Movies: Secretariat, Cedar Rapids, and True Grit

I avoided watching Secretariat for a long time, even after it became available for free on my Netflix Watch Instantly. The previews made it look completely cheesy, and it is a Disney movie. I finally broke down and watched it last weekend, because I just needed a distraction from some current stress in my life, and sometimes Disney movies are useful for triggering a good cry. Okay, it is completely cheesy, but it was so enjoyable. I love horse movies — I’ve seen Seabiscuit countless times. I think this is because it reminds me of how excited my mom gets on Triple Crown race days. She used to show and ride horses when she was young, and she knows all the small details to point out before, during, and after the races that make watching it a lot of fun for people who don’t know that much about the sport.

Secretariat is a great underdog movie, like a lot of Disney movies tend to be. Overcoming obstacles, staying true to your convictions, strength in the face of adversity. As cliched as it might be, these are still things that inspire me, and things I need reminders about sometimes. I was a little perplexed at first by the casting of John Malkovich as the trainer, but he turned out to be great and more lovable than just about any other character he’s ever played. I would have appreciated it if Diane Lane’s character (the horse’s owner) had been a little less one-dimensional. She was portrayed like the greatest saint who ever lived, who could do no wrong. I would have sympathized with her character’s difficulties more if she had come off like more of an actual human. And this is what you would expect from a Disney movie, and one of the reasons I had avoided it. But I was actually really moved by the race segments of the movie, when Secretariat came from last place and won by distances so great that no other race horse has ever come close to touching his records. He is, to this day, THE GREATEST RACE HORSE THAT EVER LIVED. During the race scenes, I was yelling from the couch and freaking out my dog, and when he won, I cried. Even though I knew the story, and I knew he was going to win. I admit it; I still cried. And you know what? I would totally watch it again.

Cedar Rapids…meh. I love Ed Helms, and I thought he was great in it, but it wasn’t quite as funny as I had hoped. Yes, it was quirky, but the characters were all a little silly. The plot was not that interesting when it came down to it. I liked the outcome/ending, and I was smiling when it was over, but it felt like a long time of waiting for that to happen in the last ten minutes. Also, Anne Heche? She’s still alive? Really? She should go back into hiding.

Oh, True Grit. I’m really not into Westerns, but I try to watch the Best Picture Oscar nominees every year. I love Jeff Bridges. But Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger…weird. The little girl was annoying as hell. I could not get into the plot at all. Again, the last fifteen minutes of the movie were good, but leading up to that it felt extremely slow. Maybe it would have helped if I had seen the original. Maybe not. It had pretty cinematography, and the costumes and sets were pretty amazing. And maybe it’s a testament to my adult ADD that I have trouble sitting through a movie anymore, but this one was just not for me. I was still holding out hope for liking it until they shot a horse. Can’t handle it!


Movies: Holy Rollers & The Cove

A testament to the types of random-ass movies I watch.

Based on a true story about a Hasidic Jew Ecstasy smuggling ring. Yes, random. Watched it because I like Jesse Eisenberg and I think he’s cute, in  a nerdy sort of way. An okay film.

If you don’t watch any other movie this year, it should be this one. Best documentary I have EVER seen, and I watch a lot of documentaries. About dolphin slaughter in Japan. Doesn”t sound very interesting, but believe me, this movie is ENTHRALLING. I am not the world’s biggest emotional fruitcake about animal rights, but this movie made me cry my eyes out. I definitely will watch this again.

Movies: Hot Tub Time Machine

Funniest movie I’ve seen in the last six months.

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.

Movies: Hurt Locker

This is the first year in a long time that I didn’t watch the Academy Awards as they aired and treat it like a national holiday. Part of the reason for that was A) I hadn’t seen many of the nominees and B) The ones I had seen were not spectacular.

Tonight I watched the Hurt Locker, because I thought, hey — Best Picture. It’s a must see. I have to admit, I’ve had the DVD from Netflix lying around the apartment for weeks. I watched the first half hour a few weeks ago and wasn’t hooked. So I kept it hoping I’d hear something that would amp up my interest. The Best Picture Oscar definitely did that. So I finished it tonight.

It was good. But in my opinion, it was not Best Picture material. It may have been an honest look at the Gulf War situation (who knows?), and that is valuable historically. But. In watching it, I didn’t feel much. This is saying a lot because I am one of the most emotionally sensitive people on the planet. If there was something big to get, I would have gotten it and probably cried.I felt numb.

Even during the most emotional parts of the movie, I felt numb. And perhaps that was part of the point. That these guys get so desensitized that they are numb. I kept wanting to feel the same type of thing I felt when watching Full Metal Jacket or even Good Morning Vietnam. But what I felt overwhelmingly was detachment. I think that’s unfortunate, because I want to understand this war on a level that is beyond the evening news. I want to know what they’re going through. I want to sympathize. But maybe they also feel detached and that was part of the point of the movie. I don’t really know.

I think one’s perspective rests on your political view. I personally think it’s a pointless war, waged on the notion of the U.S. needing oil and anchors in that region. I think we really were not all that concerned with the way Sadaam treated his people. It was a happy coincidence that us invading helped some of them. I would bet that the years long occupation has not been all that much better. And I would bet that we are fostering a hostility that will come back to bite us in the ass. And this is common sense type of thinking that doesn’t even require intelligence knowledge or any real super powers of deduction to figure out.

I’ll admit that I”m as much in the dark as everyone else as to the conditions over there. What people must go through. I think one of the big differences in this war is that we have not had a draft, and everyone who is there is there of their own accord. I know as well as most people that there are certain segments of the population who are more likely to enlist than others. And I think it’s unfortunate that some people are made to feel that’s their only way out of American society where they come in close to last.

I had a conversation once with a dear friend in Asheville who lived through Vietnam and also had a child in the military currently. I asked her why she thought people were so much more adamant about protesting that war than this one. She said she thought, simply, it all boiled down to the number of casualties. In Vietnam, so many people participated and so many died. It was hard to find someone on this continent who had not been affected by it. She said we simply hadn’t lost enough people in this war yet for the nation to be up in arms. That’s partly due to technology.

But at what point is it enough to matter? I personally know people who have fought and died. They thought they were helping to defend their nation. But does that really have anything to do with it? I pleaded with one friend not to enlist, holding on to him in the parking lot of the grocery store when he told me he was leaving. I said, “So many people are dying over there. Please don’t go.” He said, “I have to do something. I have to go.” I can’t fathom what makes people think it’s a winnable situation or that we can really accomplish anything.

At any rate, The Hurt Locker was not what I would have voted for for Best Picture. There were at least six movies I would have chosen over it.

At the very least, I thought they should have included a disclaimer that we are not at war in Iraq over 9-11. Unfortunately some of the best 9-11 movies about that day have falsely alluded to the notion that we invaded Iraq over the World Trade Center. Not true. They had nothing to do with it. It was all about the oil. It’s usually about a commodity. Nowadays people are too stupid to put two and two together unless someone else (Brian Williams, Glen Beck) does it for them. And they won’t.

I guess one of the overwhelming things about the movie was that watching it, you’d have no idea why we were there. And that’s pretty accurate.

Personally I would have voted for District 9. I thought it had way better things to say about society and how we react to those who are different from the norm. And how we think we’re on the right side until we aren’t.

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!

Movies: The Blind Side

All right. Y’all can make fun of me all you want for loving this movie. But I loved it. And I’ve already watched it like three times. I really went in with low expectations. I mean, heart-warming movies these days are few and far between without being too cheesy to even watch or relegated to Lifetime.

But first of all, this is based on REAL PEOPLE. TRUE STORY! And it makes me feel a little less bitterness towards the army of SUV-driving upper middle class, private-school paying families in the world, because now we know at least one of those families did something amazing with their good fortune. As I’m sure many do. But I believe few would in such a personal manner. It’s a lot easier to write a check to the Red Cross (or whatever) than to adopt a child into your family and give them a new life and new opportunities.

I am also slightly biased because I really love Sandra Bullock, even though I don’t love all of her movies — but the ones I don’t like had more to do with poor scripts than her acting. She is originally from Virginia, and I really appreciated the fact that she had an extremely authentic Southern accent in this movie. Definitely a rarity in Hollywood. (I’m talking to you, Anna Paquin.)

I don’t like country music, so Tim McGraw being in this meant nothing to me. But he was pretty good! And the message is just awesome. I so admire people who are able to (and consciously choose to) alter someone else’s entire existence for the better. If only more of us had the means to do so, to compliment that desire.

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.

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