It’s been an unsettling couple of months since my last weeknotes, with various doses of news good, bad and just plain awful in the interim. Things are finally settling down now, though — he hopes — and I’ll be able to spill out some words on what’s been happening around here the last few weeks over the coming days. Making lemonade from life’s lemons, as it were.
Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling
Max Landis (yes, he’s son of you-know-who) directs a defence of his wrestling fandom with this adaptation of the story of Triple H. It’s pretty amazing, and even makes me curious to give Chronicle a shot. [c/o MetaFilter] #wrestling·
The ongoing failure of the PG-13 rating “While it started off soundly, the PG-13 rating now represents the insidious idea that filmmakers working above a certain budget level can no longer decide who their films are for.” As an aside, it was always insane to me, growing up in a climate with legally enforced ratings in specific categories (G, PG, 12, 15 and 18 when Batman came out, for reference), that kids in America could see movies wildly inappropriate for them as long as they were accompanied by an adult. Like, who the fuck would take their kids to see Aliens? But then I remember the US cinema industry is lorded over by a voluntary body of little Napoleons who’ve expressed unabashed sexism and homophobia in their rating ‘recommendations’. The MPAA needs to die the way of the Comics Code, for all of our sakes. #screen·
Nosferatu: The Jew as Vampire
I’d never considered it before, but it makes perfect sense. And there’s enough evidence here to indeed characterise it as pre-Nazi propaganda; it’s too easy to fall on the notion of ‘they were different times, people didn’t know any better’: there were plenty who did know, and those people were in positions of power and influence. So it was then as it is now. [c/o LinkMachineGo] #screen·
Before Fury Road, I revisited the original Mad Max, and came away impressed:
Mad Max is a spoof, right? It’s only in this rewatch, many years after first seeing it, that I’ve realised what a send-up of ’70s exploitation action thrillers it is. But it’s an affectionate one, betraying George Miller’s genuine admiration for such films, and so well done it’s little wonder it came to be regarded as one of the key examples of a genre it’s mildly ribbing, if you look close enough.
Does somebody have something scandalous on Nicholas Cage? Because that’s the only explanation I can fathom for his appearance, and in a starring role no less, in this godawful Christian fundamentalist dreck. And I’m not even talking about its plain-as-day racism and anti-everything-not-fundie ethos. If the Evangelical Christian right wants to be taken seriously in the mainstream, surely they can do a lot better than this depressingly inept sub-TV-movie garbage, an exercise in awfulness that takes formula filmmaking and screenwriting to its lowest nadir. That it’s the work of a second-unit director on a number of top-tier action flicks simply beggars belief. On the plus side, it’s ripe for an MST3K-style laugh-along commentary. Get the beers in or hit the hard stuff, ‘cause you’ll need it.
Some bad things: a ridiculously late night on Tuesday (working till 2.30am) that didn’t have to be that way, and a head cold just about kept in check by decongestants that seem to have had the undesired effect of leaving me dry-mouthed and constantly thirsty.
But hey, it’s Friday, there’s live wrestling this weekend and there’s Lidl chocolate in the fridge, so I’m alright.
Big Eyes is a departure for Tim Burton, but that doesn’t help matters:
I have to credit my other half with this summation: Big Eyes is a film about honesty that isn’t honest in any way. Tim Burton takes the ostensibly true-life story of Margaret Keane as an opportunity to make a film very much out of his style, but his lack of comfort beyond the Burtonisms is palpable. The resulting tale plays against a weird pastiche of Vertigo crossed with Sweet Smell of Success, sprinkled with odd references to his own films, and ends with such a whimper you’d be forgiven for thinking he messed up the edit. It’s watchable, but only just.
So I wasn’t expecting much from this one, especially with recent Pixar fare doing nothing for me (Brave, especially, looks under-detailed and poorly textured, while its story falls on the ‘but she’s a modern Disney princess’ conceit that holds no water when you consider the likes of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, etc). But Monsters University might be my favourite Pixar film.
It’s easily their most visually striking. The trees, the asphalt, the stone, the chrome - they all look so real! Even the monsters themselves, while conforming to the ‘Pixar body shape’ trope, have differing skin textures to subtly distinguish from each other. And there’s a hint of tilt-shift on the ‘camera’ that gives the whole production an almost stop-motion vibe. Amazing work by the Pixar team there; their friends down in Burbank should take note.
But the story is there, too. I stopped thinking of it as a prequel fairly early on (and who really needs Sulley and Mike’s backstory, anyway?) because it’s way more a homage to ’80s ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ style campus comedies. It’s a fun ride that feels genuine and unforced, completely aware of its cliches but played with affection, without a trace of jaded hipster irony. I think of ParaNorman as another recent animated feature that goes along the same lines, and I feel like Monsters University sits alongside it at the pinnacle.