movies

Exit 236. I don’t play that game.

Actress Brie Larson, who plays Captain Marvel in the movie of the same title currently in theaters, has stated that the press covering her films are overwhelmingly white and male (https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/brie-larson-doesnt-want-captain-marvel-press-tour-to-be-overwhelmingly-white-male).  She has made a big deal of wanting her press corps to be inclusive. So I’m going to write about this movie, specifically because I’m a white male and I don’t play the identity politics game.

It was good.  I enjoyed it. I’ve seen all of the Marvel movies at some point, and since Captain Marvel is going to be in Avengers Endgame, this movie is part of the story.  But since it is primarily an origin story, it mostly works on its own as a standalone movie, for someone who hasn’t seen the other Marvel movies. Occasionally, I felt like Brie’s acting was a little flat, but not nearly enough to make the movie not enjoyable.  When Captain Marvel arrives on Earth, she lands in Los Angeles in 1995, and, of course, I loved all the 1995 pop-culture references. I was 18-19 in 1995. That was my time.

That’s all.  I’m obviously not a professional movie reviewer.

But I think Goose the cat needs to get his own movie.  I’d totally watch that.

Exit 233. Living for the first time.

A few of you, specifically people who have known me long enough to know all of my obscure little-known favorite movies, and probably not many others, will recognize the title of this post as a line from a song in the 2008 movie The Rocker.

Sometimes, I’ll read a book, or watch a movie, or interact with a work of fiction in some way, and I’ll feel like I want to know more.  I’ll want to know what happened to the characters after the end of the story, or more about the background of the characters or story. Or I’ll just wonder more about a certain minor character in the story, which specifically happened to me recently while watching this movie.

Critics didn’t really like this movie, but then again critics aren’t me.  The film stars Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office, the shirtless guy in the picture above, but I never got into that show so don’t ask me about Dwight), singer-songwriter Teddy Geiger (left), some people who became famous later (Josh Gad, Emma Stone, the other two pictured) and other people who were in other better-known stuff (Will Arnett, Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Christina Applegate, Jane Lynch, Jeff Garlin, Bradley Cooper, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others).  Ex-hair band drummer Robert “Fish” Fishman (Wilson) never got his life together after his friends (Arnett, Armisen, Cooper) betrayed him and kicked them out of their band in 1986. His friends went on to become immensely successful, but the present day finds Fish living in the attic of his sister (Lynch)’s house and struggling to keep a job. Matt, Fish’s 18-year-old nephew (Gad) is in a band with his school friends Curtis and Amelia (Geiger, Stone), and they need a drummer.  After Fish struggles to fit in with the much younger band, the band gets a big break and attracts the attention of a typical Hollywood-weird producer (Sudeikis). Fish gets another chance to live the wild rock star life he dreamed of as a young man, but not quite in the way he imagined. I really enjoyed the story, even if it is a little unrealistic, and the soundtrack is an album that is still in my regular music rotation a decade later.

So about a week ago, this movie came up in a random Facebook conversation with a friend who hadn’t seen it, and I told my friend that it had been a while since I had seen it too, and now I wanted to watch it when I got home from work, which I did.  (In fact, I can remember exactly when I watched it last before last week; it was November 1, 2015, because it was my last date with SN1604 before we broke up the second and final time. She had never seen it, so I showed it to her. But we don’t need to talk about that…)  

Watching it again got me thinking about a certain minor character in the movie.  About halfway through the movie, the band is playing their first gig, and Fish is checking off all of their firsts as a band: first venue, first marquee sign (which has the band’s name misspelled), first sound check, first technical difficulties.  While they are playing, the camera switches to the crowd, where initially unenthusiastic people sitting at tables start paying attention to the music. One girl in particular starts watching the band, nodding her head enthusiastically to the music, and after the show she runs up to the band, blushing, and says “You guys are sweet!” before awkwardly running away.  Fish points out that they have their first fan. The same girl appears in the crowd at several future shows wearing a shirt that says “I ♥ MATT.” At an after-party, Matt tells Amelia that he wants to talk to this girl but doesn’t know how to talk to girls; Amelia gives him some pointers, and Matt goes over to talk to her. At the last concert in the movie, Matt throws his hat into the crowd, and she catches it (again wearing the I ♥ MATT shirt)..

This girl is a minor character in the movie.  No one says her name in the movie, and in the credits, she is listed as “I ♥ Matt Girl.”  But there is an interesting subplot here. In one scene, during the filming of a music video, Amelia gets frustrated at the people making the video wanting to change her look.  She says something along the lines of if they want someone who looks like all the other girls out there, they should just grab one of the girls that are always hanging around Curtis after the show.  But this girl, their first fan, isn’t one of the girls hanging around Curtis. She ♥s Matt, the dorky awkward member of the band. Even the dorkiest and most awkward of us have someone out there who cares about us.

So will I ever have a girl following me around with a shirt proclaiming that she ♥s me?  Doubtful.  Will I ever have someone who feels that way about me, though? I might, I might not. But who knows, it could happen. And it isn’t irrelevant that I have a lot of good friends who care about me.

Exit 217. The story, and our place in it, doesn’t end there.

I missed a week… sorry.

As I’ve said before, I seem to have missed out on quite a few of the iconic movies of my generation.  Prominent among these movies I didn’t see as a kid were the Indiana Jones movies.  I really can’t say why either; it’s not that I had any specific dislike for the movies or anyone in them.  I have seen the original Indiana Jones trilogy a total of twice in adulthood, once in my late 20s and once in my early 30s.  It has been long enough that there are a lot of details I don’t remember.  And just yesterday, while dealing with a case of writer’s block and uncertainty about what to write on this blog, I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark, for the first time in several years and only the third time total.  And that got me thinking.

(Warning: spoilers ahead.  If you haven’t seen the movie, and don’t want the ending given away, stop reading now.  And if you’re wondering who would really need a spoiler warning for a 37-year-old movie that was the highest-grossing movie of its year and spawned numerous sequels and has been watched by millions, then you need to realize that not everyone grew up with the same experiences as you, and you can go butt out and mind your own business.)

A few years ago, back when the TV show The Big Bang Theory was still funny sometimes, there was an episode where Amy reveals to Sheldon that she has never seen the Indiana Jones movies.  After he shows her Raiders of the Lost Ark, he excitedly waits for her reaction, and she points out a major plot hole: Indiana Jones himself was ultimately unnecessary to the plot.  Had he not been there, the Nazis still would have found the Ark of the Covenant, and they still would have been killed by the angels of death when they opened it.  Sheldon is unable to come up with a rebuttal, because Amy is basically correct.

In a movie with a plot revolving around a Biblical artifact, it is appropriate that I found a spiritual illustration in this.  In one sense, we are just as unnecessary in the ultimate fate of the world.  Jesus will come back, Satan will be defeated, and nothing we can do will change that.

But the story, and our place in it, doesn’t end there.  Back to Indiana Jones for a minute.  Even if Indiana ultimately played no role in the fate of the Nazis who were seeking the Ark of the Covenant, his presence did affect the story in other ways.  Most notably, when the Nazis showed up at Marion’s bar trying to get the medallion that they needed to find the location of the Ark, they were clearly not above using whatever means necessary to get what they wanted.  Had Indiana not been there to fight back, Marion would probably have been killed in that encounter, but instead, she survives.

And, even though Jesus will come back and Satan will be defeated no matter what we do, we as followers of Christ have a similar role to play here on Earth.  The world is full of millions of people who do not know Jesus or the way of salvation.  Satan and the spiritual forces of darkness know that they are doomed in the end, and they are out there trying to deceive as many human beings as possible, leading them away from the one true God and the path to salvation, found in following Jesus and in nothing else.  Our role is to love others in the name of Jesus and tell them the message of salvation, so that some of them might escape spiritual death, just as Marion escaped physical death because of Indiana Jones being there.

Exit 197. I went by myself.

I watched the movie Ready Player One yesterday.  Those of you who have been reading this site for a long time know that I have read this book multiple times, and that I was apprehensive to see what Hollywood would do with it.  But that isn’t what I’m going to write about this week.  (If you absolutely must know, I’ll briefly address that in a bit.)

What I want to write about is the fact that I went by myself.  I rarely go to movies by myself.  It’s not just because movies are expensive, and it’s not just because I necessarily want someone to discuss the movie with afterward.

I rarely go to movies by myself because going to a movie alone feels like failure.  It makes me feel like I wasn’t good enough to have a friend to go with.  And it isn’t just movies; there are many things I’ve never seen or done because of some self-imposed stigma about doing those things alone.  With my past of often feeling like an outcast, and not having grown up with a lot of friends, and living in a world where people like me are told that we need to get out more, it is understandable that I would have developed this reaction.  And sometimes I do want to be with friends.  Sometimes I wish making plans with friends came easier to me.  Sometimes I wish that the friends I do have weren’t always busy when I’m free and free when I’m busy.

But there is nothing wrong with going to a movie, or to a cultural attraction, or to a sporting event, or on a vacation, alone once in a while.  I’ve missed out on too much by assuming that I have to be with someone to go certain places or else it won’t feel right.  So I really need to get over this.  It’s okay to do something by myself if I want to.

(And as for the movie itself: Everything I’d heard about it made it look like they took the same characters, the same basic premise, and the same general outline of the story, but wrote an entirely new story with different details.  That worried me, because the specific details that were used in the book were exactly what I loved so much about it.  But I didn’t hate the movie.  To me, the new details still kept enough of the spirit of the book to make it enjoyable to watch.)

Exit 178. So why don’t we get it?

I took a week off.  Sorry.

A few days ago, I was with some friends trying to get into the Christmas spirit.  We watched all three of the Santa Clause movies.  I had only seen the first one, and it had been many years.  The main character, Scott (played by Tim Allen), does not always see eye-to-eye with his ex-wife and her new husband, and their conflict is starting to affect their son, Charlie.  Santa Claus dies on Scott’s property, accidentally falling off the roof.  Because of a clause in a contract (get it, it’s a play on words; the name Santa Claus is not actually spelled with an E), Scott has to become the new Santa Claus.  The following winter, when Scott’s appearance begins to change into that of a fat old man, the stepfather becomes convinced that he is suffering from some massive delusion of being Santa Claus and gets his custody taken away.  But this is a family-oriented Disney movie, so there is a happy ending, of course.

Two more movies with these characters were made some time later.  The second movie focuses on the search for a Mrs. Claus and Charlie being put on the Naughty List for being a rebellious teenager.  But it was the third movie that really got me thinking.  Scott has now been Santa for twelve years, and he and Mrs. Claus are expecting a baby.  Jack Frost, tired of being forgotten among the other holidays, tricks Scott into magically going back in time and not putting on the Santa suit the night that Santa fell off the roof.  Jack puts on the Santa suit instead, and Scott returns to a world very different from the one he left.

Early in the movie, when Jack Frost first mentioned the existence of a way to turn back time so that Scott never became Santa Claus, I turned to my friends and said, “Which movie came first, this one or Shrek Forever After?  Because they basically have the same plot.”  (For the record, Santa Clause 3 did.)  Scott finds out that in this alternate timeline, Jack Frost has turned the formerly secret Santa’s workshop into a very public amusement park, where tourists bring their children every Christmas.  The elves are now bored and cynical employees, the reindeer are attractions in a petting zoo, and parents are reminded to spend more money to show their blatantly ungrateful children that they supposedly love them.  Upon seeing the portrayal of this horrible alternate timeline, I said, “I want to add to what I said earlier.  Both Santa Clause 3 and Shrek 4 are basically the same plot as Back To The Future Part II.”

But alternate timelines where a greedy and selfish person becomes powerful and turns something wonderful into something ugly didn’t start when Biff Tannen stole the DeLorean.  Forty-two years before Back To The Future Part II, something similar happened in It’s A Wonderful Life, when George Bailey sees an alternate Bedford Falls in a world where he had never been born.  And, without the alternate universe aspect, stories of greedy and selfish individuals making the world a miserable place have probably been around as long as storytelling itself.

So why don’t we get it?  Why are there so many greedy and selfish people if there are so many stories like this out there?  And for that matter, why are so many wealthy people in the film industry making movies that show the dangers of greed while acting greedy and selfish themselves in their personal lives?

For one thing, usually greedy people are making others’ lives miserable, not their own.  The greedy villains in these movies always have their empires toppled in the end, but real-life selfish people probably just don’t think it will happen to them.  And all of this really comes down to the fact that human beings are broken and fallen and just generally capable of all sorts of destructive behavior.

I’ve been there before.  There were Christmases in my childhood when I threw a tantrum over the one gift I didn’t get.  I’m not proud of those moments.  I still have times as an adult when I lack gratitude.  I have so much that so many in the world would love to have, but the mention of the one thing I don’t have makes me just as pissy as the bratty children at Jack Frost’s North Pole.

I can’t change the world by myself.  I cannot singlehandedly fight all the influences that feed people’s greed and selfishness.  The burden is too great to bear.

But I can do my best.  And I can change myself.  And both of those are better than doing nothing.

Exit 57. Underneath, there is a beautiful little story.

Sorry I’m late.  I had a lot of unexpected things happen this last weekend.

One thing I did recently was watch the movie Orange County.  I’ve seen this movie probably close to 100 times since its 2002 release.  And it was not at all a movie I expected to love so much.  I actually passed up a chance to see it on the big screen when it was first released.  I had a friend from Church I with the Problems who was a live-in nanny at the time.  She was taking the teenage boy to the movie theater to see Orange County with some friends of his, and she and I were going to go see something else.  I’m not even sure now what it was, although if it’s what I think I remember it being, it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen to the point that I don’t even want to discuss it.  I passed on Orange County because I had seen commercials for it, and I thought it looked like a dumb and disgusting teen stoner movie.

For those of you who don’t remember this movie, or (especially) for those of you who are getting it mixed up with a similarly named but unrelated TV show from a little later: Orange County stars Colin Hanks (Tom’s real-life son) as Shaun, a high school senior, a former surfer, stoner, and underachiever who has finally found inspiration.  In one horrible day, his dreams of leaving Orange County and following this inspiration constantly go wrong, despite the best efforts of Ashley, his overly positive girlfriend (Schuyler Fisk, the real-life daughter of Sissy Spacek), and Lance, his lovable loser older brother (Jack Black, playing the exact same character he always plays so well).

About six months after the time I didn’t see Orange County on the big screen, in June, I was visiting my parents while on school break.  My brother was borrowing the DVD of Orange County from a coworker, or community college classmate, I forget which.  He was into a lot of those dumb teen movies at the time, and I’d usually give them a chance.  But the day after we watched Orange County, I watched it again.  It was rare that I would want to watch one of his favorite movies a second time.  This one was special.  A few months later, my family came to visit me for my birthday.  At the time, the tradition was that my brother would get me a movie for my birthday.  I hadn’t mentioned to him any movies that I wanted, nor did I give him any gift ideas.  After taking me to dinner, we were opening presents in the parking lot, and my brother was holding my present behind his back, unwrapped, so I couldn’t see it.  Mom asked, “Do you think you know what [your brother] got you?”  I had a serious dilemma on my hands here.  If I said I thought he got me Orange County, that would mean admitting publicly that I liked this silly movie.  If I didn’t say anything, though, I’d miss a chance to be right.  I went with the first option eventually, saying something like “Ummmmmmmmmorangecounty?”  He pulled his hand out from behind his back, and sure enough, there was Orange County on DVD.  I watched it around 30 times in the next month alone.

So why did I change my mind about this little piece of cinematic brilliance?  The whole teen surfer stoner culture is just the backdrop.  Underneath, there is a beautiful little story about being yourself, figuring out what is really important in life, and having a love-hate relationship with your hometown and the way it influences you.  (Notice that the movie is named after where Shaun lives, not after what he does or what he wants to be in life or anything like that.)  And those are all things I can relate to very well.  Long before I had this blog or Facebook or Myspace or Livejournal, I used to send a monthly email to stay in touch with all my friends.  I mentioned this movie in one of those monthly emails around the time I first discovered it.  One of my good friends from high school replied, “What is it with you brilliant people and stupid movies?  My brother was just telling me he was watching Bring It On while writing his dissertation.”  (I haven’t seen Bring It On by the way.)  I replied something like, “I have a special connection with movies I can relate to.  And let’s look at it this way.  Shaun, in Orange County, is a confused kid who is tired of his hometown.  His family drives him crazy.  He writes a story based on his life.  He can’t wait to get away from all of that, but nothing goes right, and in the process, he learns what’s important in life and that running away won’t solve all his problems.  DOES THIS SOUND LIKE ANYONE YOU KNOW?  I rest my case.”

So there it is.  Orange County is one of my all-time favorite movies.  If you’ve never seen it, and you want to, come on over.  Unless you’re a jerk and I don’t know you, in which case maybe you should watch it with your own friends.

What about the rest of my readers?  Do any of you have a lesser-known movie, or book, or anything else, that you really connected with like this?