Monday, December 08, 2008

As THEY See Things

I can't launch into this week's entry without divulging a fact that few people know. They announced all the college football bowl games and all the opponents yesterday. Some look like interesting games, but that's another subject. What strikes me is that, while the sad (or was it "dismal"?) practitioners of the science of economics tell us to get used to the idea of reacquainting ourselves with Mr. Hard Times Depression again, the promoters and hype merchants who think up these bowl games now have plans for, are you ready? - 34 games and accompanying pageants! That's a long way from the days when the originators of the Rose Bowl had a hard time deciding whether to feature football or chariot races at the original Pasadena event about a hundred years ago. By the way, my Hawkeyes look like a solid pick vs. the Gamecocks, national bird of the University of South Carolina, in the Outback Bowl, a Florida event honoring a restaurant chain with an Australian theme. Go figure.

Let's assume you aren't one of those families with deals that allow you to pick movie rentals right from your laptop, and that you actually still go into stores to pick your flicks. Let me guess at the categories you don't go to, and make a little suggestion. You stay away from the room packed with porn. Our local store, in fact, replaced that room altogether because stolen tape values consistently ran ahead of revenue. The old room now has tanning booths. Anyway, depending on your preferences, you might also steer clear of horror movies, great wrestling moments. documentaries (which you promise yourself to watch some day), rap concert videos and foreign films.
That's where I'd like to make a little suggestion. We can learn from foreign films, and some of them are actually pretty entertaining. I think you can tell certain things about a country by the movies it produces. People in certain other countries, I think, may see themselves as less violent, more verbal, and more concerned with character than the average American (remember, this may be THEIR view).
It is true that you can't do other things while watching these movies from afar. You have to keep your eye on the subtitles unless you can remember Grandma Corleone's Italian. But I sometimes give these features a try, figuring that the bad stuff from overseas will never make it this far, and what does could be worth a look. I hasten to add that this theory doesn't always work, but hey, it's sure cheaper than spending 15 minutes watching "Hancock" before leaving the theater in disgust.
Some of the stories in these movies are terrific. Take your pick: A Japanese man decides out of nowhere that he wants to learn to dance - a thing so UN-Japanese that he feels he must do it in secret. A handful of Czech air force pilots are forced to walk away from their aircraft because of the NAZI takeover, but then find their way to England, where they join the pilot-starved RAF just as the Battle of Britain begins. An Italian adolescent secretly observes the problems of a local young war widow. A businessman takes a tremendous risk by planning to take a South American river boat OVER a mountain pass to a neighboring river. A German accordion player is so taken by a sample of American zydeco music that it changes his life. The captain and crew of a German U-Boat in World War Two struggle just to stay alive. And so on.
I must have watched movies from at least a dozen countries. Of course, not all of them are memorable, and I confess that a few made little or no sense at all. But if you're not afraid to see actors you don't know, in stories you haven't heard, speaking words you don't understand, showing life as seen in a different country, you could do a lot worse than to go ahead on this little suggestion, trying to see things as they do.


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