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Monday Movies: Every time a bell rings…

As many of you already know, Christmas was this past weekend, and that shaped the movie selection that The Girlfriend and I watched while visiting my parents:

  • Veggie Tales: It’s a Meaningful Life — my mom bought this because I was so fixated on It’s a Wonderful Life as a kid (going so far as to watch it in August, for instance). They trimmed down the plot significantly, combining the Mr. Potter and brother characters into one peer who winds up becoming a football star after a play in which they were both involved goes horribly awry for the hero, a cucumber. The cucumber then winds up having to stay in his hometown running his father’s toy factory while his friend becomes a worldwide icon. Long story short: it was “God’s plan” that the cucumber should stay in his hometown, because he would’ve become a total asshole like the football star if he’d caught that crucial pass. (My question is what God’s plan for the actual asshole was.)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life — we watched this immediately after, as The Girlfriend had never seen it all the way through. After all these years, it still offers up fresh mysteries. For instance, The Girlfriend notes that Nick the bartender is extremely surly in the alternative reality, yet he has apparently been upgraded from a subordinate to being the owner of the bar (presumably because George wasn’t around to help the immigrant community and therefore Martini never got a chance to buy the bar). Why lead off with someone who’s actually better off without George Bailey in the picture? When they visited the brother’s grave and it’s explained that George wasn’t there to rescue him from the pond, I interjected, “But it was my idea to go sledding that day!” — I know that science fiction wasn’t as advanced back then, but it seems like they don’t really take seriously the fact that removing George would’ve significantly changed every situation (and would none of the other boys have tried to save the brother? Is George Bailey literally the only good person in the town?!). In any case, I think it’s pretty clear that we are currently living in the alternative reality where George Bailey was never born.

December 27, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. i watched Soul Kitchen, a nice easy feeling movie and Late spring and Elisabeth which i didn’t finish both, the latter one due to the absence of subtitles, the notebook’s sound is too low, can’t hear

    Comment by read | December 27, 2010

  2. Like IaWL isn’t SF, you can kinda tell by the angel. Fantasy has different rules.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | December 27, 2010

  3. I realize that, Bob. I was trying to indicate that going back and making it so GB was never born is a kind of time-travel plot, and the relatively undeveloped state of sci-fi meant that people hadn’t really thought through the logical consequences of time travel.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | December 27, 2010

  4. I’ve always hated It’s a Wonderful Life. Gary Kamiya once wrote a funny essay about how he’d rather have lived in swinging, anything-goes Pottersville than puritanical Bedford Falls, where your judgmental neighbors are always peering in your windows. (I’m not going to link to it because I just reread it and actually it’s kind of dumb.) Also, I find George’s Christmas-induced hysteria at the end deeply distasteful.

    I don’t hate all classic holiday movies though! This year, as every year, I watched Miracle on 34th Street, which is deeply beloved by my family. Bureaucratic ineptitude + Tammany Hall corruption = the Christmas spirit.

    I also saw White Christmas, which was on endless replay on some basic cable station, and what the fuck. It was horrible. It actually made me rethink my opinion of Burlesque. Burlesque was extremely silly, but it was like infinity times better than White Christmas, which is supposed to be a classic.

    Comment by jms | December 27, 2010

  5. I too hate the movie and have always hated it. The reason for my hatred is so much more pure than jms’s: I absolutely loathe the sound of their voices. I’d rather be locked in a barrel full of ringing alarm clocks than have to hear a single word out of their mouths, especially the main character’s (but my hatred holds generally).

    Christmas season means one thing: Will Ferrell movies.

    (1) “Elf” the quintessential Christmas classic, with burp-jokes and a giant man wearing all-felt clothing. The most surprising thing about this film is that it is created by Jon Favreau, who, as we all know, specializes in playing lecherous, skeezy men.

    (2) “Step Brothers.” A lot of people would point to “Talledega Nights” as the ultimate John C. Reilly movie. Those people just haven’t seen “Step Brothers” yet. If you are looking for a special treat–that is, if you don’t like the general plot format with adulthood and reconciliation at the end–skip directly to the alternate scenes, gag real, and outtakes. You’ll end up with all the funny and without the unnecessary “plot” to hold it all together. Absolutely scrumptulescent.

    (3) Tonight is “The Other Guys,” which we have not yet seen. I don’t see how a movie with Samuel L. Jackson, The Rock, Marky Mark, and Will Ferrell could be a failure anywhere in this world. I know I was critical of Marky Mark in that absolutely ridiculous movie, “The Happening” (which wasn’t), but I do remember Marky Mark from the glory days–before he was boxer with anorexic Batman–such as this clip although this one is better (dedicated to Marky Mark’s cock).

    Comment by Craig | December 27, 2010

  6. Oh also I bought me a copy of “Vietnam, the 10000 Day War” for my Christmas present, the first two hours (of ten!) of which I watched while over at my parents’ house on Christmas. (The DVD player on my laptop is broken, to my great dismay.) Anyway it occasioned my dad to express his great admiration for HCM and his opinion that the US should have supported him early on after WW2. Which was not a sentiment I expected to hear from my father, ever, at all.

    Comment by jms | December 27, 2010

  7. I watched Tom Jones and Sita Sings the Blues, about which I have many opinions, but I feel too harried to give them at the moment.

    Comment by ben | December 28, 2010

  8. Ozu, An Autumn Afternoon, 1962

    Truffaut said good movies must be watched three times+. Starting at the end and moving backwards. Maybe Ozu every third night this time.

    Much better subtitles this time. I noticed Ryu moves from sake to whiskey, and a lot of it. This is a radical extreme movie, unrelenting in its ordinary tragedy. There is just nothing to grab on to here. There are a lot of scenes where a crucial participant is hidden behind a wall or screen.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | December 29, 2010

  9. I watched the third Robot Chicken: Star Wars …um, episode…movie..whatever you’d call it. Like with Tosh.0 or a Judd Apatow movie, I specifically remember laughing out loud but by the end, having no memory of what was funny.

    We also watched the Sorceror’s Apprentice with Nick Cage and the dude from Knocked Up and How to Train a Dragon. I expected it to be awful, and it may not have been that but it wasn’t good either. So it scores poorly on a flat scale, but perhaps a tad above average when compared against my expectations.

    Comment by mattintoledo | December 29, 2010

  10. I saw a film called Agora, which was advertised as an “Action” film, and described as being about Hypatia “defending” the library of Alexandria. Regrettably, it wasn’t actually the ass-kicking philosopher film that description suggested, though it was quite an interesting (though apparently not very historically accurate) historical drama about the difficulties Hypatia faced as a woman and atheist in an increasingly Christian Alexandria. The take-home message seems to be that Christians are fascists?

    Comment by voyou | December 29, 2010

  11. Notes on Autumn Afternoon, esp as compared to Late Spring which it has a lot of explicit allusions to, including final scenes of daughter in wedding gown, father at bar, father crying. The differences are more important than the similarities. Father says final line:”I am all alone.”

    No, he isn’t, he has two sons, one idiot still living with him. The #1 son wants to move back home from the noisy tiny apartment (dogs barking, neighbours fighting, AA is terrific on foley and ambient sounds) badly, very very badly. Daughter-in-law keeps repeating “I’ll come over and help” Oldest son inherits the house, and the couple can’t afford a child yet, but could if they didn’t have to pay rent.

    Anyway, afaict, dad didn’t have the great relationship with daughter shown in Late Spring anyway, if much relationship a all. So Dad is not “all alone” at all, or in least in the sense of LS. What he means, or what his condition is, must be interpreted, by comparison with LS, and by for instance studying carefully his relationship with his same generation friends. Also, of course, by looking at End of Summer, the previous film, also partly about an old patriarch.

    But AA is most likely an ironic inversion of LS.

    Was supposed to be Oshima last night, but wasn’t up to it. But then I found nothing on TV, painful nothingness. So back to Japan. Reading, among other things, the 6 vol Cambridge History

    Comment by bob mcmanus | December 30, 2010

  12. Oshima, Night and Fog in Japan>/i>, 1960

    A gentle nocturne, with fog. The visual rendering of Clair de Lune.

    Just kidding. Veteran Marxist student revolutionaries confront each other at a wedding. The real thing. Oshima pulled out all the stops.

    WTF has happened to the world, that we can’t make movies like this anymore? Something happened.

    I’m getting to the point that I have too much to say. I am pretty sure that it is a Shostakovich finale that drowns out the Party Leader at the end. A fucking terrible beauty indeed.

    God it hurts so much sometimes.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | December 31, 2010

  13. End Italics

    Comment by bob mcmanus | December 31, 2010

  14. Okay, calmed down some.

    1) Oshima’s last movie made for Shochiku, and granting that I haven’t seen the previous three, this still felt like a “Death to Ozuism!” movie. Fixed camera, but very long takes (Ozu cuts a lot). Pans and swish pans. Ill-defined and vague mise-en-scene. Lots of flashbacks.

    2) Shochiku pulled the film after three days, umm, when the head of the Japanese Socialist Party was assassinated. Oshima’s public letter of protest over the pulling of the movie can be found online.

    3) Yes it is full of long Marxist intellectual monoloque and dialogue. For me, the acting and directing made it interesting, and Oshima relates theory to praxis in the narrative and characters. No, if you are into Marxism, you don’t need to know much about the Japanese history or politics.

    4) But I do think to get this movie, you will need to take Stalinism and Trotskyism seriously, with respect. At least for the length of the movie, in order to have empathy for Oshima, because he took them very seriously indeed. And you possibly will also need to have empathy for the time (1960), when Communist Revolution was still real and full of possibilities.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | December 31, 2010

  15. Kurosawa, One Wonderful Sunday 1947

    Young couple tries to enjoy Sunday off with no money.

    Kurosawa, like John Ford, didn’t make his movies for snobbish grouches like me.

    Okay, there are some lugubrious sequences that anybody would find corny, but shot for shot, this is one brilliant beautiful piece of post-war neo-realism for optimists. He pleases, but never surprises me. Art cinema for the masses. Whatever. When I figure out why K amazes me yet I don’t care if I never see another of his films I will have learned something about film or about myself.

    But I do know better than to recommend against seeing it. It’s astonishing.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 1, 2011

  16. i wanted to watch yesterday a Charley Chaplin’s film and clicked on it without reading anything about it, but it was a modern movie about Chaplin, i guess, someone was removing a makeup in the first minutes, so i didn’t, it was kinda like too much dissonance between what i expected and the actual movie, maybe some time else
    but i watched glimpses of _Men in black_ on 29, enjoyable as always then fell asleep

    Comment by read | January 1, 2011

  17. Shimizu Hiroshi, Kodomo no Shiki, 1937

    At 221 minutes this is an epic, so I’ll skip plot. Uhh, based on a novel, children reflect adult conflicts in two country communities. Shimizu loves to shoot outside, and shoot children outside, but managed to get the adult stuff well enough.

    Technically brilliant, tracking shots everywhere. Location was gorgeous and fascinating, ancient Japanese village in high hills with streams and old defensive walls obvious. Sakamoto Takeshi plays the patriarch, owner of a silk weaving factory in the boonies, and probably one of the few glimpses I have had of pre-WWII Japanese nobility. Just rich guys with land and a history above retainer samurai. There may have been some social critique in there, the abrupt endings of pt 1 & 2 pointed in unexpected directions.

    And there were lots of koi.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 1, 2011

  18. Umm, the Meiji thru Showa Emperor did appoint a ton of hereditary barons, just to stack the upper house of the Diet, but this guy had an ancestral estate.

    I’d like to read this novel.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 1, 2011

  19. Mizoguchi, Genroku Chushingara 1942, 241 fricking minutes

    Not great Mizo, apparently not best 47 Ronin, but Mizo + Ronin = pretty ok. I guess it’s a propaganda film, umm, about turning on your corrupt gov’t and doing the right thing, then dying with composure and a smile. Emperor, shogun, daimyo, samurai I guess the politics and bushido code had its complications. Whatever. 2nd half got talky and weird.

    Stylistically not what I expected, less long shot exteriors and more fixed camera interiors. Since this is the nat myth done a million times, I assume some speeches and scenes are mandatory, and I don’t know enough to appreciate the nuances Mizo brought to it.

    Revenge killings not filmed.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | January 2, 2011

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