Yeah, I'm doing this again, whether you like it or not. I had a free month of Netflix, and therefore I watched more movies than usual in December and January. Also, instead of typing out my thoughts in one sitting, I wrote things down a little at a time, so I get somewhat more long-winded than I've been in the past when listing stuff I viewed and read. And that's why this'll probably seem like kind of a lengthy entry.
The Blue Bird
I caught this movie this past Christmas during a Shirley Temple marathon that was playing on TV, but I didn't include it in my last list because forgot about it so quickly. This was Fox's attempt to replicate the success of The Wizard of Oz, right down to the film going from black and white to color, the entire fantasy sequence being a dream and the moral about happiness only being as far as you own backyard. However, the movie completely fails to capture the charm of The Wizard of Oz and ends up being random and morbid.
To give an example of what I mean, there's a scene in which one character is killed in a forest fire. And that's followed by a scene where Shirley Temple's character and her brother encounter a bunch of kids waiting to be born on Earth. Their future lives are already mapped out, which is a depressing thought, particularly when you meet a few of them: a couple who are in love but are fated to spend their lives apart and a girl who will be the protagonists' little sister, but her life will be cut tragically short.
Speaking of Shirley Temple, Graham Greene was once sued over a review he wrote in which he implied there was something unsavory about her films. It was a pretty insane pronouncement, but he might have had more success making a case against this next movie...
Leon: The Professional
After waiting years to see this, now that I've finally gotten around to it, it it was kind of let down. The relationship between Natalie Portman's and Jean Reno's characters creeps me out a bit, even if the infatuation she has for him is entirely one-sided. The ending was totally predictable and the titular character was a little too preternaturally good as his job to be believable, especially when he came across as somewhat dim.
This French movie is about Laure, a ten year old girl whose family moves to a new apartment. With her short hair and androgynous looks, the other kids she befriends automatically assume she's a boy and she does all she can to maintain that misconception, telling them her name is Mickael. So, it's kind of like Boys Don't Cry for the kiddie set. But not nearly as grim. Actually, it's somewhat similar to a Belgian movie I saw a while ago called Ma Vie En Rose, which is about a transgender girl, though in Tomboy, imo, it's ambiguous whether Laure actually considers herself a boy at heart or is just more comfortable taking part in traditionally masculine activities. It was kind of interesting to look at reviews online and see how different people interpreted the movie.
Tomboy also made me think of another movie I saw called Water Lilies, which makes sense, given that it was directed by the same woman, though I didn't realize that as I was watching it. The two movies really aren't that similar, but I think what brought that film to mind was how the director was fairly relaxed about showing certain stuff that would be considered risque by American standards.
It's a good thing this movie is so short because I had to watch it twice; the first time was too stressful, waiting for the other shoe to drop and the protagonist's secret to be found out. The main actress, Zoe Heran, is very convincing; I kept mentally referring to her character by male pronouns. Also, the relationship her character has with her younger sister is frankly adorable. It brought to mind my own childhood a little bit.
Preaching to the Perverted
Who'da thunk a film about kinky S&M practices could be so lame? This British movie is about a virginal guy who is enlisted by his conservative MP boss to infiltrate this dominatrix's club in order to dig up enough dirt to take it down. It's a comedy, but the only thing I genuinely laughed at was a goof where you can see the film crew reflected in the side of a limo.
This being a movie, it's not in the least bit surprising that the male and female leads fall in love, even if their romance feels completely implausible to me. Guinevere Turner is hot, so it's not that big a shock that a guy would fall for a woman who looks like her. However, I find it particularly puzzling that she would fall for him, considering he spends most of the time acting like he has a giant chip on his shoulder. It's weird that it takes so long for suspicions to be raised about him when he is so clearly repelled by everything going on around him.
In the same way that it's good that the dominatrix character doesn't trade in her whips and stilettos for a white picket fence in the end, I guess it's good that the male lead never discovers some hitherto untapped kinky side to himself either, because it better brings home the message that you don't have to be living an alternative lifestyle in order to tolerate it. But it makes me wonder what sort of future they can have together; the movie does a poor job establishing any sort of compatibility aside from a mutual attraction.
Oh yeah, there's also a jarring scene where the BDSM crowd accidentally cause the death of a neighbor's dog and then it's treated as a joke, which is at odds with an earlier scene in which the dominatrix had showed a fondness for dogs. Also, it doesn't exactly help sell the idea that these are just people having a good time who aren't hurting anyone.
I can see why this would be a cult movie; as far as I know, it's not like there are a lot of other halfway-decent films out there that cast the BDSM community in a positive light. I liked this a little better than Exit to Eden anyway. All I remember about Exit to Eden was the scene that made me think Rosie O'Donnell was practicing for her future role as a daytime talk show host, because she's asking Dana Delany's character, "So what made you decide to become a dominatrix?" and then keeps interrupting her to make wisecracks or belt out a sitcom theme tune. The one thing that would have made the resemblance to her old talk show complete is if she'd thrown in a line about how totally heterosexually attracted to Tom Cruise she is. But I'm getting really off track here.
I was describing Preaching to the Perverted to someone I was chatting with online, and they- giving too much weight to my disdain for organized religion- suggested I was down on the male lead simply because the character is religious. I said, "No, it's because he's boring and sulky," to which they replied, "so he reminds you too much of yourself?" Ha ha ha ha.
First of all, it would seriously be a welcome change of pace to carry on a conversation with someone online who isn't going to insult me (or nag me about taking too long on commissions), so if anybody else is on AIM...
Secondly, I think the only ways in which I relate to the guy in the movie are that A) I also would be unfulfilled by a relationship with a woman in which I was considered a disposable sex toy and B) I probably wouldn't be comfortable hanging out in the BDSM scene either, but that's mainly because of my crippling social anxiety.
James Garner plays an American intelligence officer who is captured and drugged by Germans shortly before the invasion of Normandy. When he wakes up, they trick him into believing he has amnesia, it's six years later and America has won the war, all in an attempt to get him to reveal where the Allies plan on invading. The premise sounded really familiar to me when I read it. That's because Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stargate SG-1 each did an episode that borrowed the same basic idea.
The Monolith Monsters
I saw this on Svengoolie's show.
The Secret World of Arrietty
I think Disney has generally handled Studio Ghibli's movies well, but they seriously disrupted my enjoyment of this film with the generic pop song that was tacked on over the end credits. Ugh. I didn't mind quite so much when Ponyo was marred by some autotuned nonsense, since I didn't care that much about Ponyo, but this was taking things too far. I guess it's not a really a bad song, but it doesn't fit the tone of the movie.
Other than that, I liked the film a lot. I wasn't sure I would; I wasn't super excited about yet another adaptation of The Borrowers, even if it was by Studio Ghibli. But they imbued the story with their usual skill and charm. When I see works of art like the movies that that studio produces and then I look at the crap I'm drawing, it sure makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life.
And for the record, it's not that I disliked Ponyo; it was cute, but it skewed younger than any of the other Ghibli movies I've watched.
A self-absorbed girl obsessed with Lolita fashion is vexed when she finds herself befriended by a tough-talking biker chick. Beneath the surface, I suppose this is a pretty uncomplicated story, but it's done with a very fun flair (think Amelie or Kung Fu Hustle). A great deal of it is almost like a live action anime. A few scenes actually are animated. Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, etc) even did the soundtrack.
I wouldn't be surprised if this movie was influenced by Arthur C. Clarke's sequels to 2001. The non-linear storytelling makes this a little confusing, but I definitely have to give the filmmakers credit for crafting a reasonably intelligent sci-fi movie. I was watching the special features and Bear McCreary, who did the soundtrack, said he hopes that this movie might inspire people to actually make the trip to Europa, but speaking for myself, I sort of had the opposite reaction; it kinda makes me want to stay at home and hide under the bed. I already said this in a previous journal, but I knew I was getting older when science fiction started scaring the shit out of me more than it inspired me. I used to devour books on UFO abductions, hoping they were real, but when the thought of moving to a different town is enough to give me panic attacks, I don't know how well I'd cope on another planet.
Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance
Though I intend to see the first "Rebuild of Evangelion" movie, I skipped it because I had a limited number of discs I could get from netflix and because I inferred the first movie was mainly a slick rehash of the first few episodes of the series and that the second movie was where things start to diverge more from the original plot.
I've never been the biggest fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, though that's not to say that I'm not a fan. I like it well enough and I always enjoyed trying to comprehend what the hell was going on in the story; it's a series I would probably like to own on DVD, but I'm not obsessed with it the way some people apparently are.
Then again, having learned that the third movie in the "Rebuild of Evangelion" series actually had a limited theatrical release a couple weeks prior to me watching this movie, I found myself wishing I could have gone to see that, even though the nearest theater that was playing the movie was six hours away, so I guess that puts me slightly above the rank of casual viewer.
There's a very fan servicey moment in this movie when Asuka appears completely nude, with the key bits covered up- I admit, I went back and freeze framed that, which felt a little hypocritical, considering how gross and awkward it was seeing a young Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional prancing around while wearing lingerie outside her clothes and singing "Like a Virgin."
Just a month ago I watched Hard Candy, where Ellen Page plays a fourteen year old who terrorizes a pervert in this thirties who had hoped to get into her pants. And now I'm watching this other movie with incredibly gratuitous shots of a fourteen year old girl- albeit a cartoon one- and it just makes me wonder what Ellen Page's character from Hard Candy would have to say about that.
I'm glad I was creeped out by aspects of Leon: The Professional because it just reaffirms that I'm not some sort of terrible deviant.
Pre-Code movie in which Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman who sleeps her way to the top, bringing men to ruin the process. Pretty racy by 1930s standards.
Movies weren't the only thing I rented from Netflix. I also watched the miniseries Tipping the Velvet, which I enjoyed as much as Fingersmith; I'd have to give it . I should probably read the books by Sarah Waters those are both based on.
Additionally, I rented a couple old Doctor Who serials, Planet of the Spiders and The Robots of Death.
And I finally saw the first season of Adventure Time because I was eager to find out what the hell the big deal is with that show. A while ago, some Adventure Time fanart got a daily deviation, but the show is apparently so popular, the artist didn't bother to say what the art was based on in the description, so I'm reading all these comments about how great the episode that the art is apparently referencing was, and all it did was make me feel inordinately depressed and angry at being out of the loop. I left a really sarcastic comment on that piece, saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, that TV show or whatever sure is great; you'd have to be a real loser not to know what this art is referencing," etc.
Having now seen the first season, I suppose I can see why people like it so much, but I'm not yet at the point where I see it as indispensable TV viewing . I should not have watched the "behind the scenes" featurette on the DVD, 'cause I suffer from motion sickness and that made me feel worse than when I saw The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield.
I had a bad dream that I forgot to cancel my Netflix subscription before the free month ran out. Yeah, it was nice to be able to get caught up on some things I'd been missing out on, but the reason I canceled my subscription the first time around is because I was worried about the cost, plus it's also kind of a major distraction from art and other things.
Let's Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
My sister sent me this book for Christmas. It's by a blogger of whom she is fond. I'd never heard of the Blogess, but she is quite funny; as I read this in the library, I found myself having to stifle my laughter on multiple occasions. But it gets less fun and less interesting once the book moves beyond the author's colorful childhood and the style of humor started to feel a little draining towards the end. One chapter focuses on her anxiety disorder, which I hate to diminish, but it does not sound nearly as disastrous as my own. At least she manages to have a life and relationships with people.
Is it weird that I give star ratings to movies, but don't rate the books I read? I guess I find it more difficult quantifying books for some reason.
All the Traps of Earth and Other Stories by Clifford Simak
Science fiction stories by an author I like.
Neon Genesis Evangelion Angelic Days, Volume 1
Neon Genesis Evangelion Angelic Days, Volume 2 by Fumino Hayashi
Watching the second Rebuild of Evangelion movie reminded me that I've had a couple volumes of this manga lying around for years, but I've never sat down and read them. This series is based on the fantasy sequence from the last episode that reimagines the show with a more lighthearted approach. Someone described this as the "kinder, gentler Eva." I mainly bought this first volume because I was drawn to the image of a happy, smiling Rei on the cover, an incongruous sight to those familiar with the show.
I haven't had much experience reading manga because it normally seems like there can be several dozen issues in a series, which can get pretty expensive. But this series only has six volumes, so it shouldn't be too painful to track down the remaining four, now that I'm more interested. It was probably sensible not to buy them all right away, though, since I bought the first two and then let them collect dust for ages before giving them my attention.