Old movies

Jul. 3rd, 2017 11:10 pm
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I've been listening to the You Must Remember This podcast, which is "forgotten stories of Hollywood's first century." I can sell this podcast as she reads all the out of print celebrity memoirs so you don't have to. The result of listening to this is I've ended up with a passel of old films to watch.

I've listened through two of her seasons, Dead Blondes and Six Degrees of Joan Crawford. Prior to this all I knew about Joan Crawford was Mommie Dearest. So I dug up some of her films (and by "dug up" I mean you can find almost anything on streaming nowadays).

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Watching this film, I can't help but feel like the whole problem would have been avoided with appropriate handicap accessibility. It's a solid psychological thriller that apparently inaugurated the "psycho-biddy" subgenre (which the internet assures me is a real thing). What I find most amusing about it is that when it initially came out, it was rated X in the UK. It's now rated the equivalent of PG-13. It speaks to a certain innocence in films in 1962 that this could be considered an X.

Daisy Kenyon
Joan Crawford gives great melodrama. In this film from 1947, Joan Crawford plays a working woman involved in an affair with a married man and a relationship with a WWII vet with PTSD. It interrogates some of what it meant to be a woman in the immediately post-war era, but is mostly interested in the melodrama of the love triangle, where everyone's damaged and complicated and there's no obvious answer. As I would say in my book reviews when I didn't know what else to write, if this is the sort of thing you like, then you'll like it. In other words, if you want to wallow in melodrama, check it out, but it's otherwise pretty unremarkable.

The Women
A movie that poses the question: is it possible to fail the Bechdel Test in a movie that only has women in it? The answer? Very nearly. This is a movie about one woman, Mary, finding out that her husband is having an affair with a shop girl (played by Joan Crawford). As there are only women in the film, that means the entire emotional aftermath of this is orchestrated by and played out against other women: the gossipy socialites who pretend to be Mary's friends but really want more scandal to keep themselves entertained, the eavesdropping servants, and the conniving other woman. This is a film of moral absolutes: the wronged wife is a saint, the other woman is a bitch. Its gimmick means that it sometimes contorts itself to keep men out of the cast--like the climactic fight between man and wife in which she asks for a divorce is related by the maid to the cook, as the maid breathlessly runs up and down the stairs to hear more of the fight so she can then narrate it to the cook. This also means that when it comes time for Mary to sort out her relationship with her (now ex) husband, she does it by getting catty and tearing down a bunch of other women, including one who was a friend of hers and never did anything to hurt her. I suppose having the men be passive prizes to be one based on women's interactions with each other is novel, but it also means that it's other women who disrupt marriages and must be fought, and not, you know, the cheating husbands.

The lesson of this movie, from 1939, is that Mary lets her pride get in her way, and when she found out her husband had an affair, she should have kept her mouth shut and done nothing about, rather than being a "modern" woman and insisting on a divorce. Also, women are awful. That's the moral. Which makes me wonder why in the name of god this was remade a few years ago. I can take overwhelming sexism in movies made 80 years ago. I have a hard time watching it in modern films.

Also, I had to pause this movie in the middle and do research in wikipedia because the plot had suddenly become incomprehensible. About halfway through the movie, she gets on a train to Reno that is filled with other women getting divorced, and then goes and lives on a dude ranch. Wikipedia tells me that, at the time, Nevada was the only state in the nation with no fault divorce, and in order to take advantage of this, you had to live there for six weeks to establish residency. Hence the dude ranch. They called it getting "Reno-vated." The movie was based on a play that was written about the author's actual experience getting divorced. Which doesn't make the sexism better? But maybe more sympathetic.

The other thing about this film is that, for being in 1939, all the women in it are disgustingly wealthy. When they throw around price tags ($100/hour therapy, a $225 nightie) I looked it up and found that that's around $3,000 and for the nightie. For the height of the Great Depression, excuse my lack of sympathy for the cat fighting of these women. (Yes, there's a literal cat fight, too.)


From the dead blonde series, I watched the following:

I Married a Witch
Though this is only a little over an hour, gosh it feels longer. Veronica Lake plays a witch who tries to seduce the descendant of the Puritan that imprisoned her to enact her revenge. Then she accidentally drinks her own love potion and falls for him. And he marries her cause...they need to stay overnight at a hotel with only one available room? No really, that's the reason. The innkeeper's husband happens to be a justice of the peace. Then Lake proceeds to magically get her husband elected governor because voter fraud is hi-larious. The highlight of the film is the witch's father, who keeps turning into a puff of smoke then hiding in rum bottles, which leads to him being too inebriated to remember any of his curses. This movie is a thing that happened.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
This Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell film is a classic for a reason. It is delightful fluff to watch. And its ultimate message is that gold digging is perfectly legit. Monroe's winning argument to her would-be father-in-law at the end of the film is that wanting to marry a rich man is like wanting to marry a pretty girl: it's not necessary but it helps. In other words, if guys want to buy it, she's got no problem selling it. It comes across as vaguely feminist, but only for the time and only if you assume the patriarchy will never change. It seems to say the only valuable thing about women is their looks, so get everything you can while you've got 'em. Yay?

Sullivan's Travels
This is an odd one, and one I'd had recommended to me elsewhere. Filmed in 1941, it's about a movie director (Sullivan) that wants to make a great epic about the suffering of the poor titled O Brother, Where Art Thou? If you're scratching your head over that title, the Coen Brothers took it from this film.

I'm actually going to put this behind a cut, cause this got long )

On the one hand, this is a really good analysis of privilege and how hard it is to give up, even when you ostensibly want to--after all, Sullivan retreats to his safety net over and over again whenever he hits a bump in the road. On the other hand, I don't think they meant to say that?

So yeah, it's a good movie, and you should check it out. But it's a bit through the looking glass for its tone versus its content.

Teacher's Pet
I also watched this, because it was on Netflix. It's a Clark Gable/Doris Day romantic comedy, and if you are thinking that Gable is old enough to be Day's father, you are correct. The plot is that Gable is an old-school newspaper man and Day is a newfangled journalism teacher. Gable enrolls in her class under a false name in order to humiliate her and show her that teaching journalism is futile. And then they fall in love. And that's a happy ending, we are told? Skip it, skip it, skip it.
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This time of year is kind of like New Year's for auditors. I've actually been talking about my new year's resolutions at work, even though it's March. Um...happy Nowruz?

One of them is to actually post. I still write LJ posts, just...in my head. And never get around to actually typing them. I also want to put more of my photo albums into photo books, and I love adding email and lj posts for flavor, so I'm falling down a nostalgia hole that's reminding me that I do enjoy reading my own posts, at least, even if no one else does. So!

Two random things make a post.

1) Saw Logan. A++. spoilers )

2) I am continuously on a new music discovery voyage, and man, I found something incredible. Maxida Marak and the Downhill Bluegrass Band. Marak is a Sami singer (the indigenous people of northern Sweden). The collaboration with the bluegrass band seems to be a one-off, which is a shame, because the album "Mountain Songs and Other Stories" is flawless. It includes fantistic covers of "Darling Corey" and "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive," as well as traditional Sami songs with bluegrass arrangements. If you are a fan of bluegrass at all, check it out.
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D was over last night, so I suggested watching The Manchurian Candidate. He hadn't seen either, so I thought we should go with the original. I'd watched it for history class in highschool and remember being absolutely gripped.

Here's the thing. It's really clunky. Really clunky. The acting is stiff (with notable exceptions for Angela Lansbury and Vivien Leigh, who got top billing and about 15 lines of dialogue). The camera angles are ostentatious but artless. Things are constantly out of focus. I was retroactively even more impressed by Citizen Kane for its ability to pull off deep field focus, cause this movie utterly fails at it, and it was made thirty years later.

And the structure, too--oof. There's a third-person narrator for exactly three scenes. I assumed it was a news reel until it started talking about Frank Sinatra's nightmares. And then...it disappears for the rest of the film. The first hour to hour and a half is exposition. Some flashbacks, but mostly just lengthy expository speeches. I understand why it's reputed to be one of the worst books ever written. This film is also full of people proposing marriage at first sight, and everyone else just rolling with that.

But for all that, it is completely unmatched for its capturing of a political moment. I'm going to rewatch the remake tonight to see, in direct comparison, how it solves the narrative shortcomings. But a movie made in 2004 comes from a very different context than one from 1962.

So definitely watch the original.

I think it's striking, too, in that the movies that were made in the 60s that we still watch were remarkable or ground breaking in some way. It's easy to forget what they were remarkable in comparison to. We don't generally watch the run of the mill cinema from the era. So being thrust into something that mishandles black and white and can't focus the camera is jarring. (Also people blink SO MUCH. I don't know why, but it's distracting.)

ETA: just rewatched the 2004 remake. It's an all around better film, but somehow less special for being a more standard paranoid psychological thriller. Does some very interesting things with the original, including giving the women way more agency, and not having everyone act like a nut. (Seriously, in the original--people just don't behave that way. I don't mean the brainwashing. I mean everything else. I don't think the author understood how human beings work.) One hundred percent worth watching both, especially to watch Liev Schreiber and Denzel Washington both slowly breakdown in extreme close up staring straight into camera. Seriously, they are both magnificent actors, and well worth watching.

Fury Road

Jun. 7th, 2015 09:57 pm
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I watched Mad Max: Fury Road yesterday and...I did not expect to like that, I was going cause a friend wanted to see it, but I did. I really really did. I've never seen any Mad Max movies before, and I spent the whole film gripping my arm rather hard, and definitely gasped and flinched in certain parts, but that film worked for me. The over all visual design is stunning, the worldbuilding is plausible enough (I could poke holes in it but nothing leaped out as implausible (except for the design of the brand--you can't design a brand that is a closed circle! the skin in the middle will slough off!) but anyway), and what can I say, it hit my emo buttons.

I suppose I will have to go back and watch the originals now, though I'm going to bet that Fury Road still comes out as my favorite of them. You know a movie is good when the mood of it clings so much it tinges your dreams.
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Les Mis (Oscar-bait version) )

Over all, pretty good. If you liked Les Mis on stage, you'll probably like this. If you hated Les Mis, this isn't going to change your mind.

Jupiter Ascending )

What a very pretty, very stupid movie. But very, very entertaining. I don't care that it has enormous problems. I enjoyed myself.
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I finally watched The Lego Movie. I...don't think I liked it.

First, this is not a movie that translates well to the small screen. Most of the shots are long shots, and there is so much detail in every inch of them, always interesting things going on in the background, and on my medium sized TV, a lot of that I just couldn't see.

But my real problem with it is that it was sexist. Sexist in the way that all Hollywood is, sexist in the way that the air we breath in media is, but as this is a film for kids, and as LEGO has had a history of real problems with sexism in its marketing, it bothered the shit out of me.

More on my issues with this film )

Like I said, none of this sexism is in any way unique to this film, but because of the way that LEGOs has been trying to make itself more inclusive to both genders, and because of the criticism it has already come under, the fact that the movie was so stuck in retrograde attitudes about women bothered me to the point that the rest of the film didn't make up for it. So I guess I'm that 4% on Rotten Tomatoes that didn't like this movie.

Jane Eyre

Jul. 27th, 2014 03:03 pm
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I watched the 2011 Jane Eyre with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. Aside from the fact that it has the perennial problem of Jane Eyre adaptations--Michael Fassbender is waaaaay too pretty to be Rochester--it's a really good adaptation. I read Jane Eyre some years ago, and it kept me up half the night (once she ran out onto the moor, I wasn't going to sleep until I found out what happened). Watching this has reminded me that Jane Eyre is straight-up id fic. It's so indulgent. And so problematic. (Holy crap, Rochester is a horrible human being and Jane should run far, far away--I mean, she even says that she loves him because this is the first time in her life she's not been alone and terrified, which is kind of a bad way to choose a husband.) But it is so romantic. My god. I still love it, everything about it, even though I see in it the direct predecessor to Twilight. Jane Eyre is just so yummy, even while it's squicky at the same time. This is probably why there's been a new adaptation of it every three or four years since the invention of film.

In any case, my point is, if you like Jane Eyre, the 2011 adaptation is a good one.
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It appears that I won't be going to my 15th high school reunion because I'm an idiot and missed the registration deadline. I wasn't sure I wanted to go, but now that I can't...I want to. *sigh*

In other news, I watched Jack Reacher. In my last job, I worked on the Lee Child books, and the announcement of that movie meant sales made us repackage all of Lee Child's books three times in a year to properly take advantage of the movie franchise. So since that movie made my life miserable for a while, figured it was worth checking.

It is the most Marty Stu thing I have ever seen. Holy shit. Reacher isn't just awesome himself, he warps reality around him. Have some examples:
- Jack Reacher is the most awesome MP the army ever had.
- He has an eidetic memory.
- Despite being out of the army for years, he can still hit the bulls-eye at 700 yards four out of four times. He is such a good shot, someone recognizes him for it.

He also has the most special past of anyone ever:
- He grew up on army bases around the world. His first time in the US was to go through Basic, then he was deployed back to every war zone ever.
- After years of serving the American people, he wondered WHAT DOES FREEDOM EVEN MEAN and quit to find out.
- Since then he has lived as a drifter, with like only the clothes on his back, and no one could ever find him if he didn't want them to and he has no possessions and no connections and no obligations and therefore is COMPLETELY FREE. I'm not kidding. He gives a speech about how office drones in their heart of hearts want to live as homeless drifters just like him cause he's the only one in the whole world who is truly free.

As for the warping reality thing:
- There is a scene where he is hit in the back of the head by a baseball bat, then falls into a tub. His two attackers then proceed to club the window, the sides of the tub, each other, and get their clubbing implements tangled in each other, completely missing Reacher, who, let's face it, in that situation WOULD BE DEAD. But he has the secret power of HERO OF THIS STORY, so when his opposition clearly has him checkmated, they must take each other out rather than finish the job.

Jack Reacher is the ultimate male power fantasy. I mean, it's so absurd it's actually a lot of fun to watch. Like, every secret fantasy you've had about being a Mary Sue that you know is ridiculous they've managed to incorporate with just enough polish to let you indulge while simultaneously laughing at it.

Unfortunately, the male power fantasy also extends to the women. There are exactly two women in this story. One exists to be simultaneously afraid of and turned on by Reacher, and then be the hostage in the climax. The other, therefore, has to be the victim.

The first time Reacher encounters her, he treats her with utter contempt. He calls her a whore, then tells her that she must like the sight of blood cause it means she's not pregnant. (!!!) The next time he sees her, he first manipulates her into helping him, then pities her for how men use her. He tells her that she shouldn't let men use her (like he just did), and she replies, "That's what women like me do." (augh) She is then, of course, killed to frame Reacher, and his response is to call her a "sweet, innocent girl."

She goes from being an object of disgust to an object of pity to an object of idealization. She's never not an object. And the ability of Reacher to simultaneously view her as a whore, a victim, and a saint, without ever viewing her as a person is a masterclass in misogyny. I mean, the movie ends with him stepping in to stop a boyfriend from beating up his girlfriend, but it's pretty clear that he's not intervening for the woman's benefit. He's doing it to show dominance over another man. The woman, to Reacher, is both a victim that he can be the savior of and a whore who deserves what she got. It is stunning.

All that being said, the plotting's pretty good. It's an enjoyable movie. I mean, the over-the-top power fantasy and the over-the-top misogyny sort of combined to make it laughably infantile rather than offensive.

There is one problem with the movie, though. According to wikipedia, Jack Reacher "is 6'5" tall with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 220 and 250 pounds. He is exceptionally strong, has a high stamina, but is not a good runner." And he is played by Tom Cruise. The mismatch is SO BLATANT that the script still pretends that Reacher is a behemoth of a man. At one point, a cop asks a hotel clerk if there's anyone staying there who could kill someone with one punch. She says the man in room 1109--"when you see him, you'll understand." Meaning Reacher. Now, if Reacher looks like Conan-era Arnold Schwarzenegger, like he's supposed to, that makes sense. If he looks like Tom Cruise? That makes no sense at all.

But this too makes the movie so absurd it's entertaining. Cause Tom Cruise, too, apparently has the same male power fantasy as all of Lee Child's fans: that he's the most physically intimidating person in any room he walks into. Except, you know, I'm taller than Tom Cruise. So that's kind of a joke. Like, I'm not even sure this would be a fun movie if Reacher looked the way he was supposed to. Cruise in the main role is kind of a wink to the absurdity of absolutely everything about it.
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In continuing adventures of watching 90s movies I missed the first time around: Reservoir Dogs. I remember this being such a huge movie. My brother had the poster. Steelers Wheels on the radio all the time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly: I did not like it. I found the violence very distancing. I'd seen bits of and spoofs of the most famous scene before, so the shock value was lessened. Even so, I didn't know much else about it. So things like Tim Roth's protracted screaming just made it a really unpleasant viewing experience over all.

I also thought it was--really amateur? Like, ridiculously self-indulgent. No one but a white man would have made this film. There's both the appropriation of black language and the use of racist language in a way that makes it clear Tarantino feels entitled to write incredibly racist things because art without consideration for the cultural context in which he, and this film, exist. It's also a film that wants to make you conscious of the man behind the camera at all times. The purpose of the film seems to be to point a spotlight on the director and show how clever and edgy he is. And I'm with John Gardner: anything that punctures the fictive dream is a bad thing. I don't want to have a meta awareness when I'm watching a movie; I want to be immersed in.

I found the pacing to be sloppy, too. It's just...flabby. Compared to The Usual Suspects and The Killing, two other noir crime movies, Reservoir Dogs just sort of dicks around. I mean, it felt like watching Tarantino wank.

I know it's his first film, and I liked Pulp Fiction, so I know he gets better, but I really don't think Reservoir Dogs deserves its accolades.
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Today in cultural education: Pulp Fiction. It was...really good. I'm surprised that I liked it. Very surprised.

I have long been not a fan of Tarantino. The man's kind of an ass, and whenever I hear stories about him as a person, they're not positive. My previous exposure to his work has been the CSI two-parter and that stint he did on Alias. Ever since Reservoir Dogs came out I've been hearing about how violent his movies were. What sealed it for me, though, was Sin City, a movie that repelled me. I know that's a Robert Rodriguez film, but Tarantino directed part of it, so I feel his involvement is an indication that this is to his taste. And while Sin City is visually stunning--I don't think any other film has so completely put a comic book on screen--and I love the soundtrack, that film felt like something that was done to me. My memories of it are a nightmarish kaleidoscope.

So yes, I've been avoiding Tarantino films for a long time. But Pulp Fiction was so huge--it came out when I was thirteen, just old enough for my classmates to get into R films, and it seems like everyone I knew watched it. "Jungle Boogie" was played at all the school dances. I even own the soundtrack. So it was time to bite the bullet and watch the thing. I figured I'd been solidly spoiled. Turns out everything I'd ever heard is only from the first hour of the movie, and the other two were a total surprise.

I know all y'all already know this, but it's new to me--also, trigger warning for the thing that is a trigger in the film )

The main stand-out feature of the film is, of course, the dialogue. The dialogue is unparalleled. Not just for its wit, but for how it makes all of the film's characters into three-dimensional people. I can think of few films that gave me such a clear idea of who these people are. This isn't like Oscar Wilde dialogue, where everyone sounds like the author and the dialogue exists to show how very clever that author is. Tarantino is being clever, but clever in the service of showing us who these people are beyond the events of the plot. As Ebert pointed out in his review, most dialogue in most films is purely about the plot. But Pulp Fiction you could listen to as an audiobook.

So now I find myself reevaluating my stance on Tarantino. I think it's perhaps time to give Kill Bill a chance. I still don't know about Reservoir Dogs, though. People have been telling me it's a fantastic film for a long time, but they've also been telling me just how violent it is, and I'm not quite sure I'm willing to watch that to get to the dialogue and the characters.


Apr. 15th, 2014 10:46 pm
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In tonight's watching of cultural touchstones from the nineties that I was too young for the first time around: Fargo.

As with most Coen Brother films, I don't...get it? Like, again, the most iconic stuff I already knew about. But the film just meanders around a lot, and their humor's not really my kind of humor, so that just leaves me with a feeling of "huh."
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I watched Silence of the Lambs last night for the first time. It has a bit of a Casablanca problem--I watch so many procedurals, and so many of them draw a straight line back to Silence of the Lambs, in format, in characters, and often in plot, that the original has left me...meh.

It has been rightly criticised as being transphobic (and how). I was also noticing just how much it disempowers Clarice. spoilers for Silence of the Lambs )

Tl;dr: what a disappointment, and not a great movie for portraying women.

Also, could they have been any more looking for a Jodi Foster lookalike when they cast Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully? She even has the same hair.
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I have another case do, so you're getting a post on not that!

Watched 20 Feet from Stardom last night. It is fantastic. It gives a history of pop music over the last 60 years, highlighting the exploitation of black female voices. I mean, that's not the only thread going on, but one of the singers said, of British rock and rollers, "They wanted to sound black. So they had us." It also points out the disconnect between talent and success, talking about the failed solo careers of many of the singers. But they also talk about a woman, my new idol, Lisa Fischer, who put out a solo album--and won a Grammy for it--but didn't really want to do that. She really enjoys singing backup, so that's what she does. She doesn't want to be out front. Several people talked about the power of voices in harmony, and how some singers just prefer that to singing solo. That's certainly something that resonates with me (and my small talent). I get a lot more out of being part of the group than I do out of being out front.

What I found most interesting was to realize that the backup singers on like 90% of everything you've ever listened to are the same dozen or so people. It is a small world, session backup singers, and as each artist strives to capture the sound of other artists, they use the same backup groups. Makes me wish they were more frequently credited so that I could more easily track their careers. I mean, I'd like just to have a playlist of all the things I already own with these singers on them.

It was also heartening to see that, when I plugged 20 Feet from Stardom into amazon, looking for the soundtrack, it brought up all of the failed solo albums of the featured singers as things I might like. I bet this doc has actually done a fair bit of sales for them. I hope they get some of the residuals.

In conclusion, a great documentary that looked at a lot of different issues, not just failed ambition, and features amazing music. It's streaming on netflix--check it out.
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Still fluff, still hella entertaining. This may be the only time I actually like Paul Rudd in something. What I appreciate about it is that, like its source material, the main character is a shallow ditz. But she also manages to be incredibly sweet and endearing, even though she never evolves past her own little spoiled bubble of privilege. I also kind of admire them for adapting this to the modern era without getting rid of any of the vaguely incestuous, enormous age difference creepiness.

She's All That
My god, this movie is atrocious. I read a fanfic AU vaguely based on it some time ago and added it to my Netflix cue, and as it's expiring on January 1, decided to watch it. I can barely express how wretched it is.

It's terrible just on the level of, you know, writing and character and plot. It doesn't manage any of that well. It's a series of formulaic, heartless, boring set pieces that try to trick you into thinking these characters feel any emotion towards each other.

But what takes it from conventional bad to appalling is relentless misogyny. The women in this film have no agency. None of them. The heroine is lifted from obscurity to popularity by the hero; her own potential as an artist is only unlocked by him. The other women are all defined by their role as girlfriends to the other boys. They only pay attention to the heroine when their boyfriends do. And the only impetus for any of the men to pay attention to the heroine is their competition with each other. Nothing that happens happens because of any decisions the women make. It's all orchestrated by men. Including multiple incidents of not only stalking, but all the men in the heroine's life (including her brother and father) conspiring to make sure she gets together with the hero, even after she repeatedly says no.

The real kicker is the climax of the movie, in which hero's best friend has gotten jealous of him and resolved to bang the heroine to prove a point. Heroine's best friend (a man, of course), overhears this guy bragging about how he's going to sleep with her. At this point, what does he do? He runs to the hero to tell him. Not his friend. Repeat: When he hears that a guy intends to rape his best friend, rather than warning her, or even locating her, or preventing her from leaving with that guy, he goes and finds another guy--a guy that the heroine has rejected--and tells him about it. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I had never seen this before and am having a bit of a hard time processing it. Mainly because I'd always been told it was a comedy, and it has arch elements that imply it is a comedy, but it really, really isn't.

Spoilers within )

I don't know. The whole thing left me feeling icky. I absolutely respect the intelligence of this movie. I could totally see studying it in a media studies class. But I don't think I'll be rewatching it ever.
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I had my last final yesterday. Afterwards, I went home, had a shot of rum (I cannot express to you how much pain my neck and shoulders were in after hunching over my notes for ten hours on Wednesday, then hunching over a test for three), and watched Rogue Trader.

Rogue Trader is a movie about Nick Leeson, the guy who, by himself, brought down Barings Bank, the oldest merchant bank in the world, by speculating on the Nikkei. The movie was not a commercial success (and the poster for it is a complete lie about the type of movie it is) and I can kind of see why. It's not really dramatic unless you understand what it is he was doing. There's a lot of him explaining futures and margin calls to his staff/the audience, and since he ran away at the end and was arrested changing planes in Germany, there isn't even a big dramatic confrontation.

The thing is, though, that now, as I'm watching it, I'm watching the auditors and going noooo! That's why you always get bank confirmations from the bank mailed directly to you! You never get that stuff from the client! What is wrong with you! Can you not see he faxed the documentation to you from his home fax machine in the middle of the night? Doesn't that worry you?

Overall, it's pretty much a demonstration of everything I've just spent a semester learning about internal controls. Cause there were plenty of red flags, but every time someone raised an objection, someone else charged in, saying, but he's making us so much money! Look at all the trades he's doing! So even though Barings had internal risk management structures, they were entirely ineffective because they had no power to actually stand up to the traders.

Next on the watch list, Boiler Room.
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I rewatched Star Trek: Nemesis. Paramount must have just signed a new deal with Netflix, cause the Next Gen Trek films have been completely unavailable for a couple of years, but are now back, so I seized my opportunity. I've been meaning to rewatch it for a while cause, well, Tom Hardy.

No, I'm not spoiler cutting this. It's too old for a spoiler cut.

Keep in mind with this movie:
1 - I've only seen it once before, in theaters.
2 - I genuinely liked it the first time. I really did. I definitely thought it had problems, but overall I enjoyed it a lot. Probably just cause I liked seeing my TNG peeps again. And I liked the costumes and the music.
3 - Though I've only seen it once, the soundtrack was one of my staples for a couple of years, so I know it note by note. Which gives this weird dissonance, rewatching it, cause I'd entirely forgotten large portions of the film, but I knew exactly what was coming cause I knew the music.
4 - Also, this is really embarrassing, but I was absolutely convinced that the actor who played Shin Zon was Asian. I can't even say why. I blame it on the lighting. (That actor is, of course, Tom Hardy, so...this is why I never attempt to identify peoples' ethnicity, cause clearly I'm like that guy in the elevator who asked me if I was Japanese and then didn't believe me when I said I wasn't.)

What I was most bothered by, the first time I saw it, was the blatant, enormous, entirely unnecessary retconning of the universe. We have decades worth of Trek canon, hundreds of hours of the show, but no, we're going to invent Remus! The planet that Romulus has always been in conflict with that no one's ever mentioned before. And a whole new type of radiation no one's heard of before! (Cause christ, there just aren't enough technobabble types of radiation in this universe already.) And Data has YET ANOTHER twin brother android we've never encountered before! (Where did Shin Zon find it? Who cares!) And Picard has ANOTHER extremely rare genetic disorder that's never been mentioned before! Speaking of, the thing that bothered me the MOST on my initial viewing, was that we'd seen a young Picard before--in "Rascals"--and he had hair, and looked nothing like Tom Hardy. I wouldn't have minded this contradiction, since there's the whole hand wavy, my nose and jaw have been broken a lot, I look different, thing, except that Picard PULLS OUT A PHOTOGRAPH from the Academy days that shows young him is Tom Hardy, bald and all.

On second viewing, I'm forced to admit that this movie is pretty shit.

Problem one - It thinks it's an action film. Reboots aside, Trek is not an action franchise. TNG was not an action show. And these actors? Not action stars. They were also kind of long in the tooth at that point to do anything but tongue in cheek action. But this movie is full of long, loving shots of dune buggies driving around, throwing up plumes of dirt, and firefights, and flying a fighter through the corridors of a space ship cause exciting! It's really...not good. I mean, more than half of the screen time is spent on action, using a cast of actors whose primary experience acting "action" was sitting in chairs while the camera shook and the props guys threw crap at them.

Problem two - The plot holes, they are legion. Why do those people on the random planet with B4 start shooting at them? Where the hell did Shin Zon find B4? (Shin Zon's entire plan sucks, btw. Lure the Enterprise to the neutral zone with the hopes that they'll pick up the signal from one android on a planet half the galazy away...) Why, if Shin Zon needs Picard alive in order to heal himself would his crew IMMEDIATELY start shooting at him when he escapes? Why, if Shin Zon NEEDS PICARD TO LIVE, does he waste so much time dicking around talking to him instead of strapping him down and taking his blood first thing? Why does Shin Zon suddenly have the capability of holographically projecting himself into Picard's ready room to talk to him? (This one is so egregious, they even have a line of dialogue about it: "Don't look for my holographic projectors; you won't find them." So...how did Shin Zon get holographic projectors into Picard's ready room in the zero times he or any of his crew have been there?) Why, seriously, why is there a mind rape of Troi scene? That serves no plot purpose at all. It doesn't even serve a character purpose. And it's really painful to watch. Why does the doomsday weapon take seven whole minutes to warm up? That seems like a terrible design. (Just--stay there! I'm going to kill you! In...five minutes! Don't move!)

But for all that, the core of this movie is still a Star Trek idea. I mean, it opens in a senate chamber. You can't get more Star Trek than that. And the idea itself, though so clumsily handled, is an intriguing one. I totally buy that the Romulans would create a clone to try to infiltrate Starfleet, then there's a regime change and that program gets iced. But there was so much more they could do with it. Presumably Shin Zon would have been taught all about Picard's life, if he was meant to replace him. Instead of being a mustache twirler, he could have been a conflicted mess of envy and anger about Picard--wanting to be him and destroy him. And you could have had some truly interesting tactical battles between them, since Picard is supposed to be a brilliant strategist. They tell us Shin Zon is one, too, but we don't see it. There's a real missed opportunity to see him out think Picard, and vice versa. For both of them, thinking that they know and could anticipate the other could be a real disadvantage. I mean, even in the ludicrous fistfight they get into in the film (that old Picard only credibly wins cause Shin Zon is on death's door), Shin Zon was raised a lot rougher than Picard. He should have much better fighting skills. It's all a waste.

Instead it's a lot of "I am your mirror" nonsense. And let's not forget the final FU to the concept the movie is trying to get across, that experience and choice make identity, not anything else: Data has a whole speech about how he is a different person than B4, despite their similar construction. But then, at the end, when B4 starts singing "Blue Skies," we are meant to think that Data is living on through him. Which just entirely blows up the "different person" idea. I mean, it's not exactly a happy ending if Data reasserted himself in B4 and eradicated the other android's identity.

Oh, to the Data thing, in the theater the first time I figured out early on we were doing Wrath of Khan, so knew Data was going to bite it. I wasn't surprised by that. And the only reason I think we didn't get the "Data miraculously lives on through his memories implanted in B4" storyline is that we didn't get another movie.

Also, J.J. Abrams totally stole the intership space jump from this movie. Only in this movie, you jump cut from taking off to landing and don't spend enough time for me to run from the theater to the bathroom and get back with them dodging around obstacles (yes, that's how long it is in Into Darkness).
ivyfic: (Default)
I know everyone's super spoilerphobic about this movie, so I'm putting behind a cut, even though I PROMISE I'm not talking about any plot points.

Moon )

ETA: Also, why did no one tell me Clint Mansell did the soundtrack? It is FANTASTIC.


ivyfic: (Default)

August 2017

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