cinematic relics of the ’90s

It’s been a while, but I have returned. (I think that’s what bloggers always say when they come back from hiatus and want to reclaim their place in the blogosphere- just following suit).

Despite Netflix’s policy change that only allows one viewer to instantly watch a flick at a time, my Netflix devotion has not wavered. (I’ll admit that I have been, one by one, guilting all the 11 people that use my account to spend their own $10.89/month on this wonder of the internet).  At the moment, I’ve decided to step back from my voyeuristic yet educational documentary kick and grace you all with a list that most likely (unless you are one of my supportive middle-aged family members who reads this blog) will bring you back to your formative years: the ’90s.

Here are 10 movies from a decade not too far gone that you’ve probably seen and want to see again, or haven’t seen and should, according to me. I hope you trust my judgement.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Who would have thought that Mr. Hopkins, cannibalism and Jodie Foster who would be such a great combo? Don’t watch this one if creepy movies or “Faustian relationships” (got that from the Netflix blurb- had to look it up on Wikipedia) don’t get your goat. Otherwise you’re missing out on a classic.

The Big Lebowski (1998): Jeff Bridges, White Russians and Bowling, oh my!

Being John Malkovich (1999): John Cusack  and Cameron Diaz bring you on an overpriced tour of an actor’s mind through a filing cabinet portal. Totes surreal with a sort of depressing undercurrent, therefore not for everyone. As for me, I say that as far as Spike Jonze’s directing goes, this wins over Jackass: Number Two.

Clerks (1994): I shamefully admit that I’ve never seen this, but it appears everyone else has, and I soon shall.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Oh, just give it a shot, will ya? When else do you have an opportunity to witness Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise swept up into the whirlwind an “upper-crust orgy”? And considering I abhor Tom Cruise, it’s saying something that I put this one on my list.

Pulp Fiction (1994): Duh. Now for a fun fact: rumor has it that John Travolta requires a clause in all his movie contracts where he dances.

Like Water for Chocolate (1992): Based on one of my favorite books (gracias, Laura Esquivel!), the sexy Mexican magical realism here is definitely worth having to read subtitles, for all of you subtitle-complainers (you know who you are).

Barton Fink (1991): Another one I haven’t seen, and maybe you haven’t either, but apparently we’re supposed to, NOT in The English Patient kind of way. It’s a Joel Coen movie, which should be enough to sell you on it.

Groundhog Day (1993): Another duh.

Resevoir Dogs: Tarantino’s debut film. ‘Nuff said.

So, those are the 10 films from the pre-Y2k years that I’m most impressed with on Netflix Instant. Do you have any to add to the list?

Also if you’re looking for some guilty pleasures, you can check out My Best Friend’s Wedding, Jerry Maguire AND Apollo 13, however I respectfully request that you don’t mention to anyone that you got those recommendations from me.

Be back soon, hopefully with a review of Dogtooth!


and the winner is…

In the spirit of Academy Awards season, in conjunction with my own personal goal to see every movie nominated this year before February 27- Oscars night- (excluding Harry Potter, simply because I’m not one of those.  Nor do I plan to watch anything animated OR the Best Makeup nominees, just because I don’t want to spend my precious hours sucked into a SNOOZEFEST. I already watched a pirated copy of The Kids Are All Right on my laptop on the Chinatown bus on the way back to NC, and that combination was painful enough…uhh, Best Picture- WTF??!! So no, I’m not going to watch How to Train Your Dragon or The Wolfman  just for the love of the sport. But besides that, I “gotta catch ’em all,” as they say in Pokemon).

I’ve done my research, and as far as the nominees come, there appears to be only four out of the several dozen nominees that are available to watch on Netflix Instant:  Dogtooth, I Am Love, Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop. Dogtooth and I Am Love are both nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. Dogtooth (Kynodontas) is a Greek film which appears to be a little creepy but is classified by Netflix as “cerebral” and “romantic” and  I Am Love (Io Sono L’Amore)  is an Italian “romantic” and “steamy” drama, which I guess may be implied in the title.  Restrepo and Exit Through the Gift Shop are nominated for Best Feature Documentary. I plan to watch (and write posts about) each of these four instantly watch-able nominees, but so far I have only seen one: Banksy’s clever, intriguing and generally humorous inside look at the world of contemporary street art, Exit Through the Gift Shop. (Pssst…Click that link on Banksy if you don’t know who he is!)

The film is narrated by a sort of inherently charming male British voice, spending a lean 87 minutes exploring the identities and creative works of potentially idiotic street artists (the exception being Banksy himself) who have risen to fame in the Western world. The film totes the viewer along on a trip to acclaimed street artists’ brick and concrete canvases, including some of Banksy’s sacred spots. Exit exposes the egocentric musings of one artist in particular and expectedly preserves Banksy’s elusiveness- in a good way. This film is a delightful way to get a better peek at a whole bunch of street art,  as it simultaneously provides biting and witty commentary on the relationship between art, consumerism and the idea of celebrity. I don’t know if you are trying to watch every Oscar nominated movie this season, which I’m not so sure I will do myself, but Exit Through the Gift Shop is undoubtedly worth checking out.

constantly gardening

I trust a Democracy Now interview response better than my own words. Thanks for the tip-off, Shash.

AMY GOODMAN: “Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of The Constant Gardener?”

JOHN LE CARRÉ: “It’s a young fellow in the Foreign Office, born into the clover, Eton-educated, a sense of political responsibility, a little bit of a frozen child, stiff parents, no love in his early life, falls in love with a beautiful, idealistic young woman, and she marries him. It’s almost she who does it. And they go off to Kenya, and she engages in charitable work and comes upon evidence that a big pharmaceutical company is using a bunch of people in a village in Africa, in Kenya, as human guinea pigs. They sign the consent forms. They don’t know what they’re signing. They’re bullied into it by the local representatives of the pharmaceutical company. Everything is outsourced. Everything is given away to other people, so that the company itself is never directly responsible. And she becomes very involved in this. She takes a stand, and she is murdered. He, who adores her, comes to the conclusion that he must take up her message and take up her fight, and carries it on. And in the end, romantically—I’m nothing, if not a romantic, in some respects—in the end he dies, as part of the mission, and you may say that he joins her, makes a similar sacrifice. And so, they, both of them, did the decent thing against the most anonymous and horrific kind of threat, which is one of sort of untouchable corporate power.

The things that are done in the name of the shareholder are, to me, as terrifying as the things that are done—dare I say it—in the name of God. Montesquieu said, “There have never been so many civil wars as in the Kingdom of God.” And I begin to feel that’s true. The shareholder is the excuse for everything. And, to me—I’m not suggesting we make some sudden lurch into socialism, that isn’t the case at all. I think it’s more to do with the exercise of individual conscience.”


janeane garafalo definitely studied for the gre

On Tuesday, I participated in one of the most unfortunate rites of passage of the higher-higher-education world- the Graduate Record Examination. My experience at Greensboro’s fine Prometric Testing Center was complete with unflattering flourescent lights, obligatory pocket-emptying, lockers, outdated and pixelated computer screens and closed circuit televions vigilantly monitoring each test takers’ every twitch. Prior to taking the test, I spent hours of my time, memorizing, quizzing myself and enlisting my friends to quiz me on my GRE vocab words- a list of about  300 ridiculous and unnecessary words irrelevant to my life. Or so I thought! Turns out Janeane Garafolo studied for the GRE too and incorporated a bevy of these vocabs words into her most recent stand-up show: Janeane Garafalo: If You Will: Live in Seattle. So how appropos that I chose this Netflix Instant option as my first post-GRE flick. Janeane sprinkles her routine with words like alacrity, luddite, ubiquitous, cursory and effrontery. But I guess she likes big words and I shouldn’t hold that against her- I’m still a little senstive to advanced vocab used by the erudite crowd.

ANYWAY, enough about me- overall I liked the show. There are definitely a number of solid jokes- mostly of the self-deprecating breed- including highlighting a review of her which termed her as a “compact elder lesbian” (how could that not be funny?). Janeane uses her trademark dry/depressed Reality Bites-esque humor without sounding dated. She definitely airs out some baggage- her struggles with alcoholism and overeating, sexual abuse, body image and her transformation from religious fanatic to atheist- but I guess comics are always airing out their baggage in their stand-up shows, so it doesn’t really feel out of place. Janeane presents this material nonchalantly in a way that makes you laugh and kind of cringe at the same time.

I LOVE stand-up (talk to me, Sarah Silverman), so if you don’t, I wouldn’t recommend it because Janeane’s show didn’t knock my socks off. It definitely didn’t leave me with the feeling of “LOLOL ROFLMAO!”- which is kind of what I look for in a stand-up routine, but maybe that’s not her goal for the viewer anyway.

That being said, I think that it’s important to address issues like sexual abuse, addiction and crises of faith publicly- hey, chances are, you’ve somehow been affected by at least one of those too. So I appreciate Janeane for “outing herself” that way (no, not as a compact elder lesbian). At the very least, I welcomed Janeane into my kitchen, keeping me company with her well-calculated wit and crass honesty while I washed a few days’s worth of dishes that I had put off so I could study for the GRE instead.

And P.s. She’s also a really rad activist and feminist, so I’m partial.

the most moneygrubbing guys in the room

Last night I watched the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room for the second time actually. I revisited it not because I loved it that much, but more because I wasn’t paying full attention when I watched it the first time. This film is what I call a nice “dish-washing movie”- something I put on while doing some mundane task around the house, such as dish-washing, to make said task less boring (last night I put it on while I was shrink-wrapping my bedroom windows to seal out unpleasant wintry drafts). A dish-washing movie, whose classification is of course subjective, essentially does not require full attention and might actually bore the viewer if given full attention. So for what’s it’s worth, I definitely enjoyed this movie the second time around. It gives an insider’s view on the rise and fall of one of the world’s most humongous energy companies, detailing the strange macho corporate culture, the ultimately deranged mind of CEO Jeffrey Skilling, the subsequent suicide of a top executive following Enron’s crash and the overall delusions of grandeur that caused the company’s demise. The film essentially serves as a case study of the frightening effects of corporate greed while making it interesting by analyzing the increasingly more insane minds of the big boys at the top. I appreciated it because I never really understood what the whole Enron thing was all about, besides that all their employees got royally screwed. The movie lays out the whole scandal in layperson’s terms and has sort of a E! True Hollywood Story feel (in a good way) that makes you feel like you’re getting let in on the deep dark secrets (well, you are). I’d recommend it to people who are interested in taking down The Man, investigating the potential malevolence of capitalism or just understanding a piece of contemporary United States history that represents that charming cultural tendency of dependence on fantasies of imaginary wealth. That being said, if you’re not interested in the aforementioned topics, you might find it to be a little ho-hum. But it definitely made my shrink-wrapping process more interesting.

Have any of you seen it? Any thoughts?

the wild whites of west virginny

I’m putting up Josh’s review as a post so it can be viewed more widely. I think it’s pretty spot on. I just watched this movie, thanks to Josh’s suggestion (yay! my blog is achieving its purpose!) since I am using most devices in my path to put off studying for the blasted GRE, which I’m taking on Tuesday. Anyway, here’s what Josh said:

I just watched a documentary called The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virgina last night. It was really fantastic. The crew spent a year with this crazy family, the Whites, in Boone county, WV. They’re drug addicts, violent, scheming, smart, loving. The film does a really good job of balancing voyeuristic spectacle and lionizing the family as folk heroes. You see their quality as well as their flaws. It also does a pretty decent job of addressing the social constructs that play into creating four generations of criminal, drug-addicted crazies.

extra, extra, read all about it

post your debut reviews here (as a comment). i will be splitting them up into categories by genre soon.