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Sexy Baby (2012)
Must-see for modern kids and parents
This documentary aims to explore how the Internet age has changed the present culture of sexuality and, especially, how pretty much anyone has unlimited access to pornography. The documentary profiles three disparately different females--a tweenager in NYC, a wannabe model-slash-teacher's aide in North Carolina, and an aging porn star in Florida--to explore how our information age (and with it, the freely sexualized world of Internet porn, social networking, and limited parental supervision) has affected the behavior and decisions of these women.
The most affecting subject is Winnifred, the young woman raised by highly educated, very liberal, clearly wealthy parents in Manhattan... Winnie is shown at the outset as a precocious 12-year-old gymnastics star on the verge of her bat mitzvah, later shown getting ready for a Lady Gaga concert at Madison Square Garden, and at the conclusion, with a hickey given by a boy-bandish Lothario during an eighth grade class trip. Winnie is highly articulate and intelligent for her age; her parents obviously educated, open-minded and aware of the cultural climate; and her descent into full-on adolescence is fascinating and well paced, filmmakingwise, with her equally precocious and corruptive peers playing a good supporting role. Sadly, the film could have used Winnie as the sole subject and made a better argument for the point.
Another subject is Nakita Kash/Nichole, an adult film star nearing the end of a successful career, earning extra cash making strip-club appearances (and with her husband, acting as an agent for other porn stars) as well as teaching pole-dancing to bored housewives. Nichole seems stable and secure in her chosen lifestyle, and the filmmakers chose to spend too much time eliciting Nichole's justifications for it, as though trying to dispel the common stereotype that all porn stars are sexually damaged drug addicts. Nichole does reveal a desire to have children, and those efforts become her storyline for the remainder of the documentary.
The most pointless addition to the trifecta is the silly and vacuous "musings" of a wannabe model-cum-Kindergarten teacher's aide who decides to get labioplasty (surgical removal of the labia) after hearing some dudes talk about "meat curtains." This chick is clearly more damaged than the porn star Nichole, in terms of her pathetic self esteem, which I guess is vaguely interesting in and of itself, but that contrast is sadly unexplored. The most interesting scene in her story is seeing her surgeon toss her actual labia onto the surgical cart. The decision to include her story was probably made prior to filming her story, and I can only imagine the filmmakers cringing at her vapidity while she was actually interviewed.
I do feel this film would be very productive for parents to watch with their teenage children; despite some weaknesses, the intention is good and timely, and parents who can stomach the fleeting bits of nudity and porn images (which are sort of vital to the message) with the kids in the room, will probably get a good conversation out of the deal. I do wonder how Winnifred is doing these days...
Jesus Camp (2006)
The scariest horror film I've seen all year...
No pun intended, but Oh. My. God. Granted, i was not brought up in a religious family, but...this film is absolutely terrifying. I think I was most disturbed by the Evangelical pro-life rally in which children had plastic fetuses taped to their own small hands; the scene in which "Becky" described how she basically used cheap Halloween haunted-house props to "illustrate" Satan's grip on young souls; and the scene in which Tim Haggard encourages young Levi to prey upon his own. Throw in the bit in which the homeschooling bimbo mother is teaching the "absurdity" of Darwinism (and science in general) to her young proteges, and you have the absolute most terrifying documentary ever made.
Like a former post mentioned, these kids are likely being abused in their indoctrination. It's soooooo scary. I had chills the whole time I watched this well-made, beautifully paced film. If I weren't so afraid of who they might become in just a few short years, I would feel sorry for these kids. God (truly) bless 'em, that they might come around and think for themselves.
Good Lord help us! (again, no pun intended).
A surprisingly taut, well-executed thriller
Charles (Clive Owen) is a frustrated Chicago advertising executive with a beautiful but unresponsive wife, a seriously ill teenage daughter, and a lovely home in the suburbs. After a chance meeting, he strikes up a flirtatious friendship with Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston), an even more frustrated financial adviser who takes the same morning commuter train. Inevitably, the two fall prey to a mutual attraction and succumb to an extramarital affair, which is cut short by a violent rape and robbery in a seedy hotel.
Their assailant doesn't stop there, however, seizing the opportunity to blackmail Charles and terrorize him and (indirectly) his family. As things spiral ever more out of control, Charles struggles to keep his sanity while trying to thwart the clever criminal pursuing him and his money. And that's just the first 30 minutes or so...
This is a finely crafted thriller with a great story, believable characters, evocative settings and scenery, and yes, even a few well-placed chuckles. It will not win any Oscars, but it's not a bad way to spend a weeknight on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, certainly. The acting is, for the most part, quite good--Jennifer Aniston did not once make me think of Rachel Green from 'Friends,' and the Wu Tang Clan's RZA as Winston was a welcome surprise.
'Derailed' has received many unfairly negative reviews, in my opinion. Check it out and decide for yourself.
Prozac Nation (2001)
A crappy movie based on a crappy book.
I read the book 'Prozac Nation' by Elizabeth Wurtzel as a depressed, medicated teen and found myself watching the film as a reformed, non-depressed adult. I hated the book when I was younger because I thought the protagonist was a self-important whiner who had no appreciation for the amazing opportunities that were handed to her in life. I hated the movie even more because it brought that obnoxious character to life. Christina Ricci is generally a great actress in my opinion, and she works with the flimsy script (and story) as best she can here, but inevitably just isn't likable in the role.
It's too bad the great cast (also Michelle Williams, Jason Biggs, Anne Heche and Jessica Lange) wasn't assembled for a more worthy story. The filmmakers' attempts to depict Liz's "spiraling out of control" with frenetic camera work, sound effects and "voices in her head" are cliché and predictable. In the end, Liz Wurtzel comes across as she does in the book: a self-pitying wannabe poseur who refuses to take responsibility for anything, preferring to blame everything but herself for her "condition."
For those who can relate to the protagonist, this movie may be painful to watch. For me, it was painful to watch for a completely different reason.
Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)
Musicians love this movie, but that's just a perk
It drives me crazy to read posts about Glen Holland being a pompous, self-centered a-hole who treats his family like dirt and amorally pursues a young student, etc.
The whole movie's point has less to do with the process of teaching music to young ruffians (although that premise is a great backdrop to the story) and much more to do with an artistically passionate man's belated growth and atonement. Holland is an intensely flawed character from the get-go, and the reason we cry at the end of this movie isn't because his "American Symphony" is moving (indeed, it's nothing more than treacly and clichéd), but because he has, in two decades or so, sincerely figured out what's important. He certainly has his moments of sleaziness and selfish behavior, but without them the movie wouldn't have a purpose or any real story.
This film is about a man's journey late in life, which is a journey most of us don't want or need. It is a slow and honorable journey, in which he learns a lot about himself and the audience learns to appreciate music and his students' unending charm and talent.
Overall, an unbelievably well-put-together film about life and its many unbelievable (yet realistic) paths.
A must for any parent with a musically-talented kid.