Lent: Part 39

Around the World in 80 Days (1956) – I watched the special edition shown on Netflix, although I’m not sure how this differs from the original theatrical release. At just over three hours, it was a hell of a trudge that dragged in the middle, beginning, and in the end. Just because you have all that footage doesn’t mean you have to use it.

There were serious time management issues all around. If they had wasted less time in each location, they could have made broad racial stereotypes of so many more cultures around the world. The use of “Rule Britannia” as a triumphant theme was a nice imperialist touch, especially when they defeated the barbaric Indian death cult with some low-grade scares.

Lent: Part 38

Ip Man (葉問, 2008) – Had I really not seen any kung fu movies this year? No, I’m not counting that section of The Kentucky Fried Movie as a kung fu movie. I still have to watch Enter the Dragon, but surely the origin story of Bruce Lee’s master is close enough for now.

I’m not a big fan of war movies, but I do find it fascinating to see World War II told from a perspective other than the Americans or the major European forces. The post-script in which it said that China won the war was at least a way of putting it that I had never heard before.

Lent: Part 37

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – And now I have seen another actor in the role of James Bond. That makes three, along with Daniel Craig and Sean Connery. I’m not invested in the series or the characters, but George Lazenby seems as worthy of the role as the others. It’s always a pleasure to see Diana Rigg (and Joanna Lumley in a bit part so bit you won’t see her unless you’re looking for her), although it being a Bond movie, Diana Rigg’s character is less a character than a prop.

Lent: Part 36

The House of Yes (1997) – Maybe I’m oversensitive to the trope of the dysfunctional family with the unstable relative, but it’s just not doing it for me. I’m not asking for new or better representations of mental illness in film (although do that, please, movies), I’m asking more for a break from mentally ill family as a plot device. Yes, a great deal of that is on me to stop seeking out those movies, but if Netflix could improve the recommendation algorithm, that’d be great, too.

Lent: Part 35

Modesty Blaise (1966) – I am not familiar enough with the source material to know whether this film adaptation does it justice, but I am familiar with 1960s adventures and comedies. This is a fine example, but I will likely forget having seen it by next year. Don’t feel bad, Modesty Blaise, I forget having seen movies all the time. Just this year, it took me fifteen minutes to remember I had already seen An Affair to Remember, and that’s an actually notable movie.

Lent: Part 34

Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016) – The phenomenon of Pee-wee Herman is bizarre. How did this ever become such a popular thing? How did it become a children’s show? I don’t mean to say I don’t like Pee-wee Herman, but man is that an inexplicable piece of American culture. Perhaps it is for the best that they didn’t get Tim Burton to make this movie, which is in many ways a rehash of the original Big Adventure; he seems to have lost something in the years since then. Paul Reubens, though, even in his 60s, still conveys the surreal man-child with enthusiasm and energy.

Joe Manganiello is also there, for those who are interested in looking at him in a copy of Pee-wee’s gray suit.

Lent: Part 33

Bedazzled (1967) – We’re down the the final week! Soon this delightful trudge will be over for another year!

So I guess there was a remake in 2000, starring whoever was famous back then. I understand the impulse to try to recapture what made the original Bedazzled work, but I really can’t imagine it working, not when you cast Brendan Fraser as the hapless dork. That is a role made for the likes of Dudley Moore.

Lent: Part 32

Laura (1944) – The most detestable and suspicious men are the ones who least conform to masculine ideals of the 1940s, who today read as clearly being on the spectrum of gay-to-Vincent-Price. The women are immaterial to the story. The women are merely MacGuffins.

Lent: Part 31

Catwoman (2004) – Good God, what was that.

I’m not a big fan or connoisseur of Catwoman or other comic book… things, but this is so cheap and just so divorced from the concept it was apparently licensed to use that it feels like a knockoff, like it should be called “Gatwomens” and be sold on a street corner to unsuspecting tourists. Or it’s the store-brand Catwoman that’s supposed to be just the same as the one in the fancy box, but you can tell. It’s just not the same.

Around the point that Halle Berry gets hit with one drop of water, freaks out and sprints for cover shouting “I hate rain!” I began to suspect that the script for Catwoman was written by a brainstorming session.

“No bad ideas, guys,” one of them said, “Come on, what are some things cats do?”
“They hate getting wet?” the new guy said.
“Sure,” said the one in charge, and wrote it on the board.
“They… walk on the furniture.” said another one.
“Yes! Definitely.”
“They go crazy for catnip. My cat loves it when you–”
“Great. Let’s put that one up. What else?”
Six hours later, they had filled the board, and nothing ever got erased. No bad ideas, guys.