May We Movies?


personal dvd collection
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)

This is not a good movie. Entertaining to watch? Sure. But it doesn't make a lot of sense. Clearly, they did not put the best people on it. (That girls been wrapped in her quilt for two weeks??) Which is a shame because the concept's not too shabby. And if they were old, it could have set up some pretty interesting sequels. [See sequel, below, for more comments.]

But of course, these movies are happy to pick and choose what they remember from the previous iterations. I guess before we could watch movies whenever we felt like it, we just had to take their word for it.

The most bizarre moment, however, was that final moment lifted straight out of Gone with the Wind.

And if the music was iffy before the denouement, this moment's music turned a mystifying choice into a laughline.

personal dvd collection
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

This starts off as a pretty good wolfman movie. The hair-growing effects are better and Lon Chaney wields the pathos like a machete. Then the Frankensteins get involved and...the rest isn't quite as good.

(Telling: This movie came out of eight days before the year anniversary of the previous installment's release.)

Bela Lugosi's version of the creature is unintentionally comedic. I thought that might change one they brought him to full power, but no such luck. It doesn't help that the makeup makes him look like a cross between Herman Munster and Grandpa Addams.

Also---anyone else notice that no female character's ever played by the same actress twice?

Or that the head village meanie looks like my Face in Hat cohost?

Apparently, the creature was going to speak and be blind ala what Ghost set up, but they thought Bela's voice was too inadvertently amusing. That, and the fact that Bela was old and exhausted and the role was thus played by possibly four different people, help explain why the face just isn't consistent.

Maybe it wouldn't have been good, but I suspect the all-Bela version of this film would have been better.

That's the attitude, guys!

Like Father, Like Son (2013)

I don't know what I expected if it wasn't this. Just...more and less? more emotional impact without seeming so long?

It's a heart-wrenching scenario---maybe impossible not be be running the numbers of one's personal life instead of giving the film your full attention, at least on first viewing.

What do you do when you discover your six-year-old was switched at birth?

I couldn't figure out what, thematically, the film was about making even metaphors with big flashing signs (those cicadas) confusing.

Yeah. The more I think about it, the more certain I am this film would approve with a second viewing--I'm starting to see how all the pieces fit together and how they might make an artful collage rather than sorted piles.

But I also think it'll feel just as long the second time. Maybe even longer?

I'm guessing I don't find out.

personal dvd collection
Shanghai Noon (2000)

It's sort of a Jackie Chan film (with less consistently excellent action) with a lot of elements (besides just Owen Wilson) lifted from Wes Anderson movies (though hardly as sharp throughout). So it's no surprise I loved it so much in 2000 and can't quite love it as much now.

Still. The oldest two had a riot watching it and I had fun too. You can still, having had filet mignon, enjoy a salisbury steak.

Shoplifters (2018)

Thought-provoking. Complicated. Unsettling.

There are lots of reasons to disagree with me, but this covers a lot of the same ground as Parasite but I don't think it was saying at all the same things. Both have, as surface text, that poor people are awful and will do whatever they can get away with. But that movie provided a big fat subtext blaming the rich. That doesn't happen here. This is about found family; that about birth family.

The connections to the directors previous film (Like Father, Like Son---see above) are also striking. Similar themes, very different things said about this.

Here, the found family is awful in many on-paper ways, but they are wonderful in others. And when the get found out, no one can understand or believe in what they had. And so it is dissolved. (Society would have dissolved it anyway, but this gets back to the eat-the-rich themes this film studiously avoids.)

The actress playing the little girl is astonishing. Not her alone, but she's so little and has to play such a nuanced role and does it so well. Maybe we can praise the director for this as well?

Sigh. I need time for another viewing before film club. It's a lot to unwind.

personal dvd collection
Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Yes, it's merely a teaser when it comes to the riches offered by the novel (and misleading---I realized on this watch that IT is why I say a stupid wrong thing every time I teach the book), but it provides riches all its own in the editing, camera work, music, interactions, and Keira Knightley's face.

We watched it to mark the end of the AP test. Turn out was so-so but that's fine. I saved the chat! but I'm not sure it's really appropriate for me to share that with you. You?

personal dvd collection
House of Frankenstein (1944)

Okay. This is a dumb one. There is a beautiful symmetry to Boris Karloff now playing the mad scientist (and he's great) but most of the rest of the movie is ... not.

The first act involves bringing Dracula back to life (with an actor so similar to Karloff it was a while before I could be sure it wasn't him) and then killing him off. It could have been a standalone Dracula film. Instead, it's a random addition to a Frankenstein film. (But it's not really a "Frankenstein" film either, in the sense of a monster film [he barely gets more screen time than the Bride in her eponymous film]---it's a Doctor Niemann film.)

Anyway, Lon Chaney's great as usual even though the movie respects him less than usual. The only kindness is letting him die. Though the accompanying tragedy is unclear since apparently they can't show blood in 1944? I guess?

Yeah. For completists only.

personal dvd collection
Be Kind Rewind (2008)

This film wants to be the American Cinema Paradiso and it does have some moments that come close. It's also a Micael Gondry film and it does have moments of visual wonder but nothing like, say, Mood Indigo or Eternal Sunshine.

I think, ultimately, and I don't like saying this, but, ultimately, I think what's wrong with Be Kind Rewind is it wants to be an intensely American movie but it was written and directed by a French guy and it doesn't gel American.

Another issue might be that Gondry's largely playing it straight here. Sure, there's a magnetized Jack Black but outside that, the madness is kept within the sweded movies. This movie wants to be taken seriously to the point that it can never quite become itself. I don't know what that self might have been and I don't know who to blame.

In the end, it's so close. So close.

The Great Dinosaur Discovery (1976)

While technically five and a half minutes too short for inclusion on this list, I loved it too much to ignore. And who could blame me? This "highly acclaimed landmark film broadcast nationally" about the discovery of new and giant dinosaurs at Dry Mesa Quarry by a BYU professor and his gang of diggers. It's both thrilling watching the disovering happen as it happens, and laughing at some of the dated filming choices---and gasping at some of the dated paleontology practices.

Anyway, this old dinohound thought it was great. I loved it. And the watermelon scene alone was worth the time spent.

(Unanswered question: who's the dude with the pipe?)

Amazon Prime
Fences (2016)

Lady Steed's first time watching!

Not under ideal circumstances, I'm afraid. Kids, daylight, etc. But she was wiping tears away at the end, so the film worked its way through all those barriers.

I can't imagine not crying there at the end. Not from "Blue" on out.

It's just the right thing to do.

personal dvd collection
Frankenstein (1931)

Now that the seniors have realized they're all passing no matter how little work they do, they're not even showing up for a just-for-fun movie. I may need to rethink my film-unit plans....

But hey---watching a movie with three people's also fun!

And this way, everyone who made it to the end said they liked it. Perfect 100% feedback!

It really is a lovely movie. The sets, camera, and Karloff being the most magnificent portions.

personal dvd collection
Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

The baby's been asking to watch this for a while and an excellent article I read made me realize she was overdue.

So, anyway, I love this movie. We didn't see it in theaters because the trailers made me skeptical about the animation. But the animation is great! And the vocal performances / writing combo is barnone.

It's a movie I can watch infinite times.

Don't leave me on a desert island with electricity, a dvd player, and just one movie; but if you must, maybe this one?

personal dvd collection
Bambi (1942)

Baby suddenly remembered she loves Bambi and so she got this put on today. She's sneaky, too. After Bambi's mom got shot, she rewinded it just just before the first time she was shot at. I was confused for a moment---there are no flashbacks in Bambi!!(?)!.

I know I've said this before, but I just really love this movie. The colors are amazing. Because the cartoon characters---though largely pretty realistic---look like normal cartoon characters it can be easy to miss the richness of the work behind them. And how did they do the look of the fire from above the island? Were the backgrounds wet paint they manipulated between exposures? It seems like the most likely explanation, but I don't remember hearing about such a thing. (And it's been >15y since I've watched the special features.)

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

We THOUGHT we were starting the Genndy Tartakovsky series, but then this weird, awkward CGI started---which is not what I thought it was supposed to look like. And at times it was a pretty good Star Wars movie. And at times it was not. (It was hard to get over the awkward animation and the oft-awkward voice acting.)

I mean---it was fine, but as the credits kicked in and Genndy Tartakovsky's name was not the first...nor the second...nor the third...nor any of the names, I realized, "Ah. Okay then." and "Why did I spend all this time?" and eventually the sinking realization that what I really wanted to watch does not seem to be streaming anywhere online. What a terrible, terrible feeling.

It's kind of amazing that the Genndy Tartakovsky series was a) 17 years ago, then b) followed up by a 2008 theatrical film I have utterly forgotten existed that c) was followed up by a second tv program of the same name that d) lasted more than twice as many seasons and e) is now considered Star Wars Canon while d) the Genndy series is not! How is this even possible? let alone reality?

Such a strange, strange, strange, strange, strange world we live in. It's almost like some god out there has set as his goal ruining Star Wars and every time someone does something compelling for that universe someone else must come along and...lessen it.

Ratatouille (2007)

It's been so long since we've seen this that our thirteen-year-old has no memory of it. I still think it's pretty much just okay, although the emotions from the cook for the critic till the end are sound and maybe even great. Although every once in while you remember there is no way---none!---rat hairs are staying out of the food---and that lessens the potential impact. I mean: rats.

I think my favorite part of the movie (outside the physical comedy, which is hard to compare) is the critic's change of heart which was not an easy thing to pull off at all, let alone so thoroughly and well.

So it's a good movie and I'm sympathetic to those who consider it top-tier Pixar. I don't, personally, but I don't have any real complaints. Ultimately, they tried to pull of something ambitious (rats+food=good) and we should always celebrate that, even if it's just a double and not a home run.

And isn't that what Ratatouille's about?

A Spaceman in King Arthur's Court (1979)

Note: the original theatrical title and the title under which it appears on Disney+ is the inferior Unidentified flying Oddball which I find appalling. The UK release was titled The Spaceman and King Arthur. The later American rerelease (I'm unsure of the year) got the title I knew it by from the VHS tape I assume we recorded off the Disney Channel.

This is the second movie in a row Lady Steed walked out on because the concept was just too ludicrous. She's not wrong, but the hero's naive charm (five parts Matthew Broderick to one part Tom Petty) keeps the movie alive. (Incidentally, he will go on to direct a host of Happy Madison movies, two of which I have seen: I liked one [but haven't seen it in almost twenty years]; the other was so abysmal I'm still suffering.) In another universe, he went on to become the next Dean Jones.

Anyway, it's fun to think how this fits into history. 2001's ten years old, Star Wars two, Monty Python and the Holy Grail four. I don't know just how much dialogue this film's interested in having with those films, but definitely some. I'm glad to say I got some jokes this time I had not gotten before (mostly Winston Churchill stuff).

The plot has some minor holes and betrays a late-'70s urge to be 'edgy' (most obviously with the robot's Playboy), but for a dumb movie aimed at a broad audience, it's still pretty good. The interplay between Arthur and Gawain is nice for instance, and all this era's live-action Disney---no matter how terrible---has great slapstick.

Amazon Prime
The Fighting Preacher (2019)

This must be the funniest devotional movie I've ever seen. Because it is a devotional movie. And it is funny. The film has a guileless charm that makes it not really matter if it's a "great" movie or not (it's not) because it is good, in every sense.

I do wonder how it reads to a nonMormon audience---it makes no real effort to cater to an outsider audience---usually a good thing---but sometimes it nudges the audience (like how many times the camera lingers on a minor character with no lines, one "Elder Gordon Hinckley." The fun facts in the closing credits are great but some of them will no make sense if everything you know about Mormonism comes from this movie.

I quite liked the book it was based on and the whole family enjoyed this film. It's a swearfree delight, and you know there's an audience for that.

personal dvd collection
Duck Soup (1933)

It's still so fresh and modern. There's a reason modern cartoons behave like this, and it's not just because the Marx Bros. are their great-great-great grandfathers.

It's because they are also their fathers.

personal dvd collection
Rushmore (1998)

Beautiful and joyful and subtle. The camera tells jokes and the music debates and the details are layered like a cake.

What else would you be quoting?

personal dvd collection
A Hard Day's Night (1964)

If you had asked me three days ago if I would laugh more at Duck Soup, Rushmore, or A Hard Day's Night, I would not have guessed the Beatles to win that race. Maybe it's just because this is the film I've seen the fewest times, but still! Impressive, Beatles! Well done!

The film is brilliant of course---it invented the future as much as the other two---not just in comedy, but in style and attitude and---more than other other two---use of music.

It's also a great film for making you feel part of the group of friends the movie is about---like early Scooby-Doo. You leave Hard Day's Night friends with Beatles; you could fist bump them on the street.

It must have been quite the experience in 1964.

personal dvd collection
The Iron Giant (1999)

Is this a flawless film? I think it might be. I really can't point to anything wrong with it. The characters, the dialogue, the structure, the allusions, the emotional content---all perfect.

One thing that occurred to me this watch---I think for the first time---is that Jennifer Aniston is really good and I think I've only ever thought that watching The Iron Giant. Maybe every other time I've seen her I've been too distracted by the fact that it's Jennifer Aniston? Or maybe I've only ever seen her in https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0343135/?thmazing?

(I just checked and that is wrong. I've seen Storks [irrelevant], Bruce Almighty [barely remember it] and, of course, Office Space [which she is good in, but it's not, like, a huge role or anything].)

persoal dvd collection
Fluke (1995)

I haven't seen this since it was in theaters back in 1995. I was recently our of high school and, I'm guessing, assigned to take my siblings to a movie. I assume this because I don't think I was interested in dog movies (and just look at that poster). https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118570/?thmazing comes out two years later (meaning my mission was bookended with dog movies in theaters with my siblings) and it ticks all the dog-movie cliches so well I basically haven't watched one since.

This, however!

I was so blown away by its atypicality in 1995 I couldn't see its flaws (or maybe it's just because I was so young), but I was staggered by the originality of Fluke. Unfortunately, all remember about the film in 2020 is its two great innovations, so it's perhaps a bit too easy for me to see all the stuff wrong with it (it may also be that some aspects of the film just haven't aged as well as a body might hope).

I'm happy to say the rest of my family had the ??!?!?!??!?!?! experience I had in 1995.

I wonder what my kids will think of it in twenty-five years...?

The Strongest Man in the World (1975)

The kids picked out one of the old Medfield movies from the Disney+ library---one I'm fairly certain I haven't seen before. (Related: how long until Disney+ releases a Medfield tv show?)

It's dumb and its fun and it has some racist music cues, so, you know, that's what it is. Because you've seen Disney movies from the era, you already know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, who are the sycophants and who are the saps, who are the heroes and who'll just be in the way. Disney, 1975!

Previous films watched


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