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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Hollywood is stupid. Or maybe they’re not, maybe they just think people are stupid. But this is not true! People may pay to see stupid movies, but they will also pay to see good ones if they are easily accessible. It is not just liberal east-coast elitists like myself who sneer at the Sex and the City ladies flinging themselves all over the Middle East (or, more accurately, sneering at the screenwriter). It’s not just hippie flakes like me who are filled with scorn at a Robin Hood adaptation which flouts the whole “Stole from the rich, gave to the poor” thing. People from all walks of life went to see Precious, Avatar, even Star Trek. So what the fuck, Hollywood? Why do you only have yet another fucking Shrek to offer me? I don’t anticipate your Toy Story 3.  I like children, but your Babies makes me nauseous. The Karate Kid and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice previews gave me a nosebleed. Perhaps Agora or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo look acceptable, but of course they’re only in independent theaters.

So I sneer at you, enormous studio conglomerates. And I turn away from you to swoon at Cary Grant.

Because all of this is just really an excuse to post pictures of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

I will stay away from you enormous theaters, and I will turn off all the terrible, terrible news in the world. As long as there are only monstrosities on television and bloated, mindless, numbing Cyclops in the theaters, I will have to hide out in a technicolor Paris.

Plus, anything with James Coburn automatically trumps anything without James Coburn.

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Un Conte de Noël

I love winter. Yes, the mid-Atlantic currently seems to bear more in common with Scandinavia right now… but I am loving it. Of course, I wouldn’t tell that to anyone’s face, and I have my empathetic “I know, right?” face ready whenever some poor schmuck is complaining about the cold to me.

But enough! If we don’t have to sleep on the streets, if we have someplace warm to go at night, then we really shouldn’t complain. Winter might sort of be the perfect time for gratitude, actually. To stay inside, roast tomatoes in the oven, open a bottle of red wine, and watch and re-watch Arnaud Desplechin’s lovely, rich, wintery Un Conte de Noël.

This is the kind of movie that I just put on and walk around the house doing stuff. Yeah, they’re speaking french, and yeah, I can’t really understand it. Who cares! It’s seriously the most pleasant movie to just have on in the background, and then I remember “Oh! Someone is going to get all feisty and french!” and I run over and laugh and laugh. Then I decide to stop reading or cooking and we open a bottle of wine and sit down and that’s it, we have to watch the whole thing.

Un Conte de Noël is like a holiday (ha!) from the world. I’m wary of upper middle-class people sitting around bitching about their problems. So I don’t really know why I like this, but I cannot stop watching it. Maybe it’s because it’s beautiful. Maybe because Catherine Deneuve is not the kind of person who lets you turn a movie off. Maybe it’s because I’m strangely sympathetic to some of the characters, especially the real bastards among them. Maybe it’s because when they get feisty and bitchy, it’s endearingly neurotic and sweet. That all probably has something to do with it. But really, it’s like an excellent novel: just overflowing with life, with people, with vignettes thrown in all over the place that give it that brimming feeling. I keep going back to it because it’s impossible not to go back to something so life-affirming and enchanting and strange and warm in the middle of winter.

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Myrna, Myrna, Myrna

One of my favorite things to do around the New Year is watch a Thin Man movie. The other night boyfriend and I finished the final one in the series, and I was all bummed/Jesus Christ, I loved Myrna Loy’s dress on the jazz boat.

Seriously, that neckline is sick. Then I thought just about how much I plain old love Myrna Loy. She manages to convey humor, grace, ease, and intelligence in a nearly incomparable way. I mean, I love me some Katharine Hepburn, but she always met her characters with edginess. Myrna Loy takes a character like Nora and is witty and clever with it, while bringing in her own human warmth. You’re watching her laugh and space out a little bit, and you forget how magnificently beautiful she is. I mean, in the picture above, she’s what, in her forties? And what’s incredible is yeah, she looks older. And that’s a beautiful thing. Watching someone like Myrna Loy age is encouraging, it’s a reminder that women shouldn’t be terrified of the years, but rather look forward to all the new sorts of grace which take the place of what’s past.

Plus, Myrna Loy was a terrific, outspoken activist. She spoke out so strongly against Hitler in the 1930s that she got herself on his blacklist. She organized a fight against the House’s Unamerican Activities Committee. In the 40s she was named Co-chairman of the Advisory Council of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing. She campaigned for JFK, and was a fierce opponent of Reagan when he was governor. I love her.

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Oh man, Harry Potter. Oh man.

I am going to rant about the new Harry Potter film. If I was a blog with a big readership (say, five readers), I would warn about spoilers. Luckily, I do not have said enormous audience, so I am going to talk about this bloody fucking film as much as I want. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a disaster.

I love the Harry Potter books. I wouldn’t say they’re masterpieces, but they are fun. I was brought up on The Lord of the Rings. Really, raised on it. I could tell you about the enigma of the Entwives and Tom Bombadil when I was a wee lass. I could sing all the songs from the cheesy animated films from the seventies. I love silly wizards and beards. I like Harry, I adore Snape, I love Dumbledore. So when I criticize the new Potter film, I do it as a full-fledged dork who has a blue cape in her closet and is looking for a nice white beard to wear this Halloween.

What a fucking disaster.

Oh, thank you Mr. Yates for showing us that Harry and Friends have grown up and are now snogging one another. Yes, I noticed in the last film that romantic tension was a-brewing. But truly, if I wanted to spend several hours on teenage nonsense, I would go see Twilight. I want to see wizards. I want to see the storyline which began in the first novel continued. Holy fucking shit, you can’t show us a single Defense Against the Dark Arts class? Are you mad?

In this most recent installment, director David Yates and the absolutely mediocre screenwriter Steve Kloves utterly abandoned the plot of Half-Blood Prince. Interesting fact: Steve Kloves has written the script to every Harry Potter film except Order of the Phoenix. Another interesting fact: Order of the Phoenix is probably the best Harry Potter film (its story was not been fucked up by Kloves, while Azkaban at least had Alfonso Cuarón directing). Personally, I think the Harry Potter books, great works of philosophy they are, boil down to choices people make. Magic powers: neat. Human choices: much more interesting. As much as I love Gandalf, and while I find him a better-written character, I appreciate Dumbledore so much more. Dumbledore doesn’t make perfect decisions, and he’s not an arch-angel. He’s a human being, doing his best. He’s up against another human being, one who wants power and to escape death because he’s never known love, and is incapable of it.

The whole Harry Potter story revolves around whether or not you place your trust in a human being who seems wise and good, but who also is frequently silent about his reasons for many actions. Dumbledore trusts Snape, an extraordinary and often repulsive figure whose inner life is never as fully fleshed out as I’d like. Do we, the audience, trust Dumbledore? If we do, we trust Snape, and if we trust Snape then Harry’s mission is rather different then if we do not. The books are about the choices and the misunderstandings between people which arise out of our own prejudices, wants, needs, loves, and losses.

But don’t look for that in the new film.

The Half-Blood Prince is funny. It’s sweet. Radcliffe is much better here. But the story? Oh, forget about it. Where are all the characters you’ve come to adore? Where is Neville trying to sustain Dumbledore’s Army in the school, the near-Chosen One who is lonely, who has also lost family to Voldemort, who also needs a chance to fight against him? Where is Lupin, struggling with the burden of his condition, unwilling to accept love? Where is Snape, trying to prepare his students in his own way for what is to come, and yet still feeling the pain of his love for Lily and bearing the guilt of her death? Why the hell does Hermione chat up Harry about Ginny right after Dumbledore is fucking dead? I mean, come on. Hermione would never be all “Oh, I know Dumbledore is dead and that locket you’re holding is all mysterious, but Ron’s okay with you and Ginny because apparently Ron is a fucking nitwit  with nothing more important to think about than who his sister is making out with and Kloves is a moron who missed all the nuances in the story, a story written by J.K. Rowling who is not exactly subtle.” I mean, come on. What the hell.

Plus, they skipped the battle scene.

i wish i had a powerful beard and wand

i wish i had a powerful beard and wand

I just said a lot of stuff about purpose and meaning, but forget all that for a second. These books have magic in them, man. And the best magic I saw in this film were the little birds Hermione summoned up around her head in a scene, like nearly every other scene, where she is mooning around after Ron. Hermione, sweetheart, you have better things to do. Steve Kloves and David Yates, yes, Emma Watson is beautiful, and yes, we all feel a little bad for Hermione and it will be nice when she’s happily dating Ron, though I’ll never understand it myself. But for real, Hermione is a smart young lady with a huge upcoming battle on her mind. Why do you limit yourselves to fucking birds? Where is Fenrir ravaging through Hogwarts and where is the Order showing up and Neville and Luna taking the Felix potion themselves and charging in there? Ughhhh.

When Harry actually read the note from R.A.B. in the locket, I was shocked. Fucking shocked. At that point in the movie I had decided Kloves and Yates didn’t care about the story at all. Yeah, Dumbledore died for this Horcrux and all, and yeah, it’s a fake, but who cares, because we gotta show some teenagers making out. Don’t put stupid lines in Hermione’s mouth; have Harry say: “I’d like the woman I love to not be killed by Voldemort the way everyone else is, so I better stay away from her for awhile.” Is that so difficult? Four seconds, max. Damn you, Hollywood. Damn you, David Yates. I loved your last Harry film. But now, please go swallow a drought of living death and miss the next one. If you do come back, though, use some color. The moon over the drive-in was more attractive than your film, and Cape Cod is foggy tonight. I thought this was supposed to be just a teensy bit about magic. Instead this film resembles a bleak fluorescent light in a neglected corridor closet of an anonymous high school bathroom where the biggest threat is some birds might attack you because no one has anything better to do than sit around and fucking pine over other teenage geeks. Nice.

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I loved Goodbye, Solo.

GoodbyeSolo

Let me see if I can find a way to do it justice (I’m going to discuss the ending, so if you haven’t seen it and want to you might want to skip this). Ramin Bahrani has made a film about people I recognize, about lives that seem real. This might not seem like a big deal, but since the majority of major film releases involve boys with Peter Pan complexes, superheros, super-techno gadgets, and ladies who must. find. a. husband, I think this is a major accomplishment. Of course, this is an independent film which pretty much means it has to be of different quality than the latest bullshit.

What I liked best about it, I think, is more than than it’s a film about real people: one of the main characters is a good human being. Is that shocking? Think about it. Lots of small, smart films create characters I sympathize with. Take Half Nelson. I loved Ryan Gosling’s school teacher, and I loved Shareeka Epp’s portrayal of a young woman faced with two very different role models. But I can’t say that anyone in that film was a lovely, extraordinary person interested in helping strangers, capable of withstanding multiple rejections and obstacles in order to help a person in pain. I loved Goodbye Solo because it created a beautiful portrayal of a young man who cared about people he barely knew.

That’s remarkable. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film about a person like that: a person with a real life and real goals, a person who is disappointed in some of them and a person who works and needs the love and support of the people he cares about. He accepts that they can’t always give him what he needs and he manages to tread a line where he gives them all the love he can while trying to not entirely give up the things he wants. So far, so good: that makes his character a lot less selfish than the vast majority of self-involved personalities on the screen. What makes Solo so memorable is how he takes on an interest in William, a man who is obviously troubled and lonely. Solo makes William’s well-being important to him despite William’s reluctance. He goes as far as he can to involve the suicidal William in the world, but he also knows when to stop pushing. The audience doesn’t really know how Solo’s attempts to reach out to William affect him; we do know that Solo’s probable failure to change William’s mind hurts Solo.

Who can’t relate to wanting so much to help a person… and failing? After failing his flight attendant test, after his wife (who, I must say, I think is making a reasonable request but there is not enough of a back story here) continues to ask him not to pursue his chosen career path, after Solo knows that William has in all likelihood ended his life… Solo stays strong for his step-daughter (a wonderful character, btw) and allows her to quiz him so he can take his flight attendant test again. Solo’s been disappointed, he’s tried his best to help another human being and he simply is refused the comfort of knowing he did. He can feel sorry for himself and let the world know it, or go on and keep trying to be a decent person, which is what he does. Souléymane Sy Savané, the actor who portrays Solo, is just tremendous. The same shot of him silently driving his taxi and staring ahead is used throughout the film, and each time his face reflects the way things are unfolding by barely moving a muscle. It’s simply in his pained and empathetic eyes. He’s incredible.

My one issue with the film relates more to the film industry at large. Why oh why don’t women get the same sort of captivating material to work with? I’m racking my brain trying to think of films in the past year with women who had comparable interesting personalities. I can think of I’ve Loved You So Long and Happy-Go-Lucky (I refuse to include Rachel Getting Married as a film with an interesting lead female character because by God I hated that film so much, which makes me apparently one of a very small minority but whatever). By far the majority deal with men, men’s issues, men’s lives. I don’t understand why; what makes men’s lives so much more captivating than women’s? I can think of tons of ideas about films that involve female relationships beyond mother-daughter bonding and I-am-woman-I-must-get-married. So maybe I should write one and stop complaining about it. But despite that one bone, Goodbye Solo is a quietly triumphant film about the decent people in our world whose small acts of goodness may go unnoticed most of the time, but make life worth living.

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