Monday, August 20, 2012

Movies watched while recuperating

I'm such a cheapskate...we don't have cable TV, Netflix, or any bells and whistles. We check out DVDs for free from the library and often have a big stack waiting to be watched. Sometimes they have to go back before they get watched.

Since I've been bed-bound over the weekend while recovering from my ear surgery, I've been catching up on my DVD viewing. Some have been great, some not so much.

First, the bad:

Chutney Popcorn, 2000

Madhur Jaffrey writes great Indian cookbooks, but her choice in movies is not so great. In this indie/Indian comedy-drama, Reena (a body artist and photographer) offers to be a surrogate for her sister, Sarita, when Sarita discovers she cannot carry a baby. Reena's mother struggles with this decision and Reena's life with her lover, Lisa. Bad acting, bad dialogue, and bad story. I finally turned it off after watching it for 45 minutes. I couldn't tolerate it any longer! None of the characters are remotely likable. Sarita is an insufferable whiner, and Reena spends a lot of time brooding on her motorcycle (wearing her helmet only half of the time). Reena and Lisa spend a lot of time hanging around with their lesbian friends talking about "dykes" and acting childish. It was all rubbish and disappointing. Could have been interesting.

Lord, Save Us from Your Followers, 2010

Director (and narrator) Dan Merchant created this documentary about his search for a meaningful dialogue about the true face of faith.

Merchant is from Portland and ends the film here. Some of it was interesting, in particular the "Culture Wars" game show and the confessional booth he set up at the Portland Pride festival one year. He interviewed KINK FM's Sheila Hamilton at the end of the film about the work she has done with World Vision. For some reason, I found it difficult to concentrate on this film. It seemed to lack some focus. Perhaps it's just my state of mind at the moment, but I did not find the film to be that compelling, even though I find the subject interesting. I think the point of the film was a bit unclear, and that's why I found it to be muddled throughout.

Good Morning Vietnam, 1988

Something reminded me of this movie the other day, so I checked it out from the library thinking I would show it to Kieran. I don't know what I was's rated R and certainly not the kind of content I would show to a nine-year-old. "Good Morning Vietnam" is based on the experiences of Adrian Cronauer, an Armed Forces Radio disc jockey whose shows give U.S. troops in the field a morale boost (while upsetting military brass). There's not much in the way of plot--it's mostly a vehicle for Williams' banter and the great music of the 1960s. Williams earned an Oscar nomination for his role. This movie catapulted "It's a Wonderful World" back onto the charts, and in 1990 it became the song Mike and I used for our first dance at our wedding...and then we sang it to Chris in the NICU, and Nadine and David also used it for their first dance.

Camelot, 1968

I've had fond feelings for "Camelot" ever since I was a sophomore at Beaverton High School and our drama program did it for the spring musical. The drama program was directed by the brilliant James Erickson, and this production was nothing short of spectacular. I was an usher and worked the box office, so I saw the show 11 or 12 times! (I'm the one person in my family who is quite happy to be behind the scenes at the theater!)

James Erickson, BHS drama teacher
I hadn't seen the film "Camelot" since the 1980s and again, checked it out because I thought Kieran would enjoy it. I remember loving Richard Harris in his role as King Arthur (and also being delighted that Richard Harris got the role of Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies, before he died). What struck me anew was how much I love the story of Camelot...the idealistic Arthur wanting to build a round table to bring knights and nations together, disrupted by the affair between Guinevere and Arthur and the divisions brought on in the ranks. Arthur is a true hero. "Camelot" also has excellent music, made even better in the broadway recording when the role of Guinevere was played by Julie Andrews. Here is my favorite, "The Lusty Month of May," which I still sing to myself on the first day of May every year!

And drumroll....the best movie of the last few days is...

Departures, 2010

In this sleeper hit, Japanese cellist Daigo Kogayashi (played by Masahiro Motoki) loses his job when the orchestra he is playing in goes out of business. He moves back to his hometown and gets a job as a coffiner...preparing corpses for burial. Although the Japanese culture has extensive rituals for death, cremation, and memorial, professions of caring for the dead are considered taboo. Daigo keeps his career a secret from his wife Mika as long as he can and it nearly tears apart his family.

What Daigo comes to understand while performing his new job is the sacredness of death and the honor and privilege of what he is doing. "Departures" grew out of Motoki's vision, based loosely on Aoki Shinmon's autobiographical book Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician, and it was ten years in the making. They did not expect the film to be a commercial success in Japan. This was a truly beautiful movie; I loved it. In typical Japanese subtle style, it beautifully illustrated the spirituality of death and grief and also depicted Japanese relationships, which can be very different from western ones.
Now I'm watching Season 2 of Parks and Recreation, which is a completely different cup of tea! Tomorrow I'll start working a bit from home as I'm scaling back on the pain meds.


  1. wow you are catching a lot! I hope Parks and Rec gives you some belly laughs! I love that show.

  2. Yes--realized that I missed one too! (Joyful Noise)