Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire

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Unsolicited Netflix Movie Suggestions (Part II)

Awhile back, I wrote a post sharing a few suggestions regarding what to watch on Netflix. My opinions were completely unsolicited and probably went unnoticed, but the minute I clicked “publish” I swear I watched a tiny fleck of dust spontaneously float off of my college diploma. As such, here are three more. All are nonfiction. Two are documentaries and the other is a stand-up special. Please, before you doze off, let me explain.

My favorite type of nonfiction is the kind that’s really zeroed in, I’m talking extremely focused, on a person’s story and their emotions. Like a movie or novel, but real. I fear some people hear nonfiction and imagine an old sepia-tinted photo of a family staring at a camera from beneath their bonnets and dress hats, while a stale old white man enunciates too much about how they made their porridge. These three movies are far from that, trust me.

20 Feet From Stardom (2013)

"Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight. Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we’ve had no idea who these singers are or what lives they lead, until now." -IMDB

This movie had a decent amount of buzz during its release and was put on Netflix pretty soon after, and, oh yeah, it won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. So I know I’m behind the times with this suggestion. But just incase anyone missed it, this movie is really something. The filmmakers talked to several backup singers who worked between the 1960s to present day. While it details how the role of backup singers progressed in music throughout that time, you also get to hear a lot of cool stories about legendary songs. I mean, this movie is worth it just for the section on Darlene Love’s backing vocals in The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”

John Mulaney: New In Town (2012)

"In New In Town, John Mulaney tackles such red-hot topics as quicksand, Motown singers, and an elderly man he once met in a bathroom. Through his stories you will watch Mulaney age from a nervous, dishonest child to a still nervous, dishonest adult.” -iTunes

While watching Saturday Night Live, I became aware of a weekend update character named Stefon, played by Bill Hader, who was hilarious. Then I heard that a writer named John Mulaney wrote those sketches with Bill Hader. And then I noticed he had a stand-up special on Netflix. I’ve watched it several times and it gives me many genuine, joyful laughs every time. People like different types of humor, but I can’t imagine a person not liking John Mulaney’s stuff. He tells funny stories about his real life. Highlights for me are his bits about a homeless man, a visit to his doctor where he was angling for some easy xanax, and a rambunctious high school party he once attended. I’m not going to describe it any further because that’s dumb when you can just watch a minute of it and decide for yourself. By the way, he’s got his own show on FOX this fall, which is called Mulaney. So for the love of God just remember the guy’s last name and you’re set!

Stories We Tell (2012)

"A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers." -IMDB

Filmmaker Sarah Polley sits her entire family and longtime acquaintances down to discuss her deceased mother who, while alive, was a vibrant personality that attracted everyone’s attention. She was the life of the party. And as most people who are called ‘the life of the party’ do, she made some interesting decisions that ultimately lead to the paternity of her daughter, the director, being questioned. It was fascinating to watch Polley and her three siblings and her father and the men she suspected could be her biological father all sit and speak so candidly about the situation. Through all these people, the story is told really well and you end up fascinated by this family’s history. And like a good movie should, it makes you think about the bigger picture. How every story has so many points of view and everyone sees something different and what we see is shaded by our own experiences, memories, emotions, DNA.

And with that deep and insightful observation that no one else in the history of the world has ever made before, this round of suggestions is finished. Let me know if you watched any and, if so, what you thought. PLEASE VALIDATE MY OPINIONS/STUDENT DEBT. Thank you.

Movies Film Stories We Tell John Mulaney: New In Town 20 Feet From Stardom John Mulaney Sarah Polley Text

I'm Doing Fine

DAD: What do you mean?

ME: I haven't had a day off since July 31st. Okay? I want to take my college diploma and shove it up the ass of every US Congressman, then light it on fire, then litter the ashes across the world, saying, "AMERICA IS A LIE!"

Life Text

Boyhood

I saw Richard Linklater’s Boyhood at a local art cinema last week. You might remember the trailer I posted awhile back. The movie is long, about 2 hours and 44 minutes, but it’s completely worth it. In fact, I wasn’t ready for it to be over!

There’s not really a traditional plot description to share. Sure, some things happen, but the gist of the story is how a family of four changes over twelve years. For me, watching the same actors portray the characters over a decade of real time made the experience completely different than if done in the traditional way. That is, using different children to play the same characters at different ages. I didn’t have to extend my imagination in that way we’ve all grown accustomed to, so it made the film feel all the more real.

That experiment aside, Boyhood is a masterclass in subtlely. The trend as of late, in both TV and film, is to be bold and gritty. That approach has its place, but I enjoyed Linklater’s focus on the little things. It allowed me to reflect on the main point of the film - life. There were no flashy distractions. In fact, I kept waiting for something big to happen. It made me very aware of how accustomed we’ve all become to that style.

When the credits rolled, my friend commented that she felt like she’d just watched her own childhood. Being in our early 20s, it was easy to relate to the cultural milestones brought up during the main character’s adolescence. But I think there’s something for everyone. The kids, the parents, the periphery characters, they all have a journey over those twelve years covered in Boyhood. It’s worth it to take 2 hours and 44 minutes out of yours to see this film. 

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Boyhood Movies Richard Linklater

"There is a time in every man’s education
when he arrives at the conviction that,
envy is ignorance;
that, imitation is suicide;
that, he must take himself
for better,
for worse,
as his portion."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Text Quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson Self-Reliance

23/F/Tennessee

I sat on my bed in my new room in my new apartment in my new home state of Tennessee where I moved one week ago. All the usual things -notebooks, pens, scraps of paper, and a laptop - piled in front of me while I searched for jobs. Something in the yard of the apartment building caught my eye and I peered through a large double window for a moment.

My vision focused on a handsome, shirtless young man dashing toward the greenway like a beautiful gazelle. “Uh, am I really seeing this?” I thought. “Surely that’s a bloated dead raccoon and I’m confused.” For a moment, I was convinced I’d gone nuts. But mostly I felt like God was smiling on me. 

Welcome to Tennessee, He said. You’re not crazy after all.

Moving Tennessee Text