Can you ever forgive me? (2018)

In writing, as in life, less is more. Correspondingly, a simple story allowed to stand on its own, free to breathe (i.e. without overt biases and/or contrived themes imposed upon it), will naturally generate “The Conversation” so many artists eagerly crave these days.

Personally, I heard it say, “If you spend half as much time devoted to the task at hand as you do trying to get out of it, you’ll be fulfilled by both the process and the result. In the end, making a quick buck is complicated and expensive!”

But as viewers found with Doubt, everyone will walk away from the movie insisting it was about something else.

The End of the Tour (2015)

The cassette tape on the poster conjures memories of Almost Famous, which is unfortunate; it’s about literature (among other things) rather than music. Still, there are striking similarities between professions with the potential for celebrity. Accordingly, seasoned actors carry the weight of the expectations upon their characters as they wax poetic on the nature of […]

Flashdance (1983)

I suppose that in any Art form, everyone sees something different. Many recall this movie about a scrappy welder by day/ exotic dancer by night with nostalgia alone due to its iconic soundtrack. Others can still remember their infatuation with its lead after closeups of her exercise regimen made her iconic silhouette getting splashed with […]

Won’t You be my Neighbor? (2018)

“If you take all of the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’. Low production values, simple set, an unlikely star. Yet, it worked.” –Margaret Whitmer While the documentary itself is not particularly remarkable, the subject should never be forgotten. Yet that’s what makes its simplicity perfectly […]

UFO (2018)

Finally, an indie movie that isn’t self- conscious or earnest. This one is based on different species united by the universal language of Math rather than humans pitted against each other in wars of inhumane Science. Preachy rants by beleaguered protagonists are so last decade. Best of all, there’s no theatrical AAACTiiiiing, either. Characters’ personalities, […]

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

“Is there some reason that my coffee isn’t here? Has she died or something?” Unofficially based on real world- renowned fashion magazine editor, Anna Wintour, the fictional Miranda Priestly is as tough as they come. She’s also smart, clever and driven; the polar opposite of Andy, a homely but optimistic aspiring journalist, who somehow manages […]

Maudie (2016)

A well-meaning online discussion caught my attention: “Name a thoughtful non-romantic gesture by your significant other.” As if the two are mutually exclusive. Kindness and simplicity are vastly underappreciated. Often, excessive public displays of affection hide shallow, insecure relationships. Now we have social media to facilitate overcompensation. In contrast, those with the least appreciate it […]

Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Writer/ director, Baz Luhrmann, best known for his pinache, made his moviemaking debut with this one. And what a first impression! Let’s face it: regardless of medium, most first attempts are sincere but earnest and eschew anything flashy, which is understandable. Yet this gutsy storyteller somehow manages to fully develop his characters in a short amount of time. Though the movie is fast-paced it doesn’t feel the least bit rushed; Luhrmann knows exactly when and where to move the camera around his stylized set.

Though he gradually drifted into the realm of cinematic adaptations, this story is truly unique as a perfect synergy of any element you can name. I initially remembered it being a creative little daydream (i.e. a much classier version of Dirty Dancing) that someone more sentimental than I made me watch. Over the years it periodically surfaced in various conversations, referenced by everyone but cinephiles. I finally decided to rewatch it, assuming it would be a subtle precursor to Luhrmann’s hyper-stylized version of “Romeo and Juliet,” which I loved but hadn’t connected as being from the same visionary. Though many movies with vaguely similar elements came to mind, I couldn’t think of a single one to which this compares. In my humble opinion, it remains his finest work.

Bowfinger (1999)

I’m reluctant to describe this movie as “under rated.” If one ingredient of the elusive “star power” is what’s most commonly referred to as the “X factor,” it just makes sense that this movie is funny but not for any easily discernible reason. Each time I watch it seems lacking yet always see it through to the end. Likewise, I can’t stop waffling between whether or not it’s worth rewatching. Despite my disdain for meta, I love movies about movies. Perhaps that’s my (and many other people’s) complaint—it’s completely impossible to tell where the farce begins and ends. And considering it’s a star-studded big-budget movie about making a low budget movie that features stars that feels like a low budget movie… oh, who cares. When it works, it works. And this one does!

The Pirates of Somalia (2017)

The title* of a book by (then still) wannabe journalist, Jay Bahadur, who planned to write an exposé based on a land he grew to love almost as much as his own. Most coming-of-age stories center around a young man’s sexual encounter with a seemingly exotic native from the country to which he has either been forced to travel or to where he escapes from stifling responsibilities. This film depicts a naively brave visit to a place few journalists dared to go at the time.   *“Deadly Waters” in UK/ Australia

Part of its charm is how the casting in no way caters to Hollywood’s distorted racial sensibilities by either rewriting the story to make Jay’s parents’ mixed-race marriage a Caucasian union or by hiring an unconvincing vaguely ethnic actor, who bears no resemblance to real-life, Jay Bahadur. Rather, the family dynamic is believable but casually presented as fact since it has no bearing on the plot. Another component of its charm is in capturing affection, both in actors’ natural chemistry and characters’ scripted interaction. Pay close attention, filmmakers; this is how it’s done. That it intrinsically avoids heavy-handed themes, canned/ preachy dialogue, contrived metaphors and overblown juxtapositions makes this film feel like a blast of fresh air on a steamy day in the desert.

I would be remiss to leave out any mention of countless profanities and blatant drug use that makes this unsuitable for classroom viewing and discussion. However, where home viewing is concerned, realism is lost the moment the camera flinches. Moreover, the goal is sympathy and consideration rather than pity, and certainly not stereotypes. To that end, many striking parallels can be made drawn between African Pirates and North American rappers. At the end of the day, Human Beings are more like than different, which should make international diplomatic relations less convoluted than they tend to be.

Mr. Bahadur returned home right before cargo ship, MV Maersk Alabama was taken hostage by the pirates about whom he wrote. This incident stimulated interest in his book, which took longer than expected to get published. But people soon realized his research challenged inaccurate perceptions about the pirates and their motives. Incidentally, trivia fans will appreciate how movie Jay’s host-turned-friend, who guides him through Somalia is the same actor, who portrayed the lead pirate of the aforementioned hijacking as portrayed in the 2013 movie “Captain Phillips.”