Here’s a wrap-up of films I’ve watched recently from Netflix.
An enjoyable film with wonderful acting and a unique take on family dysfunction which would have fared better if it had undergone a music make-under. Every scene was swimming in overbearing music choices broadcasting the mood and drowning the acting. Lending to the distraction was the lack of theme to the music chosen, though it was far from feeling organically random enough to be intended as ambient. It’s accurate, but flattering to Little Miss Sunshine to be compared to this film. It’s also possible to enjoy City Island even if you didn’t like Little Miss Sunshine’s non-committal pseudo-psychobabble and ridiculous third act. There’s a lot to like about City Island for what the writer/director didn’t do and the acting is very enjoyable. I like the theme of secrets and how it was played out, especially through Emily Mortimer’s Holly Golightly-esque character.
The Secret In Their Eyes
The plot of this Argentinian film was unknown to me and I was unsure of what to expect, especially after a solitary scene in the beginning is quickly interrupted by a brutal rape. I muted the sound and looked away, waiting for it to be over. I paused the player when solitude returned to the screen and flipped over to the comments section on the Netflix page. After being assured the graphic scene was not going to reoccur, I continued watching. While the portrayal of the crime scene was excessive (I watched through my fingers and luckily there wasn’t much dialog to be read) the story moved on and I was able to refocus. I’m sure many others would not care to, but I was interested in the acting, the time shifts in the story, and the overall genre mash-up. A romance, a court drama, a thriller. Whatever it was, it was well done. I’m just not sure if that’s enough. It seems like one of those movies that sounds vaguely familiar, as though you were told to see it by a friend or critic, and have unfounded positive feelings toward, but you’re not sure why. It’s one of those “I should see that” movies you feel obliged to watch. Speaking of which….
I finally watched it. I squirmed. A lot. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sit though the entire film analyzing the directing, story, pacing, and acting because I had already checked out of caring about the actual story. I don’t know if I can truly say there was a fleeting moment in the beginning when I did care, or if I waited and waited all though the first erm…five minutes. But don’t think I was too quick to judge, that’s like thirty minutes in non-Das Boot time. The lack of modern special effects’ both positive and negative impact on the intrigue of the story as well and the stellar acting of Jürgen Prochnow kept me watching. And popcorn. When I switched the DVD over (yes, you read that right) I also switched from the German track to English dubbed. I usually like to hear the original language but the subtitles versus dubbing proved to be entertaining. It was nice to check this film off my list. Another “film gem” in my smug crown, I can now pretend I’m better than
other people everyone. What? You mean you haven’t seen Das Boot?
White on Rice
Odd. The only reason I’m writing about it is because it’s so darned odd. Napoleon Dynamite has a complete cast of characters suffering from social, and quite probably mental, disorders. White on Rice sticks to just one, 40-year-old divorcé Jimmy. Many films have likable protagonists that don’t accrue their likability through pity. The ones that do I would like to call a part of the stumblecore movement, which is similar to mumblecore in that it mostly applies to low-budget indie films focused on personal relationships, but includes much more stumbling. Stumbling with plot and tone, stumbling with a character so thick they must luck into some signs of change to save the third act, and actual stumbling. But White on Rice is slightly redeemed by it’s infusion of culture into the mix and a irrational optimism not unlike that of Happy-Go-Lucky.
The Exploding Girl
Nothing like any of the above, this indie film is the most quiet film I think I’ve ever enjoyed. Though I couldn’t say if anyone else would have a similar experience, I quite liked it. The cinematography, the colors, the softness, the lighting, were all brilliant. The acting was natural, mild, toned just right. Yes, it is very slow and centered in a microscopic way on the main character but I found all the tenants of good writing threaded through the film, even if they were tiny doses. There is conflict. She does have wants. There is change. The Exploding Girl is not The Notebook or Gone With the Wind, thank goodness. It’s just beautiful and the third act is supremely wonderful to watch. What a lesson in minimalism, what a lesson in good story telling.