(1) Sat Aug 06 2022 14:48 July Film Roundup:
- Romancing the Stone (1984): I said I wanted to watch this last month, and we did, and it was a disappointment all around. Diane Thomas had a really good idea and would have gone on to improve the state of 1990s rom-coms if she hadn't died, but The Lost City, directly inspired by this film, does a better job in every respect except for some excellent set dressing in Joan's apartment. Danny DeVito's fun, too.
I keep thinking of cool scenes from this film but they're actually scenes that fill the same plot beats in The Lost City, that's how closely related the two movies are.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022): Loved it! The first film of the pandemic era to give me an intense "movie" thrill. Fun, silly, heartwarming, lots of action. The idea of picking a Chosen One based on her all-around mediocrity is brilliant. "I'm learning how to fight like you." is a perfect line.
This was so good I'm seriously considering watching the directors' previous film, Swiss Army Man (2016), which I'd previously consigned to Trash Humpers territory.
- The Lebanese Rocket Society (2012): An interesting documentary covering the often-interlinked topics of "how did this thing happen?" and "how did everyone immediately forget that this happened?" It also starkly exposes the divide between what space travel means for average people (cool optimism) and what it means for governments (blowing up the other guy). At the end there's an elaborate counterfactual flight of fancy of the sort you don't normally see in documentaries, but I can't complain, I wrote "Panspermia Cannon".
- Dinner at Eight (1933): A very pre-Code film based on a play that's wacky and lighthearted all the way through except for one BIG HONKING SUBPLOT that's dark as hell. As if William Faulkner guest-wrote one chapter of a P. G. Wodehouse novel. Really enjoyable overall with its Wilder-esque cynical/sincere attitude towards romance.
- Chicken People (2016): A decent documentary about a weird hobby disrupted by an epidemic. Yes, at last, it's Film Roundup: The Movie! This was all right. The chickens were cute, and it didn't feel patronizing the way some "weird hobby" documentaries do.
- All of Me (1984): Our expedition into Steve Martin's golden-age comedies continues. This one has Lily Tomlin too, so it's gotta be good, though Tomlin's character spends the first act of the movie bedridden and the rest of the movie only visible in mirrors. Not her best physical comedy outing, is what I'm saying. Enjoyable overall, and also features a pretty big part for my mom's old friend Michael Ensign. (nb. this has not been independently confirmed, and my mom was known for telling tall tales, but "I was friends with that ST:TNG guest star" is a really weird thing for her to walk into the living room and lie about)
We recognized the mansion in this movie from a Columbo episode, looked it up, and found that it's the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, Hollywood's go-to rental when they need to shoot on location in a real mansion. In addition to that Columbo episode, it's the mansion in There Will Be Blood and Jeffrey Lebowski's place in The Big Lebowski--though for obvious reasons Lebowski didn't film in the rooms with the huge staircases that I associate with the place.
- 50 First Dates (2004): Saw this on an airplane, making this the first film I saw outside the house since Gravity in 2020. It was a great movie for killing time on an airplane. In another example of weird Hollywood synchronicity, this is basically a much lower-brow version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (also 2004), but its endless iterations get at a point that I don't think Eternal Sunshine touches: there's something special about the act of falling in love, as distinct from being in love, and there's something appealing about repeating just that bit over and over. After all, romance novels usually focus on the "falling in love" bit and leave the rest to an implicit HEA.
- Encanto (2021): And I saw this on the way back. This was fun and I'm not complaining that it ran way longer than 90 minutes (airplane), but the pacing seemed off, or at least different from other animated kids' movies. We spend a whole lot of time meeting a whole lot of characters and not much time doing things. I guess it's just more psychological than similar movies that are more quest-focused, more of an Arrested Development kind of thing.
- Odds Against Tomorrow (1959): Between this and The Breaking Point (1950) it seems clear to me that just a really basic racial consciousness can really improve your film noir. This was really good, with great moments of tension, but in the finale chase it gets incredibly didactic, a cardinal noir sin in my book. As soon as you see a road sign saying "STOP DEAD END", you know what you're in for. We get it! Admittedly it's the same kind of unsubtlety you see in Star Trek ten years later, so I guess audiences do need to be hit over the head with this stuff.
- Pick of the Litter (2018): A bonus movie that we saw maybe a year ago and I kept forgetting to put in Film Roundup despite Sumana's occasional reminders to write up "the guide dog movie". No more! This is a movie that knows its audience well enough to make it clear that all the dogs end up fine. A wholesome movie, the dogs are all good, and some interesting logistical bits around their training.
I will commit to watching Swiss Army Man (2016) if you will!
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