In keeping with this week's Independence Day theme, this week's Movie Night consists of three movies having to do with the U.S. of A. I've already recommended American Beauty in a previous installment of Movie Night, but that's another great one to watch this week!
A staple in many an American teenager's cinematic repertoire, American Pie oozes with adolescent sexual frustration and poses hilarious worst-case scenarios. As a foursome of guys gets ready to graduate high school, they turn their attention to the one thing left to do before senior prom: lose that pesky virginity. They each approach this challenge in their individual ways and with varied results, though they all learn some kind of lesson in the end. Eugene Levy plays Jim's (Jason Biggs) well-meaning but horrendously awkward father in what has become one of his signature roles. American Pie also brought the term "MILF" into common usage, and anyone familiar with the movie now knows the ending to any story that starts with "This one time? At band camp?"
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There are scenes from this heartwarming family drama that bring tears to my eyes just thinking about them. The movie follows Irish parents Sarah (Samantha Morton) and Johnny (Paddy Considine) whose only son has died. So, they take their two young daughters to New York City in search of a new life and an escape from their grief. There they endure dismal living conditions, demeaning jobs and unbearable summer heat — but they also befriend an artist living downstairs (Djimon Hounsou) who helps them learn how to heal each other. The performances in this movie are deeply moving, particularly that of Samantha Morton, who will break your heart only to sew it back up again.
Paul Giamatti, in a role he was simply born to play, portrays Harvey Pekar in this biopic about the surly, misanthropic comic book writer who ultimately found himself famous. Working as a file clerk in Cleveland, Harvey Pekar wrote comic books about his life for over 20 years and called them American Splendor. The comics aren't adventurous or fantastical, but they rather detail the minutiae of Pekar's day-to-day experiences. Eventually he meets Joyce Barber (played to sardonic perfection by Hope Davis) and together the two navigate Harvey's newfound cult popularity. Pekar chronicled his average American life with humor and bleak honesty, and the movie captures this superbly. It also won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and was honored with a prize at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.