Whale Rider – 2 Stars (Average)
“Whale Rider” is the story of an 11-year-old Maori girl who must overcome the prejudice of her grandfather and tribal tradition to fulfill her destiny and become the leader of her ancient aboriginal tribe in New Zealand’s North Island.
Only the eldest son becomes the designated heir to carry forward the timeless knowledge from one generation to the next, but “Pai” (Paikea played by Keisha Castle-Hughes) is determined to do so in spite of the odds.
Pai’s twin brother, who was supposed to fulfill the role as the next tribal leader, dies at birth with their mother. Her father is so distraught that he leaves the island and tradition, and it is left to her grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene) and grandmother (Vicky Houghton) to raise Pai. Her grandfather Koro’s belief system will not allow him to compromise centuries of tradition.
On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale.
This was not just about a film, but actual tradition. Because Pai was doing traditional Maori things that women are not supposed to do, the film cast and crew performed special Maori chants to ward off any bad luck that might arise.
Whale Rider will test your composure, melt your heart and make you want to scream. Child actress Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her incredible performance (won by Charlize Theron in “Monster”). Whale Rider had 29 other winning awards and 28 other nominations.
The whales in the movie were depicted using a combination of footage of real whales, life-size models with humans creating movement and some computer-aided help. Castle-Hughes said the key whale riding scene took place 15-20 miles offshore and was terrifying.
This film should get a good rather than an average rating (the story line is THAT good), but it suffers from terrible sound management making it sometimes difficult to follow. I would see this movie again, which is saying something when I rate a film as average.
Glory – 2 Stars (Average)
“Glory” shows the bravery of the American Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company of soldiers as they fight the prejudices of both their own Union army and their enemy the Confederates.
The 54th Massachusetts is trained and led into battle by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a young idealist and abolitionist from a wealthy family. Gould, like the 54th, is pretty much hung out to dry by all concerned. He is supported by Sergeant Major John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), the highest ranking African American soldier, and Private Trip (Denzel Washington), a runaway slave.
Washington won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and a Golden Globe for his performance. Glory also won Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Sound, Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction and Film Editing, and Golden Globe nominations for Best Director (Edward Zwick), Best Score (James Horner) and Best Screenplay (Kevin Jarre).
Glory is long overdue. America is full of people wanting to take credit for things they did not do; it is good to see credit and recognition being given to Americans who did do something honorable with bravery.
Chris Rock: Bigger & Blacker – 2 Stars (Average)
This is a classic, stand-up comedy routine at the famous Apollo Theater in New York City by the very best comedian in America in 1999, Chris Rock. Rock, who is billed as a comedian only, actually delivers social insight and relationship truths wrapped up in the “f-k” word in what seemed like a 1,000 repetitions in 65 minutes onstage.
Chris Rock delivers his sharp opinions and truth-of-his-time in the cultural vulgarity that is common ghetto talk in metro area African American communities. Cut through the language (ignore the method of delivery) and Chris Rock is very impressive as a comedian and social observer in 1999.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley