Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Liberal Arts - I was surprisingly impressed with this movie.  This is only writer/director Josh Radnor's second film, and I think he did a great job at capturing a feeling - that instinctual need to hold on to the past, the paralyzing nature of trying to remain young and resisting maturity/adulthood.  It's usually not a love story that I would root for - the older man, Sam, with the younger college student, Zibby (a 16 year difference), but it ultimately works here because he is clearly interested in her mind/personality as opposed to her looks/body, plus she seems more put together than most college-aged girls.  It also works because as soon as he realizes that she might not be as mature as she appears, he backs off (i.e - he's not an asshole).  I think it was extremely clear how the movie would end (there was MAJOR foreshadowing, but it was oddly subtle), but it was interesting to watch this guy come to the realization that he is actually more of adult than he thinks he is.  The big highlight of the film is Zac Efron (this no longer surprises me, he's actually pretty good.  I've come to terms with it).  He played the typical "stoner"-type student, who seemed to step right out the the 90's (I was waiting for him to pull out a hacky sack...but it sadly didn't happen).   He's there to be Sam's conscience - and I wondered, as did Sam, as to whether the character was just a figment of his imagination.  He spouts really cheesy "inspirational" quotes like "be love", but he is hilarious, so it works.  Elizabeth Olsen is, once again, fantastic.  I think it's sort of a hard role to pull off and she nailed it.  Also, I LOVED their dialogue about the Twilight type books that she is reading.  He is horrified by her reading this GARBAGE, and her response is "talk about what you love, and keep quiet about things you don't", I agree....but really, I could never date anyone who reads and enjoys those type of books. I would just constantly question their taste in everything. Anyway, I enjoyed this movie; I will definitely be checking out Radnor's first film, HappyThankYouMorePlease really soon.

2. Hitchcock - A few excellent moments, but overall an unmemorable, bland look at Hitchcock, as he made his masterpiece Psycho.  The movie is as much about Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, as it is about Hitchcock.  All of the scenes featuring Alma are the "excellent moments", especially the monologue towards the end, where she puts Hitch in his place.  The movie does a fantastic job at giving Alma the credit she deserves  (if you aren't aware of her input, please look it up - and also be aware that she is "uncredited" for most of her work), yet the movie reinforces the idea that she isn't as important as her male counter-parts, by making the movie about Hitchcock!  Why not just make the movie about her???  Even though she stayed in the background of Hitch's career, I have the highest respect for her as a feminist icon.  She wasn't simply doing her "wifely duties", instead she found someone who she really believed in and she did everything in her power to make him succeed.  She truly embodies the saying "behind every great man, is a great woman", which is why the tagline for this movie is perfection ("Behind every Psycho is a great woman"). I'm a little aggravated at the implication that she was insecure around all of the notorious "Hitchcock blondes".  Personally, I don't think she gave a fuck about these women - she seems like a confident, intelligent woman; I'd like to think she was above that type of cattiness. It is very clear, from everything that I've read, that Alma is the only person that mattered in Hitchcock's mind.  Other excellent moments involved scenes that showed Hitch's humor and sarcasm - like when he visits the sensory board ("she won't be nude...she'll be wearing a shower cap!"). The rest of the movie focuses a lot on their marriage, during the production of Psycho, which Hitchcock financed, for the most part, himself, because the studio's weren't exactly enthused about certain plot-points.  For me, the marriage aspect was booooring, repetitive and littered with cheesy dialogue.  I also didn't care for Jessica Biel as Vera Miles or Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, but that was to be expected. I will give some credit to Scarlett for her "shower scream" scene - absolutely fantastic.  Lastly, I'm not sure what Anthony Hopkins was doing, but it didn't feel like Hitch.  The prosthetics looked amazing in pictures, but in motion it looked awkward and seemed to impair his facial expressions.

3. The Intouchables - This movie is guaranteed to make you smile, at least once.  Seriously, if you don't smile during the Earth, Wind & Fire dance sequence (, then you might want to have your pulse checked. Omar Sy smashes this role, as Driss - the most charismatic guy ever to appear on screen (exaggeration are fun!).  The movie is based on a true story about a friendship that forms between a multi-millionaire quadriplegic and his new ex-con caregiver.  They obviously don't have much in common, but they form a bond based on humor and honesty. It's really just a fun, heartwarming movie (in a good way, not in a cheesy way), and very moving (I actually got a little emotional in the end...a very rare occurrence for me). I might include it in my updated "Best of 2012 list", when I get around to watching everything I want to watch.  Also, I totally want to go RIGHT NOW!  I always wanted to go skydiving, but now I don't know - that looks like more fun.

4. Les Miserables - I really thought I was going to love this movie.  I enjoy the bleakness of the story, I adore all of the music from the stage production, and I had faith that Anne Hathaway was going to blow me away.  Also, I was fascinated by the way the singing was filmed live (and often in one take), which is unusual (the actors usually sing to their own pre-recorded tracks while filming).  I missed it in the theaters, because my movie buddy went without me (how dare he!!!!) and then warned me that I was going to hate it.  I didn't hate it, but I certainly wasn't as impressed as I had hoped.  Other than the acting, and a few sublime performances, there is really nothing to gush over.  I wasn't as bothered by the directing style as most (specifically, the absurd amount of close-ups), but I definitely think it hindered the cinematic experience as a whole.  Anne Hathaway is obviously the stand-out performance - "I Dreamed a Dream" is raw, desperate and emotionally draining, which is exactly how the song should sound.  She practically has a panic attack while singing it.  Oscar, well-deserved.  The other performance that I enjoyed is "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" performed by Eddie Redmayne; up until this point, I found him pretty dull.  Samantha Barks did a fine job as Eponine, but once you hear Lea Michele sing "On My Own", no one else compares.  She was the clear front-runner for the role, and I still don't understand how she didn't get it.  I realized after watching the film, that while I love the character dynamics and relationships, I don't actually like the central love story (between Cosette and Marius) - especially after she's like "Don't worry that all your friends died, because we can be together everyday" and he's like "oh ok" (total paraphrase, but that's the fucking stupid).  Plus, it will always bother me when films/stories take place in another country (like France) but the language is English.  It's like one big, never-ending plot error.

5. This is 40 -  Obviously, at 2 hours and 14 minutes, it's far too long.  At about the 1/2 way mark, I got up and did the dishes, and I honestly don't think I missed anything as far as the plot is concerned.  The length is extremely detrimental to a comedy like this, because once boredom sets in, I find it hard to laugh at the funny parts (and some of it was genuinely funny).  I never thought I would be one to care about my age, but the older I get, the younger I tell people I am (I'm sticking with 26...FOREVER!). I love Leslie Mann; I think she is stunning.  However, it occurred to me, while watching this movie, that as much as it sucks to get older, it's much easier when you don't actually look your age. Really, if I look like her when I'm 40 (*crosses fingers**), it would be pretty hard to complain. I like the chemistry between Leslie and Paul Rudd, they seem like a believable couple that I want to root for, but I could do with less bickering. Watching people who love each other constantly bicker, is probably why I'm still single.  The thought of becoming that, is absolutely terrifying.  The strange thing is, I think the bickering was meant to be funny. It wasn't.  There were some fantastic supporting actors, like Megan Fox; she's perfect for the role and she has fantastic comedic timing. Screw the haters.  There were also some really awful supporting actors, like Charlyne Yi (the girl from Paper Heart - don't even get me started on that atrocity).  I don't understand how this girl is an actress. She looks like she was reading off of cue cards and every joke she had fell flat. The movie is supposed to be a mix of comedy and drama, but none of the drama really worked very well.  The only part that I found incredibly relatable was towards the end, there is a very dramatic scene about the meaning of "family", in which Pete says to Debbie "Your dad left. You're broken inside; it's not your fault you can't feel love".  LOW BLOW, Pete. This family dynamic could have been explored more, but we really don't get much info about Debbie's life until this scene.  It explains her characters need for acceptance more.  Also, allow me to get a bit personal, but coming from a "broken family" myself, I find that I am inherently more attracted to someone who comes from a big, close family.  I am painfully self-aware of why I am the way I am. I would have loved to see more of this self-discovery from these characters, instead it was all very self-indulgent and narcissistic.  There is a big difference.

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