Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Director:Peter Sollett
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings

I love this movie! It really captures the adorable-ness and awkwardness of young love and virginity. It makes me want to be a teenager, loose in New York City. This movie is real, Cera and Dennings are beyond lovable, and it's extraordinarily romantic. And funny! All around great.


The Swenkas

Director: Jeppe Ronde
Starring: Some Swenkas!

This is a documentary about Swenkas. Swenkas are South African guys who dress up all snappy-like (or swanky, shall we say) and have swanking competitions, where they show off their outfits in a semi-choreographed/model-y way. It's strange and I've never heard of it before, so I was a little distracted throughout the documentary, trying to figure out exactly what this whole Swenka thing is about. I think I'll Wikipedia it when I'm done here.

Anyway, the movie isn't so much about swanking as it is about a young man who has lost his father, who was the leader of the Swenkas. Now, in the midst of grief, the young man has to decide whether he wants to continue his father's legacy and continue swanking, or disappear completely.

It wasn't like any documentary you've seen before. It was performative, mixing seemingly scripted elements with non-fiction. There's an elderly narrator-y guy who begins and ends the story with a script. The cinematography is beautiful. It's hard to accept a film that straddles the line of fiction and non-fiction. It's easy to disregard reality when watching fiction films, and sort of easy to assume truth in non-fiction films, but somewhere between the two, it is difficult to figure out how to comprehend the information and meaning.


City Lights

Director: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin

Call me a postmodern baby, but I just do NOT get early Hollywood/silent film "humor." It's just a bunch of long-winded repetitive slapstick segments that make me want to kill myself. I know it's a classic, but oh my. I get it, Charlie Chaplin was an auteur and really shaped comedy and he's a great physical comedian and blah blah blah, but goodness sakes, I was bored.



Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jack NIcholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston

She's my sister she's my daughter she's my sister she's my daughter she's my sister she's my daughter she's my sister she's my daughter she's my sister AND my daughter!

Jonathan and I love re-enacting this scene. I guess this movie was about as exciting as a movie about DWP can be. Which is not that exciting. But it kind of fools you into thinking you're watching some super scary thriller. But then you're not.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly

Funny! Lots of good one-liners. Very quotable. Totally entertaining. Not the best comedy I've ever seen (not up to par with 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Superbad), but still funnier than just about everything else.


The Break-Up

Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston

This movie wasn't so much funny as it was sad and true. Break-ups suck, and this movie really captures it. And I like the ending. A lot of people don't. Not a great movie, but worth watching.



Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Billy Crudup, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny Duqette!!!), Malin Akerman

Who watches the Watchmen? I don't know, but I wish it hadn't been me.

I HATE THIS MOVIE. It's pointless and silly and messy and confusing and the acting is terrible and I do not CARE if it follows the comic book loyally because it is a MOVIE and needs to hold up as a MOVIE and no I will not read the graphic novel and then say, "Oh yeah, the movie WAS great." Not many people have read the graphic novel, so the movie needs to make sense as if no one knows anything about the story.


Midnight Cowboy

Director: John Schlesinger
Starring: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman

A farm boy (Voight) moves to New York to be a male escort and meets up with a small-time hustler (Hoffman). They become the bestest of friends. Life is rough, they are poor, things are gritty. There's a fun song that plays through the whole thing that WILL get stuck in your head for a very long time. It's SAD. Jon Voight looks like Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. Dustin Hoffman is grimy as.

Pretty good.



Director: Robert Altman
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall

It's the Korean War and these are the doctors and nurses who help injured soldiers who fly in from the battlefields. Basically, this movie has a bunch of crude, male chauvinist pigs exploiting women. There's no plot--it's just a bunch of little pointless segments that would work best for TV (and apparently DID work best for TV). Donald Sutherland is pretty charming, even though his character is awful. The theme song is catchy.


The Man Who Knew Too Much

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day

A family vacationing in Morocco gets caught up in some skeevy stuff and their little boy is kidnapped. Not Hitchcock's best, but it's interesting enough for a rainy Sunday afternoon. It's pretty offensively racist (think Raiders of the Lost Ark). Doris Day sings Que Sera Sera, so that's pretty great, I guess.

I heart Jimmy Stewart.


The Counterfeiters

Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring: German People

Germans really know how to make a good film. This movie is sad and intense, without being manipulative. It's about talented Jews who are given jobs as counterfeiters at a concentration camp, and thus, treated well (in comparison with untalented Jews). It's all about morals and integrity and which is worse--death or losing one's dignity? Very interesting and very well done.


Lawrence of Arabia

Director: David Lean
Starring: Peter O'Toole and a bunch of white people in brown people make-up

Oh, I tried so hard. First, I tried to like it. After I gave up on that, I tried to stay awake. After I gave up on that, Jonathan and I took turns sleeping and filling each other in. After we both fell asleep, we decided to read the synopsis online when we were awake enough.

I should own Lawrence of Arabia so I can use it when I can't sleep. My mom did that with the golf channel.

Peter O'Toole has pretty eyes. Deserts and camels = Expensive movie/critically-acclaimed epic

I tried. So very hard.


Pineapple Express

Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Seth Rogan, James Franco

Ah, David Gordon Green, you always know just how to bore me to death.

No amount of drugs could make me find this film interesting or funny.

Oh. I get it. They witnessed a murder. And they're stoners. And know they have to escape. While they're stoned. That's. Funny. Almost as funny as that one movie where everyone was turning into a zombie but no one noticed. That was also funny. And it never got old.



Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Scarlett Johannson, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall

Ooooo, Spain is pretty. I want to go there (again).

That's pretty much all I got out of this movie.


The Visitor

Director: Thomas McCarthy
Starring: Richard Jenkins

This is a quiet, intimate indie film that I like to sum up as a "nice movie." It is touching and sad, lonely and warm. Like Frozen River, this movie explores issues in illegal immigration and American politics. Richard Jenkins is fantastic, and I'm glad I've seen him in so many movies lately. Also, it made me want to play the djembe, so that's cool.


Rachel Getting Married

Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, other good actors you haven't heard of

Let me start by saying that Anne Hathaway annoys me like no other. And by no other I mean everyone excluding Keira Knightley and Renee Zelweger. Her bumbly doe-eyed stuttery girl-next-doorishness makes me want to cut a babies' legs off.

BUT....she was really fantastic in this. I don't know how she did it, but she should do it all the time.

This movie is more than your average dysfunctional family indie flick. It's not Margot at the Wedding or The Squid and the Whale or Little Miss Sunshine. It doesn't try to be cute or quirky or indie. Instead, it is artistic and tragic and real. Lengthy scenes of the married couple getting toasts and the dancing at the wedding reception place you into another world. It is less of a movie and more of an experience, like you are getting to live another person's life for a couple of hours. It is tragic like a long episode of A&E's Intervention. You become very invested in the characters. I actually have never seen anything quite like it. Well done!


He's Just Not That Into You

Director: Ken Kwapis
Starring: Everyone and their mom. More specifically, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Justin Long, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connilly, Ben Affleck, ScarJo, etc etc etc.

Okay, I'll admit it: I read the book. I had a crazy obsessed going-nowhere high school crush that I needed to get over, and my best friend loaned me the book. It was affective. But now I'm a big girl and I'm not totally lame and I understand the message: If a guy is into you, HE WILL ACT LIKE IT. Knowing this, I was kind of bored through this movie. It wasn't, it didn't make me want to yell at the screen and punch the person next to me and pull my eyelashes out one by one. But nothing really lingered either. It wasn't funny. It wasn't really sad. The ending for each couple didn't really follow the message of the movie.

What I DID like was how extremely relevant the smoking/cheating/lying subplot was to my life. Er, I mean...this friend I have. Not me. Nothing like that ever happened to me.



Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen

I am 21. I didn't live through the Watergate Scandal. I don't really know what a great Nixon impersonation looks like. Despite these things, this movie was riveting. It wasn't so much about the Watergate scandal, but more about the aftermath and toll the scandal took on Nixon personally. It also explores the problems with journalism and the power struggle between Frost and Nixon. I love the documentary style of the film. What a great screenplay. What a great cast. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen deserved heaps of recognition for those performances. Wow.



Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Ryan Evans from High School Musical, Diego Luna, other hawt gays with 70's hair

I was expected Milk to be kind of annoying. Now, I love me some gay rights, but I thought this would be so preachy and Sean-Penn-y and self-important. It kind of was, but goshdarnit, Sean Penn is such a good actor. It was inspiring and I loved the style and screenplay structure. I REALLY felt like I was in SF in the 70s. I visited the Castro District while on Spring Break and went inside Castro Camera (which is now a gift shop called Given). Being in this neighborhood really helped me to understand just how revolutionary and important and brave Harvey Milk was. Regardless of your feelings towards gay rights and gay marriage, please use Harvey Milk as a role model for anything you believe in.

The only thing I didn't like was imagining what happened after the Sean Penn/Emile Hirsch scenes ended. I think it went something like this:

Sean Penn: Wow, Emile, that was really great. We were so IN that scene.

Emile Hirsch: I know, it felt so REAL, man. I am learning so much from you.

Sean Penn: Ah, Emile, you're so talented. You remind me so much of a young me.

Emile Hirsch: Can I blow you?

Sean Penn: It would be my pleasure.


The Reader

Director: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes (kind of)

Dear David Kross,

You are the luckiest 18 year old boy on the planet. Most grown men would kill to be you, even though you are German. I hope you are gay so that you didn't have to go through the sheer embarrassment of being naked with Kate Winslet all the time. You should have been nominated for an Oscar.

Dear Kate Winslet,

You are so naked all the time. You are the best young-ish actress right now. This was not quite your best performance, but it's about time you won an Oscar.

Dear Stephen Daldry,

This movie was pretty good. You know. Decent.




Slumdog Millionaire

Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Dev Patel, Frida Pinto

Best movie I've ever seen, I think. I wanted to cry the whole time. I literally couldn't breathe at the end. So brilliant. So romantic. So perfect. So engaging. A fairytale of epic proportions. I don't think I've ever cared so much about a movie. It deserved every Oscar it won and more. If I could marry this movie, I would. I want to make sweet sweet love to this movie.

A+++++++++++++ or maybe a letter that I can invent that comes BEFORE A

Encounters at the End of the World

Director: Werner Herzog
Starring: Antarctica

Suck it, Herzog! Just stop with the voiceover! Just show me pretty shots of Antarctica and shut up!


The Fugitive

Director: Andrew Davis
Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones

Hold on, Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for an Oscar for this? Jigga whaaaa?! Man, I'm glad the Oscars have strayed a bit from mainstream Hollywood films and into higher-cult films.

This is that action movie about the innocent heroic doctor fugitive who allegedly killed his wife (but totally didn't, y'all!). You know the one. Your parents loved it. Maybe they even own it on VHS. This movie is entertaining enough until you realize that it's been going on for approximately 12 hours. Okay fine...2 hours. But it feels like 12 hours. JUST CATCH THE GUY ALREADY, YOU INCOMPETENT COPS! I COULD HAVE CAUGHT HIM BY NOW AND I AM NOT A COP! Okay, I feel better now. Anyway, if time seems to be moving too fast, watch The Fugitive--it'll be sure to slowww things down.


Grizzly Man

Director: Werner Herzog
Starring: Timothy Treadwell

This is the doc about that guy--you know the one--he lived in the wild and filmed grizzly bears until he and his gf got mauled to death by the bears? It's a very good documentary because it's an interested topic and Timothy Treadwell is a really eccentric character. It provokes a lot of good discussion, so watch it with other people! There's also some great cinematography of nature and bears.

My biggest problem with this film is Werner Herzog. Werner Herzog can suck it. He gives his opinion and analysis in all of his docs, and it's annoying. He is pretentious, over-analytical, pseudo-intellectual, and has a super annoying accent. His interviews seem contrived, his subjects seemed rehearsed, and everything seems super-manipulated. I do not like him. He's lucky that this was such a great topic--almost impossible to mess up.


Tell No One

Director: Guillaume Canet
Starring: French people you haven't heard of

I kind of hated this movie. It's another one of those postmodern action male melodramas. It's a completely exhausting, contrived murder mystery. No amount of Frenchiness could make me like this film.


Grey Gardens

Director: The Maysles' Brothers
Starring: Big and Little Edie Beale

Big Edie is Jackie Onassis Kennedy's cousin, and Little Edie is Big Edie's daughter. They live in a neglected house of squalor, isolated from the real world. They are the source of scandal in such a famous family. They do not seem to care. They dwell on the days of beauty and men and society, but they choose to continue living in isolation, reminiscing and bickering. This doc is a cult classic and brings up a lot of issues about exploitation in documentary film. Should we feel sorry for the Beales? It is a challenge to step back from our own world views in order to try and understand where they are coming for, but the challenge is worthwhile.

Funny, charming, but often depressing, this film is a major triumph for the genre of documentary films. Also, it's providing me with some pretty sweet Halloween costume ideas.


The Business Of Being Born

Director: Abby Epstein
Starring: Ricki Lake

Thank you, Ricki Lake. You have provided me with hours of daytime TV pre-teen entertainment, introduced me to the world of Hairspray, and have convinced me to have a home birth. Quite a feat, if I do say so myself.

This is one of the most compelling docs I have ever seen. It presents the viewers with the horrors of the medicalization of hospital births, and the benefits of having a home birth with a midwife. Most of the complications in childbirth at hospitals are caused by labor-inducing or pain drugs. Birth should be beautiful and natural and not rushed. I want to have a behbeh in the water in a gross squatty position and pull the baby out of my own vadge, and if you watch this movie, you will, too!


Blue Vinyl

Director: Judith Helfand

This is a documentary about the hazards of chemicals found in vinyl and the carcinogens released in vinyl production. It's a good look at how prevalent vinyl is in our everyday lives, and how little we choose to give a good hard look at the potential hazards of the things we use. The story is told by the director, Judith Helfand, whose parents have recently replaced their rotting wood house with vinyl. We follow Judith's exploration in the vinyl-making process. Throughout the film, she tries to persuade her endearing parents to replace their vinyl with something more health and environmentally-friendly.

It's not THE most interesting documentary I've ever seen, but considering the topic is VINYL, Helfand does a pretty darned good job at being persuasive and informative, while still being fairly entertaining.


Bullets Over Broadway

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: John Cusack, Rob Reiner, Dianne Weist, Jennifer Tilly

It's a play within a play! It's a period piece! It's about art and love and sex and neuroses. Totes Woody Allen.

Aside for some clever points about art and pretentiousness and love, this movie is not one of Woody Allen's best. Though, I do appreciate that he isn't IN the film.


Frozen River

Director: Courtney Hunt
Starring: Melissa Leo

The Academy's obligatory nod to independent films this year. It's a small, bleak, intimate film that comments on poverty, feminism, race, and illegal immigration. It's so low-key, that it gets kind of dull. The dialogue is really subtle, and the performances are so under-performed that it almost just looks like really bad acting. This movie leaves you feeling like something AWFUL is about to happen through the whole thing. It's a two-hour anxiety attack. The visual design and mood is cool, but the story and characters don't really hold up.



Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Warren Beatty, Annete Bening

A gangster movie about how the Las Vegas Strip began. Full of sex and violence. Annette Bening can't act. The characters are terribly annoying. Melodramatic.



Director: Gregory Hoblit
Starring: Denzel Washington, Donald Sutherland, John Goodman

So, Denzel Washington fights Satan. I mean, if anyone can defeat Satan, it's Denzel Washington, right?

It's super dumb, but kind of creepy before it completely falls apart. Do not watch if you don't want the song "Time Is On Our Side" to be stuck in your head for approximately eternity.


The Big Clock

Director: John Farrow
Starring: Ray Milland, Charles Laughton

This movie is based on the same book as No Way Out, so the basic plot is the same. The differences are as follows: The Pentagon is now a NY Newspaper office, there is no sex, Ray Milland isn't sexy like Kevin Costner, and there is no lame-o twist ending.

I have trouble believing that I actually saw this movie because I don't really remember anything about it except I was bored to tears.


No Way Out

1987 (the year I was born!)
Director: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman

An action movie that takes place in the Pentagon. The protagonist (Costner) witnesses the girl he loves being murdered by his boss (Hackman), who is also having an affair with her. His boss entrusts him to frame someone else. Ah, corruption. Ah, politics. Ah, love affairs.

This movie is totally hokey and cheesy and melodramatic and 1987, but it is entertaining, engaging, action-y, and full of ridiculous sex. Also, Kevin Costner wears a tight uniform. Also, I want to have Kevin Costner's babies (not now, just in 1987!). A+ for sex and Kevin Costner's butt, C for a lame-o twist ending, and A for keeping me awake in my Postmodern Hollywood class.


Being There

Directed by Hal Ashby
Starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine

Peter Sellers plays a gardener who has lived with a rich guy his whole life, and has never been in the real world. The rich guy dies and the house is seized, leaving the gardener homeless an thrown into a new and scary world. He is possibly mildly retarded or autistic, but no one notices. Instead, the world thinks he is totally profound and he becomes friends with president.

I think this movie is supposed to be commenting on how easily Americans will believe in and trust someone, even if what they are saying is bullshit. Cute, I guess, but not a new idea. This movie is absurd and postmodern and Peter Sellers-y, but it was tedious and tiresome and I do not recommend it.