Spring Flu = Movie Time

Postcard design by Megan Heflin.
This, ma' dudes, will be a long and largely pointless one.

I am a man of many talents, not the least of which is sudden, debilitating illness at irregular yet strangely predictable intervals. I never imagined I would have a show crash (sudden collapse of health and mental faculty following a production's close; not to be confused with Snow Crash) after filming Android Insurrection, yet that seems to be exactly what has happened to me over the past four days or so. How else can I explain a sudden flu in the middle of spring? It even began during a lull in the almost-constant rain we're having. It began, in fact, while I was enjoying an impromptu trip out Thursday night to see Thor.

I don't know, man. It's enjoyable? It's enjoyable. They did a nice job capturing some of that easy humor that made the first Iron Man so palatable, without skimping on serious stakes for the characters. Branagh was in familiar territory in many respects, including regally set father-son relationships. I also found it largely forgettable, though. Probably the most interesting aspect of it was how finely honed Loki's character seemed to be - never being outright evil, never being altogether good. I actually found myself wondering how much he himself was aware of his motivations, at times. Unexpected complexity for this kind of movie.

It's also, unsurprisingly, a movie that cluster-flocks your eyeballs with elaborate CGI. They seemed aware enough of this to make the Earth setting very plain and grounded, but that doesn't help me view Asgard as any less of a carnival of RoyG.Biv-brought pain, a little vacation in a rainbow-decked uncanny valley, a . . . really computer-generated picture-thing. And I really do wish someone would get a memo out to Marvel that this rubber-ized "armor" material they use doesn't read as magi-science metal. It reads as cheese, a la '90's The Flash television series. At one point in the movie, Thor drops one of their shields, and the pick-up of it hitting the ground uses an actual metal shield. It was so jarring to the continuity to me I laughed. Why did no one else? The prop had clearly been made of plastic up until that point! HA HA!

But to some extent, I have to admit, I was probably just disappointed in a similar way to how I was over Batman Begins. It's not that they did an especially bad job, it's just not the movie I would've liked to see. I know it would have made some problems for integrating Thor into the Avengers movie, but I think when life hands you a superhero who is a god, nested in ancient history, you have the potential to do something really different with the idiom. Make him more of a question mark. Dress him in rusty metal, or dare to give him religious overtones. Just a little grit and ambiguity is what makes me more interested in Captain America and X-Men: First Class than Thor. But I may be alone in this, and gods know it wasn't my $150 million, so what do I know?

The rest of my weekend enjoyed the remainder of our "three months free" Showtime (the WORST pay channel?), The Movie Channel and Netflix Instant. (Wife Megan can rejoice that at least a couple of the decidedly unromantic Korean films have been wiped from our queue.) I started out inauspiciously, which may or may not have had something to do with how sick I was compared to how sick I thought I was - by midday my fever of which I had previously been unaware had spiked to 102. I wrapped up Valkyrie On Demand (oh Bryan, what pretty, inconsequential movies you make) and started on Adventureland. I only got about fifteen minutes in to that before giving up. Still can't decide if that was because I found the movie improbably uninteresting (it is) or because my frustration trying to understand Jesse Eisenberg's meteoric movie career hit a bursting point (it did).

But THEN. Oh, THEN. Cruising through channels for something short-term, I found that Big Fan was just starting. This is a little movie I've had some curiosity about. I enjoy it - succeed or fail - when comedians (Patton Oswalt, in this case) tackle serious fare, and I thought the movie sounded like it had potential for interesting conflict when I heard about it a couple of years ago. But I pretty much hate spectator sports (subject for another post) and, frankly, at the time I was a little mixed on Patton. Since then I've had time to learn more about him, and he's grown on me. So I gave Big Fan a shot.

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS. Oh my gosh. So good. So GOOD. Man. This movie was surprising in all the best ways, primarily because it is deftly handled with incredible honesty. It's ugly - New York and Jersey look like they really do most of the time, and the people are presented in all their fat and crinkles. It's beautiful - so believable, and the most despicable of characters are played with real heart. And what everyone said about Oswalt's performance is true. It's unequivocally wonderful. I think it's entered my canon of great NYC movies, in spite of being contemporary, largely in New Jersey and about football fans. Go to see (er, at home, from whichever delivery service).

After Big Fan, I shuffled back to bed with my peaking fever, and brought the laptop to consume one that I've been hanging on to for far too long. I balked at Let the Right One In; don't know why, but I just keep putting that one off. Instead, I finally hunkered down for Oldboy. Which, I've decided, was a mistake. 1) I waited too long and it got built up quite a bit in my mind 2) Big Fan left me high, not in the mood for hard-boiled noir 3) I've since learned the dubbing on Old Boy is atrocious, and I should've gotten the DVD and watched with subtitles. It's a good film. It's based on manga, and is a revenge story, so . . . BRING THE KIDS! (But don't, at all.) Ugh. That was my overall response. It's difficult to imagine a Spielberg/Smith remake.

But it was awfully well done! With both (dark) humor and good performances! Yay, noir, as well! And one thing, which I can't believe I never heard specifically about: corridor fight scene. Oh my God. Shot over three days with no cuts or CGI edits (barring some small CGI to deal with a stabbing and a few punch connections). All time - it's in my top ten fight scenes, indubitably. Warning: This is violent: No, really:


I didn't feel like leaving Korea just yet (in spite of having a bit of a gorge in my throat [possibly a live octopus]) and ventured thereafter into The Host. This is a movie I can recommend without hesitation. Unless you dislike monster and/or dysfunctional-family movies. It's billed as a horror movie, but I think that's a little reductive. What gives the movie wings (gills?) is its success in portraying a lovable yet serious dysfunction in family, society - really in humanity at large. The struggle against the monster becomes the struggle against our own nature, and its outcome is satisfyingly bleak. That being said, the movie is still very funny and ends on a hopeful note. Great sick viewing. Wish I could have seen it with a NYC audience when it was in theatres.

I tried to move on to Daybreakers which - I've been led to believe - is a largely underrated movie, but alas the weight of sleep was too much. The good Wife and I did finally consume I Love You, Phillip Morris over the course of Saturday into Sunday, which had been laying listless on our sidetable for almost a week. ILYPM is really REALLY good. I think. I was a little fever-hazy, feeling helpless for much of it, so I might have been especially emotionally pliable. But I think it was really REALLY good. A pretty impressive blend of humor, style, and genuine emotion. Great performances from two actors who are, admittedly, favorites of mine (though certainly far from do-no-wrong status). I wanted to stand up and clap for them at the end, but that may speak to my physical state as much as to their work.

There's also a lot of outright male homosexual sexuality. Men, having sex with each other, and enjoying that. So it may not be everyone's thing. I, for one, found its approach to that aspect refreshing. It pulled no punches, while also having a freeing sense of humor about it. Frankly, I expected to experience more of a challenge with it, given how much seeming controversy surrounded the movie's release here in the US. I wonder if that controversy was more constructed to try to market the film post-Brokeback, or if anti-homosexual contingents are more offended by enjoying homosexuality than by glorifying or being coy with it? Whatever. Movie's not about that - surprise, surprise.

Aptly enough, the weekend ended with both the Wife and I performing in our cinema-themed, student silks show: Coming Attractions. Each act was inspired by a different popular movie, Wifey's being an amazing (and impressively long) solo inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I made it in by the skin of my constitution (and the grace of some OD'ing on Alka-Seltzer Cold'n'Flu) and managed to perform a little less than half of my Die Hard-inspired solo. I wasn't sure if I had recovered enough by Sunday evening to manage the opening move (an all-arm climb) much less anything else, but adrenaline is the best medicine, and in a way I had been studying movie magic my entire accidental three-day weekend. As I got close to my improvised stopping point, hanging from the ceiling by my knees and grappling with sweaty hands to tie a knot below me, I thought:

This is apt, too. John McClane would totally have the flu while having to do something both stupid and awesome. Yippee-ki-yay...
 
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