Sunday, October 23, 2011

Recent movies

Life goes on, at least for those of us still living, and I guess it's no disrespect to the memory of Twinkle if I start to mention some of the other things that have been going on lately. In this case, specifically, two movies I've lately seen.

The Thing

The first, which I went to see with Larry on Thursday night, was The Thing, confusingly named because it's the prequel of the 1980s movie of the same name, and not a remake, as the name might lead you to believe. I've grown to appreciate John Carpenter's movie more and more as time goes by, so I went in with ambivalent feelings. I wanted to learn more about the back story, but at the same time, I didn't want them to cheapen the original experience, which so often happens with these add-ons (witness the last three, "first" three, Star Wars movies).

I was pleasantly surprised. The movie gives the action lead to a woman, which is a nice change, but doesn't require her to get romantically involved with a young hunk or constantly require saving by a sacrificial avuncular older male. The character of Kate is scientific, sharp-witted, with just the right balance of sympathetic compassion and hard-headed practicality.

The movie tells the story of the discovery of the Thing, and the fate of the original Norwegian outpost in Antarctica. Since anyone who's ever seen the 1980s movie already knows they're doomed, the movie is largely about revealing how they underestimated the threat (not hard to understand; how big a threat is a 100,000 year old corpse, even if it is an alien?), and how the threat expands almost exponentially.

I was impressed with her ability to take a small observation and turn it into a means to separate humans from Things, or at least be sure who definitely is human. That itself was worth the price of admission.

The movie's not getting great numbers on Rotten Tomatoes, I don't think, which surprises me because I think they did a great job coming up with a plausible back story, and one that's true to the original right up to and including scenes interspersed into the credits. The two movies dovetail so closely they could be watched back to back, and one day, I'd like to do that. Recommended.

The Ides of March

I really like George Clooney, and I'm fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman too, so I was really looking forward to The Ides of March, which I saw last night with P-Doug. Essentially it's the fictional account of some of the cynicism behind the scenes during the Ohio primaries of a US presidential election, in which Clooney plays the Democrat governor of Pennsylvania looking to affix "Avenue" to that state's name as his address. Mike Morris, with Obama-style posters, says all the things the left only wishes could come out of the mouth of a US presidential hopeful with a real shot at the job. Not a chance, but it was nice to see.

The story's told from the point of view of a young assistant campaign manager (Stephen Meyers, played by Ryan Gosling) who is lured into a meeting with the campaign manager of the opponent. I can understand why this might be disconcerting to his co-workers, but I'm not sure why it would be newsworthy that Democrat campaigners, even those who are briefly opponents, should have things to discuss with other Democrat campaigners. It kind of seemed like a non-issue to me.

Similarly, the revelation that Governor Morris had a one-night stand with one of the interns, Molly, a young woman Stephen himself is seeing, did not strike me as earthshaking. A bit tawdry and sad, maybe, but not the kind of thing that's poison to someone on the left, it seems to me. That she'd become pregnant and was seeking an abortion might be, but since it was going to be handled in confidence, again, it didn't seem like a big deal. The character of Stephen seemed shaken by it all, and that read a little naive to me. Frankly, I would rather the crisis be not the kind of thing the Democrats seems to generate, which is trouble finding pants where the zipper stays up (ho-hum), as opposed to the kind the Republicans seem to generate, which if finding and fielding candidates who aren't running for the right to be the guy who gets to push The Button so that Jesus can come back.

I'll say this. It was a mature movie. It wasn't full of guns and threats and guys in dark glasses hustling people away in the middle of the night for smarten-up sessions. It seemed to me to be a glance into the world-weary dealings that are necessary to keep the average political campaign on wheels. I just wish the stakes of the issue at hand had been a little more profound.

One thing I did learn is that Ohio, apparently, has something called an "open primary", which means anybody can vote on who gets to be a party's candidate—including, significantly, the members and supporters of the other party. This strikes me as utterly insane. Who here thinks it's a good idea for Ford to have the right to make changes to GM's next model year, and believes those changes would really be in the best interests of consumers?

The movie's worth seeing, and it's extremely well-acted, but I wouldn't call it an Oscar contender, in my books.

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