I love movies! Since it’s part of my job to keep up with the latest books being made into movies, I usually have my finger on the pulse of what’s in production or about to appear at the box office—not to mention that I am a devout Netflixian. Every once in a while, though, someone will tell me about something that managed to sneak by me while I was watching reruns of The New Adventures of Old Christine. Here are two really good movies that you may have missed.
Midnight in Paris
My brother, who recommended this film to me, is a Woody Allen fan. I used to be, but as the years went by, Allen seemed more and more to be part of a very small club made up of neurotic people who live in Manhattan. This film, though, is nothing like that. It’s about neurotic people who visit Paris, so that’s much better. An engaged couple and her parents visit Paris, and as the groom-to-be (Owen Wilson) wanders the streets late at night, he somehow travels back in time to the 1920s heyday of writers and artists from all over the world who called Paris home. What a thrill to meet Hemingway, Salvador Dali, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, and many others.
Running around with the cool people at night causes this young man to look at his own life differently, and to make some radical changes. In case you’ve never noticed it before, Woody Allen writes dreadful female characters. Not that the writing is anything less than sterling, but the women themselves are manipulative shrews. Good thing all such women live in Allen’s world, since all of us down here are sweet magnolia blossoms.
If you love Paris, writers, artists, or just a great story, you will savor this movie.
I mentioned to my colleague, Janet, that I really enjoyed Sherman Alexie’s An Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and she suggested this small-budget film. It’s based on Alexie’s adult novel, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Two teenage boys living on a Coeur d’Alene reservation have known each other all of their lives, through tragedy, family difficulties, and just plain boredom. Thomas is a nerd, and Victor is a troublemaking jock. Victor’s father, who saved Thomas from a fire when he was an infant, left his wife and child long ago. When they find out that Victor’s father died, Thomas offers Victor the money to go collect his father’s ashes if he will take him along. Since the young men are rarely together for five minutes without irritating each other, this promises to be a wild road trip.
Sherman Alexie writes unflinching novels and poems about Native American life. Although he deals with grinding poverty and widespread alcoholism, he does so with sympathetic characters and a dark sort of humor. Smoke Signals explores the relationship between fathers and sons, a universal theme, in the context of an entire culture that is collapsing from oppression without and corruption within. The film ends with a quote from a Dick Lourie poem: “If we forgive our fathers, what is left?” While this sounds thoroughly depressing, it is not. It is thought-provoking, to be sure, but the movie is endearing and funny and sad, and although the ending is not cheerfully happy, it is just right.
If you love road trips, quirky characters, Native Americans, and stories of personal growth, this is a great movie for you.
Both of these movies have some strong language. Smoke Signals is available on Netflix streaming. Enjoy!