Sunday, December 09, 2007


Because I watch my movies on the Netflix plan, I am always hopelessly behind, often seeing movies that were hot two years ago. My method is to read the Movie Guide in the LA Times every Sunday morning and note down movies that sound good, then put them into a notebook as a list of movies I'd like to see. Finally they make it onto the Netflix queue. It is a good system for me, better than going to Blockbuster, where my husband and I used to end up watching all the action/adventure guy flicks because he would shoot down most of my choices. I won't bore you with our silly Netflix arguments except to say that we alternate on picks and sort of keep track on whose picks were good or bad.

So last night we saw "Akeelah and the Bee" and it was unbelievably great. I pick all flicks which have anything to do with writers, books or words, not to mention movies made from books I have read. This was the second in the Spelling Bee genre, the first being "Bee Season" from the book by Myla Goldberg.

Akeelah is an eleven year old girl growing up in a fatherless African American home in South Central LA. She is already a champion speller but more concerned with being cool with her girlfriends and hanging out than in going to school. Crenshaw Middle School is underfunded and in no way challenges her high intelligence. Along comes the spelling bee, the Principal's hope of gaining recognition (translation: funds) for his school and a challenge for Akeelah.

It is an oft told tale of the rise of an African American due to intelligence and education, directed by and also starring Laurence Fishburne who plays Akeelah's tutor. But the whole thing: the screenplay, the casting, the dialogue, are just perfectly put together. The movie could be called heartwarming and it is, bringing tears to both our eyes many times, but it is so much more. Akeelah is a righteous heroine; a combination of tough, hip, and smart with a loving nature. Angela Bassett plays Akeelah's totally stressed out urban Mom and is equally powerful in her role.

If you haven't seen it and love words, word origins, education and all that, just rent it and see it.

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