(Again REALLY Belated) Weekend Update – July 31, 2011

31 07 2011

“Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.”

– Meryl Streep

“You have to show violence the way it is. If you don’t show it realistically, then that’s immoral and harmful. If you don’t upset people, then that’s obscenity.”

– Roman Polanski

Out and About in the Community

As a sort of cop-out for not publishing this on time, I’m going to overpublicize two events I participated in recently over at the Large Association of Movie Blogs (The LAMB), a giant database of bloggers that get together and pool ideas and posts.

The first was the LAMB Acting School, a monthly series that gathers reviews and retrospectives centered around a single actor.  This month, it was the legendary Meryl Streep, the woman who may well be the greatest actress of her generation.  For those who get sick of her or claim that the Oscars are overly obsessed with her, just look at her filmography and tell me that the diversity of roles present and the dexterity with which she pulls them off isn’t flooring.  Her emphasis is obviously on the drama, but she can pull off comedy just as easily.  She is often lauded for her ability to change the accent of her voice to fit a character; however, it’s that incredible Streep pathos that she brings to every role that has made her a symbol of consistency and reliability in a volatile cinematic climate.

Not to mention I owe Meryl Streep a very special favor myself.  If it hadn’t been for her and “Julie & Julia,” this blog probably wouldn’t exist.  She has changed my life for better and for always, and I am eternally grateful.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Click on the graphic to go see all the posts, but here are links to what I have reviewed from her illustrious career:

It’s Complicated

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Julie & Julia

Adaptation

Music of the Heart

Then, a week prior, I participated in the “LAMBs in the Director’s Chair” event, which celebrated the career of Roman Polanski.  I haven’t seen too many of his movies and have reviewed even fewer, but I admire his skill behind the camera and don’t wish to comment on his legal status.  I saw “Roman Polanski: Wanted & Desired,” which I found an interesting portrait of a haunted man, and it just made me even more torn.

Nonetheless, “The Pianist” may be one of my all-time favorite movies.  It is so powerful and moving, perhaps the only intensely personal non-documentarian account of the Holocaust we will ever get.  I’m really hoping “Carnage” is another big success – I always love a good play adaptation.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Again, click the link to be taken to the post with reviews and commentary. Here’s what I submitted:

The Ghost Writer

Classics Corner: Rosemary’s Baby

A Week in Review

This week, I reviewed the two non-Smurf new releases, “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Crazy Stupid Love.”  My expectations were high for the former, low for the latter; the output was low for the former, high for the latter.  Click the pictures to be transported to the reviews.

I also celebrated my two year birthday/anniversary, whichever it is – without the pomp and circumstance.  And I’m totally OK with that.

Recommended Reading

Here’s some of the great work I read this week:

The Rant

This is a thought I had upon further thought on the sex friend movies of 2011, “No Strings Attached” and “Friends with Benefits.”  (Believe it or not, it is possible to think on them.)

Isn’t in hypocritical that the MPAA has begun a crusade against cigarette smoking yet have done nothing about what I think is a much bigger issue in movies nowadays: the casual attitude towards unprotected sex.  While I’m not going to dismiss smoking in movies as something that can influence kids and teenagers, I would argue that they are much more likely to imitate the sexual behavior of screen characters.  Smoking is a social behavior, so kids see it out in public all the time.  Movies just reinforce what they see in real life.

Sex, however, is a very private matter.  Their education nowadays is abstinence or a very sanitized, conservative, condoms-on-bananas approach, like Coach Carr from “Mean Girls” (see the clip below).  What they see in the movies defines how they perceive it in the real world.

While sex on film has evolved with the constantly changing societal norms, from “Carnal Knowledge” to “Brokeback Mountain” to the 2011 duo touting casual sex, I’m surprised that public awareness (and perhaps anger) of how sex is being portrayed on screen hasn’t caught up with the times.  While the conservative definition of sex as an act between man and wife was thrown out quite a while ago, that isn’t an excuse not to care.  Attitudes may have changed, but that doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye and abandon all responsibility simply because we don’t fully agree with something.

The routine nowadays for sex is two people start passionately kissing, find a flat spot, disrobe each other, and begin thrusting.  Is it really that hard to add the simple, responsible step somewhere before the thrusting begins of adding a condom?  Would it really disrupt the scene that much to add in a shot of a Trojan wrapper on the ground?  A hand reaching in the drawer for a rubber?  We don’t actually have to see it slide on, but for kids who believe that movies reflect real life, there really needs to be some sense conveyed that these people have taken measures to be safe.  Otherwise, there should be consequences.

Only two mainstream movies (to my knowledge) have really dared to have any major results from having unprotected sex, both coming in 2007: “Knocked Up” and “Juno,” both of which featured characters who had to deal with a life-changing pregnancy either willingly not using a condom (the latter) or accidentally not using one (the former).  Both tackle the issue in a respectful manner but also serving as subtle cautionary tales.  But other than those, the only other movie I can think of that shows safe sex being practiced are, ironically, “No Strings Attached.”  (I should also credit 2005’s “Must Love Dogs,” a lame Diane Keaton rom-com that featured a scene where she and John Cusack choose not to have sex because they can’t find a condom.)

Does Hollywood really expect us to believe that 95% of the time, there are no consequences of having unprotected sex?  Wouldn’t it be so refreshing to see Katherine Heigl get chlamydia in her next romantic comedy?  Or after a drunken one-night stand, have Jessica Alba get pregnant?  These are things that happen to real people when they don’t act responsibly, and by dwelling on the small percentage of times that unprotected sex has no ramifications, they are promoting an illusion that could damage lives.

In our immediate gratification culture which demands movies on DVD sooner, data quicker, and social information faster, I find it almost unfathomable that people have chosen to fixate on eradicating smoking from cinema with all of its LONG-TERM effects.  Lung cancer takes a while to develop; you start to feel pregnancy within a month or so, a sexually transmitted disease sets in even sooner, and emotional scarring may be present the next morning.  While the wages of sex are usually not life-threatening, that doesn’t mean we should just turn a blind eye to Hollywood’s dangerous condoning of an irresponsible practice.

Check back for more “Weekend Update” on August 7 … hopefully it will be published on time!

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REVIEW: Cowboys & Aliens

27 07 2011

From the very beginning of Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens,” a very uneasy unevenness settles on the screen.  The movie feels torn between whether to be an alien invasion movie that happens to be set in 1870s New Mexico or a Western movie where the villains happen to be aliens.  Rather than make an executive decision and splice the genres, Favreau settles for an unhappy medium, vacillating back and forth between which of the two he’d rather use for the particular scene.  The resultant jumble is just that, a movie that haphazardly joins various elements from both genres to create a bitter hodgepodge that barely satisfies on basic entertainment levels.

The film basically glides by plotlessly for nearly two hours, floating on the very thin premise that feels like an infantile idea to begin.  Combining cowboys and aliens sounds like a game played by a five-year-old when his mom throws the “Star Wars” toys in the Lincoln Logs bin.  It might be fun for a little while as the two clash, but we eventually come to the realization that the novelty can’t sustain, much like that child probably would as well.

The kids-at-heart writing this story, otherwise known as the guys who gave you such wide-ranging projects as “Star Trek,” “Transformers,” the television show “Lost,” “Children of Men,” “Iron Man,” and the unforgettable classic “Kung Pow: Enter The Fist,” have the attention span of that five-year-old child.  They fail to take the movie anywhere worthwhile past the original jolt of imagination that inspired them to combine the two worlds in the first place.  Once they get the whole thing assembled and need to get the plot rolling, they abandon it to play with Legos and leave the movie going on autopilot.

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WTLFT: July 2011

8 06 2011

Yeah, I shortened the name.  It’s a lot more palatable.  This post will tell you What To Look Forward To in the month of July.  We have transformers, captains, teen stars, teen wizards, sex friends, zoo friends, hellish bosses, honey bears, and smurfs – just to name a few.  Here they all are; you can make up your mind if any of these actually appeal to you.

July 1

Cheating- “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” actually comes out on June 29, and, if you want to get really technical, June 28 at 9:00 in IMAX 3D and RealD 3D.  So while you curse me for my horrific crimes against nature, humanity, and blogging, watch the trailer and decide for yourself whether or not you want to subject yourself to Shia LaBeouf and a lot of loud noises orchestrated by Michael Bay.

On the quieter side of things, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts plan to use their star power to fill seats at “Larry Crowne,” which looks like perfectly middle-of-the-road rom-com territory.  On the louder side of things again – and by louder, I mean girlish screams and constantly ringing cell phones – “Monte Carlo” gives young girls what they need during the summer.  A nice helping of Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy, and Leighton Meester should have the tweeners saying “OMG!” until the next season of “Wizards of Waverly Place” hits the small screen. (There’s also a creepy thriller called “The Perfect Host” starring David Hyde Pierce, which I feel obliged to mention since it’s the only indie offering amidst these studio genre pics.)

July 8

Fingers crossed that “Horrible Bosses” will be funny!  I remember reading a piece on a blog for The Los Angeles Times well before the movie started production that praised it, so hopefully it stuck to the script.  If it’s a hit, I motion for Jennifer Aniston to stop doing horrible rom-com fare and stick to raunchy comedy; I chuckle every time I watch the trailer and hear her say, “Shabbat shalom; someone’s circumcised!”

As for “Zookeeper” … well, I hope the kids enjoy it.

I’ve definitely been going through a documentary phase ever since last year’s “Inside Job” rocked my world, and Michael Rappaport’s “Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” could feed my obsession quite well.  It follows the titular hip-hop group (known as A Tribe Called Quest if you are as clueless as I was) from formation to fame.  Best case scenario it provides a fascinating expose of the craft of rapping much like “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” did for standup comedy last summer.  Worst case scenario I get to see some of my favorite artists talking about a group I’ve never heard of before.

Another interesting documentary (that I can only PRAY makes it to Houston sometime before I leave for college) is “Project Nim,” the story of a chimpanzee experiment.  I’ve always been interested in stories where lines and boundaries we once thought clear are exposed and shown to be more porous and relative than we thought, and this looks to deliver on a big scale.

July 15

Some tiny little series ends on screen.  It’s no big deal, it’s not like these movies define my youth.  It’s not like it’s a worldwide phenomenon.  But in all seriousness, I’m not going to cry.  “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” – BRING IT ON!

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