America America

I graded a pile of homework papers and took a break by going out for a pepperoni slice.  I handed out exams to my class and got home late.  I watched Elia Kazan’s “America America” on DVD.  I think it could have used a better title, but I thought it was a good movie overall.  Kazan wrote, produced, and directed this long movie that had a lot of personal meaning.  Stavros is a young Greek in Turkey who sets out for Constantinople, or Istanbul, with his family’s money and possessions in an attempt to get everyone out of their war-torn region.  The year is 1896.  This young man isn’t prepared for the outside world, however.  The man giving him a ride on a raft threatens to topple him and his mule into the water if he doesn’t hand over more money.  Stavros has the misfortune of running into a thief who aggressively takes his food and money.  He shouldn’t have opened the door even a little bit.  When dealing with such a scummy character, he should have immediately taken out his blade and threatened him with death.  When Stavros reaches the city, he tries to work hard for money, but there is the temptation of the prostitutes.  His friend tells him that the only two ways to get real money is through stealing or marriage.  He has to decide whether to work in selling carpets or pursuing his dream of going to America.  The movie has scenes that bring to mind “The Godfather Part II” and “Brooklyn.”  I thought this was a strong movie, although with a section that moves rather slowly when Stavros tries the path of marriage.  I liked the black and white photography and learned from the credits that the cinematographer was Haskell Wexler.  Kazan said in his voiceover, “I am a Greek by blood, a Turk by birth, and an American because my uncle made a journey.”  I don’t know if young people of today would want to watch a movie like this, but it would be educational for them to take a look at the struggles of immigrants.  Well, maybe Donald Trump should see this movie, too.  You have to feel for these people who endured so much.  I read a little bit about the career of Stathis Giallelis.  He was in seven films between 1964 and 1980, but only three American movies.  His fame didn’t last very long.  He retired in 2008, and he is now 76 years old.  Some of the people who died on March 18 include Mark Goodson (1992), Kirsty MacColl (2000), Joseph Barbera (2006), and Majel Barrett (2008).  Today is a birthday for Brad Pitt (53), Angie Stone (55), Ray Liotta (62), Steven Spielberg (70), Keith Richards (73), and Cicely Tyson (92).

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