March 29th, 2008

storyteller doll

The Band's Visit

I continued my recent movie binge by seeing The Band's Visit on Friday afternoon. This was the Israeli movie that was disqualified for the Oscar for best foreign film because it had too much English in it. The story involves an Egyptian police orchestra who mistakenly take a bus to the wrong town in Israel. They're stranded in Beit HaTkivah, with no bus until the next day, and get taken in by a local cafe owner who distributes the band members among households for the night.
There's a lot of awkwardness, with eventual realization of the shared humanity.

It's clear why the critics loved this movie. And there are some very good bits in it. When the cafe owner asks the band leader, "What do the police need with Um Kulthum?" he replies that you might as well ask why a man needs a soul. (Um Kulthum was a very famous Egyptian singer and her songs are the sort of thing the band plays.) There's also a very funny scene in which the youngest band member tutors a shy Israeli man on how to comfort a crying woman.

But there wasn't really enough quirkiness to make this work as a great slice of life for me. Only two of the band members are at all developed as characters, with a third providing a few glimpses. The only conflict involves a deteriorating marriage - hardly the stuff of grand comedy or drama. And there was some annoying cinematography, with some characters deliberately out of focus for way too long.

So, overall, it was a good movie, but didn't live up to the expectations I had from the glowing reviews.
storyteller doll

Adventures in Travel

The Adventures in Travel Show was (well, is) at the Washington Convention Center this weekend. As usual, the vast majority of the exhibitors were not really involved in what I'd consider adventure travel. There were way too many booths from, say, counties in nearby states and resorts in the Caribbean and so on. There were, however, enough things of interest that I picked up a heavy load of brochures. Had I actually been smart, I'd have remembered this was likely and would have taken a backpack with me. There were plenty of shopping bags available for hauling bags, but my arms were aching by the time I got home.

By the way, the main reason I went today was to hear a talk by Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet. I'm not really a big fan of their guidebooks (for one thing, their maps are, generally, terrible) but often use them because there's nothing else available for many destinations. He had some interesting pictures, but his talk was not really well organized and was less interesting than it should have been. I'd have preferred more anecdotes and less straight history of the company. He did, however, have a good story about Korea. There is, apparently, a room that straddles the north-south border in the DMZ. And he had to travel 6000 miles (going back to Beijing and flying back to the other Korea) in order to cross from one side of the room to the other.