At the movies: I wasn't sure I needed another Wall Street thriller this year, but Equity claims some worthy territory by making most of its lead characters female and acknowledging the difference that makes without actually making it about feminism. In fact, the women in this story struggle with getting ahead "the old-fashioned way", although much more on their own terms than past iterations might have allowed. This isn't a "women's story", but a non-gendered story that happens to women, and isn't written as if it had happened to men. An excellent performance by Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn tentpoles the enterprise (which was also written and directed by women), with Sarah Megan Thomas and Alysia Reiner providing superlative support. Equity isn't revolutionary - do ALL banks make use of a Jenga set? - but its point of view brings a freshness to the material.
DVDs: 5 Centimeters Per Second is a short, one-hour anime subtitled "A Chain of Short Stories About Their Distance" is a meditative piece about young love stymied by just that - distance. Spatial distance, emotional distance, temporal distance, in its various segments. All look beautiful and are almost made up of stills, or brief moments, impressions, that have lingered with the characters. Their inability to reach out and go the full distance isolates them in each of their realities, preventing real contact and intimacy, except in the most furtive of manner. The title is about a speed that can either seem slow or fast, it's not clear and within the stories, is relative. For the characters and thus for the audience, time seems to distend or contract according to the point of view. It's either going to take forever to get the lovers together (the first 20 minutes feel like an hour, truly), or there is never enough time to make them have their moment together. A brilliant piece of film-making that justifies the one-hour format we never see as a feature on this side of the world.
When you think about Rankin & Bass, you think about stop-motion television productions made for television. But they did do some traditional animation, and they did release feature films. 1982's The Last Unicorn is a whimsical fairy tale about a unicorn's quest to find others of her kind, all of which seem to have fallen at the hands of an unhappy king. I would not call him evil, as this was written in more modern times, and has an element of pop psychology and trippiness to it. The animation is slightly more primitive than what Disney was doing at the same time, but it has its moments and a strong voice cast (surely, this should count as one of Christopher Lee's greatest villains). And you're never exactly sure where the story will go, which is surely a triumph for this kind of material. One thing: I'm not sure it was done on purpose, but the story seems to lead you to a dark but unaddressed conclusion about the fate of the animals from the unicorn's forest. Even if that's wrong (I haven't checked out the book), it's still a good example of the story's innate ambiguities. One for more alert kids, but also adults who like to talk about what they've just watched once the light come up.
Netflix: The Big Monty is a film still relevant today, as it touches on the hardships of the blue collar worker suffering during a recession. Our heroes are out of work steel workers who decide to earn a quick buck by giving a Chippendale show in which they do the professionals one better and go "the full Monty", i.e. completely naked. Of course, these are unlikely sex gods, and while that's played for laughs, it also provides a lot of pathos. Over the course of their adventure, they will benefit from a sensitive camaraderie that belies their "hard man" professions, and find ways to reconnect with their wives, children and community. Whether funny or sad, it doesn't achieve those states quite the way you think it will, though certainly, the gauche dance numbers will amuse and the central father-son relationship will tug at the heart strings. The Full Monty is a pleasant anthem for the common man that manages to grasp something beyond its more obvious premise.