Weekend (2011)

Weekend is quite possibly the most authentic movie I’ve ever seen. It does not feel scripted or remotely theatrical; we are mere observers of 48 hours between two strangers. The dialogue, content, and raw emotion are more real than anything I’ve seen in other films.

The basic premise is that two young men meet and hook up at a gay bar. They awake the next morning, clearly having had sex, and yet they struggle to build up a conversation. The sex part was easy; the romance is more difficult. As the day progresses, one man texts the other and they meet up again. They develop the kind of infectious relationship of meeting someone once but instantly having a connection, and wanting to revisit that habitually.

Their lives and insecurities are explored more thoroughly as the film progresses, through heart-sinking drama that we don’t get in most romantic dramas (if you can even call this a romance). Much of their bickering is how they deal with being gay in a largely heternormative world, but their struggles and frustrations with one another are universal to anyone who’s been in a relationship, and ultimately, the heavy silence when a discussion’s hit a dead end.

Weekend, one of the best films of 2011, is so special because it is all the more relatable through its specificity. Without defining clear characters, the intimacy and believability of this relationship would not ring true with audiences. I saw it twice in two days and am eager to revisit again soon. The climactic ending, while not exactly happy or sad, makes you want to go back to the beginning and go through this experience again. As one of the men says, in the film’s final line, “Go back to when we first met.”

The Lion King (2012)

It’s amazing that even a huge spectacular, with a cast of dozens and lavishly expensive and profitable, can tell and effectively emote the most intimate human relationships.

The Lion King is the rock-solid beautiful (visually, artistically, musically) stage musical adaptation of the modern classic Disney film. Faithfully adapted from the script of the movie, the stage version is still consistently surprising and stunning to behold. From the very opening, with the baboon Rafiki represented as a female shaman, the audience is immersed into a new and exciting world, unlike anything that has ever been done on the Broadway stage.

Director Julie Taymour makes the brilliant decision to show the actor/puppeteers rather than hide them. Both the film and the musical are ultimately about us, and how we deal with loss, love, and living up to our responsibilities. The lions’ heads are placed on top of the actors’ heads, but by the end of the show you are no longer looking at the puppets – you are looking at the raw emotion portrayed by the human actors.

Another aspect I really appreciated, as a lifelong fan of the film, is how powerful and profound moments from the film were translated to stage. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Simba steps his small cub paw into the much larger pawprint of his father Mufasa. Rather than staging this specific POV shot, Taymour instead creates a heartbreakingly intimate moment, in which Mufasa takes off his mask/crown that he wears for the rest of the play. For this moment, he stops being a king and is just Simba’s father.

Subtleties like this make The Lion King so rewarding and engaging for the entirety of the performance. This was my second time seeing it, but I am already pinching my pennies to see it a third time while it is here in San Francisco. I am very happy to say this is a show that lives up to its hype.