The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the sort of movie where the story being told doesn’t matter so much as the manner in which it is told. Ostensibly, it is a narrated story about a hotel concierge and his lobby boy caught up in a murder mystery and conspiracy. But I feel that in boiling it down to that one sentence, one would rather miss the actual point.

I’m coming to appreciate these arty movies. Everything in the experience oozes colour, eschewing realism and putting in its place an alternate setting where the story can unfold with less baggage. The use of lurid palettes and heavily stereotyped iconography allows for the movie to immediately show what something represents, without necessarily invoking all of the baggage of its real world counterpart. The experience isn’t well grounded, and that is almost the point in itself.

I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what was great about The Grand Budapest Hotel, but great it was.

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Good:

  • A story in a book, told by a narrator, who in turn had the story narrated to him.
  • Willem Dafoe
  • The Lobby Boy hat
  • Detailed model buildings
  • “You’re a straight guy.” “Well, nobody has said that to me before.”

Bad:

  • A few scenes were just a little longer than they needed to be
  • I’m very glad I was in the right sort of mood. This could have easily lost my interest if I wasn’t already in a go slow sort of frame of mind.

The Big Lebowski

I don’t have much to say about the Big Lebowski. It bored me.

I could see the movie’s sense of humor, but I didn’t find it funny. I could see the tropes that the characters were playing on, but I didn’t enjoy seeing them taken to their extremes. I could see the plot, but it didn’t interest me. I guess this one just wasn’t for me.

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Good:

  • Tumbleweed
  • Jeff Bridges
  • The music
  • Nihilists

Bad:

  • Nothing really. *shrug*

Aeon Flux

I struggle a little bit with high-concept, arty sci-fi. They always present a very cool looking future, I appreciate that. I liked the aesthetic of Aeon Flux a lot. But the same emphasis on cool future things looking all cool and future is that it presents a world where considerations of form override considerations of function every single time. It’s almost like technology hasn’t increased evenly, and has only advanced in areas where application of it can look cool.

For example, in Aeon Flux, there is a death garden. Plants that shoot you, grass that turns into blades, the whole shebang. As a first line of defense that is hidden and looks good, I love it. It was a nice set piece. But this death garden doesn’t alert any other aspect of the security for the building that there are intruders. It strains my disbelief that seemingly nobody was informed that the death garden tried to kill a couple people, but failed.

This might seem nitpicky, but films that don’t seem to have an internal logic bother me.

I’m not sure I enjoyed Aeon Flux. I had fun watching it, but I think what enjoyment I did get out of it was visual. It was an interesting setting, even if every single character beat did bore me near to tears and the movement in the action scenes made me laugh out loud once or twice. There was a lot of potential for an excellent movie here, but instead we got Aeon Flux.

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Good:

  • Ms Frizzle, Rebellion Leader
  • Death garden
  • Assassin’s Creed tower climb, synchronize viewpoint, leap of faith sequence
  • Future guns don’t recoil

Bad:

  • Bypassing the death garden and then just hanging around by the side of the building
  • Underground maze with built-in voice activated navigation system
  • Rope burn (or lack thereof)
  • If you’ve been alive for 400 years, why is everyone else clones?
  • Nature ex-machina

In Bruges

In Bruges is a movie about a couple of Irish hitmen who are sent to hide out in Bruges after a job goes wrong. One of them is determined to play the tourist, and the other is bored out of his goddamn mind. Hilarity ensues.

Most of the humor in the movie comes from having rough, low class folks in a very historically rich setting and them arguing about if its any good or not. And while that isn’t a particularly flatting description, it was actually pretty funny, in a shock value sort of way. Not really my cup of tea, but its the sort of levity that fits well with the grimmer turns later in the movie.

It’s all fairytale and shit.

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Good:

  • Establishing that neither of the main characters are tactful, at the expense of American tourists
  • I legitimately cannot tell if he is trying to tank this date or if it comes naturally. Or both.
  • ‘How can fucking swans not be someone’s fucking thing?!’
  • ‘You’re an inanimate fucking object!’
  • Boat driver don’t give a fuck
  • Maybe thats what hell is. The entire rest of eternity spent in Bruges.

Bad:

  • ‘I hope your midget doesn’t kill himself’ seems like a bad pickup line, but it worked
  • I don’t care if its in a painting, I still don’t like goddamn body horror
  • I refuse to believe any cops, even Belgian cops, are that efficient in responding to a punch up

 

Blazing Saddles

When I read the name Blazing Saddles, it made me think of that one movie from a few years ago about the WWI cavalry horse. On closer inspection, this isn’t that movie. I don’t know what this movie is, but it looks old, which doesn’t tend to bode well in my mind.


It took me slightly longer than it probably should have to realize that Blazing Saddles is a spoof of the Western genre. It took me even longer to realize it is a spoof of movies in general.

Blazing Saddles is definitely a product of its time. A lot of the jokes passed me by, but it was still a pretty good tongue in cheek parody that gave absolutely no fucks about….well, anything, actually. And the fact that I spent the entire movie imagining that Gene Wilder’s character was actually Willy Wonka made it even better.

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Good:

  • Cowboys vs Laborers singoff
  • The drunk miner guy
  • Incredibly accurate depiction of governmental process
  • ‘Rest your sphincters’
  • Extended literal 4th wall break sequence

Bad

  • Lot of race related gags that you probably couldn’t get away with now
  • ‘Kansas City faggots’
  • The entire song and dance performance in the saloon. Painful.

Airplane

I don’t know anything about this movie, but based on the box art, I am probably going to hate it.


Airplane was fucking stupid. I loved it. The movie opened with a fucking Jaws spoof, and honestly it set the tone for the entire experience perfectly.

Every single line and shot in the movie was either a dumb one-liner or gag, or a setup for the next dumb one-liner or gag. Without the slightest pretense of seriousness in the movie, there was nothing to ground me, so rather than pissing me off I just chuckled along with it.

I’ve said before that I like absurd humor, but only when it revolves around taking a premise to its logical extreme, but apparently that isn’t quite accurate. I also like absurd humor when it is dad jokes. And Airplane is NOTHING BUT DAD JOKES.

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Good:

  • Jive subtitles
  • I could tell which jokes were contemporary or topical, because they went right over my head
  • Extended blowjob gag
  • Don’t call me Shirley
  • The parody pf badly done driving sequence green screen work
  • Otto-pilot

Bad:

  • Jive subtitles
  • The gay stereotype traffic controller
  • Air Israel

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I’ve managed to dodge pretty much all foreknowledge of this one. But if I was to make an assumption based off the title alone, I’m expecting a high concept drama type thing. Film festival fare. You know what I mean.


Well, I wasn’t wrong.

Once I understood what was going on, the driving idea behind this movie really appealed to me. I’m pretty big on the idea that the road you have taken plays a central part in making you who you are, so to me the idea of erasing a relationship, even a nightmare one, is really inconceivable. If you lose the memories, you lose the lessons, and its the lessons that make you better.

That said though, the visual representation of the memory wipe process was great. Exploring how the psyche responds to the removal of information is intriguing. I wish that they had gone into the idea of substitution and false memory (because that is something that our brains very much do), but the movie was complex and hard to follow enough as it was I guess.

The saying goes that ‘Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.’ But the final scene sort of presents the flip side to that idea. Even if you know how it may well end, would you have the strength to try anyway?

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Good:

  • Mrs Potatoheads!
  • Joel is keeping himself together in front of this woman shaped force of nature pretty well
  • Okay, I wasn’t sold at first, but these two are pretty charming together
  • Wait. Is she real? Is he hallucinating?
  • I’m just minding my own business here, Mr Frodo.
  • Frodo ‘Panty Thief’ Baggins

Bad:

  • Well, that’s just unprofessional
  • Damn. I realize that I’m starting at the bad end of the relationship here but she just went from zero to furious in about 3.5 seconds
  • Being the manic pixie type really does seem like it’d make dating like crossing an unswept mine field
  • JESUS CHRIST STOP THE FUCKING TAPE WHAT ARE YOU DOING

The Silence of the Lambs

Oh lookie, another horror movie. The random number generator wasn’t kind to me this fortnight. But, I was pleasantly surprised by Cabin in the Woods, so…

I am not expecting to enjoy The Silence of the Lambs. I know its one of the Hannibal Lecter films, and therefore has cannibalism as a theme. Which is not inherently a problem- it’ll depend on how graphically it is portrayed. I am coming to realize that my problem with horror is less about the horror and more about the gore, so this will be a huge factor on my enjoyment of this movie.


Earlier this evening, after asking what I was watching tonight, one of my flatmates remarked that she didn’t know why this project didn’t have more rules, specifically around the lack of genre restriction for horror and my unwillingness to veto. My answer was that, at the time I came up with this idea, I didn’t think about it, and now I’m committed. And that’s all true. But the reason that I haven’t changed the rules to something more ‘sensible’ is because movies like The Silence of the Lambs exist.

I was pretty sure I was going to dislike this movie, and if I was exercising more direct control over my movie choices, I probably wouldn’t have watched it. And that would have been a damn shame, because this was an excellent movie. It was gripping, and the build up really dragged me in.

I really like hyper-intelligent criminals. It’s an idea that really appeals to me. I can see a lot of the inspiration for other works that lean on this trope came from this movie, and the reasons why are obvious. Hannibal Lecter is a really intense evil genius (and that is in no small part due to the absolutely on point acting), and it would be really hard to follow it without paying homage.

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Good:

  • Send in a student to deal with the smartest criminal ever! Genius!
  • Going to a storage locker that Hannibal Goddamn Lecter sends you to alone seems really unwise
  • This FBI shrink thinks he is the main character in this story
  • Museum dwelling ubernerds
  • Sure, tell the monster your life story, what could possibly go wrong
  • ‘That’s Pembrey!’ Say it once, and I believe you. Say it three more times, and I KNOW that ain’t Pembrey.
  • Facial mask. Great for your skin, I hear.
  • We covet what we see every day
  • FBI cake

Bad:

  • Tension between local law enforcement and the feds. Yawn.
  • Sewing human skin. nopenopenopenopenopenope
  • Do they make music boxes that play things that aren’t It’s A Small World After All?
  • DON’T GO DOWN THERE. YOU HAVE NO BACKUP AND NOBODY KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE.

The Cabin in the Woods

I remember the buzz around The Cabin in the Woods when it came out. Apparently its horror/comedy piece with a twist that is really good, or well executed, or something like that. Despite horror not really being my thing I had intended to see it in cinemas, but missed the opportunity – I think it got a very limited cinema run here. So, despite my reservations about horror was a genre, I am cautiously optimistic about The Cabin in the Woods.


The Cabin in the Woods was fantastic.

One of the problems that I have with horror movies is that they always seem contrived. Most of the tropes on the genre set my teeth on edge. The characters don’t react in ways I find believable, the villain or monster usually stretches my disbelief a little far, etc. And then there’s my aversion to gore (though it does seem like I’m gradually adjusting to that). But The Cabin in the Woods subverted all those things.

The characters do dumb things because they are being manipulated (and I love the range of subtlety involved – from slow-leech chemicals planted in hair dye right through to good old fashioned explosions). The monsters are literally manifestations of eldritch power in the shape of folklore (I think, anyway). And sure, there are forcefields and and an implausibly large number of cameras. But the difference is, these aren’t horror tropes. They aren’t on my shitlist. I’m a D&D player and a scifi reader. These are MY tropes. I can accept them.

The Cabin in the Woods is as much a scifi/fantasy story as it is a horror story, and the fusion was really well executed. Kudos.

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Good:

  • I’m sure introducing the hot leading female in her underwear is a bad thing….buuuuut I’m not complaining honestly
  • All of the characters were introduced and I didn’t take an immediate dislike to any of them
  • No actual eagles were harmed in the making of this movie.
  • In terms of response to someone undressing on the other side of the one way mirror, I’m pretty sure my reaction would be closer to hers than his
  • Somehow, the dudebro is my favourite character.
  • So, the blonde is a furry, right? If not, why is that character not an actress, because she seemed very into that wolf makeout
  • SCP: Containment Breach. I think the snake was my favourite.

Bad:

  • The sign says Closed, why the fuck are you going inside?
  • This point was originally about the idiocy of reading the passage of ancient dead languages aloud, but then I remembered that I’ve done this in a D&D campaign sooooo I guess they get a pass on that one
  • Okay seriously how many cameras so they have wired into this place that they have multiple angles literally anywhere in the forest?
  • Unresolved plot thread: the power re-route from ‘upstairs’ that caused Demolitions to miss the memo
  • IN WHAT SCENARIO IS A BIG RED BUTTON THAT RELEASES EVERY SINGLE MONSTER A THING YOU WANT TO HAVE?

S1M0NE

From what I have gleaned (during the process of making sure I got the title of the movie right), 3Simone5Furious is about a virtual actress. Hoping for a good AI story.


Unfortunately, Simone wasn’t about an virtual actress gaining awareness, taking over Hollywood, and then taking over the world and subjugating humanity. Only the second one. But I’m happy to hear arguments in favour of the last one also applying.

Simone is about a failed auteur director who can’t stand the power and petty demands of modern actors, and recuts his ‘last chance’ film by replacing the lead actress with a virtual woman, using a (nothing short of revolutionary, given that this was made in 2002) CGI suite bequeathed to him by a dead nerd (and/or genius, I guess?). He then proceeds to build himself a (truly suspension of disbelief breaking) house of cards in the form of this woman’s life and career.

Even setting aside all the truly ridiculous things that happen during the course of this charade (I choose to believe it was deliberately exaggerated in order to make it a parody of celebrityhood, rather than a reflection of reality), I’m very much on the fence as to if I liked Simone or not. It definitely had a few moments that I really enjoyed, such as Viktor trying to explain that ‘he created Simone’, only to have it persistently misunderstood as meaning that he made her career. But I think I was just too annoyed to how willfully stupid literally every single character seemed to be.

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Well, at least Simone didn’t look as fake as Beowulf, right?

Good:

  • Simulation One. Okay, that’s kinda cute.
  • Viktor makes the sort of movies I instinctively dislike.
  • Not even one of these journalists is asking ‘Where is the birth certificate?’. I guess it’s cause she isn’t black.
  • When Viktor forgot to thank himself in the Oscar’s speech, I was convinced it was Simone’s first act as an aware entity. I was disappointed.
  • Situation wasn’t resolved with the much more plausible answer: ‘Hmm, yeah that was old footage in the background, she did that in front of a green screen. Obviously.’

Bad:

  • So it took him eight months to re-edit the film…what did the studio think he was doing all this time? They didn’t sign off any reshoots…
  • ‘Satellite link issues’ yeah sure buddy
  • A ‘hologram’ button.
  • Making last minute changes to something pre-recorded days ago
  • Viktor didn’t once say ‘Find one person who will swear under oath they have had a conversation with Simone face to face.’