Tag Archives: The Wrestler

Tips For Adulthood: Five Indie Films Worth Renting

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I ran into a friend the other day at a party. She was on her way out the door to see a movie, but she looked sad. “What’s wrong?” I asked, seeing a scowl upon her face.

“We’re going with another couple,” she explained. “I really like them, but we have totally different tastes in movies. And they *only* like sci-fi.”

I knew exactly what she meant. It’s such a bummer – not to mention expensive! – to go see a movie that you’re not psyched about.

Which is why I ‘m so happy that my husband and I see eye to eye where movies are concerned. Just the other night, we popped Frozen River into the DVD player (you know you’re middle aged when you’re watching *last year’s* Oscar nominees on New Years Eve.) And as the acoustic guitar twanged, the female vocalist kicked in and the camera cut to a bleak close-up of a beleaguered working mom’s face, my husband said, “Yup, it’s our kind of movie.”

So if , like me, you like your films like you like your eggs – e.g. sunny side down, here are five movies worth renting now:

1. Frozen River – The plot – about a single mom struggling to make ends meet who starts smuggling immigrants into the U.S. for cash – is a bit far-fetched. But the rawness in Melissa Leo’s performance – etched into the very folds of her skin – brings new meaning to the word “spare.”

2. Sugar – We got (literally) frozen out of seeing The Hurt Locker in a cinema the other night, or I’m sure I’d be posting about that here. Instead, we came home and watched Sugar. (Note to self: be sure *not* to order the X-rated film by the same name!) Sugar is a small but moving film about a kid from The Dominican Republic who gets drafted for the minor leagues and how he fares when he actually lives the American Dream. Keep an eye on this actor: Algenis Perez Soto. His face speaks volumes even though he is remarkably laconic.

3. Sherry Baby – I don’t know why Maggie Gyllenhaal wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for her performance in this film, which tells the story of a young mother who gets out of rehab and tries to resume her parenting duties. It ‘s painful to watch, but oddly heartening, and reminds you why New Jersey is such a great place to set a film.

4. The Wrestler – In an earlier post this year on why I like movies with a certain “feelbad feeling,” I singled out The Wrestler as exemplary. It tells the story of a down-and-out “has been” pro-wrestler who tries – and fails – to turn his life around by reconnecting with his estranged daughter, falling in love and leaving his profession. What I liked about this movie most was that it wasn’t afraid to have a sad ending.

5. I’ve Loved You So Long – Yep. You guessed it. Here’s another film about one person’s (often doomed) efforts to overcome the odds and turn their life around. But this one’s French (bonus) and it stars Kristin Scott Thomas (double bonus). It’s about a woman who struggles to re-connect with her family and find her place in society after spending fifteen years in prison.

Well, bet you’re all feeling chipper after that round up. Anything I’m missing?

Image: Zim Eggs by World Megan via flicker under a Creative Commons License.

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Changes to the Oscars: Have We Lost That "Feelbad" Feeling?

For those of us who follow the Oscars, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dropped two bombshells recently.

First, they’re going to democratize the membership of the Academy to include the likes of Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman and Viola Davis. To which I say: Good.

Second, they’re going to expand the number of best picture nominees from five to ten. To which I say: Bad. Very, very bad.

The idea behind the second reform is to drum up better ratings for the broadcast. But it’s also designed to give pride of place to the sorts of commercial movies – comedies, animated films, blockbusters – that have played second fiddle to more serious, downbeat, artsy films that have tended to dominate the awards in recent years.

I, for one, am saddened by the change. I love these small, iconoclastic Indy films. I fear that if we dilute their influence at the Oscars, we will only further dilute their influence at the cinemas, which is already waning. And that’s a real loss.

Two movies I saw in the past week confirm this feeling. The first, The Wrestler, tells the story of a down-and-out “has been” pro-wrestler who tries to turn his life around by reconnecting with his estranged daughter, falling in love and leaving his profession. The second, Rachel Getting Married, is about a drug addict who takes a weekend off of rehab to attend her sister’s wedding and all the guilt, anger, resentment and pathological family dynamics that ensue.

These are both small, fairly dark character-driven movies about deeply flawed people who are trying to change their lives in ways both small and large, and run up against how hard that is to do in practice. Not surprisingly – and I give nothing away here – neither has a particularly happy ending.

And I find that sort of grim realism…refreshing. Movies can’t be there just to allow an escape. (Though if you’re looking to be cheered up, be sure to watch the interview with Mickey Rourke in the DVD commentary about how he turned his life around as an actor.) As Jon Canter writes in yesterday’s Guardian, the “feelbad” factor is under-rated:

Feelbad confronts you with the darkness, futility and awfulness of existence, but does it with such imagination, bravado, soul and wit that you find yourself exhilarated.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

*****

Speaking of addiction, there’s a thoughtful essay on alcoholism and addiction by Clancy Martin in this week’s London Review of Books.

Image: 1:6 Oscar Statuette by Shaun Wong via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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