We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller, Jasper Newell, Rocky Duer, Ashley Gerasimovich, Siobhan Fallon, Alex Manette
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Synopsis: Max/badfinger20 called my attention to this movie and asked could a child be this bad or was it an exaggeration. This movie is hard to watch, both because of how the child acts out and because of how the parents (Tilda and John) respond to him. The short answer is yes a child can be that bad, but a child is a product of their environment, their genetics, and their cognitive processing. What the director showed was total ignorance of child development and of appropriate parental response. Kids pick up quickly on the mood of those around them. The mother was high-strung to begin with, and even as an infant the baby sensed it. Things started out badly between mother and child and from there went from bad – to the worst. The father was a kindly sort but he was totally oblivious to the all-out ego battle going on between his wife and child. I don’t want to give away any spoilers. The characterizations here are unidimensional, but at the same time, when people have tunnel vision they do turn themselves into caricatures. Not a pleasant movie and even depressing.
Etc. Disturbing and may be triggering for some.
The Kitchen (2019)
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, James Badge Dale, Brian d’Arcy James, Margo Martindale, Bill Camp, Annabella Sciorra, Common, Myk Watford, Jeremy Bobb, E.J. Bonilla, Wayne Duvall, Alicia Coppola, John Sharian, Tina Benko, Joey Russo, Rob Yang, Robert Neary, Brandon Uranowitz, Pamela Dunlap
Director: Andrea Berloff
Synopsis: The Kitchen here is Hell’s Kitchen and the movie is based on a comic by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle. The plot revolves around three wives of Irish gangsters in the 1970s who get busted and sent to prison. Will the wives sit around pining for their dear husbands? No. They decide to take a crack at taking their places with the gang. Nobody takes them seriously at first, but as they show their stuff, each component of the whole criminal underworld takes notice in their own ways. I like the personality combination of McCarthy, Haddish, and Moss and how they come up against people, places, and things. The supporting cast is excellent. Domhnall Gleeson is a standout (did I mention hot-as-hell standout?) as the love-smitten psycho who just got out of the pen, even though you don’t see much psycho-ness from him. I also like the non-glamorous portrayal of these two-bit hoodlum husbands of theirs. I’m sick of movies that idolize gangsters! The wives have more class than they deserve in the movie as they “turn.”
Etc. lots of killing
The Lower Depths (1957)
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Kyôko Kagawa, Ganjiro Nakamura, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Akemi Negishi, Nijiko Kiyokawa, Koji Mitsui, Eijirô Tôno, Haruo Tanaka, Eiko Miyoshi, Bokuzen Hidari
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Synopsis: I came across this one netflix disc surfing and chose it for the plot. Never did I expect it to be as magnificent as it was, even though Kurosawa as director meant it would be at least good. The Lower Depths is based on the play of the same name by Maxim Gorky. The setting was changed for the film from late 19th century Russia to Edo-period Japan. I was lucky enough to get The Criterion Collection edition, which had not only a 33-minute documentary with Kurosawa (as an old man) talking about how the set was made and some of the actors involved; I also learned that he decided to turn the serious play into a comedy. You need to know that virtually every actor in the movie was a veteran superstar Japanese actor of either film or stage, so each performance is superior. Also, many of the actors were in Kurosawa’s stable and so had acted in some or many of his other movies. The gist of the film is set as if a little mouse were watching in the corner while a ragtag group from all walks of life live their GRIM and meaningless lives in a ramshackle rental house where each space is more or less a pallet wherever one can be thrown down; yet somehow find a way to maintain a sliver of hope to go on each day. Their landlords, who live in a better house, but not much better, drop in. The austere, filthy surroundings, are shocking in the first few minutes, but by the end of the film you’ve grown accustomed to them, just as the sad characters whose descent through society to the lower depths have. Deep knowledge about human nature is the hallmark of the movie.
Etc. It would be a good movie to deconstruct. Japanese film with subtitles.
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Blinded by the Light (2019)
Starring: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Sally Phillips, Kriss Dosanjh, Jeff Mirza, Olivia Poulet
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Synopsis: Either loosely or closely based on a real life person, the story is of a Pakistani high schooler whose parents have immigrated to a small English town. The young man is torn between what his passion is, which is writing, and his traditional Pakistani parents’ wishes for him to go for a more lucrative type of career and help support the family. In steps the music of Bruce Springsteen, where the music and lyrics weave through the plot and help the young high schooler navigate all of the challenges, conflicts, and situations he travels through. It is a heart-warming story that was entertaining but also educational in that it showed traditional Pakistani beliefs and how the immigrants aren’t treated very well in England by neo-nazis; it also shows how the young people find ways to get around their Pakistani culture’s restrictions.
Etc. Likeable main character
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Starring: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Ray McKinnon, Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, JJ Feild, Christopher Darga, Rudolf Martin, Jonathan LaPaglia, Marisa Petroro, Ward Horton, Joseph Williamson, Noah Jupe, Adam Mayfield, Benjamin Rigby, Sean Carrigan, Ben Collins, Remo Girone, Darin Cooper, Corrado Invernizzi
Director: James Mangold
Synopsis: After doing a small bit of research, I learned that most everything in this movie is accurate, which makes it that much better. Bale and Damon have wonderful chemistry here as they play driver Ken Miles and retired driver Carroll Shelby, who now operates a custom car-making company. The plot revolves around Ford II, the grandson of Henry Ford making a decision to get into making race cars that can compete at the 24 hour LeMans race in France, which has been won forever by the Ferrari family race car business. Where some of the characters come off as predictable azzholes and/or buffoons (are the two mutually exclusive?), the real show focuses on Miles and Shelby. Miles’ wife and son have substantial screen time, which humanizes the script. There are a lot of scenes of racecars speeding around and also other very cool-looking cars from the mid-1960 era. The movie has impeccable timing!
Etc. Steve McQueen gave his heart and soul to making the movie, Le Mans way back when and was not happy with it. I think Steve would have loved this movie, as it has a certain level of admirable integrity about it that he would have enjoyed.