Happy Halloween! or Jurassic Park is REAL

Hello again!  Yes, I’ve been gone a long time.  This is due to some combination of the following reasons:

a. Crazy wedding season that included lots of flying around the country and/or choreographing dance routines for people

b. Going to Africa (!!!)

c. Being a no good very bad blogger.

I will be posting soon about some of the above reasons (can you guess which?).  But first, it’s Halloween and I love my costume.

And it has to do with movies.  So here we go.

Saturday night I attended a party with the theme of Classic Movies (“classic” to be interpreted as you saw fit), which was particularly perfect for someone who, y’know, likes movies or something.

The boyfriend and I were pretty darn excited when we came up with our idea, and so I thought I would share.

"Oh, Mr Arnold..."

No! Samuel L. Jackson! Ack, wait, a raptor!

They can't see you if you don't move...

It’s all in the props. And I must say, I really enjoyed carrying around Sammy J.’s arm all night.*

Pretty close, right?**

But my reenactments of Jurassic Park scenes don’t end there…

Last year, we went on a trip to Kauai and I was very excited to see some of the sites used in the filming of this “Classic” film.  I meant to post about it all last year, and that clearly didn’t happen, but it’s applicable once again so just go with it.

We were lucky enough to take a helicopter ride around the island and got to see the waterfall where they landed…in a helicopter! (this is my own video)

And we went on a tour of the Allerton Garden, which, #1, is beautiful and if you are ever in Kauai you should visit it, and #2, includes the giant Moreton Bay Fig Trees featured in the film.  These are the trees up which Dr. Grant and the two kids spend the night (where the brachiosaurus…es…- um, brachiosauri? – say hi in the morning and one sneezes on Lex) and between whose GIANT roots Alan finds the eggs proving that the dinosaurs are breeding.

Where's Waldo?

They're breeding!

The moral of this story?  I dunno.  I like Jurassic Park?  I AM Laura Dern? Um…

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

*In case you’re curious – yes, we found that severed arm AS IS at the Halloween Store.

** Yes, I know she was wearing shorts and that was the plan… until it started SNOWING.

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My Big Blue (SUPREMELY BELATED) Movie Review, or the Inevitable, aka AVATAR

Reaching back into my Saved Posts that I never actually posted, I came across this one and thought I would share it.  I only meant to post it…oh…I don’t know…in 2009?  February 2010?  Whatever.  Here you go!

Welcome back, dear reader(s).  I have returned from my journies both across the country and into foreign lands.

The holidays and my varied travels also meant that I did not see Avatar until last week.   What did I think, you ask?  I really really liked it.  I’d tried to mainly only read articles about technical and technological aspects beforehand (and not reviews) so as to have as clear a head as possible.  But I had also heard from friends and the general consensus seemed to be that it was beautiful, but that the story was exactly what you would expect.  By this, I believe they all meant that it was predictable.  They weren’t bowled over.  They weren’t in love.

I have to say that I don’t agree.  I found the story epic and wonderfully so.  I am hesitant to use that word, “epic;” the implications that come to mind are…well, it seems to set up unfair expectations (as well as possibly sound a little pompous and too full of itself) so maybe actually it’s perfect.  I think that Avatar‘s critics have been holding it up to an unbelievable standard, based on all of the hype of the new CG technology, the amount of time James Cameron spent preparing this movie, the fact that it’s James Cameron at all, etc…  They want it to be so mind-blowing that pretty much nothing would be good enough.  On that front, seeing the movie a month after everyone else has huge advantages.

As to epic, I think it was epic storytelling and that we don’t have enough good epic storytelling anymore.  It’s what the new Star Wars movies were trying to do (and they failed miserably).  And when you have such a sweeping story, when it still has a ways to go to complete the arc at two hours in, and when it deals with the possible downfall of an entire civilization, well then, my friends, that is when you are in the realm of the Epic.

And I loved the epic storytelling.  I thought it was so well done.  It went where I would have wanted it to, but I wasn’t predicting things hours before they happened and getting annoyed that I was right.  I think it introduced things in good time so that we were ready for them.  I thought it was great.

When you get into the realm of the Epic**, then I think you are tapping into ancient archetypes – these things keep coming up in our collective stories and are satisfying for a reason.  Good vs. evil.  Technology/machines vs. nature.  Colonizers vs. Indigenous peoples.  Finding your place in a new world.  Learning to belong.  Finding something worth fighting for.  It may feel familiar but that’s because these are themes that will always come up for humans, and if someone can tell an engaging story about these ideas in a beautiful way, then I think that is worth something.

But like I said, I’m also of the opinion that we don’t get enough stories like that “nowadays” (harumph harumph, I’m shaking a cane at all the whipper-snappers…).  I certainly don’t mean that every film has to be that way, but so many big blockbuster/expensive/massive studio movies are sequels, remakes, based on a toy from the 80s, or simply pandering to the lowest common denominator within the audience and don’t necessarily take the time to develop the story within the franchise.  Or just plain leave it out.  What?  The audience might want a story with their popcorn?  What tosh!

And an original story?  Pish posh!

We need good storytelling and if it is a good story told well, then sign me up.*

Then again, I never saw Dances with Wolves. 🙂

*Extra points for pretty things to look at.  Like things that look like flying jellyfish.  That was my other main point about Avatar, back when I started this review.  How much I loved the FLYING JELLYFISH SEEDPODS!

**Okay, I’ve used this phrase twice now, I think it’s time to coin it.

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Another Year, or Some Lovely People and the Depressed People Around Them

Fair warning: I fully admit that this post is rather rambly and long, but this movie seems to take a bit of rambling.  If you’ve seen it, I’d be curious to hear what you think too…

Last week I watched Another Year, and, to say the least, it was not what I expected.

But do you really think I’m going to say “the least?”  I thought I was going to write you a list of some sort, but I just can’t.  This movie is taking thinking and I’m still figuring out what I think.  And the fact that it’s making me think this much is actually making me like the movie more and more.

I knew that it was a Mike Leigh film and was therefore going to be more of a character study than anything else, but I knew that I liked the people in it, had heard great things about it last year, and I love Happy-Go-Lucky.  Actually, I wasn’t sure about that one the first time I watched it either, but I liked it more and more the longer it percolated, watched it again and loved it, and have since bought it to own and rewatch forever and ever.  Amen.

So I went into Another Year with high hopes.

Another Year is the story of Tom and Gerri,* a lovely couple who live somewhere in London and like to tend their community garden plot.  He’s a geologist, she’s a therapist at a hospital, they do everything together, seem to be very content and happy, and aren’t they just so lucky.

Here’s the IMDb logline:

A look at four seasons in the lives of a happily married couple and their relationships with their family and friends.

Another summary adds on “…who are all miserable.”

That’s pretty much what I had heard going into this and it’s true, but it also led me to believe that Tom and Gerri were the center of the story.  I think they are the sun around which their friends and family revolve, but if that’s the metaphor we’re going with, then this is really a story about Pluto.  By which I mean that I found this to really be a story about Mary (about whom there’s always something, right?**).

Mary is a secretary at the hospital where Gerri works and the two are friends.  Maybe not good friends, but Mary comes to their house for dinner a few times a month, and we learn that she has been doing so for twenty years.  She’s known Tom and Gerri’s thirty-year-old son Joe since he was a little boy.

Now, Mary has clearly been having some problems.  Over the course of the movie, she goes from drowning her problems in wine and putting on a brave face to alienating her good friends to showing up on their doorstep unexpectedly, depressed and bedraggled and barely able to keep from crying at all times.  Mary is both fascinating and incredibly annoying; a toxic friend if ever there was one.

Which can make for a fascinating and also sometimes annoying movie.

There are some really great moments, but I found myself wondering how they all related into the story.  Is this a story or just a sketch of some people and the world around them?  Would that be such a bad thing?

If you want a story arc, besides the year structure to which the movie adheres, I think you could also sum it up thusly: The Saga of Mary’s Car.  As you might guess from the aforementioned crying… it does not go well.  First we hear about her plans to get a car and how it’s going to change her life for the better.  It even gets said out loud that this will be the big turning point to make her life better, so, of course, everything goes downhill from there.  In the end, Mary has sold her lemon of a car off for just 20 pounds because it is no longer worth the price of fixing.  She tried, the woman really did try.  She bought the damn thing, didn’t she?  But the arc of “Mary Gets a Car” is a tragic one.

There is a larger turning point in her friendship with Gerri, when she goes from being the friend they put up with to crossing a line that she can’t take back, but I’m trying not to totally spoil it.  Even that moment relates into the saga of the car (the changes are reflected in how she talks about it).  Mike Leigh seems to have a thing with driving, doesn’t he?

When I finished the movie the other day, it left me a little depressed and I wasn’t sure I liked how I felt or liked the movie that much, but I have found that I am really enjoying thinking about it all.  Mary so clearly wants to be part of this family; in fact, all of Tom and Gerri’s friends want what they have, and there’s nothing anyone can do to really fix the situation.  There’s no quick fix for Mary or any of the others – life just didn’t work out so well.  They’re divorced or widowed or drunk or obnoxious or plain unlucky.  And we realize how lucky Tom and Gerri are.  They’re not patronizing, they’re not pushing their good fortune in others’ faces.  Things are what they are.  Mary tries to change things for herself, she really tries with the car, but it’s not so easy.  And she can’t just switch lives.  As Gerri points out, it’s her family, not Mary’s, and she is going to defend it as such.  So where is the line of responsibility?  How much help can Gerri really give?  What does it take from her to do so?

There’s also a large theme of getting older and what happens to you, especially if you are on your own, which I think is an important and interesting and also very difficult topic to address well.  This quiet film does a pretty nice job of it.

The performances are all really wonderful; subtle and quiet and very very real.   Ruth Sheen plays Gerri, Jim Broadbent is Tom, and Lesley Manville plays Mary (for which she was nominated for and won a bunch of awards).  I also loved Karina Fernandez as Joe’s new girlfriend, Katie.

Manville does a brilliant job – it’s one of those situations where you can see how amazing she is by how much you react to the character, even if it’s in disgust.  She’s so fully committed, and has created such a fully fleshed out woman, even if that woman can be annoying and rather pathetic.  I thought I was going to be writing about how much I disliked her character, because I did a lot of the time.  She makes you cringe a little.  But that also puts you in the same position as Tom and Gerri.  What would you do with a woman like Mary?

Gerri doesn’t give away too much as a character.  She and Tom often communicate simply by looks, and they are clearly happy to be in each other’s presence in silence.  She comes across as a solid, soothing, presence.  I think she is the sun that Pluto is frantically orbiting.  And in the end, Pluto is told that it’s no longer a planet, not really part of the solar system anymore. (this metaphor is totally working, you guys)

The film ends on a rather depressing note: Mary is still at Tom and Gerri’s dinner table but now almost completely excluded (and rather rightfully so).  She retreats into herself, realizing that there is now a great distance spanning the kitchen table.  The soundtrack goes silent – she no longer hears the conversation, there is no more music.  This was an odd note to finish the overall portrait, not to mention that it cemented my feelings that Mary was the true subject of Leigh’s story.  It made me start questioning her sanity and what her relationship with Gerri had really been during the rest of film – she had definitely been getting some free therapy, even just the therapy of warm, well-adjusted friends.  Did Gerri see her as a patient?  Were their dinners together just charity?  Mary needed her time with them, they anchored her into real life a bit I think, but that also means she was using them.

In trying to figure out the ending, I remembered the beginning of the film, when Imelda Staunton appears for two scenes as an insomniac housewife at the hospital for treatment.  The doctor recommends therapy to get to the source of her problems and she visits Gerri once, never to be heard from again.  The scene sets up Gerri’s profession, but I realized we never got a resolution to that little snapshot and so began to ponder the reason that scene was included.  It feels a bit odd and latched on and at the end I realized I had forgotten that that was where we began!  In thinking it over, it seems this isolated patient scene helps set the tone for the story, and possibly gives a theme that can later apply to Mary.  Staunton’s character has been unable to sleep for…you guessed it…a whole year.  Gerri is trying to get her to address the possible emotional reasons for this, and asks her to name her happiest moment.   She cannot name any happy moment in her life and, when asked what could make her life better, she says, “A different life.”

So is it that some people got lucky, got the warm happy family they wanted rooting them to life, while others are floating lost, trying to make the best of what they’ve been handed but sometimes just getting the shit end of the stick?  How much of a role do these people play in their own fate?  Where does the responsibility lie?

Pretty fascinating stuff.  I thought the film was too loose a sketch of some characters, without enough focus, to really satisfy.  But maybe this is going the way of Happy-Go-Lucky.  Maybe in a little while I should try watching it again.  Maybe this is my relationship with Mike Leigh’s work.

Or maybe I’m just thinking too much.

* Their names would have been #1 on my list of Things I Like.

**Rim shot

_____________________________________________________

Extra Reading:

If you want more, I think this is a fabulous review from Ion Arts, able to place Another Year within Leigh’s greater cannon of work and taking his particular style and method of creation into account.

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7.15.11

image

So this happened yesterday…

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My Personal PotterFest 2011

IT’S HERE.

2:05 pm.  In Imax and 3D.*

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2.

The boyfriend and I had plans to watch all seven previous movies, but due to circumstances were not able to begin our Personal PotterFest early enough this week.  In the past three days we have watched the first three (Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban) and the last (Deathly Hallows Part One).  I love the first two and their discovery of magic, but I was also noticing flaws or things that bothered me this time.  I began to worry that I was going to change my perception on the whole film series.  Maybe it’s because I’m older this time.  But then three came along – I haven’t seen that in its entirety forever.  I only ever catch the end and I’d been avoiding it because I’m not as big a fan of the werewolf scenes.  But the rest of that movie is GREAT!  And so much happens; so much is introduced in the third movie.  I’m so glad to have rewatched it.

Then due to time issues we skipped ahead, and it was a bit jarring to have the kids and the storyline grow so much “overnight.”  Suddenly everything was dire.  I have really liked the last two movies, but I haven’t loved them the first time that I saw them.  I think it’s difficult with so much anticipation.  I can’t help comparing them to the books, wishing that favorite scenes or lines had been left in unchanged.  And both 6 and 7.1 are so much about the set up the end of a great series; it makes it harder for them to stand alone.  I have also seen each of them a second time in theatres, and each time had a much better experience and came out able to appreciate the movie for itself, as a whole.  Watching 7.1 last night, I saw again what a BEAUTIFUL movie it is (David Yates, I love you).  The boyfriend commented on the amazing tone that is set: quiet despair.  I loved it once again, and we readied ourselves for today, Opening Day.

In less than two hours I will see the conclusion to ten years of movies.  As I’m sure many have mentioned, lots has happened in my lifetime over the course of this series.  And I have loved seeing the new Harry Potter movie every time.

There won’t be a new one after this, which is sad.  I’ll miss having another one to look forward too.  When the books ended, it was nice to know that we’d still have new movies coming out for a few years.

But I am also ready.  Book 7 is my favorite and I can’t WAIT to see how it ends.

And I need to remember to remove the pressure from this first viewing.  Because I’ll be seeing it again with my mom next week. 🙂

Here…We…GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

 

*We decided to just go for it.

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For Your Consideration in the 2011 Lammys…

That’s right, the Large Association of Movie Blogs holds its own awards extravaganza, the Lammys.  And I may very well have failed to get my FYC poster in on time (still to be determined), but that doesn’t mean I can’t post it here.  I have a forum and I am not afraid to use it!

Do I post often enough?  No.  Do I actually review things?  Debatable.  But do I think I have the best blog name out there?  You’re darn tootin’!*

Nomination voting ends tomorrow (for those LAMBs out there), so won’t you please consider me?

For everyone who is not a LAMB, please enjoy my newfound photo editing skillz.  I think it’s time to update the resume, no?

Vote for me!

 

*or is it Your???  Whose darn tootin’?  YOUR darn tootin’!  Which begs an entirely different question…

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IT’S HERE! Ladies and Gentlemen, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Trailer, or My Future Birthday Party Part 2

[I’m not kidding about the birthday party thing. 🙂  Though my birthday is in June, it’s close enough to ask people to join me at a midnight movie a month later.  Right?  RIGHT!*]

Yesterday, the first full trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released.  Personally, I found it on Movieline.com (actually via my friend Sarah; go Sarah!).  And I couldn’t have summed it up better myself…

“Epic epicness.”

CLICK THE POSTER (or here) FOR THE PREVIEW!

(while I could have embedded, it is so much better and bigger on the official website)

I am SO excited for this.

I mean, really:  The dragon!?  Mrs. Weasley vs. Bellatrix?!  And who else is now VERY excited for McGonagall’s army of armor kicking some serious ass?!!!

Each moment of this trailer makes me so happy.  And I know that some things will be changed from the book, as they have been each time, but I have faith in director David Yates.  He came on as director for Order of the Phoenix, the fifth movie of the series and my absolute favorite, and has been at the helm ever since.  Each has been beautiful, but I was slightly less impressed with 6 and 7 Part 1 (thought just slightly).  Phoenix has remained my favorite for it’s emotional journey within the single film and how beautifully it is crafted, shot, acted, everything.  

I think Yates is about to do it again.  I will definitely give credit for the fact that 6 and 7 Part 1 are more difficult source material, as they are both in large part set-up for what comes next and therefore somewhat less able to stand alone.  But that is also why I believe this final movie, the climax of the series, will be a return to everything I loved about Order of the Phoenix.  This is going to pack such an emotional punch, something Yates and Daniel Radcliffe do SO well.  Not to mention, it’s going to be fun as hell.  Every interview has been pointing out that this is pretty much a non-stop action movie and, while it may change a few things in its adaptation from the text, I know that it will be an exciting and oh-so-very-satisfying conclusion to our journey.  

This is going to be just what I want it to be.  I can already tell.  How, you ask? 
One line.  One fabulously active and awesome line (that’s not even in the book).

“Let’s finish this the way we started…together!”

…which Harry says before throwing his arms around Voldemort’s neck and launching them off the top of Hogwarts. 

GAAAAAH! 

Yes, Harry.  Let’s do just that.  I’ll be right there with you.

* Yes, I have done this once before in college when one of the films came out within two days of my birthday.  And I carried a dorky plastic party-favor wand with a button that made it light up.  And I loved it.  I suppose it should come as no surprise that I was one of the people who waited in line at midnight for the release of the seventh book.  Judge if you want, but it was a BLAST.  We played games, wore glow-in-the-dark Potter glasses and fake tattoos, read the last chapter of the sixth book while waiting, and I even won the lottery to be first in line at midnight!!!  It was such a fun night with my roommate, who was geeking out just as much as I was.  I don’t really do this with anything else, and it’s actually pretty fun letting go like that.  Getting a bit unabashedly obsessed.  We stayed up til at least 4 am that night reading, excitedly discussing big surprises as we reached them.  I miss getting to make an event like that and, while it is definitely sad that this is the last time a Harry Potter installment will be released mid-summer, I am not going to miss my chance to see it out with a bang.

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