January 5, 2013
I’ve been sick and mopey the last few days so I didn’t really get a chance to write my 2013 New Year’s resolutions, but one of them is to be better about writing about every movie I see (I did not do a great job in 2012). The last movie I saw in 2012 was Les Miserables, and I want to report that it made me cry in the theatre like no other movie in maybe a really long time.
I’m not that much of a stage musical buff, but I did go through a Les Mis period, like everyone, so I had a lot of expectations about the movie. I’m not totally sure about the whole live-singing, intimate-staging tack that Hooper decided to take. Les Mis (especially the musical version) is not a realistic story, it’s kind of a nutso sentimental religious story that dramatizes complicated things is really overly simplistic ways. Like the scene where Fantine gets drummed out of the factory, there’s nothing “realistic” about the ladies ganging up on her or her gross supervisor who just wants to bone her, no one would actually say this stuff, but you can see that kind of thing happening more quietly. You can tell it’s melodrama because everyone sings what they’re feeling all the time. So you kind of want the style to match, to be equally gaudy and overblown. It’s really hard to make this kind of thing “gritty” effectively. I have to agree with the prevailing view that the “I Dreamed A Dream” scene was kind of the best-case scenario for Hooper’s approach. Ann Hathaway’s not the greatest singer, but she’s good enough, and the scene is well-acted enough that it manages to be just devastating. At some points she looks kind of like Maria Falconetti in Dreyer’s Joan of Arc - hair shorn, trapped in these tight close-ups, tormented by off-camera demons. I didn’t just do the elegant movie theatre cry - the dab away a few silent tears cry - I was audibly weeping, to the point that Alex noticed and kind of patted my hand, at which point I kind of started laughing with embarrassment. I’m a pretty soppy, but I still kind of want to disown that kind of emotional display, even with someone I’m super-comfortable with. Anyway, what more can I ask for from a melodrama? 
It wasn’t a great film-as-a-film though. I wanted some places to be more musical theatre, I wanted there to be more big sweep, fewer closeups, more spinning cameras. Samantha Barks’ performance as Eponine already had so many more musical theatre mannerisms, there’s no reason not to just go all the way to big with it.
(Also I’m not talking about Russell Crowe. I kind of felt bad for him, he’s not the worst singer in a bar band kind of way but he was just completely out of his depth. Alex hadn’t heard the soundtrack in a while and actually thought “Stars” was a new song, it was so unrecognizable.)

I’ve been sick and mopey the last few days so I didn’t really get a chance to write my 2013 New Year’s resolutions, but one of them is to be better about writing about every movie I see (I did not do a great job in 2012). The last movie I saw in 2012 was Les Miserables, and I want to report that it made me cry in the theatre like no other movie in maybe a really long time.

I’m not that much of a stage musical buff, but I did go through a Les Mis period, like everyone, so I had a lot of expectations about the movie. I’m not totally sure about the whole live-singing, intimate-staging tack that Hooper decided to take. Les Mis (especially the musical version) is not a realistic story, it’s kind of a nutso sentimental religious story that dramatizes complicated things is really overly simplistic ways. Like the scene where Fantine gets drummed out of the factory, there’s nothing “realistic” about the ladies ganging up on her or her gross supervisor who just wants to bone her, no one would actually say this stuff, but you can see that kind of thing happening more quietly. You can tell it’s melodrama because everyone sings what they’re feeling all the time. So you kind of want the style to match, to be equally gaudy and overblown. It’s really hard to make this kind of thing “gritty” effectively. I have to agree with the prevailing view that the “I Dreamed A Dream” scene was kind of the best-case scenario for Hooper’s approach. Ann Hathaway’s not the greatest singer, but she’s good enough, and the scene is well-acted enough that it manages to be just devastating. At some points she looks kind of like Maria Falconetti in Dreyer’s Joan of Arc - hair shorn, trapped in these tight close-ups, tormented by off-camera demons. I didn’t just do the elegant movie theatre cry - the dab away a few silent tears cry - I was audibly weeping, to the point that Alex noticed and kind of patted my hand, at which point I kind of started laughing with embarrassment. I’m a pretty soppy, but I still kind of want to disown that kind of emotional display, even with someone I’m super-comfortable with. Anyway, what more can I ask for from a melodrama? 

It wasn’t a great film-as-a-film though. I wanted some places to be more musical theatre, I wanted there to be more big sweep, fewer closeups, more spinning cameras. Samantha Barks’ performance as Eponine already had so many more musical theatre mannerisms, there’s no reason not to just go all the way to big with it.

(Also I’m not talking about Russell Crowe. I kind of felt bad for him, he’s not the worst singer in a bar band kind of way but he was just completely out of his depth. Alex hadn’t heard the soundtrack in a while and actually thought “Stars” was a new song, it was so unrecognizable.)

October 27, 2012

I decided to watch Paranormal Activity 3 tonight because I figured I should catch up the franchise before I go see Paranormal Activity 4 and because I could feel myself getting mopey (I am going back on birth control and I have all these hormones so stuff keeps making me cry that wouldn’t normally make me cry, like sitcoms, and the song “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah, idk, as much as I love pop culture feelings I’m actually usually not much of a crier, and I started thinking morose thoughts about my actual life and I was like, danger, danger) and horror movies usually calm me.

I liked the first two and thought they were like, decent horror movies with interesting gender dynamics and like I’ve studied film theory so the whole “let’s acknowledge the invasive presence of the camera” piece of the scenario is always a thing even though I realize that it’s a big horror trend from a few years ago so it’s really not that original and it’s all really obvious. But 3 was really good and it also just completely stressed me out. Possibly because there wasn’t a lot of mystery about what was happening? Possibly because the characters weren’t as annoying as the characters in the first 2 (I didn’t think they were annoying in a bad way, they were actually annoying in a really believable way)?I don’t know if it was the little girls or the anticipation or the part where they did “Bloody Mary” (a total late 80s sleepover classic) or the Teddy Ruxpin what but man by the end of the movie I was basically clutching my chest and freaking out every time I heard my landlords take a step above me. 

October 16, 2012
The Master makes me feel like a bad film blogger.  I saw it a while ago and wanted to wait to write about it until I’d absorbed it better. I guess it’s sort of one of the “controversial” movies of the year, in that it had a huge build-up but it turned out to be a much quieter, odder movie than people were expecting, and a lot of them didn’t like it. Usually I love these arguments. Remember one NY Times writer thought Meek’s Cutoff was boring and called it “cultural vegetables”? I read so much of that cultural conversation (also: Meek’s Cutoff was riveting).  But this time I don’t really care that much? Like, I can’t get too worked up about either side. It just, I don’t know.
There was good stuff in it. Great performances. Great movie to look at. Thoughtful framing. Long, uncomfortably lingering shots. Terrifying homemade liquor concoctions. Naked dancing. The sea. But none of it really worked on me. Maybe I’m just really over Serious Movies for Grown-Ups. 

The Master makes me feel like a bad film blogger.  I saw it a while ago and wanted to wait to write about it until I’d absorbed it better. I guess it’s sort of one of the “controversial” movies of the year, in that it had a huge build-up but it turned out to be a much quieter, odder movie than people were expecting, and a lot of them didn’t like it. Usually I love these arguments. Remember one NY Times writer thought Meek’s Cutoff was boring and called it “cultural vegetables”? I read so much of that cultural conversation (also: Meek’s Cutoff was riveting).  But this time I don’t really care that much? Like, I can’t get too worked up about either side. It just, I don’t know.

There was good stuff in it. Great performances. Great movie to look at. Thoughtful framing. Long, uncomfortably lingering shots. Terrifying homemade liquor concoctions. Naked dancing. The sea. But none of it really worked on me. Maybe I’m just really over Serious Movies for Grown-Ups. 

October 2, 2012
So, Looper.
I liked that it was a big actiony sci fi movie that wasn’t based on a pre-existing franchise. I always like JGL. I liked the kind of Le Samourai vibes of his ascetic assassin lifestyle and his terse performance. I liked the bit with the coffee, though Manohla reminds me I probably just like it for the Godard reference. I liked Emily Blunt. I loved Jeff Daniels telling Joe that the movie’s he’s copying are just copies of other movies. “Do something new.” (In a movie full of Godard references.) I loved the part where Young Joe is talking to Old Joe in the diner and he’s like “Explain the paradox of this time travel stuff to me,” and Old Joe’s like “IT DOESN’T MATTER, GOD.” Good pacing. Actual sex and violence pitched at adults. Like, pretty dire stuff happens. 
I feel like it had some flaws. One, why was JGL’s makeup so bad? It was so weird and distracting. All you can look at are those eyebrows. Also, old Joe’s motivation is a beautiful silent Asian wife who “saves” him from himself. (Like, literally, she has no lines.) Young Joe is saved by a woman and a kid too, kind of, in that he learns that caring for other people is actually a thing, and it’s nice, but she is white so they also give her a personality and dialogue. 

So, Looper.

I liked that it was a big actiony sci fi movie that wasn’t based on a pre-existing franchise. I always like JGL. I liked the kind of Le Samourai vibes of his ascetic assassin lifestyle and his terse performance. I liked the bit with the coffee, though Manohla reminds me I probably just like it for the Godard reference. I liked Emily Blunt. I loved Jeff Daniels telling Joe that the movie’s he’s copying are just copies of other movies. “Do something new.” (In a movie full of Godard references.) I loved the part where Young Joe is talking to Old Joe in the diner and he’s like “Explain the paradox of this time travel stuff to me,” and Old Joe’s like “IT DOESN’T MATTER, GOD.” Good pacing. Actual sex and violence pitched at adults. Like, pretty dire stuff happens. 

I feel like it had some flaws. One, why was JGL’s makeup so bad? It was so weird and distracting. All you can look at are those eyebrows. Also, old Joe’s motivation is a beautiful silent Asian wife who “saves” him from himself. (Like, literally, she has no lines.) Young Joe is saved by a woman and a kid too, kind of, in that he learns that caring for other people is actually a thing, and it’s nice, but she is white so they also give her a personality and dialogue. 

July 24, 2012

[Spoilers follow, proceed accordingly.]

As Jonathan noted, there’s virtually no way to make a “straight” Batman movie without basically promoting the worst possible politics. (There are very few ways, I think, to do a superhero story progressively without going into straight-out camp, and the only ones I can think of off-hand are Buffy and The Watchmen, both of which are self-conscious genre reworkings, and also I’m sure there are more but I’m not a comics person, so I only know TV and movie versions of stuff - I mean, I did read The Watchmen, but I don’t think I’ve read any regular superhero comics ever. But I mean, at least you could argue they were trying with that whole Spider-Man great power great responsibility deal.) But I don’t really want to talk about Batman politics, not because the movie didn’t have politics, it had so many politics, but they were so stupid that I get bored thinking about writing about them. (Other people managed to rouse themselves to think through how noxious the French Revolution parallels are if you like that kind of thing.)

I still like superhero movies though, kind of despite myself.

One thing I will say, about the politics of Batman, is that in this day and age I probably wouldn’t dwell so much on the parts of the Batman mythology where Batman’s - and the villains’ - darkness comes from a vaguely Middle Eastern prison. That was pretty gross.

The other thing is that one way to look at the way they took whole crypto-fascist tough on crime  “the rules are just shackles that prevent us from putting everyone in jail forever” so ridiculously far, is that it exposes how ridiculous it is. I don’t imagine that was Nolan’s intention, but it is definitely a possible way to watch the movie.

I did like the fact that even Christopher Nolan got bored enough of Batman’s angst that he decided to make a movie about Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s police officer James Blake with some occasional rock-climbing on Christian Bale’s part. I mean, it was kind of a mess and Christian Bale didn’t really have much chemistry with either Cotillard or Hathaway (love means you just suddenly start kissing someone), but I thought Anne Hathaway was a great Selina, even if I would’ve liked it better if she didn’t give up her whole life and all her previously held opinions the minute she met a cute rich guy.

But I mostly want to focus on the best part of the movie, where she gets busted robbing this dude and he’s like “Nice outfit, those heels must be hard to walk in” and then she’s like “Well you know,” and uses her high heels to kick him in the balls (I assume).

I mean. I’m only human.

July 17, 2012

This is the second part of my movie logging catch up deal. If you click through, there is Whit Stillman, The Eyes of Laura Mars, and a lot of feelings on Black Narcissus.

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July 2, 2012

So one of my New Years Resolutions that I sort of actually want to keep was to write on this here tumblr about every movie I saw. I kind of fell apart on that with travel and post-travel depression, unless I had a lot to say about something specific, so this is part 1 of a mass-post about movies I’ve seen and not yet written about in my “movies I saw in 2012" tag. 

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May 14, 2012
Joss did two super Joss things in The Avengers, one that I will always love, one that I don’t really like.
The first one is the one I love, in the scene where the Black Widow’s introduced. We see Scarlett Johanssen, tied to a chair, being dangled over a hole in the floor by some dudes who are about to torture her. It looks bad. Then one thug’s phone rings. It’s for her. It’s home office getting her to come in. “I’m in the middle of an interrogation,” she complains. “This idiot’s giving me everything.” The Russian bad guy is like “No, I’m not.” She gives him a look like O RLY. Then she manages to kick all their asses while still tied to a chair. It’s one of his best moves, to introduce a stock movie situation with a scared, vulnerable lady, and then flip things so it turns out she’s actually in total control and then punches a bunch of guys. (I know people don’t like ScarJo but I thought she was perfect for this and her flatness read as impassive hardness.) It’s totally the first scene of Buffy, where a blonde girl and a kind of creepy jock are sneaking into the school after hours and she seems a little scared — before she sucks out all his blood, because it’s Darla. 
The other thing that is classically Joss is the shockingly killing off a likable minor character to raise the emotional stakes thing. This is a Joss favourite. I like it less because I feel like sometimes it’s dramatically called for (the death of Jenny Calendar), and sometimes he uses it like a bludgeon (the death of Fred Burkle). This time it worked okay.
Other than that, it was practically the perfect superhero movie. I liked how he managed to make a bunch of people who could not be more deeply embedded in the military-industrial complex seem like ragtag rebels. 
(I will also note for movie record keeping posterity that I saw Thor and Captain America in preparation to understand the plot of this one. I liked both a lot more than I thought I would, especially Captain America. It was smart to keep the army superhero tied to WWII, otherwise I think stuff could’ve gotten really disturbing. I liked when the love interest punched that guy.)
(I will further note that I have actually missed writing up a bunch of movies that I’ve watched this year because of reasons; am probably going to have some very vague short backlog type posts coming up soon?)

Joss did two super Joss things in The Avengers, one that I will always love, one that I don’t really like.

The first one is the one I love, in the scene where the Black Widow’s introduced. We see Scarlett Johanssen, tied to a chair, being dangled over a hole in the floor by some dudes who are about to torture her. It looks bad. Then one thug’s phone rings. It’s for her. It’s home office getting her to come in. “I’m in the middle of an interrogation,” she complains. “This idiot’s giving me everything.” The Russian bad guy is like “No, I’m not.” She gives him a look like O RLY. Then she manages to kick all their asses while still tied to a chair. It’s one of his best moves, to introduce a stock movie situation with a scared, vulnerable lady, and then flip things so it turns out she’s actually in total control and then punches a bunch of guys. (I know people don’t like ScarJo but I thought she was perfect for this and her flatness read as impassive hardness.) It’s totally the first scene of Buffy, where a blonde girl and a kind of creepy jock are sneaking into the school after hours and she seems a little scared — before she sucks out all his blood, because it’s Darla.

The other thing that is classically Joss is the shockingly killing off a likable minor character to raise the emotional stakes thing. This is a Joss favourite. I like it less because I feel like sometimes it’s dramatically called for (the death of Jenny Calendar), and sometimes he uses it like a bludgeon (the death of Fred Burkle). This time it worked okay.

Other than that, it was practically the perfect superhero movie. I liked how he managed to make a bunch of people who could not be more deeply embedded in the military-industrial complex seem like ragtag rebels.

(I will also note for movie record keeping posterity that I saw Thor and Captain America in preparation to understand the plot of this one. I liked both a lot more than I thought I would, especially Captain America. It was smart to keep the army superhero tied to WWII, otherwise I think stuff could’ve gotten really disturbing. I liked when the love interest punched that guy.)

(I will further note that I have actually missed writing up a bunch of movies that I’ve watched this year because of reasons; am probably going to have some very vague short backlog type posts coming up soon?)

April 24, 2012
Keyhole is lesser Guy Maddin; I mean, I’ll watch any Guy Maddin, I really relate to his sensibility and as a Canadian I think I am socially within three degrees of him. (Two if you count the time I met Mark McKinney.) I relate to the world in terms of old movies an embarrassing lot and I really like ghost stories. Lesser Guy Maddin means that it was still a joy to watch; even goofier than usual, if a bit less beautiful. It uses a lot more 1930s-40s pulp gangster movies than he usually uses as sources (which Jason Patric was perfect for). A lot of people were acting in a lot of different styles and registers, which always makes me think of John Waters. I mean, Isabella Rossellini and Kevin McDonald were just in the same movie. So it was hard to get swept up the way you can with his best work; I don’t think that has to be a bad thing, but it’s what I look to Maddin movies for if that makes sense.
We spent a while on the subway ride home trying to figure out what if anything were supposed to do with the Odyssey references but we couldn’t really come up with anything concrete other than the fact that there were a lot of them. 

Keyhole is lesser Guy Maddin; I mean, I’ll watch any Guy Maddin, I really relate to his sensibility and as a Canadian I think I am socially within three degrees of him. (Two if you count the time I met Mark McKinney.) I relate to the world in terms of old movies an embarrassing lot and I really like ghost stories. Lesser Guy Maddin means that it was still a joy to watch; even goofier than usual, if a bit less beautiful. It uses a lot more 1930s-40s pulp gangster movies than he usually uses as sources (which Jason Patric was perfect for). A lot of people were acting in a lot of different styles and registers, which always makes me think of John Waters. I mean, Isabella Rossellini and Kevin McDonald were just in the same movie. So it was hard to get swept up the way you can with his best work; I don’t think that has to be a bad thing, but it’s what I look to Maddin movies for if that makes sense.

We spent a while on the subway ride home trying to figure out what if anything were supposed to do with the Odyssey references but we couldn’t really come up with anything concrete other than the fact that there were a lot of them. 

April 24, 2012
Notes on Cabin in the Woods [includes spoilers]
- I’m in a really Joss place right now. I’ve been watching Buffy reruns and this got me watching Angel on Netflix. I get that Joss can be annoying (valid critiques usually involving smugness + “Funny Games for fanboys”), but I find his whole brand of playful genre exercises + feelings + making ideas that are usually metaphors into the story central enough to my own aesthetics that my critical faculties are basically disarmed in the face of Joss-ness.
- But I still kind of feel like there’s something vaguely embarrassing about my Joss love. I don’t know if I’m doing some kind of commodity fetishism here or if I feel embarrassed because it’s actually great, but I do feel like I need to acknowledge that along with my love.
- The best thing about Cabin in the Woods is the way it slowly reveals its central metaphor, the horror movie as ritual sacrifice. I think it’s made pretty clear long before Sigourney Weaver (final girl extraordinaire) comes along to explain it.
- I like how the cabin-in-the-woods characters have to be drugged and manipulated into acting like the characters from a horror movie. 
- The part where the girl makes out with the wolf. The part where the girl makes out with the wolf. I want to see a whole movie that felt like that. 
- I like how the good/evil status of the control room staff is unclear. At first it seems like they’re really nonchalant bad guys. But then, slowly, their spectatorship starts to look really familiar, and it does become clear that they have their reasons for doing this. They need to make this sacrifice to keep the demons at bay. 
- This is why it’s kind of hard to watch them die, because they’re us, really. They start out snarky, but by the end they kind of find themselves rooting for the last girl alive.
- But on the “Funny Games for fanboys” tip, for someone as historically invested in the horror genre as he is, Joss has a history of this kind of thing outside filmmaking. Remember when everyone was really mad about Captivity, a completely mediocre entry in the post-Saw ”torture porn” generic cycle? Joss wrote a blog post comparing it (based a trailer) to a video of an actual girl getting stoned to death. I can’t even. I mean, I’m glad he’s in favour of women not getting murdered for being women, but I think it’s probably important to make a distinction between a real, horrible, awful thing that happened and a made up thing that is supposed to make people uncomfortable sd its primary function. (I watched Captivity for a paper and it’s really not defensible, but there’s the symptom and there’s the disease, and while I can understand that the symptom is upsetting to people I feel like stamping out the symptom is going to fuck-all to cure the disease, but that’s just me.) 
- Anyway, if Cabin in the Woods is supposed to make me feel bad for liking movie violence, it did a pretty bad job of it, what with some of the best scenes involving hilarious movie violence. (The motorcycle jumping the gorge and crashing into the forcefield and the killer unicorn.)

- I think it succeeds as a horror comedy - and in the fact that it disrupts the rules just enough that I legitimately had no idea how it was going to end.

- But I do think it could have done that and been more scary.

Notes on Cabin in the Woods [includes spoilers]

- I’m in a really Joss place right now. I’ve been watching Buffy reruns and this got me watching Angel on Netflix. I get that Joss can be annoying (valid critiques usually involving smugness + “Funny Games for fanboys”), but I find his whole brand of playful genre exercises + feelings + making ideas that are usually metaphors into the story central enough to my own aesthetics that my critical faculties are basically disarmed in the face of Joss-ness.

- But I still kind of feel like there’s something vaguely embarrassing about my Joss love. I don’t know if I’m doing some kind of commodity fetishism here or if I feel embarrassed because it’s actually great, but I do feel like I need to acknowledge that along with my love.

- The best thing about Cabin in the Woods is the way it slowly reveals its central metaphor, the horror movie as ritual sacrifice. I think it’s made pretty clear long before Sigourney Weaver (final girl extraordinaire) comes along to explain it.

- I like how the cabin-in-the-woods characters have to be drugged and manipulated into acting like the characters from a horror movie. 

- The part where the girl makes out with the wolf. The part where the girl makes out with the wolf. I want to see a whole movie that felt like that. 

- I like how the good/evil status of the control room staff is unclear. At first it seems like they’re really nonchalant bad guys. But then, slowly, their spectatorship starts to look really familiar, and it does become clear that they have their reasons for doing this. They need to make this sacrifice to keep the demons at bay. 

- This is why it’s kind of hard to watch them die, because they’re us, really. They start out snarky, but by the end they kind of find themselves rooting for the last girl alive.

- But on the “Funny Games for fanboys” tip, for someone as historically invested in the horror genre as he is, Joss has a history of this kind of thing outside filmmaking. Remember when everyone was really mad about Captivity, a completely mediocre entry in the post-Saw ”torture porn” generic cycle? Joss wrote a blog post comparing it (based a trailer) to a video of an actual girl getting stoned to death. I can’t even. I mean, I’m glad he’s in favour of women not getting murdered for being women, but I think it’s probably important to make a distinction between a real, horrible, awful thing that happened and a made up thing that is supposed to make people uncomfortable sd its primary function. (I watched Captivity for a paper and it’s really not defensible, but there’s the symptom and there’s the disease, and while I can understand that the symptom is upsetting to people I feel like stamping out the symptom is going to fuck-all to cure the disease, but that’s just me.) 

- Anyway, if Cabin in the Woods is supposed to make me feel bad for liking movie violence, it did a pretty bad job of it, what with some of the best scenes involving hilarious movie violence. (The motorcycle jumping the gorge and crashing into the forcefield and the killer unicorn.)
- I think it succeeds as a horror comedy - and in the fact that it disrupts the rules just enough that I legitimately had no idea how it was going to end.
- But I do think it could have done that and been more scary.

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