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.