Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo

Image copyright Summit Entertainment

Image copyright Summit Entertainment

Don’t worry, kids. I’m sure the memories people have of the Twilight saga will live on for decades to come.

Jesus. That’s probably going to actually turn out to be true.

I don’t really care though. Not especially. Like way too many things in my life, I hated Twilight for a little while, and then I just stopped giving a damn either way. I’m still not buying anyone who tells me that this latest entry, which is naturally making enough money to fund two or three Republican Presidential campaigns (okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s a lot of goddamn money), is actually a really good movie. No. I refuse to believe that. I gave Twilight a shot. I read most of the first book, and I watched the first two movies. All I got from those experiences was a reoccurring thought that one day, whenever it might be, I was going to be on my deathbed, and I would be thinking about all the time I wasted. Time that I will no doubt think could have been better spent on pursuits. Like selling one of my screenplays or learning how to make pierogies.

I will remember that I sat through two Twilight movies, and that I made the effort to read almost an entire book, andI’m sure I will find the energy to reach for my cigarettes, shakily bring one to my lips, light it, inhale, exhale, and weep without shame.

Feel free to tell me I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s a really great selling point for a movie franchise that it “totally gets better by the last movie” (someone actually said this to me). I take a very small measure of pride in the fact that I’ll give just about anything a fair shake. I tried with Twilight. I really did. I watched the first movie with a woman in a Red Roof Inn. She paid fourteen dollars for the privilege of watching it on PPV, and that still bothers me to this day.

For the second movie, I tried to be prepared. I brought of bottle of vodka into the theater, added it to the movie theater’s hellish, hateful definition of a large Coke, and assumed this would be more than enough to get me through the movie.

I was wrong. For the first time in my life, alcohol did not save a movie I knew was going to be testicle-shattering awful. The experience forced me to reexamine certain aspects of my life, and anyone who knows me should know how much I hate doing that.

So, no, I’m not watching any more Twilight movies. I’m done. Good for the people who are happy with how the series ended, good for the people who are going to see some of that bigger-than-Jesus money, and good for Robert Pattinson for not being afraid to express his intense dislike for the movies (I’m slowly starting to like Bob, and I’m eager to see what he can do in Cosmopolis). Personally, I think the real story at the box office right now is the fact that movies like LincolnWreck it Ralph and Skyfall (which is the first Bond movie in a long time that I’m genuinely excited to see) are all doing quite well.

I want to see all of those, actually. The list of movies that have come out since around September, and some of the films due to come out before the end of the year (and remember, kids, the world, too) is surprisingly high. This is just one of those periods of time where I can’t get to a movie theater as often as I would like.

Of course it is, you know?

Ginger and Fred (1986): A+

I dig Fellini, so it wasn’t like I was unsure of whether or not I was going to like his commentary of things like aging and the bottomless well that is the superficiality of television. What I didn’t expect was to decide that this probably my favorite Fellini film so far. Typical of the iconic Italian director, there’s a whole lot of free-for-all weirdness going on in this story of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers impersonator team reuniting for a bizarre television special. The impersonators (the classy, beautiful Giulietta Masina, and the readily charming Marcello Mastroianni) haven’t seen each other in decades. Those years have certainly taken some measure of a toll, and from the beginning, they are clearly out of place at the TV studio where the special is being filmed. Fellini was a master at creating worlds in which the inmates have been running the asylum for so long, it doesn’t really make sense to call them inmates anymore. It’s almost difficult sometimes in Ginger and Fred to pay attention to the beautiful, familiar chemistry Mastroianni and Masina create so easily. That’s how much of a surreal frenzy is going on at this TV studio. Masina and Mastroianni are clearly relics. You’ll wonder why they’re even there in the first place. In their own separate ways, each wonders just that as they arrive at the studio, see each other for the first time in years, rehearse, and hope they have the magic one more time. It’s the question, really, of whether or not they still have that magic that drives Ginger and Fred. Strictly in terms of their performances, both Masina and Mastroianni possess that magic of perfect, moving performances all the way through. It’s a soft-spoken sentimentality that never becomes sickly sweet. It’s not mugging for the camera, jerking on the heartstrings for an award later on. Their performances seem to come as naturally to them as breathing. The craziness around them spirals out of control, and yet they remain beautiful, appealing constants. Whether or not their characters still have the magic as performers is left up to the viewer. Personally, I think Ginger and Fred speaks volumes of how that intangible energy that exists in people, between people, can exist in even the coldest, most unfeeling of circumstances. But like most Fellini films, it’s open to a certain amount of interpretation.

Easy A (2010): B

Easy A doesn’t really bring any surprises to the table, but it does offer a lot of surprisingly sharp humor, a great ensemble cast, and Emma Stone leading the way with a performance that I think is completely impossible to dislike on any level. The movie aims for cute, and the nice thing about Easy A is that it gets there easily, but never overstays its welcome. The fact that this is a modern spin on The Scarlet Letter is made clear to us several times, but like any contemporary re-telling of an old story, Easy A has enough of its own personality (Stanley Tucci, as Stone’s laid-back dad, is clearly having a blast) to make it work. I have a bad habit of skipping over movies if the trailer just doesn’t grab me. I made that mistake with Easy A, and I wish I hadn’t. I finally understand all of the people who have remarked that it was a lot better than they had thought it would be. I’m certainly one of them.

The Beguiled (1971): B+

Clint Eastwood’s directing career is pretty diverse, but his acting work through the decades has rarely had him going against type. The failure of Don Siegel’s The Beguiled in its time might have something to do with that. Either way, it’s a shame, since Eastwood proves himself repeatedly in this less-than-heroic role of a wounded Civil War soldier hiding out at a Louisiana girl’s boarding school. This isn’t Harry Callahan, or The Man with No Name. Corporal John McBurney is cruel, corrupt, a little stupid, and extremely dangerous. The transformation of circumstances from Eastwood being in trouble to Eastwood becoming the threat features some of Eastwood’s finest, most layered acting. It gets a considerable boost as well from actresses like Geraldine Page and Elizabeth Hartman. The key to enjoying The Beguiled lies in believing Eastwood can be something besides the hero, and by accepting the sedate, strange pace the movie takes on (some would call the ending anticlimactic, but I’m not one of those people). If you can go along with those things, you’re going to be floored by The Beguiled. You’re certainly going to wish Eastwood had given himself more opportunities to buck expectations.

The Watch (2012): C-

It’s not like The Watch is pretending to be something it’s not. The movie makes absolutely no apologies for a plot (a bunch of schmucks in a neighborhood watch stumbling into a plot by aliens to take over the world) that literally exists for no other purpose than to get us from one joke to the next. I guess the thing about The Watch then isn’t that it’s funny, but that it’s much funnier than I ever would have guessed beforehand. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and the rest (if you ask me, Richard Ayoade is the real star of The Watch) know the kind of movie they’re doing here. In knowing that, everyone is clearly having a good time throwing every possible joke against the wall to see what sticks. What stays on the wall is a lot more than the things that reek of desperation. I was expecting a lot of desperation from comedy veterans like Stiller and Vaughn (and Jonah Hill). I didn’t get nearly as much as I was expecting.

The English Patient (1996): D-

I watched about half of The English Patient in 1998. I stopped watching it, because I was bored out of my skull. I felt a dull, unrelenting melancholy slip over me, and it was only by changing the channel that I was able to save myself from slipping into a coma, suffering brain damage, or slipping into a coma that would cause me to fall, and hit my head on the coffee table, to cause about the same level of brain damage. I should have listened to that instinct. There’s a plot, I think. Definitely something going on in which a doomed love affair is told over a series of flashbacks. I think. It’s hard to say now. The menace of a coma came back for this second try at getting through the movie, so I was hit with a series of brief-but-brutal blackouts throughout. What I can tell you is that I’m pretty sure writer/director Anthony Minghella could have effectively told his story of love, war, regret and secrecy in less than 155 minutes. I can also tell you that Willem Dafoe is really the only good consistency during those 155 minutes. And I can definitely tell you that I think viewing a movie as being pretentious is in the eyes of the person watching the movie. That said, The English Patient is one of the most pretentious pieces of shit I’ve ever seen in my life. If it the pretentiousness of this movie could take on a physical form, that physical form would be Joe Pesci, and Joe would have a baseball bat, a head full of bad wiring, and a wild look in his eyes. This is easily the worst Best Picture winner I’ve ever seen, and topping that is going to be an extraordinary feat.