Recent Viewing

I’ve been keeping up my weekend movie night habit, but I’ve lost track of talking about them, so here are some thoughts on things I’ve watched recently, in no particular order:

A Fish Called Wanda — I needed a laugh, and I remembered this being very funny when I saw it at the theater when it first came out (I am old). It was still funny and quite an 80s time capsule, but not exactly the thing to watch when you’re a bit down because you’re losing faith in mankind, since even the “nice” people in this movie are fairly awful people. Still, brilliant writing and acting.

Weekend at Bernie’s — I guess I was on an 80s kick (and once I watched Wanda, Amazon started suggesting 80s movies). I remember wanting to see this when it came out because I thought the premise sounded fun, but I never did, and I’m not sure why. It came out during a summer when I was interning and had an apartment on my own in Austin (back in those days, apartments in Austin were dirt cheap over the summer. Times have changed), so there was nothing stopping me from seeing it. I went to a lot of movies alone that summer. Anyway, I finally saw it, and it didn’t quite live up to the premise. The core of the movie — the two guys pretending their dead boss is still alive because they’re afraid they’ll be killed if anyone realizes he’s dead while the assassin is going nuts because he’s sure he killed that guy — is rather brilliant and quite fun. But it’s a very small part of the movie. The movie’s only about 90 minutes long and we don’t even get Bernie killed until more than 30 minutes into the movie, and it’s another half hour or so before they learn their boss put a hit out on them and start really faking Bernie being alive. There’s a lot of padding with a romance subplot that doesn’t really add anything to the story. But, wow, the 80s vibes. It took me right back to my college years. The hair! The makeup! The clothes!

Ladies in Lavender — now for something a little more PBS-like. Two elderly spinsters during the 1930s find an injured young man washed up in front of their cottage on the Cornish coast and get a little too invested in him. That sounds like a horror movie, but it’s actually rather sweet. The guy is a Polish violinist who was on his way to America but ended up overboard from the ship, and the ladies want to support his dream, but fear they’ll lose him as one of them experiences her first crush late in life. Surprisingly, this gentle little movie was written (based on a short story) and directed by Charles Dance, perhaps best known now for playing Tywin Lannister. It has a great cast, starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. The young man looked really familiar, and it turns out he plays a villain in the Marvel movies, but he’s all grown up now.

Free Guy — This was the “restoring faith in humanity” movie I needed. I wasn’t sure about the idea of it, since it involves video games and I am not a gamer at all, but I was able to follow it well enough. In the world of a violent video game, one of the non-player characters becomes self-aware, falls in love with the avatar of one of the gamers, and starts being a hero in the game, doing good and stopping the violent acts, which inspires a worldwide movement in the real world — much to the chagrin of the guy who owns the video game company. He may destroy the game’s world unless that “Free Guy” can find the evidence the owner stole the code at the heart of the game. This movie is so sweet while also being fun and exciting. I found it oddly inspiring in the way it showed the impact of someone who does what he can to make the world better, one act of kindness at a time. At the same time, I felt like my lack of interest in video games was validated because that game didn’t look at all like fun to me.

West Side Story (the new one) — I love the original version. I have that soundtrack on cassette. I’ve seen the movie so many times, including on the big screen (thanks to the campus theater when I was in college). I’ve also seen numerous productions of the stage show. But I was intrigued by what could be done in a remake, and I was really impressed. The film is beautiful to watch, and the performances are terrific. I think the music is better than in the original. It was a little weird seeing something that was so familiar and yet so different. They took the basic story and the music and wrote a new script, in consultation with experts on the Puerto Rican community in New York in that time period, and I think the story works much better now. I intend to get this one on DVD so I can watch it whenever without worrying about whether it will stay on Disney+. I’d thought that this might be one Spielberg movie that didn’t involve John Williams, but it turns out that he consulted on the score because he was the pianist in the score for the original version!

Turning Red — A 13-year old girl from a Chinese immigrant family in Toronto in the early 2000s finds that her family has an interesting blessing/curse: upon puberty, the women turn into a giant red panda when they get emotional. Her overprotective mother intends to do a ritual that will remove the panda, but that’s the same night as the concert by the hot boy band the girl and her friends are determined to attend, whether or not their parents let them go. And she actually kind of likes the panda and isn’t sure she wants to get rid of it. It’s Pixar, so it’s sweet, funny, emotional, and has a universal emotional core even if it’s about a specific group of people. I’m from a different era and ethnicity and my parents weren’t nearly that overprotective, but it reminded me of my 7th grade year when I was 12. My friends and I were obsessing over Star Wars instead of a boy band, but otherwise the things they did at school and the way they talked about their obsession were all so familiar. The heroine even carried the same flute case I have (that I had then). There were a few moments when I was dying of secondhand embarrassment, but that was the universal part. Even if your parents didn’t go that far, when you were that age you probably felt that way because you feared you’d get embarrassed.

The Sword in the Stone — I don’t think I’d ever seen this Disney classic all the way through. There were scenes that were familiar that I know I’ve seen, but the rest was entirely unfamiliar. I know the story, of course, and I’ve even read the book it was based on. I’m not sure how well it holds up. It’s rather episodic, just a series of events rather than there being any kind of narrative drive. It was still cute and funny, and there’s always the game of finding the spots where they reused bits of animation from other movies that you can play with Disney films from that era.

Now I have to think of something to watch this weekend. I’m not sure what I’m in the mood for.

2 Responses to “Recent Viewing”

  1. Debra

    A Fish Called Wanda is usually one of my go-to movies when I need a laugh. (Kevin Kline won an Oscar for his role :)) And I love Love LOVE the new West Side Story and was so glad that Ariana De Bose won the Oscar for Anita just as Rita Moreno did. Ms. DeBose has some great YouTube clips one from a PBS special singing the Wizard and I from Wicked and one doing a mash up of Rogers and Hammerstein. You should check them out.
    And I think In the Heights is on Disney + if you still have musical cravings.

    • Shanna Swendson

      I thought In the Heights was on Netflix, which I don’t have. But I have a temporary trial of Apple+, and they have Come From Away, which I need to watch, and Schmigadoon, which is a hoot.

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