Monday, October 15, 2012

All the Movies

Sundays around here are hungover watch all the Netflix ever days.

After careful analysis, I've discovered that what I really like are what I term "small" movies. Ya know, sort of character driven, two or three main actors, taking the small moments of life and making them grand kind of movies. They tend to be a bit Indie in nature. But they're well made. Generally. They might all be described as "quirky". They're the opposite end of the spectrum from big budget, big action flicks.

So on Sundays, when I don't want to watch things blow up, I gravitate towards these.

1. Goats. Disclaimer: I read the novel this book is based on a few years ago, after picking it up on discount at Green Apple on Chestnut. It caught my eye at the book store because it was written by my undergrad short story writing professor. He was hot. And not into girls. Which I didn't know at the time. I asked him for a reference once to an MFA program (that I didn't get in to), shortly after Larry McMurtry name checked my former professor in McMurtry's Brokeback Mountain Oscar acceptance speech, as this former professor of mine encouraged McMurtry to turn Annie Proulx's short story (who I am also partial to, as she writes sort of "small" stories as well that never ever have happy endings) into the screen play. He didn't remember me and declined to write it. Which I don't hold against him, fair enough. (My other favorite college prof, AmLit I, declined too saying his was a survey course and not a writing course thus he couldn't evaluate my writing talents. When I applied to law school, the poli sci and history profs I used had no objections. Ah, winds of fate. (Not that the references were the deciding factor in me getting rejected from the MFA.))

Anyway, because I liked this prof and his class (what's not to like? I wrote short stories for college credits. That were probably bad and I mercifully don't have to reread because they were lost in a computer crash before we saved everything on clouds), and liked his novel of a sort of non-traditional prep school coming of age story, I was predisposed to like this movie.

Despite my above stated bias: it's good. I like Vera Farmiga. And David Duchovny. And Phil from Modern Family. It's a weird story about a kid, with one of those crazy faux hippie mom's, from Arizona, going to boarding school on the East Coast and reconnecting with his estranged father. With some goats thrown in and a drug muling escapade into Mexico. And a teenage hooker played by Don Johnson and Melanie Griffin's very pretty offspring (freaking genetics). It's not as richly layered as the book, but that's to be expected in a movie. Definitely worth a watch and something I might even revisit because I think there are things I missed.

2. Paper Man. I had quite literally never heard of this movie until it popped up as a recommendation on Netflix. Which seems impossible. It stars Jeff Daniels, whose career is on an upswing with the Aaron Sorkin TV show, Emma Stone who is the most adorable thing ever and has a pretty good track record of her own, and Ryan Reynolds, who I can actually usually leave as he is SO BORING, but pretty and popular, playing an imaginary superhero. And yet had no awareness of this movie's existence.

It was excellent.

Writer Jeff Daniel's character heads to Montauk to work on his second novel. But is of course blocked and hampered by a weird OCD tick. His wife, a prickly doctor, visits less and less frequently. His other guest is his imaginary superhero friend, Captain Excellent. Then he bumps into Emma Stone's inappropriately young for him character, who has her own issues, and they develop a weird, unexpected friendship.

What I like about this film, and Goats, and more to follow on this list, is that I watch them and think, I wish I'd written that. I wish I had the creativity to come up with these magical little slice of life stories where nothing big is happening, they aren't heroic journey movies (except that they are in that they follow the Campbell model of such), but that are somehow relatable and yet outside of the average person's experience.

There's also a really great speech about homemade soup in this film that, as someone who makes her own soup and has been chided for it, I particularly love.

3. One Week. I'd avoided this flick for awhile, it's constant display on the main page of my Netflix recommendations ignored. I thought it would be your typical road trip/existential crisis story. I also wasn't really sold on Joshua Jackson of The Might Ducks/Dawson's Creek as a serious lead. Then I read a list of movies that illustrate different part of Canada well, I think via Andrew, and this was highly recommended so I gave it a shot. This is a road trip movie. But through Canada which has a different feel than if it were through the U.S. And is gorgeous.

Where the movie has the chance to become overly sweet, it doesn't. Which for my uptight nature is appreciated. I hate treacle. It's a pretty straight forward look at an existential crisis in the face of terminal illness against gorgeous sprawling vistas and no overacting by Pacey, but the emotions that were on display felt honest. And if I ever have the money, the presidential sweet in Banff looks like my kind of digs.

4. L!fe Happens. Despite the super annoying exclamation point in the title, I saw this available as a new offering on Netflix and jumped all over it. Yeah, I was probably unhealthy excited for a new Netflix movie.

I've liked Krysten Ritter since she played the long legged daughter of the mayor in Veronica Mars, the best noir teen detective show ever, and I'd heard a bit about this movie when it came out. But I don't make it a point to go out to and see these kinds of movies in theaters.

The premise seems light: party girl gets pregnant, has a baby, hijinks ensue.

There are some plot issues. Like wtf hasn't Hollywood caught up with the morning after pill yet? They skip over the agonizing decision portion and you start with one night stand and skip ahead a year, which is fine for the point of storytelling but...come ON! Most modern girls pony up the $50-ish for morning after before being like, "Sure! Let's have a baby! With a total stranger!" At least in my real world experience. So. Ya know. Willing suspension of disbelief there.

The rest is how this mom figures out how to be a mom and the screw ups along the way in becoming an adult. (Something I sure as hell haven't mastered yet.) But not with like your typical "OMG how do I change a diaper?!" humor. More like, "How do I balance the desire to still be fun and single with that I have a child?" It felt more nuanced than anything Apatow has ever done in the same genre.

Her love interest is played by Geoff Stults. I have to go on a hot guy digression here, sorry. He was recently in The Finder, which Fox canceled but might be worth checking out on the Interwebs if you like...wait for it...quirk. (This is apparently a theme. Or something I gravitate towards. I guess I like weird little off kilter worlds?) Anyway. I liked him fine in The Finder and remember him from rare incredibly bored glimpses of Seventh Heaven and even from watching October Road (I watch all the bad TV. All. Of. It.), but this was the first time that I was like, "Whoa. Super adorable. And human. And strapping. And adorable." He was just...the kind of guy I would totally want to date. At least in this role he was. In real life I don't know. And wouldn't have a chance in hell because his leggy long time girlfriend left him for Clooney so... I mean, if you're gonna upgrade, that's about the only way to do it.

It helps that he's my type. I never thought I had a type. Then Cheryl laughed hysterically at this and said, "You DEFINITELY have a type." He's it. It could best be described as tall and Midwestern. But also cerebral. That's my type. I'm just not married (heh) to a type, am open to the experiences of the universe, which is why I never thought I had a type. But former tight end? Yep. The white boy tight ends are totally my type. (I blame LSU's former #88 Abram Booty for this. And maybe a smidge of a misguided Jess Smargahfdhagh crush. (I'm not name checking the spelling. He played at Notre Dame. Now "pitches" for the Cubs. Quotes are fair there.)) Lineman are also my type. I like big dudes because I am not, and never will be, defined as tiny. Something safe about big dudes. Anyway, the sandy blonde haired, slightly mischievous and yet a little awkward tall dude in this role is completely my type. /digression

While the plot may have been ever so slightly uneven, the growing up theme is always relatable in my world. Even Kate Bosworth was likable and I usually can't stand her. And Justin Kirk was in it too, who also must like quirk because he was in Goats as well.

5. The Avengers. The exception to the big action/big budget movie rule. I was all over this. Chuck bought the BluRay and since we, inexplicably, do not have a BluRay player, I got the straight DVD version of the movie from his pack. As previously noted, I'd caught up on all the prequel movies a few weeks ago.

THIS is what all those prequels were leading to. THIS was awesome. Awe. Some. I mean, I imagine most of the rest of the world has already seen this and I'm behind but, yeah. This.

First of all: female superhero Black Widow kicked all kinds of ass and the hints at a messy back story means she was fully fleshed out and not just the token pretty girl. And she was funny. The whole thing was funny really, there are some great sort of head nods that I think are missing in some comic book based action movies that try to take themselves too seriously. So it was clever and fun and action adventure packed. Even for me, who has a hard time usually with the willing suspension of disbelief. Flying air craft carrier? HELL YES WHY DO WE NOT HAVE ONE OF THOSE AMERICA!?

The movie also, after initially not loving Captain America, moved me in the other direction. And solidified my life goal of making out with Chris Evans. (Kidding. Kinda. Maybe. Not really.)

I follow a tumblr that is comic book heavy and it makes all these jokes about the homoerotic undertones between Captain American and Iron Man. It's nice to finally get those jokes now. Because IT IS TRUE. Which I have to imagine the director knew when he was doing it. I fully appreciate it.

The one weak link is Samuel L. Jackson. He's one of those guys, like Eastwood and Allen, who doesn't play a character so much as plays himself. And he just kinda grates on me. I didn't think this one manipulation thing he did was necessary but...whatever. It's a truly minor quibble and doesn't take away from the film overall.

I even sort of love Loki because he's just so damn petulant. You're like, "I'm sorry you were adopted, can you stop being a colossal asshat now?"

Now, don't get me wrong. There's no big overriding message here and there are a few more holes in the plot I could point out. But mostly it was a fantastic ride. I'll be watching this again. And again. And then again.

The less thrilled with:

1. Water for Elephants. I read the novel when I was briefly part of a book club. I didn't love it then, even though I believe it was pretty popular. It was just...flat. The movie did a good job of being really pretty. But that's about it. I was horrified at the animal cruelty parts, even though I understand the process of filmmaking. I'm one of those "blow up as many people as you want" types, but can't handle animal deaths. If you recall from another recent post, it's why I can't get through the Neverending Story, where the horse dies. Guess what happens twenty minutes into WFE?! Ughh.

I don't really have a Robert Pattinson opinion, as I've never seen any Twilight films. He mostly stayed out of the way. The movie seemed to be focused on cinematography and atmosphere so his speaking was actually pretty limited. And it was a well done film. I just didn't find it very compelling.

My main problem was with Reese Witherspoon playing the gorgeous, enigmatic romantic lead. I just find her incredibly frigid. Stiff. Not full of life. So I was never sold on her playing the free spirited circus star who climbs on horses and elephants. I guess she has her charm and people like her enough that she keeps getting roles but I'm not a huge fan. Exception: She was in a really twisted movie called Freeway when she, and I, were younger. I watched it in high school. It blew my mind. And I have been known to perhaps indulge in Sweet Home Alabama when I stumble across it on TV. But screw that "I went to Harvard law!" ditzy sorority bunny movie.

(I actually watched this on HBO OnDemand so I doubt it's available on Netflix. But you're skipping it anyway, because I already watched it.)

2. Not Since You and The Lather Effect. Every high school/college weekend reunion of a small group of friends movie should just be called "Not The Big Chill". They all want to be The Big Chill. None of them are.

Not Since You was the lesser of these two, mainly because it didn't have Connie Britton and Kathleen Robertson keeps her clothes on, unlike her role in Boss. It was also talky, contrived, and utterly predictable. Don't waste your time.

The Lather Effect, while not perfect, features a large majority of the movie with Connie Britton wearing different early-80s Madonna outfits. That alone may be enough reason to watch for some of you. I mean, how great is Mrs. Coach? Really great. The rest of the plot is, like I said, pretty predictable. Who is still in love with who, did you make the right choices back then, are you happy where you are now, existential 20 years after graduation stuff. But if you're bored on a hungover afternoon, you could do worse than this. Like watching Not Since You. Oh, and Eric Stoltz has sort of a minor role in it but he was really great.

3. Answer This! Can we go ahead and outlaw exclamation points in titles? Let's do that. As a bit of a trivia geek, I thought I'd really enjoy a movie based around pub trivia. But as with most things associated with the University of Michigan, it sucked. "Whaaa my dad got me a tenured professorship in the history department at UMich but I need to go be my own man!" Oh shove it. Being your own man is overrated. Take the job. Especially in this economy. Your bible as narrative knowledge has absolutely no use anywhere else. Trust.

You want to watch a "college is hard" movie? Go with the amazing Real Genius. Or even Back to School.

4. Overnight and Five Star Day. Nope. Nuh uh. Noooope. Five Star Day: Oh Cam Gigondent. Stop trying to do anything besides be pretty. Please. Stop.

Overnight had a workable premise and when the whole "having an entire relationship in five hours" wasn't really annoying, it was kind of cute. But nope. Save yourselves. And I watched both of them all the way through. Apparently I'm a bit of a masochist.

And that's pretty much it from the last time I wrote about hungover Sunday movie watching. Which, I would like to point out, is limited to Sunday because while I ratchet up my anxiety to a million with my insane college football fandom, which is accompanied by excessive drinking, little slice of life movies help me calm back down as I ponder life and wonder why the dog insists on being walked every day shhhh mommy has a headache.

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