Short Reviews of Obscure Movies
Many movies are not blockbusters and shouldn’t be. But there are good movies out there that you might never find in the overblown publicity of the latest 300 million dollar extravaganza. In this age of movie streaming, you can find some good movies that never made headlines or megabucks. Below I just want to highlight a few.
Yes, this movie is a coming of age story, but it deftly avoids all the cliches. It is not Karate Kid or others like it where a skinny nerd becomes an amazing hero when mentored by a wise elder. Instead the skinny nerd is actually a disciplined athlete already, but struggling with how to use his physical gifts but avoid the high school jock culture. As the new kid in school, he wisely avoids the jock posse by hiding himself in a locker. When he emerges, his eventual love interest, noting the unorthodox entrance, asks if he just came from an alternate universe. “No,” he replies, “Oregon.”
When he does get beaten up, it’s not by a bunch of jocks, but he is ambushed with a single hit from a baseball bat out of nowhere, and his antagonist’s motivation is not what you’d expect. When his mentor sees his black eye, he starts to help, but when asked by our hero, “Are you going to teach me how to fight?” He replies, “No. I don’t have enough time for that. I’m going to teach you how to take a punch. That’s probably going to happen a lot to you,” and begins the lesson.
The kid doesn’t become the perfect athlete, and his accidental mentor is ridiculously flawed. Nothing in this movie takes the cliche way out, and our protagonist uses his wit and erudition even more than his physical skills to fix his predicaments. Don’t miss the scene where he apologizes to his girl-friend and brings the world’s strangest make-up gift. Also props to the English teacher for assigning, “Catcher in the Rye, a story about a whiny narcissist who deserves everything that happens to him.”
All that barely scratches the surface. It’s not, “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry.” Instead you’ll go, “Wow. That was real, and fun too.”
Please Kill Mr. Know It All
Preposterous premise and superb acting. An asocial advice columnist who hides her nerdy self behind a male pseudonym but needs a man’s picture to become the face of her soon-to-be syndicated column accidentally takes the picture of an asocial hitman to be her alter ego causing him endless trouble.
If you enjoy intelligent people speaking and acting like intelligent people while getting into funny situations, you’ll love this one. No fart jokes, no overacting, just funny situations, and poorly socialized characters trying to navigate a meaningful relationship.
Example: the hitman hugs the female lead after sneaking into her apartment, and she asks, “Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you glad to see me?” after we’ve just seen him stuff a gun in his pocket in the previous scene. Subtle, but funny as hell, and they don’t belabor it.
The First Time
As you can guess from the title, a movie about 2 teenagers having sex for the first time. It’s so easy to make such a movie into a preachy or tragic or sex-celebrating yawner. This movie is different though, subtle, intelligent, and charming. The male lead, Dave, is awkward in a charming way that is true-to-life for a high-school senior. His counterpart, Aubrey, is whip smart and slightly more sophisticated and mature, but only realistically as most girls mature faster than boys.
The main characters meet in a suburban street where they both take refuge from a party that neither is too keen on being at in the first place. Aubrey can’t leave because she came with friends and has to wait for them. Dave is hiding out from his friends who keep pushing him to reveal his feelings to Jane, the girl he adores, instead of just being the understanding friend to her as she pours out her disappointment at all the other boys she dates.
The scene with Aubrey and Jane talking by the pool for the first time is awesome. Jane’s shallowness isn’t really over the top, and she also points out the good things she knows about Dave like how he treats his kid sister. The payoff is when Aubrey starts to try to sell Jane on Dave’s value as a love interest, but forces herself to awkwardly stop, realizing that Jane is never going to be enough for Dave, and that she’d rather have him.
Aubrey’s parents are portrayed as forcing her to grow up too fast by being too unwilling to be a big part of her life, but not melodramatically, just by trusting her in too much of a hands-off way. The scene where Aubrey finally seriously opens up to her parents in an awkward, teenage, detail-free way, and they start to realize that she really has grown up, is enough to make any parent cry.
The movie never goes for the easy out.
We Love You Sally Carmichael
We Love You, Sally Carmichael is hilarious, outrageous, heartfelt. The first half is funny in an uncomfortable kind of way, and the last half more than delivers. I couldn’t stop laughing. I nearly fell out of my chair during the final interview the main character gives. More fun than you should be able to have in an hour and a half. It’s got everything, nerdy failed author who becomes best selling pseudonymous sell-out and hates it, smarmy publishers, one considerably crazy actor, and a bunch of normal people who actually like the main character, Simon.
Watch carefully and you’ll see that despite Simon’s hatred and disgust at his alter ego, ordinary people’s lives have been altered for the better by what he considers total schlock.
My only question is how did Christopher Gorham go from nerdy Jake Foley in Jake 2.0 to badass blind hunk Augie Anderson in Covert Affairs and back to nerdy Simon Heath/Sally Carmichael in a few short years. That’s some special acting.
Find this movie! Watch this movie!
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