Monday, July 25, 2005

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

I know it's been, like, a week since we actually sat down and watched The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but I haven't really had the time until now to discuss my feelings on it. Not to mention the fact that I'm not entirely sure exactly what my feelings about it are.

I'm still not sure if I liked the movie or not.

While I was thoroughly disappointed by the way things ended, at the same time, I suppose to have things turn out differently would have been one of those fake Hollywood happy endings that everyone (except me) hates. The Boyfriend didn't really like it, because he thought the whole film was too "weird." Personally, the deliberate weirdness is what I particularly enjoy about Wes Anderson films. I love the bizarre flashbacks, strangly constructed sets, and absurdist plots. In fact, had it not been for the sad ending, I think I would have really loved it--not as much as Royal Tennenbaums, obviously, but quite a bit. The way the ship set was built--Anderson intentionally made it seem more like a huge diarama of a ship. It was almost as though he was presenting the whole film as a staged play, a reversal of what he did in Rushmore (within which films were presented as stage plays.) Another interesting decision from Anderson involved the soundtrack. Although there were the expected small instrumental interludes, the use of the Portuguese(?) acoustic versions of Bowie songs was unexpected. I found myself trying to figure out what their purpose and function was (not to mention trying to figure out which particular song was being played at any given time.) I'm not sure I like that particular musical choice, but at least it was something different. I thought that the characters, though totally ridiculous, were also extremely distinct. The performances from Billy Murray, Angelica Huston, and Cate Blanchet were in my opinion spot on. As much as I adore Owen Wilson, I don't know that I necessarily bought the relationship between he and Murray entirely. Wilson's character seemed almost too sweet through most of the film, though I suppose in the end that's what makes the ending effect me the way it did. So I guess what I'm saying is: if you enjoy the Wes Anderson oevre (yay! I managed to work in the word "oevre"! I only hope I've spelled it correctly)--more so Tennenbaums than Rushmore or Bottle Rockets, then you might enjoy it. I'm not saying that fans of Rushmore WON'T enjoy it, I'm just saying I think it probably appeals more to the more delicate sense of whimsy displayed in Tennenbaums. So if that's your bag, you might like it. If not, I'd recommend just going ahead and skipping it.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

The other day, The Boyfriend and I watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

The Boyfriend liked it.

I thought it was A MONSTEROUS PILE OF CRAP.

First of all, I think the whole retro-fuzzy-filter thing is gimmicky, not cool. But my main problem is with Gwyneth Paltrow's character. She is a scheming, lying, ambitious bitch and I wanted her to die. Not to mention that this is yet another movie where the heroine can't run more than ten feet during an emergency without falling down. And when the giant robots are smashing down the street, does she evacuate with everyone else? No, she has to stay and take pictures. So here come the robots, stomping down the street, smashing everything in their path. Does she run off into an alley to avoid being crushed? No, she staggers around in the middle of the street trying to take pictures, only to fall down and cower under the decending foot of a robot until Jude Law comes along and saves her. If you're going to be an ambitious bitch character, you can't also be a wimpering pussy. It just makes you extremely unlikable. Not to mention that every time the opportunity presented itself, she made THE STUPIDEST DECISION POSSIBLE. I felt strongly that Jude Law should have dumped her out of the plane over the ocean somewhere along the way--would have made his life significantly easier. Plus, Angelina Jolie and Giovanni Ribisi (the only two reasons I even watched the movie in the first place, since I hate Jude Law and am not crazy about Gwyneth) were only in the movie for a combined total of probably 20 minutes. Actually, I thought Angelina should have killed both Jude AND Gwyneth and gone after Giovanni herself. She probably would have done it a lot more efficiently. ALSO: if you're a mad scientist and determined to build a spaceship to sail away and incinerate the earth, do you build escape pods into the ship? Why would you? You'd theoretically have nowhere to escape TO. To sum up, it SUCKED. Unless you like tacky special FX and bickering banter that was done 934579347593874592374957395 times better fifty years ago by Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen", just skip it. You know, I have always hated Jude Law (not as much as I hate Russell Crowe or fucking Dame Judi Dench. Still, that leaves a lot of room for hating...), but I was beginning to like Gwyneth. Too bad.

Books I

Let's start with literature. Lately, I've been re-reading some classic books from my childhood--just for shits and giggles, you know. See if they still hold up now. So many things don't, you know. So many things you like as a kid seem really stupid when you get older. However, I do have a couple books that stand up to the test of time:

1. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This was my favorite book from first through fifth grades. I did a book report on it every year (and by "did a book report" I don't mean turned in the same book report five times. I wrote new and increasingly complex reports every year. The only reason my fifth grade teacher caught on was because she was looking at the book and noticed on the sign-out card that I was the only one to have ever signed it out, and I'd signed it out six times in five years.) It's a mystery, and I think the indicated reading level is about fourth or fifth grade, but it still holds up now, since as an adult, I can read into it motives and between-the-lines commentary that I would never have noticed as a child. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a quick, funny, interesting read. The movie, Get A Clue! is not so good, though is notable for an appearance by the very attractive Shane West as a blond, stuttering computer-genius in a wheelchair.

2. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This book--about Milo, a boy who was always bored and never interested in anything--is a fantastic journey through the Lands of Wisdom. It's an allegory (at least I believe that's the world that I'm looking for) about being observant, taking joy in learning, and enjoying every day to its fullest. While probably best for a young audience, I know that reading it reminded me not to be so jaded and cynical. The animated film is pretty good, though tough to find.

3. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. This one doesn't stand up so well to the test of time. Aside from being totally unbelievable, the message (a good message, mind you, about not being prejudiced and about what makes a family and such) kind of whacks you over the head. I remember when I first read it, I thought of Maniac as some kind of romantic hero (I was, like, nine. What do you want from me?) but now he seems WAY too good to be true. There are still parts I enjoy (the house of two toasters and young Jeffrey's subsequent break-down, Cobble's Knot, the baby buffalo) but this one should probably be left to the younger set. There was some talk about making a film of this one, starring Elijah Wood, but it never came about.