Things I Love Thursday

Bit of a brief one because still sorta jetlagged and the words aren’t coming so well….

Travel travel travel, it’s good good good fun!

Street art!




Love this, saw Hank Green speak at xoxo and I wanted to check out some of his videos. This one is beautiful and deep:

Honourable Mentions: sharing candy from the States, watching movies, the new TV series Gotham, crafting, my wonderful darling girlfriend, new clothes which are comfy and warm and well made, people who make me laugh, new music, old music and playing on tumblr.

Retro tunes, Cherry Coloured Funk ~ Cocteau Twins

Batman (1989)

Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Sam Hamm, story by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren and how cool are those names? I want a name that rhymes, holy crow.
(number 458)

This movie was huge when it was released. I mean.. super massive Batmania. There was this huge fad at my primary school for the trading cards, mostly the boys collected them but I did too because I’ve been a Batnerd since I was nine, apparently. You got like, 5 cards and a stick of mostly tasteless pink gum. I remember that Vicky Vale was a reallllly common card and was therefore deemed sort of worthless. In addition I’m pretty sure Prince’s Batdance song was number one on the charts for pretty much a year.

Prince was apparently specially commissioned for a bunch of the soundtrack of this film, and I found it really jarring on this rewatch. For the record, I watched this film at the tail end of my recent flight from Los Angeles, so I may have been more grumpy at it than is strictly reasonable. But I have to say that you’re watching the Burton styled Gotham with the Danny Elfman mood music and then it cuts to Prince and you’re just like, what?

The retro styling of this movie cannot be faulted though, it led straight into the Batman Animated series which was flawless in it’s gorgeous art deco, retro America grimy look. The men all wear hats and well, the women have massive shoulder pads and incredible eighties fashion but that’s cool too.

I caught a very nice bit of CGI, where Batman watches some villainy from the rooftops. Sweeping cape and all, very nice. In fact the opening sequence is a very nice fakeout because you think you’re seeing Bruce’s origin story, but actually Batman swings in and prevents the tragedy repeating. Very clever.

My main problem with these two early Batman movies by Burton is that Batman is pretty free with the violence, and I’m pretty sure he kills baddies. Now, this isn’t a huge problem unless you know the Batman mythology/comics and know how very set against killing Bruce is. I mean, it goes against his everything. So, that grates me. But I put it aside and paid attention to the rest of the film because it’s been years since I saw it and I didn’t remember very much.

I like that Billy Dee Williams is there as Harvey Dent, it would have been nice to see his story play out in a later film.

The Dark Knight is in the list, higher up, so I know I’m going to talk about the genius of people playing the Joker again but I do think Jack Nicholson’s performance here has been somewhat forgotten. He is flawless, even as Jack Napier – mobster, he has a knowing drawl and an utter ruthlessness about him. Once he becomes the Joker he has an obsession with appearances, hiding Smilex in beauty and hygiene products so that people who want to look good ultimately look like him, and die. Clever form of revenge, but he also uses beauty and ugliness interchangeably and takes pleasure in destroying fine works of art in the excellent art museum sequence.

Kim Basinger is also wonderful in this film, although her plucky, demanding reporter does eventually fall into Damsel in Distress territory which is annoying. Her amazing 80s styling cannot be faulted though, from the massive shoulder pads to the sheer black tights with pointy flats to the size of her hair, it’s all gorgeousness.

I did notice on this rewatch the amount of subtle references to clowns, you see a police officer slip on a banana peel for example. Eckhart is a pretty clear parallel of the excellent comic character Det Harvey Bullock, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just call him Bullock but whatever.

In this film the Joker is a statement on corruption – being betrayed by the boss who’s meant to look out for you. Gotham has always had stories of corruption but it’s interesting here because later on Joker became both pure chaos/anarchy or the mirror image of Batman. I don’t see those themes here as strongly although they are hinted at.

The movie fits in a lot of the Batman tropes, we have the difficult balance between Batman and Bruce Wayne, his desire to have someone close to him and then push them away and the villain having an inextricable tie to Batman himself. Plus, revenge for the death of the Waynes, everything being connected.

I found the climactic chase and action sequence a bit on the dull side but a large part of that will be because it was getting to the end of the 12 hour flight back from Los Angeles as I watched it.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, Keaton’s Wayne is rather geeky and loveable in this film and I actually really enjoyed Knox in this film. Vicky is interesting and fun but she’s maybe too much of a stereotype for the Batman ladies to feel her as a complex human character.

Knox actually has a very Jimmy Olsen-ish role in the film, he doesn’t get the girl he likes but he tries his best all the same, working hard and even taking a baseball bat to the masked villains during the smilex gas release sequence. Kinda bad ass.

Bechdel test: No, there’s Vicky and Alicia and they’re even in a scene together, but they talk through the Joker, with Vicky asking ‘why is she wearing a mask?’ directing it to the Joker rather than Alicia herself. So close, so close and yet so far away.

Best line: Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?

State of Mind: Nostalgia aside, this is a good, solid Bat-film. There’s a good blend of action and silliness. It’s a better movie than I remembered it being, and a pretty good plane movie. I am upset at the way Batman ensures the Joker’s death though, which is a huge drama in the comics (why don’t you just kill him?) and something Batman is tormented over, because he would never kill.

Also the canned laughter playing over Joker’s dead body is truly horrifying.

Watched movie count

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Dog Day Afternoon
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Frank Pierson, based on an article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore and a book by Leslie Waller although apparently the screenplay was extensively workshopped and a lot of the lines were improvised by the actors and accepted by the director.
(number 443)

Al Pacino plays Sonny, the leader for a rag tag group who rob a bank very poorly. He looks just like a Beatle in Hard Day’s Night, and everything goes wrong in a rather entertaining way.

The cinematography is amazing, like a snapshot of the city of New York in the seventies. It’s all based on a true story, apparently. It’s pretty intense, and the level of failure on Sonny’s side makes it believable that it’s true.

The movie deals with a lot of big issues, the effects of pressure on a person, the effect of media on a situation, capitalism, gay rights and a mob – the importance of winning the mob over to your side and the power of that. It’s very powerful when Sonny starts chanting Attica! Attica! and when he gets the police to holster their guns, with the crowd cheering for him.

Unlike movies of a similar story made more recently. probably since the late 90ns, there’s a lot of people talking at the same time. Sonny and the police negotiator yell over each other and it makes it feel very real. In more modern movies you’re much more likely to get gravelly voiced dudes saying their lines with a lot of forced intensity in quick cuts back and forth which are easy to follow. I think the shouting and confusion heightens the drama and makes it feel more real.

Does it make me love the people? You are definitely rooting for Sonny, he’s trying to do something and he’s in over his head for sure. Plus, he’s a bisexual who clearly loves his boyfriend enough to rob a bank for him! Not that they ever use the term bisexual. It’s used briefly as ‘shocking’ news on the TV coverage, but the characters we actually know in the film are mostly not fazed by it, which is refreshing. Sonny’s behaviour doesn’t really change once he’s outed, and he’s not depicted as any more or less of a decent person, which was hugely refreshing, and I suspect was kind of shocking for the time. The conversation between Sonny and his lover are quite heart breaking.

Sonny is especially moving in the scene in which he dictates his will to one of the hostages, his face bleak and his voice somewhat defeated. He expresses his love for his female wife and for his pre-op trans wife as well.

I also loved Sylvia, the head teller. She was hilarious and stoic and stubborn, speaking out again and again.

Bechdel test: Yes, Sylvia to a number of the other named women hostages at various points.

Best line:
“Out of the closet, into the streets!”

but perhaps more relevant to current state of affairs in America…

Sonny: [notices other officers moving toward him] What is he doing?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [shouts at officers] Will you get back there!
Sonny: What are you moving in there for?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [runs toward closing officers] Will you get the fuck back there! Get back there will you!
Sonny: [to the other officers moving toward him] What’s he doing? Go back there man! He wants to kill me so bad he can taste it! Huh? ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA!

State of Mind: D: In a similar line to Blow Out, I really enjoyed the style of this film, it’s a really different form of movie making to the action films of today. I love the attention to character, and the weirdness of the crowd outside. The way the people involved would mug for the cameras of the media and the crowd, but the ending was pretty sad. I’d probably watch it again though…

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

❤ Travel! I am in America right now. It's only my second time visiting and I was pleased with how much I remembered about San Fran, but disappointed in how poor my sense of direction is. My phone's GPS has been very handy, and I have been buying all the things. It's great.

jennitalula cable car selfie

❤ My best friend Sophie. Look, it's not that I was getting weird after a few days on my own in a big foreign city, it's just that it's good to have someone else to talk to. And she motivates me to do a bit more than I might otherwise. And she has brilliant ideas such as 'let's go to Baskin Robbins' or 'let's go to that Whiskey bar'.

❤ Postcards! I really love finding awesome postcards and buying them but then I don't always want to let them go to people back home. Because the postcards suddenly become mine. It's a bit of a problem, but on the up side I have bought lots of awesome postcards and people will receive some of them.

❤ Food. I've had remarkably good luck on this trip with food, yesterday I had a fantastic beef and cheese taco and some Texas BBQ pork ribs, in San Fran I was staying in Japantown and got some exceptional ramen. It's been delicious and for the most part, not fast foody.

❤ Books! I have located many a fine bookstore on this trip and managed to buy a book or two at most of them. This is less than ideal when it comes to repacking and travelling to another city but whatever, books are awesome and I'm excited about my purchases. Powell's City of Books is an exceptional place and I love it there. It was in fact, overwhelming with its size and selection, but I loved that about it. I may have to go back and buy the tote bag with the 'Perks of being a wallflower' quote on it.

Honourable Mentions: skype so I can keep in touch with my lovely while I'm over here, getting IDed nearly every time I buy alcohol, comfy T shirts, new socks, being horizontal in a comfy bed after a long haul flight, deep talks over rye and bourbon, lovely friendly Americans and looking forward to XOXO starting tonight!

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

A Hard Day’s Night
Directed by Richard Lester
Written by Alun Owen
(number 413)

a Mocu-musical? A faux-day in the life? Hard Day’s night follows the Beatles as they travel by train, have shenanigans and then hang about at home, and then they hang about in a TV studio, cause shenanigans and then appear on TV and then fly off at the end. It’s not like it has a die hard story or character development, it’s the Beatles messing about and being lads.

It started with the terribly famous and oft-imitated ‘running from fans’ sequence, lots of visual jokes, hiding behind newspapers and in photo booths, etc. It felt like I’d seen it a million times already but of course I’ve only seen the imitations.

Blair found it hard to take their ‘bad reps’ seriously because they were dressed so nicely in suits, and I found it hard to take their bad reps seriously because their idea of being rebellious was to go into a field and run about pretending to be planes and falling over. It was definitely a different time!

That said it was pretty funny. There were lots of good little jokes, and I especially liked the bits where George got mistaken for a male model and Ringo wandering around all forlorn by the riverside and making friends with a kid. I read that Ringo didn’t have to act much to look so sad and pathetic, because he was nursing a nasty hangover.

The songs felt mostly pasted in, but I guess you get that with movies about pop groups. Blair made a good quip about how they must have had to pay a lot for using Beatles music in the soundtrack. It is interesting to me how very protected and hard to get the Beatles tunes are, you can’t access them on spotify or grooveshark for example. But I don’t have anything terribly interesting to say about that beyond pointing it out.

Does it make me love the people? Sure, they’re pretty adorable. It’s not very deep though! and it feels very much like a carefully designed ‘angle’ on the boys, rather than showing who they really are. Another big bit of marketing for them.

Bechdel test: Named female characters? Noooooooo….

Best line:
George: What’s the matter with you, then?
Ringo: It’s his grandfather. I can tell he doesn’t like me. It’s cause I’m little.
George: Ah, you’ve got an inferiority complex, you have.
Ringo: Yeah, I know, that’s why I play the drums – it’s me active compensatory factor.

State of Mind: I can see that Spice World was a 90s remake of this film. Also George is now my favourite Beatle. I probably will watch it again, maybe just to see if there’s something about it which I missed, because I kind of didn’t grok this movie that much.

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

Has anyone noticed how freaking beautiful the weather‘s been lately? I mean, Wellington has had day after day of calm, blue skies and warm sunshine. If this is how Spring is gonna be then I am a very happy panda about it.

I’m still sick, like, recovering I guess is taking quite a while, but I am enjoying slowly noticing improvements in my health, like.. I got through this whole week without a day time nap! and also my head mostly doesn’t feel stuffed with cotton wool! And I’m coughing and sneezing less than I was ! Baby steps to wellness. Although I am being careful with myself and not pushing my energy beyond what I can handle. Which has basically meant super early to sleep all week, aw yeahhhhh

Great NZ interview with Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, creators of Night Vale. It’s funny and interesting and they have some great advice/thoughts on how to write and what makes things scary.

Travel! It is imminent! I am already off work and not due to return until September 22nd! I dunno how this happened so suddenly, is anyone able to tell me? OH GOD I’m going to America! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Honourable Mentions: Skyping my girl, clean sheets, soft Pjs, apple juice, hot chocolate from Gentleman’s Bean, new cellphone case, my pillow pet Toothless, good books, giving things to people who will use them, planning for the future, pay rise! and also weird ass dreams.

Pretty, old song which was on the True Detective soundtrack Train Song by Vashti Bunyan

Aaaaaand Lazy Harp Seal

To Have and Have Not (1944)

To Have and Have Not
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Jules Furthman and William Faulkner based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway
(number 425)

Starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart as a very sardonic and unflappable lounge singer and the captain of a small skiff on Martinique during the second world war. Marie is quickly nicknamed Slim for the rest of the film. The two of them ooze attitude all over the place in this gorgeous black and white classic.

According to wikipedia this is actually Lauren Bacall’s first film, so I can easily see why it’s included on the 500 list, although I didn’t find it terribly gripping.

Eddie is Steve’s drunkard first mate and supplies most of the comic relief in the movie, although the drunkenness is played for laughs he has some very good lines and you are concerned when he’s in danger. I know I made some indignant sounds at the tv when bad things were happening to him.

The story is pretty simple, I was sort of expecting something a bit more Casablanca-level epic, but it was straightforward, for money Steve agrees to help a French couple from the Resistance who are on the run getting them to Martinique and then hiding them, then transporting them safely off the island. Steve is a bit of a Han Solo character, doing the right thing ‘for the money’ and then stepping up to actually do the right thing for it’s own sake. He even shoots first in the big shoot out scene.

In fact the whole ‘smuggling of people’ is very Casablanca-esque, but it all felt a lot more contained. Scenes happened in a few smallish rooms rather than in the roomy, airy ones of Sam’s Americano cafe.

The real attraction to this movie, aside from the stunning way it’s filmed, is the interplay between Slim and Steve. The arch way they look at each other, the sardonic drawling euphemisms, the way she just calls him out on shit and inserts herself into his life apparently effortlessly. He certainly seems surprised that she does it, which makes me like her spunkiness.

Wikipedia also informs me that the William Faulkner on the script team is the ‘the’ Faulkner of The Sound and the Fury. He worked with Hawks and Hemmingway to adapt the novel to the screenplay, although apparently it is drastically changed.

Does it make me love the people? I adore Slim, so so much. Eddie is adorable, and I liked Steve a fair bit too. It’s hard to compare a character to Han Solo and then claim you didn’t like him, but he was pretty generic. It’s Slim who stays with you from this movie.

Bechdel test: Why yes, Slim and Madame Hellene de Bursac talk about who Slim is, before the surgery and about eggs after it. Amazing 🙂

Best line:
Marie: Who was that girl?
Steve: What girl?
Marie: The one who left you with such a high opinion of women. She must’ve been quite a gal….

State of Mind: Sort of ehhhhh. I mean it had a lot going for it but it just didn’t grip me as a whole. I’m sure if I’d watched it in a cinema with an ice cream in my hand I would have enjoyed it more. Maybe I should give it another go…

Watched movie count

Before Midnight (2013)

Before Midnight
Directed by Richard Linklater
According to imdb the characters are by Richard Linklater and Kim Krazan and the screenplay is by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
(number 483)

This is the only one in the trilogy which I had never seen before (9 years on from the last one). It opens with Ethan Hawke saying goodbye to the boy he said he had in the last movie, and I couldn’t help but try and make him the kid from Boyhood… it wasn’t, but I wanted it to be.

Celine, we learn straight off, (when we’re in the car with Jesse, Celine and their two beautiful blonde girls in the back,) is a lot more cynical than she used to be. Jesse is tired out, a family man who craves more of a connection to his son who lives in another country. Jesse has published two more books and that they are successful. Celine has become more politically active, and early on there’s a hard conversation where she insists this is the start of their relationship breaking up. I immediately had a NOOOOOOOOO reaction because I am so invested in the characters and I want them to be together.

The picturesque location of this movie is Greece, and it’s a beautiful, sun soaked landscape which Jesse has been invited to based on his writerly success. There’s a very upsetting sequence over dinner where Celine points out that what Jesse really wants is a bimbo, and she does an impression of a very Marilyn style girl – a vapid blonde who doesn’t know that Romeo and Juliet is a play. She is doing it to send him up, but the bad thing is that he immediately says “why am I finding myself to attracted to this woman?” and confirms her point.

It flows on to a story from two of the other couples, the difference between masculine and feminine – every woman coming out of a coma would ask about the other people; was anyone else hurt? etc. The men without exception would look down to check their cock was still there. It’s told as a humourous anecdote and the conversation about masculine and feminine are compared and contrasted. It’s a very binary conversation, and it’s a very heteronormative one. I find it uncomfortable to watch conversations about breaking up or how people are too different to stay together. Although there is a lovely line at the end of there “It’s not the love of one other person that matters, it’s the love of life.”

This is all important backdrop and set up for the second part of the movie where Celine and Jesse go off alone together, wander through some beautiful landscape and talk and talk. But this is also where the movie became very uncomfortable for me. As someone who has been through the breakup of a long term, committed relationship a lot of the conversation was horrifyingly familiar. Maybe not the exact content, but the atmosphere of it, the arguments, the people sticking to one point of view and trying so hard to get the other person to see what they mean. Making jokes at inappropriate times. The shit storm of recriminations and bringing up of old hurts and sudden revelations.

It was painful, and that shows how cleverly crafted the script, the characters and the acting all is, because it was tapping into something deeply real. My heart hurt for Celine and Jesse and the investment I feel for them made me want to stop the film so I could write the ending in a happy way inside my head.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. Always. Linklater really gets my need to have movies that make me love humans. And of course, that love is what makes this movie so incredibly hard to watch.

I found the ending problematic mostly because I felt like there was an explicit element of Celine ‘giving in’. The points she had been making were valid – it’s not fair for Jesse to suddenly uproot all of their lives for a shitty situation in Chicago, and his continual assertions that she was crazy, emotional and irrational dismissed her points and made them irrelevant. It’s something that is even addressed in the dialogue, however he never backs down from his assertion of her craziness – he even states it as a thing he adores about her right at the end, winning her back, and she accepts this. At the very end she goes back into the ‘bimbo’ character, so show that she’s coming around to him again, that maybe things will be fine, and that’s very upsetting to me because it’s taking away her personality and allowing it to be subsumed into what he wants. She’s reverting to a character she made to send him up, not to connect to him.

More than anything it felt like the movie’s narrative was agreeing with the assertions at the start of the film about the difference between masculine and feminine, that there’s no point trying to change who men are, and what that means (penis first, the world second). It also surrenders Celine’s arguments as just a function of her crazy French girl-ness, which is a problem for me who has always seen her as a complete character, a human being.

Bechdel test: Yes it does! Finally we have named female characters who aren’t Celine! Nina and Ella, the daughters talk to her (mostly in French) about apples, the ruins they wanted to visit and what to pick up in the store. Nice and early on too. Plus they also talk in the garden as well. Bliss. Little girls speaking French is just the most beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Best line:
Natalia: Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through

Celine: I feel close to you,
Jesse: Yeh?
Celine: but sometimes, I don’t know? I feel like you are breathing helium and I am breathing oxygen

State of Mind: Ouch. It was pretty, but I don’t know if I’ll watch it again any time soon. Curious to see the next one in 8 years and see what actually happened after that night because despite everything, it is ambiguous to me.

Watched movie count