Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stale movie reviews (or: don't ask too much of me in February).

I've been noting how long this blog had sat untouched. The world is doubtless a better place without my binary babble, but I can't help but feel that the blog feels neglected. (Yes, I assign consciousness to my blog and I talk to my cat.)

However, I'm sick and my brain's in a fog and writing something new would surely cause cranial combustion. So I'm posting this short collection of movie/TV reviews that I wrote two Decembers ago. The shows are fourteen months older now than they were then, but I love them just as much.* There, little blog. I hope you feel loved.


[Written December 2008]

Yeah, yeah, I know. You've got a list of must-read books and must-finish chores and must-eat vegetables and must-run marathons a mile (26 miles?) long and you really don't have time to hear How Fantastic my latest cinematic discoveries are. So just stop reading, Dude. No one's forcing you.

1) PBS! (Yes! I'm a dork!) Two recent science shows on PBS have rocked my world, and if you check your local listings you might be able to find one or both of them in an encore presentation. One was a National Geographic special on stress, and the other was a Nova special on the epigenome. Just when you thought you knew how you were supposed to navigate the universe, public television comes along and plays merry hell with your equilibrium. I love it.

2) An Inconvenient Truth. Yes, I know I'm the second-to-last person on the planet to see this one, and after winning the Nobel Prize, does Mr. Gore really need an obscure Utah blogger to give him one more thumbs-up? But just in case you happen to be that very last person on the planet who's not yet seen it, you should. Even though we all seem to be coming to acknowledge the changes in the winds and what they mean, the movie explains things more clearly and coherently than I'd heard before. Even if you're already converted, see it for the handy factoids that will help you convert others. (Warning: be sure to walk or bike or mass-transit to the video store to decrease your post-movie self loathing.)

3) The Business of Being Born. Thank you, Netflix. This is Ricky Lake's labor (!) of love, an attempt to chip away at the modern American mindset toward childbirth that is robbing families of real choices and the best outcomes for mothers and babies. I watched this one two-and-a-half times before sending it back. Short path to my verdict: Fair-minded, yet passionate about its message. Moving and intimate, had me in tears several times. And it includes clips from one of my favorite Monty Python bits, so how can you go wrong? (Dudes weren't just funny -- they were truthtellers.) I think all potential parents should see the film. It's very good. I like it. Long, incoherent, tangential path to my verdict: Don't click here -- you'll regret it!

4) Almost Strangers. A BBC miniseries written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff. I have a longtime obsession with his earlier offering, Shooting the Past, and more recently learned about this one (thanks for the tip, Sharon!) Like Shooting the Past, I don't recommend it to just anyone. Poliakoff is obsessed with storylines that ferret out the tiny, lost dramas in the lives of everyday people's everyday ancestors, so if you've got any degree of genealogy-itis, you will love both of these films as I do. If not -- probably a three-hour yawn fest. I, for one, have decided that Poliakoff must be my long-lost bastard Jewish uncle and I'm off to England to hunt him down and give him a hug.

5) The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Everybody gushed: soooo goooood. But for a long time I couldn't get past the premise -- movie filmed from the viewpoint of a completely paralyzed man who can only blink his eyes. I'm fairly claustrophobic and this sounded like a feature-length panic attack in the making. But still they gushed, so I caved and moved it to the top of my Netflix queue. Now I have joined the gush -- loved it. The film does let you feel the claustrophobia pressing down on your lungs for a good while. And it lets you feel the despair and the anger and the regret, but it gradually gives way to imagination and humor and humanity and even a little redemption. Bless Jean-Do Bubeque for mustering enough hope to blink out his story letter by letter so that we can witness the remarkable journey he made while trapped inside his leaden body. Plenty of tears, but all of them earned.

* I decided to not post them at the time because of the childbirth movie review, which I thought might be a painful read for someone close to me, who had just survived an unnecessarily traumatic hospital birth with an oafish and irresponsible doctor (whose car tires I have slashed dozens of times in my fantasy world). But she's finally close to healed, so I hope she won't mind.....