Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer movies

August 1, 2013

In mid-June, after several weeks of immersive viewing during SIFF 2013, TVOR’s movie-watching dropped precipitously.  This was a good thing, and she enjoyed spending much of the summer participating in the real world.  And it’s not like she was missing a whole lot, as Hollywood was not offering much of interest.  She does want to alert you to a few things worth coming inside to see, though.  Some of this summer’s earlier releases are still floating around--if you haven’t seen Much Ado About Nothing or 20 Feet From Stardom yet, do so if you can.

There are some newer options too--

Fruitvale Station:  This film’s release, coming as it does on the heels of the George Zimmerman trial, is another example of a young, unarmed black man being shot by a white man who obviously could not be trusted with a firearm.  It tells the real-life story of Oscar Grant, shot on the platform of a BART station early in the morning on January 1, 2009.  The film, covering the last day of his life, is a beautifully done portrait of an imperfect, but loved, and loving, man who did not deserve to die.  If you think you don’t want to see this because it will be too depressing, think again.  Yes, you know the ending of this film, and yes, it’s tragic.  But the film itself is wonderful and absolutely worth it.

The Way Way Back:  There’s no new ground broken in this coming-of-age story about a kid with a distracted mom, a nasty prospective step-dad, and too much time on his hands.  But the story of how he finds a place for himself working at a run-down water park makes for a nice time at the movies.  Toni Collette and Steve Carrell are the parental figures, and Sam Rockwell and co-writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash are among the water park employees.  Allison Janney is wonderful, as always, as a neighbor who enjoys a cocktail.

Crystal Fairy:  Chilean director Sebastian Silva’s new film is about tourists so obnoxious--including one in particular, played by Michael Cera--that you wonder why any people in other countries can tolerate us at all.  Granted, they’re drug tourists, so they’re not always operating with clear minds, but still.  This is a well-made film, but be warned: you may find these folks tough to spend time with, especially if you like to think you’re a good tourist.  Gaby Hoffman plays the title character.

The Act of Killing:  This is not your ordinary documentary.  In the 1960’s, Indonesian pro-government death squads killed more than a million people suspected of being Communists.  Fifty years later, the perpetrators are still powerful.  And in this film, these same murderers re-enact their crimes (although they wouldn't characterize them as such) in the style of American movies, and generally seem quite proud of their actions.  This is a film that really gets under your skin--it’s appalling and amazing.

Finally, a couple of TVOR’s favorite documentaries from this year’s SIFF are available on TV.  Yes, you do not have to leave your couch to see two very fine films.

Our Nixon:  This film is made entirely of found footage, including Super 8 movies (shot by White House aides Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Chapin), news footage, and the Nixon tapes.  Although the details are fuzzy, it’s amazing and mind-blowing, even if you already knew a lot about that crazy era.  And if you don’t know much about those times, maybe you’ll understand why the rest of us are kind of warped.  CNN is broadcasting Our Nixon on Thursday, August 1st at 9:00 pm, and a few more times thereafter.  Turn it on or fire up your preferred video recording system.

The Crash Reel:  TVOR was at first put off by the title of this film, but she got over it.  Be assured, it’s not just a series of horrendous wipe-outs, although the story begins with one of those.  The film tells the story of Kevin Pearce, a top U.S. snowboarder, and his family.  After Kevin suffered a severe brain injury in a devastating accident, he and they have worked to try to put back together his life in a way that is satisfying and safe for him.  It’s engrossing and very well-done, and you don’t have to be a sports fan to care deeply about the people in the film.  The Crash Reel is available on demand for HBO subscribers--the rest of you will have to wait a while.

Video notes:

The Maid:  Sebastian Silva’s 2009 film tells the story of a maid trying to hold onto her position in a changing household.  A black comedy that keeps the viewer guessing where it’s headed, this film is a winner.

The Descendants:  Before Nat Faxon and Jim Rash made The Way Way Back, they collaborated with Alexander Payne on the script of his film The Descendants.  If you haven’t seen it, you need to, and if you have, you may need to see it again.  Not even George Clooney looks good running in flip-flops.

Have fun at the movies!