My Week With Kate and Spence

kate-and-spence              KHBlogathon2015-ST

This month has been a down sort of month. Finals are enough to choke every last bit of energy I have left. Life has become an overwhelming barrage of things, one right after the other. I’m out of time. I really don’t have time to be writing this blog post.

Oh well. I’ll make time.

For the past week or so, I have developed an extremely strong obsession with Katharine Hepburn – arguably the greatest actress to ever grace the American silver screen. Kate Hepburn has been like a friend to me in these difficult past few weeks, particularly because I’ve spent the past four or five days watching nine of her films. That’s right, nine of them.

Not just any nine, though. No, these particular nine were the films she did with Spencer Tracy, with whom she had a famous relationship, both on-screen and off. These nine films, most of which I had never seen before, are the best, clearest example we have of their sizzling chemistry and deeply complicated relationship.

Through the entire journey, I made sure to take plenty of gifs of Katharine’s best moments, because I love her so. And while I certainly can’t say I loved every film they did, I never didn’t love Katharine. She gave a fantastic performance every time. So did Tracy, whom I now have an immense respect for as a film actor.

So…let’s get started. This is my week with Kate and Spence.


Here be spoilers.


Woman of the Year (1942)

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Woman of the Year is by far the most romantic of Kate and Spence’s films. The film is all about finding new love, and boy do these two find it. If you watch it with the knowledge that the two actors got together sometime during or after the filming of this flick, it makes the experience of watching it even better. You can just see how deeply, genuinely intrigued they are by each other.

Why do I say it’s the most romantic? Well, it’s definitely the most physical. They have a total of – and I may be miscounting here – seven or eight full-on kisses, some of which barely get away with the 3-second rule (during the time this was filmed, kisses could be no more than 3 seconds long). And, well – I don’t know how else to say it, it’s just sexy. 

I have a major problem with this film, but I’m willing to postpone discussing it in order to gush about Katharine’s outfits. Can we just talk about this for a second?

WOMAN OF THE YEAR, Katharine Hepburn, 1942

I want this

Okay…done being distracted.

Apart from the last fifteen minutes of the movie, which is what I have a serious problem with, Woman of the Year is wonderful to watch, mostly for the scene at the bar/taxi/Tess’s apartment. It’s the most romantic part of the film, and it features the most kisses. One thing I really love doing when watching old movies is looking for implications of sex – not in a dirty or creepy way, but because I love seeing how much they try to imply without being totally out there because they can’t be totally out there.

In Woman of the Year, for instance, there’s a scene where Kate’s character Tess has Spencer’s character Sam take her home. They have a very romantic taxi ride and then they walk into her dark apartment, and the music swells very romantically but with a hint of foreboding. Watch the scene closely – he knows where this is going and she knows where this is going and it’s only because Sam’s “a bundle of nerves” that it doesn’t happen.

I think Woman of the Year is looked down upon in modern times, at least the last fifteen minutes are, because it’s the story of a remarkably strong and independent woman who feels guilty for being strong and independent and by the end resolves to quit her job so she can clean and cook for her husband. It was a different time, of course, but it still bothers me. This movie could have been very progressive and if I remember correctly, they changed the ending at the last minute because Tess Harding was just too powerful for a woman. This was apparently against Katharine’s wishes, though, so console yourselves with that.


Keeper of the Flame (1943)

Keeper Of the Flame poster

Keeper of the Flame is a strange one. I haven’t quite put my finger on how I feel about it yet. For one thing, it’s the only Tracy-Hepburn film that doesn’t feature a romance of some sort, and it’s a drama. It’s also incredibly slow. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely more dialogue than action.

In Keeper of the Flame, Katharine Hepburn plays a recent widow of a man named Robert Forrest, who was a national hero to many people. In a lot of ways, the film is about Robert Forrest, or uncovering the man that was Robert Forrest, without actually showing Robert Forrest because well, he’s dead. It’s Spencer Tracy’s character’s job to write a bio on Forrest, and he meets with Forrest’s widow (or tries to) to gather information. Eventually he discovers that Robert Forrest was not a very good man at all but a member of some sort of fascist cult. He died by driving over a busted bridge – a bridge that his wife had seen and neglected to tell him about, because she hated the fact that he had betrayed his country but was too ashamed to ruin his public image.

Oh yeah, and she dies. It’s kind of gruesome, actually. I was not expecting that.

Keeper of the Flame is so radically different from, well, most of their other films (well, apart from The Sea of Grass but we’ll get to that one later), that, like I said, I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. It certainly isn’t bad, but it is a little slow and I can definitely see a lot of people finding it quite boring. Spencer Tracy is the real star of the show here, playing what I must say is a really noble and genuine character. I felt that Robert Forrest’s secret was revealed much too late and all at once. I felt the movie would have benefitted from maybe fifteen or twenty more minutes of snooping around by Tracy’s character.


Without Love (1945)

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Without Love is my least favorite of their comedies. That being said, I still liked it very much. I suppose its crime is that it’s too predictable; we all know how it’s going to end the minute the formula is set in motion. Katharine plays a(nother) widow whose husband tragically died in a horseback riding accident. A strange scientist, played by Tracy, randomly moves into the basement of her house to work on a secret experiment for the military. They decide to team up and get married “without love” because of the benefits marriage offers – though in the process they end up falling in love anyway.

Without Love is definitely benefitted by the presence of Lucille Ball, who plays a terrific supporting character, and there’s some funny comedic moments between Kate and Spence as they get ready for bed (in separate rooms). There’s a hilarious scene where Tracy’s character sleepwalks and he gets into her bed by mistake. Katharine comes back and falls out of the bed in surprise when she realizes there’s someone there. Tracy’s dog – whom we now discover is a service dog supposed to prevent him from sleepwalking – rushes into the room, and Tracy delivers my favorite line of the entire film – “Where were you in my hour of need?”

Katharine sometimes gets accused of playing the same character over and over, but I don’t see how anyone can say that, at least not judging by these nine films. In Without Love her character has a subtle naivety that Tess Harding didn’t have and certainly wasn’t there in Keeper of the Flame. She’s smart, but she doesn’t really know a damn thing about, well, anybody. She’s constantly misjudging people and Kate pulls that off perfectly, as Kate often does. Not their best film, but still worth checking out.

Also it has probably the best implication of sex in the whole bunch:

Kate: Th- There… One thing though. I, um…

Spence: Madam, you would never have to give that a thought. 


The Sea of Grass (1947)

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It’s bizarre to think that The Sea of Grass did the most well commercially of any of their films because it is without doubt the worst of the bunch. It’s slow, cheesy, and melodramatic in the worst possible way. The director really wasn’t pleased with the final result, and as far as I can tell the film hasn’t really stood the test of time.

There’s one thing that saves the film, and that of course is Katharine Hepburn. Spencer Tracy is fantastic – I’m starting to think it was physically impossible for the man to give a bad performance – but it’s Katharine Hepburn who held my interest the most. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it very much, because there’s a huge chunk of the film where she’s not there.

Katharine plays a woman in the late 1800’s who marries a cattle rancher, leaving the big city life she knows. She is constantly torn between wanting to be noticed, loved, and desired and her love for her husband, who spends more time thinking about his cattle ranch than he does about her. She eventually has a child with another man, causing Tracy to kick her out. Her son, the illegitimate child, grows up to be kind of a stinker and gets himself killed for it. Then she comes back and all is right with the world.

That’s a real bare-bones summary, and of course I’m leaving out a lot of subtleties and plot points. What I liked best about Kate’s performance was how naturally she pulled off a woman struggling in an environment practically alien to her. It almost reminded me of Emma Bovary (though she wasn’t nearly that despicable). And she looks gorgeous, so hey.

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State of the Union (1948)

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loved Katharine Hepburn’s character, Mary, in this movie. Again, she was the best part of the film. I find it difficult to discuss this one because I just want to go watch all of her best scenes. But there are SO MANY.

Spencer Tracy’s character, Grant Matthews, is an unfaithful turd (sorry, but he is), who has cheated on his wife Mary with Angela Lansbury. This is a point that is never expressly stated but everyone knows it, including Mary. And to get back at him, she makes him sleep on the floor. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you think about how powerless women were back then, at least in terms of doing anything about their husbands’ infidelity (especially if they had children), it’s great fun to see Mary do one for herself and make Grant get on the floor.

My favorite scene is when Mary is drunk. It’s reminiscent of Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, and produces some wonderful dialogue. Much to my chagrin I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube. But here’s the tweet I made watching that scene.

[tweet https://twitter.com/knifeink/status/596153749015375872 ]

All Hail Katharine indeed. OH and also – here is the world’s greatest gif, courtesy of yours truly, Katharine, and this movie:

Katharine


Adam’s Rib (1949)

Poster - Adam's Rib (1949)_02

Ah, here’s their famous one. Most consider Adam’s Rib to be Hepburn and Tracy’s best film. I can definitely see why. Here their banter is sharpest and the premise is by far the smartest. Plus, let’s face it – they’re just adorable in this movie. When they look under the table at each other I found myself squealing out loud.

I’m going to leave the feminist analysis of this film for another day, but needless to say I loved seeing Katharine Hepburn take a stand for the woman. She does it hilariously and sincerely all at the same time. And I love (love) how they go at it in the courtroom but when they get home try and act perfectly married, like nothing has happened.

Poor Spencer Tracy. He really gets kicked in the pants in this one (literally). From dropping glasses to being lifted by strong women, you sort of wonder when he’s going to lose it. He kind of does twice, once when he slaps her and once when he threatens to shoot her with a licorice gun. What a lovable asshole.

What can I say about Adam’s Rib? It’s a classic in every sense of the word, and it couldn’t have been done by anyone else. I read somewhere online that they better not touch Adam’s Rib if they know what’s best for them, and I agree. I have to say it’s not my personal favorite of their set but I can definitely see the argument for it being the best. “Best” and “favorite” are not the same.


Pat and Mike (1952)

PatAndMikeHS

Move summary: Katharine Hepburn is a badass.

I mean, I already knew that, but I can’t tell you how many times I shouted “Yessss, girl!” while watching Pat and Mike. Here Kate gets to show off her athletic abilities, which she really and truly possessed. And she wears the cutest tennis outfit in the history of everything.

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What I liked best about Katharine’s performance in this one was her struggle between her own lack of confidence and her self-knowledge. Let me clarify. Pat, in this film, knows damn well that she’s an incredible athlete, but is constantly doubting herself, especially when her fiance (not Mike) watches her play. I know what it’s like to be nervous performing in front of people even though you know you have the ability. It’s incredibly frustrating, and Kate is incredibly frustrated in this one, even though she can swing a golf club like a pro.

This, thank heavens, was on YouTube, so enjoy and try not to watch it on loop for an hour.

“You know what you can do with your gluteal muscle? Give it away for Christmas!”

Oh, and let’s not forget the part where she saves poor Spencer Tracy from two guys, all on her own, without even swinging a punch or batting an eye.

That’s my girl.


Desk Set (1957)

DESK-SET

Of all these nine films, the biggest surprise was Desk Set. I absolutely LOVED this movie. It might be my favorite.

One of the things I loved most was seeing how much they could get away with in this film as opposed to the earlier ones. This film has the word “sexy” in it and no one bats an eye. Although I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t get to see Katharine in that green dress.

Katharine is older in this film but you don’t get the sense that she’s past her prime (when has anybody ever gotten that sense?) and she still looks stunning. I think what I love most about this movie is how much fun it is, and how much fun she is. Sure, she was fun in her other comedies, but comedy is tragedy, as you know, and most of her other movies have her go through a little bit of pain. There’s very little pain in Desk Set, it’s just one big fun romp. And Katharine – oh, Katharine my love. She…she has fun too. Here are some more gifs for you.

KatharineOOH

“OOH, they had a baby!”

KATHARINEWHYY

KatharinePerfection

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Somebody, thank the heavens, put the entire movie on YouTube, so if you just search “Desk Set 1957” you should find it (seriously, go watch before it gets taken down by the copyright gods).


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Guess_Who's_Coming_to_Dinner_poster

Their last film, and Spencer Tracy’s last film of his career. He died only a few weeks after it was finished filming.

This film is a lot more than Kate and Spence, but since this post is about them, I want to focus on one moment in the film. But first some background.

A lot has been speculated, and unfortunately never verified, about Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s romance. It was a 26-year long “affair,” but it was an unusual affair. Katharine was completely devoted to Spencer, and he didn’t always reciprocate. Spencer had serious drinking problems and was probably depressed. His failing health was due to his years of drinking and inner struggles.

Throughout the filming of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the cast and crew knew that Spencer was dying. Kate knew it too. They had to be very careful not to put too much strain on him, only letting him film for about three hours each day.

And even though Katharine must have been scared and grieving the whole time during filming, she still manages to pull off what is, without a doubt, the single greatest verbal middle finger in the history of everything:

YESSS KATHARINE!

Katharine always said that Spencer was a locked door, and never really let on how he felt about anything. He was married and never got divorced from his wife Louise, though they were separated for many years, before Spencer even met Katharine. He had a deaf son, John, whom Louise was completely devoted to, and had always felt guilty about John and because of his Catholic faith that wouldn’t let him divorce his wife. Katharine never asked for marriage – she knew that living was painful for him. He was a brilliant actor, and could become anybody, but outside of the studio, he drank and needed constant care and attention, which only Kate would give him. And he wasn’t always nice to her. He had affairs on the side of his affair, and there have even been reports of him drunkenly striking her once (though I don’t think that’s ever been confirmed).

But Kate never left him. For the last six years of his life, she moved in with him to make him more comfortable. It was during this period that they filmed Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Here’s what Kate said about Spence in her autobiography:

“I have no idea how Spence felt about me. I can only say I think that if he hadn’t liked me he wouldn’t have hung around. As simple as that. He wouldn’t talk about it and I didn’t talk about it. We just passed twenty-seven years together in what was to me absolute bliss.

It is called LOVE.”

Excerpt From: Katharine Hepburn. “Me.”

And, because I like to torture myself, I also watched this video, of Kate reading a letter she wrote to Spence years after he died.

Knowing all this, I went into Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner looking at every interaction they had as more than acting, because it is. Especially his last speech, when both their eyes get misty. Spencer wasn’t a crier, and guess what, I’m not either…

But I couldn’t fight back tears when I watched the scene in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner where Spencer says:

“And if it’s half of what we felt – that’s everything.”

katharinetracylove

THE END


This post was made specially for Margaret Perry’s The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, which I was thrilled to find out existed. Here’s a banner and a link to Margaret’s blog where you can read all the submissions. 

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Margaret Perry’s Blog

Interstellar – Movie Review

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Space films seem to be taking a different direction as of late. What we’re getting is less Star Trek than it is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is a film not merely about our future (or, the future as seen in 1968) but about our near, attainable future, a future so close it feels almost familiar to us. This is the world Interstellar occupies. Nothing in the film has happened yet, but it does not feel that far away.

I’ve pondered and mulled over this movie ever since seeing it. I can safely say that it’s a very good film – well made, original, engaging – but something about it isn’t sitting right with me. There were too many little problems, too many flaws that just kept nagging at my brain whenever I replayed as much of the three hours of film as I could remember in my head. I’ve swung back and forth on it – I like it, I don’t like it, I like it – and while I have reached the conclusion that I do indeed like it, I’m not sure I want to see it again any time soon.

One thing’s for sure – I didn’t love it. There was never a moment when I watched it that made me think about anything differently or that conjured that movie magic for me. Which is entirely me, of course – I know dozens of people that said this film was the most amazing thing they’ve seen in a while. But not me.

Here’s the thing about Interstellar that few have brought up – it’s sad. Like, really, really sad. This is not a triumphant film about people who conquer space to find a new home, it’s a film about a group of characters – really good, engaging characters, I might add – that suffer hardship after hardship, loss after loss, misfortune after misfortune. Most of the time, they’re miserable, and rightfully so, but it was hard to feel happy or elated watching this film with all the heavy emotional weight. And when you’re sitting there for three hours…

But like I said, I’ve been on sort of a seesaw when it comes to how I feel about this film. One moment I’m “eh” and another moment I’m “that was awesome!” A perfect scene to describe this feeling is the part where they go to the first planet. In my view, there was really nothing that made the first planet the best to travel to first – it was so close to a black hole, so the dangers traveling to it and the possibility of getting swallowed by the black hole itself made it a risky option, even without considering the dangers they found on the surface. The whole sequence cut out of the film would not, I think, have affected the film too much. However, on the other hand, there’s some real function to that scene because while I think their reasons for going to that one first were flimsy at best, one of my favorite parts of the film was watching those giant, kick-ass waves. The special effects junkie in me was practically salivating with delight (it looked amazing on the big screen, by the way).

I think the film’s greatest strength, though, is its characters. These are good, developed characters. They are not clichéd action heroes, they are real people with problems and motivations and complexities. A great majority of the film focuses on the relationships these people have with one another, and at the very core of the story is the bond between Cooper and his daughter, Murphy. That is the essence of good storytelling – to place what happens to a character and the decisions that character makes into a complex internal conflict. There are moments in the film where the mere absence of something can have just as much impact as someone acknowledging that it isn’t there. That was very well done.

So while I don’t think it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen, and I do have problems with it, I’d say Interstellar is a good, meaningful film and any science-fiction fan will probably enjoy it. The film didn’t really affect me all that much, but I did enjoy seeing it – although it was very, very long (bring a pillow for your butt). This one’s worth the watch.


Upcoming Reviews

Gravity Falls Intro and Pilot Talks – Monday, January 26

The X-Files Season 4, Episode 3 “Teliko” Review – Monday, February 2

Knife Ink Reviews Update – “Schedule,” The New Year, Etc.

Hi everyone! Since the new year has started, I thought I’d make a very quick update on what I’m planning to do with Knife Ink Reviews in 2015. The short answer is I have a better idea but I still don’t really know. However, I do have a few things planned.

First, I’ve made a semi-New Year’s resolution to kind of get more organized-ish. To go along with that, I want to try and release reviews on a reliable schedule. Now, bear in mind that I am horrible at keeping up with schedules and depending on my crazy real-life schedule, it’s not going to be completely regular. But I still want to give it a shot.

Here’s how it will (sort of) work: Every Monday afternoon, I will release either a normal review/post on Knife Ink Reviews, an X-Files episode review, or an audio recording. I will rotate between these each week.

The X-Files reviews (on my separate blog The Review is Out There) are straightforward enough, but the question is, what am I going to be reviewing on Knife Ink Reviews?

Well, firstly, I want to do the audio reviews again. I had so much fun doing them with The Legend of Korra that I’ve decided to try a new show, and thanks to Doug Walker and his vlogs I became aware of a cartoon show named Gravity Falls. Now, believe me, even though I love Doug and his work, it is not my intention to copy everything he does. I saw Avatar: The Last Airbender before he did, and since the announcement of Matrix month I’ve decided to put off reviewing The Matrix for a while.

With that said, I would like to emphasize that I will not be watching any of Doug’s Gravity Falls vlogs whatsoever when I do my audio recordings. I chose Gravity Falls not because I wish to imitate Doug, but because I watched the pilot and really liked it, much more than I thought I would. I’ve never been a fan of modern cartoon shows, especially the Disney ones, but after some research into Gravity Falls I discovered that the creator is a fan of Twin Peaks and yes, The X-Files – but even if I hadn’t read that, I can totally tell from the show itself. In other words, it’s right up my alley. I’m excited.

Now, as for regular Knife Ink Reviews reviews, that’s the part where I honestly have no idea. I’ve been meaning to see some new movies – particularly Selma and Interstellar – but I don’t know if I’ll have the time. The Top Ten Best Songs of 2014 list should be out soon – I haven’t yet decided which one of the three segments I want to start off this new schedule. In any case, expect something up by tomorrow.

Thanks to anyone who follows this blog, and see you later!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter. Goodness knows your life would be so incomplete if you forgot that.


Very tentative schedule:

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Also The Top Ten Best Songs of 2014 will be squeezed in somewhere.

Funny Lady (1975) – Movie Review

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Hello, gorgeous dreadful.

Today I’m doing something a little different on Knife Ink Reviews. Instead of looking at recent films, we’re going back in time to 1975, to review a film called Funny Lady. Not that I have a time limit when it comes to what I review, but things of the past have been talked about again and again. Not always, though.

I could be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure most people forgot about Funny Lady after it came out. Even its Wikipedia article is short and seems to want to get itself overwith. That stands in direct contrast to the film itself, which never ends.

Funny Lady is the sequel to the 1968 movie Funny Girl, the movie version of the Broadway musical loosely based on the life of Ziegfeld star and comedienne Fanny Brice. Funny Girl is notable for being the first major film role for Barbra Streisand, whose performance won her an Academy Award for Best Actress, tied with Katharine Hepburn (who is considered by AFI the greatest actress in film history). So far, that is the only acting tie in Oscar history.

Also, Funny Girl is one of my favorite movies.

Barbra Streisand is just incredible in it, the music is fantastic, the costumes are great, the whole thing is exciting, mesmerizing, and filled with talent. Also, it has Omar Sharif, which is rarely a bad thing. When I say it’s one of those films I could watch over and over again, I’m saying it’s one of those films I did watch over and over again. There was a period of time when I would come home from school and immediately start watching Funny Girl for the fifteen billionth time. And I never got tired of it.

I avoided Funny Lady like the plague, mostly because I knew the music wasn’t written by Jule Styne and I, like Barbra Streisand, apparently, didn’t think a sequel was necessary. That’s right, according to the Wikipedia article, Barbra was extremely against doing a sequel to Funny Girl but finally agreed once she read the script.

Once she read the script.

Once she read the script.

Once she read the…

They must have drugged her. It’s the only explanation. Nobody could read the script of Funny Lady and think it was good. I can’t even imagine the mental condition of the people who wrote it. They must have drugged poor Barbra and then made her do the movie.

Oh, yes, people. Funny Lady is bad. It’s a special kind of bad. It’s the kind of bad that leaves you baffled that something so bad could ever be made by human hands. Oh, where to begin.

(Disclaimer: I should make it very clear that both films, Funny Girl and Funny Lady, are very, very loosely based on Fanny Brice’s life. Therefore, I am only judging the story based on the narrative the films have given me, not by what actually happened in real life. I’m sure it’s very different. These kinds of films often are. That’s not to say that Brice wasn’t important and her life isn’t worth knowing about – on the contrary, she’s a fascinating figure and was of course enormously talented. But I’m only judging what is given to me in the movies. Now, onto the review.)

The most obvious mark of a bad sequel is when it doesn’t seem to get the first movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better example of that than Funny Lady (maybe with the exception of the Star Wars prequels, but those are prequels, after all). Therefore, it’s going to be very hard for me to explain why Funny Lady fails miserably as a sequel without explaining the plot of Funny Girl, so, as usual, if you haven’t seen either movie, don’t read the rest of this review. 

In Funny Girl, Fanny’s relationship with Nick failed because he couldn’t control his habit of getting into corrupt money situations, and also because he couldn’t handle her growing fame. He didn’t like it when she would get more attention than he would, especially since she very quickly became the breadwinner for their family and all he could do was gamble and tag along to fancy parties. Thus, their relationship crumbled and he was eventually sent to jail for embezzlement.

Funny Girl ends with a stunning performance from Streisand singing “My Man,” a song about how the man she loves doesn’t treat her right and her life is just despair, but she doesn’t care because she’s his forever more. It’s an ending that’ll bring the tears and the house down. And it seems a very fitting, albeit ambiguous, ending for the Fanny presented in this story (again, not the one in real life).

But the real life Fanny had another marriage, and somewhere, some dumbass Hollywood executive said to himself, “bet we can make a blockbuster out of that one, too, can’t we? Let’s just slap some half-written songs together that sound like they possibly could have been written by Jule Styne if he was drunk and falling asleep at his piano, drug Barbra Streisand so that she agrees to do this piss-poor film, make the costumes and sets really spectacular so that people are distracted from the bad storytelling, and plop Omar Sharif in for a few scenes just to remind people that this is indeed a sequel to Funny Girl. It’ll make millions!”

Ah-ha. Sure, Money McDumbass. Sure it will.

The film doesn’t even try in the opening credits, showing us clips from the first film to let us know how much this one’s going to suck. Pretty soon we get introduced to the middle-aged Fanny Brice, who is really just the same apart from being bossier and potty-mouthed. Oh, I forgot to mention that, didn’t I? Fanny curses in this film. Quite a bit, actually. I wouldn’t have a problem with it, except that the screenwriter seemed to feel that having Fanny say a few curse words was all we needed to see how she’s grown and matured.

Bullshit. This Fanny, apart from the cursing and the fact that she’s used to her fame now, is no different from the Fanny in the last film. She’s still the same lovestruck girl, except this time without the spark of passion and radiance and enthusiasm.

Did I say “lovestruck”? Yeah. Fanny’s still in love with Nick. Even in the midst of her developing “relationship” with Billy Rose, Nick is shoved in just to remind us how NOT OVER IT Fanny is. Oh, sure, towards the end she kicks him out and then sings an empowerment ballad on a plane (hmmm, like the empowerment ballad in the first movie which was sung on a boat?), but this is only after a whole movie of her running to Nick and talking about Nick and obsessing over Nick, even after she casually, nonchalantly, and very unromantically marries Billy.

Ugh. Let’s talk about Billy for a moment. They literally get married in the most unromantic way I have ever seen in a movie. Billy says something like, “Let’s just get married,” and she says something like, “Sure fine whatever,” and we don’t even see the wedding and they start arguing and Oh my god it’s so annoying. At least in Funny Girl the romance was believable; it was obvious that Fanny and Nick loved each other a lot, even if eventually they started having problems. In Funny Lady it doesn’t seem like Fanny and Billy like each other at all. They occasionally say they do, like they need each other or whatnot, but there’s nothing in their actions to suggest it.

Oh, and the songs. Let’s talk about the songs. There are a total of three complete songs in this movie. One is the song the film is most famous for, “How Lucky Can You Get,” which is at best okay and at worst trying too hard to be like the songs from Funny Girl. The second is a song called “Clap Hands, Here Comes Charley” which is performed by Ben Vereen and is the only scene in the movie worth watching. The third is “Let’s Hear it For Me,” which is the empowerment ballad and is trying way too hard to be a follow-up of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” The rest are listed as songs on the film’s soundtrack, but in fact they are only snippets of songs, fractions of songs, and they were obviously completely and carelessly pre-recorded because they’re often sung in the character’s heads.

Which is a shame, because they actually used songs written by the real Billy Rose, but not to the film’s advantage. They don’t perform them as much as they put them in there for the sake of putting them in there.

Hell, Funny Girl did a better job with Billy Rose’s songs than the movie about Billy Rose did! “I’d Rather Be Blue” was written by Billy Rose, and was marvelously performed in Funny Girl. 

There are no performances here, or at least there is no passion put into the performances. The exception is Ben Vereen, but I’ll talk about that in a short while.

How’s Barbra? Well, she’s fine – I mean, the woman is more talented than half the planet, so it’s very difficult for her not to be – but there’s an enthusiasm and spark in Funny Girl that is painfully absent here (hence the reason I believe she was drugged).

Oh, and Omar Sharif – Omar Sharif! He looks like they dragged him out of bed and told him he was going to play Nicky Arnstein again, a role he was much too old to play as charmingly as he did in the first movie. Any chemistry Barbra and Sharif had is so lost, it plummets into negative numbers. The scenes between Fanny and Nick are awkward, out of place, and were totally unneeded, and yet they still act like it’s the main plot of the film. I mean, the empowerment ballad is all about her saying no to Nick for the first time! So what is the point of dwelling on this other relationship?

Oh, and the scene where Fanny kicks Nick out – she does so because apparently he hasn’t asked about their daughter in six years. Guess how many times we see their daughter in the film? Twice. Together, the two appearances are, oh, maybe thirty seconds long.

The plot is jumbled, confusing, and out of order. There’s a passage of time that takes place in this movie but you’d barely know it unless you were paying attention very, very closely. In Funny Girl there was a passage of time as well, but it was very cleverly done through song. Here, they just casually mention that they’ve been married for four years. And, like I said at the beginning of the review, it NEVER. ENDS. The film is about an hour and a half but feels like it’s five hours long. And it’s boring, boring, boring stuff.

Ugh.

But there are four small, positive things about this film.

The first is that the costumes are amazing, and I can totally understand putting the film on mute and just looking at it.

The second is that the cinematography is at times quite good. During the “How Lucky Can You Get” sequence, Fanny hits a lamp and the lamp goes slowly spinning in a circle, illuminating her as it passes over her head. That was very well shot.

The third is Ben Vereen’s scene. This really was fun to watch, and it was the only part of the movie I thoroughly enjoyed. Also, you can really tell Ben Vereen is giving his all, which is more than I can say for most of the cast.

The fourth is Barbra. While she does look bored quite often, she’s still a marvelous performer, and I’d rather hear her sing these songs than anyone else. The songs are probably worse than I’ve said they are, but it’s hard to notice sometimes because she takes songs and makes them her own. What can I say? It’s Barbra. She’s the best.

Funny Lady is without a doubt one of the worst sequels I have ever seen in my life. If you like Funny Girl, avoid this one like the plague. Goodness knows I wish I had.

Boyhood (2014) – Movie Review

Spoilers…I guess…?

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My experience watching and reviewing Boyhood is similar to the experience of eating a hot pepper. It doesn’t taste spicy at first, but after a few seconds the flavor kicks in and destroys your tongue.

Let me clarify. While I was watching this movie, I barely reacted to it. A day or so after I had finished watching it, I thought about it a little, but still felt I had no reaction to it. But, after a day or so more, I quite strongly and quite suddenly realized that I didn’t like this movie. At all.

I know that isn’t a very popular opinion, but I’m not here to tell everyone why their opinion is wrong or purposefully go against the common opinion just for the sake of going against the common opinion. Please don’t take it lightly when I say that there are very few things in this world which bother me more. And I have reviewed several things on this blog with the “popular” opinion, such as praising the hell out of Frozen and bashing X-Men 3: The Last Stand. I just call it like I see it.

The overwhelming praise this movie has received, however, has caused me to wonder whether or not people are looking at some aspects of the film very carefully. People seem to be lost in their praise of the film’s main selling point – the fact that it was filmed over a period of 12 years – and miss what I saw as a very, very mediocre take on what it was like to grow up in Houston, Texas in the 2000’s-2010’s.

Wait just one second, you might say. Who are you to go preaching about what it was like to grow up in Houston, Texas in the 2000’s-2010’s? How on earth would you know what it was like to grow up in Houston, Texas in the 2000’s-2010’s?

Sigh. Because I did grow up in Houston, Texas in the 2000’s-2010’s.

The truth had to come out eventually. I’m not very old. At all. I suppose that might have been obvious from my audio recordings, but yeah, folks, all this time you’ve been dealing with a kid. (Not really. I promise I’m an actual adult.) And this wasn’t something I wanted or even felt I needed to bring up, but it’s absolutely necessary for me to review Boyhood. 

Boyhood is set in what is literally my childhood. I remember going to places Mason and his family goes to in the movie. I remember hearing those same songs, meeting those kids. My mother even read Harry Potter aloud to me and my sister when we were little.

And yes, when I saw this movie, I was just about to do something very similar to what Mason does at the end of the film.

This movie should have had me bawling. 

I’m serious. I’m not the most emotional person in the world, but a movie that’s set in the place and time I grew up and ends with the exact same major life change that I’m about to go through…yeah. It should have had me bawling. Instead, it just left me cold.

I realized I didn’t like this film at the same time I realized that the fact I’d had virtually no reaction to it was rather bizarre, given the subject matter. And I thought a lot about why.

Here are my reasons I didn’t like Boyhood, laid out for the world in a clear, concise, Buzzfeedesque manner. I don’t usually do reviews like this, but I feel I need to with this one in order to organize my thoughts.

So, here goes.

Why I Didn’t Like Boyhood

1. The dialogue in this movie does sound realistic, but it reveals nothing about the people that are actually speaking. 

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This movie is one of those movies that, like Her, tries to incorporate very realistic dialogue between the characters that sound very close to real-life conversations. But unlike Her, where that technique was used to the advantage of the story, revealing parts of Theodore’s character little by little throughout the film, in Boyhood, they amount to little more than small talk. The conversations that aren’t comprised of small talk, such as when Mason is having deep, philosophical conversations with his girlfriend, do nothing for Mason’s character because they are vague and make it seem more like Mason has no idea what he’s talking about rather than catching a glimpse of the thoughts trapped deep in his psyche.

Every time an adult tells Mason he needs to straighten up, or gives him advice about life, it all feels insignificant and almost typical because it’s presented in such a, for lack of a better term, small-talkish fashion.

I don’t mind dialogue written in this realistic, conversational manner – it worked in Her – but when it does nothing and reveals nothing about the characters, I’m sorry, I can’t accept it as brilliant.

2. Mason’s family is not a very good representation of most families. 

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Yes, I’m aware that there are families that live like this. Yes, I’m aware that many people’s parents are separated. Yes, I’m aware that many people have jerk older sisters and mothers with strings of boyfriends. But if you’re trying, in one film, to capture what it’s like to grow up – which I really think Boyhood was trying to do – then I don’t think this is the route you want to go.

The number of nice interactions between Mason and his mother and sister are few and far between. The most realistic interactions in the film were the ones between Mason and his father, because they actually had some nice moments, although many times it only seemed like the father, and not Mason, was having a good time. I can’t remember one scene where Mason and his sister actually looked happy to be around each other – I can’t even remember a scene where any of them were happy to be around each other. Is that really how families are most of the time? Well, maybe some of them, but for the majority I’d say no.

If this film was trying to portray a dysfunctional, unloving family, it succeeded. If that really is the case, then I guess I’d have to give it props. But I’m not so sure that was the intention, and I certainly didn’t like it.

3. Mason isn’t a good representation of, well, boyhood.

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We rarely see Mason smile. We rarely see Mason having fun. In fact, Mason is so boring that I think his father at one point comes close to openly acknowledging it, during the scene where Mason’s father is trying to tell him about magic or whatever, and eventually gives up because Mason doesn’t really have much in the way of an imagination.

Throughout the film, it mostly feels like Mason is a quiet observer rather than a player in his own story. Most of the events that happen at the beginning of the film happen to the entire family rather than Mason singularly, and most of the time he’s shown alone is when he’s walking from one place to another, riding his bike, or staring. He does a LOT of staring. (Knife Ink’s interjection: ANNOYED.)

If this film wanted to show what it’s like to be a boy, it really doesn’t show what a lot of boys are like rather than show what they spend their time doing, like the clichés of playing video games and looking at dirty magazines. But it doesn’t show what it feels like to be a boy, or a kid in general – what a confusing, scary place the world sometimes is. Kids ask questions. Kids are curious. Kids have feelings too. Mason, like the film, really, is an emotional vacuum.

4. (The biggest point for me) The film sacrifices the actual emotions of its characters for its “avant-garde” technique and style.

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Speaking of emotional vacuums, yeah, that was the biggest problem for me.

Possibly the question I asked myself the most during the viewing of this film is, “Well, that’s nice – but how do you FEEL about that?”

This movie lacks genuine emotions. I’m not saying that it can’t make you feel things – it didn’t leave me completely empty, which we’ll get to later – I’m saying that the characters don’t really show how they feel. The jerk sister is a jerk. WHY is she a jerk? What does she feel to make her a jerk? The mother’s first boyfriend is an angry, violent drunk. WHY is he an angry, violent drunk? I mean, I know some people lapse into alcoholism without any notable reason, but how many times have you seen the crazy drunkard stepfather before?

Mason doesn’t show us his emotions. He has no motivations, no likes, no dislikes, no hobbies beyond photography, nothing. Zip. Zero. Even the breakup with his girlfriend is so rushed and immediate it feels completely put in for the sake of itself. Hell, even the girlfriend accuses him of having no feelings.

Wrap-up

There’s a scene at the end of the film, right before Mason starts to go off to college, where the mother breaks down crying and says, “What was the point?” This was the only part of the film I felt started to go into the actual emotions of one of the characters, if briefly. But most of all, it summed up exactly what I thought of the film. What was the point?

Sure, we see Mason growing up. Sure, we see and hear a lot of the things kids saw and heard if they grew up in the 21st century. But beyond those things merely being there for the sake of being there, what do they prove? What do they say? What is their point? That boyhood is mundane and meaningless and full of people that don’t like you very much?

The only part of the film I found myself enjoying was the last shot, where Mason and his new friend stare off into the great unknown before college. That was a breathtakingly beautiful shot. Expertly filmed.

If only it had come after a movie that had meant anything.


If you even want to after reading a negative review of Boyhood, follow me on Twitter.

Disclaimer: I am not bashing anyone for liking this movie. If you like this movie, great. There are certainly worse things to like. I just call ’em as I see ’em. 

Movie Review – Bound (1996)

Warning – spoilers ahead! And I’m really serious, because you DON’T want this movie spoiled. It’s that kind of film. 

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And so Wachowski Month(s) begins, and man, talk about starting off with a bang. Literally.

Let me just say for the record that Bound is about 10 million times better than the two Wachowski films I had seen before I watched it, The Matrix and Speed Racer. I haven’t seen V for Vendetta but it was made after The Matrix and Bound was the Wachowskis’ very first film. Why does that matter? Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. But part of the reason I just haven’t been able to really get into the Wachowskis directing style is because they seem overly concerned with style and weird cinematography and flashy movements than actual storytelling. (*AHEM* The Matrix)

In Bound, the setting is contained, the cinematography, while still a bit whimsical, is calmed down, and what we have is a super fun neo-noir mobster story that had me on the edge of my seat. Not only is this film completely engaging, but it came close to feeling timeless. It’s set almost exclusively in one apartment building but still manages to keep the suspense high. It really reminded me of the Audrey Hepburn movie Charade. 

So, what’s the story? Violet and Corky are two women who meet in an elevator and become attracted to one another. Corky is kind of a tomboyish type while Violet is, well, a mobster’s wife. Or girlfriend. I’m not really sure which. In any case, the two appear to be exact opposites but soon fall in love with one another, share some pretty erotic moments (let’s just say this might be an awkward choice for family film night). But the movie soon launches into the mob drama, with Corky and Violet stealing 2 million dollars from Violet’s mobster husband/boyfriend Cesar by framing the big mob guy’s son, Johnny. This eventually erupts into a triple murder, with Cesar shooting Johnny, Johnny’s big mob guy dad, Gino, and…um, the third guy in the room. Cesar starts losing his mind in a desperate attempt to get the money back and high-tail it out of there before the rest of the mob catches him. Unfortunately, Cesar catches Violet on the phone, and he figures out she and Corky planned the whole thing. The rest of the film is Violet and Corky attempting to outwit Cesar and get the money before the mob finds out.

Not only is this movie fun to watch, it really and truly is clever. Yes. The Wachowskis made something clever. It’s got a very old-style feel to the story and characters. I read online that the directors wanted Joe Pantoliano, who plays Cesar, to model Cesar after Humphrey Bogart’s character in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and you can totally see it. Cesar goes from being this cool guy to absolutely insane, but even at the beginning you get this feeling that he could completely blow up at any minute.

The two leads are pretty awesome too. Corky is a tough, badass, smooth-talking plumber who has a lot of handy tricks up her sleeve – well, handy if you’re planning on stealing something. Violet appears to be innocent and sweet but is…not. Both of them are incredibly fun to watch, and they were a lot of fun when they were together.

The film wasn’t without problems, though. As much as I liked Violet and Corky, there’s a huge chunk of the film where Corky isn’t in it much at all, and I would have liked to see more of her, especially more of the two of them together. There’s a lot of blood in this movie – a lot of blood, so much that I just couldn’t buy the part where two policemen walk into Cesar’s apartment, which literally has blood all over the floor, and not notice it because Cesar has rearranged the furniture a little. It’s also perhaps a little unnecessarily violent – I’m not trying to wave a pacifist flag or anything, but instead of multiple fighting and shooting scenes I would have liked to see more Cesar going nuts or Violet and Corky interacting.

Still, this is a really fun film, and I’m glad I saw it. Now that I know what happens it may not be quite as enjoyable a second time, but then again, it may surprise me. If you like mob movies, suspense, or badass lesbians, this is the film for you.

Good job, Wachowskis. You done impressed me.

Announcement of New Series: Wachowski Month(s)

Right before my life gets crazy again, I’m going to try something equally crazy and review every single film the Wachowskis have made. This does not include films that the Wachowskis rewrote, had their script rewritten by someone else, or did not write at all. It does, however, include:

Bound (1996)

The Matrix Trilogy (1991, 2003 – God help me)

The Animatrix (2003)

V for Vendetta (2006)

Speed Racer (2008)

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Why am I doing this? Well, I’ve never been a fan of the Wachowskis’ directing, writing, or anything, but in truth I’ve only seen two of their films, The Matrix and Speed Racer. So I’m going to check out their other movies to see if they hold up, as well as write some hopefully very opinionated reviews.

I was going to call this Wachowski Month, but watching eight movies and writing reviews of them in a month is rather unrealistic, so I’m calling this Wachowski Month(s).

Get ready to dive into a world of just plain weird stuff.

Random Stuff – Legend of Korra Season 3, Other Random Musings, with Special Guest!

I’m excited to share with everyone a lovely conversation I had with a very good friend of mine. We discussed Legend of Korra Season 3 and other random things. I split our conversation into two videos, 1 about Korra, 2 not about Korra. If you haven’t seen Avatar: The Last Airbender or ANY season of Legend of Korra, do not watch the first video. And then go watch Avatar: The Last Airbender because it’ll change your life. 

Thanks to my friend for having this conversation with me, and hope everyone enjoys it!

Disclaimer: We were drinking tea during this recording so there is much scuffling, clanking, and general annoying-noise making. I apologize. One day I promise to record with something better than an iPhone. 

 

VIDEO 1: LEGEND OF KORRA SEASON 3

VIDEO 2: RANDOM MUSINGS (NOT KORRA)

The Fault In Our Stars Movie & How To Train Your Dragon 2 (VIDEO REVIEW!)

Here is my video review of the two new movies The Fault In Our Stars and How To Train Your Dragon 2, as well as some updates concerning the site and whatnot. As always, there will be spoilers, so don’t watch the review if you haven’t seen the movie. 

If you have not seen The Fault In Our Stars but have seen How To Train Your Dragon 2, the How To Train Your Dragon 2 review starts around 8:17.

Enjoy!

Movie Review – How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

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DreamWorks has never been a studio I’ve been particularly interested in. The only DreamWorks movies I’ve seen I’ve watched passively, almost out of a sense of obligation. I am of course referring to their computer animated movies and not The Prince of Egypt, which is fantastic.

The first DreamWorks movie I ever saw that I thought was really clever was Megamind. That movie provided an interesting twist on the hero vs. villain formula, and made for a very entertaining and enjoyable film. However, I’ve only seen Megamind once. It was good, but since I’ve seen it I haven’t had the urge to watch it again.

But I would watch How To Train Your Dragon over and over again, let me tell you. In fact, I think I’ll watch it after I’m done with this review. That’s how good it is.

This has got to be one of the most charming, good-natured, well done kids’ films I’ve seen in years. And yes, I realize that it came out in 2010 and that’s pretty much old news. Apparently I have been living under a rock.

This movie takes a formula that has been done over and over and over again and uses that formula to create an almost perfect film. It seems as the formula was made for this movie, and not the other way around. It is one of the only instances I’ve ever seen what most consider to be a tired formula that didn’t bother me. I liked every character in this movie. I liked that they added several complex emotional issues. I liked that they created the perfect balance between entertainment and true storytelling. I liked THAT DAMN DRAGON.

I almost hate Toothless because I have a feeling that if I was legitimately trying to be angry or serious about something, all anyone would have to do to turn me into a complete and total flailing mess is show me a picture of this thing. I mean, just look at him.

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If you do not think Toothless is cute, you are not my friend. You also probably have fewer emotions than I do and are therefore most likely not human. This dragon could make Scrooge burst into fangirly giggles. He could make Voldemort go “AWWW.” He could make the Grinch give back Christmas before he even steals it.

I promise, though, that the reason this movie is good does not have to do with Toothless (at least, not entirely). Like I said, we have a very familiar story here – a character that feels like an outcast in his community befriends a special creature that is also an outcast in its community and the two form a bond and the character reconciles his/her differences with the community by either saving the day, demonstrating why differences are important, eliminating a prejudice, or in this movie’s case, all three. It’s a story you’ve seen a million times, but for some reason it feels so fresh and new here.

I think much of that has to do with just how likeable all the characters are, as well as how dimensional they are. Hiccup’s dad isn’t just an all-controlling father that is ashamed of his son. He loves his son, and legitimately tries to connect with him. Every time Hiccup does something his father doesn’t want him to do, you can see how much it hurts the father. This isn’t easy for him. He doesn’t want to have this kind of relationship, but he wants more from Hiccup than Hiccup is able to give. And Hiccup, for his part, isn’t just a misunderstood short kid. He has problems, too. He also wants to connect with his dad and other people, but lacks the confidence with which to do so. Hiccup gives up easily, and never really tries very hard. Until he meets Toothless.

When Hiccup meets Toothless, it seems at long last that he has something unique to look forward to – something he can change and influence and use. Helping the dragon, learning how to fly, creating the special bond with Toothless that he hasn’t created with anyone else – all this gives Hiccup a certain confidence that he’s never had before, and at long last he is able to stand up for himself and reveal the truth to his father.

Naturally, his father doesn’t take it very well – after all, Vikings and dragons are sworn enemies – but after a battle with a big dragon and a surprisingly touching scene in which Hiccup’s father thinks Hiccup has perished (even though the audience knows full well he hasn’t), all is well, and Vikings and dragons live in harmony, just as Hiccup is now at peace with his daddy.

What makes this effective is that even though we know all will be right in the end, the characters don’t know that. When Hiccup’s dad thinks his son is dead, he actually thinks his son is dead and you can see the pain and remorse he feels.

I’ve always said the best part to any story are the characters, and if you make the characters interesting, you can turn any story – no matter how overused and cliche it might be – and make it something worthwhile. How To Train Your Dragon might be the best example of this I have ever come across. If I ever doubted DreamWorks’ ability to make an excellent movie before, I certainly won’t now. This film is absolutely a must-see.