Cool Runnings (1993)

I remember seeing this sweet and funny Jamaican bobsled team’s journey to the Olympics when it first came out. Everyone in the theater clapped at the end! When I rewatched it with a member of a much younger generation, it still held the same charm that evoked a swell of emotion capable of warming an […]

The Pirates of Somalia (2017)

The title* of a book by (then still) wannabe journalist, Jay Bahadur, who planned to write an exposé based on a land he grew to love almost as much as his own. Most coming-of-age stories center around a young man’s sexual encounter with a seemingly exotic native from the country to which he has either been forced to travel or to where he escapes from stifling responsibilities. This film depicts a naively brave visit to a place few journalists dared to go at the time.   *“Deadly Waters” in UK/ Australia

Part of its charm is how the casting in no way caters to Hollywood’s distorted racial sensibilities by either rewriting the story to make Jay’s parents’ mixed-race marriage a Caucasian union or by hiring an unconvincing vaguely ethnic actor, who bears no resemblance to real-life, Jay Bahadur. Rather, the family dynamic is believable but casually presented as fact since it has no bearing on the plot. Another component of its charm is in capturing affection, both in actors’ natural chemistry and characters’ scripted interaction. Pay close attention, filmmakers; this is how it’s done. That it intrinsically avoids heavy-handed themes, canned/ preachy dialogue, contrived metaphors and overblown juxtapositions makes this film feel like a blast of fresh air on a steamy day in the desert.

I would be remiss to leave out any mention of countless profanities and blatant drug use that makes this unsuitable for classroom viewing and discussion. However, where home viewing is concerned, realism is lost the moment the camera flinches. Moreover, the goal is sympathy and consideration rather than pity, and certainly not stereotypes. To that end, many striking parallels can be made drawn between African Pirates and North American rappers. At the end of the day, Human Beings are more like than different, which should make international diplomatic relations less convoluted than they tend to be.

Mr. Bahadur returned home right before cargo ship, MV Maersk Alabama was taken hostage by the pirates about whom he wrote. This incident stimulated interest in his book, which took longer than expected to get published. But people soon realized his research challenged inaccurate perceptions about the pirates and their motives. Incidentally, trivia fans will appreciate how movie Jay’s host-turned-friend, who guides him through Somalia is the same actor, who portrayed the lead pirate of the aforementioned hijacking as portrayed in the 2013 movie “Captain Phillips.”

Charade (1963)

It’s as if Hitchcock went to Paris. He didn’t but a script full of twists and turns brought to life by two of the most elegant lead actors ever to grace the screen, supported by high-quality talent is bound to yield mystery, action, suspense, humor and romance. What’s not to like?

The Twilight Samurai (2002)

In Japan’s “twilight” period, during the Meiji restoration, widower, Iguchi Seibei leaves work each night at twilight to go home to his aging mother and two young daughters rather than out drinking and carousing with his coworkers. Though he’s only a low ranking soldier, the position holds more distinction better than his current duties as a warehouse bookkeeper but ut since his wife’s funeral was so expensive he cannot afford to take a new bride as he pays off the funeral expenses.

Then Tomoe, the sister of a childhood friend comes to stay to get away from her high-ranking abusive husband, who suddenly shows up in the middle of night. Seibei is forced into a duel but manages to overcome despite having the flimsier weapon. This victory wins Seibei the respect of higher ranking officials, who want him to revisit the violence of his former profession. Meanwhile, his friend urges him to marry even though it would be a mismatch; Seibei supplements his income by making bug cages in his spare time and has been neglecting his personal hygiene. However, he loves Tomoe and she’s grown fond of his senile mother and two sweet daughters. Torn between loyalties yet bound by honor and tradition, Seibei is forced to fight.

Grace of Monaco (2014)

No one in the world could’ve predicted the whirlwind, history-making romance of England’s Prince Harry to American actress, Meghan Markle. It is to this movie’s advantage that its particular depiction of an historic marriage, to which the modern one is being compared, predates Harry and Meghan’s engagement; it was crafted to document a historic anomaly rather than contrive comparisons that may or not serve any particular purpose other than marketing.

To give up everything to take on another identity is no small feat but a woman in love with a man who both respects and adores her is gaining so much more than she’s giving up, which is still easier to accept in theory than to demonstrate in practical application! Even more so for American actress, Grace Kelly since the Royal Family of Monaco is more than mere figureheads.

By the early 1960s, the threat of invasion by the French overshadowed whatever dreamy notions Princess Grace may have had. At the urging of her spiritual advisor, who was also a close friend and confidant, Princess Grace redefined romance, which not only saved her marriage; it helped to unite the country, who had embraced her as their own. Suddenly, she became a leader, who could use her influence to provide stability and courage in the midst of uncertainty.