Dear Movie Madness

We invited folks on social media to throw personal quandaries at Movie Madness’ staff for recommendations. Here are their responses.

Dear Movie Madness

Sometimes, you don’t want to talk about it. But you do want something or someone to relate to. Movies can be the middle ground.

Portland is fortunate to have a world-class brick-and-mortar video store. Movie Madness is basically the modern physical media version of the ancient Library of Alexandria. With more than 80,000 titles on the premises, it has more than Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and HBO Max combined.

We all stream. It’s quick, easy. Streaming platforms work well when you’re seeking specific titles, like Star Trek. But when you’re seeking to meet a specific need? That’s when Movie Madness’ in-house experts become irreplaceable.

Sure, you can Google “Netflix movies for feeling sad” and get results like “50 Best Sad Movies on Netflix to Stream When You Need to Cry Your Eyes Out.” But, if you’re feeling sad because you’ve been rejected at your 12th job interview despite being highly qualified, or your cat just died from eating hair ties? You can’t effectively search for that online. An algorithm just can’t “get you” and personalize suggestions like outstanding video clerks can.

With that in mind, we invited users on social media to throw personal quandaries at Movie Madness’ staff for recommendations. Here are their responses.

1. I work with high schoolers reluctant to watch anything pre-2000. Any older movies that might resonate? Also, it’s easy to find teen films about suburban white kids. Any earlier films with more diverse representation?

Dear We Need More Educators Like You,

As an MAT student working with high schoolers every day, I can help. The kids need action and mayhem. Two years locked inside has numbed them.

My first recommendation: The Holy Mountain. The soul-bending surrealism is sure to excite any young adult. It’s visually stunning, without a moment’s downtime. Second recommendation: Sugar Hill. What more is there to want from a film? It’s a Blaxploitation, voodoo zombie-infested, kung fu revenge thriller sure to grab even the most bored student’s attention.

My third recommendation is a safe bet: Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Can’t explain it, but something in that movie captivates young people. —Satchel

2. I’m broke and must work, but want to travel. Movies to help wanderlust?

Dear Broken Adventurist,

Know the feeling! Films documenting faraway lands help tame my insatiable wanderlust. At least until I can save up for a trip. Anything by Satyajit Ray (especially The Apu Trilogy), is excellent if you’re hankering for South Asian excursions. French director Louis Malle’s documentary Phantom India is a fantastic snapshot of late-’60s Indian life. All installments of Cinerama’s travelogue series from the ‘50s will similarly teleport you elsewhere.

My favorite is South Seas Adventure, a transpacific tropical Polynesian island tour. Latin American scenery and culture more your flavor? Try I Am Cuba, a beautifully shot black-and-white ‘60s communist propaganda film. It captures the land and people of a fascinating country that United States tourists have rarely experienced in person post-Cuban Revolution. —Quinn

3. Movies after losing someone?

Dear Recently Bereaved,

Director Johnnie To’s Romancing in Thin Air is a moving ode to cinema’s power to help us navigate life’s worst tragedies. Dumped by his bride at the wedding, a hotshot actor escapes to the Himalayan mountains. He encounters a widowed fan who runs a hotel. A complicated relationship and new film project unfold. When loved ones pass, we think of our memories with them, but also imagine what it would be like if they were still with us. This film shows how art can be cathartic during mourning, offering reflections like, “I love the script, but does the ending have to be so sad?” —Kendall

4. I dated someone who wasn’t who he said he was. When I found out, I broke up with him. He stalked me. I’m fine. New home, life, office, and new big dog. But, recommend a movie?

Dear Separate and Savvy,

Enough, directed by Michael Apted and starring Jennifer Lopez. It follows a woman who marries a man who isn’t who he said he was. She leaves. He stalks her. It’s thrilling and suspenseful, and features an amazing Lopez performance. The film takes itself seriously, but also enters some wacky territory, making it an entertaining, wild ride. Could be cathartic and is totally worth watching. If you’re seeking lighter fare, try 9 to 5 or The First Wives Club. Both are guaranteed fun and feature strong women banding together to get back at the men who’ve wronged them. —Cable

5. A mom and dad kept their daughter super sheltered (did everything for her), then kicked her out during their divorce. Fish out of water stories for her?

Dear WTF on Your Behalf,

Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople is such a fun movie that explores this theme on multiple levels. But it does so in a hilarious, irreverent and surprisingly touching way. Julian Dennison melts hearts as Ricky, a teenager caught up in the child welfare system who finds a new home with Hec (Sam Neill) and Bella (Rima Te Wiata). This film has lots of heart, and it shows that individuals can grow following catastrophic events. —Sara

6. I’m raising teen girls. I have a 15- and an 11-year-old. It’s a roller coaster. Help?!

Dear Struggling to Stay on the Right Tracks,

Thirteen, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, could be for you! It stars Holly Hunter as a well-meaning mom just doing her absolute best while her teenage kids, primarily her 13-year-old daughter, spin out of control. Despite heavy subject matter, it’s an enthralling film filled with stunning performances and iconic moments. Holly Hunter’s performance is positively heartbreaking, and young Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed (who helped write the film at 13!) are forces to be reckoned with. —Cable

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