Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Movies: The HBO Report

One pineapple down, two to go.

I've realized that the problem with being in the brainstorming/thinking phase of a project is that it's difficult to set goals or measure progress. For writing, I can set a word count or page count goal, and then I know I've had a good day when I meet or exceed it. But it's hard to set a goal of coming up with so many ideas or to know if you've really had a productive day. A lot of the time, the day may seem unproductive, but the subconscious is spinning away, and a few days later it will all come together and come out at once. So, I'm not sure what I accomplished yesterday. There are some new scribbles in my notebook, and I've discovered that the book of names I have is completely lacking in names related to the ethnic groups I'm playing with.

Yesterday, I did a list of my recent reading. Today I'll catch up on movies I've watched recently. I could probably call this "The HBO Report" because that's where I've been watching movies. I think there are more than this that I don't quite recall, which probably says something about the movies, but then I have a bad habit of using HBO as background noise for reading or doing the Sunday crosswords. So, here's what I remember watching in the past month or so:

August Rush -- This is one of those movies that I get caught up in and involved with while I'm watching it, but it totally falls apart the moment I start thinking about it. This is the one about the kid who has music in his head who wants to find his parents and thinks they'll find him if they hear his music. On that level, it kind of worked, even though when you think about it, it's a little on the "ew" side that the supposedly Grand Love between his parents was a quickie one-night stand on a rooftop, on the day they met, and they hadn't seen each other since then. And then there's the somewhat eye-rolling premise that because both of his parents are musicians, the kid is going to be a musical prodigy in spite of absolutely no training or exposure to music. Still, when you turn off the critical side of your brain, it kind of worked, aside from a rather weak attempt to create tension by throwing in Robin Williams as a kind of Fagin for street performing kids.

Atonement -- This is a rare case of me liking the movie better than the book, but I can't really discuss the reason without giving away the big plot twist. It could just be that I read the book before I saw the movie, so I was braced for the big revelation, but in the book, it felt more like a "Ha! Got you, sucker!" while in the movie, it really did feel like what it supposedly was. Cryptic enough for you?

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium -- This movie has inspired an entire writing rant that I'm still mentally working on, but in brief, it struck me as a cynical person's calculated attempt to write something "magical" and "heartwarming" without understanding anything about what really is magical and heartwarming. Jason Bateman and the kid were wonderful (who'd have thought, back in the 80s, that "Justine's brother" would have turned out to be so great?). There was an interesting concept buried in the mess that would have worked with better writing. And one has to wonder why Dustin Hoffman decided to play a supposedly sweet magical toy store owner as a retarded, lisping drag queen without the drag.

Sweeney Todd -- I've "watched" this a couple of times already, and by "watched" I mean I've listened to it. It's a bit too gory and icky to really watch, but it sounds great. It is now official that Johnny Depp can do absolutely everything. For his next role, I think he should have to play classical piano and do karate. I'm a bit of a voice snob, and he really could sing. Helena Bonham Carter was the weak link, in a sense. I think her voice worked for her character, but it didn't blend well when she had to sing with better singers. The younger characters were played by real musical theater people and had gorgeous voices. The look of the film worked. There was just a lot of blood. Lots and lots of blood. Did I mention the blood? And I'm not particularly squeamish. I used to read medical journals for fun and I can watch surgery video without flinching.

27 Dresses -- Another movie that has inspired an upcoming rant. It was your basic paint-by-numbers romantic comedy, as made by people who think that audiences for romantic comedies are all idiots. On the up side, James Marsden is very, very pretty, and they even let him sing. I could certainly see what she might like about him, but I never got a sense for what he liked about her. That's where that thinking the audience is a bunch of idiots comes in. I guess they figure it's a chick flick, so all the chicks care about is that the hottie pursues the heroine. No one will bother to ask why because the chicks will all be identifying with the heroine, so they'll take it for granted that he'll like her. I think this is also a case of coming up with a premise and then not following through on all the implications of it. No matter how much a girl loves weddings, even to the point of clipping the wedding articles from the newspaper, to be a bridesmaid, she generally has to have some kind of relationship with the bride. It's not like she can hang around wedding salons with a "will bridesmaid for reception food" sign. So if someone was close enough friends to be a bridesmaid for 27 people, wouldn't you think she'd have a very active social life with a lot of people in it? I'm practically a recluse, and I have a more active social life and more friends than she did -- and I'm not sure I have 27 friends close enough that I would go to their weddings, let alone be a bridesmaid for. I want to see James Marsden in a really good romantic comedy. It doesn't have to be a musical, but some singing is mandatory.

I know there have to be more than this, especially from when I was sick, but I can't think of them at the moment. Maybe I need to keep a list the way I do with books.

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