Film so august


our dvd library
Spirited Away (2001)

Sadly, we were interrupted and so just as my two favorite moments were about to happen (the soot sprites recreating breaking the curse, the train trip) I was forced to abandon the film, but I want to write about it anyway because I was thinking about something new as the film was rolling.

Usually I'm overwhelmed with the generosity of the visuals. This time I was struck by the elegance of the sound design. Really, it's just a beautiful movie from start to finish.

Even the three-year-old likes the music.

(Incidentally, we watched it today because she wanted to see the one where her parents turn into pigs and she goes down the stairs. An excellent description, frankly.)

Eleanor's Secret (2009)

This movie is garbage. It always relies on character's exposition rather than setting things up before. The magic rules are bonkers. The voice acting (in the English dub) range from adequate to terrible---why does the sister have a completely different accent from the rest of the family? The animation styles don't meld well. Alice in Wonderland is weirdly sexualized.

The upsides are the backgrounds and the first kite-flying scene and ... um ... I guess that's it. Maybe it's better in the original French.

But it won't be much better.

Frozen II (2019)

It's a little unfair to say I "watched" this. The ballgame was on, I was working on a project and socialmediaing, etc. So it was a different experience from time #1 but not in a way that really allowed me to reevaluate it. I did not see a single troll, for instance.

That said, I was reasonably charmed and did enjoy the moments I checked in with.

I shall say no more.

Amazon Prime
Bug (1975)

So it comes out the same year as Jaws and a year after Phase IV. Honestly, I have to believe it was influenced by Phase IV because it's so similar in topic, sound, and even lighting effects. It's like, the really dumb version of Phase IV. Dumb not because the bugs are smart but because the movie can't decide what the bugs are. There's earthquakes, there's fire, there's awful biology that no one who teaches "Biology 7" should engage in, then suddenly the bugs are psychic, then they're using English and glowing in the dark. Scaling back to a couple things would have been way better.

Also, quick hint on human behavior, if you have a bug on your face, you don't run around not trying to knock the bug off your face. I feel pretty confident about that.

Anyway, it tried to be interesting, but Phase IV must've been the peak of that kind of highbrow B-movie and Jaws would be the new path forward. This got caught inbetween.

Props to the actors portraying the two scientists though. They had very different jobs and both did very well. Props, guys!

Amazon Prime
Knives Out (2019)

Do I like it more the second time? I'm not sure. I didn't leave much evidence. I certainly didn't like it any less, and my money is on liking it more.

Something that startled me first viewing is how Johnson gave away the entire twist up front. Yes, it did give us all the pleasures of dramatic irony, but it was still startling. That there were more twists to be had felt like gravy.

Second viewing, knowing all the turns we'd take, the dramatic-irony levels were all the higher and all the more pleasurable. Plus the multiple presentations of the same thing in different ways, the excellent music, the old house---this is how you start a mystery-movie franchise. Bring it on.

Amazon Prime
Rango (2011)

I liked this last time, but the details had faded in my memory. This is not just a "western for kids"---it's also an "art film for kids" and "Chinatown for kids" and "beautiful but hella weird European film for kids." It's a wild film. And the animation looks as good and fresh today as it did a decade ago. After the second line in the film, Johnny Depp stops being distracting and the rest of the cast is great from start to finish.

Plus, it's straight-up entertaining while so being so so weird!

Show it to YOUR kids today!

Internet Archive
Country Gentlemen (1936)

I read about these guys somehow earlier this week. They're among the most popular comedy acts to transition from vaudeville to the panoply of modern media but I'd never seen them before. (I think Hellzapoppin's about the only thing they're remembered for today, and I haven't even seen that.)

Here are some details. It's short (just shy of an hour). The leads star as lovable conartists for whom things work out just in the knick of time. It's the sort of movie where that kind of detail isn't a spoiler. One of the costars is a ditzy dame who is like a less well written Gracie Allen. Ole's trademark bit seems to be his giggle? They're like other comedy routines from the era (eg, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello) and possibly they're not as funny because I don't already know the gimmick. But I think a better comparison to Country Gentlemen might be the Burns and Allen movies which are terrible even though THEY STAR BURNS AND ALLEN.

In short, a nice historical document with one line that made me laugh.

Firebird (1982)

We've had a lot of Firebird on lately because the baby took a huge shine to Rachel Isadora's retelling and likes to watch a couple minutes here and there or to have the music playing as she dances through the room (which is fine; I did Stravinsky). So I've seen bits of many productions, but this is the first I've watched through.

I was immediately compelled because the story does not match the story (it really doesn't) and so I was trying to figure out what was going on. Although parts did track, it diverges twice as much as it follows.

Plus, the choreography was compelling and the firebird was essentially naked. Ask me any details about her body and I know them now. I realized about forty-five minutes in that I must be straight because I had not picked up any similar details about the male dancers, even though the tall guy was compelling and the silver guys were just as exposed as the firebird. Hashtag self-discovery.

Anyway. As Firebirds go, it's great!

Tangled (2010)

Although I enjoy this film mightily, every time I see it I'm a little more disturbed by how the violent policestate Rapunzel's parents run is never questions because they miss their daughter mightily and the capital city is is a charmer. Even Eugene says they ran the place with "grace and wisdom" even though he was darn near executed without so much as an opportunity to say one word in his defense.

Grace and wisdom, indeed.

library dvd
Minority Report (2002)

It's been a long time since I've seen this. 2004, maybe? I think we saw it in theaters, but I'm fuzzy on that. And yet I remember it very well. When we had to skip minutes at a time because of the old library dvd, I could say what we'd missed. How is that possible? And yet the movie has so many astonishing moments. And as fuurism, it holds up dandy. Some things that eighteen years later feel like misses (how phones will work, trackers in cars) can't overwhelm the fact that new stuff is still stealing from this movie.

It also feels timely today as we're thinking about the role of police. Although on the one hand, our protagonist is a celebrated cop*, his imperfections and bald failures of other people in the system and the eventual dismantling of pre-crime all feel appropriate for a movie in preproduction right now.

In short, yes, it holds up.

(But Jurassic Park is still better.)

Oh! One more thing: I want to know more about the brown contacts Tom Cruise wears after swapping out his eyes. They are eerie and uncanny, huge and alien most of the time, but they calm down the final time we see him. I suspect some games were being played here.

library dvd
The Dead Don't Die (2019)

I can see why this got a rotten tomato---the meta stuff can hit you right or wrong and the end suggests a certain ridiculous embrace of not knowing what to do next---but I liked it just as much as the trailer led me to expect. The deadpan humor, the cast. I was watching it because I showed the kids the trailer and now they all want to see it so this Saturday morning I've watched it on my own and I think they can watch it. The most gruesome moment comes a half hour in. The zombies themselves are filled with dust. If they self-regulate and remove themselves as needed, they can handle it.

Crazily, this is my first Jarmusch film. It was a fin introduction. I've been meaning to watch Paterson since it came out. It was the top film on my list when it hit Prime but it fits in the category Lady Steed Will Be Mad If I Watch It Without Her But She Never Wants to Watch It NOW (a very large category of film) but I think enough time has passed now it doesn't matter.

Anyway. If you like the trailer, you're apt to like the movie. Maybe the end's a copout, but at least it's an interesting copout.

library dvd
Table 19 (2016)

This movie is almost half a decade old and somehow I only heard of it maybe last month. I think the trailer played after some other thing I was watching on IMDb? And I said to myself, This cast! and, How have I never heard of this? and Where is this streaming? and Oh good, the library has the dvd. Things like that.

Anyway, it gave me everything the trailer promised and more. It's no masterpiece but it is truly satisfying and it's not ashamed to pull back the occasional joke for an emotional resonance, but it always returns for another pleasant joke. And it never lets the characters be as simple as the dumber version of this movie would have let them be.

Also, regarding that poster? I enjoyed it more than Dinner with Andre.

our dvd library
Alice in Wonderland (1951)

I do like this movie. But it's moments of bizarre brilliance just make me wish there were more of them. Considering all the Alice films that have been made, this one's so tame. Which I guess makes it a fine introduction, but...just an introduction.

library dvd
The Dead Don't Die (2019)

So most of the kids changed their mind, leaving boy #3 and wife to start this while I was putting the baby down. (Not like THAT.)

Watching it this time, knowing how deliberately metafictional it would get, I was more aware of the fictional signposts it was throwing up all the way. Although it seems to be making some of the most obvious zombie-movie points of all time it's also undermining that earnestness throughout.

So I'm still not sure what to make of it, but no doubt it is entertaining.

Previous films watched


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