Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Seen in… April

Hey there, Brigsby Bear. Image via The Movie Database

This morning I was reading some reviews from users on the site Letterboxd of the latest Marvel movie and some people were simply dumping all over it, while others were gushing with the kind of hyperbole one expects from a fan. In recent years we’ve realized that’s what the Internet has become. A place of divisive thought where everyone poses as an expert. The problem with film criticism (or any form really; art, literary etc) is that you know what you like and what you don’t and you think “like” and “don’t like” equals “good” and “bad”. Yet this is not so and that’s why “critics” exist and a lot of the approach is based in literary criticism and theory - so it’s kind of highfalutin and full of $10 words and such. Still, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your opinions about why you like or didn’t like a movie, but being critical isn't capital “C” criticism, which is fine. I realize I can sound like a jerk when I write this stuff. I’m trying to be funny not jerky, but I get how being both unfunny and jerky equals “jerk”. Henceforth, if something sounds jerky remember not to take it too seriously.

I guess I feel guilty about saying how bad Temple of Doom was…

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 & 2

This is a surprisingly great adaptation of the movies to a continuing series of 30 minute episodes. If you know and love Sam Raimi’s films, The Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, then this is a slam dunk as the same level of gore, fright, camp and humour are maintained and balanced throughout. Bruce Campbell is back as the eponymous Ash, and we find that he’s pretty much the same immature, irresponsible slayer of evil he was 30 years ago. Somehow Ash has kept the evil book of the dead, the Necronomicon, that opens a portal of evilness upon the world without consequence for all the time that has passed between the original movies and today but of course, that couldn’t last if you want to make a series about the forces of evil fighting a one-handed guy who uses a chainsaw as a prosthetic. You’d think seeing our hero and his new young friends getting into and out of more evil circumstances would grow old but after 20 episodes it’s just as fun as the first time.

Between a rock and a hard place and a disappointing sequel. Image via The Movie Database

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Eew and ugh. Despite Spielberg’s deftness with the camera this is a terrible movie, only partly due to the deafness of the script. It would be pointless to go back to an old movie and be critical of its political correctness but luckily there is no reason to revisit this movie anyway. The movie begins with our hero, Indiana Jones narrowly escaping what looks like a more interesting adventure only to board a plane set to crash over India. Since the previous film, Jones has for no reason, picked up a 10 or 11-year-old sidekick (who annoying yells every line), swapped his previous love interest of Karen Allen for a tag along night club performer, Kate Capshaw but maintained his trademark swagger. This unlikely trio wind up in a tiny Indian village that has lost a sacred stone which Indy, without much provocation, decides to help retrieve it. What follows is pretty bad. I tend to think of this film like the 3 Star Wars where a series goes off the rails, but fortunately the film that followed (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) was one of the best.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Seen in… March

Phantom Thread Image via The Movie DB

A busy month left me squeezing in only a few movies, one documentary and a new season of Jessica Jones. In truth I did spend a lot of time rewatching 3 seasons of Silicon Valley while learning how to use a newly procured sewing machine so that I could hem some pants. All I can say is that seamstresses are underpaid. After failing to program my viewing for Black History Month I thought I’d have another go around International Women’s Day. This also did not go as planned and again was a reminder to just treat every month as an opportunity to see stories of the Black American experience or from the female perspective.

Phantom Thread

P.T. Anderson has done it again. He made a masterful film that was incredibly beautiful and dull until he twisted the knife. I feel like the theatre is really the only place to see this type of movie because you paid for it and then you feel obliged to stick around and pay attention. If this were a movie you were watching at home you probably would have abandoned it to make a sandwich and turned it off before the turn in the story. Daniel Day-Lewis is Reynolds Woodcock (snicker) an extraordinarily talented and renowned dressmaker and designer. He’s also an obsessive narcissist with a strong Machiavellian streak who suffers bouts of deep depression. He has a habit of taking young models as his muse and discarding them when he’s done, until he meets his match in will and focus, Alma. Alma is a beautiful young woman who happens to have a naturally perfect dress size. As their relationship strengthens so too does Reynolds’ control over Alma until she begins to feel more like a fitting mannequin than partner. The odd thing about Reynolds’ mistreatment of women is that he is surrounded by them and his sister, who is the only one who seems to keep any eye on the business is a particular influence. This movie reminds me of older films of the 70s where a quiet desperate power dynamic was playing out before our eyes. In the end, I’m not sure you could really say what this film is about (Relationships? Co-dependence? Creativity? Love? Depression? All of the above?) which is exactly what leaves it sticking around in your head after having seen it. It also reminded me of a more recent film, The Duke of Burgundy but I’ll leave it to you to make your own connections.

Annihilation Image via The Movie DB


Natalie Portman plays Lena, a biologist and former marine, whose husband disappeared a year earlier on a military mission and returns only to become seriously ill almost on her doorstep. While rushing to the hospital Lena and her husband are immediately stopped, taken into custody and quarantined by government agents. It turns out, Lena’s husband was part of an expeditionary force that entered a remote area which has become contaminated (in a manner of speaking) after a meteorite crashes there. The contaminated zone, dubbed “The Shimmer” is growing and no one who has entered has returned. With the goal of discovering what has infected her husband Lena volunteers to join quartet of fierce women for another mission into the zone. It is only asked once why the team are entirely female, with the only answer being they were the right personnel for the job. Within The Shimmer, the team lose all sense of time, directions and purpose. In this sense, it is very much like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. What they discover is part mind-blowing sci-fi, part thrill of the unknown and part philosophical quandary. In this sense, it is very much like Ridley Scott’s Alien. In the end, Lena prevails or at least the thing that Lena has become.
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Monday, April 16, 2018

Stomach to Ground Control 

Image via the Florida Center for Instructional Technology

Me to stomach: Hey, what’s up?

Stomach: Um? How do you feel about staying home today?

Me: Why?
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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Undeniable Truth 

Your headache has arrived.

The last few weeks I’ve been working late and racking my brain around an entirely useless, inane and tedious project. Everyday there are meetings about how urgent this work is and if it isn’t completed we’ll potentially lose a multi-million dollar deal. This isn’t my mess. It isn’t even the mess of the bosses demanding the work. It’s someone else’s mess entirely. Yet, not only have the originators of said mess outsourced the fixing of it, but they’ve also outsourced the anxiety. I don’t even really care anymore but for some reason when someone is putting demands on you and the only way to shut them up is to deliver something, you do it. When it doesn’t shut them up and their insatiable need for more of the same isn’t met you start to wonder exactly why you are doing the stupid thing you are doing in the first place. It was against this backdrop last Friday that I began the day with a headache so monstrous it had previously starred in several mid-50’s era disaster movies set in Tokyo. I’m sure the headache was due to lack of sleep I’d had the night before. I was prevented from sleeping by my desire to put my fists through any available wall. I spent the Friday nursing my head, wincing at bright lights, working to make sense of the tasks at hand while trying not to vomit at my desk or poop my pants. At some point I couldn’t take it any longer and decided to call it quits and leave work early. It was 5:30 PM.
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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Seen in… February 

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa aka Black Panther

I had hoped to watch more movies in the theme of Black History month but in the end I only saw two films in my list, but two great movies, so I guess it counts. Though after Black Panther and maybe more importantly Get Out and Jordan Peele's Oscar win or Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time, the time has come when you won't have to go out of your way to watch a film of primarily African-American characters but they'll just be some of the movies you're seeing anyway.

Bill Murray and friend in Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
It wouldn’t be February without Groundhog Day and for some reason, perhaps because clips of the film are so often played during Groundhog Day I thought I’d revisit this beloved Bill Murray “classic”. In truth, the film holds up - although released in 1993 it really looks more like 1983 - but the music, definitely, definitely does not hold up. I don’t know why I really notice the score and soundtracks of older films immediately. Basically, if the music doesn’t stand out, it’s probably great but if you notice it, well, it’s usually for all the wrong reasons. It’s as though mediocre scores from the same year all sound exactly the same or there was a fad to use “Chicago Blues” or some flavour of pop that does not age well. My assumption is that if one film has a successful score then many others copy it, as do television shows of the day. Back when those films were current you never noticed the score then because, that was how they all sounded, but fast forward 10 or 20 years and it hits you like a brick. To recap, Murray plays an egotistical weatherman who, tired of doing small time schtick like a local Groundhog Day coverage, finds himself living the same day, over and over again. He eventually makes the best of the situation and finds time to learn a new language or to play an instrument. Eventually he finds himself falling in love with the woman he initially disregarded played by Andi MacDowell (I know right? Didn’t everybody fall in love with Andi MacDowell in the 90s?) He only escapes his unusual circumstance when he finally becomes the man he needs to be to have MacDowell fall in love with him. Lesson learned etc. I don’t know if this film was based on another story but there have been many since that have used the premise of a character being forced to relive the same day over and over again until they’ve fundamentally changed in some way. One thing I really like about Groundhog Day is that they never ever bother try explaining how this has happened to him. It just does. There’s no lightening strike or magic old man or evil witch. The fact that they never try explaining it only adds to the feeling of the premise being a metaphor for our own lives. Maybe you are stuck in a rut because you haven’t learned from your failings. Maybe actually becoming the person you aspire to be, or by merely being open to change and looking for goodness can you break out of your own existential rut.

Robin Williams and friends in Jumanji

Another mid-90s movie that I was sure was late 80s. I thought I’d watch this because I read the current release of another Jumanji movie makes reference to the 1995 version. Either way, both films are based on the same gimmick - some kids get magically pulled into a game (or the game comes to life, mysteriously) and they have to play to escape and survive such things as wild animal stampedes, giant mosquitos, quick sand and lions. The film holds up to a certain degree. It was one of many that was an early adopter of computer generated special effects after the success of Jurassic Park. Let’s just say, I remembered the effects better than they were and in all honesty I don’t know how you could’ve made such a movie without computer effects. The performances by Bonnie Hunt and Robin Williams were great though. I could see why someone in Hollywood would see the film and think “This would be great with today’s effects."
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