A few people have said very nice things about my blog lately, which feels great... and, of course, has me completely paralyzed, because I am now certain to spout boring nonsense which will make you all wonder what you ever saw in me in the first place.
What better way to get past that than to babble about movies for a bit? It's been a while.
Oh Netflix, how I love thee. I hear about a movie, add it to my queue (almost 100 movies long, obsessively sorted into genres, which are in turn listed alphabetically; help me, someone?), and a steady stream of DVDs comes my way in their cheerful red envelopes. The anonymity of the exchange makes it somehow more exciting. I put a movie in the mailbox, go away for a while, and the next time I open the box, there's a new one. Unseen forces keep the entertainment coming. Kind of like ordering dinner on the original USS Enterprise, no?
Hoo boy, am I easily amused.
When it's time to decide what to watch, I give Mr. S. the rundown on what we've got. Sometimes he just sighs and says, "of the ones without subtitles, which one's shortest?"
We've had a good mix of things lately though:
Ocean's Thirteen was entertaining and fun. As I remember, Eleven was more about the cool technicalities of the heist itself, and Twelve was a bit more about the characters (worth seeing just for that beautiful laser-dodging scene with the cool music). Thirteen feels more like "let's enjoy watching these great looking quipsters perform an elaborate, expensive, dangerous and groovily soundtracked practical joke on Al Pacino." Which is worth doing in its own right. I'd have liked to see more of George Clooney in the medallion-sporting, mustachioed disguise, but you can't have everything.
Ratatouille, the latest from Pixar, is pretty good. Basically, you have a French rat with an incongruous talent for fine cuisine, a hapless young would-be chef, a power-hungry chef villain, and a fearsome food critic. Amusing, endearing antics ensue. (Still... rats in restaurant kitchens... how cute can that get?) I liked it well enough, but for me it doesn't have the staying power of Finding Nemo -- which, if you haven't seen, grownups: do. Really. I'd never have bothered with it if I didn't have kids, but it's just gorgeous and funny and lovely. I even bought the soundtrack.
Office Space is a 1999 classic which I somehow never saw until a couple weeks ago. It's a basic spoof on working in an office, and it nails some things but good. How I missed it, given my years of working first for consulting firms, then for state government in a cubicle farm setting, is a mystery. Suffice to say that 1) Mike Judge is a funny, funny man; 2) you should watch this movie if you missed it when it was all the rage; and 3) I am on the lookout for a red Swingline stapler to bring to my next office job, if ever I have one.
After all that frivolity, I guess I wasn't bummed out enough about the state of affairs in Iraq, because I decided to learn more about them. If, like me, you saw Fahrenheit 9/11 and found it compelling but overly propagandistic -- maybe you think Michael Moore is probably right but his snide narration and selective editing lead you to believe the other side of the story might be worth listening to -- well. Check out No End In Sight, a documentary released last July, which examines, through interviews with intelligence, State, DOD and military personnel, Iraq's descent into insurgency and chaos. To his credit, the interviewer doesn't inject himself into the film. We're not just listening to the rantings of disgruntled employees here; these are high-level perspectives I hadn't heard before. The movie ends before the recent "surge," but it is well worth examining how we got to that point. I learned a lot; sadly, nothing I learned conflicts with my existing thoughts about the war in Iraq, which can be boiled down to 1) How could we be so stupid?! and 2) We have got to get out of there, but how?
I've no idea where I heard of Heavenly Creatures, but we watched it on a night when the other options were subtitled. It's about the 1954 murder of Honora Rieper by her teenage daughter Pauline and Pauline's friend Juliet. It's based on news accounts of the case and Pauline's own meticulously kept, horrifying diaries.
Pauline and Juliet meet in school in New Zealand, and soon discover that they share not only a powerful imagination, but an ability to enter the dramas they imagine. They create a deeply intricate fantasy of royalty and adventure, which they step in and out of as characters in it. At first, their parents are just happy to see their loner daughters in a fulfilling friendship; however, things begin to get weird. The girls spend all their time together, make increasingly less sense to those around them, and eventually can't seem to tolerate anyone else's company. Their parents, particularly Honora, forbid the friendship to continue at the level of intensity it has reached.
So they kill her. Yes, they do.
The movie's creepy, but I can like creepy, and don't shy from a true crime story well told. What I didn't like about it at all is the fantasy bits, played by repugnant, life-sized clay figures, and the seemingly endless footage of these girls twirling around and giggling... gah, I just hate stuff like that... and the camera swirling around, swirling around. It makes me want to yell KEEP STILL! SHUT UP! Kate Winslet plays Juliet; I guess this was her film debut. She's terrific, as is the other girl. But I still hated it.
Last (phew!), Stardust was a very happy surprise indeed. The description reads of a love story in a magical world, blah blah... and given the above foray into fantasy and magical worlds, I have to say I was reluctant to bother with this. But it's so cool! Our Hero lives in a rural village adjacent to... yes, a magical kingdom. He promises the girl he loves that he'll retrieve a fallen star for her, to win her hand. Before he goes, his father gives him some clues to help him find more than the star he's chasing. And he's off on his quest, which brings danger and intrigue, pirates (Robert De Niro!), witches (Michelle Pfeiffer!), disaffected ghosts, treacherous princes, a star (Claire Danes) and True Love. It's wonderful, and the effects are stunning. A keeper!
Right. So much for having lost the gift of gab...