02 January 2010

Baby Jane, My Mother, Your Mother, Bashir, J.Lo

This last week my boyfriend has decided to mix things up by going and renting old DVDs of his own choice. Early in the week he rented a bunch of sort of classic films he'd never seen: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, All About My Mother, Waltz with Bashir, and Y tu mama tambien. Then last night he picked up Out of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. In effort to keep a better record of the films I watch in 2010 than I did in 2009, I feel like I should begin by noting down my feelings about the movies I just mentioned. You see. I actually feel more interested in talking about the various books I'm trying to read right now but as it falls outside the scope of this blog, we'll stick to the subject at hand. Or what have you.

Watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? again after all these years confirmed my belief that Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte really is quite superior. I mean, I enjoy What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? well enough but it's not like I'd ever really need to possess a copy of it and return to it like with Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. I actually dozed off halfway through so I can't really give too many thoughts about the movie itself, except they be memories of previous reflections. One thing I've noticed about watching these digitally mastered DVDs of things you've only ever seen on VHS or on TV is that sometimes it seems like a revolution of some kind and other times, like in this case, it seems to alter the mood of the film in a somewhat alienating way. I guess I preferred the dark and murky quality to the VHS version, which is kind of a weird thing to find myself thinking. I feel like I'm getting nostalgic about VHS (even though I don't even have a fully functional VCR) ever since I discovered the rich assortment of out of print movies my local video store has on VHS. I guess the most I have to say about this movie is that it made me nostalgic for any number of other Bette Davis movies, most of all the one mentioned above. The BF didn't really see the big deal about the movie but I don't know that it's really his kind of movie. He didn't believe me that he should watch Now, Voyager instead... B

The BF did however quite like All About My Mother. I like it, too, but watching it again after several years has taught me that people are perhaps right that Talk to Her really is the better film. I remember watching this one for the first time though and thinking it felt like a revelation. It spoke a lot to who I was at the time it came out: who I was, what I liked, what I was up to. I've been going back and watching some older Almodovar movies lately (like the High Heels, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and the underrated gem Kika) and I kind of feel like I still prefer his less mature 90s era films even though I can honestly say I've never seen a Pedro Almodovar film that I didn't like. I've seen all of them except the first three and The Flower of My Secret and I'd rate them all at least four out five stars. Strangely, the one I've felt least enthusiastic about is his new film, Broken Embraces. I've heard I need to watch it again. I'm sure I will. What's funny to me about watching All About My Mother again is that it doesn't seem as powerful or relevant or moving as it did ten years ago. I guess the things that were shocking or surprising then are no longer shocking or surprising and that I'm nearly ten years older as well. This movie made my best of the decade list, which wasn't really numbered but it was probably at about number five. Watching it again, I don't know that I'd keep it there and it's caused me to want to go back and watch everything from the last ten years all over again. B+

The other night was the first time I watched Waltz with Bashir since I saw it in the theater the night of the Super Bowl, which must have been in January (?). I wonder if the difference in the way I experience it comes from the lack of surprise and suspense that comes from a first viewing or if it's more to do with the difference in scope of watching a movie on a large screen in a multiplex and watching it curled up with my boyfriend on his couch. Maybe the trouble with watching movies in our homes is that we're too comfortable in our own space. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I was just too cozy for this movie. Or maybe it just needs to be seen large or maybe it just doesn't warrant repeated viewings like I thought it might. I remember being surprised and enchanted by the scene from which the film pulls its title but when I watched it again on DVD it didn't really seem to have the same surprising poetry. I think I wept a bit when I saw it in the theater. The moment where it switches from animation to documentary footage hit me like a boot to the stomach the first time around and it's still a relatively powerful part of the movie. I guess movies are also like drugs in the way they keep you trying to reproduce the same highs you've had before. B

I was actually glad he got Y tu mama tambien because it's on SOOO MANY of these best of the decade lists I've been going over and I wanted to see it again because I didn't really get the big deal when I saw it the first time around. I'm still not sure I do. I think one problem is when the film came out it seemed to have this reputation that it was this very risque, homoerotic film. It didn't seem all that risque to me then and it certainly wasn't as homoerotic as I wanted it to be. I guess I had really gotten excited to see a gay movie that wasn't completely terrible. Oh, well. In any event, my expectations this time were completely different than when I first saw the thing and I kind of appreciated it in some ways. I kept thinking to myself: This movie seems to be doing a similar sort of thing as The Headless Woman so why am I reacting so indifferently? I guess I felt like the only thing that seemed to interest me about the movie very much were the relief shots of daily life for the hoi polloi in Mexico. Maybe I should have tried watching it again and see if the information at the end of the film made what came before it any more meaningful. It was pretty, I suppose, but essentially it just seems like a soap opera about some privileged boys in an underprivileged country. Perhaps I've sat through too many Wes Anderson movies to care much about privileged young people and their exploits? I mean, I guess the characters aren't completely uninteresting but shouldn't a great movie be beautiful or show us some new insight or anything? What makes this movie better than Marie Antoinette? B

That brings us up to last night when we watched Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight. It was all right. I mean, it was bad, but it was entertaining. I appreciate that some of the things that make that sort of movie so annoying sometimes were very understated here. The movie sort of has potential but it just didn't do it for me. I noticed when I looked it up beforehand that it was nominated for Academy Awards for editing and for adapted screenplay and I couldn't help but smirking at the dialogue sometimes but I can kind of see what's good about the writing. The cast was kind of good, even though it seemed like George Clooney was playing himself and like Jennifer Lopez was kind of miscast. Maybe that's what didn't pull off the movie enough for me, that she doesn't really seem believable here. She's not strong enough or serious enough and she's too pretty. It's like, her lipstick was a little too perfect, you know? I sometimes have felt that growing up in the 80s and 90s we got the short end of the stick culturally. Maybe it's just that now, in this moment of decline, America is kind of the pits. It really seems like a sort of dead culture. I hope there will be life in the world, yet. Maybe someone will figure out a way to make Erich Fromm or Joseph Campbell fashionable and we'll all write poetry and stop buying so much crap. I don't think so though. C


  1. Out of Sight deserved the editing nomination for that sex scene alone, which is really the only thing I remember about the film. Soderbergh actually created this really lovely, surprisingly erotic "love scene" between two actors who don't really "do it" for me in the first place.

    And I felt the same way about All About My Mother when I watched it again (with the former bf). I also didn't realize until watching most of Almodóvar's films with him that Talk to Her really is his best film, even though his best subject (um, women) play such a small role in it. I still think Mother is fantastic, but I think everything seemed to come together in Talk to Her. And, yes, I too love some of his less mature 90s films as well (Kika is great, especially Rossy de Palma)... though I think Live Flesh is the only one of his that I simply do not care for.

  2. Live Flesh is the first one I ever saw. A friend's mom took me to see it when I was a teenager. I guess it holds a special place in my heart. I haven't seen it in ten years, I think.