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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Thoughts on Gloria

I enjoyed watching the Mexican movie Gloria yesterday, about the pop singer Gloria Trevi and her life with her abusive manager, who exploited teen girls and used them like his personal harem of sex slaves. I had heard of Trevi years ago via a book about her (she was a huge pop star in the 90's in Mexico, like Madonna-level famous), and she went to prison for four years as an accomplice to her manager's exploitation of young girls who idolized Trevi.

From the book, I thought Trevi was a deceitful person who enabled her manager's crimes and lured girls in with promises of celebrity and glamour, like being friends with their idol. In the movie, she is portrayed more sympathetically, as a victim of her manager and manipulated by his emotional abuse and mind games as he rotates her around his group of girls. It made more sense why she would defend him, feeling she owed him for her career success and being her first (first love, first lover). I am not sure what exactly to think, but I do think she was a victim of him while also enabling his crimes to please him.

The acting was really good in this. The actress who played Trevi was excellent, bringing out the wild side of Trevi's celebrity persona while also the vulnerability and fear in her private life with her manager and friends. The actor who played the manager was excellent in playing him as an abusive and slimy predator who saw himself as a god amongst these girls. I also felt for the other girls, especially since they looked really young and brought out their immaturity and childishness amidst trying to act sexy and "adult."

I watched a video afterwards of Trevi performing one of her early hits on TV, and the movie was dead-on in capturing her pop star/rock n roll attitude of tearing up the stage, being unpredictable, and full of heart and passion for her music. It was just really cool to watch, and I could see why she thrilled Mexican audiences at that time.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Thoughts on Roman Holiday

I really enjoyed watching Roman Holiday this morning. I saw it years ago, but rewatched it on Netflix because my friend Michael saw Trumbo and told me that Dalton Trumbo wrote it and went uncredited because he was blacklisted at the time. (The movie's title sequence now has his name restored under a story credit, and it looks as authentic as if it were originally there.)

The film still holds up very well as a fun movie about a princess (Audrey Hepburn) escaping from her palace to live as a "normal" person while visiting Rome, and Gregory Peck plays a journalist who meets her by chance and is charmed by her while secretly trying to write a story on her on a bet, not letting her know that he knows her real identity.

They are really sweet together, Rome looks like a fantasy version of Rome but is nice in the movie, they ride on a Vespa around town, Hepburn gets a cute haircut and has a gelato, the Mouth of Truth scene is still funny over 60 years later, and I like that the love story is unrequited but still has a good ending.

It was a very pleasant movie, and there aren't many good "prince/princess escapes to be normal person in the world" movies. Coming to America is one of the top ones. I just watched a terrible TV movie called A Prince For Christmas, where a British prince escapes his upcoming arranged marriage nuptials and goes to a small American town, where he meets a waitress who wants adventure in her life, and they fall in love while he pretends to be an average person. They are bland as hell, the prince is way too much of a romantic fantasy to be believed, the waitress' ex-boyfriend is portrayed as a jerk because he wants to live a small town family life and doesn't trust the prince, and the town looks like a 1950s postcard come to life. It was bad, and Roman Holiday was much sweeter and more joyful to watch.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Thoughts on Bridge of Spies

I really liked Bridge of Spies. I am fascinated by Cold War politics and spy movies (not the Bond kind, more that are dialogue-heavy and based on real events), so I indulged my nerdy interest in this. Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance both excelled in this, and the depiction of the origins of the Berlin Wall, the nuclear threats, and fears of spies was fascinating to me. Steven Spielberg excelled with making the spy drama Munich more about talk and strategy than just violence, so I was sure he would succeed with this as well.

Thoughts on The Night Before

I saw The Night Before a few weeks ago, a Christmas comedy directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Levine, and Ariel Shaffir. It starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anthony Mackie as friends who want to have one last fun night of Christmas Eve (following 14 years of traditional partying on the Eve), trying to get to a secret party via mysterious instructions, before they settle into their adult life changes. I thought it was decent, and the guys had really good chemistry together, which made it better to watch their scenes together than their individual ones.

It was good at doing some sophomoric comedy (puke scene, drug trips) without getting too crass. The characters had depth to them, and I liked that they were well-rounded and dealing with maturing in their 30s while being afraid to leave behind their tradition for new life changes (fame, first child, breakup). The movie had a really good supporting cast: Lizzy Caplan, Mindy Kaling, Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon, and Ilana Glazer. I felt like the movie felt too wrapped up at times, like it missing some kind of element that would make it memorable, but it was decent to watch for its talented cast and good writing, and I did laugh out loud a few times.

Thoughts on Creed and Spotlight

I saw two new movies recently, Creed and Spotlight.

Creed was really good, very well-written and well-acted. It followed the plot beats of the original Rocky (underdog boxer coached by mentor and fights a famous boxer), but it still felt fresh anyway. Michael B. Jordan gave a really strong performance as a guy who really had to work hard to succeed, and to check himself whenever he got too cocky or hotheaded. I liked how his relationship with Rocky wasn't just a father/son thing, but more about friends motivating each other to keep going and pushing through adversities, and finding a purpose in their lives instead of just giving up when things seemed hopeless. It made the film feel more well-rounded, and less overly predictable. It was a solid mainstream movie by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), written by Coogler and Aaron Covington, taking a film in the Rocky franchise and making it grow more in maturity. Plus, I loved the one-take 360 panning shots, especially in the fight scenes, where the actors were doing their own stunts in one take, that was badass to see. The cinematography was done by Maryse Alberti.

Spotlight was great. It is a very dialogue-driven talky movie, directed by Tom McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh Singer, with journalists chasing a story, doing interviews, taking notes, looking at government records and newspaper archives in libraries, and being fully dedicated to their work. As an archivist, I loved seeing all the researching scenes, it fed my inner nerd and love of looking at data and records. Plus, this film had an insanely great cast: Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and John Slattery. I was just amazed the movie got so much solid talent in one film. The film was sad sometimes (it is about reporters at the Boston Globe in 2001 trying to break a story about child abuse by Catholic priests), but it was still an amazing movie about journalism.