Hi everybody. I just wanted to post a quick list of a few films I enjoy that really got my gears grinding, movies that I don't think many people have seen or even heard of. Just in case you're in the mood to watch something cerebral but aren't sure what!
Six O'Clock News (1996)
directed by Ross McElwee
Technically this was an episode of "Frontline" but I'm still including it here as a stand-alone documentary because it feels entirely like one. The Wikipedia page for this movie is extremely sparse and the IMDB description doesn't do this film justice at all. I first saw this movie when I was taking a few film courses and it blew me away--more, it really gave me something to think about. An intimate examination on our obsession with television, more specifically the news. And what happens to the folks featured on the news after the cameras stop rolling. There's so much more that this film has to say, though, about parenting and life and the afterlife.
directed by Ron Fricke
The first time I saw this movie, I could not believe some of the things they were showing me were real. Like, actual places on planet Earth. Samsara is an odd breed of film, a travel documentary that takes you across the globe, to some of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet and some of the most interesting and beautiful people. It will show you humanity and nature in a light you've never seen it in before. After viewing this film I always have a sense of extreme wanderlust. The camera work and scoring in this film truly are impeccable, but it's more than pretty images. Visual juxtaposition plays a huge role in the film and although there is no dialogue or direct narrative, Samsara indeed tells a broad story of birth, growth, death, and rebirth--the cycle. It's what the word samsara means, the continuous flow of life. If you've seen Samsara and enjoyed it, two other films by Ron Fricke are of the same nature: Baraka (1992) and Koyaanisqatsi (1982).
The Before trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013)
directed by Richard Linklater
The Before trilogy is more well-known than the other films on this list, but I'm always amazed at how many people I meet who have never seen, never even heard of these beautiful and engrossing films. Describing these movies is tough, and it's tough to get people to watch them--all it is really, are two people talking. An ongoing conversation through some of the most beautiful spots in Europe. Make no mistake, though--you will be clinging to every word. But it is so much more than that. While the dialogue is entirely engaging, what unfolds throughout these three modest films is the most realistic and passionate on-screen romance that I've ever seen in my life. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke give extremely memorable and relatable performances for the ages, even garnering writing credit of their character's dialogue in two of the three films. These films are beautiful meditations on the way we perceive time (a subject Linklater seems to be obsessed with), how relationships change over that time (each film was done 9 years apart from each other), and both men and women's roles in the modern relationship. Perfection.
The Interrupters (2011)
directed by Steve James
Hoop Dreams (1994) is one of my favorite documentaries of all-time, and Steve James delivers another intimate and harrowing tale of a year of Chicago's inner-city violence with The Interrupters. You always hear about violence in cities like Chicago but besides a random article or story on the news I really had no concept of what that world was really like. The Interrupters gives you a perspective into the world of three 'Violence Interrupters' in the city of Chicago as they deal with the at-risk youth and try to protect their communities. Heartbreaking and hopeful. And this one is on Netflix, people!
The Sunset Limited (2011)
directed by Tommy Lee Jones
This film is based on a play written by the brilliant Cormac McCarthy. This movie is a high-stakes philosophical argument between a religious former convict and a suicidal atheist professor. Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones give fantastic performances here, as is basically required to make this a truly convincing and compelling film. Similarly to the Before trilogy that I've already listed, The Sunset Limited is a conversation, one on god and life and death and the meaning of it all. A conversation that you will be engaged in from start to finish, in large part due to McCarthy's incredibly convincing dialogue and also by the performances. If you have HBO GO, you can watch it directly from there.