Bwog’s guide to Movie Rentals has returned! We’re not sure where you’re going to actually rent these films (Butler?), but we hear the Internet has a nice selection for downloading. Film correspondent Mark Hay reports.

Every time I launch Firefox, I cannot escape the face persistently plastered all over my homepage. Sarah. Palin. Palin, Palin, Palin. She’s inescapable. So, in light of the media’s constant attention to the good Governor and her life: Three Movies Sarah Palin Might Want to Ban from Your Video Store (or, a list to get yourself on the bad side of every College Republican).

(1999): Welcome to rural Alaska, home in our minds to stunning vistas, independent living, and Governor Sarah Palin. Oh boy! A movie about small-town Alaskan life! How folksy; how rugged; how American spirit-esque! Except that’s not the picture Director/Writer John Sayles creates in this unexpected saga of intertwining lives, stagnation and tragedy.

Sayles uses the blossoming romance between Joe (David Strathairn), a local boy ground down by a harsh life leading nowhere, and Donna (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), a struggling singer hitting rock bottom, to reveal a grim Alaska of flailing industry hidden from tourists behind the thin veil of trees left by the lumber giants. And then all romance and commentary grind to a halt with the arrival of Joe’s brother Bobby (Casey Siemaszko).

Bobby convinces Joe to take him on a “business trip” and Joe eagerly invites Donna and her troubled daughter Noelle (Vanessa Martinez). Suddenly Joe, Donna and Noelle find themselves thrust into a fight for survival in the most potent and chilling depths of isolation and Alaska.  Though dark, this film retains a glimmer of hope, if one chooses to seek it, in an ending that may inspire some to punch straight through their television screens in simultaneous exasperation and awe. Perhaps a little dark for the work week, but any film that can seamlessly transition from domestic comedy to introspective thriller deserves a golf clap and some due attention.

Lake of Fire
(2006): Google Palin, and within a minute, you’ll be informed of her solidly pro-life stance on abortion. One either sees this and nods in approval or recoils in pro-choice revulsion — there’s almost no middle ground. But do we truly understand the repercussions of either side of the debate? Or are we mainly isolated, limited in scope to facts that only reinforce our own stance? Director Tony Kaye (of American History X fame) must have asked these questions when he set out upon this seventeen year project chronicling the evolution and extremes of both the pro-life and pro-choice camps.

Kaye’s keen attention to balance and his brutal realism may lead any fervent supporters on either side of the fence to question their beliefs. The film introduces us to the most absurd and violent, as well as the most calm and rational, assessments of either side, and both views leave the viewer almost numb with sensory overload. At times the sheer fact of the film may become overwhelming — hard to stomach, hard to view. Kaye accomplishes his mission, though, presenting us with as many facets of the argument as he can find. He traces their consequences and developments, cradles them into a 150 minute bundle and leaves them on our doorstep to unpack and process, free of any clear bias from the filmmaker.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
(1994): Perhaps Lake of Fire doesn’t fit your bill for a weekend movie. But how about Agent Smith of The Matrix, General Zod of Superman, and the protagonist from Memento (whatshisname?) as Australian drag queens?

This Australian blitz-hit by Writer/Director Stephan Elliott chronicles many universal tensions of homosexuality (urban and rural reception, differing approaches to life within the gay community, the development of family, personal questioning) through the tale of three drag queens in Sydney. The elder of the group, Ralph/Bernadette (Terence Stamp), after suffering great loss and midlife crisis, jumps at an opportunity to play a show in middle-of-nowhere Alice Springs at a casino operated by fellow drag queen Tick/Mitzi’s (Hugo Weaving) ex-wife. The two of them, joined by the campy and flamboyant Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce), decide to set out on a journey of self-discovery and social commentary across the outback in a school bus painted lavender and christened Priscilla. Ultimately heartwarming and unexpectedly comically successful, Priscilla is probably the happiest and most digestible film on this week’s list.