Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bob's Cinema Diary: 2/14/20 -- The Woman Who Loves Giraffes and Olympic Dreams

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes
Even as a child, Anne Innis Dagg loved giraffes. Dagg becomes the subject of director Alison Reid's The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, a documentary about Innis' life that conflates biography with the story of how giraffes are becoming an endangered animal. After college, Dagg traveled to South Africa where she was able to observe giraffes and keep detailed records of their behavior. She became an expert on giraffes and tried to parley her knowledge into a professorship at The University of Guelph in Canada. She was denied tenure. Reid couples the story of giraffes with Dagg's struggle to establish herself in a zoology world ruled by men. Without the benefit of a university attachment, she was left to fight a legal battle with the university and to write independently. Fortunately, Reid had access to 16 mm footage that Dagg shot in 1956, the year of her first trip to Africa. If you're interested in wildlife and would like to see it preserved, Reid's documentary has plenty to offer. It also works as the biography of a woman who followed her interests and refused to be deterred by misogyny. And, yes, the giraffes are fascinating to observe.

Olympic Dreams

This unsatisfying romantic comedy takes place against the backdrop of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Director Jeremy Teicher sets his story at the real games which make this a case in which the movie's background seems more interesting than its principal characters. Alexi Pappas, who competed in the 2016 Olympics as a long-distance runner, plays Penelope a cross-country skier from the US. Nick Kroll portrays Ezra, a dentist who has volunteered to work at the Olympics. The need for dentistry seems negligible, which means Ezra has a lot of free time. So does Penelope who loses early and is left to wander around the grounds with nothing much in mind. The two meet and talk (uninterestingly, I'm afraid) as Teicher's cameras wander through the Olympic village and later the city of Pyeongchang. Neither Penelope nor Ezra are particularly intriguing and the movie crosses the finish line without creating much by way of romantic charge. Nor does it really explore the alienation and need that can arise when people are adrift in unfamiliar surroundings.

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