Wow, tiny little break there in the writing but probably because I've been busy doing all the things. Lots of books, films, and albums to review from the start of this year, but let's focus here on the films, shall we?
It's been a pretty solid start and we've gone to some really great films so far. Here are the ones that were just absolutely terrific.
We went and saw Spotlight on New Year's Day (told you I was playing a bit of catch up here) and it was a provocative story about the investigative team who broke the news on the Catholic Church covering up sexual abuse by its priests and clergy in Boston, MA. Not a spoiler here, but at the end of the film for several screens in small print the director listed all the cities around the US and World where similar cases have occurred. The sheer volume was staggering, but hearing everyone around us in the theater utter, "Cincinnati" when we saw our own name on that list was pretty telling. I never grew up Catholic and didn't encounter Catholic institutions until I worked on my undergrad, but Patrick was raised in the Catholic church and attended Catholic schools until he worked on his undergrad at a public university. Which, perhaps, readers, you were wondering when my counterpart might make his debut? Well, I present to you my introverted hliðstæðu, and his response to our first film viewing of 2016:
To me, Spotlight was a very interesting, if maybe a little overly dramatic (I recall lots of intense journalistic running). Having grown up in the Catholic church, the prevalence of abuse as conveyed by the movie was not at all surprising. My high school religion teacher, a minister, was arrested after I got out of school for having child pornography. Additionally, my parish priest was arrested around the same time for soliciting sex acts from a male police officer. Seeing the cover-up portrayed in Spotlight confirms much of what I suspected about that organization.
That reminds me, we had a really interesting conversation on the way home from the film. Coming of age in this weird late 20th/early 21st parts of the centuries, I expressed to Patrick that I couldn't imagine complying and participating in this abusive community. He raised an important point, that pre-internet age, people didn't have a way to socialize and reach outside the grasp of the church. There were no tumblrs, chat rooms, online support groups for folks to be able to connect with one another and step outside faith which was/still is the cornerstone of so many of these communities.
The power of the Catholic Church is far reaching still today and abuse is still such a huge problem. Which for me, as an outsider, it seems that if they weren't so sexually repressed lots of people would probably have healthier attitudes about their bodies, desires, and how to communicate that in a safe way. But as I'm informed by my ex-Catholic partner, it would seem that's a really big deal and they aren't gonna change their minds anytime soon. But, shew.
At any rate, for a film that's about investigative journalism (not really my thing) and the Catholic Church (also not really my thing), this one kept your attention and told an important story.
Our next film viewing of the year was Trumbo, in which Bryan Cranston reminds us all that he's a goddamned genius. Admittedly, I was little disappointed in Louis CK's performance—he was almost like Tom Cruise. You know, like himself, playing himself, playing a character? Nevertheless, it was admirable to see the story of writers working to fight blacklisting during a dark time in our history (and not that long ago). A real gem to the film is Elle Fanning's performance as Trumbo's oldest daughter, Nikola.
In conjunction with the French Film studies and French department at one of the local universities, we were lucky to catch the 2014 film Samba.
I loved this movie. A brief synopsis—is that it follows an African man's experiences as trying to maintain work visas and gain citizenship in France and his female aide who is on a sabbatical trying to recover and find herself in charitable work with immigrants. In many ways they help themselves find each other. It's a really great film for raising questions of identity, nationalism, and language, and what happens when you strip those things away and are just human.
Speaking of human.... the most human story without any actual humans—Anomalisa!
We were so lucky to catch this one on the final showing at our local theater. I knew as soon as I saw this trailer that I had to see this film. I had no idea it would be set in my city, so that was a delight. The funny little jabs about our obsessions with chili (totally understand that) and our Zoo (meh, maybe not so much this one, but maybe that's just me) were interesting. I didn't recognize the name of the hotel the main character is staying, but upon looking into it—it turns out to be just another great Charlie Kaufman trick.
The entire story played out so familiar to me... to Patrick, too. We all know someone who is a Michael Stone (the main character) or maybe you have a friend you see turning into this character. It really pulls at the heartstrings. I think the underpinning mood of the entire film was very Raymond Carver, one of my favorite writers, which is probably what attracted me to it so much.
And honestly couldn't believe I would say this about a stop motion film, but it had one of the best, most honest and realistic sex scenes I have seen in film. Period.
If it comes to Netflix sometime soon, I would definitely recommend a viewing, or you know, add it the other amazing films Kaufman has written and go on a bender.
One of the most anticipated films for us... in search of a great horror film ever since we saw It Follows last year... The Witch.
The Witch was a suspenseful, creepy, claustrophobic film that really delivered in all the right ways. There have already been some really great critiques written about it—specifically the director's aims at presenting a mostly objective story (so much that The Church of Satan approved) involving witchcraft and the role of feminism in character development. The attention to detail in set design and dialogue to give the film a historical accurate depiction is notable.
All the positive critique aside, Patrick and I were discussing how it is a strange film to recommend as some of the really great parts that set it aside from "typical" horror films may be a turn off for some folks. But the best kinds of films are the ones that give you nightmares (this one did) and make you think about them for days after the viewing.
So all in all we've been doing pretty well at picking films lately. Just last night we saw The Boy and the World which I will include in a future review recap along with a few others I hope to see soon including: Touched with Fire, Krigen, The Lady in the Van, Son of Saul, Hello My Name is Doris, My Golden Days, and Midnight Special (duh, Michael Shannon).