The Films of November,
such as they were


As You Like It (1978)

Helen Mirren, ten years after her famous stage run as Rosalind, picks up the role again.

I don't know if I agree with her interpretation? I mean, it's fine, but I want a Rosalind who's a little less sighy and dreamy, you know?

Also, the p a c i n g is pretty slow given the medium.

our dvd
Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

Not an ideal viewing. Half the movie I was in the kitchen, only hearing it. A ten-minute segment kept replaying for some reason. The last third I missed entirely. And the whole thing was the obviously insufficient English dub.

If I hadn't seen it many times I never would have known what was going on.

(Maybe I still didn't?)

Even so. I love the matter-of-factness of this movie. It's not the flashiest of Miyazaki's movies but that very lack of flash might be what makes it so easy to see the core of his films: Seeing the people in them. Just really, really seeing this thirteen-year-old girl. And, thus, allowing us to see her, too.

Flora & Ulysses (2021)

I liked this even more the second time.* I just happily embraced it as a joyful and obvious piece of family entertainment. Even with the gross corporate synergy (which does, I'll admit, lead to a couple great jokes), it's a piece of pop that works on the level of the great live-action Disney movies of the '60s and '70s.

We watched it because the four-year-old wanted to rewatch it. Her memory was very shaky but I had convinced the youngest older brother some months ago to give it a try so it happened. The next bigger brother abandoned the watch (biggest brother wasn't home) but that's because he was never paying attention in the first place.

Even something this easy to climb can't be climbed if you're playing Smash Bros. Pay attention, people.

library dvd
Masaan (2015)

The title translates as Crematorium which, yeah. The title doesn't really work in English.

My favorite thing about this movie might be the music. It has a great personality but it doesn't force its way to the front of the viewing experience. Apparently the lyrics are good as well (they were written by the screenwriter and picked up at least one award) but I'm not qualified to talk about that

Basically, this is a melodrama. It's a couple of stories---one begins at its turn to sadness, the other takes that turn most of the way through the movie---that should give you the feels. But the screenplay's restraint and the excellent acting raise it to a higher level. In clumsier hands, this could easily have turned into an inadvertant comedy, but instead it's a lovely little poem about love and loss and what comes next. Eventually. Eventually.

Anywya, I really liked it. I think Lady Steed didn't buy the primary romance, but hey---it makes more sense than Rosalind and Orlando!*

(* see As You Like It, above)

Century 16 Hilltop
Eternals (2021)

I didn't have high expectations for this movie a month ago. It looked entertainging but messy. My Chloé Zhao interest was still homed in on Nomadland. But then, just before it came out, I started reading early buzz calling it a Terence Malick superhero movie and other indirect descriptions that peaked my interest. Then the reviews came in substantially less enthusiastic. And then there was an opportunity to see a movie in theaters and this is what the boys went with.

And I'm sorry to say that my original expectations were more accurate. I still liked it fine but it didn't recreate the superhero genre as I'd been hoping.

And now I'm going to make some specific observations, some of which may be indirectly spoilery, so consider yourself warned.

Lea McHugh is so great. I was actually wondering if they'd found a thirty-year-old who looked twelve to play the role. This girl has a future. And her face is so interesting—in ten years, she'll be Hollywood's Anya Taylor-Joy.

The kids thought Kumail Nanjiani was hilarious while I thought his hilarity was grossly underused. But then I'm more familiar with his body of work. That's the difference.

Twitter was abuzz with Chloé saying she loved Zach Snyder's take on Superman and that Ikarus was her Superman. But his face and hair reminded me more of Homelander which made it hard to accept him as Superman. That myth has already been corrupted.

I was glad to have watched Masaan and discussed it with our film group just before watching Eternals simply because we took a quick trip to the Gupta dynasty (which name is used in Masaan to signal status) and even got to see a vaguely Hindu cremation. (The Bollywood stuff, however, was more Billu.)

I started wondering halfway through which Earth we are on. The multiverse may already be corrupting our ability to care. So many Earths. Is Tom Holland even on this one?

Then Thor came out over a decade ago I was like, Wulp! That's enough Marvel for me! The mythological/cosmological/mystical parts of Marvel had never really appealed to me. And now it's looking that that will be the bulk of the MCU for the next decade.

They'd better get better at this.

our dvd
Bottle Rocket (1996)

Son #2 really wanted to see this as the pandemic broke open. He asked and he asked and we never let him. And now we finally pulled it out when he was the only kid home and he'd forgotten wanting to watch it. He did enjoy it but there's probably a lesson in here somewhere.

Anyway, it's still a good movie. The similarity to the Hesses is clearer here, I think because it's still early and Wes Anderson hasn't totally diverged into his more extreme selfness.

This time I was hyperaware of the threat of violence throughout the movie. So many times where this could have become a bloodbath.

I also don't remember hearing Anthony's shrink telling him he doesn't have to save everyone before. And that's the emotional climax of the film—where Anthony lets Degnan do the saving. Even though that's pretty buried, it still works nicely.

The fun thing about any Anderson movie is the details you get to uncover before. Even if they're details you've probably uncovered every single time. Like the jumpsuits.

Out of Liberty (2019)

As predicted, I liked it better than last time. So many interesting choices in this film. Making Porter Rockwell a comic character, for instance. The use of sound and score are contemporary and remake our expectations. The entire focus of the thing.

I wouldn't call it a masterpiece or anything, but I think it stands up well to the other great and recent defamiliarizer of Church history, Jane and Emma. As a pair, they force us to reimagine scenes we think we know too well to think about. And that's a good thing.

library dvd
Sisters (1972)

Since watching the De Palma documentary, I've been trying to watch more De Palma. It's been slow going. Even with the added impetus from Pauline Kael, I'd still only added Phantom of the Paradise to my watchlist. Then I read a a recent BR/DW article and it made me put Sisters on hold at the library. (Rather, it made me put Sisters on hold first and then I decided I'd better watch it before I get to The Fury or Blow Out, which are the two from that era I most hope to be impressed by, thank you Pauline Kael.)

Anyway, one of the things I wanted to see what his use of split-screen which was indeed smooth and accomplished. So that was cool.

Also, I wanted to tasted the Hitchcockianness. And I most certainly did. Sisters's bouquet has hints of Read Window, Psycho, and Spellbound, while not really being any of those. So that was great too.

The hypnosis scene was one of the better ones I've seen but did go on rather long. Still. It did set up the conclusion nicely.

The denemount, however, was wacky. Although I delighted to see Charles Durning pre-Coens.

In the end, however, the movie was just good. It would have been vastly better if it hadn't engaged in a big cheat with the first murder.

In the end, it just didn't shake me. And it certainly didn't live up to this intense billing:

Actually, let me zoom in for you....

library dvd
Beetlejuice (1988)

I first say this movie well after it came out, when I was a senior in high school. Having grown up watching the cartoon on Saturdays, the movie was a bit bewildering. The relationships between the characters were different and the actual protagonists were complete introductions. So I couldn't really enjoy it.

But now over twenty years have passed. And although I did watch a couple episodes of the cartoon this afternoon (they do not hold up), that didn't prevent me from visiting the movie on its own terms. And it's good. In fact, much better than the cartoon. Which is not good.

Anyway, it's charming and kind of dumb. And the only Dune movie I have, to date, seen.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Simu Liu is a good looking dude and maybe it's not fair to place him next to Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung and then complain that he doesn't act so good, but this is an expensive movie filled with top-tier talent and . . . Simu Liu doesn't act so good. He's competent in the dramatic scenes (usually) and competent in the comedic scenes (usually) but he's terrible at transitioning. He's not skilled enough for ambiguity or complexity or changing gears.

But you know who is good at all those things? Awkwafina. And so that's one more comparison that makes the movie's star look bad.

Do you think she ever regrets getting stuck with that nom de rap? Do you suppose she'll ever follow The Rock's example and transition from Awkwafina to Nora "Awkwafina" Lum to Nora Lum?

One last note. The most brilliant thing about Iron Man 3 was making Ben Kingsley the bad guy and then not the bad guy. Trevor is an amazing comic creation and all the more incredible because who in all the universes would hire SIR BEN KINGSLEY to play a total dope? Amazing.

our dvd

About a Boy (2002)

The stupid MCU has rotted our kids' ability to be excited about just about any other kind of movie. Last year, intend as I might, we didn't fit this into our Christmas slate. This year, it comes first. First, I say!

Note: The kids say it is not a Christmas movie.

Regardless, it's my favorite Christmas movie.

I find it so beautiful and so exquisitely made. It's so well edited and scored and acted and all the pieces fit together so, so well. I love it.
And the kids did too, so all is well.

library dvd
The Amazing Spider-man (2012)

This arriving only five years after Spider-Man 3 was too soon. After the bad press, I hadn't even seen Spider-man 3 and I still wasn't ready. By the time Spidey hit the MCU, it was okay. And introducing him in a non-Spider-man movie probably helped.

Anyway, this is a deeply mediocre movie. Almost everything about it is bad. Even for a comic-book movie, the science is terrible. The villain barely makes sense. Multiple aspects (eg, the voice-in-head) are heavily derivitive of the Raimi films. They absolutely wasted an American treasure and one of the biggest movie stars in the world. The only thing that works okay is the Peter/Gwen thing.

Honestly, I was still uninterested in the movie, even though I like Andrew Garfield and I like Emma Stone and the rest of the cast, though I did not remember this, has wild potential. This is not the first time I've gotten it from the library. And the only reason I checked it out again is because these villains (and possibly Andrew Garfield?) are showing up in the MCU and, ugh, you know I'll end up seeing it, sooner or later. It's inevitable. So we watched it. Yay?

At least now, I don't have to wonder if I'm obliged anymore.

An Honest Liar (2014) × 2

Although kind of tangential to the conspiracy unit I do with sophomores, the conversations it can lead to are among the most productive we hold.

It is a little depressing though to realize that people like Uri Geller and Peter Popoff are still around squeezing benjamins out of the gullible. Doesn't really make you feel great about the world, does it?

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