Roxanne (Earn more sessions by sleeving!)

June 20, 2011 at 11:01 pm (Movies) (, , , , , , )

I’ve been listening, off and on, to a podcast called The Popcorn Dialogues: two writers of romantic comedies (novels) who decided to do a review of movies in their category across the decades to try to learn from them, what works in storytelling and characterization and dialogue and what doesn’t. What makes a good rom com, and can a novelist (or two) learn from the good and the bad and the
ugly of film? It’s a great idea, and the two ladies are charismatic and (usually) fun to listen to (not so much when they’ve had a little extra wine or when they repeat their conclusions for the 83rd time in a 45-minute podcast – which two things often go hand in hand). (I may have to crib off the idea of the podcast: what can I take away from a movie in terms of storytelling – maybe it’ll make me review more films.)

I only listen off and on because I have seen remarkably few of the movies they’re talking about. It isn’t as though they choose obscure little films – all of the original movies are considered classic rom-coms, and most of them are pretty big. I just don’t get out much. Or something.

One I did see long long ago, and not since, was Roxanne. I listened to the podcast for it, and they adored it (except for Darryl Hannah), and that made me want to see it again, immediately. I bumped it up the Netflix queue, and watched it over the weekend.

The ladies were right, as was my memory of having loved it forever ago: it’s wonderful.

The cast, aside from being a proverbial blast from the past, was excellent:

– Rick Rossovich as Chris is (to quote Frasier) “Cute but stupid”: a truly nice, and truly adorable, boy with no self-confidence. The only story-telling flaw I can think of in this was that it might have been nice to know why he’s so phobic; was he a late bloomer, and still getting used to being a hottie?

– Shelley Duvall as Dixie was perfect, warm and strong. She’s the kind of friend everyone needs.

– Fred Willard as Mayor Deebs – Fred Willard!! Enough said.

– Michael J. Pollard as Andy was just adorable. And his history in Star Trek (“Miri”): bonus. I’m a fan.

– Damon Wayans as Jerry – wow. I forgot he was in it. And I never noticed him. Not what you expect from Damon Wayans.

– Shandra Beri as Sandy – one of those actresses who was in everything in the 80’s, from commercials up, and whose name I never knew. She was beautiful and really quite good – great chemistry with Chris/Rick Rossovich; why didn’t she become a household name?

– Blanche Rubin as Sophie, Jane Campbell as Dottie, and Jean Sincere as Nina – three of the elderly ladies who provide lovely grace notes throughout.

– Daryl Hannah as Roxanne … Hannah was hot right then, still riding the (pardon the pun) wave from, among other biggies, Splash. And she was fine; I loved what she did with the last scene. The PD ladies weren’t enamored of her; they didn’t feel she quite filled the role of beautiful geek. And while adding glasses to her boho look didn’t quite cut it as indicator that she’s smart, she did a nice job in the role – she had several good moments, and none that were outright bad.

– Steve Martin as C. D. Bales. All hail Steve Martin. I love Charlie – I’m in love with Charlie – and considering Steve Martin wrote Charlie (wrote the screenplay), I’m a fathom or two deep for him as well. He’s sheer joy to watch; he’s completely unafraid to make an utter fool of himself. He is bloody brilliant. And Steve Martin’s fantastic too.

I’m not as intimate with the details of Cyrano de Bergerac as I could be (he was real???) (and he wrote science fiction – in 1662! “Cyrano travels to the moon using rockets powered by firecrackers and meets the inhabitants. The moon-men have four legs, musical voices, and firearms that shoot game and cook it” – wow), but I love the use of what I do know. “C.D.” for Cyrano de; Chris for Christian de Neuvillette; a firehouse instead of a corps of the French army (still a brotherhood). From what I’m reading it follows the story faithfully
(except for the ending) – and does it with joy.

In terms of storytelling, there was one scene that was to me a gorgeous little model of efficiency.

We see Roxanne seeing Chris in a bookstore
Chris: Hey, did that copy of ‘Being and Nothingness,’ by Jean…
Clerk: Jean-Paul Sartre? Yes, it did. I got it right here! It’s all paid for.
Chris: Great! Okay, thanks a lot.
Clerk: De rien. Il n’y a pas de quoi.
Chris: All right, okay…
Clerk: It ain’t nothing, bro!
Chris (reading as he goes back out on sidewalk): “… Therefore my body is a conscious structure of my consciousness…”
Andy: Yeah. Thanks, Chris. I was too embarrassed to go in there and ask for it myself.
Chris: A little light reading, huh, Andy?

In nine lines, 77 words, here’s what we get from that scene:

– – Roxanne takes away the impression that Chris is a reader; I’m not sure whether she overheard what he was picking up, but even if not – well, he’s only been in town a few days and he’s already in the bookstore? This is a definite plus in a man.
– – Andy is more than just the sweet and kind of dim guy he appears to be, but not very confident in being more – which might be why his appearance is deceiving
– – Chris not only doesn’t speak French, he doesn’t know Jean-Paul Sartre from Jean-Luc Picard, and a bookstore is actually very much not his natural habitat. And he does not speak French.
– – While Chris is sweet and kind of dim, he’s also a very nice guy, willing to do a favor for someone he’s only worked with a couple of days, and refraining from teasing him as some of the other firefighters probably would have. He seems a little impressed at the end – as he should be.

Bravo.

The movie was written by Martin, which makes me very happy. It’s beautiful.

C.D. Bales: I really admire your shoes.
Drunk #1: What?
C.D. Bales: I love your shoes.
Drunk #2: What do ya mean?
C.D. Bales: And I was just thinking: as much as I really admire your shoes, and as much as I’d love to have a pair just like them, I really wouldn’t want to be IN your shoes at this particular time and place.

The firehouse scenes (Operation Snowball!) were sweet; the old ladies were wonderful (I can’t do the alien sound effect); taxidermy-man (“All Things Dead”) was perfectly creepity; it was just grand.  The story ran a beautiful course to a satisfying ending (happily not the original).  It won’t be as long again until I watch Roxanne again – that was just too much fun.

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Remembering

March 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm (Classics, Movies)

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The Prestige (recycled review)

February 20, 2011 at 10:49 pm (Movies) (, , , , , , , )

Are you watching closely?

While I had bronchitis a while back (as I said in the last post), I rented The Prestige and The Illusionist at the same time.  On The Illusionist, I was … meh.  The Prestige, though… I loved every minute of The Prestige.  While I’m not a fan of Christian Bale, he was extremely good in this – and: Hugh Jackman!  Andy Serkis!  Nikola Tesla (played by Bowie!)!  Michael Caine! 

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t ant to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.”

It was the slow spiral downward of the rivalry which started as just that: a simple professional rivalry – but which developed into a hate-filled pattern of revenge and retribution… it was dread-ful and fascinating to watch.  I’ve been a proponent of Tesla (and a despiser of Edison) since Spider Robinson brought him into my life, and that made this a sheer geeky joy. Any time Andy Serkis is on screen in any role is marvelous – and I had no idea going in that he was in this. I loved the portrait of magic in the time period (poor doves).  I loved that a key to the whole movie is given to you, gratis, when you least suspect it, and you don’t know it till the end – but it’s not the only key.  I loved that the very last shot of the film simultaneously answered all the unanswered questions and knocked the viewer sideways – well, it did me at any rate; I walked around for an hour with a slightly stunned look on my face randomly saying things like “Holy crap!”  Eloquent, I know, but – wow.  Wow.  Loved it.

I mentioned in the last post that after I talked about these two movies on TBWSRN, ugliness ensued; it was particularly odd, because I also talked about Stranger Than Fiction  and other things as well (I was sick, and watching a lot of movies).  But once I had brought them up, many of the posts that followed seemed to consist of “oh, I figured out the twist to The Prestige before it was half over, and my kids got it before me”, which I found just rude – or of expressed opinions that while Illusionist was beautiful and wonderful, Prestige was nasty and sordid, with an underlying cargo of “therefore anyone who liked the latter better than the former must be twisted and nasty too”.  And – though I loathed the manner in which it was said, and loathed the sentiment expressed – there was a nugget of truth to the hateful opinions: the two protagonists in Prestige do fall very low.  Once they were friends – – and by the end of the film it looks like if they both survive it will be a minor miracle.  But that was a part of why it was so fascinating.  The story of two men, both decent though one started out on somewhat higher moral ground than the other, knocked down by a terrible event, and never able to forgive or be forgiven, interwoven with illusion and deception – it was gold.  Two men for whom magic is a science, and one man for whom science is magical: I found The Illusionistto be utterly lacking in passion, and perhaps it was because The Prestige used up the season’s quota.  I couldn’t entirely buy into the deep love Ed Norton’s Illusionist was supposed to harbor for the girl he sought after – but Hugh Jackman’s insane grief for his wife was believable, as were both his and Bale’s characters’ obsession with their art.  

Despite the ugliness of the battle between the two performers, the element of real magic in The Prestige was what drew me and kept me, and left me rocked at the end.  The Illusionist was coy and stand-offish, and gave the appearance of dangling its secrets just out of reach – when really it never intended to give anything away at all.  Here, though – The Prestige may not, in the end, have divulged as much as it appeared to – but it was in its way a more honest story, and if the story wasn’t as pretty or didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to … that was because the truth was not pretty, and couldn’t go as I wished. 

And I really am a huge fan of Tesla. 

Hotel Manager: I thought they might work for the government.
Robert Angier: No?
Hotel Manager: Worse. They work for Thomas Edison.

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The Illusionist (recycled review)

February 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm (Movies) (, , , , , )

A few years ago, in one of those odd little quirks of Hollywood, two films were released almost in tandem which echoed each other’s themes and settings; this happens now and again, and I wonder if it’s coincidence, and if not which came first, and why this would be thought to be a good idea… Regardless, in 2006 (so long ago?) both The Prestige and The Illusionist came out, each focusing on magic real and stage and its practitioners. 

While in the throes of bronchitis a while later, I rented and watched The Prestige and The Illusionist together.  I am now able to find it funny that a passing remark on TBWSRN about how much more I liked The Prestige led to one of the ugliest episodes I witnessed on the board – something that could have been avoided by more thought put into any number of posts, including a couple of mine – though I still don’t think I was entirely in the wrong …

Anyway.  What I said at the time – which seemed to be part of why I ticked off a few people – was that I didn’t much care for The Illusionist.  I thought it was fascinating, and beautiful, but it left me cold.  The acting – from a cast headed by Edward Norton as Eisenheim (the Illusionist), Paul Giametti, Jessica Biel, and Rufus Sewell)  was fine (in the better sense of the word), the story was good, but I didn’t much care what happened to the Illusionist, and I found the extreme passion he had for his lady a little hard to swallow given the almost entire lack of passion he showed everywhere else.  It was a clever film, and I felt like I should have seen the ending coming (I figured part of it out, but not all), but it seemed a little too clever for its own good: it archly declined to explain anything at all, circling around its own myths, and ended up coming off as more fantasy than it seemed to be intending to.  It reminded me strongly of Big Fish, without the sense of fun that film had.


I would like to see it again – and at one time I wanted even more to see The Prestige again, but scars from the flamings made it less desirable.  It’s been several years now, though, so maybe one day soon I can watch them both sometime this year, and see if I still feel the same.

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Stranger Than Fiction

February 18, 2011 at 1:32 am (Geekery, Movies) (, , , )


Oh, wonderful.  I loved every minute, and could not for the life of me figure out where they could go with it. Hee. Fantastic.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), IRS agent, obsessive compulsive, begins one day hearing a voice narrating his life as he goes about it.  He discovers that he is the main character in a book Emma Thompson’s author Karen Eiffel is writing – which is unsettling enough, but Karen Eiffel is known for killing off her characters in unique ways.  And Harold needs to find out what exactly is going on – and keep his author from bumping him off.  Meanwhile, as she is trying to work with – or around – the assistant her publisher has sent to keep her on track (Queen Latifah), he finds himself falling in love with the victim of an audit (Maggie Gyllenhaal). 

I want a watch like Harold Crick’s. And I would love someone to give me flours. Did I mention I loved this movie? I’ve read reviews that said that Queen Latifah was wasted in her role, and I see what they mean – but I don’t agree, except for the part of me that was waiting the whole time for some outrageous sign of her usual personality; she was fine (again, in the better sense of the word). Will Farrell never ceases to amaze me. I have a heck of a time reconciling the Will Farrell I really enjoy in this and in Elf with the one I’d have to be paid to watch in movies like Talladega Nights and that skating movie thing. And I adore Emma Thompson, so, yay. It was a joy.  Oh, I need to see this again soon.

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Dead Poets Society

December 18, 2010 at 11:59 pm (Movies) (, )

I watched Dead Poets Society not long ago, for the first time in … lo, these many years. 

Wow. 

And … huh. 

This was a very early film for both Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard; the latter is still pretty wonderful, while the former has disappointed me deeply (two words: Great Expectations).  And this was where I fell for Robin Williams in a fair way. 

This was another movie, I believe, that I started watching on HBO after we first got it, along with STII and Ladyhawke and a couple of others.  I learned a lot from that movie.  I don’t recall ever having learned a single poem from school.  Seriously – not one.  (*ponders again*  Nope.  Zip.  We might have read some here and there, but learn any?  Heck no.)  Happily, I’m a geek; all the poetry I know I learned because of Star Trek (researching quotes and title sources) and Beauty and the Beast (the ’87 tv series, of course – poetry rich), and, yes, DPS

It was easier to watch when I was twenty, I guess; I still had my attempt at art school ahead of me.  I have since learned that teachers like John Keating are purely fictional.  In my life, at least; I guess it’s sort of like true love and coffee that’s really worth $5 a cup – it exists out there somewhere, but I haven’t seen it yet. 

This movie meant a tremendous amount to me when I first saw it.  Todd Anderson was, basically, me: “Mr. Anderson? Come on! Are you a man or an amoeba?”  He’s an amoeba – he can’t bring out an answer.  Picked like that, I never could either.  “Mr. Anderson! Don’t think that I don’t know that this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole!”  The sheer agony of terror in his face when the assignment of writing a poem and reading it aloud came down – I know that feeling, know it well.  The difference is, I never had a teacher who recognized that I would have particular trouble with an assignment like this.  I never, ever had a teacher who used humor and trust to drag me up in front of a group and sound my barbaric yawp.  Hell, even with repeated watchings of the movie I didn’t even have a barbaric yawp until a few years ago. 

I needed a John Keating so very badly when I was in school.  There were glimmers, here and there … 10th grade World History had moments, but it was more a matter of “Get Mr. M. talking and that’s the whole class taken care of”.  (*Goodsearch*  Holy God – he’s still teaching at NHHS??  That’s … insane.)  The closest anyone ever came in my school career was the admissions director and Art History teacher at Paier.  Not that Art History teacher, the good one.  She was amazing, was Debbie.  She was John Keating packed into a tiny boyish female spectacled form.   Not particularly for me, really – but she was able to make me leave that classroom and drive home with a fire in my heart.  I wanted to go create things.  I wanted to go and learn things.  I felt like I could go and conquer the art world when I left that class.  And then I’d go to the painting classes, where I wanted so badly to idolize the teachers and gain their … if not respect, then support… and it didn’t go that way.  I suppose it’s my own weakness that I required it – but a few words from any one of them would have been so valuable to me. 

This is one of those films that stopped being just a movie to me.  There are movies like Princess Bride and STII and Ladyhawke and such that are inextricable parts of me; they cast shadows all around me.  The shadows DPS cast were such that it raised my expectations far too high – it set goals which, apparently, no real teacher can meet.  Damn. 

It had a terrible influence on me … There’s the American dream of “if you try hard enough you can do anything!“, and then there’s John Keating’s use of poetry in DPS.  “Carpe diem”, he says.  “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman: O me! O life! of the question of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish… What good amid these O me, O life? Answer That you are here–That life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.  “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” What will your verse be?”  Ouch. 

No pressure.

There’s a scene that resonates a lot more now than it did once – at least, more fully.  Once I saw only Keating’s side of it.  Now I see both:

 McAllister: You take a big risk by encouraging them to become artists, John. When they realize that they’re not Rembrandts, Shakespeares, or Mozarts, they’ll hate you for it.
Keating: We’re not talking artists, George. We’re talking free thinkers.
McAllister: Free thinkers at seventeen?
Keating: Funny. I never pegged you as a cynic.
McAllister: Not a cynic. A realist. “Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I’ll show you a happy man.”
Keating: “But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”
McAllister: Tennyson?
Keating (with a grin): No. Keating.

I am, heaven help me, becoming more McAllister than Keating – more cynic/realist than free-thinker.  This is where one of my issues with American Idol kicks in: “When they realize that they’re not Rembrandts, Shakespeares, or Mozarts, they’ll hate you for it.”  The overly confident ones, the ones with the voices like cats in a sack who show up expecting adulation and shocked – shocked, I say – that the judges think they’re terrible.  It’s the flip side of trying to inspire: sometimes inspiration backfires on the universe. 

Oh, right – here’s the other area where my expectations were raised too high, where I never found what I needed in school:

Todd: Keating said that everybody took turns reading and I don’t wanna do that.
Neil: Gosh. You really have a problem with that, don’t you?

Neil’s tone of voice as he says that line isn’t what you might expect; it’s genuinely concerned.  If my high school “friends” ever said anything like it, it wasn’t in tones of concern.  But I can only deal with one source of bitterness per post … the scenes with RSL and Hawke are beautifully played.  They’re two boys with difficult families and high pressure at school, and Todd’s shyness and complete lack of confidence gains a bolster in Neil; Neil’s big heart and romantic (see Anne of Green Gables, not Harlequin) disposition finds grounding in Todd.  The performances are lovely, by them and all of them.  (I love Meeks.)

Back to the inspiration. 

“I’ll now read the traditional opening message by society member, Henry David Thoreau. ‘I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. … To put to rout all that was not life, and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.'”

Neil: Alfred Lord Tennyson:
Come my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world
for my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset.
And though we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

So very inspiring.  So very hard to live up to. 

Aaand there are some basic writing tips:

Keating: (So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy.)  A man is not very tired, he is exhausted.  Don’t use “very sad”, use – Come on, Mr. Overstreet, you twerp –
Knox: Morose?
Keating: Exactly! Morose.

– Words to NaNo by. 

Keating: Mr. Hopkins, you were laughing. You’re up.
Hopkins: “The cat sat on the mat.”
Keating: Congratulations, Mr. Hopkins. Yours is the first poem to ever have a negative score on the Pritchard scale. We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing near you. I don’t mind that your poem had a simple theme. Sometimes the most beautiful poetry can be about simple things, like a cat, or a flower or rain. You see, poetry can come from anything with the stuff of revelation in it. Just don’t let your poems be ordinary.

Very true.  Very nice. 

Ah – and here’s the part that haunts my days and shadows my nights:

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.  You see, the world looks very different from up here. You don’t believe me? Come see for yourself. Come on. Come on!  Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try! Now, when you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks. Consider what you think.  Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out! Don’t just walk off the edge like lemmings. Look around you…”

More words to live by:

Charlie: Knoxious, you’ve gotta calm down.
Knox: No, Charlie. That’s my problem. I’ve been calm all my life.

There is just so much to love.  The music as Neil opens the book.  The scene in which Todd is trying to write his poem, beating the meter out on the air, walking in a circle between the two beds.  As he faces outward on each circuit his face changes – he’s excited, and then comes around again and is a little more thoughtful, and then comes around again and is crestfallen.  It’s so well done. 

**spoilers**

Poor Knox … He experiences the worst evening of his young life, meeting the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, Chris.  What’s wrong with that?  She’s dating a football hero from the co-ed public school.  She’s not going to look at a Dead Poet.  Unless, sparked by Mr. Keating’s lessons, he makes her look at him.  He nearly gets himself killed by placing a gentle kiss on her brow … he did *not* feel her up.  Poor Knox.  But, in the end, he’s the only one with the possibility of a happy ending.  One of the special features on the dvd pointed out that there are four storylines followed through the film: Knox and Chris, Charlie Dalton, Todd, and Neil.  Todd might be strengthened by this; he learned how to speak out and speak up and stand up, for himself and what he cared about – but it won’t be easy.  Charlie: expelled; maybe he could go on from there to a public school; his family had money, so that might smooth his way.  Neil … ah, Neil.  Neil broke my heart years ago, and again watching it now.  Not only the vision of the next ten years yoked to a course he desperately does not want (“that’s ten more years – that’s a lifetime!”), but … He just gave his maiden performance.  He did it really, really well.  And he was yanked literally from the wings and had it all taken clean away from him.  He had his treasure in his hands and it was taken away.  It was a warm and living thing with blood flowing and a strong heart pumping – and his father took it away and killed it.  He knew what he wanted to do with his life, knew it in his bones and found great joy in it – that’s one of the most amazing feelings there is, to find something you love and know, know, that this is what will occupy you for all the days of your life.  Having that taken away – whether slowly and gradually as it was for me or abruptly and savagely as it was for Neil – is one of the deepest pains there is.  Knox, though … Knox is beginning to make inroads with the girl he’s infatuated with.  It’s nice to think he might also be strengthened and come out of this wiser and still aflame. 

Though Nolan’s administration seems likely to do its best to quench it.

In a lot of ways I can’t believe I love this movie as much as I do, then and still.  It’s not a happy movie, in the end, at all, and the kind of ending DPS has is almost letter for letter the kind of ending I hate.  But somehow this pulls it off; it creates an atmosphere in which what happens is inevitable, and somehow doesn’t leave a sour taste.  Grief, yes; regret, yes.  But it’s what must be.  And the last scene was a balm, of sorts.  Yes, Todd will be all right, and so will Knox, and Pittsie.  Maybe even Keating, because of this. 

Cameron?  Scum, and always will be.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Grimmauld Film

December 10, 2010 at 10:32 pm (Geekery, Movies) (, )

First of all –

It’s been a good while since I saw Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone; it was on all last week, with the rest of them.  What a joy.  I didn’t get the chance to watch any of them from beginning to end, but I watched bits and pieces every chance I did get.  I’d love to do a marathon soon. 

Every entrance in Sorceror’s Stone was spot on; every casting choice just super (where did they find such marvelously perfect red-headed twins?)

– The Main Three’s reactions to their Sorting – Ron just melted in relief and joy
– Ron with a drumstick in each hand at the feast
– Snape’s entrance into his classroom
– You mount from the left of a broom, as with a horse
– “As long as Dumbledore’s around, you’re safe.”  Oh dear. 
– Hagrid playing a flute – the Harry Potter theme.  Just gorgeous.I never remembered that.  Makes me want to go find my elementary school recorder and learn to play that.


What a lovely world that is.  It’s one of the very few mondo-bestsellers I can put my full support behind; I love the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling, very nearly as much as I love Middle-earth.  Once I would have thought that was blasphemy.  *shrug*

Last weekend the lot of us – sans Mom, who would end up with nightmares (no, really) – went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.  No 3-D crap, nothing fancy, just the ordinary movie. 

First there was half an hour of trailers, of course:
Yogi Bear, seriously?  I can think of a hundred movies that *should* be made – honestly, hand me a pen and I could come up with at least 100 books and tv shows and old movies I’d pay serious money to see adapted –  and instead they’re making Yogi Bear?  Okay. 
Red Riding Hood … I was interested, of course: it looks very pretty.  It looks right up my alley.  “From the producers of Twilight” worried me – and then the worry was verified by every word out of the lead actress’s mouth.  It has the look of a fairy tale, it has the look of something set in a prettified Dark Ages – but every word out of her mouth made it sound like … Twilight.  No.  Thanks.  Please. 
– But – – Kung Fu Panda 2!  Now that was a clever trailer.  Ninja staring contest!  “You guys look amazing, by the way!”  Adorable. 
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader looks fantastic; I missed Prince Caspian, and I haven’t read the books in donkey’s years, and this trailer sparked off all sorts of nostalgia like I haven’t felt since … Fellowship.  (I miss LotR.) 


Aannd … Harry Potter.  Overall impressions: Very good.  Very faithful.  Very long.  And very grim. 

Actually, it was only about two and a quarter hours; it felt like we were in there for a day and a half.  Maybe it was the sort of randomness of the story – they knew they had to find the horcruxes, didn’t know where to begin to look, and didn’t know how to find out, who to trust, where to go; I remember being frustrated with it in the book, but here (possibly because I knew what was coming) it was handled well enough that I don’t think that was the problem.  I wasn’t bored … it just felt like the movie was twice as long as it actually was. 

The story stuck beautifully to the book.  They did put everything in, as advertised – except did people know about Tonks and Remus’s baby at this point?  She started to make the announcement, and I think Mad-Eye stomped in and interrupted her.  No matter – it was a tidbit tossed to the geeks, which would probably fly right over anyone else’s head unnoticed.  (When did the Radio Free Hogwarts begin?  I kept expecting Fred and or George every time they showed Ron with the radio.  Did they cut that out?  Or is that Part 2?  Hm.) 

So – long, faithful, good: very good.  I read an article somewhere which talked about the sheer wonderful luck the franchise had in casting Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Daniel Radcliffe – and all of the others who have carried through all eight movies, especially James and Oliver Phelps (the wonderful Weasley Twins) and Matthew Lewis (the wonderful Neville Longbottom); they were cast as children, and there was no guarantee that they would, every one, turn out to be, nine years later, all attractive and all at least tolerably good actors (some very good indeed).  There was no guarantee they’d even look the part anymore nine years later – but they all still suit, very well indeed.  The one I’ve doubted occasionally over the years – besides Daniel Radcliffe – has been Tom Felton (Draco), but he pulled it off in this one. 

I believe Half Blood Prince was the last movie I saw in the theatre, and I remember being impressed by Felton’s Draco.  I wish there had been time for a little more of him in this.  The poor nasty kid – he couldn’t be any other way, given his Pureblood family.  Here, his scenes underscored the pain – his father had committed the family to the Dark Lord, and it’s starting to seem like not the best idea suddenly … His father is afraid of Voldemort, and where does that leave the poor stupid helpless kid?  He’s petrified.  And has no choice.  It’s a great character, and a better performance than I would have given Felton credit for a few years ago. 

My very favorite, though, is Luna Lovegood.  Love the character, adore the actress (Evanna Lynch), love the performance.  She is a lovely, lovely soul – sweet and wise and serene.  And fierce.  And Irish.  Utterly charming, and I think I’ll go have some pudding.  That casting was a stroke of pure brilliance. 

And grim … There was humor, but it was tense, usually.  And it was awash in the terrors and worries of the film – the growing power of You-Know-Who, and Dumbledore’s death, arrests and inquisition and the influence of the locket, and the attack on the multiple Harrys resulting in woundings and a death, the constant drone of the radio listing the missing – and the deaths not only of characters in the background, muggles and wizardly alike, but also of two small characters.  It was scary, and even my brother (who’s never cracked open any of the books) said it was very much a “how are they gonna get out of THIS one” situation.  At this point in the book, I’ll admit it: I was still honestly expecting Dumbledore’s return.  I can just picture someone of the same opinion at the end of this film – Here he comes!  Oh – wait … The quote I had up there from Sorceror’s Stone – “As long as Dumbledore’s around, you’re safe” – well, things have changed now.  They’ve had to. 

Unfortunately, I know it’s not going to get any cheerier.  Part II is going to be very, very tough.  In a way this one was easier than the equivalent part of the book – I mean, when I read the attack on the multiple Harrys I was chewing on my fingernails expecting Hagrid to be killed.  I was stunned by the way that journey went, and relieved, partly.  It’s going to be as faithful to the book as this was, I understand – and I’m not, at all, looking forward to it.

 

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The Hobbit cast: woo hoo too … I guess

October 24, 2010 at 2:31 am (Geekery, Movies) (, , , , , )

So they’re announcing the cast of The Hobbit.  Sir Ian McKellen is going to be Gandalf again – well, good.  That’s as it should be. That’s the main good thing about having Peter Jackson involved, I guess – continuity. I’m sure I’m missing some of the joyous breaking news, but this is what they’re talking about on TBWSRN… I want very badly to spout off there, but, as with the last post, I don’t have the heart to be the one I used to loathe, walking around with a big pin looking for pretty balloons. Here, though … >pop<

Martin Freeman – Bilbo Baggins. Okay, good. Okay, fine. I hated what I saw of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; I didn’t see much of it because I couldn’t get through it. I must have seen him in something, though, and I liked him; as far as I was in any camp, I was in the Freeman-for-Bilbo camp. So, yay.  ETA: He’s wonderful in Sherlock.  At least there’ll be another “series” of that; he’s made a commitment.

Richard Armitage – Thorin Oakenshield. Sorry, what?

Guy of Gisborne? What’s his name that was the Vicar of Dibley’s lover?  Seriously?  I suppose it must be the corruption of all those half-assed illustrations, but I never, ever imagined Thorin as hot.  ‘Course they’re going to cover him with hair, so … what’s the point?

I had heard Patrick Stewart was being considered.  Which would have been another of those worlds-colliding things that mess with my mind, but I would think a good part of the casting for the dwarves has to be voice casting, considering the general armor-and-hair aspect of Peter Jackson’s dwarves.  Richard Armitage, huh?  Huh.

Aidan Turner – Kili. What?

Mitchell.  Of Being Human.  As Kili the dwarf.  See above, under hot?? and hairy. I just don’t get it. Also, not that I’m counting, but Fili and Kili are blond. Don’t do that.

Speaking of Kili –

Rob Kazinsky – Fili.  Never saw him in anything, as far as I remember, but … Geez.  He’s flipping adorable.  This is getting silly. (And where does he get off having a dot-org?)

Graham McTavish – Dwalin: I’ve seen him in small roles, I guess, and might remember him if I saw him in action, but… Sorry. He shows they’re following the proper range of ages among the dwarves, and looks better than the others, to my mind’s eye.

John Callen – Oin – not much on him out there, after a quick search. There will be. Oh, there will be.

Stephen Hunter – Bombur. Wait, huh? This Stephen Hunter? The non-acting Stephen Hunter? In the photos on the site, he looks the part, but… how odd. Unless of course I have the wrong guy.

Mark Hadlow – Dori – also known as Harry in King Kong. I think I remember him. OK, good.

Peter Hambleton – Gloin. Not a clue. Again, there’s gonna be a lot more out there about him.

On the whole, I prefer new-to-me–but-experienced faces as the dwarves. The young ones … Yes, Fili and Kili are supposed to be young. And there is supposed to be an emotional reaction to the (*spoiler*) death of whichever or both (I don’t remember).  But this seems like a hollow ploy to cater to the girly group that still giggle over Orlando Bloom. (And what, is Richard Armitage, the man I’ve referred to as a cut-rate Sean Bean, supposed to appeal to what were once called on the Nameless Board the B-Girls (fans of either Boromir or Bean, whichever)? Not cutting it. He’s a reasonably attractive man, has made me roll my eyes somewhat less than other actors I’ve seen (and more than others); he’s no Sean Bean.

I wish they were capable of just making the flaming movie. First, though, there has to be a large chunk of drama before we ever get to it – – and the movie isn’t going to simply be The Hobbit. No, if nothing else the studios (and I’m not putting so much faith in Peter Jackson that this isn’t in his mind) can’t tolerate a movie with virtually no female presence (I don’t know what Jackson’s doing about that – can’t use Galadriel since we never go near Lorien, so it seems there will be flashbacks to Frodo’s parents or some such nonsense. And they can’t tolerate a movie without a studly presence. I’d love to see them prove me wrong, and have this Fili and Kili decked out unrecognizable like every single indistinguishable dwarf in Fellowship. But I’m not counting on it. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Fortunately, I don’t care nearly as much as I would have once. I think I’m pretty resigned to them completely balling the whole thing up.

G’head, folks. Prove me wrong.  On all counts.  If you can make me care – – nah.  That’s way too much to ask.

ETA – Since I first wrote this post, they’ve cast a few more roles: Galadriel, Legolas, Frodo… What’s this, you say, none of those characters are in The Hobbit?  Why, that’s right.  They’re not.  How peculiar. 

Now, if Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom are all blonded up and visible in the background … Well, Legolas is Thranduil’s son, so that’s fine.  If he’s completely silent.  I honestly can’t figure whether Galadriel has any right in the world to be there.  If she isn’t given a single line I can live with her too.  I don’t think I’ve seen yet whether Hugo Weaving is returning as Elrond; if he’s not, it makes the rest even more ridiculous. 

I found an old article in which Jackson told MTV (MTV?) that “he only sees a return to Middle Earth for 3 of the original Lord of the Rings cast”.  Back then, presumably, he was talking about the elves.  “I imagine Andy Serkis just slipped his mind … hopefully”.  There are all sorts of rumors, including David Tennant as Thranduil (totally up in the air, or … oh, who knows) and Ron Perlman (who was only an idea, from when Del Toro was attached to the project – my reactions went from what?? to huh  to that might be one reason to go see these things to oh, never mind, he says he’s not doing it). 

Elijah Wood … Seriously, I’m pretty unhappy about this.  Apparently, since they’ve decided they need to stretch out the book over two movies, they need to do some serious padding, and they’re adding bookends of Frodo reading Bilbo’s Red Book.  I can see some positives to this, really I can, but … I hate it.  At least they don’t seem to plan to have Frodo reading it to Sam (where?  Rivendell?).  It would be a little better if Sir Ian Holm was there reading it to Frodo, but apparently there isn’t even a question of that; I understand he isn’t well. 

For some reason I can’t put my hands on my paperback editions of LotR or The Hobbit, but one hardcover edition of TH on Amazon is listed as 319 pages.   Fellowship is 400.  Two Towers is 354.  Return of the King is 448, although I think about a hundred of that is indices and appendices.   I don’t know how these editions compare, but it’s pretty clear that The Hobbit is shorter than any of the others.  So of course the logical conclusion is to make the shortest book into two films.  Sure.

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The Hobbit … woo … hoo. I guess.

October 17, 2010 at 1:09 am (Geekery, Movies) ()

So the news finally broke, apparently today, that The Hobbit is finally green-lighted.  Gosh.  Yay. 

I would be ever so much more enthusiastic, except for a few things:

– – I never cared as much for the book as for The Lord of the Rings.  It’s fine, it’s fun, and that’s about all. 

– – While I enjoyed Fellowship of the Ring, there was plenty wrong with it – and then the main reason I’ve seen the other two films as often as I have was that I was caught up in the fervor on the Board Which Shall Remain Nameless.  I’ve been thinking The Two Towers wasn’t so bad – but something reminded me recently about the whole Aragorn-falls-off-a-cliff-and-is-rescued-by-his-horse thing.  Oh, right.  That was crap.  And The Return of the King?  Apart from the brutalization of characters and storyline, the scene in which Sam gives his emo speech in Osgiliath, oft quoted in footers and sniffled over, had me rolling my eyes so often when I first saw the thing that I’m surprised I didn’t do permanent damage.  I’m one of those saps who mists up at Hallmark commercials, and that speech almost put me into insulin shock.  Everything about that scene – from the fact that none of them were supposed to be where they were to what they suddenly had Frodo and Faramir doing to the composition of that speech – made me angry, which is why I’m not too happy about the fact that –

– – Peter Jackson is back directing the two films of The Hobbit.  (And I believe he and the rest of the team, Fran and Philippa, wrote the screenplay.)  I used to be a fan … but the glamor has worn off, the excitement engendered by being surrounded online by excited people has gone away, and while I still harbor admiration for Fellowship, there were one hell of a lot of decisions made – excising material, and, worse, adding crap – that tick me off.   I was happy about the opportunity to see what someone else would do with it.  Oh well.  I don’t have as much invested in The Hobbit, so I won’t care as much when he screws around with it, right?

Right?

– – I feel completely yanked around.  I don’t know how some of these people at the Nameless Board have managed to maintain their enthusiasm – the whole fiasco lost me at the first speedbump, and ever since then, through strikes and fires and resignations and all the rest of this nonsense, I’ve just shaken my head.  I was honestly beginning to think the thing was never going to be made – and, honestly, I wouldn’t have cared.  The Nameless Board?   There have been dozens of giddy posts, with thousands of views on some of them, speculating and rejoicing.  Where do they get their energy – and the confidence that they’re not being led on again? 

That’s the main one.  One of the main ones.  It’s just been dragging on too damn long. 

On the bright side, Sir Ian McKellen is definitely going to be back as Gandalf, and a lot of the sets are apparently going to be re-used or recreated.  On the not so bright side, I saw something about Patrick Stewart as Thorin.  I don’t want to see Patrick Stewart as a Dwarf.  On the bright side, Andy Serkis is returning to do the voice of Gollum.  On the not so bright – honestly, all the blather about it makes me a little queasy. 

So here I am kvetching to try to prevent myself from opening my mouth, so to speak, on the Nameless Board.  I don’t want to hurt the small handful of people I care about who do care about the thing – and I don’t want to be that one annoying person who tries to pop all the pretty balloons.  If there are people still clinging to limp little balloons, then bless their hearts, and more power to them, however annoying their extreme enthusiasm can get. 

One thing that is kind of funny is the idea that Sir Patrick might be cast, and there are rumors of David Tennant (not, I hope, as Bilbo) and/or Sylvester McCoy.  If nothing else, it would be kind of fun to have three of my worlds collide in one film – Tolkien, Trek, and Who. 

Ah well.  If this is what it was like on the Nameless Board back in the days when they were discussing casting for the trilogy, back when Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman were being mentioned (*shudder*) – I’m not as sorry as I used to be that I missed it.  It’s not what it was cracked up to be.

ETA – I forgot one.  Another cause for extreme eye-rolling: The Hobbit is apparently going to be filmed in 3-D.  Oh, just – spare me.  Why not put it off a few more years and make it scratch-and-sniff, too?

OK, now I’m done.

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Leave Her to Heaven (X2)

May 23, 2010 at 11:41 pm (Classics, Geekery, Movies, PBS, TV) (, , , , , , , )

Yep, it was just Reel 13 time again … Because I didn’t watch all of Gigi last week, and didn’t get around to looking it up, I didn’t know what they would be showing last night.  It was Leave Her to Heaven, starring Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde – and Jeanne Crain and Vincent Price.  I admit it, without thinking about it I was expecting the later Vincent Price; instead there was a young and leading-man-quality Vincent Price. 

The facts are these: Cornel Wilde plays a writer, Richard Harland, who runs into the stunning Gene Tierney, playing Ellen Berent.  Turns out they’re both headed for the same ranch, where she and her family (including Jeanne Crain as Ruth, her cousin/adopted sister) are joining other kin to scatter her father’s ashes, and he is taking a break from writing at the invitation of a friend.  Naturally, they fall in love – although he is quite shocked when her fiancé shows up (Vincent Price, playing Russell Quinton).  Ex-fiancé, that is; he took off to meet her as soon as he received the wire she sent him breaking it off.  Richard is even more shocked when she tells Quinton that she had to break off the engagement, because she and Richard are getting married.  It was kind of nice that we the viewers weren’t the only ones who were flabbergasted – did we miss something??  Nope – she’s a bit impulsive, it seems. 

So married, very shortly, they are – although I would think that when one of the first things a woman says to a man is how very strongly he reminds her of her recently deceased father with whom she had an intense bond, this would not bode well for a healthy romance.  Although she was a bit intense about the memorial service (dumping the ashes on a ridge they both loved – and all over the horse she was riding, but I wasn’t supposed to notice that), with the sudden wedding and a few comments made by the family (“she always wins”) she seems just very determined.  Instead of a proper honeymoon they head off to Warm Springs where his brother is trying to recover from an unnamed ailment I’m assuming was polio.  At first all is lovely; Danny, the little brother, loves her and she appears to get along very well with him.  However, my first reaction on seeing him for the first time, lying young and vulnerable in his wheelchair, was “He’ll be dead in 20 minutes”.  However, I didn’t keep track of the time.  As he is doing better, Richard plans on taking wife and brother off to the secluded cabin he owns called “Back of the Moon” … but secluded as it is, Ellen feels that as long as anyone is there besides herself and Richard it’s not isolated enough.  Trying to convince the boy’s doctor that it wouldn’t be safe for Danny, she lets slip with, “But after all, he’s a cripple!”  Oops. 
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