December 2016 Movies, Part 1

december2016_movies_1

Children of Men (2006)

Sure, fine: as in, solid, no complaints, but no strong feelings, either, although the scene near the end where hearing the baby’s cries momentarily gets everyone to stop fighting was certainly very moving.


The Duelist (2016)

This was a must-see, because 19th century Saint Petersburg? A broody-looking professional duelist who says things like “Don’t pray for me; it doesn’t help” in the trailer? Coming to an art-house theater near you? Hell yes.

Now, The Duelist is not necessarily a “good” movie, but there is something delightful in its commitment to the genre. What genre is that? The sort of 19th century European REVENGE genre containing The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables, I think? It just hits so many of those beats once the mysterious protagonist’s full background is revealed; I am a little unclear on what exactly set off the following chain of events but:

  1. The protagonist maybe insulted a superior officer by refusing to duel
  2. The officer dispatched one of his men to rape the protagonist’s mother
  3. The protagonist killed the rapist
  4. As punishment, the protagonist’s noble title was stripped and he was sent to labor in the Aleutian Islands
  5. Shipwreck!
  6. So the protagonist stole the identity of one of the nobles on the ship and I guess served in the Aleutian Islands under that name
  7. (Years pass)
  8. The protagonist returns to St. Petersburg as a professional duelist under the assumed name to eventually get revenge on the officer who wronged him and restore his original title.

It’s…a lot. And as one might expect, there’s a lot of hot brooding and masochism and terse dramatic statements and a ridiculous (amazing) Russian roulette scene.

Possibly approx. 50% of my mental energy throughout the movie was spent trying to figure out who the main actor resembled–Colin Farrell was the obvious comparison, but I knew there was something closer–and I didn’t figure it out until watching the Mock the Week Christmas special a few weeks later that I had been trying to conjure up minor British comedian Ed Gamble? So okay.


Keanu (2016)

Cute concept and a very cute cat. Not necessarily funny enough to make me want to watch it again, but I basically enjoyed it and I’m glad it exists?


Gypsy (1962)

So it’s starting to look like the only times I can get myself to watch any movies from before, say, 1975 are when I’m too sick to exert any physical or mental effort on anything else? And being full of cough syrup probably helps, too.

Gypsy won’t be joining my all-time favorite movie musicals, but this was definitely a gap in my musical filmography that needed to be filled in at some point. Not sure what I expected, but I was surprised at how cynical and risqué it was? Like, wow, that reprise/recontextualization of “Let Me Entertain You” from the childish vaudeville performance to the sexy burlesque show sure was a Thing. The music is for the most part not super memorable; some numbers felt reminiscent of the more forgettable numbers from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, but I guess the stage version of Gypsy came first and Stephen Sondheim only wrote the lyrics for Gypsy (as opposed to the music and lyrics for Funny Thing Happened). And the whole stage-parent thing is very cringe-worthy and hard-to-watch, and that is kind of the basis of Gypsy, so not an especially pleasant viewing experience. But I guess it probably does what it sets out to do well.

Also, feeling super judged by Broadway, between this:

Some people can get a thrill
Knitting sweaters and sitting still
That’s okay for some people
Who don’t know they’re alive.

“Some People,” Gypsy

and Cabaret:

What good is sitting, alone in your room?
Come hear the music play!
Life is a cabaret, old chum!
Come to the cabaret!
Put down the knitting, the book and the broom
It’s time for a holiday
Life is a cabaret, old chum!
Come to the cabaret!

“Cabaret,” Cabaret


Hell or High Water (2016)

Sure, fine. Right, like Green Room, this seems competently acted, written, shot, etc., so it’s not completely unfathomable to me that it ended up on so many people’s top 10 movies of 2016 list, but it just didn’t have that sort of visceral connection for me, I guess. I am not really interested in Westerns, and this probably requires some appreciation for the iconography/aesthetics/tropes of the genre—I suspect this is why I was not super into Westworld either.


The Holiday (2006)

Well, my Jude Law Situation has clearly gotten out of hand, because this movie is soooo dumb. You’d think I could have deduced that going in, and basically you’d be correct: Christmas movies are Not My Thing, Cameron Diaz in a starring role is rarely a good sign, and the transcontinental house-switching premise is super gimmicky. But on the other hand: I am a sucker for rom-coms, the fact that Kate Winslet automatically lends some (as it turns out, unearned) prestige, and the aforementioned Jude Law Situation.

Anyway, too full of shitty rom-com tropes, but there’s maybe something there; it did get me to invest in Jack Black as a viable romantic prospect for Kate Winslet, which is insane, right? However, I would recast both Cameron Diaz and Jude Law’s roles:

  • Cameron Diaz because–man, I’ve never really liked Cameron Diaz, but I don’t want to be the type of person who irrationally hates female celebrities, so let’s figure this out. I think it’s that her rom-com acting is too genre-aware? In that her character feels like a woman-in-a-rom-com rather than just a woman (in a rom-com); something about the specific face-pulling and delivery reads as an archetype rather than a character, I guess? But maybe this is just a particularly poorly written role, and no one else could make it work either.
  • Jude Law because that casting makes the character just, like, ludicrously dreamy. We’re supposed to think he’s a cad at first because he keeps getting calls from other women while he’s with Cameron Diaz, but then TWIST it turns out that the “other women” are his young daughters because he’s a widower (much dreamier than a divorcee, no?). Also he’s a book editor (which, like architect, is one of those dreamy rom-com professions that implies creativity but–unlike, say, artists or musicians–also financial stability) and Kate Winslet’s brother (and since she’s one of the leads, this immediately imbues him with some likability/trustworthiness). It’s a bit too much to have all that and then also look like Jude Law, you know? It becomes suspicious, and you expect to find some sort of edge to the character where there ultimately is none.

But this came out in 2006 and that is some very 2006 casting, so.

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