June 22, 2008

Southern Movie Night

I just re-watched the 2005 tragicomedy Junebug, a culture clash movie set in rural North Carolina.

As reviews like this one attest, it's a complicated portrait of a typical country family in crisis. What's really fun to chew on for a Walkin' Lawton fellow traveler though is the dialogue. What a linguistic treasure!

From the Dad who wonders "If I was a screwdriver , where would I be?" to the navel orange-obsessed "outsider artist" who claims to collaborate with God on his slaves-with-white-faces murals, it's great escapism.

For me, the film makes me think about the social tension in modern North Carolina, between the mountain folk culture, the Research Triangle, and the coast. This fish-out-of-water story is playing out again and again as the state grows. Heck, NC may just vote for Obama for president--little more than a decade after sending Jesse Helms to the U.S. Senate.

Junebug is the type of Southern film that would never be taught in a Southern politics class, but could and should fit into any such syllabus. It would make for a nice contrast with genuinely political films like All the King's Men and Warm Springs. Just because there isn't an election doesn't mean that politics is at work.

On a similar note, it's also worth mentioning that In The Heat of the Night has been re-released in a special edition format with a few new goodies. I would the say the biggest difference between In the Heat of the Night and Junebug is the use of music to set the scene. Ray Charles's atmospheric theme song overpowers anything in Junebug, obviously. But Junebug has things to say about race, too.

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