Last week, I finally finished my marathon binge of Designing Women, and I thought, what should I watch next? I had a stack of DVDs, and some shows and movies to stream on various services. Friends have given lots of suggestions on social media, including Sex Education, Self Made, the Madam C.J. Walker Story, and Fleabag.
Sex Education is like a conglomeration of every 80s and 90s teen comedy with a much stronger sexual presence. I can point to scenes of The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Sixteen Candles. It even makes a direct reference to Say Anything and Lloyd Dobler holding his boombox up to express his eternal love for Diane Court.
It’s almost like John Hughes wrote the script for this British-based comedy series on Netflix. Season 2, Episode 7 has an entire arc of the episode set in detention with 6 girls, all from different social groups in their high school, in a multi-level library, with a teacher coming in to check in on the group every so often. At least she didn’t raid Barry Manilow’s wardrobe or trailing toilet paper on her shoe.
Shows that I have recommended to friends include This Is Us, The Good Place, Working Moms, Dead to Me, Grace & Frankie, The Chef Show, Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Dumplin’, To All the Boys I’ve Loved, and its sequel, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. All of these movies and shows have one central theme: original screenplays. As you know, I’m not a fan of sequels (well, I included one up there…) and remakes, and I tolerate well-made adaptations like 2019’s Little Women. The above-mentioned programs take original ideas and create funny, thoughtful, provocative, and poignant stories, and in situations which many of us could apply to our everyday lives, unlike most reality television.
The stack of DVDs include some classics: The Apartment, An American in Paris, Vertigo, A Streetcar Named Desire, Rear Window, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, My Fair Lady and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington; and some Indian movies ~ not the typical Bollywood style that I love: Anand, Page 3, Water, and Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, which roughly translates to, “If you want to come, will I refuse?” Anand and Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana are both Telugu movies, while Page 3 is in Hindi, and Water is a combination of English and Hindi. If you aren’t a native Telugu or Hindi speaker, I hope you can enjoy these films while reading the subtitles!
I can also recommend Naa Bangaaru Talli, a Telugu movie that was also made in Malayam with the title Ente. Page 3, Anand, Water, and Naa Bangaaru Talli focus on societal issues like human trafficking, women’s rights, child marriage and drug abuse, and leave out the typical Bollywood song and dance. Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana includes some some of the song and dance, but it has a pure soul plot based on true love, and the idea that money and possessions can’t buy happiness.
Sex Education‘s Eric says “People that don’t like musicals have no soul” so I must have tons of soul. I grew up watching the musicals that my dad recorded for me like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Sound of Music and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and the two movies I listed above, An American in Paris and My Fair Lady.
An American in Paris features a George & Ira Gershwin soundtrack, Gene Kelly choreography and dancing, and a beautiful French ballerina, Leslie Caron. The unique 17-minute ballet sequence near the end of the film was an afterthought, but I have watched this part of the film on its own on Youtube many times! I have always had a tough time picking a favorite Gershwin song from An American in Paris – “S’Wonderful”, “Our Love Is Here To Stay”, “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise”, “I Got Rhythm”, and of course, the American in Paris ballet sequence near the end of the film.
I am so happy I was able to see An American in Paris on stage when it came to Atlanta as part of the Broadway tour; I found a newfound appreciation for “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise” during this show. So revered is this film in the film industry that Gene Kelly was awarded a special Academy Award for his choreography. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and won six, including Best Picture. It is the first Best Picture winner to also win Best Original Screenplay, and the only musical to ever win Best Original Screenplay, as of 2020. An American in Paris was added to the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress in 1993.
From the rest of the stack, the suspense in the Hitchcock films balanced the somberness of The Apartment and the feelgood nature of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The Apartment was the first movie I ever rented from the local video store in my hometown. It was the first movie alphabetically that was available. I didn’t know anything about the plot, only that the movie starred Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon. You can’t help but feel despair for the situation that both of their characters find themselves in, being taken advantage of by people in more powerful positions than they are (more on that in a later blog). This 1960 drama hit on some heavy topics for the time period including sexual harassment, mental health, and workplace politics.
The Apartment is categorized as a romantic comedy, but I feel like it is more of a drama with some comedic levity thrown in to lighten the mood. Even the top-10 Billboard chart “Theme from The Apartment” has a heart-wrenching somber feeling to it, and reminds me of “Our Love Affair”, the theme from An Affair to Remember. When the movie was released, it was well received by most critics, and was successful commercially, but it was met with some criticism due to adultery, which is central to the plot. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and won five, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Like An American in Paris, The Apartment was also chosen for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Since we are all bound to our homes for the foreseeable future, I had to include Rear Window, probably my favorite Hitchcock classic. Hitchcock adapted Cornell Woolrich’s story story “It Had To Be Murder” (1942) in 1954. L. B. Jefferies (James Stewart) is home-bound with a broken leg, and is nursed by his girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) and his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter). As with the previous two movies, Rear Window was also added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1997.
I hope this gives everyone some ideas of what you can watch while you are quarantined, and maybe add to your watch list for when we are freed for a rainy day or date night! If you need more suggestions, feel free to check out some of my other movie posts: