You Should Be Watching: October 25 – November 1

Back after a brief hiatus, 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.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


The Florida Project

Year: 2017

Director: Sean Baker

Genre: Drama

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Mela Murder, Caleb Landry Jones, Aiden Malik, Macon Blair, Sabina Friedman-Seitz, Karren Karagulian, Sandy Kane, Carl Bradfield, Gary B. Gross, Sonya McCarter, Josie Olivo, Rosa Medina, Perez Jasineia, Ramos Kit 

Sean Baker’s spotlight on the world of the hidden homeless, filled with shockingly authentic performances and focused specifically on the children, is conflicting to experience. It’s the joy and wonder of kids being happy-go-lucky and saying the darndest things despite being surrounded by poverty, but they’re kids who are also often heavily influenced by crass and insensitive parents who are not necessarily the best of role models, so you’ll also hear them spouting obscenities towards others that show extreme disrespect. Of course, they’re just mimicking, they rarely have ill will toward anyone.

It’s easy to be angry at the parents in this film, specifically Halley (Bria Vinaite), for her unethical behavior and horrible influence on her daughter Moonee (Brooklynn Prince). But you also can’t help but feel sad for her desperate condition and whatever history she’s had that led to her being in it. Willem Dafoe’s tremendously understated performance as the compassionate, good guy hotel manager is the emotional bridge we need to connect with these people. He’s a responsible manager, but he also cares about these people under his care.

That’s the power of this film. It’s a window into a fragile, vulnerable people who have fallen through the cracks of society. It’s an appreciation that children are resilient and can find and bring joy to hopeless circumstances. And despite law and order needing to be kept, it’s a plea for compassion over condemnation.


The Impossible


FREE WITH ADS

Year: 2012

Director: J. A. Bayona

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Marta Etura, Sönke Möhring, Geraldine Chaplin, Ploy Jindachote, Jomjaoi Sae-Limh, Johan Sundberg, Jan Roland Sundberg, La-Orng Thongruang, Tor Klathaley, Douglas Johansson, John Albasiny, Gitte Witt

This is ostensibly a typhoon disaster movie, but unlike the majority of films in that genre, this is based on a true story. And as such, director J. A. Bayona’s intention seems to be to strip away any element of fun from the watching and replace it with overwhelming shock and horror and ultimately compassion as the family we’ve just started to get to know with Ewan McGregor playing the father and Naomi Watts the mother are brutally battered and separated from one another by the rushing waters and debris.

Watching this film, you feel every bit of misery the characters carry. There’s the physical misery as in the case of the wife and mother Maria, who is constantly in danger of losing her leg or worse. There’s also the emotional anguish of her son Lucas. Played by a supremely talented young Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming), he carries the film and is its emotional center. As far as Lucas knows, his father and brother died in the typhoon, so he’s out of his mind desperate not to lose his mother too. In the midst of horror, it’s beautiful to watch him learn to take that compassion and desire and turn it outwards to try to help all the other people desperate to find their loved ones.


Certified Copy

  

Year: 2010

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Genre: Drama, Romance

Cast: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carrière, Agathe Natanson, Gianna Giachetti, Adrian Moore, Angelo Barbagallo, Andrea Laurenzi, Filippo Trojano, Manuela Balsinelli

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has an uncanny ability to weave of reality and fiction together and to challenge the viewer’s understanding of both. Watching this film feels like cinematic sleight of hand. On the surface, Certified Copy feels like an alternative version of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy, but while the latter is content to present an imitation of reality, the former thrives on manipulating our very perception of it.

English author James Miller (William Shimell) is in Tuscany touring his new book, also titled Certified Copy. While there, he encounters French antiques dealer Elle (Juliette Binoche) and they end up spending an afternoon together driving through the surrounding countryside and walking through the villages, finding themselves having deep philosophical conversations that force them to come face to face with the emotional baggage they’ve long been carrying. The deeper they go, the more they connect, the more they argue, the more intimate they become with their thoughts and feelings and emotions, the more reality becomes blurred as to what their relationship actually is to one another.

Kiarostami’s direction is brilliant, making full use of his environment, angles, props, and amazing production design to enhance the emotional beats and themes. Shimell gives a strong performance, but he is mostly stoic throughout. Binoche, on the other hand, covers a wide range of emotions, and she doesn’t hesitate to act flustered, hopeful, angry, coy, or passionate as her character is at a particularly volatile and vulnerable time in her life.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

October 27
Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

October 31
The African Queen (1951)
Amélie (2001)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Jurassic Park I-III (1993, 1997, 2001)
The Land Before Time (1988)
Oculus (2013)
The Reader (2008)

November 4
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

October 30
The Green Butchers (2003)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Mad Max (1979)
Thief (1981)

October 31
Barfly (1987)
Bull Durham (1988)
Children of Men (2006)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Fearless (2006)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Ghostbusters I & II (1984, 1989)
High Noon (1952)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Jaws (1975)
The Monster Squad (1987)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Sneakers (1992)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
United 93 (2006)
The Usual Suspects (1995)

FILMSTRUCK

October 26
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Ace in the Hole (1951)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Guys and Dolls (1955)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Stalag 17 (1953)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Tabu (2012)
What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

October 31
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

November 2
Alphaville (1965)
Army of Shadows (1969)
Bob le Flambeur (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Le Trou (1960)
Libeled Lady (1936)

November 9
The Big Sleep (1946)
Dark Passage (1947)
Dogville (2003)
Petulia (1968)
To Have and Have Not (1944)

November 16
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

HULU

October 31
13 Going on 30 (2004)
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Babe (1995)
Barfly (1987)
Bull Durham (1988)
Eight Men Out (1988)
The Elephant Man (1980)
High Noon (1952)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Point Break (1991)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
The Rock (1996)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Unbreakable (2000)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

God Knows Where I Am (2016)
The Night Comes for Us (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

12 Angry Men (1957)
Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
The Big Country (1958)
A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Devil (2010)
Donnie Darko (2001)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Man from Reno (2015)
The Proposition (2005)
A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)

FILMSTRUCK

The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Billy Budd (1962)
The Candidate (1972)
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Dracula (1958)
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

HULU

Burn (2012)
Ever After (1998)
Ghost Stories (2017)
Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)


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.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Glass Castle

How does the old saying go? You can’t choose your family? If you could, it’s hard to fathom why anyone would willingly pick the Walls family. The Glass Castle, based off the memoir of journalist Jeannette Walls, tells the story of a dysfunctional family living way below the poverty line, desperate to find a balance between survival and hope. Held afloat by powerful performances by Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) and co-writer  Andrew Lanham (The Shack) do a decent job in spotlighting  the shocking day to day experience of being a child of Rex (Harrelson) and Rose Mary Walls (Naomi Watts.) But this membership holds no privileges.

The Walls structure their parenting (use that term in the loosest possible way) philosophy around indifference and empty promises. The result is an environment suited to reckless endangerment, emotional and physical abuse, and a disinterest in pursuing any exploit that might better their lot in life. A lot of this neglect is shadowed by a delusion that everything will work out, which only serves to justify their lack of effort and responsibility.  Added to that is the drunken state Rex usually resides in, and the blissful ignorant haze that gets Rose through life. It’s a frustrating and often uncomfortable watch- one that is all too easy to judge from the sidelines- yet one that is peppered with just enough sentimental moments to play with our emotions and rage against our instincts as rational human beings.

Where The Glass Castle falls short is in its inability to push the boundaries outside the Walls’ family bubble.  Something the book does very well is focus on the societal impact of living in this level of squalor, especially on the children. They are bullied at school. There is a constant fear of social workers intervening. The images the book conjures in your mind are infinitely more graphic than what is depicted onscreen. The film brushes over a lot of that in favor of keeping within the confines of interpersonal family relationships.

Told primarily through the lens of young Jeanette, played with a wide-eyed precociousness by Ella Anderson (The Boss), all of our emotional chips are wagered on the fallout from Rex’s indiscretions and how they impact his family. Promises of one day striking it rich and building a fantastical “glass castle”, Rex manipulates Jeanette with false hope. As his children get older and more wiser to his bullshit, Rex flees deeper into his alcoholism, leading to much darker situations that are likely to leave audience members sickened with disgust. But, throughout all of the hurt and anger justifiably levied against their parents by the children, there is always an air of unconditional love lingering. That’s where a lot of people are struggling to hang their hat.

Because of the focus on Jeanette and Rex, Harrelson and Larson get the lion’s share of dramatics to handle. Harrelson is doing some of his best work here. It’s a role that seems built for his irascible style. Larson continues to prove she’s worthy of acclaim.  Even though she really only gets one “awards worthy” scene, it’s a powerful moment in which she’s able to express Jeanette’s long festering frustration with her parents, and it’s quite satisfying as a viewer that has had to watch these kids go through Hell for ninety minutes. I’d like to say the remaining characters leave an impression, but their moments simply aren’t as impactful. Watts is never given much to do other than hang around in a lot of scenes as the compliant waif to Rex’s aggressions. The other kids are there more or less because they have to be.

So the difficult question to answer is, do the filmmakers sprinkle a bit too much sugar on the film to make it more palatable? Do the arguably criminal actions of the Wall’s level of neglect warrant a mostly happy ending? Most of the critics serving negative reviews I’ve seen seem to want to die on this particular hill. The consensus is that transgressions such as these couldn’t possibly align with themes of redemption and forgiveness.  Admittedly, I’m not sure I would be able to find that level within myself, but it’s easy to say that as an outsider looking in. The book and the film seem to indicate that the power of love is strong within this hot mess of a family. Only Jeanette Walls and her three siblings get to decide whether that’s a worthy ending.

Rating: