Reel NW

Robert Horton Recommends: More Like "Smoke, Sand & Rubber"

Film critic Robert Horton recommends other independent films you might enjoy if you like what you’ve seen on Reel NW.

Nostalgia and motor oil make a pleasant mix in Greg Brotherton's ”Smoke, Sand & Rubber," an engaging study of 86-year-old race-car driver Mel Anthony. The fact that Mr. Anthony plans to get back behind the wheel of his midget racer makes the movie more than just an appealing portrait of a faded subculture; it also makes it a cheerful rebuke to the idea of being put out to pasture. Between the documentary's flurry of checkered flags and its sketch of octogenarian determination, it brought these other movies to mind:

"Going in Style" (1979). This is a sadly forgotten little treasure, marketed as a wacky comedy but actually (despite its funny moments) a poignant look at fighting back against a slow decline. Three elderly gents, beautifully played by George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg, decide to rob a bank; yes, the money would be nice, but mostly they're doing it to fend off being bored to death. Director Martin Brest went on to make “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Scent of a Woman,” but he never did anything quite as nifty as this picture.

"Heart Like a Wheel" (1983). The life of barrier-breaking race-car driver Shirley Muldowney is engagingly movie-ized in Jonathan Kaplan's biopic (which shot some scenes in Olympia). Bonnie Bedelia's gutsy performance powers the movie's look at a woman succeeding in a boy's club. When the distributor lost faith in this small movie, it caught on with audiences in large part because of a spirited indie release that began in Seattle.

"The World's Fastest Indian"(2005). The title refers to the Indian motorcycle model, the kind souped-up and ridden by real-life New Zealander Burt Munro (played by Anthony Hopkins) in his speed-record runs at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The fact that Munro races on a bike only slightly less ancient than he is gives his successes a special satisfaction. My review of "The World’s Fastest Indian."


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