January 2016 Movies, Pt. 1 (1/1/16-1/15/16)


Boogie Nights (1997)

Sure, solid.

Carol (2015)

Surprisingly not that into this? I mean, I recognize that Carol is a Quality Film, but at the same time, I just can’t get super enthused about it. I’m almost definitely going to read the novel that it’s based on, though, and I suspect I will enjoy the story more in that form. Carol is one of those movies where the actual dialogue is pretty sparse and so most of what you know about the characters’ feelings/motivations/personality is conveyed through significant gestures or expressions or whatever. Which, sure, adds to the Prestige Factor, but that’s not necessarily what I value.

It’s possible that romantic comedies are more my speed than romantic dramas; I’d rather see a couple’s compatibility established through banter than through Significant Looks and Touches. I mean, ideally it should be a combination of both—i.e. any Jane Austen adaptation, probably, but especially BBC’s 2009 Emma miniseries. Anyway, Carol leans too heavily on the latter for my taste, which, again, makes it very Cinematic, but it’s just—the few snippets of actual conversation we see between Carol and Therese are so bland and awkward that while I buy the intense physical attraction between them, I’m not sure I buy potentially long-term love?

As great as Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara may be at face-acting, it’s still just not really enough to get the feel for their characters’ internal lives that I would need to get emotionally invested in them or their romance. On the one hand, Therese is a pretty introverted character and it would be unrealistic to expect soul-revealing dialogue from her. But I imagine the book probably explores her thought process more—because, obviously, books can do that in a way that visual media can’t, or at least not without voice-overs or weird gimmicks—and in this case, that seems more interesting to me than the “how much subtext can we infer from Rooney Mara’s micro-expressions” game, as much as I enjoy Rooney Mara’s face.

Star Wars Episodes I-VII (1977-2015)

I rewatched all seven Star Wars movies and it was a fascinating journey of self-discovery that I already covered in-depth here. So not much more to say about that, although I suppose this is as good a space as any to air some feelings about this year’s Oscar nominations:

To be clear, I don’t care about the Best Picture/Best Director/Best Actor/etc. awards, or at least I’m trying very hard not to, because obviously what the Academy values is not what I value, and that’s, like, fine. It would be dumb for me to get emotionally invested enough to consider anything a snub, because this is such an arbitrary award system—well, okay, not arbitrary; I think there are some definite trends there and I would like to actually do a deep analysis of the historical data to confirm/revise beliefs about what makes something Oscar-bait—but in any case not actually a measure of what is “objectively” good, no matter how much society may treat it as one.

THAT SAID: as great as John Williams is, it does not seem legit to nominate him for “Best Original Score” for The Force Awakens, given how many (of, granted, his own) motifs he reuses from the previous six Star Wars scores. As he should—the music is obviously an important connecting element between the movie and a huge contributor to their iconicity. The new themes that he does introduce are still quite good, but are they really enough to make this qualify as an “original” score?  And especially in a year where Daniel Pemberton produced two excellent and totally different soundtracks, for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Steve Jobs, and somehow did not get an Oscar nomination for either of them1, whereas John Williams has already fucking won an Oscar for a Star Wars score. This isn’t at all surprising, and I should really know better than to be disappointed (see previous paragraph).

What We Do in the Shadows (2015)

So fucking delightful, holy shit. I mean, it’s essentially a slice-of-life comedy about vampires sharing a flat in modern New Zealand and that combination of elements is just, well, so fucking delightful, holy shit.

Such good costumes and logic behind the costumes—the vampires’ wardrobes consist of clothing they’ve taken from their victims over the centuries, and they all have their own distinct styles within the sort of period clothing mash-up style. In general, there’s a lot of clever and well thought out follow-through on aspects of the vampire mythos; some pretty solid jokes built around not having reflections, needing invitations to enter buildings, the messiness inherent in drinking blood, etc.

I was pretty wary of the documentary framing device when I saw the trailer, but no, it totally works; logically, it’s a way to deliver exposition and have “confessionals” without it seeming too clunky, but they also more or less commit to the concept and mine some good material out of the fact that these vampires are just being followed around by human cameramen wherever they go.

Also, the soundtrack has, like, Jewish folk music, Balkan brass bands, and apparently a song by Leningrad2, and, I mean, that is amazing.

One almost definitely needs to do a double feature of this and Only Lovers Left Alive.

1. He did get a Golden Globe nomination for Steve Jobs, and frankly, I think The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is more deserving, but possibly not prestigious enough of a movie to even be considered, even though the prestige of the movie itself should not necessarily be relevant for technical awards like Best Original Score. However, the more I listen to and think about the Steve Jobs score, the more impressed I am with it, so I am gradually becoming less bitter about it getting more critical acclaim than the MFU score. And this interview with Daniel Pemberton is pretty cool and enlightening and full of Mac Feels. ^
2. I totally did not notice, despite having almost 10 hours worth of their music in my iTunes, oops. This is not the Leningrad song in the movie, but any opportunity to expose people to its glory must be taken. ^


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