Thursday, May 22, 2008

Anxiously Engaged (2007)

This was released as Picadilly Cowboy, which is kind of a dumb name. But it's kind of a dumb movie. At least they were actually in London for the filming, which made it interesting to look at. And the characters are somewhat likable. It's loosely based on Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," but it's an LDS version.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

This novel about a certain area of 19th century China is fascinating. For one thing, I learned about the secret women's writing called nu shu that has been passed down from mother to daughter in one rural Hunan province for about a thousand years. Also, the book has a vivid but fairly unemotional description of foot binding that made me feel physically ill. That's just evidence of my ignorance rather than a recommendation not to read the book. I knew about foot binding before, but only in the vaguest way. Then there's the heavy stuff about the friendship between the main character and her "old same," a friend bound to her by contract when they were young. Anyway, it wasn't a light read, but it was fascinating and important.

An Ideal Husband (1999)

This movie based on an Oscar Wilde play is clever and funny but more meaty than The Importance of Being Earnest. This was my third time watching it (I've been trying to knit at night, and I have to watch TV while I knit, right?). I can't remember if I've read the play, and I wonder how close the movie follows it.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Yep, I watched it again. I think that's probably five or six times now. I love the music. I love the sympathetic take on even the most annoying characters. Keira Knightley is too skinny for the part, but she's also a friendly and modern version of Elizabeth you can imagine being friends with. Of course, the 1995 A&E version is the best and most faithful to the novel. But it's also five hours long, and this one's only two, so I can watch it while knitting and still go to bed before midnight. Or 1:00 am or whatever.

Kolya (1996)

Jon and I have been learning a little Czech (and I mean a little) because we are going to Prague for about 24 hours after a week-long trip to Berlin for Jon's work. (I say that so casually, but this is very exciting for us. So far, we have only aspired to be world travelers. Hopefully, this will be the first of many trips to various cool places.) So I found this movie in Czech at our local video rental place. I think we understood one phrase, with the help of the subtitles, which is daunting, of course, but the movie was really good. It takes place just before the Soviet Union released its hold on Czechoslovakia, and it was cool to see the quiet resistance of the Czech people to the Russian occupation. There was a fair amount of womanizing by the main character, but the story, about an older, jaded man whose outlook is changed by a little boy, is heart-warming.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bee Movie (2007)

I'm pretty sure that Jerry Seinfeld isn't much of an actor, and here's my evidence: on his TV show, his name was Jerry. And in Bee Movie, his name is Barry! Yes, it has long been an untried and nonsensical theory of mine that not-very-good actors get parts that have their same first name. I guess so they don't get confused or something? Well, I'm not ready to defend my theory, and I'm kind of embarrassed that I'm going public with it, but there it is. (We can talk about many of the supporting actors in the The Office later if you'd like--Creed, Phyllis, Oscar, etc. Maybe they will bury my theory once and for all.)

But while there is other evidence that Jerry Seinfeld isn't a great actor (like when he used to deliver some of his lines on Seinfeld with a barely concealed smile), he's pretty dang funny. And so is Bee Movie, which kind of surprised me. I especially liked John Goodman's unprincipled lawyer character (and Jon laughed for ten minutes when he came out from behind his table in one of those baby walker things) and the plane landing in the manner of a giant bee. We all liked it a lot.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Far Away, So Close! (1993)

Far Away, So Close! is the more accessible sequel to Wings of Desire. Both are German movies about angels who choose to become human. (City of Angels, with Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage, was an inferior but somewhat interesting American remake of Wings of Desire, although the endings of the two movies are radically different.)

Far Away, So Close! is about the angel Cassiel, who becomes human when he's not quite ready. He's just trying to help, but he ends up making some bad choices, getting involved with scary people, hurting people he loves, and eventually learning about consequences and other profound stuff. It's really a good movie. My favorite character, or at least my favorite name for a character, is Emit Flesti, which, cleverly, is "Time Itself" spelled backwards.

It's mostly in German, but there's also Italian, French, and English. Oh, and a little Russian! There's a cameo of Mikhail Gorbachev. It's all subtitled, of course.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Matrix trilogy (edited)

The Matrix is so good, although this time around I was surprised to see that its wonderful special effects are already looking dated. The Matrix Reloaded is like watching a video game. Not playing a video game, but watching one. Way over the top with the fighting, car chases, etc., and boring. The Matrix Revolutions was okay, and helped make a little more sense of the second. But it's also possible that watching the second one causes many brain cells to die and then the third one looks better than it otherwise would.

Here's a site where you can buy edited movies. Or rather, you buy a movie and they provide a free archive copy that happens to be edited (similar to PG or PG-13, your choice). I don't know how long their trickery will last, but apparently it's legal to make archive copies of DVDs that you've purchased, so that's their angle.