New Project: The Watch List

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For so long I’ve tried to become a pseudo film buff, but it never seems to stick. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I’m just too ambivalent about cinema in general. Or maybe I’ve just never found the right combination of time/desire to really advance my film buffery (a word I’ve just invented). Whatever the case, I’m embarking on a new cinematic journey and wanted to tell y’all about it.

I’ve compiled a list of great movies by decade starting with the 1930s. This list is a combination of hours of internet scouring. I’ve got movies loved by men, women, white people, and black people. I’ve gathered films in foreign languages and the English language. I searched lists of differing genres and those that are considered underrated, best of the all times, serious, quirky, etc.

With the trusty help of random.org, I will be selecting four movies to watch each month starting in March. One from the 2000s, 90s, and 80s each. And then one from the 30s-70s. This method makes the most sense in my mind.

The only hiccup I’ve come across thus far is movie availability, particularly with foreign language films. For the more obscure movies, I’m either going to skip them altogether (what can you do, ya know?) or wait until the project really catches hold and consider spending extra money. I’m sure adding the Netflix snail mail plan would get me most of the way there, but I’m not ready to commit to anything beyond my streaming only option just yet. Amazon Prime seems to be the best way so far. Most movies are either free or $2-$3 rentals.

So, without further ado, here’s my To Be Watched list for March! Join me if you feel so inclined or ignore me altogether. Both are valid life choices.

High Fidelity (2000)

JFK (1991)

The King of Comedy (1983)

A Man for All Seasons (1966)

I haven’t seen a single one of these so I’m super duper excited. Let me know which ones you’ve seen and what you thought!!

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Rec Thursday: Movies

This Thursday I’m recommending some recent movies I’ve watched since the beginning of the year. There have only been three so I’m just going to slap all of them down here. I enjoyed each for different reasons and think that others will appreciate them as well!!

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The Heat – I know, I know. You’ve all seen this before. But I’m just now getting around to it so oh well. Sandra Bullock is my girl from the way back. Throughout the nineties, she was my favorite actress, hands down. Comedy is my least favorite film genre so I’m picky. Loved seeing a buddy cop movie that stars two women!

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Drinking Buddies – I recommend this one with hesitation. People HATE the ending. But it was so realistic. Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick played very well here as ordinary girls dating ordinary boys. Neither was overly made up or felt like glamorous movie stars. A great look at what dating after college can be like, and Jake Johnson is a sweetheart. Plus, the actors improvised their dialogue!!

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Her – Go see this now, oh my goodness. If only for the beautiful color palette, cinematography, and music. The story is sweet, haunting, and I felt the writing down to my bones. I’ve literally said some of the lines in this movie out loud in my own real everyday life. But Spike Jonze still left me with so much to ponder and yearn for. Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant. Amy Adams, despite having a small role, was utter perfection. I saw a lot of myself in her character. If Drinking Buddies was a look at adult dating, then Her is a lovely and brutal discussion of marriage/love in the 21st Century. Watching Her felt like reading a T.S. Eliot poem.

Have you seen any good films lately?

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

13539044The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick had a lot to live up to. I know it’s blasphemous to prefer the movie to the book, but I adored this movie. And when I say I adored, what I mean is I was borderline obsessed. Okay, not even borderline. Unsurprisingly, The Litwits wanted to read the source material so I eagerly picked up a beautiful movie-cover edition (don’t hate me!) and got started.

You don’t need a synopsis. Because you’ve already seen the movie. Right? RIGHT? If not, pause your reading and go watch. Now. Yes, right now. Then come back – or don’t. Up to you.

Ultimately, I still enjoy the movie more but feel like as a whole they are highly complimentary. Certain characters are drawn far better in the book – Pat’s brother, Pat’s mom, while others I prefer the movie version – Pat’s Dad, Tiffany. The book allows some great insight into Pat’s thoughts and inner monologues and the movie excels at making me feel all the feels. Several Litwits members agreed that the movie was the more emotional medium in that they cried watching but not reading. What also interested me in the book was the ambiguity of the story. Pat’s never diagnosed in Quick’s story and the relationship between Pat and Tiffany is left a bit more open ended than the Hollywood version.

Kathleen finished reading the book and immediately watched the movie and felt that the movie did an amazing job capturing the essence of the story. I have to agree wholeheartedly. SLP is a great film adaptation. What both narrative forms have going for them is Pat. He’s the happiest, most joyful, and positive character Victoria believes she’s read in a long while. I think he’s the reason so many people love this story no matter how they come to it. His mantra from the book is ‘be kind, not right’ which is something we all need to remember from time to time.

The rest of our discussion centered around watching the Eagles chant on YouTube, state mental health institutions, and what an amazing job both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence did in the film.

Now, not everyone was extremely pleased with the story and that’s okay! Some members didn’t think the characters were that likable and that some of the details were a bit far-fetched. I can see both these things as being very true – but the movie captured my heart in that special way where I ignore all the flaws, lol.  I was surprised how many Litwits enjoyed the book more (I shouldn’t have been surprised), but I’m sticking with the movie.

Have you seen the movie and read the book? Which did you prefer? 

Rating: starstarstarstar

At the Cinema: Schindler’s List

tumblr_mbvrq3Bkg91rvp3zlo1_400I really wanted to film my reaction to watching Schindler’s List immediately after watching, but decided y’all really didn’t need to see me do my version of the ugly cry. I’m fairly certain I look worse than Claire Danes when she ugly cries, which is really saying something. However, I do want to take a moment and discuss my emotional response to watching this film for the first time.

When I saw that the 20th Anniversary edition of this movie was being released on Tuesday, I knew I had to order it and add it to my ever-growing collection of purchased films. And I knew this without having ever seen the movie. I’m glad I waited or was just never exposed to Schindler’s List until now. I’m not sure I could have appreciated and had such a visceral response had I viewed as a child or teenager.

Steven Spielberg knows how to direct a movie, how to gut us emotionally and leave us reeling yet filled with hope. As I cried my eyes out at the bittersweet end to Schindler’s story, I couldn’t help but be filled with joy at all the people he had saved and all the generations that had come to be due to his compassion. Schindler is such a flawed protagonist. He begins his journey greedily – out to make money and nothing else. He views the Jewish plight as a means to an end and monetizes their suffering to grow his wealth. But somewhere along the way, the people he is unintentionally saving save him as well.  Through their thanks, kind eyes, and relief to be alive, they show Oskar just how effective one man can be, even when he’s not trying. They show him that one man can overcome the cruelty of the many. They show him that one man can change himself as well as the paths of so many lives. While so many Jews were losing their sense of humanity, Oskar was finding his own and continued throughout the war to diligently return the favor – restoring humanity so wrongfully stolen.

Was that babbling? Did that make sense? I found Schindler so compelling and Liam Neeson did a beautiful job portraying this historical figure. As did Ralph Fiennes playing his perfect foil. As Oskar grows more human, Amon turns more evil – an oddly pure evil without conscience. He even tries to do the decent thing and stop his murdering ways, but simply can’t as it’s not in his nature. The atrocities men, women, and children suffered at his hands were gut-wrenching and nearly impossible to watch. I covered my eyes multiple times. Spielberg and his creative team definitely don’t shy away from depicting these horrors in such a bluntly realistic manner.

Filming the movie in black and white was also a stunning and winning decision. It gives the film a timeless feeling – you literally have no idea whether the movie was shot years ago or just last week. The contrast between the light and dark also resonates heavily and adds a layer of depth to the movie beyond the brilliant script and acting.

Needless to say, I loved the movie and believe there aren’t many movies I’ve ever seen that can hold a candle to it. Not an easy movie to watch, not one you can sit idly on the couch and watch repeatedly, but an important film, a necessary film. If you’ve never watched it, do yourself a favor and find some time. You won’t regret it. And of course, I need to get my hands on the book is was based on!

With two movie posts in a row, it’s time to get back to book blogging! This week is dedicated to that very purpose. You can look forward to such dandies as my reviews of Swoon and The Night Strangers along with my Vanity Fair wrap-up post!

At the Cinema: Let Me In

I’m really enjoying watching movies and recommending them to everyone.  It’s also a great filler topic for when I don’t have a book I’ve recently finished to discuss.  So be prepared for this feature to become a blog norm – after all, movies are stories just as much as books are.  The title isn’t perfect since I didn’t actually see this film ‘at the cinema’, but you get the general idea.

Let Me In was released a couple of years ago and is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In.  The Swedish movie was also based off a novel of the same name.  What initially drew me in was actress Chloe Grace Moretz who I happen to enjoy immensely, plus she’s from Atlanta and I feel some weird need to support hometown successes.

The movie follows a young boy, Owen, growing up in small town New Mexico during the early 80s.  His parents are divorcing and he’s struggling with being a loner and being bullied by some particularly heinous kids at school.  Owen needs a friend, badly.  When Abby and her father move into the apartment next door, he thinks he’s found not only the perfect friend, but also his first girlfriend.  The sweet, innocent smiles that pass back and forth between Owen and Abby are endearing, subtle, and remarkable in actors so young.  The chemistry and relationship between these two characters is absolutely what makes this movie so wonderful.

Abby, of course, is not what she seems.  I’m not really spoiling anything as most everyone knows this is a vampire movie since it was marketed as such.  She’s not a ‘Twilight’ vampire by any means.  She must kill to survive, can’t go in the sunlight, must be invited into your home, and sees vampirism as a curse – something she wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Owen loves Abby, but does struggle with what being a vampire means and the idea of evil.  But he stays by her side until the end and the audience wouldn’t have it any other way.

This movie is definitely a horror film and there is some gore.  The gore, however, is never indulgent.  Beautifully shot, this film is quietly and darkly gorgeous – slow-moving, deeply engaging, and morally poignant.  Let Me In is a genre film with substance and heart.  In the same frame, it will creep you out and break your heart with no apologies.  Such a rare kind of cinematic treat and I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a great film, even if horror isn’t your cup of tea.