Oprah Movie Club for February: The Bucket List

2007 old fart travelogue

Rating: 14/20 (Jen: 13/20)

Plot: A couple old guys with terminal cancer make a list of things to do before they die--skydive, race fast cars, climb a mountain, have sexual intercourse with a walrus, etc.--and bond as they globetrot to make those things happen.

This movie would have gotten at least three bonus points for a Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson/walrus sex scene.

I never really felt this movie. It's heavy subject matter, one of those stories that can be simultaneously depressing and uplifting, but it never really struck a chord. I liked the friendship of two very different human beings and thought that it unfolded very naturally in the hospital although I'd listen to arguments that that part of the movie went on for too long. Freeman and Nicholson are both good playing the same sort of characters they play nowadays, but it feels to me like they're going through the motions, and I didn't think they had any natural chemistry. And Nicholson's screaming during a skydiving scene was awkward, the type of thing that could make any walrus uncomfortable. Jack Nicholson's kind of shaped like a walrus at this stage in his life. Not in a good way. I enjoyed traveling around with these two guys and seeing pyramids and Taj Mahals and snowy mountains, but the episodic bucket-list-scratch-offing got a little tiresome after a while. Any real emotional impact sort of comes and goes, and a script that just refused to take any chances probably didn't help things. Mostly, it feels like Hollywood emotions, and when I think about the amount of money that had to be involved to make the dreams of Morgan Freeman's character come true, it kind of cheapens the whole thing.

My inability to completely connect with this makes me wonder if I'm just not quite old enough for it.

Morgan Freeman narration and shots of snow. Jennifer and I thought that we'd accidentally popped in March of the Penguins. I wouldn't have minded, by the way, seeing Freeman and Nicholson having their way with penguins either, but this just wasn't that kind of movie.

The "kiss the most beautiful girl in the world" bit almost got me. It might have if the rest of the movie would have been as good as it should have been. 

Shane Reviews the Greatest Movies Ever Made: Tokyo Story

1953 movie

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Old people visit their children and grand-children and are indirectly told to go be old someplace else.

Like a lot of Japanese movies, this is a very wise movie. And quiet. In a way, it seems even quieter than Sunrise, the silent movie I watched in the Sight and Sound list top ten. It's not a movie that wows you exactly, but Ozu does manage to grip you emotionally. The quiet direction, simple dialogue, and complete lack of anything that anybody would mistake as action almost force the viewer to reflect. Ozu's camera shows his characters almost exclusively in shots two or three feet from the ground which gives this an interesting perspective. I'm not smart enough to know why he does that or what effect it has on the viewer. My guess: Ozu had a tripod incident in which he broke off part of one leg, had to shave off a few inches from the other two legs, found that they were still uneven, shaved off a few more inches, etc. until he was left with a tiny tripod that all the other directors probably made fun of behind his back. Well, the jokes on those other guys because I liked the look of this! I also like how the camera never moves. Well, it moves once, almost shockingly, at the one hour and one minute mark. As I said, Ozu gives us lots of time in this movie to reflect. Characters will leave rooms, but the camera lets us know that the room they left continues to exist for a few moments. It forces us to think about what the characters just said to one another. Adding to the reflective tone are Ozu's transition shots of pretty much nothing--a hallway and a window with wind chimes, a clothesline with white clothes, cloud, factory pipes, a boat. The dialogue is simple, and although the actors don't get any big moments to give them a chance to show what Acting with that capital A looks like, they're all good. Of course, the old couple are at the center of things, and they play human beings so perfectly. Chieko Higashiyama is terrific just because she has to sit there have more than one character call her fat. Chishu Ryu, who starts all his lines with an Um or a Yeah or a So, is stunning in the way he holds in all these emotions. They're really beautiful performances. Their dialogue is all so very simple. It's a lot of the unsaid things that mean a lot more than what is said, along with all these moments of silence. Glances between characters, especially, say so much.

One moment stands out in this, and it's a moment with some levity. I love how characters on a bus bounce together, almost right to the goofy accompanying music. It's a scene that would probably be more appropriate in a Tati movie.

This is a terrific movie. Don't get me wrong. It very well might be perfect. However, I wonder if it would even be in my personal top-15 for Japanese movies.

What Is It?

2005 movie

Rating: n/r (Mark: n/r)

Plot: A snail murderer wrestles with himself.

According to the credits, "This film has not advocated the assassination of Steven Spielberg in any way."

My brother and I made the trip to Bloomington to see Crispin Glover again. He showed us slideshow versions of eight of his novels, showed this first movie of the "It" trilogy, and then verbosely sort-of answered some questions. He had a beard this time.

I love this man. I really do. I have a feeling that people think I'm just joking around when I go on and on about him, but I think he's a borderline genius and one of the most interesting of Hollywood people. Having said that, his performance in this is about the worst part of the movie. He and his hair (or possibly wig) are distracting, and being distracting in a movie like this is an impressive feat. So what kind of movie is this? It's oddball avant-garde, cheap but fanciful and full of ideas, and a lot of people are going to find it downright offensive. It takes place, from what I can tell, on at least three levels of consciousness, years before Leo and his special effects team did it in Inception. The cast is made up mostly of unintelligible actors who have Down's Syndrome. There are references to Shirley Temple and Nazis, sometimes at the same time. There are cheap puppet shows. One character, the one who tells us that he's Michael Jackson, is in blackface. One scene right after Crispin Glover's character--either Dueling Demi-God Auteur or The Young Inner Psyche and Id since he plays both--floats in with what has to be one of the best special effects I've ever seen features a Cabbage Patch Kid, the playing of a song that uses the no-no n-word and is mostly about how black people smell, and a naked black woman in a monkey mask manually pleasuring Steven C. Stewart, the guy with severe Cerebral Palsy who wrote and starred in the second film of the "It" trilogy. Yep, that's the kind of movie this is, and if you're not in the right place mentally to see any of that, you should stay away. As I've mentioned many times on this blog, I like my avant-garde or experimental films best when they're a little goofy or at least humorous, and I did find parts of this really funny although I stifled laughter because I didn't know how the woman sitting next to me felt about the whole thing. I mean, I already came in with the guy who had smelly hair, so I already had one strike against me.

I can't pretend to know exactly what this is (pun, I guess, intended) or what Glover is wanting to say, but it's a movie that sticks with you and makes you think which is one of the director's intended goals. It's far from a perfect movie and, in fact, appears to have been filmed in Crispin Glover's backyard or basement, but at the same time, it is unique and almost pretty special. My brother and I are refusing to rate the thing because we're a couple sissies. I neglected to ask everybody else in the theater.

By the way, this is now easily at the top of my list of "Best Shirley Temple Movies" right ahead of The Littlest Rebel.

Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins

2009 television movie

Rating: 10/20 (Abbey: 15/20)

Plot: Details the origin of the Mystery Inc. as the gang get together for the first time to solve a mystery at their high school and clear their names.

This might be a little better than the theatrical movies. I also might not have paid that much attention to it. The real mysteries: Why does Fred a brunette sans ascot? Why is Velma Asian? How much money did they spend animating that dog? The dog looks pretty good for a television movie, but if you're going to animate the titular dog in something like this, you might as well animate everything else. And you know what? They did that several years ago, retelling the same story again and again and sometimes adding Don Knotts to the equation. There's really no reason for this to exist. Well, unless they want to add a CGI Don Knotts, and I'm all for that.

The biggest problem with this is the MacGuffin. It would be completely worthless, so the antagonist going to all the trouble he does in the movie to get his hands on it makes almost no sense.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie with Friends on Facebook: Big Money Rustlas

2010 Insane Clown Posse western comedy

Rating: 5/20 (Fred [simul-watching on Facebook]: 7/20)

Plot: There's no peace in Mudbug as Big Baby Chips. . .oh, nevermind.

Over the poker table, Fred and I decided we would watch this on February 19th at 9:30. He might have been a little drunk. I had no excuse. I told other Facebook friends to participate, but they weren't interested, probably because it's a comedy-western hybrid made by the Insane Clown Posse. Well, except for Josh who finished the movie an hour before we were supposed to watch it because he's got a bedtime. I'm not sure what to write about this movie, so I'm just going to use the Facebook conversation: