Sunday, July 30, 2017

And now for a minority opinion

Normally, I don't like to post much negative stuff.  I only do it when I feel very strongly about something.  But as I've just had one of the most unpleasant movie-going experiences of my life, I figure I'll blather on a bit about it.

That would be my viewing of Dunkirk.  My brother-in-law and I went to catch this on the IMAX this morning and we nearly walked out mid-movie.  I'm not sure if unpleasant is strong enough to describe what sitting through this movie was like.  I suppose, given my intense dislike of Interstellar, this should not really be a surprise.  Interstellar had the award for my least favorite movie until today.  Now it's a toss up between the two.  I guess it's fair to say that even though I loved Memento, I'm officially not a Christopher Nolan fan.  At all.

The good stuff:
  • Tom Hardy, Spitfires, unlimited ammo, and aerial dogfights on an IMAX screen.  Best part of the movie by leaps and bounds.
  • Mark Rylance.
That's it.

Not even Ken Branagh, who I adore, gets any marks here.  But he's given nothing to do other than be Exposition Man.  I suppose if someone has to tell us what's going on, it might as well be him.

I hated, loathed, and despised Hans Zimmer's score for Interstellar.  His score in Dunkirk (if one can even call the incredibly loud, monotonous, droning wall of noise in Dunkirk a score) made me nostalgic for the incredibly loud wall of monotonous organ noise from Interstellar.  Okay, not really.  All it did was upset my stomach, give me a migraine, make me want to take a shower to wash the awfulness away (no, I'm not joking), and confirmed my long-held need to run the other way screaming when I see Zimmer's name on a movie poster.  (If you think my reaction is strong, my brother-in-law's is even stronger.)

We assumed this incessant wall of oppressive noise that never ever lets up is supposed to increase the tension for movie viewers?  (Never mind that if your movie can't be tense without music something's wrong somewhere.)  All it did for us is irritate us.  It overrides everything.  Couldn't hear the dialogue, couldn't even hear the fricking gunfire.  It didn't help that our theater was so loud my normal earplugs were ineffective, and earplugs don't help anyway with the overwhelming bass and constant physical vibration from the sound.  But even if the volume had been turned down, it wouldn't have made the movie experience any better.  I respect the right for the director to make whatever stylistic choices he sees fit to help his vision come true, but these choices flat-out fail for me.  We were never tense, never worried for characters, never on the edge of our seat.  We were annoyed and looking for the exit. 


As to the story... there wasn't much of one.  It felt more like a slice-of-life look at Dunkirk rather than a story.  That will work really well for some viewers.  My brother-in-law is a history teacher, and he was not at all happy with the historical side of it.  I'm not a historian, nor am I that familiar with Dunkirk, other than basic WWII knowledge -- big military disaster/trouble getting everyone home -- so those aspects didn't bother me the way they did him.  Neither of us liked the script's choice of following those opportunist little twerps as they deceived and lied to get off the beach ahead of the other soldiers.  We both were hoping, quite uncharitably I do admit, that they'd get blown up before the movie ended.  Every time the movie cut back to them, I groaned, because not only did I not care what happened to them, I actively disliked them.  This isn't to say there weren't plenty of men willing to do anything to escape that beach, self-preservation is a strong motivation, and it's not that their story might not be worthy of telling, but this movie made no effort to make me like or care for them or their story.  Maybe I'm not supposed to care for them?  Maybe their self-serving attitudes are supposed to balance the heroism of the pilots?  I really don't have any idea what my take-away from this movie is supposed to be.  That might be part of my problem.  I came away with nothing but a profound feeling of annoyance.

If I wore a watch, I would have checked it multiple times to see how much more of the movie I had to endure. I know it's running time is supposedly short, but man, it felt endless.  Interminable.  Painful.  This is what happens when there's no emotional investment in the characters... it's boring.  And dude, what happened at Dunkirk should not be boring.  I didn't get any sense of amazingness or happiness when the few ships showed up at the end.  Maybe because there appeared to be only a handful of boats come to help? 

I did at least like the two pilots.  And Mark Rylance.  But I didn't care about them.  We aren't given enough to care about them. 

So, yeah.  This one's a huge ugly fail for me.  However, I recognize that the very things that don't work for me personally in this movie seem to work very well for the majority of other people out there, so I would probably still recommend this movie.  The subject is worthy, regardless, and people should decide for themselves if they like it, not listen to reviews, positive or negative.

Friday, July 07, 2017

The Fall (2006)

This has to be one of the most uniquely shot, beautiful, and intriguing movies I've ever seen.  This is a movie about making movies. It's also about storytelling and about the relationship between a storyteller and an active listener.  Whose story is it?  And it's about imagination, or perhaps shared imagination would be a better phrase.  How does one perceive story?

It's set in a hospital in Los Angeles of the 1920's, where a young girl with a broken arm meets a Hollywood stuntman who's been injured on the job.  They become friends as he tells her a story.  The movie juxtaposes life in the hospital with a fantastic tale of adventure, until slowly the two stories merge.  The young girl populates the story with various people from her life and whom she has met and seen at the hospital.  I'm going to avoid spoilers in this review, because this movie is too good to be ruined by a casually tossed-out spoiler.

I rented this movie for my sister, as she's a big Lee Pace fan, and I came away loving it as much as she did. We watched it twice in one day.  Then showed it to her husband.  Then showed it to my niece.  I've watched most of it again here with the subtitles turned on.  Then we bought our own copy of the DVD.  LOL!  It's one of those movies that just needs to be seen again, to help put all the pieces together, because there's far too much to catch on the first viewing.  A lot of important dialogue is spoken in the background, or said at the same time something else is going on, so on first viewing, we missed a lot.

Catinca Untaru is adorable and amazing as young Alexandria.  She instantly became my favorite child character in any movie.  I love her.  This movie works so well because of her.  Because of her relationship with Roy (Lee Pace's character).  They are wonderful together.

It's her imagination we see at work in this movie, bringing his story to life, sometimes in subtle but cool ways.  Such as when Roy tells her one of the story's characters is an Indian.  We've seen him working in a Western in the beginning of this movie, so when he says Indian, you know he's thinking Native American. He mentions the words squaw and wigwam.  Alexandria doesn't know any Native Americans, but she works with a man from India in the orange groves, so he's the one she envisions in the story anytime the Indian is mentioned.

This movie was filmed on location all around the world, and it makes for some absolutely exquisite locales.  It's colorful and striking, with amazing architecture and wide open landscapes. I ooohed and ahhhed all the way through it.  One of my favorite shots is in the very beginning of the movie, in black and white, of a rope being thrown off a bridge.  You can see the shadow of the rope coil on the water below, and then the rope snakes into the camera's view, while you're still watching the shadow below.  It unwinds as it falls, the shadow matching it, and it is lit and filmed so perfectly that that shot just boggles my mind every time. 

(and this isn't even a fraction of the amazing real places shown in this movie)

This movie is rated R, and for the longest time my sister and I were wondering why that was, as almost nothing in the first half was R.  But the movie does turn darker, more violent, and more emotional in the last half, and it does eventually earn its R rating.  Even still, it has a lot of humor in it and some of the funniest moments were in the middle of what seemed the darkest moments.  Ultimately, it was a satisfying, beautifully told story that just sucked us in and will definitely be one we re-watch on a regular basis.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

First of July

The apricots have come and gone, although I still have a bunch in the fridge that are slowly going bad because there are just still too many to consume.  My apples have mostly come and gone as well.  I dried tons of them this year, which will be nice to munch on later.  My tomatoes are currently ripening.  I got smart this year and planted them in a slightly different shadier area, and for once they have not died in the sun.  They are flourishing, yay!

The three wild parrots are back and enjoying apples.

It's turned hot, of course, and my walks with Silver are mostly restricted to very early morning before it heats up.  When it's still 90 at 9 pm, there's no chance of an evening walk.  He still loves water so he has a blast playing with the sprinkler and hose.  The more water to play in the better.

Today marks my 32nd straight day of studying the Danish language on duolingo.  It claims I am 47% proficient, but I don't remotely have the vocabulary built up yet for that to be true.  And I am never in a thousand years going to be able to pronounce some of their words correctly, but I don't care.  I am having an absolute blast learning it!

I have always loved studying languages.  Took three and a half years of French in high school, a year of Russian in college, and I've been learning Italian (via opera librettos) my whole life.  But Danish is the first language I'm studying for no reason whatsoever but because we live in a fabulous age where things like duolingo make this possible.  This means zero pressure.  No grades to worry about, no tests, no trip to Copenhagen (though I can dream), just nothing but learning for the sheer fun of it.  And it is so much fun that it's one of the first things I can't wait to start working on every single morning when I turn the computer on.  The grammar rules are pretty straight forward, much simpler than French.  The pronunciation of words is the only truly difficult (impossible!) part.  However, practice really does make a difference, and I can at least understand the spoken lessons far better than I thought would be possible when I first started.  And reading and writing Danish... that's the easy part.

My sister is studying Norwegian, which shares a lot of the grammar rules and many similar words.  I find I can follow her lessons along with her with relative ease and help her understand the sentence construction... and their pronunciation is sooooo much easier.  Their words are mostly pronounced the way they look, which cannot be said of Danish, where almost nothing is pronounced the way it looks like it should be said.  I find that amusing.

Yep.  Pretty much.

Current favorite Danish word:  badev√¶relset which is the epic word for "the bathroom."  Don't ask me to pronounce it though.  It's something along the lines of "bell-vay-ah-suh" but I haven't listened to it said enough to remember for sure.

I also find it amusing that the last two movies I watched were French-language movies.  Wrong language!!  I have watched four or five movies in Danish now, but I watched them back before I started studying the language.  I'm going to rewatch those in a another month or two, see how much I can actually understand at that point.

And now for something completely different.

I am a huge fan of the chocolate peanut butter Kind bars, and I recently found I could make my own.  These are spectacular.  Very easy to make (other than chopping up three kinds of nuts into bits is a pain), and they taste so much better than anything from the grocery store.  I've made two batches so far.  I like these for breakfast with my hot tea, but for those so inclined to eat between meals, they'd make a great snack.