Thursday, December 16, 2010

Weekends In The Theater

     This past weekend, I went to see a few films in the theater.  I've been wanting to talk about them with almost everyone (interesting) I talk to, but I do hate to spoil things for people.  If you look into my eyes during these moments, you can see how badly I just want to burst out with "and then they looked right at the sun and all died."
     I've been holding onto these for a few days now- it's only Wednesday, or it's already Wednesday, depending on your point of view.  The point is, I want to talk about them now!  I imagine this would be a great opportunity to utilize that new spoiler tag code ~M and I talked about here and here.

I Love You Phillip Morris

     Finally, this movie was released in theaters. There was quite the tale behind its release, as described in this New York Times article: Jim Carrey Stars in 'I Love You Phillip Morris.' It finally got a release date in the U.S., though it was limited. I was initially disappointed, but luckily it came to a theater near me just a week later.
     I love Jim Carrey movies. I may be willing to concede a few aren't great, but I enjoy his work a little more than I really should admit. This was a great film, and a great role for him. Also, he's been getting a lot of the attention, being the leading role, but Ewan McGregor also turned in a fantastic performance.
The film is the true story of Steven Russel, a great con-man. I was going to say the greatest con-man ever, but I don't know nearly enough about con-men to make that call. He's also gay, and he's awesome. He's a little bit smarter than those around him, but actually, just a little bit. Not a hyperbolic little bit. He doesn't get away with all of his schemes. He does get away with some good ones, and for a decent amount of time, but he does always get caught. And it's hilarious.
    I imagine there was the potential to take the source material and turn it into a drama- a melodrama even. There could have been emotional realizations and tense court room scenes. But where's the fun in that?
He faked his own death, and brilliantly. He didn't pull out his teeth and push a car over a cliff. He actually faked dying from AIDS. It doesn't seem like it should be funny, but it is.
     I wouldn't recommend this movie to my mother, but I would recommend it to someone who actually likes good, funny, interesting movies. It's unfortunate that it took so long to get released. I overheard another movie patron say on the way out of the theater that "Jim Carrey was really brave for taking the role." I suppose I hadn't thought about that. I suppose he was. Though I didn't think about it because he played it so well, I didn't really see Jim Carrey up there, I saw Steven Russel. I don't know the rules for award nominations, but I think this one is out of the running for anything based on its unlucky timing. Again, it's unfortunate, because it was a good story, well told, and told hilariously.

Black Swan

     All of the hype is pretty much right. My first comment was "Holy Shit." As the end credits started rolling, a lovely woman in front of me stated "I think Nina was the one who was crazy." No shit lady.
     It was quite a ride. I had never seen a Darren Aronofsky film before. I don't have a good reason for it, and it's actually a source of shame for me, since I was a film major. I should see his work. I was, however, able to understand what he was doing with the camera, and why he was doing it. Black Swan was reminiscent of classic Polish film, and even more so of Polanski's Repulsion. Not for its subject matter, but for its style. (Aronofsky is not a Polish filmmaker, nor did he attend the famed Lodz. However, he did go to Harvard, and I would bet at least a quarter he studied a few Polish films. Also, my comparison of Black Swan to classic Polish film is mostly pompous film student gibberish.)
     I don't like the hand held camera style, but I understand it. And here, Aronofsky clearly had a purpose for it. The camera stayed close to her, often just over her shoulder, and often on close ups. This forces us to stay with her the entire time, and be inside her breakdown as it happens. We don't get a picture of the story from other points of view. We don't really see how others see her; not from their point of view anyway, only from their reactions to her. A small distinction, but a distinction nonetheless. As the camera stays close to her, the audience gets this feeling that at any moment, someone could be standing just around the corner, or right behind her. If she turns around- oh, god, no, don't turn around! What could be there? What could be there? Her paranoia becomes ours.
     As Nina attempts to transform into the Black Swan for her role of a lifetime, she pretty much literally transforms into the Black Swan. I may be alone on this (I haven't asked others how they feel), but in her final performance, I really wanted to see her dance the shit out of that Swan. Yes, I realize it made her crazy. That's why I wanted to see it. I wanted the crazy to be for a reason. If she went crazy and then fell off the stage and never got to dance, well, then, pooh. Boring. However, being bat-shit nuts and being awesome, that's the proverbial middle-finger to all those nay-sayers. Ha! Ha! I'm crazy, and I'm awesome, and I'm dead! Wait, maybe that last part wasn't so awesome. Except that it was.
     There was one review I read that stated "Aronofsky is a master at making beautiful movies you never want to see again." Again, this is the first one I've seen, but I totally get that statement. I really liked this movie. I would recommend people see it. I would not, however, go with them to see it again. My blood-pressure can't take it.

The Social Network

     This was my second viewing of The Social Network. A friend of mind hadn't seen it yet, and it's a movie good enough to see more than once in the theater, so I went along.
     At first glance it's hard to see how a movie about Facebook can be interesting, or good. I admit, when I first heard the rumors about it, I wanted to pack it in for the human race. We must be out of ideas! But then good things started to happen- Aaron Sorkin was writing it, and David Fincher was directing. Then, THEN, I saw the trailer. Well, this was going to be great.
     I think it lives up to the hype. It actually is a very interesting story, and it is well told. My complaint about it doesn't actually have anything to do with the 120 minutes worth of film- it's the discussion it sparks afterwards. Usually, I'd say a movie that makes people talk is a good thing. But usually, it's because it will get people talking about the themes and society and change, blah blah blah. However, both times I left the theater, the conversations I overheard were all about what was true and what wasn't true within the movie.     Five seconds into the credits rolling and people wanted to discredit the entire thing because "the part about the girl isn't true." Who cares if the part about the girl isn't true? The part about the girl made it an interesting story, and humanized this character who otherwise is a calculating genius monster. (Monster genius? Both a monster and a genius.) It creates a beautiful bookend to the story, and the story wasn't really over. Some jackass in the theater this time around yelled "nooo" at the screen when Zuckerberg friend requested the girl. Unfortunately, people laughed at this, giving the jackass a false sense of confidence, and he repeated it when Zuckerberg hit refresh.
     I get the part about the girl was made up, but I don't care. I also get that Mark Zuckerberg didn't fucking call Aaron Sorkin and say "so, here's what happened." Aaron Sorkin had the interesting task of writing a story about a person who is still very much alive, in the public eye, all without using life rights. He was constrained by laws; he wrote his movie about the law suits because those are within the public domain and he could get the rights to those. And then there's a whole mess of other legal stuff about whose story you can tell, whose you can't, and what stuff you can make up. I don't really know a lot about that part, but I bet Aaron Sorkin does. Aaron Sorkin is no fool- he's not just going to make shit up about Mark Zuckerberg. At least not shit he can't get away with, like making up a girlfriend who dumps Mark Zuckerberg as an inciting incident. Boom.
     It's a good movie. I don't know if everyone who has seen it is picking it apart; I think it's just a knee jerk reaction to want to find a hole in something awesome, or to prove you know something about the truth. I'm not sure. But put all of that aside. Good story, well told.
     As far as how my mother would feel about it, because I think that's been a theme of this post so far: she would say she wouldn't get it because she's not on Facebook. That's sort of like saying you wouldn't understand Apollo 13 because you've never been to the moon. The Social Network isn't really about Facebook. You don't have to understand one damn thing about it. I suppose it helps to understand that computers are a way for people to communicate now. Other than that, your lack of social networking will not hinder your enjoyment of this film.

What I Watched at Home

I mentioned some of this earlier this week, and I don't think talking about Home Alone can be considered a spoiler anymore, but I wanted to stick with the format. So here we go!

Home Alone: A holiday classic. You'll never guess what happens: An eight year old boy gets left home alone by his parents at Christmas. Luckily, none of the awful things that could potentially actually happen to kid left at home for several days happened, and he just had to beat up a few nasty robbers to defend his house. Would it happen in reality? Probably not. Does that actually help make it better? Yes. This is also a well structured film, and we studied this in screenwriting. I was the awesome person who knew all the answers when the professor would ask "and then what did Kevin do?"

Parks and Recreation: In season 2, the holiday episode is the one titled "Christmas Scandal." It's hilarious. It's only a little bit about Christmas, it mostly just happens during Christmas time. But in the end, the gang waits for Leslie to light the town Christmas tree, and it's just so very sweet.

30 Rock: The second season of 30 Rock introduces us to "Ludachristmas." It's wonderful. Andy Richter guest stars as Liz's brother Mitch. Elaine Stritch guests as Jack's mother. When I'm an old lady, I want to be like Elaine Stritch. They all go ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza, and Jack's mom tears a giant hole in the perfect fabric that was once the Lemon Party. Yes, the Lemon party. I said it. "It wouldn't be a Lemon party without old Dick." Thank you, 30 Rock, for giving us lines like that on TV.

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