I watch a lot of films online–mostly Netflix–and have started sending out to my friends a monthly list of my top picks from the month before. You can see my previous monthly listings plus my Big List on https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VqdjokjrlOT_CrrOKaXBjAp_3R–ssu2bHrIMWPcktA/edit
Beth’s Film Forays – March 2017
Aquarius (Netflix)—The Brazilian actress Sonia Braga offers a stunning portrait of a woman who is navigating her later years as both a lover and a fighter. While the storytelling is uneven at times, the acting wonderfully delineates small moments of life consistently throughout. A gem.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (PBS)—This is an American Master’s biography of one of the most charismatic and multi-talented women of our times (1928-1214). She was my hero and it was a joy to see all the facets of her life laid out in photos and interviews, and to hear her voice (oh, her voice!) again. Very good medicine for these times. If you aren’t a PBS member with access to their collection online, you can pay for this on YouTube.
Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue (Netflix)—This another recent American Master’s biography and wonderfully done. The person reading Janis’ journals and writings really brings her to life. What a ride!
(T)ERROR (Netflix)—This incredible doc. follows an FBI paid informant as he attempts to entrap a young Muslim in Pittsburgh. This activity is wrong is so many ways that it boggles the mind, and it would be absurd if it weren’t real, and likely on the rise. The fact that this has been made into film is the brightest spot in the whole escapade.
Under the Sun (Netflix)—This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a fascinating portrait of North Korea. The Russian director who was under strict scrutiny managed to film his minders setting up the “perfect” footage depicting life in their country. The conceit is obvious and you have plenty of time to consider the mind numbing compliance required by everyone. With a running time of 2 hours it is a bit long, but very meditative and rewarding in the end. Read online interviews with the director (including the wiki page) for more info. on the making of.
White Helmets (Netflix)—This won an Oscar for documentary short and is one of the most powerful films I saw last year. It tells the story of volunteer rescue workers in Syria who in the direst of straits offer hope and a bit of relief and humanity to war ripped Syria. You think this is going to be hard to watch, and in a way it is, but the people are so incredible, so life affirming, so courageous. I think of these people from time to time and I feel fortunate and hopeful.
Blazing Saddles (Netflix)—I only include this here because we all need a bit of silly, and this has some great classic scenes. Madeline Kahn singing “I’m Tired” in the style of Marlene Dietrich is fantastic. I also have renewed appreciation for Gene Wilder who is great as Cisco kid and Cleavon Little who plays the black sheriff. Brave and on point use of N-word jokes as well. (We watched this and Under The Sun one night—great absurdist pairing.)
Mike Birbiglia Thank God for Jokes (Netflix)—Comedian and film director Mike Birbiglia offers his quirky view on lateness, puppets, shared jokes in a beautifully woven monologue/stand up performance. Great when you just need to laugh.
Samurai Gourmet (Netflix)—This Japanese series is very much like one I described last month on Amazon—Sunshine-Sento-Sake. A newly retired man discovers the joys of drinking beer and eating in the middle of the day, and you, the viewer, vicariously enjoy his pleasure in these simple, sensual activities. Great example of slow living!
Slums of Beverly Hills (Netflix)—This 1998 comedy with Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei and others holds surprisingly well with classic scenes of family dynamics and coming of age dilemmas. Remarkable good comedic performances and nicely nostalgic.
I realize that I have already watched a lot of my top picks on Netflix and that I am digging deeply into their archives to find something of interest. In the past I have found the film lists on Paste very helpful. They update them for each platform every few months. https://www.pastemagazine.com/tag/best+movies