We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Written by Lynne Ramsay & Rory Stewart Kinnear
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Who do we blame when something terrible happens? It’s becoming fairly common in the United States for there to multiple school shootings every year. When this happens, there is a strong innate human need to place the blame on someone. Parents are typically the focus of the public’s ire. In the case of Sandy Hook Elementary, the mother of the shooter literally gave him the gun thinking it could be a hobby to help with his mental illness. I’m sure if you are reading this outside of the United States, you are thinking, “Why would you give someone with mental illness a high powered killing machine?” and you are right to question it.
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Written by Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Jun-hyung, and Park Chan-wook
Directed by Park Chan-wook
It’s hard to pinpoint just when exactly American audiences got turned on to South Korean cinema. This year’s Parasite did wonders in spotlighting the great working coming out of that country. But back in the early 2000s, Oldboy was a film that seemed to grab the attention of audiences and not let go. Seventeen years later, it is still a harrowing experience, a combination of fantastic fight choreography and a nightmarish baroque plot of betrayal and other terrible things.
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Elmer Gantry (1960)
Written by Richard Brooks and Sinclair Lewis
Directed by Richard Brooks
When you look at the Joel Osteens and megachurches of our time, you need to understand they came out of the evangelical Christian movement. This fire & brimstone rhetoric taught people that the path to material happiness was through submission to the Lord primarily through giving up their income to the Church. Little was offered in exchange, save a euphoric fervor that lasted long enough for the revival grifters to make tracks to the next town. Then the wave of spiritual enlightenment faded, and the townspeople waited until the next grinning preacher came riding into town with promises of a cure for what ails you.
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Written by Larry Gelbart
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Animal House and The Blues Brothers are probably the only films John Belushi was in that a large number of people agree were good pictures. Neighbors is a movie that held a consensus as a complete disaster. This was the final film Belushi would star in, dying from a drug overdose, a combination of heroin and cocaine. When you look at the final product and Belushi in it, there’s a lot to like, but so many elements fail hard. Part of the film’s inability to find success in the box office lies in the fact that it’s an art-house picture, not a mainstream comedy. But when your two big names are Belushi and Dan Akroyd, and it’s 1981, you are going to try and sell this as a comedy for the crowds.
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Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
Written by Ed Graczyk
Directed by Robert Altman
Self-delusion is one of the scariest things you can experience. It’s a pretty big problem in our culture and has been for a long time. People become terrified of what they would have to do if they acknowledged reality, so they construct false realities that are more emotionally comforting. There is rarely a consideration of the harm these lies can have on the believer and the people around them; if someone is lost in their happiness, then we accept to some point that it’s okay. Media and the concept of celebrity have led to some particular types of self-delusion with fans becoming stalkers and some times even wishing violence on a figure they once adored. If a star dies tragically and/or young, they can elicit an even more fanatical response from admirers.
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The Children’s Hour (1961)
Written by Lillian Hellman and John Michael Hayes
Directed by William Wyler
The Bad Seed is an iconic film that established the trope of the evil child with actress Patty McCormack delivering a stunning performance. I have to believe this movie was the inspiration to bring The Children’s Hour to the big screen. Originally a stage play first performed in the late 1930s, The Children’s Hour is a melodrama with witch-hunt elements. But the catalyst for all the conflict is an evil little girl, a truly despicable young lady who I’m sure you will grow to hate as much as I did.
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Day of the Locust (1975)
Written by Waldo Salt
Directed by John Schlesinger
There’s an exhausting sunbaked feeling surrounding Day of the Locust. The music and the soft lighting make conflicting claims, but if you pay close attention, you notice the rotten smell wafting up from underneath. You see it in the cracks in Tod Hackett’s apartment, hidden by a framed quote claiming the presence of God is protecting the people within. This is shown as the landlady tells Tod about the earthquake of 1932, where she and her tenants were spared while others died across the city. Tod ends up covering the crack with his artwork, slowly building a fresco of Hollywood in flames, hollow, empty faces screaming out.
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