- Lars and the Real Girl: You have probably figured out by now that I like romantic comedy. This is an unusual one, since it deals with a socially isolated young man whose love object is a sex doll. The people in his small town go along with treating Bianca as a real person and he gradually outgrows his need for the delusion, becoming open to real human interaction. It’s warm and funny. And Ryan Gosling is good eye candy. Recommended.
- Gentleman’s Agreement: This film won the Oscar for best picture of 1947. It stars Gregory Peck as a journalist who tells people he is Jewish to research an article on anti-Semitism. It’s a reasonably interesting movie and a good reminder of how far we have come in the past 55+ years. I was, however, disappointed that nobody – including the Jewish friend - did anything particularly Jewish (e.g. observing kashrut or Shabbat or going to a synagogue) in the movie. By the way, June Havoc (Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister) played the secretary who is passing for a gentile.
- 56 Up: Michael Apted has been following the same group of British people since they were 7 years old. I’ve seen several of his previous films, which are done every 7 years, and they remain interesting for the most part. I do find myself disappointed in most of the women, whose lives seem to revolve around family and relationships. My favorite participants are Nick, the physicist who teaches in Wisconsin, and Neil, who has struggled with mental illness and homelessness over the years. If you haven’t seen the previous films, I would suggest watching them in order, rather than starting with this one. If you have seen the others, you probably already have this on your list.
- Unorthodox: Anna Wexler was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish family and decided as a teenager that she was an atheist. The film follows her attempt to understand friends who studied in Israel for a year after high school and became religious ("flipped out" in her terminology). She followed two men and one woman, all of whom expressed doubts about Orthodoxy, through their experiences. There is also a lot in the movie about her own life and dealings with her family on religion. I found this movie absolutely fascinating and, in fact, bought a copy of the DVD. My one disappointment is that she stays off the subject of sex, though there is plenty about drug and alcohol abuse. By the way, MIT provided a lot of the support for this movie as Wexler got her undergraduate degree there and is now working on her doctorate in neuroscience. Highly recommended, with the caveat that I am not sure how a non-Jew would relate to it.
- Her: Long international flights are always a good opportunity for me to catch up on movies. I knew the premise of this one, which has a writer fall in love with an operating system. What I hadn’t known before seeing it is that this relationship is not unique. Rather, there are plenty of other human/OS couples around – enough for there to be surrogates who specialize in allowing actual sexual encounters for them. In general, this movie was less predictable than I expected it to be. It was also more serious. Overall, it kept my attention and I thought it was worth seeing.
- Captain Phillips: The story of a merchant ship captain whose ship is captured by Somali pirates was exciting and suspenseful. I was particularly pleased that the pirates were portrayed as something other than purely evil, but were instead partly victims of circumstance. There may be questions about just how accurate the movie was but I didn’t care. Highly recommended.
- Nebraska: Bruce Dern plays an old man who believes he has won a sweepstakes and is determined to collect his million dollars. His son agrees to drive him and what follows is mostly family drama. The quality of the acting is impressive and I understand why people praised this movie. But as somebody dealing with my own aging parent issues, I found it horribly depressing.
- Crossword: I wouldn’t normally bother to write up a short subject, but this 13 minute Irish movie is charming enough that it should be better known. The premise is that an isolated young woman named Heather suddenly finds that her daily crossword puzzle seems to be written specifically for her. She goes to the crossword office to investigate … It’s all very sweet and I recommend it highly.
- Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon: This biopic deals with the manager of such rock stars as Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd. He also created the concept of the celebrity chef. His life was pretty much full of sex and drugs and rock and roll, but he also comes across as basically a good guy. In fact, a mensch. The main thing is that this is a very funny and entertaining movie, worth seeing even if you aren’t into the whole celebrity culture. The audience at the preview screening I was at (part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival) broke into applause at the end. So did I.
The Quarterly Movie Run-down
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