Thursday, July 21, 2016


Hey guys!

So after sharing some of my very favorite books and TV shows of mine, I thought it might be neat to do the same thing with some great movies I've enjoyed as well. I'll post a trailer for the movies I talk about whenever possible; for those where it's not possible, I'll insert a link. Also I will mention if it's available on Hulu or Netflix or anything else like that. Hope y'all enjoy!

1) A Borrowed Identity
This movie will be the first of a few movies having to do with Palestine/Israel. This one in particular is about a Palestinian boy named Eyad, who is gifted with great intelligence, and gets accepted to a prestigious Israeli boarding school, where he befriends a disabled Israeli boy and falls in love with an Israeli girl. It makes for a nice, fairly light and entertaining viewing overall, portraying a great ideal for integration and friendship between the two embattled peoples. It's on Netflix.

2) Live and Become
This movie takes place in the context of the airlifts of Ethiopian Jews (Falasha) from their homeland to safety in Israel during a war with Eritrea. A young Christian Ethiopian boy named Shlomo takes the place of a Jewish boy his age who passes away from sickness, and he makes it to Israel, where his adopted Jewish mother passes away as well. He is adopted by a French-Israeli family, and the rest of the movie deals with him trying to sort out and connect with the secrets of his past, as well as dealing with the racism he faces as a black man in Israel. A fantastic flick.

3) Promises 
A documentary for a change, this movie is a collection of interviews with Palestinian and Israeli children, who very aptly all live within twenty minutes of each other, but "are growing up in very different worlds." There is also ample, comprehensible historical context provided alongside the interviews for background information. In the end, a group of the children meet each other and have fun as children do, while still managing to have some pretty deep conversations about their complex political situation that demonstrate a maturity beyond their years. A must-watch.

4) Out in the Dark

Last in this little stream of Palestinian-Israeli movies, this one is a love story between two men, one Nimr, a Palestinian student at an Israeli college, and the other Roy, an Israeli lawyer. Besides covering the story of the love that unfolds between them, it also depicts a predicament of a little known intersection of people within the conflict: the plight of queer Palestinians, who face being ostracized, disowned, or even killed by their families in the Palestinian Territories, but are not recognized or helped in any way by the nominally pro-queer State of Israel. It's compelling, it's very intense in some ways; you really need to mentally prepare yourself before sitting down to watch it. But it's worth it for sure; a truly beautiful movie. It's on Netflix.

5) He Named Me Malala

A documentary about her life and accomplishments, this movie is essentially a televised version of the book I Am Malala. Definitely a great viewing, as in addition to all the elements of the book it also features conversations and bits of interviewing with good friends of hers in Pakistan, and her family. Many parts of the story are also very artfully and imaginatively portrayed with beautiful animation overlaid with narration. Fabulous. It's on Hulu.

6) Fly Away Home
If I had to pick a single favorite movie, this one would probably be my go-to. I've loved it since I was a very small child, and in spite of its status as a fairly little-known flick, I've always loved it a lot. It centers around the story of a girl named Amy, who has been living in New Zealand with her mom since the age of three, and has to move back to Canada to live with her estranged father when her mom is killed in a car accident. As she's getting settled in her new environment, Amy discovers an abandoned nest of Canada goose eggs, takes them home, and then they hatch. The rest of the movie deals with her and her father raising the goslings, eventually flying them south for the winter in homemade ultralight airplanes, and getting to know/love each other again in the process. It's cute, it's sweet, it will delight bird or aviation enthusiasts in particular. Watch it.

7) The Way He Looks
This is definitely my favorite queer movie I've seen thus far. The story centers around a blind Brazilian high school student named Leonardo, whose friendship with Gabriel, a newcomer to his school, begins to show signs of developing into something more. It's very interestingly realistic in most of its aspects, and really feels like something that could have actually happened in the real world. It has a great happy ending (in contrast to a lot of queer flicks). It scores a lot of bonus points with the representation presented by a disabled main character. It's very non-sexual and subtle in many aspects - though there is some bullying featured, none of it is really homophobic in nature, and the words "gay," "homosexual," or "queer" are never even said, which I find very interesting. Also it's freaking adorable as eff. Please watch. It's on Netflix.

8) Jongens (Boys)
If The Way He Looks is my very favorite queer movie, then Boys for sure takes a very close second. This one is about a friendship between two Dutch teenagers, Sieger and Marc, which gradually begins to develop into something more as they train together for an upcoming race (they're runners) and also begin to hand out aside from that. It's very similar to The Way He Looks in many aspects - the platonic beginning, the eventual questioning of the nature of the relationship, how it feels easily existable, the lack of any major homophobia or bullying, and an (ostensibly) happy ending. It's just a really nice, feel-good coming of age story. It's on Netflix.


9) North Sea Texas
Though it is also in Dutch, this one takes place in Belgium. This book centers on the relationship between two close friends, Pim and Gino, which they hide for a long time, mainly due to the fact that Gino's family acts as an adoptive family towards Pim since his mother is often not very present in his life. It covers the evolving and often tempestuous nature of the friendship/relationship they share. It's a little bit more emotionally intense than Boys and The Way He Looks, and definitely much more explicitly sexual at times. Still a great movie and worth a viewing overall. It's on Netflix.


10) Sasha
The last in this little stream of foreign gay movies. This one centers around a character (unsurprisingly) named Sasha, a student of classical music who is head over heals in love with his piano teacher. Being a member of a Montenegrin immigrant family in Germany, he also has to hide his true self from his homophobic family, and takes great comfort in his friendship with his best friend Jiao, a Chinese immigrant girl who can easily relate to him as a member of her own immigrant family. It's very interesting for a lot of these important intersections it portrays, and though perhaps a bit more suspension of disbelief is necessary than for the previous three flicks I mentioned, it still definitely feels like something that could have actually happened to a real person. 8/10 would recommend.


11) The Lion King
I would think I probably don't need to go too deep into talking about the story. But in case you've legitimately never seen/heard of this movie, it's Hamlet with lions on the African savannah. Main character Simba loses his father, Mufasa, the king of Pride Rock, to his uncle Scar and eventually has to go back to reclaim his own rightful place as king. I don't think I need to say too much more. It's beautifully animated, has great music, and is one of the best known movies of all time.

12) The Princess and the Frog
A more recent Disney movie, this one centers around Tiana, an extremely hardworking young girl from New Orleans who is on a mission to fulfill her dream of opening up her own restaurant. Along the way she accidentally kisses a prince who has been turned into a frog by a voodoo master, who mistakes her for a princess, and they must work together to break the spell. The plot can be a little confusingly complicated at times, but it's honestly a great movie. Very imaginative, out there, and also giving representation to an environment not covered previously by Disney. The music's great too (it's New Orleans, after all).

13) Mulan
This one is up there as one of my favorite Disney movies, though I actually saw it for the first time in high school. The basic plot is that, as the Huns invade Imperial China, a young girl named Mulan, fearing that her elderly father will be taken away as the only male member of their family and die serving in the war, disguises herself as a man in order to fight instead, and through a number of trials and tribulations, ends up saving the country. It's a good movie, quite funny at times, and also deserves some credit as being the first Disney movie with any sort of conscious feminist effort. It's on Netflix.

14) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Probably my other favorite Disney movie ever, this one is based on the book by Victor Hugo, though it's understandably pretty watered down from its original source material to keep a hold of that G rating. Even so, it's definitely pretty dark in many aspects as far as Disney movies go, and by far the most heavily religiously themed. For those who know nothing of it, the main character, Quasimodo, is a deformed hunchback who hides in the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral and rings its bells, kept there by the villain, his master Judge Claude Frollo. Quasimodo develops a friendship with a kind Gypsy girl named Esmerelda, who is hated by Frollo along with the rest of her people. It's a bit intense at times as far as "kid's" movies go, but for sure a great one. It's on Netflix.

15) Up
One of the best Disney movies in general (I dare anyone to make it through the first ten minutes without shedding at least a single tear), this one focuses on Karl Frederickson, an old man who is doing his best to fulfill a dream he shared with his late wife Ellie to visit the lovely Paradise Falls in South America. Which he reaches by attaching a bazillion balloons to the roof of his house, and flying it south. Genius.
He has an accidental stowaway, a young boy from the neighborhood named Russell, who annoys him at first, but eventually they come around to each other. That's all you're gonna get out of me - go watch it because it's amazing. It's cute, the animation is great, it's incredibly imaginative, and also funny. Go for it.

16) Ratatouille 
Another one of Disney's most wondrous creations. This one focuses on the story of a French rat named Remy who is fascinated by humans, more specifically by human cuisine. He ends up in the prestigious five-star restaurant of a Parisian chef he greatly admired, and finds a clever way of collaborating with a bus boy named Alfredo Linguini to cook together as a team. I feel like a broken record - it's beautifully animated, cute, funny, blah blah…It also makes me super nostalgic for Paris. Need I say more?

17) The Rescuers Down Under
I promise, we're almost done with the Disney movies.
This one, a sequel to The Rescuers, is an improvement on the original by far, in my humble opinion. The story tells of a boy in Australia named Cody, who befriends a giant golden eagle named Marahute (one of the main draws for bird-obsessed, six-year-old me to this movie) and is imprisoned by an evil poacher who is trying to capture the rare bird for himself. When notified of his confinement, the two mouse characters from the original, Bernard and Miss Bianca, travel to Australia themselves to help set him free.
It's not too different from the original in its premise - it's just an adventure movie, featuring little talking mice. But it's done SO much better, and in Australia to boot. IMO this is one of Disney's most underrated movies ever, and not a lot of people know about it. If you're reading this, help change that. Watch it. Do it.

18) The Emperor's New Groove
Alright, last Disney movie for this list!
This one may sound a tad weird if you've never heard of it, but hear me out: In essence, Kuzco, the emperor of what is never explicitly described as but is almost certainly the Inca Empire, is (accidentally) turned into a llama by his vengeful advisor Yzma, the villain, who intended to poison him, in order to take over the throne herself. Through the help of a good-hearted peasant man named Pacha, he must find his way back to the palace and change himself back to a human in order to take over his kingdom, and evade capture and death at the hands of Yzma and her henchman, Kronk. It's actually a pretty good movie, and the two villains in particular are hilarious. Trust me, they make this, and they're worth everything else alone. It's on Netflix.

19) Love Actually
Please don't judge me.
This movie is undoubtedly one of my many guilty pleasures in life.
An occasionally cringe-worthy, but mostly adorable, collection of love stories all happening around each other in the London area which incidentally all have their climaxes on Christmas Eve.
A certain suspension of disbelief is definitely needed to get fully into this movie, and if you're not at all into schmaltzy, rom-com type stuff, you probably won't like it. But if you can get past those elements, you find a great and compelling Christmasy romantic comedy. I still greatly enjoy watching it every year around the holidays.

20) The Polar Express
Speaking of good holiday flicks.
The Polar Express is based off a children's book of the same name (which I also really love!). It's best to think of the movie and book as two separate entities, because they're very different in many ways. The book is a lot more ambiguous and ethereal in a lot of ways - i.e. there's only a few illustrations that betray the appearance of the narrating child. Whereas the entire movie is told from the perspective of the "Hero Boy," and has a number of plot adjustments in order to stretch it out to an hour and a half, through the use of (admittedly) not entirely necessary action sequences and characters getting lost. What makes up for any weaknesses in the adjusted plot is for sure the atmosphere and the appearance. With the possible exception of the human characters' faces, the movie is animated spectacularly, with bright, vibrant colors, and the environs surrounding Santa's workshop on the North Pole is incredibly imaginative. I rewatched it for the first time in several years right before Christmas this past winter, and I'm glad I did. It brought back many memories and feelings from when I used to watch it as a child. If you're looking for a good movie to watch right around the holidays, this is for sure a good one.

21) La gabbianella e il gatto - Rendered in its English version as "Lucky and Zorba" (though the original title means "The Little Seagull and the Cat"), this movie is based on a book by Spanish author Luis Sepúlveda called The Story of a Seagull and the Cat that Taught Her to Fly. When Kengah, a young seagull who gets caught in an oil spill, manages to lay her egg before death, she makes a cat named Zorba promise to take care of the chick that hatches, and teach it to fly. It's a movie that I've loved since I was very small, and a particularly prime example, I think, of an Italian animated film. It's truly a part of my childhood, and watching it always makes me feel very happily nostalgic. I believe that an English version was once produced, but I've only ever watched it in Italian. If you can I would recommend watching the Italian original with subtitles.

(I couldn't even find a proper trailer, so I decided to just use a clip, which doesn't have subtitles. Sorry if you don't speak/understand Italian.)
22) The Music of Strangers - Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble
I actually only just saw this yesterday in a movie theater.
This one is a documentary about the Silk Road Ensemble, which puts together the musical talents and traditions of people of very diverse national backgrounds. There are a couple of main interviewees who contribute the most to the movie - a Chinese musician, an Iranian musician, a Syrian musician, a Spanish (more specifically Galician) musician, and Yo Yo Ma himself, the visionary who worked to put it all together. They all go into great detail talking about their own musical backgrounds, their love of their own instruments and musical styles and, through those, their connections to their cultures, and so on. It also features a number of incredibly filmed scenes of beautiful places, particularly Istanbul, a few of which moved me to tears. Check it out if you can manage it, folks. You won't regret it.

That's all from me for now. Hope you all enjoyed reading this and that someone found a good new movie to easily watch! Take care.
Enjoy a good song too. 

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