Drama [rhymes with “lamb-a,” not “lama”]

Ha ha. I’m still here!

Continuing with the trip across genres of movies, we can’t wait too long before talking about drama. I don’t know why I say that. I’m not concerned about hurting its feelings and I really don’t give a shit if it feels unappreciated. Well now I’m just being a jerk about it. I’m going to be an adult about this and talk about drama.

Despite the way I just treated it, drama is what I enjoy most. It’s probably because I’m a bit of a sentimental fellow, but I also think drama has the intrinsic characteristic of connecting humanity at our most developed levels of thought and interaction. For example, I talked about horror recently and I used primal kinds of adjectives like “paranoid,” “traumatic” and “chilling.” Actually, I’m not sure I used “chilling,” so I’m calling B.S. on that one before anyone else calls me on it. Anyway, we all feel such instinctive reactions to the events in horror movies and that is how they contain mass appeal; but drama is similarly universal, just usually on a more cerebral level. Of course, I’m not saying you have to be some kind of stuffy intellectual to enjoy the fruits of drama, but it does require greater levels of empathy, critical thinking and overall consciousness than an average adventure story or comedy is going to demand. A shot to the nuts will make me laugh every time, but only a well written, acted, and directed movie will bring a tear to my eye.

Without further ado, some drama that I’ve watched and liked:

Marty (1955)
Marty is a feature film remake of a gem with the same name from the good ol’ days of playhouse television. It’s the story of an average Joe in New York, except his name is Marty. The drama comes in as he confronts his own low self-esteem especially regarding the opposite sex. The viewer is charged with an agonizing task of being his proverbial “wingman” in a very awkward but real world. You’ll find it rewarding tying your emotions to his fate. Available at Tacoma and Pierce County Public Libraries or rent from Netflix.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
I saw Good Will Hunting in the theater when I was pubescently young and still trying to figure out what adulthood was. Even though I was wet behind the ears then, this movie has endured in my mind as a very good funny and sentimental drama. It’s typical of American style dramas in that Matt Damon and Robin Williams do create some over-the-top performances of heavy-hearted issues such as child abuse and widowhood. It’s just a good story, and again, it’s thankfully American, so you won’t be upset by the ending. Available at Tacoma and Pierce County Public Libraries or streaming on Netflix.

Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
Take an ill-fated love affair and set it within a discussion of the tragic bombing massacres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and now you’re cooking with something truly depressing. This is not all about glumness though; it’s about mid-life and all of life that leads up to it. It’s a demanding watch, but Alain Resnais was doing something very new and profound with the way that we experience time in a movie. Hiroshima Mon Amour will make us reconsider the non-linear nature of our memories and how they so affect us today. Available at Pierce County Public Library or rent from Netflix.

Rashomon (1950)
Rashomon is a highly influential film by Akira Kurosawa and is based on the short story, “In a Grove” by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. I mention both because both are extremely sharp tellings of an intense psychological tale. This one also focuses on aspects of memory, especially the subjectivity of how one person perceives and reports about an event, in this case the murder of a samurai. The acting is very melodramatic, but this is intended to hammer through the emotions as they relate to the plot. It’s like an epic version of my favorite drunken game – telephone! Available at Pierce County Public Library or rent from Netflix.

Boyz N the Hood (1991)
One might say Boyz N the Hood emerged from the early 1990’s during the height of street gang culture in America. To many it certainly seemed like slice of real life in the central Los Angeles neighborhoods where it was set. But part of me always wrestles with the idea of whether this movie had the effect of opening eyes or just feeding a mass media machine that demanded fresh violence and disturbing images of the big city. Either way, director John Singleton made an amazing debut with this incredibly gripping story about the obstacles that many young black men faced (or face) just trying to grow up into healthy adulthood. The movie is violent and tragic, but it’s presented in a sensitive way that many other movies portraying inner city troubles failed to accomplish. Powerful characters also help Boyz N the Hood to commendably refrain from being purely exploitative.  Available at Tacoma and Pierce County Public Libraries or streaming on Netflix.

Sugar (2009)
I’m an obsessive baseball nut. Baseball will be written about in any place I write and Sugar is a really good excuse to do just that. Sugar is not Major League or Field of Dreams. Sugar is real, like really real.  Hundreds upon hundreds of Latin American boys, and I mean like 15 and 16 year old boys are imported into the United States every year with the hopes of making it to the Majors. The problem is, they are boys and boys rarely have the kind of experience and maturity to begin an independent life in a completely foreign land and on top of that have the added pressure of competing for one’s livelihood at a very difficult game. Dominican youth Miguel Santos, nicknamed, “Sugar” will struggle just to order breakfast at an English-only-speaking American restaurant, so you can see where this is going to be an emotional grind. My advice is to be hopeful for Sugar’s prospects beyond the end of this move and don’t think exclusively in terms of success and failure. Available at Tacoma and Pierce County Public Libraries or streaming on Netflix.

I’ve rated a bunch of other movies at www.criticker.com/profile/ewdewald

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