Wednesday 24 September 2014

Devouring Films: Movie Mini-Reviews

In lieu of reading, and because I suspect I'm not going to have much time to watch ANYTHING EVER over the next year*, I've been watching quite a few films of late. These are the ones that were both 1) new to me, and 2) I didn't fall asleep watching (a rare feat, these days). Why the mini-reviews? You know, lazy...

Don Jon
Ok, first of all I lied, because I actually did fall asleep watching Don Jon and had to watch the end half the morning after. This is neither here nor there, but that's what happened. SO. I've wanted to see this pretty much since I first heard about it, because there can't be a film written and directed by JGL that I haven't seen. That just isn't a thing that can happen. FORTUNATELY for us all, this turned out to be amazing, and I shall try to describe why.

So, Jon is kind of a dick. All he has in his life is the gym, and work, and church, and having sex with a beautiful woman night after night after... Ok, I know that doesn't sound so bad. Jon is ALSO addicted to porn, to the extent that he enjoys it more than sex with actual women, and this is really just a symbol for the emptiness of his life and his SOUL. He meets and 'falls in love' (spoiler: it's not really love) with Scarlett Johansson, which starts to make him a better man, but there's still something missing, and we're always aware of that as the audience in a way that Jon isn't.

Basically. I love how porn addiction is treated as a symptom of a wider issue of caring about how things look rather than how they feel, I love how this film could have been so gross in the wrong hands but is actually done SO well and sensitively and everything else, and I love the part that Julianne Moore has to play that I will tell you literally no more about because I didn't even know she was in the film but I'm so glad she was. Basically, as I write this, I watched this film a week ago, and I already want to watch it again. Ringing endorsement? Ringing endorsement.

Dead Poets Society
Almost as soon as Robin Williams died, people started talking about Dead Poets Society and how excellent it is, and people I know were really surprised that I hadn't seen it already. I know what they mean now- everything about it is something I enjoy in a film (except that there are bagpipes in the beginning. I HATE BAGPIPES) but I have a legitimate reason for not having seen it until now. SO you know how there's that episode of Friends where that woman steals Monica's credit card, and Monica's all like 'why do you live like this?' and the woman says 'Did you ever see Dead Poets Society? I came out of that movie and thought "well, that's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back." And that thought scared me.' THAT one thing made me think that DPS was going to be really boring. Because I'm a stupid person. Look, I didn't say it was a GOOD reason...

Anyway! I finally did watch it- I had to wait ages for the DVD because it's apparently unavailable to watch online ANYWHERE and the DVD is like golddust, but I have now seen it, and oh how I wept! I just... There are so many things I loved about it that I don't even know where to start, but maybe I should start by saying that I actually don't think it's a perfect film, and there are weird pacing issues and sometimes they don't seem to know which characters to focus on the most BUT BUT BUT there are moments that I think ARE completely perfect and it kind of cancels out any other inconsistencies there might be in the film.

REALLY I just want to talk about the end of this movie (not the standing on desks. Which is AMAZING. But before that) because I have total feelings about everyone involved in that, but I can't because you might not have seen it and I don't want to take that away from you. So instead, here's what I'll say- I love how disobedience at this school is going into the woods and reading poetry, I love how even the baddest of the boys really aren't that bad, I love how it reminded me that poetry isn't so bad**, and I love how Robin Williams lights up every scene he's in, and shakes up the lives of boys that have always just done what they're told and haven't ever been taught to love things that aren't money or success.

Also, this: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." Just, yes. Please.

This probably should have been a full review rather than a mini one, because I still have so much more to say. But watch it, watch it, watch it, and we'll talk further in the comments.

I only vaguely knew of Beginners because Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for it, so when it was on TV (a LONG time ago, now) I figured it was worth recording. This film kind of blew me away- I don't know if it's because I had somehow gotten the wrong idea about it (I thought it was going to be more comedic than it actually was) or because it's genuinely as excellent as I think it is, but either way I was so incredibly impressed, and yes, I'll say it, moved by this film.

Let's see if I can describe it in a way that makes it sound at all appealing... So Ewan McGregor plays this guy whose father has just died, but before he did, he came out as gay and lived voraciously until he died. This is making this all sound a lot more linear than it actually is, because really the film cuts between Ewan McGregor in the present trying to cope with grief along with being more open to other people because of it. This style is something which works really well, in that these flashbacks cut in when McGregor is trying to do other things, which is absolutely how grief works, but it's not just the style. Everything about this film is sort of beautiful, and perfect, and so so sad, so of course- of COURSE I loved it.

I don't think I've done a very good job of summing it up at all, and I feel like that might be because it's not a film that can be summed up very well, or maybe I'm writing this too soon after I've seen it so it's all still too fresh. Wikipedia tells me it's based on the writer/director's actual experience of his father coming out at 75, which explains why it feels so honest and true, and it's a shame that, in a film that does such a good job of describing entire character traits in such a few lines, I can't do it the same justice in this tiny review. Consider this, when Christopher Plummer explains to Ewan McGregor why he's with the man he's with:
"Well, let's say that since you were little, you always dreamed of getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait, but the lion doesn't come. And along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe."
"I'd wait for the lion."
"That's why I worry about you."
I mean, right? RIGHT?! So revelatory about Ewan McGregor's character, in so few words. Basically, you have to watch this because I'm doing a terrible job of describing it, but just don't let the fact that I've apparently forgotten the names of all the characters put you off because that's not important, right? Of course not.

*Dramatic? Perhaps. But would you have me any other way?
**I kind of hate poetry, I think really only because it reminds me that I don't really have a beautiful soul because I don't really get it. Like, hardly ever. But this film made me feel like I could, maybe.


  1. I haven't seen Dead Poet's Society either (despite also having looked on Netflix and Lovefilm and EVERYWHERE) and I do feel like I'm missing out. I'm not very good at films but it's reassuring that you liked it, so maybe I'll track down a DVD copy. I STILL feel sad that Robin Williams died - I think it's the celebrity death that I remember that has affected me the most.

    1. It is SO HARD to find, Hanna. Like, ridiculously. But I think it's well worth owning the DVD cause I already kind of want to watch it again, only I don't have the emotional fortitude. Also, it is a very bookish film, so hopefully it'll hold your attention!

      I'm still with you on the affected the most thing- I think it's a childhood thing, combined with a suicide thing and just nope. I can't. I still find it weird that I didn't really think about him but he turned out to be kind of ingrained on my psyche, if you know what I mean? Sigh.

  2. STILL CANNOT HANDLE DEAD POETS SOCIETY. Because it has Feelings. And gross. But I begrudgingly accept that other people like Robin Williams as the highly irresponsible teacher who makes them tear up their expensive textbooks.

    Also I need to see Beginners. It is on Netflix, self! Watch it! Stop watching Criminal Minds that show is not good.

    1. Ewwwww, not Feelings! So gross. I kind of see what you mean, but at the same time I think it's so rare to see boys having feelings onscreen (that aren't, like, sexual. Necessarily) that it's kind of like 'huh. I like this!' ALSO that essay was complete crap, so.

      OMG Beginners is seriously so good. SO GOOD. I wasn't expecting it to be half as good as it was. I didn't realise it was on Netflix though, I may have to delete it from Tivo now (I actually couldn't bear to let it go, that's how much I loved it)

  3. Three more for the liiiiiist. Well, two more, because I've already seen DPS, but I want to see it AGAIN. The last time I watched it, if I remember rightly, I was sprawled in a not-my-boyfriend-boy's bedroom in our university halls, which was in... 2007? Good grief. O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN still makes me cry though. And Neil's dad racing into the study. John Keating made me want to study literature and read poetry and be a better person. :)

    How does Don Jon compare to Shame on a similar subject?

    1. OH MY GOD THAT BIT WITH NEIL'S DAD. That's the thing I wanted to talk about because I have such FEELS because on the one hand I hate him the whole way through, but on the other, his reaction feels so genuine and heartbreaking that I'm like AGHHHHHHHH. So much crying. Like, actual sobbing.

      Don Jon is so so different to Shame, both in tone (MUCH less depressing) but also in the kinds of sex addiction that they have- in that, I think in Shame, Fassbender will literally take any kind of sexual material because it means he doesn't have to think about some big horrible thing that happened to him (sexual abuse, maybe? I wasn't sure...) and in Don Jon, it's more like... Like, we're exposed to images of perfection every day, and it fucks up how we all think so we think we should look a certain way because it'll make us feel different (it doesn't, really) and this is really what's going on with Jon's porn addiction, because it looks better than real sex, and the way he imagines it is better than real sex, so he wants to do it more. It's REALLY good. I liked it better than Shame, I've got to say.

  4. The only cultural advice to take from Friends is to put scary books in the freezer. NOTHING ELSE.

    I gave up on Don Jon halfway through. I respect what they wanted to do but I found it so freaking boring that I literally couldn't even keep it on in the background. Which made me sad because JGL. Beginners and Da's are both tops though. DPS is on American Netflix now, in case people (Hanna) are still looking.

    1. Aw, but so much of my life is based on Friends! I can't just give all of that up.

      And WHAT?! I didn't find Don Jon boring at all (was it the repetition? I was really tired when I watched it, so the repetition was comforting) aaaand it definitely got better towards the end. BUT IT WAS ALREADY GOOD.

      I'm kind of pissed that DPS is on American Netflix now... I mean, YAY for the world, but BOO for me and my £5.99 I could have saved...

  5. I really liked Beginners - the giraffe quote was a standout moment in the film.

    My college friends and I were in love with Dead Poets' Society when we were freshmen. We went off to the woods to read poetry by flashlight. I haven't seen it in a while.

    1. Beginners was SO lovely. It made me very emotional, but it didn't seem like it was forcing me that way, if you know what I mean?

      That is basically the best thing I've ever heard. I can't think of anyone who would agree to go into the woods with me and read poetry, and that makes me sad!

  6. Dead Poets Society was my favorite movie in high school and still probably remains on a top ten list buried in my mind somewhere. It's the movie that made me want to become a teacher. That part didn't work out so well, but I still love it. And my first year in college, a beloved professor didn't make tenure, and my friends and I did the whole stand-on-the desk-thing. And yes, the O Captain My Captain thing. And it was good.

    But I want to know what you were gonna put in your review butdidn't 'cos it might have been spoilery.


      I just really wanted to talk about my Neil feels, and how I totally hated his dad right up until the moment he runs into the study and is so distraught and I was kind of like 'but... He's not evil. He genuinely wanted what he thought was best for his son, and even though he shouldn't have tried to force him either way, he only wanted the best.' I don't know, I kind of thought it was interesting cause the film made him into such a villain and in that one moment just made him 10,000,000x more relatable and human.

      In a nutshell...

  7. I have heard good things about Don Jon even though it looks like it could go SO WRONG.

    I really need to see Dead Poets.

    1. Don Jon could have been so sleazy and wrong and just noooooo, BUT (even though JON is, at times, sleazy and wrong) it just turned out to be really interesting and made me think deep thoughts about the difference between what things feel like and what things look like, and how this relates not only to porn/sex but to other things in the real world. Basically. Then again, Kayleigh just found it really boring so maybe I had JGL goggles on (the best kind of goggles).

      Watch Dead Poets Society FFS! What are you waiting for?!

  8. I was like you--hadn't seen Dead Poets until the day Robin Williams died, because that day I casually mentioned that I'd never seen it and my husband FREAKED OUT ON ME, found it on Amazon (we never buy videos from Amazon, but apparently this was the exception because like you said, it was available nowhere else), and watched it right then. I was... emotional. An emotional wreck. I loved it, can't believe I'd never seen it, all the poetry, also Robin Williams, so sad, apparently the whole thing makes me incapable of speaking in real sentences anymore.

    So. Glad you watched it. I'd never even HEARD of the other two before this post, but will have to check them out.