Category Archives: Musings

Welcome to D

So, I’ve made it as far as the letter D, which is the… ::checks notes::  fourth letter of the alphabet. Four (4). I haven’t even made it past the top shelf of my DVD storage. Ugh. Slow blogger is slow.

Maybe if I hadn’t taken time to watch Aquaman no less than three times over the span of a week and a half. You know, I didn’t even love that one when it first came out, but for some reason it’s apparently satisfying a deep-seated need for me right now.

Note: It’s not simple lust. Jason Momoa is ridiculously charismatic and seems like an authentically nice guy in interviews, but I don’t like him that way.

The next string of movies will take us to some dark places. Dark dark dark. Dark. Dark dark.

Dark.

Juxtaposition

A quick pause to note that I viewed the next two Watch My Library flicks back-to-back, and the strictly alphabetical pairing led me into an accidental indie flick marathon.

Clerks and Coffee & Cigarettes.

I will write individual entries for both, but I want to briefly discuss them as a unit. The pairing fascinated me because I believe that as Kevin Smith made his first feature he clearly wanted to emulate art house writer/director auteurs like Jim Jarmusch. See the Clerks alternate ending. Although Smith is probably more heavily influenced by Richard Linklater, I noticed that he does in fact thank Jarmusch on the Clerks credits.

There’s so much stylistically similar between the two films, and yet they feel immensely different to me. Perhaps it’s the contrast between someone who makes a creative decision to film in black and white as opposed to someone forced by practical constraints to do so.

Or maybe it’s just that I love one and loathe the other.

More on that later.

A New Project: Watch My Library 2020

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I have an idea inspired by two recent events.

1) I moved cross-country.  After more than a decade in the greater DC area, last month I relocated to New Mexico for a new job and to live closer to family. As I unpacked my belongings, I made a stunning discovery.

I own xXx on dvd.

Wait. Seriously? I spent money on that? Eventually I remembered fishing it out of the used bargain bin at Blockbuster back in the day. Considering that I haven’t so much as thought about the xXx franchise in many a year, it frankly surprises me that at one time I liked this movie enough to have it on my shelf.

There were other discs that I could also barely remember acquiring. Or didn’t remember at all. A shocking number of titles are still in shrink wrap. Such a waste.

Related:  I also recently redeemed a freebie code from my cell phone carrier for a digital copy of John Wick. The problem being that at some point in the past I had already done that exact same thing, making that my second copy. Luckily, the Lionsgate folks were understanding about swapping it out for John Wick, Chapter 2. Which I haven’t yet watched because I don’t even like Chapter 2 that much.

Dude, I suck at this. An inventory is definitely in order. And maybe some collection weeding, too.

2) Immediately after I left behind my entire social support network to move to a completely unfamiliar city, an epic public health crisis trapped me in my half-unpacked apartment.

No disrespect intended to the new city or new job that I was actually pretty excited about a few weeks ago, but if I had known back in October when I originally applied for said new job that I would make it out here just in time for the whole world to fall apart…  You know, I might have made different choices.

But what’s done is done. And now I’m waiting out a slow-motion disaster in a town where I don’t know anyone. I feel incredibly privileged that I’m able to work from home, keeping me out of any real jeopardy (so far). And I have done the work-from-home thing successfully in the past.

However, back then I had a cat, a live-in partner, and the freedom to go anywhere I wanted basically any time that I wanted. None of that is true now. I’m dangerously bored and lonely already, and it’s only been a week and a half.

Hence blogging!

So I propose “Watch My Library 2020.” I’m going to view everything I own A to Z. I’m going to try to watch at least one title a night (if I don’t have anything better to do). And we’ll see how far I get before my self-imposed isolation ends.

Quick Comparison

Jurassic World Poster

Franchise: Jurassic Park
Years since previous installment: 14
My opinion of previous installment: Utter bullshit.
Reaction to new sequel: Mind-blowingly excited. Can! Not! Wait!

Terminator Genisys Poster

Franchise: Terminator
Years since previous installment: 6
My opinion of previous installment: Solidly entertaining.
Reaction to new sequel: Exhausted. Bored.

I  make zero sense.

Whole lotta nope

So you may have seen television spots and other media trumpeting the following assessment of Gone Girl, which opens in theaters tomorrow.

Gone Girl is "the date-night movie of the decade."

Exactly what kind of dates do you go on?

So, yeah. They claim a professional film critic labeled this “the date-night movie of the decade.” Now I have not personally read Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, but I’ve heard what my friends have to say about it. So my reaction was, “That can’t be right.”

So I investigate further. As it turns out the quote comes from this review by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. And this is what he actually said:

I’m going to come out and call Gone Girl the date night movie of the decade for couples who’ve always dreamed of destroying each other.

Mystery solved! Some overzealous publicist CHOPPED OFF HALF OF THE SENTENCE and thus COMPLETELY ALTERED THE MEANING! And they are running off with it like Jamaal Charles!

Photo of Frau Farbissina

The frau knows.

Tidbits

In no coherent order…

I took a trip to Savannah, an incredibly cinematic location as evidenced by the number movies that have been filmed there. I had originally intended to write a rather ambitious piece about the various movies set in Savannah, but I don’t know if that will ever actually happen. I’m such a deadbeat blogger. However, I still managed to earn a handful of film buff points on my vacation. I visited a beautifully restored, 1920s-era movie house, the Lucas Theatre. In the midst of a Mel Brooks festival, I finally saw Blazing Saddles for the first time. Young Frankenstein is probably still my favorite, but I like Blazing Saddles a lot more than I thought I would. Madeline Kahn is the bomb and always will be.

I’ve been watching Penny Dreadful on Showtime. I really love premium cable television series because they frequently cater to my minimal attention span with super-short seasons. Even I can commit to eight episodes. Penny Dreadful is wonderfully atmospheric and features some top-shelf performances, particularly by Eva Green. I’m not obsessed with it or anything, but I do find it entertaining enough to keep watching. The finale airs tonight, and if they don’t completely drop the ball, I expect to tune in for its second season. But I do wonder if it can maintain its grip on its audience after the novelty wears off. In the meantime, I’ve also been quite enjoying the episode recaps on The Mary Sue.

The “found-footage” trope continues to pursue its doctrine of manifest destiny. Now the darkness is creeping even into kids’ movies. Good luck with that, parents. Hope you remember to take an air sickness bag.

I really looked forward to Edge of Tomorrow, but it wound up a mixed bag. Most of it I did enjoy. It delivered fairly on the trailer, but the ending wussed out harder than Tom Cruise does at the beginning. It reminded me heavily of the way Source Code (a movie I also mostly admired) went for the super-happy-joy-joy ending when going out on a bittersweet note might have served the material better.

Does anyone else remember a shitty early 90s comedy called My Boyfriend’s Back? As it turns out, it was simply ahead of its time. The trailer for Life After Beth proves that.

 

Dept. of Random

Last night (or possibly early this morning) I dreamt about Almost Human. I don’t have specifics to share. All I know is that I woke up thinking about it, and so I believe that something to do with the characters, or maybe the premise, or maybe just the title of the show figured into what I was dreaming about. Somehow. I know that sounds vague, but it’s pretty amazing by my standards because, as a rule, I never remember my dreams.

And this is particularly weird because I haven’t even watched Almost Human yet. And until now I wouldn’t have even characterized myself as anticipating watching it. Seriously. It was not on my list of new shows that I wanted to try out this television season. I have ambiguously positive feelings about Karl Urban, but I’m certainly not a true fan.* And nothing I’ve seen in the approximately 12 zillion commercials that have aired during football games wowed me. On top of which, I honestly don’t even really like watching television episodes as they air as much as I like to marathon old seasons.

But I spontaneously decided to set the DVR to record Almost Human only a couple hours before it premiered entirely because one television spot happened to mention its tenuous connection to Fringe.** And Fringe happens to be my current Netflix obsession (more on this later).

So maybe my dream is a sign that I should actually sit down and watch Almost Human sometime this weekend even though I hadn’t planned on getting around to it anytime soon. I don’t know.

Also, Simon Pegg talked movies with The Guardian, and it was pretty great. It reminded me that I do totally need to get around to reading his book. It’s been on the to-read list forever.

 

* In my opinion, Karl Urban is a reasonably good actor, possessing of a certain level of charisma. I find myself disappointed that he doesn’t enjoy a higher profile, and yet I also understand it because when he’s not playing a supporting role in some major franchise’s ensemble, he tends to select shitty projects more often than not.

** J. H. Wyman, creator of Almost Human, served as a writer, director and executive producer on Fringe.

Seriously?

Calum Marsh over at Esquire recommends that you watch Lockout. I vehemently disagree.

While I sympathize with a wistful admiration for Guy Pearce’s rare lead performance (I really do wish he didn’t always play weaselly villains) and a fervent wish for the movie-that-might-have-been, the movie-that-was sucked. A lot. It was probably the worst thing I saw at the theater in 2012.* It was so incredibly silly and nonsensical from start to finish, and it didn’t even really manage to be bad in an entertaining way. I found myself bored for most of the last half of the movie. The only “modest revelation” I encountered was my realization that Maggie Grace was obviously cloned in a lab to fill Bridgette Wilson’s vacated spot in Hollywood.

Photos of Wilson and Grace looking identical

Can you even tell which is which?

But I can’t really criticize Marsh too harshly. After all, I have loved — enthusiastically embraced — some genuinely shitty movies in my time. And I find myself intrigued by Marsh’s assertion that Lockout is a “contemporary film noir.” I own no claim to expertise in that genre or style or mode or label or however we’re defining that this week, and maybe Marsh does. Even so, I wouldn’t have ever made that connection, and I’m not really buying it. But it could be a perfect example of something I’ve believed for a long time:   It’s not what you see on the screen that counts; it’s what you think about it.

Some people just relax in front of video and absorb. I don’t get that at all. My partner doesn’t grasp how I can be “too tired to watch television,” but if I can’t focus and actively engage at all times with the material, then it’s a pointless activity for me. And even with bad movies I find myself filling in the blanks they’ve left empty on my own. The end result can be that my experience of the story winds up entirely different than another viewer’s experience. And so from a particular perspective, you could argue that I simply failed where Marsh succeeded. I allowed Lockout to leave me hanging, but Marsh was able to latch onto something interesting. And, in turn, he inspired me me to read a bunch of articles about film noir that I probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Cool.

 

* Probably. But that was also the year of Snow White and the Huntsman and Dark Knight Rises. So that’s a tough call.

True Story

The office where I work has lunch catered for employees on Fridays. At the most recent Friday lunch, a boss was relating to me how much he enjoyed his experience of revisiting The Blues Brothers after many years. This led to following exchange:

Boss: And it had that actress in it. Oh, what is her name? The one with the Curl Up and Dye salon.
Holly: Carrie Fisher.
Boss: She was so good in that. That was probably her greatest role.
Holly: Nope. Incorrect.
Boss: What?
Holly: No.
Boss: Well, then what is her greatest role?
Holly: Oh, my God. Princess Leia!
Boss: Bah!
Holly: Seriously. You wait. Some day Carrie Fisher will die, and you watch. What is the lede of her obituary? Actress best known as Princess Leia dies.

That actually happened. Given that it was the Chief Operating Officer of the entire company, it probably would’ve behooved me to show some more diplomacy. But c’mon! How can you be diplomatic in the face of such egregious error?

I’ll admit that I am a Star Wars fan. But I don’t think you have to be one for this scenario. You just have to look at Carrie Fisher’s IMDb page and ask yourself out of all of her roles, which one is a pop culture icon? I don’t care what country you’re in or what language you speak, when you hold two cinnamon buns against the sides of your head, everyone in the room will catch the reference.

End of debate.

Things I used to love: Disney Channel

I do not have children, and therefore I (gratefully) have very little conception of what airs on the Disney Channel these days. However, every so often I’m confronted with what passes for modern kids-oriented programming. Usually when I’m somehow a captive audience. For instance, I’ve been subjected to such things on the television in front of my treadmill at the gym on a Saturday morning. Or sometimes when I’m in the waiting room at Jiffy Lube. And frankly I’m horrified.

This makes...

This makes…

...THIS seem epic.

…THIS seem epic.

I’m not even making that up. I know someone with a middle-school-age daughter who became obsessed with Full House on DVD because it was so much more “genuine” and “realistic.” Oh my God, Becky.

Anyway, to my mind the real travesty is not that these sitcoms are so shitty. It’s that sitcoms are even on the Disney Channel in the first place. But you might ask, how would Disney rake in money hand-over-fist without celebritzing crop after crop of living kewpie dolls? I don’t really care. Bring back cartoons.

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