It's been two glorious weeks for us award-winning teachers. Last week I reviewed the documentary Rock School, a raucous romp with teens from Philly grooving Zappa all the way to Germany. This week's Mad Hot Ballroom shows the NYC public schools competing for top honors in ballroom dancing, a required course that lets students and teachers, supplied by the American Ballroom Theater, strut their best stuff in the tango, rumba, meringue, and foxtrot.
Anytime I learn something new about teaching, I feel my day has been made. Don Argot's documentary, Rock School, did that for me today. I watched a gifted Paul Green take a group of 9 to 17 year olds in his Paul Green School for Rock Music in Philadelphia and make them into a band playing Black Sabbath, Santana, and a Zappa that an audience bowed to at a German Zappanele concert.
Robert Rodriguez stunned the cinema world about a dozen years ago with the low budget El Mariachi, a story of mistaken identity, a lethal guitar case, and a mariachi who just wants to play his instrument. Since then, the director has not had to scrounge for money and exceeds expectations with movies as varied as Spy Kids and Sin City.
The only magic realism in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is the one, one-size-fits-all pair of jeans worn by four teenage friends, whose summer adventures bring a dose of realism magical only for the insights into life, the pain and pleasure that come in from age seventeen to the end. As a coming-of-age film, this ranks with the best of them for non-condescending, adult-like perceptions, with nary a "like" in the girls' vocabulary.
"Ask why" was the mantra of one of the most remarkable companies in the history of modern society: Enron. And not one, not even the venerable accounting firm of Arthur Anderson, asked that question. So the little energy company that could amassed billions of dollars through deceptive accounting practices, mainly by stating profit based on future earnings (HFV=hypothetical future value) and shipping losses to offshore shell companies.
Second-tier director Renny Harlin should have hunted for minds other than these two pedigreed writers to elevate Mindhunters from the banal to the mediocre. Or better yet, when he cast Val Kilmer for no more than a ten-minute part and Christian Slater for a bit more, all crew should have fled knowing the curse that lies under billing stars with brief parts.
Manhattan still drives Woody Allen crazy: Urbanites are prey to ambition and lust, pride and diffidence and even sound like Woody with their halting sentences, paranoid affectations, and occasionally witty lines tossed off like the dregs of their grande lattes. Melinda and Melinda is a petting zoo of needy moderns who most of all want to find love, which eludes them right up to the last cliffhanging moment.