Category Archives: Films and Movies

More Summer Movies!

When Sujal and I first met, he told me that he didn’t like going out to the movies — to see them in the theater. If I recall correctly, he said it was because he did not like to support the big movie corporate culture. I could respect that (through, ironically, he has the largest DVD collection I’ve seen), but I’ve always enjoyed going to the movie theater. He patiently explains the difference of seeing an action film with lots of special affects on the big screen VS a romantic comedy chick flic that loses nothing when transfered to the smaller screen of our home TV. Gee, that’s a shocking male/female point of view… Nonetheless, I have always liked sitting in the theater, with lots of strangers, the smell of popcorn surrounding us, much like the surround sound, watching a movie — be it a blockbuster or an indie flic. Over the years, Sujal has begun to embrace going to the movies as it is a great “date night” activity.

Thus, we have seen A LOT of movies lately. As I previously mentioned, we began our movie run with Ratatouille — a movie I highly recommend. It was really fun and cute. Obviously, don’t go see this if you are trying to change the world, unless, of course, you are trying to take a little break.

Next we went to see Sicko, and I wrote a post about it below.

My mother came to visit, and she wanted to see Ocean’s 13. Sujal and I had been a little curious, so we went to see it. It was quite disappointing. I know I saw Ocean’s 12, but I remember nothing about it, so it clearly was not memorable. This mvie suffers the same fate. We tried to figure out why we liked Ocean’s 11 so much more than these other two. First of all, the music in the first one just captured the zeitgeist of Vegas better. There was also more of an emotional draw into the plot and better character development — of both the “good” guys and “bad”guys. Anyway, don’t waste your time or $$ on this flic.

Finally, we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on opening night, because Sujal is a huge HP fan. He reads the books the day they come out. In fact, when we first started dating, he watched the first HP movie on a daily basis, a fact that almost ended our relationship. While I attempted to read the first book and just could not continue, I have seen all of the movies. I don’t love them, but they are decent. Sujal was frustrated by some of the plot changes and lack of development in the film. He raves about Rowling’s development in the novels, so he was disappointed that the film glossed over so many details. As a mere movie viewer and not a novel reader (Harry Potter novels, that is — otherwise I’d be a REALLY crappy English teacher if I didn’t read novels 😉 ), I thought the movie was fine. There were a few confusing parts, but it seemed a similar caliber of the previous movies. I was enertained.

Next on our list is You Kill Me. It’s about a Polish alcoholic hit man from Buffalo, NY. I have to see it for the obvious connections to me. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I’m sure we’ll see more movies as the summer continues. Oh — Sujal went to see Transformers with a friend. There was no way I was going to see that. Anyway, stay tuned for more movie thoughts.

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A Night at the Movies

While I wanted to see Sicko on opening night, we went to see Ratatouille instead. So tonight, we finally went to see Sicko, even though I pledged on MoveOn.Org that I would see it Saturday evening — Sorry, MoveOn. My first reaction when I left the theater was — I really want to feel empowered and inspired, yet I feel a sense of despair and powerlessness. It seems the lobbies in this country are magnanimously strong. But I’d like to try to get beyond an initial feeling of powerlessness.

Ironically — or not ironically, I suppose — the movie was not playing at one of the major cinemas in our area. We saw Fahrenheit 911 at the cinema in Plainville, and I was going to get tickets to see Sicko there on Friday afternoon, yet it was only playing at one of the Hartford “arts” cinemas (and a mall cinema that is fairly far from us). I was surprised it wasn’t at Plainville, and Sujal told me his theory that it might have something to do with the fact that Hartford is the insurance capital. Makes sense…

Take the time to look at Michael Moore’s website, as it has lots of info and resources.

Here’s an interesting YouTube link in which Moore responds to potential attacks on 911 rescue workers.

[fmvideo movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/QFD61O-EKiE” width=”425″ height=”350″ /]

Finally, at the end of the film, it lists this site, Hook-A-Canuck, a dating site for Americans to find a Canadian mate so the American can get free healthcare — though it is not serious, of course.

[fmvideo movie=”http://www.youtube.com/v/XbdwoaI_5eI” width=”425″ height=”350″ /]

I truly hope this does open a national healthcare debate and movement. It is high time!

Colonialism Sucks

In order to keep the grim tone to the week, Sujal and I watched Hotel Rwanda. My school’s Amnesty International showed it at a movie night last year, but I was unable to go, so I was glad to finally see it. It was a powerful story powerfully told. As my neighbor said today, “Anything with Don Cheadle is great.”

On a purely filmic level, it was very well executed. The actors gave believable and stirring performances, and the ineffective characters were effectively portrayed. Nick Nolte did a great job playing an overloaded and sadly ineffective general. Such is history. I found one specific scene particularly powerful. After witnessing the carnage (BTW, for a movie about genocide, the carnage is kept to a minimum, though the filmmakers clearly get their point across. Sometimes the hint of violence is more potent that watching full-blown terror, as we become desensitized and/or we shut down from the horror.), Cheadle’s character, Paul Rusesabagina, (based on the real Paul Rusesabagina) showers and tries to dress himself. It is in doing the mundane activity of tying his tie — that semblance of normalcy — that he has his emotional breakdown. It is so visceral and real. It reminds me of the character of the wife in the novel The Sheltering Sky who must put her makeup on as her daily ritual, even though she has lost her husband and cannot get home. This is like the film version of the objective correlative.

Aside from being a strong film — holy crap! While I knew there was a genocide, I had no understanding of it. What frustrates the hell out of me, and I am only beginning to learn and understand the never-ending effects of colonialism, is that Hutus and Tutsis fought with each other eventually ending up in the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis, when really, their aggression would have been better aimed at their oppressor: Belgium. Colonialism was and is such an evil institution.

The film is ultimately very inspiring. I hope you are inspired to learn more and to donate to NGO’s to try to right some wrongs put into motion by colonialism.

Amnesty International is an excellent organization.

Donate here to the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation.

NPR’s info on Paul Rusesabagina.

Can’t Wait!

Last night (during the Superbowl), I went to go see Notes on a Scandal, in which Judi Dench pulls off this horrible, horrible character with amazing ability and talent. It was a very good film — both Blanchett and Dench were great, and I loved Bill Nighy — but I left the theatre with that pit of despair in my tummy that i get when I see a movie (or read a book) with such characters of malice. I reminded me of when I saw Jean de Florette when I was in high school. The characters were just so hateful. I don’t remember the film well at all. All I remember is walking away with this horrible taste of human malevolence. The movie also made me think of the movie Closer, which i never saw — because it looked like a film solely about human malisciousness. As I was reading IMDB, I saw that Patrick Marber wrote both screenplays. I’m a bit torn. On one hand, I liked the movie because of the really great acting and the complexity of the characters. On the other hand, the characters lacked a bit of complexity, in that I found it very difficult to sympathise with Barbara. I can’t say I sympathised much with the boy involved with the teacher, either. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it — but it is “sticking” with me. Then again, sometimes gum on the show does that, too.

Nonetheless, before the movie there was a preview for The Namesake, a film by Mira Nair based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. A deeply sad novel (Lahiri has this way of making you feel like you’ve been kicked in the gut after you’ve finished reading one of her pieces), it is a beautifully written poignant story. I enjoy the work of both Nair and Lahiri, so I cannot wait until March 9th! Since the movie 300 opens the same day, I feel a double date coming on, as Sujal really wants to see that.

Torch and My Changing Perspective

So since the wedding, Sujal has been indulging in lots of toys. I believe he is thinking the pre-kids-having rush. So he bought the GIGANTIC TV. It’s huge, plasmatic, and high-definition, which basically means it’s no better than any other TV, but it is a lot more expensive. Okay, so I may be overstating it, but as you can tell, I was not thrilled with the idea of the puchase. Nonetheless, we have it. Now we have fancy cable channels, too. Not so thrilled with that, either — and here’s why. It’s a temptation. I watch too much TV as it is. I want to throw it out the window and have us sit by a fire and read aloud to one another. Doesn’t that sound like something newlyweds would do? Doesn’t it?

So now that we have all these fancy entertainment tools, I recently watched the last 3/4 of Torch Song Trilogy on IFC, great channel by the way. I saw the flic in ’89 or early ’90 when I was still in high school. I recall thinking that Harvey Fierstein was an older guy, perhaps even an old man. It was funny to me to watch it now at 33, my perspective having clearly shifted. I was surprised how young he looks in the movie. He was a young, good-looking guy. What I remember about seeing the flic when I was in high school was that I thought it was a bit schmaltzy, a bit too tear-jerker-y, though I liked it for the most part. I’m not a huge fan of tear-jerker dramas, but it actually does not take the cheap emotional shots that I seem to recall from my earlier viewing. Watching it, I can see how it would make a great stage play, though it works well on film, too.

I’d forgotten Matthew Broderick was in it, or perhaps I didn’t know who he was back then. He’s a good actor, and I’d like to see him on stage. One thing that seems “missing” to some degree was mention of AIDS, but then I thought that perhaps Fierstein did not want his story to be about AIDS, to be about disease. Instead he wanted his story to be about the challenge of finding and keeping love. Mention of AIDS would have completely tainted the story. The film does a great job of portraying the universality of the challenge of finding and keeping love. I would not go so far as to say that one could merely drop in characters of different genders, but not only is it easy to identify with the characters, as many good flics aim to do, it’s easy to see similar representations in our daily lives. Nonetheless, I came across this explanation on Wikipedia:

“The combined play runs at roughly four hours in length, so New Line Cinema insisted that Fierstein restrict the film to a two-hour maximum. Despite the copious excisions, the film is also made in three distinct acts: “The International Stud”, “Fugue in a Nursery” and “Widows and Children First!”. The dates given below are the dates from the film; the plays were set two or three years more recently, but New Line Cinema couldn’t understand how a gay film in the mid-1980s could not mention AIDS, so Fierstein moved the film to before the AIDS crisis.”

It’s funny to compare how we react to films as kids vs as adults. I remember feeling very “cutting edge” for watching it as a child. Damn, was I ever cutting edge.

When I was a freshman at Bennington, Harvey Fierstein gave the commencement address. Here is a link to the text, a pretty fabulous speech. I recall sitting outside the graduation tent with some other not-yet-graduating students listening to him speak. I was pretty wowed.

Double Feature

As I mention below, Sujal and I went to see a double feature today — sort of our own lefty double feature: An Inconvenient Truth and A Prairie Home Companion. PHC was decent, though I was a bit baffled about why they tried to even provide the plot they did. we chuckled a lot during the film, just as we do when we listen to the show. Again, it was decent, but I think life will go on if you do not see it.

Meryl Streep is great as is Lily Tomlin (and even Lindsay Lohan). Streep and Tomlin nail the Minnesotan zeitgeist.

Wallace and Grommit

Sujal has been asking me to write a review of Wallace and Gromit since we went to see it about 3 weeks ago. Well, here it is. The film, yes film, was decent. I liked it in that it was Wallace and Gromit-ilicious — Gromit, the poor, mute dog that always goes through so much bologna for his friend Wallace. In this film, he has a beloved watermelon. He’s such a hapless pup. that Gromit. And I love when he knits. Truly, the claymation is great. The detail of it is unlike any other claymation I’ve seen, and I’m a connoisseur from the days of Davey and Goliath, christian claymation at its best. Truly, the expressions on Gromit’s face alone are worth seeing the movie. Wallace is also well claymated. And we all love Wallaces proclamations of “CHEEEEEEESE, Gromit, CHEEEEEESE!” Oddly enough, as Sujal had been badgering me for days to write this review, I was annoyed that he ate all of the cheese, and when I said, “I can’t believe you ate all of the CHEEEEEESE”, I had to end it with, “Gromit.” Thus reminding me once again to write this, which I promptly forgot. What madew the film merely decent instead of being amazing is the fact that it was trying to be a bit too filmish, if you will. One of the things I love about Wallace and Gromit is its ability to just be what it is, cleverly innocent. In one of the original episodes, A Grand Day Out, Wallace and Gromit are out of cheese so they go to the moon, because everyone knows it is made out of cheese. This film, Were-Rabbit, gets a tad too action-flicky toward the end, complete with fiery explosion. Don’t get me wrong, it is still pretty innocent, but it loses a touch of it by trying to add too much “suspense”. If I wanted to see a suspense film, I wouldn’t see claymation. Here is another link to “A Grand Day Out”. Overall, I did enjoy the film, and I just get so excited by the music!!

Here are some additional links:
Official Site
BBC Report — who better to cover British claymation
NY Times review
Fire article
Guardian article on fire

Violence

I was intrigued after seeing an interview with Viggo Mortensen on the Daily Show, so I went to see A History of Violence. As you might have guessed from the title, it is very violent. I’m generally not a big violence fan in flics, but I started to think about it afterward why I wanted to see this film, which i knew would be violent. I think what it is is that I have that same perverted intrigue, as most of my fellow humans do, with violence. When a film is about violence, a comment on violence even, I am drawn to it. But when it is not really about the violence and the violence is merely gratuitous and for pure entertainment, I’m generally tuned off. For example, I liked “The Bourne Identity”, but I thought it did not need to be that violent. Then again, I like a good Jackie Chan flic. Okay — I’m really tired, and cannot make a good argument about violence right now. What are your thoughts?