Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thrifty Flicks

I read some blogs and books about thriftiness, but there are some movies and shows that also make me think thrift and about voluntary simplicity. I'm not always sure why and some have been mentioned before.

Goode Neighbors / The Goode Life.
BBC series from the 1970s. We used to watch it on PBS growing up and I loved it even then. I think it was the independence. A couple at midlife/midcareer who live in a semi-detached house (like a duplex but you own your half and the half of the lawn on your side) decide to become self sufficient with their tiny yard and allotment (garden plot elsewhere in the town). It's cute and was inspirational to many who joined the "back to the land" movement at the time.

Squarefoot Gardening.
A PBS classic show. I've got a square foot garden that is 4feet by 9feet and did pretty well as far as growing stuff, though the final yields could have been better but I'm learning! Maybe I'll even do the fall garden stuff this year. The series, and book, does recommend buying various fertilizers and soil amendments that aren't organic while I went organic and am not great at co-planting so I think it went well considering.

Clatterford / Jam and Jerusalem.
It's not really about thrift but it's a BBC show, recent, about life in a small village. It does focus sometimes on the importance of community and having local shops and pubs and whatnot. One character lives without a job but she's a load on people so not a role model. Others are farmers who are fairly poor but still managing and providing food for the area. The point is really about the women's guild and just amusing. Maybe it just makes my life in a village seem slightly more charming rather than disturbingly surreal.

Northern Exposure.
Obviously. Many strange characters, quite a few living off grid. NO chain restaurants, stores, or anything else is portrayed. People shop at the local store, make due, eat at the tavern and even have a local radio station and no one really envies the one rich guy. I think this and Clatterford are both respectful of those who don't base their worth on their income and that might be the draw for me. Also both have a lovely dry humor about them.

The Vicar of Dibley.
More with the BBC! One rich guy and a village full of largely poor idiots. There is quite a bit of overt discussion of the importance of community and local folks as well as some overt opposition to development as ruining village life and exploiting the poor.

Movies are tougher...
The food documentaries make me want to garden and shop local and cook and not waste.
Classics are:
Food Inc. (shows the issues with industrial food)
Supersize Me (dangers of eating nothing but fastfood crap...and I remember it was playing in Saint Paul during the fateful college-friends-reunion when I had an EPIC gallbladder attack in poor Bree's bathroom while many friends sat on the other side of the wall listening to me wretch. For hours. Good times.)
Dirt. About soil and the importance of building soil.
The Real Dirt on Farmer John. A midwestern eccentric struggles to farm organically and get along with the locals. I like this both for the food/farming issues and the life of a real eccentric who decides to be who he is no matter what people think (including thinking he was having murderous orgies)
Fresh. Interesting characters talk passionately about growing healthy food and working with, rather than against, the land.

And some that romanticize food and celebrating abundance (promise to get off the food shortly)

Babette's Feast. Babette is poor and comes to cook for spinster Scandinavian sisters. Not knowing she's an amazing chef, they have her soak lutefisk and prepare other grim meals that are part of their community's devotion to food asceticism. Simple food doesn't have to be bad even if you're poor or cheap. Babette serves an amazing feast and all hell breaks loose in a good way.

Like Water for Chocolate. The intersections of food and emotion. I'm not that into emotion, but the food bits are good.

Eat Drink Man Woman. The food in this is extravagant and expensive. Many of the feasts are sort of culinary potlatches meant to demonstrate the wealth of the host, and yet the ingredients are actually not that spending and really enjoying food is part of a frugal mentality...fix what you love and you won't waste it. (Don't bother with Tortilla Soup which is a scene for scene remake that comes off like a 10th generation photocopy...a blurred and distorted version of the original)

Mostly Martha. The GERMAN original. Really, don't watch the American remake. Intolerable I'm sure (haven't seen it). Again, many of the meals are extravagant, but the cook is offended when people waste or send back the food. And it's more of the enjoying food thing. It makes me want to cook, which is thrifty.

Some that make me appreciate what I have:
Silence of the North. Tom Skerrit and the Mrs. move to the north and homestead. She gets to spend the winter alone, in silence, with a baby in a one room cabin with a canvas roof. She has almost nothing. And then loses the rest of it. And yet, things ultimately work out OK.

Trouble the Water (I think that's it) about how bad things got for so many people after hurricane Katrina. Renters got no relief! They didn't lose a house they owned or had a mortgage on thus no assistance! Many people rent because they can't afford to buy so the poorest got nothing. What they did have they lost and no one came to help. The importance of community.
(there are many good documentaries about Katrina and the aftermath that make one happy just to have a roof to sit on if it does flood. Which reminds me...I need to get that disaster kit with potable water put together).

The Lemon Tree. Life on the border of the Palestinian territories becomes even more complicated for a Palestinian, Muslim, widow who scrapes by on the income from her lemon grove. An Israeli official moves in next door and her grove is recast as a potential threat and must be destroyed. Compared to her, I'm a pig in shit.

My Name Is Joe. Don't try to get it. You can't. Scottish flick showing some serious urban poverty and the circular trap of getting involved in drugs because one has no hope, and how drug trade can be some people's only way out of poverty, and yet keeps them on the edge of disaster. It's a pretty amazing film. I have it on VHS but I don't think it's on DVD yet.
Precious. Hey! I haven't been raped by a relative today so life is good! Also haven't had to steal food for my psychotic mother. Even better.

My Life as a Dog. Fantastic Scandinavian classic by Lasse Halstrom. It's semi-autobiographical but they had to tart it up a bit as Lasse's actual childhood was even grimmer than being beaten by a dying mother, abandoned by his father, and left to share a bed with his gassy elderly aunt. In reality, he lived alone in an apartment starting when was in about 4th or 5th grade. His father paid the rent and just wasn't there. Then...he can't have his dog anymore and it gets sad.

These validate going one's own way:
Sordid Lives. It's just damn funny. It's more small town characters ultimately accepting one another while sharing food when gathering for Mama's funeral (she dies when she trips over her boyfriends fake legs at a cheap hotel and hits her head on the sink).

Spinal Tap. Not because it is representing anything thrifty...but because I finally got a DVD player when that came out on DVD. It reminds me of how I make choices to buy or not buy technology. And I've watched that movie many many times. Got my money's worth out of that one.

Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon lives with his grandmother, his uncle lives in a van.

The Straight Story. Not only the greatest film about Iowa ever made, it also shows the sort of odd practicality common among the economically challenged in the flatlands. No license or car? Drive the lawn mower across the state. If it breaks, fix it yourself. Camp in cemeteries and eat hot dogs.

I'm sure there are lots more. But this is enough for now. There are also TONS of excellent books beyond the few that I cite frequently. I'll do another post on some of my recent thrifty reads.

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