Let’s Take a Vacation and Go to the Movies
And now for something completely different….
It’s summer in this part of the world and the Intentional Workplace is taking a brief vacation (we’ll be back on July 14th). Since you probably already have your summer reading list (my stack is sky-high) you may want to consider watching a few great films during your holiday break. I know summer’s the time for the great outdoors, but when the evening comes….
Since reading and movies are both passions of mine, I thought I’d share a short list of some favorites. Fair warning: there are no summer blockbusters on this list. No Marvel Comics Super Heroes. No horror films. No action films. No cutting edge film technology. No animation.
I recently watched actor Alec Baldwin and his To Rome With Love co-stars, on the Charlie Rose show discussing their latest film directed by Woody Allen. Baldwin commented that one of his attractions to making films with the director is that Woody makes films about people – and that’s not too common these days.
So while I am not adverse to watching a few sci-fi blockbusters and action thrillers, I am far more interested in movies about people. Fortunately, despite Hollywood’s overdose on superheroes and teenage male addictions – movies from independent and international filmmakers have reshaped the landscape of cinema. Quality film abounds.
Here’s a short list of some films I recommend.
This is the only film on my list in theatres now. For decades, Woody Allen has made films about people (though some might say he’s been making films about different parts of his own psyche). Although I’ve had an on-off relationship with Woody’s film choices in past years, I’ll always be a fan of his work. While Woody’s been on a world tour of late, making several European cities characters in his films, his first love (and mine) will always be New York. I once looked outside of my kitchen window in NYC and found a camera operator in one of Woody’s films trying to cover my windows for a late night shoot.
The latest, To Rome With Love, features Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni and others working through the usual Woody angst of relationships with enchanting Roma as its centerpiece. While some of the critics and Italian public thought it overly nostalgic and sentimental, it’s a labor of love to watch it.
This riveting film, directed by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz, is no grab-the-popcorn film. The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising story of three extraordinary “violence interrupters” in Chicago who with bravado, humility and even humor try to protect their communities from the violence they once employed. A Sundance Festival selection, the Interrupters, catapults us into the world of pain that so many young Americans are caught up in. In Chicago, over 300 school age children have been killed by violence in the past few years.
Former corrections officer and now funeral home director, Spencer Leak has done over 125 funerals per year or “homegoings” as they are called for young victims of the violence rocking this city. “These kids don’t expect to live a full life,” said Leak. “You get about a thousand other kids who come to these funerals. They see how it’s celebrated and they think this is how I’ll be celebrated when I get shot.”
The Interrupters is a hard slice of American life now that can’t be ignored.
Just thinking about this film makes me want to watch it again. In the 1960’s the lives of a conservative couple, played by Fabrice Luchini (Jean-Louis) and Sandrine Kilberlain (Suzanne) are transformed by two Spanish housekeepers, who live with other domestics on the 6th floor of Jean-Louis’ family owned building. Until the new maid, Maria (Natalia Verbeke) shows up in their tightly ritualized lives, Jean-Louis wasn’t aware of the conditions or feelings of any of the Spanish immigrants above him.
It’s wonderful to watch Jean-Louis’ awakening as he gets to know the confident Maria and her gregarious friends. The Women on the 6th Floor directed by Phillippe Le Guay, is a delightful and wise film.
Since the talented actors, Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney made this film in 2000, both of them have gone on to do outstanding work. In You Can Count on Me, you can see why. Responsible, single mom, Sammy, follows her daily routine working at the local back in the small upstate New York town where she grew up. She’s undecided about the less than exciting relationship she’s having with her long time boyfriend. Surprised to hear from her much-loved, but erratic younger brother Terry, her predictable world is turned inside out when he arrives.
Terry’s broke and unreliable, testing Sammy’s patience and dashing her hopes that her brother will be the male role model in her 8-year-old sons’ life. All of the family drama gets even more complicated when Sammy takes up with her stern, much married bank manager for secret trysts in cars, motels and the office.
You Can Count on Me is a warm and witty film about real people trying to navigate their way through a difficult past to a place of acceptance and understanding.
Walter, a lonely widowed professor, pays a rare visit to the apartment he still owns near the college he retired from, New York University (my alma mater) to give a lecture. Expecting a dull and routine visit, he instead finds a vibrant couple, Tarek, a Syrian musician and Zainab, a Senegalese artist, living in his apartment. Learning of their circumstances he invites them to live with him, while they sort out their formidable immigration problems. Walter, brilliantly played by veteran character actor Richard Jenkins, is drawn closer to the couple as he befriends them and discovers the world of New York City through their experience. He finds surprising companionship when Tareks’ mother, Mouna (played by Palestinian actress, Hiam Abbass) arrives for a visit. A wonderful story that speaks to the power and surprise of relationship – in all its forms.
And just a few more……
This short list is just a taste of the movie gems waiting to be discovered. The charming Bread and Tulips, filmed mostly in Venice, where an exhausted wife and mother, left by her husband at a restaurant on the Italian autostrada, while on a bus tour, decides to test her new freedom with an unlikely companion who is kind but suicidal. In Bride Flight, three Dutch women fly to New Zealand in the 1950’s to find their future and a husband. On the plane is a man who will influence and tie their lives together in an unforeseen manner. In London River, after the horrific terrorist attacks in London in July 2005, a mother, played by the fabulous actor, Brenda Blethyn, leaves her isolated life in the Guernsey Isles to find her missing daughter in London. Shocked by the neighborhood that her daughter calls home, the mother is joined together with a mysterious African man who is also searching for his son within the Muslim community in London. In City Island, starring Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies, the Rizzo Family live in a little known sliver of the Bronx, that looks and feels like an East Coast island. The family’s filled with conflict and secrets. Dad, a correction officer, is secretly taking acting lessons, Mom smokes. Their daughter has taken time off from college to make money pole dancing and the younger brother’s developing a fetish for rotund women. An unexpected visitor stirs things up and bring them all together. And if you are unfamiliar with Danish cinema (who isn’t?) discover its pleasures by watching the compelling After the Wedding. Directed by Susanne Bier, who also did the wonderful, In a Better World, the film begins in a run down orphanage in Mumbai, where Dane Jacob Pederson, scraps by to keep the operation running. When he is approached by a very wealthy man named Jorgen, who offers to finance the orphanage for life, on the condition that Jacob return to Copenhagen, Jacob feels he can’t refuse. When they finally meet, Jorgen invites Jacob to attend his daughter’s lavish wedding at their estate. There, Jacob discovers Jorgen’s real motive and finds himself drawn into a very different kind of life.
So whether you’re on summer vacation, or looking for some enriching and entertaining film experiences, I hope you find something on this list that fits the bill.
See you in July.
Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication
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