…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “2004

Christmas Movie: Serendipity


While Christmas shopping in New York, Sara (Kate Beckinsale) and Jonathan (John Cusack) meet and seem to really like each other. But she’s making him play a game, making each other leave their numbers randomly in NYC. She says that they’re meant to be together if they find each other with these little signs. If I was in Jonathan’s place I would just surrender and assume that she doesn’t like me as much as she appears he does, or that she has baggage that I probably shouldn’t deal with, despite of how beautiful and charming he is. The latter is the most plausible theory but for some reason “Serendipity” doesn’t address that.

Seven years later we see both not as close to each other as they want to, because it’s their fault. They revel in their fake happiness, surprisingly engaged and soon to be married with other people (John Corbett). But they’re thinking about the one who got away because they were meant for each other, although one of them could have had the power to stop their mental torture and for this movie to have stopped happening. Why do romantic comedies not make sense? Why am I such a guy? I should just crank one of these things out. I’ve ‘fallen in love’ like this but without subsequent meetings built bridges it’s difficult to sustain such emotional connections. Although I’m considering the truth within that statement in a pre-Facebook era, and wondering about the ramifications of separations like this had this movie been made earlier.

And despite of being his bread and butter I never understood why Cusack starred in these things or in any movie. Besides, he seems to go through these informal five-ish year hiatuses. I don’t know anything he’s done between “Bullets over Broadway” and “High Fidelity” and between “Identity” and “Hot Tub Time Machine.” I have amateur porn star CV’s to complete that seem more urgent than going through all his movies. And he’s paired up with all these younger women like Beckinsale and Lizzy Caplan and Alice Eve that I’m numb to it now. I used to stalk the Top Ten Money Making Stars list all time and he’s never appeared once. People who make money should only be getting away with stuff like this. Why is he getting away with this? Is it because of Lloyd Dobbler? I’m sorry to ruin everyone’s teenhoods but he’s not Lloyd Dobbler. Lloyd Dobbler only happened once. And why is his sister less famous than him?

But I’m not so ignorant about Cusack’s CV to know that every other movie of his has Jeremy Piven in it. He moves up from stoner friend or doped sailor to a NYT obituarist who helps Jonathan find clues to who Sara is. Piven, known as a terrible person, does have the chops to show empathy for Jonathan. Sara is equally equipped with a BFF in Molly Shannon, as the former gives the latter a trip to NYC as a birthday gift but with her own hidden motives. Basically, at the heart of these movie are two useful people who suffer under the weight of their love struck and manipulative friends.


Super Size Me


I first watched Morgan Spurlock‘s Sundance hit Super Size Me some time within my last two years in high school, possibly during my Media Studies class where all we did was watch movies. Or maybe was it in Ethics class. The director has a weird reputation for me now, seeming like some attention-grabbing, condescending liberal to end all condescending liberals. The fact that fellow (and possible rival) liberal Michael Moore is no longer on the spotlight doesn’t help to take any heat off Spurlock. In the film, he goes on this thirty-day experiment of only consuming the foods and drinks is on the McDonalds’ menu, agreeing to be ‘Super Sized’ when asked. But at least, I suppose, he wasn’t drinking or smoking during those thirty days.

He points the camera mostly to himself, renting a car to cut his physical activity and exercise. Being ‘strung out on ham’ and complaining about the diet’s effects which I couldn’t really see. This ‘performance’ part of the movie sticks out in the eight years between the first and second time I’ve seen this, being one of three documentaries that occasionally lifts my willing suspension of disbelief. Super Size Me‘s popularity has also prompted him to do a cable series called “30 Days” where he convinces Americans to place themselves within different shoes for thirty days, like an Islamophobe to Muslim Michigan or himself to prison. I don’t remember anyone else watching this show.

But I can admit that I misread Spurlock as a filmmaker and person. He explains that he was raised in West Virginia and as a tall, athletic man with weird facial hair, he makes sense both as a New Yorker and as a middle American, just like the people he visits and interviews to get the McDonalds experience in different states like California, DC and the fattest state of Texas (I suppose that with the knowledge of the physical state of the latter state, if there was another Civil War the gun-less, pacifist Union might still win).

And it’s not all just him hogging the camera. Yes, the B-roll of ‘fat’ Americans both young and all makes me feel like I have to poke fun of someone as part of experiencing this movie. But as one of many ‘experts’ in this film says, it’s better to convince someone to stop smoking or drinking than to tell someone to go on a diet. A black lung or liver is a state that people get themselves into, as opposed to obesity that might be genetically inherited. But the States has become the world’s fattest country and the proves this by letting these experts speak, whether they be general practitioners (doctors), dietitians, civil litigators, ‘cooks’ in American public schools and surgeons. He also makes statistics about American obesity rates and the dynamics of the food market both fun and scary to look at between watching him get queasy after a Big Mac.

Let’s also look at how the film perceives women. Two thirds of the doctors he consults before and during his experiment are women. There’s also his girlfriend, whose complaints about his sexual worthlessness during those thirty days. She’s also an archetypal vegetarian, attempting to use the experiment as a way of convincing him that meat is hazardous to one’s health even if it’s within or outside the McMenu. She has also planned a detox diet for him after his McDonalds month and I’ll just be bitchy and say that he could have planned his own detox.

Spurlock narrates in the beginning that most of his memories of his mother was her cooking food except for those special occasions when his family would eat out. Which is no longer the case in most families in America and he shows a food court that replaces the dinner table. It’s almost as if there’s a warped mind somewhere thinking that the country’s obesity problem is rooted on mothers who no longer toil for their families’ dinners. That we can return to equilibrium again if we put women back in the kitchen. He thankfully never says that. Instead he goes on for five minutes about an overhaul and regulation of fast food ubiquity, getting rid of many cola vending machines, introducing real food that’s inaccessible to places in the States and cracking down on fast food corporations. Too bad he’s just preaching to the choir.


Indefensible: The Butterfly Effect


ph. New Line

Ashton Kutcher was once ‘Ashton Christopher,’ model. If you’re rich or in your first month of getting your Rogers Digital cable box, you’re not feeding starving children in Africa and instead watching old footage of ‘Christopher’ in Fashion Television Channel. You’d be watching a Donna Karan fashion show or something in the 90’s wrap up, they interview Janice Dickinson, then ‘Christopher,’ who just walked the show. Best Week Ever alleges that he and Josh Duhamel are the inspiration for Derek and Hansel. Dan Savage also takes credit for discovering him and introducing him to America, and with the former’s stroke of luck, he decides that he’s the soothsayer of future hot famous men and picks Trent Ford, whom you’ve never heard of and will never hear about again. Maybe it’s the foresight, but there’s a glimmer in ‘Christopher’s’ eye and this weird mouth thing that seems like he’s wanting to burst out from this image of the preppy, well composed young man into becoming the turn of the 21st century goofball. A few years later, he decides to show America that he is a serious actor as well with his star vehicle The Butterfly Effect,  a critical failure, a relatively box office success, cult favourite. Cue Demi Moore, Twitter, “Two and a Half Men.”

I’ve only seen the first twenty minutes of it. Kutcher is almost absent and looks like ass, Eric Stoltz is terrible, the child counselor from Freddy Got Fingered is in it, shout outs to Dumb and Dumber and Se7en, I will never have children. Tonight at 7PM at the Toronto Underground Cinema, Criticize This’ Andrew Parker is showing The Butterfly effect as part of his Defending the Indefensible Series. Adam Nayman and Norman Wilner will be discussing the (de)merits of the film. And of course, the series continues because when you pay to watch these potentially terrible movies, you’re donating to charity. This month’s charity, appropriately enough, is the Red Door, sheltering women and children fleeing from domestic abuse.


The Motorcycle Diaries


I did a paper on Argentina in my first year in university. Beef is one of that country’s largest exports. There will be a lot of cows in this movie.

ph. Focus

So Che Guevarra, known as Ernesto ‘Fuser’ Guevarra (Gael Garcia Bernal) was my age in 1951 and is best friends with a guy named Alberto (Rodrigo De la Serna), aged thirty, both of whom are passionate young adults who are kind of lost just like I am? Sweet and comforting, actually.

The Motorcycle Diaries follows the two men as they try to make it from Argentina to Venezuela by a motorcycle they call The Mighty One or The Powerful, depending on the translation, hoping to make it there for Alberto’s birthday. The film oscillates between the innate greatness and the precarious uncertainly of young lives of these two future leaders.

Although they are the main characters of the film, they’re also not necessarily the heroes since as young men, their strengths won’t be as well moulded. The movie’s technically about Ernesto, sometimes he steps aside for Alberto, who’s more charismatic to women and is a better dancer than he is. Both the young men also take the same humble attitude and watch great actions from the people they meet along their journey. Alberto, on his birthday and far from Venezuela, stumbles and says that traveling up a hill isn’t humanly possible, then we see a Native walk uphill. The two city boys learn from the people they meet and gather the fortitude to do impossible things themselves, like tell a doctor he can’t write or refuse to wear gloves while shaking hands with lepers or swim across a dangerous river at nighttime.

The trip is an educational experience in all the ways they have intended or otherwise, finding out for instance about specific restrictions. The two are kicked off a mining site while trying to watch out for a Communist couple, or the Natives are kicked off their land by corporations, both examples fueling outrage within Ernest and Alberto’s young minds.

Comparisons are inevitably drawn between this film and Bernal’s other road trip movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien. Ernesto fools around with his girlfriend in a car, although the scene’s tamer here. He and Alberto are also going to fight along the way. However, unlike the comfortable distance Julio and Tenoch has inside a car, ‘The Powerful’ becomes ‘The Deceased,’ the young men have to go on foot as they stubbornly continue their journey. Walking, as these guys say, makes them actually meet and talk to people along the way. They have informative conversations with drifters, or lepers who aren’t being treated well by the nuns in the settlement. The desolate injustices hinted at in Y Tu Mama Tambien are more pronounced in this film but the impact somehow seems lessened.


Anchorman


Good evening, San Diego. I’m Veronica Whoreningstone, Tits McGee is on vacation!

God forbid, however, if she say something bad about Ron Burgundy’s (Will Ferrell) hair. Yes, it’s ok to feel comfortable or to just point out the sexism within the jokes because the script wouldn’t be made if it wasn’t as a satire the sexism in the TV journalism industry in the 1970’s. There’s Whoreningstone, I mean Veronica (Christina Applegate) as well as Applegate herself, both having to think on their toes. I keep hearing Jennifer Aniston’s voice on Naomi Watts’ body. As I said earlier though, Applegate has the intelligence and something else. She really fits this film’s modified version of the 1970’s and her diction helps a lot with that. Of course there’s the steely blonde blue eyed-ness, allowing herself to be cold and ruthless when need be. I can’t wait for her and her co-star Will Ferrell reunite for Hall Pass this year.

Anchorman is a more masculine and funnier version of 200 Cigarettes, having a surprising all-star cast that includes cameos of people already famous (Chris Parnell, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, Danny Trejo, Vince Vaughn, Fred Willard, Owen Wilson) and those who will be famous in less than a decade (Jon Hamm, Seth Rogen).

I like this shot, but even here in this little moment of beauty, director Adam McKay adds something hilarious. Why aren’t the other citizens of San Diego attacking him, though? Shh, don’t question it. Just laugh, because I am.

Although this post is coming out today, this actually was the first movie I saw in the New Year. Don’t hate.


Bad Movie: Taking Lives


ph. Warner

Despite my moods, I have to consider that Ethan Hawke is a great Broadway actor. That Angelina Jolie has knocked it out of the park at least twice. The latter, my favourite performance of hers, is in black face – and yes, I just willed this sentence to existence. That the Patton Oswalt quasi-apology for bad movies exist. The first shot I’ve seen of Taking Lives and with Jolie’s super-dark hair I thought, wait, why is Salt already on TV? My sister is a big Angelina fan for some reason, and she’ll watch any movie of hers, despite being very well aware that it’s crap.

That Gena Rowlands, who plays Mrs. Asher, is awesome, touches anything she wants and ain’t scared. And she dies. After watching KST getting killed off in a movie, there should be a law against icing great actresses.

Olivier Martinez is also in this mess, because they’re using a Frenchman to convince America that this movie’s set in Quebec.

And Kiefer Sutherland, Canadian, in pictures.

Then Costa (Hawke) befriends a random guy and kills him.

Here’s how it ends. Context – Ileana (Jolie) and Costa has sex without the former knowing that the latter is a killer. He’s pretty gross about the sex too.There’s actually decent acting going on here, Jolie’s cry groaning and Hawke’s creepy soft talk surprisingly the right notes for the scene. But they can’t save this movie at all. Ileana gets fired, moves to some winter yokel town to be alone and bear a child, then whoa, Costa’s back! Yeah, assault that pregnant woman!

Stab her in the stomach!

She stabs him in the heart, and reveals that she’s not really pregnant. I’m not an ob-gyn, but she should be swimming in blood had he put his second or third hand on her. The violence, however, is shocking and ridiculous enough to fasten my willing suspension of disbelief.

And U2’s playing, convincing me that my father is wrong and my friends are right about U2.


Birthday Post!


And to tell me how to dress for my party is Karen (Amanda Seyfried).

‘On Wednesdays, we wear pink!’

‘Like, if I was wearing sweatpants right now, I’d be sitting with the art freaks.’ Of course, Karen, I never wear sweatpants outside the house. I have dignity.

But seriously, I say those lines ALL. THE TIME.