Tuesday, August 1

Streamathon - Reunions (August 2017)


August 2017 - Reunions

Preface: This is part of an ongoing blog series of curated movie marathons that are thematically or otherwise tied together. The other common factor tying these films together will be their availability to watch them all from the comfort of your own home on various streaming platforms. The goal is that writing this blog will somehow justify the excessive number of streaming platforms I subscribe to. The films will be found on some combination of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Mubi, FilmStruck, and/or Fandor. These titles will be available for the month that the blog is published. All of these subscriptions offer free trials so feel free to dive in and follow along… Have fun. Just don’t message me for my login information.

By: Emery Martin-Snyder

REUNIONS – What better setting for a film than a reunion? Old friends, families, lovers, enemies and casual acquaintances all come with their own baggage and backstories. Maybe we’re watching a couple of blond bombshells try to convince their old high school classmates that they invented “Post-It Notes” in David Mirkin’s ROMY & MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION (1997). Or we spend another night with Jesse & Celine as they reunite nine years after their European romance in Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNSET (2004). Either way, there’s a common rush of emotional anticipation that accompanies the set. What’s old becomes new, what’s familiar becomes awkward and what’s safe begins to terrify. Here’s a list of films that you can put on when you’re trying to avoid talking to the people you’ve recently been reunited with.

The Stream

Directed by Ted Demme – Streaming on FilmStruck

Timothy Hutton’s character Willie shows us why we can never go home again. He shows back up in his hometown to essentially give up on his dream of being a professional musician. Willie’s old friends are less than enthusiastic at the idea of not being able to live vicariously through him any longer. But they all have their own problems to deal with as well. For all intents and purposes, this is an ensemble piece with a cast list that reads like a 90’s who’s who of talent. Some performances are better than others, but I particularly like Michael Rappaport here as Paul.

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan – Streaming on Hulu

Lawrence Kasdan is better known as a screenwriter than a director. He was responsible, or at least co-responsible, for some really big screenplays during the 80’s including RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. He is currently working with J.J. Abrams to extend the STAR WARS universe. In 1983, he co-wrote and directed this little Oscar nominated gem about a group of college friends reunited for a funeral. Now older, the group reminisces about their revolutionary years at the university and wrestle with the notion that they have grown up and out of their principals. They get drunk, high, argue about philosophies and hook up with each other. I actually think that this is a great time capsule film. The characters perfectly portray the type of upper crust thirty-somethings that you would likely find in the early 80’s. The baby-boomers were working hard to ensure that their liberal social principals wouldn’t clash with their conservative economics. Cocaine helps.

Directed by E.L. Katz – Streaming on Netflix

Craig (Pat Healy) and Vince (Ethan Embry) are a couple of old punk rock friends that reconnect at a bar after Craig, now settled down, has lost his job and faces an eviction. They happen to meet up with an eccentric couple that introduces them to what turns out to be a potentially lucrative opportunity. All that it will cost them is any sense of decency or morals that they may have left. This film is a lot of fun. Watch it with an old buddy.   

Directed by Xavier Dolan – Streaming on Netflix

Xavier Dolan has a magical habit of directing small family melodramas as though they’re Hitchcockian thrillers. He’s kind of like the anti-Ozu. His filmmaking is manipulative and overwrought and beautiful and at times transcendent. This is one of those times. This film got very understandably mixed reviews. For some reason, those seem to frequently be my favorites.

Directed by Lixin Fan – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

There are 130,000,000 migrant workers in China. And they all want to head home to be with their families to celebrate the Chinese New Year. This is exactly the logistical nightmare you would expect for a mass public transit system. Director Lixin Fan takes us on this journey with one family year after year in this heartbreaking documentary. The reunions are short and bittersweet at best, usually more bitter than sweet. Watch this film the next time you start feeling sorry for yourself.

Directed by Lee Chang-dong – Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

The reunion here takes place at the beginning of this film but at the end of its story. It is a character piece that is told in reverse chronology by one of my favorite Korean filmmakers. We first see its tragic end, and then we witness all the events that led to our main character’s ultimate demise. This is a very effective way to show how we should feel empathy for Earth’s fellow inhabitants. Someone who may seem calloused and heartless probably wasn’t born that way.

Directed by Jonathan Demme – Streaming on Hulu

Rachel, the titular character of this film, is not the main character. And that is part of the problem. It’s supposed to be her big day but her little sister Kim (Anne Hathaway) has come home from rehab to attend the event. Emotions that the family had been working so hard to suppress seem to have so easily found their way back to the surface. BEAUTIFUL GIRLS director Ted Demme was the nephew of this film’s more prolific filmmaker, Jonathan Demme. Ted passed away back in ’02. Unfortunately, we lost Jonathan earlier this year. If you’re not familiar with his work, this is as good of a place as any to start.

Directed by Yasujirō Ozu – Streaming on FilmStruck

This is probably the mother of all art-house family melodramas. An elderly couple comes to visit their children and grandchildren as they enter the twilight of their lives. They find their children to be much less receptive and compassionate than they were hoping for. This film, like much of Ozu’s work, beautifully illustrates how values will always change generationally and just how finite the time we spend with our loved ones can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment