Sunday, September 7, 2014

Matt’s Week in Dork! (8/31/14-9/6/14)

    I feel like I didn’t get a lot done this week, but I also know I was out and about, and very busy for most of it.  My downtime on Sunday and Wednesday night was just so unproductive…Anyway.

    Seeing two classics on the big screen this week did remind me of a few things.  Movies are simply better on the big screen.  Not only the size of the screen and (hopefully) the immersive sound.  But also the group viewing experience.  You can feel the crowd, sense their reactions.  At Singin’ in the Rain, you could feel the joy, hear the feet tapping with the music, and catch the giggles at various jokes.  At Jaws, you could feel the tension, hear the intakes of breath, and yeah, I heard that little kid nearby announce that she’d spotted the shark.  And having seen both films on the small screen, in the privacy and comfort of my own home, I can say that seeing it in a theater with a bunch of people was better.  Yes, you run the chance of having a bad experience.  Yes, I had that awful child with the jittery legs and the constant sniffing (seriously, two hours of sniff…sniff….sniff…sniff) when I went to see King Kong.  But those are relatively rare.  If you’re just watching movies at home, you’re missing out on the wonderful and strange experience of group viewing.  And living here, in the greater Washington D.C. area, I’m so lucky.  We have theaters all around, and many of them run various older films for special showings.  The Alamo, The AFI Silver, The Angelica, even the Rave at Fairfax Corner all do special showings of classics, 80s nostalgia, and more.  However, I’ve been very frustrated to see how little reaction local film buffs have to this.  I talk to movie fans all the time, and they always have excuses as to why they don’t go out and support this awesome activity.  The excuse usually comes down to ‘it’s too expensive’ or ‘I’m too lazy to be bothered.’  Now, the price, I get.  It’s not cheap to go to the movies.  I’d argue that most people I talk to would go spend that money on something equally frivolous (or more) like drinking at a bar or over-paying for sushi.  But whatever.  The laziness thing actually pisses me off.  ‘It’s too far to drive?’  We live in an area where there are almost as many movie theaters as Starbucks.  The Alamo recently tried to do a Spaghetti Western series, but each showing had less and less people, until they just canceled it.  That pretty much says to me that my hoped for Martial Arts film series won’t happen.  When we go to the AFI to watch some amazing screenings of movies like Sweet Smell of Success or Razorback, the place is mostly empty.  A beautiful, huge, comfortable theater with good popcorn and clean bathrooms, and nobody goes!?  I know not everyone is into movies like I am, or like Brad is.  But we have some amazing opportunities to see great films in the way they were intended (on the big screen, with crowds of other people), and on the whole, we’re squandering it.  We’re voting with our dollars to be stuck in our homes, being schlubs, not socializing or supporting interesting things.  It makes me sad.

    On Sunday, I did manage to finish up reading the newest Philip Reeve (with Sarah McIntyre) book, Oliver and the Seawigs.  It’s a cute, if slight kids book.  Probably best for kids graduating from stuff like the Magic Tree House or Boxcar Children to slightly more advanced books like Geronimo Stilton.  The illustrations are copious and enjoyable.  Reeve always weaves a good yarn, but I can’t help but want something a bit more meaty from him.  His last book, Goblins, was also a lot of fun in that Lloyd Alexander sort of way.  But I’m hoping for something a bit more Mortal Engines.  I just don’t know if he’s all that interested in writing the bigger, more epic, big-idea science fiction.  But I can hope.  He remains one of only two writers (Christa Faust being the other) I’ll buy anything written by, sight unseen.

 Masters of Sex: Season 1:  A good companion show to Mad Men, Masters of Sex actually gets some things right more often.  Like Masters’s family life is actually interesting, and his wife feels like a human character.  The show is cute, awkward, touching, sad, and occasionally uplifting and wonderfully pro-science.  I tip my hat to everyone involved.  The cast is excellent, with not only a good core group, but lots of very good supporting character performances.  There's a lot of good TV being made these days if you take the time to seek it out.  This is on that list, for sure.

Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhass:  Visually rich, this historic drama about a man pushed too far by injustice never quite becomes the movie you keep wanting it to become.  Throughout, it sets the stage for some grim, revenge fueled violence, but time and again fails to deliver.  Medieval Death Wish turns into Medieval Sleep Wish.

Singin’ in the Rain:  Seeing the film for my second time, and my first on the big screen, I feel comfortable calling this one of the best movie musicals of all time, and a wonderful movie all around.  And, like The Artist, which covers the same general subject, this is a movie for lovers of movies.  The silent era fades and the passing fad of sound takes over.  The musical numbers are great, but the story itself is also engaging.

Jaws:  My first viewing of Jaws on the big screen, and I’ve never enjoyed it more.  Jaws is a weird one for me.  On the one hand, I know it’s an excellent movie.  And while I’m watching it, I love it.  But when I’m not watching it, I’m not thinking about it.  It holds little sway over me.  Yet, while I was watching it, I loved it more than ever before.  The camaraderie that develops is beautifully played, with Robert Shaw as the salty old seaman, Richard Dreyfuss as the rich nerd who turns out to be as tough as the old man, and Roy Scheider as the cowardly cop, trying to overcome crushing fear.  An awesome movie all around, and a good reminder of what can be done with practical effects, and how they would not translate to CGI.  Look at this movie, and then imagine what it would look like if made on a substantial budget today.  It wouldn’t look so good, I can tell you that.

Magic in the Moonlight:  I don’t like Woody Allen movies since way back.  And I generally try to avoid them (especially if he appears in ‘em).  But I also find Colin Firth to be infinitely charming, and I do like old timey Europe.  Set in the Jazz age, the movie is about a stage magician/fraud debunker who finds himself believing in the possibilities of the supernatural when he meets a profoundly gifted young spiritualist.  There’s a lot of cute and some funny.  I found the presentation of Firth’s skeptic a bit annoying, as it felt like the condescending way they tend to be portrayed in many mainstream movies and more expectedly in Christian themed film.  Yet that portrayal belied the message of the film.  Which was lacking in what the kids call subtlety.  My other complaint is that it felt too long.  The last 30 or so minutes could probably have been trimmed to 10 minutes and been much, much better.

    On Saturday, Lisa, Brad and I headed up to Baltimore for the Comic Con.  We also met Robert and Emily there.  I believe a good time was had by all, though the first half was a bit rough for me, as I developed a debilitating headache (something I’m generally not prone to) and had a hard time thinking about anything else.  After taking some drugs, eating lunch, drinking a bunch of water, and seeing Thor stride forth from the men’s room in a manner befitting the God of Thunder, I felt better and was more into it.  With nobody I was especially interested in seeing, I looked around Artists Ally and the vendor booths a bit more than usual.  Actually, I feel like I was around the vendor booths WAY more than usual this year, and there were some very good deals.  A lot of trades for deep discounts.  But oddly, there seemed to be a lot of repetition in what was available.  I don’t know if all these folks got their bulk purchases from the same place or what.  But you’d see volume 2 of a slightly obscure series at every booth.  Anyway.  It was weird.  Overall, the show seemed pretty good, there was a lot of good cosplay (can’t believe I just wrote that), and everyone seemed to be having a good time.  One thing though, parents, don’t be dumb.  Keep better track of your children.  I think in all the years previous that I’ve visited this convention, I’ve heard perhaps one or two announcements about lost children/parents.  This year, it seemed to happen every five minutes.  What’s up people?

Photo credit: Brad.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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