So it’s another 2 for 1 RMR special today…or as the kids call it, a BOGO. Since my Random Movie Akeelah and the Key was made partly because of the success of Spellbound, a documentary about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, I figured I would check out both of them.
Akeelah and the Bee
Keke Palmer – Akeelah
Laurence Fishburne – Dr. Larabee
Angela Bassett – Tanya
Curtis Armstrong – Mr. Welch
J.R. Villarreal – Javier
Sean Michael Afable – Dylan
Sahara Garey – Georgia
Lee Thompson Young – Devon
28 April 2006 (USA)
2007 Black Reel Awards (USA) – Best Actress: Keke Palmer; Best Breakthrough Performance: Keke Palmer (Nominated); Best Film (Nominated); Best Original Score: Aaron Zigman (Nominated); Best Supporting Actor: Laurence Fishburne (Nominated); Best Supporting Actress: Angela Bassett (Nominated)
2007 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards (USA) – Best Family Film (Live Action – Nominated); Best Young Actress: Keke Palmer (Nominated)
2006 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (USA) – Most Promising Performer: Keke Palmer (Nominated)
2007 Image Awards (USA) – Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture: Keke Palmer; Outstanding Writing in a Feature Film/Television Movie – Comedy or Drama: Doug Atchison; Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture: Laurence Fishburne (Nominated); Outstanding Motion Picture (Nominated); Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Angela Bassett (Nominated)
Canada: PG (Alberta)
Canada: G (British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, & Quebec)
Flickchart Global Ranking: 5142
Rotten Tomatoes: 84% (Fresh)
Common Sense Rating: OK for kids 8+
Akeelah and the Bee comes dangerously close to falling into the “plays you like a violin” genre. You know what I mean, when you can tell that a movie is sending you on an emotional roller coaster. Making you laugh and cry and stand up and cheer. The movie is playing you like a violin. When it’s being artlessly done I resist it. Sometimes when I see it happening, though, I just go along with it. After all, I’m an emotional guy and I like roller coasters.
While I was watching A&TB I pretty much knew that I was going to be taken on an emotional journey. How could I not be? A little girl from South Central LA gets a chance to compete in the National Spelling Bee? Plus the fact that she’s just a year older than my Boodles. Please, just buy stock in Kleenex. The good news is that the story and the performances are so good that I didn’t mind.
I actually thought that A&TB was based on a true story. It wasn’t until I watched the “making of” feature on the DVD that I realized that it was based on Writer/Director Doug Atchison’s volunteering at a youth center in SCLA while he was a film student at USC (mark this day on your calendars, I’m saying something positive about USC). The situation seems very real, but Akeelah Anderson and all the people in the movie were made up by Atchison. I guess I was a little disappointed, but like my masthead says: Not that it matters.
Young Keke Palmer carries the movie as Akeelah. Laurence Fishburne is always good. On the credits it says “Mr. Fishburne dedicates his performance to his daughter Montana.” She was 15 at the time, but she later became a porn “actress.” Yikes.
A couple of other notes: This movie marks the first time an actor that I’ve actually met appears in one of my Random Movies: I met Angela Bassett in Pasadena when I was with my former Mother-in-law. My MIL was quite starstruck and spoke to her. She was a bit shy, but nice. And tiny. It’s funny how little these actors are when you see them in real life. Maybe it’s because we’re used to seeing them looming over us in a movie theater. Now that we watch movies on tablets and smart phones we’ll probably start saying, “Hey I saw Gosling the other day…That dude is huge!”
Also in the movie as one of Akeelah’s brothers is Lee Thompson Young, a young actor who took his own life earlier this year. I just have to take this opportunity to say I’ve been there. I’ve even gone as far as to make a plan. Don’t do it. Please.
Talk to someone:
For other countries go here and scroll down: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html
Please don’t give up. I can’t guarantee that it will get better, in fact it might get worse for a while. But you’re not alone.
OK, sermon over.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
A&TB is uplifting and inspiring. You know, for kids!
I said I was getting bored with the Random Quote Whore Quote, but if any movies cry out for it it’s these two, so I am temporarily reviving it:
Random Quote Whore Quote
“Akeelah and the Bee is a supercilious, antediluvian, ustion of a movie! Keke Palmer is theanthropic!!!”
14 March 2002 (USA – South by Southwest Film Festival)
2002 International Documentary Association (USA) – IDA Award – Feature Documentaries (Nominated)
2002 Los Angeles IFP/West Film Festival (USA) – Audience Award – Best Documentary; Special Jury Prize
2002 SXSW Film Festival (USA) – SXSW Competition Award – Documentary Feature
2003 Academy Awards (USA) – Best Documentary, Features (Nominated)
2003 Independent Spirit Awards (USA) – Truer Than Fiction Award (Nominated)
2003 Melbourne International Film Festival (Australia) – Most Popular Documentary
2003 National Board of Review (USA) – Top Five Documentaries
2003 Sydney Film Festival (Australia) – Audience Award – Best Documentary
2004 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (USA) – Best Documentary (Nominated)
2004 Chlotrudis Awards (USA) – Best Documentary (Nominated); Best Movie (Nominated)
2004 Online Film Critics Society Awards (USA) – Best Documentary (Nominated)
Spellbound tells the story of the 1999 National Spelling Bee through the eyes of eight contestants from around the country who beat out over nine million other students to become part of only 249 who make it to the National Bee:
The first kid we meet is Angela from Perrytown, Texas. Amazingly, this champion speller is the child of Mexican immigrants who speak very little English themselves. We meet Angela, her older brother, her parents, and also the sweet couple that own the ranch where Angela’s father works. The owner, Mr. McGarraugh, points out that Angela’s father is “a reliable Mexican.” He goes on to helpfully add that “they’re not all bums and tramps.” Thank you, head of the North Texas Chapter of the Toleranse Sosietee.
Seeing what young Angela and her family have to put up with makes her an early favorite even before I meet any of the others.
Next comes Nupur from Tampa, Florida. Her folks come on a little bit too strong, but she seems like a nice kid. Her story is so inspiring that area businesses rally around her. The local purveyor of wings and breasts is moved to put up a sign that says “Congradulations!”
From Rolla, Missouri comes Ted. He’s from a working class family and he seems to have some Asperger’s going on. He moves and acts in an awkward manner, but because of his size he does well in sports, so that helps. He has also aced his regional competition and is headed for the Nationals. His success also inspires an ironic sign, horrifyingly, this one is put up by his school:
Next we go to New Haven, Connecticut and meet Emily. Emily says that she doesn’t love spelling, she just wants to be the best at something. She rides horses and sings with girls who are better than her and she wants to be the best. She is smart, and she knows it. She likes to dominate her parents in conversations, and they let her.
She is also very much not working class. At one point she and her mother discuss bringing her au pair to the competition in lieu of one of her parentals. Yes, ladies and gentleman, if Angela is our favorite we now have our unfavorite. Emily instantly becomes the Yankees.
At this point in the documentary I start thinking about the editing. Do the filmmakers stack the deck to make me root for one contestant against another one? Are they engaging in the documentary version of playing me like a violin? Only showing the scenes where Emily is obnoxious, Angela is adorable, and her Dad’s employers are racist bungholes? As the recently revived Arsenio would say, these are things that make me go hmmm.
Moving along cautiously we have Ashley from Washington, DC. A 13 year old African American from the city, she most closely resembles the fictional Akeelah. She has no visible father, two uncles who are incarcerated, and her Mother is barely literate. Angela now has competition for my fave rave spot.
Lest you think I’m drinking the hateraid against wealthy contestants. I like Neil from Orange County, California. He is another Indian with very driven parents, they are also rich but they’re not obnoxious. Plus they have the sense to live on the beach in San Clemente, not New Whogivesashit, Connecticut.
April from Ambler, Pennsylvania wins my heart when she describes her mom as being like Edith Bunker from All in the Family. First of all, that a kid in the 00s is doing a reference from a 70s TV show warms my heart. Secondly, her Mom is totally Edith Bunker. Her family is also working class and they are all adorable.
Finally we meet Harry from Glen Rock, New Jersey. He’s another odd little kid who may have some Aspie things going on, or maybe ADHD. The difference with him is that he never shuts up. One of the contestants is challenged by the word “logorrhea.” When they ask for a definition the judges could have just pointed at Harry.
Harry’s Mom also appears to be single, and she’s kind of hot. Wow. I wonder how many dates she goes on before she introduces guys to her son. I mean no offense, he looks like a young Bill Gates and I’m sure he will do very well, but exit stage left.
Stacked deck or not, the movie does give you a chance to go through the competition with these kids and their parents. Like any good sporting event, it’s a nail-biter…and like any good documentary there are lots of surprises. In the end I kind of felt like I was watching the Olympics Walking Finals. These kids are the best in the world at a skill that few seem to value any more. Have you seen Facebook lately? It seems like most people don’t care about spelling or punctuation, even when they’re expressing themselves to the entire interwebs. Even those of us who do care about such things don’t have to worry about it much anymore. Even as I type this sentence I know that Microsoft Word will give me a helpful red line under any words that I misspell.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
I wish the movie or the DVD extras had gone deeper into what happened to the kids after the competition, but Spellbound is definitely worth seeing. I’m giving it an intelligent and erudite…
(Not So) Random Quote Whore Quote
This time the RQWQ is made up of words that our heroes were given in the final rounds of the competition:
“Spellbound is an ecclesiastical, terrene, hellebore of a movie! Jeffrey Blitz is distractible!!!”
A MISPLACED BOY WILL RETURN