Here it is! New Year’s Eve, one of the biggest days of the year! A time to reflect on your past 364 days and, judging from other blogs I read, throw together some kind of retrospective and paste it up at your corner of the internet. But we all know I’m anything but normal, so instead I bring you: my loose ends, sorta tied-up! I’m getting there, people.
So, I’ve watched 13 movies since we last talked about that subject. The first, Big Fish, was sooooo good that I intended to write an entire separate blog post about just that movie, and its theme of storytelling. You see, in this movie an all-too-serious son, who works as a reporter and is completely wedded to the facts, has a strained relationship with his aging father, who is the quintessential tall-tale-teller. While everyone else finds this gift to be a real plus at a party, the son is just constantly annoyed that he can’t ever seem to mine the truth out of what his father weaves. Much of the story is told through visual flashbacks, and this is my favorite narrative device because the father as a young man is played by…Ewan McGreggor. Be still my heart, I love this man.
As someone who grew up always wanting to know “the truth” about things, specifically from whence I came, I can understand the son. All too well. But as I’ve grown up (and yes, that is a process that is yet continuing) I’ve begun to realize that a lot of the time, the tall tales aren’t so tall, and they’re a heckuva lot more interesting than the bare facts. That’s exactly what this movie illustrates, in a visually-stunning, emotionally lucid fashion. Joe and I both give this two huge thumbs-up. Watch it. And maybe I’ll talk more about the storytelling another day, after all.
Next up, we all enjoyed the continuing adventures of Woody and Buzz in Toy Story 3. In actuality, we spent a weekend watching all three movies, one each night, because it had been so long since we’d seen the first two and we weren’t sure the boys remembered them, really. I’m not sure it would have mattered, since the movies all stand on their own pretty well. Toy Story 3 was…wonderful. I’m sure you’re shocked. It looked so good on our new TV that we almost wept. It was sweet and nostalgic and made me determined to never allow my children to go off to college. Writing this now is a good reminder of that feeling I had then, because the feeling I have about them right now at the tailend of a two-week break from school is quite different. Seth became a huge fan of Sheriff Woody, which was totally adorable. Anyway, it’s a good bet if you have kids and somehow haven’t managed to see it yet.
Then we watched an almost totally unremarkable standup by John Oliver (from The Daily Show fame). It was…sort of funny. But if I want to watch a Brit making fun of Americans and their lack of knowledge about history and foreign policy, I’d rather watch my favorite Action Transvestite. (That’s Eddie Izzard. Word.)
Oh, Killer Shrews. Why do I have to talk about you? You were a horrible movie, and totally deserving of the MST3K send-up you received, but…even then, you were nearly unwatchable. With your implausible plot about genetic engineering gone awry in the form of giant yarn-covered dogs killer shrews, and your glorification of abject alcoholism. Your effects were terrible, your dialogue abysmal, your final scene the longest I’ve ever been pained to watch. I’d never imagined that makeshift oil barrel tank-walking could be so long, or so dull.
Joe and I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid together one evening and we both really liked it. It was a pretty contest, and as far as I’m concerned, Paul Newman wins. Because cowboys don’t wear eyeliner, ROBERT REDFORD. But it also was so, so funny, and exciting, and just incredibly well-done. This is a good pick for couples who like completely different things from their movies, because it has something for both of you. Paul Newman.
The kids and I watched The Sandlot 2 one evening when Joe was taking a final or something, and it turned out to be a perfect lesson in why sequels so often suck monkey elbows. This movie had different kids (much worse actors) than the original, and was set about 10 years later than the original, but other than that…it had the same exact plot. I swear they even reused lines. Shot for shot, it was an almost exact redux of the first Sandlot. In other words: the kids liked it fine, and I was half-dead of stupidity by the end.
Okay, here’s something funny…as I was writing this I realized I’d skipped a movie. Which has far-reaching implications. The movie was a stand-up called Bigger and Blackerer by David Cross (who will always be Tobias, painted blue with cut-off shorts, from Arrested Development in my mind.) It was funny but kind of unmemorable; my friend Grace was here for a sleepover and we watched it, and that made it fun. BUT! More importantly, it means that…we’ve already watched 100 movies! This changes EVERYTHING! Any movie we watch tonight is purely optional, and it makes the final movie on our list a movie I consider worthy of that position, too. Awesome!
Then Joe watched Supersize Me, the cautionary tale about McDonalds which, it seems, is only truly cautionary if you eat McDonald’s three times daily.
I had the far-superior movie-watching experience that evening (in my opinion) because I was at the theater seeing Harry Potter 7 Part 1. It was only the second movie on this list that was seen in a theater, if you can believe it. And it was…spectacular. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of this series (mostly the books, but also the last couple of films) so I was eager to be satisfied…and it did not disappoint. Darker, more introspective, moody and decidedly grown-up, just like the book. If you’re a fan of the series and somehow haven’t seen it yet, don’t hesitate! I’ve requested movies 5 & 6 from Netflix so Joe can get caught-up, and then I’m dragging him to the theater to see Deathly Hallows again.
Next up: Strangers in Good Company. I watched this one solo while Joe was cleaning up his workroom or something. He probably wouldn’t have liked it as much as I did, anyway. This film was about a bus load of old women (with a younger, not-mortally-wounded busdriver lady) who get stranded in the wilderness of Canada. As soon as I finished watching it, I had to go Google it and read about how it had been made, because it was one of the most unique movies I’d ever watched. It was a sort of hybrid of a scripted movie and improv…the general plot was set in place ahead of time, and the women were found and cast, but once they were stranded the crew just shot them talking to one another about their own lives. It was fascinating. Pictures of their young selves were interspersed at intervals throughout the movie. The main theme, I guess, had to do with dying, because these women were facing the possibility that they would die stranded out here in the wilderness, and though as seniors they’d no doubt considered their deaths, it was not likely they’d considered this possible end. The women were utterly charming. I really recommend it if you can get it (I found it on Netflix streaming). Slow-paced, but totally worthwhile.
How to Train Your Dragon was one of the best kid’s movies I’ve seen in a long time. I know I just said I liked Toy Story 3, and I did, but this one appealed to me more. Hiccup is a tiny scrap of a boy who is the son of the village’s Head Viking. He is not well-equipped to do the Viking work of dealing with the local dragons…or at least not in the way the dragons have traditionally been dealt with. Hiccup learns about what makes dragon’s tick from an injured dragon, whom he names Toothless. As he nurses him to health, he gets lessons in what it means to be a dragon, and thusly how dragons might be handled in more humane ways. He just has to change the mindset of his entire village. It was spunky and cute, and we had the pleasure of watching it with our friend Amanda, who had just met our kids for the first time…our kids who were not shy about plopping in her lap to watch. Of particular note: when the dragon regurgitates a fish at one point, Seth popped out with “Ew! Yucky!!!”
Joe and I watched The Informant! just before Christmas, and I would say it was a relaxing way to spend a pre-holiday evening but the movie was deceptively tense. It centers around a man of questionable sanity who brings his company to the attention of the FBI on price-fixing charges, and then turns informant. It just keeps getting crazier and crazier, and you’re never sure whether to laugh or scratch your head at the bungles this guy makes. Joe and I both thought it was good, but we could see why it hadn’t been a commercial success, because for so many people it would just feel mostly uncomfortable. So you’ll have to judge for yourself whether or not you like that kind of thing.
AND! FINALLY! We arrive at #100. Without even realizing it until just today! Our last (official) movie for the year was Big Night, a 1996 movie with an amazing ensemble cast (Tony Shalhoub! Stanley Tucci! Minnie Driver! Mr. JLo!) and an equally-amazing script. Set in the 50s, it’s the story of two Italian immigrant brothers (Primo and Secondo) and their failing restaurant. Primo is the finest chef this side of Napoli, but they can’t get customers in the door. So a business associate sets up a visit from Louis Prima and his band, and the brothers and friends spend much of the movie preparing for, and then implementing, the “Big Night”.
The music, food, acting…everything works together to make this movie a real treat. The simple perfection of the final (incredibly lengthy, single-shot) scene took our breath away. We love, love, LOVED this film. If you have a heart, you’ll watch it and fall in love, too. And then join us in calling our children by their new nicknames: Primo, Secondo, and Terzo.
Without fanfare, without even needing the recommendations I solicited yesterday (silly Courtney!) we arrive at our goal. 100 movies in 2010. Join me later this weekend for a second-half recap (not unlike the first-half recap) and an announcement of my new project for 2011!