Thursday, March 06, 2008
Popcorn Soaked Tears
Be Kind Rewind (BKR), a film starring Mos Def, Danny Glover and Jack Black has received mixed reviews reviews at the box office. I loved it. It made me cry.
Very few movies make me cry happy tears. Actually – I take that back – that is total and complete horse shit. I’ve teared up watching Hallmark commercials. I cried watching this commercial, hearing this song, observing the finale of this tv show and telling this story.
Many Hollywood films try to pull out all the stops to get you to leak salt water into your popcorn. They orchestrate and manipulate, add music, throw in a kid and bring together all the elements of a formula guaranteed to evoke sobbing. Take Kite Runner for example, a recipe for wailing: Fold in two parts little boy, mix vigorously with a voiceover, sprinkle a pinch of child rape, bake under the heat of swelling music, garnish with the kite, flying in the air = Instant Cry.
But BKR isn’t the orchestrated Hollywood formula created with the sole interest of coaxing a cry. No, BKR is an organic and lovely little twinkle of the heart. It’s a celebration of mediocre people with individually few charms – but collectively capable of making a great movie. Discovering BKR filled me with the same unexpected joy received upon stumbling into a dingy New York Diner that turns out to be an undiscovered gem of the city. I thought I would hate it – turns out I love it and kind of want to keep everyone else from discovering its charms.
A small community video shop owner (played by Danny Glover) is told that his business and home are condemned and that without expensive improvements, his building will be soon be replaced by a fancy new condominium complex. Determined to save his home and livelihood, he sets out to investigate the competition and leaves his adopted son (played by Mos Def), to watch over the store. Mos Def is renting the occasional 1 video for $1 until the arrival of his BFF Jack Black. BFF Black has been magnetized through a freak accident and as he touches all the videos in the shop they are erased. Threatened by demanding neighborhood renters and fearful Glover will be disappointed with them both, Def and Black come up with the idea to re-shoot each film using a dusty old camera - playing all the parts themselves. Herein lies the heart of the film. In order to make the low-budget films – Black and Def employ the help of the local community and soon there is a line around the block of people wanting to see their town and their friends in the low-budget remakes of their favorite films. In a last ditch effort to make enough money to save the shop and keep the condos from going up, the entire town participates in a mockumentary film that recreates the town as the home of a historical hero.
In the end – the shop folds to progress – but you get the warm feeling that the community rallied together and were closer for their efforts. It makes me wonder if this is what the first few Hollywood films were really about. In the start of all the craziness, before the money and rehabbed actresses, before DVD’s and internet piracy – perhaps a movie was about bringing a community together to laugh and bond and share in the spirit of creating something together.
Things I Didn’t Like:
• Movies love to make “progress” evil, casting static cities as unlikely heroes. This film follows the Hollywood trap of trying to make it look like chain stores and DVDs are killing real art. The concept that VHS could be worthy of preserving is more unbelievable to me than the idea that Jack Black could become magnetized enough to wipe videos but not stick to cars and then demagnetize within the course of 48 hours.
• I wanted to see more home made movies!! This was really the best part – watching two people on a $5 budget recreate scenes from our favorite films. I think reality TV proves that while Hollywood makes the big blockbuster films – in the end, it’s the films shot in your own back yard that make people feel warm and fuzzy. Even better if they can quickly be uploaded to YouTube to share with friends and family.
Things I Did Like:
• Watch for the film-within-the-film scene of Fat’s playing the organ. The low budget effects of the trumpets leaping from the church organ brought out my first Kleenex.
• The fact that this film was likely shot in Passaic New Jersey with actual Passaic locals playing bit parts and working as extras makes the film extra special. Indeed, while there were several big name actors in the credits, the true stars of the show were the people of Passaic. This point is best illustrated in the films final three minutes when community members appear in the home made film-within-the-film giving the most natural and spirited performances of the flick.
• The movie doesn’t bother with painting the town, the people or the condemned building as anything more than junk – but it does make the point that with spirit, cooperation and creativity, one man’s junk can be another man’s treasure.
This is what she said, click here to see what he said. Same date, two different perspectives