Thursday, November 26, 2009

Term-In Review: Quick Hits

Apparently college is time consuming.  As you may or may not have noticed, this slowed down my posting a lot the past couple months.  But have no fear!  I am now on winter break, so I'll be stuffing my empty days with movies and blogging again in no time.  I'm running out of ideas so you should suggest those, but in the mean time I'm going to do some quick notes on all the stuff I saw this term but didn't blog about.

Miller's Crossing:  still good.  Great gangster motifs.  It's always fun to watch one guy completely control (or at least try to) a situation in the way that our hero does in this film.  Coen brothers are awesome, and so are most of the actors they use regularly.  Very violent at the end, though.

Blue Velvet:   Yeaaaaaah... not recommended for a date movie.  Just because I was able to watch this movie with a girl and salvage the situation into a relationship hours later doesn't mean you will be able to.  It took some serious Joss Whedon smoothing over in there to make that happen.  I guess if you're in to severed ears, crazy people, the 80s, crazy people, drugs, relationship abuse, creepy stalker college kids, and crazy people, by all means go for it.  Otherwise steer clear unless you feel the need to pad your cinema buff resume.

When Harry Met Sally:  Yup, it's the mother of all modern romantic comedies.  There's a reason everyone else takes after it, you know.  It's that it's a pretty good movie.  Sure the plot is just "guy meets girl, they have a friendship, eventually they get married," but there's a lot of scenes in there with real character that most modern romcoms lack.  Harry being divorced right off the bat is odd.  Now-a-days, we'd want to have the perfect man as our star, not the every man.  Then there's the restaurant scene, that opening road trip, and that scene with the wagon wheel table... I like all of 'em.  Worth seeing, even if you are an emotionless hag (DANL).

Entre Les Murs:  Another one for my French class.  Very stylized movie about the modern school system in France.  Lots to say about what works with rowdy middle school kids, what doesn't, and what the system is doing wrong.  Very grim.  No music.  Cool camera work (think The Office style faux-documentary stuff).  Depressing, but interesting if you've got a thing for teaching.

High Fidelity:  Still one of my favorite movies, partially because I can watch it every 6 months and still love it.  If you haven't seen this yet, please leave now and get on that.

Is that really all I've seen?  Apparently I've had even less free time this term than I thought.  Just a movie every other week on average.  I've been filling my free time with TV shows and video games.  Couple new TV shows, though.  I can blog about those, too!

Angel:   Ah, the Buffy spin-off I never watched.  It's... pretty much exactly the same as Buffy.  The second best character is the ghost in Cordelia's house, a good running gag.  Not much to say other than if you want more Buffy but have finished Buffy, you can get more by watching Angel.  Huzzah.

Supernatural:  Two brothers wander around the country fighting ghosts.  Very X-Files-esque, though more mid-western.  Instead of being in this central urban government setting at the beginning and end of each episode, our heroes are constantly out in the boonies.  They live off credit card scams, charity, and petty theft.  A different enough setup to do some new things with the characters.  The first season involves them looking for their missing dad, which adds this whole quest aspect to the show that's always lurking in the background.  Still pretty standard TV horror plots, but it's fun.  The second season gets more in the way of long term plot, and I hear it only goes up from there.  For the record, it's currently airing season 5, which is also the end of the creator's initial long term plot idea.

That's more like it.  7 things to talk about when 2 of them are TV shows?  I can live with that.  Sorry I never got you guys another trailers post before Thanksgiving; I know my family always goes to a movie after dinner on turkey day, and it'd be nice to have some advice as to what sucks and what's cool.  SORRY I COULDN'T PROVIDE.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Au Revoir Les Enfants (et des autres choses)

I watched this movie for my French class.  Actually, we had to read the novelization of this movie for my French class.  We watched most of the movie, too, but the main point was to do reading.  Traditionally when I have to read a book for a class, I end up hating it.  Part of this is because times change, and old books no longer had the appeal they once did.  Part of this is because I hate being forced to do anything, especially on a schedule not of my own devising.  Part of this is because English teachers aren't traditionally good at picking books high school guys want to read.

They didn't tell us it was a novelization when we started reading it, or maybe that bit was just lost in translation for me.  Either way, I figured out what was up about a third of the way through the book and promptly torrented the original movie with subtitles.  I'm more of a movie than book person.

I was impressed.  Maybe it's just that a movie is so much easier for me than a book, but maybe the movie was just really good.  I liked it.

The plot is a cross between a stereotypical boarding school story and stereotypical "hide the Jews from the Nazis" story.  There's a boarding school and a kid at it.  Kid is secretly unhappy but also the coolest kid in his class.  New kid shows up, starts getting picked on by other kids.  Main character kid starts seeing subtle hints that new kid may be a "Jew" (quotes because he's not actually sure what that means), and eventually they become friends after a capture the flag game gone wrong ends with them both lost on a bonding experience in the woods.  Main character kid starts to get the implications of new kid being Jewish just in time for their friendship to blossom and the Nazis to show up and take new kid away.  Loss of innocence, etc, etc.

Let's get the pesky review part over with quick.

SAM'S VERDICT:  It was good if you like boarding school movies.  I don't mind them.

The big question this movie raised for me was "why can stereotypical plots be so good or so bad depending on how they're used?"  There wasn't a single twist in this movie I didn't see coming, and I predicted most of the key scenes within the first 15 minutes.  Yet in the end, I still liked it.  In fact, as I watch more and more movies, I get better and better at predicting everything before it happens.  And if I can tell what's going to happen before it occurs, then what's the point of seeing the movie?  Why not just read a blurb about it and construct it in my head, then get back to playing video games?

It's always fun to watch stories unfold, even if you know where they're going.  It's the same reason (some) people enjoy watching the same movies over and over.  The familiarity of a story can be comforting, and thinking about an old plot in a new way can also be worth your while.  Predictable plots can also let us focus on some other part of the film - action movies all have similar plots so that we can keep our minds on the explosions, and Disney movies all have similar plots so that we can keep our minds on making sure our 3 year old doesn't choke on something.  Also the music.

Beyond that, it's fun to watch a predictable movie you haven't seen before because there's always the chance that they'll defy your expectations, that this time you really will be surprised.  We have to put up with the predictability of most movies so that the few that cut through all that have something to stand against.  If everything was unpredictable, then unpredictability would become the new predictability.  There has to be a base line for the top 5 contenders.

I think familiarity is the biggest reason.  People don't like change.