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.

Toni Erdmann (2016)

Toni Erdmann is triumphant in its use of socially uncomfortable situations to pursue a relaxed and less serious take on life.  The film follows uptight and determined business woman, Ines Conradi, played by Sandra Hüller, and her jester father, Winifred, a.k.a Toni Erdmann, played by Peter Simonischek.  Their characters could not be more polar when it comes to self-confidence in terms of social acceptance. In other words, he doesn’t care what people think about him and she is obsessed with self-image and self-preservation. Ines is making a name for herself as a consultant in the oil industry in Bucharest, Romania.  Winifred is a teacher in Germany who spontaneously decides to visit his daughter after the death of his dog.  Her somber and humorless demeanor mixed with her fierce determination to move up in her company puts her in a highly stressful state throughout the movie.  This, coupled with her father’s outrageous and eccentric persona that is embellished by his live-in-the-moment attitude and absence of shame, makes him push his daughter to her limits.

I ♡ Huckabees (2004)

I   Huckabees is a philosophical comedy that follows Albert Markovski, played by Schwartzman, as he is investigated by existential detectives, Hoffman and Tomlin.  His desire to find meaning in specific coincidences in his life inspires him to learn more about the meaning of life.  The story encompasses opposing and differing ideologies surrounding self-image and status,  the human impact on the world, and the interconnected relation-ship between everything within the universe.  The film also features a comedic performance from Wahlberg as well as Jonah Hill’s debut in the acting world.

Zootopia (2016)

It is hard to imagine that a crime thriller about prejudice, corruption, and the viral spreading of misconceptions, is above all else a family-friendly animated adventure comedy.  Zootopia brings a beautifully exotic world to life in a way that we are accustomed to expect from Pixar, not Disney.  For the adults, the film is an overt allegory for intolerance and how fear can be used as a weapon, and for kids it is a story about perseverance and never letting others hold you back from achieving your dreams.

La La Land (2016)

They worship everything and they value nothing.

In general, I am not especially attracted to the musical genre.  This could be due in part to a lack of film musicals being released in recent years.  However, it is more likely that I simply struggle to get into the atmosphere of musicals.  The spontaneous dive into a choreographed number seems to pull me away from the plot instead of reinforcing it.  Chazelle has created a musical drama that pays homage to traditional musicals, but does not stick to their format in his new film, La La Land.