Summer is coming to an end, alas, but hopefully good things are ahead this fall. Covid rates are falling, the Omicron 4/5 booster may be available in the next couple weeks, and maybe, just maybe, between the majority of Americans’ outrage over the turning of Roe V. Wade coupled with encouragement by the new climate, tax and healthcare package just passed, more voters will be encouraged to participate in the midterm elections and rescue our ailing democracy. It’s high tide we turn things around.
On a related note, moments like these that we find ourselves in, are often what form the set-up for most films. We enter the protagonist’s “normal world” and discover their unmet – what in their life needs to be improved. This in turn leads to an inciting incident, often instigated by the protagonist’s own actions, posing a challenge, a decision they must make, that will change their normal world forever. Usually, there’s no clear and easy path and initial reluctance to take any action at all. But inaction is never an option. In that vein, one could say, movies are a lot like life.
Here are the ones we especially enjoyed this past month:
MY DONKEY, MY LOVER AND I (French Film, in theaters): I loved, loved, LOVED this female directed and written film and place it in that rare category of films I instantly declare in my top 20 favorite of all time. Strangely, it’s about a woman who follows her married lover on his family hiking trip, which does not sound like an admirable character to spend time. But I have seen few films that felt more beautifully, delightfully human and uplifting. And the wonderful community she discovers on her journey reminded me of the best moments of a Fellini film, where you feel immersed in the camaraderie. This movie feels like a truly wonderful summer vacation.
ADVANTAGEOUS (2015 film, Netflix): This one’s been on my queue forever, and I’m so glad I finally had the good sense to check it out. Wow! Such a smart, original, moving, character-driven Sci-fi journey. One critic aptly compared it to the HANDMAID’s TALE and ALPHAVILLE. I’d second that and add in a good dose of the series BLACK MIRROR. In this world (directed with artistry and precision by Jennipher Phang, who co-wrote the tight, intelligent script with Jacqueline Kim), women face even greater challenges in the workplace, and in general, than we already do now, and a single parent faces a terrifying choice when her age (which looks to be well under 40) leads her long-time employers to threaten to replace her with a younger model unless she agrees to undergo an experimental procedure that would transport her into a more market-friendly body (i.e. younger and White as opposed to Asian.) What follows is heartbreaking, but a brilliant sci-fi twist adds a whole new dimension to the story that elevates it to one of the more touching Sci-fi entries I’ve ever seen.
RUN (2020 film, Hulu): Dang. I think my adrenalin’s still pumping after watching this taut, tight masterfully executed nailbiter of a thriller last night. And what an original approach to the genre. If you can imagine WAIT UNTIL DARK on massive steroids permeated by a similar dread found in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE and a touch of ROOM, you’d have only an inkling of what you’re in for. RUN centers around a mother and daughter, played masterfully by Sarah Paulson and relative newcomer Kiera Allen who, according to Wikipedia , is one of just two wheelchair-using actresses to star in a suspense film. While her real-life experience adds incredible authenticity to her performance, she is stellar on every front, and I hope to see her in a diverse array of roles in the future. Also notable about this film, is the frank portrayal of the life of somebody afflicted by numerous, dramatic health challenges as well as a female character whose resourcefulness and survival skills are as creative and impressive as I’ve ever seen. I implore you not to miss this one.
THE PRINCESS (Streaming on HBO): As the world observes the 25th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, this documentary is a provocative portrait of a young woman in distress, hounded by the press with its unrelenting scrutiny while trapped in a loveless marriage. The documentary features never-before seen footage including a moment from her wedding day where, when out of the public eye, her Prince displays a chilly indifference to the vulnerable bride, a harbinger of things to come. Her activism and humanitarian work are highlighted, as is the endless barrage of criticism she faced when confronting controversial issues such as the AIDS pandemic. There are no talking heads in this documentary, only archival records including news footage and interviews which reminds the viewer of the power the media had in her daily life while shaping our perception of this iconic figure. There was no happily-ever-after for this beloved princess, but this documentary demonstrates why her legendary status has only grown in the past twenty-five years.
ANNA KARENINA and CAMILLE (Playing on TCM and AMAZON PRIME): Has there ever been a greater dramatic film actress than Greta Garbo? After watching two of her greatest performances in two classic movies the answer is a resounding no. She stars in the 1935 film version of ANNA KARENINA, and so poignantly captures the tragic heroine that it’s as if Leo Tolstoy wrote the character for her alone. One year later she starred in the classic film CAMILLE, directed by the legendary director George Cukor. Both roles earned Garbo nominations for the Academy Award Best Actress. Amazingly, Garbo never won a competitive Oscar, despite her many brilliant performances; something that can probably be attributed to the fact that she retired in 1941 at the age of thirty-five.
Devi & Amy
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