Tags: movies

a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

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I saw some movies this weekend I had never seen before! One with [personal profile] jinian and one with [personal profile] shoroko and one with both. None of them were made more recently than fifty years ago.

Double Indemnity: This is the quintessential film noir. I'm reading a book about noir now and it keeps trying to describe it as a movie about a stone-cold murderess and the weak-willed man she leads astray and I don't think that is true. It's a movie about how two people who probably wouldn't have committed murder individually meet at the right time and sort of push each other into committing murder together. Barbara Stanwyck, Bored and Bewigged Femme Fatale Housewife, is doing it because she's miserable in her marriage and would like some money, and Fred MacMurray, Bored Sleazy Insurance Agent, is doing it because he's having some kind of intense personal one-sided competition with Edward G. Robinson, Super Insurance-Fraud Catching Insurance Agent.

Fred MacMurray is way more intense about Edward G. Robinson than he is about Barbara Stanwyck, by the way. I don't necessarily mean that in a romantic way (although I was willing to bet money that at least one Yuletide fic existed and I was right), but then again, the movie literally does end with Fred MacMurray's tragic declaration of love for Edward G. Robinson, so. And, I mean, Edward G. Robinson is pretty adorable in this film. The biggest surprise for me in this movie was that Super Insurance-Fraud Catching Insurance Agent Edward G. Robinson was so adorable. The second biggest surprise was that the movie is (intentionally) hilarious. The dialogue is so good! Also, I want to read a really good making-of book about Double Indemnity and I don't think it exists.

Stella Maris: This is a silent film in which Mary Pickford plays a cheerful paralyzed upper-class orphan with the WORST GUARDIANS EVER.

STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: Because our niece can't walk, let's keep her happy by not letting anybody tell her about anything depressing! Ever! The only things allowed in Stella Maris' room are bunnies, kittens, puppies, and her hot gentlemanly cousin whom she adores.
GENTLEMANLY COUSIN: So I guess I'm not allowed to tell Stella Maris about my alcoholic and abusive wife.
STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: Absolutely not. Did you not see the list of allowed topics? Kittens. Bunnies. Puppies. THAT'S IT.

STELLA MARIS: I can walk now!
STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: Wonderful!
BEGGARS, SOLDIERS, SAD PEOPLE: HI STELLA MARIS GUESS WHAT WE EXIST
STELLA MARIS: ...
STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: ...
STELLA MARIS: So, everything I know about the world is a lie? Everything I know about the world is a lie. Wonderful. Thank god I have a hot gentlemanly cousin whose honesty I can believe in. Kiss me, hot gentlemanly cousin!
GENTLEMANLY COUSIN: ...

GENTLEMANLY COUSIN: So, uh, Stella Maris pretty much expects me to propose any second, so I'm thinking it's time I tell her about my wife.
STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: ABSOLUTELY NOT. It will break her poor dear little heart if you tell her that you're married. She must NEVER KNOW about your wife.
GENTLEMANLY COUSIN: .... then ... should I not come by any more?
STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: Of course not! It would break her poor dear little heart if you stopped coming. You must NEVER STOP COMING.
GENTLEMANLY COUSIN: ... but ...
STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: Secret wives are no big deal! Come on, man, didn't you ever read Jane Eyre?
GENTLEMANLY COUSIN: ....

STELLA MARIS: Gentlemanly cousin, I went to your house to PLAN OUR WEDDING and I met your WIFE and I have LOST MY FAITH IN THE WHOLE WORLD.
STELLA MARIS' GUARDIANS: In retrospect, we should have seen this coming.

So aside from playing Stella Maris, Mary Pickford also plays Unity, a tragic and plucky orphan who gets abused by Gentlemanly Cousin's Evil Wife while Gentlemanly Cousin is off hanging out with Stella Maris. Gentlemanly Cousin adopts her in a fit of guilt, and Unity promptly falls in love with him, which we all know is not going to work out well because a.) she is the Eponine to Stella Maris' Cosette and b.) legally he is her dad and c.) HE STILL HAS AN ACTUAL EVIL WIFE.

This is all melodrama to the max, but we still were not expecting it to end in so much murder. However, Mary Pickford does do an amazing job in the double role, and the cameramen also do an amazing job filming a double role with 1917 technology. Plus there is a genuinely hilarious subplot with a dog!

Touch of Evil: The message of this film noir about a Mexican border cop fighting the corrupt American police force would be a lot more convincing if the noble Mexican border cop was not played by CHARLTON HESTON IN BROWNFACE.

...I thought I had more to say about this movie but I keep just coming back to CHARLTON HESTON.

I feel like reading a better book about film noir than I'm currently reading, if anyone has recs for good books about film noir.

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

On Christmas Eve I went to a Barbara Stanwyck double feature with [personal profile] shoroko and some of my grad school friends, consisting of Christmas in Connecticut and The Lady Eve, neither of which I'd ever seen before.

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. . . I meant just to talk about those movies, but while I'm here I may as well talk a bit about other film viewing experiences I've had recently, too, since there have been an unusual number of them:

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Oh! Last but not least, I also saw Bedknobs and Broomsticks again, with [personal profile] genarti and [personal profile] rymenhild and Rym's partner. IT'S STILL ONE HUNDRED PERCENT GREAT.

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

For the nineteenth, [personal profile] coyotegoth asked me about three favorite cracktastic movies!

As usual, this is not at all my three favorite for ALWAYS, just three favorites I happen to be thinking about at the time.

One of those will obviously be Dororo, which I am still charmed by a year after [personal profile] shati first made me watch it. Giant cuddly ghost fetuses! Children with fake limbs made from dead babies! A team-bonding demon-fighting montage set to wacky salsa music! DORORO. What a great film.

Another very weird movie that I love very much is Alex Cox's The Revenger's Tragedy, which someday I will get the time and energy to do a full picspam of.

For now, what you need to know: The Revenger's Tragedy is an adaptation of an extremely gory Jacobean tragedy, set in post-apocalyptic Liverpool, using all of Thomas Middleton's original period dialogue except in very important and dramatic instances such as when angry Liverpudlians set on Christopher Eccleston while screaming "ARE YOU A COCKNEY?" Christopher Eccleston defeats them, of course, and then wanders off to talk to his dead girlfriend's skull for the rest of the movie. Later, Derek Jacobi makes out with the skull and then his face rots off while Christopher Eccleston and his knife-throwing sister hyuck it up because it's the funniest thing they've ever seen.

Wow, how do I describe The Revenger's Tragedy? It's kind of like if Baz Lurhmann's Romeo and Juliet had a baby with the Gormenghast chronicles. And then that baby grew up to be a dedicated Christopher Eccleston/Eddie Izzard hateshipper. It's (intentionally) hilarious, it's (intentionally) gruesome and horrifying, it's (unintentionally, I think?) trapped in a bog of its own symbolism (PRINCESS DIANA!!!!), it's at times completely incomprehensible, IT'S AMAZING. I love it to pieces. I had to read a synopsis after the fact to figure out why all the Liverpudlians were so angry, because this is never explained.

And now, for something completely different: another super weird movie that I super love, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, aka the film that's basically MARY POPPINS FIGHTS NAZIS.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a classic and, for those of you unfamiliar, its plot goes as such:

1. Angela Lansbury is a prim spinster witch in a small town during WWII who gets stuck with three plucky refugees. In short order, she turns at least one of them into a rabbit.
2. Then she hooks up with the dad from Mary Poppins. He attempts to turn her into his lovely assistant, and instead she turns him into a rabbit.
3. Then, EVIL GANGSTERS
4. Then they all go to a land of cartoon animals where the dad from Mary Poppins referees a football game between some lions and giraffes
5. Then they go home, and Angela Lansbury and the kids bring their clothes to life and Angela Lansbury's nightgown goes on a rampage and beats everybody up
6. Then, NAZIS
7. In a surprising plot twist, the dad from Mary Poppins turns HIMSELF into a rabbit
8. Angela Lansbury leads an army of empty suits of armor from atop a broomstick and chases the Nazis away from Britain
9. GENERAL REJOICING

I have lost count of the times I have watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks in my life. Do I ever get tired of watching Angela Lansbury primly defeat every Nazi in a spinster sweater-vest? NO I DO NOT. Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the one film that makes me forget about my rule about watching films with Nazis in on Christmas.

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

So I went over to [personal profile] shoroko's to watch the new episode of Korra tonight with her and her friend S, and while I was there we somehow ended up staying up way too late watching The Great Gatsby, which I have been SUPER WANTING TO SEE ever since I found out that a.) Baz Luhrmann was directing it and b.) the soundtrack was going to feature Jay-Z.

Surprising no one, The Great Gatsby rapidly proved itself to be somewhat disappointing to each of us, albeit for different reasons.

BECCA: I feel like Baz Luhrmann is not really committing here. This film is NOT FABULOUS ENOUGH. Like, let's be honest: for the full Baz Luhrmann experience, this should be a musical. THEY SHOULD ALL BE SINGING SAD HIP-HOP.
S: I think that if they were going to use all modern songs, they might as well have just done a modern Gatsby anyway.
BECCA: No, impossible, then how would Baz Lurhmann get to have all the sparkly flapper dresses and cloche hats?
[personal profile] shoroko: It could be a retro-future Gatsby where they all dress like it's the twenties!
BECCA: . . . only if it then turns out Gatsby's big secret about his past is that he's SECRETLY A ROBOT pretending to be human!
[personal profile] shoroko: Programmed to say "old sport" at the end of every sentence!
BECCA: PARTYBOT 3000!

Spoiler: movie turns out to be a lot better when you just make the assumption that Gatsby is secretly a robot. (Although it is still not . . . at all good. For the record.)

Anyway, now the most important question is, who is going to either a.) write me retro-future Great Gatsby fic featuring Partybot Gatsby, or b.) nominate The Great Gatsby for Yuletide so [personal profile] shoroko can request the world to write her retro-future Great Gatsby fic featuring Partybot Gatsby???

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

This is a post about action movies.

So last week I saw Red 2, which was a perfectly enjoyable movie as action movies go; I mean, I'm never going to complain about watching Helen Mirren saunter around being THE MOST fabulous spy because that is basically candy for my brain and eyes.

But I did spend a lot of that movie thinking: "Gosh, there are a lot of random people killed in this movie. Like, a LOT of dead people that nobody cares about, and that we, the audience are not really expected to care about. Like, wow, A LOT A LOT."

I had a conversation about this with my friends afterwards, and their consensus was pretty much, "Well, yes, and not that it's not a problem, but that's the genre; that's what action movies DO, they generate a lot of bodies for the factor of cool."

And I feel like this isn't necessarily true, but I also haven't seen enough pure action movies to generate a ton of counter-examples. The best one I can think of is a bit from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which is not an action movie but a television show, and one that in many ways is subverting a lot of the tropes of the genre it grows out of. So in T:SCC there is an episode in which Catherine Weaver, Badass Terminator, basically just wanders through a building killing everyone in sight with her shiny metal Terminator arms. It's a very, very action-tastic sequence, and it is, let's be real, a pretty cool sequence. And then comes the next episode: as the director says, "if you enjoy watching Weaver slaughter thirty people in one episode you're obligated to go to their funeral in the next."

So that's stuck with me. And I sort of feel that's more how things should be; that the death even of a bunch of extras is something that one ought to care about, at least a little.

Anyway, I've been thinking about it and now I'm tossing the question back out to you guys: what do you think? Is a high body count and a low consequence factor just inherently part and parcel of the action movie experience? Is it something that bothers you, or depending on circumstance, or not at all?

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

So now that I've seen it twice, because yes, I am that ridiculous, let's talk about the Les Miserables movie!

I cannot actually talk to its quality, because as soon as I sat down in the theater I immediately lost ten years of wisdom, cynicism and general life experience and became once again the shiny-eyed seventeen-year-old who haunted dead revolutionary fanfiction forums. Which is to say, I had a lot of feelings and I am UTTERLY INCAPABLE of making any kind of critical assessment of this movie whatsoever.

What I can say: this movie was clearly made by people who passionately loved both the musical and the novel and wanted to fit them together as much as humanly possible. Some noticeable touches:

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And now I have decided to reread the book, which is going to take me the next, er, little while. Les Miserables the novel is divided into five books, and I think I might write it up book by book, since seventeen-year-old Becca has SO MUCH TO SAY about Les Mis the novel, like, you don't even understand. So fair warning! I will try to lj-cut my "EXHAUSTIVE DETAILS ABOUT LES MIS CANON" posts so everyone who has no interest (which is pretty much everyone) can scroll past them.

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

(no subject)

I am finally done with finals and so behind on writing up everything! I have a ton of stuff to talk about, but let's start with The Hobbit which I saw last night.

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So this goes outside the cut because a.) not spoilery and b.) legitimately one of the best ideas I have ever had:

So Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is a confirmed spoon thief, right?

As in . . . confirmed burglar?

All it would take is the dwarves going to a different Baggins door, guys. LOBELIA AND THE TWELVE DWARVES. Everyone needs to get cracking on this AU pronto.

(Lobelia Sackville-Baggins don't play with riddle games, man. She just thwacks Gollum with her umbrella, takes the ring and sashays the hell out.)

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

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Everyone who never told me to watch Strictly Ballroom for the first twenty-six years of my life is immediately fired. It's a VERY SERIOUS MOVIE about the TWO PASSIONATE REBELS who could BRING DOWN the entire repressive, corrupt Australian ballroom dance regime! It's so full of sparkly costumes I don't even have words! GUYS. COME ON.




Strictly Ballroom has taught me a number of valuable life lessons. Here are the top five:

1. Losing the local ballroom dance competition can very easily drive you into a life of SORROW, SECLUSION and SHAME.
2. A disapproving family can ALWAYS be won over with a surprise dance-off.
3. Relatedly, ALWAYS wear a flamenco shirt under your work clothes in case you need to participate in a surprise dance-off with your daughter's boyfriend.
4. And always, ALWAYS bring the fancy pimped-out dress. Everywhere. Just in case.
5. BALLROOM DANCING IS VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS.

If you remember these simple rules, you are sure to lead a sparkly and successful life. A LIFE NOT LIVED IN FEAR.

(If Baz Lurhmann's upcoming Great Gatsby film has even a quarter of this sparkly ridiculousness, I will be the happiest trollfaced English major ever.)

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a life less ordinary, calcifer magic

all the hot girls raise your hands up and say

So one of the things I am doing while I am in Boston is making [personal profile] shati give me a crash course on Bollywood 101. Last night we watched Om Shanti Om, and as soon as it was done I turned to her and demanded, "HAND OVER YOUR DVD, I NEED TO SCREENCAP."

Because first of all, Om Shanti Om is like a shot of pure hilarity laced with AMAZING EPIC, but second of all, the costumes are the best thing I have seen since You're Beautiful, and I don't say that lightly!

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ANYWAY. I was considering doing a costume poll, but . . . how is it even possible to pick a top five! IS TOO MUCH. So instead, I am going to offer you CATEGORIES of awesome, and you can tell me your actual favorite costume in comments. Reasonable?



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