If anyone is still out there, my apologies for not keeping up on my reviews. I have been seeing movies (my life blood) and living at the Loft Cinema, but my writing has consisted of composing cover letters for my job search. But it is that time of year that beckons me to write my most inspiring films list - and I couldn't resist!
(Note: this is not a complete list by any means. I am not including the big epic motion pictures, "Anna Karenina," "The Hobbit," and, "Les Miserables." The trailers for, "Amour," "The Impossible," and the documentary, "Chasing Ice," look pretty inspiring, but I haven't seen them yet.)
10) "The Bicycle Thief" While in search of his "stolen" bike, a boy discovers that his father has abandoned him. The hard reality sets in - not all parents do what is best for their kids. This movie deals honestly with how that neglect affects a child and causes them to make bad decisions. And yet one understanding, committed adult can make a difference - even if they can't solve all the problems.
9) A twenty-something novelist with writers' block creates the perfect girlfriend in, "Ruby Sparks." Sure, it's reminiscent of, "Stranger than Fiction," but the love story actually works better here. What makes it stand out is how truthful the characters' relationship seems. There's one fight that sounded just like me and my ex-boyfriend. Ruby's reactions to this situation are so original and yet some how they don't seem contrived. They seem as real as she is. As a writer myself, the idea of a character coming to life for the author doesn't seem that far fetched. But what really inspired me was the theme that we "literally" (hehe) create our own world.
8) "The Sessions" is the story of a man in an iron lung (with the soul of a poet) who enlists the help of a professional sex surrogate to lose his virginity. I've heard nothing but good things about this festival crowd-pleaser. (Come to think of it, they were all men and Helen Hunt's naked body certainly would inspire more than just the main character.) Just the idea of a priest encouraging this arrangement and hearing the intimate details at confession is entertaining. And John Hawkes' self-deprecating portrayal makes it easy to believe that women could fall for him. If that doesn't give you hope, what will? One of the best feel good movies of the year.
7) I didn't expect to have half as much fun as I did at the off-kilter biopic, "Hitchcock." Director Sacha Gervasi sets the tone from the opening scene with Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopklins) outrageous, tongue-in-cheek humor. Like some of Hitchcock's later works, the genre is hard to classify. The synopsis refers to it as a love story between Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, (the flawless Helen Mirren) during the making of "Psycho." But what would a movie about Hitchcock be without hints of suspense and other fiendish delights. I found the details of Hitchcock's unorthodox directing style especially alluring.
6) In, "Moonrise Kingdom," a misfit scout escapes an absurdly corny New England camp to run away with his girlfriend – another troubled foster child. Hilarity ensues as they are pursued by a troop of weapon-wielding boy scouts and clueless adults. By making this delinquent adolescent couple sympathetic, director Wes Anderson finally delivers a film, in his definitive quirky style, that is accessible to movie audiences and highly entertaining.
5) As an aspiring filmmaker, I couldn't resist, "Argo," the story of a CIA-Canadian who used the guise of making a sci-fi flick in Iran to get to the embassy employees trapped there during the hostage crisis. Sounds like a Hollywood plot device, but it really happened! The real power of film lies in it's ability to educate and create understanding while entertaining. "Argo" succeeds on that level by sharing important insights into what motivated the crisis.
4) In, "The Other Son," two young men – one Israeli and the other Palestinian – discover that they were accidentally switched at birth during a raid in the Gulf War. This film transcends the usual melodramatic movie of the week by incorporating authentic Palestinian and Israeli attitudes and culture. The young men question their identities. Are they Jewish or Palestinian? What makes you Jewish? Can a sworn enemy be accepted as a member of the family? Will they find that they have more similarities than differences?
3) I generally don't include big Hollywood epics, (Spielberg doesn't need my help anyway...) but, "Lincoln," is such an important movie. While dealing with a wife battling debilitating grief and the burden of the Civil War, Lincoln fights tirelessly to pass a law that will abolish slavery and hopefully end the war. This was not a popular cause. He even had opposition from his own party. But he did it because it was the right thing to do. Today's politicians could learn something about moral courage from this man. In addition to the timely theme, I enjoyed being transported back to the Civil War Era through authentic costumes and set design. I found the back-story about the first lady and Sally Field (as Mary Todd Lincoln) absolutely compelling. Daniel Day Lewis refrains from chewing the furniture (which I usually enjoy) to give us a subtle, lived in performance of the determined and often witty Lincoln.
2) One film on my list isn't a film at all - but a play. I've included the National Theater Live production of, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," because it was one of the most moving big screen experiences I had this year. In director Marian Elliot's hands, Simon Stephen's stellar adaptation of Mark Haddon's award-winning novel is theatrical in the best sense of the word. We get a glimpse of the inner life of a teenage boy with high functioning autism. Christopher (Luke Treadaway in a devastatingly real performance) sees the world in terms of mathematical equations and must brave the terrifying world outside his home to investigate the death of the neighbor's dog that he has been accused of killing. Through his search, we come to a better understanding and acceptance of this courageous young man.
1) My favorite film of the year was the documentary, "Searching for Sugarman." A South African music critic sets out to find out what happened to the obscure American rock musician who became the voice of Apartheid. His compelling search leads him to rumors that this eccentric rock poet (who had the promise to be the next Dylan) had shot himself on stage after vanishing into obscurity at the failure of his first visionary album. I found it so inspiring that if you follow your calling – it can have a far reaching impact beyond your own awareness. Should have gone home and written a review, but I was inspired to write lyrics for a song!