12 July 2010

Second Wind and Other Goodness

The oppressive sense of doom I've had for the last 2-3 weeks has finally passed. I didn't realize the toll it was taking on my life to meet every day with a sense of dread. Even fun things--watching movies, making cheeseburgers on the grill, riding my bike--had started to feel like chores. You can imagine how the work parts of life felt.

But whatever chemical cocktail started this mess seems to have left my body. (Cue the big band music.) I think the Yogi Detox tea helped. (I don't know how to insert links, but you can Google it. It's tasty, if you like your tea a little chai, a little spicy, not very sweet.) I also think trying to be patient helped.

So today, I'm starting on chapter 6 of the diss. I like my schedule, but I've noticed that I have a LOT of down time that I could better utilize. This week, I hope to do just that so we can, fingers crossed, go camping this weekend. We've been trying for weeks to go, but between crowds and hot, hot heat, it's just not sounded like fun. This past weekend, we painted the kitchen and hit up some MTB trails. All good stuff.

In the spirit of my most favorite recent blog post, I give you my Unsolicited-and-Very-Much-Novice Movie Reviews of the Best and Worst Films I've Seen in Recent History. But first, a disclaimer: There are some meh movies on here that are neither best nor worst.

Goliath: I really really wanted to like this quirky indie film from the Zellner brothers. I tend to enjoy deadpan comedy, especially over the slapstick-too-obvious tripe out there now passing for "comedy" (like Knocked Up, a film whose merits I will NEVER appreciate). But Goliath dragged, even for a film of its genre, a genre known for long, uncomfortable camera shots and seemingly unrelated side stories. And the minuta became just too minute to be interesting. There's also a scene with a dead cat, a very realistic dead cat, that I didn't like at all. The interactions between the everyman lead character and his boss, his ex-wife, and pretty much anyone he encounters are all too awkward to be really funny. Instead, I just felt uncomfortable for him, and not in a cathartic way.

The Pacific: I had high hopes for this first installment of the HBO miniseries, since it's from the same team as Band of Brothers. I know it's passe to like Band of Brothers. Everyone likes Band of Brothers. But I do find it to be a miniseries with a rare set of attributes: pretty good acting (especially from Ron Livingston and Damian Lewis), rich history, and a lot of heart. But The Pacific, which covers the Pacific theater of war during WWII (to complement the European scope covered in BoB) lacks decent source material and a solid storyline. While Ambrose's book is anything but well written, at least his chronicles of Easy Company follow a cadre of men from training through the end of the war. Though I'm only 50 minutes in to The Pacific, it already feels overacted, forced, and a little haphazard. Still, I'm excited to see what's next.

Green Zone: I think this Matt Damon film marks the last Iraq/Afghanistan Hollywood blockbuster I'll bother to see. The film was typical Damon, very secret ops and running around with guns, even though the political message was foregrounded more clearly. It's set in 2003-4 and contends with the bad intelligence gathered to justify invading Iraq in the first place. (Considering the current political climate on the war, it's interesting that Damon, who's never made his politics a secret, chose now to move forward on it.) The ethical slant of the film considers the Iraqi people with far more respect and care than previous films, and issues like torture, false confessions, and war-mongering-during-election-time all rise to the surface. A good film, if not a bit heavy handed, but still a Matt-Damon-as-Hunky-Hero film, which I expected from another collaboration with Paul Greengrass (director of the Bourne films). I'm just not into a Hollywoodized version of a fictionalized but all-too-important topic made palatable to the American public. Maybe I'm a cynic, though.

Good (and Still Deciding)
The White Ribbon: I think I liked this German film set just prior to WWI. It has a very creepy Children of the Damned feel to it, highlighted by the black-and-white cinematography. (It was, I'll note, nominated or won an academy award for its cinematography, and I do think the way it was filmed added a great deal to the overwhelming sense of dread and fear that pervades the film, as well as making the starkness of the clothing and landscape stand out as characters in their own right.) It's not an optimistic film by any means, as the residents (here, I mean mostly women and children) of the German village deal with sexual abuse, physical abuse, and oppressive gender roles while working to scrape out a living as tenant farmers in service to the Baron. This poverty undergrids the tension of the film and, as I'll hint at without spoilers, leads to a number of baffling and cruel events. Short on positive male characters and long on suffering, The White Ribbon is a war film focusing on a different kind of struggle. A subtle film that felt about 20 minutes too long, yet still a good investment.


Elaine said...

I eagerly awaited The White Ribbon's arrival at Downtown West...and then I was just never motivated to actually go.

I have to be in a very specific kind of mood to want to watch something that grim.

Casie Fedukovich said...

I wasn't quite in the mood for something that bleak either. I went into Blockbuster for "a documentary or something funny." Wow, The White Ribbon was neither. But, yes, you must certainly be ready to suffer along with the character, because there are no happy spots. Not a one.