Monday, September 29, 2014

What a Girl Wants

Film: La Vie d’Adele—Chapitres 1 & 2 (Blue is the Warmest Color); Wadjda
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix (Blue) and DVD from NetFlix (Wadjda) on laptop.

I’ve lost track of the number of times on this blog that I’ve talked about the way that coming-of-age films work. Typically, a coming of age story for boys involves coming to grips with mortality. Boys, at least in a serious coming-of-age tale, need to confront death. For girls (and for boys in comedies), coming-of-age stories are about sex. Girls need to come to terms with their ability to create life. This is one of the reasons I’ve put off watching La Vie d’Adele—Chapitres 1 & 2 (much more commonly known as Blue is the Warmest Color) for as long as I have. Why else? Well, it’s three hours long, and I’m not always down for that.

Blue is the Warmest Color is not really about that, though. Oh, don’t misunderstand—this is very much a girl’s coming-of-age story and it doesn’t skimp on the sex. So, while the film is very much about sex, it’s far more about sexual identity and personal identity than it is purely about sex. I do feel like I need to throw a warning out there, though; this film is rated NC-17 for a reason, and the bulk of that reason is about 15 combined minutes of sex. This isn’t movie sex—it’s sex. If they faked it, I have no idea how they did it. Honestly, I think they did it by not faking it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Plea Bargain

Film: …And Justice for All
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on laptop.

When you talk about actors in their heyday, you have to hand it to Al Pacino in the 1970s. The man did a lot of good work in that decade. I’m not going to take that away from him. In fact, I’ll even credit his work in …And Justice for All, because it’s a solid 1970s Pacino performance, perhaps even vintage. The problem here is just about everything else. Okay, the cast is solid. But the plot has real issues and the music, especially at first, is terrible.

A quick summary of the film would go like this: an honest lawyer who genuinely believes in the power of the law slowly realizes that the entire system is corrupt from top to bottom. He discovers this during a series of cases that all go bad in different ways but go bad for the same reason. In the end, he has to decide between his job and his conscience, and since this is a film about the law and lawyers, that decision naturally happens within the confines of a courtroom.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Beloved Monster

Film: Shrek
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

So it’s time for another strange admission of my children’s relationship with some animated films. When she was little and Shrek was a current film, my older daughter was terrified of this movie. Specifically, she was terrified of the scene where Shrek gets shot in the posterior with an arrow. For whatever reason, it freak her out, which means we didn’t watch Shrek much when she was little. I have no explanation for my children.

Well, that and the fact that our disc of Shrek has been missing for some time. I’ve been cleaning out my office for the past two days, and guess what I found. It’s like Christmas in September around here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Greed is Great

Film: The Wolf of Wall Street
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I knew when The Wolf of Wall Street showed up in the mail from NetFlix I was going to have a difficult time watching it. This has nothing to do with it being a movie I didn’t want to watch. Actually, the opposite is true; I tend to like Scorsese and I tend to like Leonard DiCaprio. No, the issue here was that I knew going in that there’s a lot of sex and drugs in ths film, which means that I can’t watch when my kids are around. Through no planning on my end, I got the house to myself for a chunk of time today, and I took the opportunity to watch.

My guess, as happens with films like this one is that most of my readers have already seen this, which means a short recap so as not to bore anyone. This is the story of Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), a Wall Street trader with a fortune in the bank and a serious lack of control over his various appetites—that’s the sex and drugs from the previous paragraph. We see his rise and fall as a trader twice. It’s the second rise, filled as it is with shady dealings, cheating, massive amounts of drugs (seriously, Tony Montana doesn’t do this much blow) and wanton sex with virtually anything that moves, that takes up the bulk of the film.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

No Innocents in War

Film: Two Women
Format: DVD from Freeport Public Library through interlibrary loan on laptop.

When I deal with rarities, or at least films that are difficult to find, I take what I can get. In the case of Two Women, this means being forced into a dubbed version of the film instead of the version in the original Italian. I’d rather watch a film in its original language, but given the difficulty of tracking this one down, well, a dubbed version is better than nothing. It does make me wonder, though, why this film is so difficult to find. Sophia Loren won the Best Actress Oscar for this in 1961, the first time the award was handed out for a non-English performance. It would have been nice to see it in the version that was awarded.

I knew pretty much what I was getting into when I saw Vittorio De Sica’s name flash across the screen as the director. That name means neo-realism and a plot that doesn’t go anywhere happy. Expecting a Vittorio De Sica film to be happy for anything more than a few minutes at a time is like expecting a Busby Berkeley dance number in the middle of a Hitchcock film.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Viva, Las Vegas

Film: Bugsy
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

With a biopic, particularly one of a shadow figure like Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, the main question to ask is how true to history it actually is. With Bugsy, I honestly have no idea, but I’m also not sure I really care. Ostensibly, this film is about Benny Siegel, but in reality, it’s about the birth of Las Vegas as a desert Mecca. Vegas as a resort was Siegel’s brainchild, and more or less, this is what the film shows. That this is ultimately a tragic story is both the point and beside the point.

What I find particularly interesting here is the name of the film. The nickname of Bugsy was used only by people who had some distance between themselves and Siegel, at least according to the film. If we take the screenplay as gospel, Ben Siegel hated the name and wasn’t above violence for those who used it in his presence.