I shared during a recent post that flitting from one film festival to another is the latest experience to make my “bucket list” — that unwritten mental checklist so many of us keep and recall during those rare moments we actually hit ‘pause’ long enough to consider our own mortality.
It’s hard to beat a compelling film for a few hours of escapism or engagement — whatever your preference.
Tuesday night I enjoyed a screening of “Waiting for Superman” at Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale. It was a full house, with more children than I’d expected in the audience — but the kids found plenty of humor in the film, which often digresses from sobering scenes to parlay its points in a playful fashion.
The film interweaves the challenges of school-age children and their families with challenges facing our educational system and political landscape — presenting a hypothesis about why many American schools have become “failure factories” and suggesting a possible fix.
Yesterday evening I tagged along with my daughter Jennifer to a preview of “Never Let Me Go” at Harkins Fashion Square 7. She’s pretty much the master of finding free tickets, contests and other things the rest of us manage to live without somehow.
As we stood in line, we got to talking with the gentleman waiting just ahead of us. It turns out he also attended the “Waiting for Superman” screening, and he was gracious enough to share some of his thoughts with me when I mentioned I was working on a review of sorts.
I spend a lot of time lingering over my laptop, so I relish opportunities to enjoy thoughtful, intelligent conversations with folks who never crash or give me an error message. You wouldn’t know it if you’re tuned into the tube on a regular basis, but there are still people out there carrying on perfectly civil conversations.
Our discussion of “Waiting for Superman” touched on plenty of issues — including labor unions, historic preservation, teacher accountability, illegal immigration, charter schools and more.
And so I asked: “Who needs to see this movie?” His reply: “Anyone who owns property.” I was thinking simply parents, educators and policy-makers. But his answer makes more sense given that public schools are funded by tax dollars.
Whatever your take on the state of public education in America, it’s not hard to make the case that we all have a stake — and “Waiting for Superman” is an effective vehicle for raising questions we should all begin to ask of ourselves and one another.
“Never Let Me Go” might also be dubbed an issue-driven film, but it’s got an entirely different vibe. Some might call it creepy, others merely unsettling. I’ll hold off on sharing the issue at the heart of the film since it’s tacky to reveal too much before release day — but you can discover it yourself when the film opens Friday.
Tonight Jennifer has a pass for a screening of “Conviction” at Harkins Tempe Marketplace. She’ll probably offer to share it with me so she can work long into the night on a termpaper or some such thing, although her sister Lizabeth will likely want to arm wrestle me for it.
My interest was piqued last week when “Conviction” was featured as the closing film for the “Scottsdale International Film Festival” — and again just last night when I came home from “Never Let Me Go” and flipped on the TV only to stumble on Larry King interviewing members of the cast of “Conviction.”
“Conviction” recounts the journey of a sister who fought for the freedom of her wrongly convicted brother, earning a law degree along the way. As one of the actors shared with King, it’s really a brother and sister love story — something you might find especially appealing if your days are consumed with sibling rivalry.
“This is at the core,” shared King guest Hilary Swank, “a feel good movie.” The issue here, of course, is wrongful conviction — and folks with an interest in the topic can learn more by exploring the webite for the “Innocence Project.”
These aren’t films you’ll want to see with your young children (both “Never Let Me Go” and “Conviction” are R-rated), but that’s okay. It’s all too easy as parents to forget to make time for ourselves. But film-going is the perfect indulgence.
It requires only small windows of time and modest expense — but opens the door to all kinds of conversations and civic engagement.
Note: Another recent film find is “Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia,” a documentary currently airing on public television. Considering that 1 in 5 Americans live with some form of mental illness, this is a film everyone should see.