Thursday, August 8, 2019

Solid Picks for Your Next Movie Night

Good Netflix Movies

Do you ever spend what seems like hours trying to find a movie to watch?  Here are a few I've come across through Netflix and plane-watching. 

None of them are new releases, but interesting movies nonetheless. And three of the four happen to be directed by women! 

Winter's Bone

Jennifer Lawrence
There she is, baby-faced.  Ten years ago.  Back before Hunger Games and all her David O. Russell films. 
I finally got around to seeing this--Jennifer Lawrence's first big hit. I remember listening to reviews of this movie nine years ago.  But it's hard to remember a time when I didn't known who Lawrence was.  Her career really exploded after Winter's Bone.

Winter's Bone is a touching movie about an impoverished family in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.  The father has gone missing after putting his house up as bail.  With a mentally-ill mother, the onus is on Ree Dolly (Lawrence) to care for her younger siblings and prevent the authorities from taking their home.

There's a very folksy feel to this movie.  Memorable scenes include locals gathering in a living room to play mountain music, and Ree Dolly skinning a squirrel--scenes akin to dueling banjos in Deliverance, though nothing nearly so iconic.

Winter's Bone received four Academy Award nominations, including Lawrence's first for Best Actress.  It was directed by Debra Granik and based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Daniel Woodrell.  It's been streaming on Netflix for a while now, and a good bet if you're going for a quieter, independent sort of a movie.  It does have at least one gory scene, however.

American Psycho

Any movie starring Christian Bale is generally a solid watch.
Here's another oldie-but-goodie on Netflix.  Without giving a lot away, in American Psycho, Patrick Bateman (Bale) battles demons as he struggles in his professional role as an investment banker in New York.  And, idk, he dates women.  

That's a pretty basic summary.  It's an exceptionally gory movie, I might also add.

American Psycho came out in 2000 and it's REALLY dated.  The phones are huge.  But of course that's a given.  And there was a HUGE emphasis on business cards--font choice, raised text, type of paper, etc.  At first it seemed silly that Bateman could be triggered into murderous jealousy over a co-worker's more sophisticated font or whatever.

But then I thought this jealousy is probably akin to the kind people have over social media accounts--comparing followers and interaction.  Which is very real.

But the movie's dated more so in the way it completely fails to pass the Bechdel test.  (In order to pass the Bechdel test two female characters need to talk about something other than a male character).  The entire movie is essentially a bunch of men talking, and then some women talking about the men.  

It's interesting this movie's directed by a woman--Mary Harron.  Again, I'll say it's good, but you'd think Harron would have given her female characters more autonomy and depth.  Ah, well.  

Chlöe Sevigny's performance as Bateman's receptionist stood out. She convincingly plays a plain character who dresses school-marmily, but is actually a model and fashionista in real life!

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man

Documentary Films
Here's Avallone in his coveted cameo with the man himself!  
I watched this on a plane.  The title basically summarizes the message of the movie.

In The Bill Murray Stories, documentarian Tommy Avallone recounts Murray's many encounters with the common man over the years.  Murray has photo-bombed a wedding photo, washed dishes at a college party, bar-tended for an evening, and joined in on a karaoke room.  

Wherever he shows up, Murry is, as much as possible anyway, just another guy.  He is friendly and participatory without making himself the center of attention.

Avallone interviews people who know Murray, who've witnessed an appearance, and extrapolates from Murray's improvised dialogue in movies like Caddyshack.  And he concludes Murray's penchant for mingling with common folk is really a deep and profound philosophy on how to go about living.  With a lesson in there for us!  

Maybe I'm living under a rock, but I had no idea Murray did stuff like this.  He's an actor I really, really like.  If you like Murray, too, you'll enjoy this documentary.  The “deep meaning” sections I found a little too speculative and idealistic, but otherwise it was good. 


Do Hawke and Hawkins convincingly play two simple 1930s folks from Nova Scotia?  You be the judge.  
This touching 2016 bio-pic about the Nova Scotia folk artist, Maud Lewis, stars Sally Hawkins as Maud and Ethan Hawke as her husband.  Maud is arthritic and crippled from birth.  In need of income and housing after her family sells the family home, she works as the housekeeper to curmudgeonly fishmonger, Everett Lewis, who eventually becomes her husband.  

And she gradually develops a local and then international following for her colorful paintings of local landscapes, flowers and animals.

I wonder if in real life Everett was as nasty to Maud as he was in the movie.  And had a hard time seeing a crotchety old man in Ethan Hawke.  As much as he wants to be a character actor, to my mind he's branded with hipster, Generation X roles such as Troy in Reality Bites and the father in Boyhood. 

Yeah, that was a hard sell.  As was Sally Hawkins as Maud.  She kind of grates on me.  Somehow I can't get over her "poppy-perky" persona from Happy-Go-Lucky.  

But Maudie does really tell a sweet story and it's well worth watching.  Plus, Lewis's artwork is beautiful.  

Maudie was directed by Aisling Walsh and is streaming on Netflix in the US.

Your Recommendations?

And there you have it—a few solid picks.  In my opinion, anyway.
What are some good movies or series you've watched lately? 


  1. I haven't seen any of those but I'm adding them to my list (when I watch movies at home I usually end up sound asleep on the sofa). I love that you liked the stores even though you couldn't really love the characters as portrayed by the actors. It makes me want to see those even more.


    1. Ha ha, good way to get yourself to sleep! Well I hope that you get around to seeing some of these, Ruth. Yeah, if I'm watching a movie on a Saturday afternoon or a plane or something I go in with low expectations and it's easy to look past things I don't like about the movie.

  2. American Psycho is one of my favorite movies! I've never heard or seen Winter Bone but I'll have to check it out soon!

    Eena ☼ cabin twenty-four

    1. I've heard a lot of positive things about American Psycho over the years so happy I finally got around to seeing it. Actually I remember one Halloween my friend dressed up at Christian Bale (with the white poncho).
      You'd probably like Winter's Bone. It's really touching.

  3. These movies seem pretty cool! I love that there's so much to see. It is interesting to see these big name actors/actresses back in the day. Especially seeing Christian Bale before his Batman days!! Thanks for sharing all of these! I watched Wu Assassins the other day. Pretty cool. Though, I have been into standups a lot more lately.

    Nancy ♥

    1. Yes, I love seeing old movies for that reason; you see famous actors earlier in their careers. Have to check out Wu Assassins; I'm always looking for new things to watch on Netflix!


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