History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"The Gods Must Be Crazy" a cinematic gem from 1980

They don't make movies like "The Gods Must be Crazy" anymore. It is such a gentle and understated movie. Yet it can make you laugh out loud.
You can't imagine a roomful of Hollywood entertainment people crafting this movie to get maximum opening weekend box office. As a viewer you do not feel manipulated. You imagine a group of people, what we used to call hippie types, trying to make a statement about our modern world. This is done through juxtaposing so-called modernity with the primitive life. The narrator at movie's start describes both. He does so with no assumption that we actually prefer the more advanced lifestyle.
Perhaps I should say "so-called" more advanced. The bustling city is seen as a curious place, worthy of detached analysis just like a primitive tribe. The audience becomes sociologists or anthropologists.
"The Gods Must Be Crazy" was made in 1980. That was a turning point time in America as we tilted conservative with Ronald Reagan. Only haltingly did we step aside from the New Deal model that had seemed so unassailable. Hollywood produced some strange stuff during those last throes of unfettered liberalism. Many of our movies were an absolute drag. We got such swill as "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" and "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea." Anti-intellectualism triumphed with the "Smokey and the Bandit" movies. Jerry Reed was the free-spirited trucker, like a cowboy transplanted from the Old West. Today a truck driver is merely an employee of a behemoth company. There is no cultural symbolism.
Cinema from South Africa
"The Gods Must Be Crazy" was conceived and filmed a long way from the USA. Jamie Uys directed this South African comedy film.
The narrator introduces us to "Xi," a Sho of the Kalahari Desert. The role is played by a genuine Namibian San farmer. He belongs to a tribe of bush people who have no knowledge of the world beyond. These people are fully content. They feel the gods have provided for all their needs.
Outside culture finally intrudes. An airplane pilot nonchalantly tosses out an empty soft drink bottle. The bush people are intrigued by this alien object. They find it useful for some tasks. But it is a scarce commodity. Thus it brings jealousy and conflict. Xi decides the object is evil. He carries it off toward the "edge of the earth," there to dispose of it. At movie's end we see that place, a ledge overlooking low-hanging clouds.
The movie becomes a little like Homer's "the Odyssey." What curious phenomena and people this innocent man comes across. It's a meeting of the primitive and modern. Are the modern people really so much more insightful?
We meet biologist Andrew Steyn. Steyn gives us the slapstick comedy which is a distinguishing feature of this movie. It's interesting that unadulterated slapstick would stand out so much in a movie that developed an "art house" reputation. Much of the humor comes from Steyn's inhibitions around women. The character admits that "nubile" or attractive women have a disabling effect on him. Many men can probably relate to this. Has this handicap ever been presented better than in "The Gods Must be Crazy?"
"That's me" on the screen
I must confess I have had the problem myself. I may have it as bad as anyone. Women who I find attractive might just as well be some curious or exotic creatures from a foreboding place. What happens? It's a Kryptonite-like effect. We trip over our own shoelaces. Our memory is erased. We fail to construct a simple sentence.
Our rational side might well ask, "What are you scared of?" The problem is, we fail to be rational. Something hormonal must take over. The problem trumps all our efforts to stabilize ourselves. It becomes the perfect platform for slapstick comedy in "The Gods Must Be Crazy."
We meet Kate Thomson, a "refugee" from the harried big city life who has decided to become a schoolteacher in a remote place. Kate has those "nubile" qualities. Andrew does the oddest things around her.
The movie introduces us to Sam Boga and his band of insurgent guerrillas. This band is being pursued by government troops after an unsuccessful attack. They have missteps that are funny in a slapstick way.
Steyn has an assistant, M'pudi, who keeps an eye on a motor vehicle, a Land Rover, the peculiarities of which make it a full-fledged movie character. Another character is the gallant safari tour guide, Jack Hind. These diverse characters all come together as the plot progresses.
Xi doesn't understand private property. He shoots a goat with a tranquilizer arrow. He is jailed. M'pudi is familiar with Xi's culture and knows the man will die if incarcerated. M'pudi and Steyn make an arrangement to get Xi freed so Xi can be a "tracker" for them.
The bumbling guerrilla band is out and about, and they invade Kate's school. They seize the pupils and teacher as human shields. Steyn, M'pudi and Xi realize the guerrillas will intercept their fieldwork. Xi with his blowgun arrows helps neutralize the guerrilla/terrorists.
Jack Hind comes along and is able to look as though he's the hero. It's bad enough that Steyn has his unfortunate "tic" around women - now he's upstaged. He's made to look rather forlorn with his malfunctioning Land Rover. Is there any hope for him?
Xi's troubles with the law are finally past, so Steyn sends him along so he can keep his appointed mission. Kate is charitable in her view toward Andrew, appearing to overlook his "problem." It's as if she has a latent affection for the man who spends much time studying manure. Kate's voice had to be dubbed in for this movie. The real actress had much too thick a South African accent.
Andrew finally confides in Kate about his problem or tic with women. She's unfazed. Or rather she seems amused and even attracted to the man. Slapstick unfolds as part of this scene, as Andrew is absolutely hopeless around Kate. He knocks things over etc.
I have never broken down to confide in a woman about my own problem in this regard. I really just keep my distance from women. They might as well be zoo animals. I'd embarrass myself if trying to cross that line. I could even damage something. I'd have to meet someone like Kate who is intrigued by my problem. I'm not sure I ever will.
"The Gods Must be Crazy" had an "art-house run" in the 1980s. I remember seeing it at a suburban Twin Cities theater that I recall had historical significance for its architecture.
The movie offers a sort of tongue-in-check sociological critique. It's in the form of a parable of sorts. Or maybe an allegory? Politics, religion and mores come into play. We're not asked to take sides except against the guerrillas.
Big city life gets maddening
The movie presents big city life as it exists in Johannesburg. Kate Thomson wearies of the hectic, pressure-filled pace. Sandra Prinsloo is the actress - very effective. To heck with white collar life, she says. She goes to Botswana to teach. It's amazing how all the various threads in the movie come together. The movie's creators make it all look natural and seamless. In lesser hands it might be a mess.
The movie has some detractors who see it as racist. Balderdash.
The bushmen from their placid surroundings are exposed to violence and unhappiness when "civilization" appears. The movie has a premise of seeing our "advanced" life in a curious sort of way - the same way we observe the bushmen's world. Again, we're made into sociologists/anthropologists. But the movie is anything but a dry textbook or documentary. It is highly entertaining and without the manipulation by Hollywood types in some conference room. It's unpretentious.
The movie encourages us to see where we stand as a civilization. We must re-assess all that. Must we fight over possessions? Certainly the unpretentious "Xi" exudes the most charm and he emerges as the hero. There is violence in the movie but it's subdued by a rather cartoonish quality. We can detach from it.
"The Gods Must Be Crazy" shows us the differences between people. Is the white man really the most civilized or advanced?
This movie is a total breath of fresh air from today's perspective. The points seem to be made in an understated way, but what's so terrible about making the audience think a little? Maybe in today's America, people don't have the attention span to assimilate the points being made in this flick. No Dolby explosions. Nothing of a gratuitous nature. It's a tapestry of simple, gentle thoughts about our world.
Story has plot threads
The manner in which the sub-plots merge is a defining quality. Such diverse characters. Such diverse perspectives. And through it all there's slapstick of the most genuine kind. The movie would be much lesser without the slapstick. Marius Weyers as Andrew Steyn has the slapstick talent.
Indeed, I see myself in Andrew. I have never had a date with a woman. Mostly they seem uninterested in me, unless that's my imagination. At any rate, I'm all thumbs around women who I might see as desirable. I panic. Why? The movie makes us puzzle over this malady that is perplexing and, let's face it, rather funny.
Why does "advancement" (with our culture) leave us with so much conflict? It's a question for intellectuals to ponder, I guess. Today's society has little taste for such stuff. Hollywood seems to feel we need to be hit over the head with plot premises. We lack the discipline to really take the time to think and analyze. It seems almost culturally taboo to do so. Don't bother considering climate change science, just vote Republican and close your eyes, I guess. Balderdash.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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