There are people in the world who boast they don’t watch television and/or movies. Too bad. Though I firmly believe that in general everyone watches too much television (this reviewer included), every once in a while a show comes along that not only should be watched, but should be required viewing.
“Freedom Riders” is one of a series of shows airing on PBS’ “American Experience” that also is available on DVD.
In 1961, 10 members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) boarded one Trailways and one Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C. Their aim was to expose the ongoing practice of racial segregation as the buses wove their way through the Deep South, ending in New Orleans.
The Freedom Riders integrated lunch counters and bus-stop waiting rooms designated as “Whites Only.” Their mission, using nonviolent tactics, was to make the United States aware of the thriving bigotry and prejudice. They never fought back, even when confronted with life-threatening situations.
“Freedom Riders” documents the terror encountered on a day-by-day basis; the mob beatings, fire bombings, police compliance with the Ku Klux Klan and the government troop intervention.
It would have been nice to read about this historic event as it was happening, but there was very little press coverage. Thank goodness for quality television. You might want to spread the word.
Another bus trip — different challenges.
There are lots of road pictures that have made good movies, but none as fun or unique as “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Released in 1994, this Australian film tells the story of three entertainers who buy a bus and travel the desolate outback from Sydney to Alice Springs so one of them can be reunited with his young son.
Adding to the “adventure” is the fact that the three entertainers, Adam, Tick and Ralph, prefer to be known by their respective stage names — Felicia, Mitzi and Bernadette — drag queens one and all. Lip-syncing to a fabulous soundtrack of disco hits, the three aren’t just dressed “to the nines,” they’re costumed to the 10’s and even the 20’s if you count wigs, make-up and long eyelashes.
Priscilla, of title fame, is the name of the bus that transports them through lonely deserts meeting Aboriginal tribes, stumbling into small mining towns with rough and tumble bars, and eventually arriving at their destination resort.
Even though the soundtrack is terrific and the costumes are to die for, the strength of this “Adventure” lies with the stellar performances of excellent cast members.
Guy Pearce (Felicia) and Hugo Weaving (Mitzi) will be familiar to fans of “L.A. Confidential” and “Lord of the Rings: Trilogy” respectively. They dare to show their feminine side in all its frolicking glory. Terence Stamp, whose acting career began more than four decades ago, brings the day-to-day challenges of transsexual Bernadette to the screen with tenderness and humor. (A special nod to the performance of Bill Hunter, who recently died, as the compassionate Aussie mechanic).
Whether you’re looking for an avant-garde escapade or a fun film experience, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” will be an entertaining ride on a bus.
Coming-of-age movies depicting the trials and tribulations of young boys make tons of money, particularly if they focus on gross behavior and locker room antics. That may explain why “Saint Ralph” didn’t register blockbuster status. Instead, this charming Canadian release (don’t let the word “charming” scare you away), takes a different turn and touches a myriad of human emotions, not the least of which is laughter.
Ralph (Adam Butcher) is embroiled in an Ontario, Canada, Catholic school and has already made an unfavorable impression on the strict headmaster, Father Fitzpatrick. He’s caught smoking on campus and his weekly confessions are more than enough to merit regular punishment. Unbeknownst to his bullying classmates or favorite teacher, Father Hibbert, Ralph’s father was killed in the war and his mother is in a coma. Ralph visits her every day and Nurse Alice (Jennifer Tilly) encourages the lad when things look most bleak. She observes Ralph visiting his mother daily, praying for a miracle.
As punishment for one of his sins, Ralph is assigned to the cross-country team. He has an epiphany and decides he needs to make a miracle happen and the story takes off from there. No need to spoil the surprise. “Saint Ralph” is a hidden treasure that will make you cry a little and laugh a lot.
Rebecca Redshaw is an author and playwright who worked for 25 years in the film industry in Los Angeles. Copies of her book, SOFA CINEMA: An Easy Guide to DVDs, may be purchased at the Sequim Gazette. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grading this week’s DVDs: the ABC’s
Mon, Mar 19, 2012
Politics, political figures and spies
Tue, Mar 6, 2012
Tue, Feb 14, 2012
And now, reality
Mon, Jan 30, 2012
Looking back on the year that was (Part 1 of 2)
Wed, Dec 7, 2011
Film buffs should revisit ‘Northwest’
Wed, Nov 2, 2011
Conspiracy theories played out on film
Tue, Oct 18, 2011
Mix-ups, marriage and horse management
Mon, Oct 3, 2011
Going ‘Grease,’ locally and on DVD
Tue, Sep 13, 2011
It’s All About the Music
Fri, Sep 9, 2011