You Should Be Watching: September 21-26

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


Ben-Hur

 — Expires Sept. 28

Year: 1959

Director: William Wyler

Genre: Adventure, Drama, History

Cast: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell, Frank Thring, Sam Jaffe, Ady Berber, Finlay Currie, André Morell, Terence Longdon, Lando Buzzanca, Giuliano Gemma, Marina Berti, Robert Brown, Liana Del Balzo, Enzo Fiermonte

With 11 Academy Awards won–a record yet to be surpassed–, a career-defining performance by the dynamic, self-assured Charlton Heston as the titular Judah Ben-Hur, and the largest budget and most elaborate sets of its time, William Wyler’s Ben-Hur is a monumental achievement and the very definition of Hollywood epic. Everything about it is huge, from the 10,000 extras to the centerpiece chariot race, to the 3 1/2-hour runtime to Miklós Rózsa’s majestic score. Adapted from the 1880 Lew Wallace novel and a remake of the 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur is in the vein of the classic BIble epics, even interacts with events in the Biblical narrative, but remains its own story.

Judah is an early first century Jewish nobleman living in Jerusalem who is knowingly and wrongfully accused of attempted murder by his once childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd). Now a Roman commander, Messala shows himself willing to destroy the life of a family he once held dear all for the sake of Rome’s glory. The betrayed Judah will have to endure intense undeserved hardship and face his desire for revenge as he struggles to get back what he lost and encounters one who was more deserving of revenge than anyone who has ever lived.


We Need to Talk About Kevin

      

Year: 2011

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rock Duer, Ashley Gerasimovich, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Alex Manette, Kenneth Franklin, Leslie Lyles, Paul Diomede, Michael Campbell, J. Mallory McCree, Mark Elliot, Wilson, James Chen, Lauren Fox, Blake DeLong, Andy Gershenzon

This is a dismal but important film by a director who has made a career of such films, Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here)The story centers on the lives of Franklin and Eva Khatchadourian (John C. Reilly and Tilda Swinton) and their troubled son Kevin. All three actors who play Kevin at his different ages–Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, and Ezra Miller–display such smug, manipulative attitudes it is downright scary. Franklin acts as a cautionary figure. He is easily manipulated by Kevin, receiving all of his love and affection, and refuses to listen to his wife and look deeper, causing his relationship with Eva to fracture. Eva falls into misery and isolation because her child has a clear predilection towards rebellion, manipulation, and downright evil from the time he was born.

The narrative jumps around the timeline of their lives, but a painful sense of dread hangs throughout as Kevin’s true nature becomes increasingly difficult to ignore as well as the knowledge that there are many Kevins in the real world. But by God’s grace, any one of us could be a Kevin or have a child like him.


The Third Man

Year: 1949

Director: Carol Reed

Genre: Film-noir, Mystery, Thriller

Cast: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee, Paul Hörbiger, Ernst Deutsch, Siegfried Breuer, Erich Ponto, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Hedwig Bleibtreu, Alexis Chesnakov, Thomas Gallagher, Herbert Halbik, Hannah Norbert, Eric Pohlmann, Carol Reed, Annie Rosar, Frederick Schrecker, Hugo Schuster, Karel Stepanek, Brother Theodore, Jenny Werner

Voted the greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute in 1999, the Third Man is a film-noir like no other. It starts out as a merely an intriguing murder mystery where a writer named Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) has arrived in Vienna at the invitation of his childhood friend Harry Lime only to find out he has died, but it becomes something else entirely as the story, written by Graham Greene, develops.

With the genre already being rooted in German expressionism, director Carol Reed takes the idea and runs with it, creating one of the most distinctive combinations of sight and sound on film. From the outset, the energy and tension of the film is established through Anton Karas‘ musical score, consisting of a single instrument, the zither. Reed uses Dutch angles galore that perfectly enhance the off-kilter tone of mystery and the post war environment itself without ever coming across as pretentious. And Robert Krasker’s Academy Award winning stark black and white cinematography sets a deep contrast between shadow and light to further accent the mood. Not only is the film set in post WWII Vienna, which becomes a character itself, but many of the Austrians speak German, which is often left unsubtitled, putting the audience in the same state of confusion as Holly as he tries to work out the mystery of Harry Lime.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

September 22
Trollhunter (2010)

September 25
The Assassin (2015)

September 27
The Imitation Game (2014)

September 29
The Commitments (1991)

September 30
The Departed (2006)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Rust and Bone (2012)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Menace II Society (1993)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Inside Man (2006)
The Lost Boys (1987)

AMAZON PRIME

September 23
Shutter Island (2010)

September 29
Carrie (1976)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Miami Blues (1990)
Spaceballs (1987)
Stargate (1994)

September 30
American Psycho (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Babel (2006)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
The Crow (1994)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Graduate (1967)
Hoosiers (1986)
Insomnia (2002)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
V for Vendetta (2005)
Witness (1985)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

October 1
Raging Bull (1980)

October 3
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

FILMSTRUCK

September 21
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)
Mean Streets (1973)
Night Moves (1975)

September 28
Accattone (1961)
Being There (1979)
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)
Ben-Hur (1959)
The Breaking Point (1950)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
East of Eden (1955)
The Gospel According to Matthew (1964)
JFK (1991)
Kes (1969)
Local Hero (1983)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
The Pianist (2002)
Rain Man (1988)
The Right Stuff (1983)
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Teorema (1968)
Winter Soldier (1972)

October 5
White Heat (1949)
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The Narrow Margin (1952)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Gigi (1958)

October 12
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

HULU

September 30
American Psycho (2000)
Angel Heart (1987)
Babel (2006)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bound (1996)
The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Hoosiers (1986)
The Ladies Man (1961)
Miami Blues (1990)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
The Rock (1996)
Sleepers (1996)
Spaceballs (1987)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Witness (1985)


JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

The Endless (2017)
Role Models (2008)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
The Third Man (1949)
The Witch (2015)

AMAZON PRIME

Angels Wear White (2017)
The Big Combo (1955)
Blow Out (1981)
Charade (1963)
The Conformist (1970)
Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Kansas City Confidential (1952)
Locke (2013)
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)
Western (2017)
Wild Bill (2011)
Woman on the Run (1950)
Zombie (1979)

FILMSTRUCK

Ball of Fire (1941)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Full Moon in Paris (1984)
Wuthering Heights (1939)

HULU

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The Queen (2006)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

September 21
Nappily Ever After–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

September 25
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

AMAZON PRIME

September 21
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)

HULU

September 21
My Little Pony: The Movie (2017)

September 24
Iris (2001)


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: Isle of Dogs

ISLE OF DOGS (2018)

GOING IN

Wes Anderson is known for his colorful, whimsical style of filmmaking, which has earned him legions of devoted fans. His films are almost always beautiful and can be seen as period pieces, since none of them have ever taken place in the present. Thus far, I’ve only found one of his films to be spectacular, and that is Fantastic Mr. Fox. I do feel that should I revisit his films, I might discover myself enjoying them more because my tastes have changed quite a bit in the past few years and I now highly value the kind of technical precision Anderson employs. What I know about Isle of Dogs: it has unique, gorgeous stop-motion animation, is set in a dystopian sci-fi future, has talking dogs, and revolves around a boy trying to find his lost pet. Consider me highly intrigued.

1 Hour and 41 Minutes Later.

COMING OUT

“Who are we? And who do we want to be?”

These questions, posed by a dog, to other dogs, are the kind of existential nuggets slid into most Anderson films. Here, there is something particularly powerful about them coming from an animated talking pet, as it really drives home the awareness these dogs exhibit throughout the film. Never does Anderson allow us to lose perspective – a dog is an animal and they act accordingly – but this additional layer of thoughtfulness gives them profound human depth, making it all the easier to emotionally resonate with how they feel. It also encourages us to ask the same of ourselves…

At its heart, Isle of Dogs in an adventure story. The film opens with historical background on the Japanese Kobayashi Dynasty (cat lovers) and tells of how dogs once were nearly wiped from the earth, overtaken by cats, but saved by a young samurai boy. Time passes and dogs become the loving pets we know of today, but then mysterious illnesses such as the Dog Flu and Snout Fever begin to appear and spread rapidly amongst the canine population in Megasaki City. Mayor Kobayashi (Kunchi Nomura) decrees that all dogs will be banished to Trash Island in an effort to supposedly keep the city healthy, but of course the feline-loving empire has other reasons as well.

The first dog to be banished is the guard dog Spots (Liev Schreiber), who was assigned to protect Mayor Kobayashi’s young nephew, Atari (Koyu Rankin). This sets in motion the primary story events, which revolve around Atari venturing to Trash Island to find his beloved dog, and instead coming across a pack led by Chief (Bryan Cranston), that also includes Rex (Edward Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and King (Bob Balaban). As this adventure progresses, Atari and the pack begin to bond, and much is explored about the relationship between man and man’s best friend. Atari never speaks English (and there are no subtitles), but it’s always perfectly clear what he is trying to say. Meanwhile the dogs speak in typical Wes Anderson style, with a dry wit about them, providing most of the movie’s adorable humor. Anderson’s minimalist screenplay really allows the incredible animation and fantastic score to be equally provocative, too. Characters eyes fill with tears on multiple occasions and the sight of it alone is enough to send most viewers reaching for the Kleenex. It’s unsurprising, of course, seeing as how Anderson is known for such detailed work, but at the same time the animation is so mesmerizing that it almost becomes entrancing. There is a style and uniqueness here that not only shows great skill, but really elevates the emotion of the story.

This coming-of-age tale for both boy and dog is also chock full of subtle political and social issues. In a sense the Mayor is deporting an entire race that he seems to hate for no real reason at all, other than he prefers another one. Most of these issues are brought up by Duke in the form of him telling the gang about rumors he’s heard, so while they are effective and can get adults thinking, they’re also woven seamlessly into the narrative in a humorous way. There’s also Tracy (Greta Gerwig), a foreign exchange student who believes a major conspiracy is afoot and is determined to find the truth about Mayor Kobayashi’s actions. Her dedicated efforts may be played for laughs, but she serves as a great character example of what it’s like when someone tries to fight the establishment and challenge what they consider to be poor (or downright evil) leadership.

Isle of Dogs may look and sound like a fun adventure story for kids, but there is some death and there are more complex themes covered. The issues of identity touched on earlier, and how to handle changing responsibilities, are key parts of this story and may go over the head of younger viewers, but they likely will be so enamored with the sweetness of the relationship between the dogs and Atari that they’ll still enjoy it just fine. There are also broken family issues (sometimes between species), as is almost always the case with Wes Anderson films. So, for those who look deeper, Anderson has given plenty to chew on while watching and long afterward.

It’s also important to note the amazing score by Alexandre Desplat. Fresh off winning an Academy Award for his won in The Shape of Water, he once again proves to be a force. Anchored by a traditional Japanese drum-baseline, the music will have you tapping your fingers and whistling all the way home. When Anderson decided to set this story in Japan he smartly brought on writer Kunichi Nomura to help ensure he referenced the culture appropriately, and Desplat’s score seems to fall right in line.

VERDICT

Isle of Dogs is a richly imaginative film, highlighted by playfulness and emotional depth that anyone who owns a dog will easily connect with. It’s drenched in Anderson’s typical style, that is to say technically marvelous, and its brilliant marriage of sly humor, sincerity, and beautiful animation make this an adventure well worth embarking on. It also made this lifelong cat owner want a dog. Well played, Mr. Anderson.

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.