peteg's blog

Hateship Loveship

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An all-Chicago outing at the tight-arse Monday (everyone $6, members $5) session at Gene Siskel Film Center. Again, oldies and people who were more interested in chatting than in watching this thing. The draw was Guy Pearce, and the hope he could elicit a decent dramatic performance from Kristen Wiig. No luck on that front; she was robotic, despite Dana Stevens's prior reassurances. I'd read Alice Munro's short story on which this is loosely based, so I have no excuse. Nick Nolte had the most fun and was almost decent. Jennifer Jason Leigh still looks like a teenager to me. Is this just a redone Mildred Pierce?

The Iron Giant

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A Brad Bird segue from The Incredibles. A kids and unfortunately somewhat childish animation. Annie has nice lines but it takes an age for her to get organised with Dean. The rest was filler.

The Incredibles

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Still my favourite Pixar effort.

Nolan's Batmans

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All three of the Nolan Batmans over two nights, but out of order: 1, 3 then 2. On a re-watch the recycling is much more obvious; one can see it as a slow rehearsal of Fight Club, repeatedly. The car chases are unspectacular, eternally boring. Some of the exposition in the third one is entirely risible, and I pity Gary Oldman for having to be involved in it. The second is incoherent: why does Batman have to take the fall for Harvey Dent's activities when the Joker is in custody? ... and just what were Harvey Dent's crimes that needed covering up? Don't bother explaining to me what I couldn't be bothered learning from the primary source.

Heath Ledger is certainly the best thing in these, though I did enjoy Maggie Gyllenhaal's bump-and-grind with Aaron Eckhardt and Anne Hathway's femiline. Tom Hardy is fine too. I cannot forgive Nolan for not casting Maggie as Rachel in the first one as well.

The Unknown Known

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Back to the Music Box Theatre after a day of fruitless apartment hunting on this non-public-holiday Good Friday. Note to self: avoid the pensioner times (in this case 5pm) as these places tend to attract the bored and idle. The bloke behind me squeaked his chair the whole time, though perhaps he didn't notice or his hearing aids masked it.

This is Errol Morris interviewing Donald Rumsfeld. The old news conferences get a run, as do some facts (for a change) which cause the not-so-great man some pause, if only to reach for a denial or to spread the blame widely. We get a fairly-well packaged account of the rise of Rumsfeld through the time of Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and the pleasure he still takes in knowing that he stymied George H. W. Bush, if only momentarily. While he is more reflective than I would expect Dick Cheney to be, he is no Robert McNamara, and this is no Fog of War; simply, he is not searching for truth, then or now. What was the point in this interview, beyond a platform for more self-serving banalities?

The last part is an exercise in particularly tedious Rumsfeld epistemology, and perhaps the only reversal he allows himself in the entire film.

Fred Kaplan, unfamiliarly at the New York Times, is dead right. Their regular reviewer A. O. Scott is also right, though I would conclude that Morris loses; he should have found some other interviewee. Dana Stevens interviews the interviewer.

Under the Skin (2013)

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Not the Samantha Morton vehicle from 1997 which I had a recent hankering to rewatch (after discovering the pamphlet amongst my now-disposed personal once-considered-valuables). At the AMC River East 21. $12. Had dinner at Star of Siam, which I ate at back in January; their Thai chicken fried rice was totally banal. Today was a day of thunderstorms and heavy rain, and schlepping the streets in these conditions is not fun as this city does not believe in awnings. A bit cold too.

What is this exactly? The sprog of 2001's star baby? Does she/he have HAL's eyes? Were the rejects from Trainspotting relocated to the west coast? (What was with that dancehall scene anyway? Was Begbie getting blown by a trannie in the carpark? If not, why not?) Is this an American Scottish Gothic Wake in Fright? I thought it leant too heavily on David Lynch's Elephant Man all the way along, right up to the part where this is subsumed by that. Soylent green (red) is people, people! ... but even the NRA birthers knew that back in 1973.

Scarlett does show up in this one, but is given a vapid becoming-human character arc that reverses Bowie's more impressive effort in The Man Who Fell To Earth. What did Tom Waits say... "those Brooklyn girls, they're all thorns without the rose..." Funny-to-me, Scarlett's posh English accent goes for a wander when she's asked to improvise with one of the presumably-random early pickups. No-one seems to draw a parallel with the more purient Species, which at least justified its protagonist shedding her kit by reason of a burning need to procreate. The director did the risible Birth and Sexy Beast. Let that be a warning to me.

Nicholas Rapold presumably got paid by the movie reference. Stephen Holden is overly generous.


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Still #72 in the IMDB top-250. I wonder what the Spike Lee remake is like.

The Wind Rises

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At the Logan Theatre, another of Chicago's quaint old cinemas. The screen was a bit small but the tickets are super-cheap: just $5.75 before 6pm.

This anime is a celebration of the life of an engineer, which doesn't seem too common a theme; most in this vein are about scientists. I'm told this is a kiss off from Hayao Miyazaki. I haven't seen much of his other stuff but this was visually awesome; some of the scenery evoked Anders Zorn-quality mastery for me. Did the rivets make that much of a difference?

Dana Stevens has a lot more to say about it than I do.

Ernest & Celestine (2012)

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At the beautiful, ancient Music Box Theatre in Southport, Chicago — somewhere up the Brown line. It was cold out. I bought a ticket to Jodorowsky's Dune. "Right past the concession stand," says the box office bloke, done up in bowtie and pleasant formality. Suffice it to say that if you turn right at the old concession stand you'll end up in the main theatre where this French kids' animation is showing. It's quite funny but I should have twigged when I saw families checking out the organ on the left of the stage. Oh well. The American voice cast would have made for a decent live-action version, I reckon: imagine Forest Whitaker as a bear in shambolic Tom Waits mode, and Lauren Bacall as a stern and fearful orphanage matron. William H. Macy might lack the anti-charisma to play the head dentist though his voice was perfect.

I'll head back to this theatre in a few weeks to see The Unknown Known. Tickets are cheap.