Something tells me when I look back on the spring of 2016, I’ll come to see this as “the down week”. Lots to come in the weeks ahead – including a lot of swell documentaries!


#52FilmsByWomen continued this week with Kimberly Peirce’s STOP-LOSS.

Peirce is a director I sorta lost track of after her gangbusters debut with BOYS DON’T CRY in 1999. I never did catch-up with her remake of CARRIE a few years back, but it was always a film I was curious to catch up with and see how it re-framed the bullying end of the story with a modern context. Even if I never saw another one of her films, Peirce’s work on BOYS DON’T CRY is the sort of effort that would stick with me until I’m gone.

With STOP-LOSS, Peirce offered up what most at the time declared a miss…though going back now, it seems more like a sense of bad timing than anything else.

The film is about an army unit that returns from their tour in Iraq to a hero’s welcome in their small Texas hometown. The unit is already struggling over the loss of one of their soldiers in combat, and as life starts to get back to “normal”, many of them struggle with that too. However, the harshest hand is dealt to the unit’s leader – Staff Sgt. Brandon King (Ryan Phillipe). Upon reporting to turn in his gear and officially end his tour, he is informed that he’s been stop-lossed and folded right back into the fight. His tour has ended, but he will be starting a second one immediately.

King cannot accept this, and chaos ensues.

This film arrived in the spring of 2008. At that time, America had been in Iraq for five years, and Afghanistan for seven. The realities of how many soldiers would have real struggles with PTSD hadn’t sunk-in. Barack Obama had just taken office, and THE HURT LOCKER was still a year away. Channing Tatum wasn’t a big star yet, neither was Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Abbie Cornish was still a year away from her minor break-out in BRIGHT STAR.

What I’m trying to say is, this movie by Peirce was ahead of its time. Had it arrived alongside Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Picture to-be, there might have been a different conversation swirling around it in terms of what cinema was saying about the fights America had picked on the world stage…perhaps even the way two women were able to tap into such machismo in their stories. It’s also possible that discussions about PTSD and how it affects the home life of soldiers could have been had around a far better movie than AMERICAN SNIPER.

Draw your own conclusions about two women nailing the subject better than a “man’s-man” like Clint Eastwood.

This movie wasn’t alone, unfortunately. A lot of films like it were met with a shrug by an American public that just weren’t ready to deal with the fall-out of what they’d agreed to yet. As with most films though – most of them are directed by men. This film is one that feels a bit more deft than its contemporaries, mostly in the way it stays with the soldiers and avoids making grander political statements.

At the quarter pole of the #52 project, STOP-LOSS stands amongst the best selections I’ve watched. I truly hope more people find it in the years ahead and that we get more incredible work like it from Kimberly Peirce in the future.


Here’s the week at hand…


MOULIN ROUGE! – A sing-a-long screening. I was the guy wailing “Roxanne” in the back left corner.
SING STREET – More on this gem tomorrow.


Streaming/Blu-Rays/DVD’s I’ve Never Seen
CUBAN FURY – Sometimes, I really do wish I could dance.
CAMERAPERSON – Hot Docs screener
OBIT – Hot Docs screener
THE SLIPPERS – Hot Docs screener
STRIKE A POSE – Hot Docs screener
STOP-LOSS – Give it a watch and feel your frustration rise
OVARIAN PSYCHOS – Hot Docs screener


Streaming/Blu-Rays/DVD’s I’ve Seen Before
BEGIN AGAIN – After SING STREET, I felt a great desire for a bit more Carney. On my birthday two years ago, Lindsay and I recreated the shared headphones scene from this movie.



Boxscore for The Year
72 First-Timers, 52 Re-Watched
21 Screenings
124 Movies in Total

How’s about you – seen anything good?