September 1, 2014
I’m back. Trying to find my feet — it was a long, full, eventful trip, and I’m still trying to get all my notes together to write a report. It felt like I was gone for months, but now that I’m home it feels like I never left. Strange. So, until I can figure out what to write about it all, I bring you an edition of Movies on Airplanes; that is, movies watched on tiny screens with bad sound and too many of those little bottles of wine (they’re free on British Airways, you know).
This low-key science fiction flick got a lot of buzz late last year, but I was skeptical, because I remember watching Electric Dreams when I was a kid. But now I’ve seen it, and I thought it was hilarious. The trouble is, I’m not sure it was supposed to be hilarious. There’s actually some very good science fiction going on here, with a reasonable near-future look at a world that is just slightly further along than ours, including mustaches being fashionable and phone OS’s that are smart enough to fall in love. (Or dumb enough to fall in love, which I think may be the message here.) Tell me — was the main character supposed to be sympathetic? Because I thought he was kind of a douche, the kind of person with a great life who always manages to find the black lining to everything. There’s precisely one healthy relationship in the whole movie (featuring Chris Pratt, who I loved seeing after Guardians), and I’m pretty sure the movie was trying to convince me that actual relationships with meat humans is nigh unto impossible. The OS’s — not just Samantha but all of them — eventually realize this and all depart off for some AI utopia of their own making, which is really the smartest thing anyone does in the movie.
Oh, and there’s a magical book deal in the movie, which is when I really started laughing. You know the one I’m talking about: Oh honey, you’re such a genius that a publishing company wants to make a book out of you! Isn’t that great? Here it is! (It so doesn’t work like that. . .not even mentioning the part where everything he’s written for his company is likely work-for-hire owned by either the company or his clients, and not actually available to be published anywhere…)
So yeah. I’m just going to pretend like this whole thing was supposed to be dark comedy. I laughed, anyway.
The Lego Movie
You know what this reminded me of most? Brazil. With product placement. It even had an ear-worm inducing theme song.
(For the record, the 1980’s space Lego were always my favorite. We had a ton of those things.)
August 27, 2014
Since I don’t really follow any of the TV shows that are running new episodes now (I’ve tried to watch True Blood but I just get really confused), it really has felt like the summer hiatus seasons of old, when you catch up on old things and watch videos — and also go outside and play instead of watching anything at all, which I’ve done quite a bit of. Huzzah!
Rewatched: Galaxy Quest, which holds up surprisingly well. I’m not sure it needs the sequel everyone’s been talking about, but I’m suddenly curious as to what such a premise would turn into if the source show was, say, Battlestar Galactica. As a recent meme I encountered says, Harry Potter fans would love to go to Hogwarts, Narnia fans would love to go to Narnia, and Hunger Games fans are all, “No thanks, we’re good.”
Brazil: Holy crap, this movie is way, way more scary and upsetting than the last time I saw it, maybe 10 years ago. The bureaucracy parody stuff was always spot on, but this time the terrorism thread really jumped out, and it was really. . accurate. “And why do you think this terrorist scare has been going on for 13 years?” “Bad sportsmanship!” My groups of friends and I sat there gaping at the TV. We are closer to that world than we ever have been.
Watched: The Hollow Crown, or at least much of it. This is a recent BBC miniseries of a set of Shakespeare’s Histories — Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 (See, guys, this whole sequel mania thing isn’t new!), and Henry V. Jeremy Irons as Henry IV, Tom Hiddleston as Henry V. SWOOOOOOOON. I cannot stop swooning at this man. When he comes on the scene wearing an oxblood red leather doublet, his gilded hair in waves, grinning. Wow. Plus, Shakespeare is just so damned sexy. Really sexy. I’m trying to figure it out, and it has something to do with him codifying modern English in way that no one had ever done before. So many turns of phrase started with him — or he’s the one who wrote them down first, and cleverest. For me, hearing Shakespeare done well is like hearing the source code for English zapping straight into my hindbrain. So sexy. (See, this is how I know that English was definitely the right major for me.)
Also, I didn’t realize how tall Hiddleston is until watching these. In the Marvel movies he’s surrounded by all these very tall, very buff, superheroic dude-guys, and he looks like the short skinny nerd guy. Turns out, he’s 6’2″ (I looked it up) and he’s half a head taller than everybody else in The Hollow Crown. He looms. It’s cool.
August 18, 2014
August 11, 2014
What, you didn’t think I was going to pay money to see anything with Michael Bay’s name attached to it, did you?
So, I recently (a few months ago) re-watched the first live-action movie from 1990, featuring animatronic turtles from the Henson Creature Shop. Guys? This movie holds up really well. It was cute and fun then, and it’s cute and fun now. Splinter still brings a tear to my eye. And the biggest surprise? Watching it again I realized — the April/Casey flirting scenes are actually pretty hot. Huh, who knew?
August 4, 2014
One of the reasons I like the Marvel movies so much is that I just get so darned excited about them. I haven’t fangirled this hard over anything since the first few years of The X-Files. It’s nice to have something to get excited about. Even if I do end up spending way too much time online searching for things like “dancing baby groot.”
August 2, 2014
I’ve never seen anything like this.
I mean, I have. This is the ragtag group of misfits on the run who must come together and learn to trust each other in order to defeat bad guys who want to destroy the world. That, I’ve seen. But never with a CGI raccoon person that was so good I forgot he was CGI. And with gorgeous spaceships in a beautiful four-color space opera world. And that’s genuinely a comedy. With an amazing classic 70’s soundtrack that was totally appropriate. (And to think, when the 1980 Flash Gordon came out, people laughed at the idea that you could have a 70’s pop soundtrack on a space opera. They’re not laughing now. I mean, they are, but they’re supposed to be.) The whole thing cohered.
And though I’ve never seen anything quite like this, it kept reminding me of other things.
For a few years after Star Wars was first released, a lot of people tried to hop on that train, because of course they did. Unfortunately, none of those efforts had Lucasfilm’s proprietary special effects processes, meticulous production design, charming cast, earnestness, or ability to become a genuine cultural phenomenon. The Star Wars-wannabe I always think of as being a prime example of this is Battle Beyond the Stars, produced by the legendary Roger Corman. Go on, go watch the trailer, so you can understand just what we’ve had to put up with if we wanted to watch space opera.
So yeah, I’m watching Guardians and weirdly thinking about Battle Beyond the Stars, because of course Guardians is the movie all those Star Wars knock-offs wished they could be.
The other movie this brought to mind, mentioned by one of my friends, is The Last Starfighter. Because Guardians made us feel like The Last Starfighter did when we were all teenagers or almost teenagers and really wanted to go have an adventure that meant something.
While Guardians made me think of all those other things, it still isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever seen before. Which is so cool. And you know my developing rant about how we’re all starved for earnest and optimistic stories where people come together and save things unironically? This. This this this. Right here. They just went for it, and it’s great. This movie is a throwback, in the best possible way, which makes the 70’s soundtrack even more thematically appropriate.
You know what this movie didn‘t have? An opening scroll and/or voiceover. SEE, SPACE MOVIES, YOU DON’T NEED AN OPENING SCROLL AND VOICEOVER OR LONG EXPOSITORY INFODUMPS. YOU JUST DON’T.
Easter Eggy Review:
The epilog/first pre-credits bit: This may be the happiest, most joyful scene in a movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Even now I think of it and smile. This will make me smile forever.
Post-credit Easter Egg: Marvel Studios says, “You thought you were going to get an Avengers 2 teaser here, didn’t you? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!” Followed by everyone leaving the theater muttering, “Dear God, please tell us they aren’t actually going to be making a movie of that.“
Ten movies into this cycle/saga, and Marvel Studios can still surprise us. I love it.
July 21, 2014
I cry a lot while watching movies and reading books and looking at art and. . .well, I cry a lot. It doesn’t even have to be sad, it just has to be beautiful. If something is beautiful, emotional, and hits me right in that vague spot where my sense of wonder and heart live, I’m going to cry. The opening credits of Lilo and Stitch, for example, make me cry. I’ve been thinking a lot about how that works this week, because of a couple of things.
During my trip, my connecting flight out of Chicago Midway was delayed, and I was kind of miserable. The airport was super crowded, loud, uncomfortable, and for whatever reason I just didn’t have the reserves of willpower to deal with it. So I thought, “I’ll hide in a corner and read my favorite comic books.” (I have like 50+ comics on my iPad at this point.) So I picked a random issue of Planetary, which I suspect is going to be my favorite comic for the rest of my life unless something really amazing comes along. I only got about four pages in before I had to stop because I was crying. Part of it was I was already kind of emotional and upset. And part of it was I just love this book so much, and being with these characters made me so happy, I couldn’t contain myself. It was this specific scene that tipped me over:
Elijah: We keep angels here.
Jakita: I don’t like that I didn’t know about this, Elijah.
Elijah: I know.
– Planetary, #19, Warren Ellis.
There’s a ton of characterization in these lines. When Elijah says, “I know,” he isn’t being snippy or confrontational. He’s sad. He’s made mistakes and he’s trying to amend them — he didn’t tell her about the angels before, but he’s telling her now. Because of how much he cares about her. They’re a team. And I started crying because I love these characters so much. (That thing I talked about last week, about how tired I am of stories where people in dire circumstances are constantly being horrible to each other? Planetary is the exact opposite of that. It’s about unironically saving the world.)
Objectively there was no reason that scene should have tipped me over. I’ve probably read it a half a dozen times before without crying. But this time — yeah, it got me.
Then I went to see Jersey Boys, because sometimes I do go see movies that aren’t science fiction, and I grew up listening to The Four Seasons because that’s the kind of music my parents listened to, and I just adore their music. So this one? It starts, the screen is dark, and an instrumental version of “Oh What a Night” plays as the opening credits starts. And not two bars in I started crying.
(Aside: I really enjoyed Jersey Boys, both because of the music and because I was sitting next to my full-blooded Italian friend who completely and utterly lost it from laughing during one scene that he said happened pretty much exactly like that during his own childhood. Indeed, I was impressed at how many people in the movie talk just like the people in his stories about growing up.)
So, for me, this emotional jugular, this thing that makes me instantly cry after just two bars of music or two lines of dialog, is as much about memory as about story or mood or wonder or greatness. It’s something that makes me happy, something that I remember making me happy. It’s a cozy blanket for the brain, and I love that.