Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Watching my hometown on TV in Japan

There's a huge Southern Baptist church in my hometown of Albany, Georgia, and they're not only buying up all the houses in the neighborhood where my old elementary school still stands, they're also  making low-budget message movies with largely amateur casts and the occasional ringer.  You may have heard or even watched the one starring Kirk Cameron, the erstwhile Seaver family member.  For some reason known only to God and the people in charge of programming Star, their most recent effort aired here in Japan yesterday afternoon, and I was home from work in time to catch it from just after the opening credits.

The first thing I saw?  Pine trees.  Even before I knew what I was watching, they created in me a strange sort of deja vu.  Albany is a town with a lot of pine trees.  No matter where I am in the world, I can't look at a pine tree without immediately thinking of home.  I thought, "Huh.  Familiar.  What is this feeling of familiarity?  What am I watching-- a slick indie or a random episode of a crime drama I've seen before and forgot about on the movie channel for some reason?"  

Before any scenes featuring dialogue, it was certainly action-packed enough to be an episode of Bones or NCIS.  A guy gassing up his truck ends up hanging on for dear life when a gang member tries to carjack it.  He falls off, the truck hits a tree, the gangster flees, people stop to help.  They are earnest but amateurish, and there's no mistaking those accents.

I ended up watching about half of it before the novelty of seeing places I know wore off and boredom set in and I had to turn it off and get on with my life.  This well-intentioned little movie wasn't made with an audience of me in mind.  Despite its having the fashionable jittery camera and saturated-colors look of a secular film and pulling off its modest action sequences with a certain panache, the story, dialogue and acting weren't quite competent enough to keep me watching after I lost interest in the backgrounds and yet it wasn't bad enough for me to mock in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of way.  Still, I wished my wife had been with me so she could see the place where I was born and fled as soon as I was able.  Since this is Star, it'll probably be on ten thousand times this month and next so she'll have plenty of chances to see southwest Georgia before she visits in person this August.

Speaking of movies (and I'm rarely not), the Star Classic channel has an amazing line-up this month.  Casablanca, Sunset Boulevard, Dr. Strangelove, Sabrina and at least one more I'm forgetting.  I really hope my wife and I have time to watch some of these together.  Well, not Dr. Strangelove so much as the other ones.  I hope she wants to watch some of them.  I'm movie-crazy.  She enjoys them, but I'm a buff with way too much trivial knowledge about them and way too many opinions than are strictly healthy.

Where do our tastes overlap?  Disney and Ghibli films ( we both love Spirited Away), West Side Story, Seven Year Itch, Little Miss Sunshine and Sideways.  These are a few we've watched and enjoyed equally.  I have a hopeful feeling we'll find more if we explore the classic together, especially musicals, comedies and romance.

Roman Holiday would be a good one.  My wife likes Audrey Hepburn a lot.  Hepburn maintains an iconic status here in Japan.  I don't know about women below 30, but many women 30 and up-- at least the ones I've talked to-- still love her.  To them, she's simply Audrey.  That name suffices.  Gregory Peck they couldn't care less about, but Audrey still leaves people breathless.

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