1 Legally Blonde
Reese Witherspoon charms the audience in Legally Blonde. I must confess, I like Elle Woods in spite of myself. In my weakness, I find myself hating attractive women how are also smart. I find myself thinking, “You have no right to be pretty AND smart!” Still, the film makes me aware that Elle Woods has her own challenges and is a far more generous than I would have believed.
Elle Woods is a girl graduating with a degree in fashion from a California state school who believes that her boyfriend is going to propose. Unfortunately for her, he has other plans. “If I’m going to be a Senator by the time I’m 30, I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn.” In order to win him back, she follows him to Harvard Law School where she begins to discover her potential.
2 The King and I
When I first saw The King and I as a child, I was disappointed. I was expecting a romantic story, which is not the main focus of this film. Instead, the film focuses on the conflict and collision of cultures, specifically the British culture of Anna Leanowens and the culture of Siam, or what is now modern day Thailand. Then, as now, the East and Thailand has a powerful hold on the West. The film showcases the fascination and the condescension which we feel for the East.
This film also features the music of Rogers and Hammerstein, most spectacularly the song “Shall We Dance?” in which the film explores the contrasting views of marriage. The song describes a young man asking a young woman to dance at a ball, and the perilous nature of that interaction. The scene is funny, tense, erotic, and simply glorious.
A reviewer called this film a miracle. Wadjda is a film about a young Saudi girl who wants a bike more than anything else in the world. However, girls in Saudi Arabia are not supposed to ride bikes or even allow men to hear them play too loudly. At school, her headmaster scolds her and other students for playing loudly so that men outside might hear them. “Your voice is your nakedness,” she warns them. (Is it?)
Wadjda is the first film ever to be filmed in Saudi Arabia and the first film made by a Saudi woman. She described a screening in Saudi Arabia, where Saudis were able to see themselves and their homes on the big screen for the first time. A man came up to her with tears in his eyes and said, “Now I know how Americans feel when they watch films!” Of course, this is not true. For this man, watching a film about his own country was a moving experience. Americans, on the other hand, take it for granted that we watch films about ourselves. The outrageous experience is to watch films from other countries. This is especially true of films like Wadjda, a film that takes place in a part of the world that many of us treat with suspicion and bewilderment.