36/51 BRIDGET JONES’S BABY
The new BRIDGET JONES installment, directed by Sharon Maguire, is everything you want it to be: funny, wicked, clever, heartfelt and joyful. It’s the perfect film to see with girlfriends or by yourself with a cocktail after a bad day (as I did).
Maguire directed the first film to great acclaim. She was a UK television news/documentary/commercial director and was friends with author Helen Fielding, who based the character of Shazzer on Maguire. It was Maguire’s first feature but she pulled it off beautifully. After so much time away from our zany Jones, with the world having greatly altered during that time, I think it was a wise decision to bring back Maguire, whose humanity infuses every frame of this film.
Another stroke of luck is that Emma Thompson co-wrote the screenplay and appears as Bridget’s deadpan OB/GYN. I feel certain that much of the feminist, naughty and dry-humored dialogue must have originated with Thompson.
So glad you’re back, Bridget. We missed you.
35/51 PINE RIDGE
Our indigenous populations have been on my mind lately because of the protest movement happening around the Dakota Access Pipeline. This documentary, directed by Swedish filmmaker Anne Eborn, is a fly-on-the-wall observation of the lives and dreams of young people living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The poverty of this place is heartbreaking, especially when you see the myriad of complex issues that arise from such a lack of resources–alcoholism, abuse, absent parents, gangs, prison time, poor nutrition and medical/dental care, gaps in education, shoddy housing, broken-down cars and a dearth of meaningful or productive work. And, of course, as with many documentaries–you see the potential for what could be.
There is a nine-year boy who “can’t tie” because his parents never taught him and who has to think hard about how old he is. All I wanted was for his adult caretaker to sit down right then and there and teach him how to tie and how to count. But she has troubles of her own and the thought doesn’t cross her mind. There are teenage boys who can’t stay in school but who have dreams of becoming psychologists and architects. And one boy just wants to be a guardian over the land and the animals that live on it.
What I love about how Eborn shot these kids is that you see them visually, engaged in a routine activity or in the boring nothingness that engulfs them every day, but you hear their voice-overs speaking to their actual hopes for their lives. The juxtaposition of reality and dreams is sobering. There is also footage of long-haired young men and women riding horses across the stark landscape and you just have to wonder what could have been for this culture if their populations hadn’t been wiped out, if their communities hadn’t been besieged and if they hadn’t been forced into a way of life that offers them nothing and is counter-intuitive to the way they lived for so long. Along with slavery, this has got to be one of the blackest stains across our country.
Writer/Director Frances Bodomo created a stunning short film that follows a Ghanaian family who take their restless granddaughter to a tent revival deep in Louisiana to get her “slain in the Spirit” and cured from her rebellion. This short premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, features a knock-out performance by young Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild, 12 Years a Slave), and is evocatively shot on 16mm.
Bodomo made the film during her MFA program at NYU. Her subsequent short film, Afronauts, is currently being developed into a feature via the Sundance Directors Lab. This is a visionary filmmaker who I am thrilled to have discovered.