Blind Spot 20: Metropolitan

If you followed this blog last year you may recall my constant praise of a film called Love and Friendship. This is based on a novel called Lady Susan by Jane Austen and is adapted and directed by Whit Stilman. So, for the 2017 Blind Spot series I decided to watch one of Stilman’s other popular films called Metropolitan. After viewing it, I still like Love and Friendship best but Metropolitan was  an enjoyable watch.

Metropolitan is about a group of young Manhattan socialites out on winter break from their first year in college. They gather together after a debutante ball as a group called the ‘Sally Fowler Rat Pack’ named after the girl whose apartment they use for parties.

The movie is more like a filmed play than a movie. It has a small cast and most of the time is spent in small rooms having or recovering from parties. It’s like Dinner with Andre in the way it is about people just talking more than any kind of plot.

There’s Tom, Nick and Rick who are all rivals for the ladies and have differing back stories. And then you have Jane, Sally, and Cynthia as the girls of the group.

But my favorite is Audrey who loves Jane Austen and defends Mansfield Park to her supposedly sophisticated friends. This is a great scene because he is critical of the characters in Mansfield Park for doing the same thing that the Rat Pack is doing.

Like I said, there’s not a lot of plot here so if that is going to bother you than you won’t like it. Plus, these are definitely people with first world problems with a tone and feel that is very much  a creature of its time. If this same script was written now it would be full of politics, social justice posturing and at least one gay character, which would be fine, just different.

The main purpose of the movie is to examine manners and rules as seen through the lens of the elites. This is why Jane Austen is a helpful foil as that was the purpose of most of her writings. For example, the theatrics in Mansfield Park were considered taboo for good society and the characters ask themselves what is taboo now? What are the lines that can’t be crossed? When do you lie out of common courtesy? And when is lying wrong? When is a person a friend you must be loyal towards and when are they a tool in the social ladder? These are questions the script addresses

Overall I enjoyed Metropolitan and I think the script by Whit Stilman is outstanding. My only flaw with it is sometimes the characters could be a little hard to relate with. I wish he had allowed a few more moments of humanity and warmth amongst all the social pandering. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth a watch and a good movie with a cracking script!

Overall Grade- B+

Advertisements

STEP Review

The big weekend is finally here! After me babbling on about a little documentary I saw at Sundance called STEP some of America finally gets to see it! I’ve actually had the chance to see it twice: once at Sundance and once at an event for the Utah Film Center, and I look forward to seeing it many more times when it opens in Utah 8/18. STEP may be a sweet documentary to some but for me it is why I go to the movies. It really spoke to me and it might sound cheesy but it made me feel better about this crazy world we live in.

Here’s the trailer:

A few months ago I shared that trailer with a friend of mine and she said ‘I don’t like dance movies’. Let me tell you what I told her- this is not a dance movie. Much like Hoop Dreams wasn’t about basketball, STEP is not about dance. STEP is about 3 girls in Baltimore and the community that helps get them to college.

The three girls are named Blessin, Cori and Tayla and each of them face different struggles.  They are all students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women that is admittedly owned by the director Amanda Lipitz’s  mother. This school caters to inner city Baltimore girls and graduated its first crop of seniors in 2015-2016 (the year we follow).

In 6th grade Blessin started a step dance troupe but was unable to compete during her junior year because of poor grades. She also has a mother with severe mental health problems. On the other side, Cori is a book worm who dreams of getting into John Hopkins and becoming a doctor despite growing up in a family that can’t pay for power. Tayla has a mother who works as a cop and see’s the worst the city has to offer.

The documentary then follows these girls for a year and we see teachers, coaches, administrators and parents all fight for them to achieve their dreams. Both times I saw it the crowds cheered at the end and how wonderful to cheer for real life and not imaginary superheroes for once? I got to meet Coach G at the Utah Film Center screening and she was awesome. Just as real and down to earth as you’d think from the movie. Roger Ebert said about Hoop Dreams “A film like “Hoop Dreams” is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.”

That’s how I feel about STEP. 2017 has been a great year for movies. I loved films like Wonder Woman or Dunkirk but nothing has wowed me like STEP.  Nothing else, you might say, has ‘touched life itself’.

GO SEE STEP!  You won’t regret it!

Overall Grade- A+

 

We Love You, Sally Carmichael! Review

Today I had a fun experience! I got to attend a movie premiere- red carpet and all. It was just a little local film but it was still a fun experience to see the cast and have them introduce the film called We Love You Sally Carmichael! Fortunately it also turned out to be a fun little romcom to boot. This is a small local film but it is not a faith-based film, so anyone who likes romcoms will enjoy it.

The is directed by Christopher Gorham who also stars as Simon Hayes. He is an author with social anxiety who has written a huge best selling romantic teen novel series similar to Twilight (the digs at Stephanie Meyer and Twilight were very obvious but tastefully done). Because of his anxiety, Simon chooses to write under a pseudonym Sally Carmichael. He is also embarrassed by the lightness of the novels and their popularity.

Things get messy for Simon when he writes a scathing rebuke of the series in a local newspaper as a favor for a woman named Tess (Bitsie Tulloch). To make matters worse, a big name star named Perry (Sebastian Roche) comes into town who the studio wants to star in the movie adaptation of the series.

We Love You, Sally Carmichael doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it consistently made me laugh especially Roche as the very weird movie star. Tulloch and Gorham have winning chemistry and it all works out to be a charming film.

The liar reveal plot is a bit of a groaner but the cast and laughs more than make up for it. I really enjoyed it and it is so rare that I like a comedy these days. This is one you can take the entire family and they will all have a good time. Imagine that! It’s as squeaky clean as they come!

Overall Grade- B+

In This Corner of the World Review

‘Slice of life’ films are not for everyone. Some viewers demand a narrative with a traditional start, climax and conclusion, which I can certainly appreciate. However, some of us can sit back and let a film take us to a particular time and place and simply live with characters for a little while. I love those kind of films and the new anime In This Corner of the World is such a movie. Director Sunao Katabuchi (who I had the chance to interview for Rotoscopers.com) takes us to 1945 Japan in meticulous detail as we follow the life of a young woman named Suzu.

The film starts out with Suzu in Hiroshima in 1944. She has been assigned a marriage to a young man named Shūsaku who lives in the city of Kure. Following the custom of her day she agrees to marry and moves away from her family. This may be difficult for modern viewers to understand but it is portrayed with tact and subtlety that never endorses the practice but merely says ‘this is what happened’. Luckily Shūsaku is a nice man who is probably as nervous as Suzu and the two are able to form a bond.

Of course, wartime is going on and this makes things difficult for Suzu and her new family. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a war movie that was exclusively told from the perspective of civilians. We get incredible attention to detail and particularly focusing on the food- its scarcity and how it had to be prepared during wartime.  There is even a long segment that goes through how rice was prepared to make it last extra long and feed more people.

As Suzu works hard for her new family and faces the struggles of war you see her grow up and become a more confident woman. The entire time she is also an artist and sketches what she sees. This becomes more liberating as the days go by. She must eventually decide who her family is and where she belongs.

Because she is an artist, sometimes the animation can have sketchy elements to it. I was reminded of Isao Takahata and Grave of the Fireflies while watching it. It’s not quite on that level but it was beautifully animated and took some creative risk. The music was also perfect for the simple story.

Some people will find In This Corner of the World to be boring. I can completely understand that.  There is stuff that happens to Suzu but a lot of the film is profiling her daily life. You’ll either like that style or you won’t. I enjoyed it and am glad I saw it. It’s not on A Silent Voice or Your Name level but it is a quality anime film that I am better for having watched.

And this year in animation how many movies can you say that about…

Overall Grade- B+

Dreamworks 11: Shark Tale

Honestly there is a side of me that just wants to say ‘this movie sucks and I hate it’ and be done with this review. I really have nothing nice to say about Shark Tale but for the sake of the series I will share with you my thoughts.

So here we go: Shark Tale is not really about a shark at all. It’s about a fish named Oscar who is a complete jerk and loser. You might not realize he is a fish because he stands upright and there are no bubbles or other fish-like attributes. All the fishes look more like lizards than fish and I hate that.

Oscar lives in an underwater city called Reef City where the main population is fish puns. We get such great humor as stars named Katie Current and Jessica Shrimpton. They also have a fast food restaurant called Fish King instead of Burger King- which is really kind of confusing when you think about it.

All this would be fine if the story was decent but it totally sucks. Oscar is a selfish creature who is constantly in debt and lying to all around him. Reef City is over-run with organized crime including Oscar’s boss Sykes and a group of sharks that are run like an Italian mob family.

One of these sharks is named Lenny (Jack Black) and his big shame is he is a vegetarian- a fact that is too feminine and weak for his crime boss father (Robert Deniro). They make a lot of mafia movie jokes and references. This can be funny like in Zootopia but they fall flat here. I didn’t laugh one time.

There is a groan worthy plot where Oscar gets mistaken as a mighty Sharkslayer and there is a media storm. The movie seems like it is trying to say something about media but it ends up feeling very cynical and strange.

There are also 2 female characters that are uncomfortable. Angie (Renee Zellweger) is the girl fish Oscar literally steals from and Lola (Angelina Jolie) is there to be a sexy temptation although why either would be wasting their time on Oscar I have no idea. Oscar is also a compulsive gambler and puts up Angie’s grandmother’s pearl at the track, which is a trashy thing to do (nice protagonist Dreamworks).

The only characters I remotely like are 2 jellyfish (Ziggy Marley and Doug E Doug) that are total Jamaican stereotypes but at least they are a little bit fun and they are supposed to be standing upright like that, so the animation is more pleasing.

The sentimentality between Lenny and his Dad at the end is completely unearned and tacked on and Oscar is never punished for lying and being a terrible fish.

I hate the animation in Shark Tale. I hate the humor. I hate the character designs. I hate the lack of bubbles and the fact it looks like it could be above the water. I hate the bloated celebrity voice cast. I hate the way the female characters are treated. I hate the lead protagonist Oscar. I hate the co -lead protagonist Lenny. I hate the mafia jokes and storyline. I hate all the puns and the patronizing humor for the adults.

There are a few good hip-hop songs which are fun but that’s about it.

I HATE THIS MOVIE!!!

It’s awful and is without a doubt one of the worst mainstream animated films of the last 20 years and definitely one of the worst to receive a Best Animated Movie Oscar nomination (For Shame!!).

This movie sucks

Overall Grade- F

frown