Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Ray of Sunshine....

... Before the Storm

As you may have guessed from yesterday's grumpy entry, Bush, I went into a bit of a funk when I woke up to make our morning cup of tea and found your press conference pre-empting the news. Oh, and it may have been the result of three sequential nights of reveling, with food abundant and wine flowing... Or stepping on the bathroom scale to discover... Well, I'll not bother you with the detail, Bush. Enough to say that the information was displeasing.

So it was a delight to find a couple of hours of respite at the movies. We went to see "Little Miss Sunshine" at our little local theater--the one where you can hear the explosions through the wall from the action film they happen to be showing concurrently. Remember the days, Bush, when movie theaters used to show just one picture at a time? Or, if they ran two, would run them sequentially, as a double bill? Ah, well. My apologies. I didn't start out this morning with the intention of wallowing in nostalgia.

Anyway, "Little Miss Sunshine." It's a delightful comedy about a little girl whose wacky fantasy of beauty pageant fame starts her dysfunctional family on a trek to California in a rickety VW bus. Her crusty grandpa dies along the way--but not before inspiring her with his belief in her ability to shine. Abducted from the bureaucratic snare of hospital red tape, his corpse accompanies the squabbling family on the last stages of their perilous journey to the Redondo Beach hotel, where they arrive in time to sneak their Olive in to the contest despite their last minute arrival. Our heroine--a bit on the plump side, and definitely uncool beside her immaculately primped and preened little rivals--manages to triumph over all of them by the sheer charm of her spunky authenticity.

Which is where the comedy began to spook me not a little, Bush, with its parade of sub-teen beauty queen hopefuls and their mercilessly competitive parents. Shades of Jon Benet, at a moment when that unfortunate little girl has crashed back into the news headlines with the arrest of her putative killer. The hideous distortion of little-girl energy into that row of curly-haired Barbie doll look-alikes with their sexy prancing on the runway to fame raises deeply troubling questions about the values of our society, Bush, with its rush to exploit even its own children in its insatiably commercial drive.

And we are shocked by the prevalence of child pornography. The New York Times ran a story yesterday about online pedophilia and its extension into real world predation. The arrest of John Mark Kerr leads to a media frenzy that shows no sign of cooling down. And yet we smile on the kind of emotional and psychological rape involved in making beauty queens of pretty little girls. I don't want to seem humorless, Bush, but I was disturbed by even this film's intentionally satirical take on its climactic scenes.

Then we got home and watched the first two acts of Spike Lee's four-act "requiem" for the city of New Orleans, and I got mad at you all over again... The cavalier incompetence of your response to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina simply defies belief, Bush. The documentary, thus far, has done a good job of allowing the victims of that dreadful storm to speak for themselves, and their story amounts to a terrible indictment of the failures of your administration at that critical time. Compared with your rush to send aid to the victims of the Indonesian tsunami, your inexcusably slow reaction in Mississippi and Louisiana leads almost inevitably to the conclusion that you simply did not know or care about poor black folks in your own country. Very sad. Very maddening. I hope it's not forgotten again before November.


David said...

We saw the film a couple of weeks ago and also thought it was great. One of the best things in awhile. Did you really think Olive was plump and uncool? She seemed like the only living person on the stage, until of course her family joined her.

Reel Fanatic said...

I've been railing all summer to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot that it's a crime how this movie hasn't gotten better distribution .. now, seemingly 10 years after it first came out, it's finally coming to my little corner of the world this weekend .. I can't wait to see it!

GringoWithoutBorders said...

Great movie. However Peter, if you want a movie that may provide some justification to being grumpy or at least let you know that there may be situations when it is appropriate to be a little grumpy please rent "PROOF". I thought this movie was great!!

I cannot think of any better term to use for these young girls in beauty pagents, except REPULSIVE!!!

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for the tip, Gringo. Cheers, PaL

Dave said...


Another testimony for Proof. Paltrow is great and Hopkins and Gyllanhall are, well, Hopkins and Gyllenhall. Doncha love movies about crazy mathematicians? Try also an earlier Proof, Australian, 1992, about a blind man (Hugo Weaver) who takes snapshots and has people describe them so he has proofs (pun, of course) of where he has been. Best photo/reality film since Blowup. A youngster named Russell Crowe supports.