Movies: Young Victoria

I haven’t seen too many movies lately that I have loved. I think as you get older, and you’ve seen so many, it becomes harder to be impressed. Especially when you are the movie freak I am. But Young Victoria was awesome, and I’ve already watched it multiple times.

I was just commenting to someone recently how I am not really into romance movies anymore now that I’m out of my twenties and living in the real world. Romantic movies used to be my favorite. I was so happy that my college boyfriend liked them too and was a romantic at heart. Even though he didn’t really translate that into real life actions so much. Although I am not that hard to impress. I found it particularly touching that he always remembered my favorite song by any given artist. And he was the only guy to ever gift me craft supplies for a birthday present, which is probably the most awesome thing I could have asked for.

Nowadays, bitter love stories are more my speed. Like “An Education.” Where the story seems too good to be true, and lo and behold, it is because someone turns out to be a lying douche, or just really fucked up. That is reality.

But Young Victoria I loved because it’s a period piece with awesome costumes and royal figures whose lives are not as perfect as one might think. And I loved the romance part of it because Victoria was so fiercely independent and was not going to get married just because it was expected of her. She was holding out for someone she really enjoyed being with. And she found that. Likewise, Prince Albert, whom she married, was not going to marry just any old princess. He was coached with all the right answers, but when it came down to it, he opted for just being himself, propriety be damned. And it worked. Victoria liked him more for that. Loved him for it, in fact.

Even when they were in the midst of conflict, he still took a fucking bullet for her. (And lived, but I mean, what an amazing thing to do regardless.) The reflexes involved in that second; the instinct that took over when he shielded her in the carriage from a would-be assassin — that is love.

I liked that they encouraged each other to be the people they each wanted to be, and loved each other more for the drive to become it. Not your typical romance movie. Highly recommended to replace at least one bitter love story in your Netflix queue.

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Movies: District 9

District 9 is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. I only realized yesterday (Oscar Night) that it was nominated for four Academy Awards. Unfortunately, it didn’t win anything. But, as they say, it’s an honor just to be nominated! I was a huge fan of the unknown cast, because I think it helps the viewer concentrate more fully on the story. And the story in this movie is so layered and thought-provoking.

Sara Vilkomerson of The New York Observer wrote in her review, “District 9 has the aesthetic trappings of science fiction but it’s really more of a character drama, an examination of how a man responds when he’s forced to confront his identity during extraordinary circumstances.” It’s one of the most important questions in life, and one we seem to have much difficulty with — this notion that it’s not the situation that defines your life, but your response to the situation.

I feel like the movie is more enjoyable the less you know about it going in, so I’m not going to say anything else. But I highly recommend it!

Random Awesomeness: Pineapple Express

In the movie Pineapple Express, check out the scenes in Saul’s apartment when he’s standing in front of the door to his bedroom. There is a toy village splayed out on the bed which includes a tee-pee, like he was in there five minutes ago playing cowboys and Indians. I was hoping to find a picture online to post, but instead I found the blog of someone who dressed as Saul for Halloween. I’m so doing that next year. Two points of random awesomeness! God, I love James Franco.

Movies: The New Star Trek

Loved it! I’m not a huge fan of Star Trek, although I do appreciate it on occasion. Star Trek is a big thing in my family. Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one who is not into it. Even after years of growing up with a sci-fi nut family, it still took an even more zealous boyfriend to convince me that Star Trek (and a variety of other sci-fi shows and movies) were worth watching. I was especially excited to see the new film adaptation because of J.J. Abrams’s involvement. He did Alias, which was one of my favorite shows of all time, and Felicity, which I was obsessed with in college.

I have to say, I thought this movie was very well written, excellently cast and well acted. Zachary Quinto, who plays the young Spock, plays my least favorite character on Heroes, and not just because he’s the bad guy. It’s because he is an unsympathetic bad guy. All the good villains have an element of vulnerability that makes them relatable in spite of their misguided evil tendencies. Sylar does not. If you want to disagree, I welcome your comments. But he was born to play a young Spock. I really thought everyone did a great job of showing what youthful energy might have been like for the characters we are so well acquainted with as older adults.

This is not a movie I’d necessarily recommend to someone who was not already somewhat familiar with the premise of Star Trek and a basic knowledge of the main characters and their distinguishing characteristics. But I would say I am on the bottom end of the spectrum in terms of my Trekkie knowledge, and I really enjoyed it and will probably watch it again.

Movies: Adventureland

The downside to being a movie buff is that the more you watch, the harder you become to please. I’ve been pretty disappointed with most of the movies I’ve seen lately, aside from a couple good documentaries. Adventureland is the only thing I’ve seen in a while that I would actually watch again. And that’s saying a lot for me, because there are some movies I’ve seen so many times I can quote them from beginning to end — accents included. This is also a significant statement due to the presence of Kristin Stewart.

It’s not really that I don’t like her. I think she seems like a cool person, and I would not mind hanging out and having a beer with her. Wait, she’s probably not old enough to have a beer. Anyway, I just feel like her acting is the same in everything. I guess that could be said about a lot of Hollywood celebrities nowadays. I suppose that is part of their marketability. I actually didn’t mind her in this because there were enough other good characters to prevent her from being the sole focus for two hours. She is definitely better as part of an “ensemble cast” rather than STAR!  I love Jesse Eisenberg — he is definitely the kind of nerdy-yet-adorable boy I would have had a crush on back in the day. And his acting is not half bad either.

Besides the fact that it’s set in the 1980s (and that’s pretty entertaining in itself), what I really loved about this movie is the period in life that it highlights — the time when you are just killing time due to unforeseen circumstances preventing you from progressing to the next phase, and trying to enjoy yourself while also feeling like you have no idea what the hell you’re doing, and you’re  into Lou Reed when the rest of the world is obsessed with WHAM! I’m not sure everyone goes through that stage in life. But it’s definitely something that I identify with. In fact, I would say I feel like that most of the time. Just trying to figure things out.

Two thumbs up. And great soundtrack.

Film Fest Friday: The Fox & The Child

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Yes, it’s a kids’ movie. But it is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen in a long time — almost like a nature documentary with a wonderful story. I don’t often see movies that make me wonder, “How did they film that?” This one did. Plus, I’m a sucker for movies about animals that are done well. (Duma is another good one.)

This is a French film made by the same director as March of the Penguins. But do not fear the subtitles — it’s narrated by Kate Winslet in English, and what little dialogue it contains is imperceptibly dubbed. Wherever this was filmed in France, Italy, and Romania — I want to go there. I felt like I was in a fantasy land for a couple of hours, traipsing through the forest and making animal friends. The pace is slow, but with good reason. March of the Penguins actually put me to sleep, but this one was lovely.

Film Fest Friday: Cinema, Aspirins, and Vultures

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This is maybe the only Brazilian movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. I watch so many movies, and I get so fed up with the lack of interest in film as art. That sounds pretty snobby, and I’m not saying I want to see all art films, all the time. It’s just that as a medium, there’s so much that can be done with film that most filmmakers don’t do. This movie has little dialogue — it’s more about the quietness, the light (and the dark), the landscape, the angles, the people in the background. I just loved it. (I’m not the only one — it’s won 28 awards in the last three years since it came out.)

Loved how the country has a starring role, alongside the main characters. I know it’s special to me having spent time in Brazil, but it’s just a really beautiful movie. This was the most Brazilian Portuguese (different from European Portuguese like British vs. American English) that I’d heard spoken in one sitting in years, and it reminded me how much I like the sound of it. What a unique, pleasing language. I’m inspired to get out the Rosetta Stone again.

Here is a synopsis from IMDB, although you just have to watch it to really appreciate it:

“In 1942, the lonely German Johann travels through the arid roads in the country of the Northeast of Brazil in his truck selling aspirins in small villages, using advertisement movies to promote the medicine. He meets the drifter Ranulpho, who intends to go to Rio de Janeiro seeking a better life, and gives a ride to the man. While traveling together, they develop a close friendship, but on 31 August 1942, Brazil declares war to Germany and Johann has to decide if he should return to his home country and fight in the war, or stay in Brazil in a concentration camp; but the option of moving to Amazonas with the migrants of the drought seems to be feasible.”

And here is a really good NY Times article on the film.

Film Fest Friday: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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My mom has reached the point in her life where she can no longer read or watch anything related to Vietnam or the Holocaust. It’s just too emotionally overwhelming, and she chooses to avoid it. While I can understand that completely, I hope that I never reach that point myself. I want to be overwhelmed by things. I think emotion is a powerful teaching tool. Once we avoid, eventually we forget. We can’t let that happen. So I think it’s necessary to keep watching and reading and remembering so we can teach others who are more distant due to age.

I heard someone say that the generation coming up in school now is the first one that is “once removed” from the horrors of the Holocaust. My generation has at least had the opportunity to meet and speak directly to people who were involved in that time period. Our grandparents fought in the war. I think it’s our responsibility to not let future generations avoid these things.

My grandfather died several years ago, but he used to tell me stories about Japan. He was a member of the first battalion of Military Police in Hiroshima after the bomb,  required to go door-to-door to the homes of survivors, collecting any weapons they may have owned. They had mostly knives; hardly any guns. People handed over ancient, family-heirloom Samurai swords without hesitation. That was one of the only stories he was willing to tell about being in the war that involved any specific memories. He tried to keep those conversations pretty vague and general, and that usually minimized the number of questions one could ask. He also liked to talk about the more “fun” aspects of being in the Army. He tasted sake for the first time in Japan and learned to drink steaming hot coffee in New Guinea to cool off — a trick we used in Brazil using hot black tea instead of coffee. It totally works.

Today’s movie selection was adapted from a novel of the same name. I can’t really go into too much detail about the plot because it will be too easy to give it all away. It’s best to watch this without really knowing anything about it first. All I can say is, I watch a lot of Holocaust films and read a lot of Holocaust books, and this is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced. Please watch it, and then make sure you tell others to watch it, so that they tell others to watch it. It is unforgettable.

Film Fest Friday: Rescue Dawn

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This is one of my favorite movies. Werner Herzog is my all-time favorite film director, and whether he is directing a documentary or a feature film, or a hybrid of both, his work is just outstanding. I’m sure real film snobs — I mean, buffs — will probably turn their nose up at that, but I’ll take Werner over Fellini or Godard any day. I very rarely watch special features on DVDs, but with his films, I am so enthralled by the time the movie ends, I just want more and more Werner. (Yes, I feel like we should be on a first-name basis. LOL!)

I love his accent and his gentle way of speaking. I love how he gets right in there with his actors and doesn’t ask them to do anything he hasn’t tried first. I love the way he understands the importance of a film score, and how he always seems to choose the exact right musicians to create the soundtracks for his films. Werner is a “seeker of greater truths,” and because of that he’s able to subtly coax from a seemingly simple story the finer details that lead to the larger picture. He encourages us to question and examine human consciousness and the strangeness of civilization. And I like his interest in tales of survival, and the way nature usually has a starring role in his films.

I’m still working my way through his filmography. So far, I’ve seen Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, Fitzcarraldo, and Rescue Dawn. And bunches of interviews. I’ve padded my Netflix queue with several more to watch in the near future. Recently I watched Rescue Dawn for a second time with my friend Swamp while he was recovering from an emergency appendectomy (there’s one thing that made him sit still!), and he liked it so much he has added it to his “Top 5” movies list.

Rescue Dawn is the movie version of Werner’s documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. It’s the story of a man who was shot down over Laos while flying in a classified mission before the Vietnam War started. He ended up escaping from a POW camp and surviving in the jungle until the Air Force finally came and rescued him. What is truly remarkable about the story, though, is that Dieter’s upbeat personality and unfailing positive attitude were what carried him (and many others) through a horrendous situation. Talk about inner strength.

Tasty Tuesday: Reese’s Pieces

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There were a lot of interesting events in 1978. I was born, along with most of my closest friends. So that alone made it a good year. Johnny Rotten left the Sex Pistols. Harvey Milk was assassinated. The Pope died. The first solo trek to the North Pole occurred. Those poor people drank the Kool-Aid at Jonestown. Spain became a democracy. Ali won the title. And the world was introduced for the first time to The Blues Brothers, Diff’rent Strokes, Odie the dog, and Reese’s Pieces. All in one year!

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I was four when the movie E.T.: Extra Terrestrial came out. It was the first movie I remember seeing in a theater. I did see The Empire Strikes Back first, and I can remember being fascinated by the scrolling words at the beginning. But I was only two then, and I don’t remember anything else about the movie. E.T.was really scary to me because of the part when they come to take him away from the house and there’s all that crazy tubing and then he’s in the testing facility on the verge of death. I cried. But I loved Drew Barrymore as a kid and saw all her movies. My parents met her at a party when she was in North Carolina filming Firestarter. My mom doesn’t remember if she was drinking at the party or not. Heh. I still like her quite a bit, and I from what I can tell we have a lot of similarities personality-wise. She’s a free spirit. Some people have said I sort of resemble her at times, from certain angles. I think she looks more like pictures of my grandmother as a young girl than me.

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So E.T.’s favorite candy in the movie was Reese’s Pieces, and some time after the movie came out I got a promotional E.T. toy candy dispenser, which for some reason I’ve had on my mind lately. It was a globe and the mechanism was one of those old kind with the small metal tab you had to slide horizontally to push in your coin or whatever. It came with Reese’s Pieces. I can’t remember what made them dispense. I can remember sitting in the floor of my entirely yellow bedroom, methodically dispensing Reese’s Pieces and thinking about E.T. Wondering if he made it home. I lost interest in it when I ran out of Reese’s Pieces. Such is the attention span of a 4-year-old. But I was thinking I’d like to find one of those just to refresh my memory of it, or to see if my memory is accurate. I don’t necessarily want to own one, but I would like to see it again. I’ve looked all over the internet, but I haven’t been able to find any information on them whatsoever.

Anyone else remember those toys?

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