In the spring I wrote about 7 movies I watched at the beginning of the year. Since I have had quite a bit more free time this summer, I figured I would write round 2. Some were recommendations from the last time around, so thanks. Also, my first critical thinking point is that the first four feature a white woman, so I acknowledge that right off the bat.
- Molly’s Game: First and foremost, I really admire Jessica Chastain and all the roles she plays. She represents strong women with intellect and decision-making power. We randomly got this on Red Box, but I actually really enjoyed it. It’s an ambitious (mostly true) drama of Molly Bloom who ends up running an extremely high-stakes poker game. It gives viewers a glimpse into the addiction of gambling, the distaste of wasted wealth, and the strange form integrity sometimes takes. She’s got issues with her dad that thread throughout her life. Idris Elba, as her lawyer, has one scene that is dynamite. And one of my favorite parts is a Crucible reference that perhaps only an 11th grade English teacher can truly appreciate. Even though I wouldn’t exactly call it a “feminist” film, I enjoyed watching a woman play a role that Hollywood typically gives to men. Lesson learned: Competition never ends when your opponent is yourself.
- Eighth Grade: This is a must watch for parents of and adults who work with adolescents. There was one scene in particular that made me cry, from a parent’s perspective. The film is inappropriate at parts, but also in my view, realistic. I am young, but I can’t imagine living through middle school in the age of Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, etc. Sometimes you see the main character, Kayla, staring at the glow of her phone screen in the dark. It makes you realize just how sad and isolated our world of social media has become. Lesson learned: Kids need caring adults. They need to have so many caring adults in their life that they lose count. This won’t spoil them. It will make them resilient and brave and build them into caring adults one day.
- Tully: I had tentative plans to see this movie in theaters with some of my mom friends I made after Zadie was born, but it never worked out. I felt the trailer relatable to my memories of bringing a newborn baby home. It was a pretty isolating and challenging time that is supposed to be beautiful and filled with snuggles. So I could tell the movie would be triggering and maybe validating to women who have had the experience of childbirth. If post-partum depression is a part of your story, go into this movie with either an escape plan or support. You will most likely cry, but I always believe that tears can help heal. Lesson learned: Take care of yourself. Ask for help.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Holy cow. I completely understand why Frances McDormand won Best Actor for this role and why it was written with her in mind. The film makes you think about life and death, violence and mercy, and the anguish of losing loved ones. It is not a light-hearted story. It requires your full attention. It is dramatic, but exposes some nasty components of humanity. The cast is largely white, but they do address race. Sam Rockwell’s character gave me a lot to think about, like who deserves redemption. In the future, I’d like to see an Oscar-buzz like this in future years where the stars are actors of color, and the parts were written for them. Lesson learned: Can justice only be served once you have cycled through all the stages of grief?
- Coco: You don’t have to be a kid in order to watch an animated movie, but if you want to borrow one, Zadie would watch this movie again for sure (Ben would too). It will tug at your heartstrings if you have a close extended family network, which I actually do not, but enjoyed the story anyways. I learned a whole new perspective on Dia de los Muertos: as a celebration of ancestors and honoring of family instead of a reinforcement of what I felt I was taught growing up- some sort of Satanic Mexican Halloween filled with evil spirits. The music is amazing. The relationships are genuinely beautiful. It is a great one. Lesson learned: Hold the ones you love closely in your heart and express it as often as you can.
- Crazy Rich Asians: I can still be a feminist and love a good romantic comedy. While this movie has faults (I’ll get to them), it was honestly amazing to see a predominately Asian cast defying all sorts of stereotypes. Both the women and men are attractive. There are a variety of personalities and storylines. Not all of them are super smart. They are human. Singapore is sexy, technologically advanced, and portrayed as a hot spot destination instead of the images I have seemed to collect of stressful China-town markets. I have become a Constance Wu fan this summer from watching Fresh Off the Boat on Hulu, and she was superb. Wu plays an NYU Economics professor who falls in love with a Chinese man named Nick who wants to take her “back” East to meet his family. It turns out he is filthy rich and she had no idea. It was Gatsby-esque in the absurdly lavish parties and display of wealth, which makes you repulsed and severely jealous at the same time. As for faults, I learned more about some of the colorism still affecting Asia, the potential message that “white” and white norms are the gold standards, and Ken Jeong’s character is a bit wacky. Despite them, I maintain that it is a must see, and it better make the door even wider for more films with writers, actors, and producers of color. Lesson learned: Honoring your family and desiring your own happiness can be possible.
- Love, Simon: This movie spoke to me on a human level. It is absolutely a standard high school coming of age flick, but it surprised me, mostly because I knew nothing about it before viewing. I grew up socialized to believe homosexuality is at its core sinful, wrong, and perverted. As I learn more, I still have to interrupt the homophobic instincts from my upbringing. The movie reminds me of A Cinderella Story, where private emails get read by the wrong people. But it’s so much more tender. It did make me question why being straight is the perceived norm and think about what it would be like to “come out” or feel the need to share my sexuality preferences publicly. As a parent, it really makes me grateful for the opportunity to love my kid(s) and truly want them to experience love too. Lesson learned: Love the kid in your arms, not the one in your head.
What did you watch this summer? What should I add to my list for fall? Where do you agree and disagree with me? What did I miss?