We’re about to embark on a longish trip, so expect the emphasis on muckworld to shift to photos and tidbits from the road for a little while. While we’re packing our bags and staying on the line with our cell phone providers to work out the kinks in the international roaming plan, let me catch up with last week’s viewing:

Children of Men
The incredible long takes at the heart of this film look slightly less impressive on the small screen, but there can be no doubt that it’s one hell of a movie. Stories set in alternate realities often rely heavily on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, probably because the familiar stations of the Hero’s Journey allow us to better absorb the unfamiliar world surrounding it. Children of Men is a particularly potent example, a fully realized dystopia in which hope is hard won indeed. In honor of Theo’s ongoing footwear problems, here’s Cavern, which features one of the truest lines you’ll ever find in a rock song: “Whatever you do / take care of your shoes.” Alfonso Cuaron, 2006. *****

Almost Famous

Cameron Crowe’s sweetly romanticized memories of his early days as rock critic are anything but dystopian, but William Miller’s adventures with Miss Penny Lane and Stillwater are yet another Hero’s Journey, with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs taking over the Magician/Hermit role that Michael Caine plays in Children of Men. It’s one of those movies I find impossible to turn off, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Cameron Crowe, 2000. *****

Poorly paced and predictably told, this movie about teenagers in a performing arts summer camp failed to engage us. Todd Graff, 2003. *

The Gymnast
Feel the fabric! Wolfe Video is releasing this festival favorite about two aging gymnasts who find love while they’re swinging from the rafters. As much as I want to like true independent films like this, you’re bound to be underwhelmed unless you’re particularly fascinated by the world of gay aerialists. Ned Farr, 2006. **

Follow My Voice
Portrait of a group of gay teenagers at the Harvey Milk School in New York who are the beneficiaries of a cover album of Hedwig songs. With Frank Black, the Polyphonic Spree, Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, Yoko Ono, Jonathan Richman and John Cameron Mitchell. Earnest and likable, if overlong. Katherine Linton, 2006. ***

2 Days in Paris
The less said about Julie Delpy’s dreadful directorial debut the better. Julie Delpy, 2007. *

The second book of Marjane Satrapi’s coming-of-age graphic novel memoir doesn’t quite have the impact of the first (which is set in Iran), but anybody who has ever suffered culture shock will find plenty to recognize and love. I’m very much looking forward to the movie. ****

In the Shadow of the Moon
The real wonder here isn’t the Apollo program or the digitally restored footage from the NASA vaults, but the spirited and witty memories of the septuagenarian astronauts telling their unique stories. I’ll have a review by the time this opens on September 7. David Sington, 2006. ***