Archive for April, 2017

Movies Since Last Post: 

Fate of the Furious
The Gift (2015)
Planet Hulk
Lincoln
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Free Fire
Nasty Baby
The Deerhunter
The Hurt Locker

The 2017 movie tally now stands at 41 (Hey, one for every year of my life), and while that’s not horrible for 4 months, I have a small fear that things may start to slow down. For one, baseball season is in full swing, but that’s a minor problem. Here is what I may think will be the issue, and it’s not something I could have predicted; We really like TV shows.

Between Netflix and Amazon, the perception was that I could find basically any movie I wanted. I was only limited by my imagination. I mentioned in a previous post that I was a video store jockey, and when I started this quest, I figured it would be similar to going to a video store back in the day. Aisles and aisles of movies, divided up by genre and usually even alphabetized for you, all for the renting. Really, your only nemesis was if another customer was thinking the same way you were. And if you happened to be at a Blockbuster, that was not always an issue because, if your choice was a popular new release, they would literally order a billion copies of it. So, as long as you didn’t have super-eclectic tastes, you would probably go home happy.

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Did anyone actually rent my staff picks?

But the game has changed. Now, if I am just trying to spend an evening watching a movie, I can go to Amazon, click on Prime Video, and the very top bar is a scrolling ad for Amazon’s original series’. Below that, I get Recommended Movies and then Recently Added Movies. Fair enough. I’m sure they’ve done their research and determined that people like to watch shows, and hey, it’s not like it’s a lot of work to scroll down an inch to see what movies they have. So I’ll stop whining.

Heh, no I won’t. I’m making a point here. Similarly, Netflix, a site where you can’t even buy other cool stuff like cat litter and toilet paper, has a lovely scrolling ad promoting their original series, and a whole lot of comedy specials, which I find interesting. Again, Netflix and Amazon have tons of customer data that says that we like shows (and I guess people like comedy specials). So that’s what they give us. I don’t blame them for not catering to some weirdo who wants to watch a lot of movies in a year and has a thing for Brie Larson.

The interesting part, though, is that the number of movies on Netflix is around 4500, and dropping. And according to Variety, Amazon Prime Video has “four times as many films available for streaming.” Funny thing is that Hulu has jumped ahead of Netflix, “with 3,588 shows and 6,656 movies,” as of last March. Netflix has apparently not disputed the fact that they are moving away a little from obtaining the rights to existing titles, instead choosing to invest in original content, estimating spending “more than $6 billion [in 2017], investing about 5% of its cash content budget in original films.” Original films doesn’t sound that bad, but it doesn’t exactly replace the video store. I’m actually wondering where the Hell they get $6 billion in the first place. I know everyone has it nowadays, but that’s a lot of lettuce.

Back to that stat about Amazon, though. it’s all well and good to say that they have 4 times as many movies as Netflix, but what does it matter of most of those movies are shit? A quick glance at the first few comedy movies they suggest to me shows Daddy’s Home, Dirty Grampa and… Classic TV Bloopers? Hey, I get that we all need a a laugh once in awhile, but if I go to Amazon because I want to spend an evening watching a movie, I’m probably not interested in watching Classic TV Bloopers. Call me crazy.

So, they have a lot of crap, and I spend a lot of time scrolling and searching for something that I can watch. In fact, I am limited to my imagination, but I’m also kind of limited to what they happen to be highlighting at a certain point (I’m probably going to end up watching The Purge: Election Year at some point, just because it’s there.) This is what lead me to Nasty Baby, which was a pretty nasty movie starring Kristen Wiig as a straight woman who has agreed to be a surrogate mother to a gay couple. Maybe if they had played it a different, that would have made for a good premise, but instead the thing just took a turn and went straight to Crazy Town. I love Kristen Wiig, but this was not one of her better moments (especially the actual moment when they actually showed her injecting herself with the guy’s… stuff. I know it’s a visual medium, but, damn.)

There’s still the old tried-and-true movie theater, though, right? And with summer here, I’ll sure to be hitting the reclining seats more often. Why, yes, however, there’s a little hook there, too. And it coincides with this posts’ Brie Larson pick: the indie shoot-’em-up comedy Free Fire (which I highly recommend)I saw this at the Assembly Row theater in Somerville, which still kind of has the “new theater smell” going on. First of all, the young woman next to me was completely shocked when the first guy got shot (I’m not sure what movie she thought she was seeing, but even if you have no idea what it’s about, it started out with a bunch of dudes buying a bunch of guns, so there’s a good chance somebody is going to get shot.) She kept talking to her boyfriend, even after I told them to quiet down, in so many words. After the gun play really got going, she got up and left and never came back. So, no harm done, I guess.

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In so many words…

But here’s the real kicker: with about five minutes left in the movie, three people come in, phones out, voices loud, and start searching for their seats. Again, I tell them to please keep it down (in so many words), but they don;t seem to understand that they are either very late or very early. Finally, someone else in the theater tells them that there’s only a few minutes left, and they need to get out. Of course, a few minuets later when we are all exiting the theater, these three idiots are standing at the door. I checked the next showtime, and it turns out, it didn’t start for another forty minutes. First of all, these dummies walked in to a dark theater 45 minutes before their show and don;t seem to notice that there’s a movie going on. And what’s even more annoying is that the theater employees obviously let them in and didn’t tell them that their show wasn’t seating yet. Unless they were trying to “double feature” it, but there was only five minutes left, anyway, so they deserved to get yelled at.

I could (and maybe will) do a whole post on how little patience I have for people who don’t know how to behave in a movie theater, but at the moment, suffice it to say:

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So, I guess the point of all this is that this experiment might be a little harder going forward. The solution might just be to get a Hulu account.

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Movies Since Last Post:

Digging for Fire
Everything Must Go
Nightcrawler
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Bridge of Spies
Almost Famous
The End of the Tour

 

I had been trying to come up with a cool name for this silly project that previously had the exhilarating title of “2017 – A Year of Movies.” I thought it was a funny title seeing as how I happened upon several Brie Larson movies, and I also was hoping it would maybe get me a few more hits if some people were Googling “Brie Larson.” Or even “Brie Larson side boob.”

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Yep. I Googled it.

Speaking of Larson, the selection for this post was intentional: the little-seen indie Digging for Fire, where she plays a small role as a young co-ed who is kinda-sorta courted by Jake Johnson. I can’t really say I didn’t like this movie, but I didn’t hate it. The story is that young parents Johnson and Rosemarie Dewitt are hitting all kinds of ruts, financially, romantically and just in general feeling old and grumpy as they house-sit for a much-richer couple. She and their young son go to spend a weekend with her mother so they can have some Me time. He spends it by inviting some of his crazy party-animal friends over and doing some drugs, and she spends it getting seduced by Orlando Bloom. One of Jake’s druggie friends had invited some girls over, one of whom was played by Brie Larson. Now, of course, because young screenwriters are really doughy-eyed, Johnson and Dewitt resist all urges and realize that all they really want is each other, and to raise their child as they see fit and to Hell with the pressures of the world (Yay!). The problem is the movie presents them both as such depressed (and depressing) losers that I was kind of rooting for them to cheat, if for no other reason than to make the hour-and-a-half I just spent watching it seem worthwhile.

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I mean, you gotta nail that down

And the fact that they cast Orlando Bloom as Dewitt’s suitor? Come on. After that romantic walk on the beach they took, even I wanted to jump him. The note I made in my spreadsheet next to this movie was, ” I love when Hollywood people try to pretend they’re real people.”

But these posts aren’t supposed to just be about the movies themselves. They are about my observations with regards to how they are consumed, and in some instances, why they are consumed. One thing I noticed about most of this crop of movies is that they seemed like vanity projects. I know for a fact that Ghost in the Shell was something that has been in the works for years. Everything Must Go (based on a story by Raymond Carver) struck me as one of those movies that Will Farrell does once in a while to show people that he is a “real actor.” Bridge of Spies was one of those Spielberg/Hanks collaborations that was designed to make you think, which is pretty much all Spielberg does these days (and after the reviews for B.F.G, maybe he should stick to historical drama.) And Almost Famous was a sometimes funny take on Cameron Crowe’s days as a reporter for Rolling Stone, obviously a movie that he wanted to make, and after the success of Jerry Maguire, had the power to do so. Not that these were not good movies on a certain level, but the only one that had any real teeth to it was Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal’s frightening portrayal of a freelance news cameraman who ends up making the news that he’s attempting to capture. Definitely an eye-opening movie, if for no other reason than to remind the world that Jake Gyllenhaal can actually act.

In the vein of vanity projects, I want to talk about The End of the Tour, based on David Lipsky’s book, Although Of Course, You End Up Becoming Yourself: My Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, which is a pretty cool title, but I understand why a movie studio wouldn’t think it very marketable. It is a very interesting take on Wallace (Jason Seagal) and how he dealt with fame and success after the release of his book Infinite Jest. Seeing that he committed suicide, it seems not so well, but there’s definitely layers to this movie (and more than just “the Cold War was bad,” like Bridge of Spies.)

Anyway, the basic premise is that Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), a writer for Rolling Stone, hears that this Infinite Jest book is basically Shakespeare, and is rather annoyed at the praise (basically because he just released a book to mild apathy.) Lipsky then reads the book and discovers that it is that damn good, and asks his boss if he can interview Wallace for Rolling Stone, and follows him for a few days as Wallace is wrapping up his book tour.(Side-note: after watching this and Almost Famous back-to-back, it was weird to think that Rolling Stone, and magazines in general, were actually relevant not too long ago.) Lipsky has this sort of puppy-love for Wallace, even before meeting him, basically because he wants that level of success and respect, only to realize that even David Foster Wallace doesn’t actually want to be David Foster Wallace. Wallace is very self-conscious about how he will come across in Lipsky’s article, mostly because he is afraid of sounding like a self-righteous douche. He is, in fact, anything but, as he generally is portrayed as a kind of lonely guy who lives in the middle of Nowhere, Illinois with his dogs and likes to write, but isn’t really all that concerned if anyone likes his books. Obviously, Lipsky is the complete opposite, and can’t wrap his head around why this beatnick doesn’t care about anything.

There’s a funny scene where Lipsky asks Wallace why he wears a bandanna all the time. Wallace’s answer is that he used to sweat a lot, and it kept the sweat out of his eyes, and it eventually just became a type of security blanket. It’s a perfectly reasonable (if not very sexy for readers of Rolling Stone) response, but Wallace is nervous that he will come off as being a little high-and-mighty, like some super-genius who is too good to even comb, let alone wash, his hair. Again, that is not even close to being true, but Wallace is so worried about being perceived as pretentious that he is completely neurotic about it. He is not too worried about his writing being accepted by the public, but he definitely doesn’t want the public to think he’s a prick.

There’s another layer when Lipsky, after being pressured by his boss, asks Wallace about the time he was institutionalized years earlier, because the common belief was that it was because of a heroin addiction. Wallace is incredibly insulted by this, citing that the only addiction he’s ever had was television (which is depicted very clearly and hilariously in the movie). He tells Lipsky that he was just incredibly unhappy, so unhappy that people assumed he turned to heroin to make himself feel better (The movie does gloss over Wallace’s many foibles, like sleeping with his students, excessive drinking, and even stalking women that he was attracted to. I guess being a TV addict just made him more likable.) Wallace compares his depression to a person jumping out the window of a burning building because the perception that burning to your death is worse than falling to it. The real reason he was so unhappy, at least, the way I read it, was because he had broken up with his girlfriend. It’s never made explicit, but Wallace gets very angry at Lipsky for hitting on his ex right in front of him, so yeah, I made that jump. Truly, that’s probably the best reason to be unhappy that’s ever been. Loneliness is certainly a more plausible reason for depression than, “Fame was too much for me, man.” (I’m looking at you, Cobain!)

I could go on, but the reason this movie spoke to me was because I could see both sides of the coin. As a schlub who has written comic books that I wish sold better (which can be purchased here!), I could identify with Lipsky. You put your heart and soul into something you really love, you want people to like it as much as you do, and maybe make a little salad at the same time. However, as my life has gone on, and I’ve met some comic book professionals, I can also see a little bit of Wallace’s point. He’s a regular guy suffering from depression who happens to be blessed with great intelligence, but all he wants is to be regular, and have someone to talk about his day with when he gets home. I admit that I don’t know much about the real David Foster Wallace (although he apparently taught at Emerson for a little while in 1991, so I guess I just missed him.), but if he’s anything like the comic book professionals I have met, I do understand him. No one gets into comics because they want to become rich. They just have some creativity to spare and a need to express themselves, one way or another. I doubt that Wallace wrote a 1,000-plus page novel figuring that it would be The One. You could say he just got lucky, although considering how it ended up for him, you would probably be wrong.

As I said, however, I do understand Wallace on some level. I have enjoyed writing comics, but one thing I really do not enjoy is trying to get people to read them. He really didn’t like his book tour. He didn’t seem too happy to be featured in Rolling Stone. But he did seem to like having Lipsky around to talk to, and that’s pretty much all anyone could ask for.