The greatest documentary ever made continues with part eight. It is, simply, the most riveting reality show ever made. I have enjoyed watching the subjects become more reflective on the process of making this documentary as they have aged. The insights they have into their own lives–choices they didn’t make, opportunities taken or squandered–make the stakes so much higher than anything on Top Chef. It’s great.
Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) becomes unstuck in time, his consciousness shifting from one moment in his life to the next seemingly without warning. He survives the bombing of Dresden during World War II and the horror of that experience is something he carries throughout his life.
I haven’t read the book, so there’s no comparisons to be made or griping about what they left out. I did find this movie to be a very interesting examination of a man living with time travel. One of my biggest questions is one of memory. Once he’s aged past Dresden, Billy Pilgrim always seems to have a complete memory of his life going forward. He is embodied by calmness, by complete understanding and acceptance of his life. I wish this would have been explored more, especially whether his knowledge of his future life shaped his encounters in the past.
It didn’t really dig as deep as it could have. I thought it was an interesting premise and first-time director Joe Garner certainly put himself out there into the arms of strangers. There were a few cold nights that you really wondered whether he would find a place to sleep. But I didn’t care about Joe as a person and, unfortunately, I don’t think he had the right amount of charisma to be the center of a film like this.
Briton Anna (Felicity Jones) is a university student in Los Angeles. She leaves a note for her teaching assistant, Jacob (Anton Yelchin), on the windshield of his car and the two begin a relationship. Clearly smitten, things progress very well. They move in together, she introduces him to her parents, they approve, everything is great. Then Anna decides to overstay her student visa because she can’t bear to be apart from Jacob for a few months. Some time later, Anna is forced to return to England for a family obligation and, when she tries to return, finds she is banned from entering the country. She and Jacob must now make things work while thousands of miles apart.
I thought this movie did a good job of showing the emotional toll long-distance relationships can take on a couple. Both Anna and Jacob are trying to establish careers and are consistently faced with the question of moving their career to the other (mostly Jacob since there’s no immigration restrictions for him). During time apart, both explore relationships with other partners and question one another about these relationships. You can tell that the characters are genuinely hurt by the other’s actions and ashamed or regretful of their own betrayals. The relationship goes up and down in ways that connect with the audience.
My opinion of this movie is clouded, however, by the fact that the only reason Jacob and Anna find themselves in this situation is because Anna wouldn’t get on a freaking plane. Your visa expired. Get on the plane. You can come back later. Instead of waiting a few months to come back, you end up waiting years and, in that time, damaging your relationship with this person that you love “like crazy”. I understand being head-over-heels for someone, but this is what makes the movie. If Anna gets on the plane, there’s no movie. I understand that something needs to drive the movie forward. There needs to be an obstacle to overcome. Yet, every time something happened in their relationship to either bring them together or pull them apart, I came back to this thought: “We wouldn’t be here if she had just gotten on the plane.” I had a hard time getting past that.
The title of this film is clearly meant to imply an all-encompassing obsession with sushi for the titular chef, Jiro Ono. “Obsession”, though, is not the right word. He is committed to his craft. Actually, he makes me think of Ayn Rand’s protagonist Howard Roark from The Fountainhead. He does not waste his time. Jiro has never stopped working, never missed a day. He will not retire, preferring death as the means by which he will hand the restaurant to his eldest son. And he continues because he wants the sushi to be perfect, to represent the food at its highest forms. If I have a complaint about the film, it’s that there’s really no insight from Jiro’s friends or spouse. There’s great discussions with his sons about their relationship with him and their own ambitions, but I would have liked to have had even a mention of their mother, or a remark from his friends about Jiro. But maybe that’s the other side of the coin, that Jiro is so committed, he has not established friendships. That’s the price you pay for perfection.
Will (Bill Milner) is a young member of an ultra-conservative religious sect in early 1980s England. He is banned from participating in most aspects of modern life, to the point that he must leave his classroom and sit in the hallway when a documentary is screened. He escapes through massively complex and imaginative doodles in a spiral notebook. During one of these hallway times, he encounters Lee Carter (Will Poulter), a Dennis The Menace-type who always seems to be in trouble. Impressed by Will’s doodles, Lee takes the shy boy under his wing. Lee lives with his older brother, Lawrence (Ed Westwick) in a retirement home owned by their mother and step-father. His parents are never home, leaving Lawrence in charge, who treats Lee like his butler rather than his brother. Lee hides Will from Lawrence in a storage room, where Will proceeds to watch the entirety of First Blood, which Lee has recently pirated from a local theater. Will is inspired by this experience and he and Lee proceed to make their own sequel: Son of Rambow.
Escaping from your life is so much easier as a child. Sure, you can pretend you are an action hero as an adult and daydream about saving the world, but people look at you funny when you’re jumping around in your office and declaring war on all evil-doers. Kids, though, get a pass, and they should. Being able to act out these fantasies is cathartic and helps young people deal with all that’s going on around them. For Will and Lee, their experience of making Son of Rambow exposes the emotions swirling around their family lives and deal with some very deep personal conflicts. Lee’s misbehavior is simply a reflection of the frustration he is experiencing with his own life, while Will finds a release for his imagination through cinema. The film is touching in how it portrays pre-teens dealing with difficult emotions and establishing their own identities, but doesn’t devolve into melodrama. This is a good movie.
A young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping late one night. Brody (Roy Scheider), the local police chief of Amity Island, wants to close the beaches. This would kill the tourism-based economy in the heart of summer and the mayor and town council deny Brody permission. The medical examiner goes so far as to reclassify the woman’s death as a boating accident, to avoid generating fear. After a young boy is killed in full view of the beach-going public, a bounty is offered by his mother for the shark. Local shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) offers to kill the beast for $10,000 and the sum attracts the attention of marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). Eventually, the three team up to end the terror.
I’ve never seen this movie before. It seems sacrilegious, right? A film buff having never seen Jaws is almost unforgivable. So sitting down to watch it, I knew all about the history of the film, how it coined the phrase “blockbuster”, how Spielberg built suspense and fear throughout the film. Knowing all of that in advance, it did not take away from my enjoyment of the film in any way. If anything, it helped me have a greater appreciation for the moments between those famous scenes. Brody’s failed attempts to close the beaches, Hooper’s inability to convince the locals of the danger they are facing, and the former’s own fears and concerns about his family are heightened. I’m worried about the shark coming, but I’m worried about the people, too.