Month: July 2012

Like Crazy (Drake Doremus, 2011)

I’m backkkk!!! I caved and had a grilled cheese and turkey sandwich for lunch. And I’m kinda craving another one, just about now…

Anyways, enough about my obsessions with food. This post is about one of the best love stories I’ve seen in ages, Drake Doremus’s Like Crazy (2011). Like Crazy, starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as lovers Jacob and Anna, is a very honest portrayal of a trajectory of a modern romance. The story begins while the two are in college. Jacob, studying furniture design, and Anna, training to become a journalist though her first love is poetry, meet and fall in love while studying in LA. Upon graduation, a wrench is thrown in their perfect romance when Anna learns she must return to the UK, her country of origin, for the summer or risk violating her student visa. On Anna’s last day in the States, she withdraws from Jacob, pushing him away in her sadness – a reaction that foreshadows the rocky, imperfect romance that is to follow. Though Anna ends up staying and violating her student visa so that she and Jacob could enjoy a summer of bliss, the consequences of her decision prove to be significantly more painful on the young romance than would be a summer apart: the pair is forced to live apart on separate continents, continuing their relationship via half-hearted phone calls and infrequent visits, during which each recognizes the coolness and distance that is growing between them. Despite evidence that they are no longer in love with each other, the two delude themselves into believing that they are, that the coolness that has developed between them is a temporary symptom of their long-distance relationship that will surely disappear once they can be reunited once and for all, out of a naive and idealistic desire to preserve their first love.

What makes Like Crazy a winner in Hollywood’s love of romantic dramas is its realism, its emotional honesty. The dilemmas and emotions Jacob and Anna are faced with in their attempts to keep their relationship alive, the guilt, the weariness, the confusion, seem very real and true. This commitment to emotional realism is carried out until the very end of the film. The concluding scene of Like Crazy strongly reminds me of that of Mike Nichols’ 1967 classic The Graduate. Just as the thrilled expressions on Dustin Hoffman’s Ben Braddock and Katharine Ross’s Elaine Robinson’s faces gradually begin to disappear as their escape bus drives off into the distance away from Elaine’s wedding to another man, as the pair begins to realize how the capricious, split-second decision that they made has created a hazy, ambiguous future for the two of them, Like Crazy also ends on a less-than-happy note. SPOILER ALERT! After getting married and moving back to LA after many years apart, Jacob and Anna shower together only to realize that their passion for each other has permanently cooled. Their expressions, while initially happy, fade into dissatisfaction as each realizes they have just bought into a lifetime of unhappiness out of their idealistic desire to make their first love work.

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Update

Since I haven’t been posting reviews or analyses or even just thoughts on all the movies I’ve watched this summer, I’ll just put out a list for my records. So in a few years from now I can look back at this list and smile (or you know, grimace at how much TV I watched this summer.)

  1. Thor
  2. Captain America
  3. The Avengers
  4. ET: the Extraterrestrial
  5. Tootsie
  6. Borat
  7. Dead Poets Society
  8. Pretty Woman
  9. Casablanca
  10. The Philadelphia Story
  11. Drive
  12. Kings of Pastry (documentary)
  13. Schindler’s List
  14. Annie Hall
  15. Lars and the Real Girl
  16. Pan’s Labyrinth
  17. Despicable Me
  18. Vertigo
  19. Midnight in Paris
  20. The Ides of March
  21. Snow White and the Huntsman
  22. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  23. Jaws
  24. Unstoppable
  25. The Best Years of Our Lives
  26. Rebel Without a Cause
  27. The Amazing Spiderman
  28. Moonrise Kingdom
  29. Take the Money and Run
  30. Like Crazy

More on each later…if I get around to it, that is. I at least want to blog about Like Crazy. Seriously one of the best, most refreshing love stories I’ve seen in a while. That one reminds me a bit of The Graduate.

Oh and some good books I’ve read since my last post…Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Both Dickens and Waugh did a fabulous job of building their characters – in both books, the characters are so complex and relateable that they just come alive. Especially in Brideshead…I think I might have to analyze that book on paper for me to feel some closure with that book. The characters are just so realistically and honestly crafted that you have to really think about them and how they’re all interconnected (especially with the mother) in order to truly understand them and the book. With Dickens it’s easier to just appreciate the depth of the characters but move on without really thinking too much about them and why they’re the way they are and how they’re connected with other characters because there’s a relatively easy-to-digest plot behind the whole thing (though thinking about all the moral conundrums presented to Pip in this book is a great intellectual exercise…oh gosh, did I just say that? That was a really pretentious thing for me to say, I must admit), but with Waugh, the characters ARE the plot. I feel like it’s more of a character study than anything, and thus, some sort of meditation upon the book is needed after reading to piece the whole thing together. But more later. I’m quite hungry right now… I’m feeling grilled cheese? Though I should probably have a grilled chicken salad. Oh, dilemmas.

Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)

So a couple of weeks ago, I started this post on Woody Allen’s 2011 romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris. I know it might be a blasphemous thing for me to say, but I liked Midnight in Paris so much better than the only other Woody Allen flick I had seen at the time, his highly-regarded masterpiece, Annie Hall. Now, I did appreciate the goofy yet intelligent cleverness of Annie Hall – like how Allen repeatedly has the characters speak in an aside to the audience, which other characters can also hear and join in – but I think the fact that I didn’t really want the relationship to succeed in the end and the fact that I simply didn’t like the character of Annie kind of prevented me from wholeheartedly liking the movie. Maybe I should have just enjoyed it for it’s originality and artistic qualities, but at least at the point where I’m at now, I need the plot to be interesting and the characters to be at least somewhat likeable for me to enjoy the movie.

But all that aside (this post, after all, is supposed to be about Midnight in Paris, not Annie Hall), Midnight in Paris is an excellent movie about a Hollywood screenwriter’s adventures in the city of lights. Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a mediocre screenwriter who longs to have lived during the Jazz Age era of Paris, when he could have rubbed shoulders with the likes of his literary heroes, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, instead is vacationing in the still gorgeous but way too modernized present-day version of Paris with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams), a woman who does not truly understand Gil, or, for that matter, know how to have a good time. While Inez is off doing touristy things like visiting a bunch of museums and Parisian landmarks under the guidance of a cloyingly pedantic professor, Gil longs to take long nighttime strolls along the streets of Paris, dine in tiny roadside cafes and bistros once frequented by Hemingway, and shop at roadside Parisian markets selling vintage records. One day, when Gil gets lost on one of his late night strolls through the city (while Inez is off dancing with the annoying know-it-all, played by Michael Sheen), he unexpectedly gets pulled into a Paris that no one alive today has ever experienced. Everyday at midnight, Gil gets the opportunity to live in his ideal world full of enchanting characters, dashing parties, and the true love of his life who respects him for who he really is, until he eventually realizes that while every era has its glitters, one must learn to be satisfied with his present.

I apologize if I gave too much of the secret away. The trailer, unlike trailers of late which completely divulge plot and ending in a neat little three minute package delivered before the movie even comes out making the movie pointless to watch, does a great job of hiding the major plot point to Midnight in Paris that makes the movie a Woody Allen movie – the originality, the fanciful qualities, the whimsy. (Though admittedly, this didn’t seem as “Woody Allen” as his other films – not that I’ve really watched many of his films. Though at the time I started this post, I had only seen Annie Hall, today I added Take the Money and Run to my repertoire. Midnight in Paris just isn’t different or off-kilter or fresh in the same way as the two earlier films of his I watched, but it is extremely creative and dreamy and well-executed just the same.)

But for those of you who, despite my recommendations, don’t want to watch the movie (my dad didn’t like the movie…especially since he expected more from Woody Allen), I’ll let the cat out of the bed. (Okay okay, I’m mostly giving away spoilers just for me, so that I can look back at this post and remember what Midnight in Paris was all about). So SPOILER ALERT! Midnight in Paris was so great because Woody Allen took a modern character back in time to interact with the literary and artistic legends of the Jazz Age. Unlike Night at the Museum, where historical characters weren’t in their natural element, and Back to the Future, where the people of the past were just regular people, Midnight in Paris allows viewers to see all these famous figures interacting with each other in their natural environment – Gil Pender is an intruder into their world who is whole-heartedly welcomed. I watched Gil’s adventures in 1920’s Paris with wide eyes…it is truly a fanciful and enchanting visit to the past, especially if you’re familiar with the 1920s figures who are referenced. I especially loved Adrien Brody’s wacky rhinoceros-obsessed Salvador Dali and Adrien de Van’s Surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel, who is perplexed by Gil’s idea for a film about guests who turn animalistic at a dinner party they are unable to leave, the subject of one of Bunuel’s most famous films, The Exterminating Angel (1962).

Cinderella Man (Ron Howard, 2005)

NOTE: THIS WAS ACTUALLY WRITTEN JUNE 12TH OF 2012, BUT NOT POSTED UNTIL LATER.

I just got done watching Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man (2005) for what has to be AT LEAST my sixth time, and surprisingly, I think I cried the hardest during this last viewing. Yes, I am one of those girls (you know, those girls who cry in every single movie, inspirational drama or screwball comedy, Kramer vs. Kramer or Bridesmaids), and unlike some stupid rom com that undeservedly drew the tears to my eyes, this one really does rend the heartstrings with its story of what one man would do for the sake of his family. But in all honesty, I have to admit – I think the tears came that much faster because the eponymous “Cinderella Man,” Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock, radiates everything that is not me. He’s hard-working, persevering, and courageous; he’s loving, selfless, and humble. That’s why these inspirational stories always get to me – they show me what one needs to be successful, and that the person I am now is frankly not there yet. Or even anywhere remotely close. Riding off the high of one of these inspirational movies, I always feel the need to turn my life around – you know, be a bit more friendly or get off my ass and start writing again. Jim Braddock’s success story featured in Cinderella Man inspired me to start writing this blog, once and for all. Firstly, because Mr. Braddock showed me that anything is possible if you work hard enough, believe in yourself, and have something to drive you forward. And secondly, because damn…that movie is just that good. See for yourself.

Cinderella Man (2005) directed by Ron Howard features Russell Crowe as Depression-era boxer Jim Braddock, Renee Zellweger as his wife Mae Braddock, and Paul Giamatti as Jim’s smack-talking but kind-hearted manager Joe Gould. All three – especially Giamatti – give spectacular performances, bringing depth to a film that can easily be passed off as yet another inspirational sports drama. The film plots the rise of one-time heavyweight champion Jim Braddock from the ridicule of the boxing world as he fights not out of passion for boxing or desire for fame, but to keep his family together and grasp the American Dream as the Great Depression strives to snatch it all away.

Superheroes!

NOTE: THIS WAS ACTUALLY WRITTEN IN MAY OF 2012, BUT NOT POSTED UNTIL LONG AFTERWARDS.

After all the unpacking, cleaning, and graduation exercises (my sister’s, not mine) marking my first week back home this summer, all I wanted to do was to reunite with some of my closest high school buddies and have one of our traditional movie parties. Which basically involves us doing two of my favorite things: watching movies and eating.

So armed with a toothbrush that would ultimately go unused that night, I drove over to my friend’s house, got comfy in one of her sleeping bags (after repeatedly pushing her cute but hyper dog away so that he would stop licking my face), gorged on some of her mother’s delicious homemade pizza, and after a couple hours of chatting, proceeded to watch Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in preparation for tomorrow’s festivities of seeing Marvel’s newest superhero flick, The Avengers, on the big screen.

Maybe it was because I was getting quite fed up with the superhero craze – I get it, superhero movies rake in the big bucks for the studios so from an economic standpoint, it makes sense for them to continue producing them – or maybe it was because I always thought Thor and Captain America looked like lackluster movies, but contrary to my tendency to enjoy most movies I see and against the positive consensus of the critics, I disliked both movies. Especially Thor. The only scene I really enjoyed was in the beginning when Thor and his friends battled the Frost Giants. I thought watching Thor and his friends’ mythical powers in action was pretty cool. But other than that, the plot fell flat, especially in terms of the very rushed romantic arc between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Natalie Portman’s human Jane Foster. Their romance seemed forced and unnatural, not to mention one based on looks alone. My favorite character in the entire movie? Loki.