bironic: Neil Perry gazing out a window at night (Default)
[personal profile] bironic
Ah, well. The themed viewings appear to continue.

A Knight's Tale

Tried a second time; the first was on an airplane shortly after the movie came out, and back then I couldn't roll my eyes hard enough. Still not my taste; three-quarters of the way to Mel Brooks. But I did watch the whole thing.

Overall it was a nice story about knightly values triumphing in the end. And, uh, upward social mobility? Apparently you just need spirit and drive, plus training/testimonials/forged documents from an eccentric poet. (Why make him Geoffrey Chaucer? Encyclopedia entry suggests to me it may be because he was born a commoner yet "moved freely among the aristocracy," as Heath Ledger was trying to do in the movie. Why give Chaucer that ridiculous personality, though? A mystery.)

Paul Bettany angle: I guess it was fun to watch him be silly? Maybe not, if I have to include the question mark. The nudity wasn't really a selling point, nor the long, shouted, increasingly exaggerated introductions at tournaments. I think I most enjoyed finding out that he developed laryngitis after filming because of all that shouting. I mean, not that it's funny that he hurt himself, just that hearing that was more interesting than most of the movie itself. And I'd indeed been impressed by the amount of shouting.

Margin Call

I'd been meaning to see this since it came out, so it's no surprise I enjoyed it, entirely separately from the Paul Bettany factor. In fact, his role was minor and I'm still trying to figure out the purpose of his character. Perhaps, if the movie was about corporate hierarchies as the New Yorker argued, it was simply to show another layer of bureaucracy separating the young hero from the man with the ultimate power. Or perhaps he, like each of the other characters, was meant to represent one of many possible ethical stances—in his case, an amoral one—with regard to the central conflict. I'd need to watch again to better determine. Which I wouldn't mind doing in the future.

ETA: fic with great characterization: Write it off as entertainment by belmanoir, Will/Seth, explicit

The nice thing was the movie wasn't a morality play. Or egregiously heavy-handed, although sometimes the Metaphor Shots teetered on the edge, like standing at the top of a skyscraper talking about the caprices of fortune, or riding the "up" escalator right next to the "down." The final shot was a nice touch.

It was a drama about a thinly veiled real bank at the start of the sub-prime mortgage crash, but it wasn't presented as 'a dramatization of a true story,' and there weren't villains clenching fistfuls of money, which made it much easier to enjoy. Nor was it a corporate conspiracy story, as it seemed in the beginning. For that I was grateful. A story about people—mostly men, all white, all, of course, wealthy, though some of those on the lower rungs are keenly aware of how much more their superiors make than they do—at various levels of a financial firm dealing with a crisis in different ways but mostly as a team is more interesting. Even if the team is working for its own survival rather than the public good.

Overall: Excellent cast (Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, etc.). Solid performances. Was glad to have seen Inside Job a while back, or else the dashed-off explanations of what was about to happen would have been more confusing. Speaking of which, that is how you do explication: build it into your character development and the larger point you're trying to make. The higher up the ladder you go, the less the characters understand about the actual details of how the company runs; thus, the more "plain language" explanations the movie viewers get.

From The Atlantic:
Unlike [Wall Street], the movie understands that financial markets aren't merely tools to be wielded for purposes nefarious or benign, but vast and evolving entities in their own right, often inscrutable even to their purported custodians. Chandor's film is not a tale of the plots and counterplots of conniving bankers. It is a disaster movie […]

As we work our way up this food chain, one character after another seems set up as narrative foil or villain-in-waiting: Bettany's tough, crew-cutted Brit, grinding Nicorette lozenges between his teeth as if they were competitors; Spacey's mid-level exec, pining for a sick dog while inured to the human toll around him; Irons's sardonic, sepulchral CEO. Yet with a minor exception or two, there are no white hats or black hats to be found here, merely modern-day shades of gray flannel. Chandor's film is less a portrait of individual malfeasance than of systemic, cultural failure.

From The New York Times:
There are no hissable villains here, no operatic speeches condemning or celebrating greed. Just a bunch of guys (and one woman, Demi Moore) in well-tailored clothes and a state of quiet panic trying to save themselves from a global catastrophe of their own making. Watching them going about their business, you don’t feel the kind of fury inspired by "Inside Job," Charles Ferguson’s great muckraking documentary on the origins of the financial crisis, but rather a mix of dread, disgust, pity and confusion.
I'm also grateful the movie introduced me to the song Wolves by Phosphorescent.

The Secret Life of Bees

Bittersweet, sentimental movie about found family and self-forgiveness. And resistance to the dawning of the civil rights era in the south. A movie mostly about black women, by a black woman, in which most of the male characters embody violence and a desire for control.

Regarding the focus of the present endeavor: Paul Bettany makes a scary redneck peach farmer. (Literally, with sunburn.) He went all in, and it was remarkable. He didn't shy away from the unflattering aspects of this character, his physical and emotional abusiveness, his ignorant opinions, his exploitation of laborers, his coarse manners, his inability to deal with or express deep-running emotions, including what was probably a hefty dose of PTSD. Which made the glimpses of humanity and pathos all the more poignant: his wife stopped loving him, his daughter reminded him of her, etc. Not presented as seeking excuses, only as character complexities. Also interesting to find that his southern drawl was leaps and bounds better than the Generic American Action Growl from Priest.

Overall a pleasant viewing experience.


Wow, that was terrible. Worse than Priest, to compare it to the movie previously gracing the bottom of the marathon rankings. Bad melodrama can be funny, but bad comedy is just painful. I gave it 20 minutes and then fast-forwarded to the Paul Bettany scenes in case anything great happened. Nothing particularly great happened. He smiled once at a woman on a plane, and while the scenario was gross, it sweetened his face. Any enjoyment of those scenes came from appreciating PB's skill at transforming himself into a somewhat dim Cockney thug through body language, accent and a permanent curl to his lip.

One good thing happened in the hour and 40 minutes: Jeff Goldblum showed up!

Number of times I laughed: 1.

Number of Jeff Goldblums involved in the laugh-provoking scene: 1. Although he was dead at the time.

The end. Ugh.
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