Reading

 

On these pages you will find the best in speculative fiction movies, with brief reviews. The reviews are all positive: if I don't like it, I don't promote it. I have also included pages with research resources, which others with like interests may explore.

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Contemporary Classics Non-genre Medieval Resources Movies

Movies that draw on folklore and ancient traditions that resonate across time and cultural divides.

Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) [DVD, Inuktitut w/ subtitles]

The first ever movie produced by, about, and for the Inuit. Never intended for mass distribution, it nevertheless swept across the independent film networks. The times depicted in this movie, in which the Inuit still lived in igloos and hunted seal at blowholes, is part of their immediate past, closer to them than the horse and buggy is to urban Americans. It would take a better Inuit expert than me to truly understand what happens here, but there are spirits and ancient curses, a fast brother and a strong one, betrayal, murder, seduction, a witch, song-duels, head-punching, and a naked chase across the tundra. The climactic administration of justice reveals a strikingly different world view, where Euro-Americans would feel the guilty is let off, but it is clear the guilty feel themselves bitterly punished.

Kirikou et la Sorcerie [DVD--Animated--French w/ subtitles]

A village on the African savannah is plagued by a sorceress who has eaten all teh men and dried up their spring. But the child Kirikou is the only one to ask the question, "Why is Karabad the Sorceress mean and evil?" A tale of compassion, rejection, prejudice, and faith

Limited availability. If no price appears, click anywhere in the box at left for prices on available copies.

Himalaya [DVD--tribal language w/ subtitles. Also on VHS

Set in the stark country of the Himalayas, a village prepares for their annual caravan to trade salt for grain. But the caravan leader has died, and the caravan leader, his father, rejects the heir apparent. The classic struggle between a stubborn, traditional old man and an ambitious, determined young one. In contrast to what Americans are accustomed to, neither the traditions nor the modern ideas are "proved" wrong, only the quarrel. Plus, there is, at the end, a tree...

Limited availability. If no price appears, click anywhere in the box at left for prices on available copies.

Whale Rider [DVD--English]

Another tale of the struggle between tradition and modernity, this time between a stubborn old Maori chief and his (ten year-old?) granddaughter who wants to be everything he needs. The trouble is that what he needs is a savior for his people, lost between drugs, poverty, and the temptations of the western world--and he cannot admit a woman as his heir. Whale Rider touches very gently on its themes, and is all the more powerful for it.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [DVD--English, also on VHS]

Tolkien's great epic, brought to life by the vision of Peter Jackson. Unlike many of these other movies this may have been a box office smash, but it is an enduringly great film, drawing on myriad tales from Old England, Iceland, and Finland. Fans will argue endlessly about the changes Jackson made to many characters, but a startlingly vast portion of the dialogue and events are straight from the pen of the Old Master.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers--Extended Version [DVD--English, also on VHS]

Nearly 45 minutes of additional story. Fans who missed ent draughts, elvish rope, and Gollum eating lembas will be pleased. More importantly, critical moments, such as Gandalf's speach about the impact of Merry and Pippin's encounter with Treebeard, are restored, and the important relationships (Aragorn and Eowyn, Gollum and Frodo) are deepened. Once again, it appears that the studio's slavish insistance on a three-hour maximum time compromised the official release.

The King of Masks [DVD--Chinese w/ subtitles, also available on VHS]

An old wandering artist buys a son to be his heir, only to discover he has been sold a girl. A panoply of contrasts: between the love and devotion of the girl and the refusal of the old man; between the impoverished, traditional artist and the wealthy, popular actor who envies him; between the struggling Chinese people and the erratic Chinese justice system.

Holes [English, DVD--Widescreen, also available on DVD--Fullscreen, and VHS--Fullscreen]

A boy is sentenced to a work camp for a crime he did not commit. It's all because of the bad luck brough on by his "no-good, lying, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather." But the luck of Stanley Yelants the Fourth is about to change, as old stories of gypsy women, curses, inter-racial affairs, the Bandita Kissing Kate, lynching, sweet onions, missing treasure, and the deadly yellow-spotted lizard come together at the bizarre work camp where boys dig holes because "digging holes builds character."

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