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Posts from the ‘Movies’ Category

How my sister can navigate the modern world without having seen Anchorman I literally have no idea

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s 2013 and my sister still hasn’t seen Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Help me understand. Why? Why? I’m in a glass case of emotion! See, she wouldn’t even get that hilarious reference. She’d just stare into the distance, quizzically, as the modern world carries on without her.

She must be the only person in the 18-34…er…25-39 year-old demographic group that hasn’t seen this movie. Advertisers are carrying on with their profiling without her. TV shows are crafted based on data that does not apply to her. She’s just in the corner, pooping hammers all by herself while the rest of us cool people drink three fingers of Glenlivet with a little bit of pepper and some cheese, and play jazz flute. Cannonball!

Seriously, when she watches Progressive Insurance commercials they must just go straight over her head. Poor thing. Does she even know that’s Chris Parnell’s voice playing second banana to that weird Flo? And this is a person who works in Business. How are you supposed to work in Business without knowing this kind of thing? “You’re a poop. You’re a poop mouth.” No, I’m not being vulgar. I’m trying to illustrate, via this film reference you don’t get, how you’ve let me down, sis.

Look, I get it, lady. You work hard. You are tired after a long day of swimming with the sharks down in the big city, crunching numbers or running figures or whatever it is you do. I don’t know what you do. That’s not my problem. Get a can of Red Bull and stay awake long enough to watch this movie before the sequel comes out later this year and you’ll be twice as far behind the rest of the world. What if you go to one of your Business meals and someone asks you how San Diego got its name?  And you don’t know? There’s a deal gone straight down the drain. Because, when in Rome.

Maybe you’ll say to me, “Sure, I haven’t seen Anchorman, but there are many more seminal films I also haven’t seen. Why don’t I watch a few minutes of those? Say, Apocalypse Now, or A Clockwork Orange, or Citizen Kane, even? Or forget that: why don’t I read a book or whatnot?” True. But let’s face it: how’s it going with that copy of Homer’s Odyssey I saw you buy, in some fit of nostalgia over our sunny college required reading days of yore? Thought so.

Look, I know it seems like I am teasing you. But I know how you feel. Oft I have considered reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace but instead watched Arrested Development in its entirety for the fourth time (MAY 26!!!!!). You don’t have to be Dr Chim Richels to understand that everyone needs to relax sometimes. But I kid you not, I am getting around to that book. Soon. Soon-ish.

Think of all the pitfalls you face which the rest of us can avoid. Hey, it’s a Friday night, let’s pretend we are not at home wrangling young children into pajamas and cleaning rice off the ceiling, and we’ve actually left the house. “Let’s go get some margaritas!” you say. “OK!” How about this place, you suggest: Escupimos en su Alimento? Uh, sure, you go for it, the rest of us are going suit shopping.

Even Justin Bieber, that numbnuts, knows that milk was a bad choice. Even he would know that if you are confronted by a bear, you should just mention that you know Katow-jo, the bear’s cousin. Oh Baxter, you are a little gentleman. I’ll take you to foggy…where? Poor Baxter. That wise little Buddha covered in hair. You let him down.

While you’re at it, sure, go meet up with that public television news team without a trident. Or throw a burrito out of a moving car window. You were lucky you got away with it that one time, but if you just put down that US Weekly with Kim Kardashian’s butt on the cover that you are falling asleep on and see the movie, you’ll never do it again.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, without this Anchor-knowledge, how are you going to fill those lapses in conversation that inevitably come, when you’ve exhausted every topic, every angle, every aspect of love, and war, only to let the thread of your talk quietly drop? You shrug, and quietly say, “San Di-AH-go. German for a whale’s vagina.”  And you’re back on air.  As it were. This can go on for hours – through stalled subway cars, the lag between the last drink and the time to go, miles of highway. You’re only going to get so far with the dang Odyssey once everyone nods wildly at the only quote they can remember, that business with the “rosy-fingered dawn.” Which happens right at the beginning of the thing, if I recall correctly.

I don’t really know what I am trying to say here, sis. I don’t know if there is any larger meaning to all of this.  Probably not. All I know is that when you are a big sister, you must guide the younger ones. And my good advice?  Sixty percent of the time, it works…every time. My sweet Brick.

So please, see the movie. It’s on cable a hundred times a day. In fact, I have it perma-saved on my DVR just in case you come by and I can Clockwork Orange you and make you watch it. By the hammer of Thor! Again, that went straight over your head…

(Warner Bros. Entertainment)

(Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Moonrise Kingdom: A review from someone who’s been to the movies four times in five years

Since having children, I don’t go to the movies much anymore (see post title). Part of it is that when we get a sitter, I’d rather go out to dinner with friends. Part of it is that I prefer TV. You know, classy, movie-ish TV like Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and America’s Next Top Model. And don’t you wish you knew what the other three movies I’ve actually bothered to see in the theatre have been? Maybe I’ll tell you, maybe not.

It was our wedding anniversary on Saturday, so we thought dinner and the new Wes Anderson movie would be a novel way to celebrate. We went to the theatre in Cambridge, took our seats, and checked out the latest trends in eyeglasses: professorial, European, and hipster. Oh, and here’s another reason I’m not so keen on the movies: I’m short. The woman in front of me had this gigantic bun piled cockeyed on top of her head, and I spent the whole time bobbing and weaving around this big beehive.

When Rushmore came out, I placed it firmly in my top five favorite movies ever. I was not sick of Jason Schwartzman’s schtick yet, and I found the whole thing quirky, charming, and unlike anything I’d ever seen. I was anxious to see The Royal Tenenbaums and was slightly less enchanted. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? The Darjeeling Limited? And now Moonrise Kingdom? I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve fallen out of love with Wes Anderson for a while. I was particularly drawn to his newest movie by the premise: two children who fall in love and run away together on an island off the coast of Maine. I was equally drawn to it by the font Anderson chose for the movie poster…and that’s the problem.

I love fonts, I admire good design, and I really look forward to these elements of Wes Anderson movies; it’s a large part of why I’ve enjoyed them. But (and I know I’m not the first person to say this) Anderson places so much emphasis on these elements that he himself becomes a character, almost the star of his own movies, while the emotional lives of the onscreen characters become secondary. If he could do both design and storytelling equally well, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But as I watch, I can sense him in each scene, just out of shot, consulting earnestly about where to place each carefully-chosen prop, or finding the perfect, quaintest location to occupy three seconds of film. Meanwhile, the characters are hastily drawn, and the plot is uneven. And that, to me, is missing the point of the the film watching experience. At the end, I feel that Anderson probably had a lot of fun, but me? I felt a bit left out.

This was made particularly clear at the last moment of Moonrise Kingdom. We’ve just said good-bye to the characters. There is a shot of the beach where the children, Suzy and Sam, have set up their campsite/hideway; then the fabulous font proclaims “For Juman” in the corner of the screen, and cut to the credits. And with that dedication, I snapped out of whatever trance had taken hold of me while watching the film, and I was reminded that the movie was about Wes Anderson, not Suzy and Sam. He ended with the focus squarely on himself with that dedication to his partner (I googled “Juman” to confirm this). At that, we got up and ran for the exit so we could hurry home and pay the babysitter.

Maybe I missed some stuff behind the hairdo of the lady in front of me, but the same thing goes for the beginning of the film. Anderson goes to great pains to draw viewers in with these elaborate, diorama-like settings he creates; in Moonrise Kingdom, the camera moves from room to room in this house on the island of New Penzance where the Bishop family lives. We notice each chair, record player, toy, placed just so. We focus on them as we hunt for the characters as they move about the house. The people are hard to find, could it be a metaphor? Perhaps??? Meanwhile, two great actors, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, are not given very much to do; working within the confines of the mannerisms and costumes Anderson has given them, they don’t have much room to confront their conflicts, like infidelity, bitterness, and a daughter who is “troubled,” yet it’s not clear why.

It’s like looking in a dollhouse. And, like playing with dolls, I felt that I had to fill in a lot of the story for myself. I thought the two actors who played Suzy and Sam were the best part of the movie; though they were mounted like butterflies, they were so natural and sympathetic. They were the source of warmth in a pretty cold movie. But to get at that warmth, I needed to impose myself in the movie, just like Anderson imposed himself in the sets, to imagine those children as my own: how would I feel about them, how would I react if I were put into the just-so shoes of the adults in the movies? So I imagined my own C growing up, having his own inner life, like these children at age 12: having his own first big love story, his first flush of teenaged angst. And because I empathized for my own child, I could better empathize for them. I’m not saying I want to be a lazy viewer, that I want it all laid out for me; I want to think while I watch movies, but isn’t this a little too much work? Can’t we get the same level of detail in the character, and as we get in the campsite?

It’s not that I don’t love attention to detail. It is really fun to see a lushly-imagined world in film. I loved what Wes Anderson did with Camp Ivanhoe in the movie, though it’s probably nothing like the prepubescent Thunderdome that a Boy Scout camp is in real life. One of the other four movies I’ve seen these past five years is The Secret World of Arietty, Hayao Miyazaki’s animated version of The Borrowers. I took C to see it – he loves Miyazaki movies because he is fancy and international: Ponyo, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro are all favorites. I love them too; and I think they succeed in the way I find Wes Anderson’s movies lacking. In Arietty, for instance, Miyazaki has thought of every detail in bringing to life this tiny world that the Borrowers inhabit; he thought of a million ways these tiny creatures can use everyday minutia like pushpins, postage stamps, and blades of grass to create a fully-realized wee household. It’s magical, but there is also a compelling, heartfelt story there.

Maybe Miyazaki’s movies work better than Anderson’s because they are meant for children. In a children’s movie, stories and characters are simpler (yet no less moving), but the worlds the characters inhabit are outsized for a child’s imagination. I think that Anderson’s best movie lately was for children, The Fantastic Mr Fox; there, he looked to a master (Roald Dahl) for the story, and left himself free to color it in with all of the creative detail that he liked. Perhaps he should stick to that. And, on the flip side, maybe I enjoyed Anderson’s movies more post-college than I do now, post-children, because they appeal more to a younger person’s view of the world: full of color, just a few whiffs of emotion, lots of style, and a soundtrack that does much of the work of conveying meaning to life. I’m thinking of all those mix tapes I listened to pounding up and down Prospect Park West in the snow.

Maybe maybe maybe. I don’t know. I’m not Lisa Schwartzbaum. The other two movies I’ve seen post-children are The Dark Knight and Horrible Bosses (I know, right?), so clearly I am no expert. I’m just proud of myself getting out of the house on a Saturday night. I will tell you that going to the movie and thinking of all their future travails made me miss my little ones so much, that I couldn’t wait to get home and kiss them and carefully rearrange their teddy bears as they slept. So that’s a little sign of success, I think.

My lack of interest in Star Wars is starting to be a problem

Han Solo - Bespin Outfit

(Photo credit: ChrisM70)

I remember going to the movies with my parents and two sisters in 1984 – Sixteen Candles and some Star Trek movie were both playing at the Fantasy. My mother wanted to see Sixteen Candles, my father: “KHAAAANNNN!” Guess who got shot down? Never mind that Sixteen Candles probably was – no, definitely was – totally inappropriate for us, all age nine and younger, but this was before the PG-13 rating. And there are lines in that movie that I am just getting today.

Growing up, I never had to be interested in Star Wars. The fact that I am conflating it with Star Trek here shows you just how uninterested I am, and always was. We were a house full of girls; there was no brother collecting action figures and yammering on about Boba Fett incessantly, like my husband did as a child (so I am told). And my father’s taste even departed from KHAAAN and morphed to the ladylike; he, a tissue, and Steel Magnolias: a perfect Tuesday evening. So now that my son is becoming a Star Wars fan, I am not prepared for the deluge of intricate questions about the films that has been unleashed.

Of course, girls can be interested in Star Wars. Of course of course. My six-year-old niece can recite the whole scrolling text bit at the beginning of A New Hope (which is what I guess you’re supposed to call it), and once compared something she saw to Han Solo getting stuck in the (hold on while I Google “Han Solo getting stuck in the“) – carbonite. She’s the best.

(What was I into growing up? Anne of Green Gables. I can tell you whatever you want to know about that book. The whole series, in fact. I’ve been to Prince Edward Island twice [Philistines: that is where the series is set]. I read it to my son in the womb. It worked; he’s a frickin’ genius.)

I know that the Star Wars movies are epic and incredible and legendary pieces of filmmaking. I’ve seen them all and liked them all to varying degrees. But I could never get swept up in them, which is what I suppose you must do if they are to take hold as a lifelong fascination. And if you are to know every detail by heart. It’s just not my favorite thing. Maybe I’m the philistine.

My husband could hardly wait to sweep our son, C, into the Star Wars fold, and when he turned four, they had a special movie night and watched the first one. Or the fourth one, or whatever you’re supposed to say. A little young? Maybe. My husband was C’s age when he saw the first one in the theatre, and he turned out all right, I guess.

Watching C watch it, I can see how these movies have become an essential part of American boyhood: a light went on behind his eyes, like the light of a thousand light swords – er, sabers. It set his imagination ablaze as it had never done for me. And after he saw Return of the Jedi, what with all the Ewoks, he couldn’t contain his excitement; he danced around the living room, carrying on about how it was the best movie he had ever seen “in his life!” Then he fashioned himself a Storm Trooper get-up and light-sabered his little brother, who was supposed to be Yoda or somebody.

So finally, my point: C is super-into Star Wars, and he thinks about it all the time, and has questions about it all the time, and I have no idea how to answer most of these questions. Is so-and-so good or evil? What flying vehicle does some such character drive? Why is Han Solo so cool (actually, I can answer that one)? I have several options for answering these questions, depending on the nature of the question:

1) Answer the question. Who’s Luke Skywalker’s father again? I can handle that! Spoiler alert! It’s Boba Fett.

2) Just make something up. He’s four, and most of it is going over his head anyway. He’s mainly watching for the flash! and the zap! and the Death Star.

3) When he does have a good question, about a point of character or plot, which he actually does sometimes, I a) ask him, what do you think? Check out that parenting! b) say I don’t know, which leads to more persistent questioning, which then leads to c) telling him to we’ll have to wait ’til Daddy gets home and ask him. Or he can call his cousin Ms. Carbonite and ask her. I fob it off on them – and I’m off the hook. So I guess I don’t have to spend my evenings poring over C’s Star Wars Lego dictionary after all. KHAAANNN!!!

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