Thursday, September 28, 2023

Character Studies

            Summer is over. Winter is coming. Many of us will spend more time indoors, and that for us means watching movies – though we’ve already watched quite a few during afternoon naptime. We are especially drawn to character studies, which usually accompany great acting. Here are a few we can recommend:


(Note: When I say it’s on Amazon, it often means through one of the Amazon subscriptions – Acorn, iFC, PBS Masterpiece, etc.)


The Chimp Empire (Netflix) – a documentary about a group of chimpanzees in an African jungle. Movingly told, it almost takes the form of a tragedy. If you have doubts about our close kinship to chimps, this series will make it clear.


The Mustang (Netflix) - No, it’s not about the car. A reality-based story showing how a hardened criminal participates in a rehabilitation program by training wild horses.


Jury Duty – a series showing the process of jury selection, the trial, discussions, and numerous problems and personal moments. The catch is that everyone involved is an actor – except for one person who is chosen to be Jury Foreman and has to deal with all this nonsense. Very entertaining!


Forward. Side. Close! (Amazon) – A grumpy old man living in an Austrian castle is forced to celebrate his 70thbirthday. This movie is much better than it sounds.


Acquitted (Amazon) – a man returns to his home town in Norway 20 years after being acquitted of the murder of his girlfriend. The town isn’t buying it.


Bedtime (Amazon) – Set during the half-hour before bedtime, this series goes behind closed doors to offer a revealing – and very funny – peek at the nighttime conversations between husbands and wives, fathers and sons, and more.


Half Broken Things (Amazon) – a house-sitter bonds with a petty thief and his pregnant girlfriend to form an idyllic “family,” until the past intrudes. Fascinating psychology.


Anatomy of a Scandal (Netflix) – A British politician admits to having an affair, which turns into an accusation of rape. Again – fascinating psychology, plus some good courtroom scenes. And what’s with those wigs!


Borgen (Amazon) – Political drama series about the first woman Prime Minister of Denmark. You will learn much about a political system that makes our American system look simple. Great character studies.


Maudie (Amazon) – True story about a Canadian folk artist who struggles with rheumatoid arthritis and a doubting family before moving in with a surly fishmonger. Another great character study. Better than I make it sound.


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (Amazon) – An Australian series starring Sigourney Weaver about a nine-year-old girl who is raised by her grandmother on a flower farm, where there are secrets within secrets. The plot is slow-moving, but the characters are powerfully drawn.


Women Talking (Amazon) – Do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. The women of an isolated religious community grapple with reconciling a brutal male-dominated reality with their faith. (Guys, we can be better than this!)


Phantom Thread (Netflix) – In 1954 London, an obsessive and controlling dressmaker (Daniel Day Lewis) forms a relationship with a waitress, who becomes his model and mistress. Fascinating dynamic between them.


Hampstead (Amazon) – Diane Keaton plays an American widow who finds unexpected love with a man living wild on Hampstead Heath. They take on developers who want to destroy his home. It’s a good Keaton vehicle.


Made in Italy (Amazon) – Liam Neeson is an artist, estranged from his son. They reconnect when working to restore and sell a badly neglected house in Italy. Great character/relationship study.


Your Sister’s Sister (Amazon) – Thoroughly delightful rom-com!


After the Wedding (Amazon) – The title sounds like a rom-com, but it’s certainly not that. A man travels from India, where he runs a charity for kids, to Denmark, where he hopes to meet a wealthy donor. He’s invited to the donor’s daughter’s wedding, and here’s where the surprises begin. It’s a powerfully acted and filmed work – it had both of us in tears. Again, a great character study.



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