Sledgehammer (The Abyss of Peleliu) (2018) – Short

I am the harvest of man’s stupidity.

A raw and gripping dive into the horrors and bloodshed that took place during World War II.  Sledgehammer is based on the memoir, With the Old Breed, written by Eugene Sledge.  Baker’s use of archival footage superimposed by animation highlights the carnage and emphasizes the intensity.  Narration from the point of view of Sledge, combined with the intense archival footage, creates a visceral look at the fear and torment soldiers went through during the Pacific Ocean theater.  Imagine, if you can, a condensed version of Apocalypse Now meets a humorless and haunted version of the narrator from A Christmas Story.

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (2007)

Can’t figure it out; do you want to be like me or do you want to be me?

 

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is not just a biographical drama, but an emotional examination of the human psyche.  The film follows Jesse James, played by Brad Pitt, on the tail end of his infamous crime campaign.  Accompanied by the Ford brothers, Robert (Affleck) and Charley (Rockwell), Jesse James’s paranoid final days are cataloged in an artfully crafted and insightful narrative.

Quiz Show (1994)

Well, the sponsor makes out, the network makes out, the contestants see money they
probably would never see in a lifetime, and the public is entertained! So who gets hurt?

 

When a champion of the game show Twenty-One , is asked to throw a match for the newcomer, a chain of events is set off that will change television game shows for decades.  Herb Stempel, played by John Turturro, is persuaded to throw the match against Charles Van Doren, played by Ralph Fiennes by the shows producers.  The behind the scenes deception results in a slow deterioration of the trustworthiness of the television industry and the dignity of the players.

 

Shape of Water, The (2017)

Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with your love. It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere.

 

In order to understand The Shape of Water try to imagine a retro-futuristic 1960’s government bunker housing top secret assets and all orchestrated by the creative Guillermo del Toro.  Naturally, you are left with an amphibious, human-like, creature with the power to connect people in a way that the 60’s American establishment is unable to cope with.  At the height of the Cold War, and with racial tensions and intolerance at a high, there is little room for love and acceptance; except, perhaps, through the determination of the minorities and overlooked members that build the framework of society.

Lady Bird (2017)

Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?

 

High school is one of those times in our lives that we never forget.  The awkward navigation of puberty, self-consciousness, and tumultuous interpersonal relationships are the baseline for what become our formative years.  Trying to figure out who we are and at the same time, keep up on school work and planning the trajectory of the next phase of our life.  This can be daunting, but Greta Gerwig was up to the task in her solo directorial debut, Lady Bird.

Lady Bird follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan, as she finishes up her senior year in high school.  Her combative relationship with her mother, Laurie Metcalf, causes the primary source of tension throughout the film.  The McPherson family’s low-income status reduces Lady Bird’s post high school options and is a major source of stress for her mother.  With out-of-state college out of reach, Lady Bird is forced to deal with her ambivalent feelings towards Sacramento and the lackluster prospect of city college. 

This authentic portrayal of high school life, has an honest realism that few coming of age movies ever achieve.  It has the quirks and awkwardness reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite while still anchored in reality.