Popcorn Perspectives – Week of July 27, 2020

Popcorn Perspectives with Danny Minton

Week of July 27, 2020

Rebuilding Paradise
Rated PG-13
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Available Through Violet Crown’s Virtual Cinema

Once again using his time to make a documentary (his last outing explored the life of Pavarotti), Ron Howard sets out here to look at the town of Paradise, CA, where 95% of the city burned to the ground in 2018, killing 85 residents and displacing more than 50,000 lives. Through interviews with a variety of people from the town and being onsite through its rebuilding process, the documentary closely and delicately allows the people to tell their story as they struggle to not only keep Paradise alive, but also find a way to strengthen their devastated community. Rather than place himself into the narrative, Howard sincerely and skillfully stays out of the fray while allowing you to feel like a first-hand observer, making decisions along with Paradise’s resilient citizens, while at the same time empathetically traversing their path. The end result is a movie not about the fire, but rather about what it takes to survive and overcome an ordeal in modern America. As an aside, some arthouse theaters have created a way to watch important independent, foreign and documentary films virtually. In this case, National Geographic is working with Violet Crown out of Austin (and other small theaters nationally) to release content for home viewing so you don’t have to miss out during Covid. A

Summer of Spielberg: Week Nine
The Color Purple
Rated PG-13 for adult situations/language, violence
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Available on Hulu and Paid Streaming

When I was 13 years old, I was a bigger fan of director Steven Spielberg than I was of any movie star or athlete, so when he took on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Alice Walker, I didn’t know anything about the story, the book’s pedigree or the cast. I walked into the theater by myself for the first time (none of my friends wanted to see the movie) to watch what would become my favorite film for the next 8 years of my life. The story revolves around a young girl named Celie (played by then newcomer Whoopi Goldberg), whose life during the early part of the twentieth century in rural Georgia is chronicled as she is impregnated by her father twice as a teenager, only to have her babies taken from her, and then given to a widower (Danny Glover) to raise his babies and clean his home as an unloved and battered wife. Told delicately but shrewdly by Spielberg, who had never shot anything like this previously in his career, it’s a torturous and painful story that breaks your heart into pieces while simultaneously building up a powerful spirit of hope and love. It was also responsible for catapulting the careers of its then unknown actors including Goldberg, Glover and Oprah Winfrey who steals every scene she is in. It moved me like nothing ever had moved me before in my young age (and still is as impactful today). There are those that dismiss Spielberg’s version of the book claiming that he shied away from the novel’s more brutal and sexual elements in order to make a box office friendly PG-13 film. But I’m so thankful he did. Had it been rated R, I probably would have missed that important experience at a pivotal age. An experience which was responsible for my love of film, and thus probably my writing about movies today. The Color Purple also marks the first time I paid attention to the Oscars as I sat patiently waiting for its first win of the night, which never happened. Although it got 10 nods, it was disappointingly shut out by Out of Africa (and a couple others). The movie was my primer to the Black experience in America and the systemic racism of the time. In retrospect, that night of the Oscars probably upset me so much due to also being introduced to the racism that existed in Hollywood, which they have only recently begun addressing. At that moment, my naive and innocent version of moviemaking began to abruptly evolve.