Weekly Round-Up: July 03-09, 2016

I can’t believe I went an entire week (June 26 – July 02) without any movies. And this week was a slow one too! I saw:

  • The Notorious Bettie Page (2005) – Very thoughtful and respectful biopic of the pin-up queen of the 1950s. The film’s greatest strength, and bravery, lies in its blending of Miss Page’s career choices and spirituality not as contradictory, but complementary in forming a complex, confident woman of the 20th century. Gretchen Mol shines in the title role. RECOMMENDED.
  • Ghostbusters (1984) – Rewatching the original to prep for the remake’s launch the following week. It’s been years since I’d seen it, so I was a little surprised by the slower-than-expected pacing as well as the dirty jokes (PG was a different time back then!), but the moments of sheer insanity are still thrilling. RECOMMENDED.
  • Ghostbusters II (1989) – First time with this one – not quite as good as the original, but there were some great laugh-out-loud gags and character interactions. RECOMMENDED.

What did you see two weeks ago?

Life is the Bubbles

Nobody loved The Little Mermaid as much as I did. The music, the adventure, the characters, and the high-stakes drama – it was all two-year-old me could ask for in a movie. He could watch it every day, so he did. As soon as his big sisters were off to school, the daily Little Mermaid ritual began: climbing into his VHS cabinet, shimmying out the bulky white plastic case between Lady and the Tramp and Mary Poppins, jamming the tape into the VCR, and immersing himself into the story of Ariel.

The Little Mermaid was such an important part of his everyday routine. Nobody could love it as much as he did.

Except the thousands of fans who also attended a screening of the film at the Hollywood Bowl. Followers of Ariel of all shapes and sizes, from little princesses to full-grown adults cosplaying as Scuttle, the real show on display was the breadth and diversity of all the people this movie touched.

In the era of Netflix, it’s so easy to enjoy entertainment wherever and whenever we please – often from the comfort of home. But it’s another experience entirely to go out, get dressed up, buy an expensive ticket for a movie you’ve already seen, and take part in a collective, collaborative entertainment event. The film screening was enhanced by the presence and enthusiasm of a motley crew, cheering as Ursula gets defeated, stifling tears as King Triton destroys Ariel’s grotto, and whistling when Eric finally “kisses the girl.”

His childhood routine, of watching and re-watching The Little Mermaid, was a mostly solitairy one – with Mom stepping in every 80 minutes or so to rewind the tape. It was something else to experience this film with a crowd of thousands, authentic kids and kids at heart, who also watched it every day growing up, now no longer alone.

Weekly Round-Up: June 05-11, 2016

This week had a few jumbled viewings, as I fell asleep and had to resume no fewer than three films. I watched:

  • Tangerine (2015) – Outrageous, hysterical, and ultimately moving story of friendship between two prostitutes in a sun-bleached vision of Hollywood. Fully fleshed out characters and strong performances anchor what would otherwise be a camp-fest, into a well-grounded window into another world. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989) – Special screening at the Hollywood Bowl, with the music performed live by an orchestra with singing by Jodi Benson (the real Ariel), Rebel Wilson (as Ursula), and Darren Criss (Prince Eric), among others. Another highlight was the opening acts, of Brad Kane (the real Aladdin) and Susan Egan (the real Megara). Here’s a post reflecting on my experience. REQUIRED.
  • Zootopia (2016) – I’ve seen this four times now, and each time I uncover something new in this wonderfully rich film. It’s a heavy one thematically, touching on racism, sexism, discrimination, politics – but it balances them all beautifully in a labyrinthine mystery. REQUIRED.
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) – Had a hard time getting through this one. A male outsider comes to a northwest mining town, followed by professional Madame, and they pair up to start a high-class whorehouse. I went into it with enthusiastically (I enjoy the other Altman films I’ve seen), but I cared little-to-nothing about these characters or their slow-moving plotlines. NOT RECOMMENDED.
  • The Conjuring 2 (2016) – Spooky paranormal thriller combines standard “jump” moments with some creative scares, all enriched by a quality story and stylized visuals. The Warrens are back and taking ghost-hunting to an international level, traveling to London to help a desperate family rid their house of spirits. RECOMMENDED.
  • The Player (1992) – I’m still brewing about this one. I loved the first half of the film: a studio executive being pursued by a frustrated writer, all while balancing his paranoia with the chaos and cynicism of show business. I fell off during the second half, where it gets into an unnecessary love story, but it all circles around to a twisty ending I appreciated. So, opinion is still TBD…

What did you see last week? Am I wrong about McCabe & Mrs. Miller?