Category Archives: 366 movies in 366 days

Father of the Bride as it should be watched

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Leo approved.

For those of you keeping track (me), I still haven’t finished watching “Afternoon Delight” but I did get to revisit “Father of the Bride” as it should be watched – on VHS and with a glass of Miller Lite at my side.

Let me be clear, I am talking about the classic 1991 (the year that brought us the equally nostalgic “My Girl” and me the lakeside house in Wisconsin where I have watched it many, many times) version of this film starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams and Martin Short as Frank, “It’s pronounced FRAHNK Dad.”

I understand that my critical acclaim for this film may be a product of nostalgia and anyone in my generation watching it for the first time now (although I assume this is not possible) would not appreciate the countless “It was then I realized” monologues from George Banks, but I still think it holds up among other films I watched in my formative years.

“Career Opportunities,” which I remember LOVING as a kid, however, does not.

I am sure “My Girl” is also among the films from my early years I would still like, but honestly I think it’s too sad to watch again. Hey, bees, you’re the worst.

Luckily I can see Anna Chlumsky on “Veep” and “Father of the Bride” has a scene set to the song “My Girl,” so I don’t need to go down the road of watching that movie again.

Besides, this week I am actually going to see some new movies screening during the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.

Demetri Martin’s directorial debut “Dean” is screening Wednesday and I am seeing a Finnish film “Little Wing,” on Thursday.

Martin is one of my favorite comedians and I already know I like his movie. Now he just needs to start a podcast. Oh no, maybe he has one. I am not allowing myself to look that up because there are 87 episodes on my podcast playlist. Help.

I picked “Little Wing,” (similar to my wine selection strategy) because of the name. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young girl who sets out to find her father and the lead actress in the film will be there for the screening on Thursday.

I am not sure I will be able to see any other films as part of MSPIFF, but luckily the Cannes schedule has been announced and I can just jet off to France to see Sofia Coppola’s new film, “The Beguiled.”

While the film looks really dark, it’s one of the things that’s making me happy this week (stealing from my friends over at Pop Culture Happy Hour) as is the fact that “Mustang” director Deniz Gamze Ergüven has a new film, “Kings.”

I still go back to “Mustang” as one my favorite films from the 366 movies in 366 Days challenge last year so I am intrigued by his next project related to the Rodney King trial in 1992.

Among other happiness-makers, I am going to Marc Maron’s show on Saturday and I learned – because of a mention from my other friends over at Indiewire – that Matt Damon has a new movie, “Downsizing.” I can only imagine that it’s a spin-off of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”

Here is the actual description of the film, “A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.”

I always thought my chosen super power would be to be invisible, as long as I don’t inherit any of the fatal flaws that come with having said power, but this makes me rethink my decision. Basically, I just want to shrink down and hang out with Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig (she’s also in the movie) and have Alexander Payne tell us what to do.

(Weird) happiness defined.

Bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been lost on Kong: Skull Island

IMG_1710.JPGWell, I survived my movie challenge last year and (partially) as a result it’s been eight months since I’ve worked on this blog.

It’s fitting that my writing perch now has a view of my signed Mike Birbiglia poster (taken from the poster sale by a former coworker at the ol’ Edina Cinema) because my last post here was about Birbiglia’s film “Don’t Think Twice.” He did a Q&A about the film after the July 2016 screening at the Lagoon Cinema and, other than his obviously flawless and brilliant response to the questions I kept telling myself I would ask if I had the courage, I remember the breeze of comedic genius as he walked by my aisle seat to the front of the theater. Maybe I’ll meet him someday, but at the same time it’s enough for me to sit and listen and admire that he can sell out huge theaters and at the same time spend weeks touring to different cities doing Q&A’s and teaching improv classes to local comedians.

I could talk and write about him forever, but I didn’t come back here only to gush about Mike Birbiglia.

BUT I could keep going about him … no? Okay fine.

I know you’re all wondering about the side effects of watching 366 movies in one year (you can see the full list here) and I will say (Captain Obvious – be on alert, I’m about to steal your thunder) it’s too many movies and I think I missed some of the impact they would have had if I watched them at the pace of a normal person.

That said, there’s a good chance I would never get around to some of the classics and obscure films I made it through — “It Happened One Night,” “Charade,” “Prayer of the Rollerboys,” and “The Story of Ricky” come to mind.

This brings to mind another side effect of the challenge, any time someone asks me what my favorite or most memorable films are from last year, the answer always changes.

I should just carry my movie notebook around with me so I can consult the list and make sure I am really delivering the goods. (Dating tip: read from your movie, shopping, pet name, dream vacation, etc. list when things get awkward.)

I do have a movie notebook with my list now, which is another benefit of the challenge, although it makes me wish I had kept one all along so I would have a record of everything I’ve seen; and a tool for those extremely awkward date moments — like when a guy says you have nice veins. Um, so have you seen “Working Girl?”

This year, I only have nine movies to refer to compared to 75 by the end of this day last year when I watched “Upstream Color” and “That Touch of Mink.” Don’t ask me what they’re about.

The last movie I saw was “Kong: Skull Island” — mainly to see my girl Brie Larson and my boy Marc Evan Jackson, who delivers some great one-liners — my favorite being “Oh dear.” I can’t give away the context to that line, but just wait until you see it.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve also watched “Jackie,” “Pitch Perfect,” “Julieta,” “20th Century Women,” “Sing,” “Moonlight,” “Split,” “Baby Mama,” and the aforementioned “Kong: Skull Island.”

I knew very little about the film before seeing it and learned, from another former co-worker at the ol’ Edina Cinema when I stopped in there the other day, that the director– Jordan Vogt-Roberts — also made “The Kings of Summer.”

It’s an indie film that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, in my opinion, and represents a new trend of those directors breaking into the Hollywood blockbuster world with positive results: witty scripts and comedic actors coupled with special effects and action.

Another example: Colin Trevorrow made “Jurassic World” in addition to “Safety Not Guaranteed,” thus bringing together Chris Pratt, Lauren Lapkus and Jake Johnson and some pesky dinosaurs.

“Kong: Skull Island” has the right mix of action, humor (John C. Reilly) and heart and I hope the trend represented by the work of Vogt-Roberts and Trevorrow (who is making a “Jurassic World” sequel) continues.

As for me and my movie-watching challenge plans for the future, I think it’s to be continued …

I’ll see what I want to see and what I’m in the mood for this year (something I couldn’t always do in 2016) and next year might embark on a challenge of a smaller scale than 366 movies.

There are a lot out there I need and want to see and perhaps I’ll be ready to put some lipstick on and watch a ton of movies, again, by 2018.

Until then, I leave you with this reminder from Paul F. Tompkins to see ‘Kong: Skull Island” and one from me to see “The Kings of Summer.”

Don’t Think Twice

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I knew something would get me out of the blogosphere—or lack thereof for KatyLovesMovies—this  year, if only temporarily.

I stopped writing posts as part of my movie challenge because I thought I could spend that critical time watching other films (not to mention I was struggling to find the creative words to reflect my thoughts  on so many titles before moving on to watch the next one.)

I will get back into blogging in 2017 when I feel like don’t have  to do it and at times I feel inspired to write. Outside of that, this movie challenge has been really fun and I have seen a lot of great films there is a chance I wouldn’t have made it through in my lifetime.

That said I do have some source material I want to reflect on after the delight of being able to listen to Mike Birbiglia talk about his new film, Don’t Think Twice, on Monday at the Lagoon Cinema.

We sat in the front row on the end and Mr. Birbiglia walked right by me on his way to talk with the crowd of hipster Minnesotans, improv artists, movie lovers and the like.

I had the same experience when he talked after a screening of Sleepwalk with Me at the Uptown Theater and then sat in awe pondering whether I could work up the courage to ask a question.

I didn’t even really think about that too much this time, plus I am pretty sure there would be crickets chirping if I asked what I really wanted to know (other than learning the insights into his creative genius.)

Me: “Um, Mr. Birbiglia who would you pick to spend the night with if you were locked in a Target store –similar to the plot of the smash hit Career Opportunities –and why?” (It may come as a shock, but that movie does not hold up now.)

Birbigs: What is Career Opportunities? Could someone please get security?

I did think of one actual serious question during the talk, moderated by Star Tribune critic Colin Colvert.

Luckily for me a bold fellow who asked “What would you have done differently?” led Birbiglia to answer my question –that is after only a brief period of obvious hurt feelings about the question focusing on the film we just watched.  I also wanted to know what he learned about film-making between Sleepwalk With Me and Don’t Think Twice, which he determined the audience member was really asking – just in a passive-aggressive way.

It’s at this point I really wish I brought a notebook, or stolen the one Birbiglia had in is hand during the talk, but I do remember he said he wished he had captured more film and unscripted moments on set of Sleepwalk With Me.

All in all, I loved Don’t Think Twice. (No surprise there.)  I thought it was really well written and something any human at any point in their life could relate to –improv comedian or not. There were some dark moments I did not expect based on the trailer, but I think that’s what actually completed the movie—which also has a good share of humor and is in fact about a group of friends pursuing careers in comedy.

Birbiglia stars as one of the comedians, Miles, alongside Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, Tami Sagher and Keegan-Michael Key.

They all work on an improv team together at a theater that is closing down while trying to pursue other comedy aspirations; creating tension in the group. However, they are also brought closer together when dealing with other life struggles from relationships, loss and the like.

During his introduction to the Q&A Monday, Birbiglia said he couldn’t watch the film anymore because “he likes crying, just not every day.”

I kept it together during the film even though a lot of the moments hit home and I was dealing with all the emotions from Birbiglia’s impending appearance after the credits rolled. (In case you missed it, I love comedy and idolize comedians, A LOT.)

I just keep going back to what a delight it was to hear Birbiglia talk and go off on eloquent tangents from the audience’s questions that led to personal stories about his career.

I also don’t remember the first question for Birbiglia, I think it was from Colin Colvert, but his response was how he likes films that are about life and mirror people’s lives and that he sought out to make a film like that with Don’t Think Twice.

He also said, I think stemming from a question about what’s next in his career, that he feels directors and writers in Hollywood often get into a pattern of sorts and do the same thing over and over. He said they often make formulaic films and don’t try anything new, often because they don’t have to in order to get audiences to their films.

Birbiglia said he doesn’t want to do that in his career going forward. He wants to keep his films personal, or as he described in the one direct quote I do remember:  “I want to continue to give you my soul.” It was really heartfelt and shows how much he must love making people laugh and cry through his work. He reflects on that more in a director’s note about Don’t Think Twice.

That’s pretty admirable for an artist and comedian to just put it all out there in a creative work for everyone to see. For me, after much studying of their work and listening to podcasts, I know that’s what comedians do.

They take their personal ups and downs and craft them into what the rest of us can relate to and laugh at, not in a mean way, but because we’ve all been there.

I am grateful to Mike Birbiglia for sharing his work and thoughts behind it and hope people see this film. It is opening at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis and August and other Landmark Theatres throughout the U.S.

“That is all.”

Movie Week in Review: From The Fog to Love

There were some flops last week as part of my movie challenge.

fog_poster_06It started out strong with John Carpenter’s The Fog, a film I knew little about but enjoyed both for its visual effects and solid scares. The film, based on a fable about shipwrecked—possibly murdered—men who attack the village of Antonio Bay on the 100-year anniversary of their death, builds slowly but it was an effective style choice.

As the Antonio Bay residents anticipate the anniversary, a green, thick fog approaches the village. By the time the fog is in full force, and night falls, the victims are only able to see glimpses of the disfigured monsters as they seek revenge for what happened 100 years ago.

Carpenter’s score, much like in Halloween, completes the fear factor in the film.

A test of a good horror film, in my opinion, is how often you think of it after the fact or feel the need to check if the door is locked or, even worse, if there is a mangled monster hiding in your closet. In other words, if a film has the power to send you back to age 10 and to thinking checking the closet or under your bed at nightfall is going to help you survive – it passes the test for me. Films are all about imagination and The Fog—again with its fable influence—is a creative story with just the right amount of fright that holds up today.

The Fog and Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (now streaming on Netflix) are loosely connected in the strength of their visual styles. In fact, a rarity for Hitchcock, I think the visuals of To Catch a Thief are one of its stronger points over the script and acting. Hitchcock, at least the films I’ve seen so far, usually presents a triple threat but some components of To Catch a Thief faltered a bit. Cary Grant, as a retired jewel thief bumbling away at his French villa, and Grace Kelly as a tourist who takes to him (and wants to solve a mystery behind missing diamonds) shine together on screen. It’s hard to top that but, given that the film won an Oscar for best cinematography, its stylistic points to depict the mystery burglar and capture the beautiful French countryside were more memorable components of this Hitchcock picture.

Other than the wonderful Ali: Fear Eats the Soul,  which I found by happenstance at the library, the memorable moments from the films I watched last week dwindled a bit after To Catch a Thief.

I’ll save Ali: Fear Eats the Soul for last so as to end a high note, but Margaret and Urban Cowboy presented some dark times for me last week in cinematic history. Maybe I’m being a little over dramatic but not as much as Anna Paquin in her role as entitled teenager Lisa after she witnesses, or possibly causes, a horrific bus accident in New York City in Margaret.

I am still kind of baffled about how a strong cast of Paquin, Mark Ruffalo and Matt Damon (although his role is small and he can be blamed for nothing wrong in this world) can deliver such forced performances that lack any depiction of real emotion. The film is nearly three hours long and I stuck with it hoping their character depictions would improve, with no such luck. Paquin and Ruffalo, as the bus driver, have the biggest roles and lack any real tension even as they are at odds with each other about what happened on the day of the accident.  At one point in the film it seemed like some of the actors with smaller roles knew how bad it was and just flubbed through their lines on purpose. It was almost like watching one take of the movie being made live and they had to release whatever they made it through. I hope to find other people who saw Margaret, and made it beyond the violent bus accident scene, to know if I am just imagining how bad it was or if there is a different take on the film that I am missing.

The same is the case for Urban Cowboy, starring John Travolta, because I didn’t even watch the last 20 minutes. I tried, but the last hour of the film really went downhill, in my opinion. The first hour delivered what I expected as far as a 1980s story of a rural man moving to the big city to ultimately do the same things he did before with the addition of falling in love and getting married. It was like a less-serious Saturday Night Fever with nowhere near the depth and strength in it’s story but, at least at first, entertaining nonetheless. Someday I’ll have to watch those 20 minutes to technically count it in my challenge, but for now I don’t feel like I missed much.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, however, redeemed my week of ups and downs as a perfect, unexpected love story between a Moroccan migrant worker and a German woman 20-years his senior after they meet at a bar. The description on the library DVD sounded interesting, but I had no idea the film is so well regarded or that it is so wonderful.

It’s a simple story made deeper with its commentary on culture and society shown through the responses of Emmi and Ali’s friends and family to their unlikely relationship. Stylistically, not counting teh dialogue and music, it was beautiful to watch the camera angles that provided a voyeuristic view into the characters’ lives. Of all the movies I watched last week, I definitely recommend Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. We could all use something unexpected in our lives now and then.

“Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?”

Edgar Allan Poe

Movie Week in Review: More Spies and Romance and just a little 1980s action flick.

Hey hey all you international people of mystery. I just watched Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery again, taking me back to my high school days and watching it a lot in college, with the added treat of being able to see it on the big screen.

I saw one of my favorite comedians, Kurt Braunholer, at Acme Comedy Club last night and, after making sure to awkwardly introduce myself to him, got the bat signal there would be a midnight screening of the aforementioned Austin Powers at the  ol’ Edina Cinema.

The comedy show and then laughing a lot along with my theater compatriots made for a good night and all-in-all the ingenious Austin Power worth watching again. I have been trying to stay away from repeat watches, but some films warrant a pass this year.

I also watched Can’t Buy Me Love since I last stopped here on the Internet. I wasn’t going to count it in my challenge until it set in again how behind I am. It’s okay though because I think the film is a respectable work among the 1980s classics we all know and love that also delivered McDreamy long before he would be on Grey’s Anatomy for what seemed like decades.

The first season of that show was its best and, while I watched several others, I recommend  Can’t Buy Me Love if you’re in the mood for more Patrick Dempsey.

I also fit in an unknown (to me) 1980s gem, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, this week featuring future TV starlets Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt as rebellious private school students by day and aspiring “Dance TV” contestants by night.

Janey (Parker) is raised by a military father who installs alarms on their apartment building windows and interrupts her phone calls, but that’s not going to stop her from dancing … especially after she meets Lynne (Hunt.) Lynne encourages Janey to break the rules in order to spend weeks rehearsing in an uncomfortable leotard and the opportunity to be on national television.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun was part of the trifecta of other early-1980s dance films like Flashdance and Footloose and certainly helped set the stage for the genre. It was also a refreshing visit back to the 1980s before Can’t Buy Me Love because I knew little about the film and because now I have several ideas for this year’s Halloween costume.

Moving on, the theme of spies and romance (including Austin Powers) was still part of my selections this week … primarily in Notorious.

The 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film explores politics in near post-World War II society times and the powers of “suave spymaster” (as described in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) T.R. Devlin to convince Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) to be his mole on a mission to investigate Nazis in hiding in Argentina.

Huberman, as the daughter on of a convicted traitor, ends up being perfect for the job but is faced with mixed feelings about Devlin’s (Cary Grant) motives and whether she can ultimately trust him.

I love one of the first shots of Devlin in the film as he sits at a party hosted by Huberman not long after her father’s conviction. He is completely in the dark and shadows and, as Alicia sees him come into the light, there is an instant spark leading them on a troubled path to the mission in Argentina and the complications in their relationship.

review625.jpgNotorious is a flawless and brilliant work by Hitchcock as he continued to explore common themes and characters in the film in partnership with regular star Bergman and writer Ben Hecht. They also pushed the boundaries of the production code with the longest on-screen kiss between Alicia and T.R. that brought to light chemistry between Grant and Bergman.

Another film this week, April and the Extraordinary World, pushed cinematic boundaries in terms of its animation style and creativity, at least of what I’ve seen.

I’ll refer you over to a post about the film on Joyless Creatures that says it all in such a way that is as much of an artistic accomplishment as the French film, which specifically explores post-war society survival, invention and family bonds.

My initial reaction to April and the Extraordinary World was that it’s so imaginative and unique in my world of film and now I remain inspired by the story and its style. Plus there is a talking cat to tie it all together.

The Accidental Tourist also has a strong presence of an animal used as a literary tool in the form of Macon Leary’s (William Hurt) troubled Corgi who acts after the death of Leary’s son and divorce from Sarah (Kathleen Turner.)

Enter Muriel (Geena Davis in an Oscar-winning performance) who watches the dog while Leary must travel for work to write his next travel guide for businessmen.

Muriel instantly takes to pursuing Macon, which leads to an up-and-down relationship as he tries to figure things out with Sarah and process the loss of his son. The film is heavier than I thought it would be and centers on the exploration of relationships, loss and family.

There are some humorous undertones and comic relief, although mostly in a deadpan style by all the characters, a classic line being “He ate my turkey and didn’t get sick.”

The Accidental Tourist has been on my list to watch for a while and it must have been fate that a copy was available this week at the library, in addition to the consistent three copies of American Sniper and The Imitation Game.

maxresdefaultAnother fateful encounter at the library was with a lone copy Die Hard, resulting in the fact that “yippee-ki-yay-motherfucker” is now part of my vernacular (or at least my internal monologue.)

That’s obviously one of the most famous one-liners from the 1988 film, but some of my favorites also include “cute toy” when John McClane has to use the computer at his wife’s office building as well as his commentary on terrorists’ shoe sizes and the plight of TV dinners as he worms his way through a heating vent trying to find Hans Gruber.

“You bet your ass I wish to proceed.”

The special effects in Die Hard alone set it apart in the world of cinema and action movies, especially for 1988, and certainly increased Bruce Willis’ star factor.

I think Die Hard, even having just seen it, holds up and has universal appeal. I may be partial to independent films and have a weakness for romantic comedies, but Die Hard really has it all.

Yeah baby. (Too bad that also wasn’t one of John McClane’s lines.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Week in Review: Spies and Romance

audreyhepburn-carygrant-charadeBig news from last week, I made it to movie 100! The film I watched wasn’t exactly what I intended to for such a milestone in this challenge; but after yet another stressful day at the office I wanted to see something at the theater I also work at (a place that is oddly calming for me) and unwind a bit.

The First Monday in May, a documentary about the celebrity-filled Met Gala organized to raise money for exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is for the most part an entertaining glimpse at art, fashion and film while presenting a small argument that they are one in the same. The curator for the exhibit at the center of the documentary and Met Gala hubbub, Andrew Bolton, said fashion especially should be considered as art and wanted to reflect that in his display of outfits and costumes inspired by Chinese culture.

Documentaries can be hit or miss and I will say this one perhaps could have went deeper into its subject matter and the development of the exhibit vs. the seating arrangement of famous people at the Met Gala and Anna Wintour wearing her sunglasses indoors. Those topics were a bit superficial to cover, while the portions of the film that provided a peek into her work on the Met board while leading Vogue and Bolton’s lifelong dream to be a museum curator were worth the coverage and left me wanting more. My favorite part (yes other than Rihanna’s appearance and the awkward moment with Larry David on the red carpet), was also a brief mention of how fashion was part of film in Chinese history and cinema’s influence in Bolton’s exhibit. If you want to check out more work by director Andrew Rossi, I (although I’m little bit biased here because of my former career as a journalist) prefer Page One: Inside the New York Times. The First Monday in May is a visual accomplishment in documentary film making, but lacks a little bit on the storytelling side.

Moving on, Charade, mixed with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, started a theme of movies about spies and romance during the week also including An Affair to Remember and Badlands (minus the spies and plus a very dark and unsettling “love story.”)

MCDCOOF EC032Charade is one of the top films I’ve watched this year now and I really loved the build to the true dynamic between Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant’s characters as well as the secrets behind her husband’s death, his identity and the money at the center of everyone’s trust issues. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, from George Clooney and Charlie Kaufman, takes the memoir of game show host Chuck Barris to explore his rumored time as a CIA operative and how he balanced that with career and his love with Penny (Drew Barrymore.) In addition to being funny and mysterious, the film is visually on par using angles, close-ups on its characters and artistic technique to further tell the story. I’ve always liked Sam Rockwell, and this could be his best work that I’ve seen. He embodies Barris’ persona, yet makes it look effortless.

Badlands has the visual appeal carried by Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but the more I think about it, the harder it is to say I like the film. I think that’s because the characters, primarily Martin Sheen as a murderous wayward soul from the wrong side of the tracks, are so dark and nonchalant about their actions that I found it very hard to relate to them on any level. I often associate films with how they make me feel and memories of when or where I watched them in addition to their cinematic quality, so Badlands is hard to fit into that complete picture. That said, Sheen and Sissy Spacek are dynamic together on screen as forbidden lovers whose characters are loosely based on a real-life couple on a crime spree that ends in the badlands of South Dakota. I think the film must have also inspired True Romance (definitely one of my favorite films of all time), if nothing else through the use of this song as Clarence and Alabama embark on their own crime spree.

I switched from romance and crime in the beginning of the week to a healthy balance of comedy, space, science and a little horror to make it to movie 106 on Saturday. Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar is worth the three hours of time and will keep you guessing as to what will happen; especially in the last hour. I think, while I haven’t seen every space-themed movie, it’s one of the most (pardon the overuse) visually-appealing while being scientific, emotional and plus Matt Damon is in it. MATT DAMON!

I feel as though I am rambling at this point, but I do want to cover my last two entries of the week spanning the comedy-horror-parody genres: Best in Show and The Final Girls.

Christopher Guest’s look at the world of dog shows, in a “mockumentary” style, is pretty flawless and I could watch Parker Posey’s meltdowns over her dog and issues with her husband all day. I know nothing about the dog show world, but Guest seems to be spot on in his depiction while adding just the right amount of drama and quirk to his characters while they fight to be Best in Show.

Finally (bad segue) The Final Girls … one of many horror movie parody/tributes (think The Cabin in the Woods or even Scream) out there takes it to another level with a movie-in-a-movie format where the characters are challenged to find their way out by following the classic plot points used in the genre. Thomas Middleditch’s performance was my favorite in the film and it overall delivers a unique addition to what can be an overly-formulaic genre of movies.

Up next this week I am going to explore more Cary Grant films and want to collect enough titles to go on a binge of sports movies. There are a lot in 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (sadly Major League isn’t one of them) so it’s time I expand my horizons in that regard. I welcome any recommendations.

“When you are young, your potential is infinite. You might do anything, really. You might be Einstein. You might be DiMaggio. Then you get to an age where what you might be gives way to what you have been. You weren’t Einstein. You weren’t anything. That’s a bad moment.”

Chuck Barris – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Movie Week in Review: Music Royalty

Hey hey.

I’ve decided to take a new approach to this challenge and not blog about every movie right after I see it. I obsess too much about my blog posts, to the point where it may be detrimental to my writing and sanity, so instead I will attempt to write weekly recaps about my movie adventures.

My decision is also based on the fact that I need to spend more time watching movies and get caught up in this race. It hasn’t worked so far, but I think it will help on the weekends when I am watching four or five movies and won’t need to pause to express my critical non-genius on the Internet.

This week in watching ended up being largely focused on films with a connection to music, including Presenting Princess Shaw, Saturday Night Fever, Born to Be Blue and the most classic of them all Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

I missed the opportunity to see the director’s cut of Walk Hard Sunday when my manager screened it at the theater, the trouble being it was at midnight and I was movied-out that day (I wish that wasn’t a thing.) I just rented it on Netflix, the non-director’s cut, but definitely could deal with another hour or so of Dewey Cox this year when I have the time. I did fulfill my original plan for Sunday to watch Born to Be Blue and Walk Hard as a double feature and, while one is a strict biopic drama and the other is a complete farce, they are both brilliant and a perfect pairing.

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Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

I thought Born to Be Blue might be my new Whiplash (which I saw three times in the theater) this year and it did have the same effect of completely taking me into the story of the characters and the music. If I had the time, I know could watch Born to Be Blue over and over.

Born to Be Blue is a true story, depicting Chet Baker in his 40s and later in his career, with Ethan Hawke completely transforming into his character and persona. I didn’t even know I was watching him on screen most of the time, that’s how good he is in this film. Born to Be Blue is clearly a passion project for Hawke and director and writer Robert Budreau. Hawke even wanted to play Baker in a movie by Richard Linklater 20 years ago, but the project didn’t get off the ground. Hawke, in a Village Voice interview, said he’s felt like he’s been thinking about playing Baker in a movie for 20 years. That explains, perhaps, how he completely embodies Baker on screen. I didn’t even know much about Baker in real life but felt the opposite immediately upon seeing Hawke with trumpet in hand and crooning at Birdland in New York City. Hawke performs with a stylistically beautiful film in his background, juggling between color and black and white and different moments in Baker’s later life after he loses his front teeth and has to find a way to play the trumpet again. It seems he was happy in the end, but there was always a looming tone of sadness and heartbreak throughout the film — fitting with the final line by Hawke “Born to Be Blue.” (It doesn’t have spoilers, really, but after you see this film I definitely recommend listening to Hawke’s interview with Marc Maron on WTF.)

Whether you need some cheering up after Born to Be Blue or not, a good follow up is Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It presents the perfect parody of music biopics without being too silly and the comedic writing (Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan- also the director) was top-notch in my book. It mostly follows a similar story to that of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line but crosses over with applicable themes that are in most biopics: tragedy , addiction, death, career ups-and-downs, love and of course rising above challenges. Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly), the oldest looking 14-year-old ever, has a quick rise in his career even though he has no sense of smell and goes on spiral that every young pop star with a hit like “Take My Hand” is expected to have. Walk Hard hits all the right notes (sorry had to say it) and has so many good cameos, the scene with The Beatles has to be my favorite, and shows Reilly’s continued comedic genius alongside a cast of Jenna Fischer, Kristen Wiig, Tim Meadows, Matt Besser, Chris Parnell and so many other Saturday Night Live and improv comedy stars.

To conclude, okay I am nowhere near being done, I also watched Saturday Night Fever (a 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die recommendation) with John Travolta. I was mostly surprised about how dark the film is. It’s more a coming-of-age story about family and friendship with the 1970s Brooklyn disco scene in the background than an exploration of that era and dancing than I thought it was.

Travolta (Tony) spends his days at a paint store and nights at the disco club breaking in his platforms and bell bottoms until he realizes he really wants to dance all the time. He switches his days to the studio practicing with an older woman, Stephanie, to enter a disco competition. Tony smokes while dancing and is always in his skin tight silk shirt and bell bottoms while Stephanie is ready to work in the most uncomfortable-looking leotard. Those moments focus on the dance and bring you into the 1970s, but the film really is more about the characters at transitional moments in their lives they release through breaking out their boogie shoes until it all becomes too much. Gosh that does sound really dark, but it just is that type of film.All-in-all Saturday Night Fever somehow successfully bridges the gap between exploring a significant era in pop culture history and delivering a character-driven drama.

While it’s a documentary that may never have the fame of Saturday Night Fever, Presenting Princess Shaw could be known in that way years from now. I saw the film during the Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival this week followed by a  Q&A and after party with Princess Shaw herself.

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Princess Shaw

Princess Shaw, aka Samantha, grew up in Chicago with a rough childhood and moved to New Orleans as an adult. There she works with patients in nursing home, often singing to them, and at home makes YouTube videos of her songs. Across the world in Israel, Kutiman explores YouTube for musician’s work to make “mashups” between instrumentation and vocals. He comes across Princess Shaw’s work, including one video where she says she is looking for a beat to go with it, and the rest is history. It’s not so much about a “YouTuber” being discovered as it is a connection between two kindred spirits across the world and how success can come in unexpected ways to the most deserving people like Samantha. She graciously answered the audience’s questions after the film and it is evident she just wants to make her music, live her life and doesn’t expect any fame from it. I learned more about that listening to her talk at the after party. My friend and I sat at a big open table only to be bombarded by board members from MSPIFF and I was one seat away from Samantha. She is humble and again gracious in answering the board member’s questions, mostly about what YouTube is and if the story about how she and Kutiman found each other was authentic or “reenacted.” It was a little uncomfortable for me (mostly because of my self-diagnosed mid-30s social anxiety and awkwardness) as more and more board members crowded our table and I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise when I wanted to ask Samantha a question. BUT when they calmed down a bit and took a break to complain about the deejay being too loud I did ask her what her favorite movie is. The answer: Zombieland because of Bill Murray’s cameo role.

I like that. A lot.

It was a honor to be in the presence of Princess Shaw’s music royalty this week, even though she probably wouldn’t describe it that way, she is really a star in life and I admire her. The film will be out soon on Amazon, iTunes and the like and you must see it.

Okay folks, that is all. I did obsess about this blog quite a bit but once a week should be manageable.

“I think a healthy dose of doubt makes you better.”

Gary Oldman on Nerdist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

92 and 93 of 366: Five Easy Pieces and Carol

I AM SO BEHIND ON THIS CHALLENGE!

I feel better now after venting just a little, but if anyone has the power to stop time so I can catch up on my movies, please please please let me know.

I did watch two movies over the weekend; please hold your applause, Carol and Five Easy Pieces.

carol

I still can’t get the visual and audible elements from Carol, including the costumes, music and exterior scenery of 1950s New York, out of my mind.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara carry the film with a strong supporting cast of Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson but, even with its elements of conflict, romance and drama, the pace was a little slow.

Those elements make for dynamic story but I am still left with the feeling that not a lot happened in the film, and I’m not sure why.

Blanchett plays Carol Aird, who is married to Harge (Chandler), and they have a daughter together. It’s not long into the film when Carol meets Therese (Mara) while Christmas shopping at the store she works at and they develop a relationship. Carol has dated women before and her new relationship further angers her husband and shows how society reacted to same-sex relationships in that era. It is also an impetus for Harge to keep their daughter away from Carol and he goes to all lengths to prove her infidelity.

Therese, an aspiring photographer, is less tied down than Carol, but she does have a boyfriend Richard (Jake Lacy), who she knows she doesn’t want to be with forever. It’s either her sexuality or lack of love for him specifically, or both that causes their relationship to end, especially when she meets Carol.

Carol presents the themes of not only sexuality and the acceptance of it decades ago but also those of love and passion and what people will do when those feelings come into play.

The film, directed by Todd Haynes and based on The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, is overall told in a flashback after one glimpse of Carol and Therese together. That style of the film, in my opinion, resulted in an ending that felt a little flat and predictable as far as how relationships that are considered forbidden are portrayed in cinema.

Carol is worth seeing for the visual elements and acting but, although I haven’t read it, perhaps Highsmith’s book is the more complete of the two versions of the story.

five

I also felt Five Easy Pieces, while Jack Nicholson is amazing in it and I could watch him act all day long was a little slow-paced despite the performances, visuals and music.

Music is a key part of the film given that Nicholson plays a classical pianist-turned oil rigger, Robert Eroica Dupea,  who returns to his hometown to visit his ailing father and other family.

It’s known as a standout performance for Nicholson in his career after his supporting role in Easy Rider, which I still need to see, but that was the primary high point of the film for me.

It could be the time that has passed since it was released that took away from the film for me, but I did somehow still feel connected to the depiction of the 1970s middle-America despite not having been born yet

Five Easy Pieces maybe didn’t make Nicholson’s career in its entirety, I’ll decide on that after I see as many of his movies that I can this year, but it is a part of the puzzle that makes him one of my heroes and best actors today. Even if there were other people in the scenes, Nicholson’s character was always the focus in the film — from when he plays a piano on a truck stuck in traffic to the more intimate, and heartbreaking, moments when he sees his Dad after many years.

The ending was similar to that of Carol in that there was some uncertainty about the future of the characters and their relationships, but I think it was a more effective choice in Five Easy Pieces given Robert’s establishment as a loner and independent spirit.

There isn’t much audio in the end of the film, leaving me to imagine Robert saying (to quote Mr. Dana Gould in his latest podcast episode, Look Back in Langour) “All I … want is solitude and Fritos.”

 

90 of 366: Glengarry Glen Ross (and a surprise.)

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Kevin Spacey and Jack Lemmon.

Well I now know I could not work in a real estate office after watching Glengarry Glen Ross this week. All the phone calls to try to get sales and Alec Baldwin yelling, not to mention constant pouring rain, would just be too stressful for me.

It was even a little stressful just watching the movie, which shows the skill of David Mamet (who also wrote the play it’s based on) and director James Foley to make the grind of a highly competitive — and shady — real estate office feel, well, real.

Baldwin is only in one scene early in the film, in which he rails on the real estate team about the “leads” they need to pursue and sets to tone for the anxiety and stress I was talking about. His speech ultimately causes the characters to go to all lengths to make their sales quota and get to work on the best leads.

Kevin Spacey is the boss of the office, John Williamson, who controls the leads his team receives only if they are successful on other sales; presenting a true psychological test of their will and trust between all the characters.

At first the team, Shelley “The Machine” Levene (Jack Lemmon); Ricky Roma (Al Pacino); George Aaronow (Alan Arkin); and Dave Moss (Ed Harris); seems simply earnest to do their work but it doesn’t take long for some to turn on each other and the office as a whole to get their hands on the best leads.

As the rain continues and the characters toggle their time between the office, the restaurant across the street, phone booths and house calls to customers seemingly at all hours of the night, it is eventually robbed and causes an investigation into who on the team could be responsible.

While there were several more locations in the film than could be used in a stage production, it still felt like a play to me with the intense focus on individual characters in various scenes and their dialogue.

The intensity only builds throughout the film until a final showdown between Shelley and John that exemplifies another of its strong points; the acting. Lemmon especially had a stand-out role because of the mystery of his character, but the entire cast had performances that made it hard to pick a favorite.

Glengarry Glen Ross has many layers that make it a solid play-turned-film and just remember, “Coffee is for closers.”

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The Story of Ricky

I also watched a surprise film this week as movie #91 thanks to what may be my new favorite thing at my new favorite place, Tape Freaks at the Trylon Microcinema.

The hosts pick a film each month based on a theme and give away clues on their blog leading up to the screening. This month’s was a movie you know based on seeing clips on YouTube. I couldn’t think of anything that would be, and didn’t know about the clue factor until I went to my first Tape Freaks screening, so I was truly surprised. The chosen presentation was Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky, a 1991 martial arts film about a man in prison using his superpowers, essentially, to fight rival prisoners and guards for the greater good.

Ricky’s powers allow him to severely injure or kill fellow prisoners, even without weapons, and any wounds he sustains will heal so he can continue to fight the injustice in prison. It is a combination of campy/gratuitous violence that overall turns the film more into a dark comedy within the horror and action genre.

It was fun to have no idea what I was in for with Tape Freaks and The Story of Ricky is such a film that, even if you plan to watch it one day, it pushes the boundaries to present an unexpected, entertaining story.

That is all for now.

“And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe.
It will never do anyhow.”

Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.

 

 

 

 

89 of 366: What a Way to Go!

What_a_Way_to_Go_0Shirley MacLaine is fierce in What a Way to Go! This is a term I can’t really get away with saying in real life while wearing my cardigans and jeans and, while it certainly wasn’t in the common vernacular circa 1964, it fits MacLaine’s portrayal of Louisa May Foster and her extensive costumes in the film.

Foster is a woman seeking a simple life and a husband who wants the same, but each time she tries said husband lets a quest for money and riches get the better of him and she ends up a widow — four times.

There is the, at first, humble shop owner Edgar (Dick Van Dyke); the eccentric artist Larry (Paul Newman); the millionaire tycoon Rod (Robert Mitchum); and finally the showstopping Pinky Benson (Gene Kelly.)

Yes some of those characters have money, but they didn’t let it get to their head until Foster entered the picture, making her think she is cursed.

Foster recalls her failed marriages – by death and riches – to her psychiatrist over the course of the film and each story is played out throughout the world and different lifestyles. Foster even imagines how each of her marriages would be portrayed in Hollywood, such as a silent film, French romance or lavish musical.

The film is funny and delivers through the on-screen chemistry between MacLaine and each leading man. That said, she is definitely the star of the show while rocking and all pink gown with a Chinchilla fur coat one minute and overalls and big hair the next.

It was a long path for Foster to get there, but she does find happiness in the end — just in the most unexpected place and with the most unexpected person.

Money isn’t everything and love conquers all, at least in the world of Louisa May Foster Hopper Flint Anderson Benson and …