Movie documentary: Boys State

youth politics

Boys StateOK, I’ve decided that I need to try to systematically see more movies. Recent movies. Normally, I would be at the cinema a lot this month, but I’m not. Luckily, I saw this list  of Ty Burr’s “Watch these 10 recent movies.”

Currently, I don’t have Netflix or Disney+ or Hulu, or HBO Max. But only since the end of December, I do have Apple TV+. I bought a new phone, which I haven’t figured out how to operate yet. But it came with a free year of the streaming service. And Boys State is available presently on that platform.

It is a “documentary about the Texas version of the one-week civics program where high school kids divide into parties and run for office.” As a political science junkie, this could be heaven or horrific. I found it closer to the former. “It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2020, where the film won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize.” Then it was released in August.

One may be potentially seeing “the next generation of politicians.” The program is sponsored by the American Legion across the country, with separate tracks for boys and girls. Alumni include political figures as diverse as Bill Clinton, Samuel Alito, Dick Cheney, Cory Booker, and Rush Limbaugh.

Politics, and tricks

Are the young men better than what we have now, or are they just emulating the mistakes of the adults they admire? “They are fascinatingly complex.” For certain. “Boys State shows that those [noble] aims can only do so much to keep the uglier side of that process at bay,” Erik Adams of AV Club noted.

One candidate for governor took a position diametrically opposed to what he believed because thought it would be more palatable to the constituents. Steven, on the other hand, was “a young man whose political skills are second to his open-mindedness and decency. In short, there’s hope.”

I highly recommend Boys State.

Movie review: Maiden

first-ever all-female crew to enter the yacht race

MaidenThere has been a yachting race around the world race every three or four years since 1973. The documentary Maiden tells the tale of the Whitbread Round the World Race of 1989-90, starting and ending that season in Southampton, England.

Specifically, it follows the efforts of Tracy Edwards, a generally directionless 24-year-old cook on charter boats, to become the skipper of the first-ever all-female crew to enter the race. Spoiler alert: she succeeds in getting into the race, with a ton of ingenuity and some royal help.

Unsurprisingly, the other crews were less than encouraging and the misogynist yachting press took bets on whether she and her crew would even make it to the first major stop, in Uruguay.

The film, written and directed by Alex Holmes and edited by Katie Bryer, has great archival footage, interspliced with Edwards and her crew today. For a story with a resolution that is knowable, it is exciting, riveting and breathtaking.

As one reviewer noted, “You ain’t seen nothing till you’ve seen storms out on the freezing black Southern Ocean near Antarctica, with 500-foot water geysers from giant waves caroming off ghostly icebergs in the mist.” It manages to avoid most of the sports story tropes.

For one thing, the hero is more than occasionally portrayed in a less-than-flattering light; one vital crew member quit before the race even started. Others admitted that the pressures of creating a team, and the event itself, sometimes “made her incredibly unpleasant to be around. But there is also no denying her determination.”

You may not care about yacht racing; it’s not a topic I’m generally interested in myself. Yet I related to the largely inexperienced captain and her crew, making mistakes, yet persevering.

Maiden is also a story of female empowerment that, unfortunately, still relevant today. It received positive reviews from critics (98% positive on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (97%). I hope you get a chance to see it, preferably in a theater. My wife and I saw it last month, naturally, at the Spectrum in Albany.