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18 January 2005
The other day, I received a note from my friend Diane about a movie she had rented, Secondhand Lions:
On her recommendation, I put it on my Netflix queue and just watched it this past week. I agree whole heartedly with her assessment. It was a real sleeper. You hardly ever heard of it, other than when the stars were making the talk show circuit. But it's a delightful movie that I highly recommend.
Since we joined Netlix back in August of 2003, I have rented some 130 different movies. Some were real stinkers, or movies I had no interest in (I rented several that James Gandolfini was in, after seeing him on "Live from the Actors Studio," and discovered that while I enjoy watching him in "The Sopranos," the shoot-em-up movies, with very rare exceptions, don't appeal to me!). But there were some delightful finds that I might never have thought to rent, if it hadn't been for either a Netflix recommendation or the recommendation of some person or some journal. It occurred to me that I should share some of the lesser known movies that I liked here.
I loved Songcatcher. This is another movie I'd never heard of which popped up somewhere on a Netflix recommendation. The stars are Janet McTeer, whom I'd never seen before, and Aidan Quinn, whom I wouldn't have recognized. It's just a sweet movie about a professor who goes up into the mountains in Appalachia to learn more about traditional songs which have been passed down from generation to generation from the original Scotch-Irish settlers. This was a Sundance Film Festival winner, and for good reason.
The film version of The Laramie Project is well worth seeing, even if you've seen the stage play a zillion times. The cast is first rate and the whole thing is very moving.
To my great surprise, I was impressed with Supersize Me, made by the "Michael Moore of fast food joints." I will admit that I have not been to McDonald's since seeing that movie. I thought it would make me feel guilty, but instead it really did change what I eat when I'm out looking for a quick meal. If you are a frequent fast food devotee, do yourself a favor and watch the film.
Cosi is a delightful film about an unemployed drama teacher who agrees to stage Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte in a mental institution. It sounds like it would be riddled with bad jokes, but in the end it is a sweet, uplifting film.
I rented Japanese Story because it was set in Australia and I was curious. It turned out to be a nice, if slow moving story of a geologist who ends up being stranded in the desert with a Japanese man she cannot stand. Cultures clash in unexpected ways and while it wasn't the very best movie I've ever seen, it was well worth a look.
It surprises me that a lot of people have never heard of Calendar Girls, the story of members of a British Women's League who raise money for their local hospital by selling a calendar filled with nude pictures of the members. This is the female equivalent of The Full Monty and every bit as charming.
Far from Heaven stars Julianne Moore as a wife who discovers that her husband (Dennis Quaid) is gay. She finds comfort in a most unexpected place as cultures and cultural mores clash. It's a beautiful film.
Flawless is another sleeper that I just loved. Ned gave me the DVD when I first got a DVD player. Robert NeNiro as a homophobe who is befriended by his neighbor, a drag queen (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a truly wonderful actor) after he suffers a stroke. Another movie with expected and unexpected gems of scenes.
Alec Guinness is delightful as Gully Jimson, a quirky artist, in The Horse's Mouth. This has been one of our favorite movies for a very long time. Do yourself a favor and rent it.
Ibgy Goes Down is an offbeat movie that my friend Michael took me to see when I visited him in LA. The story of a teenager in a dysfunctional family and how he comes to grips with his past. It's another quirky film with Susan Sarandon as you've never seen her before.
In Priest, a devout Catholic priest struggles with his love for the church and his secret life as a homosexual with a lover (Robert Carlyle, who starred in The Full Monty). This is a timely movie, made in 1994 before all the headlines started blaring. But the subject matter is beautifully and sensitively handled.
The Young and the Dead is a documentary about undertaking, but a surprisingly enjoyable movie which talks about the revamping of the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery. You'll never look at undertaking in quite the same way again. (It's kind of the reality version of Six Feet Under!).
There are lots more I loved, but I'll end with Space Cowboys with aging astronauts Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner getting one more shot to go into space. Lots of humor, lots of pathos, and a thoroughly enjoyable film.
I saw an awful lot of big name films, but these are lesser known (I think) films that I really enjoyed and might never have rented if someone hadn't suggested them to me--so I suggest them to you.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
(I loved Sheila's tongue in this full-size picture)