1 Thelma and Louise
Thelma and Louise is a very American film. It is a road movie combined with a Western. This film could not have taken place in Europe. Well, it could have taken place in Europe but it would have been a completely different movie. As far as I know, there is no landscape like the Southwest US anywhere in Europe. This film couldn’t even take place east of the Mississippi. There is no landscape like this in the Eastern US. There is a hostility in the landscape that is not found in the east. It’s hot, there is little water, it takes guts to eke out a living in the Southwest US. In the PBS Mormons American Experience/Frontline special, one of the interviewees said that the reason Brigham Young went to Utah was “it was the land that no one else wanted.” There is a beauty to the Southwest, but there is a harshness as well. I was thinking about that when I saw Breaking Bad. In the second season, Walter White and Jesse are out in the desert cooking meth when the car battery dies. I thought, “How inconvenient.” Then I realized, “Oh, there in the desert. They could die.” It also couldn’t be made in the east because the tradition of the outlaw is most firmly grounded in the West. The West is the land where a criminal like Billy the Kid could be celebrated and immortalized, not in spite of his criminal exploits, but precisely for his criminal exploits.
These themes exist very strongly in Thelma and Louise. Thelma and Louise are on an innocent road trip, when an attempted rape and murder spawns a desperate escape from the law. It strikes me how ordinary both Thelma and Louise are at the beginning of the movie, and how they transform from normal women into outlaws. They are outlaws in the classic sense. They kill, steal, destroy public property, sling guns, and go on the lam.
Both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis are wonderful in their respected roles, and this film also served as Brad Pitt’s breakout part. I completely bought their character arcs, and I could understand why they made the choices that they did. From the very beginning, I stopped worrying about whether what they were doing was wrong or not, and simply rooted for them. That’s the correct reaction for a film like this. It is a Western. The film also looks amazing, with the wonderful scenery of the American Southwest.
I actually saw this film for the first time a couple of months ago specifically for this series, though I had heard about this movie for decades. It completely lived up to the hype. That is a rare feat.
2 The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a classic in the true sense of the word. It turns 75 years old this year, and it is still very much a part of the American consciousness. I watched this film when I was very young; it was a personal favorite. I also love Judy Garland’s performance in this film, there is something very open and honest about her portrayal of the young girl so far from home. The moment when she cries in the witches castle and calls out “I’m frightened Auntie Em, I’m frightened!” always seems completely authentic.
I don’t feel the need to say all that much about the film, partly because I have not seen this film in about ten years, but also because I don’t feel that I can add anything else to the discussion. So instead, I’ll just end with Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which almost didn’t even make it to the film.
If you are one of the 6% of the population who have not seen this film, go see it. Now. Right now.
3 Made in India
This is a documentary that I saw at the Cleveland International Film Festival. It was very powerful, to the point where many of the viewers practically started shouting at the director. The film is all about the outsourcing of surrogacy to India. Couples who cannot conceive use Indian women as surrogates, because the costs for IVF are 1/3 of what they would be in the United States.
This follows a particular couple and the Indian woman they use as a surrogate. It follows the American couple’s attempt to find a surrogacy, the surrogate’s pregnancy, and the way that the surrogate is taken advantage of by the company in India. The surrogate cannot read the contract, so she does not get all the money that she should have received.
Needless to say, this is a very controversial issue, so the discussion with the director got very heated. One Indian man accused the director (an Indian woman) of making an advertisement for gestational surrogacy. Another woman talked about how vile and selfish the American woman was.
As medical tourism expands, the film Made in India will become even more pertinent.
I do not own any of the pictures or clips posted above.