At the movies

I’ve seen quite a few movies recently. It’d be nice to do some more detailed notes, but as always time rushes by.

Minions

This is a fun movie to watch if you’re tired on a plane. It doesn’t deliver too much, but it doesn’t ask much either. Oh, and the language takes real phrases mixed with random babbling.

The Forbidden Kingdom

The Forbidden Kingdom is one of those movies that feels cast perfectly for teenage males, but left me gagging with a sense of disconnection from reality. Not that it’s fantasy – there is amazing fantasy that’s deeply rooted in an understanding of how humans and societies work – but that it fails to grapple with much that’s meaningful.

Having said which, having Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the same movie is pretty cool, and some of the fights are fun to watch.

Me Earl and the Dying Girl

This movie made me really angry. It’s the story of a teenager (Greg) who is asked by his mother to visit and befriend a classmate with terminal cancer. This is a violation of his attempt to be emotionally invulnerable by staying distant from people around him. The fact that caring for a person with cancer is set up as a violation of his emotional distance, and that the ‘violation’ is the inciting incident for the narrative arc, says a lot about how self involved Greg is.

For what it’s worth, I think Greg is selfish, and could have been a much, much better friend to someone who was in need. More to the point, I felt like his eventual realisation that he was being selfish, and his tentative steps out of his shell, weren’t interesting, and I certainly did not find Greg likeable. One of the more satisfying moments in the movie was when someone punched him (I think they did – maybe they just threatened to?).

I remember reading a description of narrative once, which I’ll paraphrase (I unfortunately can’t dig up the original source) as: ‘Story is interesting things happening to people we can identify with’.

We’ve all been selfish at some point, so I suppose in that sense it’s possible in some way to identify with Greg. But on balance, I felt he wasn’t easy to identify with, and the things that happened to him (becoming less selfish) weren’t interesting.

Having said which, those are just my views. My ever excellent girlfriend liked it a lot, and argued the case for why Greg’s development is significant – leading to me grudgingly shifting my opinion from ‘awful’, to ‘bad’.

The trailer is here, if you want to see it.

The Big Lebowski

I’ve enjoyed other Coen brother films, so I was looking forward to this one (particularly as I’ve heard quite a bit about it).

I found myself somewhat bemused by the end. There are certainly hilarious moments – the Dude’s whip-sharp commentary at points, and bemused, befuddled approach to life at others. But watching, it didn’t feel enough to tie it all together for me. It felt haphazard and random.

But for many people, the Big Lebowski is a big deal. There are some interesting explanations around about why it’s acquired cult status. It seems plausible to me that part of it has to do with the nihilism inherent in the movie – the plot is random and driven largely by external events, that happen haphazardly to a bemused dude. For some, I can imagine that’s a comforting message.

Babette’s feast

Released in 1987, this is a very different beast to most contemporary film I watch. It tells the story of two spinsters in a remote Danish village, and their servant, who cooks them an incredible meal.

The story only really comes together in the final moments, as a pean to art, and the transformative power it has for the artist and those who experience it.

Its style is … slow, certainly not one hanging on narrative tension. It moves at its own pace, and isn’t going to be hurried. For all that, it’s a thoughtful piece, and it leaves questions with the viewer – did Babette do the right thing? What would you have done differently? In some ways I think that’s an excellent quality.

Chef, another movie about the joys of cooking, was fluffier and with a faster pace, but ultimately didn’t leave any lingering questions behind it.

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