Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ender's Game : Cinerama-style!

Listen, book-readers, I don't need any shit from you.

You book-readers think you can walk around, looking down your nose at visual storytelling, thinking your shit don't stink.

Oooooh... that character was so much different! OOOH, it's not a book! Oooh, I think I'm going to go rub the leather patches on my tweed jacket and congratulate myself on how many books I've read!

I'm king of the damn universe, because I read!!! No one can understand my book-worshiping majesty. All other humans are knuckle-dragging walmart-trolls.

And you know what? I read this book. I READ IT MORE THAN ONCE. In the 90's, when books were books, and we read them, because TV shows didn't come out in DVD box sets. So, bite me.

I'm not going to compare the two. Because it's 2013, and I think we can move past this, yes? No.

NO, because every hipster douchebag at this screening walked out waxing poetic about how Bean was under-written, and blah blah blah.

I realize that waxing poetic about everything is sort of your thing, book-reading-hipster, but please, shut the fuck up.

This movie was fine. It was glossy. It was sci-fi. It was Harrison-Fordy. It had some bomb zero-gravity stuff. It was good-time-movie-fun. I realize that's not enough for you, book-reading-hipster. That is why I hate you.

Here's a haiku I wrote about you while walking home in the rain:
        Oh, movie hipster
        Why do you suck so, so much?
         Skinny jeans and death

I saw this movie at Cinerama. (Which I was told is a Movie Nerd theater, but which is actually a Nerd Movie theater. There's a difference.) The Cinerama is an updated classic movie house with Cinerama (and super cinerama!) projection capabilities. I'd really like to see one of the classic movies they screen on film there. I think I'll go back soon. It has one gigantic screen, great seating, decent ticket prices, and excellent sound. Totally a great place to catch a show!

And, I did discover something in this movie that might be the greatest discovery I have made thus far in Seattle...

Wait for it...

CHOCOLATE (mother-fucking) POPCORN

Sweet Jesus. It was amazing. I think I gave myself diabetes, but it was totally worth it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

(Wiggity) World War Z

I just fell in love, you guys. Seriously.

Like, she's just so... awesome and dreamy. Like a butch Natalie Portman.

SIGH.

Ok, what was I talking about...

Oh yeah! Just got back from seeing World War Z. And really, even though I'm a HUGE fan of Zombie movies in general, I wasn't that excited about seeing it.  This was mostly because of the lackluster Rotten Tomatoes score, and because "certain people" kept bitching about how much it's not like the book (read in a super whiny voice).

However, I was bored today, so off to the movies I go.

And guess what?  World War Z RULED. It was SUPER scary. It looked like my worst Left 4 Dead 2 nightmare. The casting was fantastic. Brad Pitt kicked serious ass. Lots of things jump out at you. The impending zombie terror was overwhelming. It pulls you through emotionally without relying too much on the I-need-to-save-my-wife-and-kids narrative. Just great.

I highly recommend it. And for a person with ... how do I put this ... an exaggerated startle response, it had me on the edge of my seat.

WHEW.  Ok, now back to the best part. Daniella Kertesz as Segen. Adorable and badass to the core, she stole the movie for me. I found myself wanting Brad Pitt's wife to die.  DIE!

I was wishing death on a fictional character, that's how much I liked Segen. Without her, I probably wouldn't have liked this movie half as much.

I just really appreciate characters that defy classification. She's not a love interest, yet she's a youthful female (shockingly uncommon); she's super strong, yet weirdly fragile; and she is crazy hot, yet not, like, booby hot.

And, she says NOTHING about herself. She barely even tells us her name, yet through her performance, I totally get this character 100%. Love it. Want more of these characters in every movie.

Ok, I sort of just want to be her. Because, let's get real, in a zombie apocalypse, I'd be the first person dead.
I have zero survival skillz.

Peggy's Rating: Four out of Five Stars

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My podcast, in case you're interested

Hey Movie-Lovers!

In case you weren't aware, I am the humbly-awesome host of the Seattle-based Podcast, From The Coffee Shop.

It's basically a forum for me to gripe about various things, including regular discussions of movies, because, let's face it... it's me, and I can't go for longer than 10 minutes without bringing up at least one movie... then three more.

I hope you all enjoy it!

http://soundcloud.com/scott-clark-6

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Netflix suggestions for a weird afternoon

This morning, I walked with the Seattle Women's Chorus in the Pride Parade. It was SO fun. And exhausting. And took 5 hours. And was in 90 degree weather, which, in Seattle, is really freaking hot. So, after I managed to wrangle down a taxi, get home, and get in recovery mode, I watched two really bizarre movies on Netflix Streaming...

(1) This Must Be The Place

I've seen the icon for this movie every day for the last month, but I didn't realize something... That's SEAN PENN. Seriously. I was under the impression that this was some kind of Ozzy Osbourne documentary. 

NOPE

It's a weird indie flick starring Sean Penn and Frances McDormand. 
And this movie is WEIRD. 

You should totally watch it!  If you like weird movies. 

It has totally bizarre character work that sometimes doesn't quite make any sense. It has a wandering, jumping plot. It has Sean Penn playing a completely cartoonish version of Ozzy... or Alice Cooper... or somebody.  

And it's also about a man discovering what it means to be Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor.  

WEIRD, right?  Right. 

Totally worth a watch, even though it's not a perfect movie.  

You need to be patient with this one, too, because even an hour into the movie, I was wondering what the point of it all was. But there are some really great emotional moments, so it's worth the wait. However, remember that this movie is not perfect. But there's something there. Like, there were people from tons of different ethnic backgrounds, to the point that at certain moments, I wasn't sure what continent, much less country, it took place in. And, maybe it had something to say about our search for culture in a world that functions on a global level most of the time. 

So, I say, watch it. 

(2) Natural Selection

WTF? Seriously.  This movie is totally weird. 

I suggest watching this movie, if for no other reason because the amazing character actor Jon Gries is in it.  You may remember him as Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite, but this dude is awesome. I always enjoy his performances. 

This movie is about a really strange UBER-christian woman whose husband dies, and she goes on a mission to reconnect with his son, whom he sired through donating sperm.  The son, of course, is a ball of problems, and they have a journey together that provides many bizarre, upsetting, and sweet moments. 

Rachel Harris, another seasoned professional with 100+ IMDB credits, delivers a fantastic performance as Linda, the sex-deprived wife of Jon Gries. 

This movie is really emotionally authentic. It has complex relationships, which are dealt with in a realistic and satisfying way. Great soundtrack. Great ending, too. 

So, here are two more ideas, if you are hoping for a day of indie-movie weirdness. 

Embrace it. It will make you feel things. Sometimes good things. But definitely things. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

15. This is the End

OH MY GOD!!!!  Go see this movie.  I can't even talk about how much I loved it.  Ok... calm down, Peggy... you can do this...

Hey, everyone! I just went to a "little" movie called This Is The End. It's that movie where everyone who is awesome plays themselves in a movie, and it's about the apocalypse.

That's really all you need to know.

It's so funny. Like, hilarious from the first second of footage all the way through the end. Hilarious to the point where I feel like I bonded with the other people in the theater. Like, we could all go hang out after the movie and feel like old friends.

Hilarious in all the tiny details. Hilarious in big, broad strokes. Just really damn funny.

That having been said, I have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old boy, so if you don't like dick/poo/vomit/jizz jokes, then ... well... go watch something boring and leave me alone.

Yesterday, I read Patton Oswalt's recent blog in which he theorizes about many comedic subjects, including the sensitive issue of rape jokes. (You can read it here.) He poses the question of whether humor can be used to attack and expose ideas within something as violent and horrific as rape. And, I really appreciated that idea, because I like to think that humor is a tool, and you can either use that tool to perpetuate things like hate, violence, bigotry, etc., or you can use that tool to (slowly) chip away at those same things. And oddly, this movie had a VERY funny scene in which rape is the central theme. I dare say, it was an extended rape joke, which I think was done very successfully. Maybe it will be used as an example of how you can approach sensitive subjects with humor, and not come out looking like you support things like violence against women.

I really have nothing else to say about this movie. Just go see it.

Today was a funny day, too, because I went to the SIFF theatre, where I see most of my free movies, and I was just sitting in the theatre, listening to the emo they play over the reel of still ads for upcoming screenings, and I got kind of sad, but in this really nice way.  I don't know if I can explain it. Like, nostalgic, and happy, and sad all at the same time. I'm sure there's a word for that feeling in Japanese. But, it's like the end of the summer after you graduate from high school, sitting by a pool at the end of the party right before all your friends are leaving for college. And then the movie started and I laughed my ass off for two hours. Like, what better day can a person have?  Sure, you're all teaching your kids to ride bikes, or inventing something that will make blind people see, blah blah blah.

I was at the movies.

Peggy's Rating: FIVE out of Five stars.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

14. The Sprocket Society's Fifth Anniversalodeon

This review is definitely a day-late-dollar-short kind of thing, because this was a one-time-only screening, and I'm in a hyphenate-everything kind of mood. However, I hope to introduce some new people to a fun event that they might be interested in, especially those of you who are film preservation enthusiasts.

On Wednesday evening, I went to the Sprocket Society's 5th anniversary screening. And yes, it was FREE for me, because I volunteer at the film forum, now, and therefore, I get into screenings FREE.  Did you hear that? FREE!!!

You, the sad, non-volunteering public, would have to pay a maximum of $10 for Northwest Film Forum movies.  That is as cheap as it gets, AND you can become a member for $45 and enjoy $6 ticket prices year-round (among other member benefits). You should get on that, because it's an awesome deal. 

The Sprocket Society is a local group that "seeks to cultivate the love of the mechanical cinema, its arts and sciences, and to encourage film preservation by bringing film and its history to the public through screenings, educational activities, and our own archival efforts."

For this screening, we watched a delightful group of short films - and I mean FILMS, no digital here. My favorite was a short film from Canada which featured extreme slow-mo, extreme close-up shots of a piece of popcorn being oil popped.  SO cool. The group of shorts was well-curated, entertaining, and had real humor in it. 

Then there was a short break, and we enjoyed the feature-length Million Dollar Legs (1932) starring W.C. Fields.  That was frankly a snooze. 

But, I tend to not have the attention span for early cinema feature-length comedies. Or dramas for that matter.  Pretty much the only movie from that era that you could get me to watch more than once is The General (Buster Keaton, 1926), because that movie is hilarious.

Overall, it seemed like a really friendly group of people who were all passionate about film, which made me want to keep coming back for more screenings.  Especially if there's an opportunity to see more film shorts! 

Check out their website for information about upcoming screenings. I saw the Anniversalodeon at the Northwest Film Forum, which is a great place to see odd, compelling, artful, truly independent films, as well as film preservation events such at this. 


Monday, June 3, 2013

Mud

So, I haven't written in a few weeks, but I have seen a lot of movies. Movies like Iron Man 3, Star Trek, blah blah blah.  But really, I didn't have anything worth saying about those movies.  Oh! There was more of the same, and I still liked it.  BORING.  But, today, I saw a movie worth mentioning.

So, let's talk about Mud, y'all!

Mud is a movie currently rocking a sweet 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. This fact was what first caught my attention. Then, when I mentioned it on facebook, a friend responded with "The writer definitely has issues with women, but it's a really good film, nonetheless." This made me think... hmmm... issues with women, 99%, AND Matthew McConaughey?

Sign. Me. Up.

So, this movie is kind of a low-fi, coming-of-age, semi-mystery, semi-action, semi-drama in which Matthew McConaughey's shirt is an actual character of the film. No joke.

It's mostly humorless, with brief moments of excitement, but overall, it's a very patient (read:slow at times) character piece. The main character is a 14 year old boy who really carries the film quite well, and his adorably white trash friend "Neckbone." It had delightful backwoodsy things, and Reese Witherspoon pulled out some nice, nuanced acting with what could have been a stereotype of a character.

I'd have to agree with my friend that this movie reeked of issues with women, but I think it was more about a young boy trying to parse out how to have positive relationships with women, despite having a black-and-white understanding of love, and poor role models.

Overall, I think the 99% may be a function of a dearth of decent films out at the moment. Perhaps all the critics out there were so hard up for a movie they liked that they threw this one a bone. And that's fine with me.  I didn't think it was genius, but it was definitely worth a watch.  I got a little droopy in the second half, and frankly, I could have done without the bad guy, who seemed pulled out of a Steven Seagal movie. (In my rewrite, Mud would have been delusional. Running from no one.  That would have been awesome, right?) Despite that, I appreciated all the great acting and patient editing.

And, in one really stunning sunset shot, I saw a tree that looked like a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln. So that was fun.

Also, Michael Shannon should be in every movie ever made. He was kind of a throw-away side character in Mud, but he was SO watchable it didn't even matter. Love him. Love his work.

Peggy's rating: Three out of Five Stars.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Netflix Suggestions of the Week: 10 Nicolas Cage Movies

My Nick Cage Wine Glass
Several years ago, I was at a Q&A at the Las Vegas film festival where Elvis Mitchell was interviewing Nicolas Cage, and the Cage talked for almost 30 minutes about how it's an acting choice to not play characters, but just be yourself on screen.

He said - one day I realized that the point of acting was ... not to act.

He was wearing leather pants.

Guess what you're doing this weekend?  Well, if you're awesome, and even remotely masochistic, you'll be watching the TEN Nicolas Cage Movies currently streaming on Netflix.

I have ranked them here, for your convenience, so that you can watch them in order from the least awesome, to the most awesome.

PREPARE YOURSELF for the Cage...

10. Season of the Witch (2011)

This is the worst Nick Cage movie of this bunch, and possibly among the two or three worst Nick Cage movies ever. This movie doesn't even make sense. It must have come from a pitch meeting that started out with "Hey, those Lord of the Rings movies are the bee's knees!  Kids love movies with swords and cloaks in them!" and ended with "I heard Nick Cage just lost 25 lawsuits and needs to make some cash fast. I'll call him."

There is a brilliant podcast called "How Did This Get Made?" that goes through this movie and points out the really best moments of nonsense. You should watch this movie and listen to the podcast here: http://www.earwolf.com/episode/season-of-the-witch/  And, actually, even if you haven't seen the movie, the podcast is still hilarious, and doesn't ruin anything... because there really isn't much to ruin. Oh! This movie also features Ron Perlman. Why aren't you watching it?? It's a horrible train wreck!


9.  Windtalkers (2002)

One day in 2002, Nick looked around him and said, "I'm 38! Maybe I should play the part of a relatively newly enlisted marine during World War II! They were all 38, right?"

Sigh. Oh, Nick. Don't worry. They'll just spray paint your hair and no-one will notice.

This movie is not terrible, it is reasonably acceptable, and even all the Native Americans are played by actual Native Americans! Nick gets plenty of opportunities to overact, and scream, and have crazy eyes. But, really... it's kind of boring and poorly made. It's about World War II, but it feels like it takes place in the 80s (especially with Christian Slater sneaking around in there), and it was made in 2002. Not a good sign. Especially when Saving Private Ryan came out FOUR years earlier, and looks one billion times better. Get your shit together, John Woo!


8: Seeking Justice (2011)

This movie tries really hard. It's one of those movies about some dude whose wife is attacked, and he's out for revenge! It was probably written for Mel Gibson in the 90s, but eventually trickled down to Nick. It's also one of those movies in which January Jones tries to act. Painful. This woman... seriously. It's bad. She always looks like she's thinking about something dumb. She's so hard for me to watch. But, it has some Guy Pearce stuff... eh... it's not so bad.  It has some stuff going on. The plot takes one or two creative turns, but if you have had more than two glasses of wine, you'll get bored and change the channel, because you've seen almost this exact movie about 20 times before. They should have added something to this movie... like humor, or a flame-engulfed motorcycle.


7. Stolen (2012)

Virtually indistinguishable from Seeking Justice, Stolen also features Nick Cage getting revenge over something that happened with a woman (this time his daughter) and has lots of shots of him running! I only rank this movie slightly higher than its twin because this time... Nick is a THEIF! And guess what?  He's the best... but he gave it up... and now he has to go back for ONE MORE JOB. SUSPENSE! Aren't we bored with this formula yet?  I am. YAWN. But still.  The thievery stuff is pretty cool, and you get to see a super grungy-looking Josh Lucas, which is fun, so Stolen beats Seeking Justice by a hair!

6. Trespass (2011)

Another throw-away movie! This movie is a home-invasion thriller, co-starring Nicole Kidman. It has some borderline rapey parts, but really, it's actually pretty good. Pacing is nice. Story is simple, but solid. Has an ok, but kind of predictable twist. It's fine.  You should watch it so you can say you saw it. It even has some genuine tension in it, unlike the two previous movies which are wholly without authentic drama. Nicole Kidman is always great, and it was somewhat of a breakout role for Liana Liberato, who plays the pre-teen daughter.

5. World Trade Center (2006)

Ok, this movie totally sucks, big time. But I'm ranking it this high because:
(A) Michael Shannon.  Hell Yeah.
And (B) Mustache.

Enough said?

PS: What happened to Oliver Stone's awesome stick-it-to-the-man attitude?  So, so sad.


4. Bringing out the Dead (1999)

This movie is not for everyone... but I totally dug it. I think Martin Scorsese did too many drugs and forgot that he already made After Hours, so he wrote a new script that didn't quite work as well, and hired the Cagester. Or, maybe all his movies just have a similar vibe. Who knows. But, there is definitely a reason that you may not have seen (or heard of) this movie, even though it came out at the height of Nick's popularity. It's a weird movie. But, Nick is a weird dude, so I dig it. I feel like he's just able to let loose and be Nick. He's able to have a total meltdown on film, and I am able to watch it from my living room in my PJs. Win/Win.

3. Face/Off (1997)

Oh, come on. You've seen Face Off. This movie is one that if it is EVER playing on TV, I'll stop and watch it through to the end. When it was first coming out, I remember seeing one of those old HBO featurettes about "The Making of..." Nick and John Travolta both waxed poetic about the acting challenge of not doing an "impersonation" of each other... but trying to act like the person was really inhabiting the others' body.

Well... I hate to break it to both of them, but they pretty much failed. What they did accomplish, however, was making one of the most enjoyably unintentionally funny action movies of the 90s. Well done, sirs. Plus, you get to learn a lot of totally real, completely believable science. Bonus!

2. Adaptation (2002)

Oh man, Adaptation is good. It's probably the most successful Charley Kauffman screenplay. It's just SO good. I'm a giant fan of everything that happens in this movie. Nick is perfection. This is that movie that you'll watch and become angry at Nick for being so shitty of an actor in SO many movies, because he's just brilliant. Plus, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper. Ugh. It's so good. Watch it immediately. I can't even look at you if you haven't seen it. This movie changes genre at least twice during the course of the movie, and it's done SO masterfully.  Just watch it.

1. Raising Arizona (1987)

This movie is pure perfection. Really, I think that Raising Arizona and Adaptation are probably equally amazing, but I ranked Raising Arizona slightly higher because I really think that every single second in this movie is perfect. There is not one frame that isn't memorable. I've probably seen this movie 100 times, and I still find it to be genuinely hilarious. Plus, I feel like it was a foreshadowing of Nick's bizarre hair-of-the-future. And Holly Hunter has NEVER been better. Genius performances. Amazing script. Nick really anchors the whole movie. Just fantastic. And, the opening sequence should be taught (and probably is taught) in film classes of all kinds as an example of both innovative montage and creative way of getting a LOT of information out without resorting to cliches and boring the audience to death. Love it. Love everything about it. Want to watch it right now.

So, there you have it, folks! A weekend worth of Nick Cage movie magic.  I should mention, also, that while Adaptation and Raising Arizona are two of my three favorite Nick Cage performances, my true favorite might actually be Kick Ass.  It was streaming on Netflix for a long time, but it doesn't appear to be right now.  Sad times! You should go find it, though. You can probably rent it for cheap on Amazon streaming.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

13. Room 237

I have attempted to watch The Shining exactly three times.  

The first time, it was on TV, and I started it part of the way through, and got super confused about what was happening, so I gave up and watched something else. 

The second time, I watched it with a friend that I tend to talk through movies with, and we talked through the entire movie.  

The third time, I was home alone, and I put it on... and fell asleep about 30 minutes into it. 

Because really... despite being acclaimed as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, there is a HUGE stretch just after the beginning sequence in which almost nothing happens. The kid drives his big wheel around. There's an old black guy who says some stuff. There's a walk-in freezer...zzzzzz.... 

I woke up to some bloody carnage and slightly felt bad that I had slept through the masterpiece, shrugged, repositioned myself on the couch ... and fell back asleep. 

Really, The Shining would be my least favorite Stanley Kubrik movie, if it weren't for 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Don't give me shit about that. There are 30 brilliant minutes of movie in there, sure, but that movie is ONE BILLION hours long and makes my brain slowly die.)

So, I saw that Room 237 was playing at SIFF today, and I thought - Hey! I should go watch a documentary all about that movie that I don't really like!  

And guess what? It was AWESOME!!

WAY, way better than watching The *actual* Shining. What was the secret to all this entertainment?  

Postmodern film analysis, Boyeeeeez!

This movie was cleverly edited clips from various Stanley Kubrik (and other) films with voice-over explaining various Shining aficionados' theories about the more global imagery, symbolism, and thematic statements beyond the surface plot and characters of The Shining.  

Yes, one of them is a moon landing conspiracy theorist. 

Others talk about the physical space occupied by the hotel, connections to mythological archetypes, historical events, and ideas about the nature of humankind.  

They also showed several clips of the screenings of The Shining which superimpose a forward-running copy of the film with a backwards-running copy of the film, showing interesting juxtapositions.  

And don't worry, this movie had plenty of laughs. The filmmakers seemed to wink at the audience by allowing "the viewers" to wax poetic about often ridiculous theories.  

Personally, I find it fascinating to hear people project grand meaning onto tiny details. Whether Kubrik had intended any of these meanings remains a mystery. I suspect not. But it's super fun to think about.

Now I need to get my hands on the full forwards/backwards copy of that movie! 

Peggy's Rating: Five out of Five Stars

Friday, March 29, 2013

Netflix un-suggestion of the week: The Giant Mechanical Man

Imagine yourself walking into a coffee shop at 11:00 on a Tuesday. There's a bearded hipster in his early 30's sitting in a chair near the window.  He's wearing a Smith's T-shirt. He doesn't work there. He probably doesn't work anywhere. He's reading a local arts newspaper, and has a copy of No Exit sitting on the table for later. Maybe he gives you the stink eye for using a disposable coffee cup.

Have you ever wanted to know what that guy thinks of the entire human race?



Well, look no further.  That guy wrote and directed a movie, and that movie is available on Netflix Streaming: The Giant Mechanical Man.

Unfortunately, there are a LOT of actors that I adore in this movie, so it sucked me in. Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, Malin Akerman, Bob Odenkirk... but seriously, it's so bad. The only odd-man-out was Rich Sommer.  He had a very small side part, but for some reason, he stole every scene he was in. I think he was supposed to be a generic stooge, but he just seemed like a really sincere, nice guy.  It was surprising amid the rest of the characters' cavalcade of cliches.

The main characters reek of clinical depression. Every non-main character is both an asshole and completely vapid. TV-watchers are bad. Job-havers are stooges. Semi-unemployable "artists" with terrible relationship skills are noble, and their only problems are that they are misunderstood, and want them to conform to the rest of the sad, meaningless existence which is society.

I could have written this in one of my more melodramatic phases of puberty. It's completely obnoxious and self-important. Even the "cute" romantic-comedy scenes were depressing and no one really learns anything, or grows in any way.  Barf.  It was horrible. Bad writing. Terrible pacing. Scenes that were just kind of mushed together.

And yeah, I'm sure there's a super hot 35 year old dude working as a janitor at a zoo somewhere, and he DOESN'T have a crippling drug habit.  That's totally a real thing that happens in life.

This movie had nothing interesting to say, but tried to say a lot. Save yourself an hour and a half, and just punch yourself in the face a few times.  It will be more enjoyable.

Peggy's Rating: One out of Five Stars.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

12. War Witch

I was really disappointed in this movie. I'm just going to come right out and say it at the top. It is getting tons of acclaim, and winning awards, but for me, this movie represented something I find to be very sad and disconcerting.  How do I explain my feeling... ok...

War Witch is a movie about somewhere in Africa, where everyone seems to be warmongering for an unknown reason (fighting either for or against "the government"), which was written and directed by someone in Canada. This movie is full of vague mysticism, witchery, magic, rape, gun violence, poverty and drug use. 

Why is this the undercurrent of EVERYTHING we see about Africa? 

Africa is this big amorphous blob where every country is the same, they are all uneducated, all violent, all money-hungry, all superstitious, all deeply scarred. 

My dream is that someday, there's a movie that is written by a non-African, that is set in Africa, where the people portrayed are average, funny, dealing with normal day-to-day problems, working, going to school, etc. Because there are movies and stories by Africans, and a lot of them are about these kinds of things. 

I went to a play in Ghana, written by a well-known Ghanaian playwright, that was all about this man who had grown up in Ghana, but went abroad to the UK for school, and then came back, and had affairs, and a bumbling, corrupt police officer was trying to extort money from him.  It was really funny, and had a Ghanaian-identified set of problems. 

War Witch was written with no specificity, which tells me that this filmmaker, and many people probably, think of all of Africa like this. I mean, there was even a scene where the two main characters stole some clothing from a laundry line, and the old grandma sleeping nearby woke up, and CHASED THEM WITH A MACHINE GUN. 

Seriously? Grannies in this generic "sub-Saharan" country sleep clutching machine guns and then shoot them at children over a couple of t-shirts?

What is going on here? Why do we need Africa to be this terrifying? Does that say something about our zeitgeist? Are we writing off an entire continent?

There are places in Africa which have had some serious shit go down, yes. But that is not all of Africa. If that's a story you want to tell, why not go get a true story? Tell something that means something real, so that we can walk away from the movie with some kind of meaning, other than "Africans are all crazy." Honestly, that's the message I walked away from this with.  

And I think that's a sad, untrue message.

Sorry to get so un-funny. But for reals. Africa is awesome, and beautiful, and annoying, and chaotic, and full of people that range from boring to obnoxious, from peaceful to violent, from superstitious to skeptical and scientific, from wise to foolish, just like every other place on earth. They deal with problems both big and small, and have complex ideas about the world around them. I just think it's sad that movies set in Africa only paint one type of picture.

But, if that idea doesn't bother you, then you can find some well-acted performances by the cast. The cinematography was too shakey-cam for me, but some people like that style.  

Peggy's Rating: Two out of Five Stars

11. Quartet: Beware the many, many spoilers

I have to spoil this movie in order to express my opinion about it. It can't be helped, so if you are worried about me ruining this movie for you, stop reading. Seriously. I'm about to tell you what happens in the end...

NOTHING.

This movie can seriously bite me. It's one big, long, slow tease of this big... wait for it... QUARTET.  AND THEN YOU NEVER GET TO SEE THE GOD DAMN QUARTET. Seriously. Despite the actors' mouths being open in this photo, they never actually sing anything. If I had been holding a super big gulp in my hand at the end of this movie, I would have thrown it straight at the screen.

What a giant waste of time.

The story of the relationships between the characters was fine. All four of the main actors were wonderful to watch. But it was essentially about four of the most brilliant opera stars ever, who NEVER FUCKING SING. Lots of other characters in the movie sing, which is totally delightful. But there was this whole theme about how Maggie Smith's character had stopped singing because she could never be as good as she was when she was young, and how the other characters convinced her to sing for the love of opera, and because this quartet was part of their history together as friends, and Maggie Smith watches all these other people perform without the fear of critics hanging over her head. AND THEN YOU NEVER SEE HER SING THE DAMN SONG. Sooooo... there's zero payoff.

They do, however, play a recording of the quartet from Rigoletto that is clearly sung by professional opera singers in their prime. Totally not the point of the movie. The movie was about the courage to perform imperfectly. And it totally failed to show these four people doing that.

And, of course, I assume this is because those four actors aren't opera singers, and were never opera singers, and would never in a billion years be able to pull off the quartet. But... maybe then they should have cast OPERA SINGERS. Jesus. What a terrible way to end this movie.

Also, at the beginning of the big gala concert that this entire movie builds up to, there is a scene that is essentially a throw-away character giving one of those LONG, totally boring pre-concert speeches, where they ramble on and on about thanking people who contributed, and talking about where the proceeds go to. Seriously. I never even want to hear those speeches LIVE.  What a terrible, terrible scene. If I had been in that room, and I had been holding a super big gulp, I would have thrown it at that character to get her to stop talking.

The rest of the movie was just wonderful. Really. But then it totally just vomits in its own lap.

Sad.

The only redeeming part was seeing all of the actors' photos from their operatic, musical, or theatrical works from their youth. That was pretty awesome.

But seriously. This movie can bite me.

Peggy's Rating: Three out of Five Stars.  (Could have been a four, but there was no quartet.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Impossible

I can't figure out why I hadn't heard more about this movie!  The Impossible is currently out in theaters, and Naomi Watts was nominated for an Oscar for her role. And honestly, I didn't even know what this movie was about.

I heard ZERO about it.

If you are like I was, let me enlighten you, hopefully without ruining anything. This movie is based on the true story of a family on vacation in Thailand during the Tsunami of 2004 that devastated much of southeast Asia. And... that might be all I can say without ruining anything.

This movie was terrifying. The images were haunting and anxiety-producing without being overly grotesque or cliched. The cinematography was simply amazing.  It was hard to believe that some of it wasn't actual tsunami footage.

The story had a simple overall concept with small details that made it intimate and emotionally authentic. And, for a disaster movie, it left me feeling surprisingly uplifted.

Naomi Watts is basically brilliant in everything she's ever done. Even in her Ashley-Judd-Esque roles, she's more interesting than most other actresses would be. But in a role like this, she really was amazing.

Ewan McGregor played the father of the family in this story, and he was awesome. And, I think he finally grew into his face. He has always been kind of ugly-cute, but now he's just straight-up handsome. And it was nice to see him in something with this type of realism. He was really engaging.

I really just want more people to see this movie! I have no one to talk to about it.

I really love this kind of man-vs-nature movie. I'm not really sure why, because in real life, I tend to avoid nature at all costs. Let's face it: Being outside is for Hobos.

But in movies, I love watching people try to survive. In movies like The Edge, The Grey, or 127 Hours, it's just amazing to watch people find their limits. I feel like my limit would be REALLY low.

I don't even like to sit on the ground.

I'd be like - There are no chairs?  Ummm.  I'm just going to let this bear eat me and get it over with.

But then, I also really like stories like Into the Wild, where people intentionally go out into a less-pre-structured world and try to find their own way. Dances with Wolves has that kind of appeal.

I love those movies.

But, The Impossible isn't all man-v-nature. It's also about people stepping up in times of crisis and reaching out to their fellow humans across cultures and language barriers.  It's pretty amazing to think about how selfless people can be. That alone makes this movie worth watching.

Peggy's Rating: Five out of Five Stars

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Skyfall: Action Movie Cliche Central

So, I realize that I'm WAY too late for the party, but I finally watched Skyfall today!

Not only was Daniel Craig all shirtless and steamy, but they managed to color-correct his steely blues up about 2000%. Bravo, filmmakers.

There was so much gay sexual tension in this movie. It was glorious. Maybe it was what I'm referring to now as the Double-Oh-Gay-Sexual-Tension scene, but also there was nary a boob to be found in this entire movie. Even the obligatory way-too-long animated sequence lacked a certain amount of expected boobage.

My favorite part about this film is that it is basically a sequence of my favorite action movie cliches. From beginning to end, expected setups abound. I shall provide examples, hopefully without spoiling anything!

I mean, frankly, you've seen every part of this movie a thousand times before, so there's not much to spoil, but it's still fun to go through:

1) Jumping a motorcycle through a tall window - So cutting edge, the muppets were spoofing it in 1981!


2) Hand-to-Hand combat on a moving train - Here's a special screening of Skyfall's storyboard for this sequence:


3) Shooting at a door to unlock it: Mythbusters even took this one on.


4) Fire that can't turn corners. This dog, and James bond can both outrun explosions.


5) Nameless Henchmen being killed in ridiculous ways (e.g., being eaten by animals)



Now, in this movie, James references but doesn't actually USE his ejector seat.  I wonder if that will be in the deleted scenes!  I can't wait to find out.

You know, maybe all this nonsense was intentional.  This movie did have a totally mustache-twisty Villain, and utterly dispensable females.  Also, there were several totally lame Bond One Liners. Ugh.



You know, even though this movie was derivative and semi-pointless, I still dug it. But... I'm a James Bond fan, so it's really not hard to please me. I even liked both the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan eras, as much as I hate to admit it.

But, come on James, get your shit together.

Peggy's rating: Three out of Five Stars.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Peggy's Oscar Picks

For those of you playing along at home, here are my predictions for the Oscars tonight.  Not all are necessarily my favorite in each category, but they are the ones I think are most likely to win.

Note: I'm historically TERRIBLE at this.  :)


BEST PICTURE
Argo
(Even though I think that Django Unchained was a MUCH better movie)

(Ugh, but I'm torn between Argo and Les Mis... Ok... I'm going with Argo. Final Answer.)

ACTOR in a Leading Role
Hugh Jackman
Les Misérables

ACTRESS in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain
Zero Dark Thirty
(Also, not my favorite performance, but I think she's going to take it.  WEAK nominations this year, if you ask me.)

ACTOR in a Supporting Role
Christoph Waltz
Django Unchained
(DUH)

ACTRESS in a Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway
Les Misérables
(I mean, come on.  How can she not win?)

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Wreck-It Ralph
Rich Moore
(Here's rooting for an actual comedy!)

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Django Unchained
Robert Richardson

COSTUME DESIGN
Les Misérables
Paco Delgado

DIRECTING
Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Searching for Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
(I didn't see any of the nominees in this category, but I have heard TONS about this movie, so I assume it will win.)

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Mondays at Racine
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

FILM EDITING
Argo
William Goldenberg

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Amour
Austria
(For the record, I don't think that there should be a Foreign Language Film category.  Obviously, if one of the nominees in this category is up for Best Picture, and none of the other nominees are, it will win.  So... why have a separate category?  It also assumes that non-English movies are inherently sub-par and therefore need their own JV category, and that's becoming less and less the norm.  I say, cut this shit out.)

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Original Score
Lincoln
John Williams

Original Song
"Skyfall" from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
(That song from Les Mis was shit.)

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Les Misérables
Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Decoration)

SHORT FILM Animated
Paperman
John Kahrs
(This is a really awesome short, and you can watch it online!)

SHORT FILM Live Action
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)
Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

SOUND EDITING
Django Unchained
Wylie Stateman

SOUND MIXING
Les Misérables
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

VISUAL EFFECTS
Prometheus
Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
(I don't care what anyone says.  Prometheus was awesome.)

WRITING Adapted Screenplay
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin

WRITING Original Screenplay
Django Unchained
Written by Quentin Tarantino

Am I right or am I right?  Right?

Netflix Suggestion of the Week: The Wave (2008)

I have been burning the candle at both ends for the last week, so I haven't had any time to go catch a free movie at SIFF!  LAME!  I still need to get out there and see Side Effects.  And there has been a Japanese Animation series going on... but to be honest, I'm not really into that, so I'm not too sad I missed it.

However, today I had time to watch a movie I've been meaning to see on Netflix, the German remake of a 1981 movie, The Wave.  And I'm so glad I did!

It's the story of a high school class that is doing group  projects studying a particular political ideology.  A popular teacher gets assigned the topic of "Autocracy" and engages the students in a practical lesson by getting them to buy into his own little microcosm of a dictatorship.

That premise sounds predictable, and in some ways it goes down the expected path, but this movie has really well-crafted characters, and doesn't shy away from showing both the positive and negative effects of being a part of a group that encourages (and eventually enforces) uniformity. It explores the modern German self-concept, with its mix of historical shame and desire to heal and press forward.

This movie does have a few flaws.  First, it's subtitled.  Blech. Secondly, it has some weird inconsistencies. For example, there are a few characters that randomly change their motivations for no clear reason. Like, there's a girl who is very wrapped up in The Wave movement, but then just suddenly rejects it, for very weak reasoning. But that kind of thing probably only irritates me. Overall, the story is pretty solid.

One thing that was really fun about this movie was that the teacher was all hot and beefy. He had gross teeth, though. He was kind of a Daniel Craig, where he's a weird mix of ugly and hot. And he coached a water polo team full of hot dudes. I assume they are all over 18 in real life. If not, then... yuck. But for now I'm going to assume it's ok for me to think they are foxy.

The filmmaker plays with visual metaphor, and if you pay attention to the art in the backgrounds of many of the settings, you'll notice that it has some nice layering. One of my film teachers would say that it had well-crafted "mise-en-scene."  He was an old stoner burnout that wore FUBU jeans and once read his lecture notes off of a bowling scorecard. He was kind of a loveable douche.

I recommend this movie if you loved the 1990 classic Pump Up The Volume, because for some reason, it had a similar feel. I also recommend it if you enjoy reading subtitles and looking at foxy dudes.

Peggy's Rating: Four out of Five stars

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Netflix Suggestions of the Week: Valentine's Day Confessions

I was just looking through my Netflix ratings, to see what movies I might suggest this week, and I discovered something.  I have a lot of movies with 5-star ratings that are widely considered to be terrible movies.

Maybe I have horrible taste in movies!

Or... maybe I see diamonds in the rough... You decide.

5 embarrassing movies I have rated (a perfect) 5 stars:

1. She's out of control (1989)
Yes, this movie stars Mr. Tony Danza. Not only is this movie the PERFECT makeover movie, but it is also gloriously, iconically late-80's. The 80's are back, right? Well, even if they aren't, this movie is awesome. It will make you want to wear a side ponytail and watch old reruns of Who's the Boss.

2. Jumanji (1995)
I re-watched this movie for the 10,000th time about a month ago, and it totally stands the test of time. Fantastical, silly, sad, Robin-Williams-y. It's perfect. It might be Bonnie Hunt's best movie ever. And a really fantastic small-ish role for the always wonderful David Allen Grier.

3. Amistad (1997)
Steven Spielberg's notorious flop! But seriously, screw you guys. This movie is SAD and really good. It's all epic and swashbuckly. Anthony Hopkins is awesome. There's nothing wrong with this movie. I think people just randomly hate certain movies set at sea. I can't figure out why. I like them all, even that Gina Davis one that was really shitty.

4. Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)
This is, by far, the best Police Academy movie. Putting all the loveable screwup cops in charge of a citizen's police force is pure comic gold. This movie has no idea what decade it takes place in. It also has twice the slapstick of the previous three movies, and a hefty scoop of subtle racism.  Scoring a perfect 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, everyone should watch this movie at least once.

5. Career Opportunities (1991)
For some reason, this is a really popular movie in my family. I think we probably recorded it off of TV at some point, and we watched it repeatedly. There's something about being locked in a Target alone overnight that really appealed to me both at age 13, and age 34. Plus, you get to see Jennifer Connelly before she got scary-skinny. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Frank Whaley. Whatever happened to him?

So, maybe check these movies out!  Or, just feel sad for me.

Monday, February 11, 2013

10. Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

SIFF has been showing screening of all of the Academy Award Nominated Short Format Documentaries all week, and I went to see them on Sunday!  

I really, really love documentaries. Even when they aren't particularly well-done, I have to admit that I still enjoy watching them. It made for a really fantastic afternoon to sit through 5 superb documentaries. I didn't realize that the short format category included movies that were up to 40 minutes long.  I was thinking that they'd be more in the 10-20 minute range. Nope! It was a Long. Ass. Screening.  

So, for those of you who are placing Oscar bets with your friends, here are my thoughts about the nominees:

1. Kings Point
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

This documentary told the story of several residents of the Kings Point senior apartments in Florida.  Hilarious stories were told of love, dating, loss and survival among these aging former New Yorkers.  This movie made me think deeply about the fragile unpredictability and life, and our need for our fellow human beings.  It was truly moving and had some really great laughs.  This is my choice as runner up for the Oscar.  It could easily win, and would totally deserve it.  It was really excellent.  

Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

I call this movie "The One We Cried All The Way Through."  It is an astonishingly intimate portrait of women with breast cancer who participate in a day of beauty that the Racine salon provides for women with cancer.  With none of the "fighting disease" rhetoric that usually accompanies movies about women with cancer, this short showed the vulnerability and emotional complexity of a women's sense of self.  This movie showed all of the women involved as whole humans struggling with their mortality and their relationships with others.  It was truly moving.  This is my pick for the Oscar. 
3. Inocente
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

This was a slick, touching portrait of Teen Artist Inocente, who also happens to be homeless.  Highlighting the A.R.T.S. program in San Diego, and shining a light on the issue of child homelessness in the US, this documentary short was hopeful, inspiring, and at times heartbreaking.  Clearly aimed at an MTV audience, this short felt like it was the most commercial of the nominees.  

Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill

This movie is a look into the world of unemployed New Yorkers who have taken up bottle and can collection as full-time work.  Following around several "canners" ranging from those you may perceive as "typical," to an elderly Jewish Woman retired from the Computer Programming industry, this movie looks at how the recession has trickled down, leaving those who were unstably employed to fend for themselves a bottle or can at a time.  One thing I really liked about this movie was that it showed a nice cultural cross section of people.  There was a white male, a Jamaican male, a Jewish-american female, a man from Egypt, a woman from China, a man from Japan, a woman from Vietnam, a man from Cuba, a family from Guatemala, and several others.  It really showed the melting pot in action (sometimes the cultures clashed in a positive way, and sometimes they did not!), and it showed how the economy really impacts those already on the fringes of society.  This is the wild-card pick for the Oscar.  It was less emotionally-driven than the other shorts, but with the Economy being such a hot-button political issue right now, this one might sneak in and steal it.  

Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

This movie was about 8 Rwandan children with Rheumatic Heart Disease traveling to a medical center in Sudan for free heart surgery.  Under a backdrop of a part of the world that I think Americans find to be frightening, this movie showed average Rwandans dealing with the stress of having a sick family member, or friend.  Frustrations about hospital funding came out, and we even got to see a scene with Sudanese President and accused genocide engineer Omar Al-Bashir in a meeting discussing possible avenues for funding of the free hospital.  

People who throw around snide comments about their "first world problems" (Which is a GIANT pet-peeve of mine) should watch more movies like this.  People have all different kinds of problems, regardless of their location on earth.  And just because some people have kinged themselves as the "first" world, doesn't mean that people in underdeveloped countries don't also have complex thoughts about problems, small or large.  We all go through similar fears and worries when we or our family members are sick.  Watching this movie after having just seen stories of illness and mortality in more developed parts of the world was a nice highlight of how much we all have in common.  The diseases were different, but the humanity was the same.  

Overall, these movies were outstanding.  I highly recommend watching all of them if you get the chance.  

Peggy's Rating: Five out of Five stars!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Well, I can't count this movie as a free movie, because I paid a whole whopping $3.99 to digitally rent it from Amazon! It's an outrage! But, your review is still free, as usual, so I guess we'll all survive.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was pretty... awesome. It mashed up bizarre societies, trash-heap counterculture, chaotic people, family dysfunction, environmental implosion, and prehistoric imagery in that special Waterworld-Meets-Precious-based-on-the-novel-Push-by-Sapphire kind of way.

Especially as Behn Zeitlin's directorial debut, this movie is pretty impressive.

It is, however, a giant bummer.

It starts out sad. It gets sadder. Then a different kind of sad. Then depressing. Then sad again. And the ending... well, I won't spoil it for you, but it doesn't really disrupt the pattern. However, it focuses on a (very) young girl's attempt to maintain a sense of self and personal safety amid being thrown in a giant bucket full of bummers.

The lead actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, is nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. I think that's fine. I think she was really perfect for the role, but I wasn't blown away by her. She played a better 6 year old than I could have, but... you know... she was actually 6. So... yeah.

She probably also played a better 6 year old than most people could have when they were 6.  And, I really think that the Best Actress category is the weakest it has been in several years, so she just might win. The novelty of having someone so young in such a good movie will probably override the fact that the effectiveness of her role was probably more about excellent directing and editing than anything else.

I guess I'm just not that into kids doing stuff. I can't be a fan of someone who doesn't grow armpit hair. I always kind of feel bad for them, because I assume that they are all being treated like trained chimpanzees.

Ugh.
And I bet she's out doing the late-night circuit, being precocious.
Barf.
Even my mental image of that is obnoxious.

She was fine, though. I wouldn't mind it if she won. I just have a hunch that if you sat down and had a conversation with her, she wouldn't be able to tell you anything meaningful about what the movie was about without any coaching.

However, the person pulling a HUGE amount of the acting load in this movie, but who has been almost totally overlooked, is Dwight Henry as Hushpuppy's totally batshit crazy dad. He embodies the title of this movie, and yet was really quite touching, noble, deeply flawed, and possibly psychotic all at the same time. I liked (and appropriately hated) him.

I think you should check out this movie. First of all, it's only $3.99 on Amazon. Even I can afford that!

Secondly, we could all use a good cry right now. Right? Right.

And lastly, it will make you feel better about your housekeeping abilities, because even though you think you live in a big pile of trash... these people ACTUALLY live in big piles of trash. It's good to get some perspective about our lifestyles of excess every once in awhile.

Peggy's rating: Four out of Five Stars

Monday, February 4, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Well, as the saying goes... Boyfriends come and go, but my free movie pass lasts until December 31, 2013...

That having been said, I chose to celebrate my newfound freedom by purchasing a movie for once!

There are only three movies that are nominated for the Best Picture Oscar this year that I still needed to see, and now there are just two, because I just saw Zero Dark Thirty.

And yes, my friend already pointed out to me that this is an odd post-break-up movie to take yourself to...
Maybe I just have a lot of issues.

But, two very important words made me really interested in seeing this movie: CHRIS PRATT.

Ahhh... he's so beautiful.  And charming.  And beautiful.  And he got super ripped for this movie.

However (Spoiler alert), he didn't show up in this movie for TWO DAMN HOURS.

Seriously?  Two hours.

So, basically, for me, this movie was me sitting around watching people get tortured and humiliated for two hours, and then about 20-30 minutes of awesomeness.

I must admit that I also wasn't a huge fan of The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow's last movie.  I remember feeling similarly un-enchanted by the characters and storyline.

I wonder if it's an aversion to movies about very recent current political/war events.  Because I also didn't care for W, or Game Change.  And it's not about politics or war, but I have almost ZERO interest in seeing the Ashton Kutcher movie about Steve Jobs that's coming out.  Ugh.  That looks horrible.  But I think that's more about Kutcher than anything else.

I think it's possible that we don't have enough perspective on these very recent events to be able to make the kind of movies I want to see about them.

Anyway, Zero Dark Thirty was not for me.  It had a decent script, believable performances, and a really gripping final 20 minutes, but overall, I found myself checking my phone. And, it was thoroughly humorless. There were a few attempts at lightening the mood, which all failed miserably.  And yes, I realize that humor is a strange thing to ask for in this movie, but I just can't deal with stories that are that IMPORTANT.  Please, I beg you to give us someone to root for, and something to laugh at just a little bit.

But, now that I'm thinking about it.  Maybe this was the perfect movie to watch after being dumped like an old bag of garbage.  At least I'm not tied to a wall in Gitmo, shitting up my pants and being waterboarded.  Suddenly I feel like the luckiest girl in town.

But for the rest of you, if you need a Chris Pratt fix, like I did, maybe just rent Moneyball, or watch Season 2 of Parks & Rec.

Peggy's rating: Two out of five stars

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Netflix Suggestion of the Week: 5 Movies about Mental Illness

Since I have seen so many movies this week dealing with mental illness in one way or another, I decided to put together my top 5 movies currently available on Netflix Streaming dealing with mental illness.

I tried to include those that I think make meaningful statements about the mental illness, possible causes (many narrative accounts of mental illness misplace the blame, such as in movies about people with Schizophrenia that blame mothers, when we know that Schizophrenia is a biological disorder,) the mental illness's effects on the person's family, personal relationships, and enjoyment of life.

We used to do exercises in Grad School where we'd watch a movie and write a diagnosis and treatment plan for one of the mentally ill characters.  It was actually pretty fun.  I still do it informally from time to time.

MAN, I'm boring today.  I just had a really tough workout, and I'm exhausted.  Maybe the funny part of my brain is sleeping.  And, also, this has so much to do with my profession that I tend to slip into social-work-speak.

Here's the list.  You can go watch them all right now!

1. Mary and Max
This animated movie sat on my queue for about three years before I actually got around to seeing it.  The description and poster don't make it look very interesting, but it is an absolute joy to watch.  A man with Asperger's Syndrome finds a meaningful relationship and avenue for personal exploration and growth through a pen-pal relationship with a little girl who lives halfway across the world.  It's funny and touching and makes an important statement about why we shouldn't jump toward trying to "fix" people with what we have labeled "disabilities."  It's a really empowering story, and the animation is adorable.   

2. Punch-Drunk Love
This is a very polarizing movie. I know many people who love it and many more who hate it. I think the reason is that the director tells the story of a man who is pushed to the edge of his anxiety through pushing the audience's anxiety in small ways. Brilliant soundtrack. Brilliant acting. It's also frustrating to watch, and forces the audience to become uncomfortable. I adore it.

3. The Hours
This movie is a patient, emotional story of three women from different eras, each dealing with depression in a different context. Famously, Virginia Woolf suffered from a cluster of mental health issues, ultimately resulting in her suicide. This movie is more of a bummer than most that I would suggest, but it's really haunting and poetic in its storytelling. All of the performances are world-class, and no one should not see it. Plus, I think it raises some interesting issues about how the way we think about depression, especially among women, has changed over time in some ways, but in other ways, it has stayed the same.

4. The Machinist
I think everyone should watch this movie, just to see the freak-show-esque images of an emaciated Christian Bale. This movie deals with the effects of acute trauma on mental health. It's quite upsetting at moments, and has a number of really great plot twists. This is Christian Bale at his best.

5. Lars and the Real Girl
This movie made a lot of noise for an indie a few years ago. It's the story of a man (played by the devastatingly adorable Ryan Gosling) who falls in love with a life-size sex doll. It's quirky, and has great moments. It also shines a light on the role of families and friends in helping people with mental illnesses.

There are a few other movies of note that I recommend for those of you who don't limit your viewing only to what's available on netflix. If you get a chance, you should definitely check these out:
6. What About Bob?
7. The Cable Guy
8. The Talented Mr. Ripley
9. Shine
10. The Soloist