Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good Movie and US Impressions

The other day I saw the 1986 movie, The Mission. It won the Cannes prize for Best Picture and seven Academy Award nominations. In my opinion, all the prizes were deserved. Starring Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons, it portrayed the Jesuits who worked with and tried to defend the Guarani Indians against Spanish and Portuguese settlers. The nature portrayed was so lush (it was filmed in Colombia) and the acting so good that I was able to get a sense of what the situation must have been like for the Jesuits, the Indians, and the colonists at the time of the Missions in the 1700s. This was especially useful to me, having visited many of the Bolivian missions. I saw what they are today, but enjoyed imagining what they must have been like 300 years ago.

In the past two weeks in the US, one of the things that strikes me most is the absence of wrinkles on middle-aged women on television. Geena Davis, Christie Brinkley and Oprah Winfrey are only a few examples of women in their 50s and 60s with unrealistically smooth skin. Some look good, others look scary, with their skin plastered against their skulls. I wonder how the numbers are growing among the general population and sense we are reaching a point at which it’s getting more difficult to age gracefully (aka naturally), that wrinkles will stand out even more among age-mates that attempt to maintain their young adult visage.

I’ve also noticed what seems to be fewer SUVS than before, and that makes me happy. On previous visits, I sometimes felt trapped by giant vehicles surrounding me on the freeway. Now, when I take the time to notice, I usually see at least several other small or mid-size cars. The giants are there, but no longer predominant. I guess it’s the cost of gas that may have driven people away. But whatever it is, I appreciate it. For the environment, for the safety of all drivers, and for lessening congestion on the roadway, I think the European model of mini-cars makes society a more pleasant place.

I’ve noticed the opposite trend in baby strollers. Maybe it’s just where I live, but almost no one walks around with a simple umbrella stroller. Despite good sidewalks and a flat, paved landscape, everyone has what one of my friends calls “a beast” – the stroller version of an all-terrain vehicle. I’ve seen them in magazines for $200-$1000 and it’s hard for me to understand what they can offer to make them worth so much money. A good shade, a convertible seat, a smooth ride, a statement of fashion or income, plenty of storage space for mom and dad’s accessories? Maybe after having a child I’ll coming to appreciate those things as being worth hundreds of dollars. But for now, I appreciate the used beast that my friend gave us. It’s down in the basement awaiting its first use. I didn’t even look at its features or test its roll. At the moment, it doesn’t seem important at all.

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