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Saturday, April 26, 2014

2014 Movies: FINALLY SAW A MOVIE FROM 2014

I'm at it again, and I guess I must be losing interest in this format or something because it's been a while? Sorry.  I'll figure something out to make this work, baby.  Anyway here are the movies I saw:

Jobs (2013) Joshua Michael Stern
Haha what a load of horse shit. My favorite part is where they set him up as this garbage dead-beat dad and then they just jump ahead about six or seven years and everything with his family seems fine. He is no longer estranged from his wife and his daughter who he refused to acknowledge and support as his own daughter is living with them and everyone's getting along great. The main take away was that Steve Jobs succeeded despite being surrounded by a bunch of ARTLESS, CRETINOUS, MORONS. Seriously every scene where someone questions him or doesn't make something to his standards is amazing because you get to watch Ashton Kutcher drop whatever affectation he was attempting as he comes within inches of strangling some poor asshole.

Coming to America (1988) John Landis
One of the funniest movies of all time. The last act drags a bit as it puts on this sort of trite, farcical tone, but everything else is just so tight and funny.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) Stephen Sommers
I think this was around the time when Channing Tatum was still transitioning from romance movie guy to bland action hero role because no one really understood how to cast him yet? By the time the second G.I. Joe movie came out, I think they finally figured out that he could be funny and likable, but then they end up killing him in that one about half an hour in, so it's kind of a waste. Anyway, I prefer this one to the second one, as this plot is overwhelmingly insane and ridiculous, really giving it the feel of a kid playing with action figures and just sort of slamming them at each other while making "WOOSH" and "WHOOM" and "PTCHEEWW" noises. It's also living in a post-RDJ as Iron Man action movie world both in that there's wearable robot combat suits and the lead action guys have to quip early and often.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Wes Anderson
The first movie I saw from this year. It was nice. I like Wes Anderson, and he gets a lot of shit for that Wes Anderson-aesthetic, but people also seem to forget that he's been working on that and developing that for years, to the point where any asshole can point at something disparagingly as "Wes Anderson-y" because he owns that style. Wes Anderson is the main guy who makes "Wes Anderson-y" movies.
Anyway I liked this one. It was like Wes Anderson was doing a riff on wartime political thrillers. It's also one of those movies that shows such warm affection for the characters while not being afraid to put them through a lot of awful shit. I was hesitant at first, wondering how wartime brutality would fit itself into probably one of the more precious Wes Anderson movies I'd seen, but the war works well as a backdrop informing the backstories of its characters, which lends an air of tragedy to how beautiful the hotel is and how these characters behave. Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe are standout villains, confronting this beautiful little world with intense ugliness and hate. Ralph Fiennes works both as this wonderful embodiment of manners and high standards and as a sad warning of what lies within a man whose commitment to duty and service becomes his sole identity.

Sin City (2005) Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Sometimes words that comic book characters say in comic books don't sound that great when a real person says them out loud. Sometimes you get three directors on one movie who just don't give a shit about that.

Paris is Burning (1990) Jennie Livingston
This was good. A documentary about the New York City gay scene and ball and house culture. One of those things where I find that I'm more familiar with what later generations had developed. It's interesting to see where it all comes from, especially as a reminder of all the hard work and suffering so many had to go through just to bring this type of drag culture into the cultural mindset.

Dick (1999) Andrew Fleming
This one was cute and funny. Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst are two dumb kids who get caught up in the Watergate scandal and they get to be friends with Richard Nixon. Bruce McCulloch is in it and that guy is a fucking genius. I also really liked how Williams and Dunst were funny teenagers, but not through the conceit of them being stoners or slutty or nerdy or whatever teenage trait you typically see tacked onto these sorts of characters. Instead, the humor comes from them just being average, bumbling teenage girls put in this highly delicate political situation. It's not that they're stupid, they just know as much as a teenage kid knows, which isn't typically a lot.

The Shining (1980) Stanley Kubrick
This movie fucking rules.

Center Stage (2000) Nicholas Hytner
I admittedly wasn't paying full attention to this movie, but it's about these kids in a prestigious ballet school and they have a tough time pursuing their art and their dreams while trying to just live their lives being young in New York. Peter Gallagher's in it. There's this AWFUL final dance number. Uh... what else? People outside of the school have these big apartments despite working as caterers or whatever. It was fine. I do remember thinking that this movie was a weird snapshot of New York like right before 9/11 happened and feeling sad about how drastically these people's lives were going to change.

Blackfish (2013) Gabriela Cowperthwaite
What a gruesome movie. I have no idea how Sea World can even try to defend themselves after seeing some of this awful footage and hearing about that whale Tilikum. His life is awful. He performs a couple of tricks everyday, gets a weird handjob, and then goes to his own prison every night. It was brutal and emotionally manipulative like any documentary with a cause, but they make a good enough argument that I have no idea how they could not be in the right about this. It was rough.

Fight Club (1999) David Fincher
Wow I can't believe so many have taken this movie so seriously for so long. That being said, a rewatch was good for a laugh at who I was when I was in High School, but it was also good for a laugh because it's a pretty funny movie beneath the entry-level misanthropy/anarchy. Maybe Fincher's funniest movie. I dunno, we've all seen this one, right? It's funny. That "his name is Robert Paulson" bit is funny. Jared Leto gets the shit beat out of him, that's funny. Tessa had this great observation about how this movie is pretty much the same movie as The Social Network. A man builds something that becomes bigger than he is, and he's oblivious to how his life and his relationships are crumbling as he builds his empire. It's funny.

Short Term 12 (2013) Destin Daniel Cretton
This one is about a group of social workers (is that what you'd call them, I'm not sure?) who are working with at risk teens while also trying to lead emotionally stable and balanced lives themselves. I like that idea of the people being in charge also having to work to figure out their own lives. Everyone's a mess, but the adults in charge are just better at keeping up appearances. Brie Larson is great in it, and everyone is just so funny and vulnerable, but you can't really let yourself enjoy that because in that setting of this sort of halfway home for at risk kids, part of you is still holding your breath, waiting for something awful to happen, and when that does finally happen there's this great chaotic shift in how these characters behave. It's a movie where the emotional aftermath of what they deal with at their jobs seems to have real consequence with their home lives, and it makes being with these characters that great combination of heartbreaking and uplifting that just affects you despite all your attempts at creating a jaded internet persona through oblique joke tweets and shitty blog posts about some bullshit like Don Jon.

Don Jon (2013) Joseph Gordon-Levitt
An absolutely boring and smug piece of horseshit. Don Jon's one strength is that it centers itself around the fairly common question of porn's place in a committed relationship, but that strength gets lost as JGL handles it with all the delicacy of someone who's got two 40oz's duct-taped to his hands. We get these clips of porn movies spliced in with scenes of JGL masturbating, but the clips are tightly cropped so you sort of just get these topless pornstars making faces, and I mean, I guess I get the idea, but if you want to show us how a guy watches porn, and you want to take that perspective of a young dumb man watching porn, I just feel like you should give us something more. And I'm sure that certain MPAA regulations or whatever would prevent JGL from throwing in any sort of penetration, but it just all looked so toothless. I think you need something more than a topless woman moaning to convey the idea of porn as this sort of stunt-sex that you'd never get in reality.
Jizz. What the movie needed was jizz. Lena Dunham's GIRLS had a scene with jizz in it that worked great to remove the excitement of a moneyshot by recontextualizing it and grounding it in reality. Jizz would've been a great addition to this movie and it would have strengthened its message some. But enough about jizz.
One of the things I hated about Don Jon was that almost nobody had any kind of defining characteristics. You have characters who stand around and fulfill their role in their relationship to JGL's character, but they have no other sort of lives beyond their interactions with him. And maybe that works when the idea of the movie is that this character is a selfish guy who sees people as exactly that, but the movie's message of a truly fulfilling relationship happening when two become one and you lose yourself in each other gets undercut when you realize you don't really know anything about the person with whom he's finally sharing a meaningful sexual relationship. Sure we get to hear some details about her past, but all we ever really see is her sort of razzin' him in class Sidenote: what class is this, even? We have JGL finally enrolled in some whatever community college to get his "degree" but we only see him in the one class and we have no idea what class that is or what degree he's working toward. We just don't know enough about anyone to make any of this meaningful or interesting, but that doesn't seem to stop JGL from smirking through this whole movie as if he's given us this vulnerable portrait of a young man masturbating through his twenties instead of this garbage, jizz-less movie built on stereotypes and ciphers.
21 Jump Street (2012) Chris Miller, Phil Lord
I really liked this one. I thought it was really well-paced in that it just gets more exciting and funny as the movie keeps going, and while I tend to check out during the third act fight/chase/whatever in modern action movies, 21 Jump Street's big gunfight and limo chase was really exciting and funny throughout. Everyone involved is so fucking funny, especially Dave Franco, a dude who actually does look like he would've sold me drugs in high school. Between this movie and Now You See Me, I think I'm actually on board with lil Dave Franco. Every line delivery is just the funniest possible way to hear that combination of words when Dave Franco says anything. This movie even had one of the best celebrity cameos I've ever seen, and I tend to think of those types of cameos a polite "oh, ha ha" moments at best, but this one had me laughing. Really the only things I didn't like were the weird kiss at the end and the bits where I was supposed to feel bad for CHANNING TATUM of all people. He's great in this one, by the way (duh), and I like that it seems like he was drunk during the entire process of filming this movie.

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