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Episode 157 - Grease vs. Hairspray (w/ Adam Egypt Mortimer)
uh_tom replied to DaltonMaltz's topic in The CanonSometimes things feel right because they are familiar and we expect they are the way they are for some good reason. This has been my life with Grease. It turns out that the film was always broken and I just didn't bother to notice if it was. This was also the experience of our heroine in Hairspray with respect to society, a reckoning and the acknowledgement of a change of values. I paused Hairspray halfway through and was surprised to find I had only watched 20 minutes. Thankfully, things picked up and in the end I found that I had really enjoyed it. I like that Divine does double duty, and I loved the awe-shucksiness of Ricki Lake. I found the music and dance unbearable. Side note, I also watched Swing Time on the same day and it was too much with the stopping to dance, and the racism was taxing. I'd like to say a big thanks to Susan* for the perspective and context. I have not seen SNF, but I have experienced transformative media and it's subsequent derivative and meaningless yet fun progeny and now I see Grease in a way which can never really be the same. Yet, I still enjoy it. For the Canon, my vote goes to Hairspray.
Episode 153 - Cry Uncle! (w/ Lloyd Kaufman)
uh_tom replied to DaltonMaltz's topic in The CanonWhat the hell did I just watch. I've never seen any other movie like this. It is not porn in the modern sense, but definitely revels in its sexual explicitness. Its filmmakers are/were obviously irreverently humorous. It's crass for sure, but intentionally, so I'm willing to roll with it. I feel a little like I did after watching Crumb, disturbed yet surprisingly entertained. What a strange tone to the ending. Maybe it's a coda to emphasize some redemption achieved from the preceding, ahem, action. It really is bizarre to me to think of this film having any kind of theatrical distribution. What different times those were. I had never heard of this movie or of Troma films, and I can't compare it against contemporary movies of a similar type. I haven't even seen The Long Goodbye. I tried watching for some technical or narrative innovation but I just don’t think I have enough context. I do now appreciate that perhaps there is more room in my cinematic world for the sexploitation genre than I had expected. I'm in for a farce, but not sure where or how I'll draw the line on good versus ill natured exploitation. Can exploitation even be good natured, are there degrees and does degree even matter? I guess those are personal decisions and I'll have to think on it. I'm not voting but I'm inclined towards no for inclusion in the canon, given the presumption that this movie is just one of a genre in which there are superior examples.
Episode 152 - The Breakfast Club (w/ Christy Lemire)
uh_tom replied to DaltonMaltz's topic in The CanonNo to the Canon, but just a soft no. Then again sure why not, yes it’s in, well hold on, maybe not, but only just. Yeah, its good enough to revisit emotionally and intellectually. Ok yes. Screw it, I’ll be a good sport. No, no, it’s a soft no. This was how I felt while thinking about including The Breakfast Club in the Canon. I find a lot of TBC wildly problematic by current standards, but that’s not what I hold against it. I was a child when it came out, so I never saw it until much later when I was into my thirties and I began to seek out touchstone movies. I think this is a touchstone movie, as an accidental avatar for the 1980s as a cultural era. Hughes generally wrote/directed movies about American youth when there was still basically one American perspective. There was no BLM or #timesup, nor a Columbine or Sandy Hook. Diversity and inclusion were unheard terms. People still called others gay or retarded and it didn’t offend anyone. I think TBC inadvertently captures the time in which it was made, speaks to societal values at that time and about the America in which our Gen-X friends were raised. If I set aside all the ways my modern sensibilities are offended by those times I am ready to see the breakfast club for what it was without the baggage; a pretty good movie about kids trying to get along. TBC speaks to the alienation in the lives of broad swaths of teenage society, which is well shown and which I enjoy watching for the most part. I readily acknowledge the cultural influence. I think that is the strongest argument for its inclusion into the canon. Mostly, my reservation is that I don’t get invested enough in some of the characters. To make an audience care about each character is one of the hardest things for ensemble films to tackle and here it’s really an admirable job, but I would have preferred a focus on Claire (or really any of the characters) entirely. It’s already almost there. It’s likely that an excellent movie already exists for each of the types in this ensemble. There isn’t really a shortage of movies about teenagers that adroitly handle teenage angst and questions of identity. I find it difficult, as a person without TBC nostalgia to say I love the movie. I just don't think it's a great movie. There, decision made.
Episode 150 - The Avengers (w/ Jenelle Riley)
uh_tom replied to DaltonMaltz's topic in The CanonI call hard pass on canonization of The Avengers. I can tell you that I have not seen all of the supporting material to relish in the Easter eggs of this movie, yet I understand what I've seen just fine. From the supporting points in the podcast discussion I think each could also be leveled at this film as a criticism. For instance, the point that this film finally brings all of the characters together as a team that will be important is easily countered with the comment it takes over an hour to assemble the team and deliver exposition required to begin a perilously thin plot advancement for a movie. To this criticism is my larger gripe that this movie does advance a narrative but the narrative being advanced is larger than this film, so in isolation this movie is unimpressive. Here nothing really happens besides an HR exercise in team building. Literally, the boss assembles them and they learn to appreciate each other's strengths, then they get a little light work in before some future project. To me that's not a problem if we're talking tone and cadence like Jarmusch or something, but lets be honest, we are not talking Jarmusch. If I was to add a superhero film to the Canon because of the dominance of the form in the era I would submit Iron Man, which was prototypical and whose success was not assured. I have to say a requirement to canonize something because of the temporal prominence of a form is a bad argument for canonization. Until the superheroes really star in a film that touches a part of our souls, let's reconsider whether or not they're canonical movies. To that point, one could argue for Black Panther or Wonder Woman in terms of the obvious and wonderful sense of empowerment they stirred in so may people who've always seen themselves portrayed as second fiddle. That said, I still think it's best if we let the future paleontologists and anthropologists discover and ponder the superhero era.
Episode 147 - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (w/ Jen Yamato)
uh_tom replied to DaltonMaltz's topic in The CanonFor me it’s a vote of YES for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I first saw it with no idea how it would go, and having only Disney musicals under my belt. Disney musicals begin somewhat traumatically but always end uplifting, while this musical starts off gently but eventually delivers a punch to the gut. Since then I’ve seen more musicals, but they almost uniformly fit into the happy resolution camp. This movie is important because it is so unique for a musical. Until recently I could think of nothing else quite like it. Umbrellas is so bright and cheery and happy in the beginning, and uses the color and music to set up the ending to excellent effect. I see the film as Demy saying that sometimes things just don’t work out. He shows us that people will make choices in the short term that they must live with for the long term. He shows that people carry the baggage of their relationships into the future. He shows us that life has happiness and grief and that it just goes on. This film was released in the middle of the French new wave. It seems to me to be made in this spirit. We are conditioned to expect happy or at least emotionally resolved endings, particularly in musicals. When they don’t arrive we, the general audiences, get angry. I like Umbrellas in part because I don’t think it has a conventionally happy ending for any character. That said, I don’t think it’s a sad story either. At least not in the tradition of sad movies that build toward a death or something. I enjoy the sung through style, and the little theme songs for people. I like the voice acting just fine, and read or saw somewhere that the music played while the actors were filmed. This indicates to me that sound and its matched motion are primary aspects of the director’s thought in preparing the scenes. The colors are variably bright to drab as discussed and change throughout the film to support the story. I really think our auditory and visual circuitry are designed to impact us first by emotion and second by intellect. My guess is that the movie is intentionally that way. It works first on a visceral level. This film, shot in black and white, with the dialog spoken, would be much less effective.