Magic Mike

Channing Tatum cancels out Matthew McConaughey. I always like the former, and I’m always annoyed by the latter. Not what I’d expect from Steven Soderbergh, but this is pretty fun – more for the energy than for the depth of the material.

La La Land

What I liked about this movie was that it was so unabashedly its own thing. Quirky without being in your face about it, still, this was bold, inventive, fun, and colorful.

I don’t always go see musical fantasies, but when I do, I like them to star Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone… Not sure I want to see them win Oscars for this film, given some of the other performances this year, but this casting was inspired. It also should not win best picture over Moonlight, but given that it’s sort of all about LA and the industry, it just might…

Hocus Pocus

Bette Midler is fabulous… The movie, not so much. But a fun little Halloween diversion…

The Impostors

A not-so-successful attempt at resurrecting Laurel and Hardy. I like these two actors, Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci, just not here, in this vehicle… Great cast, and some pretty good scenes, but ultimately a bit too derivative and not funny enough.

What We Do in the Shadows

Fun! What a great concept: Follow a group of vampires around in a faux-documentary. The result is a fresh take on the vampire film. Updating to the present day provides some nice juxtapositions, and without any Blade-style attempts at hipness, this manages to be cool in its effortless comedy…

The Lobster

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz are not the first people I would think to cast in this “absurdist dystopian black comedy.”* Oh hell, here’s the first bit from Wikipedia:

“David discovers that his wife has left him for another man, and is escorted to a hotel. The hotel manager reveals that singles have 45 days to find a partner, or they will be transformed into an animal; David’s dog is his brother, for example. David chooses a lobster, due to their life cycle and his love of the sea. David makes acquaintances with Robert, a man with a lisp, and John, a man with a limp, who become his quasi-friends. John explains that he was injured in an attempt to reconnect with his mother, who had been transformed into a wolf.

The hotel has many rules and rituals: masturbation is banned, but sexual stimulation by the hotel maid is mandatory, and guests attend dances and watch propaganda extolling advantages of partnership.”

Sound interesting? Watch it.

*www.wikipedia.org

Anomalisa

I think the best one-line description of this movie that I read was something to the effect of “the most human movie of the year, and it doesn’t star a single human.”

A much deeper analysis of the film is given here. This is a brilliant explanation of the film through the lens of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. For example, what he thought of puppets:

“The human race…presents itself as puppets that are set in motion by an internal clockwork…. I have said that those puppets are not pulled from outside, but that each of them bears in itself the clockwork from which its movements result. This is the will-to-live manifesting itself as an untiring mechanism, as an irrational impulse, which does not have its sufficient ground or reason in the external world.”

We are puppets who alternate between desire and, when those desires are fulfilled, boredom. From the above NY Review of Books review:

“One way of dealing with the boredom of our own needs might be to complicate them unnecessarily, so as always to have something new to desire. Human needs, Schopenhauer thought, are not in their essence complex. On the contrary, their “basis is very narrow: it consists of health, food, protection from heat and cold, and sexual gratification; or the lack of these things.” Yet on this narrow strip we build the extraordinary edifice of pleasure and pain, of hope and disappointment! Not just salmon, but wild-caught Copper River Alaskan salmon almandine! And all to achieve exactly the same result in the end; health, food, covering, and so on:

[Man] deliberately intensifies his needs, which are ordinarily scarcely harder to satisfy than those of the animal, so as to intensify his pleasure: hence luxury, confectionery, tobacco, opium, alcoholic drinks, finery and all that pertains to them.”

Is it the guilty recognition of oneself in these characters – or at least the principle character Michael – that makes the film so poignant?

Michael sees everyone outside of himself as basically the same person. You notice that – until Michael meets Lisa – all the other characters have the same voice, and all seem interchangeable, even down to the face plates that could be swapped out – a kind of mask that we all wear? Is there a simple explanation?

“…notice the name of the hotel Michael has just checked himself into: the Fregoli, a reference to the Fregoli delusion, a rare psychiatric disorder in which a person believes that many different people are in fact a single person. But a narrowly neurological interpretation of Anomalisa (i.e., the trouble with Michael is he has a brain lesion) can’t account, I don’t think, for the profound identification the viewer feels with Michael’s experience, or the strong part desire plays in the scheme of his suffering.”

Desire. Want, and the fulfillment of that want, leading to an endless cycle of wanting more. Again, Schopenhauer:

“Desiring lasts a long time, demands and requests go on to infinity; fulfillment is short and is meted out sparingly. But even the final satisfaction itself is only apparent; the wish fulfilled at once makes way for a new one.”

“Still, amid Schopenhauer’s pessimism there is this shred of light: compassion. Even if the idea that we have separate bodies at all is a form of illusion (only enabled by the supporting illusions of space, time, and causality), these bodies of ours still feel pain, still suffer when they are subjugated, oppressed, exploited, or simply laughed at. For Michael (and Kaufman) certain women are both a vital source of this compassion and the unique recipients of it. Lisa, for Michael, is an anomaly. An Anomalisa. And this compassion, this choosing of each other, is objectified in their miraculous voices: David Thewlis’s Northern English mix of reticence, pragmatism, and despair, and Leigh’s cloud-free all-American innocence.”

Makes me want to read some Schopenhauer…

Hail Caesar!

Not the best Coen brothers movie ever, but certainly some shining moments. The usual star-studded cast is clearly having a blast, and the production is of course outstanding. What’s not to like?

Notes: Josh Brolin is one of our under-rated stars. He’s got good range. Channing Tatum continues to impress. He can dance! He can sing!

Best scene: “Would that it were so simple.” O.M.G.

The Wolfpack

Wow, what a weird family.

• Awesome props for their movie reenactments, made from cereal boxes etc.
• Where do they get all the clothes? They have suits and jackets and ties?
• It seems that movies are a good education.

And these kids seem amazingly well-adjusted; probably a lot of credit is due to their mother.

Of course they end up making their own movie – it looks pretty fun, actually (and who is the chick? where did they meet her? no explanation at all? wth?)

Do I Sound Gay?

Sort of a silly premise for a documentary, made rather interesting by the self-deprecating yet intelligent attitude of the narrator, who wants to change the way he speaks.

Which, yes, is stereotypically gay. What does that mean? Watch the film.