03 July 2010


Yesterday I watched the last episode of an HBO series called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, based on the eponymous novels by Alexander McCall Smith. Filmed on location in Botswana, the story is a quiet, funny and loving poem which celebrates the people, landscape and wildlife of Africa's most progressive nation, a land where courtesy and humanity are the norm. Deviations from that norm provide the fodder for Mma Ramotswe's cases, which range from very human misunderstandings to serious issues like spousal abuse, theft and AIDS. The series is an unqualified delight, available on DVD throught Netflix. Here is a selection of film clips which provide a feel for the pace and spirit of the story. Great fun, and a window into a part of the world I would dearly love to visit.

The word "pula", which appears on the Botswana coat of arms, means "rain." 70 percent of the country is occupied by the Kalahari Desert, pula is both a greeting and a blessing. Paradoxically, one of Botswana's premier wildlife areas is the Okavango Delta, where the Okavango River fans out into a network of marshes before being swallowed by the Kalahari.

Still pursuing movies, Philosopher Robert Pippin offers an alternative view of the traditional American western. Pippin's take on Marion Robert Morrison, the figurehead of the good ship Conservative (and a man who stayed home making movies and money while other actors served in the military during WWII), and his take on the westerns in which JW starred, is thoughtful and surprising.

For something completely different, here is a sampling of the wit and barely-veiled sensuality of Mae West. Long may she sail.

And finally, a video collection of the 100 greatest movie insults of all time. A subjective list, to be sure, since it does not include foreign language films. Warning -- there is some strong language, but also much laughter. I don't know whether to feel smug or disturbed that I've seen nearly all these films.

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