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Nerdflix I Love Thee: Adorable Amy Adams and Sprawling Italian Cinema FTW

Sometimes Nerdflix queues are neglected, forgotten about, left off in a distant and stagnant corner of cyberspace by their users. I am one of these Nerdflixers. However, while some people get an unwanted film that was queued up months (or in my case, years) ago that ends up sitting unwatched on the edge of the entertainment center, I cannot let such a crime happen. I'll put anything in the DVD player - ANYTHING. Sure there are tons of new releases out that I'd probably rather view (Snow Angels and Finding Amanda come to mind), but I cannot bear the thought of sending a movie back without watching it. So here be the leftovers that have come in the mail (or watched on a larf via the site's Watch Instantly library) and my suggestions for what ye shall do with them if you ever find it in your heart to reorganize that queue of yours...

The Best Of Youth (2003): Disc One of this 2-disc set arrived one day toward the end of August and I immediately remembered the moment 2-3 years ago when I added only half of this sprawling Italian miniseries, thinking it sounded good enough to try out, but definitely not enough so as to commit two separate discs to my list of upcoming rentals. Here's something I do often when a film doesn't grab me right from the beginning but I end up loving - I watch the first 20 minutes over and over again until I finally realize how amazing the characters are and how much I want to find out what happens to them (this also happened with The Celebration and Days of Heaven). The 3-hour epic chronicles two brothers, one a desperate and lonely rebel turned police officer played with mancrush quotientability by Alessio Boni - who needs to get noticed by American filmmakers if he can speak English - and the other a neurotic and embittered doctor. Sounds thrilling on paper, right? Seriously, though, if you're patient, it's like watching a beautiful multi-generational classic novel on the screen. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Move To Top Of Queue.

Tsotsi (2005): The Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner from its year is definitely worth seeing if you haven't yet, but it certainly isn't flawless. What does make it uniquely entertaining and eye-catching is its exquisite cinematography, which while pretty glossy and clearly influenced by high-budget American thrillers, works well to build suspense both emotional and psychological. Panoramic and dark establishing shots and taut and intense close-ups help in telling a story about a low-class parentless teenaged thief who winds up inadvertantly stealing a baby that he is forced to take care of. Yes where a story like this goes is predictable, and this usually turns me off from these kinds of transformative protagonist vehicles, the lead Presley Chweneyagae is really magnetic throughout. That doesn't keep from a two-dimensional supporting cast (with a couple notable exceptions) getting in the way from making the movie truly affecting, unfortunately. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Add To Neverending Queue.

Flannel Pajamas (2006): I have an obsessive-compulsive disorder of sorts when it comes to deciding what I consume next. I won't open a new cereal box until I finish the one that's already open, I won't listen to something else on my iTunes until an album's played all the way through, and I won't tempt myself with other options on my Nerdflix Watch Now queue until I watch whatever's at the top. Yes, it's a odd habit, but I like it. It keeps things organized and I feel disciplined and relieved inside when I follow nonsensical rules. So I pressed play on this indie romantic comedy talkfest (think 2 Days in Paris or the Before Sunset/Sunrise films), not having any memory as to why I added it to the queue in the first place. But it stars Justin Kirk, who is mind-boggingly hilarious in Weeds as the well-meaning brother-in-law screw-up, so I went with it as it started as he and Julianne Nicholson got in a quirky argument about life in the age of the Internet or some inane pontificating upper-middle-class Manhattanite crap. I stayed with it, because while the characters were frustrating and basically unlikeable, their romance was on some level fascinating to see progress over the years. In the end though, I just cannot recommend investing your time in it. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Delete From Queue.

Happiness (1998): Todd Solondz (director of this - probably his most well-known film, along with Welcome To The Dollhouse and Storytelling) is a creep. Okay, so that's not a revelation of any kind, but it really is amazing that at the age of 24, where I feel like I've been desensitized to most things shocking for nearly a decade now, I can watch a Solondz flick from over a decade ago and still be creeped the eff out. Every actor is beyond transcendent here, from Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a sexually-threatened introvert to Dylan Baker as his psychologist who also happens to be a pedophile-in-training. But that's where the admiration stops and the unsettlingness begins. Solondz' success in discomforting the viewer while still forcing them to sympathize with his societally (and mentally) outcast characters is on one level impressive and praiseworthy, but at the same time, he never lets us get too close to them. He keeps everything at a cartoony distance, only letting the actors' moving expressions and line delivery wiggle inside our hearts, but never letting us truly connect with them, ultimately leaving us feeling cold and just...well, icky inside. But it's such a notable and memorable kind of icky! Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Add To Neverending Queue.

Junebug (2005): By far the best of this bunch, I immediately smacked myself in the head upon the film's conclusion for not seeing this back in its year of release. It certainly would have made my Top 10 list. I can't think of another movie that had two very strong and multi-faceted lead actors and characters, but were viciously outshined by their supporting cast. This sounds like a paradox of sorts, but I assure you, Junebug achieved it. Bourgeois art snob Embeth Davidtz goes with her new husband Alessandro Nivola to visit his family back home in rural North Carolina, meeting the meek and reserved father, the dismissive and fake mother, the fiercely disrespectful (but secretly sweet) brother played by The O.C.'s Ben McKenzie (who turns out can act like a mofo! who knew?), and the incredibly loveable but dimwitted pregnant sister-in-law, played effortlessly and with perfection by Amy Adams (who basically just decomplexified her performance for Enchanted). The restrained direction and natural flow of events dictates no need for an overt plot, as the characters really are enough to keep things lively, interesting, and devastating. See this movie now. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Move To Top Of Queue.

The Edukators (2005): By far the worst of this bunch; avoid at all costs. However, it may just be a combination of my hatred for the bohemian lifestyle (seriously, why didn't those losers in Rent just get jobs?!) and my genuine anticipation for a plot where a gang of misfits break into rich people's houses and rearrange their vast empire of unnecessary belongings and leaving notes like "Your days of plenty are numbered -The Edukators." I mean, that sounds like an awesome idea for a movie. At least I thought so. So much potential: Will they go too far? Will they get caught? What is their reasoning behind the victimless crime? But of course the people behind it are selfish hooligans who blame capitalism for all their problems as well as societies' who care more about a love triangle amongst friends than actually helping out society in any way. Of course the film wants to pretend that these aren't our heroes, that obviously they're in some way culpable of the world of crime they end up getting caught up in, but it never comes through. But ultimately, that's exactly how they become framed, like we're supposed to root for them to never get caught - like they're some kind of socialist savior. Sorry buddies, but real socialists work, volunteer, and help others, not just themselves. Move To Top Of Queue, Add To Neverending Queue, or Delete From Queue: Delete From Queue.

Have you seen any of these Nerdflix leftovers? What did you think?

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  1. Blogger nicole | 8:34 AM |  

    I loved Junebug, especially because of what the main character says in the car at the end:) I wasn't expecting that at all!

  2. Blogger qualler | 9:14 AM |  

    Junebug I believe was one of my first three ever Nerdflix rentals! I felt pretty "meh" about it, kinda felt like a glorified sitcom to me. But, there were good performances from what I remember, and Embeth Davidtz shows up later in life on the first season of In Treatment, so that's neat. Haven't seen the other four, although Tsotsi was going to be on some channel and I was going to DVR it.

  3. Blogger qualler | 10:02 AM |  

    I should mention though that I watched Junebug before Amy Adams gave me a perma-boner, so it'd probably do more for me now that it did then, if y'knowwhatImean...

  4. Blogger chris | 12:25 PM |  

    I never thought of a sitcom while watching Junebug. It was very much a drama more than it was a comedy. The relationships between the characters were perfect and depressing, as well as hopeful. Maybe it was just the North Carolina aspect, but it has the same stark beauty of a David Gordon Green movie.

  5. Blogger Brigitte | 12:33 PM |  

    i've only seen bits and pieces of Junebug, and all i remember about it are Amy Adams's character being on a diet and trying to lose weight even though she was pregnant, and being really dumb...and other "hey look how crazy or dumb my family is" scenes. but, it wouldn't be fair to really judge it without watching the entire thing, so I should give it a shot. I seem to remember it being on cable quite frequently. and I do like Amy Adams...

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