Haiku and Review: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Doc Strange, the love child
between M.C. Escher and
a kaleidoscope.

The last time I told anyone to go see a movie in 3D for its visuals was Avatar, and that was seven years ago.  Doctor Strange is another such film — the special effects are quite bedeviling and should be seen on the big screen.  Props must be given to Inception; that fight scene in the spinning corridor no doubt spawned a great deal of the action that we see here, not to mention the rest of the dreamy machinations led by Leo and company.

It’s a prototypical superhero movie, meaning there’s a reluctant hero, some funny lines, and a Big Boss level.  In a way, it’s as familiar as any bildungsroman, and at this point I’m so tired of it that if any film of this genre deviates even a little — like Deadpool — I’m almost grateful to the point of tears.  Benedict Cumberbatch turns his arrogance volume down to about 4 here, and it’s the right level for this damaged character.

Tilda Swinton is of course lovely and amazing as always, but I must say, as a person of Asian descent, it feels like if there was one big-budget superhero movie that could’ve starred many more Asians, it was this one.  I’ve read about the Tibet/China issue that most likely resulted in changing the teacher character from Himalayan to Celtic, so it was a business decision, but it also feels like a lost opportunity.  I’m glad Benedict Wong got in there — he was the best thing in Marco Polo (in a series that was, well, terrible), and he lends his considerable gifts of austerity and gravitas to the film.

Haiku and Review: Anomalisa, The Big Short, 45 Years, Carol

The Golden Globes are tonight, and to celebrate, here are four more haiku and reviews.

MV5BMTkyMzI2MzQ1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDg0MzQxNzE@._V1._SX96_SY140_Anomalisa

Strange, funny, and sad
Through puppets, many Noonans
It’s a Kaufman film.

The dream sequence is the highlight of this one.  Synecdoche, New York, was better.

MV5BMjM2MTQ2MzcxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE4NTUyNzE@._V1._SX90_SY140_The Big Short

A curious film
that tries hard to make sense of
the nonsensical.

Can’t really say I enjoyed this one.  Bale does what Hugh Laurie did for years on House; Carell is his usual schlub, except angrier.

MV5BMTgxMTQ4NzMyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODA0MTgyNzE@._V1._SX95_SY140_45 Years

a frozen body
kept alive through memory
a rebound marriage

This movie is a gem.  The scene in the attic and the final scene are unforgettable.

MV5BMTcxNTkxMzA5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTI0ODMzNzE@._V1._SX94_SY140_Carol

Therese and Carol
Loving through glances, windows
Heatrbreaks and triumphs.

Best film of the year.  Brooklyn is a close second, but this one has the benefit of two extraordinary performances.  The final scene here is one of the most moving I’ve ever experienced in cinema.

What a fine year in movies.  My favorite 4:

Carol
Brooklyn
Creed
Mad Max: Fury Road

Many others I enjoyed:

I’ll See You in My Dreams
45 Years
Spotlight
No Escape
Youth
Inside Out
Clouds of Sils Maria
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Love and Mercy
Far from the Maddening Crowd
Spy
Fast and Furious 7
Cinderella
Ex Machina

Haiku and Review: Inside Out, Inherent Vice, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

MV5BOTgxMDQwMDk0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU5OTg2NDE@._V1._SX94_SY140_Inside Out

The life of Riley
by way of Joy and Sadness.
It’s all in her head.

Without question one of the best Pixar movies, if not the best one.  The one emotion that I think we could’ve done without is Disgust, but really, that’s the tiniest of complaints.  It’s visually arresting, the story moves, and it’s one of these rare movies that may actually help people, too.  Only three animated movies have been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, Up, and Toy Story 3) but none have won.  Who knows what Oscar bait will come out in November and December, but at the very least, Inside Out deserves to be nominated.

MV5BMjI2ODQ2NzUwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU3NTE4MjE@._V1._SX94_SY140_Inherent Vice

Looks good, sounds right — but
how little we care about
anything, really.

Comparisons to The Big Lebowski are obvious (and The Dude is the far superior movie in all the major ways — humor, plot, acting).  After watching the film, I wondered why it didn’t jibe.  It felt like the movie thought it was funnier than it actually was (which was very little).  The only thing of note is the actress Katherine Waterston, who seemed like she was channeling circa 1995 Laura Linney.  Her facial expressions, her movement — she reminded me so much of a young Linney.

MV5BMTQ1NDI2MzU2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTExNTU5NDE@._V1._SX90_SY140_Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

She climbs in beauty
up a bruiser, then turns, falls —
a takedown done right.

I don’t think this was as good as the last one, Ghost Protocol, which had more cool gizmos and a higher hit rate for humor (mostly because Jeremy Renner brought the laughs in GP while here, he’s stuck in a suit in DC for too many stretches).  But wow, what a performance by Rebecca Ferguson.  Give her hair an old-fashioned wave, light her softly, and take some B&W shots, and she’d be a modern-day Lauren Bacall (somebody else agrees, too!).  And a big hand to her stunt double, Lucy Cork, who made all those fights look so good.  Ferguson’s character was actually more action-oriented than Cruise’s character.  How cool is that?

I Saw Cinderella…and I Loved It.

cinderella

 

Courage and kindness
brings a girl in a blue gown
to eternal bliss.

On our drive over to the cinema yesterday afternoon, my wife and I tried to recall which movie we last saw on the big screen.  We did catch the Oscar Shorts with friends a few months back, but for regular movies, the film that came to mind was Gravity.  Which was two years ago!  We actually saw at least two movies that year, as we also caught The Great Gatsby, in 3D no less.

So the movies that get us out of the house are spectacles, and boy, did we ever choose the right one yesterday.  We saw Cinderella, and I have to tell you, I saw many little girls with their popcorns and sodas around me, but I guarantee that not one of them loved this movie as much as I did.  I laughed, I cried (really), and I was just stunned by the beauty of it all.  I figure plenty of CGI was utilized to make the backgrounds more than they actually are, but I didn’t care a whit.  To me, this is what CGI is supposed to be used for, not for having giant robots duke it out as if the fate of the planet depended on them (it doesn’t).

This is one of these movies that could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, but by some miracle none did.  Mostly I attribute this to Ken Branagh, whom I’ve always admired since seeing Dead Again.  His Hamlet was a sumptuous affair, so I knew he had the aesthetic chops — and after making Thor, I guess I should’ve realized Branagh can do anything.

Some very light spoilers below, so if you want a virgin experience, stop reading and go to the movies on this very fine Sunday.

The first twenty minutes or so of the movie is the weakest, but something clicks around the half-hour mark.  It might be because this is about when Cate Blanchett enters the narrative.  She is, as always, wonderful, and this part of the stepmother requires for her to be in every kind of mode — evil, fragile, hilarious, oftentimes within the same scene.  Initially I wasn’t sold on Lily James as Cinderella, but as the movie progressed, she won me over.  Of course I knew she would imbue innocence and goodness, but it’s her lack of perfection that really got me.  Let me explain: in the ballroom dancing scene, there’s a slight sense of the amateur in her movements, and that in itself lends a sense of vulnerability.

This movie is a total throwback in every sense of the word, and it’s the reason why it’s so good.  Look at the way Branagh uses closeups the few moments the two leads touch (the prince’s hand on her back during the dance, the glass slipper coming off on the swing).  The central theme of courage and kindness might rub some critics the wrong way, but if you let the movie take you, man, will it ever take you.