by Bill Olkowski
We have a long list of previous great movies – mostly comedies, but I can’t find it right now. But since Helga got part of her vision back about 6-8 months ago, we have started to again screen movies for hours on any one day.
There is no life without theater. But it has to be compelling and funny. Most of what we have selected to look at on Netflix (regular and instant) does not make it past 15 minutes. And to even start looking we have already screened out 80-95 percent of what is available.
We select mostly from comedies, British movies and actors, dramas that are not dark or about the break up of marriages or other catastrophes, including people dying. Its not reality we seek, we have too much already. We see lots of nature films, and a series or two made for TV (but no laugh tracks, which we find insulting). And all the war documentaries, I have already seen or don’t wish to visit again, we skip. We skip all political movies, fantasy or reality. We are now on virtually a permanent vacation from the news. We search for realistic fantasy for adults that has depictions of transformation, growth (significant), love in all its manifestations, great photography, good stories, well done with great actors. No animation stories, no ghosts, etc., no junk science, or science fiction, no robots, aliens or monsters, human or otherwise.
Why are the studio types persisting in using death and dying as a feature or theme? Are we so bereft of grief counseling that we need to relive someone else’s tragedies. It’s a cheap device to illicit emotions, add that to your disgust list about current films. So what follows is a recent, sanitized list. The one movie that stands out even in such a highly selected group is Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works”. It’s the best thing he has done, even better than “Deconstructing Harry”. This includes his recent movie: “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, which is fun but not full of fun, like “Whatever Works”, which also has a strong social-political-psychological conclusion.
But subjectivism (is that a new word?), is widespread among one’s friends and never more so than in relation to movies. So here is the latest top 10 (or so): How many do you agree with as being good? How many can you add?
- I’ll Take You There – girl gets guy, or vice versa, seemed wild at first then cleared up and finally concluded with an “aha”. I would select the girl who would take a bullet for me, wouldn’t you? Forget the other(s). Or is it really the other way round and one can watch how it is done.
- The Golden Boys – the acting makes the story run and run, a beauty. So that’s the way David Carridine and Rip Torn aged. It’s easier on the men, at least on the exterior. I didn’t see Mariel Hemingway beneath her glasses and outfit at first, but after a few scenes she shines out. Retired sea captains want a wife, so they advertise and Mariel shows up, wow!!! Will she select the right one? Why? I like it when the romantic plot tells why the couples like each other, and stop pretending it’s so mysterious, its not all pheromones.
- Groundhog Day – still gets us after seeing it many many times. The best thing Bill Murray has ever done. Never see Andie McDowell anymore, what happened?
- Humboldt County – a male transformational drama, set in the context of raising MJ for profit or livelihood, that is the question. The kid says it succinctly, “its better than beer”). But alas the federales come when the growing place is beyond enough for a year for a family. The sad thing is that MJ is illegal. It’s the temperance movement repeated, leading to armed criminals and police conflict.
- Gosford Park – Another repeat from our earlier list, but as a story and period recreation a great one. The British class structure is there, as is the sorry place of female servitude in both upper and lower classes. Another Altman gem.
- Dean Spanley – a weird story told well, but touching non-the-less, with good actors, but based on truly a theatrical device, or on an unrealized and undeveloped human ability?
- Outsourced – a cross-cultural bit (India-US, corporate world), but strong, and a love story.
- Who am I This Time? – a sweet sweet story with two great actors, the young Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon. And fun too. Just saw it.
- The Extra Man – unusual lifestyles all interesting. Watching Kevin Klein’s antics is always worth the view.
- Passions All Spent – an adult movie without any pornography. For the older set. Finally, a real story with some passion for life’s true moments.
- Lovely Still – a tearjerker we stumbled into and it held our attention. But watch out.
- Trixie – one long series of malaprops, in which Emily Watson tries to use, with expected results, all the fun over a murder mystery and unrequited love story. Emily is the private eye. Listen carefully and the malaprops start right at the beginning.
- Great documentary: Engineering Rome, first disc shows how the Roman army crossed the Danube by building a wooden bridge from locally timbered logs, in something like five days, then after a brief romp in German territory, crosses over and pulls the bridge down. A clear demonstration of power, without loosing a single soldier.
- Series: Downton Abbey is a Brit-recreation of the way it was, always great stuff. Nothing still beats the Gilmore Girls, by the way.
- Great Nature Series – all narrated by David Attenborough, are the best, but there are many (see also Planet Earth). The skeletal and muscular animations of animals in action are wonderful new additions to the naturalist toolkit, as are night vision cameras, and light weight aerial camera work. The worldviews of different ecosystems and special wildlife are terrific, but alas no decent discussion of what natural controls and the balance of nature really mean. The documentary “Evolution” disc 1 is a historical recreation mix with commentary, an unusual way to present a story. The “Journey of Man” tells the recent human evolution story based on sciences of genetics, anthropology and archeology, a must see.
- Colombo – never saw it before but found the 7-season series light fun. Motive, Means and Opportunity are the keys to all the stories.
- Bogie – as a documentary and historical recreation is marvelous, but too bad he had to die of smoking. Lot’s I did not know about his wife. The only other biopic, that is better, is Chaplin, with a virtuoso performance by Robert Downey.
- We started Ken Burns’ series on the West but gave up half way. The reoccurring theme of how we fucked over the native populations makes me sick to be a human and a US citizen. How can one cover up the tragedies with bullshit. We don’t criticize Ken Burns at all, after all he is telling the truth. It’s just us.
- Also, The Human Family Tree.