If you’re anything like me, picking quality television shows on Netflix is a breeze. The rub lies in picking a decent movie on the streaming site.
Most films the Netflix algorithms suggest to me are either ones I’ve seen or ones I have no interest in seeing. So, I’m left to scour the Internet for lists of obscure but entertaining movies. As a service to those lists, I’ve decided to make a completely derivative and unoriginal list of my own.
Short Term 12
If you come into watching Short Term 12 thinking it’s another quirky indie movie about young-people problems with a minuscule budget, then Brie Larson’s performance, if nothing else, will make you eat your words.
Larson is at times playfully sarcastic and easy-going and at others unbelievably woeful and depressed while play Grace, a worker at a shelter for troubled teenagers. Her ability to make friends with these deeply affected teens while balancing her own tenuous relationships gives Short Term 12 a harrowing core. The problems run deeper than typical adolescent ennui; mental diseases, parental and sexual abuse and suicide all appear.
As a result, there’s a direness to the movie that makes it seems like a thriller in some parts. The reasoning behind this obviously has to do with the seriousness of the issues these teens are experiencing, but tension also arises from the bonds we build with these characters. Each one handles these issues in a different way, but each in a way we can understand. Some withdraw, others draw and paint, a few self-harm, all for the sake of coping with something unimaginable to cope with.
So keep in mind these heartbreaking issues while you watch Short Term 12. It has a heart that’s as hurt and confused as it is quirky.
This one’s a little out there.
Upstream Color starts with seemingly incongruous scenes marked by aggressive cinematography and what appears to be a soundtrack made up of William Basinski demos.
I don’t think the point is to understand what’s going on in first 30 minutes. It, for some reason, involves a combination of checkers, antique gold coins and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. Rest assured that things at least get a little more comprehensible, so sit back and enjoy the unique camera work.
As we start to get our bearings, we figure out the focus of Upstream Color; it isn’t our immediate emotional reactions to unknown and confusing situations, rather the fortuity of the mind and its intent to find equilibrium, namely through relationships. It highlights both the meaningfulness and meaninglessness of the cycle of life, rifling from plants to animals to humans and back again.
As the director, writer, composer, designer, producer and lead actor, Shane Carruth’s genius fingerprints are all over Upstream Color. It’s his editing work that just might be the most significant contribution to this project, though. His ability to patch together these scenes, a good portion of which last only a few seconds, to create a movie this compelling is astounding. And to make something this ambitious at all coherent in the end speaks to both Shane Carruth’s deft film-making touch and the subtle brilliance of Upstream Color.
Blue is the Warmest Color
In 2013, Blue is the Warmest Color received a lot of press for a lot of reasons. It won the coveted Palme d’Or and garnered critical praise, earning a lot of money because of it, considering its run time, NC-17 rating and the comparatively small market of moviegoers in France. However, word spread that director Abdellatif Kechiche apparently mistreated the crew and some of the actors with harassment and violation of labor laws. Because of the controversies, Kechiche asserted that the film should never have been released.
It’s hard to study movies with such a cloud of strife hovering around it inside a vacuum, but I insist that’s how you approach Blue is the Warmest Color. It’s a tremendous movie in the most French sense of the word.
The slow pacing, beautiful tight shots and character development rife in Blue is the Warmest Color serve as a refreshing reminder of the tenderness and storytelling of French movies that only a few of its American peers can match.
So if you’re willing to leave its sordid embroilments aside, Blue is the Warmest Color has a lot to offer. It’s a stunning realist take on the sexual awakening of a woman. Its implicit depiction on class becomes a reflection of how it affects our views on politics and social issues. Most importantly, though, it’s a quiet, three-hour long movie that reminds us how uniquely enthralling a good French film can be.