Tag Archives: Lottery

“Waiting for ‘Superman'” bloated but powerful

If you were to ask a teacher which film they hate the most, Dangerous Minds might be at the top of that list.  The film’s oversimplification of reaching students makes any parent think they know what it’s like to be at the head of the classroom.  By way of contrast, the documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’ could become a teacher’s favorite film–though it might depend on their own standing as a good or bad teacher–for the way the doc dives headfirst into the systemic issues of public education.

The film’s premise is that several children are waiting for their number to be called in a lottery, which will mean they get accepted into a “good” school.  The trailer seems overly dramatic (more like a game show than anything in real life), but it turns out to be true.  The problem is that if there are more applicants to charter schools than positions available, a public lottery must be held: names drawn at random receive their acceptance into one of these charter institutions (schools which receive public funding, but aren’t beholden to district rule).  As the film lays out the failings of public schools and the costly nature of private education, charter schools come out looking like the DMZ of this educational battlefield. Continue reading

“Lucky” documents lottery winners, but not much else

“What would you buy if you had a million dollars?”  This is the type of hypothetical fantasizing we’ve all indulged in as children, but what if you actually won that million dollars?

Lucky follows the rare people who have won the lottery, varying from 5.5 to 22 million dollars in winnings.  The effects of fame and fortune are disclosed by the winners in interview format.  Some find it a curse they’re happy to spend until they’re again broke; others help their families or migrate to wealthier locales to fit in.

The general idea behind the film is immediately an attractive one: how do one of our fellow proles cope with becoming a part of the elite?  In a brief interview with a lottery player, he explains that he gambles so, “I can actually be free.”   Right there is a golden opportunity to explore our definition of “free” in a country that heralds itself as the uber-democracy and how capitalism and wealth play into that concept.

But director Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound, Rocket Science)  doesn’t follow these breadcrumbs.  When former friends of lottery winners Kristine and Steve’s tell us they are envious of their bump up the class ladder, the film fails to dig in and ask why.  Why are we envious of the wealthy?  What does it mean to us to have money, to yearn for it?  Instead of providing an insightful document on the U.S.’s religion of greenbacks, it takes hunger for cash for granted.

Sure, we meet the guy who keeps a lid on his expenditures, except the stay cats he feeds every night and the stripper friends he visits; we even see the literal ruin of a man due to the cash (his siblings hired a hit man so they could acquire the wealth).  But Lucky doesn’t get the pick axe to the heart (so to speak) and leaves an aftertaste just slightly better than the Inside Edition clips it uses.

When a Vietnamese lottery winner’s wife stops the interview when it becomes too emotional, it stands in metaphorically for the film overall.  It could go deeper, but maybe it hurts too much.