One Man’s Jungle is Another Man’s Jungle

“Who wants to see a comedy, featuring an African bushman as the main character?” you ask. An African bushman of all people? Obviously you haven’t seen The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980). This comedy, which is both farce and slapstick, turns our view of the world upside down. In this one, the natives aren’t restless. They are doing just fine until the gods drop an empty Coke bottle out of the sky. It calls into question a lot of things we normally take for granted. Things like religion, ownership and civilization. And the difficulty of getting from here to there by truck.

Using a documentary style, the movie tells the story of what happens when Xi, a Kalahari bushman, sees a Coke bottle fall out of the sky and takes it home. After all, it came from the sky and it must be a gift from the gods. Soon the bush people are fighting over it. Xi realizes this is not good. So he tries to get rid of it. But the darn thing just won’t go away. It just won’t go away. What to do? What to do? Nothing but head off to the edge of the world to throw the evil object away.

Meanwhile in another part of Africa, a young woman tells her parents she wants to go off to the Kalahari and be a teacher. They are not happy but there is no stopping her.

And Xi just keeps on doing what Xi and his people have always done, live in harmony with the natural world. When a baboon gets a the bottle, Xi convinces him that it is a bad thing. The baboon returns the bottle to Xi, convinced he had better get rid of it as fast as he can.

The priest in charge of the school where the girl is to teach asks his biologist friend to pick the teacher up. The biologist just happens to be the pilot who threw the Coke bottle out of the plane window. You’d think the trip to pick up the teacher and bring her back to the school would be an easy peasy. The biologist and his truck have one hell of a time getting to her. The trip is a slapstick affair. But this is the bush country of Africa. What else can you expect? Oh, and one final thing. The truck’s brakes are shot.

Just when the biologist thinks things can’t get any slapsticker, there’s the return trip with the teacher to the school, and things do get slapsticker. Thanks to a warthog and a rhino. It ain’t pretty when a naked white man in his red shorts runs through the jungle with a warthog after him and his name isn’t Tarzan. Talk about the worse beginning for a romantic relationship between a biologist and a teacher, this is one of the worst. It can’t get any worse, or can it?

Since the film has a documentary element, we learn so many helpful things. For instance, the rhino is the fire prevention officer of the jungle. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. It’s not a good idea to stand and try to stop an armored car all by your lonesome when it’s chasing some bad guys. Just how do you get a truck out of a tree. Why are women always impressed with a guy who has a better car?-

Does Xi get rid of the evil Coke bottle? Does the biologist win over the teacher? Do the gods leave Coke bottles for bushmen to find?

Banned in a small town

September 22 – 28 is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. In honor of the week, I am spotlighting the Movie, “Storm Center” (1956):

In cities and towns everywhere, there are those people who are checking the shelves of libraries and bookstores to find out if there is one of those books. Those books that have radical ideas. Ideas they don’t want others to discover. Because the ideas might pollute the minds of their fellow citizens or maybe their fellow citizens will discover the foolishness of these ideas.

Or maybe there’s some words in a book that might be bad. Books like the “n-word” in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After all, George Orwell in his 1984 warned us that language can be manipulated.

Or maybe there’s a scene where the characters are doing something that’s “bad”, scenes like the ones in Ulysses or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

In the movie, “Storm Center,” the Town Council of Small Town USA wants the local library director to get rid of one book, The Communist Dream. They are receiving letters from people that don’t like that one book. It’s the 1950s, and the communists are out to destroy us and our way of life. Just one book.

Alicia Hull, the library director, agrees that she’ll take the book off the shelves. in her office, she asks herself, and her employee, “How do you get rid of a book?”

She could burn it. But then she remembers that they burned books in Germany that the Nazis didn’t like. Then she remembers her principles. Even though it may cost her the children’s wing of the library, she won’t be bought off.

Back at the City Council, she stands by her principles. She will not remove the book. Then one of the Council brings up organizations she belonged to. He insinuates that she must be guilty by association. After all, this is the 1950s. Tailgunner Joe is running wild in Washington, pointing fingers at this one and that one, bringing down the high and the mighty with accusations of communism.

If her association with these organizations gets out, there’s no telling what will happen to her. They might even have to fire her. They can’t have their children associating with a librarian who is a communist.

Just remove that book. And any others the town council doesn’t approve of and everything will be a-okay.

First it was just one book. Now it’s two or three or ten or a hundred.

Alicia Hull refuses to remove the book. And so she suffers the consequences. What the town council doesn’t realize is that their decision will have ramifications for the whole community.

As Alicia Hull, Betty Davis delivers one of her best performances. The film may be dated. After all, people wear bibs as they eat their lunch in the movie. Still it has a powerful impact on the viewer when the viewer asks, “What if?”

Since the 1980s, the American Library Association has celebrated the freedom to read by honoring those books which are challenged or banned. So be a rebel and visit your local bookstore or library and check out a copy of one of those books. You’ll find a list on this page.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Tulaigh Mhór’s ‘Bout with the Lottery

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the movie: “Waking Ned Devine” (1998):

This little bit of an Irish movie will surely make you smile. So raise your pint to Ned Devine this upcoming St. Paddy’s Day and thank him for his good fortune. It’s almost as good as finding a Leprechaun’s pot of gold.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Year of the Comet

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the movie “Year of the Comet” (1992):

Next Tuesday is that day. You know the one. Valentine’s Day, and what better way to celebrate it with your sweetheart than a glass of wine. Especially if it’s the world’s most valuable wine in history. $10,000 a glass valuable.The wine is called the Year of the Comet.

They say that opposites attract. Well, Penelope Ann Miller and Tim Daly are about as opposite as you can get. She is a smart wine connoisseur. He is a beer guzzling action adventure kind of guy. And, of course, the action adventure and the romance happens on the Island of Skye. Where else could it be?

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Sonny Weaver’s Big Day

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the movie “Draft Day” (2014):

In celebration of the upcoming Superbowl Game, I thought I would throw out a different kind of football movie.

Everybody wants to fire Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner). At least, in Cleveland. When you are the GM for Cleveland, and your team is on the skids, everybody is out to fire you. NFL Draft Day is the next day and Sonny had better deliver some splash or he ain’t going to have a job.  That’s the news Sonny’s boss delivers as soon as Sonny arrives at work. For the boss, Frank Langella, it’s not about offense. It’s not about defense. It’s about selling tickets.

Everybody is evaluating every decision Sonny makes in microscopic detail. Everybody has an agenda. Everybody has an opinion, and mostly everybody’s wrong. Sonny’s opinion is the only one that counts. And Sonny puts everything on the line. So the only opinion he goes with is his gut. But he don’t always listen to his gut. If everybody would just leave him alone, he could do that.

Talk about stress. Sonny lives with stress. Fingernail chewing stress. On top of the draft, Sonny has some real personal issues to deal with. His father’s recent death and his girlfriend’s (Jennifer Garner) announcement that she is pregnant. It’s enough to kill a lesser mortal than Sonny.

Seattle calls. They want to trade their Number One spot in the draft this year. That means that Cleveland will get the latest hotshot quarterback, Bo Callahan. Well, if that ain’t some splash. So Seattle is on the phone, offering Sonny the pick of a lifetime. It’s going to cost Sonny big time.

Will Sonny take the bait? Of course, he does. Seattle has just given Sonny the splash he needs to keep his job. The owner is h. a. p. p. y. The War Room scouts are happy. Everybody is happy, except for the quarterback to be replaced and the Coach who has to coach the greatest thing since peanut butter, Bo Callahan of the Wisconsin Badgers.

The coach wants a team that will make it easy for him to win. And Bo is not on that team. His mother isn’t either. She tells him, “You sold the cow for the magic beans.”
But Bo is happy. So happy that his agent, Sean Combs, lets Sonny know, “Bo loves the cold weather.”

Then Sonny’s gut starts kicking in. He tells his War Room, “We need to find out what Bo’s something is, and see if that something matters.”

Kansas City calls. They want to make a trade. Buffalo calls and they want something. The Houston Texans are on the phone and they’re asking. Before we know it, Bo is being passed around like he’s Tom Brady’s football and it’s getting harder to find a receiver. It’s master’s chess and high stakes poker both rolled into one day that we’re seeing on the screen. Man, that’s football. That’s comedy.