Sunday, November 17, 2019

Right to Life?

Films: Capernaum
Format: DVD from Galena Public Public Library through interlibrary loan on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

I’m honestly not sure where to start with Capernaum. The List frequently adds a couple of non-English movies every year. Generally speaking, that’s whatever wins Best Foreign Language Feature at the Oscars and another one. Given a guess, I would have suggested Cold War, nominated both for Foreign Language Feature and Best Director. Instead, we’ve got Capernaum, the Lebanese entry for Best Foreign Language film, and one that cannot be summarized easily. A first attempt would be to say this is the story of a young boy who sues his parents for the crime of birthing him. But that doesn’t do the story justice.

Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) is 12-years-old and in prison for stabbing someone. He’s also, as the previous paragraph mentioned, suing his parents Souad and Selim (Kawthar Al Haddad and Fadi Kamel Youssef) for having him. More specifically, the case isn’t just that they had him, but that he has no papers, and thus no identity. His parents have many children, but have failed to take care of any of them, and have essentially abandoned him and his sister Sahar (Cedra Izam). A substantial amount of the story, then is understanding how we got here.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Snap to Attention

Films: Avengers: Infinity War
Format: DVD from Dekalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I have to say that I’m a little surprised at the inclusion of Avengers: Infinity War in the latest edition of the 1001 Movies. Up to this point, the only superhero movies that have made it in are a few Batman films and Black Panther, which I think only got in because they realized just how much the editors missed the MCU bandwagon. Truthfully, not all of the MCU movies deserve to be in the list, but some of them did. I’d cite Iron Man, the film that started the MCU and made it viable is one that belongs. At this point, including Infinity War feels like a bit of a sop, like they’re trying to claim a street cred they don’t have and haven’t earned.

From my standpoint, there’s far too much to go into for what I normally talk about with these posts. If you were to watch the entire MCU not in the order the films were made but in the order they happen, we’re talking about the 21st movie in the series. That means there are 20 movies worth of backstory that need to be understood, from Captain America: The First Avenger to Ant-Man and the Wasp to get through. Admittedly, since Ant-Man doesn’t appear in this film, you could probably skip those two, but otherwise, there’s a lot of history to catch up on to fully understand everything that happens here and all of the characters. There’s a shitload of characters here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday Horror: Westworld

Films: Westworld
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Every movie is a product of its time, of course, but a lot of science fiction is very much a product of the year (or at least decade) it was made. The irony of a film series like Star Wars is that the technology for the prequels was so much better than for the original trilogy, so there’s a sense of moving forward in time despite going back in time. It means that a lot of science fiction doesn’t translate well into the future. Westworld has some issues with that. When we see things from the robots’ point of view, for instance, it’s not even Atari 2600 graphics quality.

While this does affect the way Westworld looks today, it doesn’t really affect the enjoyment of the film in general. It’s hard to dislike this movie, particularly when its influence is taken into account. John Carpenter credits Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger as a sort of spiritual ancestor to Michael Myers. It’s almost certain that The Terminator wouldn’t exist without Westworld (and probably The Stepford Wives) existing first. Michael Crichton’s own Jurassic Park is just a riff on the ideas that Westworld put forward, substituting genetically reconstituted dinosaurs for gunslinging robots.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Redux redux

Films: A Star is Born (2018)
Format: DVD from Cortland Community Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I still have other movies from the latest 1001 Movies book to watch and still have some movies from the last Oscars to watch, but none have been more dreaded by me than A Star is Born. It has nothing to do with the fact that this is easily classified as a musical, since it’s a non-traditional one at best. This is not a movie where people sing their feelings to each other, but one where the story is about musicians so a great deal takes place with them performing on stage. No, the reason is that I want to know how many times I have to watch this story.

I mean, I’ve seen the 1937 version of this story that was nominated for Best Picture. I’ve seen the 1954 version that somehow wasn’t. I haven’t seen the one from the 1970s since, aside from a few gushing fans, I haven’t heard anything good about it. And now there’s this version of the story that changes a few of the names and a few of the details but not a great deal else. If you’ve seen any previous version of this story, you know exactly what is going to happen here. You know all the beats and you know the ending. There’s nothing different here.