If you’re in Australia, more specifically Queensland, you’ll know how incredibly hot it is and you’ll feel the desire to isolate yourself in an air-conditioned room. On the other hand, if you’re on the other side of the world you probably feel equal desire to isolate yourself in a very warm room because it’s freezing outside. So either way, you’ll need something to do during your hibernation period. Since the close of semester two of university I’ve found time to engage in the art of doing nothing. I’ve certainly missed it, it’s been close to 3 months since I had the pleasure of engaging in a full 7 season Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon. This time I went for a movie marathon, considering my father’s extensive collection, and I have a top five to recommend. You’ll find a mix of genres, plots, and eras to entertain you on those long summer/winter days.
1. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Starring Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society takes place within the walls of an elite preparatory school with a great deal of tradition and honour. John Keating (Williams) is the new English teacher and doesn’t encourage the school’s emphasis on conformity, rather teaching the boys poetry from the heart and encouraging them to “seize the day”. The boys find that Keating was a part of a secret club known as Dead Poets Society when he was at school, and sneak out after lights out to create their own club. The lives of each of the boys is looked at, with specific emphasis on Neil (Robert Sean Leonard), whose strict father is set only on him getting into medical school. This is one of my favourite movies, and if you’re a teacher or an aspiring teacher you’ll love Keating’s zest for learning and life. Each boy has his own story that is carefully woven into the film and the famous ending scene will leave you smiling and crying. For anyone who has ever had a teacher who inspired them and who shaped who they became, this is the perfect movie for you.
2. Primal Fear (1996)
Based on the best-selling novel by William Diehl, this film stars Richard Gere as defence attorney Martin Vail. Vail seeks to take on the seemingly doomed case of an altar boy named Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) who has been charged with first degree murder of Archbishop Rushman. The murder was a brutal butchering and Aaron was fled the scene only to be found by police near the railroad tracks covered in blood and holding the murder weapon. As Vail talks to Aaron he starts to think that there is no way he could have done it, particularly given Aaron’s testimony that he “lost time” when the murder happened. During an interview with a psychiatrist, it is revealed that Aaron has another personality, “Roy”, who is aggressive and threatens Vail and the psychiatrist. Vail then works to get Aaron acquitted based on this new information. A movie with so many twists and turns that you’re hooked until the last second. To get to the truth, so many layers have to be broken through and even then they may not be what they appear. A perfect crime thriller. The book by William Diehl is also brilliant, and has two follow ups (Show of Evil and Reign in Hell) if you can’t wait to find out what happens after the final credits roll.
3. Pathology (2008)
Make no mistake, this is a horror movie and it is gory, don’t eat while you watch it (trust me on this one). If you’re a fan of the horror genre this film starring Milo Ventimiglia and Alyssa Milano will not disappoint. Dr Ted Grey (Ventimiglia) begins a new job in NYC’s top pathology program, only to find that his new colleagues have an unusual way of spending their free time: they pull of sophisticated murders and the other pathologists must ascertain the cause of death. Soon Ted becomes part of the game, which includes cheating on his girlfriend with one of the other pathologists. Soon Ted comes to realise that he wants no more part of it and takes action. His idea does not go to plan, and revenge by the leader of the group is certain. For a horror movie this actually has a pretty good plot, and a few twists to keep it interesting. If you don’t like blood, this isn’t something you want to watch…but if you like the horror genre, I highly recommend this. The actors are brilliant, and the “loser” pathologist not in the game will surprise you the most.
4. Up In The Air (2009)
From director Jason Reitman, this quirky film starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick is beautiful. The film tells the story of Ryan Bingham (Clooney), a man who makes his business flying around the country firing employees of companies whose employers “don’t have the balls” to do it themselves. He lives for exclusive membership to hotels and airlines, and doesn’t like to be home for too long. On one of his trips he meets Alex Goran, another executive with the same love of itinerancy as him. He reluctantly starts working with a hugh achieving junior named Natalie (Kendrick) who has radical ideas to improve the financials by eliminating the practice of flying executives around the country. This threatens Ryan’s entire non-committal, frequent-flyer-loving lifestyle, so he takes Natalie on his latest string of client trips to prove to her that there is value in what he does. Natalie learns more than she thought as she experiences people’s reactions to dismissal. Ryan begins to grow closer to Alex, which goes against everything in his policy of non-committal. This movie is witty, thought-provoking and at times saddening. In typical Jason Reitman fashion, there is a cute, quirky story and a few favourite actors (think Jason Bateman and J.K Simmons a la Juno). A must watch.
5. Springsteen & I (2013)
This is a different kind of film, it’s a documentary about Bruce Springsteen made entirely from fan contributions. It begins with footage from a massive outdoor concert where Springsteen is doing an intro to Spirit in the Night, where he tells the audience: “that’s why we’re here night after night, because you’re here” cementing in the audience’s mind Springsteen’s dedication to the fans and the very reason why they created this film. There are stories from die-hard fans who have been there from the beginning, intimate stories about a first concert experience or a moment on stage with Bruce, children who have inherited a love from their parents, and tears from fans who simply can’t contain their love for the man, and the music. The film is beautiful, and for any Springsteen fan it is a special, shared community of fans that makes you feel apart of something special. The film also includes 40 minutes of bonus live concert footage from Hard Rock Calling in London, including two numbers with Paul McCartney and a stirring rendition of Because the Night. If your a fan of Springsteen this film will make your heart sing…if you’re getting into his music, it will direct you and inspire you.