Watching

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The Fencer – One of those based on true events stories that would have been just as interesting had they actually stuck with the truth. But, I digress, because it is still quite good. A man hiding from the communists moves to a small town, falls in love, and teaches children how to fence.

Appollo 11 – Like entering a time machine (insert cool sound effect here) and watching the first trip to the moon unfold. Truly magical!

Follow it with this for an apropos cultural counterbalance…

The Biggest Little Farm – Follow a couple as they struggle with plants and trees and beasts to create a sustainable & regenerative farm in California. Inspirational.

Cold War – A beautiful and difficult film that captures a troubled love during the Cold War, where sacrifice and loss are the standard order.

Feel Good – Comedian Mae works to overcome her addiction to drugs while becoming romantically entangled with a straight woman unsure of her feelings. Funny and real. One of my favorite lines: “I get my good qualities from my parents, and my bad ones are a mystery.” Truth.

Some Freaks – A trio of misfits date and become friends, show their most awful and fragile selves, fall apart, and come together again.

Dispatches from Elsewhere – A group of Philadelphia strangers come together for a common purpose in a most magical and mysterious way. Goodnesssss. Were I an inhabitant of the Bay Area and heard of this while the wheels and inspiration for this series were in motion, I would have been a most gleeful participant.

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas – One of my favorite comedic minds is at it again, and what a marvel it is to be along for the ride!

Small Apartments – My kinds of quirky cast of characters, all living in or somehow associated with a dilapidated apartment building. Death, mischief, theft, mayhem, much heart, and a lot of laughs.

All the Light in the Sky – An aging actress struggles with the fact that she’s beome less and less desirable (and employable) while entertaining her young niece, who is also an actress. Such truth here – the fragility of spirit, the disheartening reality of a changing body, and suddently becoming the oldest person in the room.

Wanderland – This was such fun! A man takes up a stranger’s invitation to spend the weekend at her home in the Hamptons, and it is anything but what he thought it would be.

Betty – Saving the best for last. Girls who skate (board), call each other out on their bullshit, love fiercely, fall down, and get back up again. And the music is a dream…

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I Am Not Okay With This: A teenage girl deals with the everyday as well as the complicated: friendship, high school, the effects of her father’s suicide on her family, as well as her budding and, as yet, untamed superpower.

Patrick Melrose: I am slightly premature on this one, only having viewed the first three of five episodes, but that, in itself, should be a major tell. Benedict Cumberbatch is positively brilliant as a man struggling to overcome the demonic hold of his wickedly abusive father and emotionally absent mother over his life. The first episode alone is worth a view. Horrifying in its intensity, it depicts his wild spiral into the madness of drug addiction.

Mr. Church: A man hired to be the cook for a dying woman and her child forges a lifelong bond when the original six months spans years. This was so sweet! I love you, Eddie Murphy.

In the Shadow of the Moon: A serial killer defies death and physics to kill every nine years while the cop on her trail nearly loses everything to capture her.

All the Bright Places: A high schooler mourning the loss of her sister befriends a boy struggling with his own past and present. Tender and ever so true.

ZZ Top: Like much of the music my dad listened to when I was a child, I cannot remember a time without ZZ Top, singing along to La Grange and Cheap Sunglasses before I even knew the name of the band. This one is on the lighter side – a fun and thougthful look at an equally fun and thoughtful band.

Anita: A young woman with down syndrome loses track of her mother after a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires. Adrift and disoriented, she finds help among the equally broken and lost.

Youth in Oregon: A cantankerous man learns that a surgery to repair his heart was unsuccessful and demands to be driven to Oregon where he can take his own life via assisted suicide.

Blue Ruin: A homeless man learns the person responsible for the murder of his parents has been released from prison. A slow burn of a fil-um, sucking the viewer into a violent abyss, tense and sweaty and mad.

Beforeigners: A near future tale of people from varying time periods in the past who literally surface in water and have to adjust to modern life. One of them, a Norwegian Shieldmaiden, becomes a cop. Super funny and smart!

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Film Notes

Time for some fabulous fil-ums, y’all. Starting with House of Tomorrow – a fine coming of age tale about an orphan boy living with his grandmother in a Buckminster Fuller House. Grandma has big plans for Sebastian, but he’s not so sure. When he meets a young rascal on a tour of the house, he’s exposed to junk food, the joys of the opposite sex, and punk rock. Teenage trickery and adventure ensues.

Notes on Blindness is pure MAGIC. Audio recordings from John Hull put seamlessly to film, with actors lip syncing to the dialog. A gorgeous meditation on the full body experience of going blind.

Dear Dictator – a mischievous teen becomes pen pals with a dictator after admiring his fashion sense. Things get crazy when he shows up on her doorstep, and they both learn a few lessons about kindness, loyalty, and power.

Thoroughbreds – I’ve typed and retyped my thoughts on this, as every bit has felt trite in comparison to this jaw dropper. An unsettling train wreck with a grab your heart sound track.

Tully – An exhausted mom hires an unbelievably kind, generous, and efficient nanny, gaining her life back yet losing something very dear.

Remembrance is based on the true story of a couple who escaped a Polish Prison Camp in 1944. They are separated and do not find each other until a chance hearing of his voice on a television program in 1976.

Shoplifters follows a “family” of misfits and small time thieves as they struggle to make it. A stunner on the exquisite bonds of love.

Under the Silver Lake – follows an aimless man recovering from a break-up. Rather that get a job or pay his rent, he watches television and roams the city. After the sudden disappearance of his neighbor, he is energized and determined to uncover the truth. Dark and funny.

Digging for Fire – A couple in a marital rut house sit for an actress on location. They find a bone and a gun in the yard, which sends the husband on an obsessive hunt while his wife flirts with a stranger on a night on the town.

Gringo – a whiz bang comedic thriller that follows a nice guy in charge of a marijuana pill deal in Mexico. He’s kidnapped by a drug cartel, and all goes bonkers.

Puzzle – A sheltered housewife’s life is transformed after receiving a jigsaw puzzle for her birthday. A sweet tale of a woman realizing she has agency over her life. Plus, Irrfan Khan – the eyes, that voice!!

Leave No Trace – A veteran with PTSD and his daughter live in Forest Park in Portland (!). Once discovered, each struggles to reconcile their desires with those of the other. A heartbreaker with a fabulous view of my favorite bridge in the world, the Saint John’s.

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Tuck In

Mid90s doesn’t have the coolest title, but gosh, Jonah Hill makes up for that in spades in this coming of age tale. Stevie is rudderless and virtually friendless, with a home life most would find no reason to envy. When he hooks up with a group of skaters, he finally begins to belong, learning about true friendship, love, pain, and loss. Fantastic!

Brigsby Bear – Imagine living the whole of your life solely in the company of your parents, isolated in a post apocalyptic Utah. Your life revolves around your favorite television program, Brigsby Bear. Only it isn’t true. Your parents kidnapped you as an infant. The air isn’t toxic, and your favorite show, the one you’ve memorized backwards and forwards was never even broadcast, but made solely for you by the man who claimed to be your father. This is what happens next. How you move in with your birth parents and sister, awkwardly learn how to be a brother and friend, behave around the opposite sex, and how, more than anything, you need to finish the story of Brigsby Bear. WOW! Touching and ever so funny.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot  is the story of Portland cartoonist John Callahan, following him in the days before his paralysis and through the beginning of his recovery from alcoholism. Earnest, thoughtful, and a bit silly, too.

Three Identical Strangers – Triplets separated at birth find each other as young men and struggle to discover the truth behind their adoptions. Prepare to get very, very angry.

The Rider – Words really fail me here, as this fil-um is ALL THE THINGS. Toxic masculinity, friendship, family, L O V E , loss, desire, horses, cowboys, and the sublime beauty of South Dakota. Blurring the line between fact and fiction, it follows Brady as he recovers from a near fatal head injury.

The Incredible Jessica James is the story of a woke and wise aspiring playwright after a devastating breakup. One of the side splitters!

Manhunt: The Unabomber documents how the FBI finally caught Ted Kaczynski by the pioneering use of forensic linguistics. Fasinating.

Swim Team profiles the members of the New Jersey Hammerheads, a winning team made entirely of young people on the autism spectrum. The film shines a light on the dedication and struggle of the parents and swimmers, in and out of the pool. Truly inspirational.

Peanut Butter Falcon – A young man with Down Syndrome escapes the retirement home charged with his care to search for his wrestling idol. On the way, he meets Tyler, a man running from trouble, and they forge a deep and abiding friendship, Huck Finn style.

Isn’t It Romantic is a lighthearted dig at all the ways romantic comedies fail to portray life as it is. Super cynical Natalie hits her head during a mugging and wakes up in her least favorite film genre, quickly learning the only way to escape is to play along, but with her own rules. Thank you Rebel Wilson for another side splitter!

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To Dust – An orthodox Jew struggles with the death of his wife, and in particular, the state of her decomposing body, practically stalking science teacher Albert until he agrees to help him. A story of grief, love, familial bonds, and unconventional friendship.

Columbus – I only initially cared about this film because of the location. I was, quite thankfully, equally enchanted by the story. An exploration of the importance of spaces (so much stunning architecture on view!!), reconciling our needs and wants with that of family, and the friends, old and new, who help to guide us.

Heartstone – teenage pals discover the painful realities of who they are and the people who matter most. Super bonus – it takes place in gorgeous Iceland!

Sunset – In Budapest on the cusp of World War I, a young woman applies as a milliner at the store her parents once owned, but is turned away. Determined, she stays in the city and is witness to the unfolding of violent and horrible events. Beautifully filmed, it questions the nature of good and evil, and the fraught nature of taking sides.

Terminal – a bathed in neon wonder about assassins, greed, and one big come uppance.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – A foster child finally finds his forever family. When tragedy strikes, he’s determined not to go back into care and heads for the wilderness. Wacky, sweet, and quirky, set in stunningly beautiful New Zealand. All the Colleen things…

The Death of Stalin – This movie explores the abject terror of life under Stalin and the wildly melodramatic power play following his death. Hilarious and horrifying.

Eighth Grade – A work of fiction, but a painfully real tale of the oftentimes harrowing life of an everyday teen girl. Simply brilliant.

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Oh, and delightfully movie related – do you know about Kanopy? It’s a streaming service that is available for FREE with a library card or university login. The selection is pretty stellar, too, just like the library! I watched about half of today’s movies using it. To see if your library participates, check the link. Fingers crossed….

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