PG-13, mostly for just a lot of violence. It's so weird because I think the movie is pretty innocent when thinking about it out of context. But there is a lot of violence. I'm pretty sure the beheadings start in the first movie. There's a lot of beheadings. When I get to the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies, I might actually have to rule in favor of the MPAA. There are just a lot, a lot, a lot of beheadings. Also, genuine scary stuff. Ring wraiths are scary. Also, smoking and drinking are popular in Middle Earth.
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
I normally don't have time to watch movies over an hour-and-a-half, but I was chaperoning a retreat where I had zero responsibilities. Since these are extremely important travel narratives that will play a central role in my presentation, I decided to knock out as much of The Lord of the Rings movies as I could in a single sitting. I got through all of the movies except for the last hour of the extended edition of The Return of the King. When it comes to The Fellowship, I have to say that I've seen this one the most. I rarely ever want to jump to a random sequel when it comes to The Lord of the Rings movies because they are one story. All the attempts I've made towards watching the whole trilogy are usually stymied after my sense of accomplishment kicks in post-Fellowship. Regardless, I still like it the best.
I know. The Two Towers is possibly the best movie of the bunch. The hipster in me wants to say that. I even think my review might reflect that attitude. But I love The Fellowship of the Ring. Again, this is one story to me so it's odd to think that I have a favorite entry in this story. But I'm also a guy who likes the stuff on Hoth more than the rest of the film, so I guess that is a reasonable thing to say. The pacing in this world is at a snail's pace. Again, the series is probably close to twelve hours of film as a whole. Maybe its ten, but regardless, the movie doesn't mind taking its sweet time. This is what makes Peter Jackson so interesting to me. I watched all of these movies with subtitles on for a lot of them. I really didn't want to disturb the retreat or draw attention to myself (mission failed on that one), so I had the volume at a reasonable level. But the subtitles really stress the amount of detail that went into planning this movie. Most movies, when someone is obviously speaking Spanish, the subtitles say something along the lines of "Speaking foreign language." The Lord of the Rings? Ho-hum and p-shaw! They tell you which dialect of Elvish someone is speaking. Every character is identified by race and sub-class when speaking. Nothing about this series seems phoned in. So when it takes about an hour to leave the Shire, it makes a bit of sense. And I love the Shire. The tone of the Shire is so different from everything we'd get from the rest of the movie. There are other beautiful places like Rivendell (again, prominently featured in The Fellowship of the Ring) in the series too, but the innocence of the Shire always makes me very comfortable. I think I would make a fine hobbit in that sense. I want to cozy up with a warm fire and some delicious food and watch an adventure from a distance. Jackson does this cool think with attaching a setting to his characters. Merry and Pippin, even in the darkest parts of the series, are fundamentally walking avatars for the Shire. They gain courage, sure, but they don't lose their drives and their moral codes...for the most part. (I know that there's got to be Tolkienheads who are completely losing their minds for these generalizations.)
Since my paper is about setting, I also noticed that the first movie is focused more on the spectacle of setting. The later movies prefer bleak and washed out colors (I know, the City of the Dead is green. Minas Morgath? I'm trying my best here.) But when the New Zealand tourism board wants to show off how pretty New Zealand is, I'm sure they probably focus more on The Fellowship of the Ring. The movie is just so pretty looking. I noticed that Return of the King has a lot of sections that are intentionally washed out to create an ethereal effect. But New Zealand compliments this movie so well. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are such genuinely joyful character and the Shire partners with them extremely well. What's genius about what is going on is that we get the scope of their journey from the first movie. It is a slow burn to get to actual genuine danger. Like a video game tiering system, the danger that the hobbits first encounter seems so paltry compared to what would be the enemy later on. There's a scene in Return of the King where Sam scares a handful of orcs and then moves to dispatch them. It's so odd to think of them running from ring wraiths for the first movie. Yes, ring wraiths are incredibly dangerous. But one of the hobbits fights the king of the ring wraiths in the first movie. There's something charming about the whole thing. Really, Fellowship of the Ring is the charming of the bunch. I know the theme of creature comforts (pun intended) keeps popping up in the entire series, but the first one embraces it so close to its chest. I love that, because of this movie, people start using the phrase "second breakfast" and knowing what it means. It's also interesting to think that Viggo Mortinson's Aragorn is so cryptic in these movies. We don't actually get much of the titular fellowship in this movie for a lot of it. Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas aren't this tightly knit fighting group. Rather, the focus is on the A-plot: get Frodo to Mount Doom. The hobbits play this central role that the other movies don't really get to experience as much as you would think. Actually, in the next two movies, we barely get hobbit stuff on the level of the first one. The first one is with the hobbits as the action heroes and that makes us the action heroes.
The overarching theme in the first one is what is important. We get a very quick understanding of how evil the ring actually is in the first movie. We don't get the despair stuff that we'll get in the second movie, but Jackson stresses how important it is that Frodo carries the ring. He is not devoid of its temptations. He actually puts the ring on a lot in this movie. But Jackson balances that out showing how, when Frodo carries it, he's doing it for altruistic reasons. He has no ulterior motive. He knows right from wrong and it is very pure. It's so interesting, and this credit goes to Tolkien, to have few characters want the ring for outright evil motives. Boromir is such an interesting character study because he comes across as icky. We know that Sean Bean is not an icky dude. He's Ned Stark, for goodness sake. But we keep seeing him make these slow steps towards full on evil. That end sequence with him is intense. That entire sequence is what the movie is building up for me. While the Mines of Moria might be the major set piece in the film, I really care for the confrontation between Frodo and Boromir. It's still pretty impressive for a movie, but I should be enamored with the Fellowship fighting the cave troll. But Fellowship of the Ring is a movie that is really good at sticking the landing, not by going bigger, but by shrinking the threat. The Fellowship is at a low point and Jackson just goes for kicking the dead horse. But the movie doesn't end on a bleak note. The first movie ends like Empire. It shouldn't be considered a happy ending because the goal of the film is actually a bit of a fail. But there's this sense of innocence and hope at the end. I don't know how that makes all that much sense, but the fact that the movie ends the way it does and it is hopeful makes it feel like the right decision was made. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have made that choice if I was in Frodo's hairy feet. But it really works and I think a lot of that comes down to Sam. I am going to talk a bit about Sam in my analysis for The Return of the King, but this is Sam at his best. People keep quoting Sam from Return and I think that's fine. But Sam is far more difficult to accept in that movie. This is Sam accepting responsibility that he could easily walk away from. He risks his life when no one asks him to do so. It's an excellent choice.
It's great that the three movies have disparate vibes, despite being one movie. I really love The Fellowship of the Ring possibly best, but that doesn't meant that I have a lesser opinions about the other films. It is a movie that needs the sequels to work, but I just enjoy watching this movie. It is odd. This is almost an incomplete movie, but it stands up on its own. I often think what it would be like to watch this movie with my dad. He was such a Tolkien fan that I'd like to think that he would love these movies. They are so obsessed with getting every element right that it is amazing that stuff like Tom Bombadil didn't make it in. But there's no phoning it in. Most genre stuff that goes this deep usually alienates most audiences, but it is just impressive looking at this film and how much detail went into it. I thought about it and I realized that I have seen this movie a lot of times. That's not a bad thing. My kids will see this movie and I will probably have at least a dozen more viewings of this very long movie.
What better way to end the month of Halloween themed episodes than a scathing review of the first season of The Haunting of Hill House and some less than amazing audio?
You should listen anyway. We're worth it.
Unrated, because it was made for Australian television in 1988. There's some nudity because of cultural differences. If you stay into the credits, there's a lady making a bunch of phallic jokes based on art she purchased from the people. Someone does a lot of sunbathing in a 1980's bikini. There's nothing wholly inappropriate, but it also isn't something you just have playing in your house when you are expecting company.
DIRECTOR: Dennis O'Rourke
Oh boy, this is going to be incestual. I don't know how much I have to say about this film. I watched it for a night class. It's barely the limit of what could be considered a film. It was shown from YouTube in its entirety, which is about 67 minutes long. There isn't much to actually discuss except for the fact that the first world is terrible.
Okay, I want to go deeper than that because that's what Cannibal Tours is trying to get me to say. The message is on its sleeve all over this film. For those many who are probably unaware of what Cannibal Tours actually is, it is a documentary about rich folks visiting the native peoples of Papua New Guinea. Over the course of this documentary, which we view by cutting between interviews with the native people and the tourists, we quickly realize that the native people devoid of technology and "proper" civilization probably have their heads screwed on a little better than the first world awful people. It's not subtle. Most of the things said by the native people is relatable. Most of the things said by the tourists are cringe-worthy and make me hate myself. I know that there's entire genres of film and art devoted to making me hate myself, but this one does a marvelous job of making me truly loathe myself in ways I haven't felt in a while. Now, here's the thing, because I see my readership splitting on this. There's a weird extra level to this whole thing that the documentary kind of seems to ignore. The obvious level is that the first world tourists are exploiting the people of Papua New Guinea. The documentarians, in turn, are exploiting the tourists. But I kind of want to take it a step beyond that and see if I can find something in this ourobouros of a 67 minute documentary that has been so kindly rounded up to 70 minutes on IMDB.
There are two ways that I want to take this. They are kind of related, so I hope I don't really step on my own feet by writing about both of these ideas in the same analysis. The documentarians, by some transitive property, are the ones exploiting the people of Papua New Guinea. I don't want to oversimplify that because there is exploitation regardless of documentary crews on set. But what is happening is that the documentarians are filming the native people and stressing what turds the first worlders are. They are pretending to be their friends to get the shots that they need for the sake of their documentary. The documentary, from there, is submitting their footage to ABC or whatever station is running this documentary for money. The message of the film is that the visitors to Papua New Guinea view a complex and rich civilization as quaint for the sake of their own vacation and to pet themselves on the back for being so advanced. But the documentarians are the ones looking down on everyone involved. This is a commentary on intellectualism and how it is anything but. I bet most of the people on that tour thought that they were these enlightened individuals. There are times where some of the interviewees wax poetic about art or history or civilizations, but they come across as morons when juxtaposed to the innocence of the locals talking. These people could have taken another trip to Disney World or Six Flags, but instead, they chose to visit some place to try to meet a new culture. Rather than staying isolated, they tried their best to get some hands on learning and growing. I think the mistake lies not in the attempt to visit these people with their money, but misunderstanding that it takes a long time to understand cultural barriers. Financially, the Average Joe cannot devote the resources, the finances, or the time to properly get to understand another culture. So they are trying their best. I'm not on the side of the privileged white culture...I don't think. But there is no malice when it came to these things. One of the results of this documentary is the message, "Don't try." The movie kind of wants me to stay home and avoid meeting new people. Yeah, the people there are visiting and they absolutely suck at their first contact. They are bullies and rude, but this is a wildly forced situation. People fall back on old habits when taken out of their comfort zone and that has to be taken into account to some degree.
But here's the real kicker. By viewing this study in a literature / anthropology class, aren't I worse? I was sitting in a room with a bunch of adults who were cringing as much as I was. It was a train-wreck. Every nightmare I have ever had about meeting new people from different walks of life was on screen and I couldn't handle it. The questions and the commands and the privilege was so palpable that you probably could have seen me bury the heels of my palms into my eyes. It was so easy to criticize them, but then I also realized that I was in Northern Kentucky. I was spending ungodly amounts of money to sit comfortably in a room and watch a movie instead of having a formal lesson. I got to experience Papua New Guinea through the diluted lens of a documentary that didn't focus on the rich cultural heritage of Papua New Guinea. Rather, it was from the perspective of how horrible people act when encountering new people. I didn't even have the guts to go to New Guinea and attempt to be better than the people on camera. I had to imagine that there were people on that expedition (is that the right word for this?) that were completely chill. They probably weren't the ugly tourists that we were all warned about when I went abroad. I went to comfortable, first world locations and tried to blend in. The people on screen came from different worlds. Yes, the narrative and commentary of the locals is completely right. The complaints that no one buys anything and tries bargaining against the poor is completely valid, but that could easily be solved by giving the visitors proper etiquette about visiting New Guinea. If the people there don't like being haggled with, warn the visitors not to haggle. If the people there want to be paid for their time, then tell the people ahead of time. This is more of a commentary on who is organizing these tours and how misinformation is spread rather than an accurate attack of the educated. And remember, by me writing this, I am part of that educated. I may want to distance myself from the people in this movie. (Oh man, I really want to distance myself from the people in this movie.) But here I am, absorbing their lack of education while I claim to be educated. Now I'm all spiraling about the nature of judgement.
We're wired to judge. The people meeting the natives are constantly standing in judgment of them. The documentarians are in judgment of the tourists. I stand in judgment of everyone but the people of Papua New Guinea. I click between my tabs of this and South Park Susan, who happens to be the terrible person of the day. (No, you are allowed to judge her. She's the worst...for today.) I can say that I left the documentary with an understanding of the people of Papua New Guinea, but it is more along the lines of what documentaries have done to the native people. The natives in these videos are really aware of what is going on. Good, they should be. People shouldn't stay ignorant of being exploited. But they also can't return to a state of grace and innocence. Rather, the very nature of cameras being there has turned everything that the natives have done into a form of the Wild West Show. This documentary is more like the behind-the-scenes special features on a DVD. Instead of actually celebrating their own culture (I mean, there are still elements of that), everything is kind of a puppet show in the long run. The culture has become this weird liminal culture. They are not what they were before, but they aren't what the first worlders are. It's just this odd awareness that they know that the rest of the world views them as backwards. I guess this comes down to elements of faith, but how does one wholeheartedly throw oneself into a belief when the curtain has been torn away.
I found myself oddly bored at times in this awfully short documentary. O'Rourke got me on his team when I was watching it. I only had this epiphany about the incestual nature of it all yesterday or the day before. Everyone is right about it, which means everyone is terrible. But once that message is there, it is repeated a thousand times. We get insights from all of the locals, which all echo one another in various degrees of anger and annoyance. But it isn't exactly a fun documentary. It just makes me feel bad. I don't mind things that make me feel bad if I didn't have to keep peeling away layers and realizing that this very documentary is toxic in itself. Regardless, I rarely regret watching things and I did get something out of this movie. Even if that one thing is a contribution to my ever spiraling depression.
Because it is a superhero movie, it's PG-13. The main idea behind my analysis is that Fantastic Four might be the most family friendly of all the superhero films. I'm not talking about The Incredibles, which is an homage to the Fantastic Four. I'm talking about major original properties. Because there is a bad guy, there's some scary stuff. But it is all superhero violence. Probably the most gruesome thing in the movie is Dr. Doom blowing a hole through a guy. Johnny is often shirtless / obstructed naked. But it's pretty family friendly. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Tim Story
I know that there is an entire blogging business devoted to unpopular takes. They give bad movies second chances and talk about why they are wildly misunderstood. I get why people hate Fantastic Four, the 2005 version. (I completely understand why everyone hates the reboot. Geez, that stupid movie.) But I've never really hated on the 2005 version. It's an imperfect movie, sure. It's missing some really important elements that would be corrected by almost every other Marvel film. But it has a couple of things that go really right for it that people tend to ignore. I think we might have to discuss the reboot to talk about what is actually right about the 2005 version of Fantastic Four.
As a parent, I love Fantastic Four. I have a six-year-old, a four-year-old (who gets scared by everything), and a six-month-old (who poops a lot. This is extra information, but it does make the scenario way more real). My six-year-old daughter is really into comic books. She's currently obsessed with anything Spider-character related. For those people who currently read the comics, you know what I'm talking about. She love Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen / Ghost Spider, Miles Morales, Spider-Ham, Spiderling. The list keeps going. But the Spider-Man movies actually are kind of scary. The original trilogy was directed by horror master Sam Raimi, and it shows. Spider-Man: Homecoming is pretty good for her, but it's also pretty meshed into the MCU and avoids a lot of the mythology stuff that she loves. So then I thought I better introduce her to new characters and the only Marvel related movie that I could think that was family friendly enough was Fantastic Four. Superhero movies are marketed to kids, but a lot of them are pretty intense. I want to break this down a bit. Think about all of those costumes, backpacks, lunch boxes, PJs, and toys. They're aimed for kids as young as kindergarten. But those movies aren't really for kindergarteners. Those movies are meant for the nostalgia hounds like me. Like the comics, they grew up with audiences. But the Fanastic Four was always focused on family. I'm not saying that there isn't dark content in some Fantastic Four comic books. There is, especially with what happened to the Ultimate versions of the characters. Again, I can't forget what the reboot tried doing with these characters and how inherently flawed that whole idea was. The Fantastic Four are a family first. They bicker. They get angry at each other. But the Fantastic Four is the story of family. Yeah, the Fantastic Four's roster has changed over the many decade since the comic premiered in the '60s. But fundamentally, it's Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing. It keeps coming back because family is central. With such a strong focus on family, the tone really doesn't have the opportunity to stray too much from what makes it work. The byproduct of all of this is that the protagonists, with the exception of one, really are their comic book counterparts. Okay, you might comment that they are a little bit hokey. Comic book characters shift and evolve. But they still have some fundamental traits that make them fundamentally the same. The 2005 Fantastic Four has a brainy and socially incompetent Reed Richards. Johnny Storm is a fun, prakny braggart. Ben Grimm is a mook who is tortured by his powers. It's the Invisible Woman who is wildly underserviced here. Her character structure is fine. She is frustrated by this guy who constantly undervalues her, despite the fact that he is in love with her. But Sue Storm needs to be stronger and that's the weakest of the characters in the group. A lot of it comes from miscasting. The other actors were picked for type. Jessica Alba was cast for celebrity status / hotness. That's such an odd decision. This is where someone like Kate Mara of the reboot would have actually been a better decision. (Kate Mara would have been too young in 2005, but you get the idea.) Jessica Alba is such a noticable flaw in the grand scheme of things because she can't ground the character. Sue Storm is not a character of extremes. I've seen Alba hold her own when she's given something intense to work with. Her character's power is literally a metaphor for being unseen. That takes nuance and finesse and I don't think Alba could do that.
Both Fantastic Four movies have a really big problem: they don't know how to handle their villains. It has the Fantastic Four right. Stick them in the Baxter Building. Have them go on big adventures. (Okay, the big adventures thing is also lacking, but that's because the movies don't get anything besides the four right.) Dr. Doom is wildly mismanaged here. He looks great, when he's finally all Doomed Up. But Doom is a very standard, light-switch villain. He's also really hard to get right. Doom is obsessive with the need to control and rule. Any oversight could not possibly be his own fault. The problem is that both Reed and Doom make the mistake that give them powers. Doom's evil comes from the fact that he will never admit his own mistake. It is a constant struggle to show that he was right all along. Doom, also, doesn't need powers. That's really difficult. He's scarred Iron Man. (I actually love that the comics have attached Doom to Iron Man once the Fantastic Four title was put on hiatus.) Not only is he scarred Iron Man, but he's also a magician. I can see the movie leaving that out, but how much better would it have been if Doom had only been scarred from the blast? He has no powers because he was behind the shield, but he's just left a disgusting husk. Those around him are New York's superhero team and the guy who funded it is left hideous? That's such a stronger choice. He builds a suit that allows him to have powers that dwarf the Fantastic Four's? It stresses his genius and his megalomania. It's really weird that the movie tried to tie Doom to Latveria in this one because Julian McMahon doesn't really do anything to imply that he's not American. They actually leave his pretty face exposed for most of the film. (The second film does this too!) I always have a problem when the main villain of the first movie is the archnemesis. The first film is so concerned with an origin story that it can devote the time it needs to for the villain. That's exactly what's going on here. It's a real shame.
With the film's bad guy being kind of a wash, that kind of leads to a weak plot. But Fantastic Four shouldn't be completely ignored because it makes the characters' journeys the central focus of the story. We don't care about Doom. It's a weird thing to say, but you can cut all that stuff because it isn't properly serviced. But what you can focus on that is actually really smart is the juxtaposition between Ben's journey and Johnny's journey. Reed and Sue are your B-plots. Story does a solid job of making Ben's journey the most important part of the story. Chiklis is a little guy, so it is always a little off-putting to have such a tiny guy play The Thing. But Chiklis plays the part pitch-perfectly. He's trying to be a good guy, but everything is frustrating to him. People don't view him as a hero. They see a rock monster down the street. There's this really cool moment that I've never thought about. His fiancee' ditches him and puts the ring on the ground so she doesn't have to interact with him. His giant rock hands won't let him pick it up. That's a genius moment. In the comics, I always had a harder time sympathizing with the Thing, despite the fact that this was always a central theme. I mean, I did. But that moment with the ring made me get it. Everything is a constant reminder that he's not like everybody else. He's sick of being the emotional support for everyone else because nobody else gets it, despite the fact that they think they do. This leads to a conflict with Reed, whom he blames for this entire experience. The comic book first issue has Ben fighting (physically) with Reed immediately after landing. I never bought that. The movie mirrors this sequence because the fight goes the same way. I appreciate that Story could just yank that image right out from the pages, but it does create another problem. The movie isn't that long. Ben's anger at Reed is really amped up, which makes Ben look like a bad guy at times. I would have loved that slow burn. I have to give points that Story handles it better than the comics, but it is still pretty rushed. Then there's Johnny, whose life has gotten way better because of his powers. That juxtaposition is awesome. The fact that these guys are forced family now is just a great dynamic. I can't stress enough that this is the movie that gets the protagonists right when few people do.
I acknowledge that this movie is a little bit on the dumb side. There are so many great superhero movies that a mediocre one seems pretty terrible. But I actually had a really good time rewatching Fantastic Four. It felt like the comics to me. My kids loved it. Why would I complain about that? I know that the second movie also bollocks up the villains, but they get the hard part right. That's probably what makes it so frustrating is that so much is good that, when it drops the ball hard, it is just staggering. Ah well, I'm not going to apologize for liking this one. Also, I've added some non-MCU Marvel movies to the list and that's pretty fun.
It's PG because there was no PG-13. It's certainly not R. Well, I should probably not be so flippant about that because this movie involves murder, suicide, ghosts, adultery, multiple people falling to their deaths, and generally upsetting concepts. The thing is, I might watch this in front of my kids. But that's more along the lines that I'm a bad person who needs to determine his priorities.
DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
I never want to write about my favorite movies. (I especially don't want to write about them again after I accidentally closed the page and lost all of my information.) It's really intimidating. I don't want to be gushing about a movie because that just makes for boring reading. Also, Vertigo is a super intimidating movie to write about. It's a great favorite movie. It's got just the right amount of hipster cred to it. Lots of people love The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption. Lots more people probably love The Dark Knight. Those movies are great, but I do love me some Vertigo. It's just that there's something that is really weird about Vertigo possibly being my favorite movie. The weird thing is...
...it's not perfect.
I'm going to start dunking on my favorite film. It's a weird choice, but it also feels a little more objective. If I'm going to analyze the movie, I guess I should look at it warts and all. There are some really perfect movies out there. They aren't my favorite. Vertigo has a couple of really problematic things about it and realize I'm saying this out of love. I'm going to call a spade a spade. A good chunk of the first half is pretty boring. I'm not talking about the police chase. That is awesome and the perfect, out-of-the-gate opening. I even love the Midge stuff. The movie does a great job of balancing showing and infodump. But I keep hearing from movies that stakeouts are super boring and Vertigo lets me actually believe how boring they are. A lot of this movie is just stakeouts. It's necessary because we get Scottie's frustration. Hitchcock had to know what he was doing. He keeps showing Scottie and how annoyed he is by this tedium. It's a really weird choice. But now I'm going to be an apologist for this stuff. Hitchcock is doing it right by showing what is going on instead of having someone tell us. We see these small moments of information. We get the misleads the same way that Scottie does. It also makes the revelations somewhat earned. This is a weird observation, but Vertigo might be similar to what makes video games work when video game. (Don't worry, I hate me too.) Video game movies don't work because they don't mirror the structure of a game. When major plot points are revealed, they are unearned. Vertigo makes us kind of work for the information and it pays off. It's not my favorite. I have to stress that. But it is necessary to the story. I also really don't like the Jimmy Stewart / Kim Novak combination. I talked about the age difference in my Bell, Book, and Candle review. I keep going over this in my head and I have a really hard time defending their age difference. There's no way that Kim Novak is that into Jimmy Stewart. As part of that, Vertigo might be the most ambiguous genre I've ever seen. It could be any or all of the following genres: murder mystery, psychological thriller, ghost story, romance, etc. But romance is the thread that ties a lot of this story together. Having the age difference is often distracting. This especially comes into play when Scottie is being a monster to Judy. The idea that she's that enamored with him that she's willing to risk it all of Scottie the monster. But this is all arbitrary. Because the movie is amazing and now I'm going to enjoy myself a little bit.
I've seen most of Hitchcock's films. I crushed that IMDB list. I haven't watched some of the ones that have garbage prints, but I really love what Hitchcock does. Not as a human being. Like most great artists, apparently he is a trash person. But he knows how to make a movie. I have a handful of truly amazing movies from Hitch on my list, but Vertigo somehow feels special. Vertigo thrives because it might be his most complex movie coupled with the fact that Hitchcock uses color in ways that I don't really see in his other films. Since this is one of my favorites, I want to feel free to use SPOILERS from here on. I think I've watched Vertigo four times. It's not a fun watch all of the time. I just talked about how slow it is. But I know the story pretty well. Somehow, Vertigo has the ability to catch me off guard every time. Structurally, Hitchcock breaks a lot of rules. It is a fairly long movie, but he uses the time in a way that I haven't seen happen in other movies. It kind of feels like you are watching three separate movies. The beginning is the investigation. It is a ghost story. Honestly, each time I watch this, I keep thinking that Carlotta Valdes is central to the plot. It's one of the coolest misleads because Hitchcock crafts this paranoid feeling. Scottie following Judy / Madeline / Carlotta (that's going to get annoying) into the hotel and she's not there? It's pretty creepy. She throws herself into the bay. The romance forms and Scottie is being manipulated. I know the end of the movie and it never feels like Scottie is being manipulated. Then there's the really trippy psychological break. This is where the structure goes to eleven and I'm not even sure how this works. The big revelation is given at 60% of the movie. He Gone Girl'ed us. There's this very cryptic mystery and we're given very little info. Then we just get the answer and we get to watch crazy Scottie go to town. It's really dark. The kind hearted protagonist is torturing Judy against his will. His psychosis is carried to this dark place that I'm not used to see protagonists experience. Honestly, most movies end with a tease that "Scottie never recovered." But Hitchcock makes it central concept. We deal with mental illness unchecked. Scottie is broken in the first two minutes of the film and it seems like that trauma is superficial. But it really becomes an issue towards the end. We get this really cool nightmare sequence that some of my classes laughed at and this class loved. But then it becomes this awesome revenge plot, still completely painted with psychosis. It's so good. Guys. That end is just what I want out of every movie.
We know that there's no happy ending to this story. I don't see how that could work. But to do that, we have to villify Scottie. Scottie is in the right for his actions, kind of. The right thing to do would be to forgive and seek counseling. He should report this to the authorities because he's been wronged. But what fun is that? Instead, there's this house of cards. Everything is just telegraphed and it's wonderful. Yeah, there's a surprise at the end that's pretty simple, yet fantastic. But Hitchcock lets you know how this is going to play out fifteen minutes before it happens. It doesn't really make it any less impactful. That end is the most cathartic dark ending I've ever seen. I actually think this movie stresses that I'm a bad person. Yet, I think everyone loves it. It hits that dark part of our psyche to point out that we want to see Judy die a horrible death. We know that Scottie can't throw her off the tower. That's just too much. But having Judy fall from the tower as a moment of poetic justice is great. Also, Hitchcock gives us time to start hating Scottie. Look at the scene between Scottie and Midge at the beginning of the film. He's honestly amazing. He's a fantastic human being. But Hitchcock manages to have Scottie grow darker and darker throughout the story. Scottie continues to experience tragedy after tragedy throughout this story. He grows into Walter White throughout this story. It's wildly tragic how the story ends, but like a Shakespeare play, we feel like the end is just for the protagonist. This could have been avoided, but the best ending has Scottie throwing away his entire moral code. He is never in control, unlike the well-crafted frame job. Scottie tries playing by the villain's rules and he never really realizes the cost. I'm realizing this right now, but Vertigo might be the perfect narrative of the hero becoming the villain. Yes, he's justified, but that transition is really organic. Every choice makes perfect sense.
Vertigo is also a really pretty movie. I'm showing my film club It Happened One Night and there were groans when they heard it was going to be black-and-white. But Vertigo actually uses color fabulously. San Francisco is a beautiful backdrop. It's not like Hitchcock invented San Francisco. That was Hikaru Sulu, but I digress. The color palate that accompanies San Francisco is absolutely beautiful. I love the idea of a beautiful blue sky contrasting the darkness of the tale. This might be one of the only "ghost stories" that I have ever seen mostly told in the brightness of day. The juxtaposition of Kim Novak against the Golden Gate Bridge is striking. I know that Hitchcock loves the inclusion of neon as part of his aesthetics as a thing, but it works so much better in this. I'm thinking of his use of it in Rope and that doesn't really hold a candle to Novak's revelation in the Hotel Empire. The green is intense. I mean, the same can be said for a lot of locations. I think the name of the restaurant is Elmer's or something, but the red of that wallpaper is, like, wow.
The movie just works. It's so good. Sure, I'm going to rewatch The Seven Samurai some day and I'm going to question my entire list again. I just watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest not long ago and I'm still questioning if Vertigo has been dethroned. All I know is that this movie absolutely and positively crushes. The odd thing is that I want to watch Psycho sometime soon as well. Regardless, it's an excellent movie and I'm super happy to have watched it again.
I think I've firmly established that Halloween movies are extremely R-Rated. We're not talking about Rob Zombie levels. But it's still a Halloween movie. I would even say that it is on the more intense side. I guess points with the fact that it kills a kid on camera. That's a big step in the dark zone. (The dark zone? What is going on?) There's that gross shot from the trailer. There's nudity, but it is from the original 1978 Halloween. The f-bomb is thrown around a lot. Rated R.
DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green
My buddy, Jeff, hates David Gordon Green. At least he used to. I never really had any problems with him. I tended to at least like a lot of his movies. He's never really knocked my socks off, but I was excited when he was attached to this movie. Hearing that he was writing it with Danny McBride only made me lose my mind more. The weird thing is that I'm not obsessed with either person. I think I like the idea behind David Gordon Green and Danny McBride more than the actual fandom I possess. They're fine. And that's what I'm taking away from the movie. They're fine. The movie, therefore, is fine. It's just that I needed it to be great. The trailer looked great. People said that it was great. But it was just another movie in the Halloween franchise and that's wildly disappointing. Why are the Halloween movies so obsessed with maintaining the status quo?
The thing is, and I've been preaching this throughout my Halloween reviews, is that the Halloween movies should be director led. It should be John Carpenter's Halloween; Rob Zombie' Halloween, David Gordon Green's Halloween. They should all have unique styles and be unafraid to completely shake things up. I know that I got some pushback about my love for the Rob Zombie entries in the series, but those movies are, at least, something new. The 2018 Halloween is more same-old, same-old (pun inteneded). The big moments are so superficial that they don't really change things. So the movie retconned everything but Part I. That didn't really add anything. If anything, it actually makes it absurd that everyone is obsessed with Michael Myers. He was a one time, one-night killer who seemed pretty easy to take down all things considering. Yes, it's very upsetting that he is the scourge of Haddonfield, but then just move away. WHY IS LAURIE STRODE LIVING IN HADDONFIELD? (Okay, that question is answered, by my sympathy is teeny-tiny because of it.) I've never actually seen a retcon make things actually harder for the character. What the retcon did on the grand scheme (and this is in the trailer, so it's not really a spoiler) is take away the blood relation between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. That didn't change a darned thing in the story. It seems like a fanboy thing to say that Laurie isn't family. The weird thing is that it creates a lost opportunity that is just a shame.
I mean, this movie is about family. I like that. There's some things that I like about the movie and that's one of the things. The movie, at least, has a running theme. It's about how family hurts each other and having Michael chase Laurie down because she's family seems like a really smart choice. Why go through the process of retconning all of that stuff? I mean, we now have three different timelines when it comes to Laurie Strode. In one, she died in a car accident, leaving behind a daughter. In a second, she changed her name and had a son. In this third, she had a daughter and has been a Sarah Connor style doomsday prepper. But none of this needed to be retconned. It all makes sense with the previous entries. I guarantee that Laurie Strode is going to die a third time just so Jamie Lee Curtis doesn't have to keep making these movies. I personal message to Ms. Curtis: they can always retcon the series a fourth time. It just all seems excessive. Honestly, the retcon reboot feels like a gimmick. It seems like it adds a mystique to Michael, but nothing is new. The reboot isn't really for Michael, though. The remake is for Laurie. I just mentioned Sarah Connor. I think that the filmmakers wanted to graft the Sarah Connor mythos onto another character. Pretty much all of the major themes were explored in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Perhaps David Gordon Green wanted to do a Terminator movie and they just said "no." Halloween, for all intents and purposes, was a dead property for about a decade. There's a story to be told about the actual process of victimhood and how that can be passed on generationally, but I still don't think that Halloween quite sticks the landing. We get really good insights into that world, but the movie still makes it about the horror, not the surviving.
But this leads me to one of my favorite things about Halloween. (Can I establish the fact that three movies in the franchise with the same name is driving me crazy? Simply assume I'm talking about David Gordon Green's Halloween.) Thank God for Judy Greer. I am genuinely upset about the roles that she has been given. Halloween is almost just a commentary about how unfair her casting has been. She has been the downer mom in so many movies that she's starting to tell jokes about it. Greer is fantastic and she's once again playing the downer mom. You know what I mean when I write "Downer mom", right? This is the mom who has a strained relationship with her kids and her spouse because she's always put out by something. Halloween is almost a commentary on this role more than anything. There's a reason that Greer's Karen is the downer mom in this one. Laurie Strode, in an attempt to protect her child from the Boogeyman, ruined her childhood. She has no appreciation for the struggles that her daughter Allyson had to put up with. Or maybe she does. There's almost a hidden jealousy for the simplicity of Allyson's life. This is the one movie that glorifies the NHS on the level that it should be glorified and it's such a great mundane moment. It's so funny to put the three female protagonists next to each other. Laurie is insane; Karen is neurotic, and Allyson is Laurie before everything went wrong. It's so great. As part of all of this, the movie actually kind of avoids horror movie tropes. There's no sex or drugs on screen. Michael Myers isn't quite acting as the sex police. And the performances are pretty solid. There's a lot going on here that really works. I also like Karen's contributions to the end of the plot. It works pretty well. It's not life-changing or anything, but it is pretty good. I will say that the actual bit that beats Michael at the end is on the disappointing side. It really reads as a cop-out as opposed to a meticulous battle. This should be Laurie Strode riding off on a unicorn, holding onto life as she's clutching Michael Myers' stopped heart. Instead, it's a pretty boring surprise that seems to be more of a deus ex machina as opposed to anything of substance. But there are elements of this movie that work. I wish it were funnier. One character is absolutely hilarious, but he's used (thankfully) sparingly. It's weird to think that Danny McBride wrote this movie because it is very restrained when it comes to comedy. But McBride was always one to be subtle with his comedy. His humor comes from the mundane and without a formal comedian delivering some of these parts, I can honestly see funny parts simply read as drama. That's fine.
It might be unfair of me to be criticizing this movie this harshly. I keep on talking about the balance between expectations and expectations defied. But there's eleven movies of Halloween now, ten if you just look at the Michael Myers stuff. I want something new. I don't want to go back to Haddonfield. I don't want to see the same narrative over and over again. I don't need that nostalgic kick. If anything, my binging of the series may have made this movie worse for me and that's no good either. I want to be excited for another entry and this movie didn't do that. I kind of hope I have to wait another decade for the next one, but I know that won't happen.
I watched an episode of Adam Ruins Everything last night that confirmation biased the heck out of my thoughts about the MPAA. Sure, their source was my source, but I still felt justified. There's no real reason why this is PG-13. There's some mild language. I guess the movie is about a bunch of criminals, which I suppose is philosophically PG-13 worthy, I guess? I think that might be it. I really don't have much beyond that. Again, my repeated theory is that the rating is just intended audience, not a content thing.
DIRECTOR: Gary Ross
I really liked the first Ocean's Eleven movie. I'm not talking about the Sinatra one. People have always steered me away from that one, despite my love of classic film. One day, I'll probably bite the bullet and one of two things will happen. 1) I'll dislike it, but not regret having seen it because it makes me more knowledgeable or 2) I'll tell myself I like it to be the hipster who likes the least known entry in the franchise. But I'm already distracting myself. I liked the first one a lot, but I really loathed the first sequel, Ocean's Twelve. (This numbering system is giving me an ulcer because you have to have an understanding of both release date and content to get through these movies in the right order.) Then Ocean's Thirteen was closer to the first movie, but almost a copycat of the first movie. I also firmly believe that none of these movies had ever gotten close to the payoff of the first film, until Ocean's Eight.
The con / heist movie is about deception and misdirection. I always find these movies boggling because the movie needs to both have you as a member of the crew, but also somewhat in the dark with how this is going to play out. It's a fine line when it comes to telling the story. Like a good mystery, all of the clues need to be there throughout the film, but there can't be straight up lies. Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen, unfortunately, make the mystery borderline unsolvable. Ocean's Eleven didn't do that. The Ocean's franchise might be the problem with a sequel. The reason that the first Ocean's movie exists is because someone thought of an amazing heist and perfected. The sequel's worked backward from there and it doesn't quite play out the same way. But with Ocean's 8, it's been a while since we got an entry in the franchise. This movie felt worked on and crafted. I am going to go into what makes the movie work beyond the heist throughout this analysis, but it is a fundamentally good heist. The stakes seem so much lower than the casino job that Danny Ocean pulls in the first movie, but that's exactly what needed to happen. The movies kept trying to raise the bar with what people could steal and often would have to deal with the practicality of moving the object. The Toussaint is a difficult grab, but it is a necklace. The practicality it of this stolen object means that certain film elements won't be involved. There's no car chases. There's no trucks busting through walls. It actually makes it a different movie and that's really smart. The franchise, up to this point, was suffering from trying to top itself unsuccessfully. Making the object something that can be slipped into a pocket or a purse makes the story about precision and stress. Both cons are about misdirects, but like Constance's Three-Card-Monty, it's trying to keep an eye on an object that is constantly moving and shifting between locations. The way they movie it is clever, but then the movie takes it a step further and remembers that there has to be something unexpected.
There's a slight misstep here, but it really is minor. Reminder, I don't like being lied to about the heist. I don't mind you not outright telling me. In fact, I shouldn't be outright told. But I need to have seen and ignored clues to make me excited for the movie. It is the magic trick I need out of the con movie. It's the misdirect. However, there's one very important bit of information that is left out from the story. It's not the worst and most of that element of the heist is telegraphed in other clues, but the actual execution of this moment is completely hidden from the story. I say that it is a minor clue because I don't see how they could even include it without the entire jig being up, but it is still a little bit disappointing. But the movie does this cool thing with the big reveal. The misdirect, overall, still works. Like I said, it's a little bit of a cop out, but the extra reveal is actually worth more than the trickery that got to that reveal. Again, this is all a blog about my hypocrisy because I've been far more critical of other tropes. I don't know why why this works. It's such a cherry-on-top moment. The movie is good. The reveal is great. It doesn't necessarily make a great movie, but it does make a good "gotcha" moment. Ocean's Eight is really good at keeping me guessing for a lot of it. For as straightforward as the whole heist is, there are a lot of moments that have me focused on them. The pacing of the movie is what helps a lot with that. Director Gary Ross will intentionally show me an object. I'll obsess about that object for a long time, knowing it will come into play later. But the way that this movie is paced, the movie waits five minutes after I've completely forgotten about that object to reveal the object's purpose. (I'm really doing my darndest to not spoil things, making my writing criminally enigmatic.) That's talent. Maybe I should be giving credit to the editor because it works. The cinematographer gives you plenty of opportunity to highlight important details, but leaves it at "fair chance." That's awesome.
Overall, I like the cast...with almost the exception of the leads. Every secondary character I find completely fascinating. They have these interesting personalities and, like the first Ocean's movie, they all have an integral part to play in the heist. (Again, sequels are problematic.) Oddly enough, I didn't think I would like Rihanna's 9-Ball, but she grew on me over the course of the movie. She plays aloof really well, so I got on board pretty quick. I thought the 9-ball gimmick was a bit much, but I got invested in at one point. My wife and I weren't sure about the ever shifting accents going on with her character, but I feel like the choices might have been intentional. There might be a diagetic explanation for that decision, so it works. Sandra Bullock...I don't know. She's not bad, by any stretch of the imagination. But she also doesn't quite have the charisma that I was kind of hoping for. I rarely get excited to see Sandra Bullock in a movie. I'm sorry. That might make me a bad person, but there's nothing wholly amazing about her performance in this. If we were better about aging --precisely women aging -- in Hollywood, we would be fundamentally better people and Sandra Bullock could be getting better roles. Once again, Sandra Bullock is trying to play the roles she would have played twenty years ago. I love that Jamie Lee Curtis is constantly shifting what is expected of her. Sandra Bullock, not so much. She's good enough, but she's resting a lot on a good script and a good cast. She's not leading the cast. She's just more part of the cast. Cate Blanchett, also, might not be doing what she's capable of. I think Blanchett is an extremely talented actor. I love her in most things. The odd thing is that she was asked to play Brad Pitt in this one. She's doing an outstanding Brad Pitt impression for this movie. I love Pitt's character in the other ones. But can't we let Blanchett be someone new? She's good enough to pull that off. I know that Pitt's character does something very narratively smart for ensemble movies, but it just seems lazy to make a new Brad Pitt. Bullock is already Debbie Ocean. She's taking cues from George Clooney for her decisions. But even Bullock pulls back a little bit on that whole idea. While Blanchett is doing a better job (sorry!) than Bullock, Bullock is at least smart in making the role her own. I do love the rest of the cast. I love Mindy Kaling all the time and she doesn't disappoint in this one. I don't know what the Tinder thing added to the narrative, but it's okay to have some off ideas from time to time. I'm really starting to appreciate Awkwafina. She's showing up in stuff and I always love her character. She's the character I kept watching for because she's funny without trying to steal a scene. (Pun intended.) I'm actually going to say that I love Helena Bonham Carter in this one. I tend to write Bonham Carter off in things because A) everyone loves her and I'm a bit too hipster and B) she keeps doing the same roles. This is just different enough that I love it. She's still playing to her strengths, but I like the character a lot here. It's larger than reality, but not Tim Burton crazy.
Can I just stress how baller the soundtrack is? I normally play the soundtrack to the movie while I write the analysis to get me in the same mood that I was when I watched the movie. This one is crushing. The Ocean's movies normally have amazing soundtracks. Ocean's Eight may give the original a run for its money. I was blasting it today in front of my students and they were really digging it. It's something timeless and super-cool. I could listen to this all of the time.
Ocean's Eight is not a perfect movie. I don't think it was ever supposed to be. The cultural impact of the first movie seemed almost incidental. I don't think that it was ever supposed to make the canon, but it got really close. It was supposed to be a fun summer movie. The sequels took so many steps back that I never thought we'd get a great heist movie again, let along a great Ocean's movie. But this one is pretty great. It has a great feel to it. It is a satisfying con movie, making it a great mystery movie. The jokes don't take center stage, which is a bit of a shame. There aren't a ton of laughs, which I would have liked. I got a couple of really good snorts, but nothing that made me die laughing. That doesn't really matter though because it gets all the things it needs to get right, right. Ocean's Eight is a fun time with a great cast and that's what I wanted.
Rated R for a lot of 1967 bright red blood. This blood isn't just in some places. Oh no. This isn't a paper cut. A dude gets shot point blank in the face. Things don't end up so great for actual historical figures Bonnie and Clyde, meaning that this isn't a spoiler. This is an education. The movie oddly dips and ducks around other social taboos. There's the most obtuse talk about sex that I've seen in a film. There's not much swearing. It's just that a lot of people get shot in gross ways. Rated R.
DIRECTOR: Arthur Penn
People be loving this movie. Like, people revere this movie. I don't know anyone personally. But in film circles, this movie has respect. I mean, it's not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. But to enter the cinematic canon like it has, that is mind-boggling. I'm probably going to get ripped apart for my meh-ness when it comes to movie. I can almost even guess who probably loves this movie. But I think I know why I don't like this movie and I'd like to verbalize it clearly. Then I'm going to duck and dodge around that statement to stretch this review out into a long, muddled mess. Do you know why this movie doesn't really work?
He's not great. I don't think I've ever really liked Warren Beatty. He's not a horrible actor. He can get by sometimes, but he's rarely impressive. Bonnie and Clyde might be the worst of it. I should check. I had weirdly unreliable memories about writing a review about Bram Stoker's Dracula. I'm pretty sure that it didn't happen. But Bonnie and Clyde and Bram Stoker's Dracula share one huge flaw that really stresses and highlights the flaws of the movie: it puts a really mediocre actor across from a great actor. In Dracula, it was Anthony Hopkins across from Keanu Reeves. Watch that performance. Hopkins is chewing the scenery like I've never seen and Keanu is being the most Keanu he's ever been. The same is true with Warren Beatty and Gene Hackman. Gene Hackman is the character he's playing. Then there's Warren Beatty, who admittedly is trying harder than Keanu was. (I'm sorry, Mr. Reeves. I actually like your oeuvre quite a bit, but that performance was cringe-worthy.) Beatty is not a subtle actor. He's almost telegraphing like one would on a stage. Every choice is larger than it should be. The movie has room for nuance. I'm not saying that there's a ton of that in here. I feel like Faye Dunaway is also going a little bit big, but that almost is a response to Beatty's performance. But there's something believable about Dunaway and Hackman that Beatty just doesn't have. Again, I'm placing a lot of that on Beatty's shoulders. It seems pretty consistent with many of his performances. He seems to get by on chiseled looks as opposed to anything else in many of his movies. But as big as the other actors are getting, they at least really seem to believe their characters. Beatty, on the other hand, isn't strong enough to do that. Also, his character doesn't have much of an emotional arc. Dunaway's Bonnie has a ton to work with.
Look at it this way. Clyde is kind of a scoundrel from moment one. He's a lovable scoundrel, despite that he shoots people in the face. But he's a scoundrel nonetheless. He meets Bonnie by jacking a relative's car. (Well, attempting to steal the car. Until he sees a naked lady tastefully covered up by sections of a window.) His growth is pretty superficial. His entire character arc goes from being a guy who never thought he'd fall in love with one person to loving her. Yeah, it's a love story in a weird way. But that's not the big transition. Bonnie is the one who has this deep character that needs to be explored. Faye Dunaway is the character who goes through stuff. Heck, if it wasn't for the recognizable duo, I would have preferred this movie just to be called "Bonnie". That's the movie right there. That's how you win me over. Something as simple as that. Change the title and give her a little bit more business and this is a movie that I can get behind. Bonnie Parker is already kind of an enigma to me. A lot of this movie is about people glorifying crime. The country is just falling apart, so people don't love the government. I know that there's a history of glorifying the outlaw of the Old West and that Bonnie and Clyde are coming off of that run in entertainment. But people all over love the idea of meeting the Barrow Gang and that's fascinating to me. But I digress. What I'm really fascinated with is how quickly Bonnie just abandons her old humdrum life for a life full of crime and murder. Like, she falls for Clyde really fast. LIKE REALLY FAST. Unrealistically fast. It's one sociopath running into another sociopath and recognizing that they are kindred spirits. But she's not a sociopath, I guess. She still loves their life, but this gets into a weird study of what depression is really like. Only, you know, they kill people and rob banks. There are moments where she just shifts. She loses her focus. She is upset by things that no one else finds weird. 90% of the time, she's indulgent with her crimes and loves being this celebrity. Other times, she wishes that Clyde was just a regular dude. Bonnie wouldn't have ever loved him if he was a regular dude. He is who he is and that's what made her instantly fall for him. Oddly enough, this might be a commentary on relationships to begin with. The idea of love at first sight is kind of questioned. I don't think that there's any doubt that she loves Clyde throughout the entire film. But there are moments where she regrets ever being in a place where she could love Clyde. Her sadness at their lifestyle is palpable. It's odd, because her fantasy is of the boring. There's a great conversation between the two regarding if they could do it all over again and Clyde implies that he would do things differently, but his changes are so insignificant that it shows that he hasn't changed whatsoever over the course of the story. Faye Dunaway actually does a marvelous job of balancing what should be shown and what shouldn't be shown. I approve wholeheartedly.
Estelle Parson's Blanche is too much. I don't know the real history of Bonnie and Clyde. I don't really idolize criminals that much. (But I still love Breaking Bad and The Shield for some reason.) This character kept showing up in films of the '60s and '70s and I can just live without it. There's nothing that really makes me bond with the character and that's a bummer. Blanche is supposed to be annoying. I get that. When the protagonists of the story are evil, there has to be a sense of bonding and usually that is done over having a mutual annoyance. It's why Skylar may have come across as so caustic. Everyone in the scenario was bothered by Skylar (except for the logical side of my brain). But even more so, everyone is annoyed by Blanche. Blanche is about five notches too far though. Her screeching gets to be a bit old. One scene does enough to get under my skin. But it became the "Eat my shorts, man" of the movie. Every time there was an action scene, Blanche would scream at the top of her lungs and all I can say is, "No thank you." C.W. Moss, in contrast, is great though. I have a soft spot for Michael J. Pollard, I think, ever since Scrooged. He's always a version of that character. He's just such a great character actor and his addition to the group is such a great juxtaposition. He's this child who is over his head and loving every minute of it. There's this great element to the movie that lets us all scream at the screen every time he begs for equal fame to the rest of the Barrow boys. His character is also pretty well developed. I love the arc that he goes through. It's baby steps, but that's what he character needs.
SPOILER: The end is pretty great. There's this wonderful real world foreshadowing that happens and the movie doesn't linger on it. The ending is teased appropriately throughout and once it happens, it's just over. I love that there's no attempt to drag out the finale. It just happens and the editing on it is great. The movie love the L-cut matched with the smash cut and it works so well throughout the movie. The end kind of keeps the tone and style going throughout and it's pretty satisfying. Again, I'm going to throw Warren Beatty into the deep end. It's not even his fault. It's the direction. But the rolling around after being shot that many times just comes across as silly. It's Pyramus and Thisbe in Midsummer ridiculous. (THE MOST LITERARY REFERENCE I'VE MADE YET!) I know. Bonnie and Clyde are meant to die in each other's arms. But c'mon. He's got all kinds of bullets in him. He ain't rollin' around nowhere. Regardless, I do like the end, but I still don't know why folks love this movie that much. It's really good, but I don't get the love element. Anyway, it's better than I remember it being and there are elements that are going to help my paper. Just not too many elements that are going to help my paper.
"I met him fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no, uh, conscience, no understanding and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the devil's eyes."
THE BOYS HAVE THEIR MEGA-SIZED EPISODE ABOUT THE FIRST TEN MOVIES IN THE HALLOWEEN FRANCHISE! It's gonna get spooky!
These are messed up PG movies. Look at that picture above. Someone's blood is smeared across a wall to leave a message. Apparently, that's okay in a PG movie. We decided The Goblet of Fire would be the last Harry Potter that Olivia would be allowed to read for a while because the content apparently gets too intense after that. Apparently not. This is film 2 and there's blood on walls. Kids are being hunted. There's heavy discussion about wizard racism. There's a very scary snake that involves brain stabbing. It's all very mature for a PG movie.
DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus
Thank goodness they got off the Chris Columbus train. That's so dramatic. I don't mean to be this dramatic. But there's a reason that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is so darned forgettable. My wife didn't even remember that this movie really existed. We were watching this giant snake try to kill Harry and she thought that this was a new movie. Then I was analyzing it, because why else exist? The story isn't bad. As a Doctor Who fan, I can kind of get behind this story more than I thought. I give it props. It seems like Harry is dealing with a young version of The Master in this one. (Golly, I'm married, guys. Someone actually loves me because Lord knows I don't right now.) It also has that Weeping Angel trope saying that anything that is an image of an angel is also an angel. MY POINT IS that this one felt more Doctor Who-y to me. (Not "Doctor Hooey".) But a lot of the fault lies in the lack of risks in this one.
I don't hate Chris Columbus. But I do think that his film style when it comes to making the Harry Potter movies is a bit...boring. I gave him a lot of props when it came to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He had so much to establish in that movie that the flaws can be forgiven. But The Chamber of Secrets might be Exhibit A when it comes to falling prey to expectations. Chris Columbus films the movie the exact same way for Part 2. It has clear chapter breaks. It feels slavish to the book because people love the books so much. There's not much growth with the exception that The Chamber of Secrets has (completely subjective to me) a better plot than The Sorcerer's Stone. When in doubt, blame the studio. I can see the studio wanting more of the same. This movie had to be wildly successful. Think about all of the teen YA novels that have been adapted into film. There's a diminishing return on the whole thing. The fact that the first Harry Potter kind of woke up the fantasy nerds really hard means that the studio knew that it had a cash cow when it came to these movies. I'm sure that the word on high was to make The Chamber of Secrets just like The Sorcerer's Stone. That's a mistake that they'll learn from in the next movie. I love Prisoner of Azkaban, so I'm going to unfortunately use that as the pace car for this series. This is unfair to the movie, but I started The Chamber of Secrets a week before I finished it. It might have even been two weeks. We got to the halfway point and I just needed a break. The movie was about to get really scary and my son couldn't handle it. But I also had no gumption to come back to that. After watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone only a month before, I didn't have any more patience for five hours of the same filmmaking style. It all started to bleed together and that's not good for a movie.
The weird thing is that I think that there's something salvagable here. Overall, I said I probably liked it. I just got a little bored. Harry Potter movies are infamous for taking the long route for a short story. Okay, they might not be infamous. I constantly notice it. Because the stories take place over the course of a year, every major discovery has to be buried under some filler. With The Sorcerer's Stone, there's so much to discover about Hogwarts and wizardry. Harry is coming from the point of view of an exile. He's us. We have to learn the rules in the first one. Like Jurassic Park (the soundtracks also share a lot of tonal similarities), we've now seen the dinosaurs. We can't rely on the magic of Hogwarts to be so magical anymore. I think the movie gets that and that's fine. But by taking away the spectacle, we kind of see the flaws. The quirk of the place is a great background now, but it isn't the center of the story. But unlike The Lost World, the story still works. It's just Columbus's treatment of it as the same thing. I hate to go off on this train again, but Columbus should have been pulling a Rob Zombie. He should have made a very different movie and pushed his skills. But again, I blame the studio. I love that there's a shakeup with the next one. I was just informed that David Yates did the other ones. I just love the idea that the Harry Potter movies were going to be like most of the entries in the Mission: Impossible franchise. But that's me. I like that kind of stuff. So the real missed opportunity tied to this is that The Chamber of Secrets has this pretty cool plot. I love the idea of a mystery diary. I like the idea of a character from the past trying to prevent his own destruction. That stuff is very nifty. But the movie, and by proxy, the book, tend to stall things. Hermione figures out a plan. It takes her a month to make it. In that time, Harry keeps running into wacky setting stuff that is ultimately just fluff. Remember, this story is set against the background of kids potentially dying. It's actually absurd that characters hadn't died up to this time. I know that Rowling has no problem killing off kids, based on future entries. But to not kill kids in this one, she has to come up with this absolutely absurd notion that characters only saw the snake's reflection. That's a lot of coincidence. So there's this structure that is just stapled to this story. Any time that there is progress, there has to be some device to slow down the narrative. This is what makes the movie two-and-a-half hours. It's all that intentional pacing stuff which is off for a movie. It seems like the narrative would need momentum and the movie isn't interested in that. Instead, we get bumbling Gilderoy Lockhart.
I actually kind of lover Gilderoy Lockhart. I love that Kenneth Brannagh plays him. It's just the notion of Gilderoy Lockhart. The movie telegraphs that he's incompetent throughout the film. Many stories have an A-plot and a B-plot. Sometimes it's more than that. Gilderoy Lockhart, which a great bit of flavoring for the Harry Potter world, doesn't really contribute much to the narrative of The Chamber of Secrets as a whole. He's an archetype we've seen before, but he's treated like he's this big mystery. But everything in the movie tells you that he's a fraud. Much of the movie is devoted to Lockhart claiming to know impressive magic, but constantly falling on his face. Everyone can see through his sham, so when Harry "discovers" that he's been lying in his books, it is meant to be this major revelation. It isn't in any way a revelation though. Again, this keeps coming back to the Sorcerer's Stone, but it is meant to mirror the Professor Quirrel revelation. (I don't know if I'm spelling that right, but I'm on a role right now and if I touch the mouse to look it up, I'll lose all momentum.) Not only is Lockhart incompetent, but he's just a little bit evil. He's apparently pretty decent at memory spells, but even that backfires. It seems like there's all of this set up without the payoff that continues in the story. Again, I'm not the biggest Harry Potter fan, but Rowling is usually better than Gilderoy Lockhart in terms of having a purpose for him. There are lots of characters who are woven throughout the stories to have meaningful additions to the universe. Lockhart is just a trope that gets way too much attention. I told you I like the character, but he's just completely underutilized for how much attention is paid him. I would love to have this long haul redemption character throughout the series. He's Booster Gold to me. Or Flash Thompson. We have the braggart character who has his come-uppens in every series. But that makes a fine joke if the character keeps showing up. But what happens to these characters slowly over time is that they become the humble heroes. They ultimately make these great sacrifices that no one ever sees. Lockhart just being mildly evil at the end of the story doesn't really contribute. His revelation is made right before Harry fights a giant snake that kills you if you see his eyes. Lockhart turning evil here is chump change in the long run of the whole story. We all knew that he wasn't a good wizard; why bemoan it?
I honestly thought I lost all of my writing yesterday. My screen reloaded itself and my title disappeared in the drafts folder. But it MAGICALLY (pun intended) reappeared, so I'm pleased as punch. God provides...even on my silly blog, I suppose. I will say that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets does actually hit a thing that I really enjoy...just not in a kids' movie. There are lots of parts that are actually scary. The first movie, my favorite moment is Voldemort eating a unicorn or something. This one isn't afraid to be scary (pun intended). Since I'm attempting both in life and out of life to avoid hypocrisy, the spider stuff is amazing. I hate spiders. Like really hate them. I went on one of the Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios and just held my eyes tightly shut when we got to the spider part. I didn't like it and I thought I wouldn't be able to handle that section of Chamber of Secrets. I did fine. I think I had to look cool in front of my kids. (That goes such a long way. Pretending you aren't scared actually might make you less scared.) But that part is genuinely terrifying. Voldemort's book is actually pretty scary and cool as well. This kind of also makes me love the use of flashback. I'm way more interested in the rise of Voldemort than any problems that Harry might be having in school. There's this potential in this movie to outdo the Star Wars prequels in some ways. I never loved how Darth Vader just lightswitched, but Voldemort is actually slowly deceptive and that's really nifty. It's a bit weird to think that Hagrid used to know Voldemort. That doesn't scan with me that well, but I guess there's nothing that absolutely refutes that, so I can't fight it too hard. But this also brings me to my least favorite element of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It's something that I continually tease over and over again. Every time I meet a Harry Potter fan and I just feel the need to take the wind out of their sails, I say "Tom Marvolo Riddle is 'I am Lord Voldemort'". It's not even an anagram just for his name. It's for "I am Lord Voldemort." That's very silly. I could break it down deeper, but I think we should all understand how silly that really is.
My daughter didn't love reading The Prisoner of Azkaban, but that's the next one on the list. My snob likes Alfonso Cuaron, so I'm going to pretend it is one of the greatest movies ever. I don't know how pretentious I'll get about it, but I'm also in no rush to rewatch that movie. But she's working on Goblet of Fire right now, so I better get my butt in gear. It's just that I need a break from Harry Potter for a while. Anyway...
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.