Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hiatus

I'm taking a break from blogging. A few things have come up in life that require my attention.

I think it's likely I'll keep posting on Fridays for awhile and I'll do Chip's and Nick's movies in the coming months, but regular reviews are going to be spotty for some time.

Talk to you soon.

--S

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gender Roles

Films: Woman of the Year
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on laptop.

When you think of great screen couples from the golden age of Hollywood, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The two had magnificent chemistry together both on and off screen, which made them a natural pairing. Their typical film was light romantic comedy and Woman of the Year is no different in that respect. In many respects, this explores the same territory as a lot of other Tracy/Hepburn films: the sexual politics of the day.

It also feels in many ways like the beginnings of what would become a modern sitcom situation. One of the conceits of many a sitcom, at least in the past, is putting a man in a relationship with a woman who is far too smart, accomplished, and good for him. This is close to the territory we’re treading here, although not entirely. What we’ll find as we dig into the story here is that she may well be too smart and accomplished for him, but he may be too good for her.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Off Script: The Ring

Films: The Ring
Format: DVD from personal collection on rockin’ flatscreen.

In the 2000s, particularly in 2008, there was a spate of American remakes of Japanese horror films. Arguably this trend started with 2002’s The Ring, a remake of Ringu from 1998. A lot of these remakes (see One Missed Call or Pulse) have gotten nothing but a critical panning and ended up giving this trend a deservedly bad name. The Ring is different, though. It sticks to the original story well, maintains a solid air of mystery throughout its running time, and packs in a few quality scares. I don’t like the insta-remake trend more than anyone else seems to, but when the results are this good, it’s hard to object.

I do like the original version better, but not a lot better. I’m just enough of a purist to think that a remake has to be significantly better than the remake for me to think it was worth making. The benefit of The Ring for an American audience is that it’s simply more accessible than the Japanese version for an American audience. The benefit of this version is that anyone who isn’t willing to watch a film with subtitles will be able to get a very good, very accurate version of a damn good horror story.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Everyone Gets Hit

Films: Champion
Format: Movies! Channel on rockin’ flatscreen.

Baseball might be America’s national pastime and football may well be our sport of choice, but when it comes to the Oscars, it’s all about boxing. There’s something about boxing that wakes Oscar up. In a world where the premier sports documentary (Hoop Dreams) can’t wrangle a nomination, it seems like every other film about boxing shows up on one or more of my lists. Champion from 1949 is yet another film about the fight game, putting Kirk Douglas in the ring and giving him plenty of battles outside of it as well.

Part of the lure of boxing is probably that there’s no need to manufacture drama. Oh, sure, we can add a bit here and there and plenty of filmmakers do, but once the two fighters step into the ring, the drama unfolds naturally. It’s about as pure a dramatic moment as can be imagined: two men step in to do battle until one of them falls or time is called. We don’t need anything more than that. It’s inherently dramatic, and so it’s a natural place to put a story.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

We're All Puppets

Films: Anomalisa
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

There are movies that frustrate me. The whole string of them is probably too long to mention, but the fact that it happens is worth mentioning. Anomalisa is the latest in that list. This is a movie that by all rights I’m supposed to like. The fact that an R-rated animated movie was nominated for Best Animated Feature is the sort of thing I’m supposed to like as well; I’ve commented in the past something to the effect that Best Animated Feature is essentially “Best Kids’ Movie” every year and that the Academy never looks beyond that for this category. Here they did. That’s good—it expands the category in a meaningful way. And yet there’s something about Anomalisa that I find difficult. It took me far too long to get through this movie, and I’m still not sure why.

Anomalisa is a story of a loss of connection from reality and the world and a desperate search for that connection. More prosaically, it’s an exploration of the Fregoli delusion, a strange combination of paranoia and persecution complex in which the person suffering the delusions beings to believe that different people are, in fact, the same person in disguise. This is ground that writer/director Charlie Kaufman touched on in that brief “Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich” sequence in Being John Malkovich. In that respect, it’s not hard to see a direct line between Kaufman’s earlier work and this one.