Tag Archives: Thursday Movie Picks

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies With Narrators That Do Not Appear on Screen

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#1. Amelie

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I know some people really don’t like Amelie, but I was utterly captivated by the wonderful lead performance, whimsical themes, and the touches of magical realism that appear in droves here. Amelie is about a shy young woman (Audrey Tautou) who finds the courage to make the people around her’s lives better and discovers true love in the process. An unseen man’s offbeat narration is a big part of the movie, and it doesn’t become an annoyance like most narrations used in film. In fact, it adds something wonderful to the story.

 

#2. Little Children (read my full review here.)

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I know everybody is using this one but wow, what a movie! I  liked the whole thing a lot (it was definitely one of the best acted motion pictures to come out of Hollywood in  a long time,) but above all the sex offender subplot endlessly fascinated me. I never thought I could feel sad for a child molester until I saw this movie. And the guys mother, whoa. I kept wondering if I could love my son if he was a pedophile, let alone with the same ferocious (albeit slightly unnerving) intensity of the mom in this movie. I spent a restless night turning the situations in the film over in my head, but hey, that just means it’s making you think! Unfortunately, the pedantic voice over was the weakest element in a mostly great film.

3. Dope (read my full review here)

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Forest Whitaker provides the voice-over in this funny, hyperkinetic movie about an inner city geek thrown way out of his comfort zone who must sell a shitload of the club drug ‘Molly’- and fast. A lot of movies try and fail to imitate Tarantino’s style of dialogue, but Dope is a movie that actually manages to be Tarantino-esque without seeming lame or like a try-hard. The voice-over actually works here- kudos to the director and the cast for making a fast-paced, witty, and wildly entertaining comedy-adventure-drama.

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Set in High School

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I never went to high school except during a short amount of time in my mid teens. I was mainly home schooled from elementary school up until adulthood. So I never really had to deal with bullies and cliques. As an obese girl with Asperger’s and depression, I’m grateful, and I have my mother and fellow blogger Mysterious Bibliophile to thank for this. My mother handpicked subjects that coincided with my interests and turned me into lifelong lover of literature, whereas I like to think I had a part in turning her into a fan of cinema. Thank you, Mom 🙂 I tried to pick movies that few others would of chosen (no “The Breakfast Club” and “Mean Girls,” Y’all :P) but each and every one of these movies is worth watching, especially for those who are cinematically curious (like me) and have a taste for the subversive. Thank you to Wandering Through the Shelves for bringing about this Blogathon. And now, without further ado, my handpicked choices.

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1. L.I.E. (2001,) Directed by Michael Cuesta

This might seem like a controversial choice since most of the scenes in the movie take place outside of the teen protagonist’s local high school, but there are a select few (including one set in the school guidance counselor’s office) and the film deals with many high school-savvy themes like identity and peer pressure, so, oh what the hell, it stays. Paul Dano played in this movie before making it big and his youth and apparent naivete lend credibility to a tricky role. He is also a total cutie as Howie Blitzer, a latently homosexual teen reeling from the death of his mother and neglected by an irresponsible father. Frustrated and lonely, he finds himself waist deep in the wrong kind of  company and picks up the unscrupulous pastime of breaking into peoples’ houses. It is in this kind of compromising situation (having burgled into somebody’s basement) that he meets Big John Harrigan (Brian Cox,) a war veteran with a predilection for underage boys. Howie and Big John form a predatory and yucky yet complicated relationship which contains no actual sex but lots of sexual tension, which might gross some people out because- yes- Dano really does look fifteen. An ambiguous ending leaves you wondering what will become of Howie after he experiences the cataclysmic chain of events running throughout the film.

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2. Ben X (2007,) Directed by Nic Balthazar

Poor Ben never can catch a break. Autistic, bullied, and at the end of his rope, the suicidal teen (Greg Timmermans) wheedles away his lonely days on Archlord, a fantasy role-playing game. At school, his tormenters are relentless and, quite simply, total fucking assholes. They make what is supposed to be an educational and social experience (school) a complete hell on earth for Ben, who just wants to be accepted, or at the very least, left alone. Nic Balthazar’s debut highlights the perils of high school for kids with Asperger’s or similar disorders. Asperger’s youngsters are often at best the odd man out, and at worst, outright targets of bullying and other abuse because of their awkwardness and lack of social experience. The main issue I have with this film is it’s fairy tale-ish, preposterous ending; that said, it’s one of the best films available on Asperger’s and High-functioning Autism, most of which function only as a joke or a live-action cartoon. There is nothing funny about “Ben X.” It might, on the other hand, make you think about the times you maybe have not treated people as well as we could have and dismissed that behavior as child’s play. If you were one of the victims, this movie might remind you of that horrifying stage of adolescence that adults swore were going to be the ‘best years of your lives.’

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3. Ginger Snaps (2000,) Directed by John Fawcett

Okay. While not as good a lycanthrope comedy as “An American Werewolf in London” (how the Hell could it be?) “Ginger Snaps” is still a highly entertaining piece of teen angst-turned-bloodbath. Sisters Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle) are two self-obsessed goth girls concerned with, y’know, death, suicide, the universe and stuff as well as being self-consciously emo and different when two earth-shaking things suddenly happen within hours of each other- Ginger gets her (way-late) first period and is bitten by a werewolf that’s been killing and eating all the town dogs. So begins this spooky feminist parable about the dangers of puberty and the finality of a gory death. Most suicidal teens don’t realize just how final death is, but Brigitte gets a good idea while trying to prevent her newly transformed sister from rapidly raising her body count. I recommend this movie to horror lovers and people in touch with the dark side of themselves (who maybe have a little of Brigitte and Ginger in them) as well as those who love a good, innovative monster movie.

Thursday Movie Picks: Mother/Son Relationships

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So… 🙂 This is my first list of this kind and I’m hoping people will like it and it will receive some good feedback.

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What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993, Directed by Lasse Hallström

My first choice is a small-town drama adapted from a novel by Peter Hedges, and one of Johnny Depp’s and Leo DiCaprio’s relatively early roles. Depp plays the eponymous Gilbert Grape, a frustrated grocery bagger caring for his morbidly obese mother (Darlene Cates) and his mentally handicapped younger brother (DiCaprio, who shines here in an almost uncannily convincing performance) in Endora, a town where ‘not much happens’ populated by losers, misfits, and dreamers. Although this film explores many themes (identity, sexuality, coming of age, and the way families can nurture you or tether you down,) one of the most touching elements comes from the relationship between Gilbert and ‘Momma,’ a horrifically overweight wreck of a woman who has been eating obsessively since the suicide of her husband years before. Throughout the course of the movie, Gilbert finds it in his heart to forgive his mother for her parental failings, and Depp and Cates (who never got a role like this again) give deeply moving performances as a mother and child in a deeply fraught and dependent yet strangely caring relationship.

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Some Mother’s Son, 1996, Directed by Terry George

Helen Mirren stars as the mother of Aidan Gillen (also known as Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish in “Game of Thrones,” and one of my all-time favorite actors) in “Some Mother’s Son,” which I don’t remember that well but recall well enough to know I liked it. Gillen plays Gerard Quigley, an Irish youth who joins the IRA and ends up in prison, the cellmate of fellow IRA terrorist/freedom fighter (whatever you want to call it) Bobby Sands. Sands and Quigley decide to start a hunger strike, much to his loving and apolitical mother Kathleen’s chagrin. As the situation gets progressively worse, Kathleen must decide whether to respect her son’s wishes by letting him die or saving his life. I remember my mom and I watched this one shortly after finishing a catastrophic film (one of the worst ever) and “Some Mother’s Son” was a breath of fresh air. We were like hey… this movie is actually good. It’s not the best in the world (and certainly biased towards the point of view of the IRA, if you take issue with that sort of thing. but it’s moving and oh-so-very well acted. Steve McQueen’s “Hunger” is the more popular film about Bobby Sands (Gerard Quigley is a fictional creation,) but this film should not be forgotten in the jumble.

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The Living and the Dead, 2006, Directed by Simon Rumley

Mother-son relationship from hell, ya’ll. Okay it’s got nothing on the depravity that is “Bad Boy Bubby” (no outright keeping it in the family here,) but “The Living and the Dead” is a harrowing and disturbing look at what happens when an overprotected violently mentally ill man-child is left to his own devices. James (Leo Bill) is a cheeky little sicko who appoints himself ‘man of the house’ of his seriously ill mother (Kate Fahy) while his dad (the late Roger Lloyd Pack)’s away. So he locks the nurse out and begins to apply his own personal remedies to what ails his mum. The standard dosage of pills not doing the trick? Take twenty! James’ mother becomes his terrified victim as he completely loses his handle on reality. The thing is, despite his sick demented mind, James is infuriatingly naive throughout, innocent to the true consequences of his actions. “The Living and the Dead” works so well because you can sympathize with the good intentions of each and every character, perpetrator and victim. Brief moments of tenderness between James and his mother make you wish everything would turn out okay, even as you know otherwise.

*Honorable mention*

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Dead Alive, 1993, Directed by Peter Jackson

What can you say about “Dead Alive,” Peter Jackson’s pre-LOTR schlock-fest incorporating satire of the bullied timid son (Timothy Balme) and the tyrannical psychotic mum (Elizabeth Moody,) who actually improves upon becoming a zombie? It’s undisputedly one of the goriest films ever, with bombastic scenes of bloodbath and dismemberment and subpar acting, but it brings upon a certain affection upon recollection (for me, anyway.) Anyway, who doesn’t love that ass-kicking kung-fu priest?

Who do you think should have been included? Feel free to comment with any feedback or suggestions for my next list!