Deep Cuts: Three Hidden Movies to watch in Drama

Tess Bowler introduces her new column, recommending three haunting drama movies for when you can’t decide what to watch.

by Tess Bowler | 1/23/23 2:00am

2023-01-16-15-07-55
by Cricket Cannell / The Dartmouth

The year is 2007 and I am five years old, standing in a Blockbuster. My dad says I can pick out any movie I want, and I choose the original “Nosferatu” and an unmemorable B horror movie. When I try to fall asleep after our amateur double feature, I can’t. For the first and last time, I am truly frightened by a movie, so scared that I don't sleep the entire night. I consider this a watershed moment in my life — the first time a film evoked any emotion in me.  

I’m then 11 and my dad gifts me a book on screenwriting for my birthday. As I have not yet even considered life after middle school, I leave it to collect dust on my bookshelf. But three years later, Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore,”is showing for one night only at our local theater. Maybe it was Anderson’s visuals or the quirky, sweet storyline, but that night was the first time I thought about making movies.  

Suddenly, I’m 17 and crying over my first SAT results. As I sit down to study, my mom puts on the score of “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters” and I wonder why I’m unable to remember math formulas, but I can recall nearly every director, writer, cast and composer of any film I’ve seen. 

Film has continuously impacted my life. However, since coming to college, I’ve had few of these moments. Although neither my interest in nor love for movies has waned — yet my time and financial resources certainly have — it is a rare occurrence for me to go to the movie theater. Of course, streaming is inferior to actually going to the movies, but it’s not a bad alternative in a town as artistically desolate as Hanover.

One of the many problems with streaming is the overwhelming amount of choices: most of us spend a stupid amount of time digging for something to watch, only to not watch anything because it’s taken too long. In “Deep Cuts” I will recommend the best hidden gems that you probably, maybe, hopefully have never heard of. This week’s genre? Drama. More specifically, what I would categorize as haunting dramas. 

1.  Paris, Texas (HBO Max)

“Paris, Texas” was originally recommended to me by a boy I met in middle school that I no longer speak to. My mom recently saw him at a store, and he remembered her even though they had only met once years ago. Ironically, the sadness I felt when my mom told me this is the same melancholy that characterizes “Paris, Texas”; a yearning for something that you once had and never will again. The movie is a slow burn that starts with a man, Travis, who is found traveling through the desert in a fugue state. He is later reunited with his son, Hunter, who he has not seen since walking out on his family four years prior. The two embark on a road trip to find Hunter’s mother — who disappeared shortly after Travis left his family — against the backdrop of seedy southwest cities and fading neon lights. Essentially, director Wim Wenders offers us a Western set in a time in which the open frontier no longer exists. Instead of allowing people to ride into the sunset, modern civilization forces men (and women) to be starkly confronted with their actions, and, in discovering himself, Travis ultimately discovers there is nowhere else to run. 

2.  Mysterious Skin (MUBI)  

If you’re already in the know enough to have a subscription to MUBI, then you probably have seen Gregg Araki's “Mysterious Skin.” Araki is a wildly undersold director, and if he never made “Mysterious Skin,” I’d probably be recommending you another one of his movies — namely, “The Living End” or “Totally F*cked Up.” “Mysterious Skin,” however, is much more grown-up than either of those movies — where they favor style and shock value, “Mysterious Skin” is ripe with substance and unflinching honesty. The film features Araki’s usual trademarks — bright colors contrasted with serious subject matter — as it follows the story of a young hustler and an alien conspiracy theorist  who grew up in the same small town and reunited a decade later. The premise is seemingly absurd, but then again, so is life and so is pain; Araki capitalizes on the film’s strangeness to make this exact point. It is both innocent and violent — much like the nature of the two boys’ childhoods, which were cut short by the same traumatic incident. It’s heartbreakingly tough to watch; view at your own risk.

 3.  Little Children (HBO Max)  

This past awards season, there was a great deal of buzz around Todd Field and his movie “Tár.”. But before that, I knew him as the piano player in “Eyes Wide Shut” who went on to make “Little Children.” At first glance, the movie appears to be a garden variety suburban criticism à la “American Beauty,” however, it is one of the best in that variety. The title, “Little Children,” is the best explanation of the plot. The film not only centers around the young kids of suburbanites, but also their parents who all are coping with the idea that they are no longer the center of their own lives: their children are. Building upon Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, Field further sheds light on the complex dimension of mundane activities. Why do you bring your child to the playground? Is it for them, or is it so you can get praise from the ever-present housewives that gawk at the neighborhood’s so-called “super dad”? Desperate to reclaim the attention of their youth, these adults — namely Sarah and Brad, whose extramarital affair lies at the heart of the movie — lie, cheat and gossip their way through life, whilst making a mess of it. In doing so, Field seems to be asking something I find myself wondering nearly every day at college: do we ever really grow up from the little children we once were? 

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