Weekend Watchlist: Happy leap day

By The Pitt News Staff

How to celebrate Feb. 29? It’s a crucial decision, and you only get to make it every four years — sort of the presidential election of holidays we invented to keep our calendar straight. Unfortunately, the library of leap day-centric cinema isn’t as extensive as certain other holidays. There’s an Amy Adams-Matthew Goode rom-com, which did make it onto this list, one iconic episode of “30 Rock,” and that’s about it.

But leap day isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s a state of mind — a time to celebrate the kind of show or movie that only comes around once in a blue moon. Here are our weird, one-of-a-kind leap day watches.

Paterson (Amazon Prime) // Nadiya Greaser, Staff Writer

Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” is a movie that maybe can’t ever be fully understood, but perhaps watching it on leap day can elucidate everything about it that is so alluringly unclear. About a bus driver named Paterson, living in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, the movie happens to you in a way that doesn’t make sense even after the credits roll. It’s funny, but I would hesitate to call it a comedy — it evades genre. Adam Driver plays the titular role, and like every Adam Driver role so far, he brings an intensity and inscrutability that makes it impossible to look away. Paterson’s wife, played by Golshifteh Farahani, is spellbinding — a swirling, stylized vision in black and white. The camera work is thoughtful and speculative, and Jarmusch creates a slow story that moves with intention. It was a movie that happened to me, that replayed in my head for days after watching. Use the extra day of your year to watch it —  it won’t be whatever you expect. 

Leap Year (Amazon Starz) // Caroline Bourque, Managing Editor

“Leap Year” may not be a good movie by any technical standards, but no self-respecting hopeless romantic (oxymoron?) watches a rom-com for its cinematic appeal. This film tells the delightful story of an anal-retentive “home-stager” named Anna (Amy Adams) who goes to Ireland on leap day to surprise her cold, money-hungry boyfriend (Adam Scott) with a marriage proposal, as per old Irish tradition. Of course, her path is thwarted by an unexpected storm on the flight over, which places her in a remote town far from Dublin, where her boyfriend is staying for a business trip. Anna has to rely on the smarmy charm of local pub-owner Declan (Matthew Goode) to make it to Dublin in time for her marriage proposal to still be veritable in the eyes of Irish folklore. 

Swiss Army Man (Netflix) // Simon Sweeney, Staff Writer

“Swiss Army Man” is a deeply odd film. It’s nearly impossible to pitch to a reasonable person –– have you ever really wished you could watch Harry Potter as a reanimated corpse with the ability to propel himself and a passenger across a lake? How about finding their way home with his magical compass-erection? No? Well, that’s what you’re getting, and you’re going to love it, if you’ll give it the chance. Daniel Radcliffe — the aforementioned cadaver, dubbed “Manny” — and Paul Dano carry most of the film as a two-hander, forming a friendship fast, deep and immediately rife with side-splitting riffs on being dead and being alive. When the full cast, including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, crash in near the end, it turns the prior 80 minutes on their head, but far from ruins them. Specifics would probably ruin the constant surprises “Swiss Army Man” will throw at you, but know that Radcliffe’s comedic turn is near perfect, and the screenplay is heartfelt and strong. Find some time and put it on. Really, it’s good. It’s really good.

Captain Fantastic (Hulu) // Nadiya Greaser, Staff Writer

I watch “Captain Fantastic” annually, although I never intend to watch it. It inevitably shows up on my watchlist, or my recommended list, and I discover it all over again, having forgotten why it was so good in the first place. The opening scene is beautifully shot, a verdant green utopia and a tiny army of “philosopher kings” popping out of the leaves. About a family that eschews capitalist America for a self-sufficient commune in the woods, the film is both indulgent and critical of its leftist leader, played by Viggo Mortensen. There is something beautiful and powerful about the life he’s creating for his family, but also something dangerous, and the director shows that any utopia with more than one person becomes more complicated than Eden. His children, all with unusual names and ranging from 18 to five years old, knit together a complex family unit, with love, conflict and chaos. They can recite philosophy and the Bill of Rights, they speak multiple languages and play the bagpipes, but at times these skills are more isolating than not. But “Captain Fantastic” leans into the chaos and complexity and creates something weirder and better and wilder than each of its parts.