Because I Like Movies That Make Me Cry

yay this movie!

I asked Reilly when we saw this movie at the Broadway Theater in Salt Lake City, and he said it was sometime in July. I believe him because he has an unbelievable memory. Because not only did he say we saw this movie in July, he described all the circumstances of our seeing it. Something about how the Saturday before we went to a cousin’s wedding and laughed a lot at the reception but not because people were being deliberately funny. Except for one cousin who’s good at being funny and telling stories. And we ate such-and-such, and I wore an outfit with these sleeves and shoes, and we also saw the Dark Knight Rises the Friday before at a matinee and other details of which I have absolutely no recollection.

We saw the preview for Beasts of the Southern Wild before we saw Polisse and Intouchables. (By the way, those two movies are very different French films, and I highly recommend both of them.) If a preview makes me cry, I pretty much want to see the movie. I was excited for it, because I knew it would be sad and tragic and beautiful. I knew that I would believe the little girl in it. I knew that I would be holding my breath and wanting to scream at the screen. I knew that it would make me feel sticky and gross. I knew that I cheer for the strained relationships and the massively fallen characters. I mean, what else would you do if you were watching actual news footage of a hurricane’s destruction and seeing people removed and/or displaced from their homes? And seeing the apparently well-meaning government swoop in and insist on improving the lives of people who don’t want to leave their territory because they’ve only known one home, one community, one happiness?

While we watched the movie, I did all those things that I knew I would do. I’ll probably still do those things every time I watch it from now on.
May’s rating scale:






Part of a Conversation on Martin Scorsese’s The Departed — SPOILER ALERT

The movie won four Academy Awards. It’s dark, but it’s funny in the right places. It’s vulgar, violent and bitter. It’s not for viewers who like blatantly happy endings. Or even subtly happy endings. If you like rats, though, this is for you.

The following is an online chat about the movie. It has been edited for clarity. Skip the rest of this post to avoid spoilers.

person 1: you watch de-potted?
person 2: yiss
person 1: whatchoo fink?
person 2: he shooted him!
  they all shooted!
person 1: he shooted weo in da heed!
  did mawk wahboag and awick bodween meek you waff?
person 2: yiss
person 1: they funny–but they say the f wodes and the c wodes a lot
person 2: wots of bad wodes!
I don’t know why these people chat in baby talk. They seem pretty darn cute, though. And insufferably awesome.

May’s Movie Review: Howard’s End

May synopsis: Sometimes I’m in the mood for a slow and subtle period film. It’s all fine and understated until someone wields a sword.

May’s rating scale:






(The following is actually a response I wrote for a class. I haven’t written a review in a while, and I thought this could serve both purposes.)

Howard’s End, a film adaptation of a novel of the same name by E. M. Forster, recounts the relationship of three families in England at the beginning of the 20th century. The Wilcoxes are wealthy and landed capitalists; the Schlegels appear to be bourgeois, and the Basts represent the lower middle class. The movie is marvelously cast, and the acting is exquisite, bringing a quiet power to the movie’s overall understatedness.

The film seems to depict the tension between these three socioeconomic statuses. Henry Wilcox, played by Anthony Hopkins, seems content to interact with the bourgeois sisters, Margaret and Helen Schlegel, who are played by Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter. Henry even marries Margaret. However, his rootedness in tradition emerges when Helen Schelgel becomes pregnant by Leonard Bast, played by Samuel West. First, Helen is not married when she becomes pregnant, and according to tradition, she should be shunned. Secondly, the other responsible party is a man from a lower class than the Wilcoxes. Helen should have not have become involved with him.

In keeping with tradition of double standards in a patriarchal society, Henry Wilcox’s past emerges when he admits to Margaret that he had a mistress. He cannot be bothered with this particular skeleton when Margaret brings up this fact to show how hypocritical Henry is as she asks him to allow Helen to stay his estate, Howard’s End, for one evening. He adamantly refuses. Life has always been a certain way for him, and he refuses to see anything differently.

It isn’t until Henry’s son goes to prison for murdering Leonard Bast (seeming a true hate crime) that he undergoes a change of heart.  He decides to bequeath Howard’s End to the Schlegels, and Helen plans to raise her new son as heir.

Howard’s End illustrates the shift in mentality in early Modernist England, regarding who should own land and how the classes should interact. In certain aspects, the country at that time slowly opened itself up to new and evolving ideas of society.


Emma Thompson’s character wore ties. I want to do that.

The Foreign Is Familiar

Now that the proper week is over, I can officially report on its awesomeness.

International night last night. Some friends picked me up and we went to an Indian restaurant on Center Street in Provo. We all ordered differently prepared chicken dishes. It was pretty good, and the conversation was fun. We talked about school and work and food. I got to tell a little bit of the story of living and working in New York. It was a story I told all the time while there, but it doesn’t come up often here. Plus, I really like these friends and felt I could open up to them a bit.

Then we went to the International Cinema on campus. I like the IC. It’s the “longest running program of its kind in the world!” Free, foreign movies. And of course, all the ones I’ve seen are amazing. We saw the Iranian movie,  Color of Paradise. Don’t tell, but I’d seen it before, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t excited to see it again. I’m the kind of person who can reread books and rewatch movies; there’s always more stuff to see and talk about.

Not long after my friends dropped me off, I’d begun working on some homework when a friend from Eastern European descent called. He was in the area about to get something to eat and wanted to know if I wanted to catch a movie. However, the one he wanted to see at the theater was about to start and he didn’t think he’d be able to make it. So I invited him over.

Blankets, check.
Smell nice, check.
Brush teeth again, check.

So he came over with his Mexican food, and we caught up a little bit at the dinner table. Then he sat in the middle of the couch, which is a hint for me to sit next to him, right? We went through my incredible, but small, collection of DVDs and decided on Wit. Not an international movie, but also not Hollywood-mainstream, and yet I did loan him Children of Heaven, from the same director as Color of Paradise.

Oh, gosh, you’re probably wondering. So we were sitting next to each other and the movie’s playing and we were both commenting on the movie, since we’ve seen it before. I turned out the living room light. I offered him a blanket, because I’d taken one for myself, and he accepted, but we ended up sharing both of them. We’re already sort of leaning on each other, arms touching, yada yada. A few minutes into the movie he announced he was taking off his shoes then after removing his them, he lay across the couch and rested his head on my ample bosom (those of you who know me realize this is a big joke and now it’s not funny because I had to say it’s a big joke). And, everybody knows that it is a truth universally acknowledged that I can’t have somebody’s head so close to me and not play with his hair. So that’s what I did.

We didn’t get to finish the movie. Midnight, curfews, etc. He had to go home.

Stop it with the booing. Like I was going to try to kiss him. Please.

But I didn’t. And that was sort of foreign.

I Love My French Class SO. MUCH.

We watched this in class today. If you have a spare 21 minutes and a translator handy, please, please, PLEASE watch it. I’m sorry there’s no translation. I’m sorry the video quality is crummy. I’m sorry that most of these French short films make me cry for exhibiting so many shades of brilliance and constantly high levels of awesomeness. I wanted to bounce off the walls and dance with people and just keep saying over and over how cool this film is. I stayed in my desk instead, deciding to downplay the reaction a little, just like the French.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Movie Batch

Planet B-Boy – fun, yet a little bit long documentary following the international breakdancing championships in Germany. The dancing is unreal, and you feel like you’re in the middle of the action. Competitions like these are often organized chaos, and the filmmaker expects you to keep up, as the film as a whole is pretty rough around the edges. However, he invites you effectively to sympathize with and follow a few individuals. Nice, if not unsubtle, commentary on father-son relationships where career breakdancing is not the cultural norm. Go Korea!

The Watcher in the Woods – definitely a rewatch, 6th or 7th. This movie doesn’t really get less terrifying. That this is a Disney film is shocking enough! (And the movie trailers disclaim it being not your traditional family film.) The surprise effects with sound and light, and the sparse, fitting soundtrack were all well-done. Blue lasers shooting! Mirrors and windows cracking! Blood! Drowning! Tense violin chords! Scary, possessed voices that call out common names backwards! “Nerak.” !!! But, if you watch the alternate endings, this thriller suddenly becomes a comedy. I jumped quite a few times. That is all. I’ll probably watch it again in a couple of years.

Tron – okay, so maybe when I was 8 years old, when plot sometimes fell secondary, this movie was visually interesting and fun. The story, however? 25 years later? The computer programming jargon that brought all the renegade geeks out of the woodwork and into the theaters in the early 80s? Major snoozer. I wonder if Jeff Bridges watches this movie and then asks himself what he was thinking. Although, he seems to be involved in a remake, or a sequel? Redemptive, hopefully.

Dear Zachary – perhaps one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. Here is a review that won’t spoil it. The language is strong and some of the images are grim. This felt like more of a personal endeavor – which, it really was – and the documentarian masterfully crafted it with a whole lot of heart. It sent me through the emotional gamut: laughing and crying and being en/outraged and then crying some more. It’s not an easy film to watch, but it’s worth it if you make it to the end.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – I saw this for the first time in the theater, in 2004. I remember loving the entire concept of it. The performances are nicely understated; Jim Carrey keeps his cool, at least relatively, in this somewhat frenetic movie. This was not his typical role. Anyway, this film quite creatively encouraged working through kinks and setbacks in relationships. Maybe I related to it a little bit. I cried, but mostly rejoiced.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – I didn’t see this so much as a “movie” as a reminder of one of my adventures around the city, when I first moved here. Cruising in a car with a few of my non-nondrinking friends, looking for gigs, coming from gigs, taking friends home, watching a few of them almost hook up, not getting home until daybreak. It portrays that aspect of city life pretty accurately, and I do adore Michael Cera and think he’s quite talented, even if he is mostly typecast.

The Visitor – There’s this one scene where Walter and Zainab are discussing Tarek’s detention in an illegal immigrant facility in Queens. Tarek is a drummer from Syria, and Zainab is his girlfriend from Senegal. Walter is a bored, washed-out professor in the city who lets the couple live with him in his apartment and becomes their friend. Walter has visited Tarek in Queens and tells Zainab he has hired an immigration lawyer. Zainab interrupts that they cannot afford one, and Walter says it’s okay. I cry at this scene. The acting is exquisite. It’s not so much you can see Walter’s heart and Zainab’s gratitude, but you can sense them. The nuance is stunning. Richard Jenkins really deserved his Oscar nomination for this role.

Princess Mononoke – Not Miyazake’s best work, in my opinion. To be fair, I’ve only seen two of his films, and I liked Spirited Away a lot more. This is an incredibly violent piece of anime, fyi. The friend I watched this with agreed the plot could have been more developed; they could have tied a few elements together better. Maybe the ideas didn’t translate well from the Japanese version. The hate within; forest spirits; general mythology. As a whole, it seemed pretty disjointed. Oh, but you don’t have to second-guess one of the themes of the movie, which is the relationship between man and nature. Save the forests, people! That one they pretty much shove down your throat, all the while neglecting everything else. The movie, for all its 2 hours and 14 minutes, felt incomplete. Maybe they should have cut back on everything else.

Getting out of Writing A Review of (500) Days of Summer – Possible Spoilers

I’ve seen a fair amount of movies in the past couple of weeks. That’s safe to say. I’ve wanted to give proper reviews for some of them, but my brain isn’t working properly. Also, I would rather be spending time with my awesome friends than sitting in front of a computer whining to tired ears – yes, you, internet – yet again, all my woeismes and alases and everything deservedly and not-so-deservedly lamentable.

Last Monday, I saw (500) Days of Summer. As I watched the story unfold, I knew the two main characters weren’t going to end up together. I knew it, even if I didn’t already know the ending, which was revealed in the beginning. I’ve seen this situation many times, from friends who’ve coped similarly to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to friends whose philosophy was/is exactly like Zooey Deschanel’s, to my very own life, where I’ve played both characters, neither very well.

I came across this review of the movie, which exempts me from providing my own. I agree with most of it: it’s very well thought-out, it’s relatable; the character analyses, the story-arc critique are compelling and convincing. It strikes a very nice cardio-cerebral balance. If I hadn’t already seen the movie, after reading this review I would have extracted myself from my wallow-pit apartment to watch it and then reflect and not even wallow in the non-workings-out of some of my romantic relationships. That’s just the way it happens sometimes.

There’s a line, the “sucker punch” I mentioned last time. I’m trying to remember the exact quote. I’ll dig it up and think about it. Something about Zooey not wanting with specifically Joseph the kind of relationship Joseph wanted with Zooey. I just wonder if that line was intended purely as a zinger; it feels a bit incongrous with Zooey’s character up until the end of the movie. Then again, you can’t exactly put parameters on personality – hers, especially; her experience with and perspective on relationships almost … entitles her to make such a statement. I suppose the big “surprise” is that Zooey does end up in a committed, romantic relationship. Just not with Ned. I mean, Joseph.


I’ve Consigned My Soul to Virgin Records

I walked into the store at Union Square today and I had what I wanted in mind and I wasn’t going to wander and be impulsive, but I couldn’t control myself. Walking into that store was maybe a bad idea.

I picked up Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago. This has got to be one of the  most absolutely heartbreaking records I’ve ever listened to. Justin Vernon’s previous band split up, he and his girlfriend broke up, and he locked himself in his father’s hunting cabin in northern Wisconsin and came out a couple months later with this album. It’s brilliant.

I picked up Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes. They remind me a little bit of the Avett Brothers. I love their inviting voices and folky feel.  The instrumentation is fun and solid and rich, but relatively simple. Not a song I don’t like on this one.

I picked up the Schoenberg and Sibelious violin concertos performed by Hilary Hahn. This album is a double-Grammy nominee, for best solo performance and best classical album. I’ve been a Hilary fan forever, and I’m very excited to listen to this one at full blast.

Then I went downstairs to tempt myself with DVDs. I shouldn’t have gone downstairs. Of course. I picked up The Visitor. I saw this movie in the theater, and I really liked it. Richard Jenkins does a fabulous job. The movie is wonderfully cast and acted superbly.

Actually, I didn’t pick up anything I wasn’t planning on getting. Still, I don’t really need those things. The music is incredible and the movie is fantastic. Dangit.

Now, I am watching the 2006 Academy Award short film nominees. This was from Netflix, so as long as I don’t step into another Virgin Records store anytime soon, there’s still a chance for me.


I took the elevator back up to the top floor, and a song I immediately recognized floated into my ears, “Stop Whispering,” by Radiohead, from Pablo Honey. I wanted to cry. I wanted to sing at the top of my lungs, “Stop whispering, start shouting!” The song became one of my first mantras when I moved to New York City. The song reminds me of my good friend, Janine, my first real friend here. I knew about Radiohead before I met her, but she got me to really listen to them. Janine is 5’8″ with a skinny body type and beautiful, short curly red hair. She has a quick sense of humor. She’s highly principled and has a very strong moral compass. We hit it off right away. She received me and my personality and sense of humor with very open arms. We used to stay up late, sometimes even into the early morning, watching movies or listening to music or even just talking. We’d sometimes burst into song in building lobbies just so we’d hear our echoes. Once we met in a Starbucks and we came up with a subject and wrote about it for 10 minutes and shared what we wrote with each other. The subject was “victim.” We went to quite a few gigs together. She encouraged my writing, and I got her a book about songwriting, because she used to be in a band. She loaned me books about depression. I went to church with her a few times. I got to meet her friends, and once I started making more friends, she met mine. She left the city to study at a theological seminary just outside of Philadelphia. I’ve not had another friend quite like her. So when I heard Radiohead today in Virgin Records, it was as if I could hear Janine singing it herself. “Stop Whispering,” in the elevator bank on the floor of my office at work, while we’re waiting for the elevator so we could take the train home. “High and Dry” in the foyer of her apartment building, almost sounding like a hymn.

I miss Janine.

May’s Movie Review: Wit

May’s synopsis: The writing really appealed to me; the actors delivered. Very effective, very powerful. Very Emma Thompson. So sad, but SO good.

May’s scale rating:







This movie was taken from a play by the same name. It’s about a professor (Emma Thompson) who has terminal cancer. Christopher Lloyd is her doctor, and he prescribes a pretty intense treatment regimen. He connects her to a flux capacitor and streams about 80 jigawatts through her body.

Wait. Almost.

This movie comes off very much like a play with various switches between scenes. The dialogues between Emma Thompson’s monologues are well-placed. The flashbacks are particularly poignant. The story progresses slowly, if painfully, but that’s what it’s going for. The pauses are long and uncomfortable. The movie essentially begs the viewer’s participation.

Emma Thompson often speaks directly to the camera. She shares insights about her experience at the hospital. She introduces flashbacks. She confuses her presence with her memories. The movie develops really well.

Christopher Lloyd is the medical, intellectual counterpart to Emma Thompson’s character as an English professor. This movie follows her humanization to the end, while Christopher Lloyd and his medical team remain a detached fixture, for lack of a better oxymoron.

There are a few minor characters that add so much power to this story. This story is about human nature, one’s need for a personal connection, how we are to treat each other.

There are also characters that will infuriate you and compel you to root for Emma Thompson, even though up until the time she got sick she was a Very Not Nice Person. You’re human; it’s the Right Thing To Do.

This movie will make you cry. I cried the first time I watched it, then I took it home and watched it three more times. These days, I appreciate how the movie doesn’t lose power with each viewing.

It’s a relatively simple film, with minimal scenes that depend heavily on the actors to carry the story. Carry they do, perhaps even cradle. Or finesse.

The writing is excellent, as most plays can’t or shouldn’t really depend on special effects. The subject matter is relevant. The story flows, in part due to the writing, but also because the acting measures up. Because the writing is so good. Because the actors commit to the parts. Because the writing creates the strong characters. Writing. Acting. Yay!

I love this movie.