From my last post, you might have guessed that I am a movie fan. My Netflix queue has over 200 films on it. And since I keep adding to the list when new films are released, I wonder if I will ever get to them all. But whenever I hear about a new film, I can't resist adding it to the list. I don't want to miss what might be a great film. So I thought I would share with you some films that you might have missed.
The Band's Visit
This charming Israeli film about an Egyptian police orchestra arriving in Israel to play at a cultural event, only to find they were not expected, should have been an Oscar contender for Best Foreign Language Film but was ruled ineligible because more than half of its dialogue was in English. In trying to get to their destination on their own, the band gets lost, ends up in the wrong town and must attempt to get along with the locals as best they can. A different slant on Israeli/Egyptian relations.
In The Valley of Elah
A father is notified that his son has gone AWOL from his tour of duty in Iraq only to discover he had been murdered. He goes on a mission to discover what happened. This is both a police investigational thriller and a strong statement on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and how war dehumanizes people. Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for Best Actor for his performance.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
If you ever wondered what it would be like to be totally paralyzed, but with your mind intact, this is the closest you will ever come to experiencing it. Jean-Dominique Bauby, 43, and the Editor in Chief of Elle Magazine, fell victim to a devastating cerebro-vascular accident that left him in what was termed "locked-in syndrome." The only way he could communicate was by using his left eyelid. He used this communication method to compose, letter by letter, a heartbreaking memoir of his life struggle. He died in 1997, two days after its publication. This film portrays his struggle from his point of view. You hear his internal voice and see through his eyes how others react. It seems morbid, but it is actually a celebration of the human spirit. Get out your hankies.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
"May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead." So goes the Irish toast, and so goes this homage to film noir directed by 82-year-old Sidney Lumet, whose credits include Serpico, 12 Angy Men and The Pawnbroker. Two brothers think they can get some much needed cash by robbing their own parents' jewelry store. Right. This is one of those "Nooo, don't do that, don't make that decision." and bad gets worse. Cringe worthy, edge of the seat filmmaking.
"There is a way to be good again." So begins the film version of the much loved bestselling story of two Afghan boys and a betrayal that needs to be made right. There was controversy regarding the brutal scene with the two little boys. The studio was persuaded to not release the film until the boys had left Kabul because of fear of reprisals. There was also controversy about whether or not this was a faithful version of the book. My take on that kind of thing is this: a book is a book, a film is a film. They are each their own work of art. This film was a beautiful piece of storytelling and filmmaking.
All I have to say here is, Ralph Fiennes...sigh.
Mother of Mine
From the vantage point of the main character, Eero, in his 60s, we learn the story of the 70,000 Finnish children who were sent to neutral Sweden during WW II to avoid the conflict. Eero feels his biological mother has abandoned him and does not warm to his Swedish surrogate mother. When he returns to Finland, he doesn't know his parents and speaks Swedish. The grown Eero tries to come to terms with both mothers. The child actor playing Eero is wonderful and the story affecting.
Young @ Heart
You haven't lived until you have seen and heard 92-year-old Eileen Hall sing the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" in this documentary about the Young at Heart Chorus of Northampton MA. With an average age of 81 and numerous health problems, these senior citizens break the stereotype of what old folks should be doing. They sing rock and roll from James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good) to Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" with all the gusto of the youngun's. I cried from joy through this whole film.
Based on the Jesuit motto, "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man," this series by director Michael Apted has followed several British children since they were seven, checking in with them and filming them at seven year intervals. In 2005 the children were 49. This last episode catches you up, even if you haven't seen all of them, but if you find it compelling, I recommend seeking out the six previous installments. This was and is an incredible undertaking, and I can't wait to see 56 Up. There was a 7 Up America, which I saw on television years ago, and I see that there was a 21 Up America, but cannot find it. However, there is also a 21 Up South Africa available on Netflix.
House of Sand and Fog
A complete and utter downer, but I have seen it so many times, I wonder what that says about me. But Ben Kingsley inhabits the role of an ex-Iranian colonel, who as an American immigrant, is trying to keep his dignity. Enter Kathy, a woman with, how should I put it politely? - issues - and you have a combustible stew that you are compelled to watch.
The Deep End
This film was my introduction to Tilda Swinton. I loved it so much I had to have everyone I knew watch it, so I have seen it many times, and every time, it is still riveting. A mother, thinking her son has killed someone, tries to hide the body. Suspense is created here by the fact that we know more about the death than the characters in the film. It's one of those stories of an innocent person wrongly accused, who acts guilty and then overcompensates in an attempt to cope. This is melodrama at its Hitchcockian best.
Well, there you have it. Some staff picks from your local librarian to keep you entertained through some of those cold dark nights to come. Let me know if you see any of these and what you think.