Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Mailbox Full of Fun

God bless the good people at NetFlix. Because of them, I can contribute to the drop in profits for first run movies. (And yet, every service idea has a dark side.) Simply stay home and watch movies at home! I've watched some great ones recently:

Spellbound, 2002 - What's great about this documentary, which follows 8 young people as they prepare for and compete in the national spelling bee, is how the filmmakers, and the kids themselves, make you root for these kids within 40 minutes of film.

You know disappointment is coming for at least 7 of them - if not all 8 - but you still root them on until the very end. Bonus points for not concentrating on overbearing parents. Only one parent seems a bit pushy with his child, the rest simply cheer on their kids like everyone else, and support them when they need it.

The Incredibles, 2004- I know, everyone loves this movie, right? The Incredibles is a perfect example of a film exceeding its "genre." I think people (like, oh, the Academy Awards) are too quick to categorize this film as animation only. It's so well written that it puts a lot of live-action movies to shame.

Animation is a tricky mode of entertainment, even in the TV world. There are significant differences between cartoons and a situation comedy that happens to be animated. Family Guy, cartoon. Futurama, situation comedy. Futurama can actually garner emotions from people - besides humor - due to its development of character and consistent storylines. You can't tell me you care about any of the characters on Family Guy, for good reason, the creators are concentrating on a quick fire barrage of jokes.

I'm not saying one is better than the other - it's simply a different type of entertainment.

Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, 2002 - One small part of my long period of renting WWII documentaries (There are a lot of good ones, as long as you don't mind subtitles). This simple but powerful documentary outlines the story of Traudl Junge - Hitler's personal secretary from 1942 - 1945. The story is told with many photos and images from the time, but is narrated completely by Ms. Junge.

It's fascinating to hear her history from being whisked away to a private compound for an interview to the last days spent with Hitler (any many others) in the bunker far underneath Berlin. Of particular interest to me was the filmmaker's technique of filming Junge watching her own recorded information - this allowed her to stop and make further reflections or clear up ambiguities in the original monologue.

Go forth and rent! Rent! RENT!


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