Archive for the 'Weekly Movies' Category

(Bi)Weekly Movies, August 25-September 7

I am still out of blog practice, apparently, so you get two weeks of movies in one.

  1. Hamlet 2 (Andy Fleming, 2008): I’ve read some very positive reviews of this and some very negative ones, so I have to conclude that is kind of a love or hate piece. I definitely fall on the positive side, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I loved it. I did like it, though I did have a few complaints — mainly relating to the pacing and the Catherine Keener character’s fun-to-boring ratio. I think the movie needed it there to make Steve Coogan’s character’s emasculation super-clear (she is mean, and there is a fertility clinic involved) but I feel like having it in the movie instead of just being background info. is kind of a waste, especially since the class stuff is so much funnier. It’s sort of a twist on the “inspirational teacher” movie, with the twist being that the students don’t need the teacher, he needs them. Plus, the climax of the movie is the performance of Coogan’s masterwork, Hamlet 2, which inolves pop music, Jesus, a time machine, and an Elton John song, so you know I loved it. That aspect — the lauding of an amateur production with the sense of its badness being so great that it is transformed into amazing, which is made crystal clear when they have a character in the audience basically say exactly that — reminded me of Be Kind, Rewind, a connection I probably also made because the lovely Melonie Diaz is in both, bringing a wonderful sense of being game and the smartest person in the room.
    Rock me, rock me, rock me sexy Jesus
  2. Pleasantville (Gary Ross, 1998): I caught a bunch of this on TV last weekend, and, wow, this movie is way weirder than I remembered. The whole thing where Pleasantville — the idealized black-and-white nuclear family past — starts breaking down and turning to colour when confronted with real feelings about sex and art and books, that part is still great. The love scene with Jeff Daniels and Joan Allen where he takes off her grey makeup and sees the full-colour skin underneath is still absolutely beautiful. But things go bizarrely off the rails once that has happened. The division between “coloreds,” who listen to rock n’ roll and have to sit on a separate balcony in the courthouse in an obvious racial parallel, and generally have access to real authentic feelings, and the normal people is so, so weird. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean either about race or about racism, since the “colored” people in Pleasantville are not actually people of different races, they are glowingly white people like Reese Witherspoon and Joan Allen and Jeff Daniels. (Also, poor Reese apparently learns that sex is good, but whoring isn’t actually fulfilling, so she decides to stay in the ’50s and go to college? And her mom doesn’t seem to notice she’s gone when Tobey Maguire comes back?)
    Love & art
  3. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay, 2004): I actually had managed to go the four years since this came out without seeing it, and to be honest…I am not sure if I can endorse Anchorman. It has some great moments, like “Afternoon Delight”: …and jazz flute! I also loved the way it captured the ugly 1970s aesthetic. And I have to admit that, more than most of those other “frat pack” comedies, this one was really very self-aware of the inherent sexism of dude humour. In the negative column is the fact that Will Ferrell, he tends to overdo it; shouting something doesn’t necessarily make it funny. Of course, on the other hand, it seemed to be set in the 1970s so that they could get away with lots of “funny” sexual harassment jokes. I kept comparing it to the way Mad Men handles similar issues — there’s the constant reminder that we’re in the past, and that things are different now — but Mad Men obviously has time to explore what that all means in way more detail, and is obviously working in a very different genre. Anyway, I know that a lot of this stuff is funny because it breaks rules, because it’s inappropriate, but I kind of grit my teeth when I think about why certain aspects of it are funny. I just keep coming back to the fact that it retells the story of women’s liberation — from an almost exclusively male perspective. And sure, it’s clear that it’s wrong when Tim Robbins is like “I’m totally for women’s lib” and then pushes Christina Applegate into a bear pit — but it’s also funny. The thing is, if comedy is a social release valve, then what exactly is Anchorman releasing? Because my instincts about that are not particularly generous.
  4. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008): I’m not sure how much intelligent commentary I have about In Bruges, but, so good! I didn’t really know that much going in, just “dark comedy” and “Colin Farrell.” But, the great thing is, I forgot that Colin Farrell is a really good actor! There are three great performances here, actually: Farrell’s, Brendan Gleeson’s (who I just realized is Mad-Eye Moody in the Harry Potter movies), and Ralph Fiennes. Farrell and Gleeson are gangsters who go to Bruges to wait for the heat to die down after a hit, and then they meet a dwarf on a movie shoot, and there’s all this hilarious self-aware play around dwarves and art movies and so on. It’s very funny, but there’s also an aspect of tragedy to it. Plus it’s lovely; Bruges seems like a beautiful city, and the cinematography does a commendable job of emphasizing all its old fashioned, fairy tale beauty, which is in marked contrast to all the murder and suicide in In Bruges.

Summer Movies, July 7-August 24

I’m back! Things might still be slow for the next little bit, as I still haven’t actually defended my thesis, plus I have a lot of stuff going on in the next couple of months, but there will be updates.

Anyway, I kept a list of the movies I did manage to see since I went on hiatus. It is long. Continue Reading »

Weekly Movies, June 30-July 6

  1. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (Pedro Almodóvar, 1990): You know? This is, more and more, still not my favourite Almodóvar. There are parts of it I like, but the main story is still: boy likes girl, boy kidnaps girl, girl eventually validates his kidnapping attempt by falling in love with him (!). The thing is, yes, it exposes how lame most love stories that have this kind of plot are by making his actions the product of actual psychosis, so there’s that. It’s obviously meant to make the spectator question the heroine’s choice, but it still is the least fun for me to watch. However, it is important that there’s a whole meta-story where she’s an actress and they’re making a movie and the director of the movie-within-a-movie (whose name, “Maximo Espejo,” means something close to”Great Mirror” in Spanish) — and he says something about how hard it is to tell the difference between a love story and a horror story, which is obviously the point here. It always comes down this question about where the parody line ends and the glamourizing line starts, and that’s obviously going to be different to different viewers. I dunno. I don’t think it’s a resolvable question.
  2. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (Sara Sugarman, 2004): This was…surprisingly good. I think it has been established that I will watch anything with Lindsay Lohan, so when this came on, I decided to watch it. It’s about a 15-year-old girl whose mom moves her from NYC (obviously Toronto) to a smallish town in New Jersey. Immortal voice-over line, paraphrased: “Your parents tell you to have hopes and dreams, and then they make you move to New Jersey.” The thing I loved about it is, it’s kind of a treatise in favour of self-invention. The heroine’s birth name is Mary, but she randomly changes it to Lola; her mom keeps calling her Mary though…until (spoiler!) the end of the movie, when she is starring in a modern reinvention of Pygmalion as Eliza Doolittle (another story about self-invention, of a sort), and her mom’s like “You are a Lola.”
    I love how Lindsay Lohan movies are already ironic in hindsight.
    Anyway, all her clothes in the movie are like these elaborate costumes. Like, she goes on a hunger strike when her mom won’t let her go to a rock concert, and she dresses as Gandhi. And she has this amazing mourning costume when her favourite band breaks up, with like, black balloons. The word for this is camp, and it is glorious. Better still, in the movie, she suffers basically no negative consequences for any of her actions: she does feel bad about telling her friend her father was dead to seem “more interesting,” but other than that, nothing! When she gets arrested and her dad has to come to the police station to get her out of trouble, he then lets her go to a loft party at a drunken rock star’s house. When she goes on a hunger strike, it works! She changes her name purely through the power of her own will! Lola’s awesome: she sees reality as negotiable.
    I love you, Lindsay Lohan!
    I have to come back to the spectacle of contemporary My Fair Lady again. Okay, so the school “orchestra” plays on laptops. And the songs are reworkings of “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder and “Changes” by David Bowie. It’s hilarious. The cast is pretty solid too: her best friend is Allison Pill, who was in Pieces of April and Dear Wendy, and seems to billed pretty high in Milk, the Gus Van Sant Harvey Milk project that’s supposed to come out this year. And Megan Fox is the villain: Lohan’s triumphs over her getting the lead in the school play, meeting this rock star, and beating her at Dance Dance Revolution.
  3. Wanted (Timur Bekmambetov, 2008): I have a whole bunch of different opinions about this movie, and they mostly conflict with each other. I won’t pretend I didn’t enjoy the hell out of it as an action movie, but ideologically, I had some problems. It’s been (justly) compared to Fight Club and The Matrix a lot, which is completely fair, in that the aspects I loved about it were the same that I liked about those movies. As an action movie, it’s successful because the stunts are all spectacular and ridiculous and wonderfully stylish. Like, curving bullets! Flipping a car and totally shooting someone through their sunroof while your car is in midair! I was giddy with glee at this stuff. It’s a really fun movie to watch, and I did enjoy it. But, uh, I had some ideological problems with it, in that it’s basically a wish-fulfillment fantasy about reclaiming your masculinity and not being a put-upon office worker. (Mildly spoilery stuff follows.) Continue Reading »

One Time Only Biweekly Movies, June 2-15

So like, my life is getting eaten by thesis and a sudden urge to cook and do nothing all the time. So this one’s short and also late.

The other big time-eater has been my rekindled love of So You Think You Can Dance. Joshua & Katee are my favourite couple so far, but honestly, I keep feeling bad for all the poor contempo boys that are too “twee” or “not masculine enough” or alternately get praise for being a “real man.” There was always an undercurrent of those issues on the show, but I always rationalized it in terms of the dancing being about playing a role, and that part of that role included a fairly conventional kind of masculinity, but this year maybe after reading all this gender-y stuff, it seems totally out of hand.

Anyway, onto movies:

  1. Sawdust and Tinsel (Ingmar Bergman, 1953): I really probably should know Bergman better than I do at this point. I liked this, mainly for the classic Bergman raw nerve school of acting, and Sven Nykvist cinematography. This was his first film for Bergman and I feel like you could really identify him in the way the images have this sort of flatness to them, sort of two-dimensional? I don’t think there’s much you can say about Bergman, but this starts out with a sweet semi-silent portrayal of a clown whose woman humiliates him which was really interesting.
  2. Motel Hell (Kevin Connor, 1980): It’s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, only without all the actual scary parts, and with Rory Calhoun playing a farmer/butcher who, uh…there are people in the sausages. Reading the wiki page and looking at the post reproduced there — “You might just die…laughing!” — it was apparently supposed to be a comedy, so that’s a plus, because it kind of failed at being scary. The weirdest thing about it was how much better an actor Rory Calhoun was than everyone else in the movie, so there was sort of an unintentional (or intentional?) John Waters casting effect where the styles of acting are so different that it’s immediately distancing.
  3. The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963): So despite the fact that I am the film studies major in the relationship, Alex was actually the one who picked this. It’s a three-hour long historical drama about the slowly fading aristocracy in 19th century Italy, and I think how much you enjoy the movie is directly related to your response to that sentence. It does a really great job of evoking how stifled and stilted aristocratic life was for the characters, but that atmosphere means you wind up with a really stilted and stifled movie. So I certainly appreciated it, in the way that I appreciate historical museums full of insanely detailed costumes and objects, but I don’t know that I liked it. It’s not really my favourite kind of movie; neorealism’s great, but it’s just not my thing. (This isn’t neorealim per se, but Visconti was a neorealist and you can certainly see the influence in the long takes and the emphasis on everyday life over grand historical moments.) I did appreciate the metacinematic touch that the patriarch who is aware that he is on the way out is played by classic Hollywood star Burt Lancaster, and the young folks who represent “the future” are played by new wavey Euro stars Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale.
  4. Zero Patience (John Greyson, 1993): So I am a little bit in love with this movie. It’s a debunking of the whole story that this one Air Canada flight attendant brought AIDS to North America (“Patient Zero”) and there’s a lot of didactic “educational film” stuff in there and it’s really pro-AIDS activism, but it also is a musical with a love story between Patient Zero’s ghost and Victorian sexologist Sir Richard Francis Burton, who is still alive and living in Toronto and trying to make a sensationalistic museum exhibit about Zero in the movie. Dick sings my favourite song in the movie, “Culture of Certainty” which includes a “Let’s all be empiricists” chorus. There is also a song about gay sex that is actually sung by assholes. What I love is that the whole movie’s such a goofy pastiche, but by the end, there is still something sweetly touching when Patient Zero’s finally able to disappear, with the water and the smoke and the video machine and Sir Richard Francis Burton (who also apparently can’t disappear since his “unfortunate encounter with the fountain of youth) obviously touched.
  5. C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Valée, 2005): Another gay-themed Canadian movie this week. This is in a lot of ways your standard coming-of-age story, with a whole thing with him (the gay son that the dad couldn’t accept and he also couldn’t really accept his own gayness) needing to go to Jerusalem and find himself and everything, but what I really liked was that it’s also a movie about record collections as a way of marking time and also father-son bonding. It’s also a very well-done coming-of-age story; I’m not really a fan of the Bildungsroman thing, but I like when movies about childhood skew heavily subjective, so you get that sense of how everything is really big and scary and little moments turn into huge traumas.

Weekly Movies, May 26-June 1

Weekly Movies is incredibly late this week because my whole life kind of got taken over by Big Academic Conference, which came to my town, and then I apparently forgot to actually publish the post. So sorry on both counts!

  1. Jesus Christ Superstar (Norman Jewison, 1973): Oh, I’m in love with this movie I could write a book about it. Jesus movies aren’t usually really my cup of tea, but this one gets it right by making the Jesus story work in terms of politics and history without really diminishing the whole son-of-God thing. It kind of leaves the God part open to interpretation: it doesn’t suggest Jesus didn’t perform miracles or wasn’t the son of God, but it also doesn’t actually show any of those miracles or anything, and in fact takes a bunch of time to acknowledge that what we’re watching is a performance, so you could either take it as a retelling of hugely important historical events or, you know, the actual God parts.
    Also, how gay is Judas for Jesus in this movie? Pretty gay, is the answer. I thought I was reading too much into the way they were acting with each other, like the way Jesus takes Judas’s hand and is all “Think while you still have me, move while you still see me” and they totally seem to communicate with their eyes what Jesus is getting ready to do, not to mention how jealous he is of Mary Madgalene. But Judas’ reprise of Mary Magdalene’s big ballad “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” is pretty much the clincher.

    FYI I talk about the endings of recent movies that aren’t from the Bible (wherein: yes, Jesus dies for our sins) after this. Continue Reading »

Weekly Movies, May 19-25

  1. Sixteen Candles (John Hughes, 1984): I have to confess, I kind of hated this. I wanted to like it, I love The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, so I kind of figured I’d like this. But…uh, there is some rape in it? That is not portrayed as horrible and ugly but as though it’s like somehow nice that the rich popular dude “gives” his passed out drunk girlfriend to a nerdy virgin to drive home. And then she wakes up in the morning and is nice to him, and tells him that she “enjoyed” it. Uh, ew. The morning after, or how did she keep her hair?
    Also that whole Long Duck Dong thing is also kind of racist? It could have not been, but it so, so was. The Molly Ringwald can’t catch a break bits are actually pretty funny, as are the John Cusack and that other guy geek chorus, and I get the whole Bakhtinian carnival thing1 but the whole thing, it’s kind of gross. I realize it’s supposed to be a classic for our times, but it has not aged well at all.
    Don\'t worry, Molly, things will get better!
    I still love you, Molly Ringwald!
  2. What Have I Done To Deserve This?! (Pedro Almodóvar, 1984): This holds up really really well; it’s Almodóvar’s fourth film and the cinematography and storytelling are leaps and bounds above the first three. It’s not as polished or bright as the stuff that came after and that really made him famous, but I found it surprisingly enjoyable to watch again.
  3. The Law of Desire (Pedro Almodóvar, 1987): I’ve probably said contradictory things before, but this is my favourite Almodóvar. Things I like: it is beautiful, visually daring in cinematography and fantastically overwrought in mise-en-scene, with ’80s fashion and kitsch altars; you get gay love treated as just part of life, without any kind of weird stress or hysteria, that may not seem like a big deal now, but it sure as hell was in 1987; young, crazy Antonio Banderas, in repressed gay love with Eusebio Poncela, seduced by his movies; Carmen Maura’s performance as the transsexual Tina is still one of the best things I have ever seen, she seems so aware of her body and she seems to feel everything so unabashedly. This was the movie that made me fall in love with Almodóvar. Mirrors!

  1. “Who’s he?” “He’s me.” “Then who are you?” “I’m him.” 

Weekly Movies, May 12-18

There is actually only one weekly movie this past week, because of a brief trip to exotic Ottawa (and actually exotic Gatineau as well) for family stuff.

  1. Matador (Pedro Almodóvar, 1986): This one’s really grown on me since the first time I watched it. I think my problem was that I was looking too hard for stuff below the surface when obviously the surface was the whole point. So instead of doing a capsule review and image (which I could do, I promise, I’ve been writing my ass off about this movie), here are my top 5 Matador frame grabs in the giantest files ever: Continue Reading »

Weekly Movies, May 5-12

Weekly Movies is probably going to be short on detail this week. I hurt my back and it still hurts to type a little. I did watch movies and not spend the whole week being obsessed with Gossip Girl, I promise. (Oh, but while we’re on GG: an entire (awesomely detailed) tumblr devoted to the greatest episode of TV ever.)

  1. Labyrinth of Passions (Pedro Almodóvar, 1982): This is Almodóvar’s second film, when he still was a wacky, trashy punk. How many Academy Award-winning directors have appeared in their own films, in drag, performing a New Wave song that if I’m not mistaken is partly about having sex with rats in the sewer? I’m guessing not very many. Almodovar and McNamara
  2. Waiting For Guffman (Christopher Guest, 1996): I had never seen this, but I had seen Best In Show. This is better. It actually really reminded me of the best episodes of The Office, because you have the mockumentary factor, the fact that these are people whose lives you don’t necessarily envy and whose denials you can see through, but there’s still something really beautiful about them. I really loved the one guy on town council or whatever who was just completely enraptured with Corky. Waiting For Guffman
  3. Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2007): Okay, I’m not going to lie. This isn’t (as I’d hoped), a secret masterpiece. It’s not a good movie. Some parts of the story still don’t make sense, and not in a “man, this movie’s so complex” way, in a “there is no explanation for this chain of events” way. I was kind of okay with that, because all the porn stars and Marxists and WWIII and the oil running out and the scary government internet surveillance and the Rock being wrapped up in this big, sprawling messy narrative where everyone in the movie ends up riding a zeppelin kind of captures something real about the culture, even if I do think it was at least half accidental. But, more importantly, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Every scene with Sarah Michelle Gellar is comedy gold (I’d really forgotten ho funny she is); and obviously all the Amy Poehler and Cheri Oteri stuff was also actually funny, because Richard Kelly was all up with the political satire, but he still seemed to get that a lot of “Marxists” are really lame. For me though, the highlight was definitely Justin Timberlake, scarred and on drugs, lipsynching to “All These Things That I’ve Done” and pouring beer all over himself. Don’t ask me why.
    Justin’s got soul but he’s not a soldier
  4. Romance & Cigarettes (John Turturro, 2006): This is another neo-musical (which Southland Tales almost is), with actors singing along with old songs that express their feelings, and the ways that the musical sections, which start out clearly coded as fantasy, kind of seep into the world of the movie a bit. This one is strange, but it’s actually worth seeing. There’s an amazing cast (James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Amy Sedaris, etc), it’s set in a working-class neighbourhood, it’s really depressing, and I have been thinking a lot about pop cultural nostalgia, of which this movie is a really interesting example. It’s like Woody Allen movies, in that it’s apparently set in the present day, but all the references are about a generation too old for everyone. Romance & Cigarettes

Weekly Movies, April 28-May 4

If anyone’s been breathlessly following my academic career, what’s up is that I’m finished all my coursework, but I still have like 80 pages of thesis left to write this summer. So I of course went to the movies twice this week. I still haven’t seen Baby Mama or Harold and Kumar, both of which I want to.

  1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller, 2008): I know a lot of feminist critics are way more down on Judd Apatow than I am (as are some of my feminist friends), and I totally get why but I respectfully think that focusing on dudes isn’t necessarily a flaw, it’s only a flaw because there are so few movies that do focus on women. (I definitely don’t agree with everything in that Manohla Dargis piece, especially not her characterization of Legally Blonde as another Pretty Woman or “one of those aspirational comedies in which women empower themselves by having their hair and nails done.” Legally Blonde is such a rare win for lady-films because it’s actually about a young woman empowering herself by being awesome at law school. But, it’s interesting.) Anyway, I feel bad that I’ve placed this whole disclaimer because I shouldn’t have to apologize for liking this movie. It’s delightful. Jason Segel is probably the most likeable of the whole Apatow crew and so makes the most sense as a (kind of) romantic hero. Also, while I question the fact that this movie relies on average-looking dude Jason Segel having to choose between such phenomenal hotties as Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis, it is only because it’s unfair that Segel gets to be average-guy goodlooking, but the women in the movie have to be Hollywood goodlooking. (Obviously it makes plot sense in terms of Kristen Bell’s character, who is a TV star, but you know.) Anyway, the point is, it’s a delightful movie. Everyone’s funny, including K-Bell, whose character doesn’t actually turn out to be evil and you do get a sense of why she liked Segel’s character Peter in the first place (and also why he liked her); they kind of leave her character on a weird note, but it’s not really a complete villainization and the movie is kind of better if you pretend that scene didn’t happen (you will know the one I mean if you have seen the movie). Also, and mainly, the funny. Kristen Bell’s character Sarah Marshall is on a crime show that gets cancelled during the course of her vacation — which was, I believe, shot around the same time last year that Veronica Mars got cancelled; and they have this whole joke about this horror movie “she” made about how people die through their cellphones — which sounds an awful lot like Pulse: you know I love the meta. While I’m at it I should probably address the comical presence of penis in the film, given my late preoccupation with cinematic penis. I think it’s nice that they’re trying to make the male frontal nudity less taboo in general, but it was interesting to me that the joke wasn’t even that he was naked, the joke — the thing that got the laugh — was that they showed the penis at all.
    Plus — no one told me this before going in — a major plot point involves a Dracula puppet musical that Segel’s character is writing. This means that Jason Segel actually wrote some of said Dracula puppet musical, which basically means that I love him. (According to some interview on youtube, he actually was working on it in real life, to “launch his career.” Also, he’s writing the new Muppet movie, which means I love him even more.) Anyway here is an unnervingly literal slideshow video someone made of “Dracula’s Lament”:
  2. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963): So Godard was kind of a misogynist, but man, he makes beautiful movies. Every frame of Contempt is a work of art, even if I thought the film was flawed. The story is about this couple whose marriage is falling apart because the wife (Brigitte Bardot, constantly being beautiful and wearing wigs and changing her clothes) tells her husband she hates him. There is also a whole meta-movie thing, because the husband is a screenwriter for Fritz Lang’s adaptation of The Oddyssey, a story which everyone reads differently to suit their own view of the world. Jack Palance is definitely a highlight for me, as the movie’s over the top American producer who can barely contain his glee when he sees naked chicks in the dailies. I don’t really like movies that are like “women, how mysterious and changeable they are,” but at least this one seemed to acknowledge in its ambiguous characterization of Bardot’s character, that the mystery is essentially still the man’s problem. Again, both beautiful and misogynist at the same time I did love the trailer though:
  3. Pepi, Luci, Bom, and Other Girls of the Heap (Pedro Almodóvar, 1980): This is Almodóvar’s first film, and it’s certainly not his best work, but it is interesting. One thing that is surprsingly on display, even here, is the sense of the law as not really meaning very much, and trying to decide what that means: Pepi gets raped by a policeman and reacts by getting her friends to beat him up; Luci’s husband (the policeman) tries to use the law to get his wife back from her sadomasochistic relationship, but that doesn’t work, so he eventually gets her back by beating her up (which is forgivable because she wants to get beaten up, and yes I realize how problematic it is to have a movie whose main storyline is kind of a tortured excuse for spousal abuse but you have to understand, it’s about a suspended morality). Sorry, I’m getting all thesis-y on you there. bom in spanish drag
  4. Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008): Okay so first off, Robert Downey Jr. is absolutely the perfect guy to play Tony Stark — he brings a lot of charm and danger that are absolutely necessary — and this movie is a pretty huge amount of fun. I could have done without the self-sacrificing minority character or the strangely doting female assistant, but they were sort of the least gross versions of either of those action movie tropes possible. I think it was really interesting in its politics. Alex and I were talking on the way home, and I made the observation that if they had wanted to, the movie could have taken a way harder line against the military than it did, but that it probably didn’t because a) this movie is a commercial property in America in 2008 and b) they likely had the cooperation of the US military in filming (which the internet confirms). Alex says (and I agree) that they weren’t explicitly pro-military, they just weren’t anti-military. But to my mind, that’s kind of conspicuously neutral, especially given the real-world situations the movie was about: the story is that Tony goes (awesomely) vigilante to destroy the weapons he designed that had been sold to the “bad guys” in Afghanistan and save the Afghani villagers that they are killing. But of course, in real life if Afghani war lords have US weapons, they likely didn’t get there because one corporate guy acting alone; everyone knows the US military (and their allies in Afghanistan) are fighting guys they helped train. Also, it’s kind of logically inconsistent to decide that making weapons is wrong and you shouldn’t do that because they might wind up killing innocent civilians. But…the US army’s bombs aren’t exactly not killing civilians, you know? It was smart and actually makes it a more interesting movie that someone with different politics could actually watch it and wind up coming to a completely different political conclusion.
    Also worth pointing out, from this io9 review: “It’s best to view Iron Man as a cyborg narrative rather than a superhero one, especially since it follows very few of the superhero conventions. [...] Because the super-suit is powered by the same glowy disk that keeps Tony alive, we’re never able to forget that it’s an extension of his body rather than a costume.” Iron Man

Contempt still via lj film stills community

Weekly Movies, April 21-27

It’s a bit late this week because of school-related exhaustion, and the first two are repeats that I’m kind of written out about.

  1. El Sacerdote (Eloy de la Iglesia, 1978): I’m so in love with this movie, I could talk about it all day. I love how his relationship to Catholic doctrine is borne out on his body, what with the self-flagellation and the increasingly extreme measures of mortification of the flesh.
  2. Dark Habits (Perdo Almodóvar, 1983): This one’s still also amazing. I love the nun-cabaret bit at the end the most.
  3. Padre Padrone (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, 1977): I actually rented this one by accident. I wouldn’t say that I really enjoyed watching it — it’s kind of the platonic ideal of “Italian art film that won the Palme D’Or” — but it was good at what it was doing. It’s the depressing but kind of inspirational tale of Gavino Leddo this shepherd who’s pulled out of school at a young age to tend sheep all by himself and get beaten by his dad a lot, but eventually becomes a linguist. There’s lots of shots of the unforgiving Sardinian landscape and sounds of harsh winds blowing, and also a lengthy bestiality montage that is intercut with sex with actual women. Which, is as gross but kind of impressive. It’s a seriously good movie, if you enjoy tales of child abuse and hardship; even the “hopeful” ending is kind of brief. It doesn’t really sell that American-style pull yourself out of hardship and everything’s cool Hollywood version of triumph over adversity.
  4. Grand Theft Auto (Ron Howard, 1977): Okay, I never thought I’d recommend a Ron Howard movie, but this was amazing. It’s basically a comedy version of Vanishing Point, with the high-speed car chases and the radio DJ narrating the whole thing, only instead of a dude driving as fast as he can to (basically) his death with no clear motivation, you have a couple racing to Vegas to get married. Like all American comedies, it’s really about class: she borrows her Daddy’s Rolls (and eventually winds up driving it into a demolition derby) and they’re running off to get married because Daddy doesn’t approve of her less-than-rich boyfriend. (At one point he literally yells “Get out of my mansion!” — it’s amazing.) Anyway, all the rich people steal various cars and crash into other cars and offer rewards and there’s a lot of chaos and car crashes that don’t hurt anyone every five minutes; and everyone’s in totally inappropriate cars, like some kind of automotive Bakhtinian carnival. Oh, so they are being chased by: the plutocracy (her rich fake fiance, who doesn’t take off his polo helmet for the whole movie), religious orthodoxy (a greedy Evangelist priest) and the “patriarchy” (her dad, who totally has a CIA-like operation designed to get her back). Awesome. (See also: Arbogast on Film on Grand Theft Auto). Marion Ross Flips a Cop Off And Wins My Heart
  5. 13 Going On 30 (Gary Winick, 2004): I always try to see the good in movies, especially “chick flicks,” because I think that being designed primarily for women doesn’t necessarily make a movie suck. But this movie? I can’t stop thinking about how many different ways this movie bothered me. I started to watch it on TV because I think Jennifer Garner (or as I still call her, “Alias”) is pretty charming and “Female Big! How bad could it be?” The answer: pretty bad. Setting aside the lazy timeline — you have a 13-year-old in 1987 who likes “Jessie’s Girl,” which came out in 1981; has memorized the “Thriller” dance, which came out in 1983; and then later does “Love Is a Battlefield,” which also came out in 1983 — it’s one of those awful “women can have a career or be good and have a boyfriend” movies. At first I thought it was about innocence and choices, because we find out that Jenna (J. Garner’s character) has been transported into her future body at just before the time she started being a kind of a selfish jerk. So she has a chance to see how she’s lost out on love because she’s apparently spent the last years being kind of an asshole while climbing the corporate ladder at a fashion magazine. There’s a whole lot of talk about how you can’t go back and undo your choices. But (and I’m giving away the ending) — of course — the movie ends with her getting to go back and undo her bad choices. Her reward: eating fucking disgusting gum candy and being married to Mark Ruffalo who’s a “cool” photographer. High powered careers that are everything you ever dreamed of are too scary and hard! I found it especially galling that all the things that she and Judy Greer (her magazine frenemy who happens to have been the popular girl in high school) are castigated for were things typically associated with femininity: they’re basically “in trouble” for buying into what the magazine they now work for was selling them when they were kids. Also, the fact that the choice was this zero-sum professional success or true luv thing, is just, no. It’s also, like, not really entertaining: it’s not particularly funny and the love story isn’t particularly convincing, mainly because you have no idea what that dude sees in her, especially given that for most of the story she has the mental and emotional maturity of a THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD. I’ve been obsessing about how much I hated this movie for days now. The whole thing was just this weird fantasy about getting out of being responsible for your mistakes by reverting to your youth combined with a lot of sad fucked up ideas about where women’s priorities should be. Least Spontaneous Dance Routine Ever

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