You Should Be Watching: July 12-18

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

This week, I’m featuring a 90s Jim Carrey film that is as relevant as ever, classic Billy Wilder that blurs the lines between true Hollywood and fantasy, and a powerful New Zealand film about mental illness, gang life, and chess.

Be sure to see Bringing Up Baby, expiring from FilmStruck on July 27, and then listening to the associated Feelin’ Film Connecting With Classics podcast. Same goes for All the President’s Men. Also on FilmStruck, Rio Bravo has a short-term engagement and will be leaving July 26. Also, the Jaws franchise has arrived on Amazon Prime, and Blue Valentine and Gone Baby Gone on Netflix.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


 

The Truman Show

Year: 1998

Director: Peter Weir

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi

Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Holland Taylor, Ed Harris, Brian Delate, Paul Giamatti, Peter Krause, Blair Slater, Heidi Schanz, Ron Taylor, Don Taylor, Ted Raymond, O-Lan Jones, Krista Lynn Landolfi, Harry Shearer, Jeanette Miller, Philip Glass, Una Damon, Joe Minjares, Philip Baker Hall, John Pleshette, Terry Camilleri, Joel McKinnon Miller

 

Most of you have seen The Truman Show, but chances are, it’s been a while, so you might be surprised to hear how well it holds up. On its surface, this is a vehicle for Jim Carrey to show he’s much more than just a rubber-faced funnyman in a prescient surface-level commentary on the culture of reality TV and YouTube. For that alone, it’s a brilliant piece of work, but below the surface, director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol have incorporated many other layers along with a lovely and complex score that is shamelessly self-aware in its manipulation of the viewer.

Weir isn’t just telling a story about a guy whose whole life is a reality TV program, he’s showing us how we’re all in a sort of reality TV program, and we all need our perspective challenged. If truth isn’t revealed to us, we’ll happily live in a lie. “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented,” says Christof (Ed Harris), who represents a God figure or rather a critique of belief in a certain type of God, which provides a lot of food for thought and discussion.


 

Sunset Boulevard

  

Year: 1950

Director: Billy Wilder

Genre: Drama, Film-noir

Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Jack Webb, Buster Keaton, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Anna Q. Nilsson, Ray Evans, Jay Livingston, H.B. Warner, Franklyn Farnum, Larry J. Blake, Charles Dayton, Fred Aldrich, Joel Allen, Gertrude Astor, Edward Biby, Danny Borzage, Ken Christy, Ruth Clifford, Archie R. Dalzell, Eddie Dew, Julia Faye, Al Ferguson, Gerry Ganzer

 

The quintessential movie to represent the realities, often painful, of classic Hollywood and the fleetingness of fame. Gloria Swanson’s performance as forgotten silent movie star Norma Desmond is one for the ages. You never quite know whether to be sorry for her, intimidated by her, or downright afraid of her. The tension is carefully built throughout such as the feeling of entrapment and loss of control every time another of Joe Gillis’ (William Holden) connections to his life apart from Norma is severed. While this is not a horror film, much about the basic plot and its themes is reminiscent of the writer’s plight in Stephen King’s Misery.

Seeing Hollywood behind the scenes is often fascinating for people who love the world of film, but Sunset Boulevard is truly exceptional. The lines between fantasy and reality are completely blurred due to the presence of real life players like the famous director Cecil B. DeMille and real world silent film stars such as Buster Keaton, playing themselves. I can only imagine the dramatic impact it would have had to sit in the theater in 1950 and see this Hollywood story unfold.


The Dark Horse

Year: 2014

Director: James Napier Robertson

Genre:  Biography, Drama

Cast: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Sia Trokenheim, Andrew Grainger, Xavier Horan, Roseanne Liang, Miriama McDowell, Rachel House, Wayne Hapi

 

From the burgeoning film world of New Zealand comes the best film you’ll see about high-functioning mental illness, gang life, and chess clubs for underprivileged kids. Now that may sound like damning with faint praise, but you don’t win a slew of international awards for nothing. Cliff Curtis phenomenally portrays Genesis, a man who has a brilliant mind for chess but who also takes prescription drugs to keep himself on the edge of semi-independence. Sometimes he slips off that edge ever so gradually. Other times it’s a sudden fall and he’s lost in his repetitions.

Thankfully, Genesis has an older brother Ariki (Wayne Hapi) who cares about his well-being and takes him into his home, providing him with a modicum of stability. This gives Genesis the opportunity to discover the local Eastern Knights Chess Club run by an old friend. The club is a group of ragtag, unmotivated kids, which inspires him to encourage and teach them so they can compete in the Junior National Championships. But things aren’t so great at home after all. Ariki’s son Mana (James Rolleston) has connected with chess, but Ariki is a gang member and intends to raise his son in the gang as well. The priorities of all three are challenged.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

July 15
Changeling (2008)
Opening Night (1977)

 

FILMSTRUCK

July 13
Losing Ground (1982)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

July 20
Blow-Up (1966)
Rififi (1955)
Thieves’ Highway (1949)

July 27
All the President’s Men (1976)
Ball of Fire (1941)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Rio Bravo (1959)

July 28
Night and the City (1950)

July 31
Taxi Driver (1976)


 

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Blue Valentine (2010)
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Scream 4 (2011)

 

AMAZON PRIME

Jaws (1975)
Snowden (2016)

 

FILMSTRUCK

Auntie Mame (1958)
Beyond the Hills (2012)
Moi, Un Noir (1958)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Rio Bravo (1959)

 

HULU

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017)
Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017)
The Heart of Nuba (2016)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

July 13
How It Ends—NETFLIX FILM (2018)

July 15
Going for Gold (2018)

 


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

Episode 097: Miracle

The 2018 Winter Olympics are in full swing as we get together to discuss a film about one of the greatest upsets in sports history, the United States victory over Russia in the 1980 Winter Olympics – the “Miracle on Ice.” MIRACLE is one of the most accurate biopics ever made and a highly rousing, emotional true story that inspires. We were filled with emotion during this depiction of the dream run by the USA Hockey team, and we hope you enjoy our conversation.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:21

(Aaron – Fifty Shades Freed)
(Patrick – Bernie)

Miracle Review – 0:14:56

The Connecting Point – 1:13:39

 

Contact


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes (2017)


Going In

In 1973, a tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs became the most watched televised sporting event of all time. Riggs was past his prime and in an effort to regain the lost spotlight, he claimed that even at the age of 55 he would be able to easily beat the best female tennis player. Billie Jean King (one of the women he challenged), was both extremely successful and an outspoken advocate for gender equality. This biopic starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell covers the famous match as well as the effect it had on their personal lives. I truly believe that Emma Stone can do no wrong, and in recent dramatic performances Carrell has proven to me that he is more than just a comedian. It feels like a movie year where Hollywood has embraced empowered female characters and this film should join that list. I love biopics. I love sports. And I expect that I will love Battle of the Sexes.



COMING OUT

Can we just take a moment to recognize the incredible talent of Emma Stone? Every year she seems to wow me more.  Her career has skyrocketed recently beginning with her wonderful supporting role in Birdman , then her Oscar-winning leading performance in La La Land, and now she has equaled that with her portrayal of Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. From her fiery, outspoken strength on gender equality to her passionate, awkward confusion over her feelings for a same-sex lover to her determination and physical dominance on the tennis court, Stone captures every quality of BJK perfectly. Though the eventual famous tennis match between 29-year old BJK and 55-year old Bobby Riggs may give the film its central plot, make no mistake that this is truly King’s story.

The film’s retelling of Billie Jean King’s fight for equal pay and equal rights was very insightful. In getting back to the core of what feminism truly is about, we repeatedly hear BJK expressing the strengths that women can bring to the tennis association (and in other aspects of life) without ever speaking ill of men. She fights with facts, and the comedic way in which the film displays a widespread chauvinistic response to her logical claims is uncomfortably realistic for the time. Riggs, played wonderfully by Steve Carrell, is an excellent contrast. Generally known as a hustler with major gambling problems, even BJK acknowledges at one point that his extreme chauvinism is more likely for show to help sell the spectacle of their match than truly how he feels about women. We get to explore some aspects of his home life like a broken relationship with his son, a reliance on drugs to keep his body in top shape, and a failing marriage as they lead him down the path to the main event.

But again, Battle of the Sexes is really all about King, and very little about tennis. Despite the titular match being incredibly well shot and riveting, there wasn’t much other tennis. The film focuses greatly on BJK’s exploration of a same-sex relationship resulting in a love affair that would affect her deeply.  This wistful romance, however, occurs while King is still married to her husband Larry, and this is where the film lost me. I watched closely, waiting for the moment when consequences would come, but ultimately the movie has nothing good to say about commitment in relationships, and instead promotes a message of “love who you love” without being ashamed. That’s all well and good, if you’re single, but BJK wasn’t.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)
Emma Stone
Photo Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Twentieth Century Fox
Verdict

Battle of the Sexes is a compelling and hilarious biopic that will keep viewers engaged and interested for its entire runtime. It is also a welcome history lesson and reminder that though we’ve come far in women’s rights, there are still more bridges to cross. The film’s romanticizing of King’s affair, coupled with showing no attempts at marriage reconciliation, was a real downer for me despite the beautiful way in which the relationship with her lover was depicted. Its cinematography and stellar score by Nicholas Britell  are also major positives and create a solid all-around picture. BJK was a pioneer of her time and everyone should know her story.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.