December 28, 2014

Christmas 2014: Four Movies

I caught four movies over the holiday season (which gives you a sense of what my holidays were like) - this rainy morning is a good opportunity to review them. 

Awake: The Life of Yogananda
This one arrived at Real Art Ways on Dec 19th, and has been showing ever since. A successful run despite a private showing on Dec 12th that many of my yoga friends and peers attended. Really wonderful use of archival footage, stills, and audio to relate the history of one of the first yogis to come to the west.



The film was divided between more or less concrete history (dates, places, anecdotes) and some discussion of yoga philosophy, and how / why it resonated with this country in that time (1920's onward)

A spiritual community friend related how the connection to an historic figure (through the archival material) made it very powerful for her, and I agree. I've never really known too much of Yogananda, and have not read The Autobiography of a Yogi but probably worth a read....

The Tale of Princess Kaguya
I'm not a huge anime fan in general, but I rarely miss anything that Studio Ghibli puts out, and this one is magical. A tiny girl, found inside a bamboo stalk, and adopted by an old bamboo cutter and his wife who dote on their "princess", and with the aid of gold and fine cloth gifted by the bamboo, work to elevate her to royalty.



I was quietly sobbing by the end with the Beauty and Truth of it all. Anyone who has asked the question "Who Am I?" will want to see this one, it's pretty powerful.

Into the Woods
I'm not a huge musical theater nerd - but there's something about Sondheim that resonates (yeah, I can pretty much sing Sunday in the Park, or Song and Dance, all the way through). This one was pretty good - I've seen the play in community theater a few times so did not have a lot to compare the movie to, but I found the score, songs, and plot to be so familiar and comfortable, and none of the actors were really inappropriate.


The play itself is somewhat challenging (with the "happily ever after" moment seeming to be the place that the mainstream audience would have been happy to have walked out on) and the drama and complications of the latter third not so easily communicated or expostulated.

But still, a lovely musical and tuneful experience. Almost nobody could even attempt to replace Bernadette Peters as The Witch, but Meryl Streep was wonderful. The rest of the cast was also pretty sharp, although Johnny Depp seems to bring too much camp / costumed baggage with him to be taken seriously in any role these days.

My only regret was seeing it on Christmas Day - too many people in the theater, someone wearing perfume sitting nearby, and a movie companion who wanted to see a movie, but not really THIS movie. Might be worth sneaking out for a matinee alone so I can stew in the music in peace.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry
Finally, a wonderful documentary about the women's movement, circa 1966-1971, with an opening night post-film discussion with director Mary Dore. Loved this movie - for the subject, for the narrative technique (present day interviews intercut with archival footage, stills, etc. of the interviewees). The movie hits many of the historic events, puts these into context, and covers many of the major cities - Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington.







It was a large and friendly crowd at Real Art Ways, and there were audible sighs and smatterings of applause when key figures and events were brought to the fore (the publishing of Our Bodies, Our Selves, Shirley Chisholm, etc.) Like "Awake" - the use of archival footage was wonderful, so see these often careworn women (today) back when they were young, vital, angry, activists was immensely powerful and made it very real. 


Although reasonable short (90 minutes or so) the documentary packed in a lot - turning the spotlight on women of color, on the divisions between the more conservative NOW and the more radical Women's Lib, exploring the straight / queer divide, discussing the various causes and priorities (equal opportunity, equal pay, child care, reproductive rights, domestic abuse, rape, etc.) - with just a few nods to the present day movement (reproductive rights in Texas, slut walks)


Definitely a must-see....

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