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Image: Women Dancing Culture Watch

Recent DVDs to Enjoy Over the Holidays and Suitable for the Whole Family!

by Angela Pressburger

Millions
2004, UK/USA, 98 minutes, released in November, 2005
Director: Danny Boyle (Trainspotting and 28 Days Later)

What It's About:

The delightful and magical story of seven-year-old Damian Cunningham and his nine-year-old brother Anthony as they deal with a bag of money that falls, seemingly from the sky, onto Damian's playhouse. The loot is the result of a train robbery of money on its way to be incinerated when British Pounds change to Euros in seven days time. The children stuff the £265,000 (about $450,000) under their bed. Damian, who talks to the Saints, especially St. Francis of Assisi, wants to use it for charity work, but Anthony leans toward investing. When Damian drops £10,000 (about $17,000) into a charity collection basket, despite Anthony’s urgent warnings to hide their new-found wealth, things begin to unravel …. The closing sequence is a bit of a stretch — but obviously a miracle is what we need here!


What to Look For:
Child actor, Alex Etel, who is bright, sweet and innocent and who registers as wonderfully real. All the enjoyable tricks the director uses to show us what his characters see — from saints to train robbers and a good old-fashioned bogeyman, plus a dream house that builds itself. This is magical realism used to the very best of effects. An opportunity to enter that world of limitless imagination and joyful surprise that most of us left behind when we adopted adult conventions like time, space and rational thought.

Why It Matters:
A very rare film in which ethics, being human and the spiritual all come together — It's not easy to make a film that is at once both sophisticated and whimsical. At last, family entertainment which everyone can enjoy and which doesn't talk down to anybody.

The DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source.

A Bear Named Winnie
2004, Canada, 88 minutes, documentary
US DVD release:  November 15, 2005  Canadian DVD release, August, 2005
Director: John Kent Harrison


What It's About:
In August 1914, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to fight in World War I, is travelling by train across Ontario. At one of the stops, he buys a bear cub and names her Winnie, in honour of his hometown, Winnipeg.

He takes her with him to the camp in Valcartier, Quebec where the Canadian expeditionary force is gathering and she becomes the unofficial mascot of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade. Winnie travels with the regiment all the way to England, but when they are sent to fight in France, it's clear that Winnie cannot go, so she is lodged at the London Zoo.

After the war,  popular children's author A.A. Milne took his son Christopher to the zoo one afternoon, and they met Winnie. On Christmas Eve, 1925, Milne published a story in the London Evening News that included a bear named Winnie-the-Pooh among its characters. Thus was born the "bear of very little brain."

What to Look For:
An interview with Harry's son, Fred, who still lives in Winnipeg, and lots of extra footage about bears.

Why It Matters:
Because either you grew up with Winnie-the- Pooh, or you can meet him now and get someone to read to you after the movie, over a 
glass of hot milk and honey.

The DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source; or from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Shop, who produced the film.

Monumental: The Fight for David Brower's Wild America
2004, USA, 77 minutes, documentary, released September 2005
Director: Kelly Duane


The Oregonian: " …a persuasive reminder of what exactly environmentalist are fighting 
for."

What It's About
From the moment David Brower first witnessed the extraordinary beauty of the Yosemite Valley, he recognized his life's work was to fight to preserve the American wilds for future generations. His life-long dedication and activism — including the twenty years he headed the Sierra Club — helped inspire the modern day environmental movement. The film tells the story of his unrelenting campaigns to protect and formally establish American national parks and officially recognized wilderness areas.

What to Look For:
Brower's central themes: the threatened beauty of the earth, the spiritual connection between humans and the great outdoors,  and the moral obligation to preserve what is left of the world's natural wonders. Wonderful archival footage, much of it shot by Brower himself, and interviews with leading conservationists, historians and politicians.

Why It Matters:
As a result of the policies of President George W.  Bush, we might see the North American ecological situation as bleak. Although this film presents the life and fighting spirit of one man, it is an inspiration for what even a single individual can do to change the course of our interaction with the environment. It also brings out the importance of developing our appreciation of the environment so that preservation becomes second nature.

Should we flood the Sistine Chapel to get closer to the ceiling? —   David Brower's advertising slogan against building a dam that would flood part of the Grand Canyon.

The DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source.

Harry and Tonto
1974, USA, 115 minutes released September 2005

Recognitions: Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Actor (Art Carney), 1975
Director: Paul Mazursky (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Bob & Carol & 
Ted & Alice
, and Blume in Love)

What It's About:
Harry (Art Carney) is an independent seventy- two-year-old retired New York school-teacher. He lives on the Upper West Side with his cat Tonto, until one day he's evicted from his apartment to make way for urban redevelopment. Happy with his life, Harry doesn't want to go and has to be carried out in his favourite chair by the police. Initially, he goes to live with his patronizing and endlessly complaining son and daughter-in-law on Long Island. 

Finding suburbia irritating and shallow, he packs up Tonto and sets out on a road trip across the country. In no particular hurry, when the airplane refuses to allow Tonto to be carried on, Harry takes the bus.  When the bus can't wait for Tonto to relieve himself, Harry buys a used car and picks up hitchhikers. He has a lot of fun and we don't want to spoil yours so, no more about the plot-line

What to Look For:
Harry's resilience that allows him to take what comes and accept people as they are. The film's funniest scene, finds Harry in a jail cell with an ancient Indian (Chief Dan George) who has been arrested for practicing medicine without a license. The two old men gravely discuss recent television shows, bursitis, and….

Why It Matters:
Most of us would like to have some of Harry's spunk and curiosity when we're seventy-two, so it's inspiring to travel down the road with him and know that his character won the 1974 Oscar for Best Actor over Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, Al Pacino in The Godfather, Part II, and Dustin Hoffman as Lenny. Sometimes Hollywood does get its priorities right!

The DVD should be available for both sale and rental from any major source.

Coming Soon: March of the Penguins, and Jonathan Miller’s The Mikado.


Angela Pressburger grew up in the film industry (father Emeric Pressburger made The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and Stairway to Heaven). She has been been an international program consultant at the Vancouver International Film Festival for the past ten years, and has spoken about film and sat on festival juries in both Europe and North America.  She has recently written Show It in Public! — a grassroots guide to showing film in public (www.showamovie.ca) and keeps busy writing reviews for her home video for discerning viewers website MapToMovies.com.

Book Reviews: The House of David, Offerings in the Snow and 1776

Cinema DVD Reviews: Women Around the World

Culture Watch Archives

© 2005 Angela Pressburger for SeniorWomenWeb
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