Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving at Alice's Restaurant


Anyone turning on the radio yesterday was likely to hear a bit of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," the 18-minute opus about a famous "Thanksgiving Day massacre" involving illegally dumped garbage, an ensuing arrest and imprisonment and, incidentally, a restaurant in Stockbridge, MA owned by one Alice Brock.
But did anyone go so far as to rent the Arthur Penn-directed, Academy Award nominated 1969 movie of the same name? Me neither.
If you're still looking for something different to watch over this long weekend, though, here's a review off the IMDB site from someone who's actually seen it:

"Seeing this cultural artifact from the late '60s is less like watching a story unfold than stepping into a time machine. The good, bad and tragic aspects of that turbulent era are all represented here, and the past - as observed from our tainted and narcissistic age of SUVs, AIDS and the Internet - seems positively innocent. And, with a few obvious exceptions,idyllic.

"The 1960s may have been a tumultuous era, but those years embodied one crucial concept sorely missing from today's society: youthful idealism. Way back when, before a six-figure salary became the college student's holy grail, when saving the world was more important than earning a law degree, young people were actually passionate - about freedom, about peace, about the long-term prospects for humanity. If that passion has not completely vanished, it has certainly been redirected - and not, in my view, toward a positive or productive end.

"Whether Penn's film works or not as a cinematic adaptation of Guthrie's song, whether it successfully mixes deadpan humor (hippies vs. bureaucratic clods) with tragedy (the dark side of drug use) seems almost irrelevant now. The movie succeeds in capturing a remarkable moment in time, a short period when the future may have been uncertain, but there was still a brilliant ray of sunshine at the end of the tunnel - and a youthful force propelling us toward it."

2 comments:

Mariah Fleming said...

Jimmy,
So glad to see your post about Alice's Restaurant and what it represents. It's definitely a good film to see.
I just saw the movie again about a month ago after 30 years. The review you posted describes it beautifully.

It is a walk back in time to view true passion for life, ideals, joy and acceptance of others. Viewing the film requires anyone who didn't participate in those times to have a "willing suspension of disbelief" just to sit through it. Guthrie's compassion, honesty and joy is too "precious" to be believeable in the here and now.

Guthrie could make the film because he was able to laugh at himself while at the same time living his ideals that weren't negotiable. How many people laugh at themselves these days? Officer Obie even agreed to appear as himself in the movie! He and Arlo were polar opposites but they worked together with respect for one another.

The film caused a little ache in my heart for our present days where money trumps all, and individualism, idealism, and critical thinking are suspect.

As we slink into the 21st Century, thinking 'outside the box' is labeled unpatriotic, and vicious lies and slander represent "just business as usual" at the top of the Hill.

I think I have a headache. (o:

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