Archive for March, 2017

Movies Watched Since Last Post: 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Dark Harbor
Kedi
I Am Big Bird
Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Spotlight
The Gambler
Nintendo Quest

It’s been almost three weeks now, and a rather sad number of movies. Eight in eighteen days is not the kind of run I was hoping for when i started this, especially since the last one, the mind-boggling Nintendo Quest (more on that in a minute) was finished on the 26th of March, and I am now on the 30th.  I will say that I had to study for a certification exam for my actual job, which I ended up barely not passing, which I guess means that I am not qualified for a job that I’ve had for about 18 years, and I’ve just been fooling everyone all this time.

Before I get into the nuances of movie-watching these days, the Brie Larson sighting for this post was in Mark Wahlberg’s The Gambler, It was not horrible, despite Brie having a kind of small role, and Mark Wahlberg being in it. I should have hated it, but something about it was strangely compelling, and not just Brie Larson in glasses:

el-jugador-2014-imagen-23

Rowr!

So, anyway, a little break was necessary, but also, I am running into my first problem with my quest. That problem is that I am running out of available movies to watch (Remember, these movies have to be ones I have never seen, so part of the problem is I’ve seen a lot.) When you break it down, these are the major platforms I am using: Amazon Prime, Netflix, Xfinity OnDemand and actually going out to the movies (with the occasional DVD thrown in). Weirdly enough, despite the fact that 11 out of 26 movies I have watched have been via Amazon, that may be the worst platform of them all because they have sooooo many bad movies on there, and in the time I have spent sifting through the refuse, I could probably have watched a couple of them. Part of this is on me, I realize, because I simply have no desire to watch Dirty Granpa, I’d feel a little gross watching Chain Gang Women, and I won’t watch anything starring Jason Statham, so that cuts out a good chunk of their library right there.  (Call me a film snob, but…) That’s just for the free movies, of course. You can pay to “rent” them digitally, but the real kick in the nuts about that is that you have 30 days to start it after you pay, but only 24 hours to finish it after you start. So, read the fine print, kids. I paid $3.99 to watch King of Kong, the documentary about the guy who has the highest score ever on Donkey Kong. I got about 40 minutes in and then life happened and I had to wait a couple days, only to realize that my window had closed.  Man, can you imagine if video store employees could come to your house and take back the movie if you started it and didn’t finish within 24 hours? Because that’s what Amazon has digitally done to me.

It’s funny, but I am only just getting used to paying to rent something that you don’t actually possess (and will only have for a day once you start it), and having it just disappear from your “digital library” like it never was. As I said, I worked in a video store for years, and a movie theater before that, so seeing movies for free was a regular occurrence, but that’s not the real hang-up for me. Something about renting it and never holding it in your hand makes you think that you’re just throwing money away (and in the case of King of Kong, I was.)  As a child, I would feed quarter after quarter into video games that seemingly had no point, other than the pleasure of it, but now, as an adult, I won’t spend $.99 on an app for my phone because that just seems like a waste. Is there some psychological theory about touching the things you are using that is lost now, or am I just cheap?

Along those lines, I wanted to talk about Nintendo Quest a little. This documentary (I went a little documentary crazy these last couple weeks) is about a young man, Jay, who loves video games, especially the original Nintendo Entertainment System. He loves it so much that his friend dared him to acquire all 678 games in 30 days, not using the internet for any of the purchases. So, this sounded like a fun little adventure to me. There are apparently some extremely rare games out there, so a big part of the movie was finding someone who had them and bartering with that person, and part of the story thread of the movie (and docs do have stories) is that Jay isn’t very good at bartering, so the point of the quest was really to get him out of his shell a little. Sounds fun, right?

Nintendo_600

Not so fast. There were a lot of holes here (and this is where my film school snobbery really comes out). My first big problem was that Day 1 of the quest consisted of him going to his friend’s houses and just taking any games that they own. So, the quest doesn’t actually involve “buying” all the games, as much as “acquiring” them. I guess it’s cheaper this way, but kind of a cop-out. The movie does mention that part of the quest was staying under budget, which I get. These are just a couple dudes, after all, with jobs and bills and stuff (and a sick dog, which even factors into the story). The problem is that they never mention what their budget actually is. They just have a Price is Right-style counter on the side whenever Jay buys a game that tells you how close he is getting to maxing out. The film does sometimes mention that he got a good deal, or that $5 was too much for a certain game, but I don’t know what $5 means to this guy. If his budget was a few hundred dollars,  OK, $5 a game is a lot when you have to buy 678 of them. But if you have thousands, for the sake of the movie, buy the damn thing (They do mention briefly at the end that he “spent his life savings,” which sort of seems like a waste in retrospect.) They also spend a really long portion of the movie showing Jay negotiating a deal with a collector in Florida who wants to sell him Stadium Events, apparently the Holy Grail of Nintendo games, for $4000, which the filmmakers tell us is a good deal. The hang-up is that Jay doesn’t like to fly, and doesn’t have the time (or inclination) to drive to Florida, and the guy doesn’t want to just give him the game without getting paid first. As I’m watching this, I’m thinking that the big finale of the movie is that, for the good of the quest, he gets on a plane and flies down and gets his Holy Grail.

Nope. That deal falls apart, and doesn’t factor into the movie at all after that. In fact, Jay doesn’t actually complete the quest in the allotted 30 days. He actually ends up way off, and Stadium Events was one of the games he missed. He ends up getting it from a different dealer, who is only to happy to part with it. They show Jay buying it, and act like it’s a big deal because he finally got it, but they also tell us that he bought the rest of the ones he needed on eBay, and they show him buying Stadium Events from that guy 8 months later. It’s kind of a nice point to make when he says how it felt impersonal to buy them on eBay (which is kind of what I was saying earlier), because he connected with a lot of people on his way to buying the 678 654 games. But by this point, who cares? The point was to do it in 30 days and not use the internet.

I suppose it’s an interesting case-study of what happens when two guys set out to make a documentary about something, and then that something doesn’t take place. I mean, you’re kind of stuck, amiright? I was trying to put myself in their shoes and think about what I would do. You have to finish it, since you went through all the trouble, but could you lie and leave out the “8 months later” part and just say he did it? Who would know? My theory is that they started it, realized it was impossible, and decided to make it about finding this one game, because they are literally hours away from the deadline and he is still knocking around a store in his hometown, seeing if he could find anything. And they weren’t too concerned about having more than twenty games left to get. I also feel like something personal may have happened that they didn’t want to include (there’s some weird side story about what a dick Jay’s Dad was, and then how bad he felt when he died), but definitely got in the way.

I do remember when I was younger, maybe even a little younger than Jay and his friends, and I wanted to make a doc about my friends’ band. It was only a few months later when the band kind of broke up because that’s what your friends’ bands do. I then thought it would be funny to call the doc “The Band That Never Was,” and just make it about how friends’ bands almost always end (often badly), but realized there’s not much of a movie there. This was, of course, before there was a Youtube or any place where people could ever watch anything online, but if there was, maybe I would have continued and been an internet sensation. As it was, my interest waned, probably the same way that these guys’ interest in Nintendo games should have, maybe 30 years or so ago.

I know I sound kind of cynical, especially when you consider the whole “It’s about the journey” rationale, but something about this film, as annoying as it was at times to my grumpy mind, that struck a chord with me. Here I am, trying to watch as many movies as possible in a year. Will I get bored in June and simply drop it? Will I hate most movies by then? Will I realize it’s all kind of pointless, like “acquiring” every Nintendo game is to most people? Or will Matt Dursin, like Jay, discover something about himself along the way?

We shall see. Until then…

Brie Larson

I may have to watch Scott Pilgrim again. And again.

 

Movies Since Last Post:  It Follows, Hidden Figures, Kong: Skull Island, Life of Brian, Central Intelligence

I don’t know if I’ll be posting every week, but I had an interesting movie week, and it’s 23 degrees outside, so I figured, what the Hell? Also, my memory isn’t that great, so if I don’t do it now, I may not remember what I wanted to say about them.

Weirdly enough, it took me two months to remember that I could watch movies on Netflix (I guess I thought it was just for cool shows). So, I started going through and adding movies to my queue, or whatever they call it now. I started with the creepy It Follows, which I remember hearing good things about when it was released in 2014. It was creepy, but a little disappointing when you think about how it really has no point and it kind of just ends. Similarly to Room and Sicario, which I watched earlier this year. Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of these movies seem to be ending just when I think the story is ramping up. I also think I chose this one because the running time was acceptable at 1 hour and 40 minutes. I’m starting to sound like my mother here, who basically dislikes any movie over 90 minutes, but I have a life, too, and so I don’t have a lot of spare time to commit to a movie that I think could possibly maybe be not all that horrible.

Although, speaking of spare time, I took a couple vacation days last week, so I ended up going to the movies (I also had a free pass that expired soon. Time and money are probably the two most important things to consider in this movie-watching year.) First, I saw Hidden Figures, which was enjoyable, and the performances Oscar-worthy, but I was not blown away. Maybe I’m just a grumpy, old bastard, but I felt like this movie was basically just like every other movie that depicts “How far we’ve come” as far as racism. Of course, the stories of these women needed to be told, and I love space exploration stories, I just wish that the most compelling part wasn’t Taraju P. Henson having to run a half-mile to the bathroom because her building didn’t have “colored restrooms.” What does that say about a movie when its most memorable aspect is a woman running to the bathroom?

The next day I saw Kong: Skull Island, in 3-D IMAX. Not real IMAX, but what they call Lie-MAX, because it was just on a big movie screen and probably wasn’t shown on one of those big projectors. I did experience a first here as the movie froze at one point, and we could hear it but the image was not moving. Naturally, I was the first person in the theater to get up and go tell the usher, because while I don’t know a lot about the science of movie projection, I do know that someone isn’t just sitting in that little booth watching the movie to see if something goes wrong. When it came back, it went right to where the sound was instead of going back to where it froze. Obviously, I missed some big story point while I was in the lobby, because one minute they were escaping the island, and the next Tom Hiddleston was saying, “We’re going to rescue Kong!” It could be argued that I could have asked for a refund or a free pass or something, but really, it was a King Kong movie, so I didn’t really see it for the story, anyway. Also, I’m not sure I would want to go back to that theater anytime soon, anyway. It seems as though the Loew’s Boston Common has definitely fallen upon hard times. They need some sort of Jon Taffer-esque Theater Rescue to come give it a make-over.

As a side note, I should also point out that I chose this movie with no knowledge that it featured Brie Larson. She was a major character and yet was not featured in any of the trailers or commercials. I guess we needed to hear Samuel L. Jackson scream a lot. Anyway, this marks the fourth Brie Larson movie this year. I’ll probably just watch the rest now just so I can say I did.

maxresdefault

Perhaps the most interesting movie-watching experience of the last week was Monty Python’s Life of Brian, on DVD. First of all, yes, I had never seen this movie. I’m pretty sure I had been lying about that for 25 years. I obviously had seen Holy Grail a million times, as well as a lot of their bits online over the years, but somehow, Life of Brian had eluded me.  And the interesting thing is that, unless I bought it used somewhere, or there was a special screening at a local movie house, it probably would have eluded me forever. Thankfully, Rachel had it on DVD, so I dug it out and put it in. And I know that putting a DVD in my Xbox is not all that interesting, but the very fact that it would have been really hard to see this movie otherwise is the interesting part. As a former video store jockey, I was surrounded by movies all the time, and I myself have a very large DVD collection (that mostly sits there nowadays), but at this point in human history, if you don’t already have a physical copy of a movie, it’s hard to justify buying one. Especially if you live in a one bedroom apartment with not much storage. I went on a little selling spree of some of my CD’s and DVD’s last year, just to make some room, and none of them sold for more than a few bucks, so I kind of gave that up. Point is, it’s just not really important to me to have a DVD collection anymore (and this is coming from a guy who has a comic book collection of well over 1000. I know. It makes little sense.) But the point is, without a DVD, it’s hard to find a movie like Life of Brian on any of the streaming services, so I guess there’s your justification right there. So, remember:

tumblr_meuadalei91qfzgyio1_500

So, having watched 18 movies in 2017 so far, with only two on DVD and 4 in theaters, I think it’s pretty obvious so far how people consume movies these days (and I guess, by people, I mean me.) But it’s pretty easy to stay home and watch movies when it’s this cold out. Let’s see what happens when things heat up around here.

 

As a film student at Emerson in 1997 (which I realize was now 20 years ago), I was taking Film Writing & Design with a horrible professor who told me that all people in Hollywood watch movies constantly, like literally that’s all they do. I think he actually said, “hundreds a year.” So I thought I would make a list of all the movies I watched that year and see if I matched up. I worked in a video store and got free rentals, so I thought it would be easy to make a decent number. This list only included movies that were new to me, so even though, for example, I saw Star Wars in a theater that year, that didn’t count because, even though it was the Special Edition, I had seen it before (many, many times). I made it to about 100 movies, I think, which kind of surprised me being that it was so low, and probably wouldn’t have gotten into any Hall of Fame in Hollywood.

Back in 1997, though, you didn’t have too many opportunities to see new movies. You either saw them in a theater or rented them in a video store. I know there were movies channels on cable, but my parents didn’t subscribe to them because my mother was convinced that they just showed the same movies over and over. She wasn’t entirely wrong, but it wasn’t until I became a functional adult that I made up for lost time by subscribing to every movie channel I could. I know this may be snobbish, but I don’t really count watching them on a regular channel, like TBS or something. Something about the commercials just ruins the experience for me.

But in 2017, there are many ways to watch movies, so I decided to try again. Obviously, the method would be a little different this time around. Sadly, video stores are no more, although there are many uses for those old VHS tapes, as you can see:

09bdbff5b4790ed0ac831bcafe532e60.jpg

Anyway, I would try to watch as many new (to me) movies as possible, and catalog them. And not in a spiral notebook like in 1997. This time, I could use a spreadsheet on Google Drive, with the date I watched it and also how I watched it. I thought that by the end of the year, it could be a cool way to examine how we watch movies nowadays (or it could just be a whole lot of nothing).

So, as of this writing (March 5th), I have watched 13 movies. Again, not breaking any records, but I was already a few weeks into January when I decided to do this, so I probably would have watched a couple more if I was actually trying. February was a big month, with 8 movies watched, with half of them being watched on Amazon Prime video. March promises to be even bigger, as I’ve already watched 3 movies (Don Jon, The Spectacular Now, and Logan), and it’s only the 5th. I also somehow managed to watch three Brie Larson movies in a row. I honestly didn’t even know she had made that many movies. She is a great actress, though, and I’m definitely looking forward to her as Captain Marvel.

captain_marvel_

 

The one observation I can make now, and it’s a pretty obvious one, is that watching movies on a computer has changed the game completely. It’s a really interesting way to consume them, in fact, because as a younger, snobbier man, I didn’t really like watching a movie, stopping it at some point, going to do something else, and then coming back to it (even though you could certainly do that with a VCR tape, and I did, but it always felt like cheating somehow). I always thought that movies were meant to be enjoyed in a single sitting. Now, either because I’m just older and I just don’t care, or because of the technology, I feel like it’s cool to just pause it on your computer and go back when you want. In fact, most of the movies that I’ve watched on Amazon and Xfinity OnDemand have taken me days to watch, and I don’t think it diminished my enjoyment of them (if I indeed enjoyed them at all.) Maybe it was because video store rentals had to be returned after a couple days, but my Amazon Prime movies don’t need to be returned, as long as I pay that bill.

Speaking of paying, another interesting aspect of this experiment thus far is that out of 13 movies, I have only paid for four of them, being The LEGO Batman movie, Get Out, Logan and The Spectacular Now (yeah, I spent money to rent that one on Amazon, and that was a bit of a mistake.) Now, I do pay for Amazon Prime and I pay a cable bill that allows me to watch movies on the Xfinity website, but I don’t know if I’m contributing to a film’s gross by doing that. I will say, though, that it makes it easier to watch a lot of movies when you don’t have to directly pay for them (Or leave the house! Even getting free video rentals in 1997 didn’t make it this easy.)

My one fear? That the math will catch up to me. I know myself, and even though there are thousands of movies available to me, right at my fingertips no less, there are also thousands of them that I literally have no desire to see. So, after 13 movies in just over two months, I’m on pace to watch a couple hundred, and my concern is that there aren’t actually that many movies that I want to see. I mean, I may not be paying directly for them, but, time is money. So, do I want to spend my time on them?

We shall see. I’ll update my progress periodically, so stay tuned.