May 2017 Movies


Desk Set (1957)

Crazy that this is an actual movie that exists and not something plucked from my dreams. Although, to be fair, if it were truly plucked from my dreams it would star younger and hotter romantic leads and also probably be a musical. I get that the whole Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy thing is A Thing, and as weird as Hepburn’s mannerisms are, they are completely right for this role, but man, Tracy looks so much older than her that the romantic angle does not really appeal. Still, any quibbles I have feel tiny when confronted by the sheer existence of a 1950s rom-com about digitizing libraries, because holy shit????

Just consider: IBM’s Watson is a thing 60 years after this movie.

(Starting a list of movies in which IBM–not just technology in general–is the villain: it would have at least this and Hidden Figures. Maybe also 2001 if we believe the fan/cryptographer conspiracy theories about the HAL-shifted-by-one-letter = IBM thing not being a coincidence.)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

A mess, but an endearing one. It’s essentially two movies:

  1. The Guy Ritchie Experience, with fast-talking gangsters, montages, hustling, class conflict, shirtless dudes, homoerotic innuendo, “lads” and “mate” and all that, but set in medieval Londinium
  2. A generic, effects-heavy historical-fantasy epic

Movie 1 is AMAZING; Movie 2 is super bland, but somewhat elevated by the Daniel Pemberton score and Jude Law evilly slouching all over the place.

Various other unorganized thoughts:

I did find the fridging of female characters kind of unintentionally hilarious–the first two women we see on screen are murdered within the first, like, 10 minutes (definitely expected Katie McGrath to have a bigger part oops) after establishing themselves as hot wives and mothers whose only lines are like “hey, what’s going on?” Then the prostitute Arthur feels protective over is killed in front of him–to motivate him on his Hero’s Journey, of course. And Vortigern kills his daughter–who also gets like, no lines–for dark magic. The daughter-killing was especially hilarious to me, and it definitely shouldn’t have been. Vortigern’s has, like, this standing deal with these weird tentacled mermaids who live in the basement of his castle; the mermaids will give him black magic boosts in return for the blood of a loved one. So you’re kind of wondering what his backup plan is once he runs out of loved ones’ blood to spill, since he only seems to have the one wife and daughter, or what even counts as a “loved one”–can you say you love someone, if in the back of your mind, you’re always ready to kill them when the going gets too tough? I thought maybe there’d be a twist where he sacrificed his daughter and the mermaids rejected the sacrifice because he didn’t actually love her, making her death doubly tragic, but no such luck.

Tempted to do an in-depth analysis of the phallic symbolism in this movie, but actually, there’s maybe not much to say other than, “man, sure were a lot of sigificant phallic symbols” between the Sword and the Tower and the Giant Snake, you know? It did feel like one of the more “macho” or somehow overwhelmingly male movies I’ve seen in a while. (But lol, that Giant Snake. Definitely not how you expected the climactic battle scene to start, although it unfortunately goes the more expected–dudes waling on each other with Big Swords at the top of a Big Tower and causing Big Explosions–route in the end.)

I’ve never understood why people think Charlie Hunnam is bland. He seems like a really good choice for this take on Arthur–he’s v convincing with the sort of cocky, street-smart, “alright, mate” parts and also as a thoroughly decent person (see also: Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak). Not that I’m actually familiar with Arthurian legend, but the brothel upbringing and hometown loyalty/big fish-ness was an interesting take on the character and made the Reluctant Hero thing more convincing than it usually is. And of course led to some super great Guy Ritchie montages: the fast-forwarding through Arthur’s adolescence with this music and the shot of Hunnam screaming and punching the air—great. The recounting of the encounter with the Vikings to the police officer–also great, and the Guy Ritchiest.

One can see how this could almost enter the canon of beloved anachronistic historical fantasy movies alongside Princess BrideRobin Hood: Men in TightsA Knight’s Tale, and Ever After, but alas–not quite there. Still, the best attempt in recent years, I think?

American Pastoral (2016)

Super insubstantial. I haven’t read the book, so it’s hard to say what’s missing, but given that it’s Philip Roth, I suspect that what’s missing from the movie is some Essential Jewishness. It’s so odd that this is directed by and almost entirely cast with goys, you know?

Alleycats (2016)

Such good aesthetics–in terms of costumes, styling, interior decor, etc.–wasted on such a boring, forgettable movie. A comedy or slice of life sort of thing with the same characters and set in the same weird bike courier subculture would be so much better than this generic-ass thriller plot. Will Sonoya Mizuno ever get to speak in a movie? (To be fair, she maybe had one line in La La Land.)

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)

Yeah, in many ways this is the sort of gender-reversed Michael Cera movie I’ve been wishing for–following awkward, nerdy, average-looking teenage girls in their quest to land guys who are hotter than they are and, seemingly against all odds, actually landing them (because it’s a movie, you know?). And from the director of Bend it Like Beckham, which really deserves a rewatch soon.

The casting of actual teenagers really, really helps. High school is weird–everyone is going through different stages of puberty, so having a crush on someone one or two years older at that point in your life can be a totally unrealistic, unrequited dream, even though that age difference is, like, nothing later in life. But we often don’t get an accurate sense of this in TV/movies, where all of the “teenagers” are actually beautiful, chiseled, smooth-skinned 28-year-olds. Or we only see one side: teenage boys who haven’t finished going through puberty pining for and maybe even winning over more fully matured “teenage” girls because they’re just such nice guys (e.g. from my recently watched list: Sing Street, 20th Century Women, Almost Famous). So Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging offers a rare case of teenage girl wish fulfillment, I guess.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)

Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan, together, would be a compelling enough reason to watch almost anything. The fact that this takes place in one of those super arctic towns in northern Canada makes it even more interesting, since it has all of these details–not really commented on, but present–specific to that lifestyle: the snow mobiles, the huge distances, the basic survival skills that everyone has to have, the weird small airline stuff, etc. And it has a talking bear.

It was more depressing than I’d hoped, though. Also the pacing and storytelling style was such that I spent most of the movie thinking, “hmm, where is this going and what is it trying to do with [insert whatever detail here]” rather than just being along for the ride.

Christine (2016)

Solid! Surprisingly funny, unsurprisingly devastating–not so much the suicide itself as the depiction of the character’s loneliness and awkwardness. The eponymous character–who knows how accurate the movie’s portrayal is to the real-life person, so we’ll just think of her as a fictional character–is such an unusual and nuanced type for a movie. She’s funny and smart and basically well-liked by her co-workers, but at the same time, it’s so difficult for her to just be. And this makes her come across as aloof and prevents her from doing the things that seemingly come naturally to others (e.g. casually grabbing drinks with colleagues after work). It hits a little too close to home.

The Comedian (2012)

God-awful. The worst kind of indie movie. Like, of course all of the characters have the same first names as the actors playing them. So authentic! And all of those long, silent shots of faces to show, like, how ~deep~ we are.

Also, the comedian aspect of it–what was the point, given that the movie seems to be more interested in sexuality and ennui? The main dude is a pretty shit comedian, and I don’t know if we’re supposed to think he’s good? We also don’t know enough about the character to know where that style of delivery is coming from and why he thought it was a good idea. It seems like this guy does stand-up as a hobby rather than as a secret unfulfilled dream? I mean, we know he hates his current job, but anything more is hard to say because there’s just nothing to go by–unless we’re supposed to figure all of this out from his eyes or something.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

It doesn’t feel like there’s any reason for this to be live-action–other than commercial gain, obviously, but that’s always the case and never a satisfying excuse–since everything about it comes across as cartoonish and artificial in a way that’s kind of uncomfortable and tacky in a live-action movie. Auto-tuning the hell out of Emma Watson definitely doesn’t help with that vibe–they really should have Marni Nixon’ed her, if they were that committed to keeping her face. Like, the “Be Our Guest” dance sequence is probably supposed to be really impressive in the “look at the current state of CGI” sort of way, but I think that sort of CGI extravaganza only comes across as really impressive when it’s mixed with live action? It takes away from the sense of the dancing objects being “real” when they’re not interacting with anything real.

Also, ugh, Belle’s whole “I’m Not Like Other Girls because I like books and wear pants and don’t care about marriage!” would have felt very relatable and empowering in the 90s or early 2000s but is now super eye-roll inducing? Is it because I’m in my 20s now or because it’s legitimately just a kind of stale brand of feminism? Or because positing your protagonist as an ahead-of-her-time outcast doesn’t work when you haven’t really done anything to establish the setting/period and accompanying social conventions? Beyond generically Olde Time-y and cartoonishly backwards?

What We Do in the Shadows (2015)–2nd time

Still amazing, I don’t know what else to say.


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