Кві́тень (not that I watched any Ukrainian films this month; wish I'd thought of this earlier)


library dvd
Pulp Fiction (1994)

First time!

My first memory of Pulp Fiction is reading about how great its writing was in The New Yorker in the Bakersfield College library. And it quoted a section of dialogue which was basically unintelligible from the percentage of it that was efferinos. This is great writing? I said to myself. I was turned off.

Next, still living at home, I would occassionally catch a few minutes on late-night cable tv. Later, I would see a few videos about its editing or whatnot.

The film is so culturally effused, you can't know nothing about it.

But most weirdly, I've had a poster of the movie up in my classroom for yeeaarrs. Over I decade, I bet. That's another story but its point is it's embarrassing to have the poster of a movie I haven't even seen next to favorites like Amélie, Adaptation, and The Royal Tenenbaums. I mean—until 2020, I hadn't seen any Tarantino movies!

Pulp Fiction is, depending on the source, 2:34 or 2:45 long. Which is long. And another reason to perpetually put off its watching. But the kids were gone and I happened to have impulsively picked up the dvd from the library and we had lots of karma built up from six hours of conference, so I guess the time had come.

And it is immediately engaging, immediately entertaining. But meeting Vince and Jules driving around brings the things to life. Even the overly famous Royale with Cheese dialogue lives in context.

It's the kind of dialogue I admire. Where characters are allowed to be themselves rather than simply appear in scenes concerned only with what is in the scene. All good film writers do this and the fact that it was considered revolutionary in 1994 makes me wonder how bad writing had gotten. Do we really owe Quentin Tarantino this much? Or was it just that this movie managed to make $200 million? I don't know.

Anyway, when it was over, Lady Steed turned to me and said, "Now I get it."

I do too.

link+ dvd
28 Up (1984)

I'm finding these movies utterly enthralling. Generally, their futures were visible from age seven, but some take unexpected turns towards tragedy or happiness or victory or integrity. The lesson, perhaps, is that no matter how much we will stay who we are, what we can do with who we are is reasonably varied.

It's not fair to be upset at those who choose not to participate (only one will stay away), but I will allow myself some irritation. And feel justified in assuming they are being entirely predictable.

I wonder if there is an additional fascination for me, in that the subjects are only slightly younger than my parents and so now we have entered into my own childhood—and now I can see what it looked like to adults at the time.

Regardless, I am excited for whatever comes next!

Seven Up!7 Plus Seven21 Up

link+ dvd
Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

So Lady Steed haaaaated this film. I'm not sure she even likes me anymore. She has certainly decided she'll never Vonnegut again. Which I find mystifying. It was a good movie!

But I don't think film is as easy a medium to adapt Slaughterhouse-Five in as comics. Not to suggest what Ryan North pulled off was easy, but maybe it suggests a path forward should someone choose to adapt the novel again.

The film of course had to make cuts. The way they introduced Lazzaro was efficient, for instance. And they fit in Desden's kid soldiers which the comic left out. But some of my favorite bits were missing, like the vitamin syrup. And it's hard to really be fully Slaughterhouse-Five without narration. This adaptation made the fine choice of having no narration, but as I think about it, narration is one problem that could be solved more interestingly in the digital era. While the film does make intersting use of editing, with digital tools, you could push this even further. And in addition to / instead of voice-over narration, words could play across the screen. Imagine for instance, setting up "So it goes." such that it can just appear across bodies without further comment. Or across the candles they carry. Edgar Wright could kill this. Someone ask him if he's interested.

Anyway, it's a solid adaptation. I didn't love it and I was distracted by it being the first viewing of an adaptation of a novel I know well and all the secondguessing that implies, but it works. Me missing a final poo-tee-weet doesn't change that.

library dvd
Batman (1989)

I haven't seen this is a long, long time. If I remember correctly, it took me years to finally see Batman Returns. I finally rented it on my own and watched it alone in preparation for Batman Forever. Which then became the first Batman film I saw in theaters. And it was an amazing experience, although I never have seen it again.

Anyway, Batman itself I saw several times and although it's been nearly thirty years, 85% of it was fully familiar. What was different was everything that's happened to me since then. Which I divide into movies that have been released since I last watched it and pre-1989 movies I've seen since then. Or, in other words, now I see how this film is in conversation with what came before and how movies since have been in conversation with it. For example, that bell tower is straight out of Vertigo! And it's coated in King Kong effluvium! And what about that Citizen Kane table in reverse? And since its release, besides every superhero franchise and Batman movies in particular (Heath Ledger calling in the Batmobile?), the film's chockfull of classic lines that echo through the years. Weirdly, tracing it the other direction's a little harder, but I'll bet the connections will be clearer moving forward.

Most importantly, the kids liked it. They picked up on some flaws like Michael Keaton's inability to move in the suit, and miniatures don't feel as real to them as cg does, but this "new" version of the Joker worked for them.

Which reminds me—is here the first time Joker calls Batman Batsy?

Turning Red (2022)

What is wrong with people?

I am really confused what people were so angry about. Was it the existence of periods? The fact that kids and parents don't always get along? Is it actually that she's not a white American boy? Really? Is it recognizing that women too might have a Wound?

People are so exhausting.

Anyway, were I sub30 I would probably have a hard time getting over my deep hatred of boybands (which I now recognize is probably born of a 13yrold boy's strong emotions as much as love-for in 13yrold girls), otherwise this movie was so easy to fall into. And I was resisting it because I was trying to figure out the haters instead of just watching the movie! But the whole mother/daughter thing really worked for me and I got a good Pixar cry in the final act.

I can't help but to wonder if those haters haven't seen enough Ghibli. That influence is palpable. Hey, y'all. Go watch some Ghibli movies.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

UPDATE: I listened to the Turning Red episode of Pop Culture Popping on the Apricot Tree and listened to four people who did not like it largely be reasonable. Some of their complaints I sort of agree with (character-development issues for the mother and the magic rules) and some I did not. The two in the parenthetical, however, are examples of how we largely just read the film differently. Even though they recognized that the film is largely from the kid's p-o-v (which is simplistic in a 13yrold's way), they then expected the world to be more complex. I'm not so sure about that. Would it hurt? No. But is it a failure? Probably not.

And saying an immoral soulgrab like Ron's Gone Wrong is superior really makes me trust your judgment, you know?

Regardless, I was talking to someone at Pixar and it sounds like between the aggressive release schedule and their eagerness to get out more diverse characters in their films, movies might be popping out . . . too quickly. The yearslong rewrite process Pixar was famed for is going away. Turning Red is a good example. The final draft is not that changed from the first draft. And the (yes, I agree) terrible lines the PCPAT crew despised stink of the This is clever and it fits! that's great in a first draft but, in a finished film, is embarrassing and revealingly lazy (eg, "The farther you go, the prouder I'll be." / "My panda, my choice!").

Anyway, I still liked it. But like the insufficiently rewritten Incredibles 2 or Onward, I'm not sure I'll watch it again.

Embrace the Panda: Making Turning Red (2022)

And watching this immediately afterwards was kinds of magical. The parallels between the filmmakers and the characters was known and expected but living through them metaphorically recreating themselves was fun. It's totally okay that your first novel is autobiographical, you know. That's okay.

Free Guy (2021)

So it was about exactly what I expected. The third act relies on cliches more than storytelling but it holds together well enough.

Incidentally, Ryan Reynolds's innocent voice is about exactly the same as Will Ferrell's. Did you notice that?

library dvd
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)

Happy to say I got to watch this again, this time with my beloved who I think laughed even more than I did. And I had hindsight guiding me!

The production design is gorgeous and the jokes are constant and the madness is unstoppable.

I had more to say but my laptop broke and I decided to wait until spring break was over to write and . . . I have no idea what else I intended to say. Which is a shame because I'm sure it was brilliant.

Jewish Museum
Henson's Place: The Man Behind the Muppets (1984)

This was great. I learned a bunch of trivia that may or may not have passed through my brain before, and I learned it from the people who were there—while they were still there! I highly recommend carving out 52 minutes for this just for its interviews with Mr and Mrs Henson, Mr Oz, and Lord Grade.

But there are some rarities there that I suppose you could track down on YouTube (eg, outdoor tests for The Muppet Movie) but find them and watch them. It's on Kanopy, for instance.

our dvd
The Mummy (1932)

Of all the classic Universal monster movies, this one's aged the worst. Great for discussing the problems with colonialism (this film can't decide if it's a critique or an apologia but it hardly matters as it can't conceptualize a different world) but it's awkward. And Zita Johann might have been a storied stage actor but, Nineties-filmed experts notwithstanding, she didn't work for me. I feel bad she suffered so much and I wish the excised scenes still existed but, overall, not a great movie. Great makeup! Strong Karloff performance! But the failings of these movies (lazy character development, bad romantic stories) really kill it here as the architecture is too icky. Alas.

library dvd
Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Happy to rewatch this!

I still say it's an intelligent monster movie which is nice, honestly. But it's also a solid Vietnam movie (I haven't seen Apocalypse Now but there are so many Heart of Darkness references I figure the allusions must be legion) and kind of a slasher movie (first of the people, then of the monsters--which are so well designed, some of the most terrifying monsters I've seen on screen).

Even the opening and closing credits are brilliantly conceived.

I'm not putting it on the AFI 100 or anything, but c'mon. It's great.

They Call Me Trinity (1970)

I don't have much fluency in spaghetti western so I really don't know if this is typical or not, but I enjoyed the heck out of this movie. The lead is hilarious without ever being funny and the physical comedy is topnotch. Not everything is great—women get short shrift, the final action sequence is looooong, a lot of things are just stereotypes brought to life (eg, Mexicans, Mormons)—but for sheer entertainment value, the lead can do more with a look than just about any comedian I've seen. I'm amazed that at least he and his brother are Italian because they sound terrific. I had no idea. It was so much better than the Italian horror I've watched. I am most certainly up for more!

our dvd
Please Vote for Me (2007)

I've probably seen this movie over twenty times but somehow it didn't occur to me until now that it qualifies for this list. So let's talk about it!

Here's the setup:

Voting is being introduced into a Chinese classroom. For the first time (ever!) the kids will get to choose their own class monitor. From a slate of three chosen by the authorities, but still.

Immediatley, all democracy breaks through. By which I mean dirty deals, corruption, lying, etc. And the parents are into it.

It's an absolutely amazing movie.

When you've seen it as many times as I have, you start seeing where swaths of the story have been left out (and start doubting the validity of the narrative) but the story is compelling and the edits are great and it's just wonderful. I use it with my Animal Farm unit, my conspiracy unit, my dystopia unit, my local-elections unit—anywhere I can excuse squeexzing it in. Even with subtitles, students dig it.

our dvd
Gattaca (1997)

It's been 20+ years since I've seen this movie and I thought it holds up great. It's retrofuturistic elements make it timeless in a way something "actually" trying to predict the future would fail at.

(That said, the high-school seniors I watched it with thought it seemed really old. By which I think they meant they don't know the word "timeless" nor what it means.)

I was surprised how much I remembered. Clearly the film made the impact upon me I thought it had. I was also surprised to discover it was a flop upon release. I had just come home from my mission and was sick in bed, but when I came around, it sure seemed like everyone had seen it.

Spoiler alert, but why does Jude Law kill himself? I don't deny that it feels like the right choice, but—why?


library dvd
WW84 (2020)

This is a classic superhero movie in the Superman (1978) mold. By which I mean it's emotionally satisfying in the moment but the conclusion is so absurd it will become a punchline. Or maybe not, in this case, as this film didn't each up the zeitgeist in the same way and spinning the world backward is a clearer puchline than . . . whatever happened here.

And that's the problem, isn't it? The rules here are utterly confusing. The movie thinks it's very smart and will reward obsessive rewatching, but I doubt that very much. I don't think it's layered. I just think it's confused. And deep down the movie knows it as well. Notice how deliberately is avoids all our questions about the invisible jet (eg, where'd the fuel come from? what about radar? where'd they land it?).

But the parts of the movie that work, do work. Most of the moments of the film are wonderful. They don't really fit together all that well, but when you have a good cast and strongly suspended disbelief, you can enjoy the movie for what it is.

Incidentally, my usual rule is to call the movie whatever IMDb calls it, but I made an exception this time as not one, not even in the small print at the end of the credits, is this movie called Wonder Woman 1984. So I'm going with the movie.

So hurrah for the dumb superhero movie! But boo for trying to get serious at the end. And boo because we didn't get the at-least-as-good edit that was 20+ minutes shorter.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (2017)

I've seen Rebecca Hall in various things but it wasn't until Tales from the Loop that I really started paying attention to her. And while the leads are great in this film, she's the standout. And her accent makes me wish she'd been around in the Forties to midatlantic with the greats!

The story, as you may know, is about the man who invented Wonder Women and the two women he made his life with. I was worried the film would be all sexysexy but the focus is really on their love. The film is organized with so many filmschool/screenwritingmanual tricks as to be slightly tiresome at points, but the core relationship(s) move the plot forward and the faces of the actors—especially the two women—make the story work.

I do wonder if actually every single thing in Wonder Woman came from their lives (even the invisible jet?), but whatever. It's that kind of script.

And it's worth noting, after seeing the photos in the closing credits, the actual people were not so movie star beautiful.

But it was nice to see Oliver Platt again. It's been a long time!

Previous films watched


jan feb mar apr may
jun july aug sep oct nov dec










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