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Big Fish

Who Bought It?: Megan

Why?: I actually saw and liked this movie and decided to purchase it.

Non-Buyer’s Response: Going in, I have no strong feelings about this one.

Megan’s Thoughts:

I was 15 when I bought Big Fish. Having seen it now, 12 years later, I realize I did not actually understand the movie. I just thought Ewan McGregor was cute and Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors and it was quirky and beautiful. I think I was entertained by the film but looking at it now I can see there’s no way I comprehended how much it speaks about life and legacy.

Big Fish (based on the novel of the same name by Daniel Wallace) is about Will Bloom (Billy Crudup), a writer who, as his father Ed’s (Albert Finney) health disintegrates, tries to uncover more about him from the stories and myths he was told as a boy. Stories that Will believes to be made up fairytales but that Ed firmly stands by. There are giants and jumping spiders and a traveling circus. There are legendary-sized fish and Siamese Twins and picture-perfect towns where no one wears shoes and even the water is sweet. Ed lives in a romantic world while Will lives in a pragmatic one.

The flow of story, the humour and the adventure to Big Fish all weave together and make for a thought-provoking film that had me reflecting on my own history afterward. What are the stories I will pass on? What stories of my parents will I tell my children? Would I want to know how I die, if I could?

The cast of Big Fish is just as impressive as the seemingly tall tales of Ed Bloom. Danny Devito as the circus ringmaster Amos. Jessica Lange as Mrs. Sandra Bloom. Steve Buscemi as the poet Norther Winslow. And…wait is that…Miley Cyrus as the little girl that says “Edward, DON’T” as a young Ed Bloom approaches the witch’s house? Yes it is. And she was credited as “Destiny Cyrus.” Thanks for filling me in on that tidbit, internet!

As much as I enjoyed Big Fish there were a few parts of it that made me shake my head. Mostly, Ed’s wife Sandra, and how we never hear from her on the topic of his tales. Instead, she seems to drift in and out of rooms with a vacant smile on her face. I understand this particular story was to be told between Will and Ed, but having Sandra around just made her seem useless and ignorant. Will often mentions how he and his mother were on great terms so a large, nagging part of my brain said: “Then why don’t you just ask your mom to verify these stories if you’re so curious? Shouldn’t she know?” Or if not, should she take some time to sit Will down and be like “Look dude, is it really hurting anyone if these stories are a little embellished? Stop being so pessimistic.”

Also made me shake my head: a 32-year-old Ewan McGregor playing an 18-year-old for a good portion of the movie. I can suspend a lot of disbelief, but that seemed a bit much. However he also had to play a 40-year-old at other points, depending on the flashback. I guess I never would have been happy so fine.

But I take the side of Ed Bloom any day. I am the dreamer, the storyteller, the entertainer. I come from storytellers in the family and the belief that a good story can be better than a good meal. And I’d watch Ed Bloom’s stories come to life again, and I’d like to see what this movie means to me as I get older and reflect on my own legacy. You win this time, ageless Ewan McGregor. I’d like to KEEP IT.

Max’s Thoughts: 

At one point in Big Fish, Ed Bloom tells his son “We’re storytellers, both of us. I speak mine out, you write yours down. Same thing.” It’s moments like these that provide the heart of the movie and moments like this that I was too young to appreciate when I first saw it, just like Megan. Both of us come from families of oral storytellers, and both of us have chosen to write ours down. (I’ll come back to this). It’s a shame Billy Crudup’s Will is a distant, emotionless and unknowable character, both of us were just dying to love him.

We didn’t.  But the two Ed Bloom’s (McGregor and Finney) absolutely put this movie on their collective back. Perhaps it’s because he’s stopped getting the big name, above-the-title roles that he used to, maybe its because its been a while since I’ve watched him in his prime, but I had completely forgotten how charismatic Ewan McGregor can be.

ewan

Oh, you.

And Albert Finney… he’s the kind of actor that leaves me at a loss for words. I’ve never seen him be anything other than impeccable and complex. When he plays a mob boss in Miller’s Crossing, he does so with a touch of whimsy. When he’s dumped into a world of whimsy and half-truths like Big Fish, he provides the gravitas needed to ground a movie with its head as far in the clouds as this one. He almost never gets out of bed, yet he is the backbone of the entire film.

Albert

 “I was dried out.” Albert Finney, everyone!

Personal storytime: This is essentially a movie about Will Bloom trying to get the “real story” out of his dad before he dies. It struck a chord with me big time. I have one living grandparent (Grandma Adele), and she is the last living member of the generation of my family that was around for what I’ve started calling “The Shamban Creation Legend.” Let me explain, as best and as quickly I can, from the pseudo-legendary stories I’ve heard so far.

My Grandpa Marc was born one of four brothers. Sonny (the oldest), Howard, Marc and Billy. When Sonny was around 13-years-old, their father died. I’ve never heard anything about their mother, but Sonny got a job delivering papers, supporting his younger brothers financially throughout their childhood. I learned recently that my grandpa thought Sonny was his dad until a certain age. Here, the details become hazy, but after being more or less raised by Sonny, all three of the little brothers went on to become very, very wealthy. Howard and Grandpa Marc founded a marketing firm together in the 1950’s and Billy outstripped them both with some kind of manufacturing company that I know very little about.

This is the version of the story kicking around in my head, picked up over the course of my life in bits and pieces. Who knows what of it is true? But the whole point of all of this is that the truth isn’t the point. The histories of regular, non-famous families like mine are not usually put down in books or in movies, but passed down from generation-to-generation over the dinner table. They become embellished, surely, but over time they become the story of where you came from, and how you came to be.

Its a story I didn’t realize I wanted to write until we watched Big Fish. Most importantly, it’s a story that I’m running out of time to learn because all four brothers are dead, as are all their wives besides Grandma Adele. Since we watched Big Fish, I’ve reached out to Adele, and the children of Howard, Sonny and Billy (my second cousins I think)  and plan to get a full view of these four men who laid the foundation for the modern iteration of my family.

That was the effect this film had on me. When that happens, I think proper criticism becomes irrelevant. KEEP IT. 

Verdict: KEEP

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Trainwreck

Please join us for this next instalment of A Very Special Purge: The DVD Expansion Project

Megan’s Thoughts:

I’m an Amy Schumer fan. I laugh at her jokes, I enjoy watching her interviews, and I find her quick and witty and just catty enough that the mean girl in me is satisfied but not so catty that I’m like “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE.”

Trainwreck is a modern rom com that asks the question: when a career-driven, commitment-phobe partier meets one of the “good ones,” can they change their ways? Oh, except the commitment-phobe is Amy Schumer and the “good one” is a super hunky Bill Hader.

This movie ticked a lot of boxes for me. It has a strong female lead, was written by a woman, it passes the Bechdel Test, the romantic lead isn’t some unrealistic Fabio wannabe, it’s got romance but moreso it’s a comedy and even moreso some of the best parts of the movie were in the drama.

What exceeded my expectations for Trainwreck was Schumer’s performance in the dramatic parts, the character Amy’s unapologetic drive, and her attitude towards sex. Though I should have expected nothing less from Schumer. I had a moment of horrified self-examination during the scene when Amy decides to step out from hearing Aaron (Bill Hader)’s acceptance speech for his award so she could take a call from work. I made several moves similar to that in the past couple years while I tried to impress producers on shows I worked for. Funny, it doesn’t seem to have enhanced my career options, and always ended in an upset husband. I wouldn’t call myself a trainwreck, but there are elements of Schumer’s film that mirror my own tendencies. It made me appreciate how much “growing up” I’ve done in the past few years. I don’t think that was one of Schumer’s goals when she wrote Trainwreck but I think she’d be pleased at my reaction.

Trainwreck is excellent date movie or girls’ night. Schumer is on point, I can’t get over how attracted to Bill Hader I was (am?) and who knew Lebron James was that funny. I was impressed, and considering my husband is the biggest Golden State Warriors fan ever in the history of sports, I saw a lot of Lebron this basketball season. I think having seen him play against the Warriors vs. seeing him in this film was a unique juxtaposition.

I will say, as I usually do, it could have been at least 20 minutes shorter. I miss the days of the 90 min movie. Where did they go? Hey, Apatow, I’ve got a tiny bladder and I refuse to see a movie without a soda the size of my head so we gotta figure out a balance here.

To close, I’d like to share a moment from the showing I went to which was the most satisfying example of life imitating art I have ever personally witnessed. A woman sitting near the front had clearly enjoyed a cocktail or two before the show as, once the trailers started and a preview for Joy came on, one look at Jennifer Lawrence and she slurred: “I LOVE KATNISS EVERDEEN.” For the most part I think the theatre tried to ignore her but as the movie started Drunkess felt the need to comment, talk back and interact with the characters on screen (at one point Amy says something about being a dirtbag or a horrible person in general, to which Drunkess yelled “NO YOU’RE NOT!”) About half an hour in, the most official looking Cineplex employee I’ve ever seen went up to her and, though I couldn’t hear what was said, Drunkess and her man friend were escorted out of the theatre. I don’t know this woman, I don’t know what kind of a day she had, perhaps this was even meant to be performance art…but really, let’s talk trainwreck.

I’d watch this movie again, even if it’s just to see the way Bill Hader holds a subway pole. So my vote is GET IT.

Look at the power stance on that arm!

Max’s Thoughts: 

A brief thought on the woman Megan dubbed “Drunkess”: I felt bad for the guy who was there with her. On to Trainwreck!

When you’re done reading this, you might think “That was a pretty myopic review.” I apologize in advance. Because I went to see this movie for one reason and one reason alone: Lebron James. Megan said it’s a good date night or ladies’ night movie. When we saw it, Trainwreck was both, all at once. Long story short: I was the third wheel on a lady-date between Megan and her friend.

I regret nothing.

Because as I suspected, King James was good. A few clips from trailers had piqued my interest, and I love following the off-field lives of athletes almost as much as I love watching them play. The movie itself didn’t exceed expectations for me as it did for my wife. It’s a paint-by-numbers rom-com bloated to 120 minutes with Appatovian improvisational diversions left and right. Some of them pay off. Others don’t. But whatever money and time they invested in getting ‘Bron to be in this movie paid off in full.

He stole nearly every scene he was in, sometimes simply by being gigantic, but usually by playing completely against type. How could Lebron James, a non-actor, have a type? Because he’s a public persona, and we watch him play sports. On the court, he’s an absolute killer, a leader of men and one of the most fearsomely unfair physical specimens I’ve ever seen play any sport. 600 years ago, he’d be riding the biggest warhorse, wielding the biggest two-handed greatsword and striking fear into the heart of anyone who might oppose him.

Here, he plays himself as the tropey-as-fuck “best friend of one of the main characters in a rom-com.” He’s interested in Aaron’s problems, he councils him on how soon he should call Amy back, he gets passive-aggressive when they argue about why Aaron never visits Lebron in Cleveland (“you visited me in Miami all the time!”) It’s great. He seemed at ease.

It was all worth it so Bill Hader could hit a single jump shot while Lebron was talking during their lopsided one-on-one scene and walk out screaming “I scored against Lebron James! I’m never touching a basketball again! I win!.”

That said, I would not have gone to see it if the ticket wasn’t free (Megan’s Note: you’re welcome) and my wife wasn’t already going. I would watch it again if it came on TV but – wait this movie would suck on TV. I would definitely NOT watch it on TV. Maybe again on Netflix. FORGET IT. 

Verdict: GET IT. 

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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

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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.

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“…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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