This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.
One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Powwow Highway (1989)
"This ain't the American Dream. This here's the Third World."
-Buddy Red Bow.
Almost a decade before Smoke Signals (1998) gained notoriety for being the first movie made exculsively by Native Americans (on both sides of the camera), this funny, uplifting film came along and even won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Buddy Red Bow (A Martinez) is an activist fighting a proposal for strip-mining at his home-the Cheyenne reservation in Lame Deer, MO.
He then receives word that his estranged sister Bonnie (Joannelle Nadine Romero) has been framed and arrested in Santa Fe, NM after police find marijuana in the trunk of her car.
As he does not own his own transportation, Buddy asks his friend Philbert Bono (Gary Farmer), whose recent spiritual visions have led to his purchase of a car, to drive him to Santa Fe. But Buddy is taken aback by Philbert's newly acquired automobile-a rusted, beat 1964 Buick Wildcat Philbert christens "Protector-the war pony."
Along the way, Philbert (to Buddy's chagrin) makes a detour in Rapid City, SD in response to further spiritual callings. Despite his anger, he and Philbert, whom he has known since childhood, begin to appreciate each other more. They even meet up with their friend Rabbit Layton (Amanda Wyss), who is also trying to get Bonnie out of jail.
In the end, our heroes break Bonnie out of jail with the help of her children after police say they cannot do anything immediately due to the Christmas season.
The manage to elude the feds at the cost of Protector, whom Philbert praises for throwing him out when his pony goes down a cliff at the climax.
First and foremost, this movie has many funny moments. One of my favorites is when Buddy insists that Philbert buy a radio for his pony. After it is installed but does not work, Buddy angrily returns to the store demanding his money back and partially trashing the store in the process. At the same time, Philbert gets the radio to work after merely consulting the owner's manual.
I've always felt that this film was somewhat reminiscent of the classic movie Easy Rider (1969) in that it centers on characters on a quest to get something better out of life. This film, though, ends on a more uplifting note.
This is also the first film I remember seeing in which Native Americans take center stage without the cliches of feathers and war paint (although Philbert sees such visions).
The whole cast is great, but the scene-stealer is Farmer, who is sensitive, funny, and immediately likeable. Despite his large size, you know that he is not a violent person.