Posts Tagged ‘movies’

While I was watching the Academy Awards on my birthday – only three days late – I saw on Facebook this meme. “Suppose, to help a potential partner or mate to understand who you are, you had to name five films that reflect parts of your personality.”

Without giving it much thought, I came up with Annie Hall, West Side Story, Hidden Figures, Howard the Duck, and Being There.

Annie Hall, which I’ve seen at least four times, was easy. At least three of these things are true:
I hate going to the movie theater after the film has started
I don’t like to drive
I wish I could pull out an expert, such as Marshall McLuhan, to end idiotic conversations
Sometimes, relationships ARE like sharks
Cocaine makes me sneeze

West Side Story, which is, upon further review, not a great movie, taking too long to get started, among other things. But it has great music.
It was the first “grown up” movie I saw
It’s amazing what you can do with counterpoint
Racial and ethnic strife suck

I had a conversation with an African-American woman about Hidden Figures during my church’s Black History Month celebration, which, BTW, was amazing. We agreed that, of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture for 2016, Moonlight was the best. But we noted that we weren’t likely to see it again any time soon. Whereas Hidden Figures, another nominee, was a joyful celebration of recent history.

Howard the Duck was previewed in Albany in a movie theater, sponsored by FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked from May 1980 to November 1988. The “trapped in a world that he never made” description in the comic book reminds me of me, sometimes. And also The Pretenders.

Being There reminds me that sometimes we manage to bumble through life, with people fooled into believing you have an idea what you’re saying. Maybe we’re just fakin’ it.

Incidentally, when The Shape of Water won the Best Picture Oscar, it meant that I have seen exactly half of the 90 victors. It occurred to me that I should write about the ones I’ve seen (the earliest: Casablanca) and the significant ones I have not (Gone with the Wind, e.g.).

It occurred to me that I haven’t seen The Last Jedi, the 8th (VIIIth?) Star Wars film or Rogue One, which, I gather, fits between III and IV? But it wasn’t a specific disdain for VII, The Force Awakens, but rather a meh attitude.

Whereas I pretty much hated the first prequel, The Phantom Menace, for reasons besides Jar Jar. So I never saw II or III, possibly to my eternal detriment, I am told. Whatever.

As someone who used to collect comic books for about a quarter of a century, I know a little about the completist mentality. When I bought Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1 (1972) and forward, I had to pick up the Amazing Spider-Man #123, which featured the character.

The I discovered AS-M #122 was still on the newsstand – the death of Gwen Stacy! – and I eventually started getting all the Spider-Man books: Spectacular Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up, even Marvel Tales, which reprinted early AS-M issues.

Then Todd McFarlane started doing Spider-Man (1990), a comic fanboy’s dream. I hated it. I bought three or four issues, decided that whoever was under the mask was NOT the Peter Parker I cared about, and dropped it.

When I picked up Sub-Mariner #50 (also 1972), not only did I get the new issues, including The Defenders, I got all the back issues, including, as it turns out Tales to Astonish #70-101, and Iron Man and Sun-Mariner #1, and only.

(Hey, it’s Free Comic Book Day tomorrow! Yes, I’ll go.)

I tend to be lyal that way about TV shows. I watched a show called The Closer (2005-2012), and when it evolved into Major Crimes (2012-2018), I stayed with until the end.

Grey’s Anatomy is now the darling of the binge-watchers. I’ve just viewed it every week since 2005. It has jumped the shark twice (thrice?) but has managed to right the ship, with recent interesting story lines involving immigration and #MeToo without being (too) preachy.

But it’s difficult for me to start watching a new series. There’s a LOT of TV out there, and, I am told, a great deal of it is excellent. I’m like Ado Annie from the musical Oklahoma; it’s All Er Nuthin’.

As I get older, recognizing a finite amount of time, nuthin’ seems to be winning.


Has ANYONE seen the movie Black Panther for the first time in a theater later than I? Taking off a day from work, I finally trekked out to the Regal Cinema in Colonie Center, near Albany on April 30, three days after the new Avengers movie, Infinity War opened.

I so seldom go to the mainline theaters that I had forgotten how many commercials there were, BEFORE the seven movie trailers, including for the aforementioned Avengers film.

Seeing it so late, after it had recorded $688 million domestically and $645 million overseas, I’m not sure what I’d add to what my friend Alan David Doane wrote: “Millions of African-Americans and others… found in the recent Black Panther film an inspirational culture in which they could see themselves and their own history.”

I will say that I spent time collecting articles that remained unread until after I saw the film. Check out a couple articles from Medium, 5 Lessons from Black Panther That Can Save Our Lives — and Transform Black Politics and Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America. From the latter: “Ryan Coogler’s film is a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries — Africa as a dream of our wholeness, greatness and self-realization.”

So naturally, when black people are feeling that, as Democracy for America put it, the flick is “a refreshing reminder of the power of representation in media,” some other folks feel somehow threatened. I mentioned this some weeks ago, and people seemed genuinely surprised; they don’t read enough right-wing literature.

I highly recommend reading The Tragedy of Erik Killmonger. The article contains major spoilers, none of which I will post here.

“Black Panther is a love letter to people of African descent all over the world. Its actors, its costume design, its music, and countless other facets of the film are drawn from all over the continent and its diaspora, in a science-fiction celebration of the imaginary country of Wakanda, a high-tech utopia that is a fictive manifestation of African potential unfettered by slavery and colonialism.

“But it is first and foremost an African American love letter, and as such it is consumed with The Void, the psychic and cultural wound caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, the loss of life, culture, language, and history that could never be restored.”

The subtitle of the Atlantic article is: “The revolutionary ideals of Black Panther’s profound and complex villain have been twisted into a desire for hegemony.” That’s how certain people, certainly not I, chose to view it.

I am hoping that, even though it came out with a the non-prestige February release date, it gets some Oscar love. As others have noted, Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger (Creed), and the lead women, may have more screen charisma than Chadwick Boseman (42) as the title character, T’Challa.

Before Black Panther, I had seen only one Marvel Cinematic Universe movie since 2011, Ant-Man (2015). Seems that I probably need to catch up at some point.

Sometime this summer, the family went to the nearby Madison Theatre to see Night at the Museum (2006). It must have been August, because we walked, my wife’s foot having sufficiently healed from her operation.

It was an interesting experience because The Daughter had seen it before, on DVD, but her parents had never seen it at all. I guess it’s not a great movie, but I enjoyed it anyway. And I think it was partly because I got to laugh in places that just confounded the Daughter.

One involved some wordplay, near the end, which I no longer recall. But one moment is a scene with the late Anne Meara as Debbie, an employment counselor trying to get Larry (Ben Stiller) a job. Larry thought he felt some connection, but Debbie dashes that. Anne was, of course, Ben’s real-life mom.

Part of it is remembering Ken Levine’s odd antipathy towards Kim Raver, who plays Larry’s ex Erica. Or some comments Jon Stewart made about preternaturally young looking Paul Rudd as Erica’s new boyfriend Don.

Maybe it was seeing the three former guards: the late Mickey Rooney; Bill Cobbs, who I loved in I’ll Fly Away and other projects; and Dick van Dyke, who was then a pretty spry octogenarian, and is now an amazingly spry nonagenarian.

There’s a line the late Robin Williams says about him not really being Teddy Roosevelt but a wax figure – an odd self-awareness in this wacky film.

I may be one of 16 people who remember Carla Gugino (Rebecca from the museum) in some 2003 cop show called Karen Cisco, which lasted maybe 10 episodes. And I was the ONLY one in that very theater, to see a showing of Spy Kids 2, some years back.

Ricky Gervais, as the museum director, was not as annoying as he would later become.

And yes, I’ve felt like a complete loser and have been in situations of complete chaos. So, yeah, the movie likely lacked a “consistent inner logic”, but I didn’t care; I liked it for what I got out of it.

Isle of Dogs. “I love dogs.” When we finished watching this stop-motion-animated film at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, I asked my wife what she thought the movie was a metaphor for. It may have been the wrong question.

It was, we decided, a response to a lot of things such as the abuse of power – by Mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) and the manipulation of the masses in a government conspiracy, mechanization, plus a whole lot of other interesting things. Your list may vary.

Still, it was, in the end, primarily about a 12-year old boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin), nephew of the mayor, looking for his beloved pet on an island of trash. He meets some amicable, helpful canines, Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Boss (Bill Murray), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), and the less friendly street dog Chief (Bryan Cranston).

The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson as the dog Nutmeg, Tilda Swinton as Interpreter Nelson, and Greta Gerwig as Tracy Walker from Ohio, with the dulcet tones of Courtney B. Vance serving as narrator. Plus Akira Takayama, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, Liev Schreiber, and Yoko Ono as Assistant-Scientist Yoko-ono.

Interesting to me is that even some of the more positive reviews (91% on Rotten Tomatoes) thought the film was distant. Mick LaSalle wrote: “We stay on the outside, admiring its originality and all the talent that went into it, without ever really finding our way in.” Not our experience at all.

The dystopian visuals are nevertheless beautiful, so as to make you almost forget how trenchantly political it is. There is taiko drumming at the beginning and the end that we found absolutely hypnotic.

I’m not savvy enough about the Japanese references to ascertain whether director Wes Anderson should be chastised for cultural appropriation. I will note that the female dogs didn’t have as much to do with the storyline.

Nevertheless, we liked Isle of Dogs a lot.

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