I made the mistake of watching Dogtooth right before bed. From the opening scene—blindfold around eyes, stilted car ride conversation, slow opening gate—we know we’re in for something twisted. The tone is stark and brutal, but it’s the stasis of the tone that’s most unsettling. Once the gate closes it’s clear the children are not getting out. The parents obsessively shield them from nearly all outside influences, even reinventing everyday language—phone means ‘salt’, sticker means ‘clothes’, sea means ‘chair’—creating a comical yet creepy distortion of realities. The children begin to entertain themselves in creative ways, but once they get a small taste of the outside world, things get seriously fucked.
Although Hoop Dreams is a documentary that follows the paths of two high school bball stars, it does not require the knowledge, or even interest, in the greatest sport of all time. Complexities regarding race, social class, economics, and politics are brought to the forefront, while exposing the darkness of AAU culture, which essentially begins ranking players at dangerously young ages. The power of Hoop Dreams lies in its ability to confront issues that shoot way beyond the simple (or obsessive) love of a game. The subjects—William Gates and Arthur Agee—are pretty damn lovable, too. I saw this in the theater back in ’94 as a young hoop dreamer and it’s still one of my favorites.
My brother left the room about halfway through the movie to let me watch the second half alone. He’d seen it before. Not to give it away (everyone’s seen this, right?) but the moment with the one-way mirror, the phone—I’ve never sobbed so intensely during a scene in a movie. It really got me, and it was nice to have that moment alone. I don’t know what else to say other than if you somehow missed this masterpiece, I suggest you watch it now, with or without others.
THE BROTHERS SOLOMON
Since really dumb comedies occupy at least half the movies I’ve seen in my life, this list should contain one. I was on tour somewhere in the midwest and the rest of the band flew to the next show on the west coast. My brother was selling merch for us at the time and he and I stayed behind for the drive. We had the entire bus to ourselves when we stopped for the night, one of maybe two or three vehicles occupying the dirt parking lot of a hotel off a highway in Idaho. It seemed like the right time to eat a weed cookie. I rarely ingest weed in any way, and when it was slow to take effect, I decided to eat another. The movie was pretty funny at first but about halfway through I had the most insane laugh attack of my life. As my brother joined in, we paced up and down the bus convulsing. We made it to the end of the movie, but when we went to the hotel to get ready for bed, our room keys didn’t work. We became even more hysterical than before and stood in the empty hallway trying to decide who was more capable of handling the task of interacting with another human being behind the front desk. I’ve seen the movie (sober) since and of course this initial experience is tough to top but it’s still very bizarre and hilarious.
DEAD RIVER ROUGH CUT
I’ll leave you with a Maine classic. It’s a documentary about two best buds that reject the outside world for tarpapers shacks in the middle of the woods. They hunt, fish, trap, log. They also philosophize and tell wacky stories in an accent so thick even a Mainer like myself would benefit from captions. Walter Lane and Bob Wagg form an unusual pair that are equally entertaining and enlightening, making a retreat to the woods seem like a sweet idea. This is the most requested movie at the Maine State Prison.
Nat Baldwin is a writer and musician living in Maine. His fiction has appeared in PANK, Sleepingfish, Timber, Deluge, and Alice Blue. He has released several solo albums, and plays bass in Dirty Projectors. He is currently pursuing a BA in English at the University of Southern Maine.