So this is my “first” film review in the new format. Hopefully it works better than the last one.
“Erin….” the hesitant viewer asks in a very small voice, “Wha –what about Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘bubbies?’ Actually, what are bubbies? And for God sakes, WHAT IS A SPACE HERPE?!?!”
Shhhhh dear viewer, all in good time. My seemingly irrelevant subtitle will soon make sense. Read on – starting with the most loathed movie of the week and ending with the most loved.
5. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
One of the most interesting classes I took last semester was a course in Shakespeare. Well actually the subject matter was a bit lackluster… but the teacher, now HE was a character. Anyhow, he promised the class that after our final he would show us Shakespeare in Love.
“Oh my gosh, I love that movie!” the girl next to me exclaimed. I was excited; surely then I would love this movie too.
“I just have to make sure to cover the screen when Gwyneth Paltrow’s shows her ‘bubbies,’” said the teacher. “I only call them that because that’s what they are called in the movie.”
(What did I tell you? My subtitle is totally relevant.)
We ended up not watching the film in class, but I was so revved up to watch it (for the Shakespeare, not the bubbies) that I was happy to find that I could access the movie on Netflix.
It’s not that I didn’t love the movie. It’s just that I really, really, really despise this film more than I ever thought I would.
A more fitting title of the film would be Shakespeare in Fellatio, or something just as crude. The story is about an incredibly attractive William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) who has sold the rights to his next play to multiple theatres. The only problem is that he has not written an actual play, and is waiting for the right muse to come along and inspire him. Because I guess his usual hussies just don’t do it for him anymore.
The muse comes in the form of the aristocratic Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltow) who is absolutely in love with theatre. She is so devoted to the craft that once Shakespeare begins auditions for his unfinished play, she shows up dressed as a boy in order to receive a part, as women were not allowed to act during the Elizabethan era.
Eventually Shakespeare learns that the boy is actually a beautiful woman, and the two begin a grand love affair. This is when I really started hating this movie, because this “grand affair” is based off of a silly girl being in love with a poet who is skilled with two kinds of pens, and a destitute play write who becomes infatuated with another PYT. That’s not love – that’s just stupid and shallow.
None the less, it is this affair that ignites Shakespeare’s fire to write a play, perhaps the greatest play of all time. And what is this play? Why ROMEO AND FRIGGIN’ JULIET. That play is so removed from detailing “true love,” it makes me want to slap every melodramatic preteen in the face who thinks 2 weeks is enough time to create a deep relationship.
Unfortunately, the two smitten lovers are not meant to be together, as Viola’s family has betrothed her to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) who plans to take Viola with him to the new world of Virginia.
Oh boo hoo.
I knew Paltrow had won an Oscar for her role in this movie, and I do think that she did an enchanting job at portraying a love-sick puppy, which is what Viola/Juliet essentially is. I also knew Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I won an Oscar as well, even though she was in the movie for three flashes of a minute. I have to wonder, did this utterly annoying film win any other awards?
Oh, it won Best Picture at the 71st Academy Awards? Wow… If that was the winner, I can only imagine how good the other nominees were.
4. Pitch Perfect (2012)
Every girl my age seems to love this movie. Granted, I don’t hate it as much as Shakespeare in Love, but I really do not need to see this film again. I can – and I surprisingly have – but I’d rather not.
The film is a combination between the raw girl-power found in films such as Bridemaids with a singing, “let’s do a new rendition of this popular song,” element that has made TV shows like Glee and SMASH so popular. The story centers on an all-female a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, as they try to round up new members to join the group. Many are reluctant however, as the Bellas suffered a public humiliation at the last International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella and have become a joke. A riff-raff group of girls is eventually formed, including the loner Beca (Anna Kendrick) who would rather mix different music tracks together than connect with other human beings.
The veteran members try to get the new members performance ready by having them rehearse the usual Bella repertoire of placid pop songs, which they perform at EVERY competition. Beca suggests they sing different songs, and maybe even sing two songs at the same time in lieu of the music that she creates. This idea is initially shot down – but this a predictable brand of movie. So of course the Bellas eventually follow Beca’s suggestion, and of course they win the big ol’ championship, and of course Beca gets the attractive boy (Skylar Astin) in the end.
People like this movie because of the songs because really, deep down, we all love it when rehearsed singers redo our favorite tunes. People also like this movie because of the humor, which I found to be awkward at times. Actually, I find the humor in a lot of modern comedies to be awkward. And what’s even weirder is that the films are self-aware of this awkwardness, and yet they allow the awkward jokes to exist anyway.
I have to admit I love the character of Fat Amy, played by the talented and wholly entertaining Rebel Wilson. If you watch this movie for any reason, watch it for her. She is literally genius.
3. Ice Pirates (1984)
This movie is so 1980s, it hurts. In a good way though – at least for me.
Ice Pirates is a film I knew wasn’t supposed to be good, and yet I rather enjoyed myself. It was like I was dropped into the head of an imaginative adolescent boy growing up in the 80s, who was inspired to write a sci-fi short story after watching Star Wars for the umpteenth time. (I think he might have read Dune a few times as well.) Oddly enough, this short-story transformed into a film.
I really do think a young boy would have had to conjure up this story because:
- The film pushes the viewer headfirst into a world where water is the greatest treasure, and thieves known as Ice Pirates are always trying to steal it from those that have it in order to sell it on the black market. (“Forget back story!” the little boy seems to say, “let’s get right into the action!”)
- Anything is possible in this universe, including unicorns, and toad-people, and a slave-trade system in which male prisoners are castrated before being turned into androgynous, silver-colored drones. As you can imagine, there is no explanation for any of these elements, other than “just because.”
- The sexually innuendos installed are not particularly inspired, but they do work for some good old fashioned cheap laughs. For instance, an alien creature is presented known as a Space Herpe that only exists so that there could be a herpe related joke in the film. Classy.
“So what does a space herpe look – HOLY CRAP, WHAT ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH IS THAT?” (The answer to your question.)
Speaking of sex, there is also a totally unnecessary, yet incredibly hot love scene between the leading actor and actress (Robert Urich and Mary Crosby.) Again, remember who wrote the script for this thing.I can’t hate this movie. It’s silly, but obviously a lot of effort was put into it. Like everyone involved had no idea just how much of a stinker this film was going to be, so they went full out to create a unique space opera. It reminds me of another movie I saw at my Uncle’s house years ago, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I don’t remember what it was about, but I certainly remember that is was thoroughly entertaining.
2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Surpisingly, I didn’t see a lot of Christmas movies this year. Does that make me a bad person? At least the one that I did see is one the best.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure to see the film, it tells the simple story of one man, Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase,) who just wants to have the perfect family Christmas. Lots of antics ensue that stand in the way of making this dream a reality, but like all Christmas entertainment, everything works out to create a jolly, happy ending.
Anyone can relate to something in this movie. Whether it be the stress of fitting all of your family members under one roof, finding the perfect Christmas tree, stringing the house with a bazillion lights, or the anxiety that comes with waiting for a Christmas bonus – the Griswald family Christmas could very well be a reflection of your family Christmas.
There are other, subtle nuances in the film that truly make it a master work of comedy.
Like this gem.
However my favorite part of the movie isn’t a joke or a gag, but rather a touching moment experienced by Clark. At one point in the film, Clark stumbles across some old home-movies depicting Christmases of years past. The look on his face is genuine as he becomes lost in the nostalgia and wonder of what Christmas used to be in a simpler time. I think the best Christmases are those that reside in our childhood, and as we grow older we try to recreate these “perfect” Christmases. So we get our entire family under one roof, we buy everyone lavish gifts, etc… All in hopes that in doing so, we can regain that same feeling of Christmas bliss that we once felt. But as the season draws to a close, it becomes obvious that our efforts are fruitless. You can’t just make a perfect Christmas. They happen on their own, and they become more perfect and wonderful the longer they simmer in our memories, always there for us to reflect on and enjoy.
1. The Dead (1987)
Technically this isn’t a Christmas movie, but I will always consider it one.
Last year, Christmas Eve came around the genesis of my Anjelica Huston obsession. On that night I really wanted to watch a movie she was in, so I just choose this one to rent off of iTunes. I have to say, it was one of the best choices I have ever made.
The Dead is based off of a short-story by James Joyce. It is also the last film John Huston directed before he died. The short-story itself is a wonderful read, and somehow that beauty found within the prose was translated perfectly to the screen. The story is a snapshot of an Epiphany party – a Christian feast day occurring after New Year’s – held by two elderly sisters in 1904 Dublin. Many people attend this party, including Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) and his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston.)
I have truly never seen a movie like this before, and it continues to astound and enchant me. There are so many scenes between the guests depicting the manner in which people addressed each other during those times. The dialogue was tricky to understand at first, but it was a challenge I warmly accepted. I wish I could attend a party like the one in the film – a party where ladies found partners to dance with, a party where men secluded themselves in a parlor room to have a few drinks. A party where individuals sang, played the piano, and read poetry for the entertainment of others. To me, nothing seems more romantic.
Gabriel is nervous for most of the party, for he has been asked to deliver a speech at dinner. Gabriel is presented as an awkward man, a fact I found more evident in the short-story. He is not completely socially inept, but enough so that he does not truly understand the feelings of others and how to deal with them. At one point during the party, he engages in conversation with an Irish nationalist, who accuses him of being a “West Briton,” or an Irish person who does not support his own country. In retaliation to her remarks, Gabriel tries to overcompensate during his dinner speech by praising the Irish people. He praises the individuals who have passed on that have influenced the living, but also comments that those people, along with the past, should with time be forgotten by the living so that they can move on with their lives.
The irony of his speech becomes apparent later as Gabriel prepares to leave the party. He notices his wife stop as she walks down the stairs, entranced by a song someone is singing. At first Gabriel thinks nothing of it, but as the couple travels to a hotel for the evening, Gabriel senses that his wife is distraught. At the hotel, Gretta reveals that the song she overheard is the same song a boy used to sing to her when she was a young girl. Gretta goes on to say that she was in love with the boy, who was to leave her in order to be sent to a convent far away. Before he left, the boy stood outside Gretta’s window in the pouring rain in order to say goodbye to her. He became sick after the incident, and unfortunately died. It is obvious that though the boy has long been dead, Gretta is still deeply in love with him, a fact Garbriel never knew before that night. As Gretta cries herself to sleep, Gabriel does not know how to comfort her.
You could try to console your troubled wife… Or you could look on awkwardly, that’s an option too I suppose.
Instead he looks outside the window and contemplates on his wife’s story, his speech from earlier, and the relationship between the living and the dead.
Again, I still cannot believe how seemlessly the shortstory was adapted into to film. The simple beauty of the story is captured perfectly, and all of the vignettes installed - some of which where not found in the original story – make perfect sense when place alongside each other. At times it seemed like the camera was focused on Anjelica longer than it needed to be, but you can’t blame a father for wanting to focus on his daughter. This is not an example of nepotism, but rather a sign of respect and admiration. In fact, knowing that the film stars the director’s daughter, uses a screenplay written by his son (Tony Huston,) and focuses on a subject matter that he loved deeply (Ireland and it’s people) makes the film all that more personal and sentimental.
The reason I see this as being a great Christmas movie is because the message of the story is appropriate for end of the year. (That, and it snows in the movie.) The Dead deals with making the best out of your life while you are still living, because at some point we are all going to die.
“One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and whither dismally with age.”
It is also important to make the best use of our time while we are living, because we do not know what influence we will have on others once we are gone. These are the thoughts that I like to reflect upon as the New Year approaches. This is also the type of film, which I can only describe as absolutely beautiful, that I like to watch as snow falls softly onto the world on a winter’s night.
“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all of the living and the dead.”