Let’s Purple Drank The Oscars!

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Agenda Movie Club: Primer

Primer

Shane Carruth

2004

When we screen movies for the film festival, we have a rule that we have to watch a (feature-length) movie for at least 20 minutes before we deem it so terrible that we can turn it off. I think movies like Primer are exactly the reason for this.

By the time I saw this, of course, it was years after it came out and already praised so highly that I knew I needed to keep watching it. But I tried to imagine what it would be like if I had no knowledge of it at all, and I just happened to be screening it for the festival. It doesn’t look great, it’s clearly very low budget. I wouldn’t say the acting is particularly good, and the people talk from the very beginning like you already know what’s going on, using shorthand and jargon that felt more frustrating than intriguing. Basically, I think I would have thought it was made by people who thought they knew how to make a movie, but were clearly wrong.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, in this pretend world where I’m screening this for the festival, I turned the movie off if we didn’t have the 20 minute rule, just because it seemed like such a mess at the beginning.

But, look, I clearly would have been wrong. In fact, this is a glorious example of what you can actually make even with a super low budget. The way the characters are talking at the beginning makes perfect sense once you’ve gotten through the rest of the movie. This a helluva good reason to think that if you’re a smart person with a camera, you don’t need much money to make a great movie.

And so ambitious! Who makes a time travel movie (one of the best time travel movies?) without any money? Why would you try that?

I know people say this movie is very confusing, but I didn’t feel that way. Maybe more accurately: it didn’t really bother me. Part of this is because I tend to miss plot points in movies, so I kind of just watch a lot of movies being slightly confused and assuming I missed something, so the state I was in watching Primer was pretty similar to how I float around in most movies. I figure most people don’t experience movies that way, though.

And even though I got the joke before I’d even seen the movie, this will always be funny.

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Agenda Movie Club: Clue

Clue

Jonathan Lynn

1985

Hadn’t watched this for 20 – 25 years (wow), so I took a look again to see if I was crazy about loving it when I was a kid. We all have shitty taste when we’re kids (don’t deny it), so I thought it was at least possible that this wouldn’t play so well now that I’m all grown up and have very refined and, frankly, impeccable tastes.

Turns out I still know pretty much every line and every beat in the movie, so I didn’t get the clean look at it that I hoped for. But I still love it. I did expect that there would be a fair bit of subtext that I didn’t understand when I was a kid that I might get now, but that didn’t really happen, either—I pretty much got all the political and sexual innuendo when I was a kid, too. Not sure what that says.

The things I thought were funny about it have shifted a bit. The singing telegram wasn’t as ROFLMAO now as it was when I was eight or ten. I appreciate more the fact that most of these people are genuine comic geniuses and it’s fun watching them just roll with it. I wonder how much of the movie is ad-libbed.

I’m still not sure how to feel about the homosexuality humor. It doesn’t seem particularly offensive to me, and if you’ve seen the movie, you know there’s a very specific reason for it, but I’m not sure if it’s actually not that offensive or if I’m making excuses because this was made in the 1980s and the things people would say were different then.

I like remembering how baffled I was that this movie could have three different endings. I wasn’t able to watch it until it was out on video (I found out the release date and waited and waited and waited and then went to the video store– Video Village– to rent it on the day it came out). How were they going to get three different endings on there? Did they have some rotating contraption in the videocassette that would change each time you played it? Obviously I found out the answer when I watched it. But that’s a memory I like.

Read this article about the history of the movie, it’s loooong, but totally fantastic.

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Agenda Movie Club: Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Jean-Marc Vallée

2013


If I would have posted on this right after I saw it instead of being lazy, I would have said, “clearly Jared Leto will get an Oscar nomination, and could very well win. Matthew McConaughey could get one, too, it’s just the kind of ‘lost-a-lot-of-weight Oscar bait’ kind of role that gets nominated.”

Well, both of them did. And I don’t mean to minimize McConaughey’s performance, he’s very good and I don’t really have any problem with him getting nominated. I’m very glad he’s kind of figured out what he’s good at.

This is a good movie, partly because the protagonist is kind of a selfish dick, it’s not like he’s trying to help people just to help people (he turns plenty away who can’t pay). That makes it interesting. I imagine there’s plenty I didn’t notice, which I say after I was clued in that the brand of McConaughey’s jeans change depending on whether he’s doing well or down on his luck (like, he gets good jeans when he can afford them).

I always wonder how many stories from the early days of AIDS we don’t know. When I was a kid in school, it was “Ryan White.” But there are so many stories that are only now coming out, and so many stories and so much sadness that we’ll never hear. What a horrific time, for so many reasons.

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Agenda Movie Club: Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Joss Whedon

2013

15 minutes into this, I was cringing and ready to turn it off (I didn’t). Where was my faith in Joss Whedon?

I’ll tell you: the thing I love about Whedon is how he writes, and how he had his characters deliver the lines he writes. So, as much as people were saying that Whedon and Shakespeare were a perfect match, I just didn’t really believe that. I felt like it was kind of taking Whedon’s strengths away from him.

One thing I wasn’t taking into account was the “Hush” episode in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” I wasn’t remembering just how well Whedon gets his actors to express feelings even when they’re not saying anything.

And this is where he really, really adds something to Shakespeare. After the first 15 or 20 minutes, which truly are just deadly dull, the actors start to use their physicality to express the comedy and the feeling behind Shakespeare’s words, and they do it VERY well. They’re funny and they pause at just the right times in the dialogue and their facial expressions and gestures are just right to help us know what they mean and to move the story and the words along. There are a couple of wonderful set pieces (when Benedick is “overhearing” the Beatrice loves him, and when we’re introduced to the police– actually, anything with the police) that are fantastic examples of timing and physical comedy. Yeah, Whedon pulled it off.

I also liked that he figured out a way to register disgust with a racist line in the play while still keeping that line in the movie (although I felt conflicted… it also highlighted the fact that basically everyone in the movie is white), and I was very happy to see Mikey Kellerman, who I felt really understood how the dialogue needed to be delivered.

I still wouldn’t say Whedon and Shakespeare are a perfect match… I don’t actually love Shakespeare that much so I’d kind of just prefer to watch something Whedon wrote himself. That said, if I have to watch Shakespeare, let’s just have Joss Whedon direct it from now on.

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Agenda Movie Club: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Eli Craig

2010

I’ve got this weird brain where I’m dumb as a post but I remember everything I’ve ever heard.

This movie played at Tallgrass a couple of years ago, and I didn’t catch it then, but watching it now I’m really proud that we played it there. I liked it a lot.

The first half of the movie is really inspired, turning the “teens go to the scary cabin and get killed by the hillbillies” on its head, and it’s genuinely funny. Super bloody, but funny. I’d say it has a little trouble sustaining its momentum in the second half, and gets a little bit dumb (I mean, it’s all dumb, but it’s less of the “fun” dumb) when the evil teen murderer subplot gets going. But I’m not actually complaining that much, because I still had fun with it, even when it wasn’t as strong.

Alan Tudyk is fun, covered in bee stings and supposedly the one who really knows what the ladies want, and Tyler Labine is far better than I ever would have thought he’d be after seeing him as a Jack Black knock-off in ‘Reaper.’

Totally worth watching, probably a nice double feature with Cabin In The Woods.

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Agenda Movie Club: W.E.

W.E.

Madonna

2011

The third of our “George VI” trilogy (yes, I know this is mostly not about George VI, but that’s mostly how it got on our radar).

Really, this movie is mostly a mess. It jumps between the past and the present, but includes multiple women who look really, really similar, so it’s hard to tell at some points (especially early) who is who. The movie looks like it was made by someone who has watched a couple of movies but has pretty much no idea how you actually make one. And it’s got some extended and bizarre scenes of pretty extreme violence that seemed seriously unnecessary.

What’s worse is that I don’t really feel like I learned all that much about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Why do you need to dress that story up? Seems like a pretty compelling one all on its own, but they decided to use a bunch of ridiculous editing techniques and add a contemporary storyline and… sheesh. Whatever. I imagine there must be a good movie to be made about this.

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