Leap Day means an extra day for movies
in February 2020


Young Adult (2011)

It's been nine years since this came out?? I never would have guessed that. Even having just watched it, that 2011 caught me off guard. It jumped way ahead on that Nineties nostalgia!

Anyway, I watched it because a) Kanopy had just added it so it was atop my watchlist went I went to Kanopy looking for something to watch and b) I was still high off Charlize Theron's performance in Long Shot.

I'm glad I did, but I'm not sure what to make of it.

This is the same team that made Juno, with Diablo Cody writing and Jason Reitman directing and a soundtrack with an interesting take on the Nineties.

Charlize Theron plays a woman who moved to the "big city" and is making a living ghostwriting petty, old-fashioned YA novels. She looks like Charlize Theron, which is good, but she is a mess, slowly pulling our her hair, drowning in alcohol, and deciding the only way to happiness is to win back her high-school boyfriend.

A normal movie would provide one of two endings for this quest: First, for immoral audiences, that she succeeds at her goal. Second, for moral audiences, that she fails but learns a lot along the way.

Our hero takes a long time to learn she's not in the first movie. And the second movie has all the necessaries laid out, waiting for her to pick them up.

But she doesn't. (Or, arguably, she does but gets them all mixed up. If you think this is a joyful example of the second movie, seek therapy now.)

We the audience are so unclear where we're headed that when a character near the end tells our hero just what she wants to hear, we can't tell, for most of their conversation, whether this character is serious, ironic, desperate, mocking, hopeful, or what. She could be any of these things. And then the movie ends!

What is this, real life?

(UPDATE: I was just nosing around IMDb and discovered the woman who marries ol' Charlize's beau plays the vampire matriarch in the Twilight movies. This must be a deliberate bit of stunt casting. A crack is made about vampire YA which Charlize's character did not like and it's implied those books are why her series is being canceled. Nice touch, I must say. Unfortunately, respective box office also turns out to be relevant....)

Groundhog Day (1993)

Upsettingly, I was interrupted by a twenty-three-minute phonecall and missed classic bits, bits. This is a true classic film. No question.

I showed it to the Big O when he was younger than all three boys are now. They've seen Edge of Tomorrow. This was overdue. They liked it!

I want to watch it again. Like, immediately.

I missed some parts.

And the parts are all so good.

Kung Fu Dunk (2008)

Wow, this is a terrible movie. At first, it's just a basketball version of Shaolin Soccer, and I was happy to enjoy it as such, but then, in the final act, it completely loses its way. It dumps the rest of the cliche dictionary into the pot and ceases to make any sense at all. Characters betray themselves, the film betrays itself, the editing goes to pieces---it's a disaster. Instead of laughing with the movie, by the end, you're just laughing at it.

Back to Shaolin Soccer, at least two actors are recycled here (I think three) just in case you missed the connection. It starts by quoting directly from the previous film, but whereas that film was about characters, this film slaps some bathos here and there and calls it character. It's nonsense.

Any why oh why oh why does it matter if they win the big game? led by a player I call Evil Barry Manilow?

I will say one thing about the officiating of this game: it gets to why rule of law is so important.
Trump’s comments left both Justice officials and Huawei executives fuming. Huawei leaders, who told me that they’d long respected the sacred place of the rule of law in the US system and wanted China to model it, now wondered how sacred it really was.
So maybe this is a political film?

Regardless, the lazy use of flashback and close-up and montage and slomo do not make this absurd capitalist wet dream any better.

That said...it was hella fun.

And the coin at the end was a nice touch. Unearned, but the closest they came.

Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)

This film stars Charlie Chaplin, but he is not THE star and, although the Tramp was invented, it wasn't his full identity yet. He plays the badguy here.

Although it clearly was a bit off, it was kind of fun to watch a feature on Wikipedia!

Chaplin plays a con artist who chases the lead to get first a small cache of money and then, later, a huge fortune. The movie is madcap. The thre-year-old laughed her head off. Where are the 50%-slapstick comedies these days?

Allegedly, this is the first feature-length American-made comedy. (Remade, fourteen years later, as a talkie with another allstar cast [and an utterly unrelated plot].)

Final analysis? It's not that great, but it's a lot of fun and gee whiz but it must be an important film. First feature comedy! And the last Chaplin film before he took full charge of them. I'm glad it survived.

Arrival (2016)

This is the first revisit I've made of a film to make my Best of the 2010s list since making the list. I feel very strongly that putting Arrival on the list was a correct choice. What a film.

First, the writing and direction are incredible. I am enormously humbled to know this film exists (also, that the short story it is based exists) because I can't imagine making it myself. The way the film teaches you how to read itself is possibly unprecidented and made this second viewing all the more powerful.

Amy Adams's performance is incredible, Jeremy Renner manages not to be annoying, the sound and score are topnotch, all the visual design and cinematography are just as they must be.

And: the politics are more vital now than the were in 2016. God, I wish this movie were true.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Sadly, I only got to watch the first half of this movie. The kids decided to watch it of their own accord (it's their first time!) and I was enjoying it as well when my beloved dragged me along to put away chairs at some middle-school-band fundraiser. So really, does this even count as a movie watched?

It must. Because I like it so much.

Somehow, as a child, I got it into my mind that this was a terrible, terrible, wicked film, one I was certainly not allowed to watch. I'm not sure how I got this idea, but it was probably true.

Weirdly, I do not remember how I finally came to watch it the first time. But I know I enjoyed it. Bad words notwithstanding, the panic seemed too much. Especially given we watched Adventures in Babysitting many times in my home and that prominently features a Playboy.

One thing I would like to say about Ferris, even though it is exagerrated nearly to surreality, it is one of the most accurate high-school movies I can think of.

And Matthew Broderick is a true star. How is it he is not more frequently tapped? Maybe he's just off-center enough to confuse Hollywoodites?

Jean de Florette (1986)

Manon des Sources (1986)

This month's film-group movie(s) are two movies that are really just one movie. Released months apart and bleeding one into another---leave out the first film's credits and you wouldn't know they were two movies. Set aside four hours and do them in a single sitting!

Lady Steed had seen them before, pre-Thteed, at International Cinema, and they slowly came back as she watched, but besides the wedding dress and almost the flowers (gladiolas, not lilies), pretty much everything was unexpected.

Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed most of the way through, but the final reveal was absolutely worth the journey. It didn't hurt, getting to watch Emmanuelle Béart, even more beautiful in movie two than in Mission:Impossible. (And who looks uncannily like the talented kid who played Manon in the first film then never made another movie.)

The movie is still pretty timely, frankly. Dishonesty, an incel, and the need to be kind to strangers because, in the end, strangers we are not. Beautiful films.

Inception (2010)

Now that the kids are Chris Nolan fan's and that Tenet's coming soon to a theater near you, it was time to rewatch Inception, this time with them. It's been almost ten years! And my remembered impression is that it was terrific---really, realy great---but then demolished by a cowardly conclusion. I'm less upset by the (still arguably lazy) ambiguity of the conlusion this time, but it would have been much better had he never emphasized it. Don't pan back down to the top. Just ... let it go. Let us forget.

Speaking of forgetting, I had forgotten that the different dreams had different time signatures. Or, in other words, that this was a trial run for Dunkirk.

Overall, even (mostly) forgiving the denouement, I just...didn't enjoy the movie as much as I did sitting in the theater ten years ago. It was cool. It seemed to work. It was fine. But it didn't have sufficient heart. I'm not sure why. The marriage subplot seems like it should work---and probably will next time I see this movie (2030?) but not this time.

Maybe I needed Lady Steed sitting beside me, instead of in the other room reading a book.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

I've always felt bad that I, a high-school senior, never took seriously a freshmen's recommendation to watch this movie. I saw a couple minutes at one point, but genuinely had no idea what I was in for.

Because whatever that was, this was not it.

I should start by saying this is a terrible movie and I did not like it. Then follow that up by saying the twelve-year-old and the ten-year-old did like it. Then admit that one of the things that brought be around to finally seeing it is a cast that I appreciate more than I would have back in 1994. Then admit, in contrast, that many of the best players were not the famous people I'm now fans of---notably Buckaroo's best buds played by Lewis Smith (who makes 80s New Wave hella sexy and looks like a cross between James Franco and Jon Hader) and Clancy Brown (who has been in everything, but you definitely know him as Mr Krabs).

The film has moments of utter brilliance, but they're glued together with so much failure---

It's like a diamond necklace held together with crap rather than gold. What a waste of diamonds.

Muriel's Wedding (1994)

Ends up Lady Steed and I have seen this before.

I thought that might have been the case but I really didn't know what was coming moment to moment and only recognized moments after they had passed.

Lady Steed had seen it before our shared viewing, but slept through this one. I might wish I had done the same. I am tiiiired.

That said, I really enjoyed the movie. Toni Collette and a great cast---plenty of lines that could easily become inside jokes, and a moving arc that flirts with cliche but never brings it home. In fact, Muriel has to cruch cliche to find her happy ending.

UPDATE: Lady Steed watched it solo the next day and I came in many times, watching maybe a third of it. It's wildly entertaining even in pieces, instantly compellable. If this were still true of anything, "When it's on tv, I just have to watch it through." would apply.

Bolt (2008)

The Big O and I saw this film in theaters in 3D, which is how I decided not to spend money on 3D for kids anymore. He found it terrifying and kept removing the lenses. Which was annoying.

Other than the basic concept, I didn't remember much about this film besides that it was ... fine?

Which was about right. This was a perfectly adequate, paint-by-numbers movie. Nothing terribly inspired but nothing really embarrassing either.

It was ... fine.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

Life forced us to split our viewing in half, but even so---it did not feel like two hours and forty minutes to me. It was much too breezy for that.

I like the movie fine. It didn't work as well for me as intended, perhaps, as I've never cared all that much about Charles Manson, but the golden-hour coloring and the nostalgic trips through old tv etc were pleasant and pleasurable.

Should it have been nominated for Best Picture?

To be honest, I do not see why it should've been. It's a move about Hollywood and a Tarantino film, but otherwise? Why? I don't know. It wasn't that great. Not like, say, 1917 or Parasite (or even Joker, which also began with a period logo).

(Other 2019 movies I think were certainly superior: The Report, Us, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Toy Story 4, I Lost My Body.

WHICH IS NOT TO SAY I DID NOT LIKE IT. I did. It was my first Tarantino film watched clear through and I liked it. So hey. Maybe I'll watch another.

Sylvio (2017)

I don't tire of this movie.

It is an easy way to tell, though, which kids have never seen anything other than a Marvel movie....

Contagion (2011)

Luckily I washed my hands just before watching this because otherwise I would have had to pause it to go wash my hands. The camera lingering on touched objects made my skin crawl.

Everything about this movie is that deliberate. It's hella melodramatic. It's a good thing it's such a stellar cast or it might have tipped into the laughable.

Even though this movie disease kills tens of millions of people (including a couple of its on-poster stars---one of whom is dead ON THE POSTER), they do still get a couple lucky breaks and things turn out much better than it could. In the final credits---even after thanking Georgia and Illinois and Louisiana for the tax breaks---it threatens us with the unhappy thought that it's just a matter of when.

(Theric pauses writing this to read newspaper. Remembers to add #coronavirus to this writeup.)

While we might not be as unlucky as people were at the beginning of The Andromeda Strain, we're not likely to as lucky as they were in The Andromeda Strain, either. You fire the CDC's pandemic teams though and Contagion gets harder to give even that tens-of-millions-dead happy ending.

Next up, at long last, Outbreak!

Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013)

I heard of this movie because an acquaintance of an acquaintance posted this video and I had to ask about the rainbow-blood clip. Then I found the film and now I've watched it.


The filming, the sound, the concept, EVERYTHING. I was laughing with/at it all the way through.

It's a nice touch, when the people making the movie suddenly become diegetic there at the end. Very appropriate.

All I can say is that if you like cg blood EVERYWHERE and heads and hands flying upwards a story post-katana, then you will enjoy the finale and the path there, as well, mostlike.

I can't guarantee you will be ... morally uplifted in anyway. It's just absurdity and violence (and absurd violence) for the sake of absurdity and violence (and absurd violence). That's all.

Troop Zero (2019)

The powerful payoff this film provides made me rethink my disappointment with the first three quarters. I was so excited after seeing the trailer and then...it didn't quite hold up. But it ended so well that I realized: this is one of those movies that becomes a favorite the second time I watch it.

It certainly looked cool (as you would expect from these directors) and the acting was good (the little girl I'd seen before, but she really impressed me here). And I liked the characters and the writing and etc etc, but it wasn't until the end that it finally came together for me.

But a noncookiecutter movie can be like that. You have to watch them twice.

Which...is not something we do too often these days.... There's too much wealth of newness.

I don't know about the new entertainment economy.

Previous films watched


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