Saturday, July 10, 2010

Together, we fill gaps

I'm a sucker for a happy ending. I am. How can anyone not be? And when I sat down to watch Rocky, I knew I was in for it. It's pretty much the pinnacle of "triumphant."

I watched Rocky the night before I ran my first 5k race of my life. I'm goal oriented, but not a sports person or a fitness nut. So the few months I trained for this race were both the most fulfilling and most awful of my life. I thought it fitting to watch Rocky the night before my first race, to get myself psyched up to be a winner.

I feel like a plot synopsis is unnecessary here (as usual) - he's a boxer who's having a rough go with the whole "life" thing. No money, crappy apartment, a crush on a girl he is too shy to ask out (but everyone seems to think is mentally retarded...which was strange). He wallows in his own self-pity and doesn't seem like he's going to come out of it.

But he does come out of it - he gets the nerve to finally go out with Adrian, he gets a fight with Apollo Creed and even though he knows he can't win, he gives it his all anyway. His goals are realistic - he doesn't necessarily want to win, but he just wants to go all the rounds.

The climax of the movie- the fight - is really exciting. They seem to be a good match for each other- a better match than people expected. Rocky succeeds at his goal of going all the rounds, and even though in the end he doesn't win, he feels like a champion. And Adrian is there waiting for him at the end.

I liked it a lot - even though it dragged at times. I found myself muttering about the fact that Adrian and Rocky were so awkward at first, but they really were a cute couple and a good match for each other once they found a rhythm (and the quote "she's got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps" was more of a poignant explanation of love than maybe it was intended to be). I really did enjoy it overall. It's a triumphant movie for a reason - I felt so pumped at the end and ready to take on the world! It felt like that was the point- like that is what I was supposed to feel.

Oh and the race the next day? My goal was not to win, but to finish. And that's exactly what I did.

Rocky - 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Yankee Wilkerson and the White Trash Slattery Girl

Perhaps one of the pinnacles of the quest to watch the classics is “Gone with the Wind.” We own a DVD so old that the disc is 2-sided and you have to flip it over halfway through. Does that even happen anymore? I don’t think so. Either way, it took me about 10 years since getting the DVD to actually sit down and watch it.

I planned a movie night with some of my girlfriends to watch this one; I thought it would be an appropriate movie for a girl’s night. We were a mixed lot – B had seen it but it had been awhile, V, like me, had never seen it before, and K has seen it hundreds of times and loves the film so much that “Scarlett” is in her AIM screen name. I was really happy to have the diversity in the room – it really made for a great viewing experience.

There is a whole lot to talk about here, and I know I’m going to miss things so I apologize in advance for that. But hopefully the gist will come through.

Initial thoughts:

  • Wow, I wish I had known it was 4 hours long before sitting down to watch it at 7pm. (I go to bed super early). But it wasn’t a struggle to stay awake like I thought it would be, thank god. I just probably would have started it earlier if I had known.
  • LOVE the costumes. We’ve established that I’m an old soul. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I wish I had been around in Civil War times, but the gowns those ladies wore were outstanding. I love the fact that they literally had bubble butts, as evidenced by the pillow-type padding they wore under their dresses at the small of their backs. Interesting though that their waists were made to be so small, but more on that later.
  • Wow, I hate the character of Scarlett more than almost any character in any film I’ve ever seen. Ever. If I had been around back then I would have hated her too, like most of the other women in the movie. She was the WORST. Spoiled brat, flirt, tease, passive-aggressive manipulative bitch. Can you tell I hated her? Selfish as the day is long, and with literally no redeeming qualities other than her looks (which I was surprised by – I found Vivien Leigh to be rather plain).
  • The greatest love story ever told? I’ve heard it referred to in this way. Yeah. No. I was actually thrown off guard by how little I was emotionally affected by this movie in the romantic sense. I expected to need a box of tissues (it doesn’t take much to make me cry) but I didn’t well up even once. The emotion I felt most was anger –and that was unexpected.

A few overarching points:

  • Portrayal of women

o It was interesting to me to see how the women were portrayed. They all seemed meek (except Scarlett). They had to take naps in the middle of the day while the black slaves fanned them, they had to cinch their waists so tight they literally could not breathe. At one point Scarlett referred to her 20” waist and said “I’ve grown as big as Aunt Piggy” and my jaw dropped. Maybe this is where society gets the image of women needing to have “hourglass figures” – busty girls with small waists and birthing hips with butts so puffy you could rest your drink on them are “what men want.” It’s also alluded to that men don’t like women with healthy appetites- another great message to send. But that was the time, and I get that. I read somewhere that if a Barbie Doll was a real person, her measurements would be 39”/19”/33”. It’s not sustainable, and it’s part of the reason normal girls like me get skewed body image perception. But anyway…that’s a topic for another day.


o I am somewhat ashamed to admit that my knowledge of American History is rather lacking. I’ve never been a “civics geek” or particularly interested in it. As such, I have only a basic knowledge and understanding of the Civil War. Honestly, people taking the citizenship exam probably are required to learn more than I know. It’s sad, but it is what it is. I was glad to have my friend K there, in part because not only does she adore this movie, but she loves history and she lived in the south for several years and could explain the historical references to the war and to the general time period. Without her, I probably would have been very lost. That being said…

o I found it very interesting that the film was set in the south and we were able to see the perspective the confederates had toward the war, the Yankees and slavery during that time. As the saying goes, history is told by the winners. I am from the Northeast, a Yankee through and through. So to hear the characters talk about the fact that they thought the war would be quick and easy, and the Yankees were the enemy, and slavery was just fine…it was all a little jarring. Not surprising, but jarring nonetheless. And yet, it was nice to see that not everyone was on board with going to war. line that struck me in particular was spoken by Ashley: “Most of the miseries of the world were caused by wars and when they were over, no one ever knew what they were about.” He would fight for his country (as it were) but understood that it should be the last resort and not something to be excited about. I think we could all take a lesson from that.

· Love/Sex as a Weapon

o As I mentioned before, I hated Scarlett’s character. I got the impression I was supposed to, especially by the end, but even still I wanted to find a redeeming quality in her; I wanted to find something to make me empathetic. I just couldn’t. As the movie went on, she became more manipulative and money-hungry; she would do anything to get ahead. I don’t roll that way, so it’s hard for me not to react with disdain. A few of the points that caught me:

§ Her relationship with Ashley was clearly unhealthy. If that were happening in present times, he (or Melanie) would have taken out a restraining order on him. She loves him (which is fine) and she declares her love for him even after she knows he’s engaged to Melanie (who, by the way was my favorite character). Fine. I will even cut her some slack for that. But he clearly rejects her – it’s clear he’s attracted to her but he doesn’t love her. And she reacts violently – claiming he’d been leading her on and how could he, and he was such an awful person. And this cycle repeats for years – they see each other, she gets him alone, declares her love, he says no and she gets mad. But the part that really made me angry was when she said, “You should have told me years ago that you didn’t love me!” I wanted to throw popcorn at that point, because that to me was the best example of how selfish and vile she was. He HAD told her. Dozens of times. You can be attracted to someone but not love them, and not harbor plans to leave your spouse (the one you DO love) for this person. Physical beauty can make anyone take a second glance, but it doesn’t mean you have to act on it. I have to say I really was pleased with Ashley for standing his ground as much as he did. He got caught up in a kiss, but quickly stopped it. Because Melanie was his true love. Melanie was a good person; kindhearted and generous. Pretty but not overly so, and just a genuine good soul. A little na├»ve, but it’s hard to fault her for that. It’s no surprise he stayed with her (even if they were cousins…weird).

§ Her relationship with Rhett was also unhealthy. If she had opened her eyes, she would have seen that he could have been the one for her. He tried to be. She settled for him, but it really wasn’t settling. He chased her for years (I kind of saw an opposite Ashley/Scarlett chase in Scarlett/Rhett) and she finally gave in. Not because she loved him, but because she had nothing better at the moment. She was twice a widow who didn’t love either of her dead husbands, and it was clear that she was waiting around for something better to be available (Ashley- even though after Melanie died he still didn’t want her). They were a tumultuous pair for several years, and even after she gave birth to their daughter she didn’t change. And after the girl died, they had no chance. The scene where they fought on the staircase was amazing – it was pretty much one of the first times anyone had been truly honest with her – and it hurt to watch.

Overall I really enjoyed this film (though a lot of what I’ve talked about has been negative). I actually liked it a lot more than I thought I would. It was long at times (4 hours- what do you expect), and there were times when I shouted at my television. But I think that was the intent, so I was happy with that result. It was successful in its endeavor. The thing I liked about it the most, after it was over and I was thinking about it, was this: in the end she was left with nothing, which was exactly what she deserved.

Gone with the Wind: 4 out of 5.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wolfman's Got Nards....and I Don't Care.

Oh, Monster Squad. You tried to be everything I wanted. You tried to be the Goonies, but better, since monsters make everything better...right?


I wanted to like this one. I really did. It started off strongly - the menu art for the Blu-Ray was cool and definitely gave me hope. I tweeted that I was watching it and got a bunch of positive responses. My husband, who watched it with me, was practically giddy.

The clothes were great - SUPER 80s and the dialogue was really kitschy. All things I like.

But something just wasn't right. I can't quite put my finger on it, but throughout the whole movie I found myself just plain BORED.

I think the thing that kinda left me with a bad taste in my mouth was just how desperately this movie wanted to be "The Goonies." At the time, I'm sure people ate it up. It came out about 2 years after "The Goonies," so I assume enough time had gone by that people were ready for a Volume 2. But everything just felt flat and sub-par, especially in comparison. The Corey Feldman character, the "Chunk" character and others all just felt like "poor mans" versions. The dialogue got old after about 15 minutes. The costumes - wow did those not have lasting power. It all just seemed so....trite. I hate that word, but it's the only one I can think of to properly express. I felt like it REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted me to like it and to think it was cute and funny. But I really just felt it came up short.

This is the first movie I've watched for this blog that gave me the sense that I needed to have watched it as a kid to really enjoy it. If I saw it in 1987 when it was released, I'd probably watch it now and LOVE it. But since I also watched the Goonies recently, I found myself comparing the two, and every time this one lost.

Sorry, world. This one's not for me.

1.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yippee-ki-yay, mother******!

Since it's Christmas, I thought it only right to commemorate the season by watching one of the most revered Christmas movies of all time. No, not "A Christmas Story". I'm talking, of course, about "Die Hard".

"Die Hard" is one of those movies that I always thought I had seen. I love action movies- I'm not sure how I missed this one. It never occurred to me that even though I could quote from it, that might have been just by osmosis. But when I really thought about it, I couldn't even tell you what the storyline to the movie was. I just knew the names John McClane, Hans Gruber, and a few memorable quotes.

I went into Die Hard with high expectations. I mean, there have been so many sequels, how could the original possibly be anything less than amazing? I was right - it was FUN! I mean, realistically, the story would likely never play out the way it did. But throughout the whole movie I was on the edge of my seat - it was quite a ride.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Bruce Willis. My mom loved him when I was a kid - we watched Moonlighting together when it was on TV and I've always thought him to be a great actor and a good guy (and easy on the eyes especially when he was younger; that helps). He's been in so many great roles, but "Die Hard" is obviously the film he is most well known for (though I have definitely been partial to his work on "That 70's Show" up to this point). To watch him in this movie as the wise-cracking tough guy was pretty cool. He was alone in many of the scenes, and even with the walkie-talkie as his only support, he still held his own. The action sequences were great - not as dated as I expected them to be. I definitely have a soft spot for old-style action where it's not all completely CGI.

I thought the whole message of family was nice as well- here is this guy just trying to put his family back together and having a hard time doing it, and it takes him literally saving his wife's life in order to make her see what a great guy he is. As a woman, sometimes we are forced to choose work over family. We don't always make the right choice - luckily for Holly she figured it out just in the nick of time. I also liked that the kids played a really minor role in the film - they were there and they moved the story along but for the most part it wasn't really about them. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting here trying to remember if there was 1 child or 2, and I can't remember. That's not a bad thing.

The thing that I found the most funny was the attitude of the cops (outside of John McClane and Al, or Carl Winslow, of course). You see this so often in movies in this time - the cops are automatically the arrogant, self-absorbed blowhards. They know everything (even when they don't), they don't need anyone's help (even when they do) and their decisions are the right ones (even when they aren't). But they always see the error of their ways in the end. This made me laugh.

As usual I'm not going to dig deep into the plot, because as usual I'm pretty much the only person who hasn't seen this movie. But it was a great way to end my Christmas Day and I'm really glad to have seen it. I'll probably watch the rest in the series at some point, but I have a feeling this was the pinnacle.

5 of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Excuse Me While I Whip This Out...

The next chapter in this saga is Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles." I was really confident about this one. "Spaceballs" is one of my favorite movies and my sense of humor can be really depraved at times, so Mel Brooks' style of humor is right up my alley.

It started off like a punch in the stomach - the racist humor began right off the bat (when I saw Richard Pryor's name in the credits I knew I was in for it). I'm not one to shy away from a dirty or uncouth joke, so I wasn't worried.

It's a western, but it's not a western like I would normally expect. The movie was absolutely hysterical. It's been a long time since I was so completely satisfied by a comedy - there are so few "good" comedies being made in this day and age. People are too PC nowadays; it's refreshing to see a movie that doesn't take itself so seriously and really pushes the envelope.

All the characters are great - Gene Wilder shines as the jailed (and then mysteriously not jailed) Waco Kid (I met was one of the best moments of my life) and Mel Brooks delivers his classic womanizing cameo. Madeline Kahn's ridiculous accent- priceless. The whole cast was hysterical - they had great comedic timing.

My favorite part of the whole film was the last 15 minutes or so. It was also my favorite part of Spaceballs. When the film is taken out of the film and just kinda dropped into "real life" - that is amazing to me. In Spaceballs it was when they watched the VHS of the film on the ship and promoted all the movie merchandise. In Blazing Saddles it was when they literally drove off the set and you saw that it was all a soundstage. There is a fight on screen that makes its way to the commissary in the studio, and the characters drive out of the movie, down the street, and to a movie theater where they go see "Blazing Saddles." Watching them watch themselves on screen is crazy, and awesome.

I am really excited to watch "Young Frankenstein" now for this project- a lot of people tell me it's their favorite of his films. I was really, really impressed by this one - it'll be hard to top.

5 of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Good Enough For Me!

I am 28 years old. This means I was born in 1981, which means I was a child in the 80s and 90s. So the fact that until today I had never seen "The Goonies" has been both a baffling concept and a point of contention with everyone in my life for as long as I can remember. I think I was literally the only person over the age of 25 that had never seen it.

"The Goonies" was actually one of the reasons I started this blog. It's pretty much the pinnacle of "I cannot believe you've never seen this movie," which is the heart of this project.

I watched it today, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I have to admit I was apprehensive over the fact that there was so much riding on my viewing of this film. What if I didn't like it? Would there be something wrong with me? Would I be ostracized and made to feel like a hearless monster? It's likely.

Luckily, I am safe. I loved it. It made me laugh, it made me tear up a few times (though, to be fair, that is not hard to do). Overall, my heart was warmed by the sheer wholesome nature of the movie. I won't go into a full description (because I am certain you already know) but at its core, it's a movie about kids trying to do the right thing. They are a little mischievous, because they are boys, and they are a little rambunctious, again because they are boys. But they care about each other and their families. The whole point of the treasure hunt was to get enough money to save their house and save their family from eviction from the "evil" developers. Not a fresh or unique storyline, no, but done really well. The adventure the day takes them on allows them all to use their strengths and do their part to save the day.

At the end of the day, I was left with a movie with characters I loved, jokes and quotes I FINALLY understood after almost 30 years, and just a general sense of contentment. I totally get why people have given me such a hard time over the fact that this one initially passed me by. And I have to say, a part of me is glad I saw it as an adult for the first time. I know the type of child I was, and I don't think I would have loved it back then. I would have liked it, sure, but I don't think I would have loved it. Seeing it as an adult with fresh eyes allowed me to see the whole picture and really appreciate it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock: I didn't need another reason to wish I had been born 40 years earlier.

I am convinced that I was born 2 generations too late. I was born in 1981, which means I don't really fit in anywhere. I am technically a child of the 80s, but don't really remember a lot of the big events, trends, etc of that time. My nostalgia lies in the 90s, and really, what is there to be nostalgic about? TV was just OK, technology hadn't really emerged yet, and we didn't "DO" anything of great historical value. That's pretty much how I feel about my generation overall- what have we done?

I have always felt that I would be more comfortable if I had been born around 1940. That would put me in my late teens/early 20s around 1960, which is the time I would have been in my prime. The clothing, lifestyle and general attitude of the late 50s/early 60s is what I wish we still had. Not everything gave you cancer, you could discipline your children, and life was just easier. Sure, they were worried about the bomb, but how is that different from now?

This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. In honor of that, I watched the Woodstock movie for the first time this weekend. When I say this film moved me, I mean it MOVED me. I almost can't put into words how much I wish I had been alive for this. The late 60s, though decidedly different in atmosphere than the early part of the decade, are still incredibly inspiring to me. To see half a million people coming together for the love of music and the message that we can do anything as a nation...that is something I don't think we've ever felt in our lifetime. 9/11 brought a glimmer of that, but it was quickly overshadowed by blame and apathy once more.

The music of the 60s is powerful like no other time. The earnest, love, and just the feeling of hope is just amazing. Throughout the 4 hours that this movie lasted (the TV version), I was moved to tears more times than I can count on my two hands. Joe Cocker's spastic, amazing version of "A Little Help From My Friends," Joan Baez singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and talking about her husband who was in prison at the time but still confident that he would prevail. Richie Havens opening the show with just his acoustic guitar and his foot tapping out the beat. Hendrix playing the national anthem. Santana, who was apparently so strung out on mescalin that he thought the neck of his guitar was made of snakes, and still played amazingly well. And his drummer's solo....possibly the best performance of the whole weekend. The list goes on.

The audience interviews are amazing. Everyone's happy to be there, even when they are covered in mud and hungry and tired. They are all there for the experience; almost no one complains. The media tries to make it seem like it's a state of emergency, but really it's not. The government tries to send in the army, but still there is peace. Everyone's on drugs, and some people got hurt and a few unfortunately died, but overall the chaos is under control given the sheer amount of people in this field. Toward the end it seemed to unravel, but still there was so much love. For every person that freaked out because of a bad trip or just because it was overwhelming, there were 1000 people who knew it was going to be ok and just did what they need to do to help the people around them, whether that be food, emotional support or medical help. They were protesting the war through music, and boy did they make their point loud and clear. All you need is love...sometimes that really is true.

I am nothing if not passionate about music. During Santana's performance, there is a split screen of one girl in a striped shirt just standing there alone, with everyone else around her sitting, and she is just dancing like no one else is there. She doesn't have a care in the world; she doesn't need anything else. I think if I had been there, that would have been me.

Woodstock showed me the reality of a generation that felt they could do anything and used music to get their point across. Sure, it might have been the drugs talking. But kids today are on drugs too, just like my peers were when we were kids. And we've never done anything like this. We have nothing to leave behind in history that is of this magnitude. Woodstock is an amazing part of history and we'll never have anything like it again. We're too commercial now; this could never be pulled off today. It's sad, and it makes me nostalgic for a time that I never knew to begin with. Those hippies were really onto something.

Woodstock: 5 out of 5.