We Pedal Uphill: Stories From The States 2001-2008
Uphill, Downhill: All Across America In The Age Of Bush, 2001-2008
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, March 20, 2009
Although the now-former president's name is never mentioned nor his face ever
shown, "We Pedal Uphill: Stories From The States 2001-2008" operates under the
idea that the Americans in each of its thirteen short stories set in different
states have been blighted by the weight of all things George W. Bush. The
story subjects are shown coping under an era of extralegal burdens and effects.
Roland Tec writes, directs and does the music for this documentary-feeling
feature film, a series of vignettes. "We Pedal Uphill" opened today
exclusively at the
Cinema Village in New York City. The
music over the film's opening credits feels like a counteraction to the eight
years of the Bush Administration -- as if Lady Liberty or the country itself is
singing, imploring its citizens to resurrect themselves, even though the song is
about welcoming back a lover to a relationship. The song is re-introduced
in the film's third short story.
In "Paranoia" (set in Colorado), Mr. Tec stars as a liberal talk show host in a
state that is rather conservative (despite casting its vote for now-president
Barack Obama last November). We see the conceits and subterfuge he
exercises prior to arriving for work at a local radio station, and he doesn't
speak a single word. In "My Tie" (Mississippi), a widowed mother and
fatherless son talk about the civil rights marches which are being commemorated
in the city, which the son has some strong opinions about. "A Black Thing"
(Tennessee) features a black singer who is asked by her white music producers
and engineers to "put some more soul" into her singing. They dance
nervously around the obvious issues of race, especially in the South. In
"Subtraction And Addition" (Ohio) a white secretary challenges her black boss
over numbers and figures in an affidavit document that she has been asked to
"Earth Day" (California) features two journeyers trying to navigate their way
out of Muir Woods with their hysterical boss, while "One Wrong Turn" (Louisiana)
examines the progressively tense interaction beneath the cordial exchange
between black man and a white man who are supposedly friends or at best
acquaintances. If A Cow Was A Pie" (Oklahoma), several men are in a
corporate meeting deliberating about cows, profits, percentages and pies, while
"Caution: Train Crossing" (Nebraska) find two workers talking about an ethically
wrong proposition. In "The Mouse" (Florida), two gay men go back to a
hotel room post-party, with drugs being offered. One of them has a strong
sense of safety and anti-drug use, the other doesn't.
In "What've We Got To Lose?" (Connecticut), a reversal of the opening vignette,
we track backwards and away down a long corridor, hearing voices at work,
without seeing faces to match. In "Treason" (New Mexico), the shortest
story, a group of tourists listen to a reactionary tour guide who dispenses a
history lesson about the Rosenbergs of the 1950s that none seem interested in --
perhaps because the guide goes overboard in her anecdotes or because they are
numbed to history. The longest story is "What Happened To Rita?"
(Massachusetts), which looks forward and back at the life of a librarian
confronted by two officers who say they are from the Department of Homeland
Security. Finally, in "We Dig A Big Hole" (Alabama), a gay man dolefully
narrates his pain of hiding his sexual orientation from his very conservative
Shot largely on digital video, most of these stories are resonant, although some
are not as effective as others. Many of the actors are award-winning
thespians from the theater, having appeared on Broadway and Off-Broadway in
numerous plays and they do well here. Mr. Tec, who has directed such films
as the critically hailed "All The Rage", a satire on gay life, is a virtuoso of
sorts, having a career in opera, film, theater and music. He also
"Defiance", Edward Zwick's most recent film.
Mr. Tec's film of anthologies, shot largely in digital video, are ambitious,
insightful and always interesting. He works hard to make them impactful,
and most of the time he succeeds.
With: Judith Bancroft, J. Tucker Smith, Merle Perkins, Kate Weiman, Kate
Blumberg, Tom Bozell, Paul Outlaw, Polly Adams, Jenny Bacon, Stephen Barker
Turner, Nicholas Pelczar, Charles Parnell, Carl Palmer, Nat Dewolf, Matt Walton,
Ian Blackman, Molly Powell, Alvin Epstein, David Drake, Stephen Bienskie,
Marylouise Burke, Maureen Keiller, Molly Purves, Ellen Colton, Rick Park, John
Magaro and Judy Hiller.
"We Pedal Uphill: Stories From The States 2001-2008" is not rated by the
Motion Picture Association Of America. The film's duration is one hour and
51 minutes. In color and black and white.
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