I have not seen any of the movies nominated for Academy Awards this year.
When I read that Steven Spielberg – Steven Spielberg! – does not think it important whether Connecticut legislators voted for or against slavery, I’m not putting my money down to watch his movie. (My wife is from Connecticut; you should hear her.)
However, we did see a movie Saturday night that won an Academy Award in 2008. The public television station in our region, WNET, Channel 13, has a Saturday night series of indies that keeps us close to the tube. Many of these movies are true and accurate in the best sense – emotionally.
The indies follow another series of so-called classics featuring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire and Gary Cooper that we find hopelessly brittle and out-dated., But the indies touch us almost every week.
Saturday night we caught up with Once, the John Carney film, about an Irish busker and a Czech immigrant who meet on the streets of Dublin and within a week make music and change each other’s lives. How did we miss it when it came out?
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Oscar for best original song, Falling Slowly. On Saturday I realized the movie has been turned into a Broadway musical (I’m a little slow.)
The caliber of the indies series is consistently high -- an American Indian man going home to die (Barking Water), a young Spanish woman working for an aging intellectual (Amador), and two young teachers in New York, one Muslim, one Orthodox Jewish, whose lives and values are so similar (Arranged.) The films take us places both exotic and as real as the inside of our own hearts.
How did we not know of all these films? I guess because of the money-making machine that produces blockbusters that get hyped for mass audiences -- and the awards.
But I am resistant – this year, more than ever, when I hear that Spielberg shrugs off an historic vote in Congress, or Ben Affleck invents a phony chase in Iran, or Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal hype torture because it heightens the plot, .
Goodness knows we have enough birthers and climate-change deniers out there. Can we afford a disdain of facts in pop movies? Facts matter. So do insights into the human heart. We stay home Saturdays for the indies on WNET.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.