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I was SUPER excited to see Mistress America, because it stars Greta Gerwig, who is also the star of my beloved Frances Ha - and I figured that once I’d shown Julie one Gerwig movie, it would be a piece of cake to win her over to another, am I right?

I should have started with Frances Ha. Mistress America is not a bad movie, but it’s also not a particularly successful one. It’s a character drama where the characters are a little too stylized to seem quite real, but not stylized enough for that stylization to create its own pocket reality where you just go along with it.

In short, it’s stylized enough to feel awkward. It’s too awkward even for Gerwig, who makes awkwardness into an art form in Frances Ha. At times her character Brooke, a 30-year-old aspiring New Yorker on the cusp of failure, seems almost like a parody of Frances - or at least a parody of something. “I know I'm funny. I know everything about myself. That's why I can't do therapy,” Brooke explains, encapsulating her own lack of self-awareness just a little too neatly

On the other hand, there are also times when Gerwig hits the emotional beats just right. “You can’t really know what it is to want things until you’re at least thirty,” Brooke lectures her soon-to-be stepsister Tracy, a lonely college freshman. “And then with each passing year, it gets bigger… because the want is more, and the possibility is less.”

Still relentlessly self-absorbed, but it also hits on something painful and true about Brooke’s desperation. She doesn’t so much lack self-awareness as push it away, because looking her life squarely in the face would mean admitting that she’s drowning.

Gerwig looms over the movie, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give props to her co-star Lola Kirke, who plays Tracy - young and vulnerable, yet also a would-be puppetmaster, sharply observant but at the same time incredibly emotionally clueless. The night after she first meets Brooke, Tracy writes a character study that is a poisonously vicious homage.

And it really is both those things at once. She admires Brooke tremendously - she’s so exuberant and outgoing and fun! Tracy’s own platonic manic pixie dream girl, plucking her out of her lonely inhibited life! - but also recognizes that Brooke’s basically a failure, not a viable model to follow. There’s an attraction and a repulsion and of course when Brooke reads it - of course she gets her hands on it; no one in movies can ever hide anything properly - all she sees is that viciousness.

There’s a good movie in here. Tracy and Brooke’s friendship is fascinating, both before and after it crashes and burns. Unfortunately it’s just a little too clever for its own good, and obscures its merits.

Brooklyn

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:00 pm
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"So this is how General Hux started his multi-incarnation descent into evil," Julie commented, as we watched Brooklyn, which features the actor who plays Hux in the decidedly un-Hux-like role of Jim Farrell, the leading lady's other man who gets his heart broken because otherwise the film would descend into bigamy. Bigamy is not charming, and Brooklyn is all about charm.

And also clothes. The costumes are gorgeous and if that is a thing you are into, it's well worth watching them for the beautiful fifties fashions alone.

Young Eilis, unable to find work in Ireland, immigrates to New York. At first she struggles to adjust, but with the help of the priest who sponsored her immigration - and a lucky meeting with an Italian-American boy, Tony - she begins to settle in. But just when she and Tony are beginning to get serious, a family tragedy drags her back to Ireland. She pauses only long enough to marry Tony in City Hall before she goes.

Well, okay, people do jump into hasty decisions in times of stress, and also Eilis wears a simply smashing orange suit for the wedding, so I suppose we can allow. But this rather drains the tension out of the latter half of the movie. Even if Eilis wants to stay in Ireland - and there are certainly many arguments in its favor! - she can't without committing bigamy, and in the end that forces her back.

And it really does force her back: someone in her hometown learns about her marriage, and attempts to blackmail Eilis, which makes Eilis leave on the next boat. There's no "it's nice to be back home in Ireland with my best friend, who has introduced me to Jim Farrel who is kind and attentive and stands to inherit a swell house, and also I've been offered a job I'd like in the field I've been studying... but I really love Tony, so I'm going home to Brooklyn." No. She leaves because she's checkmated.

And I'm not sure she really does love Tony, anyway. I think she loves the fact that she's not lonely when she's with him, that he's helped her feel at home in Brooklyn - but the first time he says "I love you," she completely freezes, and even later on she can't say it naturally, she has to work up to it through "I like you" first.

Now possibly this is just emotional repression but... eh. She falls in with Jim Farrell so quickly once she's back in Ireland. And she doesn't even read Tony's letters. He's spending so much money on airmail, Eilis! Why did you marry him if you were just going to stick his letters in a drawer?

On the other hand Tony is super in love with her and generally pretty nice, so hopefully once she's back in Brooklyn she'll settle down and they'll have a happy life together despite their rocky beginning. (And meanwhile, Jim Farrell will begin his descent toward space Nazism.)
osprey_archer: (cheers)
I am off to see North by Northwest! Which I somehow missed in both my Cary Grant and my Alfred Hitchcock watching sprees (it must be admitted that I am not a very systematic movie viewer and consider myself to have spreed successfully when I watch three or more movies by/starring one person).

But then it's just as well, because I shall be seeing it on the big screen and that will probably make it all the better. There really is something about seeing a movie in a theater: I rewatched Lego Batman with Julie yesterday, and it's still funny, but it's not as immersively hilarious when you don't have a whole theater chuckling along with you at Batman's commentary over the opening titles, say. ("Black. All important movies start with a black screen.")

I imagine this effect will make Arsenic and Old Lace positively scintillate when we see it on the big screen next month. The whole theater ought to be rocking with laughter.
osprey_archer: (books)
We bought Emily Arnold McCully's Mirette on the High Wire at a Scholastic Book Fair when I was in first grade (does anyone else remember the glory of going to the book fair? Books, books, an entire room in the school suddenly filled with shiny new books), and I dug out my old copy to read it for the Caldecott project.

The illustrations still delight me: the flaming red of Mirette's red hair, the deep blue of her dress and the white froth of her petticoats, the impressionist feel to it all - so appropriate for a book set in fin de siecle Paris. And the loveliness of Paris in these illustrations! No wonder I always had the idea of Paris as an enchanted city.

This is one of those books that has a moral point that is quite clear to an adult - learning an art, any art, not just walking the high wire - requires work, and more work, and many mistakes. You'll fall down and pick yourself back up and get overconfident and fall again. But it's not blunt - obvious - obtrusive about it - I never felt I was being preached at when I read this book as a child, only enchanted by the illustrations, the city, Mirette's slowly mounting competence, the way that her courage and determination inspire her teacher who thought his own days as a high wire walker were done.

***

I haven't posted recently not because I have nothing to say but because I am quite, quite behind on things I've meant to post about: the first season of Sailor Moon Crystal, books I read on Netgalley (Ta-Nehisi Coates' We Were Eight Years in Power; a series of historical sketches by Stefan Zweig), and all the movies I saw in August, some of which I liked and some of which I didn't but most of which inspired lots of thought and feeling and therefore an intimidating number of things to say.

I'll start here with one of the less thought-provoking ones: I finally saw The Lego Movie, which I found moderately amusing but did not like nearly as much as Lego Batman (which had a surprising amount of emotional heft and perhaps set my bar for The Lego Movie too high). And I wasn't particularly impressed by the twist, when Spoilers )
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It's been a couple months since I've been to the ArtCraft theater, but yesterday marked our triumphant return! We went to see Twelve Angry Men, which it turned out that most of our party had seen before, but after all it's not a hardship to see Twelve Angry Men again.

The politics have not worn all that well, admittedly. There's a certain smugness about some scenes, like you can feel the screenwriters patting themselves on the back for their liberalism - which, from the perspective of 2017, just makes their blind spots more glaringly obvious and oddly less forgivable. It's a movie about a jury of twelve white guys! No one in the movie thinks that jury composition might be a problem in any way. You are not as enlightened as you think so wipe that smug smirk off your face, director.

And there's also something off-putting about Henry Fonda's character, who doesn't actually start laying out his arguments for the defendant's possible innocence until after he calls for a second vote - and promises that, if the jury is still 11-1 for conviction, he'll switch his own vote to match. Maybe at least begin to lay out your argument before you make that promise, Henry Fonda.

But despite the smugness of it, the story-telling is top-notch. You've got twelve guys stuck in one room and the whole movie just stays there, and yet the pacing never flags. And all the guys - even though they don't even have names, just juror numbers - quickly develop into individual and interesting characters. It feels genuine when they change their minds and begin to vote "not guilty."

And there's a certain - faith in humanity, or naivete, or something, that is touching and painful when watching the movie in 2017. One of the jurors goes off on a racist rant about "those people," and one by one almost all the other jurors get up and turn their backs on him. "Listen to me! Listen," the ranter implores, and one of the other jurors says firmly, "I have. Now sit down and don't open your mouth again."

And he does. He goes and sits in the corner - literally in the corner! - and doesn't speak for the rest of the movie.

I once read an essay (I've long since forgotten where) that described this as the progressive's dream - that someday the racists, indeed the prejudiced in general, will just sit themselves down in the corner and shut up. Will, in fact, vote "not guilty" with the rest of the jury, shamed into group conformity if not actual repentance - rather than popping back up like an evil jack in the box to vote "guilty," determined the hang the jury if he can't make them hang the defendant.

July Movies

Aug. 1st, 2017 08:03 am
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As I was on the road for most of July, I only saw two movies: the 2000 Railway Children, about which I already posted (v. charming, highly recommended if you like children’s movies), and LEGO Batman: The Movie.

This second was a mistake - not in the sense that it’s a bad movie, but in that it was not the movie I was attempting to get from Netflix. I wanted The LEGO Batman Movie, because my roommate Julie hasn’t seen it - but I got the other because, well, who knew there were two Lego Batman movies??? Someone in the marketing department should have put a bit more thought into the titles here.

LEGO Batman: The Movie was made in 2013. It is prescient in a “laugh because otherwise you’ll cry” sort of way: Lex Luthor, supervillain billionaire, is running for president. “Too real,” I commented to Julie, as he made his first appearance; but she pointed out that Luthor speaks in complete sentences and has a certain amount of dignity and gravitas so really it’s not topical at all. And, of course, this being a movie, we can rest secure in the knowledge that Batman and Superman will stop Luthor just in the nick of time.

It’s quite a different movie experience than The LEGO Batman Movie. It’s not nearly as funny, but then, it’s not trying to be; it’s a straight-up addition to its source material rather than a lovingly tongue-in-cheek send-up.
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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.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
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.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
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?
osprey_archer: (art)
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
osprey_archer: (kitty)
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 )
osprey_archer: (cheers)
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
osprey_archer: (cheers)
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.
osprey_archer: (cheers)
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!
osprey_archer: (kitty)
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.

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