Playing catch up

One of the biggest question marks upon my return to the states was what I would do with myself around the hours spent on the job search.

The answer, you will not be surprised to hear, has been found in movies.

As I slowly reminded myself the nuances of grocery shopping for one, I also recalled the wonder of Redbox, the big crimson machine standing just next to the store’s exit, waiting for me to stop and browse. Five movies later, I’d rented over ten hours of film for what it would cost me to go see two on screen in a theater. All five films also turned out to be ones I at some point said to myself, “I should really go see [fill in the blank]” but then never got around to.

I started easy, with ROBOT & FRANK, the indie hit with Frank Langella as an elderly man losing his mental capacity and learning to rely on the house-trained robot his son decides to provide for him. I’d heard it was surprisingly touching, funny and charming, and indeed it was all those. Even the score stood out, a quirky, futuristic-sounding thread through the 90-minute story of unexpected friendship and familial support.

Still avoiding the gut punch I knew would be waiting in a few of my other selections, I next popped in THE INTOUCHABLES, a film many said might give AMOUR a run for its money in the foreign film spotlight last year. Philippe is a wealthy quadriplegic, Driss is the ex-con who stumbles into home health care, serving as Philippe’s arms, legs and often, hands to hold the cigarette he takes a drag from. Equal parts touching, emotional and funny, it’s the kind of film more people should see (sadly, subtitles inherently limit an audience) and would be pleasantly surprised with.

I next caught up with END OF WATCH, quite a leap from the soft bed I’d curled into with the previous two films. Rough and intense, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are partners on an LAPD patrol who spend as much time busting each other’s balls as they do keeping thugs and gang bangers behind bars. I had no idea Anna Kendrick also stars (I kinda want A & J to be a real-life thing), and I had no idea how much of a human story is captured from the dash of a patrol car. Honest and gritty and really well made.

Fourth on the list was FLIGHT, the Zemeckis film Denzel Washington nabbed an Oscar nom for. I think because I was doing so much traveling, I sub-consciously avoided this one, and I’m glad I did until now. The crash scene is intense. As is Washington’s performance, conflicted and genuine. The moment in the hearing…well, I won’t give it away, but suffice it to say I found myself transfixed, his every move thoughtful and appropriately difficult. Not a film as a whole that will go down in film history, but a worthy performance of decent material.

Finally, I got up the courage to put in the last of the five films, Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY. I’d been putting this one off deliberately. I remember watching THE HURT LOCKER on DVD at home, only realizing when the credits ran that I was breathing again, that my muscles relaxed. It was a tense experience, and one I wasn’t excited about repeating much as I knew I needed to see Bigelow’s latest effort. Maybe it was the wine I had while I finally watched it, but 0DT effed me up. I’m tempted to say Chastain should’ve gotten the Oscar over Lawrence, that’s how powerful I found her performance. Like HURT LOCKER, 0DT is built on a series of intense moments that have you waiting, quite literally at times, for a trigger to be pulled. It’s an exhilarating state of exhaustion you find yourself in by the end, perhaps oddly one of satisfaction and release. An intense ride, but like any good rollercoaster, totally worth it.

Five different films, but all well worth the time and minimal rental fees. Feels good to mark these off my To See list. And with the help of Netflix in addition to Redbox rentals, I’ll likely be spending more of my (hopefully temporary) downtime with even more films. I’ll keep you posted on how they fare.