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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 3, 2010 at 10:28 AM

The lady in the hat

Busy week; I’ve got seven movies to review, three of which are documentaries. (Quick break for numbers, because people often ask me this: In a typical week in Seattle, maybe seven or eight new movies open. This week, there are 13 — which is why, if you look at our movie-review section on Friday, many of the reviews will be quite short. August is always the most crowded month of the year for new releases, partly because a lot of movies are getting dumped into theaters to clear out the inventory before fall.) Anyway, I’m not sure I’ve ever reviewed three documentaries in a week before (outside of a film festival) and it’s a kick — I love exploring the different worlds that good docs can bring us. “Waking Sleeping Beauty” took me inside the animation studios at Disney, where an entire art form nearly died by the early ’80s and then triumphantly rose again with the likes of “Beauty and the Beast.” “Ready, Set, Bag!” introduced me to a lively world I didn’t know existed: grocery-bagging competitions, where courtesy clerks carefully plot placement of their “squishies and crushables.” And “The Wildest Dream” took me somewhere I’ll surely never go: to the top of Everest, with 1920s explorer George Mallory and present-day mountaineer Conrad Anker.
And “The Wildest Dream,” perhaps unwittingly, introduced me to someone I’d love to meet. In the film, we’re told that Mallory travelled to New York in the early 1920s, to speak to the Explorers Club. A soft, blurry photograph shows a sea of gentlemen in ties and dark jackets, leaning forward as they listened intently to the speaker. But if you look at the photograph carefully (not hard to do on an IMAX screen), you’ll see something unusual: towards the back, in the rows of dark suits, one hat adorned with an elegantly drooping feather. One lone woman, at the Explorers Club, nearly a century ago. Why did she go? What did she dream of exploring? Did she ever get there? Did Mallory’s words inspire her? I’ll never know who this unknown woman was, but I like to imagine that she might have made a fine documentary subject, too.

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