Thursday, February 4, 2010

Movie Reviews V

Up In the Air (2009)
A professional downsizer (George Clooney), flies all over the country to fire people whose managers/bosses don’t have the banungas to do it themselves. When a young employee wielding new technology threatens his beloved lifestyle, he takes her on a firing spree to show her what it means to crush people. Along the way, his fear of commitment/settling down starts to waver after he meets a likeminded female road warrior (air warrior?) and…I won’t spoil it. I really liked this one. For me, it was somewhere between Lost in Translation and a traditional beginning-middle-end romantic comedy-ish movie. It has a similar sort of ambiguous feeling as Lost in Translation, but I think it’s a bit more mainstream in how it presents that ambiguity.

It’s Complicated (2009)
A divorced mother of three grown children (Meryl Streep) finds herself in a tricky situation – she’s exploring the possibility of a relationship with the pleasant and interesting architect in charge of her home remodeling (Steve Martin), but she’s also having an affair with her remarried ex-husband (Alec Baldwin). I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this one – more specifically I was concerned about whether or not I would connect to the material, seeing as I’m closer to the experiences of the secondary characters (the children) than to the main characters (the parents). I was pleasantly surprised to find myself interested in and intrigued by the main characters’ actions and motivations. I think the movie strikes a delicate balance between conveying the complicated (and not necessarily complicated in a funny way) emotions of the characters and keeping the overall feeling light and comedic. Also, Alec Baldwin makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps because I associate him with roles like what he plays in this movie – charming in a sort of slimy/sleazy way that makes me immediately wary and/or makes me check my purse for my pepper spray.

Invictus (2009)
The story of Nelson Mandela’s attempt to begin racial and cultural healing in South Africa by encouraging nationwide support of the country’s rugby team, which was heavily associated with apartheid. Nelson Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon plays François Pienaar, captain of the rugby team. The overarching feeling is that of a typical feel-good sports movie, but the backdrop of seemingly irreparable tension and cultural division in South Africa in the early 1990s lends quite a bit of weight to the story, enough to take it beyond the sappy, cheesy, underdog-fighting-for-a-chance territory. My sister enjoyed the movie but thought that certain aspects, particularly the ending sequences, were a little too heavy in implying that a few rugby games solved all the country’s problems. I didn’t necessarily get that impression, but I could see how she came away with that opinion. I personally took it as more of a suggestion that uniting over a common interest, in this case a sports team, was the first step and the first indication that it might actually be possible to bridge the gap.

Julie and Julia (2009)
Julie and Julia is based on the true stories of Julie and Julia (imagine that). The former is a modern young woman (played by Amy Adams and set in 2002), struggling through career confusion and those moments in life where you start to feel like everyone but you has figured out the answers and has it together and you’re just drifting along trying to keep on top of buying wedding gifts, housewarming gifts, baby shower gifts, you’re-so-much-more-successful-than-I-am-so-here’s-a-gift gifts and you don’t have a 5-month plan, let alone a 5-year plan and…what? I’m not personalizing… Anyway, Julie’s hit a rough patch in life and turns to one of her comforting hobbies to help her through the tough times – cooking. She grabs her copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and sets out to cook at least one recipe each day for one year, all the while blogging about her experience. Interspersed with Julie’s story is the story of the master herself, Julia Child (Meryl Streep). Set mostly in Paris in 1949, we see how Julia came to become the culinary giant that she was. I think by now you should know how I feel about Meryl Streep. She doesn’t disappoint as Julia, but that doesn’t mean I loved the movie. I actually liked it a lot, until about the last 10 minutes. At which point I was a little disappointed. I can’t blame the writers for sticking to what really happened, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Soundtrack to My Life

Do you ever wish you had a soundtrack to accompany you through life?

I know many people wish they had a song that would play whenever they enter a room (I think I actually belong to the facebook group of that name). I have it on good authority that my song would be either "Eye of the Tiger" (but everyone chooses that one), "Lowrider" (a longtime personal favorite), or "Flight of the Bumblebee" (no comment).

But what about an extended soundtrack to your life?

The other day I went shopping with a friend and couldn’t help but notice that everywhere we went I kept hearing songs I love. It was like I finally had my own soundtrack. And it. Was. Glorious.

My soundtrack (the ones I remember at least) started at the mall and then continued at California Pizza Kitchen (it's only four songs but I still think it's impressive that I heard them all within a 3-ish hour time frame):

Depeche Mode “Just Can’t Get Enough”
New Order “Bizarre Love Triangle” side note: I am not ashamed to admit that I own the extended dance mix version of this song, and I definitely do some extended dancing whenever it’s on in my car. Just ask Angela.
Tears for Fears “Break It Down Again”
Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer"

Yes, my life soundtrack would be predominantly new wave and 80s synthpop. Don't act like you're surprised.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Did You Have a Merry Christmas? Well? Did Ya, Punk?

My holiday break had a Clint Eastwood theme. I didn’t plan for it to be that way, that’s just how it turned out. I watched Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, Dirty Harry, Unforgiven, In the Line of Fire, and Invictus.

It worked out well, because I’m taking a class about westerns this semester. Even though only one of those movies is a western, the inherent Clint Eastwood badassery in the others still helped to stoke my previously non-existent interest in westerns.

Other movies that I remember seeing over break (with my ratings out of 5 because I know that your hopes and dreams are hinging on what I think of specific movies):

Julie and Julia (2.5/5)
Up In the Air (4/5)
It’s Complicated (3.5/5)
Man on Wire (4/5)
Ordinary People [new favorite] (5/5)
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian [new worst. movie. ever.] (1/5, and that's being generous because I like Ben Stiller and Hank Azaria)

I also saw about 30% of Bladerunner. During the other 70% I was in a stupor. You know the one, the barely-coherent-after-spending-all-night-vomiting stupor. I’d like to revisit the movie on a non-stupor day.

What I saw of Bladerunner: 3.5/5
Vomit-induced stupor: -873/5

What else is going on…well, it’s been raining here. A lot. And I’m starting to believe that I’m responsible for the weather. Two days after I landed back east, we got 20” of snow. It proceeded to be ridiculously cold (for me at least) while I was home. Even my dad, whose favorite comment is that a cold winter day in Maryland is like a pleasant spring day in Minnesota, thought it was cold. When I left the east coast, the temperature went up about 20 degrees. I got to L.A. just in time for some of the worst weather SoCal has had in years (decades? hard to tell what’s exaggeration around here when it comes to rain).

My Californian roommates are not familiar with rain terminology. But then again, why should they be? One of my roommates came in today and I asked if it was raining. She said that it wasn’t “raining raining” but it was…*insert that look people get when looking for the right word.* She struggled in vain to describe the water falling from the sky. I asked: is it misting? Drizzling? Sprinkling? Spritzing? Spitting? She could only respond by making a noise demonstrating the rhythm of the rain on her car. Based on that, I think it was sprinkling.

On a completely unrelated note: seeing as I’m sort of [<--understatement] in love with Conan O’Brien, let it be known that I am heartbroken over the recent late-night nonsense. That is all.