The mood swings these days are really giving me mental whiplash. I want to escape; I want to dig deep.
For anybody else out there who’s up, down, all around, I offer up two movies I watched recently. Each, I’ll argue, is the epitome of its type.
Exhibit A: Digging Deep
Terrence Malick is one of my favorite directors. He brings a strangeness to every film he makes, a visual beauty no matter how awful and excruciating a scene may be. He loves nature so much, and his wonderment is central to his movies.
The Thin Red Line, which I had somehow never seen until now, is devastating, such a meditation on war. (This film premiered in 1998, a year where I was chasing a toddler and trying to have another one, so it’s no wonder that this movie blew past me.)
I’ve watched a lot of war movies over the years, trying to understand more about how it happens, what it does to us, and why it never ends. This film is easily the most moving war movie I’ve seen—there is so much love and loneliness to be found in this story of a company of soldiers dispatched to the island of Guadalcanal in 1942. Based on the 1962 novel by James Jones, it’s as if Terrence Malick took this war story, based on Jones’s experiences at Guadalcanal, and ran it through the Amazing Malickizer.
If this movie doesn’t make you work for peace, I don’t know what will.
See where it’s available to watch here.
And if you’re new to Terrence Malick, “Where to Begin with Terrence Malick” is an excellent guide.
Exhibit B: Escaping
Meanwhile, The Fabulous Baker Boys is just the best.
Two brothers (played to perfection by Jeff and Beau Bridges, brothers in real life, of course) realize that their two-piano lounge act has finally run dry, so they decide to hire a girl singer. Michelle Pfeiffer walks in, and off it goes, such a great mood piece on ambition, making a dime, facing into the hard choices, and chasing a dream.
Michelle Pfeiffer was nominated for an Oscar for this role, which I’m guessing came pretty much because of the scene where she’s atop Jeff Bridges’s piano on which she lounges like a python, singing “Making Whoopie” to a packed New Year’s Eve crowd and—mostly—to Jeff Bridges.
I watched it on HBO, not sure where else it’s streaming.