Feature Films: September2019


Captain Marvel (2019)

First, Brie Larson is so great. In particular how she uses her voice, but in movie after movie she has proven she can act. I recommend her for your next project.

Second, the movie's good, but Marvel Studios come off a bit lazy, considering the use they put her to in Endgame. Very few of the moments in this movie pay off. Maybe they will later, but I haven't even heard a rumor of a Captain Marvel 2. In retrospect, it feels like it's a) a response to Wonder Woman and b) a bunch of nonsequiters. I would like to be proven wrong.

It also makes me want to watch other, earlier Marvel movies.

Will I? Dunno. Only if the kids get them from the library themselves. But I know they feel the same way.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

This is not an easy movie to write about, so soon after viewing.

I decided long ago I would not see Lawrence of Arabia until I could see it on the big screen. Today I did so.

And it was not what I expected

I'm not sure just what I did expect, but it wasn't anything so complicated as this. I expected clearer emotions. A simpler message. Something thrilling and awesomely large, but horse-opera simple.

What a fool I was.

I also didn't expect to have it uncover the original Star Wars's mild racism, or to explain the ugly evil in Attack of the Clones.

I thought there might be some white-savior tendencies, but I didn't explect it to deconstruct and stomp upon that ideal.

If you hire some Arab actors instead of (old favorites) Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn, along with a couple other minor changes, then this film still feels remarkably modern. Certainly it feels post-Vietnam.

Certainly it demonstrates how war turns even the best men into monsters.

But I don't know what I think.

Ask me after the next time it comes to theaters.

The Martian (2015)

It's been four years. Geez.

But it did not disappoint! Great cast (Matt Damon is a treasure) (I couldn't help but notice Ridley Scott positioned the camera to shoot Jessica Chastain's cheekbones to full effect), complex details hung on a simple, accessible frame, immersively staged and shot. I loved it.

I had decided the movie was going to be enough for me. I still feel this way. But it's worth noting that the three people I live with who read and loved this book (two of them have read it multiple times) wouldn't shut up about their favorite bits missing.

Would watch again. Plus, it made me want to rewatch some of the other recent films in its neighborhood: Interstellar, Gravity, Arrival. It's been a nice run for near-future, realistic scifi film.

I had guessed this was thirty years in the future, but I learned from these videos linked to in the credits that it is actually only 2029. Not far off at all. They decided to make Earth pretty much as it is now---which is a pretty good choice. No matter what you try, the movie will age. Why make mistakes which are, ultimately, deliberate?

These astronauts are in school right now.

I rather doubt we'll actually get to Mars at all within ten years---let alone a third mission---but I hope I do get to see it.

Blinded by the Light (2019)

I was excited to see this film (even though, as so often happens, its best moment was ruined by the trailer), in part because I was looking forward to how it was going to render lyrics visual. I rarely understand lyrics and I certainly can't watch a movie and listen to lyrics at the same time and I have little familiarity with Springsteen's music. The attempts largely worked for me. I hope to see it played with again.

I remember quite liking the director's Bend It Like Beckham, though it's been a long time since Lady Steed and I watched that at Movies 8.

So I liked the trailer and heard a compelling interview with the director, but after a year of jukebox movies, this one has not done beaucoup boxoffice and I probably would have missed it were it not for a friend who love love loves Springsteen inviting us to join her.

(Incidental personal note unrelated to the film: I enjoyed so much hanging out with Lady Steed and three other women our age. I've always found being with women so much easier than being with men, but it's almost impossible for comfortable situations to develop---which has been true since we got married. [The reasons for this are twofold: it's hard for me to just hang out with women and women hanging out with each other tend to be less comfortable with me there.] It was great. There's something about the dynamics of American women that I find so much more enjoyable and pleasant than being with my fellow American men.)

UPDATE: It's been three days since the film and it's dropped a bit in my estimation. Little things I thought were evidence of imperfection seem more to me like the basic fact of the films. Viz., many, many moments in the film seemed be included to be sure to check off all the main intended moments rather than because these characters living these lives would necessarily pass through them. At the time of watching, these felt like irregularities. Now, in memory, the film feels more like a pastiche of these moments rather than a coherent whole. If you watch it, I'll be curious if you see what I'm talking about and if you agree with me as to the seriousness of the issue.

Sylvio (2017) ×3

So I've seen this film maybe ... seven times now? I still like it. I figured today I would really know what I thought. And I think it's good.

It occurred to me today that this may be a film about Sylvio. The easy metaphors to assign Sylvio have to do with race, but autism might be more useful. He's not verbal, he's very aware of small sounds, he's deeply invested in an obsessive hobby---it's a bit autism-adjacent, don't you think?

It's also interesting how dang much of this film is shot in point of view.

Sylvio does not speak and his mask doesn't change expression, yet he manages to be the most emotive character on screen. It's like a Greek mask, revealing a deeper truth.

Also, and this may be over reaching, but am I seeing a direct reference to Piss Christ when Herbert looks through his beer? And if so, what does it mean?

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)

So. Three acts.

Act one: Drags, much too full of fan service in a movie that has no other purpose. But still: I laughed a lot.

Act two: Holy turn of events, Batman! The movie takes a turn I never saw coming! Plus, my LPM (laffs per minute) shoots waaay up.

Act three: Ties it all together and just manages to be short enough.

In all, a fitting return to the '60s show's glory in animates form (starring Adam West! Burt Ward! Julie Newmar!). My kids who barely know the original (mostly that it exists) loved it too, calling it stupid enough to be hilarious. So there you go: Success.

Kings of Baxter (2017) ×2

Documentary about a couple actors who run a twelve-week course at an Australian juvie, teaching them Macbeth. I'm trying it out as a film introduction to the play. I liked it. They liked it. I didn't love watching it twice in a row.

The real test is how it affect their feelings about the play as we get underway.

The Lady Eve (1941)

I love Preston Sturges. My first experience bewildered me, though I'm certain I will love it when I watch it again. And my second experience also bewildered me, but I loved it first go-round. This plays some of the same games, but I was ready for him.

And I loved this film. It's the easiest of the three to love, although maybe that's because it is my third experience---it's no simpler, I don't think. I kept not knowing where it was headed next. And it kept making me happy.

And that long, long take---master shot---of Fonda and Stanwyck as she seduces him is one of the realest bits of sexery I've ever seen.

Also fun, I also learned that that farmer who had a dog? whose name was Bingo? That tune comes from something else. And it's a doozy.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

I still like it?

Do you still like it?

I'll bet you do.


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