Before I start talking about the movie being focused on in this post, I wanted to call attention to the post-credit scene for Avengers: Infinity War. If you haven’t seen it, well, what the Hell? If you have, then you know what I’m talking about, but just in case, yes, Nick Fury was “paging” Captain “Brie Larson” Marvel. And for anyone who thinks that maybe she’s not cut out to be a super-hero, please click here. It’s literally a 20-second video, but you’ll be impressed.

But this post isn’t about Cadownloadptain Marvel. It’s about a very different movie, in fact; the Joseph Gordon-Leavitt/Scarlet Johansson (with some great Julianne Moore on the side) vehicle Don Jon. If you are unfamiliar with this movie, it’s definitely worth your time, and probably not what you were expecting from the trailers, which made it seem like this lovely, little rom-com where a guy meets a girl and they go through the motions and end up together and happy at the end. So, if you’re looking for something a little different, here we go:

Jon (Gordon-Leavitt) is one of those Jersey guys who loves his nice car, his swank apartment, his crazy family (and who wouldn’t? His Dad is played by Tony Danza), and his hot women. His friends constantly marvel at the fact that he meets “a ten” literally every weekend. Unfortunately, when all is said and done, the pleasure that he gets from these women pales in comparison to the pleasure he gets from watching internet porn. Seriously, guy watches a lot of porn, and goes through a lot of tissues. Not sure if he’s an addict, but he’s at least bordering on being one.

He meets Barbara, (Scarjo) and is flummoxed when she plays a little hard-to-get by not sleeping with him right away. This drives him to want to be with her even more. She is from a more affluent upbringing, however, so she tries to mold him into something a little more respectable. She encourages him to take night classes to better himself. The relationship progresses and they finally sleep together, but Jon still prefers the porn (because he can “lose himself.” Also, he doesn’t have to have actual conversations with the porn actors.) Barbara catches him watching a porn video, and is livid, but he claims that it was just a joke sent to him by a friend. She tells him “no more porn,” but that only lasts until the moment he discovers that he can just watch it on his phone. There is a classic moment when he is caught watching a video on his phone by Esther, one of his classmates played by the amazing Julianne Moore. Instead of judging him like Barbara, Esther laughs and says, “Oh my God! Are you watching porn?” and it actually helps them forge a cool bond.

Barbara and Jon continue to have issues (She feels that him cleaning his own apartment is beneath him, for example.), and eventually, she breaks up with him when she checks his browser history and sees that the one video that was supposedly sent to him as a joke was not an isolated incident. Man, even his noob friends point out that he really should have deleted his history.

After the break-up, Jon begins a bit of a downward spiral, and Esther begins to lend him her wisdom. She also lends him a video that she says has a more realistic depiction of actual sex: a Danish erotic film from the 70’s that she says is “pretty hot.” That only pushes him to initiate sex with her. She then encourages him to maybe quit the porn, and even try masturbating without it. She suggests that maybe he could lose himself in a real person. This ends up being pretty life-changing, as he eventually does lose himself in Esther, after learning that she lost her husband and son in a car accident, and discovering what a strong and incredible person she is for overcoming all that, and he can have sex with her and not have to run to his computer after. So, there you go. That’s his arc. End scene.

But wait, “isn’t this a blog about Brie Larson?” you may ask. Is she even in this movie? Of course, and she has a pivotal role. She plays Jon’s sister Monica, and Brie, a future Oscar-winner, and Marvel Cinematic Universe flag-bearer has all of one line in Don Jon. But it’s still a very important role. See, Jon is very close to his family, and they all love Barbara when he first brings her home. But as the relationship progresses, Monica has some thoughts about how it’s playing out. She doesn’t reveal them at first, as while the rest of the family continually discuss the topic, she spends most of the movie like this:

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Naturally, I thought it was a bit of a waste of a good actress, and they were trying to make some kind of comment on millennials always being on their phones while life passes them by. I was foolishly missing the fact that she is clearly observing what’s going on, but clearly letting everyone figure out their own problems. When it comes up at a family meal that Barbara and Jon have broken up, and Jon’s mother goes ballistic because all she wants is grandchildren, causing his Dad to also go ballistic, Monica finally speaks amid the chaos, at first drowned out by the TV, and says:

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Monica is the only one who consoles her brother by rightly pointing out that Barbara wanted a guy who would just do whatever she wants. She also looks Jon right in the face and tells him that it’s “a good thing” they broke up. In their family dynamic, it was all about getting married and having a family, and Barbara was the right girl for that, even if Jon wasn’t sure he wanted to do all that now. I personally know many marriages that went down this way, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

As fun and compelling as that scene is (and as fun as it is to watch Tony Danza play the angry old, Dad), what really worked for me was the movie’s take on porn. The IMDB parental advisory warning says

  • This move might be difficult to watch since there is such an extremely strong portrayal of desire for women in “porn” as objects for gratification without consideration of the feelings of the women however there is a corresponding portrayal of a healthy attitude about sex and women.

I have to admit that I find this mildly amusing, and even though I’m not a parent, I guess I understand the rationale there. I am picturing a very concerned stay-at-home Mom, not unlike Jon’s mother, perhaps, sitting at her keyboard typing that, feeling the need to tell the world that this movie portrays the women in porn as “objects,” as if we didn’t know. Because of course, we should all consider the feelings of women starring in the porno video in a fictitious movie. Joking aside, yes, we should not look at any women as objects, and despite this poster’s lack of correct punctuation, we should definitely applaud them for pointing out that the movie also shows us “a healthy attitude” about women and sex, which I guess was Esther’s role. I’m not sure that’s what the writers of the movie were going for exactly, but at least this person didn’t go on IMDB just to rip on the politics of Don Jon.

In reality, Jon’s porn addiction is clearly a cover-up for deeper intimacy issues, and I was pleasantly surprised that the movie didn’t portray him as some sickie simply because the dude likes his adult flicks. He’s actually a nice guy who is very religious, loves his friends and family, but is feeling such enormous pressure to get married and have kids, that he is having trouble connecting with anyone on an emotional level. That’s what he sees in the women in the videos he watches; they’re not necessarily “objects,” but they are women that he never has to connect with in real life. A lot of movies have men with these kinds of intimacy issues, but I can’t think of too many that handle it this way. Just like a lot of movies have male characters obsessed with porn, and almost all of them are portrayed as one-dimensional, horny assholes. That’s where this movie gets it right.

This is all exemplified by Esther. She doesn’t judge him for his porn-watching, his station in life, and she certainly doesn’t judge him for cleaning his own apartment. She’s like a Manic Pixie Dream-girl without the manic (and ok, without the pixie, but she’s pretty beautiful.) She does not judge him, but in fact, tries to show him a better way. And succeeds, as does the movie. Jon and Esther are then free to lose themselves in each other, and we’re freed from another boring romantic comedy.

To wrap things up here, Brie Larson was still a couple years away from an Oscar, but she was definitely starting to make waves. I’ll be back soon to recap more of her journey to the big time, but until there, watch that workout video. Seriously.

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I am trying to build a narrative here, so if you’re waiting for my take on Trainwreck or Kong: Skull Island or something a little more mainstream, don’t worry. We’ll get there. If you really don’t care, then this is the column for you.

In 2015, Jake Johnson cashed in on his newfound “New Girl” fame and made Digging for Fire with Joe Swanberg, best known for… nothing. No, I’m kidding. Apparently, he’s known for little indie movies with a lot of improvisation, which includes this one. I assume that because no studio would make this movie. That does not necessarily mean it’s bad, and it does have a lot of famous people in it (including Larson, Anna Kendrick, and Sam Rockwell), but it’s just not something that a studio would care to make. And who could blame them?

Digging for Fire, as I wrote in my previous post last year, is about, “young parents Johnson and Rosemarie Dewitt who 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.” Yes, I quoted myself, because you probably didn’t click the link, right? Before I begin my rant, let it be known that the New York Post called it a “hilarious, existential treasure.”  You believe them, right?

Anyway, on to the Me-Time weekend; Johnson spends his partying and getting high with his buddies, while she spends it getting seduced by Orlando Bloom. There’s also a storyline that Johnson found an old gun and a human bone buried in the greenery on the property, and becomes convinced that there’s a whole body there somewhere. So he digs and digs (hence the title), which is the actual impetus for his wife to spend the weekend elsewhere. He also blows off his taxes to dig for a body that’s probably not there, which I guess is supposed to tell us something about obsession or whatever. All it really tells me is that Hollywood filmmakers don’t know much about how real people live. (More on that later.)

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Since this is supposed to be about Brie Larson, I should tell you that she plays “Max,” one of the young co-eds that Johnson’s Moloid friends invited over to trash this rich couple’s house. Since most of these guys are old college buddies but are older and married now, there are levels of partyers there, from the stereotypical jerk who never really stopped partying, to the other jerk who is a total stick-in-the-mud. Johnson is somewhere in-between, but his digging obsession kind of takes up most of his limited brainpower, anyway. Larson is the only one who sees the lure of finding a real, live dead body, and that draws them together a little. To the filmmaker’s credit, there is a story here. Apparently, because they are men, they had written in the story outline that Larson’s character flirts with Johnson and there’s a bit of intrigue regarding whether or not they will have sex with each other. Larson rightly pointed out to them that, according to a Vulture article, by way of this dude’s blog, “‘I would not be sexually attracted to a married man with a 5-year-old who’s digging in his backyard.’” But the mystery and sense of adventure bring her back the next day. She ends up going to dinner with Johnson, and they share some moments, which mostly consist of him complaining about how his life as a high school gym teacher wasn’t really what he had in mind when he was growing up (No duh!).  I think we’re also supposed to see that her young, fancy-free lifestyle is alluring to him because he’s so old and passed his prime, because he’s 37. I’m really giving this story too much credit by delving into it that deep, though. Basically, he whines and she listens, which is pretty much all he wants because his wife has probably heard it all already, and she’s got problems of her own.

Ah, yes, the wife. Sadly, since this was written by men, she sort of gets relegated to the B-storyline. While visiting her family, DeWitt (who played Midge Daniels on Mad Men, if you need a reference. I know I did.) decides to head out to a nice bar and enjoy some time by herself. Of course, she is accosted by a belligerent drunk, and rescued by a handsome stranger played by Orlando Bloom, because of course, right? A guy who looks like Orlando Bloom is a single man living in L.A. in 2015. And not a douche. Orlando gets punched for his troubles, and he and DeWitt end up hanging out some more because she feels bad for causing his handsome face to get pounded. They, in fact, share a very intimate walk on the beach, which I again covered last year in my previous post, and said, after that “even I wanted to jump him.”

In the end, DeWitt resists Bloom, and Johnson had no shot with Larson, anyway, and they return to each other with a renewed understanding of their relationship, and hopefully an interest in doing their taxes. Do I have to write any further about the on-the-nose casting of this movie? Brie Larson as the young girl that Johnson clearly wants to have sex with, Orlando Bloom as the handsome and extremely gentlemanly gent that DeWitt probably should have sex with, and Sam Rockwell as the obnoxious friend. I guess they wanted to show how strong-willed our protagonists were to be able to resist temptation, but let’s face it, who would have faulted DeWitt for cheating on her idiot husband with this beautiful man?

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Casting aside, I feel like this is the screenplay version of motel room art. It’s technically good, and the structure is fine, and if a lot of the dialogue was indeed improvised, good on them because that is pretty hard, but they should have just let Brie Larson handle the whole thing after her suggestion. It was good that they listened, but there’s still a little too much “man” stuff going on for it to work. I do get that married people, especially young parents, probably do face periods where things get rocky. And yes, no one wants to be a gym teacher. And yes, people do get tempted to take a walk on the wild side. All of that happens in here, and it’s very realistic. And yet, somehow I still don’t buy it.

One more quote from myself (You really might as well have just clicked the link): “because filmmakers 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!)” It’s not that I didn’t buy that they were able to resist cheating and resist the lure of digging or whatever Johnson was doing, but I just really didn’t care all that much, and I almost wished they did cheat, just to give the story a little more teeth. Instead, we got this very happy little Raymond Carver story that wraps up all nice at the end.  I mean, they never even found a body buried in the ground. Nothing dramatic really happened, at all. I feel like if I had submitted this in some screenwriting workshop, that’s the feedback I would have gotten. And hopefully, that’s what they did get, because this totally seems like the kind of screenplay that someone would write for one of those horrible workshops.

This is what I was getting at earlier about filmmakers in Hollywood not knowing how real people live. Yes, all the things that happened in this movie can and do happen to people, but how the characters reacted wasn’t very believable, or even interesting. I’m not asking for a movie to reinvent the wheel, but I am looking for some reason to make the 90 minutes I just spent watching your movie seem worthwhile. Passion projects are great, and everyone should definitely get to see their dream movie get made, and that’s what most indie movies are. But if your dream movie doesn’t really have a lot to say other than, “Sometimes, love wins,” then maybe just jazz it up a bit to make it worth it.

So, unless you’re endeavoring to watch all of Brie Larson’s movies, you can definitely skip this one. But this same year would see the release of both Trainwreck and Room, so things were looking up for her, and those who follow her.

 

Yeah, I went there. Just so people know that I am not just gushing about every Brie Larson movie with the project, I am writing about the Miles Teller-Shailene Woodley high school drama-fest The Spectacular Now, which for some reason took Sundance by storm a couple years ago. There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.12009008_1050x1400

Of course I understand that a 40-something male is not the target audience for this movie, but I will get into my real problems with it in a moment. First off, why did a 40-something male even watch it? Well, I’ll tell you that much now. As stated many times before, in 2017, I endeavored to watch as many movies as possible to see, well, something, and I ended up watching a couple Brie Larson movies in a row at one point, totally by accident. So, to just continue the trend, I figured I’d watch a few more and give it the fancy name of The Brie Larson Experiment, because it had a better ring to it than “A Year of Movies.” But while writing about it, I didn’t always actually cover her movies (In fact, I rarely did.) So, that’s where we are now. And since I had to sit through this one, I might as well get a post out of it.

Before I sink my teeth into this movie, and bite its head off, I will say that there’s nothing really wrong with Ms. Larson’s performance in it, and out of all the characters, hers is probably the most believable. But that’s only because the other characters are so cookie-cutter that they come off as silly. If you haven’t seen it, there are literal spoilers ahead and by that, I don’t mean I will spoil the movie by giving away the plot, but I will spoil it for you because I will explain why it’s not good.)

The ridiculously named Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a hard-drinking, hard-partying, directionless high school senior with no plans for the future, which is apparently where they derived the title from, but I just got that now. IMDB’s description describes as “a budding alcoholic,” but I’m pretty sure he’s all the way there. He is pretty much always drinking out of a booze-ified Big Gulp. Now, far be it from me to judge someone’s drinking, but after a couple scenes, it just gets gross. So much so that even his girlfriend, Cassidy (Larson), who is the portrayed as the school’s “hot girl.,” thinks that he’s a bum. Here’s one of their brilliant exchanges:

Cassidy : But you can’t go around having fun all the time. You have to be serious.
Sutter : I am serious. I’m one hundred percent serious!
Cassidy : About what?
Sutter : About… *not* being serious!

According to the dialogue, though, he *really* liked her:

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Despite all of this, Cassidy dumps him, which sends him on a bender (surprise!), after which he wakes up on the lawn of Aimee Finicky (Woodley), who is apparently “different,” because she’s nice. Even though they are classmates, and he doesn’t even know her name, she agrees to tutor him in Geometry, because he’s failing. As he begins to learn more about her, like that she’s actually funny, and nerdy, he decides to invite her to a party, where he is spurned by Cassidy again. He takes a walk with Aimee, and they get drunk from his flask, and more corruption ensues, as we find out that she’s never been drunk, or had any fun, in her life. He wakes up the next day with a hangover, and realizes he asked her to the prom. It’s basically a less-funny episode of Three’s Company. Even better than that, when they do end up going to the prom, he buys her a flask. I thought most guys just bought flowers, but maybe I’m old-school.

Nice Aimee and Drunk Sutter begin hooking up, and he starts to finally understand how stupid he is. They then make goofy teenage pacts to stand up to their horrible mothers. She goes with him to meet his also-drunk father. When that goes awry, they get into a fight on the drive home when she tells him that she loves him and he tells her that he’s an angry teenager whose parents don’t love him (Well, not literally, but close enough.) He tells her to get out of the car because he doesn’t deserve her, and she gets HIT BY A CAR! Damned if he wasn’t right on that one. Turns out she just broke her arm, but because their love is so transcendent, like all teenage flings, she forgives him.

After graduation, it all hits the fan for Sutter, as Aimee is going to school in Philadelphia, Cassidy is going to California with her new man, and Sutter is… going to a bar. That’s not even me being snarky. He actually goes to a bar, after driving passed poor Aimee, who was waiting at the bus stop for him so they could go to Philly together. He leaves the bar drunk, totals a mailbox, gets into a fight with his mother, who tells him that he’s a good boy. Which was apparently all he needed because he then decides to complete his months-late college essay, just for kicks, and drive to Philadelphia to be reunited with his love. What the Hell? It worked for Will Hunting. Although I’m sure she dumped him after a few months when she realized what a depressed, backwoods hayseed he really was.

So, there are obviously a lot of themes at play here; alcoholism, family issues, teen love/sex, car accidents. Typical of most teenage dramas, really, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just like all action movies have a hero and a villain and explosions, most high school romances have some unrequited love and a whole lot of “Come away with me to some paradise where I’m going to college.” This movie isn’t bad because it’s typical. It’s bad because it goes way over-the-top with the drama, and doesn’t spend any time with the details, like actual reality.

I wasn’t born yesterday, so I know that teenagers have their ways of procuring booze, and maybe I’m nitpicking a little, but seriously, this kid drinks a lot of booze. Like, a lot. Where does he get it, and where does he even get the money to buy it? He’s a senior in high school, for God’s sake. I guess we can assume he has a fake ID or whatever, but for someone with such a baby face to be able to acquire that much alcohol, and not just from a store but for him to be allowed into bars and served, is just preposterous. If everyone in this town was that lax about the rules, the entire high school would be dead from alcohol poisoning. Except for Aimee, I guess. Which is a whole other issue I had. Why would I root for this dickhead who corrupted and de-virginized this innocent girl, caused her to almost die twice, and then it’s all good because he finally followed her to college? When he was driving drunk near the end, I was actually hoping he would get into an accident and die. At least then he would be able to corrupt anyone else.

I wonder if I dislike this movie this much because it reminds me of something from my own life. Not the drinking, no, but the tone is eerily similar to a movie that I worked on back in 2001 in Huntington, IN, the birthplace of Dan Quayle. (Side note: if anyone I worked on that movie with happens to be reading this, I apologize if it offends you, but really, you should be apologizing to me.)

The story is back in the summer of 2001, my girlfriend was cast as the lead in a movie that was being directed by a friend of hers who had just directed her in a stage production of The Diary of Anne Frank. So, off to rural Indiana we went to do a little guerrilla filmmaking. Technically, I wasn’t really part of the crew, but my girlfriend wasn’t too keen on going alone, and I did have some filmmaking experience, not that it mattered to these people. Mostly, I just carried stuff.

My girlfriend played the Aimee role, Anna, and a guy named Matt (annoyingly) was the Sutter, or Elai in this case. In addition to starring in it, he also wrote it, which was also kind of annoying, because he didn’t even know his own lines. He wasn’t a heavy drinker, thankfully, although there was one bar scene. Like The Spectacular Now, this film, which was originally called A Universe Emerging, involved the brooding anti-hero and the nice girl falling in love. Unlike The Spectacular Now, the nice girl died of leukemia. Actually, it was leukemia in the original script, but in the end, I think they changed it to just some unnamed disease, probably because no one knew any of the actual symptoms of leukemia. It wasn’t the worst script in the world, although it could have used a polish, and after all was said and done, A Universe Emerging was probably at least as good as The Spectacular Now, But I never saw it, and I don’t know if anyone did, so I’ll never know.

But what really bothers me all these years later is not three weeks of sixteen-hour days in sweltering Indiana, or the fact that I never saw the fruits of my labor, but what bothers me was that Matt the Writer/Star turned out to be a colossal prick. Here was an entire crew of people, who had taken time out of their lives, some of whom were not getting paid (myself and my girlfriend included), to make this guy’s dream come true, and here he was acting exactly like the selfish asshole that he was portraying in the movie. And here I was, 16 years later, having to endure that same kind of selfish asshole. The kind of person who writes (and names) characters like Elai is probably the same type of person writes characters like Sutter. People who have been selfish assholes usually write themselves into their work, because that’s what they know. I’ll give them this; at least they’re self-aware.

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Now, I’m sure that there are people much younger and less cynical than I who love this movie to death, and yes, there are people who have tattooed lines of dialogue on themselves:

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I bear no ill will to these people. Hell, I still love The Breakfast Club, and that probably seemed pretty stupid to adults at the time. But I do caution them, because in a few years, they might realize it’s not as good as they thought (Like I did with this movie). When a movie has to try this hard to get you to feel something, it’s probably a sign that there’s something missing, and the writer needs to cover for it.

The only character to come out of it unscathed, and not alcoholic (that we can see), is Cassidy. She ends up with the handsome Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi, better known as Thresh in Hunger Games) and pulls a Springsteen by getting the Hell out of that place. Cassidy and Sutter do share one final, nice moment, however. When she informs him that she and Marcus are heading to California, he suggests that maybe he will come visit sometime. She rightly tells him that it would be a bad idea, but not to worry, “You’ll always be my favorite ex-boyfriend.” Which was the most he could have hoped for, under the circumstances.

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Still, she followed this with another supporting role in Don Jon in 2013, and then starred in Short Term 12, which was the movie that got her noticed by a lot of people, and was at least a better story than, “‘Dis kid drinks a lot.” She worked pretty steadily through 2014 until the big break in Room in 2015, and the rest is history.

 

 

 

 

Throughout 2017, I attempted to watch as many movies as possible using as many platforms as possible and share my observations on this little blog. After accidentally watching 3 Brie Larson movies in a row, I decided to call it The Brie Larson Experiment, a title which I only later learned was confusing for some. Of course, I didn’t think anyone would really read any of the posts, so the fact that people were confused by the title was doubly surprising.

After having nothing to really write about for the first couple months of 2018, I thought I would try something new and actually write about Brie Larson movies. Why the hell not? I watched most of them fairly recently, anyway. It gives me something to write about, and a quick look at her IMDB page does indicate quite an eclectic career. At the tender age of 29, she has already played roles like the hot girlfriend in The Spectacular Now, the responsible sister in Trainwreck, and won an Oscar for Room, playing next to a kid. No one ever gets noticed playing opposite a kid the whole movie. And to top it off, she’ll soon be adding her name to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain Marvel, the most powerful hero of the MCU, and the first woman to get her own franchise in that whole lot of swinging codpieces. That’s way better than an Oscar, right?captain_marvel_

But who is this person, really? And I don’t mean where she was born and all that (even I’m not really all that interested in that stuff.) What I’m looking to do is see what her career choices say about her personality, if anything. I mean, let’s be honest, I’m pretty sure she did Kong: Skull Island for the paycheck, but a girl’s gotta live.

So, what does her oeuvre say about Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers? Maybe, after watching all those damn movies last year, I can figure it out. At least I can justify spending all that time.

I’m going to start with what would have been the first time I ever laid eyes on Brie Larson, without even knowing who she was, as Envy Adams in the amazing Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Seriously, this movie is awesome. Gets no recognition. kinopoisk.ru

Based on the popular indie comic series written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World stars Michael Cera as George Michael Bluth/Himself/Scott Pilgrim, who falls in love with the enigmatic Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and must battle her Seven Evil Exes in video game-like duels to win her heart. I know that sounds like a silly premise, but the stylized direction of Edgar Wright and the amazing cast he put together put this movie over the top for me. On a personal note, the cast includes Aubrey Plaza, one of my favorites, playing the character of Julie Powers, which is also the name of a girl I had a crush on in high school. But that’s not why I like the movie. It’s just an amazing coincidence. There are also characters named Todd Ingram, Stephen Stills and Young Neil, which should tell you something about the soundtrack, which is also worth a listen. (Why are you even still reading this? Go download both of these things now. And it wouldn’t kill you to use my links and get me a kickback. Geez!)

While Scott in the midst of taking on Ramona’s Evil Exes, he encounters one of his exes: Natalie V. (“Envy”) Adams, played by Brie Larson, who according to Scott, “used to be so nice.” They were in a band together at one point called Kid Chameleon, and when they were given the opportunity to rocket to stardom by Gideon Graves, the seventh and toughest Evil Ex, Scott turned it down and Envy seized it, and they broke up. She is now in the most popular band in Toronto (in the movie. Not Rush.) and Scott has to see her face everywhere he goes. She’s dating her bassist, Todd Ingram, who is also one of Ramona’s evil exes (and played by Evil Ex-Superman Brandon Routh). Todd is also a graduate of the prestigious Vegan Academy, which, according to Envy, means he’s “better than everyone else.” Scott eventually defeats him by tricking him into drinking coffee that has half-&-half in it, which ends up being his third strike with the Vegan Police, and Scott advances in his quest.  Fortunately, no one has to defeat Envy, especially in a Battle of the Bands, because she sings a ripping version of “Black Sheep” for her band, “The Clash at Demonhead,” named after an obscure Nintendo game.  I couldn’t find anywhere online if Brie performed the vocals herself, but she does have experience as a singer, so I’d like to think so.

Part of the drama at work here, even beyond the whole awkward exes thing, is that Envy has gone on to become a bigger rock star than Scott and his band, the Sex Bob-ombs, have, and even though Scott and his buddies didn’t really want to sell out, it still has to be a bit of a kick in the nuts, especially since, according to an interview with Larson, it’s probably tough to imagine that every girl he wants to date very likely has all his exes’ albums. The movie does a great job at building her up as a giant star, as well as someone Scott doesn’t want to talk about. Scott’s sister, Stacey (Anna Kendrick), even refers to her as “She Who Will Not Be Named.” Interestingly enough, Envy herself is a rather emotionless character, although she does dig at Ramona a little during their pre-performance exchange. (“Ramona, I like your outfit. Affordable.”) When she’s on stage, however, the audience sees that the build-up was worth it.

The character gains depth, however, when Scott later refers to her by her real name, causing Envy to drop the facade and remark, “No one calls me that anymore.” We finally see that she’s not so emotionless, after all, and Larson does a pretty good job of making us feel bad for her. Scott didn’t have to defeat this evil ex, and he, in fact, may have helped her work through some of her demons. Or she just became an even bigger rock star and OD’d like they all do.images

 

 

 

 

 

I personally never read the comic, but I remember there was some criticism from comic fans that this movie couldn’t possibly measure up, and a lot of those fans were never going to like the changes, anyway, no matter how good the movie was. Michael Cera especially came under a lot of fire as the main character, because there’s no way George Michael Bluth could play Scott Pilgrim. Probably the same ones who thought Heath Ledger couldn’t play The Joker. When will these people get tired of being wrong? It should be known that Cera was called “The Push-Up King” on set because he had to get into ridiculous shape for all those fight scenes, and even dumb-down his bass-playing so his on-screen bandmates (who had just learned to play for the movie) could keep up. And also have the minor responsibility of actually starring in a movie for the first time in his life.

But this isn’t The Michael Cera Project, so what does Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World say about Brie Larson? I can only speculate, but in 2010, Larson had a resume of a lot of TV show appearances, Thirteen Going on 30, and a few high school dramas like Tanner Hall and Just Peck. Even at the tender age of 20, she was probably looking to take a step forward. Besides, what twenty-year-old doesn’t want to play a rock star?  Plus, she got to work with a great director in Edgar Wright, and an amazing cast. Who cares if she didn’t have red hair, like the Envy in the comic? (Word has it that the red wig just didn’t look all that good on Larson, so they went with a platinum blonde one. Wright was supposedly Envy_Adamsthe last holdout, too, because he wanted to stay close to the comic but the blonde just worked better. So get over it, comic nerds! He did!)

 

To be honest, blonde or redhead, Envy Adams is not the reason to watch this movie. It’s an amazing movie with a great ensemble cast, and Brie Larson is just one small cog in the wheel. It’s a fun performance, showing some comedic chops and a few layers, but she was five years away from winning an Oscar. But watch it mostly to see an up-and-coming Edgar Wright begin to show his brilliance. And then watch Baby Driver to see how far he has come.

Larson was definitely still finding her footing, but would go on to United States of Tara, Community, and then be seen by a lot of people in 21 Jump Street and Trainwreck, and not long after that, it was off to the Oscar races.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought I would compile a few more thoughts on my whole 2017 experiment. And if anyone is interested, here is a link to the spreadsheet with what I watched, how I watched it, and a little blurb about what I thought. I hope I don’t offend anyone with anything that I wrote. Some of it may have been because I was getting kind of tired of movies. Honestly, if someone was a psychologist, they could probably do a study about how watching tons of movies when you’re forcing yourself to do it can affect your enjoyment. Hell, I’ll pay you ten dollars for it!

When I first attempted this in 1997, it was obviously a completely different world. I actually wish I still had the notebook that I kept track of the movies in because that would have been interesting, but for the most part, I watched VHS tapes that I brought home for free from the video store I worked in, and went to the movies. That was it. Two outlets. I didn’t have any premium cable channels, I don’t like watching movies that have been edited for television or have commercials in them, and I certainly didn’t have Netflix or anything like that. Still, with that system, I cracked 100 movies. In 2017, with all that stuff, I watched 159 (and had I not walked out of Justice League because of the stupid 4-D experience bull-poop, I would have made it to 160.) The funny thing is, in ’97, I was a college student (and a film student, no less) with access to thousands of movies for free because I worked in a video store. This time, I was a grown-ass man with a full-time job. Looking back now, as a college student with aspirations to be the one making movies that other people watch, should I have immersed myself in them completely, as my film professor suggested everyone in Hollywood does?

Maybe I should watch movies that way, but I can’t. There are many reasons for this. For the same reason, for example, Jerry Seinfeld can’t just watch mediocre stand-up and not think about how to make it better (Not comparing myself to Seinfeld. I just thought that would drive the point home.) Because I learned things as a film student that the average movie-goer maybe doesn’t know, like basic three-act structure, “end on the button,” and funny phrases like “mise-en-sene.” And even after I graduated, I was still learning things about movies. Before the digital age, one of my tasks at my real-life job was to show 16mm films for BU students. On my first day, I learned the trick to changing reels. Back in the day, and still sometimes now, each film reel was around 30 minutes, so a 90- minute film required two reel-changes, which required two projectors side-by-side and you had to shut one off and start the other one within a split second if you wanted to make the change seamless. Of course, most of the college freshmen didn’t notice or care, but I certainly did. Anyway, to signal the projectionist when the change was coming, a little white circle would flash in the upper right corner of the screen, which was the sign to jump up (or on occasion, wake up) and do the on-off trick. While training me, Tracey, my predecessor on the job, said, “You’ll never be able to watch movies in a theater the same again, because you’ll always notice it.”

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See? This isn’t just some splotch that Lucas edited out of the Special Editions!

Unfortunately, she was right, because even now with digital films, I notice when a movie is nearing the 30-minute mark, and if nothing of note has happened yet, I start fidgeting and sighing. Suffice it to say, I had the department purchase a DVD player not long after that. It was too late, however. The signal was burned into my brain.

I guess what bothers me is that too many movies violate these basic rules that I learned back then. And these aren’t “film school rules.” These same principles are applied to Shakespearean theater. And I was told that you had to follow these rules or you would literally never make it in that business. Not surprisingly, everyone did follow them. I had a screenwriting professor who pointed out that every movie follows the three-act structure, even something like Pulp Fiction, which is told out of order. Even out of sequence, there is still set-up, conflict, and resolution. Too many movies abandon this time-honored method, and not in a cool way, like Memento. They do it in an unbelievably less exciting way, like Manchester by the Sea, where the conflict was, “I’m an angry loser,” and the resolution was to literally go home and leave the kid with somebody else.

So, in this long, history of my life essay that I’ve just compiled, the point is that there are things that make a movie good, and things that make a movie bad, and it has very little to do with how we watch them. Of course, it’s better to watch Blade Runner: 2049 in a theater on a big screen to get the scope of the story (and the huge, naked woman), but once you take away the nice scenery, I can’t really remember what happened in it.

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Definitely best to be taken in on the big screen

Of course, all things being equal, all movies should be good no matter what screen they are watched on, but let’s face it, no matter if you’re a film student or just Joe Movie-goer, or if you watch 159 movies in a year or just a couple, they won’t all be good.

But if Brie Larson appears in it, it can only increase your chances.

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Movies Since Last Post:

Glass Castle
Disaster Artist
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Big Short
Rush: Time Stand Still
Office Christmas Party
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

So, here we are, January 1st, 2018, meaning my year of movies is over. I must say, as fun and enlightening as it was at times, I am a little disappointed in myself. I ended up seeing 159 movies in 2017, which is no small amount, but looking at the big picture, I realize that I did sort of limp to the end. In December, I only watched 8 movies, and that is with a lot of time off from work for the holidays. As a comparison, in March, I watched 16, and I hadn’t even started using Hulu as an option yet. Not that Hulu was a huge difference maker. I only watched 17 out of the 159 on there, and a few of them were also available elsewhere. I will say, however, if you have a Hulu subscription, definitely check out some of their originals. Becoming Bond, Batman & Bill and Too Funny to Fail were definitely three highlights of the year for me.

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While we’re on the topic, let me throw a few stats out there; the final count for Amazon was 35, which was surprisingly eclipsed by Xfinity OnDemand with 43. Google Play accounted for 13, and Netflix 16. I watched 4 DVD’s (which is just too funny to me), and one for Bad Movie Night at my friend’s, and I’m not sure which platform he used. So, by my count, I went to a movie theater (or Drive-In) 33 times in 2017. While I do still think that’s the best way to watch a movie, it’s also pretty expensive and time-consuming, so it looks like I have to give the nod to OnDemand for being the most-used platform of the year. Which is pretty interesting since so many people are getting rid of cable. Also, please note that I didn’t illegally download anything. Maybe that’s just me being a chump, but I still don’t think it’s right.

Now, I’m not going to make any bold statements about why people should or shouldn’t have cable, because frankly, even though Xfinity may have had the biggest selection when you throw in the fact that my package includes all the movie channels, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best and if you love movies then you should do what I’m doing. In fact, having the biggest selection only means that there are so many more movies to scroll through before you find one you want to watch. I mean, I know this isn’t news to anyone, but there are just so many bad movies. Honestly, one of the best parts of this quest being over is all the time I will get back because I will no longer be scrolling through pages and pages of bad movies hoping to find one that I want to watch. And after I watch that one, I’d have to go back and find another one.

Ah, time. Let us discuss this concept for a moment. I will admit that I could have, and even should have, watched a lot more, and probably a lot more quality films, were time not a factor. Of course, it always is. There’s no way around it, but I don’t think I even once clicked “Play” in 2017 without first looking at a clock and the movie’s running time. I definitely started leaning towards the shorter ones as the year went along, too. After a while, if a movie took me days to watch it, I would start to just lose interest, and once you get into that “have to finish” mode, then it ceases to become entertainment and it becomes work. Honestly, if I ever do anything like this again, I’ll probably have to wait until I retire and have all the time in the world. And even then I probably wouldn’t want to sit through anything longer than 2:20.

Still, the point of this whole thing was to think about how we watch movies and try to learn something. In fact, back in March, I wrote, “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).” Well, it wasn’t really nothing, but I don’t know if it was something, either. But I did learn a little about myself, so that’s important. The lesson about myself that I did learn came at the very end of the year, in fact. Before seeing The Shape of Water, my final film if 2017, I saw that a Facebook friend had seen and it and wrote in his status that it was “not for the casual movie-goer.”

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That really sparked something in me. Obviously, I knew that “casual movie-goers” existed, because why else would Michael Bay still be allowed to direct movies? But that status spoke to me because I came to the realization that I am not, and probably never have been (at least since I was a teenager) a casual movie-goer. And while it is a great thing to have taste, I actually think that, if a casual movie-goer decided to take a year and watch as many movies as possible, that person could probably have watched way more than I did. They certainly wouldn’t have taken so much time trying to find one that suited them.   Now, I did watch a lot of bad movies last year (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Baywatch), and I did write in the notes on my Google Doc “Not horrible but not great” way more times than I remembered (and some of the movies I don’t even remember that well.) But when I think about all the ones I could have watched but just had no desire to, I have no regrets. I mean, I kind of regret not making more of an effort to watch some real classics, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Or in this case, you have to watch the movies that are available, and yeah, free. I could have paid $5 or more to watch everything that Amazon or Google have and probably enjoyed most of them, but I’d be totally broke by now. But this whole thing came about because my idiot film professor in 1997 told me that everyone in Hollywood watches hundreds of movies a year, and everyone in Hollywood is rich, so I guess that’s a pretty good lesson right there.

So, there you have it. Watching movies as a project to see how many you can see is not the way to go about watching movies. Sure, you’ll find a few diamonds in the rough, but with literally thousands of movies at our fingertips, well, that’s a lot of rough. But if you really want to see something, just fork over the dough. It saves time, and more importantly it saves you the aggravation of watching a really crappy movie like The Night Before.

Just make sure you finish within 48 hours of starting it. Another hard lesson learned.

Movies Since Last Post:

Super Dark Times
Blade Runner 2049
Loving
Jerry Before Seinfeld
Blue is the Warmest Color
Prof. Marston and the Wonder Women
Cashback
Too Funny to Fail: The Life & Death of the Dana Carvey Show
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene
Why Him?
Blair Witch
Black Hawk Down
Thor: Ragnarok
Only Living Biy in New York
Ingrid Goes West
Spielberg
Ratatouille
The Big Chill
Take This Waltz
Greenberg
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Just Peck
Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond
Lady Bird

Just over a month to go, and I just eclipsed 150 movies with “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond,” the Netflix doc about the making of Man on the Moon. If you don’t know much about Andy Kauffman, or about what Jim Carrey did to play him in the movie, you might not be that interested, but to me, it was really interesting. Carrey is a bit of a freak, but somehow, also strangely compelling.

I had a sobering moment last week that made me think a lot about the movie-going experience, and since this whole experiment was supposed to be about how we take in movies these days. I wanted to write about it. My friend John and I went to see Justice League, but upon arriving at the theater, we learned that the showtime we needed was the 4D Experience. For the uninitiated, that means that your seat moves, they blow air and mist at you at appropriate times depending on the action in the movie, lights flash when someone shoots a gun onscreen, and they even pump smells in for odorous scenes. Sounds like fun, right? I did wonder as we were walking in if this would actually make this movie memorable, because the trailers (not to mention almost every DC movie ever) have been rather underwhelming.

You should note above that Justice League is not listed as a movie that I have seen since my last post. After about 8 minutes of creaking seats, rushing air and flashing lights, John and I decided that this was a horrible thing to do. We got up as soon as a moment arrived where we didn’t feel like the seats would jolt us to the ground and left. Like I said about 8 minutes in, which was about 7 minutes after John turned to me and said, “I hate this.” Thankfully, we were within the half-hour window that the theater will give you a refund, so we got our $23 back and went to a bar, with not a regret in sight.

I know that movie attendance has been down in recent years, but I’m not sure that this is the answer to that problem. For one thing, even though we watched a few scenes, I can’t remember anything that happened in them. I think Batman fought some guy, and then Wonder Woman fought some guys. I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening on the screen because the chair was constantly moving and there was the sound of rushing air in my ears every few seconds. And I don’t know if anyone else in the theater was paying attention, either, because every chair movement was accompanied by the requisite “oohs” and “ahhs.” There may have actually been some dialogue in the movie, but I don’t think I heard any of it. Normally, that kind of behavior in a theater would have me enraged, but this time, it didn’t bother me because the whole experience already had me annoyed.

This kind of thing may fly for a ten minute Harry Potter ride, but for a two-hour movie, it’s just a bad idea. Maybe it’s the movie purist in me, but how is a person supposed to follow a plot when they’re being distracted by all this stuff every two seconds? I know, I know, following a plot is silly for most folks, but it’s what I do. Otherwise, why watch a movie? To be entertained? Pfft.

But this is the world we live in. Thousands and thousands of people just like being mindlessly entertained when they watch a movie. I guess our jobs and our lives are so stressful that that’s what we need to do to fill the time when we have it. There’s not inherently anything wrong with that attitude. However, that’s why Michael Bay movies not only exist but thrive in our culture. I know I’m shooting fish in a barrel here, but the guy has legitimately never made what any smart person would call a “good movie.” But the 4D experience seems like an unnecessary step beyond that. Have people become so simple-minded that we can’t just sit for a couple hours and watch a movie without all this extra razzle-dazzle? Apparently not. But as we were leaving the theater, the little old lady who took our tickets asked why we were leaving so soon, and we said we couldn’t stand the 4D experience. She then told us that the kids love it, so I guess that’s the demographic they shoot for. John replied, “Well, we’re old and grouchy.”

Of course, Justice League‘s box office would seem to indicate that no matter what they try to do to enhance the experience, it doesn’t really make a difference. It has eclipsed $300 million overseas, for a combined haul of $81 million worldwide, so “boo-hoo,” right? Still, it is way below projections, so who knows what this means for the future of the DCEU? They have a whole bunch of movies lined up starring these characters (ones that aren’t Batman and Wonder Woman), so I’m not sure who would be interested in seeing those. I probably won’t be, even in a real theater. And not to poop in their gym bag even more, but Thor: Ragnarok has been making money at a pretty steady pace, crossing $500 million overseas, and also has a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to Justice League’s 41%.

I’m not really sure what it all means, except that they should just let the movie speak for itself. If it’s good enough, people will enjoy it and remember it. If you feel the need to make it into a ride, then you maybe need a few rewrites.

Of course, having said that, I did have a great movie-going experience that had some added razzle-dazzle. The big differences were that this was an older movie that I had seen many times, so the extra stuff wasn’t a distraction. The other big difference was that the razzle-dazzle was actually an orchestra. I’m referring my Halloween viewing of Nightmare Before Christmas accompanied by the Boston Pops.IMG_20171031_195046.jpg

This was definitely a cool new way to experience both a movie and a night at the symphony. This time, it wasn’t distracting because they were playing along with the actual movie, and they weren’t blowing mist on me when it snowed or anything. If you’re going to spice up a movie, that’s the way you do it. Instead of dumbing it down, why not add an orchestra?

Movies Since Last Post:

Straight Outta Compton
The Neon Demon
T2: Trainspotting
A Liar’s Autobiography
Crash
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Battle of the Sexes
Fatal Attraction
Death Note
V for Vendetta
Welcome to Me
Song to Song
Cloverfield

I’m hoping to dash this post off in at least less time than it just took me to watch Cloverfield. I mean, I know found footage movies can’t too long or else they’ll run out of ways to make it look like the person filming isn’t just being an idiot, but with a running time of 1:25, it hardly seems worth the effort. Still, monster movies are always fun on some level.

So, midway through October, and I am at 127 movies for the year. The only movie I saw at a theater in that span was Battle of the Sexes, and I feel that not going to a theater severely impacts the quality of films that I take in. Of the above films, Trainspotting 2 was better than I thought it would be, and Welcome to Me had some funny moments, and I recommend any fan of Monty Python see A Liar’s Biography, an animated doc about the life of Graham Chapman (narrated by himself, from before he died), this was a pretty “meh” crop of movies. It’s probably not kosher to say that about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the one that started it all, but really, it doesn’t hold up.

In fact, a lot of these movies that I have always meant to see, like that one, Fatal Attraction, Crash, and V for Vendetta, have all been rather underwhelming. Part of it is definitely watching them on a small computer screen, because a lot of these movies were made before that kind of thing was even possible. Still, either I’m just getting even more cynical, or sensibilities have changed a lot since the 70’s and 80’s.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that it’s not me for once, and that a lot of movies actually don’t hold up. It’s a reasonable statement, given how technology has evolved to a point where things that were just not possible back in the day are now possible, so visually, yeah, of course, movies made today will look better. But it’s more than that. For example, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture was made, the trend back then was long tracking shots of spaceships (like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a bunch of other bad sci-fi movies made back then.) Today, because we’ve seen spaceships in movies a billion times, we don’t really need those kinds of establishing shots.

Also, I would like to think that I am not a victim of the cultural “lessening of collective attention-span,” but I think it’s time to face up to the fact that that is just not true. The reality is I want a faster pace just like any grown-up kid. Maybe even more because now I feel that my time is precious.  There have definitely been many movies out of this illustrious 127 that left me saying, “Nothing really happened.” I must admit (and I could probably make a whole post about this one), that I found Blade Runner, which I finally watched to prepare for the new one, to be one of those movies. I mean, could someone tell me what happened in that movies? My initial reaction was that, other than Rutger Hauer gouging that guy’s eyes out, nothing happened. Although that was pretty awesome.YoureHurtingMyEyes.CinematicMinutiae.com_2

Now, you may be thinking, “Hey, jerk, didn’t you want to be a screenwriter? Are you judging these filmmakers? Because clearly they made it and you didn’t.” Indeed I did want to be a screenwriter, and indeed I am kind of judging them, and indeed, I don’t really have a leg to stand on. Still, as I said in an earlier post, movies take a lot of money and time and effort to make, so I am trying to give them their due. I realize that a lot of people may watch something like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and think, “Well, it was a nice escape for a couple of hours.” But unless I was actually watching that movie with Aubrey Plaza sitting next to me, sharing the most delicious popcorn in the world, there’s no way I could say that it was a pleasant diversion. In fact, if I was sitting next to her while watching that stinker, I would pull out my new favorite meme on her:

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I just couldn’t resist.

The point I wanted to make was that there is definitely something to be said for sitting in a theater and experiencing a movie with other people. I know that’s not exactly blazing a trail, but it is certainly getting lost on people these days, and certainly on me after watching only 23 out of 127 movies this year in a theater. That many trips to a theater might be a lot for some, but for me, it’s just not enough.

I get that going to the movies is not always easy. It’s expensive, it’s crowded, there are too many previews, there are morons looking at their phones, but it’s still one of the best forms of entertainment we have (even in this “Golden Age of Television.”) And in this day of cord-cutting, and Netflix and Hulu going with more shows and fewer movies (and most of them really rotten), if you’re a movie guy, it’s worth it to spend the time and money to go out and experience a movie in the theater. With the morons. There, I said it.

Movies Since Last Post:

VHS Massacre
South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
Rampart
Wind River
The Boy
Hell or High Water
Nocturnal Aminals
Sully
The Wall
Magnificent Seven
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Batman & Harley Quinn

It’s been a month since my last post, and I think I have some serious ground to make up. Because of a vacation and some other family stuff, I have watched only 11 movies in that span, and didn’t watch any between August 11th and August 24th. I feel I am sort of entering the home stretch, and I am at a rather sorry 114 movies for the year. Better than my total of 20 years ago, when I had no internet to aid me, but way off my desired goal. I can probably get to 150 if I really work at it, but 200 seems unattainable at this point. I mean, I could do it if I watch a movie almost every day for the rest of the year, or actually sequester myself in my home and do nothing else, but that seems like a stupid thing to do for this silly quest (even sillier than buying every Nintendo game, in fact.) Let’s face it; are there 86 movies available to me that I actually want to watch?

 

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How have I not used this before?

 

This is the problem I find myself with, in fact. When looking over the list, for every movie I find that I really enjoyed and felt enriched by, and wondered why I didn’t see it before (like Nocturnal Animals or Hell or High Water), I probably watched three that made me wonder why I wasted my time (The Boy). Or more importantly, why the people that made the film wasted their time (Magnificent Seven. Seriously, was that whole movie just an excuse for Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington to hang out?).

What I’ve discovered this year is that watching movies is a fun activity and a great distraction, naturally. And a movie like Wind River was something I would have seen, anyway. But forcing yourself to watch a movie to add another one to a list is not the way to go about the movie experience. It’s almost like those bars that have a mug club that you can only get into when you drink 50 different beers. It sounds like a fun little venture until you realize that a lot of the beers aren’t something you would ever drink if you had the choice. And I’m not even getting a mug at the end of the year. Maybe I’ll buy myself a movie poster or something to commemorate the occasion.

I have very often (like almost daily) found myself having some spare moments and scrolling through movie titles in the hopes of finding one that is around 90 minutes so that I can fit it in a small window of time. This is, of course, ridiculous because I can always pause it and come back to it at any time (unless it’s a rental and expires in 48 hours.) Naturally, the optimum viewing experience is to watch a movie in one sitting, and I’m sure the filmmakers are hoping that you’ll be so engrossed that you won’t want to shut it off, but let’s be honest here; out of the 114 movies I have watched this year, other than seeing them in a theater, how many times have I actually done that?

This is the psychological aspect of this experiment that I did not predict in January (well, it might have crossed my mind.) I figured I might be pressed for time, or that the opportunities to see movies themselves would dry up (I also didn’t predict that Amazon would have that many), but the fact that I would just burn out, and so soon, was something that did not anticipate. Now, it’s not like watching a movie is hard work. All it involves is sitting there and looking at a screen. I could literally be doing it right now instead of writing this. But I wasn’t planning on changing my whole lifestyle just to see if I could watch a lot of movies a lot of different ways. I mean, I still enjoy watching baseball, and Game of Thrones, and Fargo, and sometimes crap reality TV. And I enjoy going out to dinner, and sometimes even having conversations with people. I guess I sort of have this old-school mentality that dictates when I decide to watch a movie, I am making that commitment to that movie, and if life happens and I have to pause it, so be it. But I have started that thing and I’m going to finish it, by God.

I hope, in the end, it will actually be worth something, because as I look at the list, I see a lot of movies that I will probably never think about again, will probably never come up in conversation ever, or I will barely remember, unless I actually meet Brie Larson one day. And yet I watched them because they fit into my window and they were available for streaming. I guess that’s one lesson I can take away from all this, and maybe something we can all learn from this experiment: with all these streaming services, just because a movie is there doesn’t mean you need to watch it. Or perhaps Jeff Goldblum, playing one of my favorite movie characters of all-time, said it better in Jurassic Park:

giphy

I guess I’m just saying that movies, uh, find a way.

Movies Since Last Post

Passengers
Personal Shopper
Arrival
Despicable Me 3
Hacksaw Ridge
Southpaw
Killing Zoe
Pacific Rim
Atomic Blonde
War Machine
Complete Unknown
Dunkirk (70mm)
Raging Bull
An Inconvenient Sequel
The Accountant
Bronson

On August 5th, I reached 100 movies for the year. If memory serves, that was my total for all of 1997, the year that my belligerent Film professor told me that everyone in Hollywood watches hundreds of movies a year, so I figured I needed to do the same (I remember this statement conjuring a picture in my head of Oliver Stone, whom I was a big fan of at the time, walking out of a Blockbuster with his arms full of those bulky VHS tape boxes. I really didn’t know how Hollywood worked back then.)

I never made it in Hollywood, but I made it to 100 then, and I have made it now. A quick glance over my spreadsheet reveals a few things that I found mildly interesting. For example, out of 100 movies, I have only watched 3 DVD’s. In fact, one of my goals was to watch some of the DVD’s that I have lying around the apartment that I have never seen. So, you can see how well that worked out. I have also only watched two movies at the totally awesome Showcase Superlux, which used to be an experience in itself because it was the first theater in the area that allowed you to pick your own seat and have a server bring you a meal and a beer while you ate. I think since other theaters have begun to catch on, it is no longer the experience it once was. Or I’ve become really cheap. I’m also very proud to say I went to one drive-in, so that’s something.

drive

The winners, if you want to call them that, are hands down Amazon Prime and Xfinity, my cable provider. And I don’t mean “winners” because I give them so much money, although that is certainly true. I mean that they have been most-used platforms this year, accounting for just over half of the movies I have watched all year. Part of the reason is because it’s so easy and there is a lot more of a selection, and the other part is because I want to try to get my money’s worth out of them, especially Xfinity, which is a ridiculous bill every month.

I think I am in the minority, at least among my friends and peers, because I have not participated in what is known in the TV industry as “cord-cutting.” Because I lived a small part of my life without cable, and I like sports and hate commercials, I get the ultimate cable package, the whole digital deluxe, high-def, DVR, talk-to-the-remote ball of wax. And I like it. I kind of wish I didn’t, really, because it is a lot of money, and I’m sure if something happened, like Trump took everybody’s cable away to help pay for World War III, I could live without it (until he blows up the world), but for now, I don’t need to find out what a cable-less life would be like. Besides, when Trump does do something stupid with North Korea, I’m going to want CNN.

patrick-chappatte---nzzas

The other platforms, other than actual theaters, Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, all were used about the same amount, surprisingly. I have watched six movies on Google Play, and it probably would be more if they had more sales (Two of them were $.99 and one was $1.99). Google does seem to have the best variety, but I don’t have the budget to pay $4.99 and up for all the movies I want to see. Which is why I should be using Netflix more, since I already pay for that. Unfortunately, they have a much smaller selection, indicated by the fat that I have only watched seven movies on there this year. I actually watched ten on Hulu, but mostly because they had some originals I wanted to see, and I also wanted to get my money’s worth. (I just realized I talk a lot about money in this post. I must be cheap.)

After a hundred movies and counting, though, I will say this for sure: in my opinion, the best way to watch a movie is in a theater. While I have watched many more movies digitally, I have watched most of them on my couch. I have, however, ventured out to eight different venues to see some really good movies. Just in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a beautifully shot movie in 70mm (Dunkirk), I went to a drive-in, and I had a hilarious exchange with the guy next to me while seeing Atomic Blonde. During an intense action scene, “I Ran (So Far Away)” by Flock of Seagulls was playing on the soundtrack, and the wife of the guy who was sitting next to me takes out her phone to use that app that can hear songs and tell you what they are (I mean, who doesn’t know that song? These people weren’t youngsters.) I politely motioned for her to put the phone away because it was distracting, and the guy turned to me and said, “What’s the problem? She’s just trying to find out the name of the song!” I told him, in so many words, that was, in fact, my problem.

Despite incidents like that, I really like going to the movies, and that’s why stuff like that bothers me so much.  It’s not enough to say, “Please silence your cell-phones.” The message at the beginning needs to be something like, “Take out your phone for anything other than a medical emergency, and you will be expelled, possibly without your phone. And pants.” Something to get people’s attention.

take ass out

I really wish they would open an Alamo Drafthouse near me.