We set July 4th aside each year to celebrate our country’s independence. But after a month where the Supreme Court has made it harder than ever to consider this a nation that protects individual rights and personal freedom, more and more civil rights seem to be stripped from us every day. Are we truly a free country?
The answer lies in part, with each and every one of us.
In the wake of the ugliness of June, we are reminded that the majority of our citizens do not support the direction in which our country is heading, because millions are speaking out, protesting, and those with money and power are putting it where their mouths are. We have a chance to turn this negative into a positive.
It’s no secret that our elections are not run fairly run thanks to geryymandering and voter suppression. But despite these undemocratic obstacles, we, the majority, still hold the power. If everybody who is not happy with the rampant social injustices plaguing our country simply make the effort to vote and encourage their peers to do likewise, we still have the power to make positive change.
What does this have to do with this month’s viewing recommendations? Nothing specifically. But any good story starts with a hero who must overcome a conflict against seemingly impossible odds with enormous stakes if she fails in her mission.
That is all of us. That is our society. That is our world.
So, while we hope you can sit back and enjoy the following viewing selections, you may also want to take notes on how obstacles our overcome. We all have a long, hard battle ahead.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN (2022, in theaters): Inspired by an absurdly uplifting true story, (and a fabulous companion piece to THE DUKE, which I recommended last month), this British film explores class, gender, the role of family and the importance of dreams in a breezy and delightful way. An excellent palate cleanser for troubled times and an opportunity to spend time with the always mesmerizing Sally Hawkins in a powerful supporting role.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (2022, movie, HULU): I have mixed feelings about this nevertheless highly worthwhile film. While I think the first half is one of the most beautiful, intimate, intelligent explorations of female sexuality, female middle age, and sex and gender roles ever cinematically depicted, I was troubled by much of the second half in which the previously likeable character (played beautifully by Emma Thompson) shifts into predatory creepy-land when she violates the boundaries of the young male sex worker she hires multiple times. While some amends are later made, others are not, and what begins as a story of a woman reaching new awareness about herself, sex and the greater world, alas ends with a woman whose newfound sense of empowerment is accompanied by a troubling sense of entitlement that is never satisfactorily addressed or rectified. That said, it’s an engaging and provocative film that begs for thoughtful discussion. And Emma Thompson and costar Daryl McCormack are a pleasure to behold.
BARRY (2018, series, HBO MAX) This half hour black comedy centers around the ultimate toxic male — a cold-hearted assassin. Only he isn’t so much coldhearted as numbed after his time in the service. But when his latest hit brings him to an acting class (taught by Henry Winkler – who shines in his best role ever), he begins to tap into his humanity and his newfound desire to become an actor. I’m still early into the series, but so far am blown away by the sensitive portrayal of this complex character who explores right, wrong and what it means to be human (and inhuman, too.) best of all, it’s laugh out loud funny.
OFFICIAL COMPETITION (2022, in theaters): A driven female director pushes two competitive actors to the brink as she subjects them to excruciatingly intense rehearsals for an upcoming film shoot. It goes about as well as can be expected in this hilarious dark comedy that is a satire on the creative types who work in the film industry. It’s also a commentary on the selfishness and all-around stupidity of human nature. Penelope Cruz is a revelation as the ruthless, obsessive director who will stop at nothing to elicit the desired performances for her film.
SHORT FILMS OF AGNES VARDA (Criterion Channel): Agnes Varda was a prolific filmmaker who shot short documentary films as well as narrative features. Her sincere interest with marginalized groups in the United States compelled her to make two films that captured the activism and resiliency of the Black and Mexican-American populations. BLACK PANTHERS portrays the response of the party and Oakland community to the incarceration of co-founder Huey Newton. The documentary also highlights the important role that women played in leadership positions and their embrace of their “natural hair” which liberated them from the beauty standards imposed by white society. MURMURS focuses on the colorful murals that appeared throughout the streets of Los Angeles, telling the stories of the various communities that lived in the City of Angels. Varda pays particular attention to the Mexican-American muralist movement in East LA and how the murals inspired an overlooked community that existed far away from the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown. “Whether collective daydreams or personal visions, the walls tell of a city and its people,” Varda says of the murals and the people who created them.
Hang in there everybody and keep fighting the good fight!
~Devi & Amy
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