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Reviews — May 30

May 30, 2014


It seems appropriate to end my 14-year run of weekly DVD reviews with two films that, in their own way, got me started as a film buff.

My first film in a theater was in 1974. I was eight years old, and my mom took me to see the re-release of Disney’s 1951 “Alice in Wonderland” at the Star Cinema in Stayton (which is, amazingly, still independently owned and operated)! I was thrilled as much by the surreal imagery as I was the sound – big, spectacular sound, enough to more than fill a 300-seat auditorium. To go from a small, black-and-white box in our living room to that kind of immersive entertainment was electrifying.

Equally exciting (and a little upsetting) was seeing a trailer for a terrific little science fiction thriller called “Westworld,” which was released in 1973 but didn’t show up at the Star until the following year.

This was clearly a movie I would not have been allowed to see at that age, and yet there it was – the forbidden cinematic fruit of a PG-rated film!

Or at least, a few breathtaking moments of one: A conveyor belt delivering mangled robot “corpses” into a white, bunker-like laboratory for overnight repair; Yul Brynner’s scowling face being lifted neatly and bloodlessly from his skull to reveal the circuitry (but no Intel) inside.

“Alice in Wonderland” remains as deliriously demented now as it was then, with surrealism that gives your eyeballs a workout while tickling your imagination. And I’m still fond of “Westworld,” having seen it repeatedly years later on TV. It was pure sci-fi, and smart enough to stage virtually all the horror (about robots running amok in an adult amusement park) in broad daylight and brightly-lit rooms. It’s one of the better adaptations of Michael Crichton’s novels, and he directed this one himself.

“Alice in Wonderland” (1951) With multiple directors and featuring the voices of Kathryn Beaumont as Alice, Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter and Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat. 75 minutes. Rated G.

“Westworld” (1973) Directed by Michael Crichton. Starring Yul Brynner, James Brolin and Richard Benjamin. 88 minutes. Rated PG.

- David Bates
News-Register 

BOOK

The narrator welcomes home her grown children and her grandchildren as “The Abundance” opens. For the first time in years, everyone — including her son, who usually spends special days with his in-laws, is home in Ohio for Christmas — a holiday this Indian-American family doesn’t really celebrate, but a holiday nonetheless. And, although her son won’t discuss why he’s not with his wife this Christmas, the gathering promises to be joyous.

If, that is, Mom can keep quiet about some awful news: She has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“This is their last visit before things change,” she tells her husband when he questions her secrecy. She wants things to be normal as long as possible; she doesn’t want to be treated kindly solely because she is ill, or discussed by others as if she were already dead.

While Mom is still strong enough, she continues to cook the fiery, complex Indian dishes on which her children grew up. Later, after discovering Mom is sick, daughter Mala begins learning to cook the Indian food, as well.

As they work together in the kitchen, side-by-side at first, and later with Mala at the stove and Mom directing from the sidelines, the food brings them closer than they’ve ever been. And Mala’s brother tries to become part of this bonding, as well.

It’s a story of immigrants and their first-generation American offspring, parents and children, traditions and new understandings. And author Amit Majmudar, who writes poetry as well as prose, gives readers some beautiful and insightful turns of phrase.

For example, here the narrator talks about visiting her own mother in India after a decade in the U.S. The family home has been sold, and her mother, like many of her generation, has moved to a “modern” apartment.

“Her building had started out a fresh pink, but one monsoon later, water damage wept gray down the walls. Television antennae came to bask and breed on the terraces like bold insects. In time, these gave way to satellite dishes, which flowered and let down black tendrils... Damp sarees waved surrender off balcony clotheslines.”

“The Abundance,” by Amit Majumdar, Metropolitan Books, 2013.

- Starla Pointer
News-Register 

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