I decided to forgo the usual end of the week round-up and post about my January film viewing -- and other random shiz -- instead.
Life putters along pretty much as per usual. I've been enjoying teaching art journaling at Trisha's school, a small Sudbury-inspired private school and homeschool resource center. Sarah is starting a new educational endeavor this week. It will make it more challenging, schedule-wise, for the teens and I to keep up our homeschooling activities, but I think it's going to be a terrific thing for her.
Despite the cold weather here in our little corner of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, we've been cheated out of a proper snow. Where is our snow? (I know, I know ... be careful what you wish for.) In honor of the frigid temperatures, I'm sharing this image which I grabbed from Facebook.
It reminds me that one of the disadvantages of having kids in public school is that you sometimes worry what teachers think of your spectacularly insane family. Or ... ahem ... maybe that's just me. I definitely wouldn't want my little girl's teacher to think I made my living pole dancing. To quote Seinfeld ... "Not that there's anything wrong with it."
Moving right along ... Looking over my film log, I am surprised at how many movies I've seen this month. I rated my least favorite movie 3/5 stars, and there are some really terrific ones that didn't make the cut. So I've had a great month for good flicks.
|I stole this gif from Jennifer at The Relentless Reader. I hope she isn't too concerned about the security of her shit.|
Among those I watched for the first time last month, these are my ten favorites:
Honorable Mentions: Three Kings, Mulholland Drive -- I thought both these movies were outstanding; they just didn't quite make my top ten. I also think they both merit a re-watch, and I'm looking forward to it.
10. Looper -- Stories about time travel are an easy sell with me, and I really liked the performances in this movie.
9. Killer Joe -- My doctor has been concerned about my cholesterol levels for years. I'm sure he'd be pleased to know I am unlikely to ever touch fried chicken again. And just for the record, if my dear hubby ever feels the need to take out a contract on my life -- which is unlikely, but we have yet to get through the menopause years -- I hope he won't pimp out one of our daughters. Because, y'know, there are a few lines you just don't cross. My review of Killer Joe is here.
8. Tyrannosaur -- I'll never sit through this again because of the dog deaths. I can handle all kinds of cinematic brutality to adult humans, apparently, but cruelty to animals or kids sends me off the deep end. :-) Nevertheless, I appreciated the hell out of this movie, which features excellent performances, writing, and direction. I have come to understand why Sarah is such a big fan of Paddy Considine, both as an actor and director. (By the way, Shane Meadows's Dead Man's Shoes is one of her favorite movies.) Her review of Tyrannosaur is here.
7. Take Shelter -- I can't resist a character who just might be completely bat-shit crazy. ;-) But what I loved about this movie was the seamless way it blended dreams, hallucinations, and reality. This is a visually beautiful movie with an intriguing premise and excellent performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.
6. Twelve Angry Men -- This is a magnificent adaptation of the classic play, originally written for television, then for stage. This was one of my homeschool picks. My teens and I were intrigued by the character studies and the ways people reveal buried prejudices -- or hidden strengths -- under pressure. It was also a springboard for discussions about the trial by jury system and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
5. Downfall -- This portrait of the last days of the Third Reich was based, in part, on a book by Traudl Junge, who served as a secretary to Hitler and lived through those final days in the bunker. The look on Junge's face when taking dictation, and hearing Hitler make a comment about "the Jewry," speaks volumes about her ignorance of the true nature of the Nazi regime. That, along with her inability to forgive herself for her complicity with Hitler and his government, are heart-wrenching. And the film is brutal but beautifully acted, realistic, and fascinating.
4. Code Unknown -- I admire Haneke's ability to blend so many layers into a narrative. This is a story of fractured relationships and social injustice, highlighting our inability to communicate on the level of personal relationships, communities, or nations. My thoughts on this movie are here.
3. Silver Linings Playbook -- At least 99% of the time, I hate romantic comedies. I don't know whether I am just getting old or if they all just suck -- I suspect the latter. But Silver Linings Playbook is as good as everybody says it is. The writing, direction, and performances synchronize beautifully, making this film funny, moving, and real. And this movie features my favorite dance scene outside Pulp Fiction -- I loved the awkward moment with their "big move." And even I couldn't help gawking at Jennifer Lawrence in her dance outfit, and I'm pretty sure I'm a zero on the Kinsey scale. My review of this movie is here.
2. Blue -- This is a quiet, beautiful movie in which most of the story -- of surviving unthinkable loss and trying to insulate oneself from grief -- is told wordlessly. I may post a review after giving this a second viewing.
1. Grand Illusion -- This is a classic World War I film directed by Jean Renoir, son of the French Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir. Near the end of the movie, a character comments that boundaries are a thing that -- physically -- don't exist. Much of the movie is about boundaries, the arbitrary lines we draw between nations and based on race, religion, and nationality. Most of all, it looks at the complex strata of social class, which often supersede bonds based on patriotism. At one point, a German general orders that the Frenchmen in a downed plane be brought to the prison camp, "and if they are officers, invite them to lunch."
This crumbling idea of a world ruled by aristocrats, who follow certain rules of gentility, even in battle, is -- to a large degree -- the "grand illusion" of this movie. There is also the tragic "grand illusion" of fighting a "war to end all wars."
This movie is multi-layered and thought-provoking. Yet at the same time, it's surprisingly lighthearted, funny, and entertaining. It spotlights many of the things that comprise our shared humanity, such as humor, compassion, loyalty, and camaraderie. It also reveals much about something that is rarely seen in war movies: people's humanity and decency to one another.
Least Favorite Movie:
Seven Psychopaths -- I didn't hate this movie; I just wasn't crazy about it. I like the concept of a screenplay about writing a screenplay ("metascreenwriting"?) It worked for me in Barton Fink. And this film definitely had some decent characters and dialogue. I just didn't feel the story worked, overall. For me it was like a pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces that didn't quite fit together to make a coherent picture.
My husband appreciated this movie more than I did, and he thinks there might be levels to the story and characters that I missed. Fair enough. It might benefit from a second viewing. Who knows?
A Couple of Memorable Educational Picks:
Everyman's War -- My homeschooled teens and I have been watching many movies about the two world wars, in a completely non-chronological way. I think they both have enough background on WW I - WW II that this is not a problem. This movie about the Battle of the Bulge was written about the author's father, an American G.I., and his experiences in the war. My review is here.
The Wire -- Sarah and I have started watching the first season on DVD; it's a complex drama about the drug trade -- and drug enforcement -- in inner-city Baltimore. I am enjoying this show -- I really like the writing, performances, and ever-shifting dynamics among the characters. I'd like my husband to watch it with me, though he always picks apart police shows, calling them out on unrealistic scenarios and egregious mistakes in police procedure. It can be rough watching television and movies with a cop.
A Few Thoughts:
- I appreciate the fact that there are both relatable and despicable characters within the police department and among the drug dealers.
- I really like the relationship between Kima and her girlfriend so far. It seems like they manage a union between two very strong-minded women with affection and humor. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this relationship isn't going to last.
- Idris Elba is not quite as sexy without the British accent. But he's still extremely hot.
- I really liked the scene where two cops work a crime scene, oblivious to the curious civilian dogging their every move, while carrying on a dialogue composed entirely of "f-bombs." Letting a civilian watch a murder investigation? Granted, that's completely unrealistic. But the conversation using only the word "fuck" and its variations? Yup. That's the way cops really talk. ;-) My hubby will back me up on this.
American Horror Story -- Sarah, John and I watched the first few episodes of the first season to see what all the talk is about. What a spectacularly fucked up show! I was seriously freaked out by the scene where Vivien bangarangs the freaky guy dressed like "The Gimp" from Pulp Fiction, thinking it's her husband. Poor Vivien. Being in her mid-40s, this is surely her last chance to have another baby. And there is no damn way this is going to end well.
"Where is our snow?" Ahah, I wish I could give you some of hours, it's been snowing here in MN the past couple of days, though not really accumulating much.ReplyDelete
Bummer about Seven Psychopaths. I like the premise too, but sounds like the execution just wasn't working. Too bad as I love McDonaugh's In Bruges.
Here in Virginia, it's "feast or famine" with snow. Some years we get pounded, and some years the kids don't even get to make a snowman. Living in MN, I'm guessing you *never* have cause to wish for more snow. :-)Delete
I loved In Bruges, too! You might like Seven Psychopaths better than I did. I'll be interested to see what you think.
I 2nd Ruth in wishing I could give you some snow from Minnesota. There's tons of it, and it's like -9 here right now. lolDelete
Great list of movies. I enjoyed Seven Psychopaths, but it was really sloppy. There were definitely some parts that just didn't fit.
I want to start watching The Wire as well. I keep getting told that it's something I'd love.
Wow -9 ... now I feel guilty for complaining about our 25 degree weather. :-)Delete
Brittani, are you in MN also?? I didn't know that. I still would give Seven Psychopaths but my gut says I won't love it as much as In Bruges.Delete
Btw, it'll be in the 30s for the next few days, yay heat wave! :D
Wow a great month for films there! Haven't seen a few in your top 10 but the ones I have seen are superb choices! Must get round to seeing Grand Illusion and the entire Three Colours trilogy one day!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Pete! It took me a long time to get around to Grand Illusion and Three Colors Trilogy, too.Delete
"I appreciate the fact that there are both relatable and despicable characters within the police department and among the drug dealers." That's so true. I could have done with less profanity, though The Wire is addictive and suspenseful. I was late to this show also. My favorite scenes are when those youths sit out in the yard and talk. D'Angelo Barksdale is my fav character.ReplyDelete
Pink "I want to be like Mommy" image is hilarious :)
I like the scenes of the youths talking in the yard, too. I'm not sure if I have a favorite character, but I have a soft place in my heart for Wallace, trying to grow up and be a bad-ass drug dealer while tending to his flock of homeless children. That really gets to me. :-)Delete
I don't mind the profanity, because it strikes me as being how people really talk in these scenarios. I can see where you're coming from, though.
You always help me decide which films to watch! I've been meaning to watch Looper for a while, and so I'll put that on the next-up list.ReplyDelete
I hope you like it! I think it's an interesting concept with strong performances.Delete
Oh I'm so thrilled you started The Wire and AHS! They are both in my top 15 of all time favorite TV series and I watch a LOT of Tv Series :)ReplyDelete
I find Idris with American accent even hotter - it's seriously amazing how well he fakes being American - I was actually sure he was from USA until I saw Luther. The Wire is pretty accurate I think, it's also cool how each season focuses on different issue in the city.
AHS Season 1 is awesome, especially the creature in the basement that scared me shitless and Jessica Lange's performance, but season 2 is even better and even more crazy:P
Maybe that's just an American thing ... finding English accents sexy. Ha ha!Delete
The few aspects of the show I actually know anything about -- like the repartee among police officers and the scene in a 12-step meeting -- feel quite real to me. So I think that's a good sign.
Oh yes, the creature in the basement. And Jessica Lange is awesome in that role! She is such an old-school Southern lady (Virginia born and bred - Ha ha!) and so fabulously nasty, evil and bat-crap crazy. Always with a veneer of Southern charm, of course. Putting her daughter in the Bad Girl Room?!? And the poison cupcakes??? Oh. My. Gawd.
Hahaha love the gif. I've got Looper and Silver Linings Playbook to watch this weekend but I'm adding Blue to my watch list, will I dissolve in a puddle?ReplyDelete
Blue is an artsy film, and it isn't as emotionally intense as you'd expect, given the subject. But anything dealing with the death of a child is going to be tough for us. ;-)Delete
You watch the best stuff and always remind me of films that I'm missing out on!ReplyDelete
My security has been breached!! Oh noes!! ;)
Ha ha! :-)Delete
Great month of films! And two Binoche movies in the top 5! :)ReplyDelete
I bought season one of The Wire on sale recently, but I haven't started it yet. Might get into that soon.
Are you starting to notice your influence on my movie watching choices? ;-)Delete
I'll be curious to hear what you think of The Wire.
I love The Wire. I was so sad when my boyfriend and I finished all five seasons. The first is really one of the best though. And I love the crime scene you mentioned. It's so well done, and perfectly in character for the two cops.ReplyDelete
I really like the relationship between McNulty and Bunk -- it's a mix of professional camaraderie, affection, machismo, and pure BS. It's one of my favorite things about the show.Delete
You have watched a lot of movies in January. Everyone seems to watch a lot but me.ReplyDelete
I really like Downfall, it shows vulnerability in such monstrous character. I want to see Looper but missed it in cinema :(
I love what you said about Downfall showing vulnerability in such a monstrous character. That's a great way to express it. It didn't make Hitler less loathsome, of course (he became even more despicable, if that's possible) but it did look at him in a complex, human way. I've never seen him portrayed that way before.Delete
Don't even get a teacher started on the lack of snow. I literally turn attempt to punch the weather in the face, I get so angry.ReplyDelete
Wild list this month as always, though I can't say I've seen much of it. But if Three Kings is HM, than these flicks must be fantastic.
I know ... Three Kings is a terrific movie, isn't it?Delete
I was just cracking up the Pole Dancing Home Depot woman!! TOO FUNNY!ReplyDelete
Ha ha! :-)Delete
That f-bomb scene in The Wire is probably one of my favourite all time TV scenes. It's hilarious! And it just works. Love it.ReplyDelete
American Horror Story is completely messed up. And I love it. Season 1 is excellent and after the Halloween episode, it really kicks up a notch. The second season is seriously twisted. Can't believe what I'm watching. But it's oh so good. SO GOOD.
Great selection of films you've seen. Looper was one of my faves of last year. Just an amazingly great sci-fi flick. So damn original too.
I find myself being simultaneously repulsed and fascinated by American Horror Story. And the second season is even more twisted? Ha ha! :-)Delete
Where is your snow? Aren't you about ready to get absolutely dumped on? Be careful what you wish for indeed! Good luck!ReplyDelete
They keep threatening snow, and we keep getting a dusting. Just a tease. :-)Delete
Killer Joe really could be a PSA against fried chicken, couldn't it? Ha.ReplyDelete
12 Angry Men, Blue, Grand Illusion – love them all. I too was no fan of Seven Psychopaths. Did nothing for me.
The Wire is legendary, and only gets better (well, season 2 is the weakest of the bunch, but by no means bad). I covered the police beat in college, and always asked every police officer I met what the most accurate cop movie/TV show was. The answer, always, was The Wire.
Interesting that the police officers you worked with, as a journalist, said The Wire was the most accurate police movie/TV show. I want to talk my husband into watching it, because I'd like to know what he thinks. Usually everyone in the family avoids watching cop shows with him, because he always rips them apart. Ha ha. He knows too much about police procedure.Delete
I'm certainly no expert, but the whole show does have a very "real" feeling to it. And I can vouch for the fact that the police officers on the show talk the way cops really talk. The only thing that bothers me, so far, is all the police brutality portrayed. I am under the impression that while that sort of thing used to be fairly commonplace, it has now -- thankfully -- become rare. Of course my husband never worked the streets of Baltimore. ;-)
And I've been wondering whether KFC's sales have dropped since Killer Joe was released. :-P No one who's seen the K-Fry-C scene will ever set foot in that place again.
The police brutality is something that you're, unfortunately, going to have to get used to with the show. It's always there in one way or another, sometimes against innocent children.Delete
Either way, I do hope you enjoy the series!
Well, it's not any worse than the other violence in the show. :-) I just meant that all the police brutality was the only aspect of the way police work is portrayed, in The Wire, that struck me as unbelievable. I'm told officers have to be extra careful now about not using excessive force and following correct protocol during interrogations. Physical confrontations do happen, and people do sometimes get beat up, but I can't seen them just ganging up on some suspect and brutalizing him in the interrogation room. But I'm definitely not an expert.Delete
The show is brutal. Just finished the first season, and my favorite character got killed. I'd been expecting it, but ... wow! Nevertheless, I am loving the series so far.
Ah gotcha, I know what you mean.Delete
That show is so remorseless. You latch onto someone, then... gone, baby, gone.
I'm so happy to visit and find all these movie reviews - thanks for sharing your insight about what to watch and what to skip!ReplyDelete
We're getting ready for a doozy of a snowstorm here today.... I'll send some down your way :0)
Thanks, Tara! :-)Delete