Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

I have mostly been ignoring this whole “woo, the world is going to end tomorrow!” “woo, people who think that are soooo crazy!” thing that’s been going around, because it’s silly. But I do have a grudge against the Mayan calendar. It is because of the Mayan prediction about the end of the world — or someone’s interpretation as such — that I was once terribly rude in a theater during a press screening. I am still slightly embarrassed.

For some reason passing my current understanding, back in 2009 I went to the press screening for the movie 2012. I wasn’t reviewing the movie. Maybe I was just bored. Actually, now that I look at the release date, I do understand, because it was November 2009 and I was between jobs, and probably just wanted to hang out with film critic friends and go to daytime screenings while I had the chance. And of course there is always the chance that a movie that looks like it might be dreadful could surprise you. (Also, there was John Cusack and Oliver Platt.)

But 2012 was just awful. It wasn’t even an entertaining disaster movie in an Irwin Allen-ish way. The movie is about the epic disasters that occur in December 2012 when the whole Mayan calendar thing kicks in and the earth boils and collapses or whatever it does. The plot was dumb, the characters were dumb, the CGI-a-go-go special effects were implausible, and it had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. I sat next to a colleague who she was shaking her head at me a little in a teasing way because I kept checking my watch, wondering if it would ever, ever end. It was 158 minutes long and I felt every second of those minutes.

Near the end of the movie, John Cusack is doing something heroic underwater — I honestly can’t remember what — and he’s submerged longer than expected. And his wife, who has done nothing at all of any interest throughout the previous two hours or so, just starts screaming and carrying on. And I was thunderstruck. Let me tell you, if Chip were underwater saving all of us and it was longer than 30 seconds, I would be diving down there immediately. No woman in that situation who wasn’t a movie character would just stand there and do nothing.

“Bitch, please.”

And then I realized that I’d said it out loud.

And then I realized I had probably not used my inside voice, either.

And my friend is sitting next to me trying to fight the urges to frown at the noise or laugh at the outburst or maybe even applaud, who knows, and I suspect had quite a struggle herself to remain composed. Press-only screenings are generally not lively affairs. My first press screening was Clerks 2 and I can remember worrying that I was laughing too loudly..

The wife eventually did go after the husband, although it took so long it was a miracle he hadn’t died and been eaten by a killer shark (not that there were killer sharks, but in this movie, I wouldn’t have been surprised if one appeared out of nowhere just for kicks) and they all lived happily ever after on a cruise ship, which made no sense at all, but oh joy, oh rapture, the movie was over at last.

My colleague teased me about it afterward, but no one else said anything. We were in the front row of people, so maybe the sound didn’t carry? Maybe it was drowned out by the industrial-strength soundtrack? Or maybe everyone else was asleep. Still, I am not proud of having shouted at a movie in a theater, any movie that isn’t Rocky Horror, and I blame the damn Mayans. Also Roland Emmerich, the writer/director who perpetrated this atrocity. And Amanda Peet, too, now that I think of it, for not protesting at the inanity of the character she played.

But mostly the Mayans. The world is ending tomorrow, is it? Bitch, please.

Twilight of the Alamo on South Lamar

Today’s photo is not holiday-related but it looks festive. Again, however, this is one of those festive photos that makes me sad.

What you are looking at is the porch of Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. I took this during Fantastic Fest this year, a genre (horror, sff, martial arts, etc.) film festival in Austin. The festival has been going on annually since 2005, takes place almost entirely at this theater, and I have been to it every year. It is the first festival I ever attended as credentialed press. It has a special place in my heart, which is a phrase I don’t use too often because it’s terribly sappy, but it’s the right thing to say here.

Between movies, a lot of us gather on this porch, which has lots of benches and convenient power outlets if you’re trying to write a review (which you can’t, because people keep coming up and being charmingly social). I do a lot of socializing on this porch, not just at Fantastic Fest but year-round. I’m watching a lot of movies right now for end-of-year awards consideration, several are at this theater, and afterwards we all go out there and argue about whether Zero Dark Thirty is better than Moonlight Kingdom. (Which is a completely stupid type of comparison unless you’re having to vote on awards, but I digress.)

And next year, when Fantastic Fest takes place, this porch will be gone. In fact, the porch will be gone in January. This Alamo Drafthouse and the surrounding strip mall are being torn down. The Alamo will be rebuilt (possibly using some of the existing building, but almost certainly not this porch) and will reopen around September, probably just in time for the film festival. But it will be an entirely new type of complex with sleek trendy condos (or apartments, I can’t remember) and a parking garage instead of the endearingly shabby thrift stores and shops and boxing gym around it. I’m not opposed to the new development but I’ll miss the old one nonetheless.

I was there yesterday for a movie and already, all the shops are closed and fenced off so they can be torn down. The Casa Garcia is halfway demolished. I didn’t take pictures … it was too sad. (Not to mention many familiar Alamo and Highball staffers losing their jobs because of the closure, which just breaks my heart, another phrase I don’t use lightly.)

I’m sure there will be a new porch or hangout; Alamo is very good about that sort of thing. It might even be better than picnic benches and concrete and at night, lights that would look at home on a Christmas tree. But of course I’m going to miss this porch.

It’s the time of year where people start to talk about Christmas movies, and I want my turn. Every year we get new crappy Christmas-themed movies in theaters, as inoffensive and family-friendly as possible, and that’s not what I want to talk about. No Polar Express, no ninety-thousandth remix of The Nutcracker or even A Christmas Carol (although there are several versions of the latter that I like).

What is a Christmas movie, anyway? In my book, it’s a movie that you want to watch when it’s Christmas. You don’t really get a hankering for it in July, although I remember one grad-school summer when AMC was showing It’s a Wonderful Life almost daily and I used to like watching the first half if I stumbled upon it. It can be a movie with one good Christmas scene in it — like Little Women, Meet Me in St. Louis or Holiday. Brazil is set at Christmas time, and perhaps that’s your cup of tea. Lots of people enjoy Die Hard.

Or hell, maybe it’s one that has nothing to do with Christmas at all but you’re used to watching it then. A lot of people grew up watching The Wizard of Oz on network TV at Christmas. I have a fondness for Singin’ in the Rain at this time of year, usually if I am actually wrapping presents. My husband and I go to Alamo Drafthouse on Christmas week every year for their annual movie-and-sliders screening of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Okay, I don’t think that actually qualifies, although we can certainly count Bad Santa, which we often watch on or around Christmas.

I bought a movie on DVD yesterday. I don’t buy a lot of DVDs anymore. The household rule of thumb for DVDs is that they should be movies you plan to watch at least once a year. Otherwise, we’d need a bigger bookcase for them. But I also like to buy older movies that I’ve been waiting to be released on DVD for years and years, not just because I love the movies, but because I want to support these types of movies being on DVD, and the best way to do that is buying them. We have a lot of 1930s movies on DVD for just this reason.

I had just read something online about Christmas movies, and thought about one of my favorites, even though I have only seen it once or twice, and on a whim I did a search on Amazon. Lo and behold, TCM has released a DVD of Remember the Night. This is a 1940 movie written by Preston Sturges (The Lady Eve) and directed by Mitchell Leisen (Midnight). It stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck and a lot of familiar character actors, several of which show up again together in It’s a Wonderful Life some years later. Naturally I snapped it up immediately, and it should be here soon.

Remember the Night is the kind of movie you stumble upon while wrapping presents in the back bedroom on Dec. 24 if you want a distraction and are weary of A Christmas Story. At least, that’s how I ended up watching it the first time. Stanwyck is a shoplifter whom MacMurray’s DA has put in jail awaiting trial over Christmas, but when he finds she can’t make bail, he bails her out himself, and even offers to drive her to her family’s home in Indiana for Christmas. It starts out hard-boiled and snappy, but the second half gets a bit sentimental and hell, even corny at times. However, you get to be a little schmaltzy with a Christmas movie, especially with Stanwyck around. Double Indemnity, this is not, not by a long shot.

I want to see Remember the Night again. I’m hoping I still like it, even though it’s been years. I hope I haven’t hyped it too much in my head because it was unavailable to me (TCM shows it annually but we don’t have cable). And … sometimes you just want to watch a sappy Christmas movie, especially if it is counterbalanced with Sturges’ snappy dialogue. I have seen It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street too many times, and White Christmas gets a little annoying in spots, and Bad Santa doesn’t quite satisfy my need for a little unabashed melodrama. I don’t know if I’ll watch it now or save it another week — I’ll have to see if it’s at all interesting to my husband — but I’m looking forward to revisiting this movie.

Gilded branches

I picked the photo with the star for my holiday cards, and also ordered cards with the reels-and-candle mantelpiece to send in a quasi-professional way. I liked the photo with the ogling Santa, which I took in Tucson last year, but I didn’t want to get anything too overtly Christmas-y, although my parents may even interpret the star as religious if they choose. I like a holiday card that’s open to multiple interpretations.

I suppose I also could have considered the above photo, which looks holiday-ish in a generic sort of way. There are a few traditional hanging ornaments but they’re subtle. And I have an odd fondness for winter holiday decorations in Texas that don’t have snow, because we never have snow. How do you portray a Texas Christmas? Cowboy boots with holly are too obvious. Dead grass is not decorative.

The photo above was taken at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Austin last year. I don’t normally hang around at the Four Seasons — it’s lovely but I always feel a little grungy and underdressed in there. Although when I go for press events, often the “celebrity” I am interviewing looks even grungier than I do. Read on »

I drink MY milkshake.

Today’s prompt over at Holidailies is “guilty pleasures,” and while I normally use my own Sekrit Method of prompting myself, a guilty pleasure immediately leapt to mind as I was posting a thread about the prompt to the website. See that photo above? One of my biggest guilty pleasures are the chocolate milkshakes at Alamo Drafthouse theaters.

I have rules about the milkshakes. I am only allowed to consume them during film festivals (or really long movie marathons). I try to limit myself to one shake per festival, too. This means we’re talking about perhaps four milkshakes in a year, tops. People tell me the vanilla milkshakes are divine but you know me, I can’t resist chocolate. The espresso milkshakes sound wonderful but I did promise my husband I would stay away from milkshakes with the word “espresso” in them after I had one at The Hideout and practically suffered a personality change, and not for the better.

I visited a dietician today, recommended by my doctor. My cholesterol level is a little higher than we would like. My weight is rather higher than anyone would like. I was worried I was going to be subjected to a Shame Session but the dietician turned out to be helpful and friendly, and gave me a lot of good advice that didn’t hinge upon me changing my diet too radically. Or so I hope. Read on »