Movie Review: Queen of the Sun (2010) #AtoZChallenge

This is my entry for “Q” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Other “Q” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Quest: A Portrait of an American Family.

Title: Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?
Release Date: April 2010
Director: Taggart Siegel
Production Company: Evan Schiller

This documentary focuses on colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon when many bees disappear from their hive for no clear reason.  This was a major issue in the first decade of the 2000s leading up to when this movie was made, although we don’t hear about it much anymore.  I believe there has been some recovery among the bees in recent years, although it’s definitely an issue that should still concern us.  As this movie points out, around 40% of the fruit and vegetables we eat can only prosper if fertilized with bees.

The movie interviews people from around the world, including several beekeepers (both professional and amateur), farmers, biologists, and other experts (like science writer Michael Pollan).  They talk about their love of the bees, their importance to ecosystems, and theories to why they’re dying out.

One potential cause is the focus on monoculture in farming.  In one instance they show the effort that goes into bringing millions of bees to California for the annual blossoming of almond trees. Since the farms are covered with thousands of acres of the same crop, there is nothing for the bees to eat there the rest of the year, so they have to be trucked in from across the United States. I knew about bee hives being transported from farm to farm, but I never knew how massive the effort can be or how stressful it is for the bees.

Another danger is pesticides.  Treating crops with pesticides has the effect of disorienting and sickening bees.  Hives are also treated with pesticides that kill mites that feed on the bees themselves.  This has had the unintended effect of evolving more resistant mites.  Organic beekeepers have focused on trying to end the arms race between mites and poisons, and instead allowing bees to evolve defenses against the mites.

The final portion of the movie focuses on people contributing to the bee revival by keeping bees in their yards and rooftops.  This includes a group in New York City who successfully work to overturn a local ordinance forbidding beekeeping.  One way to get started on a hive is to catch a swarm that have left an overcrowded hive.  Swarms are often looked on with fear, and there are many misplaced fears based on mistaking bees for other insects like yellowjackets, so being able to overcome prejudice against honey bees is one of the most important first steps.

This movie is unfortunately rather preachy.  Not that they’re wrong in what they say, but I find the repetition of dire pronouncements about the demise of the bees to be less effective than the more educational parts of this movie.  Nevertheless, if you know little to nothing about bees, this is a good place to start.  And you may even start thinking about keeping bees!

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Quick Change (1990) #atozchallenge

I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!

TitleQuick Change
Release Date: July 13, 1990
Director: Howard Franklin and Bill Murray
Production Company: Devoted Productions

There are not a lot of Q movies out there, much less ones I want to watch again, but here’s one I enjoyed 30 years ago.

Dressed as a clown, Grimm (Bill Murray) robs a midtown Manhattan bank, holding the staff and customers hostage in the vault.  While negotiating with police Chief Walt Rotzinger (Jason Robards), Grimm makes ludicrous demands in exchange for hostages.  As the demands are fulfilled he releases his lifelong friend Loomis (Randy Quaid) and girlfriend Phyllis (Geena Davis), as well as himself (sans clown costume).  While the police are distracted by the seeming ongoing hostage situation in the bank, the trio slip off with cash taped beneath their clothing.

The heist goes without a hitch, but their efforts to get to the airport to fly out of the country are met with increasingly ludicrous obstacles.  They get lost in Queens, get robbed by a Yuppie conman, lose their car, ride in a cab with a driver who knows no English, accidentally walk in on a Mafia operation, and deal with an anal bus driver who gets them within walking distance of the airport.  They finally make their flight, but Rotzinger boards to make an arrest, only to take away an obnoxious passenger who is a notorious Mafia boss.

When Did I First See This Movie?:

I saw this with my sister when it first came out, probably because we both like Bill Murray.  I remember thing it was outrageously funny and surprised that the movie seemed to vanish from the theaters and no one else I knew saw it.

What Did I Remember?:

I remember the clown bank robbery and Geena Davis wiping off a bit of white makeup that Bill Murray missed, getting lost in Queens, the Latin people jousting on bicycles, and the eerie empty streets they walk through near the airport before boarding the baggage train.

What Did I Forget?:

I forgot about the whole mafia subplot, the visit to Phyllis’ old apartment where they run into Phil Hartman, the cab driver, and the bus ride.

What Makes This Movie Great?:

There are moments of inspired comedy in this film, with Bill Murray robbing the bank and negotiating for hostages being the part that holds up the best.  It’s also very funny when Murray talks himself through the encounter with the mafia, and even makes up with some more money.

What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

This movie is cynical and angry and built around the idea that New York City is an awful place, something I’ve never believed in, so I don’t know why I thought it was so funny 30 years ago.  A lot of what the characters hate about New York seems to involve people with darker skin and different accents, which is more than a little bit racist.  A lot of the gags fall flat.  The relationship between Murray and Davis is not believable and they have no chemistry.  And Quaid’s character, despite his best efforts, is a one-note “dumb guy” that ceases to be funny after too much repetition.

Is It a Classic?:

No, not at all.

Rating: **1/2

One other all-time favorite movie starting with Q:

  1. Quest: A Portrait of an American Family (2017)

What is your favorite movie starting with the letter Q?  What is your guess for my movie starting with R (Hint: The film score is by the same composer as another of my favorite R movies, The Right Stuff)?  Let me know in the comments!