Ugh, so it’s been over a month since I’ve watched any of these movies, and the motivation to write still eludes me, so these are for the most part going to be super half-assed. I don’t know, I’ve been working for four months now and I’m basically too tired and braindead to do anything post-work other than watch TV and go through the endless and deeply unsatisfying Facebook/Tumblr/AV Club cycle. And then, two weeks ago, I made the mistake of looking for online Boggle and now I’m addicted and it’s ruining my life. So yeah, these last few March round-up posts are going to be shit, basically.
Leap Year (2010)
Big nope on this. Like, I knew it was considered a bad movie before watching it, but I at least thought there would be something charming about it; it’s a rom-com starring amy Adams and Matthew Goode, so how can there not be? Well.
- We’re already off to a terrible start when we consider the regressive gender politics inherent to the premise. We are introduced to our romantic lead, Anna (Amy Adams), in a montage of her type A-ness, and we have the classic (read: overly done) scene where she and her long-term boyfriend, Jeremy (Adam Scott), go to a fancy dinner and she expects him to propose and he instead just gives her a pair of earrings. Blah blah blah, there are some plot mechanics with Jeremy going to a conference in Ireland and Anna’s dad telling her a story about an Irish tradition about women proposing to men on Leap Day. So Anna decides to fly to Ireland and take her “one chance” to propose to Jeremy, because this is apparently a period piece. Oh, wait, it’s not? It’s actually set in 2010? Granted: a lot of people still have outdated ideas about gender roles, especially w.r.t. marriage proposals, and so it’s not necessarily unrealistic for this character to think that the man needs to be the one to propose (Leap Day loophole excepted). But when a character’s only defining trait at that point in the movie is that she’s a control freak, you maybe have to at least include some sort of cheesy line about the character being an old-fashioned romantic to sell the idea that she would need this tradition to validate her proposal.
- Matthew Goode, you are so attractive, but your attempt at an Irish accent is pretty dire. I hope Allen Leech gives him shit about it while they were hanging out on the sets of Downton Abbey and/or The Imitation Game.
- There’s some lazy writing shortcuts used to develop the initial at-odds dynamic between Anna and Declan (Matthew Goode) by having them be like “ugh, that’s so typical of you” or “you’re always like this,” without really establishing the traits that they’re referring to through the characters’ onscreen behavior. The too quick over-familiarity irks, and it makes the development of their relationship feel unearned.
- Also ughhh the whole anti-materialism thing. Anna and Declan discuss the classic “what would you save from a burning building” hypothetical during their antagonistic road trip, and so, of course, once Anna is reunited with Jeremy, she pulls the fire alarm as a test of character that Jeremy fails when he chooses his laptop, phone, etc. Because technology isn’t as real and authentic as your mother’s ring (Declan’s hypothetical answer), mannn. It’s just so dull, especially when the majority of Anna’s relationship with Declan is her paying him to drive her to Dublin and the haggling that ensues (even though, yes, yes, it was never really about the money and he refuses her payment in the end).
- It’s just not that fun to watch Amy Adams and Matthew Goode being rude to each other for the majority of the movie? I mean, I know that’s a classic screwball comedy set-up, but unless the dialogue is legitimately funny, it’s just cartoonish in a bad way, because who even talks like that to someone they’ve literally just met? Rudeness—in extended contact, not just telling a someone to fuck off—is its own kind of intimate interaction that, again, needs to feel earned.
Brassed Off (1996)
So apparently this was marketed as a rom-com between Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald’s characters, but wow, was that not the majority of the movie. Such sad, sad miners, which led to much gross sobbing on my part; I maybe had to pause and get a paper towel during the final 20 or so minutes to deal with the tears/snot outpour from the whole suicide attempt -> triumphant William Tell performance -> big final speech sequence. These British working class underdog stories are always really emotionally effective, although I feel like there are usually happier endings? Because it’s a movie, you expect there to be some sort of plucky rallying leading to the pit getting saved and instead it’s like, nope, everyone is still unemployed, but hey, they’re killing it on the brass front? And I mean, all-brass musical arrangements are already basically direct injections to my feels center, so a brass band playing “Danny Boy” outside of the hospital window of their bandleader, who is now probably dying of black lung? Jesus Christ.
Some additional notes:
- ’90s Ewan McGregror playing brass = YES. Although ’90s Ewan McGregor with his Trainspotting crew cut and skinny jeans and Scottish accent playing French horn would be The Ideal, we will gladly accept Ewan McGregor with sticky-up hair and oversized sweaters and a Yorkshire accent playing tenor horn.
- Interesting to finally get some context for the excerpt at the beginning of “Tubthumping” because man, who knew this is what that was from? And semi-related:
- This is fantastic and I love that it exists.
- I was probably born at the exact right time to have fond nostalgia for “Tubthumping,” untainted by any annoyance at it being overplayed or whatever, because I was like 5 when it came out?
- I’m a little bit obsessed with the particular phrasing of “I thought the music mattered. But does it bollocks.” Now that I look it up, I see it’s also transcribed as “Does it? Bollocks!” in some places, but the intonation leads me to believe that it’s more related to the rhetorical “Does it fuck” that seems to be a thing in various UK dialects but is not a thing in American English, although I wish it were. Example of that particular usage from Irvine Welsh’s Filth: “If yir a real gangster the last thing ye dae is hing oot in a recording studio. Did Al Capone spend time in a recording studio? Did he fuck!” I think the closest American English equivalent would probably be “Like fuck he did,” which is also quite satisfying, but idk. Alternately, a quick search of the phrase turns up this comment from some article in The Guardian: “Does it fuck!! As poor as Blackpool might be it still knocks Morecambe (and its infinite West End) into a cocked hat.” in response to, “[Blackpool] makes Morecambe look like the Riviera though.” God, that’s delightful.
- Fuck, I need to find myself a brass band to give me some purpose in life.
Loved the book; not sure how well it translates onto the screen. There wasn’t anything super upsetting or blasphemous about the adaptational choices made here—like, the most bothersome thing was that they switched Maurice and Clive’s hair colors, and even then, James Wilby and Hugh Grant were well-cast enough in all other aspects that one can probably accept that small detail—but the novel is so weirdly paced that it makes for a very slow first 2 hours and then a whole bunch of shit stuffed into the last 20 minutes. And part of that is the super psychological aspect of the novel—not much really happens externally, and you can only convey so much nuanced internal struggle via body language and facial expressions. There’s also just so much cringe-worthy material, mainly in terms of Maurice and Clive’s relationship, but also, like, every social interaction, holy shit. And I don’t mean cringe-worthy as in poorly written or performed, just so many characters failing at communicating in a way that’s realistic and interesting to read but very painful to watch because OH GOD JUST TELL EACH OTHER HOW YOU REALLY FEEL.
Young Hugh Grant is beautiful, though, even though Clive is kind of The Worst. It’s still very satisfying to see Maurice give his “suck it, I’m fucking your gamekeeper” speech at the end. Let’s also note that that makes two Merchant Ivory adaptations of Forster novels in which Rupert Graves gets his dick out, and the specificity of that bit of trivia is just kind of great. Also man, between this and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, we have this whole thing with gamekeepers and sexual awakening—which, like, sure, the whole connection to Nature and physical bodies and pagan shit—that mostly makes me wonder about the potential for a terrible Harry Potter prequel where a young Hagrid serves that role to a repressed Hogwarts professor.
The Informant! (2009)
Yeah, sure. I was probably not watching as attentively as I should have, but I enjoyed the whole voiceover deal.
The Program (UK 2015/US 2016)
Not sure the structure of this really worked in terms of the narrative arc? Like, you know what points it’s going to hit because of real life, but it didn’t feel like it was really a self-contained story the away a movie should be.
I’m always up for an ambitious sociopath, though, and it’s kind of crazy that public opinion on Lance Armstrong has shifted so thoroughly in such a relatively short time that he is now being portrayed as one in a biopic. God, those Livestrong bracelets used to be ubiquitous. But yeah, Ben Foster plays hims as sort of inhuman, in such a way that leads to one of my favorite TV/movie tropes: the closeup of a character’s face as s/he practices lies into a mirror (see also: Sarah first practicing to be Beth in Orphan Black and Faith practicing to be Buffy after a body-swap in BtVS). And I guess The Program is trying to sell a vision of Armstrong as a machine built only to win the Tour de France, by any means necessary, and with no motivations beyond that. Which, whatever its proximity to the truth may be, has the potential to be an interesting movie, but this wasn’t quite it.
At around the same time that I watched this, The Flash had a weird performance enhancing drug plotline, where Barry is debating whether or not to take Velocity-9 to improve his speed, and, well:
BARRY: If the game is already rigged, why can’t I level the playing field? I mean, if everybody else is cheating, how can–I want to be fast enough to stop Zoom and any speedster that tries to hurt my friends. Shouldn’t I use everything in my power to do that?
HARRISON: You want to take a shortcut; is that right? You want to take a shortcut. Remember this: you lose a chunk of your humanity every time you compromise your values.
The connection to the use of steroids in sports is, you know, not subtle, and I get that this is the type of superhero show in which the protagonist has to act as a role model for the kids in the audience, so this is supposed to be saying something about the value of hard work over easy fixes, but on the other hand: why the fuck is this a moral dilemma to a superhero? What even is “cheating” in that world? And frankly, the whole steroid/morality thing is weird in the sports world as well, although I don’t give a shit about sports and thus probably should not have an opinion on the matter. I mean, I guess the idea is that sports are celebrations of the potential of the human body, so once you start doing something “unnatural” it corrupts that? Because if it were just a matter of fairness, then easy solution: everyone just acknowledge that they’re using steroids and the playing field is level again. But the “unnatural” thing—what even is natural? At what point do the diet and training regimens of athletes become so distant from the average human lifestyle as to seem unnatural? And what role does money play, in terms of the quality of equipment, the time to spend training vs earning money in other ways, etc., as opposed to “natural talent,” whatever the fuck that is? And presumably even on steroids, there’s still an impressive level of finesse and effort required to stand out (especially if everyone else is also on steroids), so I don’t know, who cares?
A Chorus Line (1985)
The Sapphires (AUS 2012/US 2013)