Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Sound of Music

Today I saw The Sound of Music, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, as part of the 70mm film festival at Seattle's Cinerama theater.

I was raised on this film. Every year, around Easter, the movie would be shown on television and we'd put sleeping bags on the living room floor and pop popcorn to properly watch as a family. When I got to high school, my best friend and I would make treats and have our own film fests watching it. As an adult, I bought every anniversary edition of the VHS, then DVD & Blu-ray that was released. It never got old and I never got tired of it. The songs, which I sang endlessly, helped me become a better singer.

I've probably seen the film over 30 times (no exaggeration), so each time I watch now, I try to hone in on something I've never concentrated on in the past. Today, I decided to focus on the relationship between Maria (Andrews) and Gayorg (Plummer).

The theater representative shared that the film was originally shot in 70mm, so we were seeing it today "as it was intended." It was a gorgeous print, almost dream-like hazy, with colors that radiated the screen with life in every frame.

I must admit, I'd forgotten how devastatingly handsome Plummer was in the role—his chiseled features and piercing eyes were the perfect type of sexy for the role in which he portrayed. Never mind that the real Gayorg was a sweet man all along, and was much more in love with Maria than she with him (at least, at first). But that dance they do at the party ... oh, that dance.

It helps to see these films with a crowd from time to time. I loved the fact that the audience was made up of probably 75% adults and 25% children, yet once the film started not one person, large or small, made a peep. I also enjoyed the women and gay men gasping at the aforementioned hottie Captain and the audible groans and sighs from just about everyone each time the nazis appeared.

The songs still bring a smiles and the story still moves rapidly, though the running time of the film is over 3 hours.

My discovery today was that aside from being a legendary musical, this is one of the most romantic films ever made. From the flirtatious banter to the climactic dance to the kiss in the gazebo to the divine wedding—we should all be so lucky to find a partner that connects with us so strongly.

One of the best films ever made.


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Eighth Grade

Last night I saw Eighth Grade, starring Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton.

Kayla (Fisher) is a typical eighth grader in the modern world—she's always on her phone, engrossed in her laptop and hosts her own YouTube channel. She's awkward and anxious and lonely, but she desperately wants to fit in with the 'cool' crowd.

There are wonderful things about this film and not-so-great things about this film that keep me from agreeing with the general consensus (that it's fantastic).

First, the positive:

  • The lead actress is phenomenal. Right down to the body language, how she hunches her shoulders as she walks, Fisher conveys the lack of self-esteem that plagues young women today and wears every scar in her downward glances.
  • It's refreshing to see a coming-of-age film about a girl instead of a boy.
  • In subtle ways, this film tells more about the horrors of the digital age than any previous fictional exploration.
Now, the negative:

  • Kayla's dad (Hamilton) is practically a caricature of the embarrassing parent. He tries too hard, says all the wrong things and shows up when he's least welcome. He would have been a lot more effective if he'd been less blatant.
  • The 'mean girls' that serve as the popular kids Kayla attempts to mingle with at a pool party are very one-dimensional. Sure, a pack of nasty girls can blend into one throbbing nightmare for any adolescent outcast, but the audience knows there is always more than meets the eye. 
  • In contrast to the girls her own age, Kayla's high school mentor is almost too nice to the young girl, inviting her to hang out amongst her pals after hours.
The pace is also frustrating because it's so uneven. We may get two or three comedic elements and then a long-drawn out dramatic sequence. I did look at my watch more than once.

So ... who should see this? Sure, parents should have a look. But really, it would be best if they took their adolescents with them and paid attention to the scenes that may trigger them. Have conversations about what to do if put in similar situations. Use it as an opening for dialog.

It is in those parent-child conversations that its best purpose will be served.


Sunday, September 02, 2018

Leave No Trace

Yesterday I saw Leave No Trace, starring Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie.

Will (Foster) is a veteran suffering from PTSD, raising his teenage daughter in the woods of a public park outside Portland, Oregon. Tom (McKenzie) accepts this life with grace as it's all she knows. We assume mom has passed away, but she's only mentioned briefly, quite vaguely, so we're not sure.

When Tom gets spotted by a hiker, their life is exposed and social services relocates them to temporary housing on a farm. There, Tom begins to make friends with nearby kids her age and Will works on the owner's tree farm in exchange for lodging. Tom loves it and Will hates it.

After just a few weeks, Will insists they leave and soon enough, they're back to a transient lifestyle. For the first time Tom lets Will know that she was happy with the structure and stability of the farm life. Though it pains him to make her suffer because of his issues, that doesn't prevent him from caving and they continue to press on.

The film is both tender and excruciating to watch. This father and daughter are genuine friends, and their love runs deep. Tom has learned amazing survival skills from Will, but his unreasonable need to be off the grid is unfair to her and she comes to realize that. Though his actions make you angry, you feel for him and that's a testament to the pain that comes through Ben Foster's eyes in every scene.

Tom McKenzie is also convincing as a young girl who just wants more out of life, but doesn't want to hurt her father.

If you're looking for a film that moves along at a quiet, but important-to-the-story pace and also makes you re-think every homeless person you encounter, give this a chance. It may just bring perspective along with the tears.