Actually... I have now seen Braveheart.
What began as a movie-a-day challenge in 2011 is henceforth an on-going journey:
to watch & discuss (seemingly) unmissable films.

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Over here: http://cinefancy.tumblr.com/

Yays!

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Yesterday, on the 100th day of 2012, I watched the 32nd movie of the year and the 296th movie in my running total from 2011.  I bet that sentence full of numbers was about as much fun to read as Meek’s Cutoff was to watch.

I was really excited about Meek’s Cutoff when it came out.  I’ve long wanted to make Oregon Trail: The Movie so I wanted to see the film that seemingly beat me to it.  After finishing Meek’s Cutoff, I do not believe there’s room for another covered-wagon tale, since no one died of dysentery or an accidental gunshot wound and the pace was never “grueling” (although the film does open with some serious floating of wagons). 

Right before the end credits rolled I thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if it just ended right now?”  And then it did end.  I love a slow movie but— call me old-fashioned— I still think a film must do something to be of value. 

The best thing about Meek’s Cutoff is, as it was before I watched it, the (deceptive yet) awesome poster:

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NOTE: I HAVE SEEN DIRTY DANCING A BILLION IF NOT 16 TIMES REALISTICALLY!!!

But the almost-husband had never seen it, and that had to change before the Big Day. 

I give Josh’s older sister (and my almost-sister-in-law!) a lot of credit for guiding Josh towards being the hilarious, sensitive, gossip-loving man he is today, but not forcing him to watch Dirty Dancing was a bit of an oversight.  Or perhaps Josh was only one half-naked Swayze sighting away from swaying his sexual preference… in which case, I thank you Meghan.

To be fair, watching Dirty Dancing wasn’t exactly easy to do as a kid.  I was 4 years old when it was released in theaters, and probably 6 when it was available in video stores.  Two years later, by the time I was old enough (age 8?) to be enticed by the video sleeve’s hot pink lettering*, DD was a thing of legend.  Maybe my mom never directly said, “You may not watch Dirty Dancing!!”, but I guess I just assumed, since I was 8 and the movie is named Dirty Dancing.  There was no way DD would ever be rented from Video Hut, and my own older sisters were MIA.  My 17 year-old whiz-kid sister was already in her sophomore year of college, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t care too much about movies like DD anyway.  I assume my other sister, then 11, was having her own sleepover adventures trying to watch PG-13 movies. 

Thankfully, my third-grade bff Michelle had half-sisters who were like 18 or some impossibly high teen age, and they were kind enough to leave an unmarked VHS tape in the remodeled basement den.  We rewound the sauciest scenes so many times that the tracking was terrible and eventually unwatchable.  Eventually a taped-from-a-free-HBO-weekend VHS did surface in our home’s entertainment cabinet, and my sister and I could watch it when our mom was at work.  Looking back on these clandestine viewings, I truly can’t imagine what it’s like to be a prepubescent kid these days.  It seems too easy.

Watching it as an adult, it’s cheesy and ridiculous and wonderful.  Misfit dancers at a resort who get no respect from the rich white vacationers.  Still, no movie can ever be Dirty Dancing, much as many dance-based movies may try, for several reasons:

1. There could never be a Johnny Castle now— the age of muscular babes has passed.  Any male character who spends that much time with his shirt off in a non-comic role would be considered gay by American audiences. 

2. One of the main plot points is a back-cabin abortion.  It sure seems like a lot of Americans don’t see this as bad thing.  Maybe they haven’t seen Dirty Dancing

3. Baby is just 17 during her summer o’ Swayze. This would never happen in a movie today. Not just because of her age, but because it’s a dramatic film about a teenage girl embracing her sexuality and defying her dad. If any film focuses on a girl discovering herself today, it’s an unsexy or romantic comedy, or a horror film. 

I’m not saying there should be another Dirty Dancingclearly.  It belongs to the 80s, and should be left there.  I just wish I didn’t have to travel back twenty-five years to find a character like Baby.

*why I was on board with Drive from the opening credits

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I went home in the beginning of March for my wedding shower and thought it would be perfect timing to watch the original Father of the Bride.  I watched it one night with my mom and step-dad.  Well, they were physically in the room with me, but both of them fell asleep with the first ten minutes.  Ten minutes is a generous estimate. 

I can’t blame them.  It’s not a very compelling movie.  It’s slower than any movie should be, there’s useless voice-over, and Liz Taylor is annoying (as usual? do I have a growing dislike for Liz Taylor?).  This is one of those rare movies that’s worse than it’s re-make; in fact, it’s a great defense for why some films demand to be re-made.  Father of the Bride has a widely relatable premise and the period of time surrounding a wedding is inevitably fraught with tension and drama and comedy.  There’s a built-in arc.  The players are forced to change, to adapt, to grow.  And shit always goes down on the wedding day.  I would say it’s almost too easy but the original Father of the Bride managed to take all that gold and make a snooze fest.  There were a couple funny scenes I guess, but I might have found them less funny a year ago when I wasn’t going through all the madness of guest lists and catering and budgeting, etc.  I’m glad I managed to stay awake for this classic, but I think I’ll skip Father’s Little Dividend.

That said, maybe this film was downright hilarious in the 1950s, and in the 2050s a young woman might watch the Father of the Bride starring Steve Martin and barely chuckle. 

Fun fact: Billie Burke (aka Glinda) appears in a veritable munchkin of a bit part!

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That’s right, 2009— I chose the Swedish orig.  (I’ve heard that the American version is better, but I figured Daniel Craig would take me out of it.)  I haven’t read the books, nor do I intend to, but I was really curious about the movies.  And now my curiosity has been sated and I now know all about Lisbeth and how tough she is.  (She’s super tough.)

I have mixed feelings about TGWTDT.  In general, I hate when rape and violence against women are used as plot devices.  It’s cheap and usually unbelievable.  At the same time, rape and violence against women can’t be ignored, and the world does hold some terrible people who do these things.  And of course it’s grotesquely satisfying to see Lisbeth get her revenge.  But I didn’t feel like spending too much time dissecting what is now a popcorn-blockbuster-thriller (which is so strange! Your mother and mine read these books and LOVED THEM!), so I settled with feeling depressed that the most well-known female lead character in recent years had to be abused to prove her strength and intelligence. 

Lame.

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Leaving Las Vegas is a movie wherein Nicolas Cage wears “alcoholic” make-up and moves to Vegas to drink himself to death, all while terrible music plays.  (Seriously, if the soundtrack isn’t Sting, it’s inappropriately placed 50s covers.)  Nicolas Cage won an Oscar for his performance.  The director, Michael Figgis (also the brains behind the loathsome Timecode) was nominated for an Oscar.  He also composed the score.  And play trumpet on the score.  And keyboard.  Sure.

Since winning an Oscar isn’t a very trusty barometer of cinematic value, I consulted the critics.  Most reviews I found online were positive, words such as “haunting”, “poignant”, and “heartbreaking” surfaced again and again. I love this review featured on Rotten Tomatoes from Variety: “The film pulls no punches, takes no prisoners and flies in the face of feel-good pictures.”  What?  This movie did literally nothing.  There was no plot.  And remember— Sting was covering 50s love songs for most of the soundtrack.  It ranks a couple notches below Pretty Woman on the Feel-Good Films involving Hookers List, and only that far down the list because of the “gritty” rape scene.  What am I missing?  Is this film that dated or would critics still find it “uniquely hypnotic” and I’m just a cynic?

I have to assume the former.  So why am I torturing myself with dated 90s films?  For the most part, these are films people reference and even though I know I won’t LOVE them, I’m still curious.  But in particular, I wanted to see Leaving Las Vegas after watching this, and saw a bunch of quotes were clearly from LLV.  I know it’s becoming increasingly trendy to make fun of Nicolas Cage, but we started our fascination years ago.

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Reasons:

1.  I haven’t watched a TV show in over a year.

2.  Downton Abbey is HIGHLY addictive.  I finish Season 2 tonight.

3.  “I’m a woman, Mary.  I can be as contrary as I choose.”

I’ll be back soon with a review of Leaving Las Vegas, where I’ll ask the question on everyone’s mind: “Why do I torture myself with terrible 90s movies?”

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I wrote my last post yesterday, ON VIRGINIA WOOLF’S BIRTHDAY.

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Virginia Woolf, not threatening.  Liz Taylor playing Martha, kind of scary. 

Aah! 

The last film I saw starring Liz Talyor was Cat on a Hot TIn Roof, where she yelled a lot less (sadly), but played an equally infuriating character.  It took me three sittings to watch WAVW? because it was so grating.  I’m sure it ruined the effect, but that’s what happened. 

When I finally made it to the end, the reveal was a bit of a let-down.  It didn’t make me feel any sympathy for the couple, it just reaffirmed their strange and sad relationship.  It wasn’t like seeing Norman Bates’s mom, and going “Oh! Yikes!  So that’s why he’s PSYCHO.”  It was more like, “Sure, these people drink gallons of booze and hate each other.  This all makes sense.” 

They really do drink an unbelievable amount of alcohol.

Also, I wish they kept it in color.

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It’s posts like these that hopefully remind you that you’re reading the CUTTING EDGE of film review blogs. 

I started out 2012’s relaxed-but-continuing movie project with Tim Robbins’s Dead Man Walking.  This was actually a big one to cross off the list.  In high school, I wrote a paper on the evils of the death penalty and promptly made it one of my favorite topics to debate. (It still is, to be honest.)  I remember Dead Man Walking coming up in conversations with my friends in Amnesty International, and even back then I nodded and played along.  I would change the subject and recommend Dancer in the Dark, which was “way better”.  Had I actually seen Dead Man Walking, I may have realized no comparison should be made between these films, just because a character is put to death in both.  But maybe not.  In my 16 year-old heart, the death penalty was devastating across the board.

I don’t know why, but I was “fronting” when I sat down to watch Dead Man Walking more than ten years after I initially lied about seeing it.  I thought, “this won’t be so bad, I can handle this”, as though those years had somehow diluted the potency of the film.  I thought it might not hold up, since it was made in the 90s, after all.  I saw Into the Abyss recently, and I was fine…

NOPE.

Crying, crying at various points in the film, crying like it was Bjork and not Sean Penn, crying for all of humanity, why do we do this, how can this happen, humans are a failed species, life is so backwards and fucked up, how can this be legal, reminding Josh (still crying) to never call for the death penalty if I’m murdered, ETC….

It’s not the best movie, but it got to me.  Susan Sarandon got to me. 

The terrible editing, however, got to me in a different way.  Almost every scene had tons of quick flashbacks, especially at the beginning and end.  It was like Tim Robbins didn’t trust the story on its own, and wanted to infuse it with suspense.  It felt like an amateur move, but since it was only the second movie he directed, I guess it was.  He made Cradle Will Rock a few years later, and that’s a REAL gem.