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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In/Out Like a Lion 

Engraving of a lion's head

I left my hobbit hole this morning to find the ground covered in the lightest dusting of snow. It was beautiful and I hated it. March has been an unceasing extension of this endless winter. Elmore Leonard once advised writers from ever describing the weather but that’s exactly what I’m about to do. The weather of March reminds you the world is weird, mysterious and unknowable which I suppose is another way of saying it is crap. Here (and I am led to believe elsewhere) March is doing that thing when it sucker punches you right in the kisser. We’ve had warmer days in February than we’ve had in March. This of course, is unfair, but whoever said climatic conditions should be just? Seeing the sun, rare as that may be, is certainly no indication of warmth. Even a high ceiling of cloud means nothing. There may be rain. There may be snow. There may be nothing at all other than that overwhelming feeling of dread which the dingy light portends. The day before our clocks were cruelly spun ahead someone remarked on the strange blueness of the afternoon light. It was an unusual dusk which felt as if you had just donned a pair of polarized sun glasses and realized the world looks very dreary when polarized. The city had the pallor of grey meat, drained of life and appeal. This was a very March day.
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