Alternate title: the Return of Netflix, coincident with our return to Tucson.
Sometimes it's fun to watch movies that I somehow never heard of until they were already on DVD. Here are three that I can recommend to you (to varying degrees).
Son of Rambow. Those crazy Brits are at it again, making quirky, hilarious movies that don't really fit any established genre. This one has the feel of Better Off Dead combined with the style and random hilarity of Waking Ned Devine. However, while Better Off Dead was made in the 80s, Son of Rambow is just set in the 80s. Waking Ned Devine was about old people; Son of Rambow is about very young ones.
The basic premise is that an extremely religious, sheltered young boy who has never even watched television ends up watching Rambo: First Blood. What an introduction to the world of modern entertainment for a young, impressionable kid! He and his friends set out to make a film in honor of First Blood.
This movie is rated PG-13, in part for "reckless behavior." And how! It's the kind of movie that I am able to laugh at hysterically as an adult because to some degree, we've all done the stupid, extremely reckless things these kids do in pursuit of their homemade movie, and emerged unscathed, somehow, on the other side. But at the same time, I don't think I'd ever want my kid to see it lest they become inspired by their shenanigans. Thus the PG-13 rating, I suppose, though there is nothing else really offensive in it.
They say we Americans are overly dramatic in our movies, but I think the Brits have their share of drama overload as well. It's the only real flaw in three recent British movies that I can think of. Dear Frankie and Millions also had over-the-top, serious, dramatic moments that didn't fit with each of those films' otherwise spunky, whimsical tone. Son of Rambow suffers in the same way. But I still loved it. And I think I'll be using "skill" as an adjective a lot more.
Penelope. Again, how did I never hear of this movie? It's a remarkably refreshing romantic comedy, though the emphasis is on the comedy rather than the romantic. It's also very different - the premise, after all, is that a girl was born with a pig nose. My only real complaint is that Richard E. Grant is in the film (that's good) but isn't allowed to use his English accent (that's bad).
Unlike most PG-rated films that are designed to appeal to pre-teens and teenagers, this is one that I would actually let my daughter watch. Besides being unobjectionable (also unlike a lot of PG-rated films these days), it has a good message and is a smart, funny movie besides.
The Business of Being Born. My friend Liz wrote (ranted?) about this one on her blog. I actually had heard of this one before, but all I knew about it was that it was made by Ricki Lake. That fact kept me away from it for a while until Liz reviewed it and pushed me over the edge into watching it. And friends, if you are at all put off from watching a movie because you know Ricki Lake was somehow involved in its creation, just wait until you see her naked in the tub, in labor. Yeah. Um, Liz? Could have used a warning there. I'm just saying.
Anyway, I was disappointed in the film. I appreciated the things it got me thinking about, but it did very little thinking or analysis for itself. I thought I would be seeing a documentary that asked hard questions of doctors and midwives, presented statistics and facts about childbirth in America, and maybe even brought the insurance angle into the debate - all of these elements supporting the anecdotal side of the documentary. I even would have accepted it the other way around.
What I ended up seeing was an almost entirely anecdotal account of three or four women's birth experiences, interspersed with occasional, uninsightful, often biased commentary from health professionals and midwives. The biased part I can understand, because hey, it's their documentary. I just felt there was so much more they could have taught us. In addition, I felt that the featured midwife could have styled her hair in a way that did not leave her bangs hanging in her face all the time. That drove me crazy!
Also, they completely obscured what was potentially the most enlightening moment of the film, when the director's own home birth turned into a transfer to the hospital and an emergency C-section. That much, I understood. What was left unexplained: how many weeks along she was when it happened, what were the reasons for what happened, how she felt about her midwife considering what happened, etc. Basic, basic questions left unanswered.
It's a shame, too, because one thing this documentary really had going for it was that it interviewed Tina Cassidy, author of Birth. Tina Cassidy! Alas, the opportunity was squandered.
The Business of Being Born is a good one to watch if you feel like sparking your interest in the childbirth debate, and then going and doing your own research. But it is not a stand-alone product. Also, it has Ricki Lake naked in it. Just so you're warned.