There are seriously no movies screening at the cinemas worth braving the pandemic for. If I am going to be stuck in my seat in a cinema hall with a virus carrier for two hours, it better be a great one, so it’s back to watching movies at home…

Five Feet Apart (2019)

Five Feet Apart is another teenage critical disease of the week weepie in the vein of The Fault in Our Stars. It is mawkish and rides the tropes like a rodeo king, and it doesn’t reach the heights of TFiOS, but I am giving it a free pass because the leads deal with all the emotional trappings with gusto and most importantly it serves as a good reminder that all of us should count our blessings. 

Seventeen-year-old Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) spends most of her time in the hospital as a cystic fibrosis patient. Her life is full of routines, boundaries and self-control all of which get put to the test when she meets Will (Cole Sprouse), an impossibly charming teen who has the same illness. There’s an instant flirtation, through restrictions dictate that they must maintain a safe distance between them. As their connection intensifies, so does the temptation to throw the rules out the window and embrace that attraction.

What is the first thing you want to do when you fall in love? I am giving you a few seconds to think about this… nope, it isn’t that… wipe that silly grin off your face 😊… it’s a touch, a human touch. “Human touch. Our first form of communication. Safety, security, comfort, all in the gentle caress of a finger. Or the brush of lips on a soft cheek. It connects us when we’re happy, bolsters us in times of fear, excites us in times of passion and love. We need that touch from the one we love, almost as much as we need air to breathe.” 

Breathing is hard for these CF patients. A touch is impossible. A kiss, don’t even think about that. The things all of us probably take for granted. 

I love seeing how they struggle to make sense of their love in this cruel scheme of things, and I can appreciate why they want to take the bull by the horns by risking that one little foot. It’s their little victory in this game called life. 

Sting once sang “if you love someone set them free”. That’s not BS. I was talking to a colleague the other day about how I broke off with my girlfriend by doing one last loving act for her… nah, I won’t share here, but it was a final act that gave both of us wings to soar again. I think to love is better than to be loved. The last act Will does in the movie is a great one. 

Don’t underestimate the healing power of a touch. So if you’re reading this, and you’re able, touch him. Touch her. Life’s too short to waste a second. 

Glory Road (2006)

Glory Road is a 2006 American sports drama film directed by James Gartner, based on a true story surrounding the events leading to the 1966 NCAA University Division Basketball Championship (the historic name for what is now known as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament). Don Haskins portrayed by Josh Lucas, head coach of Texas Western College (Now known as University of Texas at El Paso or UTEP), coached a team with an all-black starting lineup, a first in NCAA history. Glory Road explores racism, discrimination, and student athletics. Underdog sports genre films don’t really have to do much to make me go nuts for the characters. To me, these movies spout life lessons. The sport doesn’t matter, the plot doesn’t matter and the ending doesn’t matter. We all know how they will progress and end. It is about the journey and the journey is hard work. I love listening to all the slogans and euphemisms from the coach’s mouth – “You’ll play basketball my way. My way is hard”, “Do you want me to get you a skirt? I’ll get you a skirt if you keep playing like a girl!” and “Your dignity’s inside you. Nobody can take something away from you if you don’t give them”. This is one rousing movie and it ticks all the boxes for an underdog sport genre movie.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a 2013 American romantic crime drama film written and directed by David Lowery. The film stars Casey Affleck as Bob Muldoon, Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie and Ben Foster as Patrick Wheeler. Bob (Affleck) and Ruth (Mara) are a couple who become involved in criminal activities and are caught, with Bob taking the blame and going to prison. The film follows the events after the criminal activities as Ruth gives birth to their daughter, and the two live comfortably. When the child is nearly four, Bob escapes from jail and goes looking to reconnect with his family. The story is a dime in a dozen, but the execution isn’t, giving the Bonnie and Clyde archetype a fresh coat of paint. The cinematography is gorgeous and the editing artful. The movie has a rhythm and tempo that is so beguiling. The love portrayed is palpable. No need to say too much… The love between them is so real you will feel it in a voiceless scene when you are led away by the police. They know it is the last time they can touch each other and this is the scene that is featured in the movie poster. While watching this my mind threw up another movie that also has a rhythm and tempo of its own so I decided we should try this next…

The Tree of Life (2011)

The Tree of Life is a 2011 American experimental epic drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick. The film chronicles the origins and meaning of life by way of a middle-aged man’s childhood memories of his family living in 1950s Texas, interspersed with imagery of the origins of the known universe and the inception of life on Earth. This was the second time I saw it. The first time completely befuddled me and I had a feeling it turned my hair white. This is one of those Emperor’s New Clothes type of movie. Critics love to love it, but the layman will go WTF is this shite. I confess that I hated it the first time, but the second time round I began to appreciate it a lot better and 3h 10min whizzed by. Mallick didn’t tell a conventional story with a spine, he goes to the spaces between pronounced instances in one’s life. The movie goes through a tumult of emotions representing almost every feeling you will possess while growing up – love, envy, jealousy, compassion…. the list goes on. It is almost a masterpiece because I didn’t think that creation of Earth and Sean Penn’s sequences gelled with the main story. If I do watch another time it will years later and I will listen to the commentary.

McQueen (2018)

McQueen is a 2018 biographical documentary based on the life and career of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen. It does a very compelling and comprehensive job of detailing McQueen’s rags to riches story. His talent is undeniable. He may not have much of a formal education but given a thread and a needle he can weave a tapestry like the Sistine Chapel. Like a lot of stories about celebrities, this is also about a tortured genius going through a tumult of emotions. Who is it to say we didn’t have a hand in “killing” him because we feed on his talents. The whole thing works like a visual album of a genius’ creations and the amount of pressure he was under and OMG the man can really put on a spectacular show. I find all these catwalk shows superficial, but when I saw the clothes he designed and the show he put on I was so impressed. What a sad way to leave.

United 93 (2006)

United 93 is a 2006 biographical drama-thriller film written, co-produced and directed by Paul Greengrass, that chronicles events aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked during the September 11 attacks of 2001. The film attempts to recount the hijacking and subsequent events in the flight with as much veracity as possible (there is a disclaimer that some imagination had to be used) and in real time (from the flight’s takeoff). The passengers’ response to the hijacking has come to be invested with great moral significance. The DVD was sitting on my shelf since God knows when and I was glad to take it down for a watch. What a tremendous experience – it’s an event I don’t want to relive and never want to forget. The film honours the victims in a respectable way. It’s the type of movie you know going in you already know the outcome, but the tension still builds and builds to a point you somehow wish it had never happened. Like the COVID-19 pandemic, the 9/11 terrorist attack reset the world – it’s the type of world event that essentially demarcates the timeline of the world into two sections. It is a good choice to use unrecognisable actors for the movie. It really thrusts you into United 93 on the way to the White House. It’s tense, brutal and honest, with little embellishments. 

Shane (1953)

Shane is a 1953 American Technicolor Western film from Paramount Pictures, noted for its landscape cinematography, editing, performances, and contributions to the genre. The picture was produced and directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by A. B. Guthrie Jr., based on the 1949 novel of the same name by Jack Schaefer. Its Oscar-winning cinematography was by Loyal Griggs. Shane stars Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur in the last feature (and only color) film of her career. This lockdown I intend to watch all the westerns I have in my possession, this is probably one of the last few. Should have saved this for the last because it is a superb film. It’s about a weary gunfighter who attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act. This one has a mythical sheen gleaming in every scene. It feels effortlessly timeless, an olden time cemented in your consciousness. Times may have changed, but people are still feeling oppressed in many parts of the world. The intimate storytelling has a stalwart integrity and it also has the ability to say a lot more without having to tell you a lot. One of those rare films I would gladly revisit.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Kiss Me Deadly is 1955 American film noir produced and directed by Robert Aldrich. The film follows a private investigator in Los Angeles who becomes embroiled in a complex mystery after picking up a female hitchhiker who has escaped from a psychiatric hospital. I have seen many mashups of genres, but I believe this is the first time I see a mashup of noir and apocalyptic sci-fi. It dials into the Cold War paranoia palpably and it features one of the coolest opening credit sequences of all time. I won’t share what it is. Remember the mysterious briefcase in Pulp Fiction? Tarantino definitely lifted the idea from here. Remember the climatic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the ark was opened? Spielberg definitely paid homage to Kiss Me Deadly. Really enjoyed this tremendously. It played with so many noir conventions to great effect.

House of Games (1987)

House of Games is a 1987 American neo-noir heist-thriller film directed by David Mamet, his directorial debut. He also wrote the screenplay, based on a story he co-wrote with Jonathan Katz. This one is about the world of the con man and a fascinating character study of a psychiatrist. That’s it… don’t find out more about the plot. Nothing is going to beat the first time you see this. What I can tell you is that this felt like getting lost in a labyrinth and getting your brains f*cked in the nicest of ways. The beauty of it is that you wouldn’t think you are lost in a maze until the end of the movie and you suddenly realised you have been conned. Hollywood doesn’t make these types of movies anymore. Everything out of there is mostly based on a template, going through the motions, nothing is original anymore. With David Mamet, you know his every word, comma, ellipse carries humongous weight and he writes killer dialogue. The gradual unfolding of the plot is sheer masterclass. This DVD sat on my shelf forever ago and I remember buying it for only one reason – David Mamet. Watch this…. please. I end with Roger Ebert’s words: “This movie is awake. I have seen so many films that were sleepwalking through the debris of old plots and second-hand ideas that it was a constant pleasure to watch House of Games.”