Sunday, December 23, 2012

Insert Pun About Christmas Here

Tradition is a word used a lot this time of the year. Obviously people have traditions during different times of the year, but Christmas is so big that it’s hard for anyone one year to just be like, “Oh, I think I’ll skip everything about Christmas this year.” It’s not like in the movies where the hard-working, non-observant parent tells the kid they won’t be home for Christmas and the squirt whines, “But it’s a traditioooonnnnn.” Even my helluva-inconsistent family keeps some things sacred in December.
For a few good years now, my family and I have had the tradition of, after Christmas Eve service at my church, getting Tomaso’s Pizza and watching a movie together. The pizza, I’m sure, is just so that my mom doesn't have to cook/put anything from the freezer in the big, hot box in the kitchen I don’t go near, but the movie is just something to keep the fam together for a little while during the most hectic season of the year.
These movies rarely have anything to do with the next day, although I’m pretty sure what we had in mind when this tradition was made is that every year it would be a Christmas movie. (But frankly, the only two holiday movies we owned would’ve gotten old very quickly). Since we usually need a consensus on the choice of movie, it can definitely take a while to choose one. (Ah, the traditional Christmas Eve pre-movie fight.)
A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (both eighties movies that my parents swore were the bee’s knees when they showed us that were really just weird, if not slightly disturbing and awkward) were included in the first few years, I think. After that we ventured out to Over the Hedge, Wall-E, and Up. This isn’t a time for hard-hitters, but it’s still nice for us to all sit together and all of that sappy shit. Also, the fact that we’re pretty much just sitting and staring at a screen drastically minimizes the chance we’ll start fighting. After the movie ends everything is free game, though. (Ah, the traditional Christmas Eve post-movie fight.)
Traditions are a pretty awesome thing. They let us reflect on the good times we’ve had and, for all of you obsessive-compulsives out there, set up a pattern that shouldn’t be messed with. Otherwise you get things like silver Christmas trees, which are just a crime against nature.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Only a Last Resort

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live as equals with walking, talking bears? Well then maybe you should reassess your goals, because I, for one, have always and had a glimpse into what this life would be like when I watched Disney's The Country Bears.
I had seen it before, a few times actually, when I was younger. Even then I knew that it was an absolutely ridiculous movie. I mean, it's just Earth, but with some very evolved bears that are just like humans. Like humans, they speak the native language, wear clothes (except for pants, sometimes), and start bands.
The movie starts out with Beary, a young bear questioning his place in his family full of humans. For some reason he leaves without notice to go and see his the sight of his favorite band's, The Country Bears, last performance at Country Bear Hall. Beary finds out that the hall is about to be demolished, so he sets out again to get the band back together with hopes that they can play and save the building.
Being the first time I've watched it I-don't-know-how-many years, I was actually pretty surprised at how much it wasn't completely eye-gougingly bad (except for the music. That was still awful beyond belief). Even though TCB is rated-G, that didn't stop anyone from writing in jokes like how one of the bears “never got off the honey”, which I enjoyed. I think that the epic-ridiculousness of it added to the humor.
And okay, yeah, it's not a “thinker” like Inception or V for Vendetta, but you have to get past the fact that this so simple and filled with politically-incorrect bears who live like humans (now that I think about it, it's super disturbing. I mean, bears are still mauling people today and this movie just shows them living together. It's not a nice thought or hope for the future; it's just creepy) and just watch it. Or don't. I'm definitely not recommending anyone to watch this, because you'll probably end up coming to my house with armfuls of rotten tomatoes.
So maybe you shouldn't watch The Country Bears. And maybe you shouldn't show your kids because it's pretty freaky and possibly scarring. But if you ever just don't have any plans on a Friday night (as I often don't), don't spend it crying yourself to sleep; go ahead and watch the movie and you'll feel better about your life immediately because it's bound to be better than the writers' after The Country Bears came out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mom, you watched that last week...

In my basement there's a shelf stacked with dozens and dozens of movies that cover every genre and star almost every known actor and actress in Hollywood. Yet whenever my mom wants to watch a movie during the weekend, she pretty much always chooses the same two: The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Mummy (1999).
I get it; we all have our favorite movies. But isn't there a point (possibly somewhere between the sixth and seventh rewatch in a year) when we just get sick of the same movie over and over? I mean, hell yes, I love Blood Diamond, but if I watched it more than once or twice a year I think I would just get sick of it. Seeing Elf even once a year is bordering on too much. My mom seems to have some immunity to this, though.
I interviewed her to try to find out what was up.

As it turns out, I'm an awful interviewer. Not only was I unprepared to the point where I kept repeating the same question over and over in different ways, hoping something new would come up, but I also didn't figure anything new out.
Pretty much the reason my mom watches The Mummy and The Mask of Zorro so often is because, “They're exciting...I like Antonio Banderas”. (Ummm, who doesn't?)
I asked her why she bought each movie in the first place. “I bought [The Mask of Zorro] because it was cheap. It's got...historical fiction and it's funny and there's romance it in and action and adventure.”
When asked what her favorite thing about The Mummy was, she said “the mummies”. (How fascinating!)
My mom claimed that she actually doesn't watch Zorro that often, which I totally don't believe. I've only watched it with her half of the times she has and I can recognize the soundtrack from a different room. (Okay, maybe I've seen the movie a few too many times.) She said her favorite movie was more along the lines of Ever After. (All right, that's a pretty good one she watches a lot, but it's way too far into this post to add it in.)

So whether it's just an immunity to getting tired of the same movie over and over or maybe just my mom getting too old to remember what the movies are about, I didn't figure a lot out. As she said, “You suck at this for sure.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2014 in Film

Are they really making
Another Godzilla?
Something called
What’s the deal with robots?
All You Need is Kill
I won’t be seeing.

Some epic sequels
Will make their way out.
Mockingjay Part 1,
Transformers 4
(Thought unnecessary by all),
How to Train Your Dragon 2,
And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,
Which I just might see.

Marvel can expect billions
With their four new movies:
X-Men: Days of Future Past,
The Amazing Spider-Man 2,
Guardians of the Galaxy,
And Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
All these men?
Oh Lord, I’ll see.

(Blogger’s note: It’s called po-I-needed-a-really-short-post-etry.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And You Thought Spending Time with Relatives Was Bad

Less than two weeks until Christmas!
Along with the presents, the cookies, the carols, and the poker (oh, wait. Is that just with my family?), come another tradition of the holiday season. It’s about two weeks into December, so naturally the awfully stereotypical, made-for-television Christmas movies have begun to trickle onto the weekend line-up.
Usually theater-released Christmas movies (aka real movies) are legends. They survive the test of time to be rewatched again and again by people like me. It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Elf are just a few of the many that find themselves being played over and over by people, young and old, wanting to relive the ghost of memories past.
Unfortunately this epidemic of TV movies is hard to escape, and this year I sat myself down on the couch and decided to actually watch one.
It’s called The Mistle-Tones, about an a capella group competing for a spot to sing at a holiday show at the local mall. Amongst other groups, their main competitors are the Snow Belles (must every a capella group’s name be a pun? No, really. Is this some unspoken rule you learn when you start one?), led by the straight-up bitch Marci (Tori Spelling), who has it out for the completely good, angel-voiced Holly (Tia Mowry).
Holly has to put together an awesome arrangement for her group (of coworkers: her possibly-gay, wise-cracking male friend, the over-weight, supposedly-straight male acquaintance, the pretty-but-completely-timid HR rep who has to stick her nose in everything, and the uptight-at-first, karaoke-loving boss). The Snow Belles consist of supposedly pretty, pick jumpsuit-wearing, perky middle-aged women, not unlike their leader.
For a full plot description just add “predictable” before every noun.
The Mistle-Tones not only lacks originality, but also subtlety. From the beginning of the groups’ formation, it’s obvious the Mistle-Tones are having tons of fun practicing in comparison to the strictly-run Snow Belles. The romance between Holly and her boss was written from the beginning when he was still completely business and also somewhat of an asshole.
It’s one of those movies which you can guess what happens before it does; I feel like I’ve seen the movie dozens of times before. Even Spelling agreed that The Mistle-Tones is just a baby of two movie parents. And I paraphrase: “It's a combination of Mean Girls and Glee” [said in an interview with E! News]. I mean, these two things have each been spun in so many directions so many times because people think it’ll give their movie/TV show a freaking edge. Instead all it does is make me slightly nauseous and wish I was surrounded by my relatives as they ogled over how much I've grown.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tips on Living a Short Life

Movie theaters have dozens of things wrong with them. The tickets and food are effing pricy, the floors are sticky, the bathrooms smell awful, et cetera, but those can be ignored. What can't be ignored is the annoying person next to you in the theater commenting on every little thing or the person three rows down with the crying baby. Those are just movie killers. And more times than none it’ll get you dirty glares and angry whispers from all around. And maybe some death-plotting from the more serious movie-goers.
Most of the time I just want to watch a movie in perfect quiet. My mom, however, seems to have a need to comment on the littlest of things during a movie. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 had come out on DVD, my family immediately bought it and made a movie night out of it (of course, only my mom, sister, and I were watching). Even though we had all seen the movie already, my sister and I watched it like it was our first time: fully engrossed with that glazed-over stare you can only get when two emotionally unstable teenage girls watch a movie about wizards defeating a dark lord with no nose. My mom almost completely ruined the night for us, though, with her, “This is my favorite part!” and “Oh, he is just perfect for this role” and “Actually this is my favorite part. Hmmm, no it’s probably tied with the scene where-”. Karalee and I were nice about it at first. She told our mother politely that, “We’d really just like to watch this movie without talking.” That didn’t work. Then, near the end right before Snape died, my mom decided it was the perfect time to put a load of laundry into the dryer, which also meant, unspokenly, that she would also be checking her email, Facebook, and Karalee and I refused to pause the movie (Rebel! Rebel!), which gained us the last twenty minutes in perfect, tear-filled silence.
Then, when I went to go see Skyfall with my mother, even though I had already seen it, I still wanted to just sit and watch. We didn't get through the first scene before she had gasped and “oh no”-ed when James Bond had gotten shot and fell off of a bridge (it’s in the freaking trailer, woman). It’s one of those things people do sometimes: they say something just to be heard saying it. “Oh no” is almost never a reflex like jumping during a scary movie or laughing when someone makes a joke. It was unnecessary, like when Bond was walking through an abandoned underground train station and she said, “I don’t want to watch. This is too scary.”
There are other ways to be freaking annoying at the movie theater than just talking. For example, when I went to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, someone had apparently thought it a good idea to bring their infant along with. I don't know if they couldn't get a babysitter or what, but when it started crying just during the title credits I didn't care. I wanted that baby out.
Another way to get pissy people like me to glare at you in a movie theater is to be super loud with that very expensive candy you just bought. Listen, there are ads before the movie for a reason: it's so that you can open up your Reese's Pieces then as opposed to while Jesus is being crucified in The Passion of the Christ, which is actually a true and very unfortunate story.
I mean, of course you can totally avoid all of these things. You could smuggle in your own, cheap drink and candy into the theater; you could just hold your pee until you get home; you could even go to the theater at such an obscure time by yourself that no one would be around to talk to you/cry/have problems opening a plastic bag/all of the above. Or, you know, you could just wait a few months and rent the thing for a few bucks.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Something for Which to Be Thankful

(Blogger's note: Yeah, I know Thanksgiving was weeks ago so the whole “being thankful” post is a little late. Whatevs.)

This past year I've been borrowing movies that I don't own/wouldn't be allowed to watch if I did/are super badass/all of the above from a friend. Earlier this year it was Boondock Saints, then I forced him to lend me Casino Royale after I saw (and became obsessed with) Skyfall, and just a few weeks ago, V for Vendetta.
Of course this was a little after all of the “Remember, remember the fifth of November” posts on Facebook that I was so damn confused about and wanted some clarification on. I got the movie and watched it over Thanksgiving break.
V for Vendetta may be more popular now than it was during its release in 2005. I had heard about Natalie Portman getting her head shaved for the movie before I knew what “the movie” was. Then there are the annual Facebook posts on November the fifth and those slightly unsettling Guy Fawkes masks.
I love movies like Vendetta. Movies in which you're totally engrossed throughout and, even when, for a split second, you think the main character's love interest was her dad, you still never doubt the ending won't kick ass. Yes, these.
Even when V, the mysterious, disfigured, always-masked hero does something completely unthinkable to Evey (Portman) (aka pretending to be a part of the secret police and kidnap and torture her for information about V and eventually shaves her head and then lets her go when she says that she would rather die than give up V; Evey walks out of the prison utterly confused and into V's lair, which she immediately recognizes since she's been there before and V's there just like, “Omg, girlfriend. Congrats, you passed the test. Your fears are gooonnneee!”), it was still a killer movie.
V for Vendetta and movies like it are little gems found in today's giant crap-hole of movies filled with typical romantic comedies and so-called “feel-good” movies that are about as deep as a kiddy pool and just as much full of piss. They're the ones worth blogging about the most. They're the ones for which I'm thankful.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's James Bond, Yo

You know the man in the perfectly-tailored suit, the catchphrases, the gadgets, the lady-loving, and the ass-kicking. It’s one of the most classic movie franchises, fifty years in the making. It’s James Bond.
During the weekend before finals I was super-stressed. Instead of treating the disease and actually studying, I treated the symptoms and decided to relax by watching a movie. I had plans to see the new movie, Skyfall, with a few friends later that weekend, so I thought it appropriate to go into my handy dandy DVR and watch Goldfinger, the third James Bond movie.
By the time the weekend was over, I was perfectly obsessed (the only kind I can be). I convinced my mom to see it and also pay for my ticket.
You almost can’t put Goldfinger and Skyfall in the same category. Yeah, they’re both Bond films, but time and money are huge advantages that the latter has over the earlier films in the franchise. In Skyfall, the budget was estimated at 175 million, probably spent on the dozens of fight scenes, CGI use, and a top-of-the-line tech crew. Goldfinger, however, only cost about three million. The most complex fight scenes here, though, were when Bond would kick the air and a bad guy would end up on the ground. The mastering of technology gave Craig’s Bond a lot more potential in the ass-kicking department/category.
Over the course of fifty years, though, James Bond is the same character. It’s hard to think that this is the same guy despite looking, acting, and speaking completely differently than before. I mean, the basics are the same; Bond is a handsome, always calm and collected ladies’ man. Skyfall, however, goes into his past as an orphan and makes him seem more human, even as he chases criminals on rooftops driving a motorcycle and crashes through the window of an indoor market to land perfectly up-right and continue the chase. (He’s just a normal guy, you know?)
Who knows when the James Bond franchise will end? Daniel Craig has signed up for two more films after his latest success and I'm sure there will be hundreds of handsome men who are able to say, “Shaken, not stirred” that'll be more than willing to take his place when he's done. (But now that I think about it, isn't the world supposed to end in like, fifteen days? I guess Bond will be over sooner than I thought.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sexy Spandex Syndrome

Up until a few months ago, I didn't really go to the theater to see movies unless my mom took and paid for me. This is slightly because my friends and I had only been driving for a little bit, but mostly because I was dirt poor and movie tickets are so Goddamn expensive these days.
This summer especially, I started seeing a bunch of superhero movies. When I was younger, action films didn't really interest me. Recently I started thinking, “Well, why, all of the sudden, have I started liking these violent movies about orphans who fight crime in spandex?” Then it hit me: these aren't just orphans in spandex, these are orphans who grow up to be sexy men in spandex. It's really quite simple, no? It's like some sort of...Sexy Spandex Syndrome.
I think it started somewhere around May of this year. My sister (whom had already been hit by Sexy Spandex Syndrome) went to see The Avengers with her friends. She was so horned-up about it that she convinced my dad to take her to see it again. I was also invited. At first I didn't want to go. It was a Friday night in which my house was completely empty; I didn't want to go outside and maybe have to interact with people. Gross.
Somehow I still ended up in a crowded movie theater, though, and had to sit next to a girl I go to church with and make awkward small-talk with her (this is what happens when you leave your room).
Not only was The Avengers full of attractive men, though, it was really funny and had some sort of a plot. I think that the latter surprised me the most. I had always thought that superhero movies were always guy-saves-girl-and-defeats-villain; cookie-cutter. I guess at some point in this last decade or so, these movies have actually had to develop plots to swim in the industry.
Anyway, that one night at the theater would soon cause me to spend fifty dollars and countless hours (actually like, fifteen) of the next few months in a dark room, fawning over these crime-fighting, significant glance-giving heroes. I started to watch older superhero films, too. Thor and Captain America followed by the lesser-received Fantastic Four and it's even worse sequel.
I even went back to certain movies twice, not being sure I was doing it because of the plots I found myself engrossed in or the sexy men I also found myself engrossed in. I guess some people just go to superhero films because they're huge Marvel fans or something. It sort of looks like this:

Interest in actual plot + Interest in attractive men in movie = Overall movie-going experience

Where a higher number means that you find yourself enjoying the movie more. In the equation, people with Sexy Spandex Syndrome who also find themselves liking the plot are more likely to enjoy the movie more than someone who has interest in just one of the variables.
There's an equation. It's math. It makes sense no matter what you say.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Those Damn Yankees (and I Don't Mean the Baseball Team)

When I was in seventh grade, my Social Studies teacher set up a simulation in our class, dividing us into the North and South armies as we learned about the Civil War. I've mentioned before that I was put in charge of the South thereby making me General Robert E. Lee (or so my character card said). I was pretty stoked about the whole thing.
As the weeks went on, though, I found myself saying things like, “Lincoln will rue the day he emancipated that proclamation!” and “I will lead the South to victory!”. In my farewell speech, even (which I wish the teacher would've let me read to the class), I said that it was an honor serving for my country for such a noble cause.
It's not that I felt that I was getting too far into character, but I was saying things that sort of went against everything I've been taught, mostly that the South was doing all evil during this time and the North was just trying to help.
I didn't really think a lot about after that, but my team did defeat the North in the end. It wasn't until I was in ninth grade and read Gone with the Wind, that I got a deeper insight into the South during the Civil War.

The story follows Scarlett O' Hara, the beautiful, charming, slightly crazy daughter of Gerald and Ellen. In the beginning, she tries to court Ashley (apparently a boy's name at the time) and kind of snaps when he instead marries his cousin, Melanie. Scarlett is driven to marry someone she doesn't love to get back at him, and when he dies in the war, she marries again, all while managing to scowl at the deliriously handsome Rhett Bulter, running a business, and birthing two children.
There's a lot more plot, too, in the thousand-page-long book, but what really interested me about it was, like I said, the other side of the story of the war. Those-damn-Yankees-stole-our-chickens-and-burned-our-farms-and-are-real-assholes side of the story.
It was something they'd never teach in school (even at the book's release in 1936, I'm sure some people refused to call it historical fiction). Not to say that our curriculum is incorrect or completely biased, we just like the story that the holy North was able to defeat the slave-driving South with their heads held high.

After reading GwtW, I borrowed the 1939 movie from my grandparents. When it was originally shown in theaters, they had to have an intermission because IT'S FOUR HOURS LONG. Yes. (This is why Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two movies, people.) And if you're thinking that they couldn't possibly work one thousand pages of love, hate, war, rebuilding, marriage, birth, death, crying, and drinking (did I mention Scarlett liked her whiskey?) in even four hours, you're right. The movie just couldn't recreate the daring story, no matter how pretty their Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) or mustached their Rhett (Clark Gable) were. (I also could totally not get over the fact that the guy who played Ashley had the biggest forehead I have ever seen and in no way would be considered attractive by any woman with dozens of other men courting her. I expected more of a Gabriel Aubry, pre-Thanksgiving, type.)

Those years were pretty big for me. Not only did I learn how to control my mane of hair, but also two very different sides to an important story in American history. And you know what? I will never be as proud of myself as the day my troops defeated Grant at Appomattox.

[Bloggers note: So this isn't exactly true, but it seemed like a good ending, am I right?]