Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Those Middle Commandments

Films: Unfaithful
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

There’s something about Diane Lane that bothers me. It’s not that I think she’s a bad actress, because she certainly isn’t. There’s something about her that comes across as artificial to me, though, something plastic. She looks to me like what affluent white women think of when they think of an attractive woman, or the woman they wish to be. I have no explanation for this feeling other than that it’s one I can’t shake. This is relevant because Diane Lane is literally the only reason I sat through Unfaithful. If you think that doesn’t bode well for what’s to follow, you’re probably right.

Connie Sumner (Diane Lane) and her husband Edward (Richard Gere) live a life of the sort that movie producers seem to think is middle class but is actually clearly upper class. He runs a company of some sort and she spends her time fundraising for various charities, they have a massive house in the country, etc. Anyway, the marriage is certainly a loving one, but isn’t very physical, although the presence of their son Charlie (Erik Per Sullivan) would seem to indicate that they’ve had sex at least once.

Monday, August 22, 2016

I'm an Ape, Apeman

Films: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I remember when Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes was released. I was interested in seeing it for the simple reason that I grew up reading a lot of pulp novels. I read a few Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and a lot of other Burroughs besides. Certainly I was curious. Having seen it now, I’m kind of glad I didn’t see it in 1984. I’m not entirely sure what my opinion would have been. There’s a part of me that thinks I would have appreciated how much it sticks to the actual story created by Burroughs. There’s a larger part of me that thinks I’d have been really disappointed with just how dull the whole thing is.

Yeah, it’s dull. I said it and I’d say it again if I had to. One would think that a movie about Tarzan (which, by the way, he is never called in the entire film) would involve jungle action, fights with wild animals, and all that sort of joy. No soap. Greystoke instead attempts to follow the book as closely as possible, and the first Tarzan book from Burroughs is mainly an origin story, and not much happens beyond learning how Tarzan grew up.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Return

So I'm back...sorta.

We had a lot of things happen all at the same time a few weeks ago, and while all of those issues aren't entirely dealt with, enough of them are that I think I can start posting a little more regularly again. The girls have been picked up from their summer programs, the older child has moved out, school is about to restart for both kids, and I've made it through a couple of absolutely hellish weeks at work. So, I may not be back to a post a day, but I'll be back to more than one or two per week.

Thanks to everyone who stayed with me. Talk to you soon.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Nick's Picks: Hanson: Strong Enough to Break

Films: Hanson: Strong Enough to Break
Format: Internet video on laptop.

This is the eighth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Nick Jobe.

One of the most interesting stories in the music world for me is what happened to the band Wilco in 2001 and the years following. They were dropped by their label for producing an album that the company thought was unmarketable. Ultimately, the band released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot to tremendous (and deserved) critical acclaim, suffering through people leaving the band and other heartaches. Ultimately, it’s a story of a band’s dedication to their craft and the triumph of artistic freedom and vision over crass commercialism. This is documented in the 2002 film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. How interesting, then, that the same thing happened to another band in the same time frame. Hanson: Strong Enough to Break parallels the Wilco story in a lot of ways. The two movies make interesting companion pieces for each other.

Nick’s relationship with the band Hanson—known almost exclusively for the surprise smash hit “MMMBop”—is one I understand as well. It’s a similar relationship I had with the band Barenaked Ladies. Nick knows about Hanson because his fiancĂ©e loves Hanson. I knew all about BNL because my wife was a superfan of the band for a few years, going so far as to help plan and attend a convention in Canada. So sure, I got why Nick wanted me to watch this. You can’t be immersed in that environment without either imploding or at becoming at least a marginal fan.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Picks from Chip: House of Flying Daggers (Shi Mian Mai Fu)

Films: House of Flying Daggers (Shi Mian Mai Fu)
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the seventh in a series of twelve movies suggested by Chip Lary.

There was a time around the turn of the last century when wire fu and wuxia films were a thing. The Matrix and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon probably started the trend, which seems to have ended with House of Flying Daggers (or Shi Mian Mai Fu). There’s something dreamy about wire fu films and the way the characters move. I like everything about the style—I like the action, I like the way they are filmed, and I particularly like the kick-ass fight scenes that are filmed in a way that the audience can actually follow the action.

What I was expecting was something that looked a great deal like Crouching Tiger both in terms of visual style and plot. I kind of got that, but kind of didn’t. House of Flying Daggers posits a world closer to Hero in terms of the plot, but gives us a love story closer to Crouching Tiger. There’s a veneer of political intrigue here, a sort of social McGuffin that causes the rest of the plot to happen without really being that critical to the plot that we care about.