I kind of hate reviewing kids’ movies, because if I don’t like them, there is always someone who accuses me of being a bad person who hates love, children, and family. I don’t really dislike those things, or at least not all of the time. I just think movies for children should be held to the same standards as adult films; they need an interesting story, finely drawn characters, and—at the very least—directorial competence. I think kids deserve good movies. I am also not a Disney hater, although I have a lot of issues with that particular company. However, I love Beauty and the Beast and have been known to bust out The Aristocats on occasion. I approached reviewing Disney’s newest princess movie, Frozen, with the best mindset I could: I grabbed two of my favorite people—niece Alice (age 4) and daughter Io (age 23)—and made a night of it.
Lance Armstrong is a big fat lying liar. No debate there. But he’s a liar in a sport where everybody cheats and everybody lies about it, so who really cares? Quite a lot of people, actually. For some reason, bicycle racing fans have been able to maintain hope in the purity of their sport even after endless doping scandals and revelations of cheating. Armstrong was such an inspirational figure—coming back from testicular cancer to win seven Tour de France races—people held on to the belief that he was clean long after repeated accusations were made. I don’t know if the general population really gives a damn about this. Banned substances used in a niche sport? Oh no. But it turns out the doping done by Lance Armstrong is the least interesting part of this story. The real meat is that, not only did he lie about cheating, he repeatedly went after his accusers, destroying their credibility in the press and even suing them for damages. He didn’t just defend himself, he went on the offensive to demolish anyone who strayed from the narrative he wanted to present.
Sex, drugs, adventure, murder, and poetry? John Krokidas’s new film, Kill Your Darlings, uses the murder of professor-turned-janitor David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) to show how the Beat poets first came together. (This film is based on a “true story.” Which is all good and fine, but the spin on some of the events differs greatly from some of the official accounts, so I am going to treat it as though it were purely fiction.) The film centers on a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), who is looking to escape his mentally ill mother and her constant demands by attending Columbia University and living on campus. His father (David Cross) is a poet, and Allen’s love for the written word has him well on the way to becoming a writer himself. Soon after starting classes, Ginsberg meets the mesmerizing Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), who introduces him to William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), and thus a movement is born.
There is a formula for the disease-of-the-week movies I used to watch back in the ’90s: Flawed hero/heroine (usually heroine because this movie genre is a staple of the Lifetime channel) discovers he or she has contracted a terminal illness and has a short time to live. At first, the protagonist is disbelieving, then desperate, and then finally determined to find a way to live beyond their projected lifespan. He or she searches for a cure, while at the same time deciding to live life to the fullest—eventually surviving against all odds or dying a most noble death. Also, life lessons are learned and characters improved. It’s a well-used formula, but still satisfying because it manages to hit all of the right plot points to get the viewer where they expect to be. Jean-Marc Vallée’s new film, Dallas Buyers Club, manages to adhere exactly to the formula, which makes it both emotionally satisfying and slightly disappointing, considering its edgier subject matter. It’s exactly like a Lifetime movie of the week, but with more sex and homophobia.
It’s October, so all I want to watch is horror films. I’m down with a lot of the newer stuff, but my true passion lies in the B productions from the thirties, forties, and fifties. There’s a lot of good stuff hidden behind some bad costumes, and I find myself taking a lot of pleasure from giant bugs and other diabolical monstrosities. Lately, I’ve become especially interested in lady monsters, and could not resist the awesome double feature of The Wasp Woman and The Leech Woman one Sunday afternoon. Which one of these classic lady-driven nightmares is better? Read and find out!
Every year, I make a list of films I would like to review at the Seattle International Film Festival, and this year I was particularly interested to see Inequality for All, Jacob Kornbluth’s documentary about economist Robert Reich and the problems he sees with our country’s extremely large income gap. (The top 400 richest people in the United States own one half of the country’s wealth.) Inequality For All analyzes this issue using a class Reich teaches at U.C. Berkeley as a framework. There is a lot of data given here, so I will focus on the three things that stuck out most for me.
A good fashion documentary will juxtapose the silliness of the fashion world against the art of beautiful clothing and end up with something both interesting and compelling. It’s sometimes hard to take the denizens of high fashion seriously, what with the emphasis on appearances and their own—sometimes very odd—sartorial choices. (Karl Lagerfeld, I am looking at you.) The gold standard of fashion-related documentary films is 2009’s The September Issue, a fascinating account of Vogue magazine’s jumbo fall issue focusing on the interactions between editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington, their relationship, and what it takes to get a fashion magazine out. Mademoiselle C is a new documentary directed by Fabien Constant that tries to bring the same exposure to former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld’s decision to leave Vogue and start her own magazine, CR.
There’s a certain type of book and movie I think of as middle-aged male wish fulfillment: an older man seduces and educates a younger woman, introducing her to the ways of love while feeding his own creative drive and sexual needs. It’s a literary fiction standard, and older man/younger woman stories are common in film, where male leads manage to get older, but their co-stars somehow get replaced by much younger models every couple of years. Older woman/younger man stories are often framed in cougar or MILF terms as a joke, except for films like Harold and Maude, where the relationship is awesome, but totally weird. And then there are the dramas, the tragedies. Because nothing from such an unnatural pairing can go right, right? As a middle-aged lady who happens to be married to a slightly younger man, I am the target audience for the new film Adore, directed by Anne Fontaine. Based on a story by Doris Lessing, Adore is the tale of two life-long friends who find romantic solace in each other’s adult sons.
I’m just going to get straight to the point: Austenland is really funny and you should go see it. I had some worries beforehand, but about 30 seconds in, I realized I was entering a place I really wanted to be. Let me continue by addressing some of the questions I have seen around the Internets.
Are movie names important? I think so; they let the viewer know what they might be in store for. A perfect example is Raiders of the Lost Ark. It reveals the object of the movie, the ark, and then lets the audience know there are raiders after that object. Not scholars, not Nazis, not adventurers, but raiders. It speaks of adventure, treasure, and people who are willing to cross a few lines to get what they want. Another great name is Sharknado. It’s a tornado with a bunch of sharks in it. WTF? Exactly. So with a movie called Closed Circuit that takes place in London, one would expect a film that dealt with the ubiquitous presence of closed circuit cameras that populate the city. Open and constant surveillance is the norm there, and sounds like the subject matter of a great thriller. Closed Circuit features a lot of surveillance-like footage, but none of it serves as a major plot point; it’s there, but it’s not doing much. They might as well have called it Wool Skirt, because the female lead wears a wool skirt through much of the movie and it functions as both a statement of style and a way to keep her butt covered. It’s there, but it’s not really important in the same way that the closed circuit cameras do nothing to further the plot along. It’s emblematic of a lot of things in this movie; whilst viewing, I just kept asking myself “Why is that there?”