Originally created 12/21/06

Fish-out-of-water plot element brings laughs, drama to screen



This year, my family and I are spending the holidays in England with my wife's family. Although I spent a few years living there in the early 1990s and have returned several times since, England remains something of an alien landscape to me.

There are still moments, almost daily, when I am confronted by a situation for which I am totally unprepared. It might be some exotic foodstuff, an unfamiliar turn of phrase or even a Britain-specific celebrity (Cliff Richard, anyone), but there's always something to remind me that as accustomed as I might be to the British, I'll always be an innocent abroad.

If I'm being completely honest, it's something I actually find appealing. Besides, I can always take comfort in the fact that I'm not alone. Being the man - or woman - apart is something everyone goes through. For proof, you need look no further than the movies. Here are a few classics of fish-out-of-water cinema.

SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959): As a man, I can tell you there's no territory as alien as the world of women. As liberated as we might like to believe ourselves to be, there are areas of the feminine mystique that men will never, and probably can never, understand. That is what makes this comedy about two musicians hiding out in an all-girl band so enticing. Hot is as entertaining a dispatch from the battle of the sexes as a film fan is likely to find.

E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982): A true alien abroad, E.T. confounds convention, bringing film audiences a visitor from another planet who isn't bristling with ray guns and malicious intent. E.T., more a character-driven drama than a space opera, is successful because it is firmly pinned to small moments rather than a big budget.

WITNESS (1985): Harrison Ford plays a Philadelphia police detective who finds himself living among the Amish in rural Pennsylvania during the course of a murder investigation. Although clearly a police procedural, its most effective sequences revolve around details of the Amish lifestyle and an outsider's response to them.

LOCAL HERO (1983): An American oil company interested in buying an entire village on the Scottish coast sends an emissary (Peter Riegert) to lay the groundwork. An interesting character piece, the film is actually less about the village and people who live there than the American oil man, forced to face his own system of values and beliefs. Beautiful and sweet.

SLEEPER (1973): The classic Rip Van Winkle scenario with the comic sci-fi twist, this early Woody Allen film features Mr. Allen as the owner of a health food store who discovers he has slept through 200 years of history. A funny and smart social satire featuring the broad humor typical of most of Mr. Allen's early work.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.