Films on Lifestyles

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FILMS ON LIFESTYLES WORLDWIDE

Fed Up

Documentary 2014 PG 90 minutes. The film focuses on the causes of obesity in the United States. It presents evidence showing that the large quantities of sugar in processed foods are an overlooked root of the problem. It points to the monied lobbying power of “Big Sugar” in blocking attempts to enact effective policies to address the issue. This eye-opening documentary examines the underlying causes behind the obesity epidemic, including the marketing strategies of major U.S. food producers. How did 60% of the country get so fat?  2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight, with 1 in 3 adults considered obese. Childhood obesity has become an ever-more serious medical issue in the United States. The film includes touching video self-portraits by young people who belong to the almost 17 percent of children and adolescents, ages 2 to 19, who are considered obese. The obese parents who raise obese children — why aren’t they in the least bit curious as to how they’ve become 300 pounders when their ancestors were all normal. This film is an expose of the food industry’s pedaling of sugar-rich junk food to kids and the epidemic of obesity that has resulted from it. It rightly points to the chief villain in our food choices–sugar–as addictive and toxic. Sugar is clearly added to food products that historically had none in an effort to elicit a crave factor, so you can’t stop eating them. See Full Review

Killer at Large:
Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr44m. This probing documentary explores the ever-expanding issue of obesity in America from individual, political, scientific and cultural perspectives. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the US today. But how did 60% of the country get so fat?  2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight, with 1 in 3 adults considered obese. Childhood obesity has become an ever-more serious medical issue in the United States. The film includes touching video self-portraits by young people who belong to the almost 17 percent of children and adolescents, ages 2 to 19, who are considered obese. There are poignant moments, such as a 12 year old girl having liposuction. The film gives a range of reasons why we have this issue regarding obesity in America: school junk food, too much sugar, lack of information about high fructose corn syrup, portion sizes, television, intense advertising aimed at children, cozy cartoon characters hawking sugar, parents, food companies, politics, lobbying, greed, and economics. See Full Review

Fast Food Nation

Drama 2006 R 113 minutes. Richard Linklater’s fictional tale (inspired by Eric Schlosser’s 2001 nonfiction book of the same name) critiques the junk-food juggernaut that’s arguably responsible for America’s alarming obesity rates. Greg Kinnear plays Don Henderson, a corporate exec of a national fast-food chain, who follows beef’s journey from the corrals to the slaughterhouses — and ultimately to your stomach. Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Bruce Willis co-star.

Super Size Me

Documentary 2004 PG-13 98 minutes. Director Morgan Spurlock takes a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body, using himself as the proverbial guinea pig. For one month, Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald’s fare. See Full Review

Waging a Living

Documentary 2004 NR 85 minutes. This thought-provoking documentary tests the mantra “get a job” to see whether low-wage jobholders — otherwise known as the “working poor” — can pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Filmed in California, New York and New Jersey over a three-year period, the film tracks the ups and downs of four ethnically diverse Americans living below the poverty line as they face a persistent struggle to make ends meet.See Full Review

See also: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

Kiss Your Fat Goodbye
Get Fit Now

Documentary 2008 NR 59m. Nutritionist Dr. Gary Null examines America’s obesity crisis, explaining why popular diets like South Beach and Atkins aren’t effective in the long run and presenting truly healthy solutions to dangerous weight issues.

Supercharge Your Immune System

Documentary 2003 NR 1hr 32m. Through inspiring discussions and detailed demonstrations, talk radio host and expert on natural health Dr. Gary Null examines how simple changes to diet, lifestyle and environment can strengthen the immune system. Null explains how detoxifying and fortifying the body’s natural defenses can help ward off disease, and describes specific methods and lifestyle changes that can help viewers attain greater wellness overall.

Stress: Portrait of a Killer

Documentary National Geographic 2008 NR 50 minutes. The serially overworked already know that stress is a near-constant fixture in modern-day living. But to what degree is stress affecting our bodies — and is there any way to healthfully combat it? With a focus on the work of Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, this National Geographic program looks at the latest science to see what researchers are learning about this insidiously silent killer.

Dr. Andrew Weil
Healthy Aging

Lecture 2006 NR 1hr 15m. Dispensing practical advice, Dr. Andrew Weil — one of America’s most admired physicians — guides viewers through tips for healthy aging while providing easy-to-understand examples. In this informative PBS special, maturity never seemed so bright, as Weil shares diet, exercise and sleep secrets that contribute to overall mental, emotional and physical well-being. His trusted methods and honest advice offer a favorable outlook on growing older.

Change Your Food, Change Your Life

Documentary 2005 NR 80 minutes. Nutrition expert Jill Ovnik explains why viewers should consider the vegan lifestyle and how to make the switch to an all-plant diet. In an informative and entertaining video, she explains how cutting out meat and dairy products can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and other diseases, increase energy and help lose weight. She even leads a guided tour of a grocery store to show what to avoid buying and what will taste great.

Forks Over Knives

Documentary 2011 PG 96 minutes. Focusing on research by two food scientists, this documentary reveals that despite broad advances in medical technology, the popularity of animal-based and modern processed foods have led to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.See Full Review

Food Fight

Documentary 2008 NR 71 minutes. Discover the disturbing problems inherent in today’s food system with this insightful documentary, which profiles chef Alice Waters’s efforts to promote local, organic and sustainable agriculture as a delicious alternative to mass-produced fare. Such a good film on the importance of organic, sustainable gardening and foods. Also a brief history on gmo foods. This movie is amazing! I had no idea where my food came from, what was in it, and who controls what goes in it. Very well made documentary. I loved it. Informative and entertaining. Inspires me to buy local and grow something… and cook a real meal. Humans can eat natural unmodified food and that the body can process this easily, but it cannot process the modified food because we did not evolve to eating it. You either eat organic non-modified food or you don’t. From my point of view, this documentary is excellent as a whole, and it gives an emotional & historical touch to events in the history of the industrialized food system created in the 50s and 70s. I love it since it shows the ‘taste’ side of the real food ‘organics’ we Americans forgot because of the ambition of the food corporations.. To me this doc is an extension of Food Inc, still Food Inc still my favorite eye-opener documentary and the one that helped me change 180° the way my family eats, even though my family was vegetarian, it showed me what have been hidden from me by the companies and I came to discover how ‘vegetables’ are actually being grown in a manipulative manner by the corporations using chemicals created by companies that do not care about your health. Thanks again for this wonderful doc. Eat organic not only for good taste but also for the good of your kids. Organic is not the food of the future or something new, it have always been there, it was just hidden from us for money, by the food companies.

Vegucated

Documentary 2010 NR. Vegucated is a documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Lured with true tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture and soon start to wonder whether solutions offered in films like Food, Inc. go far enough.

Escape Fire:
The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

Documentary 2012 PG-13 99 minutes. This starkly outlines the crises the United States faces in its quest to provide affordable medical care to the nation’s citizens. Bad title, but a wonderful film! The title Escape Fire refers to a simple way to save your life in a forest fire, using that as a metaphor for saving yourself from the out-of-control health care system. In response to these problems, the filmmakers propose lower-cost alternatives to high-tech medicine. This film does not pretend to offer complete solutions, but it does highlight that WE are in control of much of our personal health by the choices we make. I have been a practicing physician for 50 years and can testify to the accuracy of this film. It describes the true status of medical care in the U.S.and many of the reasons for it. The Jan 2013 report from the National Academies showed the life expectancy in the U.S. for males is 75 years, which is last in a group of 17 peer countries. Individual physicians have tried and are powerless to make significant improvements — we our overwhelmed by the power of Big Business, and right now the big players in health care, like pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, have a stranglehold on the system. Unless and until that changes, nothing else will change much. Realize just how daunting it is to try and change the health care system. Basically, all the entities that make tons of money from the system are not really interested in seeing anything changed.  If you are or will ever be a patient, this film gives an excellent view of what we face as patients and what WE can and need to do to safeguard our own health. It is a call to action. There are no cure-all theories, diets or life-styles offered.. and NO you will not live forever by making wiser choices, but you certainly will have a better quality of life. And isn’t that worth it? A 100 minutes well spent. Eye-opening,  It is a MUST-SEE for everyone, and a documentary that will be hard to forget.

Food Matters

Documentary 2008 NR 80 minutes. With a staggering number of Americans suffering from obesity and other food-related maladies, this film takes a timely and hard-hitting look at how the food we eat is helping or hurting our health, and what we can do to live (and eat) better.See Full Review

Vitality

Documentary 2012 NR 52m. A journey into health-care in our modern world. The current medical system is failing due to an emphasis on the treatment of disease instead of prevention. This film focuses on the importance of sleep, reducing stress, and nutrition — which is sorely overlooked by the western medicine model. This is a very informative film that gives you the basic building blocks to make improvements to your life, mind and body. This documentary gives you enough basic information for you to start the research to figure out what you need to do for yourself to improve your own vitality. Excellent expert opinions and a wake-up call to realize that your health really is in your own hands. This documentary may give you inspiration to take control of your own health and life in all aspects — mentally, physically and emotionally. Hopefully the days of throwing a pill at every ache and pain are coming to an end. Concepts introduced include the suggestion of a new health care model where medical institutions are financed based on the health of the patient not by how many procedures and drugs are given. This is an excellent idea. This film gives me hope! Good interviews and message. There is good info to be gleaned here regarding whole health, and I do think it’s worth a look.

It Was a Wonderful Life

Documentary 1993 NR 84 minutes. They’re clean, educated, articulate and rarely receive public assistance. But following a divorce, job loss or a long illness, a growing number of middle-class women are forced to live out of their cars. Directed by Michèle Ohayon (Colors Straight Up) and narrated by Jodie Foster, It Was a Wonderful Life chronicles the hardships and triumphs of six “hidden homeless” women as they struggle to survive, one day at a time.

The Company Men

Drama 2010 R 1hr 44m.  This indie drama stars Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner, and Ben Affleck as a successful businessman who comes face-to-face with America’s downsizing epidemic when he loses his job and is forced to take a construction gig. What happens when the American dream turns into a nightmare? What do you tell your wife, kids, friends, former colleagues when you are collecting unemployment? Written, directed and produced by John Wells. See Full Review

Tiny: A Story About Living Small

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr1m. A young couple with no construction experience attempts to build a tiny house in this documentary that contemplates shifting American values. The message is not about the square footage of your house, but the quality of the life you lead, and what makes you happy. It showed me that I do not want to live in a tiny house — I can live in a small house but not a tiny house. I think living simple and getting rid of things you really don’t need is important, but I’m just not ready for extreme small living and bare minimum. Interesting concept, but uninteresting delivery. Not gonna lie, I thought this was going to be a documentary about people with dwarfism. This is what happens when you don’t read the synopsis.

The Improv:
50 Years Behind the Brick Wall

Documentary 2013 TV-MA 58m. Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Kathy Griffin and other comic greats pay tribute to the legendary stand-up stage venue founded in 1963 by Budd Friedman. It is very interesting to hear famous comics tell how they paid their dues in the business. The great comedians make their craft look easy because now, after years of practice and dedication, they are accomplished. I also enjoyed the archival footage of famous successful people in the earliest days of their career’s and development, You can really see how and why these people went into entertainment and comedy — even unrehearsed things off the top of their head are funny and there are some really great moments with several of the comedians. They tell some insightful & witty coming of age stories here, and I realized the great comedians haven’t lost their humility. It is fun to watch! This is well worth a look, especially if you aspire to be a comedian. This is also an historic document.

When Jews Were Funny

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr28m.  This is a great documentary that explains the connection between Jewish culture and their ability to inject comedy under any circumstance, sometimes without themselves even knowing it.  At first the documentary starts off with a lot of older Jewish comedians completely refuting the concept of “Jewish Humor”. It is not until the end of the documentary that you realize they were exemplifying Jewish humor, by constantly interrupting, not being satisfied, and complaining about it.  You get to hear the perspective of many Jewish comedians, best of which I believe was encapsulated by Mark Breslin when he said:  “Comedy was Jewish Jazz. It was our people’s way of expressing our powerlessness and intelligence at the same time.”  Although some great classic jokes are occasionally shared in these conversations, the filmmaker is trying to find out how these other men relate to their Jewishness and what decisions they have made in their lives. About fifty famous comedians/artists of those times are in the film, all Jews, surprisingly so to me, and wonderful to see again in their aging years. They are creatively questioned on why and what they did to make us laugh, and how they were enabled to do it and why non-Jews could not and did not participate. The extravagance that they quietly poured over our lives to make us happier is explained and to me was a shocking revelation. This movie is brilliant, and has considerable historical value.  I would give it 5 stars as a powerful sociological document worthy of academic study. And as a lament for the lost immigrant Jewish culture of my grandparents, which I remember as a child more than half a century ago. I am glad I watched this movie; and not only for the jokes.

Inside the Mind of Google

Documentary CNBC Originals 2009 TV-PG 43m. See how Google came to dominate the online search industry. Its strategies for growth and how it’s addressing the hot issue of online privacy. Get a rare look at the company that hundreds of millions of people touch every day.See Full Review

Growing Up Online

Documentary Frontline 2008 NR 56m. About the most Internet-savvy generation ever. This PBS “Frontline” program that investigates teens and their cyber-existences. The kids and their parents discuss both the realities and the risks of this new frontier. As parents deal with their teens’ drastically different ideas. Take a look inside the lives of about privacy, the kids confront cyber-bullying, Internet predators, YouTube fame and many other issues new to their generation.

Cigarette Wars

Documentary CNBC Originals 2011 TV-PG 43m. Correspondent Brian Shactman reports on an industry that continues to thrive despite all we know about the dangers of smoking. Cigarette taxes continue to skyrocket in the United States, driving the price up to as much as $14 per pack.

Thank You for Smoking

Satire 2005 R 91 minutes. On a mission to make the country forget the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco spin doctor Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) promotes his product in the movies and hushes those who bad-mouth cigarettes, all the while trying to remain a role model to his young son. Maria Bello, Katie Holmes, Robert Duvall and William H. Macy co-star in Jason Reitman’s razor-sharp satire, which won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay.

Tobacco on Trial

Documentary Frontline 1986. Life-long smokers who say their health has been destroyed by cigarettes are suing tobacco companies. Frontline correspondent Judy Woodruff takes an inside look at the preparation of these massive lawsuits, concentrating on a suit that would later reach the Supreme Court as well as presenting the emphatic denials of the tobacco industry, which says smoking is a simple question of personal choice and responsibility.

Taylor Camp

Documentary 2009 91 min. During the turbulent 1960s, there was a safe haven from the chaos — a hippie treehouse village on a Kauai beach in Hawaii. On Kauai’s North Shore, the surfer’s road to paradise was paved by hippies who’d had enough of Vietnam and the capitalist society, and decided to move as far away as possible, to a place where they hoped nobody would find them. The North Shore of Kauai was as idyllic and remote as it gets in the USA, and it just happened to have uncrowded world-class waves as well. As surfers began to hear about this paradise at the end of the road, and after SURFER magazine featured a story on the place, small communities of hippies began to develop on Kauai. The documentary focuses on this first wave of hippies, who found paradise on a little stretch of beach known as Taylor Camp. The film features interviews with the actual hippies who lived there in the beginning and the eventual end of Taylor Camp in 1977. The interviews are very recent, so the once-youthful naked hippies in the film are now some of the most entertaining senior citizens on earth. The film also features a stunning collection of black and white photographs, which really bring the place to life. Watch the official trailer for the film, and check out the website for the film at: taylorcampkauai.com

Sprawling From Grace
The Consequences of Suburbanization

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 22m. Over the years, Americans have spread across the country in waves of movement from cities to suburbia. This thought-provoking documentary explores the negative aspects of this situation, especially the dependence on automobiles and foreign oil. A host of prominent figures — including former President Bill Clinton and former Governor Michael Dukakis — discuss innovative ways to build cities and our need for new energy strategies.

Escape from Suburbia

Documentary 2007 NR 1hr 34m. After condemning America’s oil dependency in his 2004 documentary The End of Suburbia, filmmaker Gregory Greene here addresses the solutions that will avert catastrophe, outlining the issues actively moving the energy crisis from theory to reality. Spurred to action by the realities of peak oil, Greene focuses his camera on individuals across the country brave enough to challenge and instigate their communities into serious change.

The End of Suburbia

Documentary 2004 NR 90 minutes. This provocative documentary examines the history of suburban life and the wisdom of this distinctly American way of life. A post-World War II concept, suburbia attracted droves of people, giving rise to sprawl and all that comes with it — good and bad. How has the environment been affected by this lifestyle, and is it sustainable? Director Gregory Greene dares to ask all the tough questions.

Affluenza

Documentary 1997 NR 56 minutes. Tongue-in-cheek in style but still representing sharp-edged social commentary, this documentary produced for PBS takes an in-depth look at the social effects of America’s love affair with materialism and boundless consumption of resources. Hosted by Scott Simon, Affluenza examines the high price of the high life — both financially and emotionally — and shines a light on some Americans who are following a different path.

The Queen of Versailles

Documentary 2012 PG 100 minutes. Meet the Siegels, glitterati who made a fortune in the time-share business only to see it crumble in the 2008 financial collapse. The site of their rise and almost-fall is their home (America’s largest), a gaudy replica of the Palace of Versailles.

Gonzo
The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Documentary 2007 R 1hr 59m.  Always ready to hurl himself into the heart of the action, journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson was fearless as well as reckless. This admiring documentary looks beyond his wild antics to focus on the pluck and principles that made him a success. Home movies, audiotapes and unpublished materials offer added insight into a complex cult figure renowned for his love of sex, drugs and alcohol. Johnny Depp narrates.  Included are his Aspen lifestyle and candidacy for sheriff in 1970, and his Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail 72 with presidential candidate George McGovern.

The Amish

Documentary American Experience 2012. An intimate portrait of contemporary Amish faith and life, this film examines how such a closed and communal culture has thrived within one of the most open, individualistic societies on earth. What does the future hold for a community whose existence is so rooted in the past? And what does our fascination with the Amish say about deep American values? View This American Experience Story for Free at the following internet addresses:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/amish/
http://video.pbs.org/video/2200745636/

The Amish: Shunned

Documentary American Experience 2013 NR. This documentary follows seven former members of the Amish community as they reflect on their decisions to leave one of the most closed and tightly knit communities in the United States. Following up on an earlier, more general PBS film about the Amish, the writer and director Callie T. Wiser profiles seven people — young and old, male and female — who have left the community. Not all have stayed away: One man says he went back seven times before making what appears to be his final break, and one woman returns, to heartbreaking effect, during the shooting of the film. But the emphasis is overwhelmingly on the feelings and experiences that come after shunning — melancholy, doubt, halting or failed attempts to reconcile with family members who stayed behind.

The Merchants of Cool

Documentary Frontline 2001 The award-winning “Frontline” television show trains its investigative lens on marketing moguls who conduct endless surveys and focus groups sampling the tastes, attitudes and aspirations of American teens to determine exactly what they want. As Hollywood and Madison Avenue craft tailored versions of teenage life in movies, TV, music and advertising, just how far will they go to reach the hearts — and wallets — of American youth? They will do anything to tap into the 150 BILLION dollars of spending power that 12 to 19 year-olds possess. They are the “Merchants of Cool”, and they will use every technique in the book just to sell to you. This Frontline special is an exploration into the marketing machine that controls nearly 90% of what we read in print, see on TV and movies, and listen to on the radio. The Merchants of Cool (2001) is slightly dated at this point, and it contains many examples that were relevant during its release but less so now. Still, it is important that teens understand that not all images they encounter are benign, but rather a calculated effort to dip into their wallets.

Traveller

Drama 1997 R 1hr 40m.  As members of a gypsy-like Traveller clan of Irish descent, Bokky and Pat swindle their way through the rural South. But when Bokky falls for a target, single mom Jean, the boys are forced to make some difficult and life-threatening decisions.

Running Wild:
The Life of Dayton O. Hyde

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr32m. Dedicated to trying to protect wild horses in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Dayton Hyde emerges as a unique brand of hero in this bio-documentary.

Real Life

Mockumentary 1979 PG 99 mins.  In his directorial debut, actor and funnyman Albert Brooks plays himself, a comedian who sets out to film a documentary about the typical American family — in this case, a family of four headed by Arizona veterinarian Warren Yeager and his wife.  Albert Brooks stars, directs and writes his debut film where he plays himself as filmmaker. His character chooses a normal American family in Phoenix, and documents their natural day-to-day living experience for a movie — reality entertainment before its time. Charles Grodin and Frances McCain are the supporting players in this film along with their two children, and they are constantly invaded by Brooks and his film crew interrupting their privacy. The film was revolutionary for its time, since nowadays the reality genre has become everyday popular entertainment with the rise of TV reality shows and mockumentary films.

Easy Rider

Drama 1969 R 95 minutes.  With cash from a cocaine sale, two freewheeling hippies hop on their motorcycles and ride across America toward New Orleans, clashing with rednecks and picking up a boozy lawyer along the way in this counterculture classic.

History of the Eagles

Documentary 2013 TV-MA 3hr7m. Stories from band members and music industry insiders paint a vivid picture of the Eagles, one of America’s most successful bands, beginning in the 1970s to 1980. As a southern California girl this music embodies that time and sound then. This really and truly is one of the best success stories of any band that originated in the U.S. ever. The best part for me was how the reunion came together from 1994 to the present and how amazingly successful it was, both financially and musically. If you are either a casual fan or a diehard, you should be able to enjoy this 3 hour film.

The Grapes of Wrath

Drama 1940 NR 128 minutes. Tom Joad, a Depression-era everyman, leads his poor family on a harrowing journey from Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl to the promised land of California in this adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel. See Full Review

SMALL TOWN LIFESTYLES

It Was a Wonderful Life

Documentary 1993 NR 84 minutes. A growing number of middle-class women are forced to live out of their cars following a divorce, job loss or a long illness. They’re clean, educated, articulate, and rarely receive public assistance, as they struggle to survive, one day at a time. This film chronicles the hardships and infrequent triumphs of six of these homeless women. It introduces us to a new sub-genre of homeless people, the “invisible homeless,” so-called because most of their acquaintances do not realize they are homeless. These women are people you might know in your everyday life who have had bad things happen — a divorce, loss of a job, loss of a home or apartment, refusal of a divorced spouse to pay child support — and a person or family can be out onto the street or into their car, with nowhere to turn. It showed how hard it was to get back into the job market or back into a house or apartment once you don’t have one. What is so good about this documentary is that you get to know them well, and none of them strike you as “the homeless type”. This documentary really got to me for several reasons, the first one being that anyone can become homeless, as so many people are only one paycheck away from being homeless. Not much difference between “them” & us, leaving the viewer (especially if you’re a woman) with a renewed awareness of what’s really going on in our society. These women are not the delusional, dirty, penniless souls we automatically associate with the homeless; rather, they are articulate, smart, well-adjusted, and, above all, determined to make their own way. Although this documentary is about the plight of homeless women, being a man I could not deny that homelessness could happen to me too. The film was sad and it is still bothering me two days after viewing it. I talked to some people at work about how I felt about homelessness (something I rarely gave thought to before seeing this film) and the things that I could be doing to help those in unfortunate circumstances and ways that I could be more responsible with my own financial life. I think that those of you that watch this documentary might question your own spending habits. Powerful stuff here. The film may be depressing at times, but its message is one of hope: never give up. It also showed some hope as a few of these women were eventually able to break out of the cycle of homelessness. I highly recommend this documentary for everyone. Please watch all the way through the credits to the very end. Narrated by Jodie Foster.

Northern Exposure

Dramedy 1990-1994 NR 6 seasons.  CBS’s Emmy-winning series follows the adventures of New York doctor Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow), is lured to Alaska reluctantly to pay off his student loans by establishing a practice in a small Alaskan town overflowing with eccentric locals, moose, and lots of snow. Joel is attracted to feisty pilot Maggie (Janine Turner) and befriends bartender Holling (John Cullum), who finds love with a beauty queen coveted by ex-astronaut Maurice (Barry Corbin).  In this quirky series, it takes a while for the new doctor to warm to the colorful citizens of tiny Cicely, Alaska. Throw in Joel’s problems adjusting to the severe weather cycles, and each episode in the first two seasons provides a wealth of rich, appealing humor.  A great ensemble cast of quirky characters in a remote isolated village, with the plot centered on a frustrated rom-com relationship involving this fish-out-of water doctor who is stuck there and wishes he were back in the big city.  But ex-astronaut Maurice (Barry Corbin) is rich enough to import the fine city foods and consumerism of the 1980s into the wilderness.  So the lifestyles shown are both small town and with big city aspects.

Nobody’s Fool

Drama 1994 R 1hr 50m.  Paul Newman received an Oscar nod for his turn as Donald, a loner who walked out on his family years ago and now lives in a small town in New York, spending his days working for a contractor named Carl and flirting with Carl’s wife.  Great cast, good story, beautifully acted and perfectly cast. What else is there to say? Highly recommended for most ages.

Nadine

Comedy 1987 PG 83 mins.  Nadine Hightower (Kim Basinger) and her estranged hubby, Vernon (Jeff Bridges), burglarize a photographer’s office to retrieve compromising shots of Nadine. But when the shutterbug ends up dead and the panicked pair grabs the wrong folio, their troubles quickly double. Turns out they’ve uncovered a conspiracy involving a new Texas highway, and now they must evade not only the cops but also a scheming land baron in this likable caper comedy.  It reflects the look and feel of a small Texas town in the 1950’s. The cars, the storefront signs and the country music and southern accents seem realistic.  Rip Torn is from Texas and knows the accent and regional characters and he is interesting to watch playing the head bad guy.  Minor characters flit in and out and are designed to fit a stereotypical small-town, filled with southern characters with questionable intelligence and morality.  I meet too many people here in Austin Texas who are just like these two–pitiful examples of humanity.  Sure hope none of us have a cousin like Jeff’s!  Nothing but fun and nonsense.

The Last Picture Show

Drama 1971 R 126 mins.  There’s not much to do in the windswept Texas hamlet of Anarene, where the town’s only cinema is about to close forever. So high schoolers Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) lust after incorrigible flirt Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) while trying to chart their uncertain futures. When Duane heads for Korea after joining the service and Jacy gets shipped off to college, Sonny is left behind in a veritable ghost town.

The Tree of Life

Drama 2011 PG-13 139 mins.  Growing up in the Midwest, Jack has always been torn between his mother’s guidance to approach everything he encounters with an open heart and his father’s advice to look after his own interests. Now, Jack reflects on his past to regain perspective.  The Tree of Life is incredibly abstract yet gorgeous and engrossing. It just has trouble finding its footing when it comes to storytelling.  The storyline conveyed almost entirely without conventional narrative. This Malick film looks at growing up in Waco, Texas in the 1950s.  At the simplest level, The Tree Of Life focuses on childhood. Three brothers grow up under the stern tutelage of their father (an excellent Brad Pitt) and loving mother. It can take a few minutes to adjust to the flow of a Malick film. I was won over when those boys were running with abandon through the yards and streets of their neighborhood and the music swelled with excitement and fervor, capturing with a rush the sheer joy of youth, the endless possibilities of endless summer days and the perfect freedom of no responsibility. They live in a world where you are always safe and your parents will always take care of you. (It was the 1950s, after all.) Pitt is not a cruel father, but his sons are a little afraid of him. Pitt thinks the best way to raise a boy into a man is to expect a man’s behavior, to demand discipline. He can always criticize and find room for improvement; he will rarely praise or seek out the good. But you never doubt his essential love for the boys. Few movies have ever captured so well young boys at play or the quicksilver changes in their relationships. Scenes rush by in vivid detail, typically carried along by music and the open faces of the actors with only a minimum of dialogue.  A major flaw is the way the dialogue was intentionally left mostly inaudible, which is why the film is preceded by an instruction to turn the sound way up. I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to be blasted by the music and other sounds.

CITY LIFESTYLES IN NEW YORK CITY

Bright Lights, Big City

Dramedy 1988 R 108 minutes. In this downbeat drama based on Jay McInerney’s autobiographical novel, New York City yuppie and aspiring writer Jamie Conway (Michael J. Fox) seeks oblivion in cocaine and the glittery nightclub scene as his life falls apart. With his hard-partying friend Tad Allagash (Kiefer Sutherland) continuing to up the ante, Jamie finds it increasingly difficult to show up at his unfulfilling job as a fact-checker for a literary Manhattan magazine, the New Yorker.

The City Dark

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr10m.  Taking cues from New York City’s bright nighttime sky, a documentarian examines the effects of light pollution on human health and the natural world.   Imagine any naturally beautiful spectacle..the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Smoky Mountains, the view from Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, Niagara, Angel Falls, and then imagine that pollution was rapidly beginning to block permanently your ability to see them. That’s exactly what we are doing every night with unnecessary and preventable light pollution: blocking one of the most spectacular and beautiful natural wonders ever viewed by human-kind, the night sky. Thanks to the creators of this thoughtful movie for highlighting this issue in a film. The fact that this documentary has been made gives hope that someday enough people will be thoughtful enough regarding this form of pollution to act on curbing it – as has happened with other forms of pollution.  The film covers the problem of uncontrolled light pollution from several vantage points; at least a couple of them should find resonance with just about anyone. In fairness, there is at least one section on nighttime safety that would seem to validate broad lighting; this film lets the viewer decide what is important and what is not. There are broad issues about health and general sky-watching effects of light pollution as well as personal stories and local neighborhood issues. Cheney seems to have found balance in his presentation.

After Hours

Comedy 1985 R 97 minutes. Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) embarks on a trip to New York City’s SoHo district in hopes of hooking up with a recent acquaintance, the beautiful Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette). But Paul loses all his money, and just to get back home he must endure a night of kooks, psychotics, punks and an angry mob trying to kill him. The supporting cast includes Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard and Catherine O’Hara, with Martin Scorsese directing.

Holes in My Shoes

Documentary 2006 NR 1hr30m. New Yorker Jack Beers, 94, defies the concept of aging in this documentary that chronicles his diverse achievements and infectious enthusiasm. Even though he looks his age, you would not be able to tell from the way he talks. It is wonderful to see someone that age still showing a zest for life. This is the life story of a man I would have liked to know. A man full of unfailing energy, and love of life. I began watching it wondering why he was being documented, and for each segment of his life, I would think, ahh this is who he is. But no, within a few more minutes of the story, my perception once more changed. This man is inspirational, so don’t let the slow first few minutes in the opening distract you from the real meat of the film. Jack Beers is simply one of the most wonderful men I have ever heard of. His life story, were one to tell it, would seem to be a bit over-the-top, sure-you-did kind of story. It seems outlandish. But it’s all true! It is an inspirational biography about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. He is not being honored for his longevity but for the endless energy and love of life that this man and his actions so clearly depict.  We should all live this way. His father advised him, “No matter what you do in life, be the best at what you do.” Truly had tears in my eyes when Jack sang at the top of the Empire State Building at the end: “…and when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” We can all glean from Jack as he continued to find a reason to smile his way through life, in the good and bad times. We can all benefit from him! Great story, and told so beautifully by the man himself. He did live a Wonderful Life, overcoming all obstacles along the way. From beginning to end, I absolutely and totally loved, loved, loved this extraordinary man’s bio. Watched this documentary three times, then I joined my husband who watched it twice! The BEST documentary I have ever viewed. I highly recommend this one, I recommend to anyone, anywhere. Watch this, you won’t be sorry!  Wonderful story, wonderful man. (I see online that he passed on two years after this film was made.)

New York in the Fifties

Documentary 2001 NR 1hr 11m. Interviews with Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer and other luminaries reveal the bohemian movement that flourished during the 1950s in New York City. This was excellent. The entire cast of characters of the 1950’s writers’ movement in Greenwich Village is covered, including a good deal on James Baldwin. There were so many points of view expressed, ideas so ahead of their time, and expressed so well, that I cannot help but think that New York in the fifties would have been a place I would have loved to be. Robert Redford sums up energy of the period: “I don’t know if it will ever have the excitement for me that it had then, because of the age I was, and my lack of experience and my energy and passion… That kind of energy, you don’t carry that all your life.”

Greenwich Village:
Music That Defined a Generation

Documentary 2012 NR 1hr 32m. This documentary blends interviews and archival footage to profile the folk music legends who transformed the New York neighborhood in the 1960s.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Drama 2013 R 105 minutes. The Coen Brothers helm this chronicle of struggling musician Llewyn Davis, set during the height of the folk era in the early 1960s. The drama follows Davis through a week of creative highs and lows amid a bleak New York winter, mostly in Greenwich Village.

American Psycho

Psychological Thriller 2000 UR 1hr 41m.  With chiseled good looks that belie his insanity, a businessman takes pathological pride in yuppie pursuits and has sudden homicidal urges.  Bale’s Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street executive & Harvard graduate in the middle of the cocaine-fueled consumer culture of the 1980s.  This film provides an excellent social commentary about how consumerism can become an all-consuming obsession.  Great social commentary on the consumer-driven, image-obsessed 80’s.  Life is shown in this world to be about getting the nicer suit, bigger apartment, reservations at the better restaurant, etc.  Each scene is both disgusting and fascinating in making you loath the actions of the performer yet desire their perfect world.  In this way, the movie is to be viewed as an allegory and not to be taken literally.  Perhaps this movie should have been called American Psyche.  Also a good example of post-modernist cinema.  Many funny and shocking moments, but don’t take things too seriously since the character Bateman is really full of himself, doesn’t know how to socialize, and just fun to laugh at or with.  Everything is in the mind of Christian Bale’s character.  Spoiler Alert….the ending twist reveals that the violence is all in his head, even though shown as if actually happening.  Those saying he could not have gotten away with it don’t seem to understand that it was all in his head.  Daydreaming while scribbling violent sketches.  A serial killer before he takes that huge leap.  One day he may work up the nerve to kill.  No one around him notices his eventual cries for help because they are as self-absorbed and vapid as he is.  After the first time you watch it, I recommend taking a second look to fully enjoy the social satire without thinking it’s only a slasher movie.  But be forewarned, it’s not for the squeamish.

Wall Street

Drama 1987 R 125 minutes. Enterprising stockbroker Bud Fox falls under the enticing spell of Gordon Gekko, an unscrupulous Wall Street arbitrageur. But when Gekko embroils his protégé in an insider-trading scheme, Fox develops a conscience and decides to turn the tables. See Full Review

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Drama 1990 R 125 minute. Brian De Palma directs the film version of Tom Wolfe’s satire about race, politics and greed in 1980s New York. In it, Tom Hanks stars as Sherman McCoy, a wealthy Wall Street investor whose life takes a dark turn when his mistress (Melanie Griffith) hits a black youth with his car. When tabloid journalist Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis) gets wind of the situation, he turns it into front-page news, inciting a racial incident in this game of dog-eat-dog.

The American Ruling Class

Documentary 2005 NR 89 minutes. This inventive, mildly fictionalized documentary follows noted editor Lewis Lapham as he introduces two Ivy League graduates to America’s elite in an effort to examine the role of class and moneyed privilege in American democracy. With stops at the Pentagon, posh Manhattan parties and more, Lapham encounters luminaries — including James Baker III and Walter Cronkite — who each share their perspectives on America’s ruling class.

Henry Ford

Documentary American Experience 2013 TV-PG 1hr 52m. Henry Ford paints a fascinating portrait of a farm boy who rose from obscurity to become the most influential American innovator of the 20th century.

CITY LIFESTYLES IN HOLLYWOOD

The Player

Satire 1992 R 123 minutes. Director Robert Altman’s wickedly funny masterpiece about a slick Hollywood studio executive named Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) — a hotshot whose life is falling apart — is packed with irreverence and myriad star cameos (including appearances from Steve Allen, Cher, John Cusack, Peter Falk and Jeff Goldblum). A rival wants his job, and he’s facing a murder rap. But will Griffin face the music or turn his liabilities into assets?See Full Review

Barton Fink

Black Comedy 1991 R 117 minutes. Idealistic playwright Barton Fink (John Turturro) believes writing should reveal the hopes, dreams and tragedies of the common man. When Hollywood taps him to write a movie, Fink develops severe writer’s block and soon falls victim to a strange sequence of events. Unable to combine his deep-seated ethics with Tinseltown’s frivolity, the disillusioned and desperate Fink winds up involved in a murder investigation in this Oscar-nominated dramedy.

Sunset Boulevard

Drama 1950 NR 110 minutes. Running from debt collectors, screenwriter Joe (William Holden) stumbles upon the crumbling mansion of former silent-film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). As he begins working for Norma, writing a comeback screenplay, their professional relationship evolves into something more. A provocative look inside Hollywood show business, Billy Wilder’s classic noir won Academy Awards for Art Direction, Music and Screenplay.

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