So I was in somewhat of a media blackout in Hawaii. I read the newspaper, but that was it for like a week.
It was great.
(I will at least have vacation pics up at some point, I promise.)
I did see some stuff in Toronto though.
- 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, ): I’m not going to write a whole long thing about 8 1/2, but I am mentioning it because I watched it on a plane. I generally equate plane movies with “terrible,” so it’s nice to see that I am a niche group someone is marketing to.
- Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007): Okay, so for the first half hour, I thought that I had made a horrible mistake. It’s so, so overwritten. The convenience store scene — “That ain’t no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, homeskillet.” — what? Then she tells her friend she’s pregnant on the phone and the girl utters one of the worst lines in the history of ever: “Honest to blog?” Ugh. Ooh, and also, all of Juno’s pop culture references were way too old for her. The Blair Witch Project was a media phenomenon in 1999. When Juno would have been 8 years old. No one’s that culturally with it when they’re 8 years old. Anyway, it kind of eventually won me over with the good acting and the sweet relief of characters having quiet moments, like when Juno sees Jennifer Garner’s character playing with a kid in the mall.
I don’t really talk about actors’ performances a lot when I talk about movies, because I think it’s overemphasized in the press, etc., but I don’t think you can understate the importance of the ensemble in Juno: every actor was working really hard (but not trying really hard) and doing fabulous stuff. I’ve liked Ellen Page since Hard Candy and I’m glad she’s getting famous from this, and Michael Cera takes a character I would have hated had any other actor played him and actually makes him real and sympathetic and wonderful.
Also, and I want to phrase this right, because I made fun of someone who had these complaints about Knocked Up1, but I don’t really know what to do with the way abortion was portrayed. Not like, she should have had an abortion. But now that “unplanned pregnancy movies” are a trend, they are kind of giving me pause. Individually, the handling of abortion in Knocked Up or Waitress or Juno isn’t bad — though Juno’s bugged me personally the most — but taken as three relatively successful, well-reviewed, newsworthy movies, it’s kind of sending a weird message, especially given the place American society is right now. None of these movies is particularly conservative in terms of its message, its filmmakers’ reputations, or even who it’s marketed to, but as a whole, it’s kind of…weird. I’m not sure what it means, if anything, all this baby-based energy, but like I said, it’s giving me pause.
- Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton, 2007): My official line on this is that I’m not really sure if it’s that great a movie, but that I really liked it. I thought Johnny Depp was freaking great, I’m not really sure that it was totally successful as a musical or even as a movie. My hypothetical essay would either be on how everyone in the movie (even the ethereally beautiful wife and daughter) was kind of funny looking, or on how hard Tim Burton worked to make it clear that the blonde women in the film are just these fungible markers for the male characters to act out their various crazy issues. I have never seen a character have less agency than Joanna does in this movie, and I have to think Burton did it on purpose for irony’s sake.
- Helvetica (Gary Hustwit, 2007): I really wanted to like this movie, because I think a lot of the issues it brings up about graphic design and ideology and society and the connotative versus denotative (or I guess purely graphical) elements of type were really interesting. Hustwit also clearly got a really diverse and impressive set of important designers to talk about their work and their philosophies, many of them really intelligently. However, I thought a lot of it could have been better-presented. It seems to have been made with the assumption that its viewers would all know enough about design to know who all these people were and why their words had weight; I wish the filmmakers had done more to give us context. On the context note, I also wish they had made a bit more effort to talk larger social context. The designers weren’t particularly hermetic in their comments, but the film really didn’t do much to create a larger sense of historical (or even artistic or hell, architectural) context. Talking about architecture in particular would have been pretty on-point, given that I think the same kinds of art-commerce discussions happen there as in the design world. Finally, and maybe this is just me, but I really wish the film had been more self-reflective. There is a point to be made about the trendiness and fetishism inherent in the act of making a movie about a font, and it would certainly have been significant to the discussion they were having. I guess it was effective because it made me think a lot, but a lot of that thinking was about how the movie could have been more interesting. Alex said maybe it was a subject for a book, and I’m not sure he’s wrong.
- The TV Set (Jake Kasdan, 2006): This definitely wasn’t like, a significant achievement in film art, but it does have: a great cast (David Duchovny, Sigourney Weaver, and Judy Greer!) , a script that’s full of insidery TV industry fun, and a pretty dark core when you come down to it. Jake Kasdan, the director, is the Jake Kasdan who worked on Freaks and Geeks (definitely on my to-watch list if the strike keeps up, but I still have half a season of Dexter3 and The Wire to get through), so he’s working from experience. Definitely worth a rental, especially if you’re a TV nerd; it’s pretty harsh on networks.
So that’s it. I’m deciding what to order from Chapters with my $60 gift card. So far my list is:
- Let’s Talk About Love by Carl Wilson
- The Terror Dream by Susan Faludi
I am kind of torn between getting responsible books (either big things that I “should read” by people like Frederic Jameson or things that I would actually use for school) and getting fun books (novels? maybe Tree of Smoke? Harper’s really liked it).
Other than that, I didn’t get very many presents for Christmas. My parents’ main present was a lavish family trip to Hawaii, but they felt the need to buy me a DVD player as well, despite the fact that I already own a DVD player. So I exchanged it for an apple green iPod Shuffle.
Oh, and Alex bought be a glorious KitchenAid mixer in cobalt blue (on sale, thank goodness). I haven’t baked anything with it yet, but expect endless amateur closeups of cookies and airily whipped cakes in the near future. FYI.
1 Which I still think was a really good movie and, moreover, a really terrible example around which to centre a discussion about sexism in comedy. Apatow certainly doesn’t get it right 100%, but the movie is clearly trying and I feel like the way the edges show is a good thing, and I think that’s what people are responding to.2
2 I should totally write an essay about Knocked Up and reception. I think it would be good.
3 OMG did you guys read that Michael C. Hall is dating Jennifer Carpenter who plays his sister are a couple?! It would be weird and confusing to play siblings with someone you are sexing. Or to sex someone who plays your sister.
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