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Movies lately

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I've been watching a lot of movies lately, and have taken a look at a few new-to-me TV shows.

Since the beginning of November, I've watched these movies (almost all of them at home, most of them movies I've seen before):

The American President
Funny and charming and all-around delightful. Good to see Sorkin in peak form. Lots of great facial expressions.
The Bank Job
Not bad, but nothing special. I do like Statham, though.
The Bourne Identity
I loved this when it first came out, but was disappointed in the second and third movies, and haven't seen the fourth yet. But on this rewatching of the first one, I found it good, but not brilliant. I do really like the low-key low-tech approach, the focus on characters, the deliberate pace. I was disappointed to discover that something's wrong with my disc (brand new) that causes the whole famous car-chase scene to not play. The cast is amazing, but most of them aren't used to their full potential. Mostly, I really like Franka Potente as Marie; to me, she's kind of the core of the movie. After watching this, I read the beginning of the book (which I gather is quite different), but not sure whether I'll finish it.
Interesting, btw, the degree to which this movie seems to me to take place in the same milieu as Nikita. I imagine that Bourne Identity influenced most spy movies and shows that came after it—but the current Nikita series derives from the original Nikita series (and also possibly from Alias, but let's not get into that tangle), which predates Bourne by a few years, and from the original Nikita movie, which came out in 1990. But Bourne the movie was derived from Bourne the book, which was published in 1980. And I'm sure that all of these works draw on earlier spy fiction, from James Bond to le Carré. Still, I feel like some of the parallels between the first Bourne movie and the current Nikita series are especially strong. But that may just be me.
Deliverance
Skimmed the last two-thirds of it (starting with the famous rape scene). Found it basically uninteresting except for the dueling banjos scene; I suppose it was worth quasi-watching for cultural literacy purposes, but I felt no need to sit through the whole thing at normal speed.
Grosse Point Blank
Still very funny, clever, well-acted, fun.
Our Man Flint
I liked the Flint movies when I was a teenager, but haven't seen them since then. I still love James Coburn's smile, but I found the movie overall mostly weak, despite a few good or amusing bits. I thought that might just be because it was made in 1966, but then I watched The Sound of Music, which was made in 1965, and loved it.
The Radioland Murders
I loved this when I first saw it, in 1997, but it really didn't do much for me this time through. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for slapstick this time? I'm not sure.
Skyfall
About like most Bond movies for me: Enjoyable but not great. I felt that the pacing kind of sagged in the second half; it got to be a bit of a slog. But had some good stuff in it.
The Sound of Music
Lovely and charming and very funny in places. Enjoyed it a whole lot. The songs are so iconic, and so widely parodied, that I had forgotten how good the movie is overall. One example: I've always been kind of annoyed at the kind of anti-feminist lyrics of the “sixteen going on seventeen” song, but in this rendition of it, Liesl knows (even if Rolf doesn't) that she's the one who's eager and adventurous. When Liesl sings “timid and shy and scared am I,” she's advancing on Rolf, who freaks out and backs off.
Topkapi
I got this from Netflix a few months ago, 'cause I like heist movies, but then discovered that between the lack of subtitles and the thick accents, I couldn't understand it. The other day, I downloaded a text file of subtitles from the web (yay, web!), and made frequent reference to that while watching the movie. (Which made obvious that the last third of the movie has almost no dialogue.) Anyway, it has a few nice moments, but overall weak. After watching it, I learned that the original novel was from the point of view of Arthur Abdel Simpson, who's treated as kind of a secondary character in the movie (Ustinov won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar); I think that might make the story significantly more interesting. I downloaded and read the first chapter or two of the book, but don't know whether I'll buy and read the rest of it or not.
The Truman Show
Good stuff. Not brilliant, but worth watching (or in my case rewatching). I think it was a fascinating choice to tell the audience what's going on from the start; it would have been a very different movie if we'd been discovering the world behind the veil along with Truman. But it makes sense that they chose the way they did; it's a movie about television and society, not just about a guy discovering The Truth behind his world.
Ziegfeld Girl
Good, though some of the musical numbers go on a little long, and it has assorted flaws. Great cast, and Edward Everett Horton is fun as always.

That's twelve movies in twenty-three days—but there were two one-week periods in which I didn't see any movies. And eight of those movies were in the past week.

My favorites from this set: The Sound of Music, The American President, Grosse Point Blank.

It's been interesting, rewatching movies. I traditionally don't rewatch or reread anything; I privilege plot to such a degree that knowing what's going to happen has usually made me enjoy things significantly less. (With a few exceptions. I've probably seen Repo Man eight or ten times, and have gotten more of the jokes each time. When I was a kid, I re-read The Phantom Tollbooth once a year for about ten years, and got more of the jokes each time. And I used to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV every year.)

But I decided a year or two ago that it would be nice to have my best-loved movies easily accessible, and that it's been long enough for most of them that I wouldn't remember them in detail and could enjoy them again. So I've been buying Blu-rays (and some DVDs) ever since, and finally have time to watch them.

I don't think of my tastes as changing much over time. But I suppose that that's partly because I don't usually revisit stuff. It's been disconcerting to discover that some stuff I used to love doesn't really work for me now. (It almost makes me wonder whether I should go back to stuff that I didn't like but that other people did, and give it another chance. But when I've done that, I've almost never liked it more.) Because of that, I've been (for example) putting off rewatching My Own Private Idaho, because I really loved it on first watch but that was twenty years ago.

Anyway, it's kind of a relief when it turns out I do like things as much now as I did before; that's true, for example, of all three of my abovelisted favorites from this month.

I was going to talk about recent TV watching in this entry, but I think it's gone on long enough.

3 Comments

The thing about The Truman Show is that everybody knew the Big Idea from the ads. So by the time you got into the theater, if they had made some sort of mystery out of it, the reveal would have been disappointing.

In fact, my thought at the very beginning was that the filmmakers had done a really gutsy thing and just worked with the assumption that the audience had all seen the trailer/ads, and we didn't need to be told again. They did tell us again, but fairly briefly, so that was all right.

Of course, that was all operating in a universe where the real experience was going to the movie theater and watching it within a few weeks of its release, and that watching it at home was a pale substitute. That's not the universe we live in now—I don't know how people happen on movies these days, and what they know about them before hitting the start button.

Thanks,
-V.


I knew someone who saw THE TRUMAN SHOW without knowing anything about the movie beforehand, and she didn't figure out what was happening until well into the movie. I like the movie, but I think I might have loved it if I could have seen it without advance knowledge.


Vardibidian: Interesting point. Though the advertising was presumably created partly based on what they wanted the movie to be; if they'd meant the reveal to be a surprise, then I imagine that they would've advertised it differently.

Ted: Fascinating. Now I can't remember what if anything I knew going into it. I think I must've known, though, 'cause I did see it in the theatre, and that probably means I saw the ads.


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