Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Babadook - An Insomniac Nightmare

Movie: The Babadook
My Rating: 4 stars

There was so much buzz surrounding this movie that I had to go out and see it in the theater right away.  Everyone said that it was one of the first very scary movies they’d seen in a long time, and I like that kind of thing.  Actually I have a very complicated relationship with scary movies.  I burn with curiosity when I hear about them, and I want to know what will happen in the story enough to go out and pay money to see them.  But, I also dread the whole experience at the same time.  Watching scary movies is always so tense.  And, I just know I’m going to have nightmares, at least on the first night.  And, that’s exactly what happened this time.  But, I keep going to see these things, so I guess I like them.
The atmosphere in this movie is really tense and creepy, but it isn’t necessarily “scary.”   Although, it was intense enough to keep my heart pounding pretty steadily throughout the movie.  The film is set in a very dark, creaky house, which adds to the spooky atmosphere.  A single mother lives there with her high maintenance, and potentially emotionally disturbed, little boy.  The whole atmosphere in the house is very tense.  Floorboards groan, doors swing open and shut, the furnace knocks, and every corner is filled with shadows.  And, the script is always just ambiguous enough about whether this is just an old house with its regular creaking and settling, whether the characters’ imaginations are running wild, or whether something truly sinister is actually afoot.  And, I really appreciated that gentle touch. 
But either way, no one seems to be getting very much sleep in this house.  It’s an insomniac’s nightmare!  Mother and son shuffle through their days as living zombies, ready to fall apart at any moment.  So, the situation only gets worse when a very weird children’s book shows up at their house one day.  Neither one of them is ever going to be able to sleep again after reading that creepy, rhyming story about a strange creature that secretly lives in their house, just waiting for the right moment to sneak up and kill them.  That’d have you second-guessing every bump in the night.  It’s a dreadful situation—perfect horror movie fodder.

The dread and anticipation is always the scariest element of a horror movie.  And, seeing this movie in the theater helped heighten those elements for me.  I’d definitely recommend seeing this movie on the big screen.  And, I thought that director Jennifer Kent got the tone just right.  She trusts the audience to be able to put the pieces together for themselves.  She doesn’t cheapen the story with too much exposition.  I was quite impressed.  Of course, I still had all the inevitable scary dreams that I anticipated, but it wasn’t so bad that it prevented me from getting out of bed to go to the bathroom in the dark in the middle of the night.  I was able to calmly remind myself that the story was a metaphor for mental illness, and that there was no creature hiding in the corner, waiting to consume my soul.  Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Mighty Boosh - A Favorite Classic

Movie: The Mighty Boosh
My Rating: 5 stars

This is one of my favorite shows ever.  But, seeing as how it’s a series, and not a movie, it hadn’t occurred to me to write about it until just now.  It’s hard to compare this one to some of my other favorite, classic shows—Father Ted, Ghost in the Shell, The IT Crowd.  They’re all so different.  But, I definitely know why I like this one.  It’s because all the actors involved in this project are clearly having such a good time, dressing up in silly costumes, and just messing around on screen.  It’s my dream!  So, I had quite a lot of material to sort through to choose a costume based on the show.  There’s so much to choose from.
But, then I figured, what character encapsulates my personality better than Vince Noir?  We were practically made for each other.  (Plus, I already had most of his clothes).  He’s the vain, blown-out, guy-linered, glamazon, obsessed with boots, hats, and sparkle makeup.  Plus, he’s starving for attention.  (We don’t know anyone like that around here, do we?)  But, I guess there are some differences between us.  For one thing, I wear regular eye-liner, for girls.  But, I love this show’s aesthetic, and it’s commitment to just having fun.  It speaks to my inner four-year-old.  So many outfits!  So many dance numbers!  Plus I love the humor.
I also adore all the actors who star in this show—Noel Fielding, Rich Fulcher, Richard Ayoade, Julian Barratt, Matt Berry, Michael Fielding—my favorites.  They’re all so hilarious!  And, they all trade in that particular brand of dry, deadpan humor that I love.  But, it’s still totally goofy and absurd.  The show gets the tone just right.  They dole out skits, gags, original songs, and self-effacing humor in just the right proportions.  And, you can see their comedic sensibility evolve with each season.  That’s one argument in support of binge watching a show.  But, one of the best parts is how none of the costumes look too professional.  They all have a whiff of that homemade charm.  It’s great.  And, I of course, respect that as an artistic choice.

This show is a classic.  There are probably very few of you out there who haven’t heard about this one before.  If you share my same absurdist sense of humor, then you already know about this show.  So, I don’t need to bother telling you to go watch this one.  But, I definitely wanted to memorialize the show with a post and a costume.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Crazy Horse - Nude, Dancing Ladies!

Movie: Crazy Horse
My Rating: 3 stars

Haha!  I knew I'd get your attention! You wouldn’t think you’d get bored watching a documentary about a naughty, nude, dance revue in France.  But, I sure did.  And, maybe you’re thinking that’s because I’m a lady.  But, you should know by now that I enjoy my fair share of nudity.  And, I even noticed that some of the men who were watching this started wandering out of the room about halfway through the film.  And, they weren’t wandering off to the bathroom for a little bit of “private time,” you perverts.  No, this documentary was actually so snoozy that people started doing chores in my house!  Unloading the dishwasher, wiping down the counter, all the boring tasks.  What’s this world come to?!?
But that’s director Frederick Wiseman’s style.  He’s known for his long, behind the scenes, and very revealing documentaries, presented without any commentary at all.  He has a few others, including examinations of the Paris Ballet, what it’s like to attend and run Berkeley, and his newest, a behind-the-scenes peek at the London’s National Gallery.  It’s an interesting approach.  Wiseman methodically reveals all the interesting, speculation-worthy aspects of the institutions he chooses, as well as the dull, mundane bits.  He does an excellent job of deglamorizing many a legendary establishment.  And, that’s hard to do with a famous cabaret like the Crazy Horse!  Rather than celebrating his subject matter the way many documentarians do, Wiseman is committed to conveying real information—what it’s really like to work at these places.  And I respect that.  So, as a viewer, I didn’t ever feel like I needed any narration, because Wiseman’s coverage of his subjects is so exhaustive that I always glean all the information I’ll ever need about them.  And, this does have the effect of ruining things a little bit.  The film turns these beautiful, nude, dancing ladies into boring, ordinary people who are clocking out and going home to their families at the end of a hard day’s work.
But, now on to the fun bits.  This movie isn’t just a dull slog.  There are plenty of titillating and humorous moments in it to.  I mean, most of the dancers are at least half-nude throughout the film.  And, while the excitement factor wears off a bit after the first few minutes, these are still very beautiful women, with gorgeous bodies, smooth skin, and firm rumps.  The cabaret is particularly interested in how pert these dancers’ butts are, and they assess new recruits very closely.  It’s worth a look.  But, then the absurdity of running this show as a business reveals itself.  Choreographers are arguing with board members, defending their “art,” begging for funds to come up with new acts, while old perverts in suits, and calculate the marketability of the various, erotic dance numbers.   

Shareholder:           “Why are we throwing away Venus?  The audience really responded to Venus.”
Choreographer:          “Oh, didn’t you hear?  We had to throw away Venus, because girls would come off the stage in tears.   They don’t like touching each other, or simulating . . . acts.”

The film is full of these ridiculous moments.  But, I predict that if you sit down to watch this one, you’ll eventually take to doing other tasks around the house to help pass the time.  I actually found myself looking up from my computer, commenting, “Oh look, it’s ended.”  But, I still think you’re probably going to want to check this one out.  It drags on at times, but it’s some good, naughty fun.  And, you won’t even have to go to Paris, to sit in a room with a bunch of other tacky tourists, drinking crappy “Champagne”!  So, count that as a win.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Princess Mononoke - An Untamable Killing Machine

Movie: Princess Mononoke
My Rating: 4 stars

Woah!  I hadn’t seen this movie in a very long time.  I had forgotten almost every detail of the story except for the existence of the forest-wolf-girl (Princess Mononoke), the crazy-looking, half-deer, “King of the Forest,” and those ghostly, little wood sprites.  I had forgotten about the pestilence that is afflicting the countryside, and consuming the body of our protagonist, Ashitaka.  I had forgotten about his ill-fated and horribly destructive deal with the neighboring, iron-forging village.  And, I had certainly forgotten how brutally violent this animated movie is.

People have limbs torn from their body.  Animals are stabbed in the hearts and slain (and then humans morbidly use their skins as animal disguises).  The warriors murder the “King of the Forest,” deer god, in cold blood, because they no longer want to live under his magical influence.  This story is practically wallowing in death.  And, someone had to animate all this violence frame by frame!  
It’s so dark.  How could this possibly be a cartoon for little kids?!?  But, I still very much liked this movie.  I actually respect it when a cartoon doesn’t pull any punches.  Lil’ Gertie and Gabby have got to learn the facts of life sooner or later!  What better medium than a cartoon to teach them about the cruel and undiscriminating clutch of death?

But, really I just like the character of Princess Mononoke.  She’s so tough and cool.  She spends her days running free through the forest with her wolf brothers and taking orders from no man.  So, she sure isn’t interested at all in Prince Ashitaka’s advances once he notices how foxy and untamable she is.  He’s boring and docile.  Plus, he really screwed up her forest when he led in all those killer soldiers to hack down trees and murder wild boars.  Why would she want to give up her wild life for a goober like that?

This movie is a real downer.  It pretty much just illustrates how awful humans are.  We’re so greedy and destructive.  We’re willing to destroy almost anything if it’ll make us a quick buck.  It’s so shameful!  But, the animation is all very lush and atmospheric.  (Same as all Studio Ghibli films, really). 

And, the movie will definitely make you want to go commune with animals and nature for a little while.  So, I guess watching this movie had a positive effect on my life.  It made me want to be not quite so terrible.  Whether I’ll actually follow through on those feelings . . . that’s another story.  But, introspection is never a bad thing.  So, watch this one!  But, maybe don’t sit down to watch it with your little, four-year-old niece.  Perhaps this is one for you to share with her eight-year-old brother instead.