To Bee or Not to Bee
Recommended by Deb, a movie buff and adult reference librarian at the Canton Public Library.
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This is one of my favorite films. An inspirational story of an 11 year-old girl from south central Los Angeles determined to win the National Spelling Bee. Akeelah (Keke Palmer) is reluctant to compete in the schools spelling bee contest and being labeled a brainiac. Her teacher and principal persevere, but her widowed and overwhelmed mom (Angela Bassett) objects to her daughters aspiration to compete in the regional and state bees. A tough taskmaster and spelling coach, Dr. Larabee (Lawrence Fishburne), teaches Akeelah that she doesnt have to know all the words to win. With the help of her neighborhood, she finds the self-confidence to make it to the finale of the bee season, the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
Based on the novel by the same name, The Bee Season follows a family who appears to be happy on the surface but struggles with their quest for spiritual wholeness. Parents Saul and Miriam, played by Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche respectively, are proud of their gifted daughter, Eliza, as she advances from one level to the next in spelling competitions. As she spells outs each word, Eliza closes her eyes and visualizes the letters coming to life. Saul not only becomes her dedicated spelling coach to the exclusion of the rest of the family, but he believes his daughter can transcend on a mystical journey as well. Aaron, the equally talented teenage son, feeling dismissed by his father, seeks comfort and acceptance in another religion after meeting a beautiful girl at the beach. While Miriam disconnects into her own inner world and spirals into places her family can't reach her. This movie goes beyond spelling and winning bees; it focuses on how broken lives can be made whole again.
This DVD contains championship rounds of the National Spelling Bee from 2000-2006 in Washington, D.C. At the start of each segment, the remaining two or three spellers on stage appear focused and unnerved. As each finalist approaches the mike, the room goes quiet. Each word from the 25-word championship list is read, the speller repeats the word several times and waits for correction. Then he or she asks for word origins, sentence examples, various pronunciations and definitions. There is only a limited amount of time to spell the word and the entire audience is hanging on every letter. Then a sharp ding shatters the silence. A speller sits down and the drama continues until the winner is declared. Its interesting to learn during the interviews with the champions that almost all consider luck was on their side.
Eight kids from varying parts of the country and backgrounds, converge in Washington D.C. to compete for the National Spelling Bee championship. This Academy Award-nominated documentary follows these elementary and middle school students into their homes and classrooms as they prepare for competition; some with language coaches, others memorize the dictionary or get quizzed diligently by their parents. Harry, from New Jersey, is so quirky and with so many eccentricities that his mannerisms are fun to watch. Angela is from an immigrant family in rural Texas and Ashley lives with her single mom in urban Washington, D.C. All of these kids deserve to be cheered. And the suspense is riveting right up until the very last word is spelled flawlessly.
Though not about the Spelling Bee, this documentary is about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where worshipers of words and puzzles meet to test the outer limits of their knowledge. This annual tournament is the nations oldest and largest crossword competition. The ringmaster is New York Times crossword puzzle editor, NPR host, crossword contest creator, and mega-celebrity of the crossword world, Will Shortz. He is a life-long puzzle enthusiast who created a self-designed degree from Indiana University in enigmatology, the study of puzzles. The history of behind NYT puzzles, how puzzles are constructed and their constructors, and how puzzles are made more clever or difficult is fascinating. Also featured are devotees Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton who provide charismatic cameos as they obsess over the easy puzzles published on Monday and working up to the more difficult Sunday puzzles.