4 Films Worth Watching

Summer is over. A new teaching year has begun. So long international travel, spontaneous naps, extended walks, and the chance to catch up on movies and read books. What about my working manuscript, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol? I made steady progress and am pleased with its evolution. As I acclimate now to bells and loud, teenage voices, today I wanted to squeeze in some thoughts about my favorite summer films I’ve seen:

absurd fun
absurd fun

The Lobster (2016) Knowing it was a farce going in, I let the strange love story unfold. I’ll admit it took a bit for me to warm up to the monotone delivery and set aside logic and realism as the absurd premise worked itself into something plausible and universal. People at an asylum complex must find a mate in 45 days or be turned into an animal. What was the message of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos? Love and loyalty are blind and limited? Society represses the individual and instills herdlike mentalities, or in this case, the crustacean? I loved the ambiguous ending and Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz gave fine performances. 4/5. 


Hail, Caesar! (2016).  Since I adore classic Hollywood, it won’t be a surprise to hear this Coen Brothers dark comedy thoroughly entertained me. Which parody was the best: George Clooney as Charlton Heston in Ben Hur? Channing Tatum as Gene Kelley in On the Town? Alden Ehrenreich with that Ricky Nelson western charm? Scarlett Johansson imitating swimming queen Esther Williams? Ralph Fiennes as fussbudget director Laurence Lorenz had me laughing aloud. So, too, did Frances McDormand in the editing room. Stuff in the communist writers and the art vs. crap argument, the tabloid cover-ups, the Orson Welles camera tip–perhaps that’s the fault of the film. The fragmented salute to all things Hollywood stumbled around and shortchanged a weak storyline. It was still a lot of fun and laughs. It’s a film I could rewatch many times.4/5.

background-twitterMidnight Special (2016The chemistry between Dad (Michael Shannon), Mom (Kirsten Dunst) and their special son (Jaeden Lieberher) was convincing. It’s an X-Files plot delivered with cool authority at the hands of director Jeff Nichols. Can you imagine how different this film would have been if directed by Steven Spielberg? Without a score that spoons out the sap, and believable performances with a very cool ending, Nichols is able to bring out the best of his actors. I can’t wait to see Loving. 4/5 

The Sunset Limited (2011) American writer Cormac McCarthy‘s play adapted into an HBO film, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. Nihilism vs. Religion. I loved the dark dialogue between two opposing men. White, hopeful (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to keep Black, the professor (Tommy Lee Jones) from committing suicide. A tough 90 minutes to film and capture the arguments. Jones delivers his lines with apathetic resolve. Jackson is exuberant and funny. One rules with their head. One rules with their heart. The final chilling rant by Jones still hurts my heart weeks later. Want to be intellectually stimulated? I highly recommend it. 4.5/5 

You’ve probably seen these films before I did. Which ones from this list did you like best–or not? What’s the best film you’ve seen lately? 

53 Comments on “4 Films Worth Watching

  1. Great list…we HAVE to see “The Lobster”, and I loved almost all of “Hail Caesar!” – especially the musical dance number – and how Clooney will “go there” for the Coen Brothers….the best film recently for me is vintage: I made my son and his friend watch “The King Of Comedy” to see how Scorsese nailed the current “cult of self”…

  2. I haven’t seen any of them, Cindy. However, I do like the look of all four, especially ‘Hail Caesar’.
    Back at school already? Our schools and colleges don’t go back until the first week in September. Maybe they started the holiday later here.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Our school system in AZ is shorter than the East Coast — most go back after Labor Day. It’s hot here, might as well be working in the A/C in August. Our district we get a week off for fall break in Oct. That’s unusual. And the upside is, we get out of school for the year in the third week of May. I love it.

        • Allen, it’s intense. I liked how each side made their case and made it well. I confess, the older I get, the more Nihilistic I feel. Especially when I’m teaching history. Especially WWII! It breaks my heart over and over, year after year. I fear we’ll never evolve. Sometimes life seems meaningless and random. However, love wins, in my book. I see the light and feel the good. The Sunset Limited will make you think!

          • U.S. Civil War history when related to families will also break your heart. Few today with all the political and social hoorah realize, let alone comprehend, that it was an incredible destroyer of families. The death toll during the war was horrendous and went on for years afterwards as its victims succumbed to their wounds.

          • Yes. Have you seen Hell on Wheels (AMC) on tv? You can rent all the seasons on Netflix and/or Amazon. It’s outstanding. About building the Transcontinental Railroad. It connects the process with the healing of the nation after the Civil War. It does a great job showing complex characters and includes everyone: blacks, women, Indians, Rebel, Yankee, Mormans, elite, Irish, Chinese. Really can’t say enough about it.

          • No, I haven’t seen Hell on Wheels. Total deaths, on both sides, numbered somewhere between 650,000 and 700,000. The numbers are incredible when you think of the total population of the U.S. at the time. Many came home maimed or sick and died in the ensuing years. The extent of the suffering was never apparent to me until I began working on a paper on the life of my great, great grandfather who served with the 12th Illinois Cavalry during the war.

          • My Mum loves that show which warms my heart because it’s cable and scripted drama rather than reality shows she sometimes watches. I’m often frustrated by it. Like every season begins with a good premise but never goes with the characters where I want them to go. But I’ve watched the first four seasons and will see it through to the end. 🙂

          • The representation of the cast of characters surrounding the history is what I like. Yes, it’s a western soap-opera, but as the series progresses, by the time the final two seasons (introduction of the Chinese worker) I thought it crossed over into the realm of art. I do love the filmmaking of it. I found I was actually sad when the series ended. It was a nice way to kill an hour, watching an episode a night, and I was entertained.

          • That bodes well for me, my Mum feels they’ve rushed to wrap it up in Season 5 but she’s got 3 episodes to go and she’s dying for me to catch up to her so we can discuss it. So it can’t be half bad.

  3. Loved that you got a kick out of The Lobster — that’s not an easy film to take in, let alone have positive feelings towards after! Haha! That is one of my tops of the year, but by far my favorite of this year, and quite possibly of the last five since I’ve been maintaining a blog of my own, is the weirdness that is Swiss Army Man.

    • Wow! I’m glad you saw the brilliance in it as I did. It cracked me up. It really resonated with me. I can’t wait to see Swiss Army Man. I’ve heard so many good things about it.

    • It was intellectually stimulating. In a classic sense. Not farce or weird. Just two opposing sides and I loved the visit to each camp. I have grown weary of Samuel L. Jackson, but I was renewed by his performance. It wasn’t easy, these two, carrying a dialogue for 90 minutes. I was riveted.

  4. The Sunset Limited sounds like a great find. I haven’t heard of it before despite the star actors. It’s always great to see what you recommenced and discover something new.

    • Oh, you can rent it online in its entirety. You would love it. Such classic camps. A thoughtful, sensational discussion by master actors. Really hope you get a chance to watch it!

  5. Great list Cindy! hail Caesar, hell yeah!! Good to hear that someone else enjoyed it as much as me. It wasn’t marketed well IMO.

    The Lobster made my top movie of last year. Bloody amazing isn’t it? Such a daaark, surreal comedy. I loved every minute.

    As for midnight Special. i dunno… the chemistry and acting like you said was superb but… i dunno, the way it played out, the final act, it all seemed,,, underwhelming. And kinda obvious. But that is just me 🙂

    As for The Sunset Limited, I’d never heard of it. Sounds very interesting, I need to check it out somehow

    • Hi Jordan, Yes! I remember your ranking The Lobster super high. I’m glad we two are fans of the latest Coen Bros. offering. Sunset Limited you will like, I bet. It is dark and deep and profound. If you like Cormac McCarthy, you will like this play.

        • It originally opened at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2006. Tommy Lee Jones directed and starred in the HBO film version. It’s all dialogue. No action. Amazingly, it works. I rented it from Netflix. You probably could rent it on Amazon, too.
          I hope you get a chance to see it soon!

  6. A couple of really good ones on this list! I just love Midnight Special and Hail, Caesar! Two drastically films but also two of my favorites of the year so far.

    • Oh, good, Keith. I’m glad we share the love. I remember your recent revisit post of Hail, Caesar! and liked it better the second time around. At times it felt like a Mel Brooks comedy. I know I could laugh every time I watch it. 🙂

  7. I haven’t seen any of the films you feature, but I do like the sound of Hail Ceasar! I’ve been slowly working my way through the Coen’s filmography over the last couple of years, and I really enjoyed Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. I’m sure I’ll get round to their latest offering sooner rather than later.

    • Hi Courtney, thanks for sharing. I liked Kirsten Dunst in this even though her screen time wasn’t much. Shannon conveyed caring and worrying in a way that felt real. I liked the graphics at the ending.

  8. Heard good things about Hail Caesar. The others look interesting …
    I bet The Sunset Limited loses money (if he cares). Though it was probable cheap to make.
    A lot of movie watchers will suffer terribly now that Kickass has been blown up.. You can’t imagine how much money – and time – that saved.

  9. I have seen all but “The Sunset Limited.” Actually, I find myself embarrassed by the fact that until reading your blog, I had no idea that the film even existed. lol

    I enjoyed the other films, but admit to a vague sense of disappointment with “Hail, Caesar!” It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it. It simply didn’t meld and mutate into my DNA the way some of their films have (“Fargo,” “No Country For Old Men,” — and to a lesser degree, “Blood Simple” would be my favorites.) It also didn’t amuse me in the same way as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” …and I think that my apathy towards “Hail, Caesar!” is really unfair in many ways. Sometimes it is impossible to divorce yourself from preconceived notions or expectations. I knew too much going into the theatre. If the film had been made by Joe Idiot from Cincinnati, I probably would have loved it.

    • Ha, ha. I hear you. Did you like Inside Llewyn Davis? That one spoke to me, as well. I admire the Coen Bros. for their consistent, artistic, intelligent endeavors; looking back over the decades, they are masters of dark comedy–and tickling the funny bone is subjective. They are weird and showcase the absurdity of life. I do think the plot line for H,C! was mundane. But kinda like a Mel Brooks film–daffy and relaxing. What I admired about the film was the details cleverly placed throughout. The set choices, the costumes, the language, all the historical references that to me, the historian, I got. Plus, I’m such a softy for Gene Kelly and Esther Williams and the German expressionism –the dark, tip shot of the stairs at a Fed building and the submarine scene of the Communist–oh, I just loved seeing it on the screen. I thanked the Coen Bros. for the homage in my head. I just loved it.

      • I did like Inside Llewyn Davis, but on a different level than a lot of the others (or for different reasons). I’m not even sure how to articulate those reasons, but they have something to do with the tug of war between artistic integrity and success, but there is a scene when the “real thing” is on stage and Davis heckles her. To me, that is interesting, because it is vague and open to interpretation. Does he recognize that she is the real thing, or does he not even see that she meets his own standards? I think this key is probably the key to the entire movie, but I haven’t unlocked that door yet… or maybe I am totally offbase. I have only seen it once, and I think that reading certain films cannot properly be accomplished with a single viewing.

  10. I want to watch all four, but Midnight Special (2016) really intrigues me. I love Kirsten Dunst! The Lobster (2016) has a great poster!!! 🙂

    • Your intellect is sharp–I bet you see the satire and brilliance behind the message. I love Colin Farrell. The whole cast is fun to watch. MS was a solid film throughout. I liked the ending. The CGI worked in this one.

  11. Interesting list!! I haven’t seen any!! The Lobster is the one am most keen on!! The best film I saw recently, was an Indian classic. Watched it Last Week, and I blogged about it!! 😀

  12. An impressive list of films that I have to see Cindy. I saw Hail Caesar of course and loved it. Out of films I’ve seen recently I would say the better ones are The Hunt for the Wilderpeople and surprisingly enough Bad Moms.

Leave a Reply to Eric Binford Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: