How It Works

I love movies, but I hate most movie reviews. I hate them for two reasons: First, they always begin with a 3-5 paragraph in-depth description of the film. I don't want to know the entire plot, I want to know if it's good! I may say generally what the movie involves but that's it. Second, most movie reviews are unclear. I've read countless reviews that left me with absolutely no indication as to whether or not I should even see the film. Not here. I developed three methods to rate television and movies:

1. Just your average 10 point scale.
10 is obviously the best and 1 is the worst. Although, Something Borrowed might make below a 1 if I ever get around to reviewing it. I consider myself quite harsh, so if you see anything above a 9, it's probably in my top ten of all time.

2. What's it Worth?
I will tell you if I think it's worth paying for and worth the 2 (and ever more increasingly 3) hours of your time. I also make an educated guess as to whether or not you can multitask during the film.

3. The (not-yet) Patented Clairometer
In honor of my college friend Claire, I developed this rating system in order to display how "appropriate" the film is. It is designed to tell you a more detailed rating system. I find this helpful. Sometimes you want to know ahead of time so you're not stuck watching Black Swan in an empty theater with your mom. The range between PG-13 and R is more vast than the plot holes in a Michael Bay movie. I hope to combat this. The scale shows photos and descriptions of a few well-known women in film and television. The rating is the farthest woman to the left of the scale who would approve of the film. For example, June Cleaver would not approve of
Tequila Sunrise. The woman who would is probably Mathilda.

THE CLAIROMETER:

Clairometer

Clairometer

conclusion

With this blog, I write as though someone will read it and enjoy what I have to say. I am under no false pretense that I have a wide readership. It is mostly for me and for the one other person who accidentally stumbled across this blog. If that is you, I'm glad you are here. With this blog, I send my thoughts about what I watch on a black box into the abyss of the world wide web. I hope you enjoy reading these thoughts as much as I enjoy writing them.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

What I'm Watching This Month

The Crazy Ones (2013)
Airs on: CBS
Starring: Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Hamish Linklater, Amanda Setton
Showrunner: David E. Kelley

My Rating: Currently, 6.5 but I think if we give it some time, it will find its voice as a show and the cast will either mesh or change.

Clairometer: Holy Golightly, it's a network primetime show, I think you know what to expect in this area.

I've given most of the new network sitcoms a chance - at least as much of a chance as my schedule permits. I prefer single-camera as opposed to multi-camera television shows. If you're not in the industry, or have more of a social life than I do, then you may not know the difference. Single-camera is shot with (you guessed it) one camera, meaning that it is shot similar to a movie, with multiple takes. Some good examples are The Office, Veep, and How I Met Your Mother. Multi-camera shows are often shot in front of a live audience with multiple cameras (you're getting good). This is usually conducive to one take because they can shoot reactions from many angles. Examples of this are The Big Bang Theory, Cheers, and Friends. If you watch television with these differences in mind you'll most likely start to notice a stark contrast.

The Crazy Ones is single-camera, meaning it facilitates fast-talking dialogue and frequent set changes. Confining Robin Williams to a small room for a long scene with slow dialogue would be a recipe for disaster. David E. Kelley, the show's creator, has a pretty extensive resume (Boston Legal and Ally McBeal to name a few). I think if we trust him for half a season to create the vibe he wants, this show will be quite good. In its current state, it is fast, funny and quirky. I have to put forth a substantial amount of effort not to miss a reference or a joke. However, the plot seems a little disjointed and the cast is missing someone (I'm not sure who). The show will find the missing cast member and the plot will become less episodic. If you want to see a truly awful start to an eventually great show, watch the first six episodes of 30 Rock. 

Luckily for us, The Crazy Ones airs on CBS and not FOX. Lacking any shred of evidence, it seems to me as though CBS tends to give shows more of a chance to fully develop and live up to their potential. I'm still holding a grudge against FOX and Peter Rice's overused trigger finger for Arrested Development, Traffic Light and The Goodwin Games. These may or may not have been his ultimate decision, but he shall henceforth be blamed in my mind.

All tangents aside, I always attempt to give a new show per season a chance while constantly ignoring my strong urge to re-watch old episodes of Community or Saturday Night Live. Last season it was The Mindy Project and it was absolutely worth it. Here's hoping The Crazy Ones is absolutely worth it, because thus far, it is at least better than every* other sitcom that premiered this season.

*As one final tangent I add that The Michael J. Fox Show is quite good as well. It sheds light on a misunderstood disease while proving that people don't have to be defined by what's in their medicine cabinet. Although his on-screen wife is comically taller than him, Michael J. Fox proves as endearing as ever. Why isn't my post about this you ask? I can't seem to stomach more that one show where a teenage girl is a main character. Thanks for that Dana Brody.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Pain No Monetary Gain

The Brass Teapot (2012)
Starring: Juno Temple, Michael Angarano, Alexis Bledel, Bobby Moynihan, Alia Shawkat
Written by: Ramaa Mosley & Tim Macy
Directed by: Ramaa Mosley

My Rating: 6.4
Worth: Rental, 2 hours, you can probably mutlitask and still follow well without missing any jokes.
Clairometer: Mathilda (It's rated R, but I can't really see why)

To begin, I will say that romantic comedies as a genre will most likely not receive above a 7.5 rating. If that's the ceiling, then this is a pretty good score, right? This is an independent film with an amazing cast, an interesting concept and axiom, and good writing. You could say it has all the right "indiegredients."

I hope you're still here after that. An ancient, Chinese, brass teapot gives impoverished newlyweds money when they experience physical pain, then emotional pain, then when other people experience pain. My complaint is that after viewing the first 30 minutes, the ending becomes a bit obvious. You can most likely guess it from the premise.

"If there is one ounce of evil in either of you, the teapot will draw it out of you."     - Stereotypical Ancient Chinese Magic Guy

 

The film also sheds light on the current plight of 20 somethings recently graduating from college: unemployment, underemployment, or dependency on parents.  This point is so demonstrated by the stars of the film essentially beating themselves up, as opposed to working. It's easier for them to inflict pain upon themselves and others then it is to achieve all they want the traditional way. This film is like an onion (or a parfait) in that it has many layers and a high potential for examination (and over examination). For example, is the American dream dead? How much emotional or physical pain is money worth to us? Are couples happier when they are poor and worried about getting by or when they are rich and fighting about how to spend their money? Does all the money still lie with China? Okay, that last one was a bit of a stretch.

"Why am I going to end up like Muhammad Ali? Just so we can have a good credit score?"


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Little Mister Poolboy

The Way Way Back (2013)
Starring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph
Written and Directed by: Nat Faxton & Jim Rash

My Rating: 6.9
Worth: theater, on demand rental, and 2 hours fully paying attention
Clairometer: Holy Golightly

Take every moment when you wanted to punch Michael Scott in the jugular, add Sam Rockwell's brilliant destitute Tony Stark impression, a punch drunk Allison Janney who makes Lindsay F√ľnke look like mommy dearest, throw in 120 pounds of awkward teenage boy, and just a dash of hilarious "Dean-like" Jim Rash and cook over the high summer heat. This is the recipe for The Way Way Back. What does any of that mean? The film is excellent. There is a very Little Miss Sunshine feel to it. For example, The Way Way Back redefines the concept of a loving family and what it means to be accepted in one; Steve Carell plays an unexpected character; and it sheds light on the fact that adults are just as flawed as their kids. 

It is rare to watch a good movie that leaves you with a (very momentary, but) happy feeling. Jim Rash and Nat Faxton's third collaboration is far superior to The Descendants. However, it probably won't win an Oscar. Aliens don't invade. The top doesn't keep spinning. The oppressed Jewish girl doesn't kill the Nazis. This film is the JC Chasez to the Justin Timberlake (music, not acting obviously - did you see Alpha Dog? Funny I didn't either). He's just as good, but something is just missing. And that something in The Way Way Back is endurance. I know in 4 years I'll be trying to remember the title of this movie and why I liked it. I suppose I can check this blog to retrieve that information. Thanks Al Gore. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What I'm Watching This Month


Orphan Black (2013)
Airs On: BBC America
Staring: TATIANA MASLANY, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris
Created By: John Fawcett, Graeme Manson

My Rating: 8.0
Clairometer: Erin Brockovich



Tatiana Maslany is in all caps and emboldened because she is the entire show. She plays 7 different characters, all from different countries and regions, with different accents, mannerisms, and motivations. Her absence from the Emmy list is a bigger crime than the fact that Sophia Vergara continues to be on it. The story line is interesting, the acting impeccable, and the writing is excellent. Why not a 10 you ask? The production value is lower than I would like (sorry Canada). It tends to take away from the quality of the show otherwise, bordering on cheesy at times. It is still quite worth your time, and good luck not becoming an enormous fan of Tatiana Maslany (I know, I know. That horse is dead. I'll put down the bat).   

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Mistakenly Un-Marketed Marketing Movie

Syrup (2013)
Starring: Amber Heard and Shiloh Fernandez
Written by: Max Barry, Aram Rappaport
Directed by: Aram Rappaport

My Rating: 5.8
Worth: No money, but 2 hours paying attention
Clairometer: Mathilda

This is based on a book, and it shows. I usually hate reviewing films based on books without having read the book, so as not to seem ignorant. I remember reading a scathing review of plot holes in The Hunger Games film that are clearly explained in the book. The screenwriters are most likely saving the explanation of the reviewer's complaints for the following three films. It just made the reviewer look like a putz. I hope I have not put myself in his shoes. All that being said, it seems like it's probably a good read, basing it off the witty dialogue and creative use of statistics. However, the plot is jumpy, disjointed, and occasionally unbelievable

To say that Kellan Lutz and Brittany Snow costar in this is ludicrous. If you're fans (not sure why you would be one of his) and only watching it because you see they're in it, don't bother. With that same logic, Misty May Treanor would be a huge fan of Cast Away.

Moving on to the true star of the film, Amber Heard. I heard Rhianna say once that she can make anyone attracted to her, straight woman, gay man, or otherwise. If that was ever true (trust me it wasn't) then she is henceforth dethroned by Amber Heard. She is a young Scarlett Johansson unscathed by Woody Allen's campy and at times creepy grasp. In this role, she is smart, attractive, professional and in charge. God bless her for getting out of the passenger's seat of Nicolas Cage's Buick Riviera and taking roles like this. While the film itself is not going on any rational person's "top 20 movies of all time list," her character is well written and fun to watch.

Syrup is worth watching for the comments on today's consumers, youth and relationships. In a sense we all are marketing ourselves to others - even our significant others - every single day.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What I'm Watching This Month

School started back this week, and in the days prior I did what any celluloid freak would do: binge watch television. I finished two seasons in less than 24 hours. Beware if you have time commitments.

Sherlock (2010 - 2014)
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman
Airing on: BBC, although the 3rd season (or series as the British say) release date has yet to be posted. You can view the first two series on Netflix.

My Rating: 9.3 [A full 10 if Sherlock boxes, Watson gets a bull dog, and The Woman reappears in series 3]
Clairometer: Holly Golightly

I loved Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Holmes. However, Benedict Cumberbatch embodies the icon while giving it a modern twist better than I imagined possible. I wanted to quote a witty conversation between Sherlock and Watson, but sans the actors' genius delivery, the words don't do it justice. Overall, the writing is impeccable, the acting superb, and the production quality is so high I would pay $15 to see each episode on an IMAX screen. The creators have clearly put their heart and soul into modernizing the story. Sherlock and Watson text, email and blog. The show even created the blogs accessible to fans. Dr. John Watson's Blog and Sherlock Holmes' Blog.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Too Real for Comfort


The Spectacular Now (2013)
Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley
Written by: Tim Tharp (novel), Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Directed by: James Ponsoldt

My Rating: 5.4
Clairometer: Erin Brockovich
Worth: no money, 2 hours heavily multi-tasked


My friend who has extreme difficulty expressing any opinions on films, be them positive or negative (which she will readily admit), said something quite profound when we exited the theater: "It was just a little too real." I couldn't have said it better myself, and in fact I haven't as noted by the title to this review. Viewers at Sundance loved it. I saw in USA Today that it was named the best film of the summer. And while the acting, writing, direction and everything else I usually care about were above average, there was still something not quite right. 

There is a growing trend of improvisation in independent movies these days, as well as less manufactured lighting, makeup, hair and costumes. I get it though. It's an esthetic. But for some reason, unless there is an extensive plot line or fabulous dialogue (see my post on The Place Beyond the Pines) it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and me feeling as though I could glean the same images going back to my hometown and people-watching at our local mall: Lots of tangled hair and dirty shirts, and overly frequent stuttering. Call me crazy, but movies are supposed to entertain us. That is their purpose at their core. I felt completely unentertained. 

It tales a story of an alcoholic (but this doesn't seem to be the point of the film) high school senior who can't get his life on track until he meets, hurts and loves a plain girl from his class. Their love story is unremarkable. Apart from specific details, it seems to be just like the tale of every other teenager's love story. The girl is too gullible and open with her heart (although I suppose that it is just every teenage girl. I don't know. I never was one). No viewer in his or her right mind would bet on the couple lasting past high school.

But I should note that at the current time stamp of this article, the film has a 93% with viewers on Rotten Tomatoes. Clearly I'm missing something.



Friday, July 26, 2013

What I'm Watching This Month

This concept is new. I hope that I can begin watching a new television show or miniseries every month. Who knows what will happen once school starts. I honestly feel as though this is a better time for television than for film. I know what your thinking, well then you picked a fabulous time to start a blog about movies. If you notice, I've slowly infiltrated good television shows into my discussion. However, the lack of quality movies being produced is all the more reason to write this blog and "dig through the dirt."

Veep (2011)
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale,
Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh, Reid Scott
Showrunner: Armando Iannucci
My Rating: 8.0
Television Show, Airing on HBO
Clairometer: Erin Brockovich

Anyone who knows me personally knows my distaste for HBO programing. That is, however, another post for another day. To describe Veep in a sentence I would say that it is a fabulous combination of Arrested Development-styled awkwardness and creative writing with a dash of dry British-esque humor and a pow of powerhouse acting by all involved. Veep was marketed horrifically. When I saw Julia Louis-Dreyfus on her press tour in 2011,  I got the impression that the show was a continuation of Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin from 2008; A sort of "what would happen if John McCain won?" But this is completely inaccurate. Selina, Julia's character, is a democrat. She's unmarried with one daughter. She has no crazy accent and does not claim to be from "the real America." She ran for president but lost in the primaries. Clearly there is no intention to politically comment on the Palin phenomenon. All this to say, watch Veep and you wont regret it. It's hilarious, uncomfortable, and genuinely entertaining.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The English Teacher

The English Teacher (2013)
Starring: Julianne Moore, Michael Angarano,
Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, and Nathan Lane
Written by: Stacy and Dan Chariton
Directed by: Craig Zisk

My Rating: 5.3
Worth: 2 hours with lots of multitasking, no money
Clairometer: Erin Brockovich


I had high hopes for this, as quiet, bookish middle aged women are not typically protagonists. Calling an author trite is a plot point and apparently the worst thing one can say to an artist; however, I can't help but use it in describing this movie. Here are some steps to making a cliched film...
  1. Make a woman smart but "ugly" by pulling her hair back and throwing on unattractive glasses. (even though she's clearly very attractive, and everyone notices anyway)
  2. Make her fall down a lot in order to show that she's still funny. 
  3. Show her going on failed blind dates in the beginning of the film to demonstrate why she makes the wrong choices in men later on in the film. 
  4. Show her eating massive amounts of junk food to display her "depression." 
  5. Make all the teenagers rude, obnoxious and completely ungrateful. 
The English Teacher involves a lonely woman (see numbers 1 - 4 above) whose life gets a little more theatrical when she encounters a 20 something former student. The film leaves many things unresolved, which is a no-no in old-fashioned screenplay writing 101. However, more and more films tend to do this these days so I suppose it is no longer taboo. That being said, something was clearly still missing. She is punished throughout the film for one wrong decision in a lifetime of impeccable service and devotion to her students. Perhaps that is a reality of life, but the tone of this film does not match such a dark theme - if that was the authors' intention. There are funny moments and Julianne Moore is lovely as always. Watch it if you are incredibly bored and don't have access to any of the movies listed in my 5 romantic movies that you might have missed post.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
Written by: Derek Ciafrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Directed by: Derek Ciafrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrn

Rating: 9.1
Worth: 2 and a half hours, cost of rental, theater price
Clairometer: Jenny Curran


The first thing to say in describing this movie is: BRACE YOURSELF. I told my best friend to see it because it was fantastic. She called me crying and nauseated and with an hour left to go. Derek Ciafrance is known for the reality of life hitting you in the face and usually upsetting your stomach. Blue Valentine (another one of his films) still gives me bad feelings. But both films (more so The Place Beyond the Pines) are incredible. Yet at the same time, I will be fine to never watch it ever again.

It is difficult to describe what makes this movie so good without giving twists away. It comes full circle. I hate the critic's quote in the center of the poster above. Yes it is riveting, but it is so much more than a crime drama. It's about love, poverty, wealth, politics, and family. It beautifully juxtaposes two families: one with wealth and one in poverty. But how does each father provide for his family? Where are his priorities? How much does a father influence a son in parenting his own son? Are our fates unavoidable in life?

As I said, I did not set my best friend's expectations appropriately, so allow me to not make that mistake twice. Expect to be depressed. Expect to feel ill and thankful you can return to your own monotonous life. Expect to be disappointed. You'll be hoping that plot points are dreams or a figment of the characters' imaginations. But recall what I said, the writer/director deals in extreme reality. The timing is linear. Be mindful of this. Don't miss the essence of the film by hoping things will get better. They don't. Analyze the film in the way your college English professor taught you. Focus on the themes, the metaphors and the tone. Try to think while you're watching, the ways in which those "literary" elements contribute to Ciafrance's dark grasp on reality. But keep in mind, you'll want to eat ice cream and watch something goofy afterwards (I recommend an episode of Community).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Thoughts on Modern Family

Tread Lightly, Even Though You're Carrying a Sack Full of Emmys

1. Explain your talking heads. 
It's one thing to capitalize on the continually trending documentary style of filming sitcoms. But every show that does this style, while also using talking heads, has explained why they are the subject of a documentary. The Office constantly made reference to the film crew and discussed being the subject of an "American Modern Office" documentary. Parks and Recreation never explains it but I can give that show more leeway because it would make sense that Leslie Knope is filmed as part of her governmental career. But why would a family be made into a documentary? I think they are taking a little too much creative liberty with that.

2. Stay true to your characters.
The reason Modern Family is so popular is because America fell in love with the characters and how well their stories and jokes intertwined. In the latest season, the majority of the jokes are insults to the other characters. Putting down family members is what every other lousy sitcom does. (Two and a Half Men, Rules of Engagement, Whitney, Two Broke Girls, etc.) Don't turn into these, please, because if you do, then all you have left is what you've taken from other shows (i.e. numbers 1 and 3).

3. Be original.
While the amazing success of the show has created some copycats, the show tends to steal from other shows in obvious ways. We notice. 

Arrested Development (2003)                                                               Modern Family (2010)


5 Romantic Movies That You Might Have Missed (that are actually good)

1. Love Story (1970)
Starring: Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal
Written by: Erich Segal
Directed by: Arthur Hiller

My Rating: 7.5
Worth: 2 hours, Netflix streaming, cost of rental
Clairometer: Holly Golightly








 Jenny: You look stupid and  rich. 
Oliver: What if I'm smart and poor?
Jenny: I'm smart and poor. 
Oliver: Well what makes you so smart?
Jenny: I wouldn't go out for coffee with you that's what. 
Oliver: Well what if I wasn't even gonna ask you to go out for coffee with me?
Jenny: Well that's what makes you stupid.

If you haven't seen Love Story you should, and if you have, I'm betting that you haven't seen it in a long time - I'm here to say you should revisit it. If Erich Segal were still writing today, Nicholas Sparks would be shaking in his boots. But he is no longer with us and we are stuck with films like Safe Haven to show us what romance is. Unrealistic men, damsels in distress, scenes with canoes drifting through birds, and unexplained million dollar beach houses. Jenny and Oliver are cultured and witnessing their witty banter makes me feel smarter. Watch it. If you don't laugh and cry, you will certainly realize that no scene in any modern romance movie is as inventive as you thought.


2. Heartbreaker (French, 2010)
Starring: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Francois Damiens
Written by: Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner, Yoann Gromb
Directed by: Pascal Chaulmeil

My Rating: 6.8
Worth: 2 hours, Netflix streaming, cost of rental
Clairometer: Mathilda







I've mentioned my love of the French language before and perhaps that influenced my perception of the caliber of this movie. It's a great premise that is beautifully executed. We all have a couple we want to breakup, and wouldn't it be interesting if we could pay someone to do it? 



3. The Jane Austen Book Club
Starring: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy
Written by: Robin Swicord, Karen Joy Fowler
Directed by: Robin Swicord

My Rating: 6.6
Worth: 2 hours, cost of rental
Clairometer:  Holly Golightly





Bernadette: All Jane Austen, all the time. It's the perfect antidote.
Prudie: To what?
Bernadette: To life. 

I couldn't agree more. This film does a fantastic job of paying tribute to Jane Austen's fantastic works while criticizing them intelligently and applying their themes to modern feminism. However, ignore the cheesy ending. It seems ad libbed in an awkwardly cut way, completely out of tune with the rest of the film. It's worth watching the entire movie to overlook the last 2 minutes. 

4. Dan in Real Life (2007)
Starring: Steve Carell, Juliette Binochet, Dan Cook, Emily Blunt
Written by: Pierce Gardner, Peter Hedges 
Directed by: Peter Hedges
My Rating: 6.9
Worth: 2 hours, can probably multitask, cost of a rental
Clairometer: Scout  




Don't be fooled by Dane Cook being in the cast. While he is type cast, his personality does not take away from the quality of the film. Dan in Real Life shows an idyllic family that somehow seems attainable. Pay attention to the music in the film. Sondre Lerche (music by) said in an interview that he thought the film was so real with such raw emotions that he didn't want to use music to overpower scenes that were already so powerful. Many movies use music to supply something that just isn't there. Dan in Real Life is aptly named and, as cheesy as it sounds, it leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. 

5. Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, William Holden
Written by: Julien Duvivier, Henri Jeanson, George Alexrod
Directed by: Richard Quine

My Rating: 7.0
Worth: 2 hours, cost of rental
Clairometer: Scout












Richard: ... if we are to have a happy and harmonious relationship, I beg of you, never answer a question with a question. Is that clear?
Gabrielle: Did I?
Richard: There you go again, answering a question with a question. My original yes when you opened the door was a question, question mark implied of course. You do know the difference between implied and inferred?
Gabrielle: Isn't that a question?
 Richard: Yes.
Gabrielle: Well, you just answered my question with a question. To imply to indicate without saying openly or directly, to infer is to conclude from something known or assumed. 

 Audrey Hepburn's character is an assistant to a screenwriter, and in order to write a good script, she helps him by acting out the potential plot.  Full disclosure, this is another film where my biases might affect my judgment. I would love Audrey in an infomercial, I have a soft spot for writers (typically under-appreciated), and once again it incorporates the French language. Out of all of Audrey Hepburn's films I would say that this is one of the greatest, and one in which she and her costar have the most chemistry. 
 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Giant Mechanical Man

The Giant Mechanical Man (2012)
Written and Directed by: Lee Kirk
Starring: Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, Topher Grace, Malin Akerman

Rating: 5.5
Worth: 2 hours while multitasking, no money
Clairometer: Mathilda

The Giant Mechanical Man has great potential. It's one of those movies that is not bad, it's just not very good. There is nothing bad about the acting or the directing or even the story. There's just nothing very memorable (other than the fact that the main character is a 10 foot tall "metal" man). Notice that I'm incapable of placing quotes from the film intermittently throughout this post as I always do. There's really just nothing to quote.

Jenna Fischer is adorable and probably has chemistry with a tree stump. Not to say Chris Messina is anything of the sort. In case you are worried, you do lose the feeling that she can't be with anyone besides Jim Halpert within the first fifteen or twenty minutes. Jenna's character Janice, has a vulnerability with the giant mechanical man that is juxtaposed with her apathy towards the world. It doesn't seem that she is an apathetic person. It's more that she needs someone to either awaken in her a new vivacity about life, or be content with her just how she is.

People constantly push Janice to be the version of herself that they believe to be the best, forcing dates and self expression that she is quite uncomfortable with, until she meets the giant mechanical man. He draws out her feelings yet he doesn't demand anything that she cannot give. Perhaps that's what true love really is - finding the balance between challenging someone and micromanaging his or her life entirely. His silent attentiveness gives her a stage to air her grievances about the world. This film shows the unforced love that is not passionate, or animalistic. It's not love lost, or unrequited. It's simply that beautiful contentment that comes with accepting the other person's flaws and loving regardless. At the conclusion, I felt as though I had just finished a picnic in the park with sandwiches, juice boxes and the person I love. Content to just be without extravagance. The Giant Mechanical Man is not extravagant, like a picnic on a yacht with wine and candles. Watch it (only for free) as you fold laundry, and remind yourself why you are happy with the cards you were dealt; and if you are not, then go find your giant mechanical man.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Note on Expectations...

It is often difficult for me to describe movies to you without giving away what makes them so good (or bad, I suppose). I saw Bridesmaids alone, after it was nominated for a Golden Globe and after everyone on the planet told me how amazing it was. Let's just say I was unimpressed. However, if I saw it with a group of my friends before I really knew much about it, then perhaps I would have a different opinion. I'm a firm believer in expectations and atmosphere determining a large portion of how someone feels about a movie.

I hate reading the back of the movie case and even the back (or sometimes the inside sleeve) of the book. I find people who I trust and ask for recommendations. I hope to one day be that person to you. I have a friend who reads the last page of books before she starts them. And she looks up the end of every movie before she watches it. She even looks up who the Bachelor chooses before the season starts. I am clearly not this way. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I told a friend a pivotal character in the Harry Potter series died before he read that scene. I'm by no means advocating knowing endings (and certainly not advocating watching The Bachelor), but it brings to light how people respond to expectations.


With this blog, I try to give you things to look for while watching. I try and find the reason why the movie stood out enough for me to write about it. If it's absolutely not worth watching I will say so. I try not to set your expectations to an unreasonable level. If I succeed in writing a review, you will know how a film will make you feel before watching it, but not how it transpires.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Movie Break for TV

5 Quality Television Shows You Probably Haven't Seen... 
(in no particular order, they're all great) 

1. Quite Interesting (QI)
Where you can watch it: youtube.com
Why you probably haven't seen it: it's British
Clairometer: Mrs. Doubtfire 

It's the most intelligently funny quiz show out there. Hosted by Stephen Fry and features British comedians and actors. Not only will you laugh out loud but you will learn something.

2. Arrested Development 
Where you can watch it: netflix.com
Why you probably haven't seen it: it was canceled, due to lack of viewership (who knows why)
 Clairometer: Holly Golightly
 Maybe they didn't originate on AD, but it seems to have perfected quick flashbacks, holding the scene too long to become awkward, documentary-style filming and hilarious overacting. It's probably funniest and most well-written sitcom I've ever seen.

 3. Columbo 
Where you can watch it: netflix.com
Why you probably haven't seen it: it's from 1960
Clairometer: Ethel Thayer

To quote Emily Gilmore, I'm not as fascinated with forensic work as the rest of the country. This is detective work at its finest. It's not about poking dead bodies or determining which angle they fell off a bridge with equipment that no detectives would have funds to use unless it was the murder of JFK. It's simply a man, his dopy car, his pipe and his mind. It stands the test of time beautifully (apart from the sexism).
Don't underestimate Columbo, like all of his suspects do!

4. The Inbetweeners
Where you can watch it: netflix.com and youtube.com
Why you probably haven't seen it: it's British
Clairometer: Jenny Curran

Ok, so it's immature, stupid and perverted, but it's hilarious. But do beware, it's not for everyone. It makes me very glad I was never a teenage boy in England.

5. Important Things with Demetri Martin

Where you can watch it: netflix.com
Why you probably haven't seen it: there are only  12 22-minute episodes, and canceled due to lack of viewership. (again, who knows why)
Clairometer: Mathilda

Demetri Martin marches to the beat of his own comedy drum. If I had to describe the show, it's like if George Carlin dropped out of law school and joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory - all with a handy dandy large legal pad.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts (2012)
Starring: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Allison Janney, Richard Jenkins, Zac Efron
Written and Directed by: Josh Radnor

My Rating: 6.6/10
Worth: On Demand/DVD rental, 2 hours, 3/4 paying attention
Clairometer: Mathilda




Jesse: You think [college] is a prison? 
Peter: Any place you don't leave is a prison. 

"College was the best four years of my life." I hear this said frequently. But if you're a dorky dad you make the "best 6 years of my life joke." Perhaps people say this because it was their first look at freedom. Or perhaps for some, it's sex, drugs and rock and roll. Or perhaps people just tend to romanticize the past in general. Who really knows. Jesse, the main character is a man in his thirties unhappy with the current state of his life - like all of Josh Randnor's roles. He returns to his alma mater at his former professor's request to attend his retirement party. To say that he goes back to college isn't accurate. That phrase might lead you to think it's a Hangover-type film. He somewhat goes back to the classrooms of college and encounters a plethora of interesting characters - including Zac Efron's character in whom I still can't quite find the purpose. If you can, leave a comment and let me know. Jesse finds himself wanting to stay in college, where he thought anything was possible and he learned new and artistic things daily. But is it that he was so focused on the past that he did not life out his present? Living in the moment is a cliche for a reason, because we can be trapped by any place that we never leave - even if it's the past.

"You know [David Foster Wallace] said that the purpose of fiction is to combat loneliness. Although spending most of your time with an eleven-hundred page book tends to put a dent in your social life."

I've often wondered who is smarter: a person who is well-read or a person who is well-lived. As with any philosophical question posing two sides, the answer is finding a balance. But what happens when our tendency is to retreat and live out the lives of others through fiction? I fall prey to this desire far too many times. Do we revert to our pajamas and a good movie or book because that's what we like? Or because that's where we feel safe and we are afraid to be the leading ladies of our own lives? Liberal Arts is a good film, in that it challenges us to do both - that is, to read books, watch films and hear scores because they enlighten our souls; but also, to live today well. If you want to feel more intelligent, while you're sorting files or cleaning out your hard drive, this is the movie to watch.

"Grace, I realized, is neither time-nor place-dependent. All we need is the right soundtrack."

This film left me wanting to read a good book, put on Bach and contemplate the meaning of life. Good soundtracks can change your day. Liberal Arts challenges us to step away from the latest alternative band and play something that can be a score to the film that is our present life. Who decides that that particular Indie band is good? Who decides what is good taste? Zibby, Elizabeth Olsen's character, challenges us to answer "ourselves" to those questions. Read something because it's fun. Listen to something because of the way it makes you feel. Don't be weighted down by the thought that someone might flip through your iPod and see Sister Hazel. Don't jump at the chance to toss the phrase "guilty pleasure" around. Embrace the things you enjoy and stand by them because they are what make you unique. 

But what would Jesse say to this? Taste is taste, some people have it and others don't. People like Jesse might never find joy in discovering his own brand of the arts. And people like Zibby might never be quite as knowledgeable. But I ask you, who will have the better life?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Seven-Year Itch

The Seven-Year Itch (1955)
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell
Written by: Billy Wilder, George Axelrod
Directed by: Billy Wilder

My Rating: 4.2/10
Worth: watch Some Like It Hot or Sabrina
instead
Clairometer: Ethel Thayer





 This movie proves that just because it's old or considered a "classic" does not mean it's even remotely good. The first noticeably painful part that perpetuates throughout the entire film is Tom Ewell's incredibly annoying narration. It gives the impression of a bad high school play where the main character is buying time while he remembers his lines. Awkward can't even begin to describe the monologues. He tells you when he's going to smoke, eat, shower, leave for work, and go to bed. Perhaps if it were Carey Grant dressed in a tux telling me what he's doing as he does it, I might enjoy it.  But it's not. It's Tom Ewell, dressed as an accountant fiddling with toast and cigarettes. 

The Girl: "I think it's just elegant to have an imagination. I just have no imagination at all. I have lots of other things, but I have no imagination."

Lots of other things is right. While I will leave my Marilyn rant to another post, The Itch shows her at the height of her fake persona. Her character deflates the reputation of both sexes involved. Her naivete embarrasses every woman, while men should be embarrassed at its portrayal of a pair of legs making her stupidity seem attractive. Her character's name: The Girl. One might hope Billy was going for a Drive-style anonymity, but don't count on it. It just shows how little her personality matters that no one even asks her name. Her presence is clearly for visual purposes. I have no evidence, but the phrase "dumb blonde" was either coined or highly perpetuated by her performance.

The Girl: "When it gets hot like this, you know what I do? I keep my undies in the icebox!"

The premise is Summer. It can literally be summed up in one word. She needs air conditioning so she flirts with the world's dullest bumbling suspendered man to cool off and use his. Wives go away in the summer (apparently) like they're off to camp, leaving the husbands at home to be tempted by secretaries and new neighbors. At least the film shows society's progression in the past 60 years. 

I have clearly established the unlikable main (and nearly only) characters but at least there's changes in venue right? Wrong. It technically takes place in Manhattan. But never has a sound stage been more obvious. Three quarters of The Itch takes place within one room. Now by no means am I stage expert, but I have heard of a little thing called blocking. Being limited to mostly one room to shoot does make blocking quite difficult, however, there should be natural reasons to change positions. Facing one direction to look at a picture, changing chairs to get closer to the air conditioning, going to the kitchen to get a snack. There were no reasons for movement, just two people floating about looking in all directions. It felt like the improve sketch where one person has to be standing and one has to be sitting and one has to be lying down - with out all the laughs. 

The Girl: "This is what they call classical music isn't it? I could tell because there's no vocals."

You're probably now wondering, why even a 4.2? Ewell's character has very vivid fantasies. These were funny. These were typical Billy Wilder scenes and the reason I made it through the entire movie. I found myself rooting for his wife in his fantasies, wanting her to be with someone less neurotic. I wanted his fantasies to pan out for a quicker end to the movie. Reiterating a previous point, just watch Sabrina or Some Like It Hot if you want a quality 50's film to enjoy.