A great movie for me is one where I see the world through someone else’s eyes — I mean really through their eyes, in their shoes. Recently I’ve seen a string of films (thank you Netflix) that I want to share — not to review, but to give you an inkling of why they were meaningful to me.
Another Earth takes us in two completely different directions at once: one is a story that is somewhat familiar to us about mistakes that change one's life and others innocent, about loss and readjustment; and the other is a story totally unknown and hard to imagine. A mirror-image of Earth appears in the sky and upon that planet is a mirror population of us. Brit Marling (an actress I never saw before nor heard of) is remarkable in the role of Rhoda, the young woman whose tragic mistake defines her life. (2011)
Speaking of outer space, Nostalgia for the Light is a stunningly shot documentary about the Atacama Desert where Chilean astronomers are searching the sky and Chilean mothers are searching the sands for bone fragments of relatives who disappeared during the reign of Pinochet. And if the beautiful slow pacing and out-of-this world visuals aren’t enough, you’ll get an understanding of how scientists view the world — that for every two questions they answer, four more questions take their place. I can't imagine working in a field where things are continually and perpetually unresolved. (2010)
A Better Life takes you into the world of a hard-working, good-hearted but illegal immigrant from Mexico trying earnestly to make a life for himself and his teenage son in Los Angeles — invisibly. Think of what it must be like to live invisibly: No driver’s license. No bank account. No credit card. When something goes wrong, you can’t go to a hospital; you can’t call the police. And all while trying to keep his son out of the clutches of gang life with its easy access to money and drugs and inevitable violence. Demián Bichir, the lead, has been nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in a Leading Role. (2011)
In our world, advertising is EVERYWHERE. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our planet is permeated with advertising and Art & Copy will teach you more about advertising than Mad Men. I love advertising, always have. Through interviews with key players of the 60s and those still working today, we learn of the breakthrough innovators in the biz, including the guy who first brought the art and the copy people into the room at the same time. (2009)
And another film, I'd mention in an aligned field is Helvetica, a glorious 2007 documentary about how this typeface came to be the most popular in the world. If you care about the look of the printed word, you'll enjoy this film!
Speaking of art, The Art of Getting By (2011) is a surprisingly sweet and engaging coming-of-age film with an edge. George is a high school senior in Manhattan with intelligence and talent who's just barely skimming by in every way imaginable — no matter how his mother, teachers, and principal threaten, cajole or plead with him. George (Freddie Highmore) has no meaningful connections with anyone (adult or peer) and is on the verge of being kicked out when he's taken under by a smart, pretty classmate, who is a huge leap in the right direction. Against the backdrop of New York, how he manages to navigate his crumbling home life and missed opportunities with Sally (played by Emma Roberts) is an absolute pleasure to watch.