Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks - Coming Home

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Come on and join in by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

Well, here we are again, one last edition of Thursday Movie Picks before the end of the year!

And what a year it's been, huh?

My biggest thanks to Wanderer for hosting this, and for continuing to do so in 2017! This has been a great way for me to get in the habit of writing weekly, and I'm FINALLY starting to write for real here (Jesus that took forever lol)! And it really is all due to this little project right here. So thank you.

ANYWAY, on to the matter at hand. The theme this week is coming home, which can be a very emotional thing for people, especially after a long time away.

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016) I'm pretty open about how I do NOT understand the INSANE critical praise for this, but it's still very, VERY good. Casey Affleck is Lee Chandler, a sullen janitor in Quincy, MA, who has had A Traumatic Event (TM) in his past that pushed him away from his home town (the title, duh). Now, his brother has died, and he has to go home to make arrangements, including serving as guardian for his young nephew (the fantastic newcomer Lucas Hedges). As a film about grief, how if we leave it unchecked it can eat away at us slowly until it leaves us completely hollow, this may be unparalleled, and it's pretty funny to boot. Add in Michelle Williams's brief, devastating turn as Lee's ex-wife (their scene together at the end is one of the best scenes of this year, or indeed the past few years), and it should be a recipe for great success. But instead, for me, this one unfortunately ended up being less than the sum of its parts.

Garden State (Zach Braff, 2004) I don't care what anybody says, I love this movie. So much about it is unique, and it's very moving. It also contains one of Natalie Portman's greatest performances, as the free-spirited weirdo who gets Braff's too-heavily-medicated Andrew (back home for his mother's funeral) to finally feel something. And that soundtrack, even when calling attention to how great it is, is pretty damn great. I defy you to not get at least a LITTLE emotional when Frou Frou's "Let Go" comes up in that perfect last scene.

You Can Count On Me (Kenneth Lonergan, 2000) Sammy and Terry Prescott lost their parents in a horrific car accident years ago. Now, Sammy (Laura Linney) is still living in their hometown in upstate New York, and Terry (Mark Ruffalo) is a drifter, coming home because he needs money. These two people could not be more different, but familial bonds are strong, and they would do just about anything for each other. Linney and Ruffalo are beyond fantastic here, and Lonergan gifted them with one of the greatest scripts of the '00s, one that is beautifully attuned to sibling relationships in a way that few films are. I love this beautiful movie so much.


  1. I do want to see Manchester By The Sea but I am wondering if it will turn out to be like In the Bedroom( or as I call it, in Boredom). The last film sounds quite good and I have marked it down to see. When will I ever find the time:)

    1. I wasn't BORED by Manchester, just underwhelmed. Unfortunately. All the elements were there but it just didn't come together in a satisfying way for me. You Can Count On Me is MUCH better.

  2. Ooooo I do love You Can Count on Me! Both the lovely Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo are so brilliant in the film. An excellent fit for the theme.

    Because Lonergan also directed Manchester by the Sea I'm going to give it a shot even though I've heard wildly varying opinions on it.

    I've avoided Garden State for the simple reason that Zach Braff's name is all over it and I don't get his allure in the least. Maybe some day if I run across it on TV and I'm too sick to change the channel I'll finally get around to it.

    I actually didn't have much trouble coming up with three this week, my first was an instant snap and the other two came pretty quickly as well. I did add an unexpected extra after the very sad happenings of the previous two days.

    Debbie's passing has lead to a mini-marathon actually. I've watched Tammy and the Bachelor and This Happy Feeling and plan to tuck into How the West Was Won over the weekend. :-)

    The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)-Three members of the armed forces strike up a friendship on a return flight to their home town at the end of WWII. The film follows their three stories, Al (Fredric March) an upper middle class banker, Fred (Dana Andrews) a poor but hardworking clerk and Homer (Harold Russell) who has lost his arms during the war, and their difficult readjustment to a life that now seems foreign to them. This is loaded with brilliant performances by the entire cast, especially Myrna Loy as March’s patient wife and was the winner of multiple Oscars including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Russell-he only made a few film appearances but he’ll tear your heart out) and Best Actor (March-though Andrews is the standout male performance). A great film.

    The Myth of Fingerprints (1997)-After a three year estrangement four adult children, including Julianne Moore & Noah Wyle, return to the Maine home of their parents for Thanksgiving. Their mother Lena (Blythe Danner) is a gentle soul hoping for a pleasant holiday but their remote, stern father Hal (Roy Scheider) remains closed off and the gathering is fraught with tensions.

    Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)-Quirky comedy/drama of a small town preparing for the return of hometown movie star Roxy Carmichael. The person who is most anxious for her return is young orphan Dinky Bossetti (Winona Ryder) who is sure that Roxy is her birth mother and is secretly planning to claim her as her own on her arrival.

    Tribute Bonus: With the incredibly sad passing of mother & daughter legends Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher within the last two days I wanted to include at least one of their films in memoriam, I wanted to do Bundle of Joy since Debbie was expecting Carrie when she made it (the ultimate costarring vehicle!) but the subject matter wasn’t right for the theme. This is the only one that really fit…happily it’s both a good film and a charming comedy.

    The Pleasure of His Company (1961)-“Pogo” Poole (Fred Astaire), a continental gadabout returns unannounced to San Francisco, his original home, for the wedding of his daughter Jessica (Debbie Reynolds) to cattle rancher Roger Henderson (Tab Hunter). Arriving at the palatial home of his ex-wife Kate (Lilli Palmer) and her present husband Jim Dougherty (Gary Merrill) when no one is home. He basically takes over the joint ensconcing himself in the best room and overtaking their servant Toy (Harold Fong). Kate, knowing what Pogo is like is leery or his return at first but eventually is lulled into letting him stay since Jessica wants him at the wedding so much. Kate’s sly father (Charlie Ruggles-in a highly enjoyable performance) who sees right through Pogo as well as Jim and Roger are less yielding especially when Pogo turns up the charm on Jessica and tries to convince her to take off with him to see the world rather than marry. Many humorous complications ensue capped by a mad dash to the airport. Breezy comedy played by experts.

    1. Manchester By the Sea is GOOD, just not GREAT, in my view. If you go in with very modest expectations, that's probably best. I always try to drown out the critical noise but wasn't able to do so with this one, I guess.

      Garden State is VERY Braff-ian, but if you like Natalie Portman AT ALL, it's essential. She's one of the best "Manic Pixie Dream Girls" on film.

      Best Years of Our Lives is simply one of the best Best Picture winners ever, but I haven't seen any of the others. I, too, have been doing a bit of a Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher retrospective, watching Postcards From the Edge, Singin' In The Rain (of course)m and Unsinkable Molly Brown along with various clips and a plan to watch When Harry Met Sally on New Year's Eve (as is only appropriate). The loss of one was devastating enough, losing both is just too much.

  3. Damn, I wanna see Manchester by the Sea so bad, and I have to wait until February 16 :(