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Movie post #3

I have tried to watch at least one movie from everyone who made three or more suggestions.

A Walk in the Clouds: A young Army veteran pretends to be the husband of an unwed mother, so she can introduce him to her family before he “abandons” her. Of course they fall in love, but along the way there’s a lot of great character interaction among her Hispanic grape-growing family and the difficulties of being a winemaker. It’s a little hard to explain this film. I really loved it, though–it had an authentic 40’s feel and (I think) well-researched Napa vineyard details. The movie transcended the wooden acting of Keanu Reeves, and managed to be great despite his presence. I recommend this one.

Chicken Run: This was hysterical! Led by a brave and persistent hen, a flock of chickens attempt to escape their coop before the farmer makes them into pies. My favorite part was where the heroes get thrown into the pie machine and have to fight their way out the Rube Goldberg-like crazy contraption. The pacing was really good on this movie; it never slowed down for a minute. I really dislike Mel Gibson because of his homophobic rants, but I could try to pretend it wasn’t him voicing the rooster. This is one of my favorites I’ve seen in the past week.

Futurama–Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV, Jurassic Bark, Crimes of the Hot, Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles, The Why of Fry: Hey, it’s Futurama. How can it be bad? That said, I thought these episodes were a bit on the weak side for Futurama, which is to say they were just good instead of awesome. The one with Fry’s dog sitting outside the pizza parlor for twelve years made me cry, though. (It’s weird how many parallel universes appear to have happened on December 31, 1999…)

Stardust: A star falls to earth and takes human form. Many people want to possess her, either for good or evil, and so they fight over her. The ghosts of the dead princes made me laugh–I really liked the idea that they got to hang around and heckle their murderers. I thought this was a good story and well done, although much more violent than I was expecting. I liked the happy ending, of course, but the violence left me unsettled.

Some Like It Hot: Two men who witness a Mafia hit disguise themselves as female musicians to escape. It’s unfortunate that this was the next movie I chose. It’s one that Shannon’s coworker sent. There are two extremely violent scenes involving gunfire and massacre. They’re very short, and most of the film is slapstick comedy, so I can see how the movie might be viewed as “very little violence”. But since I was already on edge from Stardust, the massacres upset me very much. After the first one, I had to ask a friend who’d seen it whether I was already through the worst part (because if I was, I might as well keep going). She warned me about the second scene, so I decided to keep going and just close my eyes for that part. I did like the movie overall. I’d never seen anything with Marilyn Monroe before.

My Life in Pink: A 7-year-old transgendered kid deals with a family that doesn’t believe that she’s really a girl. (Biologically male, quite sure God made a mistake with her.) This was very moving and lovely, and I felt so bad for this poor kid. I’ve seen stories of teenage transgendered people, but never one with a child so young–but of course it happens, even as young as 4 or 5. It was both charming and heartbreaking to see the kid figure out gender issues, all filtered through a 7-year-old’s view of the world. There’s a cute scene where, after her older sister explains XX and XY chromosomes, she imagines God tossing letters down the family’s chimney, and a Y gets snagged on her chromosomes and knocks the second X into a garbage can. That’s exactly what a 7-year-old would see. I was really scared it would end sadly–but I trusted the person who recommended it wouldn’t give me a sad movie. The ending was definitely bittersweet. I loved this movie, but I really wish I hadn’t watched it when I was still upset from Some Like It Hot.

The Great Mupper Caper: After those last three, I needed something I could trust to be silly, light, and happy. Muppets were a sure win. I’d seen this movie years ago, but forgotten almost everything. The Muppets visit England and try to catch a jewel thief. The movie isn’t as good as other Muppet movies, mostly because it’s all about Miss Piggy and I really don’t like her. There’s one interminable song sequence all about her glamorous self. But still, it’s Muppets, and it’s fun. I liked the way they all knew they were in a movie and kept talking to the audience about it. For some reason, that really worked well in this movie.

More movies to come.

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Movie post #2

Futurama–Bender’s Big Score:  I love Futurama and this movie was all I’d hoped for.  Spammer aliens take over Earth and our heroes use time travel to stop them.  Except I didn’t expect to see Hermes get DECAPITATED in the first five minutes!  AUGH!  It was really hard to handle, but I figured something out.  It was okay because I know it’s a series and Hermes will be just fine by the next episode.  So I wasn’t as worried about him as I would have been otherwise.  Aside from that, the movie was screamingly funny and very clever.  I liked all the time travel craziness and the wacky paradoxes that ensued.  I’m really sad that time travel is a cliche, because I sure like stories about it.

Happy Feet:  A penguin who tap-dances instead of singing (like normal penguins apparently do) makes his way into penguin society and ends up saving it.  It was cute and sweet.  A little stretched out–they had about 60 minutes of good material that they made last for 90–but enjoyable.  I liked the Mexican penguin fiesta and the penguin religious revival meeting while they huddle for warmth. I’m also glad the filmmakers got their penguin anatomy and behaviors right (aside from the singing and tap-dancing…)  I would probably have liked it more if I hadn’t just watched Planet Earth about real penguins, but it was still enjoyable.

The Muppets Take Manhattan:  I’d seen this years ago as a kid.  Kermit and friends head to New York to make it big.  Like other Muppet movies, the quality is inconsistent, but overall it’s fun.  It also features the cute Muppet Babies, who eventually made a spin-off cartoon that I used to like (and I’m SO glad they added Skeeter so there would be a decent female role model).  Miss Piggy had a really scary ’80’s perm which reminded me uncomfortably of my own perms.  I’d scan a picture and post it for you, but I don’t want to break your Internet.

Singin’ In the Rain:  LOVED it.  What a delightful movie.  I always figured I’d like it, but hadn’t seen it yet.  Gene Kelly plays a movie star who’s fallen in love with a talented singer, and his jealous co-star tries to sabotage the singer’s career.  There’s lots of wonderful singing and dancing, and the story is, well, happy.  It’s hard not to enjoy the movie.  It pays tribute to the history of film–something I’m not especially interested in, but found fascinating in this movie.  How crazy it must have been for silent film stars to have to adapt to “talkies” when they came out!  If you like musicals, this is a film that will leave you smiling and relaxed.  Another of my favorites I watched this week.

The Road to El Dorado:  I didn’t have high hopes for this one, because I heard it wasn’t very good, but I ended up liking it a lot.   Two Spanish con men end up in the New World and try to con the people of El Dorado out of their gold.  The thing is, this movie is completely implausible in just about every way.  But that’s okay.  Because they get you through at least six impossible things in the action-packed first 13 minutes, so you get the idea–this film is completely ridiculous and that’s just what it is.  But it’s FUNNY.  Unlike most movies which ignore laws of reality and so forth, this movie was laugh-out-loud funny, with very likeable protagonists, a nicely evil villain who gets what he deserves, and a satisfying ending hinting at brand-new adventures.

The Road Home: I thought this was amazing.  It’s the 40-year love story of a young Chinese village girl and the local schoolteacher she’s fallen for.  It’s very simple (some might find it slow) but incredibly moving.  I was astounded at the scene where she wants to bring him the mushroom dumplings she made, but he’s leaving in a horse-drawn carriage.  So she sprints after him… I won’t spoil it.  If you like Chinese films or moving love stories, you might well enjoy this film.  It was just what I wanted to see.

Mirrormask:  A young artist gets trapped in the world of her drawings and needs to find a way home.  I thought this was a good movie that fell a few steps short of a great movie.  It was incredibly beautiful and the story was terrific… but something went wrong in the editing of the scenes. If I were a film student, I could explain this better, but what I noticed is that a few seconds of film, here and there, seemed to be missing.  It confused me–in certain scenes, I couldn’t quite follow the action.  It moved too suddenly, or the angle made it look like something different was happening, and so on.  It’s a shame, because I really liked the movie and I wish that had been done better.  That said, I loved the scene with the music “Close to You,” where Helena is falling into the Shadow Queen’s spell, and thought that was done perfectly.  If you watch this, you may want the subtitles on; I think part of my confusion was a few slightly mumbled lines with British accents/slang that just didn’t quite register on my ears.

More movies to come.

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Movie post #1

I’ve been watching a mix of movies I own, movies you guys recommended to me, and movies loaned to me by Shannon’s coworkers. The first few are mostly ones I own, because I had to wait for Netflix to send me new stuff.

Planet Earth (Great Plains, Jungles, Shallow Seas, Seasonal Forests): This is a must-see documentary about the beauty and majesty that exists here on Earth. It’s a BBC nature program with some truly unbelievable footage. Like the fungus that infects jungle ants and then grows out of their brains. Or the sea snakes that team up with a predatory fish to eat their way through the residents of a coral reef. I’m one of those people who loves nature but is fussy about dirt and discomfort, so watching all this on TV is just about my speed. Highly recommended.

The Thomas Crown Affair: Shannon insisted I would like this, and he was right. It’s the story of an elaborate museum heist, the resulting investigation, and the dangerous romance between the criminal and the investigator. Very neat plot, and as a lover of fine art, it appealed to my interests. I was moderately annoyed by the oversexed female investigator, but I liked the story enough to tolerate that. (The thing is, I’m okay with the occasional oversexed female character. There are women like this. But what annoys the crap out of me is that this sort of woman is terribly over-represented in Hollywood, along with the dumb blonde and the nagging wife. Anytime I see a female stereotype in a movie, I feel hostile towards it: will this movie justify the use of this stereotype? In the Thomas Crown Affair, it did. In most movies, it’s just that no one bothered to give her a personality. So I’m hyper-sensitive about this, like a wound that keeps getting poked at. End rant.)

The Triplets of Belleville: A grandmother searches for her lost bicycle-riding son and has adventures in the big city of Belleville. I re-watched this one, since so many people recommended it, and I had it handy. I did like it more the second time, but still found it kind of slow. The art is gorgeous and I love the weirdness, but overall I’m just too annoyed that the story isn’t what I hoped for–the tale of the boy escaping his overbearing grandmother.

The Simpsons Movie: Homer screws up and nearly dooms Springfield. You know, like usual. I picked this up because I loved it in the theatre, and it definitely holds up to re-watching. Completely hysterical. I particularly like that Maggie gets to be a hero (twice) since she’s one of my favorites. I wish Lisa’s role hadn’t felt so much like a side-plot. But still, a great movie. I can’t even pick out the best part because it’s all so good.

The Jane Austen Book Club: Another one I saw in the theatre, and it also holds up well to re-watching. Six Calilfornia women form a book club to discuss Jane Austen’s novels, and their real lives end up paralleling the novels in fascinating ways. It’s about the power of love to conquer anything, both in Jane’s time and our own, and the timelessness of literature. One of the things I like best about the story is that Prudie, who is the sort of character who tends to annoy people, is given a very sympathetic background that makes you cry for her. It justifies all her weird annoying habits and you just feel sorry for the poor girl, and then delighted when she finds happiness in the end.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure: I’d never seen this, or anything with Pee-Wee. I was kind of surprised at how much I liked it. Pee-Wee is looking for his stolen bicycle and has adventures. Cheesy, sure, but Pee-Wee is so happy and takes such delight in everything around him. When he was wandering around his house, playing with various things, he just looked so excited and pleased about every little thing. I could really relate to that. It made me want to dance on sidewalks and make faces out of my dinner, like I did when I was a kid (and still do…) Plus, the crazy car chase at the end was awesome. Complete with Santa’s sleigh and large monster…

The Secret of Roan Inish: This is one of the best movies I’ve seen this week. You guys were right that it has just about everything I’m looking for. A young Irish girl discovers the truth about her family’s ancestral home and the selkies that live nearby. It was sweet, delightful, and all-around a wonderful film. I did have to wonder about her little brother, who’s lived with the selkies since he was a baby. They recover him, and I just have to think that this kid’s therapy bills are going to be really high. Plus, I wondered why on earth the family would set his cradle down at the water’s edge? Isn’t that just begging for selkie-stealing shenanigans? Anyway, it was still a great movie, and I highly recommend this one.

More movies to come.

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Movie-watching

So far, I’ve watched 23 movies and 9 TV shows on DVD.  I will start posting comments on the movies in sections, maybe 10 at a time.  I’m continuing to watch movies for at least another few days and maybe longer.   I’m watching a lot of the ones you guys suggested, plus a few that were loaned to me by Shannon’s coworkers.

Why am I watching all these movies?  Well, in short, I have a brand-new Medical Condition (yippee).  Things were shaky for the last few months, and then everything came crashing down on March 8.  I’m expecting another 1-2 months of misery until I feel better, and 6 months until I might be “well”.  Long-term, I’ll be fine, but I have to follow a special diet.  I’m having a hard time adjusting to this major change, but I’m trying.  Just taking things one day at a time and trying to sleep a lot.

The best thing I can do is relax, watch movies, and wait for medicines to work.

So that’s what I’m doing.  It’s definitely helping.  I still plan to go to WisCon.  If I’m lucky, I’ll be at maybe 75% of my usual energy and health levels.  If I’m unlucky, I’ll just have to figure it out as I go along.

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More about movies

For those who like to form a complete picture about a person based on their movie tastes, here’s some more data points.

1) Under usual circumstances, I’m quite okay with sad movies and perhaps even prefer them. Some favorite movies that I don’t want to watch right now: Farewell My Concubine, Bridge to Terebithia, Like Water For Chocolate, Tuck Everlasting, Donnie Darko, Amadeus.

2) My violence tolerance has dropped way down over the years. This means that I have a few films which I liked many years ago, and still think are great movies, but I don’t know if I can ever watch them again. Among these are such surprising choices as Seven, Gladiator, The Usual Suspects, and Reservoir Dogs. Maybe in time my preferences will change again. But violence in familiar movies is a lot easier to handle, so who knows.

3) The better the movie, the higher my tolerance for violence. If it’s a tightly written script with great characters, I’ll accept more violence in the movie. Nothing is worse than gratuitous, pointless gore. That said, I sometimes can tolerate violence and blood in very silly comedy, like Monty Python and Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Beavis & Butthead. I don’t LIKE it, but often the rest of the stuff is funny enough that I can ignore the discomfort.

4) Right now, I’m happy to have a list of movies where I can count on little to no violence, plus a happy ending so I don’t get anxious about the characters like I often do. I think I identify too strongly with movie protagonists, which is why movies upset me so easily. They always feel very real to me. Especially in a theatre, which is why I don’t often go out to movies. It’s just overwhelming.

5) It’s really just violence in movies which bothers me–specifically, violent motion. I can read any words I like and nothing fazes me. Books and stories are fine. Still photographs are usually okay. But if there’s violent motion, it triggers panic for me. Sudden noises make it doubly bad. Must be something in the lizard brain. That’s why looking at a corpse in a movie is a lot less troubling to me than seeing a gunman shooting at a running person, even if he misses.

6) Stress causes me to make weird posts at 3:18 AM. Hi.

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Movie suggestions?

Dear Internet,

I’m under a lot of stress right now. I’m interested in Netflixing some new movies, and I’d like suggestions. Usually there’s a good variety of movies I like. But right now, I’m looking for:

MUST-HAVE

–happy endings, or at least bittersweet.

–very minimal violence/blood (preferably none). I could probably handle something like a sword duel, but certainly no guns or on-screen explicit violence. I’m serious about this one.

–a quality story. I’m picky. I prefer movies that have a well-written plot and characters.

THINGS I TEND TO LIKE

–Whimsical, quirky, or goofy (Amelie)

–Surreal and lovely (Like Water for Chocolate, which is more violent than I want right now)

–Artistically interesting (certain animation styles, unusual camera angles, etc.)

–Coming of age stories for girls (Little Women, Anne of Green Gables)

–Powerful, striking, and moving (Baraka, Koyaanisqatsi)

–Light-hearted and fun (The Princess Bride, The Muppet Movie)

–Fascinating characters (Lawrence of Arabia, also too violent right now)

–Historically-based movies (Jane Grey, although like just about every historical movie, it’s really violent)

–Interesting documentaries (Wordplay, Planet Earth, although I’d prefer actual movies)

–Stories set outside the United States, especially foreign-made ones–bonus points for China (Eat Drink Man Woman)

–Kids’ and young adult fantasy movies (Labyrinth, Neverending Story)

–Dancing and musicals (Jesus Christ Superstar, although this might be too intense right now).

Ideas? Let me know. Thanks!