Notes from the back row 

When riding bulls makes more sense

Guess what? The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou isn’t playing here this week either. Don’t ask me why, I can only suppose they want us to go see something like Fat Albert or the new Adam Sandler drama, Spanglish, which is back at the Village 8 for yet another week.

Let me start by saying Spanglish is a crapfest of a movie that teaches us that even though we all want to hire illegal immigrants who don’t speak English to be our maids, we shouldn’t. And although it may seem perfectly charitable to invite said immigrants and their children to our summer cottages to baby sit our own kids while we have affairs and fight with our spouses, well, apparently we shouldn’t really do that either. Nor should we give these immigrant children gifts or extra attention even if they are cuter and better behaved than our own kids. No we shouldn’t do any of these things, even if we view it as simply giving someone a break, a chance to earn a better place in the world.

According to Spanglish success is the realm of us crazy white folks and since we have no family values or decency, people accepting charity from us just took the first step in joining us on our rapid descent to hell. Nope, the main point of Spanglish is that minorities should just be proud of who they are, of where they came from. Accept the racial and economic traps they’re in – it’s part of what makes minorities so profoundly different from us. Everyone knows that a good, proud ethnic maid is one who knows and appreciates her place…. Thanks Spanglish. Thanks director James L. Brooks, I never would have thought of it that way.

Not wasting our time with borderline hate literature this week is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time, Amarillo by Morning , by Spike Jonze ( Adaptation, Yeah Right.)

"We were at the Houston Astrodome, shooting pro bullriders for a commercial at the national rodeo," says Jonze himself, "when I met these two boys who were the only cowboy kids at their school. All the other kids were hip-hop so they got made fun of, but they didn’t care. They were so captivating."

Amarillo By Morning is a day in the life of Little John McJunkin and BJ Bowden, two 16-year-old kids from the suburbs of Houston who only want one thing in life – to be pro bullriders. "Goin’ down the road to the rodeo. Ain’t got much, but man, you’re free," says Little John. "That’s what it’s all about."

Indeed it is. While it would have been easy to poke fun at these kids and make a long white trash joke, Jonze knows better. Instead he remains true to the boys and ends up giving us a glimpse into the lives of two kids as honest, sincere and likeable as anyone you’d hope to meet. Focusing on one afternoon session on their "bucking barrel bull," (one of those jagged 40 gallon drums suspended with ropes and springs that "bucks" when you have three people pulling it in opposite directions) Amarillo by Morning is hilarious, touching, and you end up feeling that these simple kids with simple dreams really do have it all figured out, despite getting laughed at every day at school. "We ain’t here to impress nobody," says BJ. "We’re just here until we can leave. To a farm."

Amarillo by Morning is on Palm Pictures’ Directors Series-Spike Jonze DVD. Buy, borrow or rent it as soon as you can. And skip Spanglish , in case you missed that part.

AT VILLAGE 8 JAN. 7-13: Fat Albert; Finding Neverland; Lemony Snicket’s; National Treasure; Spanglish; Incredibles; Aviator; Polar Express; Meet the Fockers; Ocean’s Twelve.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE JAN. 7-13: Bridget Jones 2: Edge of Reason

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