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YOU GUYS YOU GUYS YOU GUYS. I have just discovered that there are not one - not two - but THREE movies based on Gordon Korman's Bruno & Boots books! Which are about Bruno and Boots, two good-hearted, prank-pulling, (eminently slashable) boys at the Canadian boarding school MacDonald Hall, who are forever getting up to SHENANIGANS and occasionally endangering the school and also sometimes saving the school and dashing across the street to hang out with their female counterparts Cathy and Diana at Miss Scrimmage's Finishing School for Young Ladies.

There is a scene where Miss Scrimmage accidentally shoots her sign (were Bruno, Boots, Cathy, and Diana responsible? Of course they were responsible) and it afterward reads "Miss Scrimmage's Fishing School for Young Ladies."

As far as I know this scene has not been adopted for stage and screen, buuuut I only watched one of the three movies so far, SO THERE IS STILL HOPE. Although possibly not that much, as Miss Scrimmage in the movies is a crunchie granola type who probably doesn't shoot signs.

Now, personally I would have preferred it if the movies had more or less transmuted the books directly from page to screen because I am a purist like that and also because it might have restrained the filmmakers from being quite so anvilicious about how Change Is an Inevitable Part of Growing Up and Also a Good Thing Except When It Isn't.

But anviliciousness aside it's a quite enjoyable adaptation. In particular, they have a good handle on characters, particularly Bruno & Boots relationship (Bruno making madcap plans and Boots, dismayed, totally failing to restrain him in any way), Cathy and Bruno's Who Is the Best Prankmaster competitiveness, and headmaster Mr. Sturgeon's fundamental decency as a human being.
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I saw The Beguiled yesterday and it stole my soul, oh my goodness. I’ve been looking forward to this movie ever since I saw the trailer and it DID NOT DISAPPOINT.

It is, as I have come to expect from a Sofia Coppola film, deliciously atmospheric. The large white house in the tangle of unkempt flowers. The vast old trees hung with Spanish moss. The mist rising in the early morning. The thunder of distant artillery fire.

The setting is a girls’ boarding school in Virginia in 1864. The slaves have all run away - so young Amy tells the wounded Union corporal she finds in the woods - and this is the only time we hear about slavery or race for the entire movie. Honestly I think it’s just as well; given that Coppola’s clearly not interested in the issue, getting it expeditiously out of the way is better than lukewarmly half-assing it.

But back to the story. (And there is a story, which is not something I especially expect from a Sofia Coppola film.) Amy helps the wounded corporal back to the school, where the headmistress Miss Martha - played by Nicole Kidman, who is FABULOUS, just the right combination of courteously cutting, gentle but stern, and would-literally-kill-you-if-necessary - takes him up to the music room to wash his wounds.

There is an EXTENDED scene where she washes him all over. (He is conveniently unconscious so as not to distract from the all-important washing.) The plot stops dead just so we can appreciate both the corporal’s excellent chest and Miss Martha’s reaction to it - deep breaths, splashing her face with water, standing up and walking away from him because, well, look at him. Look at him. A girl needs a breather.

But handsome as he is, the corporal is a threat - and the school is already beset by threats. The sound of distant artillery, the comment that marauding soldiers have already stolen the school’s chickens (and might plunder the vegetable garden if they get the change), the fact that Miss Martha posts a girl on the upper porch with a spyglass as look-out - this is a place besieged.

Nonetheless, it’s a good deal safer than the battlefield the corporal fled. Almost as soon as he wakes up, the corporal launches a charm offensive to convince everyone to let him stay rather than send him off to a prison camp. At least, that’s what I think he’s doing; it makes more sense than the idea that he’s actually trying to sow dissension, although certainly he ought to have considered that possibility when he commenced to flirt with Miss Martha, her assistant Edwina, and their oldest pupil Alicia.

But whether he intended it or not, he sows dissension indeed, and does not so much reap the whirlwind as become it. The movie is like an avalanche, slow-moving at first, and picking up speed and tension as it goes, until it’s barreling along full speed ahead and the threat of the distant artillery is as nothing compared to the furious soldier inside the house.

May movies

Jun. 1st, 2017 08:46 am
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I need to start my May movies post with a movie I watched in April and then forgot to write about, even though it was one of my favorites: The Painting, a French animated film about the figures in a half-finished painting, who decide they must set out on a journey to find the painter and convince him to finish it, because the fully-finished figures are (what else?) oppressing the partly-finished ones and the “sketchies,” who exist as little more than rough stick figures.

This makes the story sound heavy-handed, which it isn’t really; the characters slip out of their painting and explore the painter’s studio, traveling from painting to painting, and it’s all totally charming. And the animation is simply gorgeous.

Onward to the movies actually watched in May!

The Fox and the Child, also a French movie, strange and slow-paced and not quite like anything else I’ve ever seen, and enchanting, once you get over expecting it to have a plot like a normal movie.

A ten-year-old girl lives with her parents (whom we never meet; in fact the girl is the only human we ever see) in a mountain wilderness, where she ever so slowly befriends a wild fox. The fox and the girl are both fun, but the mountains are the real star of the show: the leaves turning, the snow falling, the flowers blooming again in the spring, the clear blue sky and the dramatic mountainsides. Wikipedia tells me these are the Jura Mountains in France, and they are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (the 1982 version with Anthony Andrews, who also played Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited) is a swashbuckling hoot and I highly recommend it if you need a fun adventure movie with enormous capes and even larger hair.

Dinotopia, which I think is actually a miniseries? Except they put it on the DVD without any episode breaks even though it’s like four hours long, WHO DOES THAT. In any case, it’s aggressively mediocre. I supposed Dinotopia would be a difficult book to adapt in any case - it’s short on plot and long on gorgeous drawings of the world - in fact it aggravates me that the miniseries makers, who had essentially a book of the most gorgeous possible concept art for their show, ended up with something so visually incoherent. It’s like they raided the costume department for everything faintly weird looking without ever realizing that they would have to harmonize this to some overall aesthetic.

Jackie, which is a total bummer, although honestly I should have expected that from a movie that is a biopic of Jackie Kennedy focusing mostly on the aftermath of JFK’s assassination. Unfortunately, on top of being a bummer, I just didn’t find it that compelling. The movie hops around in time a lot, to the extent that it obscures the emotional arc, which is especially frustrating because I see little reason why they couldn’t have just told the darn story in chronological order and done away with the talking-to-a-newspaper-reporter frame story entirely, because it seems to exist mostly so the filmmakers can spell out their point just in case any of us are being a bit slow about it.
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I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2! Which is fun and and funny and full of exciting action, although sometimes I think it’s pushing the found family thing just a bit too hard; spoilers )

So yes. A good time! Worth the price of admission! Do recommend.
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I saw lots of movies in April! Among them, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (I know, I know. How have I made it twenty-eight years on the earth without seeing it?), which was quite fun, although I think my favorite part of the movie was the bit at the beginning where young Indiana Jones steals an artifact from a bunch of artifact stealers (“It should be in a museum,” he says indignantly) who then chase him onto a circus train to try to get it back.

Why a circus train? And what circus needs an entire train car full of snakes? Who knows! Who cares! It’s awesome, that’s what it is!

(Seriously though. Where are all the circus performers? There’ve got to be some Night Circus type shenanigans going on here.)

We also celebrated Earth Day with a double feature: Ferngully and Once Upon a Forest. I had of course seen Ferngully before - I think it was more or less required viewing in the nineties - and I must say the animation no longer seems as impressively lovely as it did to me then. I think I also kind of mixed it up in my mind with the scenes where Pocahontas shows John Smith around the forest and it’s all so breathtaking and then there’s a song, because I kept expecting that to happen and it didn’t.

Once Upon a Forest, meanwhile, is about a trio of forest creatures who go on a quest to find special herbs to save their friend who has been poisoned by humans, and learn important lessons about friendship & discovery. They make a weird flying machine! It’s cute.

I liked having themed movies, and have been trying to think of thematically appropriate movies for Mother’s Day and/or Memorial Day - well, I suppose any appropriately sad war movie would work for the latter? Will have to think about this.

Other April movies include:

Only Yesterday, which I believe is the final Studio Ghibli movie that I hadn’t seen. It’s sort of two movies in one: Taeko is heading out to the countryside for a summer farming vacation, and as she goes, she’s also reminiscing about her fifth-grade self, which - taking into account cultural differences, of course (and this film must be a real nostalgia trip for people who grew up in Japan in the sixties) - nonetheless reminded me of my own experiences in fifth grade. Taeko’s conflicted anxiety about menstruation (the director and producer are both men. How did they know that?), her confusing relationships with the girls in her class (are they her friends? Her enemies? Friends who don’t know how to be good friends yet?), the way she seesaws between trying to be grown up and being very bratty indeed.

It’s an odd, meandering, thoughtful film, not very concerned with having any kind of plot, not in terms of action and not even, perhaps, in terms of character growth - although on second thought, perhaps yes? Certainly there’s character exploration, character unfolding. Good food for thinking with.

(And upon reflection, there is one Ghibli film I still haven’t seen: Grave of the Fireflies. But everyone always says “Grave of the Fireflies will make you cry LITERAL BUCKETS of tears!” and, you know, that’s just not something I want generally. I’ll wait until the opportunity to see it foists itself upon me and then I’ll bow to my fate.)

9 to 5: Three women (Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin) all work in the same office under a domineering and incompetent male boss; they get their revenge on him, and it is at once delicious and hilarious. Why hadn’t I heard of this movie before? Why do I always seem to end up hearing about movies with multiple female stars through the grapevine and only the grapevine because no one ever mentions them anywhere else?

This is a rhetorical question. I’m just feeling salty about it.

On Golden Pond, which stars Katherine Hepburn! Sixty-something and as lovely and feisty as ever. This is a movie about an older couple, Norman and Ethel Thayer, who are joined at their holiday cottage on Golden Pond by their semi-estranged daughter Chelsea - played by Jane Fonda, the real life daughter of Henry Fonda, who plays the dad. This makes me super curious about the Fondas actual relationship. Were they drawing on life?

I hope they weren’t drawing on life too much because that would make Henry Fonda a pretty rotten dad. Norman is an emotionally unavailable, crotchety old man who never quite knew how to connect with his daughter, but probably should have realized that teasing her about her pudginess was never going to bridge that gap.

Norman and Ethel are very well-matched, though; it struck me as an illustration of the fact that “Is this the man I want to spend the rest of my life with?” and “Is this a man I would want to be a father to my children?” might well have opposing answers.
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At last I’ve seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! Although now that I’ve seen it, I’m more sorry than I was before that I didn’t make an effort to see it in the theaters: it’s a vast and visually sumptuous movie and I think it must have really popped on the big screen. The magical special effects are for the most part delightful; I particularly loved the scene where Queenie is conjuring up a strudel, and all the plates and napkins and pastry dough are flying around.

I was afraid that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would have the same feeling of poorly-done fanficishness that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child did, but in fact the movie doesn’t suffer from that at all. Of course it helps that all the characters are new to us, and the American Wizarding World is also a different beast than the British one.

Although Fantastic Beasts did have the most British New York I’ve ever seen, I must say. But then I don’t go to Harry Potter for historically accurate and in-depth view of the Muggle World, anyway, so this is more in the lines of something amusing I noted than something that actually detracted from my pleasure in the movie.

I enjoyed Newt and Tina and Queenie, but probably my favorite character was the Muggle baker Kowalski. (I don’t think I’m ever going to come to terms with the word No-Maj.) He’s just been bitten by a magical creature, been dragged into a world of flying plates and food that cooks itself, is holding a conversation in which he doesn’t need to say anything with a magical mind-reading girl, and he’s - perhaps a bit disoriented, but he just keeps on going with it. You want me to climb into your magical suitcase, Newt Scamander? The one that unleashed the creature that bit me? Okey dokey.

Having said this, I’m not sure that foregrounding a Muggle like this is a good idea, because it really highlights the heartlessness of the wizarding policy of erasing Muggle memories of magic. Kowalski helped save the world New York! Surely he deserves to remember it? And not just bits and pieces of it that tug at his brain and suggest odd pastry creations to him. It hits me in the same sad place as the ending of The Dark is Rising.

However, Queenie’s appearance in his bakery at the end suggests that they may do more with this storyline in future movies - which I clearly ought to see in theaters like a proper Harry Potter fan - I’m just not sure if they can go anywhere satisfying with it, given that we know from Harry Potter itself that the Statute of Secrecy remains in place. I guess I’ll just have to watch and see.
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This weekend I saw Interview with a Vampire, which is the most extra movie ever made, oh my lord. The angst! The pathos! The sumptuous clothes and furnishings and the darkness of the never-ending night! The IMMENSE SELF-PITY of Louis, which goes so far into the depths of despair that it comes out the other side as darkly humorous. He could have avoided all of this “Oh woe is me, I am a vampire and must drink human blood to survive! WOE, WOE, WOE” if only he’d asked Lestat for some details about vampiring before agreeing to be turned.

Yes! He agreed! He wasn’t even turned against his will, like Lestat (the vampire who turns him and becomes his vampire companion/not exactly lover but oh my God, is there some homoeroticism going on), and you notice Lestat isn’t whining about anything, probably because he’s a psychopath, but still.

Louis would be unbearable without Lestat, who is totally unimpressed by Louis’ ANGST (“Still whining, Louis. Have you heard enough? I've had to listen to that for centuries,” he complains), although Lestat’s psychopathy would also pall without Louis to have some qualms of conscience, however weak and flickering - basically Louis seems like the kind of person who thinks that feeling really bad is an adequate substitute for actually trying to be a better person, and no, no dude, it really isn’t.

But together they are weirdly and terribly compelling. They bring out the worst in each other and ought to run as far away from each other as they can AND YET. It’s probably inevitable that they can never get away.
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I have actually already posted about most of the movies I saw in March! Go me! But here are a couple that got left behind.

Muppets from Space: This movie is delightfully weird, as befits a Muppet movie. Gonzo has always wondered what he is… and when his breakfast cereal starts spelling out messages for him, at last he has the opportunity to find out! He will meet his family… from SPAAAAAAACE!

Also there’s a sinister government agency that kidnaps him as a suspected alien spy, etc. etc. Miss Piggy karate chops a Man in Black, Bunsen and Beaker invent an invisibility rubber ducky, Rizzo befriends a bunch of lab rats, and a good time is had by all. Although the lab rats never do get revenge on the mean lab technician who denies them their cheese. Grrrrr.

Thelma and Louise: Two women set out on a road trip for a weekend of frolic and fishing and end up accidentally going on a crime spree instead. This is one of those classic movies about female friendship (I sometimes think every halfway decent movie about female friendship has become “a classic movie about female friendship,” purely because so few are made) that I’ve been meaning to watch since forever, and I’m glad I’ve seen it, but it’s kind of painful to watch because it’s one of those movies where absolutely everything that could go wrong, does.

***

In April, I’m hoping to see the movie Leap!, which is about a pair of orphans who run away to Paris in order to study ballet and build ludicrous vaguely steampunk flying machines. How can I resist that?
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I first saw The Philadelphia Story back when I was in high school and it totally blew me away. Katherine Hepburn! Cary Grant! Jimmy Stewart! The actress who plays Tracy Lord’s (Hepburn) little sister Dinah, I don’t know who she is but she is hilarious and I love her. The entire scene where she’s putting on a show for the newspaper people who have come to cover her sister’s wedding, acting the part of the obnoxiously precocious show-off child: comedy gold.

I saw it again last night at the ArtCraft theater, and Dinah is still wonderful as are all the main characters - but boy howdy does a lot of this film consist of various men telling Tracy Lord everything that’s wrong with her. She’s more like a goddess than a woman: so unsympathetic and judgmental! Convinced that she never makes mistakes and disdainful of mistakes in others!

Now there is something to be said for seeing oneself as part of the great mass of people who make mistakes and recognizing that we all have feet of clay. But I’m not at all convinced that Tracy does believe that she never makes mistakes - she’s got a divorce under her belt, for goodness’ sake! - and even if she did, why should she be sympathetically nonjudgmental about her father the philanderer or her ex-husband the abusive alcoholic?

(“I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives,” Tracy’s ex-husband C. K. Dexter Haven tells Mike Connor, the newspaper writer. “You know, at one time I think I secretly wanted to be a writer.” And he and Tracy glance at each other disdainfully.)

C. K. Dexter Haven has quit drinking by the time the movie begins, and because he’s played by Cary Grant he’s 100% sold me on the idea that he’ll be a better husband the second time round, but as a general rule I think there are times when it’s a good idea to be “judgmental and unsympathetic” - or, you know, just to hold your own well-being in higher esteem than that of the person who is treating you badly.

...I still think Tracy Lord, Mike Connor, and C. K. Dexter Haven would make a fabulously tempestuous OT3, though (and I suppose we’ll have to send Elizabeth Imbrie off to Europe as a war reporter; I love her but I’m just not seeing the OT4). Mike’s got a chip on his shoulder, and Tracy and Dex are never really going to understand why because they were both born with an entire silverware drawer in their cribs, and he’s terribly prickly about taking any monetary support from them and probably continues to feel it even after he’s become successful as a writer and doesn’t need it anymore.

So sometimes he walks out and then shows up at the door again weeks or months or years later, probably drunk and definitely bedraggled by the rain, and C. K. Dexter Haven lets him in and listens to his drunken ramblings and covers him with a blanket when he falls asleep on the couch with his hat still on, and when he wakes up, there’s Tracy with a glass of orange juice, waiting to see him as if he’d never been gone.

Kingsman

Mar. 24th, 2017 10:15 am
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I finally saw Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I've meant to see ever since fandom went mad about when it first came out, and I enjoyed it while I was watching it for all the snazzy ridiculous spy stuff - weaponized umbrellas! Exploding lighters! - and Samuel L. Jackson as the bizarrely perky megalomaniac. Really all the actors were excellent.

But it left a bad taste in my mouth at the end - partly just because I really didn’t like the last bit (well, the last bit before the credits scene) where Spoilers )
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We went to see Beauty and the Beast last night! (I think this is the first time I've been to a movie premiere since... the third Lord of the Rings movie... wow, that was a while ago.)

IN ANY CASE, I loved it; it's beautifully made, beautifully crafted, the brooding castle and the charmingly picturesque provincial town (would 100% live there if only the townsfolk weren't such jerks) and Gaston's ludicrous Disney Bad Guy costume - his boots! his swishy red coat! - and Belle's blue and white costumes, and her home with her father and their odd little automaton workshop. How does Papa Belle make a living by making automatons in this backwater? I feel there must be an inheritance he's spending his way through.

And the acting was top notch, too. Gaston was clearly have a great job chewing up the scenery - the tavern scene is amaaaazing, I think they must have had tons of fun shooting it - and I liked the character work they did with La Fou, who clearly sees that Gaston is a jerk and yet is so used to following him around everywhere that he can't seem to break the habit even as Gaston's jerkiness gets more and more pronounced.

(As a side note, I'm annoyed by the way the outrage mill went to town on Gay La Fou and then - as reviews made it clear the movie handled that well - switched the outrage over to Belle's ball dress, because God forbid we should allow a major movie to come out without being outraged about something before it even hit the theaters. This is manufactured outrage on the same level as right-wing complaints about "Happy holidays" and whether Starbucks red cups are Christmassy enough this year.)

But back to the movie! I was worried about how they would deal with Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts and all the other servants-turned-inanimate-objects - that looks fine in the animated movie, but would it look silly in live action? But I thought they looked lovely, and I also loved the gag where Belle is trying to get the hang of this castle and picks up her hairbrush and is all "Hello, what's your name?" and the others are all, "That's a hairbrush" - sounding a bit concerned, like is she losing touch with reality? - and Belle, embarrassed, swiftly puts it away from her.

I thought Emma Watson made a splendid Belle, too. I'm not sure she has great range as an actress, but what she does, she does extremely well, and dreamily rebellious bookworm Belle is clearly in her wheelhouse.

Also the library lived up to my hopes and dreams, which is clearly the most important part of any Beauty and the Beast adaptation.

I also had a great idea for a Beauty and the Beast retelling where the father character refuses to send his daughter to the Beast, because really, and also his horse doesn't get back to town to show Belle where her father's gotten because... it was eaten by wolves maybe... or perhaps the father was riding a bicycle?

Anyway, for a while the Beast mopes because obviously a pretty young girl is his only hope of breaking the curse, but eventually he starts to spend more time with the old guy and of course they fall in love, and the Beast learns a salutary lesson about how people can be beautiful inside even if they have gray hair and wrinkles.

Lego Batman

Mar. 7th, 2017 06:06 am
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Over the weekend Becky and I watched Lego Batman, which is awesome, you guys, AWESOME, super funny. It kicks off with Batman voiceover (in Christian Bale voice, of course) right over the opening - “DC. The house that Batman built,” he intones. “Yeah, what Superman? Come at me bro. I’m your kryptonite.”

Superman, as Batman informs the Joker, is his worst enemy. The Joker is horrified and terribly jealous. “Superman’s not a bad guy!” he cries. Batman can only shrug. “You mean nothing to me,” he tells the Joker, and the Joker’s plastic Lego eyes brim with tears, and it’s at once hilarious and rather sad.

In fact quite a bit of this movie is hilarious and yet rather sad, which is I guess my favorite kind of comedy.

Case in point: Batman’s Epic Brooding. There’s a great sequence near the start where he’s going through the vast and echoing Batcave, up the Batelevator to warm up his lobster thermidor in the microwave and watch a romantic comedy all by himself in his itty bitty personal movie theater, which has proper movie theater seats and everything, and he comes to his favorite line in the movie and looks around as if he wants someone to laugh with… and no one is there.

I think what makes this movie so good is that the filmmakers poke fun at Batman’s excesses, but at the same time you feel that they really do like and feel for the character. They’re making fun of the Grand Emo Trappings of his loneliness, not the loneliness itself.

And they’ve clearly watched every adaptation ever, some with love and some with loving derision. When Batman is getting particularly emo as he stares at a picture of his dead parents (standing, naturally, in front of Crime Alley), Alfred sighs and says, “Sir, I have seen you go through similar phases in 2016 and 2012 and 2008 and 2005 and 1997 and 1995 and 1992 and 1989 and that weird one in 1966,” with a montage of the aforesaid movies, ending with Adam West doing a bizarre Batman dance.

(I kind of adore the 1960s Batman. It’s just so ludicrous and endearing.)

Another highlight - this movie is full of highlights; I really recommend it - Dick Grayson, a.k.a. Robin, the orphan Batman adopts by accident because he’s not paying attention with Dick talks to him at a gala: Dick is all “Do you want to adopt me?” and Bruce Wayne, staring at Barbara Gordon, is all “Yeah yeah sure.”

Naturally Dick moves into Bruce Wayne’s house the very next day, because it’s not like there’s any paperwork or anything when you adopt an orphan. Batman wants to get rid of him, but then he is faced with a mission which would require a small gymnast (which Dick just happens to be!) who is also “110% expendable” - “I don’t know what that means, but sure!” Dick cries, so eager is he for Batman’s approval.

The film’s one flaw is that it is so, so, so heavy-handed with its message. Alfred, Barbara Gordon, and Dick Grayson all repeatedly tell Batman that he needs FAMILY and HUMAN CONNECTION. It’s like the writers confused “Show, don’t tell,” with “Show and tell,” because they show us Batman’s loneliness and then they tell us tell us tell us tell us that he needs to combat it with friendship and love. And then tell us again. Okay, we get it already. Let's get back to the Joker making meta comments on the nature of the Batverse again.
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Admittedly February is not quite over yet, buuuut there’s only one day left and tonight is spoken for by the anime series Gankutsuo (SUPER EMO COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO IN SPAAAAAAAACE, this anime is just like the novel except dialed up to eleven - WHO EVEN KNEW THE NOVEL COULD BE DIALED UP FURTHER? - I’ve only seen one episode so far but I adore it).

Uh, anyway, the point is that I’ve seen all the movies I'm going to see in February, so I’m going to go ahead and post this now.

The African Queen: I’ve seen this before, but they were showing it at the ArtCraft on the BIG SCREEN, and they had a particularly beautiful 35 mm print of it with lovely rich saturated colors, perfect for all the wonderful shots of the African landscape in the movie. Gosh, I love this movie. Katherine Hepburn is just amazing in it; she’s a missionary and she really is just as staid as that implies (there’s a scene where she dumps all the rum off the boat and it’s amazing), but as the rum-dumping suggests she also has a backbone OF STEEL and also is a total adrenaline junkie.

There’s a scene where they go over the first stretch of rapids, and Humphrey Bogart is certain that this brush with danger will convince her to abandon her mad plan to go down the river to the lake to blow up a German warboat (the story takes place during early World War I) - but actually she is so thrilled. She compares it to the breathless rush of uplift from a really excellent sermon and becomes even more determined in her chosen path as a saboteur. SO EXCELLENT. LOVE THIS MOVIE. DO RECOMMEND.

It was filmed in 1951 and it is one of those movies set in Africa where there are no Africans in speaking roles. You’ve just got to know that going in.

Ernest and Celestine: A cute if clunkily didactic French animated movie about a bear (Ernest) and a mouse (Celestine) who overcome prejudice to become friends. They then rob a store together, at which point the police (working in two separate investigations, because the mouse and bear police do not communicate with each other) hunt them down, ending in climactic courtroom scenes where Ernest & Celestine tell the police that they’re only pursuing the case because Ernest & Celestine’s friendship flies in the face of deeply ingrained prejudices.

Everyone, including the filmmakers, has forgotten about store robbery at this point. I really think it would have worked better if there had been no robbery and Ernest and Celestine really were being pursued purely for their friendship.

Leaving these quibbles aside - the animation is beautiful. I particularly enjoyed a sequence where Ernest plays his violin, and it’s accompanied by a series of wonderfully stylized drawings of the changing seasons, like a latter-day Fantasia.

The Adventures of Tintin: LOVE THIS MOVIE. It’s like a couple of kids making up an Indiana Jones-style search for treasure, using all their Legos and Playmobile sets and everything else on hand - I mean this in the best way possible - goofy and zany and full of fun if probably physically impossible visuals. There’s a scene where one of the heroes and the villain duel using the ship-loading cranes on a dock, because they’re both long and skinny kind of like swords, so why not?

The Princess Bride: LOVE THIS MOVIE. Gosh, this was a good month for movies, wasn’t it? I’m sure you’ve all seen it, and anything I could say would be superfluous.

The ArtCraft was showing this one too, and such is the power of The Princess Bride that I managed to round up three friends who had never been there before to make the mini-roadtrip. We had a wonderful time and I hope that now that they’ve seen the theater, they’ll want to come again - especially given that it’s practically at the midway point of the drive between me and them. A convenient and delightful place to meet!
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We kicked off the month with Jurassic World, and….eh. It’s one of those movies that is entertaining enough when you’re watching it, but more or less immediately after it was over we started picking the world-building apart, which I think is always a bad sign. Any theme park is going to make “keep the guests safe” its first priority, even if that means shooting the super expensive escaped dinosaur, because the lost revenue from the dead dinosaur is as nothing compared to the lost revenue from closing the entire park forever after the firestorm of bad publicity when dozens of guests are killed by pterodactyls.

Also, I don’t understand why the pterodactyls erupted from their geodesic dome with no intent but to find as many humans as possible and slaughter them all. I feel like the animal behavior in this movie was guided 100% by rule of cool rather than what actual animals might actually do and eventually this makes it hard to take any of this seriously.

Especially given that all of these dinosaurs seem to be essentially impervious to bullets, which ought to make them scarier but somehow makes them less scary? I think it’s because their invulnerability means they never feel quite real. The CGI is very well done, but even so the dinosaurs don’t have the sense of weight and therefore scariness that they do in Jurassic Park.

Also, the romance was tacked on, and I found it especially irritating after the first trilogy mostly steered clear of silly survival romances. (Hell, Ellie even ended up with someone who was not Alan, despite the fact that they nearly got eaten by velociraptors together.)

Also, the female lead wore high heels throughout the entire film and it was distractingly ludicrous. Especially during the scene where she’s being chased by the T. Rex (which she is leading with a flare - which, okay, the concept of this scene is super cool, which makes this even more frustrating) - and the camera actually gives us a close up of her running in her stupid high heeled shoes which have somehow made it through this entire terrible day not only intact, but unspattered by mud.

In conclusion, this movie would have been much better if Chris Pratt had spent a large proportion of it shirtless, or at least in the ragged tatters of a shirt that had nearly been torn off by a velociraptor. It would have been about as silly as the high heels but would have distracted us from the more general silliness of the film in a good way.
osprey_archer: (friends)
Rather than putting off my movie reviews until the end of the year - always with the intention of getting to them earlier, but ultimately writing most of them up in a brief recap post - I have decided to do monthly movie review posts this year.

January has been the month of Jurassic Park. I mentioned to my friend Myra that I hadn’t seen them and she nearly collapsed in horror: “We’ve been friends since high school! We could have fixed this years ago.”

But better late than never, right?

Jurassic Park: A great movie! I particularly love the way that it slowly, ever so slowly ramps up the tension: for the first half of the movie it wasn’t scary at all, just setting up all the dominoes, and then in the second half it knocks them all over until the kids are crawling around in the kitchen trying to get away from the dinosaurs and the merest clink of a pan is all that they need to have you sitting on the edge of your seat, holding your breath as you wait for the velociraptors to appear.

Jurassic Park: The Lost World: Still pretty good, although I think it loses its way a bit when they take the dinosaurs off the island to San Diego. Sure, a single T. Rex in San Diego is terrifying, but it’s just not quite up there with a whole pack of T. Rexes on an island with no help within call.

Jurassic Park III: Okay, we watched this as a double feature with The Lost World, and we ingested a large bottle of framboise that evening - it’s raspberry beer that tastes like delicious soda pop - so I don’t actually remember this movie that well. Although I do remember the scene where Alan calls Ellie for help, and her small child picks up and gets all distracted by Barney, and that was hilarious and beautiful.

Also the fact that Ellie can apparently send the marines and the navy to an island at a moment’s notice with nothing more to go on than “My friend Alan called and I heard screaming in the background.” Where did you get these connection, Ellie?

I still haven’t seen Jurassic World, but I’m hoping we’ll see that one in February. Perhaps also Thelma and Louise? I need to take advantage of Myra’s movie collection.

Muppet Treasure Island: I’ve seen this movie before - so many times that I can practically recite the plot scene for scene - but they were showing it on the big screen at the ArtCraft Theater so of course Julie and I had to go see it, and it was amazing and hilarious and beautiful, oh my God. Why didn’t the Muppets do more classics adaptations? Both Muppet Treasure Island and Muppet Christmas Carol are so wonderful, and I think the backbone of building off someone else’s story gives them an emotional heft that the completely original Muppets movies don’t have.

Swing Time. This is a Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire picture, the second that I’ve seen, and unfortunately I think I’m just immune to their charms. They’re just so silly; I can’t get over how ludicrously silly they are. They’re dance scenes strung together on an extremely tenuous thread of plot and I just can’t seem to get into them.
osprey_archer: (kitty)
I went to see Sixteen Candles, and HOLY CONSENT ISSUES, BATMAN. They were showing this at the ArtCraft and I do like seeing movies there, even though eighties teen movies and I often don’t get along, so I went to see this and good Lord. You know, we complain about the current crop of umpteen thousand dystopias, but at least they don’t include the male lead complaining that his current girlfriend is passed out drunk in the bedroom and he could totally go violate her, but he’s just not attracted to her now that he’s noticed Molly Ringwald.

He actually uses the word violate and no one is like "Hey, maybe you shouldn't violate people, like, just as a policy, whether you're attracted to them or not."

Instead this sterling gentleman sends his girlfriend home with a guy he barely knows (a geeky freshman who has already tried to initiate sex with Molly Ringwald by climbing on top of her. Twice. The second time is after she's all GET OFF ME), and of course they totally end up having sex, which neither of them can remember afterward! But it’s totally okay because they both kind of think that it was good.

There is also a minor recurring character with a neck brace, which keeps getting in the way of her attempt to use drinking fountains, which I originally thought was a poignant comment on something or other about high school, but on second thought I think the director just included it for physical comedy.

There’s also a Chinese exchange student named Long Duk Dong, and the movie uses his name exactly how you might expect.

I also hated The Breakfast Club when I saw it. Maybe I should just steer clear of John Hughes movies forever after.
osprey_archer: (Default)
Myra and I watched Apocalypse Now, because it's on the AFI top 100 movie list, and holy shit you guys, this movie is so weird. (I feel this way about lots of the movies on this list. Myra's comment was that they're not necessarily on the list for intrinsic quality, but because they caused a sea change in the movie industry - hence the fact that the first list included Birth of a Nation, because despite its gaping flaws, it did give people a whole new vision of what a movie could accomplish.)

Anyway! Apocalypse Now. Our protagonist, Martin Sheen (he has some other name in this movie; I have forgotten it), is sent into the jungle of Vietnam to kill Colonel Kurtz, allegedly because he's gone insane, but as Sheen moves through the jungle, he notes that you could say the same for pretty much every American soldier in Vietnam. They meet, for instance, an officer who is obsessed with surfing, and sends some of his men to go surfing on a beach that is still under enemy bombardment; and when we first meet Martin Sheen himself, he's dancing around his hotel room in his underwear, and punches a mirror.

Or is it really insanity when the whole situation is in itself bizarre and reason-defying? Maybe this is a perfectly reasonable adjustment to the chaos and the lies that permeate the war. A lot of the visuals in this movie are bizarrely nightmarish, like the American army bases that rise up out of the jungle strung with Christmas lights.

The film hammers this home so blatantly that it feels almost insulting at times. But on the other hand, even though that explicit theme is blatant, I also felt like there's a whole other level of stuff going on here that maybe I'm not getting at all.

Spoilers )

It might become clearer if I watched it again. But that would mean, well, watching it again - and I kind of want to, but I also really don't. The film works on a kind of nightmare logic anyway; I'm not sure it's going to become clear in an intellectual sense no matter how many times one watches it.
osprey_archer: (window)
I intended to post more assiduously about the movies that I saw this year, and then… I totally didn’t, oops. So here are the movies I saw in 2016!

They are a beguiling mixture of animated movies and stuff from the American Film Institute’s Greatest American Movies of All Time, because my friend Myra has made it her goal to watch all of them and who am I to turn down the chance to check things off a list?

1. In the Heat of the Night. This is an excellent movie, but I admired it more than enjoyed it. Netflix calls it a “riveting study of racism that still strikes a chord,” which is accurate - near the beginning there’s a scene where Virgil Tibbs (our hero, played by Sidney Poitier) gets arrested because there’s been a murder in the town and he’s a strange black man sitting the train station - and therefore painful to watch.

2. The Flight of Dragons. This movie is a HOOT. It’s a Rankin/Bass movie from the 1980s, and it’s about a guy who gets enchanted into the world of a D&D-type board game that he created, and has to fight the powers of an evil sorcerer and also win the heart of a fair maiden, who is incidentally a character he created to have all the qualities he has ever wanted in a woman.

He literally wins the boss fight by yelling out the names of different branches of science. “Astronomy! Psychology! Sociology!” The wizard cannot withstand this onslaught! Highly recommended for a drinking game.

3. The Garden of Words. I watched this movie because I saw some completely gorgeous stills on Tumblr, and it is, it really is a gorgeous movie: lots of beautiful scenes of falling rain rippling through the leaves and across the pond in a park.

I didn’t like the story as much as the animation - I think partly because the title led me to expect a magical garden, and it’s not a fantasy story at all - and also because it’s about a high school student falling in love with a teacher (although he doesn’t realize she’s a teacher, and she’s not his teacher - but she is a decade older than he is), which makes it uncomfortable.

4. The Wind Rises. This movie upset me, not because of any of the political content - I remember there was some controversy about whether making a movie about Jiro Hirokoshi, designer of the Zero fighter plane, glorified or at least swept under the rug Japanese imperialism - but because the second half of the movie is pretty much 100% about Jiro’s girlfriend/eventual wife’s slow agonizing miserable death from consumption. Beautifully done. DID NOT EXPECT. DO NOT WANT.

5. Miracle on 34th Street. Classic Christmas movies bring out the Grinch in me; I didn’t like It’s a Wonderful Life and I don’t particularly like this one either. It’s one of those heavy-handed “Believe in the miracle of Christmas!” films, and the kind of belief it peddles seems shallow and cheap to me, and also I thought the film browbeat the heroine for her lack of belief and it annoyed it.

6. Raging Bull. This is one of those “Let’s explore masculinity!” films that litter the AFI Top 100 list. I drag my feet about watching them because I never expect to like them, but in this case I actually did quite enjoy it in the end. Scorsese makes his boxer protagonist human and rather tragic without exonerating him from the fact that he’s actually a pretty awful husband; there’s something small and sad about the story, the inverse of a usual sports movie of triumph.

7. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This film is an experience utterly unlike any other film I have ever seen, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing or just, like, a thing. But I totally recommend seeing it if you’re at all interested in the history of film or art or just enjoy an infusion of head-spinning weirdness in your life from time to time.

8. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Everyone told me this movie was a devastating trip down cynicism lane, so I was actually kind of disappointed when I saw it. So much less betrayal than I expected! I mean, yes, there is that one guy who is a traitor mctraitorsin, but he’s also clearly becoming unhinged, which is less devastating than a guy who betrays all his supposed friends while totally in his right mind and is not driven mad by his conscience afterward.

9. Bonnie and Clyde. After I saw this movie I meant to learn more about the historical Bonnie and Clyde, which I didn’t end up doing (note to self: must resurrect this project), but the fact that I wanted to is testament what an intense and vivid picture the movie paints of them.

10. My Neighbors the Yamadas. I loved this movie! It’s a very odd movie, more a bunch of vignettes from the life of a pretty average family than a cohesive storyline at all, but there’s such emotional truth to them - the Yamadas are in many ways not like my family, but at the same time watching the film reminded me of my family, the sense of life as a lot of small moments together. A sweet gentle film.

11. The Swan Princess. I think I missed the critical viewing window for this movie. My friends who saw it as children gush about it nostalgically, but it dragged for me, even though it’s only about 75 minutes long.

12. Thumbelina. I know I watched this movie this year, but I can’t remember a darn thing about it. I really expected I would like it, too; usually I love things about tiny people. (The Borrowers!)

Moana

Dec. 3rd, 2016 06:51 pm
osprey_archer: (cheers)
Went to see Moana yesterday! And it was gorgeous, really stunning animation and beautiful songs - quite different from the usual Disney song style; more epic maybe? I'm not sure how to define it, but it was a lot of fun, very epic sounding, quite appropriate to a magically intrepid ocean voyage.

Other things I enjoyed: the underwater sequences, the beautiful lush jungles, Moana practicing her speech to give to Maui (and the way that speech changes over time, gathering emotion like a snowball rolling down a hill gathers snow), Moana just in general, in particular Moana's beautiful hair, Maui's moving tattoo that talks (or I guess gestures) back at him when he's making bad life choices, and Spoiler I guess )
osprey_archer: (cheers)
I voted last week, because I knew I would be at work all day today (and also because voting early meant we had time to go to a cupcake place afterward, A++ would cupcake again), and indeed, all morning long we had a stream of stressed and cranky customers either coming from or going to the polls. Long lines, lots of stress about who's going to win, I haven't checked the news because I know once I check I'm going to keep checking and I'd really rather just find out once it's over. Hopefully with Hilary Clinton winning in a landslide.

I went to Bloomington yesterday and discovered that some of my friends are planning to spend the day watching election coverage on purpose, which honestly sounds like something that would happen to me in a horrible fever dream, but to each her own I suppose.

Anyway! I was in Bloomington to see Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on the big screen, which was just as delightful as I hoped! Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is one of my favorite movies of all time - I must have seen it at least three times, which is actually quite impressive for me, as I rarely rewatch anything - and, I mean, where do I even start with the glory of this movie?

There is of course Saunders, the cynical secretary at the senatorial office who shows Jefferson Smith the ropes when he arrives in Washington - and of course falls in love with him, because that's what always happens in classic Hollywood (classic Hollywood? Modern Hollywood too!). The rules of screen-writing make it inevitable, but Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart's performances totally sell it to me: how could Saunders fail to fall for that bundle of enthusiasm? And how could Smith fail to fall for the girl with the know-how to make his dreams a reality, and enough witty lines and fast comebacks to match his own sense of humor?

(There's a really lovely scene where Jefferson Smith is trying to guess Saunders' first name, which could easily come across as creepy but instead is sweet and funny: they're goofing around, having a good time joshing each other.)

And then of course there's the senior senator from Smith's state, Joseph Paine (played by Claude Rains, who also plays Renault in Casablanca, another one of my all-time favorite movies). Smith looks up to Paine not only as a well-respected senator, but as a friend of his father's, and Paine comes to look upon Smith with something of the affection of a father - but that's not enough to stop him from helping the political machine steamroll Smith when Smith gets in the way of their graft scheme.

And by God it steamrolls him. Every time I see this movie, I'm impressed yet again by just how brutally efficient the political machine is, and for what a petty cause: they set out to destroy Smith's reputation and his life for just a few thousand dollars worth of graft. A lot of so-called dark political dramas could learn a lot from watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

And Paine's part in it is brutal. He has a starring role in the scheme to hide the machine's graft by making Smith look like a crook who set out to steal the money that boys sent in to build a boys' camp that Smith proposed Congress should fund. The perfidy of this character assassination always takes my breath away.

But most of all I love Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart in the best role of his career - well, okay, he had some other pretty great roles. He's great in The Philadelphia Story too. And Harvey. And Vertigo, for something completely different. OKAY FINE, Jimmy Stewart is just amazing in everything he did.

But Jefferson Smith is probably my favorite one of his many roles: Jefferson Smith, starry-eyed patriot who just doesn’t know when to quit. The entire political machine of his home state is hopelessly corrupt? FINE THEN, Jefferson Smith will take on the whole damn machine! Someone’s gotta do it! He’ll filibuster till he faints on the senate floor! “You all think I’m licked,” he says, weaving on his feet because he’s been filibustering 23 hours straight. “Well, I’m not licked. And I’m going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause.”

He also has a sly sense of humor, a penchant for punching people (that scene where he walks around town punching reporters in the nose for making up stories that make him look like a goofball!), and hilarious awkward manners around beautiful women. Also the world’s most amazing eyelashes, which are showcased in a scene where he cries on the Lincoln Memorial. A++ crying, Jimmy Stewart.

What a great movie.

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