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Movie post: final stats

I watched 56 movies and 35 episodes of TV shows. That’s more movies than I’ve probably seen in the last five years or so.

My favorites in order of viewing: Planet Earth, The Secret of Roan Inish, Singin’ In The Rain, The Road Home, A Walk in the Clouds, Chicken Run, Waking Ned Devine, Stranger Than Fiction, The Illusionist, Princess Tutu, Antonia’s Line, Children of Heaven.

But there were lots of other great films. I liked almost everything I saw, which is rare for me. You guys rock.

These movies remain in my queue for later (along with the other movies I already had there):

Baran
Gosford Park
Lantana
Il Postino
Fried Green Tomatoes
Steel Magnolias
10 Things I Hate About You
Girls Just Want To Have Fun
Mad Hot Ballroom
Notting Hill
Meet the Robinsons
Wives & Daughters
Little House
Top Hat
A Room With a View
Hero

One last request. When people made suggestions, I skimmed through the summaries and added the ones I thought looked best. If you recommended something and it’s not listed, but you really really really think I’d like it, let me know and I’ll make an effort to see it.

Thanks, everyone. I’m feeling much better, and I really appreciate your help with movie selection!

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Movie post #9

This will be my last movie review post. I’m down to occasional movies now; mostly I’m trying to catch up on everything else I left undone. Many movies remain in my queue.

Wallace and Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: An nutty inventor and his overworked dog fight the Were-Rabbit that’s eating all the local vegetables. A couple of you said that I might like this more than the three adventures I saw first. It was better, but still not quite my thing. It wasn’t really as funny as I’d hoped for. As mentioned before, I’ve probably been watching too much Futurama and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, so my taste in animated humor has become rather extreme. I always feel so sorry for Gromit, too. Shannon and I have a theory that Gromit is actually dead and in doggie hell and Wallace is his punishment.

The Darjeeling Limited: Three brothers try to have a “life experience” and become closer friends while traveling through India. Definitely odd. It alternated between bizarre humor and tragedy in a very disorienting way. I think my problem with the film was that it was neither plausible nor completely unhinged; it landed in this weird spot where I wasn’t sure how seriously to take it. I did like the characters involved and thought they were fun to watch.

Bagdad Cafe: A German tourist teams up with a small-town Nevada motel owner to start a magic show. This was totally not what I was expecting, since for some reason I assumed it would be set in Baghdad. I liked the story and the characters, but the pacing was way off on this movie: slow for the first hour, then everything gets crammed into the next 20 minutes. I liked watching the motel owner panic at the sight of lederhosen and German toiletries.

Love Actually: 10 couples form and break romances in a series of interconnected scenes. I loved this. It was delightful and sweet and made me deeply happy. The 10 stories interweave with each other in clever ways–for example, the girl from one couple is neighbors with the girl from another, and the British politician is the brother of a housewife who’s married to a man who’s the boss for a different girl… you get the idea. It made for easy transitions between the stories and everyone connected in different ways. My favorite mini-story was the little kid whose dad helped him tell a classmate that he liked her. Highly recommended.

Much Ado About Nothing: Classic Shakespeare comedy in which trickery and shenanigans keep lovers apart, but then draw them together again. You know, I’ve read a bunch of Shakespeare but somehow hadn’t gotten to this one. I like the tragedies better. Very good film. Kenneth Branagh is extremely talented. No idea if it’s faithful to the original, but I trust Branagh to do a pretty good job of that.

Gregory’s Girl: A shy high-school boy asks his younger sister for help in how to talk to the girl he adores. This wasn’t quite what I had hoped for; maybe if I’d ever been a teenage boy, or a shy person, it would have resonated more. It was sweet, though, and I liked the surprise ending where he gets something other than what he intended and realizes it’s better anyway. I really liked the protagonist and wanted him to find happiness, so it was very satisfying.

Children of Heaven: A Iranian schoolboy loses his sister’s shoes and enters a footrace to win a new pair. This was awesome. It was a great example of plot revolves around characters having something at stake–and that can be anything, as long as it’s critically important to the characters involved. I have never seen such dread and drama over a lost pair of shoes. But when your dad has no money to buy you new shoes, and you’re afraid to tell him that you lost your sister’s only pair, and she can’t go to school without shoes… well, you share your shoes with your sister, even if that means a frantic race for her to get home in the morning and give you back your shoes so you can sprint to afternoon sessions. The twists are very well done (what do you do when you see your missing shoes on another child’s feet… and that child is clearly even poorer than you are?) This was one of my favorites I’ve seen recently.

And with that, I’ll bring the movie reviews to a close. I watched some Simpsons but we don’t need reviews of that. Final stats coming up.

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Movie post #8

For those late to the game, I took recommendations from folks about what movies I should watch while recuperating from illness. I’m pleased to report that in the last week, especially the last few days, I’ve felt considerably better and I’m extremely excited about that. I’m watching fewer movies now, but I’ve kept recommendations in my queue. I’ll try to catch up on these movie reviews.

The Blues Brothers: Two Chicago musicians try to get their band back together and avoid getting arrested. I hadn’t seen this in ages. Time to watch it again. I love the music and the dancing. I especially love Ray Charles and “Shake a Tailfeather” is one of my favorite parts. Also, I like watching police cars smash together into giant pileups. Shannon tells me that the Chicago PD was upgrading their whole fleet right when the movie was filmed, so the studio was able to buy hundreds of cop cars for a very low price. If I could buy hundreds of cop cars, I’d go out into the desert and build Cophenge with them.

The Illusionist: A Victorian stage magician loves a woman he’s forbidden to see. Okay, everyone. I have reviewed many movies. I had never heard of this one before. This is one of the best damn movies I’ve seen in ages. Absolutely stellar. I can’t believe this wasn’t more widely known (or maybe I missed hearing about it?) Anyway, the acting is superb, the setting is authentic, the magic is gorgeous, and the ending has to be seen to be believed. Go check the summary on Netflix and then add this to your queue.

Without a Clue: In an alternate version of the stories, Sherlock Holmes is a total ninny and John Watson is the brains behind the whole thing. This is the very first movie I watched, but I forgot to list it. It’s one of Shannon’s, so we own it. Definitely fun to see Holmes bumbling around and Watson saving his butt (but never getting any credit, of course.) It was fun, but not my sort of thing. I did get some good laughs though.

Ten Canoes: Australian aboriginals tell stories within stories about their lives. At first, I was very confused. I don’t speak enough Yolngu Matha to understand. Actually, I speak no Yolngu Matha at all, I’m sorry to report, although I have some rusty skills with German and Russian buried in my brain. Anyway, once we figured out how to get the subtitles up, the movie got a lot better. (I have no idea why the normal subtitle button didn’t work.) This film really grew on me. The narrative structure was not what I’m used to from American/Western films, and it was disorienting but really cool. In fact, I want to watch this again sometime. With subtitles.

Princess Tutu: An anime series about a dancer trying to save her prince from forces of evil. This series is great for people who like ballerinas, princesses, fairy tales, ducks, and being on drugs or feeling like they’re on drugs. All of which apply to me. This rocks! It’s got some great metafiction devices, and I really like the way that no one is strictly good or evil–the characters are all shades of gray, and form and break alliances with each other depending on what they’re trying to do. And there’s this weird ballet teacher who’s a large gray cat and he keeps threatening to marry the girls when they don’t obey him. Marriage appears to be the ultimate weapon of social obedience in this world. Anyway, I’m not usually into anime, but I really like this series. I’ve got a bunch more to watch.

The Muppet Show – Milton Berle, Rich Little: I saw a lot of Muppet Show as a kid, but these episodes didn’t seem familiar. I do think Rich Little isn’t nearly as good as Kevin Spacey when it comes to impressions.

Antonia’s Line: A mother and daughter start a new life in post-WWII Holland. This was lovely. A multi-generational saga of women building a quiet, loving, feminist/matriarchal community in a small village. We get to meet all the women born into the family, or adopted into it, and the men they love and share their home with. Be warned that there is some violence, primarily a rape scene and subsequent violence to the rapist. The movie was so good that it didn’t bother me too much, but take note. Highly recommended. I’m still thinking about this one.

More movies to come.

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Movie post #7

I hope these posts are interesting. I figure if you guys took the time to recommend stuff for me, I should take the time to tell you what I thought of them.

Wallace & Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures: A kind but dense man and his faithful but overworked dog have adventures. I had high hopes for this after I saw Chicken Run. I was a little disappointed. It was cute, and the second and third episodes were pretty funny. But the first one was boring. And overall, I just didn’t think it was particularly funny. I think all the Futurama and Aqua Teen Hunger Force I watch has sharpened my tastes. Wallace & Gromit : American cheese :: ATHF : Gorgonzola, or perhaps Limberger. (Anecdote time. My husband actually likes Limberger. I refuse to let it enter the house because I cannot stand the smell of it–even if it’s still wrapped and sealed! Really.)

The Silver Stallion: A legendary silver horse in the Australian outback outwits the man who tries to catch him. It’s a bit like the Black Stallion but not really. I enjoyed the meta-fiction twist here: there’s a mother and daughter who like horses. The mother is a writer, and her daughter is reading the book her mother writes. Except midway through the story, the daughter realizes it’s true–this story is really happening as her mother writes it. It’s a nice magical touch that doesn’t need explaining. And I loved how the horse wins at the end and escapes with magic (or so it’s implied.)

Futurama–The Farnsworth Parabox, Three Hundred Big Boys, Spanish Fry, The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings: And with this disc, I complete my goal of watching all the episodes of Futurama. Pretty good set. I liked the alternate universe Fry/Leela romance and the bizarre things everyone did with their tax refunds.

Lost in Translation: Two Americans suffering culture-shock in Tokyo find solace in each other’s company. I thought this film did a terrific job of capturing what it feels like to be in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. And I was extremely pleased that the two characters didn’t sleep with each other; I was cringing during the movie and hoping it wouldn’t lead to that. It was much better with the non-resolved ending where we can’t quite hear what he says to her. My favorite thing about the movie was how “lost in translation” was a theme on multiple levels: between Japanese and Americans, between friends, between spouses–nobody really gets what anyone else is saying. Ever.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: Musical version of the Joseph story from the Bible. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work. Not as good as Jesus Christ Superstar, but it was a lot of fun to watch, and the number of colors and the crazy flashing lights nearly gave me a seizure. Good times. I’ll watch it again.

Stranger Than Fiction: An IRS agent discovers that someone is narrating his life and seems to know what’s going to happen to him. This was brilliant! It straddled that awkward line between funny and serious which so few movies accomplish–and there’s even a scene where the protagonist tries to figure out if the narrator’s put him in a comedy or a tragedy. Highly recommended.

This Is Spinal Tap: I figured I should try this after Best in Show. A mockumentary about a rock band. It had funny moments (I liked the part with the bread and sandwich meat complaints), but overall it was a lot of characters yelling at each other. The arguments were sort of comic, but I don’t really enjoy watching arguments and it left me a bit tense. I thought their music was pretty decent though.

More movies to come. Probably one more post, maybe two. I’m gradually returning to my life after this short intermission.

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Movie post #6

It’s amazing how many movies you can get through when all you do is sleep, go to the doctor, and watch movies. I would describe my current status as somewhat better, but not as well as I’d hoped for.

Bride and Prejudice: The Bollywood version of Pride & Prejudice, set in modern India. Okay, I was dubious about this one, but pleasantly surprised. It was lots of fun, and I loved the music and bright costumes. What I really liked was how they used the Austen story as direct inspiration, but didn’t follow it dogmatically. So I knew approximately how the story would go, but there were a few surprises (most pleasantly, the fate of the youngest sister). I’ll be watching this one again sometime.

Casanova: Famous Italian lover attempts sexual escapades in historical Venice. I liked the setting and costuming here, but it didn’t quite work for me as a comedy. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it at the time. I did like the sexually ravenous “virgin” (or so her father claimed she was…)

Best in Show: A mockumentary about a dog show. I didn’t like it at first, but it definitely grew on me, and by the end I was laughing hysterically. The characters were all so funny–just walking the line between plausible and implausible. My favorites were the Starbucks couple (the “catalog people”) who were convinced their dog was a problem when clearly they were the dysfunctional ones.

Saved!: A born-again Christian high-school girl tries to “save” her boyfriend from homosexuality by sleeping with him. When she becomes pregnant, she finds out who her real friends are. This was a really terrific movie. I thought it was going to be a light comedy, but it got surprisingly serious. It did a nice job differentiating real Christians from control-freaks who use Christianity as an excuse. (I’m not Christian myself, but seriously–if I were, I would completely annoyed by people co-opting my religion to claim that Jesus hates “bad” people.) Well worth watching, especially for anyone who’s cynical about organized religion.

Waking Ned Devine: Two men in small-town Ireland try to claim the lottery winnings of their dead friend. Completely wonderful movie, and satisfying on every level. Lots of tiny little details about small-town life, including the way that everyone knows everyone else. I really don’t want to give the ending away, but let’s just say that it’s completely surprising and completely perfect. That’s hard to do. Highly recommended.

Hairspray: A teenager in the 60’s competes for the title of Miss Auto Show. Along the way, there’s singing, dancing, and race riots. Yeah, this movie was very strange. It was a farce that became strikingly serious at some points, making me wonder if I was supposed to be taking the whole thing more seriously than I was. But it’s hard to be too serious about a movie where someone hides a bomb inside a giant blonde beehive hairdo. The movie was fun, but a little disconcerting.

How To Steal a Million: An heiress and a detective conspire to steal a statue that they know is fake. Another Audrey Hepburn movie (Shannon’s coworker must love her work). I liked watching the heist and especially admired the way they escaped the locked closet. Not to mention the delightfully incompetent burglary scene in the beginning. Good film.

More movies to come.

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Movie post #5

You guys did a tremendously good job recommending movies for me. I’m really picky and it’s amazing how many of these movies I’ve liked.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon The Movie: Yes, that’s the title. This is actually the movie I started with, but I forgot to list it. Our favorite milkshake, box of fries, and chunk of meat save the planet from a rampaging exercise machine. Along the way, there’s some exploding kittens, robots making out with aliens, and an abducted coffee table. ATHF is like South Park on drugs. Seriously. I’m a huge ATHF fan and love the TV show. So I knew what to expect from the movie. Lots of violence, blood, and completely bizarre scenes. As stated before, I don’t LIKE all that blood, but when I’m expecting it, it’s tolerable. Plus, I know the characters will be just fine by the next episode. So if Shake get his hands cut off, no biggie; he’s already been chopped with an axe and possessed by insane aliens in other episodes. He’ll be okay. Anyway: this movie is awesome if you like ATHF, and possibly awesome if you don’t.

The King of Masks: A Chinese street performer adopts a child so that he can pass on his trade secrets. I loved the genderbending aspect of the film. Good story. Lots of threats to the characters. I got really anxious and was worried it would end badly, like so many Chinese films, but I trusted the recommendation. The ending turned out to be very satisfying and joyous. Whew.

Strictly Ballroom: A competitive ballroom dancer pairs up with an ugly duckling and teaches her to dance. Of course they fall in love. This was such a fun movie! Great recommendation. I loved all the great costumes and the wonderful dancing. I’m a dancer myself but I’ve never studied ballroom dancing. Now I want lessons. My husband thinks it sounds fun, so maybe we’ll look around for something…

The Muppet Show-Don Knotts, Zero Mostel: You know. It’s the Muppet Show. I picked up Volume 2 and watched a few episodes. The Don Knotts one was especially weird because I must have seen that episode dozens of times as a kid. So I had this weird deja vu feeling as I watched. I couldn’t tell you exactly what would happen next, but once it did, it felt exactly right. Feels like I’m made out of gingerbread, uh-huh, uh-huh…

Clash of the Titans: I thought I’d heard this was a classic. Greek hero Perseus becomes a legend. Shannon said it was totally camp but pretty good anyway. He was right. Cheesy as all get out. He and I heckled the film like good MST3K fans, and had a great time. I learned that ketchup-blood bothers me almost as much as more realistic special effects.

The Queen: Queen Elizabeth II deals with the controversy surrounding Princess Diana’s death. This is totally not the film I was expecting, for various reasons, but I did like it. I remember when Diana died, my reaction was “Wow, that’s really sad,” and then during the next week I was rather baffled by all the chaos. This film helped me understand a little better why Diana meant so much to people and how thoroughly the British royals bungled the situation. (Assuming this film was reasonably accurate, which I got the feeling it was.) It gave me a lot to think about regarding the concept of hereditary monarchies in the modern world.

Shall We Dance: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance on an ocean liner. This was my first Astaire/Rogers film. I enjoyed it, but frankly I liked Gene Kelly so much more that this movie fell a bit flat for me. I wasn’t really into the story, and there didn’t seem to be as much dancing as I’d hoped for. The dancing was the best part, of course, especially the engine room scene. And now I have an opinion on Astaire versus Kelly, which I’d never had before. I think Astaire has equal or possibly better technical skills than Kelly, but that Kelly has more artistry and charisma. Just my take on it.

More movies to come.

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Movie post #4

The movies will continue until morale improves!

My Fair Lady: I knew many of the songs from this but I’d never actually seen it. Man, it was long. But I enjoyed most of it. A linguistics professor trains a flower girl to speak like an aristocrat. I usually don’t care too much about celebrities (and often don’t even notice who’s in which movies), but at the moment where Audrey Hepburn descends the stairs, dressed in her white ballgown, I realized that she was one of the most beautiful and talented actresses in the history of Hollywood. I didn’t know how much majesty was possible simply by walking a few steps. I liked all the class issues involved. The ending made me mad, because Eliza deserved better than that jerk.

Pleasantville: Two teenagers get transported through their television into a 50’s sitcom world. Their actions bring mayhem to the formerly peaceful town–bringing both positive and negative changes to the world. I thought this was a great premise, and I liked watching the black-and-white town slowly become colorized. Overall, I felt like the treatment of the idea was a lot more serious than it deserved; I thought it’d be a lighthearted film, but it got really heavy by the end. It felt like a bait-and-switch where I didn’t get the film I was expecting. It wasn’t bad, but I think a comedy would have better suited this idea.

An American in Paris:  A young painter courts a French dancer in post-war Paris.  I’m really liking Gene Kelly’s style. The 17-minute dance number at the end was fabulous.  Overall, I didn’t like it as well as “Singin’ in the Rain,” but I definitely enjoyed it anyway.

Serendipity:  Boy meets girl. They fall in love.  Instead of getting together, they decide to let fate determine whether they find each other again or go their separate ways.  It was funny and sweet, but the premise really bothered me.  Probably because I don’t believe in fate.  So when they do crazy things like say, “Let’s get in different elevators and push a random button, and see if we choose the same floor, and if so, we were meant to be” — well, that’s just silly. Because they DID push the same buttons, but one of them got stuck with a bratty kid who pushed all the buttons between there.  And by the time he got to the floor he’d picked, the girl had given up and left.  Plus, when they decide to look for each other later in the movie (while they’re engaged to other people) they both break the hearts of their current SOs by leaving them.  I didn’t think that was romantic–I thought it was crappy.  I liked that they got together in the end, of course, but since it was at the expense of their SOs, it wasn’t very satisfying.  That said, it was funny and I liked watching all the coincidences that kept forcing them back towards each other.

Futurama–Where No Fan Has Gone Before, The Sting, Bend Her, Obsoletely Fabulous:  Ah, Futurama is back in top form here.  Four great episodes.  I think The Sting is possibly one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen. It’s the one where Leela thinks Fry is dead from an alien killer bee sting, except in reality she’s the one who’s  in a coma from the sting and hallucinating everything.  It was such a romantic episode.  I wish Leela would give Fry a chance.  He’d be better for her than a lot of the guys she dates.

My Brilliant Career:  In 1897 Australia, a young girl asserts her independence and her desire to avoid marriage.  It’s sort of an Australian Anne of Green Gables.  She was wonderfully spirited and I loved her as a protagonist, but overall the plot of the story left a bit to be desired.  It felt like a string of anecdotes in her life that didn’t quite add up to a full story.  Actually, it felt more like non-fiction biography (which I think it was), which is a fine genre but not as appealing to me as a well-plotted story.  Still, a good film, and I liked seeing the time and place.

My Neighbor Totoro:  I generally don’t like Miyazaki and you all said this one might be different. You’re right–I liked this pretty well.  Two girls explore the woods near their house and meet the forest spirits.  What I liked about this movie (and where Miyazaki usually fails me) is that the girls felt like real people and they were the heroes of the movie.  Too often, I think Miyazaki makes a big deal of his female characters and how “girly” they are.  They’re either too fragile, or swooning, or sexualized, or… something.  These two girls were just right.  I really liked them and the way they interacted.  I also really loved seeing a truly happy family–with a problem, certainly, but they loved each other, and that was deeply satisfying. And of course the Cat Bus ruled.

More movies to come.