Wait Until Dark (1967)

I first saw this movie at a Halloween party when I was 14. There were lots of people and boys and stuff and I dressed up as a pirate but I had glasses at the time so I wore my glasses over my eye patch. 14 was a good age for me. So we watched this movie. As anyone who has ever come in contact with a large group of 8th graders before could probably guess, the party goers talked loudly throughout the entire film. Unfortunately, nothing gets me in a huff faster than when people talk through a movie. So while everyone else was being sociable and forming fond memories,  I was sulking about how I couldn't hear anything and how dumb everyone was.  Then I went home and came to the conclusion that I should give up on trying to have friends and just accept that I'll be alone for the rest of my life.

Anyway, I re-watched the film last week. 14-year-old me wasn't missing much, as it turns out. The whole thing is tediously staged, with tv-movie production values and cringeworthy dialogue. Ms. Audrey tries her darndest, but she really doesn't have much of chance given the weakness of the material and her limited range. Alan Arkin is pretty good, but he's not enough to save it.

However, the sub-par nature of the production was not the main problem I had with the film. I was most grumpy about its representations of gender. Yes, I am predictable in my grumpiness. The main character is demure, submissive, and completely dependent on her husband.  She spends the whole film pining for and trying to please this dude she's married to, who in turn infantilizes her, disregards her concerns, and generally treats her like a pretty and amusing accessory. At one point in the film, she laments how she can't do the "important" things that she used to do before her blindness causing accident. These things include "making souffles, picking ties, and choosing wallpaper".

Well yeah, except for the fact that Audrey here, like in most of her films as well as in her personal life, is presented as a feminine ideal. She's a paragon of womanly virtue, with her timidity, wide-eyes, and diminutiveness. The men in the film admire her delicacy. One of them praises her, calling her "quite a woman" when she does anything halfway intelligent. The whole blindness thing just exacerbates the problem. It's not just a plot point, it's representative of how the film thinks women should behave. Hepburn's character goes through life unaware of her surroundings, dependent upon others for information and her general well-being. AS SHOULD YOU, LADIES!

Point is, I don't agree.


Near Dark (1987)

I haven't posted for a while. I apologize, for I know that you all rely on my movie reviews for spiritual sustenance. Sometimes life gets busy, though.

Here's an unfortunate fact: women are not well represented in the world of film. That's not to say that there aren't worthwhile lady filmmakers or interesting female characterizations nowadays, because there definitely are.  However, the reality is that in mainstream cinema, male filmmakers with manly perspectives dominate the conversation. Why, just the other day in one of my film classes, a boy interrupted me. WHEN WILL THERE BE JUSTICE IN THE WORLD?!

But for reals, it's a problem. In the 84 years that the Academy Awards have existed, only four women have been nominated for best director. Not that the Oscars matter, but still. Interestingly, the sole winner out of those four, Kathryn Bigelow, has made a career out of directing decidedly non-feminine films. She specializes in action flicks with male protagonists, copious amounts of gunfire, explosions, and surfing Keanu Reeveses.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with Bigelow's films. Action movies are a lot of fun and she does them well. I'm not even faulting her for making masculine, male centric stuff. After all, she didn't ask to be the cinematic spokesperson for her gender. She should be able to make whatever adrenaline fueled film she wants without worrying about what it means for female equality. However, I do take slight issue with the industry deciding that she be the one to to break the lady director glass ceiling. The film she won for,  The Hurt Locker, is extremely male-oriented. The themes explored have to do exclusively with men and there are no female characters of note. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. The Hurt Locker is a very effective film that deals with important issues and I appreciate its existence. However, by choosing The Hurt Locker to break their 80-year habit of disregarding female perspectives, the Academy sent a message. It's as if they were saying that women can only be successful and accepted in the industry if they subscribe to the male-dominated status quo.

Now you might be saying, "But Drew, you have it all wrong! She got that Oscar because her film was the best that 2008 had to offer! It was timely, well-made, and insightful! Her gender didn't even come into play! Isn't that the goal of all you feminist ladies? WON'T YOU EVER BE SATISFIED?!" Well sure, her film was worthy. Her gender might not have even been a huge deciding factor. If a man had directed it, it probably still would've won. BUT. What about all of the other equally deserving, female-oriented/directed films that came out that year? Or any other year? Why have barely any of those been nominated, let alone won? Because of their content. Academy voters were only comfortable with letting a female directed film win because the film itself was high profile enough and it didn't challenge their chauvinistic tendencies with it's subject matter. The industry got to pat itself on the back for promoting gender equality without having to validate any of those objectionable female issues or perspectives. And that, dear readers, is what I take issue with.

Anyway, Near Dark. Male protagonist, lots of violence, dirty people, etc. It's not very good. There are flashes of potential scattered throughout, but they're not enough to make the film likable. It's also relentlessly skeevy, so that's unpleasant. The ending is pretty stupid as well. But that poster features a guy full of bullet holes, so that's cool. Anyway. Watch it at 2 in the morning sometime.

Happy Women's History Month.


Many Movies!

New Year! Hope your December was good and all. I haven't updated for a while because I've been busy. Sleeping till noon. But don't worry, I'll make up for it now by mini reviewing all the things I saw over the break! What fun!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

RDJ decided to ramp up the silly
this time around. Someone direct this man! 
The film as a whole feels pretty inconsequential.
Nothing really sticks. There are some cool camera
tricks and action set pieces, but there's no substance
to back them up, so whatever Guy Ritchie. Also, 
Noomi Rapace is stuck playing the most 
unnecessary character in film history, so that's 
too bad for her.

The Adventures of Tintin

This was very good looking. Very good looking  
 indeed. The 3D was great and the motion capture
looked like it's own medium instead of some weird
real-life impostor. So I appreciated what was going
on here. However, I found the whole thing to be 
too loud and show-offish and overworked for my 
tastes. Isn't Spielberg too old to be making this kind 
of stuff? I know he's a holy vessel of eternal innocence 
and the bringer of childlike wonder into this terrible 
world, but still. Maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon.

The Palm Beach Story

This was great. It was funny, witty, and snappily
paced. Snappily paced short movies are nice.
For added enjoyment, the prologue and the
conclusion were aggressively nonsensical and
deliberately confusing. I like when that happens. 
That is all I have to say.

Christmas In July

More Preston Sturges! Also starring my lover from
the past, Dick Powell. This film is similarly fast paced and 
delightful, filled with witty quips and amusing non sequiturs.

Shipmates Forever

Also starring Dick Powell. And Ruby Keeler, the most adorably 
bad actress of the 1930s. I didn't like this one much. The characters
lacked any believable motivation and the big plot points felt 
unearned. I also found the excessively nationalistic, "join
the Navy or else you're useless" approach to be unappealing.
Different times, different attitudes. I guess it means well, though.
Rare Exports

Bah. I'm disappointed that a perfectly good demon Santa
concept was wasted on such a terrible movie. Poor
relationships, stupid and unmotivated plot developments,
and a 12-year old who talks to his stuffed animal so the
audience doesn't get confused or anything. Probably made by
some BYU film graduates. There are a lot of naked old men
running around, though, so I guess that's kind of funny.

In Time

This was an interesting concept that was pretty well
executed. There was a little bit of clunky dialogue
and Justers couldn't quite pull off a key scene, but mostly
good. It also had a pretty radical political message that it was
promoting, so that's always fun to see in a mainstream
release. As a card-carrying communist, I approve. Also,
Amanda Seyfried looks like a fashion alien and her shoes
are extremely impractical.

Real Steel

So this was extremely manipulative,  what with its
crying children, father-son redemption crap, and
lovable underdog boxing robots. I guess it worked,
though, because I liked it. Hugh Jackman is a giant man.

Year One

This is low brow humor. Jack Black eats poop at one
point. However, once you embrace the dumbness of
it all, the whole exercise ends up being kind of
endearing. There is a long and uninterrupted shot in
which Michael Cera pees on his face while hanging
upside down. I laughed.

Pineapple Express

I watched this with my mother. Daughters of Zion and
all that. She made that loud laughing mom noise that
she tends to make many times. Success. I like this film.
It's sweet-natured and extremely funny. I cannot ask
for more.


I saw this on New Year's Eve. My friend and I had to
go through a DUI checkpoint to get to the theater.
The circumstances in which I saw the film are neither
important to the review or particularly interesting. So
why relate them? I don't know. I though this film was
smart, exciting, and good looking. It also had an
interesting and satisfyingly uncertain ending. So, cool.

Harold and Maude

This is a fun wee film. It's got that early 1970's feel 
 that is pleasant sometimes. There's nothing life
altering or particularly inspirational going on here,
but it is nice. The cheerier aspects are balanced
out by the more grim elements, so it doesn't go too
far in either direction. And I like this shot.  

The Trip

I liked this one very much. It was episodic, intertextual,
and digressive. I enjoy all of these things. It also 
featured lots of good looking food, so that is nice.
I especially appreciated how the film was content to 
let scenes go beyond what would normally be considered
an acceptable end point. I also like how Coogan and
Brydon converse. I wish more dialogue was that way.

Anatomy of a Murder
This is the kind of film that doesn't attempt to make
things simple or straightforward. It expects the viewer
to exert themselves both through its stylistic and
narrative choices. It unabashedly uses complicated and
technical legal vocabulary and frankly discusses a very
adult subject. So, respect. I like a film that doesn't feel the
need to accomodate everyone. The subject matter and moral
 implications presented are genuinely surprising, even after all
of these years. So, adult, interesting, and deliberate.
Good film. Jimmy Stewart is more natural in front of a camera
than any man should be.


For some reason, my siblings and I watched this film
a lot when I was a young lass. As well as this.
Consequently, certain elements of Oliver! are ingrained 
into my brain for all time. So, revisiting it after a 
while was an interesting experience. It's easy to see 
why this film was so memorable for my tiny self, for 
it is a very impressive piece of work. The production 
design is amazing, it's shot beautifully, and the score
is pretty great. It does drag a wee bit in the middle. 
However, considering the fact that the film is two and 
a half hours long, some draggage would be hard to avoid. 
I forgive it.


Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Brassy broads! Scantily-clad chorus girls! Lascivious babies!  Songs about public philandering! Everything a respectable film should have.

The plot is simple. Brazen ladies don't let dire economic circumstances get them down; instead go around being fabulous and witty. That's all the plot you need, as it turns out, because everything about this film works. The songs are great, the choreography is wonderful, the dialogue is snappy, and the performers are charismatic. Ruby Keeler is still a terrible singer, though (clip not the same film, but you get the idea). I don't understand how someone can be so terrible and charming at the same time.

The film also offers an interesting alternative glimpse into depression-era attitudes. Modern day depictions of the Depression tend to romanticize certain aspects while overlooking important others. Gold Diggers of 1933 addresses these issues frankly and presents an outlook that is both realistic and positive. Artifacts from the time period itself are more valuable than any re-creation.

In sum, fun, funny, smart, so on. Go watch it right now. Start with this.


The Muppets (2011)

True to form, I am not updating this blog as often as I should.  Forgive me, for I shall try to do better.

I was going to see this film on Thanksgiving, but it was sold out. So, I saw it the morning after. There was a kid kicking the back of my sister's seat throughout the film, but there was no kid kicking my seat. Hah. This information has absolutely nothing to do with my opinion of the film, so why am I sharing it? Good question.

The Muppets has many elements that, combined, should make up a film that I really like. It's a musical. It's self-reflexive. It's funny. There are muppets. It's a musical. However, the film as a whole left me a bit cold.  That's not to say I didn't enjoy a lot of it, though. I actually thought the first half of the film was very good. Most of the jokes landed, it was well paced, and the numbers were nice. (This one in particular. I think I involuntarily stood up and put my hand over my heart when the drums came in).

But. As the film went on, I began to enjoy myself a little less. The self-reflexivity got a bit too cutesy and calculated. The plot began to rely on cheap gags and broad sentimentality, an emotion that didn't feel earned. The Walter character, who had been a weak point throughout the film, got really annoying. The cameos began to do what cameo appearances tend to do.

So, in the end, The Muppets came across as more of a product than a heartfelt expression of anything. Darn. And it started off so well.


They Live (1988)

More John Carpenter! And good news, the entire soundtrack to They Live is on YouTube! Listen away!

I didn't really like this film when I first watched it. But lo, it has grown on me since then in ways I didn't expect. Now I like it more. These things happen.

I think I was initially thrown by They Live because of its shifting tones. When it begins, the film looks like it's going to be some gritty portrayal of the lives of a group homeless people. Roddy Piper is included in this group, playing a tight-lipped Canadian construction worker. They never actually specify his nationality, but Piper makes no effort to conceal his accent, so I shall assume. He also wears plaid, so, you know. Anyway, we spend some time with these people before Roddy notices something weird going on in a church. Next thing you know, shady government peeps have destroyed the Hooverville and our hero has gained access to a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the evil aliens that live among us and control our lives. At this point, Roddy abruptly transforms from silent drifter into profane, gun-wielding, sayer of nonsensical one-liners. The film continues to jump around crazily. These abrupt changes in tone, plot and character gave me a case of cinematic whiplash that I didn't recover from until after the film ended. But recover I did and now I like many things about They Live. I like how Carpenter didn't attempt to compensate for or hide the fact that the star of his film is a professional wrestler. Instead of trying to stretch Piper's limited acting abilities to unsuccessful lengths, Carpenter allowed his actor to give a performance he was comfortable with. I think the social issues explored in the film are expressed in a cool and suitably angry way. I think the alien makeup effects are excellent.

Also, there is a fight scene. It is completely amazing. I will say no more.


The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987)

What? Halloween is over? I DON'T CARE!

I appreciate this film. I appreciate the circumstances in which it was made. Ultra-low budget controversial critical successes by upstart young punks are always fun. I like the demon forest tracking shot. I like several scenes in the film. That possessed pencil stabbing part makes the world a better place.  However, the prevailing mood of the film keeps me from liking it as a whole.

It’s obvious that Sam Raimi wanted this film to cause a stir. This desire is understandable. First film, big break, young people, whatever. However, Raimi’s eagerness to shock often steers his film into unpleasant territory. There were several moments in The Evil Dead that caused me to make this face, and by the last act, I found myself wishing that the film would end already. A bit mean-spirited, is what I’m saying. So I appreciate it, but I don't really like it. And yes, I am fully aware that, at the ripe old age of 20, I sound like your stick-in-the-mud sunday school teacher when I say that. Get off my lawn.

BUT WAIT! Don't send me off to the rest home yet! We haven't discussed the sequel! When I watched The Evil Dead II for the first timemy young teen brain oozed fluids out of my face holes. THIS IS AMAZING, I thought, THE WORLD MUST KNOW. Unfortunately, as was usually the case when I attempted to show my friends something I thought was cool, I was soundly rejected.   Someday. Someday, they'll be sorry...

Anyway, I have revisited this this film more recently to see if my view has changed. It hasn't. I still really like this movie. It's a slicker and more even product than #1. This is partly because of the increased budget, but it's also because I think Raimi made some tonal adjustments that better suit the subject matter.  Where as The Evil Dead wants to disturb you and make you uncomfortable, Evil Dead II wants to make you laugh. It goes so ludicrously and knowingly over the top that it doesn't come across as mean-spirited. Possessed hands and their subsequent chainsaw replacements. Harryhousen-esque ballet dancing headless corpses. Laughing furniture. So on. It just works. And it's scary. This film is also full of some awesome cinematic showing off, which is always fun.

In conclusion, this shot.


Dawn of the Dead (1978)

This might be my favorite
film poster
So, I hadn't seen this film until a couple of days ago and I KNOW that I should've gotten to it sooner and HOW can you possibly call yourself a zombie fan or a HORROR fan for that matter and I'm sorry I'M SORRY. I've seen it now, so I can finally become a woman.
You(I) inevitably put on a different viewing hat when watching a film that has a considerable reputation. Your expectations are enhanced, you're inclined to be unforgiving, so on. Dawn of the Dead being the classic that it is, I went into it with a very judgmental hat on. Fortunately, my hat stayed on, for Dawn of the Dead lives up to its reputation. It's beautifully put together. The gore effects are quite awesome. It carries considerable emotional heft. I was especially struck by how relevant the social commentary has managed to stay. Greed, consumerism, capitalism, media influence, all that rot. Quite prescient, is what I'm saying.
The zombies themselves are interesting creations. Romero tapped into something important when he gave these creatures, who could be (and have been) portrayed as ravenous hell beasts, a mournful and misbegotten feel. The zombies in this film come across as more confused and sad than evil. Consequently, you feel sympathetic rather than disgusted. It lends a tragic human element to the proceedings, as opposed to a more nihilistic feel. Great head explosions as well.

Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter is a terrible composer. It's difficult for me to watch any of his films without picturing him sitting behind his Moog, stroking his unsuccessful moustache, and writing his perceived musical masterpieces:

John Carpenter: Hey dudes! Listen to this groovy tune!

Producer: John you GENIUS you've done it again! You're the future of cinema, man!

John Carpenter: I KNOW! And it only took me 5 minutes! I'm a gift to mankind!

Producer: Rad crazy wicked awesome my fellow! Capital stuff, that!  I say, where the devil is my giant bong?

John Carpenter: I've pilfered it, what ho!

Producer: Top o' the mornin' to ya! *

* Disclaimer: I was not alive in the 1970's.

That being said, this film actually serves its purpose pretty well. It makes you jump, It's well shot, Michael Myers is somewhat unsettling, and Jamie Lee Curtis's chin is prominent. Its effectiveness has me inclined to overlook the less successful elements of the film, the main one being that it's pretty stupid. One note characters, groan-inducing dialogue, an exploitative yet simultaneously condemnatory view of female sexuality, etc. There are many things to complain about here.  Actually, I don't want to overlook the less successful elements of the film.  Halloween wasn't that good. I did jump a few times, though, so do what you will. This review is confused.

It was effective, but I didn't really like it. There.

The Thing from Another World (1951)

October! Horror films! They go together like social interaction and crippling anxiety! In honor of Halloweentime, I'm going to start this blog off with some of the horror films I've watched in my life, both recently and not. So, first things first:

I'm starting with a film that presents a problem for me, writing wise. I'm sure this problem will persist throughout my blogging here, so I might as well address it now. I tend to be a bit snarky and ironic in my dealings with things. I shall make no excuses, for that's just the way it is.  My terrible satirical-ness extends to my writing because I  often don't feel comfortable expressing myself unless I'm being awesomely hilarious. However, when it comes to certain films, it's difficult for me to be satirical. The Thing is one of those films. I like this film so much that I must be sincere when I talk about it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. Maybe, just maybe, by writing enough of these straightforward reviews, I can finally emerge from my caustic shell and become a real, live, adult human. Together, we can make a better world.
 I honestly can't think of a single thing that doesn't work in this film. Its paced beautifully, the characters and their interactions with each other are genuine and mature, and it's exciting and scary. Nuclear-era technological anxiety is very present, as it was in many films of the  time. However, the anxiety is dealt with in a forthright and calm way, which was an approach that was a somewhat unusual. It's a very optimistic film, which isn't often something you get with stories involving malevolent invading aliens.
I'm tired of talking.

See this film, for it is great.