Becoming Jane

Becoming Jane

Who Bought It? Megan!

Why? I had an unhealthy obsession with James McAvoy which started after I saw him in “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Being sexually attracted to a half-goat man is pretty heavy, so I grabbed this one knowing he would play a full human and probably say romantic things.

Non-Buyer’s response: Spoiler alert. This movie sucked.

Megan’s Thoughts:

Max is wrong, but if I’m being honest I’m not sure how wrong he is. It’s been several days since we watched Becoming Jane and it has taken me this long to write a post because I was not sure if I would toss or keep this movie.

Becoming Jane is a bio-pic of a pre-fame Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) and her romance with a young Irishman (James McAvoy). Set in 1795, the young Miss Austen dreams to “live by her pen” and marry for love (the shock, the horror!) Mama and Papa Austen (Julie Walters and James Cromwell, respectively and most admirably) are worried for her future and try to marry Jane to a well-off suitor.

That smile is here to fuck shit up.

That smile is here to fuck shit up.

But into Jane’s quiet life waltzs the roughishly handsome and devilishly charming Tom LeFroy (Mr. McAvoy, I’ve been waiting.) After some initial annoyance and disagreement, the two fall madly in love with each other but struggle to find their happily ever after, as LeFroy is broke and lives off his uncle who will not accept Jane’s lack of status and wealth as a contribution to the family. Sadness follows.

I do not believe in “spoiler alerts” when it comes to biopics. The information from this movie has been available for literal centuries so I feel no remorse if I let slip a couple details.

Just lemme grab my bag.

Squeeee!

Things don’t go well. They try to elope, Jane realizes Tom has family he must provide for that will surely starve if his uncle cuts him off as he and Jane have very few prospects for financial gain. And neither of them feel they can accept their actions determining the fate of so many others. Devastated, but secure in their decision, they part ways and Austen remains a single woman for the rest of her life. Which I thought was pretty badass. She got to live one of her dreams, as she became a famous author.

And the epilogue really tugged at my heartstrings.

I thought the story was touching, the performances were beautiful and I’m always a sucker for a period piece, dreaming of those drafty houses and rolling meadows and no cell phones. It was so very pleasant.

Now all that being said this movie, as Austen’s writing, is drawn out, long, and occasionally seems a bit pointless. It’s slower than any of the movies we’ve watched so far, and since my go-to review has been that I could cut out 20 minutes you can only imagine what I could do with that one. But all of this aside, I’m still not sure how I feel about the movie because…

Max was a typical “dude” about it.

He fidgeted and sighed heavily and rolled his eyes every five minutes. I didn’t think he’d enjoy the movie per say but it seemed to downright offend him. Which effected my experience. Thinking back on it, I remember it more and more fondly (though that can be the case for many things. The most distance you have, the less the shit stinks.) But I can’t toss some good McAvoy romance moments because Max rolled his eyes a bunch, and I’d like to see if I enjoy the movie if I watch it alone, or with some girlfriends. So for now, it’ll stay in the collection.

yours

No James, you’re MINE. Or…you’re my DVD.

Oh right and you see McAvoy’s butt. Yeah, I’ll keep it for the butt.

Max’s Thoughts:

Let’s clear something up. I wasn’t offended by the movie, so much as I was offended by the overwrought way the characters said just about everything. Right off the bat, Hathaway performs some kind of letter she wrote to her sister’s fiancee about how great her sister was. Everyone was entranced. But it was exactly as you’d expect something written by “Jane-Austen-When-She-Was-Young-And-Nobody” to be: florid, long and dancing around a point. I guess in this aspect Jane, the overbearing wordiness of it all, mirrors the writing style of the real Jane Austen, so maybe there’s a meta-ness to the thing that made me hate this movie. But that doesn’t change how sleepy this whole thing made me feel.

It’s so freaking “by-the-numbers-period-piece.” You’ve got your love story between two people from different enough classes that it’s uncouth that they should marry (though it’s worth noting for all of you who aren’t landed gentry, that all of the people in this movie will appear to be degrees of rich+white, which they are), you’ve got an impressively large family and young, well to-do Brits just prancing around having a great time.

cricket

I say!

I don’t really have a ton to say. Becoming Jane bored me and surprised me in just two ways.

1) A movie about Jane Austen is somehow about her desire to marry a man rather than the writing she produced that changed the world.

2) SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS: The love story doesn’t end with our hero and heroine together.

BACK TO SPOILER FREE: Those two thoughts aside, all I could think was “Why am I supposed to care about this person? Just because you tell me she’s Jane Austen?” She doesn’t do anything to propel herself toward her goals (we don’t even see how she goes from “ahahahahah you think you can write? You’re a woman, stupid” to “you’re the Jane Austen? The novelist?”), she just pines away after James McAvoy all movie. Not that I can blame her.

Hard TOSS IT! from me on this one. Call me when they make a biopic about how Jane Austen even got her work published in such a patriarchal society.

And you can see James McAvoy’s butt any time you want on the Internet.

Verdict: Keep it (for now.)

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Barton Fink

Who Bought It? Max. (Three in a row!) And yes, I realize this is out of order, but apparently we put Barton Fink on the shelf out of order when we unpacked.

Why? This is actually part of a Coen Brother’s triple-feature DVD that I bought mainly because I wanted the other two movies (Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing). But I do enjoy this flick and I have some pretty emotional connections to it.

Non-Buyer’s response: I was supposed to watch this movie for a homework assignment 5 years ago. I did the assignment by using the 21st century version of Cliff Notes: forums. I’m glad I can finally cross this one off my list.

Max’s Thoughts: This post is dedicated to Brian Hendricks, our film studies professor at UVic. Brian passed away not too long ago and he had an immense impact on both of our lives. It was in Brian’s class “The Writer in Film” that I first saw Barton Fink. So here’s to Brian Hendricks, the teacher who not only accepted my screenplay about a writer trying to write a screenplay based on a fictional book mentioned in Barton Fink in lieu of an essay, but who gave me an ‘A’. 

I’ll get to Barton Fink in a moment, but first I’m going to paraphrase two things Brian Hendricks said that will stick with me forever.

1) “You know more about movies and TV just by living in the 21st century than I did when I got my Masters in Film Studies back in the day”

2) “Just go out and make stuff.”

The first one is just a truth I hold to be self-evident and the second one is a philosophy I try to live my life by. Now, onto Barton Fink. But to talk about that, let’s talk about Miller’s Crossing. That’s one of my favourite movies mob movies ever, and it’s a part of the three-fer DVD, so this is an automatic KEEP IT even if I absolutely hated Barton Fink. 

But I don’t. Legend has it that Joel and Ethan Coen wrote this ode to writer’s block while suffering a crippling bout of writer’s block trying to finish Miller’s Crossing.  As a result, this is probably the world’s greatest piece of writing on writer’s block. It’s entirely self-indulgent, overly long, and mostly too slow, but for someone who identifies as a writer watching this movie, I’m like “THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT ME!”

Barton Fink is almost like a Stephen King book in that it’s about a writer, some people die and it takes place mostly in a hotel. Let’s start with Barton himself, played by John Turturro, in all of his early 90’s jittery-probably-insane glory.

Yo.

Yo.

Barton writes a play about fishmongers, about “the common man” and it’s a hit. So he gets hired to go to Hollywood and is immediately told to write a “wrestling picture” (which apparently used to be a thing). He meets up with W.P. Mayhew (Frasier’s dad John Mahoney playing a fictional version of William Faulkner, near as I can tell) for some help. Also there’s John Goodman as Charlie Meadows, an insurance salesman who, let me assure you, totally could tell you some stories. Really, not a lot happens that I can talk about without spoiling the ending. But when it all happens at the end, it happens SOOOO hard you guys.

Remember, this is a movie about a writer writing stuff.

In a movie about a writer trying to write some stuff.

There’s always been something about the little distractions Barton deals with trying to write – his peeling wallpaper, that damn mosquito, the noisy neighbours – that spoke to me. There’s also the point about his inability to write about anything except for that one thing. Even his wrestling picture is about fishmongers. He thinks he was put onto this earth to write about the common man, to give him a voice. But Barton does not know the common man. At least not the Barton we get to see. He sits holed up in dank rooms, being paid very fine 1940’s-money to write movies. The only people he interacts with are movie producers, hoity-toity NYC broadway types, and Charlie the Insurance Salesman (pictured above, going door-to-door).

Being this out of touch while lacking the self-awareness to realize it is the worst nightmare of Max the Writer. So this one hits home. Again: KEEP IT. 

Megan’s Thoughts: I post this entry in dedication to the late, great Brian Hendricks. It was his class I was supposed to watch this movie for. He was the kind of professor we all looked for at university – a wealth of knowledge, full of inspirational phrases and no fucks to give about your physical attendance if you could mentally attend in your assignments, discussions and creations. Of the two quotes Max paraphrased, the second is how I’ve lived my life since University, well into a time when I should maybe stop saying “stuff” and have a more precise idea of what I’m making but alas, I write and film and create based on my gut, and it will forever be “stuff,” and some other people enjoy my “stuff” and that feels good. So thank-you, Brian. You made me watch a lot of weird movies.

I both enjoyed and disliked Barton Fink. I liked it, because it sparked such a discussion with Max and I that I started to forget what the movie was “about” in the most basic sense of plot. I was lost in the metaphors and imagery and what it all MEANS, man. While Max believes the hotel represents Fink as a person, I believe it represents his mind. And the shoes outside all the hotel doors represent all the ideas Fink is not allowed to access while he is contracted to write this “wrestling picture” but still exist and live. We only ever see inside one room, his room, and the rest of the ideas are locked away. They’re active, as Fink’s subconscious (Chet, the bellhop, played by one of my all-time favourites: Steve Buscemi) continues to shine those shoes and fill their needs, but they are not interacted with.

I can’t talk much more about it without giving away the entire movie, so I’ll stop there on my representation rant.

But I disliked Barton Fink because oh man, at times, does it drag. I’m a Coen Brother’s fan. My mom and I quote Fargo in our common vernacular. I dressed as “The Dude” for Halloween. I almost bought cowboy boots after I saw True Grit. But I could feel the Co-Bros (you’re welcome for turning two remarkable filmmakers into a cutesie minimized word like I’m on The Hills)  sitting in that room with Fink, throwing ideas at the wall, and it felt like they just stuck a lot of ideas in one place. And while I’m all for an artistic shot to set the mood, I laughed out loud when we cut to waves crashing on a rock.

Waves

This seemed so out of place in a movie about writer’s block.

It seemed so ridiculous. I agree with Max that it is entirely self-indulgent, overly long and too slow. I’m glad I watched it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever watch this again. But I can’t bring myself to discard any Co-Bros, whose films spark discussion and ideas in the Russell/Sussman house. So I suppose, twist my arm about it, I’ll keep it.

Verdict: KEEP IT. 

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Battle Royale

battleroyale

Who bought it? Max (Hey! Two in a row!)

Why? Come on. Duh.

Non-buyers response: This is another one of those movies where Max gets this mischievous grin on his face when he talks about how “excited” he is for me to watch this. I’m filled with dread.

Max’s Thoughts:

Here’s the thing: Megan was never going to like this movie. My hope was she’d, at best, appreciate it. Battle Royale takes place in an alternate version of the 1990’s where Japan has seen a rise in student-based rebellion and revolution for various movie-dystopia reasons. As a response to this and in an effort to (I guess) make the kids respect their elders, the BR Act was passed, forcing one middle school class a year into a little game of fighting to the death.

Actually, I’ll just let the most Japanese minute of film I’ve ever seen explain it.

This was one of those “formative” movies I’ve talked about here before. I watched it during that period in high school (overlapping The Edward Norton Period) where I started to really think about making movies. To me, Battle Royale played like a successful experiment in turning the most unappealing thing ever (child murder) and making an entertaining movie about it. An exercise in what you can get away with. Something that should be taught in film class rooms next to Le Chien Andalou when it comes to “here’s what you can get away with if you do it with enough artistry.”

Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is phenomenal as the ruthless Teacher, inserted into the source material (the crazy-ass-and-better-than-the-movie novel by Koushun Takami) just to give the legendary Kitano a role. Along with the character, they forced, via flashback, a psuedo-sexual relationship between Kitano and the main girl Noriko. But it’s worth it to have him in the film.

kitanoBR

…till there’s only one left. Nothing’s against the rules.”

As you can tell from the embedded clip up there and as Megan found out, it’s a bit of a satire. That’s what Battle Royale 2 was missing, and that’s what any planned American remake would likely be missing too. The lack of seriousness and the overall campy nature of it allows this plot of child-on-child murder to play out without just feeling horrible. It has it’s moments though.

Best

Pictured: The most ironic way to fend off a rape

It’s an easy KEEP IT for me. One of my all time favourites.

Megan’s Thoughts:

Max was correct in his idea that I wouldn’t like this movie but I actually enjoyed it far more than expected. It probably helps that my expectations were severely lowered with all of Max’s aforementioned lead-up grins (I’m beginning to think he does that on purpose so I won’t hate his movies.)

What I liked most about Battle Royale (which I’ve fondly nicknamed “The Original Hunger Games”) is, as Max put it, its ability to take a terrible subject matter (child murder) and make it entertaining. As a filmmaker we’re always looking for creative ideas and fresh takes on old news and I’d go out on a limb and say there may never be another take on child murder that would be green lit in this industry.

That’s what you’re worried about right now?

My second favourite part about this movie was that behind the crazy plot, the violence, the insane premise was that these characters were middle school kids, and even though they were murdering each other they still had some teenage tendencies. The boys were sex-crazed, they were all obsessed with popularity and some of the girls were straight-up bitches.

Boo, you whore.

beforeyoudieBut, violence aside, this movie did have its flaws in my opinion. It could have been at least 20 minutes shorter, with too many wide-angled pans of the scenery and some of the love confessions scenes dragged for eons, but that could also be my North American attention span, which has been whittled down to less than the amount of time it takes before you can skip a YouTube ad.

Overall, I don’t know that I’d watch this movie again, but I’d recommend anyone in film to watch it at least once. And frankly, it’s a pretty badass movie to talk about (and makes me feel cooler than talking about Hunger Games) therefore I’d go ahead and KEEP IT just for the novelty.

Verdict: keep.

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Battle: Los Angeles

onesheetWho bought it?: Max.

Why?:  Because this was our first date movie.

Non-Buyer’s Response: What were we thinking?

Max’s Thoughts:

Here’s what I was thinking: This is a bad movie that won’t be boring or sad but ultimately won’t be able to hold our interest and maybe we might kiss. It had worked for me before. It didn’t work here. At least not in the actual movie theatre. Megan has a silly rule about paying for movies and paying attention.

So Battle: Los Angeles is an interesting movie, but not a good one. I can almost see an attempt at a franchise here, a multi-film arc telling the story of the world fighting off this alien invasion. At the end of Battle: LA, the American Army figures out how to kill the aliens, so in subsequent films (Battle: Tokyo, Battle: New York City, Battle: Paris, etc.)  we’d see other cities and other nations fighting and using the intel collected by Aaron Eckhart, Ne-Yo and Michelle Rodriguez in the first film. That obviously didn’t happen. This movie bombed completely and signaled a shift in how willing we were to pay to see Aaron Eckhart in stuff.

It was one of those film that made you realize how important that “movie formula” everyone professes to hate actually is to your viewing experience. There’s a certain structure, a certain way things have played out over the course of 1,000’s of movies, and therefore a certain way that the audience needs things to play out to feel like they’ve seen a movie. Battle: LA misses the beats all over the place. The first act was over in a flash and the second act seemed to occupy 90% of the movie’s run time. When major beats like that are missed, audiences feel something is bad about the movie, even if they can’t put their finger on it. Or at least I do. I almost fell asleep. There were some good visuals along the way. That’s about all I can say about it. Can’t wait till we get to District 9 so I can watch a really good alien flick.

The best visuals had a noted lack of Eckhart.

The best visuals had a noted lack of Eckhart.

Obviously we have to keep it because it’s a sentimental favourite. And because somehow, someway, Michelle Rodriguez survives this entire movie, which is a rarity. She’s basically a female Sean Bean and she made it through a movie where half of the team dies in a single chopper accident like 30 minutes in. Good for her.


In a show where everyone was already dead, she still dies.

Megan’s Thoughts:

Dear god this is a horrible movie. I forgot how bad it was, probably because the first time I saw it, I was so excited/nervous to finally be on a date with Max that I didn’t notice. I chose the dinner spot, he chose the movie.

I’m a big Aaron Eckhart fan, and I don’t mind a good alien flick now and then. But Men in Black is more my style, this was closer to a war movie. And I’m not a fan of war movies. I get sad and anxious and frustrated. And Battle: Los Angeles is two hours of explosions and shaky camera. I had to close my eyes a couple times to stave off motion sickness. And frankly, it had some pretty ridiculous lines.

My favourite:


“Maybe I can help. I’m a veterinarian.”
(While the doctor is literally standing right behind Aaron Eckhart.)

However, I can’t deny that this movie will always resonate with me and I’ll keep it forever. I think Max chose it because he thought I might ignore my “DO NOT DISTRACT ME WHILE WATCHING A MOVIE” rule. I made it very clear before we went in that I am not the type to sit at the back and make out or whisper sweet nothings in your ear. If I pay to go to the movies, I’m going to watch the movie. Granted, given my previous statement of not remembering how much I disliked it, maybe I wasn’t paying as much attention as I set out to.

Verdict: Keep it.

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The Back To The Future Trilogy

A Note from Megan & Max:

It’s been a long time. We shouldn’t have left you without a strong post to step to…We know we’ve dropped this project for a while, but it’s been with good reason. We moved in June and our DVD’s were boxed up for a good while. Then…well we simply couldn’t find time. We’ve received a flattering number of requests for more, so after much cajoling from both sides, we finally got back on the horse. 

Now, why couldn’t we find time? We moved right as the order of The DVD Purge Project took us to the first of our trilogy collections. So we weren’t just finding time for one movie, but three. What trilogy, you ask, imaginary reader?

Back to the FutureWho Bought It?: MEGAN!

Why?: GREAT SCOTT!

Non-Buyer’s Response: No criticism from me. This right here is a classic.

Megan’s Thoughts: Back to the Future might be my favourite trilogy of all time. It’s got action, adventure, comedy, romance, science fiction, mystery…what more could you ask for?

Pepsi

I feel those feels, Marty.

I just love Back to the Future. I believe most great movies were made in the 80’s and early 90’s. Movies that gave me unrealistic expectations for my first kiss and unrealistic expectations for my high school experience. I can’t even properly analyze the structure or comment on the special effects (though, so impressed for what they were able to do in the 80’s) because I just have a big shit-eating grin on my face and a spring in my step after watching these three.

I have noticed that I’m most likely to comment, remember or quote the second one, when they go to the future. It’s probably because the first and third are set in the past, and therefore I can’t “look forward” to them. I mean, as of next year, it will be the “future” that Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale created. That’s heavy.

Fashion

This is how we’re supposed to dress next year.

So sign me up for a hoverboard and shoes that tighten themselves and flying cars, this is a big time keep it for me. And when I have kids, and they watch this movie, they too will become huge Michael J. Fox fans, they too will quote Doc Brown, and we’ll be able to point and laugh at the screen at what Zemeckis and Gale thought 2015 looked like. And it will be glorious.

Max’s Thoughts: So every now and again we’ll get to a movie that we obviously are going to keep. For all the stupid comedies and rom-com’s Megan bought because they were super-cheap, we do still own a few classics. Back to the Future is one of them. The first two movies in the trilogy are damn near perfect, and the third one falls just short of that. Whatever drug Steven Spielberg and his friends were on from 1977 (A New Hope) to 1993 (Jurassic Park) were, I want some of it. Unless it was just cocaine (which it probably was). It’s hard to analyze movie structure over the course of a trilogy, but individually, each Back to the Future is a master class on how to write a movie.

The stunning part for me, since I’d never actually seen the first or second movie (sue me), is just how well planned the time-travel elements are across the whole trilogy. There are things foreshadowed in the first film that don’t pay off until the third. Everything folds back in on itself temporally and everything from each movie matters in each other movie. There’s something about watching a time-travel plot unfold and never questioning how they deal with its effects on existence because it’s so well planned out that nearly makes me weep with joy. Like Futurama’s forwards-only time machine in The Late Phillip J. Fry, this trilogy is simply perfect.

No gifs from me, because you’ve seen it all.

Except for maybe this one.

Verdict: KEEP.

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Away From Her

Away From Her

Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: It was like $5 in the DVD sale bin at the movie store I worked at through high school plus it was nominated for all sorts of awards!

Non-Buyer’s Response:

Me when I found out we were watching a movie about Alzheimer's disease:

Me when I found out we were watching a movie about Alzheimer’s disease.

Megan’s Thoughts:

I am struggling to put together my feelings on this film. Away From Her chronicles Grant (played by Gordon Pinsent, whose voice tugged at my heartstrings as I now realize he was King Babar in the cartoon Babar that I watched as a child) and Fiona (played by Julie Christie, whose gray hair was so magnificent in this film I am actually jealous of it) Anderson’s journey as, after 44 years of marriage, Fiona’s memory fades and they discover she has Alzheimer’s.

Directed and written by Sarah Polley (based on the short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro) the film weaves perfect moments of the past with troubled times of the present and deteriorating flashes of the future; it’s a heartbreaking look at love, marriage and relationships.

This was a hard film to watch sitting next to my husband. Every scene I started to wonder what I would do if I was in Grant’s situation. Or what it would be like to be in Fiona’s. Or the people around them. And it hurt to think about those things, but I was impressed that a film could effect me so deeply.

I think this is a great film. Though it could have been at least 20 minutes shorter, I thought it was well done from a performance and technical standpoint. And Canadian to boot! But at the end of the day, I will never sit through that movie again. I’d recommend it, and Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent give absolutely breathtaking performances, but it’s not something I wish to endure a second time.

For me, I’d like to toss this movie.

Max’s Thoughts: 

Away From Her might be the saddest movie I’ve ever seen. This is two of my worst nightmares wrapped up into one incredibly sad movie: Having my brain deteriorate and watching a loved one’s brain deteriorate. I cried. Like a bunch of times.

I’m not entirely sure if I was moved because I was invested in the characters or because the subject matter of the film forced me to think about some very heavy shit. The timing of us watching this movie, as is generally the case in life, was equally brutal and poetic. About a week ago I spent an hour  with my mom going through her end-of-life directives and some related paperwork. What she wanted done in the event of her brain falling apart came up repeatedly.

And then Away From Her came up in the Purge Project order.

Look, this is a great flick. No matter the actual content, if a movie makes me cry I can offer nothing but a tip of the cap. Pinsent and Christie are great (P.S. Julie Christie is a really hot old lady) and even Olympia Dukakis (OLYMPIA DUKAKIS?!?!?) is solid. But I never want to watch it again. TOSS.

Actual P.S.: This movie is so damn Canadian. Rugged, bleak landscape imagery? Check. Cross country skiing? Check. Lots of snow? Check. Cabins/cottages? Check. Weird sex? Check (old people sex…). Generally bleak filmic worldview? CHECK.

P.P.S.: I hate you for making me cry, Sarah Polley.

Verdict: Toss.

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Anastasia

Image

Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: It’s a great movie with an incredible cast of actors voicing the characters.

Non-Buyer’s Response: Wait. This isn’t a Disney movie?

Megan’s Thoughts: This movie is fabulous. Contrary to many assumptions, including Max whom I corrected several times leading up to and during our viewing, this is not a Disney movie. Fox Searchlight put out this magical wonder based loosely on some history Max knows and that I don’t care about because OH EM GEE GUYS, JOHN CUSACK PLAYS THE BEST HEARTTHROBS EVER EVEN WHEN ANIMATED EEEEeeeeeee!

I think this is a great animated feature. The headstrong Anya (Meg Ryan) seeks a family she is convinced must be in Paris, but she has no memory before she was 8 years old. She befriends two con men – Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladmir (Kelsey Grammar) – and the three take off on an adventure to meet the Dowager Empress (Angela Lansbury). Meanwhile, convinced Anya is actually Anastasia, the last living member of the Russian Royal family, Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd) plans her demise with his bat sidekick Bartok (Hank Azaria.)

First of all, this:

Anastasia

I WANT TO BE A PRINCESS!

Uh, duh Fox Searchlight, you hit that nail on the head. When this came out, and I was 10 years old, I was like yeah that would be a pretty sweet gig. Surprise Princess! Second of all, Anya/Anastasia is a great female lead; she’s confident, smart, curious and fiercely independent. I loved her and thought she was witty.

Anastasia has heart, it has musical numbers, it has Bartok’s smarmy sass (seriously, he got his own spin-off movie he’s so funny) and after 17 years I still laugh at the jokes.

But when I really think about it, the reason I need to keep this movie is that after all this time I still have a crush on Dimitri. I’m not ashamed to admit attraction to an animated character and he’s right up there with Jim Hawkins from Treasure Planet and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid.

Dimitri

I wish you’d look at me that way, Dimitri.

Now excuse me, I have to go assure my husband I won’t leave him for a cartoon.

Max’s Thoughts: So anyone with a cursory knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the fall of the Romanov family will have a fun time watching this one. In the film, Anastasia’s family flees during the Russian Revolution and Anastasia herself falls from the train, bonking her head and getting convenient movie-amnesia. In real life, the Romanov family was captured, held in captivity for a while, then murdered in a way that would make Game of Thrones’ Gregor Clegane blush. Together.

In real life, Rasputin was a controversial figure but he was a notable friend and confidant of the Tsar and was never banished. In Anastasia, Rasputin is a rotting corpse of a man who apparently started the Bolshevik Revolution and has an impossibly adorable bat sidekick.

Image

“…and then you get REAL crazy with the hips, sir.”

So this is basically a movie about Anya (Anastasia) waltzing through post-Revolution Russia, deftly dodging attempts on her life like only an animated princess can.

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I don’t really know about this one. It was fun, but treated the Bolshevik Revolution (probably the most important non-World-War event of the 20th century) with insensitivity and the wave of a hand. It is all attributed to Rasputin.

The only parts they got right was that there was a Princess named Anastasia once and that Rasputin drowned. But again, it’s fun and Megan likes it, so…a reluctant KEEP.

Verdict: Keep.

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American History X

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Who bought it? Max did, in his previously mentioned Edward Norton Phase.

Why? I liked this movie a lot when I bought it (that will usually be the “Why?” answer when it comes to the DVD’s that are mine).

Non-buyer’s response: Every time American History X is brought up Max gives me a sidelong glance with a creepy grin which makes me believe I will not enjoy this experience.

Max’s Thoughts: I was talking about this last night with Matt Hamilton, who writes The Actress Diaries with Megan and I. American History X has to be an auto-keep, right? Initially this was my thinking. It has the timeless curb-stomping scene (timeless in that it makes me as queasy today as it did when I was 13), the solid performances of Ethan Suplee, Avery Brooks, Chevy Chase’s wife from Christmas Vacation and the Edwards Norton and Furlong. It also has the least realistic dunk in the history of basketball in movies. 

A number of times during American History X, Megan turned to me and asked “How do you like this movie?” Sure, there is a ton of Neo-Nazi rhetoric and hate-speech spoken by the characters therein, but I do not think the movie itself endorses this rhetoric. However, she has a point. This is a movie about racism whose only named black characters are Dr. Robert Sweeney (Brooks) and Guy Torry’s prison underwear-folder, Lamont. It’s a movie about racism focusing on the racist white people. Is that problematic? Maybe. When there’s seemingly 30 total minutes of straight up white power speeches and almost no black voices to balance that out, it just might be.

But I think what always appealed to me about this movie was the fact that (spoilers) Derek Vineyard (Norton) somewhat redeems himself and changes course regarding his opinion of non-white protestants. I always felt my parents saw socio-political issues in black and white terms. You’re either actively for the cause of equal rights for gays or against it. You’re either outspoken against racism or you’re just not helping anything. I always felt like they felt they knew everything there was to know about the people they disagreed with along the political spectrum.

Derek Vineyard’s end shows us you can’t just see a giant swastika tattoo and assume you know everything. A man can’t be judged by the dumb metaphorical tattoos he got when he was young.

No matter how dumb those tattoos might be.

No matter how dumb those tattoos might be.

It’s slow and sloppy at times, but the acting still carries it through. And the nostalgia I have for this flick. Nostalgia-based KEEP IT!

Megan’s Thoughts: I want to delve into a very poignant and smart paragraph or two about why I didn’t like the movie but the fact is: it’s just not my jam. As Max mentioned, several times throughout the movie (normally right after they’d had a Hitler-loving moment) I would turn to Max, so full of confusion, questioning why he would want to watch this movie, let alone own it.

I will never watch this movie again. I did not enjoy it. I did not find it entertaining. I didn’t learn anything about filmmaking or writing from it. I actively hid from this movie at times, shielding my face.

It’s not because the movie was poorly made or didn’t have talent behind it, quite the contrary. It’s just not what I look for in a film. I don’t consider myself that “girly” or “squeamish” but I guess I do draw a line around curb-stomping, rape and just…so much racism. I was impressed at how emotional the film made me, the anger boiling up inside me as I watched, and I do agree with Max’s point that it has a moment where you realize you can’t judge a person by their giant swastika tattoo. But all that said, I respectfully decline keeping it in our collection. It’s a toss for me.

Verdict: keep.

 

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Aladdin

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Who Bought It?: MEGAN!

Why?: DISNEY! But also, I found a copy of the 2004 2-disc special edition in perfect condition for $5 in a gas station bargain bin. If that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is.

Non-Buyer’s Response: Do you believe in miracles!? YES!!! (Still bitter about Olympic hockey).

Megan’s Thoughts: I’m a Disney fan and that’s never going to change. I love the heart-warming stories, the humour, the song-and-dance. It’s nostalgic, it’s simple, it’s lovely. That being said, it’s a WHOLE NEW WORLD (all the pun intended) to re-watch these classics from my childhood now that I’ve graduated with a degree in Screenwriting. Max and I found ourselves pointing out each moment in the story that lined up with Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” structure (which although I despise the “greater-than-thou” tone of the book, I can’t deny is the best book I’ve read on screenwriting.)

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Oh, hello Cat. Here, let me save you.

Jasmine is one of the more badass Disney Princesses, so the feminist in me didn’t have too hard a time stomaching the way she’s treated as a piece of currency for awhile and has literally no waist. Aladdin (voiced by DJ Tanner’s high school boyfriend) even used the word “smart” to describe her before going on about all the physical attributes that made her the love of his life.

Aladdin in all his real-life glory.

Aladdin in all his real-life glory.

Also, I’m proud to say I am no longer terrified of Snake Jafar. What up, mid-20s! We conquered that fear!

This is a big ‘ol keep for me.

Max’s Thoughts: Speaking of fear conquest: I used to be terrified of anything and everything pertaining to the Cave of Wonders. First of all, it speaks with a voice like James Earl Jones crossed with a thunderclap. Second, there’s the lion-head entrance that can just…like…close its mouth and disappear once you’ve gone in. And third, the floor is literally lava.

Turns out my favourite childhood imagination game coming true is a total nightmare.

Well apparently I’m over that. This has been a big year for me. I made it past the thunderstorm in Jurassic Park for the first time in my life and I didn’t get scared of the Cave of Wonders (or Snake Jafar).

Aladdin is like every Disney movie in that there’s a Princess with a miniscule waist, a would-be Prince who has to go through some journey to become a Prince, and several sentient animals. Oh and there’s also the obligatory super-racist character art.

Ehhhhhhh!

The thing that jumped out to me this time was that while the world and the characters around them were distinctly Arab (or distinctly Arab caricatures), Jasmine and Aladdin are very much white people with some extra shading. They are the only characters who speak without accents and the only ones without comically big noses, comically big turbans or comically big scimitars. Also as soon as Genie is freed, he sprouts an outfit that all but confirms he’s going to Disneyland. Thereby teaching a generation of children that when one vacations, one does so at Disneyland.

But let’s go back to fear for a second. Both Megan and I apparently had some intense childhood fears from this movie. Watching it as an adult I can see why. The entire movie feels like a 90-minute hallucination and a few sequences are downright nightmarish. Even a scene like “A Friend Like Me“, one that’s clearly supposed to play on the lighter side is kind of terrifying in a way similar to an unexpected acid trip.

Look, we’re keeping this movie. Disney is so stingy with DVD/Blu-Ray releases, I have my doubts that we’d ever find another OG copy of Aladdin if we chucked this one out. Plus, there’s a few easter eggs for discerning eyes looking for visual references to past and future Disney movies (Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and background art that would appear years later in Mulan). You just can’t hate on classic Disney, no matter how racist it is or paternalistic it is toward its many princesses.

Verdict: Keep!

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Admission

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Who Bought It?: Megan.

Why?: Uncontrollable lady-boner for Tina Fey.

Non-Buyer’s Response: “The only reason this doesn’t surprise me is that you recommended Date Night.” – Max

Follow-up Buyer’s Response: Date Night is an EXCELLENT movie and I can’t wait to watch it again when we get to the D’s.

Follow-Up to the Follow-Up: Yeah. Can’t wait to get to the D’s. That’s what she said.

Megan’s Thoughts: Admission is a cute movie. It’s got a cute premise and a cute romance and a cute cast and it’s just so pinch-your-cheeks-until-they-ache cute. Which is nice, if you’re into that sort of thing. Tina Fey rolls out the awkward comedy and doesn’t disappoint as Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan and I was pleasantly surprised to see Lily Tomlin as Portia’s off-the-grid mother, Suzanne. Paul Rudd rounds out my favourites of the flick as the loveably goofy (does he play anything else?) John. Watching Rudd and Fey play off each other was a satisfying moment for comedy.

But is it just me, or is it always a mistake if Tina Fey doesn’t write the material she performs? There’s that “Fey Flavour” I crave, as a huge fan of both Mean Girls and 30 Rock. I want that so-mean-but-doesn’t-make-sense insult, I want pop culture references, I want gay jokes that don’t make me cringe. That’s my fault for wanting something that Admission never promised to deliver.

And to be frank, I wish Portia had been written with more balls. Throughout the movie she’s either chasing after a man or a child and when she’s not actively chasing, everyone interrupts her and she can’t get a word in edgewise. I yelled at the TV a few times to try and help the poor lady, to no avail.

I do think it’s worth one watch, but I’m not gonna go back for seconds. So let’s put this DVD out of its misery and give it a toss. (I’m so sorry Tina, please still love me?)

Max’s Thoughts: Megan covered most of it. As strong as Tina Fey is as a real person and as strong as her characters tend to be, Portia is everything that feminists hate in female leads. She has a great, secure job and is very intelligent, but despite that, she clearly needs both a man and a child to validate her sense of self. I don’t like it.

The raw charisma of Rudd and Fey carries 95% of this movie, and the few scenes that neither of them are in just don’t work. The only scenes I really laughed out lout at were scenes that featured both leads. Fey and Rudd are undeniably talented and great, and The Princess Bride’s Wallace Shawn was an inconceivable breath of fresh air, but that’s not enough to make this a good movie.

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He’s going to Yale? Inconceivable!

There’s a few twists beyond the normal rom-com (all of which Megan called about 10 minutes in) that made it not terrible, but beyond the redeeming qualities of Fey, Rudd, Tomlin and Shawn, there is not a ton worth keeping. Thus LET’S TOSS IT MEGAN!

Verdict: TOSS IT! 

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