Sunday, January 06, 2013

Last night

This happened:

In the words of Dr. Rei: "Hunger Strike is my favorite duet of all time."  LOL!  It was gold.  Even if my go-to karaoke song was ridiculed beyond all measure (my karaoke song, which I think is in my range, is Janet Jackson's Again - which is a huge downer ballad that's a million minutes too long).  We took turns randomly picking tunes from the 90s to play while we played Settlers last night and it was the most hilarious time of life.  It was just the best.  Except for the Dotytron's one illegal divergence into TTD (that's Terrence Trend D'Arby) territory.  The song is amazing, and will probably get thrown into the DJ Fraaaaanche mix, but it was released in 1987.

Dr. Rei picked Ruffest Gunark and as soon as the opening bit came on, the Dotytron, Dr. Rei and myself immediately reverted to pure gunshots-in-the-air junglism.

Ahhh, the 90s.  So awkward for me socially, so rewarding culturally.

I'm just gonna say right now, I would totally go back in time and rekindle my lust for both Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum AND Jason Newsted of Metallica.

We have seen a s**t-ton of movies lately.  Here's my rundown.

I am really, really, really glad that I didn't pay to see this movie in the theatre.  The Dotytron and I were constantly looking at each other being, "these kids are insufferable."  It was all so...precious.  I get it.  I get how feeling like an outcast (uhh, hello, I was totally an outcast - albeit a strange breed of outcast who was kind of popular with the boys? - in high school) makes you feel like you're a special jewel when you find other outcasts.  I hung out with a bunch of goth/industrialists one year my senior who bought sheets of acid (sheets!) at a time.  I know what it's like to not feel like you fit in.  However, this was the 90s.  It was kind of de rigeur to not fit in.  The 90s were a very forgiving time to be dressed in head to toe Goodwill and rock a man purse and undone Docs and ponchos.  It was amazing.  Now granted, these kids are growing up in Philly - so maybe it was different in the States, but the protagonists in this film, the damaged, wounded birds, are kind of weaksauce, to me (remember: SHEETS OF LSD).  I didn't really get what made them so special.  They were kind of second the kind of kids in high school who were all about Bush or Better Than Ezra (second tier 90s bands).  The film was written and directed by the author of the book upon which the film is based, which can be very, very dangerous.  John Green, one of the most brilliant YA authors around, has wisely refrained from adapting his optioned novels for the screen because he feels that this job is best left to professionals.  I would say he is right.  There was way too much affection for very middling characters who all had an after-school-special wounded-bird "reveal" that was supposed to explain why they engaged in such damaging behavior as sleeping with douchey, pretentious college boys.  When the Dotytron and I were watching the movie, we totally pegged the crew of kids in our high school that this film was representing...people who were legends in their own minds but who were second tier at best.  Emma Watson is very, very, very bad at playing an American teenager.  The big reveal about the central protagonist (I think his name is Charlie) that comes at the 3/4 mark in the film seemed really overwrought to me.  The one bright moment was Ezra Miller's portrayal of Patrick - Miller is a fantastic actor and imbues the character with precisely the kind of adolescent fire that the other characters lacked.

Django Unchained doesn't approach the brilliance of other Tarantino films - I can't say I liked it as much as Inglourious Basterds, by a long shot.  It was incredibly entertaining, although it needed some editing - I felt the film dragged in the last 1/3.  Much has been made about Tarantino's numbing use of the N-word.  I don't see this as an issue.  I think the N-word debate in contemporary American popular cultural criticism is fuelled by people with a very rudimentary understanding of the fluidity of language. It's VERY easy to tell when people are using the N-word pejoratively and as a racist invective as opposed to reclaiming it.  Can you claim that Tarantino fetishizes black culture?  Yes.  But I think you can claim that Tarantino fetishizes most pulp American culture in all its forms, and therefore, I don't get from Tarantino that he's being racist.  He's practicing a brand of post-modern pastiche that he invented and brought to American filmmaking.

Much has been made about the framing of the film - with Foxx's Django a silent, mute, black hero who is helped along by a white guide, and of how it depicts black American slaves as all-too willing accomplices in their own enslavement, waiting for white emancipators.  I definitely see some merits in that, but I'm not sure that Django's silence isn't more to do with the tropes of the Western hero and less to do with his being a slave lackey.

Christoph Walz is entrancing.  He is a wonderful Tarantino muse and he devours audience attention when he's on screen.  It's hard to focus on the other actors when he's there.  Leonardo DiCaprio was also extremely good - reminding me of what a great actor he can be.

I might have ruined Les Misérables for myself by revisiting the 10th anniversary edition and listening to too much Colm Wilkinson.  Colm Wilkinson IS Jean Valjean for me and it's hard for me to accept others in the role (the role and the songs were actually written with him in mind).  I don't think I would have been able to accept any film adaptation, in reality, much as I wanted to.  Ultimately, I think the power of the musical is in the songs, and in the delivery of the songs by strong, musical theatre voices.  I don't need to see the facial expressions that accompany them.

I didn't think that Hugh Jackman made a good Jean Valjean.  He favours a lot of vibratto, and his voice is very quavery, which means he never really hits the note.  I also don't love the timbre of his voice.  To me, he's more of a "Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gaaaaaaal" type of musical theatre performer (playing Peter Allen doesn't dispel this notion).  More of a jazz hands and flying kicks type, instead of, as my sister would say, and Irish tenor (we have no idea what this means, but we feel that Colm is one).  Anne Hathaway does a pretty good job of doing Fantine, and only indulges in a bit of Oscar-baiting scenery chewing - her voice was strong.  I was expecting to hate Russell Crowe's inability to sing, and he did ruin certain songs for me, but I thought he was passable.  The guy who played Marius, who has a face I don't usually love (too many freckles!!!), totally surprised me and I LOVED the guy who played Enjolras.  Overall, it was moving, although I find Tom Hopper's insistence on weird, tight, off-kilter close-ups distracting and I thought some of Javert's costumes looked cheap.

I really really really liked this.  Do I think it's like, an Oscar-worthy, best film of the year?  No, but it's definitely deserving of the audience-favorite awards and acting noms that it's generating.  We are BIG David O. Russell fans around here.  This is just a cracking good romantic comedy.  And not in the Nora Ephron screwball way (which is also good), or in the way that passes for romantic comedies nowadays, with Katherine Heigl playing a damaged neurotic mess of a woman who can't take care of her shiz and whose life isn't complete without a man (which is very, very bad), but in the way that makes you laugh with human moments that are funny but also tinged with drama - like life.  The family drama elements and friend drama elements and the sports and superstition all play out in a relaxed, natural, winning way.  It was charming.  Bradley Cooper, who I normally dislike, was fantastic, and Jennifer Lawrence, whom I almost always love, is the most desirable nutjob to ever appear onscreen.  Loved this.

I had pretty dismal expectations for This is 40, coming off of shell shock from the depressingly unfunny Funny People.  The criticisms of this film are mostly true - it's a little too Apatow - like, he needs to get out of his own head and life.  Casting his own wife and his own kids doesn't help - his kids are okay, but kind of flat and stiff and the youngest one looks like she's looking at her dad off screen in almost every scene.  Leslie Mann is cute but the director doesn't maintain a suitable distance - you can tell he's crazy in love with her.  What saves this movie is that there are some genuine laughs derived from astute observations about couple and family dynamics.  I definitely laughed out loud - I just wouldn't necessarily tell people that this is a must-see comedy.

Being an information professional subjected to n00b librarians and old geezer librarians constantly trying to stay relevant by hopping on whatever death knell for media trend is de rigeur (and without any rigorous analysis or criticism or knowledge of people, trends, desires, or technology), this doc was obviously wicked up my alley.  It's basically about the New York Times and how they're struggling in the wake of bloggers and Twitter and aggregators and whathaveyou.  It focuses a lot on media correspondent Gary Carr, who is this amazing, grizzled, former addict with a take-no-bulls**t attitude who's like, "I used to be a junkie, so no, I'm not worried about my future at the Times."  It was awesome because it underscores how CONTENT IS EVERYTHING and how AUTHORITY MATTERS.  I can't say that enough: CONTENT IS EVERYTHING.  AUTHORITY MATTERS.   

Okay.  That's enough out of me for now.

Seventeen work-free days are drawing to a close so I'm going to combat a case of the Sunday blues by sitting on the couch and knitting and reading up a storm.


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