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My Octopus Teacher (2020): This year’s best documentary Oscar winner tells a touching story about the connectedness of nature and our ability to draw from that. Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed worked with Craig Foster, filmmaker and diver, in capturing the latter’s journey of rediscovery within the kelp forest, situated in the treacherous waters around Cape Horn. Foster, coming off a professional burnout which had affected all parts of his life, found purpose, peace and…something else, something ethereal in his encounters with a friendly octopus during his dives. It’s not hard to both wish and imagine yourself experience a similar transformation, even if the execution is daunting and demanding. The spoon fed ending isn’t great, but ultimately the movie is a beautifully shot, relatable and uplifting tale to come out of an otherwise depressing 2020. 8
The Right Stuff (1983): The space race was an amazing time to be alive for as far as humanity’s boundless ambition goes. It took a special breed of men (sorry) to make it all happen and become the first (American) astronauts and this is their story. With a stellar cast (Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid, Lance Henriksen and many more), it manages to showcase the kind of characters that so much of macho-dreams are build upon – in a good way, if that’s possible. There’s some shared DNA between TRS and something like Top Gun, but the scope of the former is considerably more impressive, while only a tad less entertaining of that of the latter. Where it wobbles is that it’s not wholly consistent in tone, but for a 3hr+ movie, it keeps the action coming along smoothly, with plenty of opportunities for introspection. 8
Relaxer (2018): If you’re up for a movie that’s out of this world, give Relaxer a go. Not sure how I can describe it without giving too much away, but we have a seemingly dysfunctional central character who needs to complete a challenge in a Pac Man before being allow to get off the couch. And you should take that plot outline literally and try to imagine what that implies. While profoundly unusual, Joel Potrykus’ movie comes with a lot of meta commentary on our capitalist society and a very particular sense of dark comedy, which, if you tap into, will prove rewarding – but definitely not for everyone. 7
Caged Heat (1974): I’ve never found the fascination behind exploitation films, but there have been a few I was able to enjoy. Caged Heat, a surprising first entry from director Jonathan Demme (Academy Award winner for Silence of the Lambs), is not one of them. Marred by poor acting and a tedious plot, I found it difficult to engage with. There are glimpses of visual compositions one might expect from a director with Demme’s ability, but the whole thing just doesn’t grow beyond its limited budget. At best, Caged Heat is a curiosity. 4
Career Opportunities (1991): Young Jennifer Connelly was never on my mind, in a way justifiably so, because her work in the 80s in 90s, for the most part, wasn’t memorable. Career Opportunities is a prime example for the unmemorable films she was a part of, but a popular YT clip brought it to my attention. To be fair, the male gaze has plenty to rest upon whenever Connelly is on screen during this otherwise tiresome, nonsensical story about an entitled loser/liar who we’re supposed to root for and an entitled/rebelling girl coming from an ultrarich family. So maybe just stick to the YT clip and ignore Career Opportunities entirely. 4
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