Monday, August 20, 2012

Vegging Out

First I have to do something annoying: complain about the weather.

Is there anything more futile than bitching about the weather? I can't change it. I can't control it. I have absolutely no dominion over the clouds in the sky. The best I can do is change my location, something I am going to attempt to do this week because this miserable, pervasive, depressing, soul sucking fog that hangs over SF for the entirety of July and August is DRIVING ME INSANE.

If you are unfamiliar, a little geography/meteorology lesson: San Francisco is a coastal city. To the East of SF are valleys. Anyone who has lived here for any period of time becomes intimately familiar with this truth. Because those valleys to the East mean that the cold coastal air gets sucked over the hills into the valleys to cool things off. But at the same time that happens, the hot air that sits in those valleys rises. The cold coastal air crashes into the hot valley air and creates...wait for it...FOG.

As luck would have it, I live right underneath the point where the cold air and hot air crash into each other and create that mess of clouds. Right. Underneath. This is not hyperbole, for once. It can quite literally be foggy ONLY in my neighborhood. I can drive fifteen minutes in any direction, save for West, because that's ocean, and find that big orange ball in the sky. Drove my parents to the airport last week and thought their flight would be delayed as we drove underneath misty wet fog. But no sooner do we take the 280 curve past Serramonte than the skies miraculously (or not so, having just explained the weather here to you) are clear and bright.

I HATE fog. Hate hate hate hate hate. I am never more depressed than during SF summers. While everyone is sweltering, I am walking around in a hoodie and Uggs (don't even judge my Uggs) because IT'S FUCKING COLD. Most evenings when I walk my dog, I feel like I'm in a thriller set in London. Sherlock Holmes is gonna jump out and solve a mystery, as the thick, wet fog hangs low, and I can't see down the street due to the fog, just the vague glow of street lights. Which all sounds very romantic, right? Who doesn't like the thought of a nice warm fire and reading some Arthur Conan Doyle because it fits the weather? EXCEPT IT'S AUGUST! I want some fucking sun! I want a tan! I want to actually wear a pair of shorts!

Some people love this. My Buffalo raised grandmother spent 65+ years of her life in SF and was one of those people who would complain when it was above 70 or below 60. The temperate climate suited her and it was hard to imagine she'd ever braved Buffalo's frigid winters and sweltering summers. But she chose San Francisco. Well, the Coast Guard sent her here during WWII and she met my grandfather so she chose HIM and SF was ancillary, but still! She didn't choose to go find a beau in Buffalo. She stayed here.

I, for whatever serendipitous turns led me to Baton Rouge, quickly discovered I downright thrived in sweltering Louisiana humidity. I'd go walk the campus lakes at midday during the summer without a second thought. Sure sure, I could go back to my apartment and set the A/C to 60 and sleep comfortably at night. I'm not saying I want to live in July Louisiana without modern conveniences. But the point remains: I love that heat. I miss 45 minute, 3 in the afternoon cleansing thunderstorms (so long as I don't have to drive in them because that still terrifies me). I miss sitting outside drinking on a porch. And yes, this is a bit of an idealized view of life in Louisiana. But it's not far off. Night games at the Box, or even at Tiger Stadium in late October, don't often require the use of a light sweater:

All of which is a really long way of saying: I sat my ass on the couch and watched movies all weekend and now I'm going to dispense my thoughts on movies you likely saw a year or more ago because the weather was too miserable and depressing for me to contemplate doing anything else.

To complete this movie watching weekend, I "renewed" Netflix so I could watch movies on my computer. I haven't used the service in awhile, canceling my subscription because $8 a month is more than I can afford. So I re-upped under a different email address so I get a free month, being sure to set a calendar reminder to cancel so as to not get charged. Working the system, yo. (If you haven't seen the movies below, you might not want to read because I'm going to discuss plot.)

First I was, naturally, in the mood for a little romantic comedy. A category that I find Netflix is surprisingly light on new and interesting titles. Or I've just watched every romcom known to man which makes it a little difficult to find something new. But I saw that they had Chalet Girl, the previews of which were appropriately teen driven comedy with a side of romance. This is likely unsurprising but I really liked it. Let me explain: It passes the Bechdel test. It's far more about girl in her late teens trying to make something of herself after overcoming a tragedy/snooty rich people/foreign environment than it is about Ed Westwick being the sad rich boy or her pursuit of him. (What is is about him? He seems so smarmy and sort of condescendingly British and yet I find him attractive/the only reason I tune into Gossip Girl on rare occasions.) The romance portion is only about 1/3 of the film and sort of predictable afterthought. It's funny, sweet, shows a girl taking on a rough sport and is completely mindless fun. The lead girl played by Felicity Jones I believe is being set up as the next it girl, which wouldn't be a bad way to go. She's pretty adorable. Bill Nighy plays the rich father of Ed Westwick. I love Bill Nighy. I don't know why except for that distinguished British thing but I have a little bit of a highly inappropriate Bill Nighy crush. Oh, and though I'm admittedly no music aficionado, I thought it had great music.

After light romance, I went action with Captain America. I've been wanting to catch up on all these pre-Avenger movies so I could eventually see The Avengers but they haven't been available on our OnDemand which is bullshit. Lo, Netflix has all the prequel movies. I started with Captain America because I would watch Chris Evans read the phone book. Or at least I thought I would. I was really unimpressed with Captain America. I wanted to like it. But all the things that make Steve Rogers so likable as the underdog, his cleverness and humility, are lost when he becomes Captain America. He still has his humanity, which is nice, but he a) is kind of a joke and b) just a big muscly guy now. Frankly, I was rooting for 90lb weakling Steve Rogers more than I was Captain America and that absurd costume. You couldn't just be a big dude without a silly costume? And maybe it's because I studied too much about story formation but the second they introduced Sebastian Stan's character I was like, "Oh, you're a goner." I also rightfully predicted his death would be the catalyst for Captain America "doing what had to be done." Don't watch movies with me. I'm the worst. Or: blame Joseph Campbell. Or: I suck with the willing suspension of disbelief even though we all generally know how these plots go.

Also, from the annals of "Lisa is a total asshole": I was watching the movie annoyed that the logo for Hydra was an octopus and not a multi-headed beast and thought to myself, "I don't understand how people can not have a working knowledge of greek mythology." Yeah. That's a pretty absurd fucking expectation of modern society. Still! When even wiki says that Hydra is named after the Lernaean hydra of greek mythology, you'd think they'd get the symbol right. It's not arms growing back that make it unstoppable, it's the head. Which they even reference in the film, part of Hydra's mantra.

I really liked Captain America's wacky band of misfit compatriots but the story didn't spend enough time with them. I was shocked that Neal McDonough was playing not a bad guy. I thought that was his thing.

I guess I have problems with the fact that this, and the two other movies I watched later were giant set ups for The Avengers. They spend so much time setting up the mythology and the history of each character, the movie tends to be light on actual plot movement. Which is fine for the shutting off your brain and having fun part, I suppose. But I'd actually gladly sit through a 3 hour movie that expanded on plot points than the lowest common denominator version sent out to theaters. Oh, and the romance in Captain America felt totally superfluous, and a bit annoying.

Also: social commentary time. I don't know what the body count in Captain America is, but it's gotta be high. It's just weird that in comic book based action movies the violence is devoid of blood or the accuracy of death. I realize that's the genre, I'm not watching for accuracy the way I would Saving Private Ryan, or even for gore, the way you watch something by Tarantino, but I still find it odd that we go without any realism there, allowing us to sort of negate the carnage and likely desensitize us.

Finally, the ending. You find out you've been frozen in ice for 70 years and you're first thought is "I had a date"? Not, "This technology is crazy and I'm totally freaked out by what's going on right now"? I understand that our hero is used to things outside the norm happening but come on. Chris Evans is still pretty though.

For no particular reason other than I like hockey and the movie had some good reviews from what I recall, I watched Goon. I loved it. Love. As opposed to the lack of blood and gore in Captain America, we have blood on the ice and a tooth being spit 30 seconds into Goon. I don't know if I recommend it if you don't have a passing interest in hockey but it's not as goofy, or even as funny, as I think clips made it out to be. It obviously has light moments but it's far more heartfelt than I was led to believe. (I hate movie advertising generally. It's like they have 5 defined genres to work with and every movie ever gets pigeonholed into one of those, regardless of if that's accurate or not. Indie movies, which is really what Goon is, have a hard time overcoming the "comedy" label when it's really more "lighthearted drama", if that makes any sense.)

If you are interested: Goon is the story of a guy who is sort of lost in life, working as a bouncer, who discovers that his ability to solve problems with his fists is an asset to a struggling hockey team and he gets hired as an enforcer: the guy you put on the ice for the sole purpose of fighting the other team's enforcer and sending a message. Our particular goon also has the job of protecting the obnoxious, big moneyed Quebecois player, and his earnestness wins the team over. He falls for the Allison Pill character. Man I wish THAT Allison Pill character was in The Newsroom and not the fumbling one that is. She's brassy and ballsy and uncompromising. I'm not gonna lie that I felt a little bit of kindred spirit-ness with her character.

There's a lot of fisticuffs with a lot of blood and it's not all happy and light, but has great little moments like a wacky goalie who names his posts and the Slavic players who are just odd. It's a lot like its predecessor Slap Shot, which I also don't find to be that hysterical of a movie, though charming for all the right reasons.

The following day I picked back up with the pre-Avengers movies and started watching Thor. I liked the Thor is from land far away part. I did not like Natalie Portman is a goddamn PhD in astrophysics who loses her mind and does that insane giggly thing the second she meets blonde haired, strapping, man-child from planet far far away. I'm not saying that even smart women can't occasionally lose their minds in the face of really pretty, strapping dudes. In fact, I know this to be true from personal experience. I'm just saying that being the sum total of her character, at the service of this man, was annoying when she obviously had her own brains and issues. I wanted to explore more of the Stellan Skarsgard knows her dad from back in the day plot point and how she became this free thinking astrophysicists willing to accept the far out there more than the "Teeheehee! Thor is pretty!" thing. Not that she was wrong, Thor is pretty, it just shouldn't be completely who she is.

I was halfway through Thor when they introduced the Hawkeye character and I felt like I had missed something because I watched things out of order. So I paused that and went back and watched Iron Man 2. Probably wasn't a bad call switching halfway through as there are actually a bunch of allusions to Thor in Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2...was Iron Man 2. It's hard for me to take Gwyneth Paltrow seriously at all with her whole Goop thing. I actually liked ScarJo once they unleashed her badass side and I would have liked more of that. The Tony Stark billionaire bad boy thing was a little over played. But the unintentionally funniest part of that movie, hands down, was Mickey Rourke as hacker computer genius guy. You had me at bad ass Russian madman. You lost me when you put him in front of a computer screen. The him typing away on a keyboard was hysterical. And not on purpose.

I know I sound snarktastic about all this. I really did enjoy myself watching all these movie. I'm just critical of movies, even when they're fun. And lest you think all I did was watch movies, I did take a three mile-ish walk along Ocean Beach on Sunday afternoon. I haven't done a walk on sand in a long time. My hips did not thank me. Not enjoying this age of generalized aches and pains, you guys.

Since I was done with all the Avenger prequels, I had to move on. With the aforementioned Bill Nighy crush I stumbled on Wild Target. It also had Emily Blunt who we all know is my bff. Bill Nighy plays an assassin who is supposed to kill Emily Blunt but things go awry and hijinks ensue. Along with Rupert Grint in a not Harry Potter role and Martin Freeman playing a competitor. It was hilarious. If uptight British humor is your thing. It's totally my thing. It's not perfect, I have questions, but I won't give away plot points here because I actually want you to go watch this one. Then let's discuss.

Lest you think the end of the weekend mean the end of my vegetative state, it didn't! My parents had OnDemand watched Haywire. I didn't want that rental to go to waste so I watched it while folding laundry. It's very Soderbergh. Slowly unwinding plot, lots of long shots set to vaguely jazzy soundtrack. Not that that means it was bad. It wasn't. Thoroughly enjoyable, if not a bit violent. (For some reason, hand to hand combat is often more cringe inducing to me than any sort of firearms battle. Much more...intimate?) There's this moment when Gina Corano knows she is about to fight Michael Fassbender (coming more and more around to him as a hot guy, that's for sure) where she takes off her heels. I totally appreciated that. That the MMA chick shows how it really is done, that women aren't usually engaged in hand to hand combat in Louboutins, was a nice nod. Thanks for being human, Gina!

And there you have it. A weekend of vegging out. Including a Monday. Tomorrow is back to the gym/eating way less junk food. And finding some freaking sun. I really need to see the sun.

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