Movie Diary

a) Don't You Forget About Me
I love John Hughes movies as much as anybody, but even before he passed away I was getting tired of people obsessing over and overrating them, and this documentary, which a bunch of amateur filmmaker fanboy types made shortly before his death, desperately trying to contact Hughes himself, is just kind of sad. There are some nice little interview moments with various cast members of his movies all those years later, but for the most part it's kind of pointless, and constantly oversimplifies his oeuvre as "teen movies" (and completely ignores perhaps his best movie, Planes, Trains & Automobiles). Easy A and the pilot episode of "Community" were much more fitting tributes to Hughes.

b) She's Out Of My League
I feel like you can kind of judge a comedy by how much it relies on the central premise for laughs or plot -- the best ones tend to have a lot of stuff going on with surprising jokes or plot tangents or supporting characters, things you don't expect based on the trailer. But the problem with a movie like She's Out Of My League is not just that the titular premise is kind of hackneyed and cheesy but that virtually every scene and every line of dialogue exists to establish and reinforce the concept that the girl is out of the guy's league. After a while I just felt bad for Jay Baruchel's character for being told the whole movie that him dating a hot chick is so implausible. Alice Eve is pretty hot, but I mean the whole thing is just overstated, and a decent supporting cast including T.J. Miller is more or less wasted.

c) Crazy Heart
This felt very much like The Wrestler, not just in that it features an impressive Oscar-nominated performance in which a journeyman actor plays an aging, down-on-his-luck entertainer, but in that the entire film seems to exist as kind of a flimsy framing device for that performance. There is kind of a plot and other characters and some conflict and development, it's just not terribly interesting, and it doesn't exactly succeed as a mood piece or a character sketch or a celebration of music or songwriting either. There is a sequence later in the movie involving a small child that really made my heart beat quicker as a parent and got me actually a little invested in the story for a few minutes.

d) A Single Man
This was just really dreary and sad, I guess, after a while I just could barely stand to pay attention to it.

e) City Island
I've never seen The Godfather Part III so it's kind of blowing my mind that one of Andy Garcia's first major roles was playing an Italian, because his accent in this movie, where he plays the patriarch of an Italian family in the Bronx, is so incredibly bad and forced and hokey I'm amazed it got onscreen. The movie itself is not bad, kind of a predictable dysfunctional dramedy about a family keeping all sorts of strange and quirky secrets from each other, but the cast besides Garcia is pretty strong and Alan Arkin has a hilarious scene-stealing appearance early on (that makes his absence from the rest of the movie all the more disappointing).

f) The Village Barbershop
As a fan of John Ratzenberger in "Cheers" and all those Pixar movies, it was intriguing in and of itself to see him as the star of a movie, especially a kind of small, grown up comedy/drama. And the dynamic between him and Shelly Cole in this movie is really unique and charming and drives the movie well, total underrated gem.

g) Man On Wire
I think one of the things that this movie got praised for -- telling a story decades in the past without a lot of footage of the event -- is also what frustrated me about it. I'm getting tired of seeing documentaries that fill in the blanks with a lot of stock footage or computer graphics or cheap reenactments. There are a lot of fascinating true stories out there and if they aren't actually filmed and/or filmable they're probably better off told in the form of a book or an article, if you ask me.

h) Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas
I went into this with very low expectations, as it looked like yet another movie about a precociously brilliant college kid's courtship with a hot chick. But this hit some interesting notes and positioned the characters in some novel ways -- mainly that the hot chick, played by Olivia Wilde looking surprisingly good as a blonde, was kind of a goofy stoner who pursues the guy more than vice versa. Patrick Fugit is kind of the same brooding prodigy he played in Almost Famous, but the arc the character goes through isn't too predictable, overall I really enjoyed this even if it wasn't especially funny or anything.

i) Sugar Town
I feel like in my days of watching random movies on cable I've seen about a dozen different quirky indie dramedies from the late '90s and early '00s about the intersecting lives of aging Los Angeles bohemians. One wonders if there are just a lot of people in the lower rungs of the movie industry out in L.A. living like this and not realizing they're all making the same autobiographical movies. This one is kind of about the music industry and features acting performances by members of X and Duran Duran and is kind of amiable and entertaining with some beautiful women in the cast, so I wouldn't call this movie a total waste of time, but it is funny how it's kind of falling right into the pattern I've been noticing.

j) Notting Hill
My wife likes this movie and one day it came on TV and I have to admit I enjoyed it, pretty good romcom from a time when I consider the not especially consistent genre to be at a particular low point (let's call it the You've Got Mail<> era). But this is a nice little movie, with some fairly charming and affecting moments that are as much carried by the writing as the appeal of Roberts & Grant.

k) The Prophecy
Another favorite of the wife that she's always held up has her favorite Christopher Walken performance, so I was happy to finally see it. Didn't really hold my attention but had some pretty cool creepy moments.

l) April Fool's Day
Decided to watch this on April Fool's Day since it was available on demand. Not a bad '80s horror flick! I was kind of surprised by how filthy and explicit the language was, but it was cool since all the chicks in it were mad hot.

m) The Times of Harvey Milk
Almost every time Hollywood comes out with a big award season biopic or movie about some interesting chapter of history, I end up feeling like the actual story, told in a book or a documentary, would ultimately be a lot more entertaining and satisfying. And so I was more than happy to bypass seeing Sean Penn's Oscar bait and just watch this 1984 documentary about Harvey Milk, which really tells the story very compellingly and, toward the end, chillingly, just seeing the real footage. It was a little odd that it was narrated that Harvey Fierstein, though, like, they just wanted to get another famous gay Harvey involved?
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