Friday, September 16, 2011

Soderbergh's "King of the Hill"

The employment situation in our economy is like nothing we've seen since the Great Depression, both in terms of long term unemployment and median duration. Things are staggeringly bad, but we can try to find bright spots where we can.

One such bright spot is that one of my favorite directors, Steven Soderbergh, has just released a new movie, Contagion. Back in 1993, Soderbergh made a film of one of my favorite books, "King of the Hill", A.E. Hotchner's account of being a schoolboy in 1933 in St. Louis. I missed the film in the theaters, and have searched in vain for it in any format since. However, Amazon has just made it available through their new "Amazon Instant Video" feather. You can find it here.

It's a heartbreaking story of a family struggling to survive the Great Depression. It begins with Hotchner's family way behind on their rent in a single room occupancy hotel, with his father having to travel to scramble for work and his mother's health failing. Hotchner eventually has to stay as a squatter in their apartment so that they can't be evicted, while he plays mind-games with himself to deal with starvation. But through it all, he is a kid, and plays marbles and does other kid things, while trying to hide from his school friends how desperately poor he is.

We have a better social safety net these days, but with poverty at rising rates, I wonder about how many people I interact with each week who are quietly suffering like Hotchner did as a boy.

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