge. South Carolina is a place of suburban life without outside decay, but the inner decay is the stuff of plot.

Of course, Hollywood does shoot in one place and call it another, so one really sees: Ashcroft and Vancouver, BC, Canada; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Oia Cyclades and Santorini, Greece.

Of all the spots, Santorini is shown the best. The stark white buildings, hot in the sun, with those light blue roofs and domes make it striking. There is fishing. The people are not that well off in money terms, they shop in old world open markets, and they have old world loves and hatreds. Family is everything.

A classic film and a book cult classic made into a film. Both have some geography worth the rental.