it begins - apocalypse chelsea.
welcome to the inaugural queue de grâce, an ongoing experiment where i turn over control of my streaming netflix queue to someone for one week. there aren't many rules to this. basically, if i watch something at home it has to be something of their choosing. the only time i can pick my own films all week is if i go to the theater. i spend a week watching through someone else's eyes and tell you guys all about it. our opening salvo comes courtesy of miss chelsea george, the misunderstood genius behind the candy-coated explosion that is something terrible has happened. she has selected twenty films for me to start with. if i need more, she is ready. she provided me with a dossier. this girl is prepared. let's get to it!
i think she's taking it easy on me to start with. a little rope-a-dope to lull me into a false sense of security? i enter our cinematic octagon to meet my first opponent...martha coolidge's valley girl (1983).
i don't think i have seen this thing in its entirety in over twenty years. you'd be surprised at how well it holds up, especially if you remember much about the cultural climate of teen movies in the early eighties. kids of the current generation who have stumbled onto it unfortunately have to view it, at least a little, as a bit of a time capsule novelty - a mall suspended in amber - and that's too bad. as decent a film as it is now, it was even more of a standout then. it was a true teen romantic comedy in a festering mass of shoddy teen sex comedies. remember, lloyd dobler was still years away. everywhere you looked around this time it was peepholes in showers, underwear up flagpoles, trips across state and international borders with the sole intent of scoring. valley girl set itself apart by just being honest, silly and simple.
don't get me wrong. it's a teen movie and hormones are running rampant. you can't go five minutes without a discussion about how totally, tubularly cute someone is, but it's populated with kids who seem real. i'm not saying it's the best character development you'll ever see, but they have heart. its contemporaries were cartoonish, at best. and we've seen the story a million times - two different worlds/romeo and juliet - but it's done sweetly, with a deft touch, and every generation should get a chance to tell its own version of the story. there a lot of little reasons to like the film. the parents are as interesting and real as the kids, frederic forrest, especially. deborah foreman is adorable and nicolas cage exhibits a dopey, heavy-lidded charm that he would do well to remember how to access these days. bonus points to the soundtrack for not making the most obvious choices (the plimsouls!). and, as if all that wasn't enough, michelle meyrink! the face that launched a thousand nerdy ships. well, mine, anyway.
if you haven't seen it for a while it probably wouldn't hurt you to go back and see it again, if only to see the lightning speed with which they get to the shopping montage (hint: opening credits). ironically, with all its valleyspeak, it's probably the most emotionally articulate teen comedy of its era. you can keep your john hughes garbage. if you need me, i'll be over on the wrong side of the tracks with randy and julie.
alright, so we're off to a good start. what's next? a 180 degree turn for neil abramson's documentary, soldier child (1998).
upon reading the description, i had high hopes for this one. in northern uganda, a religious fanatic named joseph kony commands an insurgent group he calls the lord's resistance army. to populate his army, he abducts, brainwashes and impresses children into service. it is appalling, and if you follow contemporary african political struggles you know it is also appallingly common. these children have been the victims of atrocities we can't imagine. they have done things that i think the human mind, with all its resilience, cannot come back from. this film attempts to relate the stories of some of these children, but ultimately falls short. it cannot accurately convey the scope of the horror and ends up playing like a piece of amnesty international propaganda, rather than a piece of journalism. it may be my fault. i like much more objectivity in my documentaries and just was not given it. it spends far too much time engaging in finger-wagging at the audience when we already know it's terrible beyond words and that something needs to be done. i halfway expected danny glover to say "please, for just seventeen cents a day, you can help a child in need". still, there were parts that were valuable. watching their faces when the children blandly told stories of being given a hoe to chop other children into pieces was a chilling reminder that the human animal is capable of most anything. the few details that were given about the therapy process they use to help children who escape were most interesting. i wish they could have spent considerably more time outlining the process that helps recover a mind from that abyss. there are a number of documentaries on this subject. maybe one of them treats the material in a more informative and objective fashion. this one, at least, inspires me to look for more. if you would like to decide for yourself, and you don't have streaming netflix, click here to watch it in its entirety on hulu.
so, i survived day one. a pretty good start, actually. i've read the list, though. there is danger ahead. pray for me.