Friday, December 30, 2005
It's a Friday night. I'v got the flu. I'm wearing three sweaters, sweatpants, I'm rolled up in a blanket, (and yet I'm still cold!), eating Cheezy Poufs, and watching the World Sumo Challenge on ESPN2. Wild and crazy night, huh?
Anyway, as I was watching the sports announcer try to drag his Grand Master Sumo sidekick up to a conversational trot, (which didn't work), I got to thinking. I thought about how much funnier it was to watch this mismatched pair after having seen DODGEBALL. I thought about the New Years when my family, having just seen BEST IN SHOW, laughed long and hard at the "celebrity announcer" of the National Dog Show on New Years Day because the real celebrity was so much sleazier than the one they could get away with in the movie. I started to think about remade movies, and recalled the moment in the recent version of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE where the crowd was yelling "Arthur, Arthur!" at Liev Schreiber. Which immediately led me to think about The Best Christmas Move, EVER.
If any of you doubt that Steve Martin starred in the Best Christmas Movie EVER, then you have woefully misunderstood the genius that is Mr. Martin. Sure, he's the king of pratfalls, of course he made BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, and yes, he's paying the bills right now with CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2. However, for anyone who has ever heard him play the banjo, or seen SHOPGIRL, you know that Steve Martin is an artist. How he chooses to use his talent is the question, not if he has any. For every stupid moneymaker film he's ever made, (FATHER OF THE BRIDE), he has made witty satirical brilliance palatable and entertaining (BOWFINGER.) (Yes, I'm the only person in the world who has seen that movie. Everyone should see it these days, particullarly with all the Tom Cruise hub-bub floating around.) At any rate, Steve Martin is a genius and his Christmas Move, MIXED NUTS, is officially The Best Christmas Movie EVER.
What is MIXED NUTS about? It's about the peculiar warm-weather Christmases which can be found in California. It's about people who are lonely, people who are needy, people who are silly, or outcast, and people who are just rotten. MIXED NUTS has all the charm of WHITE CHRISTMAS (regretably without a lot of male back-up dancers), the hysteria of NATIONAL LAMPOONS CHRISTMAS VACATION (I do love Cousin Eddie!), all the pathos of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (except I don't want to kill myself afterwards), and most of the wry commentary found in A CHRISTMAS STORY. MIXED NUTS has it all, and if "all" includes Madeline Kahn rapping, Adam Sandler singing about grape jelly, Parker Posey and Jon Stewart in lycra bike shorts, and Liev Schreiber tangoing with Steve Martin, well, you've got quite a movie. What you've got is in fact The Best Christmas Movie EVER, and if you don't believe me just see it for yourself.
Surprise!! It's a Barbershop movie! This time it's supposed to please the kids AND the parents! It's got Bow Wow! It's got rollerskates! It's got a Hendrick's wanna-be, hot teen girls, afro jokes, bellbottoms, rainbows, and Chicago!
So, what is this movie really about? There's a lot of junk
in it about growing up, and being a parent, and trying hard so you can achieve something. But, really, it's about skating. Okay, skating and 70's clothes. But mostly about the rollerskates. These kids actually learned how to do all of this stuff and it's really good. The skating is great and I wish there was more of it. Instead we are treated to racial diatribes from "Junior" who is just the pint-sized version of the role Cedric the Entertainer invented in the first Barbershop movie. It's nothing you havn't seen before either on an after-school special, or in one of the endless Barbershop franchise films. Patchy, confusing, saccarine, funny, and charming is what we've come to expect and we get it. However, with this film we get a little bit more. We get to see some amazing skating and it brings on memories of when Saturday afternoons were best spent teetering on eight little wheels under a disco ball.
Yeah, I was bored. Lucy, while cute as a button, acted a lot like my niece Jamie when she is "acting", Susan was a complete pill, they changed stuff for no reason, and I got impatient with both the CGI and the need for Peter The Magnificent to do his hero bit.
I heard from assorted friends that Mr. Tumnus was a creepy pedophile but I totally disagreed with that. I believe he acted in a perfectly natural fashion considering that he would be instantly killed or at least painfully tortured for talking to cute little Daughter-of-Eve Lucy. Admittedly his penchant for fabulous scarves, flute playing, and tea parties makes one think he's a touch on the fey side, but there's no harm in that. He's a faun, after all. And fauns have so few accessories.
The costuming was strange. I was confused by the White Witch's need to move completely independantly of her clothing, and her lack of clothing options, but the final battle scene dress was so great I forgive Isis Mussenden for being so dully Nordic in her choices. It was brilliant to make Tilda Swinton a dress that's got a lion's mane made out of Aslan's shorn hair. The coordination of make-up and dress (with the Witch giving herself lion eyes) was perfect in a way that's rarely seen. As for the rest of the costumes, well, we'll be seeing Queen Lucy's dress at The Disney Store in approximately ten minutes since it was apparently designed to be replicated by the ton in South American sweatshops.
I'm trying to figure out why I didn't like this film. It was relatively well done. It... well, while they dropped the patronising bit's from C.S. Lewis (I'm speaking here of the line that angered me as a child "Girls make war ugly." Like it's less ugly w/ just men??) they also dropped a lot of the depth and weight that came with Mr. Lewis. It was pretty but a bit shallow. Like, without the moral weight, why does everyone get so pissed off at Edmund considering he A) could have had no idea that the witch was evil, B) was poisioned, C) was behaving just as badly as all the other kids were!!! Oy. Poor kid.
Anyway, it's not my favorite. And in my next life I want to be a Beaver.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I should probably talk about the heartwarming Christmas experience of hanging out with my sister's in-laws for the entire weekend, or how pleased I was that the Legos I bought for my nieces and nephews were their favorite toys. I might mention the world's worst well-intentioned church choir singing a solid hour of strange Christmas songs which were single-handedly ruined by a 15-year-old soprano. I might mention the fact that I caught the flu from my little nephew, gained three pounds from eating constantly, picked out the perfect gifts for my family, or how I only got 16 hours of sleep in a 72 hour period. But, I won't because those weren't the best parts of Christmas. The part I liked best about Christmas is the crass materialism.
You heard me. I love getting presents. You can talk about peace and love and magic all you want but I love it when people randomly give me stuff. It rocks. And, since it only happens once a year, I would like to detail exactly what I recieved this Holiday Season. I got:
- a black skirt w/ silver sequins
- a Beginning Hula work out DVD
- 48 bangle bracelets
- a pink notepad
- a pink mirror
- a piece of antique linnen
- a Sherlock Holmes book
- a Hello Kitty stationary set
- a personal CD/MP3 player
- a MP3 disk of music from my hairdresser's husband
- LOTS of candy
- a check for $35
- a deck of cards
- a burgundy boucle scarf
- a purple back massager
- a gingerbread man christmas tree ornament
- a copy of SERENITY on DVD.
All of these are excellent gifts but I love the SERENITY DVD the best. I watched it three times on Christmas day. I would have kept watching it except I had taken a lot of cold medicine and was lying on the couch sleeping when my brother in law came and turned it off. I was gratified when the director (in the commentary which I watched all the way through) apologized for only showing Mal shirtless once and for shooting him from the clavicle up 80% of the time. I was happy to see the deleted scenes and was glad they were cut. I'm glad that I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas, and that is a rare enough experience for it to be the Very Best Thing.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Giving it a nice little 7.5 out of 10, this is a martial arts movie that has a lot to do with martial arts but you really can't watch it for the martial arts. Wire Fu haters beware. Perhaps it's just a phase I'm in lately where I'm appreciating highly stylized, bright color movies, but there was a lot of that to this one that I liked. You already know about the dancing mobsters but you really don't know the Kung Fu masters yet and they are pretty awesome comic book type characters. Actually I think that's what this is, a Chinese comic book movie. I have to confess though, there were a couple of the caricatured Kung Fu bits that went a bit too far for me.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
This is one of those movies I actively sought to avoid. Just like FINDING NEVERLAND or THE POLAR EXPRESS, it looked like it was going to be a movie that demanded that you Feel Something Now and it better be exactly what they want you to feel.
I finally gave in and watched this movie. (Incidentally I also saw FINDING NEVERLAND and THE POLAR EXPRESS. NEVERLAND was really good and POLAR EXPRESS was creepy.) SEABISCUT isn't all that amazing. Tobey Maguire actually looked like a red head, which shocked and amazed me, I kept thinking Elizabeth Banks was Parker Posey in disguise, and the cinematography was really well done. As for the rest of it... well, perhaps I missed the Cry Now! cue, but it was a fairly average movie. I don't know if "unoffensive" is what they were going for, but if they were they suceeded admirably.
Monday, December 19, 2005
It's good-natured cheesy fun all about family values and freedom. It also has kid-pleasing silliness, some scenery chewing by Mr. Banderas, and astonishingly beautiful costuming by the ever amazing Graciela Mazon. Ms Mazon also costumed THE MASK OF ZORRO, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO (if you havn't seen it, it's really good), DESPERADO, and SPY KIDS 2: ISLAND OF LOST DREAMS (which is better than any of the other SPY KIDS movies.) Ms Mazon is an underappreciated genius and it's a shame she won't be nominated for costuming again by the Academy of Motion Pictures.
It's cute and clever and has bunnies! I'm contstantly astonished over how expressive one little yellow clay dog's eyes can be and the delightful attention to detail.
Best moment in the movie: the near death experience of one very small rabbit.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Nope, I'm not talking about popularity or pop culture, I'm talking about films which deserve the term "art". Since I'm a firm believer that art should be inflicted on everyone ('cause it makes you think!) I nominate METROPOLIS as the first movie to go on the "Required Viewing" list.
Now, to warn you, METROPOLIS is a silent film. I feel I must mention this because I'v been looking around the net and there are some bitterly resentful comments on the lack of color and dialogue. Please. Also, this movie was made in 1927. So, be prepared to be very very impressed by the special effects (which are marvelous) and to be highly entertained by the close talking and dramatic over-acting by the silent film stars. They're just a product of their time so be in their time for a little while. You might learn something.
The take home message of this film, and there is a lot to it, is there can be no understanding between hands and head unless the heart is a mediator. Which dosn't seem to make a lot of sense. However, since Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were big fans of this concept, I think it's a good one to try to absorb.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
The first thing my friend said to me after this movie finished was, "That didn't suck!" Tragic 1980's-futuristic costuming aside, this movie really dosn't suck. It takes itself really really seriously (there is exactly one funny moment in the film and it's such a shock that no one quite manages to change gears and laugh), utilizes production shortcuts beloved by the directors of made-for-TV movies (watch for the exact same shot of a gigantic air vent being used repeatedly in reverse), and occasionally reminds me of Star Trek's "Deep Space 9" (when they go down planetside), but it dosn't suck.
That said, I don't think it's for everyone. Not if "everyone" are the people who go to most of the movies being made today which can definately be officially classified as "bummers." If you want something depressing about horrible people who do rotten things for terrible reasons, AEON FLUX isn't your movie. If you want a dramatic movie about noble people who made difficult but righteous decisions, AEON FLUX is also not your movie. [But THE WORK AND THE GLORY II might be.] If you want a silly movie with a lot of slapstick or an improbable love story w/ sickly sweet romantic comedy, AEON FLUX is not your movie. If you're looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon that is as close to the Saturday Morning Cartoons for adults that one can reasonably hope to get away with, AEON FLUX is definitely your movie.
And the best thing is, it dosn't suck.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Whenever you are sick and lying on the couch watching television because you don't want to go back to feeling lousy in your bed, I recommend this movie. It's a French film from 1964 that, stay with me here, has dialogue which is exclusively sung.
Right. I know what you're thinking. I was obviously high on cough syrup because there's no way you're watching a French musical. Well, I might have had a shot or two of the guaifenesin but that dosn't mean this movie isn't delightful. For some reason French makes more sense, is more clear and simple when it's sung. By the end of the movie you can't even tell it's singing at all, as there isn't any of the bombastic showy singing one normally associates w/ musicals. This isn't a musical. This movie has no dancing, huge chorus numbers, duets, or ridiculous high/loud/long singing. The overall singing range (and I noticed this because I am a singer) is spectacularly high so one gets more of the choirboy vibe rather than the Broadway belter.
As for the story, well, it's your average girl-boy-meet, boy-gets-drafted, girl-gets-pregnant plot. Which is fantastic. What's more amazing is the color. This was the directors first color film and he went nuts. My roomate and I laughed a lot when Genevive's mother's clothing exactly matched the bright red and orange flock wallpaper. It's a very 1960's color pallette. It's all psychedelic colors for no reason at all, reflecting, I think, the triumph of the abstract over the descriptive which was a trend in all the arts at the time.
Anyway, it's haunting and cool. From all the reviews I'v read it makes people cry a lot. I didn't cry. I did like it, though. It's beautiful and socialy concious and French and will probalby burn out your corneas, but it's also sweet and simple and clean and common. Makes me want to either sing all my sentances, wear 60's sack dresses, or go to the opera. Probalby all three.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
THE PRODUCERS [http://imdb.com/title/tt0395251/]
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA [http://imdb.com/title/tt0397535/]
KING KONG [http://imdb.com/title/tt0397535/]
WALLACE AND GROMMIT [http://imdb.com/title/tt0312004/]
HARRY POTTER [http://imdb.com/title/tt0330373/]
PARADISE NOW [http://imdb.com/title/tt0445620/]
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS [http://imdb.com/title/tt0428803/]
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK [http://imdb.com/title/tt0433383/]
NEW YORK DOLL [http://imdb.com/title/tt0436629/]
ZORRO/ZARTHURA/AEON FLUX (dosn't matter which one.) [http://imdb.com]