I could say more, but I'm tired. A rundown:
Friday: a/k/a Tommy Chong
. A light, meandering documentary, not unlike a bunch of good-natured hippie stoners telling a story. The subject matter itself (how the Ashcroft-era DEA entrapped, strong-armed, and eventually convicted Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame because his son okayed shipping an order of hand-blown glass bongs from their family business to Pennsylvania, which is against the law there) isn't light but the film treatment of the case itself is fairly cursory. We're told of the ridiculous show of force used in raiding Chong's home (including helicopters, dogs, and guys with machine guns), of the deal he strikes to plead guilty under threats from the government to go after his wife and son if he goes to trial, of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania who uses Chong's almost 30 year old movies
as reason to request he be sentenced to 9 months in prison. Mostly, though, we're left with the impression that this guy is not a hardened criminal, certainly not a threat to national security (as the "terrorists use drug money to fund their operations, therefore drug offenders are aiding terrorists" Bush White House made sure to point out).
Saturday: Gitmo: The New Rules of War. Swedish film, aiming a blurred lens at the circumstances surrounding Gitmo's one Swedish imprisoned "enemy combatant," the inability to find out much of anything about anything, some of the key players involved in the war on terror and the policy of abuse that exists without really shedding any light on the subject. Worse, though most of the film is in English there are several segments where people are speaking in Swedish, sometimes at great length, without subtitles or translation. After the subject of the film finally breaks his long-held silence about his experiences in detention and goes on for some time in Swedish, the next spoken English line was literally, "That might sound like a prisoner's wet dream...". People in the audience actually yelped out, "What?!". Disappointing.
A Prairie Home Companion. Laughed out loud several times. Ah, my people. Not a perfect movie, but certainly enjoyable enough. The line went around two corners and we thought for sure we were screwed, but ended up having pretty good seats and time to get popcorn. An annoying chick two seats down from me kept talking loudly to herself, which was a drag, and an elderly lady was helped by a flashlight-wielding usher into a seat next to me after the movie was already well underway where she proceeded to talk to me and ask me "Is that Meryl Streep?" and "What's happening?" As a nice Minnesota girl, I just sucked it up and laughed all over again at some old, familiar jokes.
Sunday: The Proposition. Some SIFF tight-ass wouldn't let us (or 8 other couples) into the movie when our bus rolled up 5 minutes late. Or, actually, our bus was over 20 minutes late, but we were only 5 minutes late for the movie. "No Late Seating" the guy said. I was far more angry about it than I might have been otherwise because MY viewing had been interrupted at that very theater just the night before while SIFF ushers seated people right fucking next to me, well into the film. At least 15 or 20 minutes into the film! Good god, the arbitrariness just galls me. The guy made excuses for a while, but it didn't change the fact that we were screwed, with too little time to go home before the next film but too much time to comfortably kill. I suspect the movie will be good. Perhaps we'll have a chance to see it in wider release or as a DVD.
King Leopold's Ghost. Based on Adam Hochschild's the book of the same name, produced and directed by Pippa Scott
, who was on hand for Q&A after the screening. Wonderfully done, powerfully reconstructed, this film not only covers the actions of Leopold II himself, but the ramifications of the Belgians in the Congo that continue to play out to this day. Pramas has more
. This is a real winner and I recommend it. My Hello Kitty baseball cap is off to Pippa Scott as well, who started off as the daughter of the screen-writer responsibly for those Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire pictures, went on to an acting career of her own (appearing in The Searchers and Auntie Mame), formed Lorimar Productions (which produced just about every damn mega-hit from the 70s or 80s you've ever seen... The Waltons, Eight is Enough, Dallas, even The Big Red One) and eventually decided she "wanted to give something back" and so started doing films for Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. She founded the International Monitor Institute
, which led her to do this current documentary. Fascinating woman. I was sitting in the second row when she did her Q&A and could have gladly listened to her talk more.
Books: While busing around and waiting in line, I finished The Sparrow
, which I was reading for my book club and found that I quite enjoyed. It's not exactly science fiction in the traditional sense, though in a way it is exactly science fiction. It also delves deeply into the realm of spirituality, sexuality, religion, and other very non-sci fi things. Might pick up the sequel. Am half-way through the slender paperback, How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok
, by Unclaimed Territory
's Glenn Greenwald, the constitutional lawyer who has some very informed, very cogent things to say about issues like holding US citizens indefinitely and without trial, or warrantless wire-tapping. I would love for my conservative, Bush-voting friends to read it and tell me what they think, in the hope we could have a conversation that didn't involve me being called a moonbat.