You Should Be Watching: June 7-13

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 recommending Baz Lurhmann’s charming directorial debut, an electric and moving exploration of the tempting and destructive power of greed set amidst the housing crisis, and a classic film full of high-stakes tension. There are also a whole bunch of great titles that arrived on streaming platforms this past week and several leaving as well.

 


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Strictly Ballroom

Year: 1992

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Cast: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, Barry Otto, John Hannan, Sonia Kruger, Kris McQuade, Pip Mushin, Antonio Vargas, Armonia Benedito, Lauren Hewett, Steve Grace, Paul Bertram, Todd McKenney, Kerry Shrimpton

Pretty much all Baz Luhrmann films share similar traits. They’re stylish, full of energy, from the editing to the music, and more than a little quirky. As Lurhmann’s endearing directorial debut, Strictly Ballroom offers all that and more wrapped up in an infectious package. It contains many poignant moments of humor and wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s also genre defying in the best way, essentially a romantic sports dramedy with a touch of mockumentary with the setting being a ballroom dancing competition.

The plot is your basic boy meets frumpy, overlooked girl who turns out to have hidden talent and a protective family and isn’t so frumpy after all, but it’s the characters, the relationships, the humor, and the choreography, and the family dynamics and history that make this movie extra special. Paul Mercurio as Scott Hastings is full of charisma and passion. He just wants to dance his heart out and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, making him easy to root ford. He has wonderful chemistry with Tara Morice who plays Fran his would-be new partner after his last one left him, and it’s a sheer joy watching them dance together. There’s a lot more to Fran than meets the eye. The scene where Scott meets her family is a key turning point in the film as is him learning his parents’ past. There’s a little something here for everyone, so I would highly recommend it to pretty much everyone.


 

99 Homes

Year: 2014

Director: Ramin Bahrani

Genre: Drama

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, Michael Shannon, Tim Guinee, J.D. Evermore, Noah Lomax, Clancy Brown, Nicole Barré, Cullen Moss, Wayne Pére, Judd Lormand, Gretchen Koerner, Yvonne Landry, Donna DuPlantier, Jordyn McDempsey, Gus Rhodes, John L. Armijo, Jayson Warner Smith, Ann Mahoney, Juan Gaspard, Nadiyah Skyy Taylor, Deneen Tyler, David Maldonado, Cynthia Santiago, Joni Bovill, Carl Palmer, Albert C. Bates, Tom Bui, Manu Narayan

 

In the vein of Wall Street comes this incredibly depressing yet extremely satisfying film that shows the tempting yet destructive power of greed and incremental moral compromise. Michael Shannon is scary good as Rick Carver, a ruthless and charismatic real estate broker, who will do whatever it takes to make as much money as he can, no matter who he hurts in the process. This includes him taking on an unlikely employee and ultimate partner whom he will have leverage over.

This man is Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father who along with his son and mother have been evicted from their home by this same Rick Carver. He’s desperate for an opportunity to earn the money necessary to get their home back, but desperation makes one forget about consequences to his actions. Garfield shows great range as he goes on this journey from one side of the evictions to the other, finding himself increasingly helpless to his greed, his lies, and Carver’s silver-tongued influence, leading him step-by-step down his moral decline. It’s a powerful lesson on how we rationalize sin and temptation.


 

The Wages of Fear

  

Year: 1953

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck, Folco Lulli, Véra Clouzot, Antonio Centa, Luis De Lima, Jo Dest, Darío Moreno, William Tubbs, Grégoire Gromoff, Joseph Palau-Fabre, Darling Légitimus, François Valorbe

 

With The Wages of Fear, Henri-Georges Clouzot created one of the most heightened and sustained exercises in tension found in classic cinema. Due to an oil field fire and no time for proper equipment, two pairs of desperate men, of which Mario (Yves Montand) and Jo (Charles Vanel) receive primary focus, are contracted to drive trucks full of extremely volatile nitroglycerine 300 miles across horrendous terrain and obstacles. And it is not tension for tension’s sake. The film exists as a cry of frustration towards the miserable and oppressive conditions encouraged by corporate imperialism and the unavoidable consequences of the resulting desperation.

To make the tension of the journey meaningful, Clouzot first establishes the hopelessness of the characters and their internal tensions caused by a sort of love triangle. He takes his time establishing the setting, an isolated town of poverty and sweltering heat in southern Mexico that’s surrounded by desert, and the pitiful lives of its inhabitants. The only way out is by airplane, but that takes money, and the town is all but controlled by the oppressive and manipulative company that owns the nearby oil fields and keeps jobs hard to come by. The friction that builds between the men who become drivers only add to the stress and fear that a truck could explode at any time, which takes toll after toll.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

June 9
Omar (2013)

June 11
Kano (2014)

June 15
Super (2010)

June 18
Theeb (2014)

June 24
Captain America: Civil War (2016)

June 29
On Golden Pond (1981)

 

AMAZON PRIME

June 7
Remember (2015)

June 9
Rosewater (2014)

June 15
Anomalisa (2015)

 

FILMSTRUCK

June 8
Christopher Guest:

Best in Show (2000)
Waiting for Guffman (1996)

Elia Kazan:

On the Waterfront (1954)
A Face in the Crowd (1957)

June 15
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Metropolis (1927)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Wag the Dog (1997)

June 22
An American in Paris (1951)
The Piano (1993)

June 30
Caliber 9 (1972)
It Happened One Night (1934)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Bad Genius (2017)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
The Departed (2006)
The King’s Speech (2010)
Miracle (2004)
National Treasure (2004)
Outside In (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

 

AMAZON PRIME

The Age of Innocence (1993)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)
Breakdown (1997)
The ’Burbs (1989)
The Disaster Artist (2017)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Lady Bird (2017)
The Natural (1984)
The Running Man (1987)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Stargate (1994)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Wonder Wheel — AMAZON ORIGINAL MOVIE (2017)

 

HULU

Apollo 13 (1995)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Bull Durham (1988)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
The Green Mile (1999)
Hellboy (2004)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Margin Call (2011)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
The Running Man (1987)
Stargate (1994)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)


 

COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

June 8
Ali’s Wedding – NETFLIX FILM (2017)

June 14
Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

 


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

 

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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.

Episode 063: Field of Dreams

Father’s Day and baseball go together like Heaven and Iowa. For this episode we are joined by Don Shanahan to talk about one of the best baseball films ever made. Field of Dreams is unique and packs quite the emotional punch, while never letting us forget our own love of the game. It’s the perfect film to celebrate on this day all about Dads.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:56

(Aaron – The Life of David Gale)
(Patrick – World of Dance)
(Don – The Book of Henry)

Field of Dreams Review – 0:20:33

The Connecting Point – 1:10:22

Contact

Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download this Episode 


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!