Category Archives: cinema

Shark!

IMG_2469.jpgLet’s face it, sometimes we’re all in the mood for a good shark attack movie.

And by let’s, I mean me, and by sometimes I mean pretty much all the time. Since “The Shallows” bit me in June last year, I guess shark movies are just my jam. (Okay, to be fair I learned in my “research” for this post that Vox just published an article on “Why We Love Shark Movies,” but I maintain that I was first to sink my teeth into this trend.)

So much that I was probably the only person excited to see “47 Meters Down” this weekend. It’s not just a shark attack movie, it’s a shark horror movie. “The Shallows” is more of a suspense woman vs. shark tale focused on the vulnerability of Blake Lively’s character, Nancy, as she is stuck on a rock just off the shore in Mexico with the cousin of Jaws circling about.

“47 Meters Down” has all of the vulnerability and formulaic tropes of characters facing a life or death situation, combined with the claustrophobia of “Open Water” and “Panic Room,” (no sharks, but small spaces.)

I thought for sure there would be no one else in the theater at the 11:10 a.m. showing today (not early enough in my opinion,) but alas I had to get my shark on with some other weirdos and a guy who did not know how to eat popcorn without letting everyone else know that was what was going on.

I wish a shark would have attacked him in the theater and really brought the movie to life.

This brings me to a joke by Ian Edwards noting that shark attacks don’t happen on their turf.

“Sharks live in the water. If you get caught down there, you’re trespassing …  a real shark attack is if you’re somewhere you’re supposed to be, and a shark shows up.”

For example, if you decide to go on an excursion in which you get locked in a cage and dropped into the ocean to “see” some sharks, you can expect that they’re going to stalk and bite you.

Mandy Moore’s character was all like “I don’t know if I want to do this” to her sister Kate, but Kate changed her mind by saying Lisa’s ex-boyfriend would take her back because she would seem adventurous and “not boring.”

Yeah, well not if you’re dead.

I was not on board with that plot point but, to build suspense and empathy for the characters, these movies often find a way to include an extra layer of vulnerability to an already vulnerable situation the characters willingly put themselves in.

Lisa agrees to join Kate and, within probably minutes, the rope holding their cage at just five meters below the water breaks and they plummet to 47 meters with not enough oxygen and sharks EVERYWHERE!

Believe it or not (don’t believe it) there is actually some mystery as to whether the boat crew was in cahoots with the sharks to try to do away with Kate and Lisa. However, (again, if you can suspend your disbelief) most of the horror is set between a school of extra large ocean monsters, declining oxygen levels and getting the bends.

Love or hate the formula of these movies, I was truly scared on a few occasions and tried not to think about whether Captain Taylor ( finally a chance for Matthew Modine to return to the big screen) was a bad guy and orchestrated the whole thing. Let’s (again by let’s I mean me) be real, that would have been way too much effort for the plot of a shark attack movie. Plus, there always has to be room for a sequel.

I knew what to expect with this movie, but couldn’t resist seeing it in the theater. Coming from a true fin, I mean fan, shark movies definitely need to be eaten up at your local cinema house.

Being that “47 Meters Down” is billed as a shark horror film, you’ll see some other horror trailers like “IT” (terrifying) and “Happy Death Day” (not as terrifying), which helped amp up the underwater scares once the feature started.

While I haven’t seen it yet, I recommend “It Comes at Night,” the sophmore project from “Krisha” director Trey Edward Shults, who also plays with the idea of claustrophobia in his films.

After this dose of horror, even just the trailer for “IT,” I know you’ll need a little comedic relief. Try “Detroiters” on Comedy Central starring and created by Veep’s Sam Richardson.   I assume T.J. Miller’s new special on HBO, airing tonight, will also do the trick. “Oh, Hello,” I almost forgot, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s Broadway brilliance is now streaming on Netflix.

FullSizeRender

And Kid Gorgeous himself just added some dates, including Minneapolis in September, to his tour this year.

Yas and k, bye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Faded tickets, magazines and Todd Barry!

The next movie on my list, or it really should be, is “Enemy” starring that doe-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal and his doppleganger or whatever.

I’ve had it on DVD from Netflix since Jan. 24, 2017, but alas it still sits atop my DVD player and probably will until the Guinness Book of World Records people show up at my door.

I honestly was going to watch it last night, but instead went down a rabbit hole of Conan O’Brien episodes (did you know he is still doing the string dance?) That prompted me to catch up on “Silicon Valley” after seeing Thomas Middleditch’s wonderfully awkward appearance.

After a day in the sun both from a long walk (I actually ran for part of it, woo!) and then lounging in my new favorite chair reading InStyle and listening to podcasts, it was the perfect evening.

I also started to think about a subject for my blog this morning and, with no material on “Enemy,” looked for inspiration by sifting through my old movie tickets.

IMG_2163

I keep meaning to buy a scrapbook for them, especially now that some have faded beyond recognition. I saw one where all I could make out were the words “Hunt for” and I thought … did I see “The Hunt for Red October” at some point? No, it was a ticket from “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” last year. (One of the best movies of the year, by far.) Now I do have to watch “The Hunt for Red October” … but only if it is re-released in the theaters so I have the ticket to prove it.

Or maybe I can win the Guinness record as the only person who hasn’t seen it.

My ticket nostalgia continued this morning with a quick look through a box of old cards and whatnot from high school and I found the mother of all movie stubs from my senior year:

IMG_2168

I also uncovered some mint condition magazines from the 1990’s:

IMG_2169

Why do we save stuff like this? If anything it’s for the random moments you decide to look through old boxes and even better when you don’t know what you’ll find.

I didn’t know I kept some old magazines, especially not this one:

IMG_2171

Oh how things have changed.

A little nostalgia from time to time can’t hurt, just remember it’s memories associated with the past that wouldn’t be the same today. My favorite nostalgia expert, John Hodgman, would tell you that.

That’s why I subscribe to his Lifestyle newsletter and then often don’t read it because I forget to check under the Promotions tab in Gmail.  (I just added him to my contacts –why didn’t I think of this earlier?– so maybe the messages will arrive in my primary inbox.) Anyway,  I did click over one tab  (tough stuff) while catching up on emails yesterday and read the newsletter, which included a recommendation for what is now my new favorite blog by musician and writer Carsie Blanton.  I purchased her album “So Ferocious,” which I’ve been listening to while working on this post, and also read her most recent blog with words of wisdom on pursuing your life goals.

It also references the (visually) aforementioned Brad Pitt after she watched “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” with her husband during a cabin getaway. (They didn’t have many movies to pick from.)

The lyrics from her song, “Lovin’ is Easy” made me smile and I think my favorite tune on the album is “Hot Night.”

From “Lovin’ is Easy”:

“I’m in love with you but it’s alright/I fall in love nearly every night and it fills up my heart until I can’t keep it in/so I hope you don’t mind if I say it again.”

It’s time for other happiness news in that the Minneapolis movie in the parks schedule is hot off the presses and “Clueless” is showing on my birthday. The list includes many of the 1980’s and 1990’s classics that are a perfect excuse to get out at dusk during the heydays of summer. Now I can finally see “Space Jam” on the big screen.

And lastly, since I probably won’t write before then, I am headed off to Madison this weekend to see my favorite deadpan man Todd Barry at the Comedy Club on State.

IMG_2085

I have his book ready to be signed and now just have to think of what to say to him. (I also need a purse big enough for it in case I chicken out, which is very likely.) Do I tell him I think it’s cute that he included his cat Sunflower in the acknowledgements or just that I really admire him?

IMG_2172

Should I show him this selfie? There is a good chance I am going to embarrass myself, but it’s going to be great.

IMG_1654

Bye!

 

Catching up with My Friend Dean

IMG_2081Well I’ve seen four movies in the last two weeks. I guess I really am failing at me trying to be me in 2016 when I was watching the equivalent of a movie a day.

In reality, toward the end of the DLM Challenge, weekends would mean watching several movies in one day and thinking that if things went south during “Sleepwalk With Me” my obit writer from The New York Times could at least lead with “She died doing what she loved.”

For those of you fascinated with The New York Times, (see also “Page One: Inside the New York Times), there is a new documentary with an inside look at the obits department … wait for it … “Obit,” and the process the writers use to have information on those who are still with us at the ready to publish when they become the opposite. Two of the film’s subjects, Bruce Weber and Margalit Fox, were recently interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Even if you can’t stand her voice like me, it’s a good listen. Good news, “Obit” is coming soon to the Lagoon Cinema and there are several other screenings listed on the film’s website.

I also saw a sold-out screening of “Dean,” Demetri Martin’s first feature film at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Festival.

Judging from the crowd and audience’s reaction, and its festival buzz, this film will make the rounds at independent theaters again this summer.

Martin stars in the film as Dean, a wayward writer coping with his mother’s death and how his father is coping with it by selling the family home. Dean runs away to Los Angeles to work on his book only to find old and new friends and a healthy dose of complicated romance. The mix of sadness and comedy in the film seemed a little uneven at times, to the point where you may forget what the premise of the story is, but maybe that’s the point. Who really wants to think about what’s making them sad when they can go on impromptu road trips and chill at the beach?

The film is also illustrated with Martin’s own drawings to depict Dean’s feelings, which adds to the distance from his struggle with processing mortality (for the viewer) while you see him try to woo Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) at a party in LA.

The mortality theme comes back with full force in the end, ultimately making the whole audience cry, from what I could tell. That said, you may want to watch “Dean” at home and really let it all out. Then you can watch some of his stand-up comedy as a palate cleanser.

I returned to the film festival the next night for a Finnish film “Little Wing” and a Q&A with the lead actress Paula Vesala.

It also stars Linnea Skog as the young girl in the film, Varpu, struggling with her own independence while in some ways taking care of her mother. Varpu defines her independence by stealing a car and driving overnight to find her birth father.

That journey ultimately brings Varpu and her mother closer together. Vesala talked about the music she wrote for the film and the connection between the title “Little Wing” and a Jimi Hendrix song of the same name. Skog, who is 12, won the Finnish Academy Award for her performance and it’s one that deserves more attention in the United States if the film gets distribution here. Unfortunately Vesala said they’ve struggled with video on demand rights and other streaming distribution, but if you can find it I definitely recommend this film. I also listened to the song “Little Wing” today and can see the connection and inspiration between the lyrics and the character of Varpu.

“Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind
That’s running wild
Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams
And fairly tales

That’s all she ever thinks about

Riding the wind

When I’m sad she comes to me
With a thousand smiles
She gives to me free

It’s alright, she says
It’s alright
Take anything you want from me
Anything

Fly on, little wing.”

The story has a happy ending overall, so you shouldn’t need any comedic relief after watching it.

If you need some anyway try Pete Holmes’ new special on HBO “Faces and Sounds” or Maria Bamford’s “Old Baby” on Netflix.

I ordered a T-shirt I am going to try to incorporate into my wardrobe … not pajamas … just because Bamford’s special is so wonderfully uncomfortable and brilliant comedy.

IMG_2078

I’ve watched “Faces and Sounds” twice now and will again because with Pete Holmes, joy is everywhere.

It’s also the perfect follow up to any episode of season 2 of “Fargo,” or anything from “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranos” in case you’re still catching up on those. For me, each episode of “Fargo” is 45 minutes of worrying that Jesse Plemons’ character is going to be brutally murdered. Landry Clarke CANNOT Die. Wait, wrong show, but you know what I mean.

Last thing (I am not in the best writing mood today and my usual perfect transitions are just not coming to me) there is a podcast for all of you Fargoheads “Aw Jeez: A Fargo Podcast” that analyzes each episode based on historical accuracy, the actors’ Minnesota accents and a view hidden plot points.

Okay, that is all for today. Bye!

 

 

 

 

Father of the Bride as it should be watched

IMG_1839.JPG
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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pod, a Pod, a Pod for You

IMG_1780Hello? Is this the Podcasts Anonymous support group?

I am sure (or hope) that I am not alone here in saying that I listen to — hold on let me turn off this episode of Spontaneanation — podcasts all the time (when I’m showering — a distraction that I am sure increases my likelihood of being murdered by a serial killer, just like in the movies —  driving, cleaning, as a saving grace when I have to shop at any large retailer on a weekend, etc.) I am also sure I’ve mentioned this fact before and you may consider this a cry for help or take it as a recommendation to join in the fun, at your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Seriously, you’re going to develop an addiction from this.

Still here? Okay.

I’ll listen to anything movie or improv-comedy related and I certainly dabble in the true crime and newsy stuff from time-to-time. I’m mostly looking for any show that can serve as an escape from the real world for about an hour, or 10.

My latest obsession is the Craig’s List Podcast, which actually combines movies and a little improv comedy. As a basis for the show, Craig and Carla Cackowski are working their way through Craig’s 100 favorite movies of all time and then discuss them on air. They have guest hosts from the comedy world from time to time and at the end of each episode perform an improv comedy scene based on the film they watched.

The list covers the gamut in film genres and I’m pleased to say I’ve actually seen a lot of Craig’s favorites, from classics to comedy and documentaries to biopics and horror films.

The latest episode combines classics and horror to dissect Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” with special guest composer Jonathan Dinerstein providing comedic and musical accompaniment.

He joined the show to talk about the score that adds the tension and fright to “Psycho” and even plays tidbits of it on the piano in the background.

They also discussed a new documentary about the film “78/52,” which cuts into the intricacies of the infamous shower scene directed by Hitchcock.

I think I know what my next double feature will be. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen “Psycho,” but it’s one of the films with scenes I remember the most from my formative years as a movie lover and Craig’s List took me right back to that place.

Some of my other favorite episodes include their discussion of “Se7en” (Craig does a killer impersonation of Morgan Freeman,) “Diner,” (a lot of factoids about Baltimore in this one,) “It Happened One Night,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “Rushmore.”

Follow Craig’s List Podcast on Twitter to catch up on their episodes and the coming attractions.

In other news, I haven’t watched any movies (in their entirety) in the last week, but I do recommend “Afternoon Delight” starring Kathryn Hahn and Jessica St. Clair. Rachel (Hahn), after a night at strip club with her husband Jeff (Josh Radnor), Stephanie (St. Clair) and her husband Bo (Keegan-Michael Key), befriends one of the dancers (Juno Temple) and eventually takes her in as their live-in nanny.

The film takes a plot line that could be your average raunchy sex comedy and strips it down (sorry) to a story focused on the characters and their happiness, much like “The Overnight.”

As Dr. Steve Brule would say, Check it Out!

Okay, (as John Hodgman would say – more or less) I think that is all for today.

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is on its way in a matter of days and I need to pick out what I want to try to see this year. There are hundreds of options and I’ve missed going to the event the past couple of years.

It may seriously take away from my podcast time, but if I’m lucky they’ll be showing a movie about podcasts.

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

dont-think-twice

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