Friday, January 28, 2005

Peeking in

It was documentary film night last night, and we caught up with a couple of fine ones. The first was, a 2001 look at a couple of young New Yorkers who, in 1999, launched an online company called They assumed they would make scads of money, and you can guess how things turned out. It's a grim story that is in some ways atypical of the dot-com hysteria: these fellows never were twentysomething billionaires, probably because they got into the e-commerce game relatively late. In some of the most excruciating moments, they haggle with venture capitalists over $12 million, $20 million--more money than I can conceive of, certainly, but small change in those days. (One of the film's directors, Jehane Noujaim, also made Control Room; I reviewed that here.)

Then we watched In Heaven There Is No Beer?, a 1984 doc about polka. The film, a winner at the 1985 Sundance festival, captures a slice of Americana that isn't celebrated nearly enough: the small, Midwestern beer halls and festivals where polka bands play and revelers drink and dance. I didn't appreciate polka until I moved to Wisconsin, but the more I learn, the more I like, and I've never seen a more engrossing look at the milieu than this one. In my favorite scene, a young woman receives an award from a polka association, and she is completely overcome with emotion; if you can't get emotional about your polka band, what can you get emotional about?

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