Madame Kwan’s Moviehouse: Hunger Games and more

I told you I go to the movies a lot!

The Hunger Games.

See it! Though predictable in many parts, still an overall great entertainer. And who doesn’t want to stare at Jennifer Lawrence? I didn’t read the book so I don’t have quite the bias that the die-hard fans do… but this definitely made me like going to the movies again!


We Need to Talk About Kevin.

DON’T see it. The only saving grace of this movie is the silent performance of Tilda Swinton. Other than that, you’ve got an in-your-face movie trying to be super artsy and obtuse that utterly fails at delivering anything. I expected more and I sadly left the theater with regret.



You might want to see it if you’re in the mood. Although it likely wouldn’t be playing at a theater near you. The Atlanta Film Festival screened this “dark romantic comedy” flick to an audience looking for a hidden gem. While it had charming and believable characters, the movie colored inside the lines as far as drug-centric storylines go. It’s a sanitized version of what probably actually happens in the real world (not that I would know), but I give it credit for trying.


Madame Kwan’s Moviehouse: A Separation

As you can probably tell from previous posts, I’m a pretty steady movie-goer. Whether it be obscure, ridiculous, or indulgent… I see what I want to see. Sometimes disappointing and other times eye-opening, movies really help me get outside of myself when I’m too entrenched in my own circumstance.

This past weekend, I ventured to see the Oscar-winning Iranian film, A Separation.

In this fairly accurate (as far as I know) depiction of contemporary life in Iran, we’re presented with a conflict that illustrates their cultural norms in a subtle yet pervasive fashion. There is no clear villain or hero in this tale; every character is under specific and difficult strains – emotional, physical, religious and more.


A Separation is a universal and honest portrait of humanity. It was no tearjerker. There was no action or violence. It didn’t shatter my world into pieces. But it will be one of those films that I just can’t forget.


Existential Drama

In 2011, there have been three movies that plagued my mind well after I saw them in theaters. Another Earth, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Like Crazy. Their commonalities are undeniable; beautiful young girls with morose and empty eyes trying to figure out the life laid out before them. Sounds like we’ve heard this story before.

{Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen any of these movies and intend to see them, you should not read on.}


The girl.

Each movie presents us with a protagonist who undergoes severe emotional shifts that change the course of their easy-going lives. They are now faced with weighty decisions, looming danger, and the acceptance of their fate (and their choices).


The situation.

An extraordinary situation can make us face extraordinary decisions. From escaping an abusive cult to falling madly in love (yes, that’s extraordinary), there are moments where each character has to force self-actualization in order to find relief, reprieve, and resolution.


The choice.

To move forward, we make choices. These choices are defined by our personality. I’ve heard that one should never make decisions based on your past, but rather, your future. Is it possible to extract the history that makes up your present self from the decisions that determine your future?



Here’s the spoiler. Each of these movies ends with a scene that presents further conflict and forces you to imagine what possible ending could and should happen. In a world where we are always seeking solutions and faster ways to get to them, this sort of ending is very frustrating. I’ve realized now that my desire for entertainment is connected to a need for satisfaction. The orgasm. The solution! The kiss at the end of the romcom. Life continues conflict and I want fantasy to solve it so we can all live happily ever after.

But these movies have stayed with me. Their irritating endings have made me want to see them all over again. I keep wondering what ending would have made me happy and why. Do things get better or do they continue to fall apart?

This feels like a new genre of movies. At least, for me it is. I’ll call it Existential Drama. A category of movies that make you examine your own impulses and desires to see what happens next. Using unknown actresses who reek of vulnerability, we find instant connection to their painful humanness. The tension in their lives is almost unbearable. And they’ll let you craft their (un)happy ending.