Labor Day

I've mentioned before that I have some ground rules when it comes to documentaries. I'm much more attracted to ones about esoteric interests than some polemic about how terrible the world is. And although the world of fashion journalism isn't something that intrigues me out here in the "real" world, a combination of some positive word-of-mouth and curiosity about supposed tyrant Anna Wintour led me to put The September Issue on my queue.

The movie covers the hectic process of putting together the largest issue of Vogue, and if its goal was to portray Wintour in any sort of realistic light, either cruel or misunderstood, it failed. Wintour is clearly aware of the camera at all times, and acts accordingly. None of her interviews seem particularly genuine, save the one where she discusses the eminent members of her family, and the fact that they find her chosen profession "amusing". A flash of insecurity darts across her face, and it's the most humanizing 0.5 seconds in the entire film.

That's not to say the entire movie is a failure, though. This film has got a secret weapon on its hands, named Grace Coddington.

Coddington is a former model, who became the creative director of Vogue, and has been wrangling with Wintour in that role since 1988. While Wintour is a placid shell who gives nothing away, Coddington has no compunction about sharing her frustrations when things go poorly, and patting herself on the back for a job well done. In the back half of this seemingly insular portrayal of life at the magazine, Coddington executes a genius move that draws an unseen documentary crew member into her world, pulling the audience along with him. Thus with one split-second idea, she simultaneous solves a thorny creative issue on her side, and spices up what may have been an otherwise bland movie on ours. The Devil may wear Prada, but it seems the Angel has some wild red hair.

The September Issue: B-

The Amazing Race

At some point, I won't be giddy with excitement over RuPaul's Drag Race anymore. All reality shows have an expiration date. Thankfully, that point hasn't come yet for this show, and I was buzzing about the crowning of the first All-Star in this short, but sweet season.

I had multiple favorites going in, telling anyone who would listen that I would be equally happy with a Manila, Latrice, Pandora, or Jujubee win. After five episodes, only one of my dream team was left, and I was rooting hard for Juju going into last night's finale. It was not to be, however, as Chad Michaels walked off with the tiara.

I'm not devastated by this result; I like Chad, even if he was never my top choice. To paraphrase someone else's succinct words on the matter, I was glad Chad won AND sad that Jujubee lost. I have so many mixed feelings!

As to the season itself, it had its good points and bad points. I'm still deciding on whether or not I liked the structure of having teams, which made for a nice, abbreviated season, but also meant the queens were eliminated in pairs. This meant that an awesome performer like Pandora Boxx could be sunk by cannon fodder like Mimi Imfurst. On the other hand, it was amazing watching competitors with wildly different styles meld into a super-combo, like Manila and Latrice.

The challenges are somewhat pointless, and usually only serve to get the queens to look or act wacky until it's time for the runway and lip sync, but it's still entirely possible to have great ones or terrible ones. The challenges of this mini-season were mostly unremarkable, but for the awful one where the girls were forced to stand in the street in hideous day drag and convince unwitting bypassers to do crazy stuff. I hate that kind of shit. A few weren't bad, though. I did like the one where the queens were told to make themselves look as sexy as possible...as their male selves. Raven's a hottie, yo. Oh, and the basketball challenge was fun, too.

In the final analysis, if you stack up the All-Star season against the regular-length ones, it may not shine quite as brightly, but as a side-project, it was grand fun. You can bet my ass will be back in front of the TV for Season 5 in January, hunty.

RuPaul's Drag Race - All-Star Season 1: B


[Sad Trombone]

Rachel Dratch has never gotten the same respect as her comedic peers. Everyone falls all over themselves to praise Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (with good reason!), but Dratch hasn't been able to establish the same kind of career. I always thought she was funny in the roles I've caught her in, so I was very interested to read her book, Girl Walks Into a Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle. I was hoping it would shed some light on her relationship with the cult of celebrity, and thought her perspective on the whole Being Famous beast would be noteworthy. Or barring that, I was at least hoping for some funny/gossipy bits about the celebrities she's interacted with.

Unfortunately, that's not what I got. Dratch seems reluctant to even discuss the trappings of her career at all, but realizes that she has to in order to attract any kind of readership, so she quickly works her way down the checklist of things she knows people want to hear about: Debbie Downer, being replaced on 30 Rock, and the generally sad situation of being shit on by Hollywood's obsession with image and fitting a certain "type". She dutifully hits on these points before she moves on to the bulk of the book, but only in a cursory way.

There are a few brief stories about dating losers before she gets into the chance meeting between her and the man who would become her more long-term partner. It's a meet-cute story that you'd be happy to hear at your cousin's wedding, but isn't particularly noteworthy. The book then transitions into her surprise pregnancy and the birth of her son, which was extremely welcome news. To her, that is. I mean, I'm very happy for her, and it's always nice to hear that it's never too late to achieve the things you've been hopeful for, but the stories regarding her baby are exactly as interesting as the baby stories you hear from your coworkers. That is to say, not at all.

I sometimes try and apply a single adjective to a pop-culture property, just to see if I can summarize my feelings about it. In this case, that adjective would be "Unnecessary". It wasn't a terrible book, but I didn't learn anything new or compelling. I still like Dratch's work in general, but if this is the amount of effort she puts into her creative output, I'm suddenly starting to understand why she isn't more well-known.

Girl Walks Into a Bar...: C

Fall Movie Preview: December 2012

December is more of a holiday movie season than autumnal in any way, but hey, if Entertainment Weekly wants to include December movies in their preview issue, who am I to argue?

December 7:

Deadfall: Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde are siblings who rob a casino and must then evade not only the police, but a massive blizzard. If this gets good word-of-mouth, I'll toss it on the queue, but otherwise, it can slip by unnoticed. (Pass)

Hyde Park on Hudson: I saw the trailer, and still can't decide if this movie depicting a historic 1939 meeting between FDR and King George VI looks entertaining or not. I like Bill Murray, Laura Linney, and Olivia Williams, but it may be kind of a stuffy film. (TBD)

Lay the Favorite: A young, "free-sprited" woman attempts to get rich by betting on sports. If it weren't for another yawn-inducing title (see below), this would be number one on the to-be-avoided list. (Pass)

Playing for Keeps: The number one spot is taken by this Ambien in cinema form. It stars Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel, and involves soccer. I wanzzzzz......... Oh, sorry. I couldn't even stay awake long enough to finish that sentence. (Pass)

December 14:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: I liked the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, but am extremely turned off by the obvious money grab of stretching a slim novel into three movies of its own. This will be the first of the three, and every time I try to get excited about seeing it, it's accompanied by an internal sigh with the realization of the time, money, and energy that will need to go into signing on. What started as a Must-See has now become... (TBD)

Les Miserables: This, on the other hand, I am extremely excited for. I like the original musical, and the trailers make it look glorious. Film versions of musicals have become a tricky proposition of late, but this one looks pretty close to a sure bet. (Must-See)

December 19:

Amour: A French film, in which an elderly couple must face the trials of deteriorating health. Woo! Sounds fun! (Pass)

Monsters, Inc. 3D: I immediately passed on the 3D version of Finding Nemo, but found myself drawn to this one. I think the story would take on a new richness in 3D that Nemo wouldn't. I probably still won't sink the time and money into seeing it at the theater, but I won't deny the impulse isn't there. (Pass)

Zero Dark Thirty: The wrongest I've ever been about a movie was The Hurt Locker. I predicted it would be yet another depressing war movie that nobody would care about in the slightest. That'll teach me. Well, here's another movie about international conflict from Kathryn Bigelow, and I won't make the same mistake twice. That doesn't mean I'm personally interested, though. I'm sure this movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden is extremely well-made, and who knows? Maybe it'll net Bigelow some more awards. But I'm generally not entertained by subject matter like this, and I don't want to make going to the movies a form of homework. (Pass)

December 21:

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away: When a performance of a revival of Company was filmed and released in theaters nationwide, I couldn't wait to hit the theater to see it, and I'm really glad I did. So there's something to be said for cinematic viewings of events that you'd usually want to see live. I'm not sure that it translates to this 3D Cirque du Soleil performance, even if the technical wizardry of James Cameron behind it. If someone wants to go see it, I'd probably be happy to tag along, but won't be too torn up if I happen to miss it. (TBD)

The Impossible: The dramatization of the true story of a family who almost perished in the 2004 Thailand tsunami. It stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and it's sad that white people had to be imported into the process for this movie to be made, as if the natives dying isn't compelling enough. I'm not sure this is something I want to see. It depends on the balance between disaster movie tropes and pure drama. I'll skip it in the theater, but won't put renting it outside the realm of possibility. (TBD)

Jack Reacher: As my friend Kevin says, is there anyone that can say "Jack Reacher, with Tom Cruise" without giggling? I've never read the series, but apparently, part of the canon is that Jack Reacher is 6'5", which makes Cruise's casting pretty hilarious. Otherwise, it seems a pretty standard action movie, which can skew either awesomely entertaining or awesomely terrible. I still haven't caught up on the latest Mission Impossible, so it's unlikely I'll have the inclination for this. (Pass)

On the Road: An adaptation of Jack Kerouac's novel, which features Kristen Stewart. Wouldn't it be cheaper to just scoop out my eyes with a melon-baller? (Pass)

This is 40: I find Judd Apatow movies to be a series of diminishing returns lately. That's not to say he isn't talented; I just find each movie to be lazier and less funny than the one before it. So even though I adore Paul Rudd, when I didn't get a single smile out of the trailer for this expansion story of the married best friends from Knocked Up, I decided this would be my exit from the Apatow Expressway. Someone let me know when he gets back to putting some effort into these. (Pass)

December 25:

Django Unchained: I enjoy Quentin Tarantino films, but they're often too gory for this wuss. So it goes without saying that I'm going to have to let the first wave of movie viewers digest and review this movie before I even consider giving it a whirl. It's hard out there for a wimp. (TBD)

The Guilt Trip: Seth Rogen goes on a cross-country trip with his mom, played by Barbra Streisand. Sounds zany! And fairly obnoxious. (Pass)

Parental Guidance: Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are tasked with looking after daughter Marisa Tomei's kids. Sounds zany! This may be an ideal Laundry Movie to pay half attention to in a year while I dust the apartment. (Rental)

West of Memphis: I'm sorry, but how many fucking properties have been devoted to these people? Listen, I'm sure it sucks more than I can imagine to be wrongfully convicted of a crime, but enough already. If one quarter the attention was paid to the murder victims than has been paid to the West Memphis prisoners, there wouldn't have been a wrongful conviction to begin with. (Pass)

Award Repo: Judy Holliday

A short while ago, I was watching All About Eve for the bazillionth time, and marveling at the fact that I never get tired of it. There are very few films that I view as just about technically perfect, even among my favorite movies. But if anything even comes close to being flawless, it's that one. I can confidently say it far and away deserved its Best Picture prize in 1950, because it would deserve that prize in any year.

So I've always scratched my head over how Bette Davis didn't win Best Actress that year. She's fucking incredible in that movie, and I wondered what performance could possibly have bested it. Well, let's take a look at what the choices were:

Anne Baxter (All About Eve)
Bette Davis (All About Eve)
Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday)
Eleanor Parker (Caged)
Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard)

I'd never seen Born Yesterday (and still haven't seen Caged), but feel like even with that lacuna in my film knowledge, I had the right to be befuddled. Even if All About Eve had never been made, Gloria Swanson tore the screen to shreds in Sunset Boulevard. What the hell did this Holliday accomplish that beat out her AND Baxter AND Davis? I had to find out, so I rented Born Yesterday from Netflix.

Yawn. I'm sure it was perfectly charming in 1950, but unlike other movies on the list, it didn't retain its entertainment value in the passing years. Judy Holliday's performance was cute and funny, and I see why Academy voters were enchanted with her. And perhaps there was a vote-splitting situation, since Baxter and Davis and Swanson were all such fierce contenders. It doesn't really matter, though, because to my eye, it's painfully clear that of the nominated performances, Holliday should be towards the bottom of the list.

I know that Bette Davis doesn't need more adulation. She won two Oscars, and is remembered as one of the greatest actresses of all time. But the Award Repo is all about righting past wrongs, and in my opinion, there's simply no question that this should have been Davis' hat trick.

Gimme a Head With Hair

I mentioned in the Carmen Sandiego post that there aren't many properties that capture my attention when they branch out into other forms of entertainment, so when they do, they tend to grab on pretty tightly. Hairspray is one of those things that manages to pull me in every time a new iteration comes out. I don't love it unconditionally - you'll note that unlike Carmen Sandiego, this is not a Pantheon entry - but it's always interesting enough to at least check out.

The cycle got kicked off with the 1988 John Waters movie, which I heartily enjoy. I didn't get to know Ricki Lake as a talk show host. For me, she has always been the original Tracy Turnblad. The movie is pure camp, but unlike a lot of Waters' other movies, actually wraps up a pretty heartwarming story about the cracks forming in the wall of racial segregation in '60s-era Baltimore. My family is originally from there, so of course, that was an added hook; my dad actually appeared on the real-life version of The Corny Collins Show. I've seen this movie at least a half-dozen times, and I never get sick of it. Plus, the soundtrack is amazing.

Then came the Broadway musical in 2002. I was a bit suspicious of it at first, because I generally feel like musicals made of non-musical movies are disappointing at best (Billy Elliot is a good example of this). So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the soundtrack, and even more so when I was able to catch the actual show at the Fox. It's a fairly faithful adaptation, and the music is damned catchy. Sure, the themes are now about as subtle as a baby grand piano being dropped on your head, but that's what musical theater is all about, isn't it?

The musical was a big hit, and so naturally, a movie based on a musical based on a movie was planned. Oh, Hollywood. Never change. In 2007, the new Hairspray movie was released, and as with the musical, I approached it with a healthy amount of suspicion. How good could a story that had been through the wringer as many times as this one be? Plus, the role of Edna, so magnificently captured by Divine in the original movie and Harvey Fierstein in the musical, was to be played by John Travolta, which seemed like an awkward fit.

Once again, I shouldn't have been so leery. It turned out to be a perfectly enjoyable movie. It doesn't really stack up against the rest of the Hairspray canon, but taken on its own, it's very entertaining, with a lot of re-watch value.

Are we finally at the end of the Hairspray road? It seems incredible that they'd be able to take it anywhere new, but I learned long ago not to assume anything when it comes to squeezing the last drops of cash out of a successful property. Assuming that we get yet another iteration, my guess is that I'll be newly suspicious all over again, then likely get proven wrong again. I can think of worse ways for a pattern to repeat itself.

Hairspray (1988): A-
Hairspray (2002): B+
Hairspray (2007): B-

This Shit is Bananas!

When it comes to non-fiction, I like to chase down entertainment based on interesting topics that don't get enough attention. Spelling bees. The family politics of sushi restaurants. Bananas certainly fit this pattern, what with them being the most delicious fruit on Earth and everything. So Rich Cohen's recent book, entitled The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King immediately caught my attention.

I was hoping it would chart the rise of the banana's popularity in America. Or that it would enhance my knowledge of the fruit companies that had a stranglehold on Central American economies and politics for so many years. Or that I would learn about a towering historical figure I was previously unacquainted with. Unfortunately, when this book attempts to do any of those things, it doesn't do them particularly well.

I think it's a matter of attempting to tell too many stories, and the resulting short shrift each of them gets. If Cohen wanted to explore the history of Sam Zemurray, he should have focused on that. Instead, we spin off into tangents about Lee Christmas, the trials and travails of various Central American political figures, and the business backgrounds of fruit company presidents, and not enough time is spent with any of them to glean any real depth. By the end of this book, I hadn't learned anything about Zemurray that couldn't be summed up in a desultory Wikipedia page.

Part of the reason bananas are so valued is that the perfect amount of content is stored in a perfect package. If only Rich Cohen had learned a lesson from his titular fruit. It's not a hopeless book, but it's certainly nothing I could ever recommend.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: C


There's a scene in this past summer's The Amazing Spider-Man wherein a car is knocked off a bridge with a passenger inside, and the camera and effects work attempt to show the audience what that would be like from the passenger's point of view. Hey, wait! There's a scene in this past autumn's Cloud Atlas wherein a car is knocked off a bridge with a passenger inside, and the camera and effects work attempt to show the audience what that would be like from the passenger's point of view! But come on, Cloud Atlas is a dramatic literary adaptation, while Spider-Man is a giant superhero franchise, so of course money is no object when it comes to effects in the latter. It's only understandable that Spider-Man would look better. Except it doesn't. Not even a bit. And that's about ten spots down on the list of why the new Spider-Man movie was so, so disappointing.

I was a bit confused as to why the franchise had to be rebooted a mere five years after the last trilogy. Were people really crying out to see this origin story replayed yet again? I wasn't too worked up about it, though, because I'm one of those people who never really liked the original movies. Maybe a fresh take on things would improve my feelings about my least favorite superhero movies. Just think! No more annoying Mary Jane, and her inexplicable ability to obsess the men in her life, despite being totally annoying. No more Aunt May spitting out wisdom gleaned straight from the fortune cookie factory! I was more than willing to be happily entertained by this new movie. And maybe I would have been, if it had made one lick of sense.

There are always the obvious things to gripe about in action movies that have no real impact on whether I enjoy myself or not. Sure, it's fun to laugh at the screen when a seventeen-year-old is apparently the head of personnel at a multi-million dollar scientific research company, or said company employs people who don't wear goggles in the holographic lab, but make sure to gear up with thigh-high boots. Or when a high school is completely wrecked by a battle between the hero and villain, but is repaired back to pristine condition two days later. Or when a crane operator decides to help out by accurately predicting forty minutes in advance exactly where and when Spider-Man will fall so that he can be there to catch him. A summer blockbuster can have tons of those ridiculous quirks and still be a load of fun. What it cannot do is fail on the structural level. Things like making sure your villain has an actual motivation. Or not including a terrible score that includes an honest-to-God screeching violin sting directly out of a '80s slasher flick.

By far, this movie's biggest crime is setting up storylines it then completely abandons. We make sure to establish the physical characteristics of a criminal that underlies Peter Parker's entire reason for exacting vigilante justice, and then... We never see him again. The first third of the movie goes to great pains to establish an evil secondary villain who is temporarily impeded by the main villain, and then... We never see him again. The main villain releases a toxic gas that turns a group of civilians into a race of hideous lizard monsters, and then... We never see them again until they're handily cured. Yes, the filmmakers went to the trouble of writing and animating a scene in which cops are turned into lizard people, and then literally does nothing with it.

If there's one thing to recommend this movie, it's the interactions between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). They're both good actors, and they have great chemistry together. But unlike Spidey, they're not super-human, and though they do their damnedest to elevate this weak material, there's no swinging in to save this movie from its doom.

The Amazing Spider-Man: C-

Wreck It, Ralph Fiennes

I've really been the subject of an embarrassment of riches on the friend front this week. In the entertainment sphere of life, that took the form of an awesome Saturday double-feature.

First up was Wreck-It Ralph, a movie I've been eagerly anticipating. Sometimes I build my hopes up too high in these situations, and the movie winds up disappointing me. But in this case, Wreck-It Ralph easily met my expectations, and I have no doubt it'll be in my top five of the year.

This film was heartfelt and funny and beautifully animated and had terrific voice acting and was loaded with video game in-jokes. How could I not love it? The entire audience, both adult and child, was captivated throughout the entire running time.

From there, it was a quick jaunt over to one of those fancy theaters with recliners and in-theater waitstaff for Skyfall, the newest James Bond movie. It was a real breath of fresh air after the crushing boredom of Quantum of Solace, and offered some entertaining takes on the origin of various Bond conventions.

That said, it didn't live up to the almost universally glowing reviews I'd read of it. Besides having some of the usual action movie physics problems, the character progressions were a bit off for both Bond and his nemesis. It's an extremely gorgeous movie, though, and a lot more psychologically deep than many others in the franchise. Ralph Fiennes enters the fray quite seamlessly, and Judi Dench is always an acting powerhouse. It's not the be-all-end-all of cinema, the way some people have said, but it's certainly one of the best of the Bond movies. So who cares that none of my laundry got done? Seeing two great movies is what I really call a successful Saturday.

Wreck-It Ralph: A
Skyfall: B

Shorties #5

So much culture to consume! Let's plow through!

#1: Red Dead Redemption: I bought a used copy of this game off a coworker a while ago, but got frustrated with it, and set it aside. It's essentially Grand Theft Auto, except set in the Old West, and with the option to be honorable or dishonorable - no need to be a crook. Once I was finished with Mass Effect 3 (see below), I had some game time to kill before Assassin's Creed III arrived (no pun intended), and picked it back up. I liked it better this time around, but issues still abound. It's fine to play if there's nothing else going on. (Grade: C+)

#2: The Station Agent: As with Michael Clayton, I've seen this movie before, but didn't remember much about it, other than I had enjoyed it. I rewatched it, and easily understood why: The actors (Bobby Cannavale, Peter Dinklage, and Patricia Clarkson) are some of my favorites, and are completely charming, but there isn't much to the story. It's just a simple relationship drama. (Grade: B+)

#3: Mass Effect 3: Back when I first mentioned this game, I had heard some blowback about its ending, and now that I've reached said ending, I can understand what the furor was about, though I wasn't as whipped up about it. It was definitely a disappointing conclusion, but it didn't sour me on the entire game, which I still enjoyed. (Grade: B-)

#4: Born Yesterday: In order to write an entry for an upcoming Award Repo, I had to do my research, which involved watching this 1950 film about the kept girlfriend of a crooked business man. Judy Holliday plays Billie as a self-involved bimbo, who becomes more confident and interested in civics when led around D.C. by reporter William Holden, who easily falls for her charms. This movie was nominated for Best Picture, but hasn't aged particularly well. I adore movies of this era, but this one is too heavy-handed and plodding. (Grade: C)

#5: 2012 Election Night Coverage: I hosted a small party on election night, and though CNN was the default channel setting, we also wanted to see what was going on with Fox News and a local channel. Aside from the complete non-surprise of Wolf Blitzer being insufferable, it was handled pretty well. CNN delved into some interesting county-level statistics. The slack-jawed disbelief on the Fox anchors' faces was endlessly entertaining. NBC's electoral ice rink was silly, but pretty nifty. And the local channel actually pulled through for once, and kept us up-to-date on how our state-level decisions were faring. Perhaps the copious amounts of alcohol made me more forgiving of news coverage than I usually am. Or perhaps, 2012 is the year the networks finally got their shit together. (Grade: B+)


Once again, I'm afraid my opinion has been influenced by hype. I really need to start going to movies with fewer audience/critic reviews bouncing around in my head. In this case, reviews for Ben Affleck's Argo were almost universally glowing, so I went in expecting a marvel, and getting a movie that was...perfectly fine.

Maybe it has something to do with how old I am. At the time that Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took hostages, I was far more interested in learning to walk than America's political news. So maybe I'm not the target audience for the retelling of how six people escaped the embassy, but had to hide in the Canadian ambassador's house, until they were spirited out by the CIA under the guise of a fake science-fiction movie scouting for locations in the Middle East.

I don't want to give the impression that Argo is a bad movie, undeserving of its praise. It was a very well-paced, well-acted movie, and my only big issue with it are the bits where the real story has been too-obviously enhanced with cinematic tropes. Was it tense for the six hostages to sit on a plane, wondering if they'd be caught at the last minute? I have no doubt. But Iranian army and police did not literally chase them down the runway, and including a scene of that struck me as kind of silly.

Argo will likely be highly-recognized during awards season, and I've seen far worse films take home the top honor. But as far as movies I've seen so far this year go, I doubt it'll stick in my head anywhere near as much as Cloud Atlas or Looper have.

Argo: B-

Sappy Endings

What I'm Watching: Once Upon a Time - Season 1

I always have a lot of missed television shows sitting around my Netflix queue, waiting for me to catch up with them. The other night, I was struck by a random urge to start up the first season of Once Upon a Time. I'm just going to go ahead and stick a "Guilty Pleasure" tag on this entry here and now, because while there's no way I would ever be able to advocate for this show based on the level of its writing or acting, I find it inexplicably magnetic.

It must be a magic spell, cast on me to happily abandon any stringent demands of subtle storytelling or layered character development. It doesn't even matter that Jared S. Gilmore causes one of the worst cases of Insufferable Child Syndrome I've ever seen. The moment I find myself with free time, I devour another episode, to the point that I may just catch up with Season 2 (currently airing) by Thanksgiving.

Once Upon a Time actually shows encouraging signs of addressing all of its issues as I zoom along through the first season, but let's be honest. Even if it had remained a cheesefest with laughable CGI, I'd still be glued to the screen.


Rocky Horror Picture Shows

Anyone who knows me knows I cannot handle gory movies. It's a shame, because I know there are some legitimately good films out there that I'll never see, because they're simply too gross. Oddly, I don't much mind reading intensely violent stories, so I'll often seek out spoilers or read the book a gory movie is based on. Thanks to this mental block I have, I'm not half as well-versed on the horror genre as most film fans (although I can tell you about pretty much every death scene in every Friday the 13th movie - thanks, internet reviews!)

Part of that wall came tumbling down last night, when a friend came over bearing Halloween and Halloween II, swearing up and down that neither one was anywhere near as gory as I've been assuming all these years. And what do you know... He was right!

So, now I can finally say I've seen a couple of horror classics. Of course, I didn't grow up being familiar with the minute details of these movies, so all of the tropes they helped establish - from killing characters with sexual urges to people unwisely saying "I'll be right back" - struck me as old-fashioned. It's not at all fair to blame an original movie for a convention that's become stale in the years since, but it did affect how I felt.

I was also surprised by how slowly-paced these films are. That's not a criticism; Halloween is clearly a thriller rather than a slasher, though I can't say the same for the sequel. Jamie Lee Curtis' debut is certainly impressive, and Donald Pleasence fully commits to his hammy role, but I don't know that I'd call either of these movies especially good. This has never been my genre of choice, though, so I'm grading purely on my tastes, rather than on how successful the films are.

And hey, now that Halloween is behind us for the year, I can go back to being a complete wuss! Yay!

Halloween: C+
Halloween II: C-
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