Things I've Been Watching on Netflix :: Summer 2012

I've been wanting to, for awhile now, talk about things I've watched on Netflix Instant. I have a huge queue, but it's not always helpful in deciding what to watch next. These short writings about what I've watched may be interesting for people who've seen the same things, are wondering what to check out themselves, or who care to read about what I've been watching. I may make a regular post of this.

FILM: Sleeping Beauty
This movie was totally weird and sometimes uncomfortable. It's by the same guy who made the 2011 film Melancholia, which is also on my queue, and at times I wished I were watching it alone. Sometimes when films are creepy/slightly disturbing, and I am still enjoying them, I feel embarrassed while I'm watching them because I feel like I should express some sort of distaste for a film's tastelessness. In this film's case, the narrator's life decisions are consistent with that of someone who I probably would not befriend-- or, if I did wind up befriending someone who allows a service to put her to sleep so that men can pay lots of money to fondle her, I wouldn't be friends with her for too long. A film like this seems only to get worse as the main character's need for money increases at the same time that her perverse enjoyment in a peculiar job like this peaks. A film like this makes an interesting exploration of humanity: how far to the edges of abnormal people will travel for various and colliding, though different, reasons.

DOCUMENTARY: When You're Strange
I woke up one morning, and Geoff was awake on the couch watching TV. He had just started this documentary about the Doors, and I reluctantly allowed myself to be sucked in by it. Narrated by Johnny Depp, and featuring a good number of footage of Jim Morrison and the other Doors members, I was surprised when the credits rolled at how much I enjoyed learning more about the band, and also that the film was made up entirely of actual footage of them. For some reason, I had thought a lot of it was staged. Perhaps because the moments captured were made out to be key moments in the rise and fall of the band. The footages was interspersed with photos and other documents, but it was seamless and extremely well done. If you have even a slight interest in the period of time when the Doors were a hit, I recommend this.

ANIME/TV SERIES: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Towards the end of the semester, I mentioned to one of my students who I knew was an anime fan that I'd been trying to find a new anime series to watch. Like many people of my generation, I grew up on episodes of Sailor Moon & Dragon Ball Z, but also like some of us, I went on to seek out other Japanamation cartoons. My stepsister and I wound up watching Saturday anime on the Sci-fi channel and from there went on to fall in love with Akira and Iria. There was a whole section in Suncoast Video in the Echelon mall that sold VHS of anime, and Hall of Heroes, right across the way, was always good for a recommendation. I wound up working at HOH during my high school years, and that's where my love of anime spread further into a love for comics, too. However, I didn't like every anime, and I didn't like every comic. I'm not running off to conventions, with hair dyed turquoise, shitting my pants because I'm about to meet the guy who played _______ in one of the X-men movies. My taste in both anime and comics is too specific.
A few years ago, I allowed myself to be drawn into the Avatar the Last Airbender series via Netflix, and watched most of the three seasons of it twice, first with my stepsister (who was the person who initially got me "into" Sailor Moon) and then with my roommate. I hadn't thought about anime tv shows for years, and afterwards, I wanted more. I had been watching way too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU (a girls' best friend), and needed something different, something with the ability to blend the serious with humor. I wound up watching a poorly-drawn, but extremely intriguing and... well, peaceful, anime series called Mushi-shi (which is still on Netflix Instant, and is worth checking out if you can deal with the extremely repetitive drawing and want to zone out to some interesting ideas). When I was done with this, I tried watching first episodes of various other animes, but everything seemed childish/sexist/foolish.
To return to the beginning of this long explanation, one of my grammar students who liked anime recommended that I watch Full Metal Alchemist, specifically the Brotherhood series because it was the best. My only wish at this point is that I had tried to watch FMA in "order" (I get the impression from the small amount of research I've allowed myself, that there isn't exactly a "proper" order for the collection of FMA sagas, but I'm not sure.) The Brotherhood series is about the Full Metal Alchemist himself, Edward Elric and his brother Al questing to find a solution to the fact that Al is a soul trapped in a suit of armor and Ed has an an auto-mail arm and leg. Their investigation of the way their "alchemy" works unearths a number of other problems that come with being Soldiers of the State under a Furor. Not only are you on Ed and Al's side during their journey, but even the minor characters you only meet sometimes for a single episode (more if you're lucky) are surprisingly well developed. I have found myself attached to a character I met less than a half hour ago, sad to learn of their fate. Despite being a TV-14 rated anime, this show addresses serious issues such as war/death, love/relationships, and ethics/morality in a meaningful, adult way. I watched all of the Netflix instant episodes, and then went as far as to get all of the DVDs to finish out the series. I was sad when it was over, but I think that the writers did a great job.
Perhaps one criticism I have of the show is the opening and closing theme songs are each about a minute long, and I'm tired of watching them every time I want to watch an episode. After the closing theme ends, though, there's often a "hint" as to what will happen on the next episode, sometimes even revealing information that transitions and isn't even shown in the next episode. There are five "seasons" within the Brotherhood series, and 13 episodes 24-minute episodes in each. The show debuted in the USA in 2009. Even if you're not into anime, you can adjust to the extreme displays of emotion coupled with the complicated animation's transforming to something much simpler in order to enjoy a series as complex and emotionally loaded as this one.

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