Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010: "Ordinary People"

Um...OK, I know that everyone loves this movie, and it won an Oscar (actually a lot of Oscars) and I know that it's a favorite and that people say it's a masterpiece and all, so I'm going to try and be more delicate here than I normally would be and avoid saying things like "WTF, this movie is a masterpiece alright, a master piece of SHIT" or anything like that.

Seriously though. Woof. LITERALLY. Woof.

OK, here's the deal. I can identify with poor Timothy Hutton's character, a suicidal teenager from a rich, "normal, ordinary" family who is depressed after his brother died in a boating accident...he was in the accident too, and he lived while his brother died, so he has survivor's guilt. His father is Mr. Helpfully Helping Helperson, ready to be overly cheerful and try to "cheer his son up," and his mother is frosty the snow bitch, the ice princess from the coldest depths of hell...seriously, this woman makes the Stepford Wives look warm and caring and personable.

So essentially I can get what this movie is trying to say, and Judd Hirsch is actually good here as the psychiatrist who refuses to give easy answers even when the son blatantly asks for them ("I just want to be able to control myself so people won't be worried about me," he says more than once). The subject matter is intriguing, and the actors do a good job, so why is this movie so bad?

I think it takes itself WAY too seriously. It's adrift on a sea of pretentiousness and it never puts down an anchor I can grab onto. I mean, in the end I care about the father and the son, and fuck the mother anyway, but come ON people. In one scene, the mother and son are talking, and he's asking her why they never got to have a pet, and she tries to go off on a subject about how dirty dogs are, and the son STARTS BARKING AT HER. I shit you not, he STARTS FUCKING BARKING. DUDE. Yes, I get what he was doing. she was being Icy McFrigidBitch, and he was trying to shut her up and shock her and make her see what she was doing (make her REACT to something, freaking robot that she is). I understand the scene, but it's RIDICULOUS. HE BARKS AT HER. this is "Ordinary People," not "The Shaggy Dog Rides Again." How am I supposed top take this movie seriously when it doesn't even have the good sense to laugh at itself? Movies with suicidal people aren't known for being cheery, but there's a way to portray that without drowning in your own melodrama, and hit movie can't cut it (hell, even the infamous suicide attempt from "St. Elmo's Fire" had the good sense to insert some comic relief).

This movie could have been good,. Maybe it IS good and I just need to give it another chance. I'll probably watch it again at some point in my life when I'm not going to be thrown into a fit of rage when the lead character starts BARKING, but for now, I just think it's pretentious and awash in too much melodrama for me to care about it the way I should.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010: "Cinderella III: A Twist in Time"

Disney DTV sequels get a bad rap. True, a lot of them may suck, but not all of them do, and some of them even try to do something cool with the source material. This is the case with "Cinderella III." Taking place a year after the original film ended, we see that Cinde3rella and the Prince are happy together while the wicked stepmother and stepsisters are miserable. Serves them right, right? Everything goes well for Cinderella until one day through a series of unfortunate events, the stepmother gets a hold of the fairy godmother's magic wand and turns back time to the day Cinderella tried on he slipper and won the prince's heart. Using magic, the stepmother makes the glass slipper fit Anastasia, and suddenly everything is changed. Cinderella must try to set things right again and make the prince realize that she, not Anastasia, is his true love.

I always felt kind of bad for Anastasia in the original "Cinderella." she never seemed as bad as her sister, and I'm clumsy too, so I always identified with her character, and I enjoyed seeing more of her personality in this sequel. I also like how the story really doesn't seem seems like a real continuation of the original film. The prince and Cinderella have what seems like a cute, fun, playful relationship in the beginning of the movie, and we get to see more of the Prince as a real character here, not just the archetypal dream guy on the white horse. One of my other favorite movies as a kid was the musical "Cinderella" with Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella, and in that movie, the prince is a real character and we get to see more of his emotions and feelings, so I appreciated the way this movie tried to put a face on the prionce instead of making him one-dimensional. I was impressed. The animation quality isn't really as spectacular as Disney can be, but for what this is, it's a fun little movie that does some interesting things (stay tuned for the end credits, because there's a surprise coming).

Ignore the sequel hate and give this movie a chance.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010: "Stick It"

This is a really cool movie. Like, totally. It's about a teenage girl who's kind of a "rebel without a cause" and she seems to be angry at the world. We meet her when she's being a vandalous lout, and when she's caught, instead of going to Juvie like any self-respecting ,miscreant, she's sent to gymnastics academy. We learn that she used to be a prize gymnast until something happened that caused her to walk away from her love of gymnastics (but we don't learn what this is until near the end of the movie). She pretends to hate gymnastics, but we know that deep down she secretly loves it (after all, it's hard to be that passionate about something you pretend not to care about) and throughout the movie, we get to see her slowly come back to her love of gymnastics again. that's one of the coolest things about this movie. The other coolest thing is that we get to see that gymnastics is really a difficult sport, and the draconian rules for judging the sport turn away even the most ardent fans and performers, and in the end, when the girls are fed up with being mistreated by the sport they love, we feel their pain and we want them to try to band together to do something about it.

As someone who doesn't play sports and doesn't watch sports on TV, you'd think I would like sports movies, but really, I do. I love seeing people work together for a common goal. It inspires me. so I love this movie, and I love how Disney, which has always made movies that kids can relate to, can still do so now, even with kids being vastly different than they were in say, "The Apple Dumpling Gang" or something. "Stick It" has attitude to spare, but it's also inspiring and heartwarming, and it's a movie I love to watch again and again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010: "Tyler Perry's The Family that Preys"

I'm on a Tyler Perry kick. I loved "I Can Do Bad all by Myself" when I saw it in theaters, and I just bought the DVD, so I'm trying to catch up on his other movies before I watch it again. I have to say, I liked this one a lot, too. It's not perfect, and I have to agree with other viewers who say at times the dialogue feels clunky, but it's a walk in the park compared to "Nights in Rodanthe," so don't worry. Originally I wanted to see this movie mostly because of Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard (I love both of them, and they do a wonderful job portraying two complex characters with a great friendship) but I found that I liked a lot of the other characters as well. I also hated some of the characters, but I don't think I'm supposed to like them. I kept wanting to shake and/or punch people AND YELL "SHE'S YOUR WIFE, STOP TREATING HER LIKE THAT" or "HE'S YOUR HUSBAND, STOP BEING SUCH A BITCH TO HIM!"

I'll warn you, the characters in this movie are complicated, by which I mean it's hard to root for a lot of them because even when they're doing something "good" their motives are clouded by greed or jealousy or a million other "bad" things. As a general rule, the rich people tend to let money corrupt them and they become evil, and the poor people tend to be hardworking good people. This holds true in my own experience, so I don't mind it so much in the movie, but I can see why it made people complain when this movie was released (other than the fact that people just seem to hate Tyler Perry and thus bash everything he makes). I like the idea that family and faith and friendship are so important to this movie, and I like how character that live mainly for themselves find out that this is an empty existence. I wish it happened more often in life but at least I get to see it onscreen. Overall, this movie is worth checking out. I still liked "I Can do Bad all by Myself" better, but this one was complex and interesting in its own right.

Monday, February 8, 2010: "Nights in Rodanthe"

I have to say, even though I tend to think Nicholas Sparks writes books that are kind of weepy and they're usually clunky when they're made into movies, I like his stuff, and I really wanted to see "Dear John" today, but since I kind of think it might be a waste of my money, I went with this movie instead (it was on cable, and thus cheaper). This movie illustrates the biggest problem with a Sparks adaptation. There are parts of the movie that flow beautifully and the cinematography is gorgeous, but then there are parts of the movie where the dialogue is clunky and bordering on ridiculous, and you feel like you're being beaten over the head with a book because the filmmakers weren't talented enough to cram it seamlessly into the rest of the movie. "A Walk to Remember" had a lot of moments like this, too. "The Notebook" was probably his most successful adaptation and the one that felt the least like an awkward English Class where students are forced to read passages from a book and they do so in a monotone because they don't like reading aloud ion front of the class.

Some of the scenes here work so well, and I can't fault Diane Lane or Richard Gere because they make the dialogue their own, and then there are times like when Richard Gere's grown son or Diane Lane's Teenage daughter are supposed to be delivering their lines and it's so horrible I wanted to gouge my ears out with a fork. These aren't bad actors, either, they did fine in other parts of the movie, it's just that when the filmmakers decided to crib directly from the book's overwrought dialogue it comes out sounbding like something a human would never say in real life. There are also times when the movie is trying to show a flashback and it feels forced and downright silly.

That's a shame, too, because otherwise this movie isn't bad. It's got some great characters, some interesting scenes, and some real emotional impact. It's too bad it keeps getting weighted down by its own script.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday, February 2: "Finding Nemo"

My Disney obsession continues with what I believe to be the best of the Disney/Pixar movies, "Finding Nemo." I just love this story. The visuals are gorgeous here. I love the ocean and the fish and the other sea creatures on display. I almost wish I could catch this movie in theaters just to see it on a big screen because I bet it's spectacular. But I love the story here, too. Marlin is an overprotective father whose young son Nemo rebels against his dad and soon disappears, leaving Marlin to go on a quest to find him. Along the way, Marlin meets lots of cool sea creatures and Nemo meets some friends of his own, a motley crew of aquarium fish.

This movie has a lot of the timeless Disney elements that I love so much. The humor can be enjoyed by both kids and adults (I was laughing out loud more than once) and the strong themes of family love and parental responsibility were touching. It's hard to learn to let your kids go and live their own lives, and I sympathized with poor Marlin as he had to learn this lesson in a way that was even harder than what most parents have to go through.

This movie was fun, funny, and touching (I cried a few times...shut up) and I loved it to pieces. Everyone should see it.

Monday, February 1, 2010: "Ot: Our Town"

"OT: Our Town" is an indie documentary about a high school in Compton that puts on a production of Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town." Given that the play was first produced in 1938, there are a lot of cultural differences between the characters in the play and the teenagers who will be inhabiting those roles, and since this is the first play the school has tried to produce in over 20 years, the odds are against the production from the start. This is the kind of drama I love to see in a movie (plus, helloi, theatre geek here) so I loved every minute of this documentary.

The students at Dominguez high school face a kind of dilemma. Like a lot of high schools, sports is the most important focus the school has (students get drafted to teams right out of high school) so for those kids with strong personalities who don't happen to play sports, they don't really have much of an outlet. Having a drama department gives them that outlet, and learning this play is something that they all say they needed in their lives. It's moving to see these modern day kids learning to relate to these characters from a 1938 farm town called Grover's Corners. They spend a lot of time telling us about their lives and how they can relate to the play's universal themes of love and loss and learning to live life to the fullest every minute.

When I was in college in one of my theater classes, I read a monologue from Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" (it was on September 12, 2001 and as you can imagine, the tragedy at the World Trade Center was heavy on everyone's mind) and I still remember holding back tears while I went through my monologue (my professor said "Ok, now we need something lighter...something funny to follow THAT" after I'd finished) and it struck me then how a play written so many years ago can still affect our emotions today. that is good writing, my friends, and this documentary showcases how the great writing evident in this play can still bring people together and help them focus on what's really important in their lives. I loved this movie, and if you're a theatre geek like me (or even if you just like the play "Our Town" or want to learn more about it) you should check it out.