A week or so ago, J and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The lukewarm reviews didn't deter us. We were just eager to see Harrison Ford with whip and fedora after a long layoff. Our critical antennae are cranked way down for the likes of such fare. Just as the critics pointed out, the plot is puzzling and sometimes seems a set of events to build a few good chase scenes around. The blatant anti-Russian stereotyping was a throwback to the anti-Nazism of the very first Indiana Jones romp. Cate Blanchett's cartoonish accent and demeanor were playfully wicked or wickedly playful. And the young fellow who comes on like Brando in The Wild Ones and then latches onto Indie like a wise-ass barnacle is himself a caricature, but worth watching, if for no other reason than the surprise that he embodies. There's a bunch of trap doors, water-filled caves, corny special skull effects and mystical hocus-pocus. And a very sweet ending. Good guys and bad guys. A bunch of killing, but nobody really gets hurt. As a summer action movie, it's not bad.
Then, Saturday night we joined a handful of middle-agers and oldsters in the theatre to see The Visitor. This one isn't exactly a blockbuster, but for my money it was much more engaging than the histrionics of Indiana Jones. A burnt-out, apparently depressed college economics professor (Richard Jenkins) has to travel from his Connecticut home to his little-used apartment in Greenwich Village to deliver a boring paper at a conference. He discovers a couple has moved into his apartment; someone has rented it to them in a scam, knowing it was seldom-used. They are unmarried and in the U.S. illegally, he from Syria and she from Senegal. In the unlikeliest turn in the movie, the introverted prof befriends them, neglecting his teaching to take up the cause of the young Syrian interloper when he is arrested and jailed as an illegal alien. This relationship, and his introduction to drumming (taught by the Syrian), bring the widower to life. The plot becomes more interesting when the young man's mother suddenly arrives from Michigan. The whole story is restrained, understated, and achingly human, with a strong political message thrown in. Excellent.
Obit for writer George Garrett, 78, who taught for a time at the University of South Carolina
1001 books to read before you die