February? More like Filmuary!


library dvd
Shrek the Third (2007)

I'd heard (including from a source I enjoy) that the third Shrek was the least Shrek, and, yes, it was lesser than the last two, but it wasn't all that terrible. I didn't feel dirty or depressed, or anything.

But it's only been a few hours and already I'm forgetting it. There doesn't seem to have been anything that will really stick with me. The film lacked some of the confidence of the others, for one thing. For instance, Snow White was given a great scene, but the film was in a rush to move on and thus undermined the scene's potential.

Anyway. Now I'll know what's going on when we get to the fourth.

library dvd
Monuments Men (2014)

We wanted to see this in theaters and we've checked it out from the library a couple times, but only now have we finally watched it. And it's a strange movie to write about. It was well made, the craftsmanship was terrific, the cast was awesome, the mix of emotions was broad, the story was compelling, the history had weight---but, ultimately, it didn't come together as a Great Work of Art itself. This is a dumb thing to complain about, but I just wish it had been a bit better.

That said, the boys enjoyed it and it made us hate Nazis. So a winner!

And I'm glad they put the fan service (a clear Ocean's Eleven callback) upfront, like a Hitchcock cameo, so we could move on and enjoy the film.

The oldest is taking a WWII class now and that and this have made me hungry for more WWII films.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

I was reading an interview and this movie came up like it's a movie everyone knows and loves but I had never heard of it before. I like to think I've heard of most things even though I certainly haven't seen most things but this one, not even a little.

So I watched it.

Unfortunately, my watching was broken up over three days so I didn't get the proper effect, but it's a good movie. And while it does things you might expect from a gangster movie whether that's a sudden outbreak of violence, doublecrossing, a twist, what have you, it's done so calmly and naturally that it never feels the list bit tricksy or intentionally entertaining. It is, as they say in the interview, naturalistic.

Compelling filmmaking.

La Strada (1954)

So...people like this movie.

Great. I'm happy for them. They can like it.

Lady Steed and I have just spent an hour or so reading appreciations. Some of them we were like, okay, sure. And others were were like, that's no excuse.

Not that the film was without anything to like. The lead played her role like Chaplin or Harpo and frankly would have been great in silent comedy. (I kept thinking, as I was watching, how I don't know of a female lead comparable to Chaplin/Keaton/Lloyd/Arbuckle. Someone like Sybil Seely was good enough for such a career, but she didn't get it. And if there was suchuwon, we don't remember her off the tops of our heads now.)

Frankly, the movie would have been better as a silent movie. Half an hour shorter and the sloppy foley work wouldn't have mattered. It's great, Fellini, that you are a creative genius with a spiritual connection to cinema, but basic craftsmanship still counts.

(And no, I was not persuaded by many of the arguments that the sloppiness was intentional and therefore a feature and not a bug.)

personal dvd
The Player (1992)

This was a fun ride. Only parts of it were obviously Altmanesque but there were enough simultaneous conversations to make it count.

Here's the plot. Tim Robbins is a movie producer getting threatening mail from some writer he blew off. He thinks he's figured out who it is and an altercation results in the writer's death.

Anyway, he tries to get away with it of course and he's being chased by the cops and the other writer and the vice tightens, with clever little switches and moments of identity uncertainty---as I type this, I'm watching a scene that would have set up a complete ruining of the fun-must-go-off rule. And meanwhile memorizing this movie's cast is a shortcut to winning the Kevin Bacon game because everyone from Steve Allen to Cher gets a cameo. And I had no idea Julia Roberts was ever so young! Or that she was so delightful at that age! Yet she barely appears at the end.

But the cameos set up the full going-meta of the ending. Which turns the movie from a good ride to a total trip.

As Altman himself says, the film, like a snail, "turns into itself and becomes itself."

library dvd
A Beautiful in the Neighborhood (2019)

Although I really loved this movie there is no doubt I will love it even more the next time I see it. But I loved its visual acuity, its chronal construction, the use of music and silence---

We live in a busy, noise world. Mister Rogers did not. And just like he did at the Emmys, this movie makes us slow down. I didn't time the minute of restaurant silence, but Tom Hanks spending such a big chunck of that time looking directly at you, at me, at whoever might be watching?

That's bold filmmaking.

library dvd
Shrek Forever After (2010)

On paper this sounds like a bad final chapter. You have a fine thing going, then you decide to bring in a new villain? who then introduces time travel (and all that that entails)? Oh dear. You stumbled a bit with three and now you're tumbling off the cliff.

But that's not what happened. This is a good movie. It's maybe not a genre recreator, but it's a solid entry into popular filmdom and uses all we know to make the film more emotionally resonant.

My main gripe is that the movie takes away our alternate universe just at its moment of triumph, but the denouement and credits do try to ameliorate that.

It was dangerous and they pulled it off.

But seriously: nobody else do this. It's not a great idea.

our dvd
Spirited Away (2001)

The 4yrold's memory has altered this from Chihiro's parents' porcine transformation being a terror-tinged memory to her "favorite part" and a reason to rewatch the film. After it started, Lady Steed wished we had put on the Japanese audio---which she has never heard before. We should have.

If the 4yrold had asked for almost any other movie following maybe an hour after we watched Shrek 4 I'm not sure I would have agreed. But Spirited Away's generosity and humanity and sheer beauty is something I have a hard time saying no to.

I always want to watch Spirited Away again.

our dvd
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Maybe there are movies out ther somebody (not me) can in good faith argue are as good at showing us actual childood as My Neighbor Totoro, but there is no movie anywhere that one can legitimately argue is better.

How oh how oh how did Miyazaki do it? How?

In the Mister Rogers movie above, he said that the best thing parents can do is remember their own childhood---what it was like to be a child.

Watch Totoro. Watch Totoro again and again. And remember.

Selma (2014)

I didn't hear about this movie before it was suddenly in theaters and in my lack of imagination I wasn't sure what walking-across-a-bridge story could sufficiently cinematic. I mean, come on.

But what an incredible cast! Including some now much-more-famous faces like LaKeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, but also a host of favorites like Tom Wilkinson and Oprah Winfrey and Tim Roth and Giovanni Ribisi and Martin Sheen and Stephen Root and Common and Cuba Gooding Jr and---in short, it wasn't hard to get big names in small roles.
The big acting story at the time, of course, was David Oyelowo as MLK. And he's great. I haven't seen him in many things (one scene in Interstellar, strong supporting work in Raisin, stunning roles in trailers to several movies I haven't seen).

But the most amazing thing about the excellent, complicated movie is how it predicts the future. This was an easy movie to discuss with our kids in that they've seen this playbook in the news over the last presidency. The past is now.

And when I think that John Lewis lived long enough to see the Supreme Court sunset the Voting Rights Act....

The Promised Land is still some sets away.

Previous films watched


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1 comment:

  1. .

    Just noticed I missed a movie. I'm going to say it was February, but it may have been January: The Princess Bride.

    Really makes you wonder about me, don't it?