Let it be known: My mom could probably do a much better job of producing this blog than I ever could. She is a world-champion consumer of media.* As much as I love watching stuff, I have limits. I usually don’t watch more than one movie or show in a day. If I’m doing a “marathon session,” I might watch as many as three episodes of a television show in a row. But any more than that burns me out. But not her.
When I lived in Kansas City, I worked in a library with an outstanding video collection that included DVD boxed sets of television seasons. I would check them out for her, and she tore through them with stupefying speed. One of her favorites was 24, and at one point I swear she finished a season of that in almost real-time. Amazing.
So when she came to visit me in DC, sure, we took in some monuments and ate at some great restaurants and toured some fun neighborhoods. But we also watched a fair amount of programming. More in a few days than I would probably get through in a month on my own.
Here’s a quick rundown:
(Netflix) True fact: “Interesting Failure” is one of my favorite genres. I will repeatedly come back to movies that I like in spite of themselves, savoring what appeals to me about them and trying to pinpoint why they don’t quite work. As much as I love its look and feel (especially the really claustrophobic stuff in Hell), I always forget that it actually won an Oscar for its visual effects. And that aspect of it holds up amazingly even after all this time. And I find small moments sprinkled throughout endlessly moving even if the final dramatic solution is a little shallow.
(Personal collection) As I sat in the theater watching the end credits roll on this one, I had a crystallizing moment. My love for this movie made me realize that my tastes hadn’t actually undergone a drastic change, leaving me with a strong distaste for chick flicks. It’s that hardly anyone is making good chick flicks these days. Seriously. Has anyone else noticed how they all suck now? So Easy A is silly and whimsical to the point that it can’t really be considered to take place in our reality as we know it. Who cares? It coasts genially on Emma Stone’s charisma, and it has at least half a brain, which is more than I can say for fare such as You Again or Leap Year or pretty much any Katherine Heigl vehicle. Oh, Nora Ephron, how I miss you.
(Personal collection) I know Nia Vardalos hasn’t really panned out the way we hoped she would in the wake of her low-budget phenom introduction to society. But no one can take this away from her. It’s sweet, weird and admirably to-the-point (no perfunctory rom-com break-up here). And it’s one of my mom’s all-time faves.
(Personal collection) Because I had just been thinking about this title recently, I decided to show it to Mom. And it was a bit off the beaten track for her taste, I think. But I love it enough for the both of us. It has so many bizarre, little moments that would never happen in any other movie, and the dialogue is to die for. The first time I saw it I remember wondering around the halfway point, “Who on Earth wrote this?” And, as it turns out, it’s Shane Black. Now most people would probably care that he also wrote Lethal Weapon. But what I care about is that he wrote Monster Squad, the filthiest and goriest kids movie of all time (which I watched copiously as a youngling). And also The Long Kiss Goodnight, which ranks high on my personal list of underrated gems.
(Netflix) It’s slick and well-made, but incredibly generic. The only thing that makes it interesting is the gender of its action hero protagonist. Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how I totally endorse the idea of Gina Carano making a bunch of stuff like this. The world is always going to make this type of movie, and you could do a lot worse than her. She has more than enough natural presence to carry off this kind of role, and she may even have the acting chops to pull off more if she were given a chance to develop. Let’s face it, she’s already way better at acting compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris when they started out.
(Personal collection) Action-comedy is extremely difficult to pull off, so I feel it’s criminal not to give due credit when someone can nail the tone just right. Also, Helen Mirren.
(Still in theaters) You can probably tell from this list that we are a family of action aficionados. It’s a genre that, by and large, works for us. So Die Hard at the White House seemed like a good idea at the time. But… ugh. Just… no. The most effective sequence depicted the take-over of the presidential residence itself. This should’ve been the part that required the most suspension of disbelief, but actually it was filmed with a good degree of verisimilitude, enough that it proved very upsetting for me considering that I live within blocks that location. Watching the street where I had walked with my mom on the way to the movie theater get blowed up real good drove home a few truths about living in DC that I don’t typically dwell on in my daily life, and it brought tears to my eyes. Which is not what this stupid-ass wannabe movie was aiming for, I imagine. But it was all downhill from there. The only effect the remainder of the running time had on my eyes was that I nearly sprained an ocular muscle rolling them so much.
(Netflix) This is a video production of a one-woman stage show, not to be confused with stand-up comedy, although it is very funny in places. I discovered it on cable a very long time ago in the middle of a night when I couldn’t sleep. I’ve come back to it every so often since then, and every time I watch it I’m struck again by how unexpectedly brilliant it is. Basically the whole thing is just former SNL performer Julia Sweeney telling the true story of how her whole family descended upon her house for a year when her brother was diagnosed with cancer. I’m aware that it doesn’t sound like a rollicking good time, and it is terribly sad in places, but it’s so filled with love, biting yet affectionate humor, and humanity. It’s really affirming, and I knew it would be a hit with my mom. I suspect it would be a hit with anyone’s mom.
* She just isn’t enough of an egotist to think that the Internet cares about her opinions. That’s where I excel.