Category Archives: movies

My mission to watch all the movies

My boyfriend’s best friend is dreamy

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First up, full disclosure: I don’t currently have a boyfriend.

This is why I think I have waited until this golden, shining singleton moment to confess that I have never failed to have a thing for the quirky sidekick of the leading men in my life. It’s a little tricky (not to mention risky) to write this post when you’re in a relationship.

Of course I have never acted on these crushes over the years. In reality, no matter how deliciously understanding, cute, sweet and funny your boyfriend’s best friend is, the true reason for his appeal is that he is similar to your boyfriend but you don’t have to deal with his annoying habits. You get to hold onto the fantasy that he is like your boyfriend, but without the stuff that makes you grind your teeth at night. You know, those things that your boyfriend says or does that you try to ‘work’ through, but are really concerned are giving you a stomach ulcer due to all of your repressed anger and frustration.

However, it’s an entirely different situation in movies. The quirky boy best friends are exceptionally awesome and, quite often, are shunned by the girl even when they prove they are far more worthy than the leading man.

So without further ado, here is my tribute to the unsung heroes of film: the guys on the sidelines who I firmly believe should have been chosen over the guy saying, “Sorry, just realised I have been a complete tosser this whole time, but I love you. Lucky you. Will you marry me?” at the end of the movie.

Jon Cryer, Pretty in Pink.

Jon Cryer, Pretty in Pink.

1. Classic Jon Cryer. How can you turn down a young man named Ducky? He sang to you, Ringwald, he sang to you. And side note, I don’t know, I just don’t think that dress is quite… there yet.

John Krasinski, Something Borrowed.

2. Are you kidding me, Ginnifer?? What kind of name is Ginnifer? Ginnifer is the Molly Ringwald of the present day, I’ve just decided. Nothing like a close, loyal, smart, funny friend who you love dearly and is JOHN KRASINSKI, the nicest guy on the planet after Steve Carrell, when you can try to be with a guy who fell for your ditzy, self-absorbed ‘best friend’ and isn’t sure a relationship with you looks right.

Jason Biggs, My Best Friend’s Girl.

3. I refer to My Best Friend’s Girl yet again. This movie contains so many ‘what the f*@#!’ moments for me. Sure, the pie guy comes on a little strong in this one but if we’re holding him up against Dane La Douche Cook? Neither guy wins on the names though. Tank and Dusty? Sounds like an ill-written children’s book about a couple of scrappy mutts comically awaiting adoption at the local pound, lest they be sent to doggy heaven. Alec Baldwin should have been called Rover. But hey, at least Kate Hudson’s character was named after Joan Collins in Dynasty. Ok, I’ll stop it on the name criticism. But seriously, Hollywood.

Jason Lee, Chasing Amy.

4. Banky Edwards. Now I’m not saying Alyssa Jones had a shot with him (due to his predilection for dick and fart jokes), but maybe I would have taken a moment’s pause to consider the uh, offer in that living room scene at the end. Grown men who can pull off a backwards baseball cap are my weakness. Very few can. Many try.

Mark Ruffalo, Rumor Has It.

5. Ok, Jennifer Aniston, really try to concentrate this time. Mark Ruffalo or Kevin Costner? NO, GODDAMNIT! … Ok. I’m sorry. I’m going to ask you one last time. Ok. Maark, as in the handsome guy who rocked Meg Ryan’s world in In the Cut, or Kevin? Now remember, Kevin was in Waterworld. And you thought he was your father. Thank god she gets it right in the end at least.

Ed Norton, Fight Club.

6. This one isn’t entirely valid because well, 14-year-old spoiler alert, Helena Bonham Carter did actually choose Ed Norton, but to my mind, Ed is the sexier version of Brad Pitt, not the other way around as it is presented to us. Like if they were really separate people, I would be all about Ed.

Ed Norton, Keeping the Faith.

7. Ed Norton, part two. Keeping the Faith – why doesn’t Dharma, I mean Jenna Elfman, pick Ed over Ben Stiller? Given Ed directed this movie, I’m guessing it’s because he’s humble. Which makes me love him even more.

Adam Goldberg, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

8. Adam Goldberg. His character is witty, articulate and gets the leading man to see reason about the lady in the end, before she gets away. Just imagine Adam on the motorbike to the tune of the best Gin Blossoms song in the movie’s finale, instead of the guy who communicates via a series of grunts, squeals and chin thrusts. Best line from McConaughey in the movie: “Naw, naw, naw, naw, naw, come oon, man, hoooooooo!” Use your words, Matthew.

Ron Livingston, Buying the Cow.

9. Three words, Bridgette Wilson: spoilt for choice. Your boyfriend’s friends include Ryan Reynolds and Ron (slacker has never been made more sexy) Livingston and you’ve gone with the crybaby who couldn’t cross a bridge in Stand by Me. And you’re a smoking hot blonde. I may also be looking at you, Rebecca Romijn. Not going to rub it in though, Bridgette, you paid the price for your mistake. We’ve all been there.

Jon Favreau, The Break Up.

10. Putting this one out there… Jon Favreau. He’s got that big bear thing like Javier Bardem that makes me just wanna sit on his lap. No, just me? Ok, never mind. I also don’t have dreams about Pete Hornberger from 30 Rock taking me out to a dive bar for beers and under-the-table knee rubs. Really, I don’t.

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You can’t come back from that

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Movies can sometimes set audiences up for disappointment in real life. There are certain things one just can’t do if one wants to maintain a relationship with another person. Unless the person in question has really low self-esteem, there are quite a lot of deal breakers that will ruin any chance of the ‘happily ever after’.

Here are the movies that are guilty of overestimating human forgiveness and understanding.

Wedding Crashers

Your new boyfriend seems uh… nice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wedding Crashers

“So, sure, Mom, he lied to us all about who he was, crashed both my sisters’ weddings, but it was only because he and his buddy like to spend every summer lying to strangers to spoil their days and have sex with any girl they can get drunk enough. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. I think he’s The One.”

– No ending to any real story that has happened ever.

Film poster for My Best Friend's Wedding - Cop...

My Best Friend’s Wedding, aka 10 Ways to Ensure Your Best Friend Gets a Restraining Order Against You. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Best Friend’s Wedding

“Hey, remember that time you tried to sabotage my marriage and get me fired? Haha, good times.”

– Awkward future conversation that a man won’t be having with his former best friend.

Cover of "My Best Friend's Girl (Unrated ...

Why is she SMILING? Name three good qualities the guy has, just three, seriously, Kate Hudson! (Photo credit: Amazon)

My Best Friend’s Girl

“When I first met Tank, he was such an asshole. He took me out for a date to a strip club and got me to pay for his lap dance. But then he had no strings attached sex with me for a series of weeks before attending my sister’s wedding, vomiting on her during her first dance with her husband, fatally injuring my grandmother, and propositioning my mother for fellatio. And I think that’s around the time I realised he was the man I was going to marry.”

–      A speech you won’t hear from a bride at her wedding reception.

Once Upon a Time in America

He’s a very distinguished looking leading man (with a great hat) who just gets a little rapey sometimes. (Photo credit: 3G Blu-Ray)

Once Upon a Time in America

“I can’t believe you won’t forgive me after I never even apologised for raping you. We’ve clearly loved each other all these years.”

–      Man in straitjacket.

Big Daddy (film)

Aww, that’s so sweet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Big Daddy

“I think it’s totally cool you only work one day a week, sit on your ass all day, and lie to child services to get a kid to care for irresponsibly.”

–      An intelligent, beautiful, successful lawyer’s response to her date right before the fake emergency phone call from her friend to get her the hell out of there.

Film poster for The Exorcist - Copyright 1973,...

Kill it, seriously, kill it now. Why are you talking to it? What, now you’re recording it?? Are you two making an album together? What the hell, priest? (Photo credit: Wikipedia, Copyright 1973, Warner Bros.)

The Exorcist

“Thanks for inviting me over yesterday to see your daughter who’s clearly possessed by Satan and literally the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. I’m back to have another word with her.”

–      A little white lie told with crossed fingers and a firearm held behind the priest’s back.

Cover of "The Family Stone (Widescreen Ed...

So much awkwardness. (Photo credit: Amazon)

The Family Stone

“Things feel so much more comfortable this Christmas since we swapped girlfriends.”

–      Not a likely remark to be passed between brothers at the family dinner table.

More macho movies

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Rocky has such a heart of gold he takes personal responsibility for tenderising all of Philadelphia's meat.

Rocky has such a heart of gold he takes personal responsibility for tenderising all of Philadelphia’s meat. (Photo credit: Comic Vine)

It was quite the sausage fest on my TV screen this week with five more movies crossed off my Top 250 IMDb list: Rocky, There Will Be Blood, The Wrestler, The Third Man, and The Bourne Ultimatum.

The Bourne Ultimatum

Interesting timing to watch this movie! I think I read about the Edward Snowden NSA leak the following day and the third installment of the Jason Bourne series certainly plays on the same idea: does a government have the right to make fundamental decisions about people’s lives without the consent or knowledge of those people? Is it ever justifiable to give someone the ‘no questions asked’ go-ahead to destroy the life of anyone they choose in the name of greater safety for all?

I liked this movie and think it raised these questions quite articulately but like the other Bourne movies, the action sequences lose me a little. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the series, but I have learned that I may as well get up and make a coffee when Bourne starts kicking ass because my eyes obviously can’t keep up with the rapidity of shots that are so short they may well qualify as subliminal messaging. All I need to know is what happened in the end. Did Bourne win again? Of course he did. Then it’s just a matter of finding out if anyone has switched sides. Oops, spoiler alert!

All of that and Matt Damon makes for the most attractive action hero ever. Can more action heroes not be jerks? I like that there is a cap on how many cheesy one-liners in the vein of ‘I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum’ are included in these movies.

Rocky

“Adrian!” Oh Sly, what a charming leading man you make. You know, if a woman is either deaf or stupid. Given your leading lady doesn’t really say anything until halfway through the movie, I could make sense of why she agrees to date you – she’s got to be impaired in some way, right? Wrong.

Yes, Rocky is the sweet underdog. Yes, he has a heart of gold. But he also talks wall-to-wall crap for the entire duration of the movie.

I don’t like this movie, but I don’t hate it either. It’s about as subtle as a very slow, intentional punch to the face, but I’m super glad that there are people out there who love it. It has a lovely message that I haven’t seen communicated so well since Walt Disney’s Dumbo. I would explain the message but I don’t want to be condescending.

The Wrestler

This is what a more sophisticated movie about a fighter looks like. This movie repeatedly broke my heart and then mended it from start to finish.

The plot makes you want to jump off a bridge, it is so tragic, but it is an incredible character piece for Mickey Rourke.

I thought some steroid-injecting, old guy with long bleached hair who fake wrestles other men for fun and hangs out at his local strip club would be hard for me to relate to. This, the second film I have watched of Darren Aronofsky (see my review of Black Swan from last week), perfectly captures the one, universal thing about humans no matter where they are in the world: we crave connection.

As much as Mickey’s character Randy loves wrestling, he would throw it all away if it meant he never had to feel lonely again. Realising that he lost the person he cared most about, his daughter, because he instead chose the fast times of being a professional wrestler is the biggest lesson of his life. Even though he is solely responsible for his loneliness, you want so badly for him to have his daughter back in his life. It is unbearable to see someone alone with no one who cares about him and I think this audience reaction is a defining thing about humanity.

Also, I didn’t really buy that no one wanted a private dance from Marisa Tomei’s stripper character because she was older. She is insanely hot in the movie; I don’t care how old you are.

There Will Be Blood

With Daniel Day Lewis, a filmmaker can’t go wrong. I don’t think the plot of this movie really worked but it still held my attention while I dug my fingernails into my knees because Daniel Day Lewis is so intense in every scene I was always convinced he was going to murder someone, anyone.

Paul Dano as his nemesis gives a great performance, but he just can’t compete with the Day Lewis factor. They need to give him a more formidable opponent.

The film makes a pretty clear statement about the trappings of success and greed and how it can leave a person cold to even their own family. It’s nicely paralleled in the final scene when Paul Dano’s character Eli Sunday renounces the one thing that is supposed to mean the most to him.

Daniel’s son H.W. is the one person you care about, but he’s not really well developed enough to carry your interest. Everyone else just seems evil, stupid, or like a potential murder victim.

Because there is no strong character to empathise with, I didn’t feel invested beyond feeling terrified that I was about to see murders all the time.

The movie’s title may also have had a hand in this anxiety.

The Third Man

That Orson Welles, what a kidder. His character, Harry Lime, certainly leads his poor buddy Holly Martins up the garden path, alright. (Reread those last two sentences in a 1950s sassy American reporter voice. It will help you transition to thinking about old movies.)

Not just his buddy, but the army police, his girlfriend, everybody really.

It’s a nice little mystery to watch unfold, but it is very hard for me to see why his friend, Holly, and his girlfriend, Anna, ever thought so highly of him. His character is a real scumbag and when we finally meet him and hear what he has to say for himself, he is completely unapologetic and finds the whole situation and the damage he has caused to be a joke. He doesn’t seem capable of putting on a charade to fool anyone into thinking he is a great guy.

I enjoyed this movie, but only in the same way I enjoyed those ‘Choose your own Adventure’ books when I was a kid. It’s a short-lived novelty to figure out the answer to the mystery with the main character.

On the upside, there’s a lovely shot of Orson Welles’ face caught in the moonlight halfway through the movie. He really had a cool-looking face and his voice was neat-o. That’s all I have to say about that.

This week… in my living room

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Oh wait, no, I didn't murder anyone in my living room. I just watched some movies.

Oh wait, no, I didn’t murder anyone in my living room. I just watched some movies.

Over the past week, in my mission to watch all the movies on the Top 250 IMDb list, I have watched Black Swan, Inglourious Basterds, Dial M for Murder, Gandhi, and The Godfather Part II.

Here are my thoughts…

Black Swan

Obviously, I didn’t exactly rush out to see this one. It has taken me until now to worship at the altar of Natalie Portman. Oh, I thought she was a pretty good actress, for sure, but no performance she had delivered had ever blown me away. No, not even in Star Wars, can you believe it.

That has all changed with Black Swan. I was actually angry with myself for not seeing this earlier. For once, I wished I had listened to the hype. Natalie’s performance, and the movie itself, mimics its subject matter. It is exactly like a ballet, perfectly executed.

As Natalie’s character Nina loses herself more and more in the dance and her quest to find the Black Swan, the dark side within herself, I found myself sitting on my couch, finding my anger over so many things that had happened in the past year of my own life. Seriously, I need to pay Natalie and director Darren Aronofsky for therapy.

Natalie perfectly portrays Nina’s childlike vulnerability, ambition, social awkwardness, fear, and anger. The film forces the viewer out of their comfortable, distant role of the knowing aunt, tsk-tsking at Nina’s low self esteem and fragility, into her world of confusion, fear, and darkness.

I think this film will stand the test of time and will still be regarded a classic in decades to come. I will be watching Aronofsky’s The Wrestler this week and can’t wait to see how he has told this story.

Inglourious Basterds

As a welcome change to all the old mafia and western movies I’ve been watching from the list, I saw a second film from within the past few years this week.

I have a complicated relationship with Quentin Tarantino. I so admire and relate to his nerdiness, his ability to reference such a diverse range of pop culture in his films (and his chatty-chat-chat interviews).

What I find difficult to deal with are the graphic killings in his movies. And boy, wouldn’t he love to hear that.

It’s not that I can’t take violence in movies. It’s a vital part of telling many stories. One of the earlier films I watched from the list was The Pianist, the story of a Jewish man during the Nazi occupation of his native Poland. Every murder in that movie shocked me and broke my heart, until I realised I’d spent an hour with my hand over my mouth and tears in my eyes. I visited Auschwitz and many other sites of Nazi atrocities during my trip earlier this year, and it was clear that the violence that occurred during this time was in no way exaggerated or glamourised in The Pianist.

Perhaps this Eastern Europe trip and the conversations I had with people who either lived through the Nazi occupation or whose family members did, was not going to be the best place for me to come from to think this movie was awesome. It certainly simplifies a very painful history that still exists within living memory for many people in the world.

Or maybe I’m just getting a little tired of Tarantino’s spaghetti western approach to telling any story.

The, yes, Jewish American, but American cowboys who come in to save the day just seemed so unnecessary to me. Why couldn’t the story have stayed with Shosanna? It begins with her and her family and the climax of the movie takes place in her cinema, where her plan comes to fruition; why are the cowboys necessary? It is an entirely fictional story, after all. I feel like the movie sells out Shosanna and her importance as the central character, in favour of Brad Pitt and his big knife. [Insert phallic theory here.]

I guess this angle is the only way that Tarantino could feel he had some claim as storyteller about this subject matter.

Coming up on the list is Django Unchained and I’m trying to keep an open mind, even though the approach seems to be about the same. Like most film lovers, I really really want to like Tarantino’s films. He is, after all, one of us. But I think his films need to grow up a little and stand on their own two feet.

Dial M for Murder

Hitchcock’s reputation as a flawless storyteller remains intact, in my mind, after watching this movie.

One of his lesser-raved-about films, I had the same experience watching it as I have had with his others; I feel like I can almost hear him thinking about each shot, each line of dialogue, the placement of each prop.

Like listening to a great album for the first time on vinyl, I turn a Hitchcock film up loud and hold my breath, not wanting to miss any subtle detail.

Dial M for Murder mostly takes place in a single room and I didn’t even realise this until the end. Hitchcock is such the master of suspense that I never once felt bored.

Ray Milland as Tony Wendice is incredible. He inspires hate, empathy, admiration, and fear in the audience. And that voice! He sent shivers down my spine. Tony Wendice is a refreshing change for a villain; the only weapon he ever wields is his intelligence.

I won’t say too much more about this one for those who haven’t seen it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Gandhi

Watching this movie has made me want to change my life! It makes you believe in the power of an idea and of committing to that idea at all costs.

The real-life character of Gandhi makes it difficult to think of the film alone. The man is so inspiring and continues to carry such an empowering message of peace for people, even beyond his death, that watching the movie feels like a deeply spiritual experience.

However, thinking this way, I realised that this is evidence of how good the film is. Richard Attenborough knew he had an incredibly powerful subject for his film and just had to get out of the way.

I watched an interview with the actor who portrayed Gandhi, Ben Kingsley, and he spoke of just copying Gandhi as best as he could from recordings. The scenes of Gandhi with the crowds were shot with Ben and the crowds. There was no digital combination of the two created later, they were really there together, giving Ben the sensation of what it must have felt like for the real Gandhi.

This movie beautifully shows that when you have an incredible story to tell, don’t try to tell it, don’t embellish, don’t sign to the audience that this is dramatic or important, applaud here, etc. Just tell it.

The Godfather Part II

What an appropriate film to see directly after Gandhi. Talk about a different philosophical approach…

So while I had just experienced a spiritual awakening about peace and tolerance, this film, which thematically centres on revenge, still lived up to the hype for me.

And I totally agree that it’s better than the first Godfather. This is called the ‘De Niro Factor’.

Robert De Niro is just so damn good at making you feel a connection, an empathy with his characters. In this movie, when he is standing outside the room where his baby is ill, your heart goes out to this young father, feeling helpless and desperate that he can’t properly provide and care for his family.

The superiority of his performance, spoken almost entirely in Italian, made me long for more Vito Corleone, less Michael Corleone. Don’t get me wrong, Al Pacino plays Michael well, but he has become too much the hardened mob boss by this part of The Godfather story. The opportunities to feel empathy for his character (the rifts between Michael and his brother Fredo, and between him and his wife Kay) fall flat because it’s just so hard to see his vulnerability anymore. These experiences seem to affect his ego more than play on his fear of losing his family.

The contrast between the young Vito and the older Michael though does help to tell the story and it’s obvious what Francis Ford Coppola was trying to achieve. Personally, however, I think the recipe was just ever so slightly off. A dash more Vito and a sprinkle of remaining vulnerability in Michael and it would have been perfect.

Breaking up is hard… no actually, is getting easier to do

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PROOF: Singing to yourself in your underwear helps.

PROOF: Singing to yourself in your underwear helps.

Going through a break up can make it seem like all of your Facebook friends are married and producing offspring, while another one of your attempts at a ‘happily ever after’ has turned to dust.

However, the more of these break ups I endure, the better I get at figuring out the way through to the end without causing serious damage to others or myself.

I have learned not to set fire to anything, to ask politely for any of my borrowed stuff back, and to accept my role in the relationship’s demise.

I have realised that I need to acknowledge that the relationship is over and that makes me sad. If I don’t make my peace with this, I become very good at pretending I’m happy and running straight into another man’s arms/bedroom. Cut to three years later and I’ll be going through another break up. Contrary to what I claim in job applications, it seems I am not a fast learner.

That leads me onto the importance of not having sex with any of your friends. Complicated, very complicated, and really just not worth it. Not fun in the end, I guarantee you. Ignore every stupid romantic comedy movie ever made about the love of one’s life having been under one’s nose the whole time. People are generally not stupid and realise pretty early on if they want to hook up with a new ‘friend’.

Look, I love When Harry Met Sally as much as the next person, but in reality, the movie’s ending translates to this:

Harry was so horny one New Year’s Eve that he decided to go apologise to his friend, the last person he slept with who still liked him afterwards. Sally was on a bad date and feeling pretty depressed so they decided to get married to ensure they’d at least have sex and company. Sally was then able to concentrate on her career as a journalist and Harry went back to consulting with politicians (or whatever it was he did).

I may even understand now how to stay friends with an ex. So long as I never see him with a new girlfriend. That’s realistic, right?

The most important thing to remember is to reach out to friends and family for chats, alcohol, flowers, puppies, chocolate, and hugs.

They will give you validation that you still ‘got it’ when you roll up in your car blaring Beyoncé and emerge wearing tight pants. Just don’t bang them. Seriously, no banging.

And this is that Beyoncé song you need to listen to. It actually includes the line, “Sucks to be you right now.” Better than Neil Sedaka.