Category Archives: there’s a difference between films and movies

Les Miserables: Pores, Poo, and Hugh Jackman Hitting One or Two Powerful Notes

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I went to see Les Miserables last night with my friend Ash and thought it was well-acted, entertaining, not nearly as cheesy as I expected, and not even close to deserving a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars this year when you compare it to a film like The Master. I did almost cry once during it, though, so that’s something. I think I also almost cried during Looper with my friend Kim the night before, though, so maybe it’s nothing.

Anyway, here are my spoiler-free thoughts about Les Mis:

• I can’t believe there was a character named Cassette.

• Watching a preview for the movie a few days ago, Kamran pointed out that the scene with Anne Hathaway singing “I Dreamed a Dream” all close up with her shaved head looks like a reference to the 1920s silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, which was a big deal because of its extremely intimate zoomed-in look and stark background that made the actor the whole point of the thing.

Joan of Arc looks way cooler, am I right? I thought this particular Les Mis scene with its teary, snotty close-up was pretty powerful, but in general, the filmmaking seemed pretty sad and uninteresting, and I’m not surprised that Tom Hooper wasn’t nominated for Best Director at this year’s Oscars. The background of the movie was a French uprising, and yet France played absolutely no character in it; I can literally think of one bit of French architecture that was showcased. The rest of the backdrops were filmed entirely out of focus, the shallow depth of field trained solely on whichever actor happened to be singing at that point. All of the budget must have been spent on big-name actors, so there was nothing left for scenery. Anne Hathaway’s skin was never meant to be seen at that distance, godblessher.

• Sometimes the camera’s precise focus was amazing, and sometimes only Eddie Redmayne’s ear was in focus.

• Some of the singing felt raw and impassioned, and some just needed enough Auto-Tuning to make the notes even remotely correct.

• The all-sung dialogue was awkward at times, especially when there was no background music and the actors didn’t know the tune they were supposed to be singing.

• The live recording of songs didn’t work when actors were physically separated; Amanda Seyfried’s notes from the carriage seemed to physically bounce off of Eddie Redmayne’s from the center of town when they were supposedly harmonizing.

• The plot wasn’t boring, and the eight hours or whatever it lasted didn’t seem long.

• They actually showed the body hitting the water! And it thudded!

• The “Red and Black” song was my favourite of the film.

• I agree with everyone else that Eddie Redmayne has a great voice, but I liked Aaron Tveit singing as Enjolras better. And I also totally didn’t hate Russell Crowe’s vocals, though Tracey said it sounded like he thought he was in a rock opera, and Ash said it sounded like he has fat on his vocal cords.

• The little Cockney kid, Gavroche, was uh-maaaaazing. But why was there a little Cockney kid in France?

• So much poo in people’s mouths!

The poo is the really important part.

Only You Can Prevent Romantic Comedies

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Last Thursday night, I went out with Kim for Shake Shack (burgers, cheese fries, and sweet potato and marshmallow custard with marshmallow creme topping and shortbread)

and Anna Karenina at one of the big Times Square theatres. The movie was so artful it’s kind of hard to describe how it was done: it has sets, like a play, so that characters can walk from one place to another just by going through doors, but it’s not bare and janky like most plays are. The costumes are as elaborate as the sets are, space and time are messed with in exciting ways, and there’s morphine!

But the point of this story is that as Kim and I were approaching the theatre, there was a huuuuu-uuuuu-uuuuuge line stretching to the end of the block. Figuring it probably wasn’t for the movie based on a novel about nineteenth-century Russia, we bypassed it and headed on into the theatre, turning back to read the sign that said it was for . . . Playing for Keeps, the Gerard Butler/Jessica Biel romantic comedy about a soccer dad.

Which has . . . 2% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes.

We are too good for this world.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 2: The Least Bad One

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I went to dinner with my friend Ash last night at Famous Dave’s (chain BBQ!) in Times Square, and then we went to see the dreaded final Twilight movie. (And not dreaded because we’re going to miss the series so much, mind you.)

I wasn’t planning to see this one any time soon, because, you know, they’re generally terrible, awful, horrible movies to begin with, but I especially couldn’t justify spending a month’s rent to see this one after Edward had that amaaaaazingly bad line in the last one. Hold on. Let me find it.

Oh, oh, here we go: “Jacob imprinted. They can’t hurt her. Whoever a wolf imprints on can’t be harmed. It’s their most absolute law.”

SO BAD. Especially in context. The screenwriter was clearly like, “Ahh, crap, I forgot to work in the wolves’ most absolute law earlier in the series. I’ll just have a character announce it out of nowhere. The audience won’t care. They’re all teenage girls and middle-aged women too busy having mindsex with Robert Pattinson to notice.”

But this one was easily the most enjoyable in the series! I’m actually–dare I say–glad I saw it in the theater? Without giving away any spoilers (because I knooooow you’re Fandangoing your tickets as we speak), here are the high/lowlights:

• The opening credits were really artistic and convinced me the baby’s face wouldn’t be CGI this time

• Not only was the baby’s face CGI, but it stayed CGI as she grew up for no apparent reason

• Renesmee got too old too fast, and you realize there’s no way Bella could have possibly loved this kid who skipped right over all of her time as a baby, which is of course the only time children are cute enough to tolerate

• So many creepy imprinting-pedophilia jokes

• Brilliant job working a fight scene into a chick flick

• I actually teared up when one of the wolves fell down the chasm, which I realize is insane

• No cringe-inducing characters-saying-lines-only-to-fill-plot-holes

• Edward and Bella were less annoying now that they could just be together instead of constantly emoing out over not being able to be together

• Bella actually looked kind of hot with her giant Amy Winehouse hair

• The super-extended cheeseball end credits made you feel like you actually loved these characters, as long as you can forget about how ugly everyone was in the first movie

But the real highlight was the costume display outside of the theater and the Jacob mannequin’s manboobs:

Twilight Costume

The Top Five Most Memorable Movies from My Childhood

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Earlier this week, my sister texted me to say that Return to Oz, one of our favourite childhood movies, had arrived at her house from Netflix. I went to Wikipedia to read the plot synopsis, and even nearly thirty years later, it still seems just as magical even when distilled down to a few paragraphs that don’t mention any of the dazzling props nor character voices that you can hear in your brain even when you haven’t seen the movie for fifteen years.

It got me thinking about how my mom used to take us to the Pickaway County Public Library, a fifteen-minute drive from our house to the next town over, so many times throughout the year that I could almost draw you a map of the places where the floorboards in the old building would creak when you’d walk on them. It was housed in Memorial Hall, which at the time seemed to me like the biggest, coolest castle I’d ever seen. (The local community theatre, Roundtown Players, is also housed there, and I spent months on end rehearsing a musical on its stage when I was in junior high, because apparently I was outgoing and involved when I was a kid.) A side room held rows of photocopied video cassette and cassette tape covers that had been laminated in thick plastic so that you could thumb through them like records at a music store. Later, they would add the covers of CDs and DVDs.

I don’t remember them being in any kind of order, neither alphabetically nor by genre, so my sister and I would have to look at a hundred boring Oscar-winning film laminates before we found the much-coveted Faerie Tale Theatre movies, hosted by and starring Shelley Duvall, who my sister and I thought was the most beautiful woman in the world and named all of our stuffed animals and Barbies after. (Now that The Shining is one of my favourite movies (thanks, Kamran!), it’s hilarious to me to think that I found this woman attractive as a kid.)

Anyway, all of this nostalgia had me thinking about the most memorable movies from my childhood, and here are my top five:

No big deal. Just Tik-Tok and FAIRUZA BALK as Dorothy.

Return to Oz: I’m pretty sure my entire love of chickens stems from Dorothy’s pet chicken, Billina. There’s an I Hate Billina Facebook page, which I will not link to because I find the idea of someone being serious about hating a movie chicken inconceivable.

Labyrinth: My mom, an English teacher, used to show this to her Humanities classes, and I accidentally saw so much of it as she was preparing questions about it for her class that I got interested and finally asked to watch all of it one day. It eventually became such a tradition for my best friend, Tracey, and me to watch it on Friday nights at her house while eating Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food that we fell in love with David Bowie and became devotees of the website dedicated to his crotch.

Don’t worry, guys. It’s not poo.

The Peanut Butter Solution: My mom was known for recording things off of TV; if I offhandedly mentioned to her that I liked the band Bush, she’d set the VCR for me every time they were on any of the late-night talk shows so that Tracey and I could later sit in front of her TV for hours with the closed captioning on, writing down lyrics so we could sing along to their songs back in the days before the Internet had every lyric to every song ever. She taped The Peanut Butter Solution for my sister and me for god knows what reason, but it turned out to be one of the movies we watched over and over and over. It was scary and exciting and about peanut butter, so how could I resist? Plus, according to Wikipedia, it “features the first English-language songs performed by Céline Dion”. (WHAT?) I had outgrown it by the time my mom died when I was eighteen, so I’m sure my dad didn’t think anything of throwing out the old videotape when he got remarried and moved into my stepmom’s house. Luckily, Tracey is AMAZING and bought me a bootleg DVD of it a few years back. I’ve been too . . . I don’t know . . . sentimental? . . . to watch it yet, though.

The Phantom of the Opera: Again, my mom taped this off of TV for no apparent reason, but I couldn’t get enough of the thing. I don’t actually remember anything about it except for this one shot of the Phantom’s underground lair, but that scene and the way the light from the water reflected onto the wall is so vivid in my mind that I have no doubt I could figure out which adaptation it was if I watched them. I’m almost sure it’s the 1990 version, which would explain why I like Teri Polo so much. Also because of “Felicity” and the “Criminal Minds” where she was a child molester, but mostly because of “Phantom”.

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure: I’ve never seen Star Wars. There’s no reason I’d be interested in this movie. But I guess my mom thought all girls like cute, cuddly things, and I remember being called back downstairs one night after I’d already gone to sleep, lying down on the living room floor on blankets and pillows next to my litter sister, and watching this while wearing my footie pajamas. It became a tradition every time it was on TV when we were kids. Eventually I wasn’t able to stand having my feet enclosed and made my mom cut the footie part off, but the idea was still the same.

So, what are your top five? Write me a blog post if you’re as wordy as I am!

Otto, PS1, 5Pointz, and Other Really New Yorky Things

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On Friday night, my co-workers and I went to Mario Batali’s Otto for pizza and pasta and cured meats and gelato in flavors like OLIVE OIL and CREME FRAICHE. My friend Ash took awesome pictures of the meal, including some of me pretending to eat an entire plate of salad like a taco once we figured out there was a big slice of cheese underneath all the lettuce. No big deal.

Otto Pizzeria
photo by Ash at Not Bored in NY

Afterward, we went to see Prometheus in 3-D, and I thought we’d all agree that it was awwwwwwwwwwesomely entertaining, but it turns out that fully half of the group thought it was a plague on the rest of the franchise. So go see it if you want fun and suspense and gore, but don’t see it if you like films that don’t try to cram three movies’ worth of material into one.

Saturday, we met our friends Nik and Marko at PS1, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) baby sister in Queens. There were some crazy cool things there (a roomful of confetti being blown around by fans, a movie with animated LEGO people reading pathetic online conversations between real people), but because some of it was a little avant-garde, it was no surprise to hear middle-aged women saying things like, “This is as useless as Twitter.”

P.S. 1 NYC
Wendy being constructed in the museum’s courtyard

Then we walked across the street to 5Pointz, a factory that’s been turned into a graffiti park where artists can spray on the weekends. We’ve probably seen it a hundred times from the 7 train but have never stopped to actually take it all in.

5 Pointz Graffiti Park NYC

Obviously it brought out the badass in the boyz:

5 Pointz Graffiti Park NYC

And then we went to a Bosnian restaurant to eat cevapi, the sausages Nik and Marko ate while growing up in Serbia. They were totally delicious,


and now I’ve threatened to take everyone out for Ohio food.