Paddle to the Sea and other things to do during the shortest month of the year


The list itself is short, but quality must count for something, yes?


library dvd
Paddle to the Sea (1966)

According to my self-set definitions, this film is two minutes two short to be included here, but I'm adding it anyway because it's a stonecold classic and I wanna.

I saw this movie as a child, perhaps more than once, who knows, and it has never left. Me. I guess I knew it was a movie, though when a screenplay I was working on included basically this film as its opening sequence, I did not know what I was referencing. And I think it's appearance in the first episode of Tales from the Loop snuck by my self-conscious. (But when we watched that episode again, I for sure saw it. But that takes place after the following paragraph.)

So when I was glancing at the kids dvds while my daughter was coloring in the library and picked this spine thanks to its intriguing title, I was so excited to check it out and bring it home. Then I renewed it. Then I renewed it again. And nine weeks to the day after bringing it home, I finally watched it with the 6yrold and—I really liked it.

It's pretty 1966 in just about every way, but there's something greater about it, something more, something mythic and heroic and timeless. Something metaphysical and honest and true.

And it's only 28 minutes, folks. Just go to YouTube (AND DO NOT SPEED IT UP) and just luxuriate.

Prime Video
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2020)

I love this movie! It scratches so many of my limitation itches: ten-person cast, just a few connected sets, (apparent) one shot. And I have to tell you, as someone who, in fact, doesn't know that much about moviemaking, there were times I couldn't see how they did it other than the explanation the movie provides: that they have a pair of monitors that are separated in time by two minutes.

The movie is funny and trippy and startling and engages with big ideas (including time travel's raison d'etre: free will) without ever losing its sense of just being a grand lark.

THIS is pandemic filmmaking!

library dvd
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

I remember when this came out. Everyone was praising it as a masterpiece of kung-fu comedy, greater even than Stephen Chow's preceding Shaolin Soccer, which I found astonishing. We didn't get around to watching it until 2013 and I was underwhelmed. Perhaps because it wasn't what I was imagining. Perhaps because it wasn't the greatest movie I had ever seen. Perhaps because the cg was already quite aged. I dunno.

Anyway, I was on the library website and happened to notice a way to see the latest-purchased dvds and took a looksee. And what do you know, but Chow's Mermaid—his followup to Kung Fu Hustle that as far as I'd been able to ascertain never made it to America—was there on a doublefeature with Kung Fu Hustle. I put it on hold. There was no competition. It came right to me.

Lady Steed's out of town and so the boys and I watched it tonight. And I don't know if it was lower expectations or better watching-partners or the bigger screen or what, but I loved it.

I do think it's worth mentioning that the hokey cg has, in its lifetime, moved from not-quite cutting edge to cringily out of date to delightfully oldfashioned. But I also think I was in the mood tonight to accept Chow's unapologetic nonsense. He's taking tropes from kung fu and superheros and kaiju and things like Pirates of the Caribbean without any of that American neurosis that things need to "make sense" or "be realistic" which, the more you think about it, are stupid goals indeed.

It can't replace Shaolin Soccer in my lifestory, but it's just as much fun now, in 2023.

And seriously: props to Chow for finding the weirdest looking people in all of China. Especially in this nonsensical paeon to old Hollywood.

our dvd
Les enfants du paradis (1945)

One of the great films they say and they're probably right. So many excellent bits and plenty to talk about. But such ambiguity at the end. Feels like a movie that would reward multiple rewatchings and might demand that to feel you truly understand.

Really made me nostalgic for the great (and mostly lost) pantomime tradition. There really was no way to preserve such, was there, before the advent of cinema?

Of course, the stories of them making the film under Vichy noses are fun, but if you didn't know you would not be able to tell. The movie stands on its own merits and not just as a historical marvel.

LINK+ dvd
Zardoz (1974)

What a weird movie.

Based on the little I knew (basically, Sean Connery's costume+++), I figured this was an R-rated Star Wars knock off, but no. First of all, it came out three years earlier. Secondly, it's much more interested in being the next 2001. It's loaded with portent and philosophy and arthouse filmery and a bunch of nonsense. In short, it is dumb.

But I don't regret watching it! The opening was one surprise after another and although the film eventually threw out pacing and thinks it's much more intelligent than it is, it never stopped being a wild document of its era.

Who knows. Maybe in 20 years it'll be a classic. I doubt it, but you never can tell.

our dvd
Bringing Up Baby (1938)

It's been well over a decade since I first saw this and . . . I still don't like it. I don't know why. I love the cast; I'm pro-nonstopmayhem; it has dinosaurs.

I think it just bumps into a couple things that make it hard for me to suspend my believe. Little things. Like—that's not how dinosaur bones work (times two). Or wondering how the animals were treated on set. And while I'm all for screwball ladies getting their man, this one really pushes what's possible. And the film's neglect of Woman #1 really makes me wish Nora Ephron had taken a pass on the script.

So while I laughed at times, this just hits the unsweet spot for me between the further lunacy of the Marx Brothers and the more grounded nonsense of Preston Sturges.

I certainly hope your mileage will vary.

(Aside: We watched this because a friend told the 6yrold that when her daughter was six, this was her favorite movie and she would watch it over and over. But the 6yrold didn't laugh. And I realize she hasn't been trained on the classics as were her brothers. We'll need to remedy this.)

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (2022)

This is my first time watching one of Richard Linklater's rotoscoped movies, but it's not my first time watching one of his coming-of-age movies. I guess this would be my second favorite, after Almost Famous, but before Boyhood or Dazed and Confused. One thing that surprised me, given the early set-up and what the trailer promised, is that the first half of the movie is 100% nostalgia. Being a kid in the late Sixties was like this and it was like this and it was like this and it was like this. Oh, and it was like this too. And frankly, it's charming and fun and makes me too feel nostalgic for an era I never knew, but it doesn't seem to have a point. Isn't this whole thing about a kid who gets sent to the moon because they accidentally built the first lunar module too small? That's a great concept! WHY ARE WE STILL NOT GETTING TO THE POINT OF THIS WHOLE MOVIE, TO ITS ACTUAL STORY?

The movie does a lot of things well (beautifully observed moments, well realized relationships, capturing of a lost world) and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more had I known what it was going to be. I am glad I watched it on my own though. If I do watch it with my kids, I'll pitch it differently to them than it was to me (or how I had intended to pitch it to them).

In the end, kids may enjoy this movie but it is certainly aimed at adults. Adults whose daily requirement for nostalgia demands a whole lotta narration.

Enchanted (2007)

First time seeing this for me. And although I have a couple issue with the pacing and imagery, and a couple questions about its feminism, I found it delightful and funny and just enough moving to roll my eyes at myself because really—it's so corporate.

library dvd
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

This is pretty good but, as is often the case having just read excellent source material, the adaptation pales. I'd probably have liked it more if I hadn't been debating the film over its every alteration as it progressed.

Part of what it changed though just feels very Forties. Lana Turner was dressed too well and her hair was too done, and the strange violent sexuality of the leads was largely absent. Somehow I imagine that gap is what Jack and Jessica sought to fill. Maybe I'll find out.

library dvd
History of the World: Part I (1981)

I recently saw a teaser for the upcoming Part II (here's the trailer, too) and, for the first time, it made me want to see Part I. Because here's the thing: I don't really like Mel Brooks.

I mean—I love Get Smart and I like the 2,000-year-old man fine. I like Young Frankenstein, mostly. But I did not enjoy at all Blazing Saddles or SpaceBalls, and The Producers was barely fine, imo. I'm just kind of mystified adults find this stuff funny.

Anyway. It had some funny bits. I laughed a few times.

And only 92 minutes long!

Previous films watched


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