QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded
Tag search results for 2012 Page 2 of 4

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

It's not the season to watch a Christmas movie, but this caught my eye in the Netflix streaming selection today so I gave it a try. I had heard good reviews of this.

A few things I think would be helpful to know up front:

  • The "Rare Exports" part of the title is not some marketing gimmick, it's really part of the title.
  • The movie is not rated, but would probably be PG-13. I watched it with my 12-year-old and she thought some bits were scary. No one dies, but injuries occur and there are several scenes in a butcher's shed. There is very light nudity that shouldn't upset anyone.
  • The movie is mostly in Finnish, with some English.

The story sets itself up quickly. A mining / exploration crew is finding strange things in their core samples. Things like wood shavings and an ice block. The man in charge is delighted, he has been searching for the grave of the true Santa Claus and believes this is it. Two kids overhear the men working, then sneak out. The older kid does not believe and dismisses it. The younger starts to research Santa Claus. "The Coca-Cola Santa is a lie," he says at one point. The books say this is a Santa that walks barefoot in the snow and eats bad kids on Christmas.

This movie employs the gimmick of the Kid Who Knows the Truth. (I don't see that on tvtropes.com, but it should be there.) He sees all the evidence and it all adds up to nasty-Santa-is-back to him. It's handled very well here, though. The boy never tells the adults what he believes, so he is never dismissed by them. And the adults are getting involved with some stuff of questionable legality and chalking up his strange behavior to that.

The ending was not what I expected, making the movie more humorous than it had seemed earlier. Twenty-three opened doors on the Advent calendar out of twenty four.

Final thought: the last door stapled shut to keep Christmas from coming any sooner

Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend: The Pet

Cartoon drawn by Windsor McCay (famous for "Little Nemo in Slumberland") about a pet that won't stop eating and growing. Considered to be the first example of a giant creature terrorizing a city in film.

1921, silent, black and white, 707 seconds.

The Pet at wikimedia

Final thought: better than the other Rarebit Fiend film on Wikipedia's page for the comic

Scott Pilgrim

There seem to be not posts about Scott Pilgrim here. I'll post something later, but right after I saw it, I commented to my wife, "All comic book movies should have those sound effects." By which I meant not the 80s video game actual effects in the movie, but the Adam West Batman ✦POW✦ amd ⭑WHAM⭑ words superimposed upon the action.

Having just been to see a movie which had a teaser trailer for the next Batman flick, I am still sticking with that statement.

I thought it three quarters out of a dollar. I have never read the comic source though I have seen it at the library and considered reading it. I enjoyed the odd mix of dated and modern: Scott has a trimline (rotary) phone at his house, but everyone uses modern cellphones on the go. There are sound effects out of 8-bit video games, and modern CGI effects.

But the inclusion of standards from other media in the movie was the best trait. Characters literally get black boxes and garbled speech when cursing. At one point someone asks "How do you do that?" The story centers on Scott wanting to date a particular girl and all of her exes coming to fight him over her. Everytime one of the foes is vanquished, instead of a body there is a burst of coins. The first guy is almost enough for bus fare. Major foes (ie, exes) go up from there.

I thought Michael Cera as the title character was a weak choice. He plays a typical Cera character, and doesn't really seem capable of growing as the movie progresses. Others casting choices seemed good.

I was displeased that the Netflix DVD of the movie has a special features menu that does not include special features, but instead all of the items just give a message to buy the release version.

Final thought: I know rental versions are different but don't like them being obnoxious

Atonement, and long single takes in general

I can watch a film like Atonement and notice that the arrival on the beach during a retreat in the war with its five minute single take meandering through literally thousands of drunk, wounded, hopeful, busy, lazy, working, and singing extras is a massive undertaking to have created. My wife doesn't even realize it is a single take.

How many people really do notice? Is this just some sort of technical masturbation that movie makers do, knowing the people in the industry will notice and it perhaps will help them award time? Or is it something that if not the average movie goer will notice, a reasonable portion will?

I see them, and I appreciate the effort, but I've got to admit this sort of stunt doesn't really seem to help many movies. It, to me, comes across as too artificial and therefore pulls me out of the story to get me focusing on the process. I'll interject by saying, I haven't watched Russian Ark or that Hitchcock film that is entirely single takes (Rope).

It works when it supposed to be artificial, like the opening scene JCVD. It works when it is supposed to convey delirious joy, like the end scene in A Midsummer's Night Dream. In Atonement the intended effect to be total immersion in this sea of humanity in a state of swirling semi-chaos; a stark contrast to the days of near solitary walking the characters have done. Instead what I get from it is "Why the hell is he taking this meandering path through all that, past the horses being put down, past the vehicles being purposfully disabled, looping around a gazebo of soldiers singing to no one in particular?" Some of the things walked past make sense, as a place he might want to go, some of them don't.

So anyway, it's hard to comment about the impressions I get from most of the story in Atonement without spoilering the ending. I'll just hang my review here on the single take. Too much of the film is narrated from the point of view of ambiguous viewers for me to feel comfortable with this being Briony's story, but it is Briony's atonement (or hope thereof) that gives us the title.

Visually the film is impressive, if somewhat questionable about authenticity. Briony is the only character shown at multiple distinct ages, and they've done a good job matching actors and looks. (But how many senior citizens really are wearing their hair the same way they were at 18 and at 13?)

Three horses shot point blank on the beach out of five.

Final thought: no imdb links today because their website just says "D'oh" for me