Reviews of things I've watched recently

~ Stranger Things: Season 1 (Netflix) ★★★★★ ~

Ever watch something so well crafted, it actually makes you spasm a little with joy every now and then while you're watching it? Like when the theme music starts? Or when it makes you laugh? Or when it terrifies you? Or when the plot thickens? Or when it ends on a cliffhanger? Stranger Things is one prolonged spasm-inducing brew of 80s nostalgia, childhood hijinx, superb acting, natural dialogue, and a compelling sci-fi/horror mystery doled out over eight wonderful episodes. Oh, and an inter-dimensional monster. And Dungeons & Dragons.

Watching Stranger Things feels as satisfying as slipping on a glove, taking the first sip of coffee, or slipping your socks off at the end of the day. There's something reassuring about its world of bicycles, board games, and bogeymen. There are no selfies in this universe, nor is there a whiff of WiFi in the air. Just real people with unreal problems. And that's just wonderful.

One thing is for sure, The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' will forever give me goosebumps.

~ Interstellar (2014) ★★★1/2 ~

Yes, yes, I know: I'm waaaaay too late to Christopher Nolan's Matthew McConaughey-crying-in-space party. Interstellar is a beautiful film, both in the aesthetic sense, with its stark alien worlds and top-notch visual effects; and in a narrative sense, with the prevalent message of "love" being the most powerful force in the universe as well as the single motivating factor behind our protagonist's choices as he searches for a new habitat for humanity beyond the stars.

While it is mostly a credible sci-fi film (as far as the depiction of Earth's bleak future goes), it's a little too corny for my tastes; and I'm not talking about the opening act that features the senseless destruction of acres of innocent corn. Dialogue between characters can feel a tad schmaltzy, and the ending could and should have been darker. It's still a very good film; but it's no 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then again, nothing is.

Come for the quasi-philosophical premise, stay for the epic soundtrack.

~ Amour (2012) ★★★★ ~

If you thought I was late to arrive to Interstellar, then I've positively shuffled my way towards Amour with the same speed as its octogenarian protagonists, Georges (Jean Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva).

The whole time I was watching Michael Haneke's thoughtful study of love's limits in the face of turmoil (Anne suffers a debilitating stroke and Georges struggles to cope with the emotional and physical demands of her care) I kept thinking, 'what a beautiful apartment'. In the long, silent spaces in which a character performs a mundane task - so prevalent in French films - my mind wandered. I yearned to live like the French; smoking a cigarette seated in a regal armchair, overshadowed by a vast bookshelf in my living room; chasing pigeons across my oak floorboards and shooing them out my stain-glassed latched windows; eating a simple meal at a tiny, rickety kitchen table heaving with books; no TV, just music; a grand piano on a huge Persian rug; it's all so beautifully Gallic. Much like the poignant Amour.

People like touching Emmanuelle Riva's face

(from Hiroshima Mon Amour ([1959])

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