Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Written by Michael Arndt
(number 406)

I have seen this movie I think only once before, at the cinema when it first came out. It’s a very Wes Anderson kind of film, a slow surreal slice of life about a kooky family. Richard is absolutely the worst character, he’s a self help speaker who brings his winner/loser talk home to his family to body shame his 7 year old daughter. Frank, played by Steve Carell is introduced as having just tried to kill himself, Toni Collette plays the harassed voice of reason. Abigail Breslin is stunning in her role as Olive, the would be beauty pageant queen. I want to say that it’s her breakout role but of course she had also been in Signs and a few other things. Paul Dano is probably my favourite character though, one of his few non-creepy roles as Dwayne, the teenage boy who is so emo he stopped talking.

Frank: Who is that? Nietzsche? So you stopped talking because of Friedrich Nietzsche? Far out.

please dont

Olive’s fascination with the beauty pageant is pretty understated – the talk about ice cream, and her later following up with her grandfather about how afraid she was of failing and letting her father down, in fact of her father hating her is sort of concluded in two ways; she speaks to Miss California and has it confirmed that she can eat ice cream and also in the pageant itself where she is the ‘normal’ girl performing against actual pageant contestants to highlight how made up, coiffed and highly trained they all are. Her little girl puppy fat is shown to be the weird odd one out, but also definitely the one we’re meant to see as normal and healthy. This is subverted pretty intensely when her talent proves to be totally inappropriate and adult.

I’m not entirely sure what point this is meant to be saying except that maybe it doesn’t actually matter. If Olive can compete as is in the beauty pageant and strut her stuff with her family cheering her on, maybe it doesn’t matter if she loses or what beauty even is.

Dwayne sums is up nicely: ‘Life is one beauty contest after another… you do what you love and fuck the rest.’

Does it make me love the people?

It does. I still find it hard to like Richard at all, but I think this is the role I enjoy Steve Carell in the most. He’s a senstive, emotional gay man who pays attention to the emotional teenage boy, who listens to him and understands him in a way that no one else in his family even tries to.

I feel a lot of love for Dwayne and Sheryl as well. Olive is generally not so much a realised character, or the Grandfather – they’re more caricatures. But that said, Olive is the driving force of the movie and also the binding glue of the family. When Dwayne breaks down over being colour blind Olive is the one who comforts him and convinces him to come back into the bus.

Bechdel test: Yes, Olive and Sheryl talk several times, one example is when Olive asks how much they can spend at the diner and Sheryl replies about $4. There are other instances dotted all over the film though. Also Sheryl talks on the phone to Cindy about the Little Miss Sunshine pageant and Olive.

Best line:
Richard: Sarcasm is the refuge of losers.
Frank: [sarcastically] It is? Really?
Richard: Sarcasm is losers trying to bring winners down to their level.
Frank: [sarcastically] Wow, Richard, you’ve really opened my eyes to what a loser I am. How much do I owe you for those pearls of wisdom?
Richard: Oh, that ones on the house.

State of Mind: I actually kind of, yeah I love this movie. I totally get how it wouldn’t be everyone’s taste and it probably goes darker than it strictly needs to for the sake of the story but eh. I ultimately really like these characters. Maximum cringe at the pageant sequence though.

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

This tree is full of sparrows

This tree is full of sparrows

Spring!There’s flowers and blossoms and lambs and calves in the park at the end of our road. It’s brighter in the mornings and it’s not as cold and I am generally very happy about all this.

jennitalula blossom

Anna because she is cute, funny, clever, beautiful, talented and kind. I’m so glad I moved in with her ❤

There's a website called menulog and it tells you all the restaurants which will deliver to you. Thanks to that website Anna and I got delicious curry for dinner last night. I like food that comes to the door.

Studio Ghibli movies. Anna and I watched The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness documentary and we got inspired to watch all the Ghibli in our collection. We’re watching alphabetically and have got to Spirited Away, plus I just got copies of the Wind Rises and Princess Kaguya which will be fun to watch.

Honourable Mentions: Lovely supportive friends, successful roleplaying with lots of laughs, pretty songs, overflowing with stories, getting things planned for travel to the States next week.

Under the Milky Way ~ The Church

Make You Better ~ The Decemberists

Days of Heaven (1978)

Days of Heaven
Directed and written by Terrance Mallik
(number 421)

This is a weird movie. It’s kind of boring, it’s kind of predictable, it’s a little inscrutable and it has one of the least appealing narrators I’ve ever encountered. Abby, as played by Brooke Adams, is a drawling judgemental little girl who’s been adopted by Linda and Bill as they all roam homeless and looking for work in the dustbowl during the depression. It was hard to get a read on her as a character, which made it hard to relate or particularly care about the story she was ostensibly telling.

Richard Gere and Linda Manz carry the film as Bill and Linda, who decide to stay on at a very pretty farm so that she can marry the sickly farmer and they can inherit his money. Only just because a man’s sick doesn’t mean he’s gonna die really soon, does it? I found the tenderness between Linda and the Farmer kind of sweet actually.

The costume and set design was really lush, I loved the farmhouse. Every time there was a loving shot of it I was just gazing with hearts in my eyes like ‘waaaaaant’. Although I could do without the isolation of being in the middle of the fields/prairie/whatever that was. There was lots of nice landscape photography as well.

Is there anything creepier than the sequence with all the grasshoppers though? it was making my skin itch an crawl just listening to them, and all I know about how bad it is when grasshoppers land on a crop from reading the Little House books… I didn’t need the long drawn out sequence to know how bad it was. Eurgh.

Does it make me love the people? Ehhhh. I liked Linda I suppose, I found her the easiest to relate to for sure. She reminded me a lot of Parker Posey, and I enjoy her low gravelly voice quite a lot. She’s compelling to watch too, especially graceful when she dances.

I thought poor old ‘The Farmer’ Sam Shepherd was pretty hard done by, he’s pretty dishy and all, and he means well. I feel sad that the Farmer doesn’t even get a name. Is it meant to be an exaggeration of the class difference? Is it a way to force the character from the limelight? Because to me he’s a fully realised, sympathetic character in a crappy situation so I guess if Terrance really didn’t want us to empathise with him this is how it could be done. I still empathised with him, it’s hard not to when he’s described like “Wasn’t no harm in him. You’d give him a flower, he’d keep it forever.” Like, what a sweet guy!

Bechdel test: Yes, Linda and Abby talk lots times about random stuff – where they’re from, what a cigarette is, etc etc.

Best line:
Linda: Nobody’s perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just have half-angel and half-devil in you.

State of Mind: I’m not too sure why this is on the 500 list, it was pretty enough but I feel like there’s better examples of pretty much everything this film does. Yes, we get that life was hard back then, yes it’s very sad to love someone who loves someone else, but generally I didn’t enjoy it and I doubt I’ll watch it again.

Watched movie count

Things I love Thursday

Getting sick again is less than ideal, but I’m taking heart in knowing it’s not as bad as the sickness I had a couple of months back and pretty sure I only need the one day off work, so that’s something.

Spring is near! The days are getting longer, the cows in the park have calves, there are daffodils and tree blossoms popping up all around. It makes the spate of morning car frosts easier to cope with, really looking forward to it being Summer again.

Lego building !

jennitalula jokerland

Anna and me watched some foodie movies on the weekend – Julie and Julia and Chef, and then Anna got determined to recreate the grilled cheese like you see in Chef. This is awesome because it means grilled cheeses, and also because she’s got it down. We had amazing Anna made grilled cheeses for dinner.

Honourable Mentions: Anna <3, hot ribena, office dog pats, visits to the Chocolate Boutique in Parnell, craft, finishing books, getting work done on my manuscript, laughing at the notes being so very spot on, friends and ghost stories.

Maybe it's because I can feel Spring coming but I've been seeking out new music lately, here's some of my favourite picks:

Ghost Town ~ Adam Lambert

Unbroken ~ Bonnie Anderson

Golden ~ Travie McCoy featuring Sia

Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo
Directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Written by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds based on a story by Andrew Stanton.
(number 416)

I first saw this movie in a preview screening at Weta theatre in Miramar with Svend. I remember being very excited that all the drinks, snacks and popcorn were free to take and I ate a lot of candy and popcorn. Afterwards we had a big argument in the car over whether the seagulls were saying ‘mate’ (everyone else’s stance) or ‘mine’ (my stance) and it took ages to get it resolved because it was a pre-release preview and no one else saw the film for ages.

Watching it again on a Sunday night for the first time in quite a while. First of all Pixar is horrible and emotionally manipulative. Like, right at the start of the film we have to deal with the death of Marlin’s wife and 399 of their kids. Then you have the trauma of Marlin being a paranoid father and freaking out over Nemo going to school and trying to fit in. Then Nemo is kidnapped in front of his panicking father. It’s rough!

Dory is not neurotypical, which is kind of really cool. It’s nice to have a non-neurotypical character which isn’t totally played for laughs. I mean, it is sort of a source of jokes, but you also get real emotional depth from Ellen’s performance. Especially when Marlin leaves her behind at the end.

The Nemo part of the film becomes a heist and the Marlin part of the film is a road trip. It’s a parallel which works pretty well given that they both have the same aim – to reunite father and son. Then once they are reunited there’s a pretty scary sequence with a fishing net on a boat and Marlin using Dory’s advice to just keep swimming to save them all.

Does it make me love the people? The fish, yes 🙂
I am a worrier, so I can relate to Marlin, although he does take it rather to extremes. Dory is sweet and funny and sincere, always ready to help someone out, although it is concerning how much poor treatment she just kind of ignores.

Bechdel test: Deb talks to her ‘sister’ Flo, but… that’s both just her? Does that count as a win? Pretty much every fish and marine animal Marlin and Dory encounter are males, which is kind of stupid. I mean, there’s gotta be female sea turtles out there, not sure why we couldn’t have had surfer chick as well as a surfer dude.

Best line: I’m very partial to ‘shark bait, ooh ha ha!’

but I think my absolute favourite is the songs Mr Ray the teacher sing to his class. I can’t easily find the lyrics online but they’re funny and I like them.

Nemo: Are you all right?
Dory: [exasperated] I don’t know where I am… I don’t know what’s going on. I think I lost somebody but I, I can’t remember… and I can’t remember…

State of Mind: Ooooowwwwwch. I do love this film but ooooooouuuch. Ultimately heartwarming yes. Keep swimming…

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

Visiting Wellington this last weekend, I made an effort to see as many people as possible, first at work meetings and party and then on Saturday morning with a tasty brunch at Mama Brown’s, then family catch ups, hanging with Luke and Sam and on Sunday, catching up with the old Sunday Monster of the Week crew for a game before flying home. It was really awesome to see so many people, and get all the catch ups but man I was tired when I got home. Anyway, I love my friends!

jennitalula photos

I love Anna, because coming home to her on Sunday night was really good and I felt myself get calm in a way I didn’t quite manage over the weekend.

Animals, by Bob Fossil on the Mighty Boosh

Honourable Mentions: Comics are good right now, roleplaying, vegetarian lasagne, watching The Voice, heaters, hotel rooms, new Blu-Rays, random impromptu shopping, fresh new white T shirts, hanging out and watching movies, umbrella keeping the rain off me and keeping the lounge relatively clean.

A blast from the past, Daft Bodies with Faster, better faster, stronger

Cruel and Beautiful World ~ Grouplove

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead
Directed by George A. Romero
Written by John Russo and George Romero
(number 402)

I didn’t particularly expect to enjoy this movie, but I was surprised by how watchable it is. I mean, maybe it’s not so surprising given the following it has and it being, as it is, the granddaddy of so many zombie movies. Independent, and obviously so, set as it is in just two places pretty much. Watching it reminded me of attending the Incredibly Strange Film Festival, and I kept seeing scenes which I recognised from the homages in other movies I’ve seen.

I spotted Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Cabin in the Woods and 28 Days Later moments, echoes of this gorgeous black and white movie. The script is rich with interesting characterisation, cutting jokes and twists which I am sure were shocking at the time and have now become cliche. The little girl, for example, her wound was a Chekhov’s gun from the moment they said she was sick.

Does it make me love the people? I really loved Ben, not sure I cared at all about any of the others apart from Tom. The women were generally useless, which wasn’t particularly a surprise. I had hoped from the start of the film that Barbara would be the ‘strong girl’ horror lead, but I’m okay with Ben, the token black character being the bad ass lead instead. I totally predicted what would happen to him though…

The thing that I think I loved the absolute most though was the explanation for why the dead were walking. Radiation from a satellite that orbited Venus. Yep, that’s some solid backstory right there. Love it. Of course that does tie into radiation fears from nuclear power/atomic bombs I suppose.

Bechdel test: Yes, it passes! There’s a scene with Judy, Helen and Karen in the cellar. Ellen asks how Karen has been, Judy replies that she hasn’t spoken, they speak for a few more lines. (‘They need you upstairs’ ‘okay’ kind of stuff) and Karen responds to her mother about how she is in pain.

Best line:
Field Reporter: Are they slow-moving, chief?
Sheriff McClelland: Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.

Helen Cooper: We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn’t going to solve anything.

State of Mind: I enjoyed that way more than I thought I would, especially since almost all of the zombie based nightmares I have are about trying to board up windows and doors and keep out zombies. I am sad that Ben didn’t survive but not surprised.

Watched movie count

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Lethal Weapon
Directed by Richard Donner
Written by Shane Black
(number 423)

I expect I have seen bits of this movie before, I mean, I feel like it has been on tv so many times I must have right? But I remembered nothing about it and didn’t know what happened. I watched it with Anna and with visiting Blair on a Sunday after a delicious brunch.

I thought that this movie was mostly a comedy so I found it pretty harsh. Mel Gibson’s character starts the film Martin literally suicidal with grief. It’s rough, seeing him attempt suicide and then decide against it – for now. On the one hand yeah, it sets up why his character is reckless and careless but on the other hand its very dark.

In fact there’s a lot of darkness. Both of the lead characters are tortured, they both kill a bunch of people, it’s rough and nasty and every now and then there’s funny bits. We enjoyed laughing at the 80s hair and clothes, though.

I found the story somewhat not very challenging, like it’s a mystery which we know from the start isn’t what it seems. The big conspiracy to get drugs into the States seems a bit overdramatic, although I guess it’s possible that at that time drugs did need a big conspiracy? I felt pretty meh about it.

Does it make me love the people? Like.. I dunno, sorta? I love a buddy cop movie and Danny and Mel have some great chemistry, lots of quick quips and stuff. But I couldn’t get very invested in the story. What I loved was the footage of 80s Los Angeles, spotting places I might have been near or driven through.

Bechdel test: Not that I noticed. The only named female characters who appeared in scenes with other women were Roger’s wife and kids and I don’t think we saw them talking particularly to each other, just to Roger. Happy to be corrected here, but relatively sure that the women only talk to the men or about the men.

Best line:
Martin: You don’t trust me at all, do you?
Roger: Well, I’ll tell you what. You make it through tomorrow without killing anybody, especially me, or yourself, then I’ll start trusting you.
Martin: Fair enough.

State of Mind: Yeah like, it’s fine. I’m not sure it’s the most important buddy cop move out there and I’m pretty sure it’s not game changing or ground breaking. I suspect this one got on the list because of a bunch of people’s affectionate nostalgia. I get that, that’s why I watch stuff like Princess Bride or Scent of a Woman, but it doesn’t make it one of the greatest 500 movies of all time. I don’t find comedy and wholesale killings really go hand in hand, but I know lots of people aren’t bothered by it, hence the success of movies like Red and the Expendables, etc. It’s just not my thing.

Watched movie count