Monday, May 09, 2011

Movie and Television Reviews for April Part One

Because I was trying so hard to finish my mother's gift before my trip, I watched a lot more television than usual.  Unfortunately, I did not finish the gift and I didn't watch many foreign films or things that would cause me too much distraction.  You'll see the end result in my choices.  And this is why I am breaking down the reviews into parts because I truly watched too much to dump into one blog post.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Okay.  If I were honest, and I do try to be, I’d have to confess that I actually watched this movie in March.  So why is it here, in the April movies?  Because I loved this movie!  It made me chuckle from the opening credits to the very last moment.  Awesome music and so many geeky jokes that I couldn’t help but fall in love with this one.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Michael Cera is in it playing the same dorky puppy character he always does but he does it so damn well.  But seriously, if you ever were into fighting games (Street Fighter, Tekken, Mortal Kombat) and remember them with fondness (I never did so I have no fond memories) then you’ll love this movie.  What?  I never played these games and I still found this movie charming and funny?  Yeah.  What can I say?  My nerdiness is not limited to my personal experience, apparently.

My So-Called Life

I never watched this when it originally aired but I really loved Claire Daines in Romeo and Juliet so I finally gave into the curiosity.  What was it about this show, that lasted only one season, that kept it alive in the hearts of those who did see it?  So much so that Juno alludes to it?  Well, for one thing you have a really great cast.  Yes, some of the characters are a bit cliche they never ring false.  I don’t know if I identified with Daines’ Angela because of her awkwardness and undeveloped innocence or if I identified more with the character of Rayanne for her outrageous quirkiness.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle.  Even now.  The story lines are more intelligent than one would expect in a teen-drama, problems often rolling from one episode into the next rather than resolving themselves by the closing credits.  At the time, this wasn’t usual for family dramas on television at the time.  For me the problem lies in attempting to capture too broad an audience.  The title suggests that the show will focus on one character’s life.  Instead, we learn a lot about her life and that of her friends and even of her parents.  Teenagers who might have watched the show certainly didn’t want to see Angela’s parents getting frisky in the bedroom or struggling with financial or marital issues.  And often the narrative goes beyond her home, family, and life to look at the lives of other characters, their experiences beyond her “so-called life.”  I think the show should have been more successful and would have been with a minor change in approach.  Focus on one person, mostly Angela but allow other characters to take over an episode.  They do this to some extent twice during the one season.  It would have been more effective if they had done it a few more times, rotating from Angela to Shannon, Brian, Rayanne, Rickie, Jordan, and yes, why not an episode here and there from a parental perspective although I would strive to avoid it.  Show the lives intersecting, the shifts in perception as outsiders give an objective view to what the subjective narrator sees.  Angela’s life, as seen through her own narrative, is different from what others see and her perception of their lives is likewise skewed.  I think that would have been an interesting approach, one that would have perhaps kept the show alive.  Or caused it to implode before season one even ended.


I love Stephen Sondheim’s music.  Anyone who sings appreciates the complexity not only of his lyrics but his melodies.  I can easily sing along with most songs the very first time I hear them.  I rarely can do this with Sondheim because he doesn’t follow typical melodic phrasing and creates the kind of complex music one rarely hears.  I may be mistaken but I thought I heard a melody within this musical that was not unlike one from Sweeney Todd.  It could also be, however, that I recognize enough songs from this musical that I am confusing the two.  In any event, a really interesting and, for the most part, well directed video of the stage production.  There were a few times when, while watching, you have the sense that there’s something happening off camera that you’re missing out on.  When watching musicals, I often wonder if what I am watching could be made into a movie.  Sometimes I think yes.  In this case, I don’t think so.  Not unless you remove the songs altogether.  And then, what would be the point?


I saw this movie when I was a child and remembered more of it than I would have anticipated.  I also remembered that there was some controversy surrounding the story, that there was some suggestion that Lillian Hellman, who wrote the story upon which this film was based, had taken creative liberties.  The movie is delicate as it weaves in and out of memory.  Sometimes it is hard to appreciate Fonda and Redgrave in the flashbacks, especially when they are meant to be college aged.  Diffused camera focus is not enough to leave the actresses looking entirely too old.  Better to have allowed the young actresses who play the same characters mature or something.  Still, it is an interesting movie.  Whether it is factual or not is open to debate.  I rarely turn to film for truth myself.


And again, some truth but not much.  Hypatia existed and she did teach.  She was hated by the Christians in the community.  The scene with the menstrual rag is apparently true, or as true as some history ever can be, and she was Cyril, one of the Church Fathers, was particularly responsible for her fall from grace, as it were.  There the movie departs from the facts but it must be reiterated that ancient history is so complicated with rumor and myth that it is impossible to truly know where and how truth picks up where conjecture finally falls away.  So there are relationships added and plot twists that seem more Hollywood than history.  I think it would have been interesting to show more of how Cyril is known for his views on Mary and juxtaposing this with his stance towards Hypatia’s role within the Alexandrian community.  Perhaps that would have been too ambitious for a movie and would have been better played in a novel.  I disliked the “Christians = bad” simplicity of this movie and, yet, I probably would have been disappointed if they had tried to apologize for some of Cyril’s less than Christian actions.

Toy Story 3

I had the rather stupid idea that this would be a good movie to watch on my birthday.  Why not?  I’d liked the previous two very much.  And I wanted to watch a family movie on my last day of having my son at home with me.  But seriously, what was I thinking?  The movie is about Andy, the boy who loves his toys so much in the first two movies, going off to college.  He has outgrown his beloved past and is moving on.  So there I am, wedged between my husband and my last son to move out of my home, bawling by the end of it so badly I don’t think I saw the last few scenes.  It was like my trying to read the last story in The House at Pooh Corner because I can’t do it.  Every time Christopher Robin starts saying good-bye to Pooh and the others . . . well, it’s hard to read through tears.  Anyway, this wasn’t a smart choice for me and I ended up really disappointed in the movie because I was too caught up in my own emotional subtext to watch this objectively.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie)

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I really like the show but I distinctly recall disliking the movie.  Why?  I couldn’t really remember.  So I figured, why not?  Stupid.  I knew I didn’t like it before.  What made me think I would like it now?  I didn’t.  And I can’t imagine why anyone would want to make this stupid movie into a television series.  But I’m glad they did.  Obviously, it worked.  I have no idea how.  Given that the movie had everything wrong from lighting to music, from casting to styling, it is remarkable that such a clever and interesting television show could be rooted in this film.

Soundtrack for a Revolution

If I were teaching, I can easily see using this documentary to discuss the power of rhetoric, of how music (poetry) is used to inspire, and the idea of civil disobedience, speech as a means of moving emotions, and more more more.  What interests me is the choice of singers.  Understandably, most are African-American.  Joss Stone is included.  The choice is intriguing.  I adore her voice and I think she is an excellent choice but she seems to be a token nod, allowing for some inclusion but not really embracing the idea.  Ironic, given the message of this dvd, showing how this was a fight for equal rights that not only freed the black community but freed white people as well—free from ignorance, from being stuck in narrow thinking, etc.  Watching how communal the marches were and then seeing only one Caucasian singer has me pondering the significance of things.  As I said, if I were teaching, I would love to use this dvd for many reasons and it would be interesting to me to see how the students would respond.  Would they notice and, if so, how would they feel about it?  And frankly, does it even matter?

About a Boy

Seriously, only I could choose a romantic comedy that ends up being more depressing than not.  And what an utter waste of talent.  There are some very good actors in this movie, none of whom shine.  I kept looking at the kid and thinking he reminded me of one of the actors in Skins.  Ends up, it’s the same kid.  (I am referring to the original and not the American remake.)  I just don’t understand why this is called a romantic comedy.  I’m assuming the story line is closely based on the novel by the same name.  If so, add this to the list of books I never ever want to read.  Ugh.


  1. I must admit that I actually enjoyed the Buffy movie. To me it was a spoof of every vampire story written before. And since I am jealousy protective of the mythology of the creatures, it had to strike a cord within me to enjoy what is at best a parody of the Vampire culture. The bad Dracula wanna be, the awful high school stereotypes, the loner out for himself until some girl makes him care about more...I found it all ridiculously humorous

  2. Samael, I think this was my third or even my fourth time trying to like it and every time the only part I like is Paul Reubens. I think if the music were better or something . . . I dunno. There's just something missing. The movie's the reason I didn't even start watching the television show until it's third season. I think the humor slipped through my fingers all of the times I've tried to like it. I give up. I just don't think even my cross-stitching will sucker me into giving it another try.

  3. Hate the Buffy movie, love the show.

  4. Patches, Glad I'm not alone in my distaste.