Films my Spouse Made Me Watch is a chronicle of the exploits of a left-of-average married couple who force their film tastes upon one another with gleeful malevolence. BE WARNED!! These are not film reviews, rather, they are film discussions recklessly littered with spoilers. Do not read unless you have already seen the films within, or don't give a flying fig about having it spoiled.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let Me In: Greater Than Gravity, by Chelle

Let me first say that I have not seen Let the Right One In , either.  Although, Rob has told me all about it.  He was so very excited for me to see this flick (Let Me In).  The thing about that kind of hype from Rob is that it inspires in me a kind of bias.  He loves (and has subjected me to) movies like Leaving Las Vegas and Rush, which kinda make me feel suicidal afterwards.  So I wanted to keep my head clear for this film (a bias free zone of pretty flowers and awesome sword fights).  Although, just before we watched it, he compared the ending to The Graduate.  You know, when all the characters suddenly feel trapped, doomed, uncertain that they made the right choices.  Dammit Rob, don't tell me shit like that.  So we viewed the flick (well, I did anyway; the little old man fell asleep).  And I did not get that "Graduate" feeling from the ending.  To me it felt sweet (the kind of "sweet" that allows doomed lovers to transcend their doom because of their love; like Sun and Jin on Lost).  Sure the boy has an idea (a very certain idea) as to what  his fate with the vampire will be, but he showed no doubt.  Instead, just as he is certain he will lead a difficult life (roaming, hiding, murdering, etc.), he is equally certain that is exactly what he wants.  He loves her.  Real love.

Rob is very fond of the author Irving Welsh.  In one of his novels (which I have not read, but know vicariously through Rob; like so much of my knowledge) the main character's father is dying.  The son says his goodbyes and then the father kicks him out of the room so he can spend his last moments with only his wife (the main character's Mum).  This is Rob's favorite example of perfect, true love.  And this is what I thought of at the end of Let Me In.  Love is the focus of the whole film.  Not Chick Flick love, but David Bowie's Soul Love love.  The vampire (who insists she isn't a girl) is doomed by her condition and helpless in her eternal youth (I watched the special features, as always, and saw a cut scene showing her being turned into the vampire; it was intense, the violent theft of her life and rape of her innocence).  The boy is caught up in the shit storm that is divorce.  I know this character.  His parents may not consciously want to use him as leverage in their little war, but he is caught in the cross fire nonetheless.  The setting (the cinder block apartment building, the school, the people) makes me empathize with this character even more.  His violent fantasies are neither surprising nor disturbing; he's gonna be swallowed whole unless he learns to hit back.  I love the Romeo and Juliet undercurrent.  These kids are definitely star-crossed lovers; doomed to survive (which is not the same as living) rather than die like the Shakespearean youths.  It was the Morse code conversation on the train that made the ending so sweet, showing their unity.  She saved his life and he will sustain hers for the rest of his (in a side note I see her feeding from her previous Lover as a mercy killing).  They will survive the sorrow and guilt of the murders they have and will commit to protect each other, and only real love can carry them through that.

My favorite definition of love is from a cartoon (Disney no less).  In the Sword and the Stone (which is based on The Once and Future King) Merlin turns Arthur into a squirrel.  Having nearly plummeted from a tree, Merlin explains the concept of gravity to the boy (the powerful force that pulls you down, keeps you on the earth).  Then there's a very sweet little squirrel chase with a girl squirrel (who risks her own life to save Arthur's, un-huh), but in the end Arthur is turned back into a boy and the girl squirrel is heart broken.  Arthur is sad for the girl squirrel and Merlin says "Well, that love stuff is a powerful thing", to which Arthur responds "Greater than gravity?".  Sadly Merlin replies "Yes, I'd say it's the greatest force on earth".

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let Me In: A Preview by Rob

Spoilers ahead: proceed with caution.

I still refuse to accept that a horror movie was nominated for Best Picture this year and it wasn't Let Me In. It was hands-down the best movie I saw in an honest-to-god theater this year. I would easily have bumped Inception to have it included. As soon as I got my grubby mitts on a copy, I knew it would be my next choice for Films my Spouse made me watch.

If it isn't already abundantly clear, I chose this movie because it is awesome beyond description, and I wanted to share the pleasure with my darling wife. I chose it because I knew she would like it. And I chose it because I personally like it better than the original Let the Right One In.

Sacrilege you say? I concede that Matt Reeves' translation owes Tomas Alfredson's original Norwegian film a priceless debt of gratitude, but Reeves was able to take everything that was right about the original, recreate it with a fresh vision, and add a few brilliant touches of his own. Who could argue that the car crash scene isn't bound for iconic status?

What I really like about this version is the casting. Every role was perfectly filled, and the two young leads prove they're equal to such challenging roles. I was dead set against the remake until they cast Chloe Moretz, whose turn as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass blew my shit away. She plays the role as very child-like, which at first rubbed me wrong until I thought about it. She has been sequestered away from society for who knows how long, relying on the boys she chooses as companions to discreetly keep her fed. She has never had the opportunity to grow up, both physically and socially.  She would be childlike, despite her age. And Kodi Smit-McPhee is adorable, which makes it all the more disturbing when we see him as someone so capable of violence. Despite his cherubic cuteness, the intensity of his performance sells his dark side. And their sexless romance is both touching and heart-breaking.

The ending is wonderfully troubling, as we're happy that the two leads found a way to be together, yet we've seen where this road leads, and it's not pretty.  I also love the recurring appearances of the Now and Laters jingle, which at first I took for nothing more than a period detail thrown in to emphasize the place and time in which the story is set. But by the end, it becomes a sort of twisted punchline foreshadowing Owen's eventual fate. "Eat some now, save some for later" indeed.

But honestly, the movie had me at the Hammer Films logo. Let's just hope that their Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe continues to do justice to the studio's legacy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010): Review and Discussion

Rob: Okay this may be a bit of a break from protocol, but I didn't make Chelle watch this movie with me.  That would have required a babysitter. However, the urge to discuss this movie is too great to ignore, so here's my take. Also, I'm using the first part of this post as a spoiler-less review, just in case anyone who hasn't seen it is searching for reviews.  The second part will be the usual spoillery discussion you're used to.  Or would be used to if you ever read this blog.

The Nightmare on Elm Street remake is one of those films that, after a night's sleep, I still can't make up my mind about. I've got to admit to being a former certifiable Freddy Krueger fanatic.  In junior high I had Freddy posters on my bedroom wall and not a week went by when I didn't journey to the basement tv set to watch one or more of the Elm Street films (particularly the first and third installments).  So there was no hope of my ever being able to objectively review the remake.  Every scene I mentally placed alongside its 1980s counterpart to size up.  And there was plently of room for side-by-side comparison.  The remake is littered with references, homages, and downright ripoffs of the original.  Some fell shamefully short, such as the sequence when the shapes of Freddy's face and gloves push into Chris's (Nancy's in the orginal) bedroom wall before being driven away by her waking.  In the original, the light and shadow of the shot did all the work, and made for a creepy, tension-building scene.  In the remake, you get shitty CGI that reveals Freddy's face far too soon, and is played for a cheap jump-scare. However, the remake has its share of scenes that truly improve on the original.  The remake amps up the brutality of the murders, and generally (CGI wall-Freddy aside) improves the special effects.  The blood is copious and satisfying for us sickos who are into that sort of thing.

In terms of story, that's also a mixed bag.  There are tweaks here and there that are really effective, such as bringing some updated dream research into the script in the form of "micro-naps" and insomnia-induced coma.  It was just last week that my wife was reading me some of the same stuff out of National Geographic.  I also liked the repressed memory angle and the childhood connection of the main characters.  The thing I wondered though, listening to the teenagers in the row in front of me who had obviously never seen the original, was if the basic premise even made sense in this telling. The film seems to take it for granted that viewers will go in knowing what the story is, so it doesn't really bother with the gradual reveal that if Freddy kills you in your dream, you die in real life.

Speaking of gradual reveals, I think that's what was really missing in this version. The movie blows its load way too soon.  Half the cast is dead within the first half hour, before they've had much of a chance to interact with other characters, and long before their characters have been developed at all. It's a common complaint with slasher flicks, especially recent ones, but the audience simply is never given a reason to care whether most of the characters live or die.  Nothing is at stake emotionally for the audience, rendering it impossible for the director to build the proper tension that is the horror film's raison d'etre.

The other area in which the film fails due to prematurely blown load is in how Freddy is revealed.  Wes Craven's version was so scary because Freddy stayed in the shadows for so long.  You'd see his silhouette and catch glimpses of his scarred face, but only enough to let your mind fill in the worst parts.  In the remake, it seems they're too proud of Freddy's new makeup to keep it hidden.  And the makeup, although much more realistic, is rather goofy-looking.  In certain shots, it looks great, like he's just been pulled off the barbeque.  But in others, it looks like maybe he's allergic to mangoes and is puffing up.  All-in-all, the new look is less effective.

Having actually written my thoughts down, it seems like hands-down, the movie didn't work.  And honestly, it mostly didn't.  But I didn't leave the theatre disappointed. Never underestimate the power of expectations to influence your enjoyment of a film.  As the common narrative now goes, when I first heard they were remaking the movie, I thought it was a terrible idea and was planning on boycotting it altogether.  My thinking was that you can remake Jason and Michael Myers because they have no personality.  They are movie monsters rather than characters, and although I think Rob Zombie did a good job turning Michael Myers into a character with his remake, he pretty much had a blank slate to work with.  Not so for Freddy.  Robert Englund so completely owned that character that it seemed blasphemous to remake the movie without him.  Then, of course, I heard that Jackie Earl Hailey had been cast and was like, well yeah, he could rip shit up as Freddy.

And he does, albeit in his own unique way.  Physically, his Freddy is not very menacing.  But his creepy-and-not-in-a-good-way factor brought something to the character I hadn't even realized was missing from the original: Freddy as perverted child molester.  The remake really hits hard on that theme, which makes it way more disturbing than your run-of-the-mill kill teenagers because they're copulating slasher flick.  The movie doesn't give Freddy too much dialogue (Thank God) for most of the film, but get that burnt-faced pussy in a room with Nancy and he'll talk your ear off.  Actually, I thought the movie really kicked into gear when Hailey got to show off his acting chops, rather than just chopping up actors (apologies for that last sentence, but I can't bring myself to delete it).  Hailey's Freddy is a twisted bastard.  He doesn't just want to kill you, he wants to squeeze out every little bit of fear he can out of you, then kill you.  Freddy's final scene with Nancy was the only moment when I was transported into the movie and could momentarily cease making comparisons with the original.  And then, the final scene of the film was so good that I left with a much more favorable opinion than I would have otherwise had.

In short, the verdict is that the Nightmare on Elm Street remake is shit compared to the original, not all that good in its own right, but had just enough redeeming qualities that I can't hate it.

Spoilery Discussion:

I'll keep this section brief, but I just can't resist taking this movie to task for some of the utterly stupid plot points that somehow made it past three producers.  First of all, in this version, Freddy works at a preschool.  Fair enough if he was a perverted teacher or something, but what preschool do you know of that hires a full-time gardener and lets him live in its gigantic basement? Second, from the preview, it looked like there was going to be some doubt as to whether Freddy was actually guilty.  And yes, they tried to work that red herring in there, but failed utterly.  One of the teens has a dream in which sees Freddy's death at the hands of the mob of angry parents.  Based on Freddy's single cry of "What do you think I did? I didn't do it," suddenly decides that he and the other five-year-olds must have lied about Freddy molesting them.  Granted, his memories are repressed, but who would take Freddy's word for it?  And why is he instantly so utterly convinced that his father was the bad guy?  Oh yeah, because it's a ham-fisted attempt to sow doubt in the mind of the viewer.  Third, why, if Freddy's whole plan was to keep his favorite Elm Street child awake so long that she would fall into a coma, a permanent sleep in which he could play with her as long as he likes (a plot point I actually like because it does make sense and the idea is scary as shit), why would he then try to kill her like five minutes into the dream?  I could go on and on, but this post is too long as it is.  However, if my many followers (1 and counting) care to add to the conversation, I could be coerced into turning this into a dissertation.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Red Cliff: Discussion by Chelle (finally)

I have to admit, the very first minute of the film had me worried. I already knew I'd love this film; it’s an historical piece, venerably directed, and brimming with some of my favorite actors. But this version is for Western release and rather than showing you a prologue written in Chinese character (like House of Flying Daggers does) they have included prologue narration in English. The English is good. The narration is bad. The minute that guy said General Cao Cao’s name, which sounded like “Chow-Chow” on his tongue, all three of us were rolling with laughter; I think I paused the film until it subsided. Thank the gods it was only a prologue and the rest of the film could continue uninterrupted.

Now I could go on and on about how much I love Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung (or how much Rob loves Chang Chen), but there is much more to this movie than my crushes. Upon reflection, I’m beginning to think this film might be more entertaining for a Western audience. Apparently the Battle of Red Cliff is a well known and beloved historical moment in Chinese history. The Chinese audience knows how the tale ends. We in the West, do not. And in that way, we can be pleasantly surprised when it turns out the allies’ separation and Zhou Yu’s wife’s going into Cao Cao’s camp are all part of a delightful ruse to throw off an extremely clever military thinker who just happens to have an extremely large army and navy.

We all know that John Woo is extremely good with Action flicks and this is a good talent to have when making a film that will be loaded (and I mean loaded) with battle scenes. Unlike Rob, I really don’t take note of camera work (except in the most extreme cases, like a Sam Raimi film), so the Wooness of the film wasn’t apparent to me at all. What I liked best was the character interaction. What really allows the allies to win is their ability to work together. Respect and admiration are rampant among them. Whereas in Cao Cao’s army hierarchy and fear run the show. What I didn’t like (or rather had hoped for and did not receive) was… (sigh) Takeshi. This does not mean that his performance was lacking in any way, or even that the character was unnecessary, but for all the wisdom that Zhuge Liang (TK’s character) possesses, he doesn’t do anything. He’s the catalyst that brings all the allies together, and the man with the master plan, but he never once participates in the battles. I was sad; there’s nothing better than a beautiful man with a beautiful sword in a beautiful field slashing his foes into tiny bits. The duet scenes between Takeshi and Tony almost make up for it. And if I can’t have Takeshi with a sword, at least I get to watch a wonderful scene with Tony Leung practicing his sword form while lovely Zhao Wei recites verse from the Art of War.

Told you I’d love it.

Haeckel's Tale: A Discussion by Chelle

FMSMMW? Wow, that’s long and looks a little silly; but not as silly as this movie. Like Rob said it starts out promising. A dark mysterious night, the promise of a chilling morality tale, romantic Shelley-like ambiance… and then yeah, it totally turned into dook. I haven’t read Clive’s story, but I’m absolutely positive this film doesn’t do it any justice. I think the film was just an excuse to get the actress naked and grind with zombies. She was exceedingly lovely to look at (perky-little- well-shaped breasts). It was the baby that sent me into hysterics. It was like the Dead Alive baby, only not nearly as cute and charismatic. The baby biting out Haeckle’s throat would have been a sufficiently dumb ending, but it had to drag out a little longer with zombies pawing lustily at an old lady while she attends her undead, ageless spawn and the chump she told her tale to runs screaming from the house. The only way the ending could have gotten more ridiculous would be if suddenly a giant cartoon head popped up, gulped the house down with unhinged jaws and then slowly sank out of frame while the Python’s end credits theme played. Yes Rob, it was exquisitely stupid.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Haeckel's Tale: A Preview

When I first leaned of the Master's of Horror series, I was beside myself with morbid childlike glee.  Imagine, a series of original 1 hour films by some of the best known directors in the genre.  I picked up Dario Argento's first entry in the series, Jenifer, at a pawn shop for $3. I soon found Argento's second entry, Pelts, and John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns for equally insane low prices. Then I began renting other episodes with much excitement.  My enthusiasm carried me through a good number of the films before it finally dawned on me that honestly, they aren't all that great.  Some are better than others, certainly, but some are pretty much dook.  The most recent one I watched was Haeckel's Tale, based on a Clive Barker story that I'd read in a horror anthology and thought was decent.  There wasn't much of a story, but Clive was in his usual stylistically-rich form.  I thought it could make a decent film if the story was beefed up a bit, and the film was made by John McNaughton, director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (which I haven't seen and don't plan to, but its got a great reputation).

It gets off to a good start with a great creepy atmosphere that can make a horror movie for me.  However, as the film goes on, it gets, in a word, dumb.  By the end, I was laughing my ass off at this train wreck of a movie.  Which is to say that I frickin' loved it.  I knew immediately that it would have to be an entry in the FMSMMW blog.  Tonight, I started off in the mood for horror, but I was feeling a bit goofy at the same time.  Haeckel's Tale should fit the bill nicely.  I just hope Chelle finds it as exquisitely stupid as I did.

Red Cliff: Discussion by Rob

Having been married to Chelle for a number of years, I've seen my share of Asian battle epics.  Having been a film student, I've also seen my share of John Woo movies.  Red Cliff is both an exemplary battle epic and a fine John Woo film. However, it is at its best when you forget it's a John Woo movie.  In fact, the only thing I didn't like about Red Cliff is that every now and again, John Woo's head would pop up out of the lower right-hand corner of the screen, (you know, all MK2 "Toasty"-style) and announce, "Remember kids, you've watching a John Woo film."  Okay, not literally, but he threw in all these intrusive bits of camera work that achieved basically the same thing.  As a film-goer, I find that if I even notice the camera work, it's because the director made a poor choice, or the film is extremely boring.  And Red Cliff is certainly not boring.

Now that the negative out of the way, let me tell you what I liked.

A) The cast - I've got to hand it to Chelle, even though much of it is based on personal crushes, she does have good taste in Asian actors.
B) The battles - I'm not a huge fan of action films, and even here the extended battle scenes started to lose me near the end, but that's not a flaw in the movie, just in my attention span for that sort of thing.  What I liked about the battles scenes is that you could see the overall military strategy at work, not just the individual combatants slicing each other into itty bitty bits (although they did that too).  I know, being able to see the overall military strategy probably doesn't make you want to rush out and rent the movie. In fact it sounds much nerdier than I'd intended, but nonetheless it added a dimension to the battle scenes that you rarely see, and it was necessary to the overall story.
C) The story - The whole theme of the movie is that battles are won with the mind rather than with physical strength. Throughout the film, every decision that Jedi master Takeshi Kaneshiro makes is more clever and effective than the last one.  Chelle tells me that this story is a time-honored and well-known legend in China, and it's easy to see how the individual scenes would make great oral or prose stories.

The verdict: Chelle done good.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Red Cliff: Discussion

Brian:  Ahem, uh, well, I have never actually even read a blog before, so this is all new and....well new, anyway.  I do happen to watch an unhealthy amount of movies, most of them involving explosions and really bad dialogue, so I guess I am qualified.  I would say I was flattered by being asked to watch a movie with Chelle and Rob, but it's what we normally do when we get together.  I do seem to enjoy watching movies more in their company, as very few others share my...unique...sense of humor.  Onto the movie!

My sister, Chelle's, latest hearthrob is a man named Takeshi Kaneshiro.  Despite the obvious handicap of being a very pretty man, Kaneshiro does happen to play roles involving swordplay, martial arts, and beautiful asian women.  I generally enjoy his films when these wonderful elements are part of his character.  This was not one of those characters.  He basically was in the film to look pretty, sound cool, and wear a white bathrobe, while giving those durn ol' soliders ideas for battle plans, and stand in fields a lot.  I think his character may have been a weatherman, which is important when planning a battle, because who wants to fight in the rain? 

The narrator seemed to be impersonating Charlton Heston, but there is a reason Chuck never narrated asain history.  General Cao Cao cuts and imposing figure in Chinese history with a really goofy sounding name.  An American equivalent might be General Nonsense, Major Woody, or Captain Diphead.  Competent leaders maybe, but still really funny to address. 

To say I did not enjoy the film would be untrue.  Beautiful cinematography, talented actors, and an epic number of snappily dressed extras, combined in fantastic battle sequences, and a bucketload of action.  Mostly in the form of explosions and fire.  It's a good thing China is the largest country in the world, because John Woo appears to have burned most of it to a charred cinder while making this film.  Woo blends historical events with characters who have superhuman skills.  I know China holds it's heroes on pedistals, but three guys whooping up an army of 800,000 trained soldiers?  C'mon now, Lil' Woo, tell the truth.  What really happened?

All in all, I really enjoyed this cinematic experience, since movies my former spouse made me watch included Sex in the City (shudder).  With three billion people, I'm sure the chinese have sex in their cities too, but do we need to hear about how hard it is for these women to find the pefect penis?  I wish I knew more chinese folk with martial art superpowers than women whose penis intake exceeds their daily caloric intake.  Ever notice it's always the super-creepy-drunk-really-really-dumb-guy they take home?

I seem to keep tripping over my soapbox.  Maybe if I didn't have so many of them stacked up I could have a clear thought on the movie I'm supposed to be critiquing.  Once I get those picked up and put away neatly, I'll try giving my perspective on another film.  Until all your vegetables. Oh man, I'm all out of witty closing remarks!

Red Cliff: Preview

Chelle:  Woo-hoo!  Do I need to tell you why I picked this movie?  Scroll down to our first postings and you'll find out.  We were shopping at Target ('cause we're always shopping at Target) and all we needed was cat food, but Rob was checking out the media section ('cause Rob is always checking out the media section).  So I left the boys with him and retrieved the cat's (Echo) food and on the way back I just happened to pass the new film releases.  There, shining like a new sun, was Red Cliff.  No fluke-ing way!  I knew this movie was due to be released on DVD, but assumed that I would have to special order it as I have with so many other flicks featuring Takeshi.  But there it was in my very own, local shopping haven.  On sale, even!  Well, I performed the always embarrassing adult version of the pee-pee dance, snapped up a copy and babbled all the way to the register about why it was necessary to buy it right now to a constantly nodding and sighing Rob.

I had never seen this movie (obviously), so I will be adding (most emphatically) to the discussion.  And since I forced more than one person to watch my movie of choice, we will be having a guest blogger.  That's right folks!  For one night only, all the way from Thompson Falls, it's BRIAN!  Stay tuned, here comes a discussion of John Woo's Red Cliff.

Friday, March 19, 2010

40 Year Old Virgin: Discussion

Chelle:  Yeah, it was totally funny as hell.  This may sound strange, as much as I love to laugh, joke, and be silly, I usually don't seek out comedies.  Most comedies are forced upon me.  And I enjoy them, so why don't I sit down and say, "Hey, let's watch a funny movie"?  Weird. 

Rob's preview is loooong.  But if you get through you will realize why we are still married.  Rob may appear shy, reclusive, and oblivious to the world around him, but whenever he writes people sit up and take notice.  Guys are guys for the most part and any woman who thinks one day men will ever be otherwise is deluding herself.  In Apatow's films the males are your average guys.  I've seen this film and Knocked Up (also Super Bad, but with that one Apatow's a producer, not a director) and both leads go on a journey inspired by a woman who needs them to be less of a guy.  A woman who wants to be their peer, not their mommy.  And this is what women want (although to be totally honest, I think very few women understand this and certainly can't express it well; that's why lots of women seem so bitchy).  I've been told by many women how lucky I am to have found Rob 'cause he doesn't act like the typical male pig (guy).  I'm not lucky, just not stupid; I married my best friend.  This is not to say that our relationship is perfect (none are); we fight.  Often I find myself doing a "mumbling Alice" (that phrase has a specific story; perhaps I'll lay it out later) in the basement while angrily shoving laundry into the dryer, and I've slept on the couch on several occasions when just being near him pisses me off.  The arguement at the end of 40 reminds me of those times.  Carell's character is very aware how his virginity is a social oddity and painfully embarrassed, especially with Keener's character.  He truly loves her, but the only other woman he's been that close to (emotionally as well as physically) is his mommy and we don't talk about sex with our mommys (well I do sometimes, but it's different for girls; I don't talk about it with my dad, so there you go).  I suppose I could delve into Freud here, but... I don't want to (and not because I have a tendency to dislike Freud; you know Jung over Freud, Aristotle over Plato... I've derailed).  Keener's character wants a friend whom she can share her life with and she can't do that until he truly becomes her friend, which means complete honesty ("does this make me look fat?", don't even ask that question, if you think you look a little pudgy so does he; the real question is "do you care if this makes me look fat?").  And it's such a beautiful scene after Carell's character goes through the billboard truck.  He confessess the virginity and because Keener's character loves him honestly, she says "that's a good thing" and with her acceptance of this social flaw (I hate to use that word, but I can't think of a more appropriate one) he becomes her friend, lover, and peer (no mommy here); he has become a man.  How cool is that.

Also I just want to say how damn funny the scene with Leslie Mann (Apatow's real-life wife)  is.  I hesitate to say it reminds me of someone I know (out of fear)... but it does!  And that made it so much more hi-lar-ious.  Well done Judd, keep giving us those sexist guys who get grow into men women can call their best friend and mean it.

Hey my entry was looong too.

40-Year Old Virgin: A Preview

Rob: Judd Apatow has been catching a lot of flak lately, particularly from female cultural critics. The criticism isn't entirely unfounded. Even before Katherine Heigl publicly called Knocked Up, "a little bit sexist," I was saying the same thing at home. However, I personally don't mind a little sexism/racism/cultural insensitivty in a work of art as long as it has something honest to say about our culture, and I see a lot of honesty in Judd Apatow's movies.  That is, I see people I know reflected in the characters and the way they interact.  The whole "you know how I know you're gay?" schtick is entirely innappropriate and exactly what many of my friends sound like in private conversations. Lest you think I hang out with a bunch of gay-bashing homophobes, let me add the disclaimer that all of my friends are big supporters of gay rights. And yet, no gender, race, nor sexual orientation is spared when we get to flinging insults.  That is the great contradiction of my generation. For the most part, we're pretty open-minded and accepting, but you'd never know it to hear us joking. That is the honesty I see reflected in Apatow's movies.  As for the sexism, yes it's there, just as it's there to varying degrees in every man I've ever met.  Many women I know are sexist as well, and not against men.  My wife has often pointed out the degree to which women actually hate other women.  Once you start noticing it, it's staggering.  The point I'm getting at is that we're all flawed.  We're all sexist and racist and closed-minded to some group or other, and there's no escaping it.  It is a noble and valiant thing to try to root out these attitudes in ourselves and suppress them where we can, but I doubt anyone can entirely purge all their prejudices.  It is part and parcel to being human, and I'd rather see it reflected in art than suppressed for the sake of being inoffensive. If it doesn't offend somebody, it probably isn't art.

Other critics have pointed out the man-child protagonists that Apatow examines in his films. They contend that we should not be celebrating this growing tendency of modern American men to put off growing up for as long as possible. Again, I think it is the artist's job to deal in honesty, and I'd rather watch a film with flawed characters that resemble the reality I know.  Can you imagine a film where all the male characters are fully mature with no prejudices?  What kind of character arc would you have?  With a film like 40-Year Old Virgin, your protagonist has a lot of room to grow, and that's what the story is really about, learning to leave behind childish things. Steve Carell's character (Andy) has never had a meaningful relationship with a woman, which has allowed him to retain his childish habits unquestioned.  One could argue that this is sexist because it implies that women are the killjoys who force men to abandon the things that they love. But I don't think that's the message the film is conveying.  Apatow is saying that yes, it is often the influence of women that pushes boys into becoming men, but he's not portraying it as a bad thing--he's saying that we need to grow into men, and that we should be thankful to women for the push they give us, painful as it can be. Teachers are always saying that girls mature faster than boys, and I think that extends well beyond grade school. I think most men have trouble giving up their childhood, which is why Judd Apatow's movies are culturally important. He's the one guy out there really exploring this common struggle.  And yes, he does celebrate males stalled halfway to manhood, which is why so many guys relate, but he also forces men to reflect on their own lives. The 40-Year Old Virgin can be a hell of an uncomfortable viewing experience for those who see a little too much of themselves in Andy. And short of a woman's influence, this might be the most potent message to a man-child that he needs to grow up.

As for why I wanted my wife to watch this movie...  When I first rented it, she was busy in another room, and not too interested.  But she could hear me in the living room laughing my bloody arse off, and was intrigued.  It has taken 2 years, but I finally picked up a $2 copy at a pawn shop and will force it upon her.  Mostly, I want her to see it because it's funny as hell, but I'd like to hear her take on the issues I've raised above as well.  And may I just say, whatever you think about the social issues, it's hard to deny that Steve Carell's comic timing is sheer unadulterated genius.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

[Rec]: Discussion

Chelle:  Well Rob has forced quite a few horror movies on me in the last 18 years, but "WOW"!  We watched it with all the lights off at Rob's behest and the whole time my conscious mind is going "This movie is so well done."  Meanwhile, my subconscious had apparently fled and hid somewhere under the covers.  The movie had just ended and Rob had jumped up to turn on a light when Aidan came out of his room for one of his variant reasons.  It wasn't until I got up off the couch to tuck Aidan back in that I realized how the movie had affected me physically.  Yep, physically.  I could feel the blood throbbing in my head and my limbs were shaking with adrenalin.  This is why I say "WOW", 'cause I wasn't even aware of how tense I'd become.  This movie scared me; it really, physically scared me. 

During the final scene, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rob pull the afgan he was under up to his mouth in dreadful anticipation (he knew what was coming and was still scared), but I didn't have time to consider why before I was whispering "What in the hell was that?"  I still have that first glimpse of the "creature" playing in my head and marveling at it.  A humanoid (this is the only word for it) silhouette that is way too tall, way too skinny, and dangling backwards like it was hanging on unseen lines from celing.  But suddenly it straightened up from that awful contortion and began to move toward our doomed heroes.  I now know exactly how most of H.P. Lovecraft's characters feel when they are finally confronted with the dreadful countenance of their own particular tale.  I too, ended up pulling my blanket up to my eyeballs.

I had to watch the making-of feature just to see who could pull that performance off.  The "creature" is actually just a guy (who is way too tall and way too skinny) covered in prosthetics, but even in broad daylight he looked terrifying.  I can understand why they brought their lead in to see him before the shoot; they literally might have scared her to death if they'd just sprung that "creature" on her.

I also really like the "explaination" of what is afflicting the people who live in that Barcelona apartment building.  The Vatican is obviously involved so it's demonic, yet on a tape a mysterious character (who one might be able to blame for everyone's death, due to miscalculation) is heard to be said "I think I have finally isolated the enzyme", so it's scientific too; a disease.  You're left wondering which it is.  This mysterious guy's penthouse is a squalor of newspaper articles about possessed little girls, filthy labratory and operating equipment as well as oversized Roman Catholic paraphernalia.  And all of it is viewed in a POV perspective that is narrowed down by absolute darkness; the only light a weak camera bulb.

I was impressed and truly horrified.  Hats off to Jaume Balagureo and Paco Plaza.

Well that screening went about 100x better than expected.  I thought Chelle would like it, but I didn't expect we'd stay up an extra hour wide-awake with adrenaline, discussing what we'd just experienced. You can imagine my pride when Chelle told me it was the scariest horror movie she'd ever seen.  The film holds up surprisingly well on the second viewing. The first time around, the ending caught me completely off guard, which added to the shock value, but this time, the anticipation of what I knew was coming was almost worse.  I had really been looking forward to seeing Chelle's expression when the creature was revealing, but in the heat of the moment, I forgot to look.  I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen.  When we finally did get to bed and I insisted that the lamp stay on, Chelle was like, "I wasn't going to turn it off, not tonight."  This, ladies and gentlemen, is why we watch horror films.

[REC]: a Preview

For my first pick is a little Spanish horror film that utterly blew my mind out of my ass.  I've been trying to get Chelle to watch it for almost as long as she's been trying to get me to watch Sleepless Town. In fact, the last time I suggested she watch it with me, she said she would, on the condition that I watch her boyfriend Takeshi's movie. Always looking for a new writing project, she said (half-jokingly), "We should start our own movie review blog and call it 'Films my Spouse Made Me Watch'."  I jumped on the idea, and here we are.

I reason I want her to watch [REC] is to see if she has anywhere near the same reaction as I did, particularly to the last ten minutes of the film.  My reaction: slack-jawed horror and disbelief, saying to myself, I know that's not real, but it's not CGI either, so what in God's name am I seeing?  And that's the film's strength--the whole POV angle is so well done that a simple monster make-up effect felt shockingly real, so much so that it took me watching the special features to figure out how they did it (I know, it should have been obvious, but I was sucked in utterly).

Horror is a strange beastie, and just because a certain film can elicit poo-poo in my personal pantaloons, that doesn't mean it is universally scary. The Exorcist scares me silly, but I've heard plently of people who don't even consider it a horror movie.  With [REC], I'm simply not sure if anyone else finds it as frightening as I did. I think Chelle will like it, and I really can't wait to see the look on her face when the creature is revealed.

Sleepless Town: Discussion

Chelle had been attempting to get me to watch this film for months, tempting with promises of boobies aplenty. And boobies there were, yet I suspect her motives went deeper, that perhaps she wanted me to watch this film because it's, I don't know... good. And good it was. The first thing that struck me was the look of the film: its gorgeous photography and vivid color palette of neon blues and greens against the backdrop of night. It was definitely a film noir with all the classic tropes.

Its femme fatale was especially good, so good, in fact, that I had really hoped she would end up going against type and turn out to be a decent human being underneath it all.  Played by Mirai Yamamoto, she wasn't the sultry, drop-dead gorgeous asian babe you might expect.  She was pretty, but it was her personality that made her so attractive. She was absolutely charming, so much so that I, as a viewer, fell for her act as much as poor Takeshi Kaneshiro did. Again and again his character was warned against her, and he never fully trusted her, but in his awesomely understated performance, you could see that he had fallen for her.  She betrays him, and in the end, he kills her for it. Which kind of pissed me off. With all the film noir build-up, I was really hoping that the story would take a turn for the unexpected and end happily. I suppose I can't fault it for not having the ending I would have liked, and the end had a poignance of its own.

My only major criticism of the film is that as an ignorant American, I could not keep straight all the character names that would come up during the discussion of the warring crime bosses.  As a result, I really didn't know what the plot was half the time.  Honestly though, I think the plot was beside the point.  The film was really about the relationship between the two leads, and as such, it was a sexy, tragic film that I will probably watch again.  If only to work out what the plot is.  And for the boobies.

Chelle:  I was afraid he was going to fall asleep.  While there is lots of dialogue, it's all in Japanese, Mandarine, Taiwainese, and possibly Korean (my ignorant ear is untrained except to tell Japanese, Mandarine and Cantonese apart, and it's sound identification, not comprehension), which doesn't really register to the average Westerner 'cause it's all English on the bottom of the screen for us.  And Rob is right, there are lot of plot complexities to sort through.  But half way thru he started drowning himself in coffee and did enjoy the characters (and the nudity).

Having been a film student, Rob noticed the film noir immediately, which totally escaped me.  It is classic noir and it is beautiful filmed.  Hell, it won Best Cinematography at the '98 Hong Kong Film Awards.  But, truth be told, that's not why I like it so much.   

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sleepless Town: Preview by Chelle

Who's heard of Takeshi Kaneshiro?  If you have, I really don't need to explain why I like this flick.  Takeshi is extremely compelling.  He is hands down the most beautiful mortal walking the earth, but in addition to that he is a marvalous actor.  His filmography is vast, going way back to like 1990 (which is even before Rob and I were dating).  I'd watch anything Takeshi was in, but because all of his films are foreign (expect Too Tired to Die) they're hard to come by.  Finding one is like finding a rare gem in your backyard.  I had searched for this particular film in online stores to no avail.  And then one day last year I'm at Hastings browsing a sale rack and lo, there it is - for $2.99!  I almost skipped to the register.  Why do I want Rob to watch it?  It has that gritty feel that he's usually in to.  It's a Japanese ganster flick with lots of betrayal and power swapping.  How did I convince him to watch it?  I told him there are lots of titties in it.

I just Blogged up a huge Conglomerate.

It's official.  I'm now a blogger.  Despite thinking the term sounds like a wad of mucus, I'm quite excited about the prospect. For this inaugural post, let me explain the concept behind this loogie blog.  My wife and I have differing, yet oddly compatible taste in movies, and are constantly watching movies separately, then spending months and years telling each other we really ought to see this or that movie. This blog is an excuse to make each other watch those movies, and to get us writing on a regular basis.

The format of the blog will go something like this: the one inflicting the film upon the other will post a pre-game preview, explaining why that particular film was chosen, and what our expectations are regarding the other half's reaction to the film.  Next, the inflictee will view said film and post their reaction.  From there, a back and forth volley may ensue, or not, depending on how much we have to say.  You may also post comments, but heed the warning: Do Not Be an Asshole.  Assholes' comments will be stricken from the record and the offender shall be cursed with genital warts.  Believe dat.

We've even been considering adding a podcast discussion in the future, but we've got to figure out this whole blogging thing first. You'll have to be patient with the layout, etc.  There's a bit of a learning curve for us.

So there it is.  Welcome, and we'll get better at this soon.  We promise.