I've been slowly working through my massive Netflix queue, and here are the last two movies I've watched.
The Power of One (1992), based upon the novel by Bryce Courtenay, tells the story of P.K., a white British South African boy growing up during Apartheid. P.K. suffers are very sad childhood- orphaned at a very young age, he is sent to a boarding school where he is brutally bullied by the Afrikaaner students. He eventually comes under the tutelage of a German professor, imprisoned because of WWII, and P.K. visits his friend daily for music and schooling. During these visits, P.K. takes boxing lessons from an inmate (played by Morgan Freeman) and witnesses the brutality and injustice with which the black South Africans are treated. In the last third of the movie, the high school aged P.K. (Stephen Dorff) progresses as a boxer and joins the anti-apartheid movement. Before watching The Power of One, I thought it was a Stephen Dorff movie about boxing, but it's much more than that. Dorff only appears in the last third of the film, and the boxing is often present but not the central theme of the movie. The Power of One portrays the cruelties of an oppressive and fundamentally unfair system and the inspiring tale of one person who refuses to accept it. My favorite section of the movie was the middle third, in which the 12-year-old P.K. spends time in the prison, making friends and learning languages of the differing tribes. Oh, and a skinny and young-looking Daniel Craig plays the neo-Nazi bad guy. I really liked the movie- it was interesting in that I knew about Apartheid but wasn't really aware of the animosity between the British vs. Afrikaaner populations of South Africa. I haven't read the book (which is supposedly great), and I'm sure parts of it were Hollywooded up, but the movie does benefit from the excellent casting and remarkable scenery. I liked it a lot and would definitely recommend it.
I also watched Breakfast at Tiffany's, which I had never seen before despite the fact that it spawned one of the most iconic images of all time. I had absolutely no idea what it was about, other than the fact that it starred Audrey Hepburn. This 1961 movie is based on a novel by Truman Capote and Hepburn stars as Holly Golightly, a society girl and gold digger living in an apartment paid for by an imprisoned mafioso. She forms a fast friendship with a handsome new neighbor with whom she has something in common- he's a kept man, financed by his married lover. He soon falls for Holly, but she's not interested in love, she just wants to be rich. And you can probably guess how it ends. It's Hepburn's movie, and she charming enough to portray Holly as somewhat of a sympathetic character. She's also stunningly gorgeous in every scene- not to mention painfully thin (she's almost my height, but barely 100 lbs). I feel like Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of those classic movies everyone should see at some point, and Hepburn and George Peppard did have great chemistry, and the clothes and the glamour are fun. Nevertheless, I didn't love it. As a critique of high society and people with money, I think The Great Gatsby did it better (the book not the movie). And Holly's a real spoiled brat sometimes- I mean, there's a definite tinge of Paris Hilton/Anna Nicole Smith in the character, and that's not what I generally look for when it comes to movie heroines. One aspect of the film certainly hasn't aged well- Mickey Rooney playing the slapsticky Asian neighbor is just flat-out racist. Yikes.
So of these two movies, I'd definitely recommend The Power of One. (even if that might seem like heresy in some circles)