Saturday, July 30, 2022

Shell Game

Films: Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Format: Marcus Ronnie’s Cinema, St. Louis.

I’m winding up my week in St. Louis dog/housesitting for my daughter, so last night I gave myself a rare treat: I went to the movies. I saw Marcel the Shell with Shoes On because I knew it would never open within 30 miles of the corn town I live in. The theater, sadly, was mostly empty, although that did mean that I had a great choice of seats. But I have to say that I think I know a part of the reason the theater was so empty—it was $14.54 for a ticket to a 5:00 show. Sure, the seat was nice and everything, but that’s an insane price for a ticket.

Anyway, Marcel (which is how I will refer to this now—the full name is long enough that typing it out fully is tedious) is the story of a tiny inch-high seashell with a single eye, shoes, and an animated mouth. Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) and his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) live together in a huge house that is used as an Air B&B. Amateur filmmaker Dean (actual director and ex-husband of Jenny Slate Dean Fleischer-Camp) moves into the house during a separation with his wife where he encounters Marcel and decides to make a documentary about him.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Godfather of Fashion

Films: House of Gucci
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on the kid’s television.

Before Oscar season this year, I expected House of Gucci to be on my list of Oscar movies. There was enough going on here that I thought there would be at least a Best Picture nomination. However, that’s not at all what happened. Instead, I’m watching this on my own because its lone Oscar nomination was for hair and makeup, a category I don’t address on this blog. Now that I’ve watched it, I have to agree with the Academy; this didn’t live up to the hype.

On the surface, House of Gucci is the story of Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and her marriage to, divorce from, and eventual contracted murder of her husband, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the heir to half of the Gucci fashion empire. And, on the surface, it’s hard not to expect that there will be a lot here to like. The cast is a good one and this is helmed by the generally reliable Ridley Scott. Even better, House of Gucci is very much a mob film at its heart. There are a lot of parallels here to The Godfather films, for instance.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Measure of a Man

Films: Cyrano
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on the kid’s television.

When I first saw that there would be a new version of the story of Cyrano de Bergerac, I was intrigued. It’s a hell of a good story, and I’m always a sucker for a sad romance. The story of Cyrano is one of the truly tragic romances. The basic story is that a truly great spirit, guardsman Cyrano de Bergerac, is a true Renaissance man, a warrior poet as gifted with the pen or wordplay as with the sword. But, the story goes, he is cursed with a giant nose, which prevents him from being loved, or so he believes. The twist in 2021’s Cyrano is not that the story has been turned into a musical but that the title character is played by Peter Dinklage.

And that really is the story. We open with one of the classic scenes of the Cyrano story. We are introduced to Roxanne (Haley Bennett), who is both poor and beautiful. She is being wooed—unsuccessfully—by Duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), who has a great deal of money to waste on her. He takes her to the theater to see Montfleury (Mark Benton), the most celebrated actor of his day, but the performance is interrupted by Cyrano (Dinklage), who dislikes him intently. While the actor runs off, Valvert (Joshua James) challenges Cyrano to a duel. Cyrano humiliates him, chants at him in rhyme, and eventually runs him through.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Sex and Violence

Film: X
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on various players.

When you think about horror movies in generic terms, sex and death are probably the two words that come up for most people. That is the simple genius behind X, Ti West’s latest horror film. The conceit here is that in the late 1970s, a group of people rent a place in the middle of nowhere in Texas to shoot a pornographic film. It turns out that they chose poorly and all sorts of bad things happen to them. Like plenty of horror movies, X is little more than its elevator pitch in terms of plot, and like many horror movies that use this sort of story, it doesn’t really need a great deal more than the elevator pitch to serve as the plot.

We’re going to have a group of six on their way to make the film. Executive producing is Wayne (Martin Henderson), who evidently has a history of poor returns on money-making ventures. RJ (Owen Campbell) is the prospective film director whose goal is to produce an artistic pornographic film, something more than just smut. He is accompanied by his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), who is essentially the entirety of RJ’s crew. Acting in the film are Jackson Hole (Kid Cudy), Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), who is in the role of what we assume to be our final girl. She is also Wayne’s girlfriend and is single-minded in her goal of becoming famous.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Grass is Greener

Film: The Worst Person in the World (Verdens Verste Menneske)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on various players.

I haven’t been posting a lot lately, not because I haven’t been watching a lot of movies or even movies on one or more of the lists I pursue, but simply because I’ve got a lot going on. Work has ramped up, and I’ve got an additional project with work that I’m dealing with; my younger child has spent the last week and a half in France, so there was all the prep for that; my wife has been traveling for work; and there are other things (not bad things, but things that take time) going on around me as well. It took me several days to watch The Worst Person in the World (or Verdens Verste Meneske if you prefer) not because it was hard to watch but because I didn’t have a ton of consistent time to watch it, especially as a film that was subtitled. That meant a few minutes here and there as well as at the gym. I can’t say I’m necessarily conflicted on the film, but my thoughts on it are…complex.

While The Worst Person in the World does have a plot, it’s closer to a character study of Julie (Renate Reinsve). Julie is what a lot of people would call a “flake.” She starts the film as a medical student but soon transfers to psychology and then to photography. This inability to settle on something and always looking for more in her life is going to be something of a theme for the rest of the film. Starting to dabble in writing, she meets Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), a comic book artist much older than she is, and begins a relationship with him. Everything is fine until Aksel floats the idea of children, which causes her to start to pull away.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The Title Really Needs an "s" on the End

Film: The Pit
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on various playes.

I am not the sort of person who revels in bad movies. I want the movies that I watch to be good movies, not shlock. I enjoy movies that challenge me and that have something to say. Movies that don’t have an internal logic or that feature ugly and stupid characters aren’t things that I enjoy watching because I don’t like “so bad they’re good” movies in general. I bring this up because The Pit is an aggressively stupid movie on a lot of fronts and is also loaded up with characters who are decidedly unpleasant. This is especially true of our main character.

In The Pit, we’re going to spend a great deal of time with Jamie Benjamin (Sammy Snyders), a friendless 12-year-old who is one of the most annoying main characters I have come across. Jamie’s parents are looking to move to Seattle, so they have to find someone to watch their weird kid. They decide on Sandy (Jeannie Elias), a psychology student from the local college. Because Jamie is a pubescent 12-year-old, he immediately falls in love with Sandy and doesn’t know how to react to her.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

What I've Caught Up With, June 2022

No real theme this time, and admittedly, the first movie on this list isn't one that anyone told me to watch. Instead, that was the choice for June's movie of the month at my library movie club. Otherwise, just a couple knocked off. My last quarter of classes was brutal, which explains the relative lack of movies in general for me during June.