June 2017 Movies


The Scapegoat (2012)

Sure. Not super memorable, but a decent enough country house drama, with that extra twist from the doppelganger premise (double the Matthew Rhys!). It’s an adaptation of a Daphne du Maurier novel that’s been adapted into film before, I guess, but there was a weird influx of doubles movies a few years ago, right? The ones that immediately come to mind are EnemyThe Double, and The One I Love, but I think there were more around the same time. Is it because the doppelganger thing is a relevant social metaphor (for…something to do with social media, probably) or is it just due to advancement in film technology/actors wanting to get the sort of critical acclaim Tatiana Maslany gets for playing against herself in Orphan Black?

Wonder Woman (2017)

There’s been enough praise of Wonder Woman by now that I definitely don’t need to contribute to it, and in fact, I’m worried that the obnoxiousness of the hype will eventually turn me against the movie.

That said, Wonder Woman was great. I am a sucker for fish out of water comedy–hence my sticking with Sleepy Hollow for longer than it deserved–so all of the humor mined from Steve reacting to Amazon society and Diana learning about 20th century social norms: golden. I absolutely would have watched a movie that was solely that, with no action or villainous plots. But sure, it was not all light and breezy, and I cried a lot–the luxe paper towel from the Bethesda Row Cinema bathroom wasn’t strong enough to sop up all of the snot and tears. Like, I basically already knew Steve was going to die going in, since he’s 1) the love interest in a superhero movie and 2) a male character in a WWI movie, but still, a v. emotionally impactful death.

I’m…not sure how I feel about some of the implications of the WWI setting–something about putting a deity on the side of an actual country in an actual historical war v.s. using purely fictional villains rubs me the wrong way–although maybe I’m just not giving the script enough credit for subtlety? Because sure, not everything needs to be explicitly spelled out to tell the audience what to believe wrt the morality of our heroes’ actions. Still: it’s one thing to have a superhero combatting generals and mad scientists and explicitly fictionalized goons like Hydra agents or whatever, but seeing Diana fighting the German soldiers in the trenches who aren’t making any of the decisions and are probably draftees who don’t even want to be there–it’s hard to root for her, even if it’s in the service of a noble goal (freeing the village). You could maybe also argue that that moral ambiguity is the Point–the war isn’t as clear-cut as Diana assumes it is for most of the movie, when she thinks that the other side is literally being controlled by the God of War. And that’s the very reason that this isn’t set in WWII instead (besides dodging accusations of copying Captain America: First Avenger), where it’s much easier to just dismiss the Nazis as unilaterally evil.

Also, I was kind of amused at the selection of trailers when I saw this–it just struck me as super apt, which often isn’t the case. The Beguiled, The Big Sick, and My Cousin Rachel together just paint such a specific demographic picture, and Dunkirk–maybe not quite that same demographic, but it is probably the most literally comparable to Wonder Woman, given the setting and, one assumes, “war is hell” vibe.

Table 19 (2017)

Oof, nope.

A lot of choices that felt like super lazy “this is a comedy so I guess we need to include this right?” choices–specifically the ridiculous number of pratfalls and the dog reaction shots. And man, those pratfalls–I think they’re in general a cheap as shit way to get a laugh, but the ones in this movie are just handled spectacularly badly. Except for the fall into the wedding cake, they just kind of…happen, without being treated as Big Laugh Goes Here moments. Which would be fine if you were aiming for a naturalistic movie about characters with vertigo, I guess, but…not what this is. They’re often used to end scenes, in a way that feels like the writers or directors couldn’t figure out a more clever or natural transition between scenes.

I like Wyatt Russell a lot, but man, his character here was really not well-served by the writing and anything that worked with him was entirely due to Russell’s insane charisma. Basically, we only know what the other characters say about him–so we think he’s an asshole, because everyone’s saying he’s an asshole, and then there’s the reveal of that nice thing he did as a child, so oops I guess he’s now a great guy. We don’t see him interacting with any other characters for long enough to make our own decision about what his deal is; so for all of the talk of him and Eloise (Anna Kendrick) disappointing each other and being a mess as parents or whatever, we basically only have their word for it? Which makes it hard to get invested in the romance for any reason other than the casting and the rules of rom-coms.

It might have worked better if we could have seen scenes from their relationship before the wedding, but of course that would have messed with the movie’s structure of only gradually revealing the characters’ reasons for being at the table, Breakfast Club-style. But if that’s the intent…don’t decide partway through to shift the focus onto a romance with a character not in the “club,” I guess?

A United Kingdom (UK 2016/US 2017)


The Wedding Plan (Israel 2016/US 2017)

From the most basic plot description, this sounds like it could almost be an American rom-com–a woman’s fiancé leaves her a month before their wedding, but she decides to keep the venue booked and just find a new groom–although the American version would probably end with the woman marrying the childhood best friend who’s been by her side the whole time but whom she hasn’t been able to view romantically until now. But since this is an Israeli movie with an Orthodox Jewish protagonist, it’s not quite as expected or light-hearted as that. (Although the protagonist is a mobile petting zoo owner, which is such a quirky rom-com protagonist job.)

A thing with foreign films that I feel like doesn’t get discussed enough because it seems “shallow”–obviously this depends on the country of origin, but man, it can be hard to tell what the characters’ costumes are supposed to say about their personalities/socio-economic class/etc. In this movie, the characters all have distinct styles and that’s presumably with intent–I assume they’re cultural markers that signify something to an Israeli audience, sparing the filmmakers the need to fill in certain details about the characters through explicit dialogue. But to an American audience it’s just not that obvious, since the styles don’t really seem to map to anything familiar. Like, I’m guessing there’s a religious element to Michal’s collared, long-sleeved blouses and skirts? Yet in an American movie, her costumes would read as a sort of precious, vintage-loving, quirky girl style. Maybe that’s still what that is? And then there’s the flannel wearing sister with the 80s hair (hipster?) and the best friend with cornrows, which, man, who knows.

Robot & Frank (2012)

Jesus Christ, fucking devastating. I guess I was expecting a feel-good comedy about a curmudgeonly old man gradually opening up and softening through the help of his quirky robot pal, and it kind of is, but all of the dementia stuff takes away any feel-good aspect of it in the end. It was a really Good Film, but I kind of wish I hadn’t watched it. (I cried. I definitely cried. Maybe the hardest I’ve ever cried during a movie, although Testament of Youth is still the most prolonged cinematic crying experience. )

Note to self: don’t watch movies about dementia, no matter how critically acclaimed they are or what kind of interesting sci-fi premise they may have–it’s not worth it. It’s just a subject I absolutely don’t want to think about, whether it’s wrt my parents or myself.

Rush (2013)

Surprisingly great, given that I don’t give a shit about Formula 1.

My Cousin Rachel (2017)

Gothic as shit, but not as conventional as the trailer leads one to believe, I think. Rachel Weisz’s appearance on Graham Norton already “spoiled” the moral ambiguity for me, but: basically, the trailers make it seem like the Big Reveal will be that Rachel is a gold-digging murderess and Philip her next victim. In the movie itself, it’s way less clear who’s whose Gothic victim. And then (spoiler) Rachel conveniently falls to her death, settling everything; Philip doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of his actions and starts a “normal” family–you can probably turn this into a statement about Rich White Male Privilege, but whatever.

Beautiful scenery and beautiful costumes–all of the 19th century dresses, of course, but also superb accessories: Rachel’s veils, Philip’s ascots and suspender. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such focus-pulling ascots–is the cinematography purposefully drawing attention to throats? Between those and the Significant Necklace and ever-present temptation/threat of choking?

Sort of curious what the novel is like–I don’t totally know what Du Maurier’s deal is other than trafficking in “Gothic as shit” (and presumably being the namesake for Gillian Anderson’s character in Hannibal). I guess it probably changes things to know that she was a later writer writing period pieces and thus taking a more modern view on those tropes?

The Salvation (2014)

Confirms that westerns aren’t my Thing, because if I can’t even enjoy a Western with Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green in it, what hope is there? It seems like this is probably well-executed for what it is? And the Danish spin on it is interesting since that’s a time period + country of origin we don’t see too often in immigration stories, although I think I’d actually be more interested in the brothers’ backstory and adjustment to American life rather than the (very quietly) roaring rampage of revenge we see here.

Okja (2017)

Weirdly upsetting; not sure if that’s despite or because of the broadness of the villains.


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