Cult Movie Classics

I am not what you might call a “movie person.” The thought of a theatre experience reminds me of paying goo gobs of cash to sit in a cushy seat probably infested with bodily fluids from strangers. Needless to say, I’m not often moved by the images on the big screen, unless there are a lot of things blowing up. Yet Netflix has been my homeboy for some years now, shipping cult classics and obscure foreign titles to wherever in the world I may be. In honor of the 28 year anniversary of one of my absolute faves, “She’s Gotta Have It,” here’s my top ten list of must-see movies that you probably haven’t seen (or at least not in a long time):

1.

Gomorrah is a 2008 film from Italy, based on a Robert Saviano book. This is not your typical mafia movie. In every form and fashion, it’s better.  It weaves five individual stories of people trying to make their own connections with the Casalesi clan, a crime syndicate within the Camorra.

2.  Borders Frontieres is a 2002 film from France/ Algeria that focuses on African clandestine immigration to southern Europe. Comedic and tragic, the film charts the journey of seven people traveling from Senegal through Algeria and onward to Spain.

3. Woody Allen’s 1977 classic Annie Hall is the pre and post-mortem tale of a relationship between two seemingly incompatible people, who once fell in love. It’s romantic and whimsical, and also shows scenes of back when NYC was gritty.

images-44. First of all, “Dilwale Dulhania le Jeyenge” stars my absolute fave Bollywood actress, Kajol and, second, it involves a young woman traveling on her own. What’s not to love (maybe SRK’s hair cut)?

This is the story of two kids who, against their own wishes, fall in love while taking the Eurorail. Both are non-resident Indians, raised in Britain, and both are struggling to meet their parents’ expectations for adulthood. But, when they first meet, neither knows this about the other… and hence, the comedic elements of this 1995 romantic comedy.

5.

In the 2003 drama, 21 Grams, an accident brings together three people who couldn’t be more unrelated or disconnected. The words love, faith, guilt and revenge all crop up, a lot. The movie stars Benicio del Torro, Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, and is directed by the Mexico City native Alejandro González Iñárritu.

6. Mexico’s 2008 Sleep Dealer has to be one of the most engaging sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen. (Sci-fi is not my genre of choice.) The plot is not as blatantly transparent in its allusion to specific political events as South Africa’s District 9, but it definitely made me think – how far away are we from this being a reality? The long and short of it is that technology has developed such that people’s bodies can be in one place and through the use of a physical attachment, they can use robotics to operate machinery and perform tasks that are actually located in another place. The dynamics of immigration being the same, this dynamic interestingly means that there is migrant work with no workers, but at what cost?

7.

Leon is probably one of the most gangster movies I’ve ever watched and enjoyed. A hitman teams up with a little girl, and they start whooping ass! Natalie Portman + Jean Reno / circa 1994 = You’ll have to just watch it.

8. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, made me appreciate that Hitchcock isn’t only about scare and gore. In this mid-century tale, an American family travel to Morocco, only to get caught up in a murder mystery, an assassination attempt, and a kidnapping. There’s drama and travel, mixed in with politics and music. Apparently there are two versions of the film, from 1934 and 1956, and I don’t remember which version I saw.  So, have your pick!

9. Dirty Pretty Things is based in modern-day UK, and tells the story of a clandestine African immigrant who is a trained doctor by profession and a Turkish woman whose visa to the UK allows her to stay, but not work. Both are tied by mutual interest and genuine affection, and they are only brought closer together when Senay considers harvesting an organ on the black market in order to get a fake passport to travel to the U.S.A.

10.

The Gods Must be Crazy is to South Africa what Coming to America is to the United States. Released in 1980, it is said to be the most commercially successful film from South Africa (but maybe that’s changed since the release of District 9). The movie is set in the desert of Botswana, where Xi, a Sho of the Kalahari Desert (played by Namibian San farmer Nǃxau) lives with his tribesmen. None of them are conscious of the world outside of or different from the desert they know, until Xi stumbles upon a Coca Cola bottle.

Out of curiosity, how many of you have actually seen any of these?

Things I learned from people I don’t like…

For the last two weeks my best friend from high school and her boyfriend have been here in town. Though he was perfectly pleasant the first time I met him, some three years ago, I was preparing for the worst from his stay this time. There were many factors that led me to inform my co-workers that if I didn’t like him there might be a very tall, very homeless African-American man wandering around South Delhi looking for assistance. But, it turned out to be such a positive experience that it inspired this very blog post. Go figure!

See, we must be candid about this boyfriend.  He remains on my shit list.  ‘Why?’ you may ask.  Well, because he needs to marry my best friend already (Hell yea, I wrote it)! And if he doesn’t, my shit list will turn to my hit list #alanancykerrigan. (No, just kidding – he’s like 4 times my size.) But, this trip was good for building confidence between me and my best friend’s Stedman.  Since she is hopelessly in love, I have given up on trying to lure her away from him.  To be frank, every time I have tried to hook her up with someone new, she’s ended up pushing me into the arms of some visible goon (she got me a couple of times with that one).

Anyway, my philosophy is if you can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em over the head with your plan B.  Stedman has given me multiple assurances that her day will come and we established a timeline that I’m satisfied with.  I will send him progress reports and project plans over the coming months until he finally does the damned thing! #goodfriendshipsometimesinvolvesstalking

All this peace making and wedding planning, with a dude I’d previously said I really didn’t like all that much, got me to thinking about all the other people I actually still don’t like all that much. I usually hate to acknowledge that people with poor character or lame personalities (in my humble opinion) have any redeeming qualities, but recognizing that people aren’t 100% bad may be a sign that I’m growing older and weaker wiser. As I mulled it over, I realized that I have learned quite a few things from people I still find repugnant:

DON’Ts

faceoffmovementDon’t lay all your cards on the table all the time.  From a former friend, I learned that I don’t like people who don’t draw a line in the sand and declare what side of the fence they’re on. It’s a personality thing that I may grow out of. Actually, I probably won’t. But, I observed that when she interacted with people who were not like me, being useless aloof actually made her kinda popular. Having no opinion, moral stance, or declared conviction AND offering no additional information or assistance actually made her come off as neutral & ‘safe’ to disclose information to and court for support. In my personal life I still despise people like her, but in my professional life I’m learning how to play my cards closer to my chest without appearing deceptive in the end (yea, she needed to work on that part too).

 

mean-girlsMy high school arch nemesis taught me this little gem. (No, I don’t think we ever did speak again – except that one time in college when I saw her in the subway trying to hook up with my friend’s [now ex] boyfriend).  Never email anyone to tell them how much you really hate them.  This is common sense now, but it wasn’t then when the interweb was new.  P.S. It is highly likely that if you feel so compelled to tell them you hate them – they already know.

 

imagesA guy I dated on and off for way too long taught me that guitar players are bad people. I’m not talking about the guy who lends a hand with his local church band when the regular bass player is hung over. I’m talking about the lead guitarist in any band that accepts (or aspires to accept) cash payment for a performance in front of screaming ladies throwing their panties on stage. 4 out of 5 sane people agree that of all musicians, guitarists are the biggest narcissists AND the least likely to succeed.

 

DOs

images-1Be clear, not aggressive.  I actually don’t like this person, because they are so aggressive. But, I learned from their professional example to put my foot down (early and often) and to set the tone for how I’d like to be treated. I always shied away from letting my ambition come across as bossy, until this person added too much bass in their voice in a phone call. In our conversation, I can admit that I’d been proverbially pimp slapped. But, in looking back, I now know that I could have avoided the interaction entirely had I been clearer at the outset – instead of trying to ‘be nice.’ Since then, I’ve gotten better at explaining how I operate, the limitations I have, and the expectations I have for others.

 

300px-Chocolate_cupcakesBribe staff and co-workers with baked goods!  From a previous co-worker for whom I (still) have very little respect, I learned that Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines are the best office managers. People may not respect your personality, but they will listen to you time and time again if you offer baked goods at regular intervals. I find this particularly helpful in India where most people don’t have ovens – so baked goods are a special treat. If I want talk time with anyone, I just send out that email “Hey guys, cupcakes at my desk.” And, you know what? No matter how effed up their work product or their attitude, they will always come for sugar calories from a box. Then, it’s my time to ambush! This also works in the affirmative – for special requests for time off and thank yous for obnoxious things you have requested or will request in the future.

 

7.4ftWoman4Surround yourself with people who make you look good. (Disclaimer: It makes you look a lil desperate though if those same people also look up to you.)  I have very little use for this particular lady’s self inflated ego, but she’s been in my presence long enough for me to observe her skillful art of tailoring her company in specific situations. She’s not interested in having Turtle and Drama hang out with her all day just because they are her most loyal friends. Nope! For a special occasion, she will clean up a wallflower with basic education and get them to stand next to her, so that she’ll look like a rockstar. While there are visible flaws in her tactic of swapping friends for fans, I would say that it is a sign of maturity to be around people who both make you look good and who feel that they can grow from your relationship. I personally believe that people who make me look good are a crowd of my peers and mentors, ambitious people of stellar character. But if you – like her – think the people who make you look good are a group of adult sized gremlins, perhaps you should disregard this entire paragraph altogether.