Monthly Archives: May 2015

Mary and Max

I hardly have words for how much this movie charmed and delighted me.

It premiered on the opening night of the Sundance festival in 2009, the very first animated film to do so, but it’s taken me all this time to learn of it and watch it.

mary-and-max_154214It’s beautifully animated in very nearly black and white stop-motion, rich in details. Truly, I could have watched this movie in slow motion just to appreciate all of the work that went into each and every piece. You can see the love and attention that went into this; artists laboured for over a year, building 133 separate sets, 212 puppets, and 475 miniature props, including a tiny but fully-functional Underwood typewriter that took 9 weeks to design and build.

Mary (Toni Colette) and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are unlikely pen pals – one, a young and ostracized young girl from Australia who believes babies come from beer steins, and the other, a morbidly obese New Yorker who is autistic in a time before that diagnosis is really made or understood. They are each in desperate need of a friend, and somehow manage to find one in each other.

This movie very deftly and sensitively tackles all kinds of issues, from Max’s fragile mental maxhealth, to atheism, childhood neglect, even to Mary’s war vet neighbour who is agoraphobic (“He’s scared of going outside which is a disease called homophobia.”)

The film is tragic at times, but has this pervasive sweetness to it that makes everything bearable. The story is often told via letters exchanged between the two, which some may find a little quiet, but I’m a sucker for animated films made for adults, and this one I’m all over. The characters have this bold honesty that I couldn’t get enough of (In her first letter, Mary encloses a drawing of herself  with the caveat “I can’t draw ears properly but I’m great at teeth”; in one of his responses, Max asks, in typical random fashion, “Have you ever been a communist? Have you ever been attacked by a crow or a similar large bird?”) Honestly, I watched this movie like it was my favourite book, or the greatest dessert – savouring it, delighting in it, racing toward the culmination but dreading the end.

Lots of the visuals are their own little jokes, but blink and you’ll miss them (keep your eyes peeled for clever epitaphs on the graves). One of my personal favourites was that some of the mary and maxstamps used by Mary featured Dame Edna, whom I love, have loved since childhood, while it was Barry Humphries himself who narrates the film. So delicious.

Director Adam Elliot is also behind the Oscar-winning short Harvie Krumpet – worth a viewing all on its own, but also a good barometer for the tone of Mary and Max. It never got a theatrical release in North America but it’s available on Netflix right this minute, and if you check it out now, I guarantee it’s not a minute too soon.

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San Andreas – not the Rock’s fault!

I just liked the title, it’s not a knock on this movie.  San Andreas was actually surprisingly enjoyable.  I am biased because as you may know I like when things blow up.  Well, the sheer amount of destruction on screen here probably tops 2012 (the movie not the year).  Which of course was centred around the Mayan apocalypse.  This is just two little states getting smashed, but my god, so much smash!

I go into these movies expecting cliches and this movie has all of them.  Including one I could have done without, the scuzzy new boyfriend of the ex of the male lead.  And he is super scuzzy, Mr. Fantastic he is not.  I felt like he was included just so we could get behind some of the disaster, like maybe if he dies it will be easier to forget the thousands more that are swept away with him.  You be the judge I guess.  For me, I always just assume everyone else died at the end of these movies, even though they tell us in cliched news footage that most were okay.  In San Andreas, it did not seem like anyone except the Rock and his family were walking away at the end.  The other CG rag dolls just added to the triumph.

I liked it.  Every ludicrous minute.  Critics drive me nuts when they give a movie like this a one star review.  You know what?  This is not Oscar material.  We came here to see some shit get torn up.  And San Andreas delivers to a fault!!!!

I give it a score of 31,250 atom bombs out of 40,000.

Savage Grace

At this year’s Oscar ceremony, Julianne Moore took home the statuette for her work in Still Alice while Eddie Redmayne won best actor for The Theory of Everything – but did you know the two savagegrace1-1295283680were once co-stars in a twisted little mother-son movie that didn’t quite make it to Matt’s list, or, I’m guessing to anyone else’s.

Let me ask you a question, straight up: have you ever seen an incestuous threesome (with Hugh Dancy in the middle!), and if not, do you want to rectify that?

Answering yes to that question is probably the only reason you should ever watch Savage Grace.

I suppose the acting’s fine, or very fine, but the subject matter is stilted and nobody quite knows 3673_10_screenshotwhat to do with it. We’re talking about the real-life story of of Barbara Daly, who married above her station to Brooks Baekeland, the dashing heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. They have exactly one child, a son, Tony, who becomes not just her son but also her replacement-husband. They become…close. Uncomfortably close, by anyon’e standards, ever. She tries to cure his homosexual tendencies by…unconventional means that are also illegal and immoral and explicitly forbidden in the Bible. Ahem.

This can’t possibly end well, can it?

Annoying As Fuck

Some people just rub you the wrong way.

1. Anna Kendrannakenteethick – You already know I can be a little mean about Anna Kendrick. I can’t seem to look past her terrible horse teeth. Like, I would lay my hand very, very flat when feeding her a sugar cube. And I’m pretty sure she paid for them! I haven’t found her good or even watchable in anything. I keep giving her chances and she keeps being so goddamned Anna Kendricky in everything, chattering away at top speed as if we’ll mistake hyperactivity for charm, following around her ginormous chompers like they’re the ones taking the direction. And maybe they are. Maybe she’s just a parasite attached to giant, sentient teeth. To be fair, that’s probably not the case, but you have to admit it’s a possibility.

2. Anne Hathaway – Anne Hathaway may be the Big-Toothed Dentition Dictator who recruited

"Woo. This is happening. Thank you very much for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self doubt"

“Woo. This is happening. Thank you very much for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self doubt”

Anna Kendrick into the army of sentient horse teeth. I know it’s not their fault that they can’t fit their teeth in their mouths, but it is their fault that they keep pointing their gaping pieholes at us and flapping their gums in self-important ways. Anne Hathaway is insufferable. Hathaway’s so in love with her own performance in Les Miserables she actually described the filming as “I felt like I sprouted a pair of wings and lifted off of the ground.” So, you know, super humble.

 

3. Judy Greer – She’s awful and screechy and though she helpfully has remained not quite a Judy-Greerleading lady, she does pop in everything. Every word she’s ever spoken has come out in a hissy whine and her face is as pinched and puckered as I imagine her asshole must be. I see from the trailers that she’s appearing briefly in the new Jurassic Park movie, and I can only hope that though she appears to get left out of the action, that somehow she manages to have her face ripped off by dinosaur who saw 27 Dresses and is still bitter about it.

4. Jennifer Lawrence – I know this one will likely get me in trouble. She’s kind of the ‘it’ girl right now but her “look-at-me, aren’t I an adorable goofball” antics just don’t seem genuine. I’m pretty sure she’s faked several of her on-camera falls. She’s saying all the right things, body-positive, girl power crap that’s meant to make her sound relatable even when she’s draped in jlawfinger2Dior. But these sound bites have a habit of sounding very, very manufactured to me. Like her assistant is feeding her lines hand-crafted by a very clever and highly-paid publicist – just not clever enough to get by me. Every story she shares with media outlets sound perfectly designed to make her sound down to earth, while also humble-bragging about how many celebrities she knows and how cool she is. I’ve never liked her in anything, although to be fair, I’ve plain old not liked her movies, period. Hated American Hustle. Didn’t care for Silver Linings Playbook. Nobody on the planet liked Serena. And Hunger Games is meant for children, so it’s fine that I don’t like them, but if I ever hear that song of hers from her more recent HG movie on the radio again, Imma lose my shit (although come to think of it, do I hate it more or less than I hate Anna Kendricks’ Cups?). The very fact that Chris Martin seems to have replaced Gwyneth Paltrow with Jennifer Lawrence should probably tell us all we need to know. The dude tinkles around on the piano quite nicely, but he loves a self-congratulating, self-righteous dumb blonde who doesn’t have an authentic bone in her body.

Grosse Pointe Blank

I dug this old DVD out from our shelves recently because one of the Assholes (coughSeancough) is just old enough to be attending his own high school reunion. It’s impractical to tease him about it 24 hours a day, so I took a 107 minute break to watch this movie.

John Cusack is attending his own high school reunion in this movie – his 10th – and going back to grossepointeGrosse Point, Michigan means confronting the feisty prom date he stood up a decade ago (Minnie Driver) and his tenacious feelings for her. Oh, and did I mention he’s a hitman? You’d think ‘professional assassin’ would be a card you kept close to your chest, but actually Martin Blank plays it frequently, confessing to anyone who will listen, only no one ever believes him. I mean, would you, Sean, take the kid who repeatedly forgot his geography homework seriously if he told you he killed people for money? Or would it take finding a bloody corpse with a Bic pen sticking out of his neck crumpled by your old locker to think “Gee, this guy might be a psychopath”?

Going back to your old haunt after so many years away is never easy, and to be honest, I believe that high school reunions are for two types of people: 1) the geeks and nerds who have grown up to be either hot or rich or preferably both 2) the popular kids who ruled and peaked in high school and now, having gone down hill, want to relive their glory days. Not my cup of tea.

And for spouses, it’s even more awkward. This is not your school. These people are not and never were your friends. I liken it to being in a grocery store full of strangers, only for some reason you’re required to shake everyone’s hand and stand around making chit-chat with them as if you care. And you don’t care. You don’t want to see pictures of their stupid kids. You’re there for one of two reasons: either 1) you’re a trophy wife to show off or 2) you’re a crutch for when your spouse’s old high school insecurities start to flare. And now you’re obliged to stand around in uncomfortable shoes for hours while people you don’t know reminisce about things you weren’t there for. And it’s pointless to get invested – these people haven’t spoken to each other for 20 years and will go back to ignoring one another until their 40th. No one really cares, they just want to see and be seen. They hope that their social standing will have improved. They hope their successes will compare favourably to their peers’. But they don’t really care. If they really cared, they wouldn’t have lost touch. I mean, hello, it’s the age of Facebook. Aren’t high school reunions kind of obsolete now? What’s stopped you from Facebook-stalking any of these losers? They’re just somebodies that you used to know.

Okay, you can see that I’m hard on this whole high school reunion thing. I don’t get it. Have you been to yours? Would you? Was it terrible? I’m watching movies to prep myself, because that’s what I do. Next up: Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. That should be educational, right?

Mother-Son Movies

TMP

I dedicate my submission to Wandering Through the Shelves’ Thursday Movie Picks this week to my own mom. She gave me life and unconditional love and, on Mother’s Day, I took her to brunch.

sixth sense

Toni Collette is no stranger to playing a mom with a lot on her plate but she’s never been in more over her head than in The Sixth Sense )1999)   Single mom Lynn Sear has no idea that her 10 year-old son can see dead people but she can tell that something not right with him. To me, her performance as a mother who just wants to help but doesn’t know how isthe best part of the movie and Haley Joel Osment’s scenes with her are far more believeable than his with Bruce willis. I expressed my enthusiasm for the final mother-son scene in the movie in 10 Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away.

Millions

Speaking of kids who see dead people, seven year-old Damian is frequently visited by dead saints in Millions (2004). There’s a whole lot going on in my personal favourite of Danny Boyle’s films but- for the purposes of our belated Mother’s Day- Damian’s obsessions with saints seems to come from the conviction that his recently deceased mother must be a saint now herself. The appearance of his newly-sainted mom at the end of the film is just plain beautiful.

squid and the whale

When his parents separate after 17 years of marraige, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) defends his father (Jeff Daniels) and rejects his mother (Laura Linney) in The Squid and the Whale (2005). Walt idolizes his father so much that he basically becomes his clone. When following in his father’s footsteps starts getting him into trouble and he starts seeing his dad’s true colours, he is surprised to find himself thinking of treasured memories of his mother from long ago- before he had chosen sides.

Meanwhile in San Fransisco…: 6 Simple Steps to Liking a Shitty Movie

Finding myself at a midnight screening of The Room on Saturday, I was completely unprepared. If you haven’t already seen Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece of unintended comedy, the first thing you need to do to get the most out of your experience is to manage your expectations. You’re not going to enjoy this movie the way you would, say, Birdman, The Imitation Game, or even The Avengers. Wiseau, who is equally misguided as producer, director, writer, and star, has made what Entertainment Weekly went on to call “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”. Several theaters around the world screen The Room on a monthly basis, drawing enthusiastic “fans” every time. It’s a bad movie but they seem to enjoy it. Here’s how you can too.

1. Remember, kids. You don’t need alcohol to have a good night out. Unless you’re watching The Room. You’ll need a few drinks to wash this one down.

2. Don’t, under any circumstances, watch this one alone. You’ll need a movie buddy. Maybe even a whole group. Choose your company well. They should be able to make you laugh easily. The more sarcastic the better. There’ll be lots to make fun of.

The Room
3. If you catch a screening, be prepared  for people to talk, even yell, during the movie. That’s part of the fun. Several rituals have developed over the years from the Room cult, involving pre-prepared responses for specific parts of the movie. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with those. You can pretty much yell whatever you want at the screen. This is one theater you will not get shushed.

4. Pay attention because the director didn’t. The plot holes, continuity errors, and technical fuck-ups are glaring and, if you’re keeping your eyes open, you won’t be able to believe what survived the editing process. Watch out in particular for the front door. The actors will often need you to remind them to close it.the room 2

5. There’s no easy way to get through the many awkward sex scenes. My advice is to just be thankful that Wiseau didn’t get his way. He wanted them to be twice as long.

6. Beware falling spoons. It’s tradition in some theaters to hurl a handful of plastic spoons at the screen during several scenes because… well, you’ll see. You can bring spoons of your own or just wait for them to literally fall into your lap.

Consider yourself warned. If you go in prepared, you should have as much, maybe even more, fun than you would at a movie that you thought was actually good. I’ve never actually been to a Rocky Horror screening but this is a little like I imagine it to be.

Leviathan

It won the Golden Globe, was nominated for an Oscar, and was even considered for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. I was bored stiff.

This is one of those movies that make me feel bad about myself because although it’s a film about ‘ordinary’ people, it’s also supposed to be about more than just what’s on the surface. And I get that.

In a very pretty but alsmaxresdefaulto coastal town in Russia, Kolya has a wife who’s just not that into him and a son who’s just not that good at life. The town’s crooked mayor is trying to take his home and property, ostensibly for a telecoms mast, but Kolya suspects more personal reasons and is fighting him in court. In the dullest court scene ever shot, a woman drones on as she reads a summation of the case for several long-ass minutes without a breath at punctuation, if indeed there was any punctuation, which was hard to distinguish.

Most of his friends are only using him for his free mechanic services but he calls on one, an old army friend named Dmitri who’s now a lawyer, to help him with his property fight. Dmitri isn’t afraid to fight dirty in court, or in his personal life apparently, because before long he’s fucking Kolya’s wife.

So there’s hypocrisy. Crazy, crazy hypocrisy. Blind love, pretend friendship, misplaced trust. Badleviathan religion. And the symbolism of the leviathan that’s obligatory but heavy-handed. I can see that it’s well-acted, and the outdoor shots were breathtaking. I don’t usually think of Russia like this and I’m glad I got to see it. But I didn’t connect with this film, at all. It was too harsh, and too dry. I know that critics loved it, and the Academy has called it one of the 5 best foreign movies in the world for 2014. Personally, I preferred both Mommy and Force Majeure (preferred both to Ida, which won, for that matter). But you know what? No one asked me.

 

McFarland

I pretty much thought we must be out of sports stories by now. How many teams can possibly start out dead-last but thanks to the inspiring speechifying of their devoted but grizzled coach, end up earning first? And of those teams, how many can overcome the prejudice of racism at the same time, convincing white folks who admire achievement that maybe these coloured folk aren’t so bad after all, because they sure are fast? And how many of these can possibly star Kevin Costner?mcfarland

If you answered TOO DAMN MANY, then you, sir, are correct!

This movie doesn’t really do anything wrong other than steal from every sports movie that’s come before it. If it was the first of its kind, you might even call it good, or inspiring. But I’m going to call it neither, because I do not live under a rock. I’ve seen it all before. I’m tired of this formula, which was pretty thin to begin with.

Tomorrowland

I was expecting a lot more from Tomorrowland. Brad Bird has been involved in so many good movies in the past, all of which have had fantastical or futuristic elements. Damon Lindelof gave us an amazing first season of Lost (though it was downhill from there as the layers were peeled away). George Clooney is an A-lister who is super reliable and who usually picks his projects well. All the parts seemed to be here for a great movie, or at the very least an interesting one.

But instead of being something memorable, Tomorrowland is entirely forgettable. I really don’t understand how things went so wrong but for a movie about possibilities, there was a distinct lack of imagination or innovation involved in Tomorrowland. It is totally formulaic and by-the-numbers. Which doesn’t make it a bad movie, and it’s not a bad movie, but it left me feeling that an opportunity was missed here.

Going in, I thought the premise was solid one but the way it was handled left me not only wanting more but wanting something entirely different, something closer to what I thought this movie would be after having seen the trailer many, many times in the last six months. I don’t want to spoil things so I can’t really be more specific than to say that Tomorrowland was not at all what we saw in the trailer. And that would have been okay if handled differently but the end result here is that we only end up spending a very small amount of screen time in Tomorrowland when all is said and done, but the scenes of Tomorrowland in the trailer were what I wanted to see lots and lots of.

That’s why the way it played out was so disappointing.  It left me feeling a lot like Lost did, now that I think about it.

Tomorrowland gets a rating of 6 child-sized jetpacks out of ten.