Category Archives: Movies

tl;dw: Movies I Couldn’t Be Bothered to Finish in 2012

The best thing about streaming movies is that there’s no sunk costs. I don’t have to sit there and suffer through another sequel, another superhero, another indie misanthrope just to justify the $8 I’ve already spent. Ever since I started watching movies on my laptop, I start more than I used to, but my completion rate is down to like 50 percent. Now that I have a smartphone, a second screen to distract me, it’s pushing 25.

Anyway, here’s 12 movies I watched this year that failed to be more interesting than whatever I found an alt+tab away.

  • John Carter: After watching this for 20 minutes I stopped to do an image search for ‘taylor kitsch rippling shirtless’ and never unpaused.
  • We Bought a Zoo: So the title’s not a metaphor? It’s, like, the actual premise for the movie? Oh yeah fuck this.
  • Friends With Kids: We know you’re a playwright, OK, now can every line of dialogue stop telling us that?
  • The Hunger Games: I told everyone I know, like ‘It may not be High Art, but it’s a genuine cultural phenomenon, we have the obligation to see it.’ Like all intellectual pledges I made this year, this required a longer attention span than I possess, and I turned it off to read articles about it 25 minutes in.
  • We Need to Talk about Kevin: After Tilda’s third metaphor-rich juxtaposition with her environment, I figured my time would be better spent experiencing mine.
  • Your Sister’s Sister: I made it like 90 minutes in, and I was all proud of myself for concentrating on nutritious, prestigious Cinema, then the third-act twist was so bonkers and implausible that I shut down my Macbook and set it on fire.
  • Shut Up and Play the Hits: Love this movie and love this band so much that I turned it off to go dancing at Berghain after 25 minutes.
  • Shame: If I wanted to watch hot guys go jogging, I’d go hang out in Tiergarten. Oh wait, that would be more interesting than this, seeya.
  • This Means War: Five minutes went by before my middle school social studies teacher, in my head, went ‘Is this how you want to live your life?’ and I returned to watching cooking videos on YouTube.
  • Brave: This hurts. Pixar’s been good to us, as a society, and we owe it our attention and our allegiance. Still, halfway in, I wasn’t seeing anything I haven’t seen before. Sorry little hopping lamp, I let you down on this one.
  • Twilight: Is this a TV movie? Why does everyone look like they have the flu?
  • The Campaign: I love it when dick-joke comedies spend the last 30 minutes trying to convince me of the wrongness of their villains’ political opinions.    

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Star Wars Episode VII Might Be Hella Good!

I’m sure we’re supposed to be all ‘argh my childhood’ about Disney buying Lucasfilm and making another batch of Star Wars movies, but I think they have at least the potential to be really great. If anything, I wish this had happened in, ooooh I dunno, 1998.

Movie concepts don’t really matter; it’s all in the execution. Imagine if they got Christopher Nolan to direct it, or Peter Jackson, or James Cameron.

Or Terrence Malick! OK, just kidding. But still, the Star Wars universe is literally endless, and Disney has a blank slate to work with.

Remember how when ‘Titanic’ was announced, everyone acted like it was such a bad idea? ‘Spoiler alert: The boat sinks!’ the late-night hosts cracked. But then the trailer came out and everyone got sort of excited. And then the movie came out and everyone just went bonkers and it won every award and seeing it in the theater became a prerequisite to get a learner’s permit or whatever.

See? Execution. There’s no reason to believe the new Star Wars movie will necessarily be terrific, but there’s no reason it has to suck either. With the right director and a script without too many ‘ands’ in the credits, Disney might actually pull this off.

Besides, even if it all goes wrong, Disney can just tinker with it and release it again. That’s worked so far.

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Share A Like

This is reposted from The Specifics Hardly Matter, the movies blog I have with my friend Dave.

So as you probably know from my Facebook wall, the last few weeks I’ve been totally obsessed with this album:

Like most music I like, I’m not going to make the argument that Rye Rye’s mixtape is objectively good. It just happens to hit a lot of my personal preferences: It’s loud, fast, cacophonous and utterly unserious. I like music that sets a tone, regardless of what it is, and Rye Rye makes whatever I’m doing feel shabby and frantic.

You know I have really weird taste in music, and that I don’t really defend my favorite bands on objective grounds. Fuck Buttons and Dan Deacon, for example, which I listen to by myself more than almost anything else, are banished from my ‘houseparty’ and ‘friends for dinner’ playlists. And stuff that’s palatable for when I have people over–Crystal Castles, Rihanna, Bon Iver–are usually bands I like but don’t love.

For some reason I think of music as an almost exclusively subjective taste. I’m not going to bother defending, say, Low Limit because I basically agree with the objective criticism that it’s overlong, stressful and contains an aura of ASBO-teen violence. I sort of like my music to be all those things, so I’m not going to argue that they aren’t true.

For some reason I feel almost exactly the opposite about movies. There’s still a subjective component, but it’s vastly overshadowed by objective characteristics like story structure, ‘invisible’ acting and coherent direction. I don’t know why this is, but I feel like lots of movies are seriously hella shitty, and I’m willing to defend my opinion in a way I wouldn’t be if they were songs.

And then there’s books. I feel like literature is on the extreme ‘objective’ end of the scale, especially in the public consciousness. There are novels that you are supposed to read, no matter what your personal or aesthetic preferences. Books get described as ‘classics’—an objective, not subjective, term—much more often than music or movies. You’re sort of contractually obligated as an educated citizen of a liberal democracy to appreciate, if not love, books like Moby Dick and Catcher in the Rye. Defending your argument about those works by saying something like ‘I prefer stories where the good guys win’ or ‘I’d rather have a story in the third person’ would mark you as a philistine.

I don’t know if I’m arguing for more subjective criteria in books, or more objective criteria in music. Or anything at all, actually. I’m just increasingly aware that my mind cleaves the world into two categories: Things I like, and things that are good. And the more confident I am in the former, the less I worry about the latter.

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Reversal of ‘Bortion

So last night I watched 12th & Delaware, an HBO documentary on abortion from last year. It’s good in a predictable sort of way. I don’t think I learned anything about the principles behind the abortion debate, but I picked up a few things about the logistics.

I spent most of the movie thinking about Lake of Fire – another, slightly more interesting, abortion documentary I watched on YouTube a few months ago. The point from that movie that’s stuck with me is that the arguments for and against abortion aren’t really about abortion at all. Abortion just the vessel into which everyone – the hippies, the Christians, the women’s-libbers, the doomsdayers, whatever – put their calcified ideologies and preconceptions.

Watching 12th and Delaware it kept striking me that abortion could easily have gone to the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. I can imagine a world in which right-wingers were adamantly pro-choice. A small-government ideology is completely in sync with advocating for more access to abortion. ‘I don’t want the government telling me what to do with my body!’ is the kind of statement the Tea Party would support to the ends of the Earth–just not to the uterus.

Similarly, there’s nothing internally contradictory about left-wingers being pro-life. You can draw a straight line from supporting human rights, to banning the death penalty, to opposing abortion. If life and human dignity are worth preserving, why stop at the birth canal?

I want to watch a movie that tells me how abortion got here. Why is it one of the few social issues on which it’s impossible to be agnostic?  Watching 12th and Delaware (and Lake of Fire, for that matter), I can’t help but find pro-life and pro-choice activists equally distasteful. Shining light on a shadow doesn’t make it easier to see.

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The least essential movie of the year

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I struggled through Greenberg last night, and the whole time I kept thinking ‘does the world really need this?’ Another unlikeable protagonist. Another stop-start romance. Another unresolved ending.

It’s not that it was bad, really. The dialogue was precise. The acting was realistic. Every scene went on precisely as long as it should have.

But what was the point? Baumbach has shown us all of this before. People who are unpleasant often hate themselves for being unpleasant. Yes, Noah, we have absorbed this now.

As I find myself watching fewer and fewer movies, I’m becoming convinced that filmmakers should approach each  movie like it’s a scientific publication. ‘What am I adding to the literature’, they should ask. I feel like this is one thing that action movie directors, for one, do really well. ‘What if the dinosaur terrorizing the city was bigger?’ they ask. Or, ‘What if the vampires could come out during the day?’

Sure, action movies are always playing the same tune, but at least they’re using different instruments. Movies like Greenberg are just lipsyncing.

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