Tag Archives: South America

Movies on TV….UP (BBC3)

12 Jan


This review contains tons of spoilers, so if you just here for the movie on BBC iPlayer skip to the bottom.

Animation films are tricky not just because they require a huge amount of detailed and sustained creativity but they have to appeal to two different audiences simultaneously. To the kids who want an amusing day out watching a nice colourful tale with a happy ending, and to the adults accompanying them who need to need to enjoy the film but require more nuance and subtext to keep them engaged.

The best animation films do this superbly, with UP I think it did more of the later, providing more subtext for adult viewers than it needed to particularly so in the first half.

UP is the story of Carl Fredricksen a shy boy with a love for adventure. We meet him as a child amazed by the adventures of a legendary explorer Charles F. Muntz, Muntz however has been ostracized over  what were assumed to be false claims that he had discovered a new giant bird specie.

Carl meets a young neighbourhood girl Ellie also a fan of Muntz, they become friends, promising themselves one day they will go on an adventure to South America like their hero Muntz. The film rolls forward to their eventual marriage

Here is takes a somewhat dark twist. Ellie suffers a miscarriage and it seems cannot have children of her own. Various hiccups in life meaning the money they are saving for that trip of a lifetime continually gets used up. Eventually by their old age they saved the money and Carl plans to surprise Ellie but it turns out she is sick and eventually dies. All a bit bleak, but it gets bleaker.

Carl is now an old age pensioner, a man in the last stages of life with a big unfulfilled ambition, a widower stuck in big house and with little or no contact with the outside world. Except that is for the construction folk who are tearing down the old neighbourhood to build shiny new flats and have tried in vain to persuade Carl to sell on move to a retirement home.

Carl gets into a confrontation with one of the construction workers, assaults him and is arrested and taken to court. There he is found guilty and forced to sell his house and is scheduled to move into the retirement home.

This is all in the first 20 minutes of the film, but fortunately, especially if you are a kid, it is at this point the bleakness ends and the fantasy begins.

Carl it seems had no plans to go into an retirement home and has rigged the house with thousands of helium balloons. As the staff from the retirement home come to cart him away he releases the balloons and his house is uprooted from the ground and he sets sail with a picture of his beloved wife on the adventure they had promised themselves all those years ago.

The flight presumably a metaphor for leaving all his worldly pains and problems behind, or maybe that it is never to late to chase your dreams, but a small problem pops up, Russell. Russell is a local Wilderness Explorer (read Cub Scout) who had been pestering Carl offering to ‘assist’ him as a means of he, Russell, getting his ‘Assisting the Elderly’  badge. He inadvertently gets trapped in the house and is now also bound for South America much to Carl’s consternation.

After a bumpy ride they land in South America. There come across a very exotic looking ostrich like creature and it turns out it was the creature the explorer Muntz had claimed he found but was ignored so many years back. Not only that but a much aged Muntz was in the area still trying to capture the creature aided by a pack of ‘talking dogs’.

At this point you might say a happy ending would be Muntz takes the creature and Russell back to the USA restoring his reputation and reuniting Russell with his family and Carl lives happily ever after in South America. Well as any film buff would tell you you can’t have a film without a ‘Climax’ and the ‘Denoument’  and without these UP probably would not have got its two Oscars.

So we get the ‘Climax’, Muntz’s plan to capture the animal is transformed in a ‘dastardly plot’. It turns out the bird is the mother of several cute chicks and Muntz is prepared to take the bird  (named Kevin by Russell, he didn’t know about the chicks) back dead or alive.  Karl and Russell battle Muntz in their bid to rescue Kevin. The battle in involves dog flying propeller planes, chases across vast canyons, and the use of false teeth as weapons of limited destruction. Eventually however Carl and Russell triumph.

Kevin is restored to his family, Carl finds out that for Ellie married life with him was the adventure she wanted and she hadn’t held him to the promise to move to South America, and Russell proudly got his helping the elderly badge. Denoument done!

If you are quick you can catch it on BBC’s iPlayer (available to Jan 17, 2013).

If you were not so fast, you can still enjoy the trailer :-)


BBC…I don’t enjoy paying my TV Licence but sometimes…

22 Nov
English: This image of a document is from &quo...

Jim Jones :  Credit  ”the Jonestown Institute” at San Diego State University. 

…BBC shows a gem and we would be much the poorer without it.

Two nights ago I stumbled upon a repeated edition of Storyville on BBC2. There are certain things the BBC does better than anyone else in the world, not just in Britain, not just Europe, not just in the West, not just in the Northern hemisphere, but the whole wide world, these are nature programmes and factual documentaries.

They do a lot of other good things but on these two they are beyond compare.

Storyville is a excellent example of  the world class factual documentary shown by the beeb. Storyville rarely gets any publicity, is often shoved into late night time slots, but the gradual way the documentaries in this series dissemble and present even the most complex subject matters is second to none.

On Tuesday we were taken back to the swinging sixties and psychedelic seventies. To a time when civil rights was just making a break through in the USA and we met a charismatic preacher Jim Jones.  In ”Jonestown: The World’s Biggest Mass Suicide”, we are taken through Jim Jones life from his early days as a preacher, through his rise a powerful local politician in San Franciso and finally to a commune in the South American country of Guyana.

It was here in Guyana that events unfolded which shocked the world. The documentary carefully charted the events that led to 909 people committing mass suicide far from home in a sweltering jungle. We meet the survivors and witnesses to events that led to this, talking poignantly of their experiences at the camp and the loss of those they knew.

The closing segment with short shots of the those contributing survivors as they contemplated their memories was particularly powerful. Very powerful.











Brazil with Michael Palin…Serenity south of Sao Paulo

18 Nov

Four weeks ago we started our journey across Brazil with Michael Palin in the steamy and tropical northeast of Brazil and over the next two weeks we journeyed across this vast country, a country spanning half a continent and 40 times the size of the United Kingdom.

This is the last week and once again we are off the well beaten tourist tracks of Brazil to the parts where we may not have been before. We met the remnants of the Brazilian royal family in a country that is solidly republican serving as a reminder of times gone and a social and racial hierarchy that it is ebbing away.

The programme threw up a question which I don’t know if most people would know the answer to? What is the third largest aircraft manufacturer in the world? Did you say Brazil’s Embraer? Head to the top of the class!  We have seen the vast mineral and agricultural resources that Brazil is endowed with but the country is also moving up the value chain with a growing industrial base with world-class companies like Embraer and Petrobas.

Palin took us to the Embraer manufacturing facility where we met Felipe who is arguably the happiest plane painter I have ever met, admittedly he is also the only plane painter I have met, but he has a quite a jolly outlook on life. His love for his job was apparent and his contentment with the lifestyle it gave him very commendable.

One of the challenges of a rapid industrialisation and urban growth is the waste is generates and disposing this.  Palin meets Wilson Cantahla, a man who has taken the adage “there is money in muck” and spun it out into a personal fortune, and along the way elevated thousands of people who scavenged the waste dumps outside Sao Paulo in to regular jobs in his recycling plants. Further evidence of the transformation of Brazil industrial sector and the social change it spawns.

Another instrument of social change is introduced. The Brazil Telenova  industry. We think of Eastenders and Coronation Street as massive TV shows imagine  then if they regularly pulled in 72 million viewers, that is the power of Brazil’s telenova’s. They are essentially soap operas, but unlike their British cousins dont run for years till we are pleading to be released from our misery, they run for about 9 months before ending while not shying away from tackling a wide range of social issues.

These social changes have transformed but not completely overcome one aspect of Brazilian society and it was something that Palin only lightly touched on, Brazil’s reputation as a melting pot. The country seems blended on the surface but like cream whisk it too vigorously and it splits. As we have traveled across Brazil from the poorer North to the wealthier South although uncommented upon we have seen a subtle change in the makeup of the population.

So much so that when Palin reaches the deep south of the country in the state of Rio Grande do Sol on the border with Uruguay it is almost as if we have stepped onto the casting set for a Bavarian agricultural show awash with lederhosen, barrels of Pilsner and accordions  It was a different country from the one we had arrived at. The Germanic culture and influences were strong and pervasive and  in a way more authentic that what now remains in the teutonic Motherland. It may not be a testament to Brazil as a melting pot, but it is a testament to its varied heritage.

Palin was now in the southermost tip of Brazil close to his journeys end, but that was not to be without a final trip to see another of the great natural wonders this country offers - The Pantanal. The world largest wetland, spanning an area the size of holland and Belgium.

The Pantanal Wetlands

A beautiful, tranquil haven of nature. Here Palin ends the day fishing for flesh eating pinranha, which apparently are delightful for a light evening Sashimi…Just  another day of contrasts in Brazil

Brazil With Michael Palin…Road to Rio

11 Nov

The most enduring stereotypes survive because they are built on a minor truth, a truth that is expanded, generalised and comes to totally define the object that is being stereotyped.

At the beginning of this series we were introduced to a Brazil free of the stereotypes Brazil is known for, but that is not say Brazilians do not love football, that there are no great beaches in Brazil with toned guys and girls in bikinis you could floss your teeth with, or even that the notorious Favelas do not exist.  In this episode, the penultimate, we taken to see these not as a definition of Brazil, but as just a part of the greater Brazilian story.

The episode starts in mining state of Minas Gerias which provides the huge mineral wealth that has helped propel Brazil’s economy to the world’s fifth largest.  We tour the mines with our guide who it seems doubles as a Brazilian Les Dawson and amuses Palin with a Mother-In-Law joke in the depths of a Brazilian gold mine.

We meet a New Zealander fighting to save the Minas Gerias heritage against the onslaught of the changes the mining industry brings. We meet a local coffee grower who survives on 1 1/2 litres of coffee and 5 espressos a day (he seemed  a bit hyper, but I can’t think why) and then we meet Rio de Janierio.

For most non-Brazilians this is the city that defines Brazil and in Rio lies the seeds of most of what we assume Brazil to be about.

We are taken on a somewhat narrow, rickety and acrophobia inducing train ride to the base of the magnificent ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue that over looks Rio.  We dip into some football history with a  visit to the grounds of the Fulminenese. We watch as Palin unwisely decides to take part in what I can only describe as “Commentary-off” with a famous Brazilian football commentator to see who can exclaim ‘gooooooaaaaallll’ for the longest. If you’ve ever seen Brazilian football commentary you would know it was a ‘no contest’.

We journey into the Favelas and along the way meet the special forces, BOPE, who police the Favelas and learn about their ominously Judge Dredd sounding ‘pacification programme’.

We see the beaches Copacobana and Ipanema, magnificent stretches of inviting brown sand dazzling in the sun shine,  and learn how different social groups have colonised different parts of the beach.

We round off with the visit to a ‘ Love Hotel’, it is exactly what it sounds like, and spend the rest of the episode with Rio’s vibrant Transexual and Transvestite community.

Stereotypes done. Next week we should be back to learn about the Brazil we don’t know.