An important lesson is learned about always watching a trailer before seeing a film.
Not to say this film was bad. Just that I walked in expecting to see a chick flick with lots of people coming to terms with stuff and instead got a documentary designed to make me feel guilty for living in a 1st world country and for being a man.
As an extremely regular movie goer I have memberships to pretty much every theater reward program out there. Typically this gets me cheap popcorn and the occasional free movie ticket but a couple weeks ago it spat out a free pass to see this movie. I am if nothing else cheap, and giving me a free pass to a new screening is akin to waving the red flag in front of the bull (although I will admit on the rare occasion that I see a film for free or early I tend to start of more kindly disposed to the film (to any Hollywood marketing firms out there that was a less than subtle hint)).
Girl Rising is a documentary about the importance of educating girls and young women in third world hell holes. As a marketing tool I will have to say it is shockingly effective as I am now an advocate for this. No joke I am going to try to scrape together a few ducats and send it to the charity behind this thing (and if you knew how I live you would understand what that means. My life savings is in t-shirts right now and my business is not exactly capable of doing more that buying me the occassional quesadilla from Burrito Ole’.) Showing real people in real situations is always more impactful than all the fake tears and stuntmen Hollywood can through at us, and when those real people are cute little girls from across the globe it will pull at your heartstrings with monster truck force.
During the course of this film I felt a wide gamut of emotions. I felt fear for a couple of the girls who were honestly in danger, rage and helplessness in the face of others who were raped or sold (if you don’t feel an urge to punch the first six men you come across after listening to a 12 year old Egyptian girl talk about being raped and then married off a year later you are not human. Feel free to leave the planet by the quickest method available), and happiness and exaltation for the girls who managed to succeed and excel through education. I have spent most of my life pretending to be Spock emotionally (DJ Spock image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirt category) but this film blasted through my defenses like a bullet train through a paper towel fence.
The overriding message is that educating girls in Third World countries is an extremely powerful tool for helping not only the girls themselves but the world in general. Educating girls will grossly benefit the countries GNP, cut down immensely on rape, human trafficking, death from childbirth, overpopulation, and reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS. This is all in addition to the massive personal benefit to the girls in question. It shows this presenting short vignettes about 9 different girls from 9 different countries. Some of them are stories of girls finding an education in spite of the cultural and economic issues facing them. These are the happy stories. Others are about girls who can’t get an education due (and in some cases it is illegal for them to do so) and the horrible things that happen or face them because of that. Each vignette is followed by very interesting statistics on how education can benefit these girls.
I was going to give a quick rundown on each of the girls but halfway through it decided one sentence descriptions does not do them the justice the deserve. I will just say it’s worth your time to see each one, even if some of them will have you clawing your own face off in frustration.
I am not going to bother with my usual stars/black holes rating system. I called this blog a review for lack of a more descriptive term but this film can’t be reviewed by normal means. It is not a traditional film. Is it powerful? Yes. Will you want to do something at the end of it? Yes. Will you feel good afterward? Depends on which story you want to focus on, but knowing that for every positive one there are probably thousands of negative ones probably not. Not all movies are about feeling good.
The part of this film that I had the hardest time was waiting for the denouement. As a patron of the Hollywood movie set I spent most of the movie waiting for Jason Stratham to break in with a sub machine gun and rescue each of them but you know what? That sort of hero doesn’t exist in real life. The actual heroes are regular people like you and me who take a stand and do what is within our means. I don’t usually do this sort of thing but I invite each one of you to visit Girl Rising, the website of the organization that put this film together, and do whatever you can to help. If you have money send money. If you don’t then try to watch the film or social media the crap out of them. Facebook, Twitter, whatever it is you kids are doing these days to get the word out. I am not much of a social activist and I hate this Jerry’s Kid’s style telethon BS intensely but if you saw this film you would understand why I now care (and if you know me you know how little I care about almost anything). Please do what you can.
I always say thanks for reading at the end of my blogs, but this time really thank you for reading. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments on this cause or movie can be put here and off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you again.
Extremely Depressing and Incredibly Painful
I am going to start this review with a lesson from my upcoming book “How to Make Movies that Don’t Suck”. The lesson is this: no matter how good the story, acting, direction, filming, or editing is, if you make the movie about 9-11 then the biggest American tragedy of the 21st century is going to overwhelm the story and plot in a depressing gloom and actually annoy the hell out of your audience. It’s like if you set out the world’s finest buffet table, with sushi, caviar, and all the best foods possible, set it out on a table covered with flowers, fine china, and a silk tablecloth, but then dead center put a big platter of dog feces. No matter how good the food may be, the very fact that it sat on a table with dog crap is going to put a lot of people off even touching it. Furthermore, when someone looks at your beautiful buffet their eyes will be drawn to the crap in the middle and they will want to look away. Some people might start on one end of the buffet and not notice the dog crap until halfway through, but as soon as they see it the food they have collected will end up left untouched on the credenza, while others will have been chased from the room by the smell wafting through the air alone.
Thus we come to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a movie about a troubled kid dealing with his dad dying on 9-11. I am not actually saying that this movie is the greatest buffet of all time except for the dog crap salad at the center. It has plenty of other issues, most related to pacing, but I can see what director Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot, The Reader) was trying to accomplish. However, it does have elements that in a movie without the dog crap centerpiece would have made for an excellent cinema experience.
The funny thing is at first I thought this movie was treating 9-11 as a main issue without forcing the audience to sit through it, to it’s benefit. The death of the father was related via expository scenes rather than footage of the Twin Towers falling. However, as the movie progresses through a never ending Vortex of Flashbacks we are subjected to everything from that day I never wanted to see or hear about again. I don’t even want to talk about it here. I watched all that stuff live on TV and still get the chills.
The story is basically As Good as it Gets meets Stand by Me set in the City of Lost Children. Tom Hanks plays super dad to his highly intelligent but disturbed kid Oskar (no other real credits). They play games and Tom’s character Thomas likes to give his son puzzles like a scavenger hunt to solve. Thomas dies in one of the towers and the kid has a breakdown of sorts. He finds a key in his dad’s possession and decides it must be part of the last game Thomas was setting up for him. He blows off his mother (Sandra Bullock-she is excellent in this movie, BTW) in a big way and undergoes an OCD inspired quest to find what lock the key fits into. Along the way he meets a ton of people, deals with his own phobias and issues, alienates his long suffering mother, and meets up with a creepy older man (Max von Sydow-Minority Report, Shutter Island, the Exorcist) who is mute and writes everything down on a piece of paper. The plot plods on and on like me trying to push my ’79 T-Bird to the gas station, with lots of boring non productive scenes punctuated by temper tantrums from the kid. The kid in a weird way describes a perfect character arc. At the beginning of the movie I found him painfully annoying. Towards the middle I kind of really got to like him and his eccentric ways. Then towards the end I found him really annoying again.
The story is obviously about the character development in the kid, and in it’s own way does an admirable (if boring) job of portraying it. The problem is the 9-11 basis for the story so overshadows everything else that you really couldn’t care. I will say the story managed to not step in any other major quagmires. While the ending was a little fanciful it did not really bend my mind accepting it. The acting was very good, and the dialog decent. If the story had been about about a kid dealing with his dad dying in a tragic Segway accident it would have been a decent, if slow, movie.
The stars. Acting was decent all around, although in spite of getting top billing Tom Hanks was only in about 15 minutes of the film and more or less played a grown up version of Josh Baskin from Big. I thought Sandra Bullock did a particularly good job. Two stars. For the most part I liked the characters, especially the mute old man. One star. The movie did what movies should at least try to do: actually have a character show some form of development (for most of you directors out there this phenomenon is called “character development”) and truly describe a true story arc. One star. Overall of a quality I wish more filmmakers would aspire to. Two stars. Total: six stars.
The black holes. 9-11 based story. Two black holes. The story kept coming back to 9-11. One black hole. Pacing felt like my mother was driving the movie. Sluggish and boring. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a total of two stars. I honestly did not want to see this film when I saw the trailers, and only “professional” obligations got me into the theater. Now that I have seen it I know I was right in that assessment. If you think enough time has passed and you are not disturbed by images and stories set on 9-11 then by all means go see it. You will probably enjoy it, but you won’t be invited to any of the wild parties I throw on a regular basis (the last one was in 1998, I think. Party like a Vulcan image courtesy of the Spock T Shirt category). I think the acting will carry this movie if you can ignore the subject matter. The kid is talented, and Tom Hangs and Sandra Bullock have a good chemistry together (I thought so when I reviewed Larry Crowne). However, overall the entire movie was pretty much a bummer.
Thanks for reading, as always. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Nothing really on deck until Friday, so I think I will take a break and let Jason post more of his short rants. Talk to you soon.
Decent movie, but don’t see this if you actually love horses.
This movie was actually better than I expected. Sure, it’s Spielberg, but I had just been disappointed with Tintin and as masterful a storyteller as he is, he has a tendency to let his story dip into the sappy zone and hover there, like in E.T. However, while the sap was there (lots of young boys snuggling horses) the story, after a sluggish start, really drew you in.
Spielberg appears to be using this production as a tool to show the horror of WWI like he did with Saving Private Ryan. However, in spite of a much more terrible war (WWI was way more brutal than WWII. WWI is why they created war crimes) it does not come even close to how well Private Ryan did. The blame for this I put firmly on the PG-13 rating Spielberg bends bars to maintain. I am not one of those guys who feels the need for gore and blood in everything, but the impact of a battle scene loses something when nothing brutal is shown. Guys get shot and just fall to the ground. One of the main characters gets caught in a gas attack and in the next scene, instead of showing him lying in a cot coughing himself to death (mustard gas) he has a bandage over his eyes. There was none of the horrific desperate attempts to hold your own entrails in, or guys getting their limbs blown off. It was almost sanitized, like a video game, and that sensitization kind of washes away a lot of the impact.
However, as kind as Spielberg was to his human characters he makes it up in his treatment of the horses. Through a series of really good puppets and camera work with very little CGI he shows all kinds of horrible things happening to horses. To be honest it was more than a little stomach turning, and I had to look away during a couple scenes. A horse is a noble creature, and should not be shown in extreme pain and horrible situations. I can’t actually call anything that happened animal cruelty, as none if it was malicious or intentional, but just really hard to watch. This goes out to my horse loving friend Lauren in particular. Don’t see this if you have a love of horses.
Anyway, the movie, with a few spoilers. It follows the life of Joey, a thoroughbred horse born on a Scottish farm prior to WWI. His birth is witnessed by young Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine-no other film roles), who takes an instant bond with him. The horse goes up for auction and Alby’s drunken father Ted (Peter Mullan-Trainspotting, My Name is Joe, Boy A) makes the mistake of buying him for a very large amount. This is going to cause them to lose the farm, literally, unless Alby can train Joey to pull a plow and can then plow the most rock filled field in all of Scotland. He does so and all seems well until the crop is ruined from a storm. Ted is forced to sell Joey to a cavalry officer (Tom Hiddleston-Loki from Thor, Midnight in Paris, Conspiracy), who takes him to France where he learns what happens when sword wielding cavalry charges machine guns. Joey is captured by the Germans and put to use hauling ambulances. He then goes through a long series of owner changing, from two German deserters, a French jam maker and his granddaughter, and a German artillery officer who seems to relish putting down injured horses. He finally breaks free in a panic and runs out into No Man’s Land and gets caught up in the one scene I had the hardest time watching. He gets rescued by a Scottish corporal with the help of a German infantryman (a love of horses supersedes the need to kill each other) and is eventually reunited with Alby, who apparently joined the infantry while all this was going on. Some other drama goes on before the end.
The stars. Decent if sappy story. One star. Amazing camera work and visuals. Two stars. While not graphic enough to really impact, the fighting did illustrate a lot of the horror of WWI. One star. The uniforms and equipment seemed correct, including the German spiked Kaiser helmets, and the entire film was very well within period. One star. This is something only a treadhead would appreciated, but they actually did show a rhomboid tank (I think it was a MkV Heavy, but they didn’t really show it off entirely). I don’t know if they found a functional unit (there are a few in the world) or just built a replica, but really cool. One star. The horse handling, puppets and special effects were stunning. One star. I don’t want to get into it too much, but this movie did manage to draw out an emotional response from me. One star. Overall good movie. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The black holes. Stomach wrenching horse-in-pain scenes. One black hole. For the most part, all the characters seemed flat and uninteresting. I don’t know if this was the writing or the fact there doesn’t actually seem to be a real protagonist. The focal character changes every 15 minutes or so, never allowing you to connect with any of them, and Joey the horse does not show enough of a distinctive personality to really connect with. For the most part he acts like a horse and a horse is a horse (of course, of course). One black hole. Each sub-character seemed to have a whole new sub plot that disappeared with that character. One black hole. What could have been a great R rated war movie got a PG-13 rating tied to its feet. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a grand total of five stars. Decent movie in all regards, and well worth watching. I will also say that the visuals are amazing, and if you don’t see it in a huge theater you will not get the full effect. Go out and see it. I don’t know how this would work as a date movie. Sure, it has horses, but it also has a lot of other stuff that might turn a girl off. She might respond well to the ending, but I personally don’t like to leave stuff like that to chance.
That’s it for now. I have a freakishly busy weekend coming up (party, party, dinner with friends) and don’t know if I will get to see anything. It might be Monday before I blog again. (Party Like a Vulcan image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirts). Thanks again for reading. Talk to you soon.
More odeak translations. By the way, I just noticed I have been misspelling translating wrong in the title for two posts. Thanks to no one for pointing it out to me.
“Spiritual.” This is usually what women put down when they have no real religion but rather kind of drift from one fad cult to another. Expect to hear about meditaion, Native American Spirits, and other New Age garbage. For guys, this is what they say when they really don’t care about religion one way or another but don’t want to alienate potential dates who are religious.
“Very Spiritual.” For women this can mean a hard core kook, deep into dancing naked at midnight under a full moon in a toadstool ring, or traveling to Tibet to study with monks. Don’t let this deter you from dating them, incidentally. In my experience these women are really entertaining and don’t have a lot of hangups when it comes to having sex. Just be prepared to discuss your chak’ras with her. For guys, this is often a code phrase for hard core born again Christians who want to “save” some girl. Either that or they are just as deep into some New Age cult as a woman using this phrase. The only difference is these guys are a lot less fun to hang out with than the very spiritual girl and are kind of a pain in the ass to date.
“Christian.” For women this is a typical boilerplate description designed to let you know that she has been to church a few times and doesn’t want to be considered a slut (whether she is or not). This can refer to any number of specific religions, most of which are relatively inoffensive. This girl will typically have a marriage and a family on her radar. For guys it is usually a little more serious. Expect to see the inside of his church at some point in the first month of dating, but otherwise things should be OK as long as he doesn’t show up on the first date with a Bible.
“Born Again Christian.” Uh oh. For both men and women this is a huge red flag (unless you yourself are Born Again, in which case please take this person off the market). Expect dates to be little if no fun, unless you find attending Bible studies fun. Also, in general you can expect little to no sex, and if you do get lucky be prepared to feel insanely guilty about it up until the moment you marry him or her. Anyone who talks about their “relationship to Jesus” on their online profile you can expect to be Born Again.
“Pagan.” This is more or less the same as very spiritual, except this person, man or woman, really likes to feel cooler than anyone who is not pagan. If you want to experience some weird discussions, meet strange and interesting people, and get laid with relative ease and no guilt, than this person is great to date. I, however, find their pretentious attitude and long track record of past sexual partners grinds on me after a while.
“Burning Man.” Cough cough unemployed loser cough cough. Ok, that is unfair. I know any number of employed people who are avid fans of Burning Man. Generally they are decent people, but once a year they opt to head out to a painfully hot and dusty desert to do drugs, drink, look at naked people, and do irreparable ecological damage while claiming to be free spirits in spite of being involved in a massively profitable circus of self indulgence. Every year I get asked to go and every year I say the same thing: I enjoy bathing once a day too much. As for dating them, man or woman, they tend to really want to date people who also “burn” so expect to be dragged out as well. They otherwise tend to have similar traits to the spiritual or very spiritual people.
“420 Friendly.” Pot smoker, usually daily. If a good date for you is sparking some bud and watching American Idol on TV before passing out in a Cheetos food coma then this is the person for you. For women this girl tends to be weirdly cute in a granola sort of way who likes to do really bad acrylic paintings. For men this guy usually really looks the part, has the same crappy retail job for 10 years, is about 15 pounds overweight, and graduated college with a writing degree. Also, regular pot use can lead to lots of short term memory loss and reduced libido, so if you are into your partner remembering things like your birthday and getting laid fairly often than this is probably not the person for you. Honestly, if the person is over the age of 25 and lists 420 as in interest you can count on them more or less being a loser.
Ok, that’s it for today. More next post, although soon I will get into translating online dating photos as well.
Yesterday’s question, Kirk with a lirpa (the weapon he fought Spock with in Amok Time, with a round blade on one end and a weighted bumper on the other) versus Worf with a Bat’leth, I think I will have to go with Worf on this one. As much as I love Kirk and want to see him win, Worf has trained with the Bat’leth all his life and Kirk got his ass kicked by Spock pretty easily. I would only hope that they played the Kirk fight music during the battle. (Amok Time image from the Spock t shirts category)
For today another Star Trek question. Who would win, a squad of Star Trek Red Shirts versus a squad of Sandmen from Logans Run?
More fun to be had with understanding online date speak (Odeak?).
“Low maintenance.” For women this always, always means high maintenance. If she is aware of it enough to deny it that means she has been accused of it in the past. Guys never use this phrase, but often when they say they are “looking for low maintenance” that usually means they are looking for high maintenance. When these two people meet it is one of those weird situations where two wrongs make a right (or two lies equal a truth).
“Great personality.” For men or women, this usually translates into a mediocre personality riddled with massive self esteem issues with regards to looks, often times with justification.
“Type A personality.” Uptight. Neat freak. Most likely obsessive compulsive disorder. Probably organizes his or her skull collection in the basement by size.
“Type B personality.” Trailer trash slob. Seriously, make sure you have had a recent tetanus shot before headed over to his or her residence.
“All or very natural.” For women, this always means a hippy dippy granola chick. Ironically, they are among the biggest pains in the ass to date, in spite of how easy to date they claim to be. Be prepared to find out more about your heart chak’ra than you ever wanted to. For men, this either means his last girlfriend was granola or he is a massive Burning Man fan. In all cases be prepared to smoke a lot of pot.
“Easy going.” For women this almost always means a pain in the ass to date. For men this usually means unemployed.
“Just looking for fun.” For women this means she is secretly afraid she is not fun. Also these girls are usually the ones who are planning the marriage on the first date. For men, this ALWAYS means they just want to hook up for casual sex. Date this guy and you can look forward to “Hey, what are you doing” texts at 1:30 am.
“I oNly TalK lIke tHiS!” For women, this usually turns out to be a Russian mail order bride service. For men, this is the guy who buys a Honda Civic and spends $20,000 turning it into a street racer and then sells it for $500 less than he paid for it.
“Self employed.” Unemployed.
“Work for a non-profit.” For women, if she is hot odds are she is looking for a rich, altruistic husband. If not so much than she is probably another granola chick. For guys, this usually means they are looking for a wife of any stripe.
“Medical professional.” This never, EVER means a doctor. Usually a nurse, but can also be a receptionist, lab technician, or orderly. Doctors will usually just say doctor. (by the way, I have dated a few nurses, and they inevitably only talk about two things; sex, and disgusting work stories usually involving something vile spurting out of somewhere. If you can stomach the stories go for it). Also if it is a guy who is a nurse he secretly hates himself and has serious issues with women.
“Recently out of a long relationship.” Do you feel you don’t have enough pain and suffering in your life? Than this is the person to date. If it is a woman than be prepared for long, excruciating stories about every conversation she had with her ex EVER followed by a bad case of blue balls when she says she is not ready for intimacy yet. If it is a guy you will get to listen to all the same stories followed by a ham handed attempt to sleep with you to salve his need for revenge on women where he will inevitably call you by his ex’s name.
“Love to play.” For women, this usually means they are afraid they aren’t sexual enough. For men, you can translate this into “Super Horny.”
“Love cats.” For women, better find out how many cats she owns before meeting her. Don’t forget my “more than two cats” rule. For men, either this guy is trying hard to show how sensitive he is or you mistakenly clicked on the “Men seeking Men” button and haven’t realized it yet. By the way, I have no problem with gays. In fact, some of my advice may well help them. Also, every gay man out there means one less guy I need to compete with for the straight women, so more power to you, brothers.
That’s it for now. More of the same next post.
As for my question from last post, who would win; Spock versus any of the TNG characters except Q I have to side with my man Spock. Sorry, but there isn’t a character on there who can match him physically or mentally except for maybe Data, and even he would fail to Spocks combined physical prowess and mental acuity. (Spock image courtesy of the Spock t shirt category)
I am really in a Star Trek mood lately, so for today I will pitch Worf from TNG with Bat’leth versus Sulu with fencing foil. Who would win?