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(Yes, we need another) Holiday Movie Thread

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OldAle1
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Re: (Yes, we need another) Holiday Movie Thread

#121

Post by OldAle1 » January 25th, 2020, 5:12 pm

New Year's Eve Favorites...

1. Superman (Richard Donner, 1978)

Somewhere around 8th-10th viewing. First saw this new in the cinema, maybe twice; I'm sure I saw it at least once during college as well. For a long while I preferred the second film, don't think I do anymore though I haven't seen that one for quite a few years. This is a problematic film for sure, with a fairly silly plot and unfortunately silly and never-threatening villains, and an idiotic ending conceit which nearly kill it. BUT...the opening Krypton sequence retains it's grandeur for me, the FX are good enough for a guy who has no problem putting himself back in the era it was made, the music is likely John Williams' best, and one of the best scores of the 70s, and most of all, Christopher Reeve, in what is still for me the best performance in a superhero film, and one of the better same-actor-two-roles performances as well, because Clark Kent is every bit as impressive a creation as the man in tights. TSPDT? I dunno...I'm OK about that.

2. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

15th viewing. I don't need to say anything more about this one do I.

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OldAle1
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#122

Post by OldAle1 » February 16th, 2020, 3:46 pm

A celebration of Valentine's Day in film, to make myself miserable...maybe.

1. She's All That (Robert Iscove, 1999)

I'm not entirely sure why this has been on my rom-com to-see list for years (I'm not entirely sure why I have such a list but that's another story). The director was a non-name; I haven't seen anything else with female star Rachael Leigh Cook and only one film with co-star Freddie Prinze Jr, I Know What You Did Last Summer which is awfully mediocre. That's where he met his wife-to-be, Buffy the Vampire Slayer lead Sarah Michelle Gellar, so perhaps there was something unconscious in the mix here, as it turns out that this film was shot partly at the same high school that was used for Buffy - the courtyard and front of the building in particular will be obvious to fans of the show, and Gellar makes a very brief appearance sitting in the lunch room, and Carlos Jacott, the main bad guy in the season 2 opener Anne appears in a bit as an exasperated photographer. This digression brought to you because for me it's only as a hard-core Buffy fan that I found any enjoyment at all in this atrocious adaptation #345974 of "Pygmalion", with Prinze as hot jock AND scholar (ok there's a *tiny* bit of originality) who bets his douchier friend that he can take nerdy art girl Cook and turn her into a prom queen princess. Uggh. Nothing good here at all though I'd tend to blame the screenplay for most of if - there are some decent-to-excellent actors here like Kevin Pollak and Anna Paquin (who looks a lot like Cook actually but does't play her sister) but the dialogue mostly feels forced and the scenes play out the same way they would in your head, only less interestingly. Below average even in the world of the American rom-com over the past 30+ years.

2. When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner, 1989) (re-watch)

I saw this when it originally came out, and not since then. It's one of those films where I can't remember if I saw it in the cinema or on video but I do remember that I saw it with my first girlfriend who was much less conventionally romantic than I was, and pretty staunchly feminist in a way that really didn't respond to Nora Ephron's screenplay in particular - and neither did I. Ephron's assertions that men and women can never be friends and are really, totally, fundamentally different animals - which is belied at the end of this to be fair but which recurs in the other films she wrote and/or directed - still bugs the shit out of me and I still find myself hating that element of the film. In 1989 that was enough for me to hate the whole film though and it didn't help that I didn't much like Billy Crystal; pretty sure the only thing with Meg Ryan I had seen was D.O.A but I wasn't keeping track of actors at the time in any way, and her subsequent roles didn't help my opinion of her and in memory the film has languished as an offensive screenplay acted out by a guy I've grudgingly come to tolerate, and my least-favorite actress ever. So I guess it was time for a re-visit, eh?

Well color me surprised and surprisingly pleased. As I said, I still don't much like Ephron's writing - don't find a lot of Crystal's jokes that funny, don't like her view of men in general (and more importantly don't find it all that accurate) - but everything else improved dramatically, in particular Meg Ryan who while at times irritating (deliberately so - as a self-portrait of the writer it's clear that Ephron for all her faults could be as hard on women, and herself, as on men) is also just a joy to watch here, vivacious and self-assured and neurotic in almost equal measures. The fact that I hadn't really known anybody like her - and that I was soon to enter into a relationship with someone much more like her than my then-girlfriend, and have since met a much wider variety of women, probably helps in my changed feelings here. Reiner shoots New York in a loving manner and it works as a fantasy-view of the big city when two people are in love, certainly very much influenced by Woody Allen and in a long line that goes back to the musicals of the 50s. Crystal bugs me a little less - though again, he doesn't seem that real to me, and certainly Ephron's notion that all men love sports and don't cry in movies is utterly false as far as I'm concerned - and the supporting duo of Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby help immeasurably - if I'd remembered that they were in this I probably would have gone back to it sooner.

In short, dramatically improved - though still flawed enough that it's not really close to a "favorite"; and I still blame this film, and Ephron's simple-minded attitudes about the roles of men and women in particular for the wretched state the genre has been mired in for 30 years - though now it's clear that this film isn't quite as generically derivative or generally stupid as many of it's progeny. Makes me look forward more to a re-visit of Joe Versus the Volcano though, and now I think I have to replace Ms. Ryan for the title of all-time least-favorite actress.

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