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.