Watching

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Terri – A true to life story (though not actually true) about a boy struggling to fit in, to keep his unconventional and mentally ill uncle and caretaker above water, and to be a decent friend. Sweet and sad.

Greta Gerwig has my number. I like everything she does, so surprise! Mistress America is a boisterous romp with two future step-sisters as they navigate college and adulthood. A little bit wacky and full of great one-liners!

Au Service de la France – Also a bit wacky and terribly French. It’s 1960 and Andre has just joined the French secret service. He doesn’t know what he’s doing at work or in the romance department, but that’s okay, most of his colleagues don’t either! Laugh out loud funny. Beh, oui!

DOPE – Oh, my goodness. Three brilliant and nerdy teens get caught up in the L.A. drug trade. Hilarity, wicked-smart schemes, and a bit of terror ensues. The edge of our seat storytelling kinda stressed us out, in a good way. Gah. Great soundtrack, too!

Ex Machina – An uber-wealthy recluse and tech genius rewards one of his minions with a week at his estate to conduct tests on an artificial life form. Provocative! To what lengths would you go to gain freedom? An interesting question.

Another Earth – A woman who made a grave mistake years earlier attempts at penance in this heart wrenching film about the sudden appearance of a parallel world very close to home.

Parker Posey does nutty and brilliant as only she can! Price Check follows her as she attempts to revamp a poorly performing super market chain, turning the office on its ear.

How to Be Single – A very fun examination of the ways we struggle to find the right partner, very relatable, even though I haven’t been single in a quarter century! Whaat? Rebel Wilson positively steals the show.

The Heart Machine relays the tale of a man certain that his online girlfriend (they Skype) actually lives in town. Trippy. I love how it looks at the ways ways we unintentionally self sabotage to cope with fear and loneliness. Soo good.

 

 

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Flaked – I love Will Arnett as a buffoon and a villain, but wow, as a regular, slightly self-absorbed guy slowly coming to terms with being a man, he really shines. Friendship, relationships, the stories we tell, it’s all there.

Nightcrawler – Egads, Jake Gyllenhall, what a creeper-doodle you play in this one! A loner capitalizes on the public’s ever insatiable desire for shock and gore on the news by not only chasing down accidents with a video camera, but making a few of his own. Yikes.

I’m Sorry You Feel That Way – Thoughtful, terribly insightful, and ever so funny, this is my absolute favorite Bill Burr special. Grab some tissues – you might just laugh until you cry!

Master of None – A great show about relationships, dating, feminism, and friendship. Nicely done, Aziz Ansari!

The Wolfpack – Whoa. A group of boys grows up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, near-permanently confined to their apartment with their mother and megalomaniac father. They watch a lot of movies and remake some of their favorites, though the real story, at least to me, is how these boys coped in such isolation and thrived, in their own way.

Man Up – I usually have such terrible luck in the romantic comedy category, but this was really fun. YAY! Jack and Nancy meet when he mistakes her for his blind date, and rather than correct him, she goes along with it because he quotes Hannibal Lecter! Of course there had to be a misunderstanding that could threaten their perfect chemistry, but you know, that’s the shtick!

The Kings of Summer – Three teens build their dream home in the woods to escape their overbearing parents. Tender, fun, silly, sad, and a little bit scary.

People Places Things – A newly single man struggles to parent his daughters, work as a graphic novelist and teacher, and move on with his life after a painful divorce. So very good!

Iris – Oh boy, does this woman inspire me! Imaginative, tireless, and fearless, Iris does everything with aplomb – style icon (great glasses AND turquoise!), interior designer, teacher. She go, go, goes, and gets the job done. Do what you want, be who you are, wear what makes you feel good. Y E S ! !

Short Term 12 – A glimpse into the lives of the residents and staff at a group home for teenagers. It’s a tender fil-um about the ways we are all broken and the ways we make each other better. Not for the faint of heart.

Les Revenants – After waiting for some two years and nearly forgetting much of the plot, Les Revenants (The Returned) returned! Just as creepy and mysterious as the preceding season, this was another binge watch with a satisfying end. Thank you Canal+ for not dragging this series out!

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Movies, etc.

Good Hair – the crazy things women, and a few men, do to and for (?) our hair, myself included. Once a year, from the age of eleven to sixteen, I got a home perm, my mom spending well over an hour rolling what seemed like a million pink and turquoise curlers at the dining room table, my eyes and scalp burning, and me, save the very LAST time, wholly disappointed at the results.

In this documentary, Chris Rock travels the globe to reveal the secrets and truths behind black hair and its care – relaxers, wigs, weaves, the whole shebang. Frightening, serious, and sad, the film brings up interesting questions on the value of hair, and how the majority of what is perceived to be “good” by the black community is far from its natural state. Sodium hydroxide, the primary chemical used for straightening, completely dissolves an aluminum can in about an hour, yet people put it on the heads of girls as young as three and often continue the practice over a lifetime. It’s a nine BILLION dollar a year industry that keeps a lot of mom and pop shops in business and poor women in debt, with weaves and wigs, good ones, at least, starting at $1,000, and many women spending thousands each year to keep it all up. The saddest part is the fact that many black women look down upon those with natural hair, saying they aren’t as serious or professional for forgoing the chemical processes. I happen to love it when a black woman rocks an afro, and after this bit of education will be even more hearty in my compliments to them!

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage –  Never a big Rush fan, though I can sing along to more than I would have guessed, I started this documentary with the intention of watching it for five minutes, just until I saw what they looked like. An hour and a half later, I found myself at the end, happy and weeping at a quintessential underdog band story. Largely misunderstood by critics and the general public, but with a cult following, the trio play with passion and curiosity, to their hearts, their fans, and each other. Bravo.

Frank – this movie explores the odd and surprisingly lonely world of being in a band of angry misfits: the thrills, disappointments, and often painful work of leading a truly creative life, oh and having a leader who wears a fake head at all times.

Welcome to Me – Alice (brilliantly played by Kristen Wiig) suffers from borderline personality disorder and spends the majority of her time in her apartment watching television.  She wins the lottery and decides, a la her idol Oprah, to create a show that revolves entirely around her. Sooo good!

The Paper Chase – Explore the highs and lows of being a first year Harvard Law student in this classic movie from 1973. Super handsome Timothy Bottoms and that hair! Lindsay Wagner before she was the Bionic Woman! John Houseman! The story ain’t too shabby, either.

Get Low – A hermit with a mysterious past arrives in town to arrange a funeral party while still alive, raising fists and riling imaginations. The truth is never as bad as we think.

Obvious Child – Oh, golly. A young comic struggling from a break-up and the loss of her job discovers she is pregnant after a one night stand. Though the decision to have an abortion comes easily to her, the repercussions are lasting. Wherever you stand on the issue (I find the practice abhorrent and laws dictating what I do with my body equally so), the film is a thoughtful examination, often times tender and funny, of one woman’s handling of her unplanned pregnancy.

The Broken Circle Breakdown – Love at first sight. Tattoos. Singing and guitar picking. A love for America. A difference of faith and one couple’s struggle to reconcile a loving world with a child who becomes gravely ill. This is a stunner and a heartbreaker with a fantastic soundtrack.

What If – A fun romantic comedy with some very lovely animation. Enough said.

Laggies – An aimless woman in a stifling relationship escapes to the home of a new teenage friend in hopes of reassessing her life. Fun and thoughtful, with Sam Rockwell, one of my favorite actors. The man’s never made an indie movie I didn’t like. Word.

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Tig Notaro is a comedian that you likely don’t know by name, at least until recently. I know I didn’t. She made me laugh on Amy Schumer, and in the movie In a World (another good one, actually!), but I didn’t know who she was or that she did stand-up. Dang, was I missing out. Tig is funny! A slow burn kind of comedian. Patient with a joke. As it turns out, she’s quite a fighter, too. The documentary follows her life over a series of kick-her-while-she’s-down scenarios, each more difficult than the last. She handles each in the same manner as her comedy, slowly, wittily, with grace and, of course, good humor. Yay Tig!

Hector & the Search for Happiness – Hector is a psychiatrist at the end of his tether. Uncertain about his relationship and fed up with his patients, he embarks on a trip around the world to discover the source of happiness and maybe find a bit of his own. Funny, sad, and sometimes quite terrifying, with a happy ending, of course.

All the Wilderness – Filmed in Portland! Gee-golly, watching this kind of made me miss my old home, remembering with misty-eyed fondness my own time in the City of Roses. The story is pretty great, too. James witnesses his father’s suicide (off THE bridge, Portlanders) and copes in the best way he can. Obsessing over death, alienating friends and family, finding love, baffling his therapist (Danny DeVito!), it’s a struggle to make it day by day. I suppose that is life for most of us.

Not Waving But Drowning – Two best friends plan a move to New York City from their small Florida town post high school, but, for various reasons, only one of them makes it. The film documents their struggles and triumphs, with each other, new relationships, and life, in general. It’s a beauty.

A fascinating look at a wild and complicated Pittsburgh Pirate. Doc Ellis pitched a no-hitter while high on LSD, but that was really just the tip of the iceberg. Outspoken (and rightly so) on race and equality in the game of baseball in a time when it was highly frowned upon, he never walked away from controversy or failed to stand up for his team mates. His personal life was a bit of a wreck. He was a drug addict, heavy drinker, and known for abusing the women in his life. He makes good, however, in the best possible way.

The Code – A great political thriller set in Australia, with a small time journalist and his brother at the center of a murder investigation and major government cover-up. Very well done!

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Love is Strange – A bittersweet tale of love and family that follows a gay couple, Ben and George, and the repercussions of their marriage after being together for thirty-nine years. George loses his job and the couple must sell their apartment and look for a less expensive place, all while living apart with friends and relatives. A great look at relationships and personalities, and the different ways in which we cope and love.

It is especially dear to me as I think of my Uncle Chris and his now husband Joe, who got married just this month (huzzah!), after being together for over twenty-two years. I am so grateful that they live in a place where their love and marriage poses no threat to their job or housing security!

Orphan Black – A streetwise mother discovers she is a clone after witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks like her. Intrigue! Drama! Suspense! And if none of that sounds even remotely interesting, there’s the fact that Tatiana Maslany pulls off, with great aplomb, playing more than a half dozen completely believable and badass characters, our hands-down favorite being Helena. Hello sestra!

The Discoverers – A father’s road trip with his children gets derailed by death, madness, and being forced to participate in a Lewis and Clark re-enactment trek. This hilarious and sweet tale falls into the Colleen loves quirky category, most definitely.

Finding Vivian Maier – John Maloof bought a taped and battered trunk at auction. Hoping for treasure, he found it in spades, with photographs shot by Vivian Maier, a mostly unknown woman with a penchant for capturing the everyday, in thousands upon thousands of photographs. Maloof plays detective and documentarian in a fil-um that asks as many questions as it raises. One thing is quite clear, at least to me, the woman had a phenomenal eye!

Tracks – A moving tale of Robyn Davidson’s 1977 solo journey, save a few camels and her beloved dog, some 1,700 miles across the Australian Outback. Beautifully filmed, this is a send-up to love, for our dreams, our strengths and weaknesses, our fierce and fragile souls, our beloved pets, and the mysteries and wonders of life and humanity.

Oh, and the music is a-mazing. My hat is off to you, Garth Stevenson.

Scrotal Recall – yes, you read that properly. After learning he’s contracted an STD, Dylan must get back in touch with every woman he’s ever slept with. Luckily the list isn’t terribly long, though the six episodes certainly left me itching for the next. A fun, silly, and, at times, quite serious look at love and relationships, including those with our best friends. Fabulous!

Two Lives – The Berlin Wall is crumbling. A woman leads a comfortable life with a loving husband and family in Norway. Her life begins to unravel after being asked to testify against the Norwegian state on behalf of war children, those with Norwegian mothers and Nazi fathers. The story brought rather abominable practices to light (at least for the hubster and me) and asks important questions about truth. A thriller!

Ida – an orphan raised by the church learns she is Jewish just before taking her vows as a nun. A marvelously evocative tale of loss and identity, with stunning cinematography.

Pride – This follows the story of gay and lesbian activists who raised money in support of striking miners in 1984 only to be initially rejected. They decide to deliver the funds in person and a wonderfully unique alliance is created. Ever so sweet and a touch sad, too.

 

 

 

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