Only Lovers Left Alive

I think this movie is an example of one that just wasn’t my bad, or else I just wasn’t in the mood for it at the time I saw it.

It’s not a bad movie, it’s very well put together, the acting was good, the story was interesting, but for whatever reason it bored me a little bit. For the most part.

The film is a unique take on vampires (spoiler alert! They’re vampires, but you weren’t going to see it anyway) and how they might live their lives if they were not at war with werewolves, found alternate ways to obtain blood without killing people, Wesley Snipes was not trying to kill them every other day, and they just lived their immortal lives on Earth like everyone else.

The story focuses on two lovers, played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, who were both born to play vampires. They live apart, as vampires might do if they’ve been together for thousands of years. He a musician, her a … I don’t know what. I don’t think they said what she did for a living.

Anyway, circumstances bring them back together (you get the feeling they went through this cycle many times.) Vampire Tom is depressed, brooding about the world and what we humans have done to it. Perhaps he’s contemplating suicide. Vampire Tilda has a brighter outlook on life, clearly a ‘glass is half full’ kind of gal. She begins to pull him out of it when suddenly the kid sister, played by Mia Wasikowska, drops in for some mayhem.

If that all sounds interesting it’s because it was. In was funny and insightful and all that, and I have no legitimate reason to not have enjoyed it. Maybe I had a tummy ache? Was I not able to look past the fact that it was a Jim Jarmusch joint? Did I need a nap? I don’t even know.

I sort of have the same feeling I had the one and only time I went to the symphony. I know that the symphony is talented. I know the music is full of emotion and purpose. I can see everyone else enjoying it. But for some reason, at that time, it didn’t speak to me the way I wanted it to speak to me. Maybe I just don’t know the language.

Finding Vivian Maier

This was a fairly fascinating movie about a fairly fascinating person, which is ironic because we barely find out anything about her. That’s why it’s so fascinating.

It centers on Vivian ‘Viv’ Maier, a woman who worked as a nanny in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s in New York and Chicago, who also happened to be a world class photographer. The rub is that she didn’t seek fame and fortune and was only discovered as an artist after her death.

The mystery is why she was secretive about her work, at least toward most people, why she was secretive about who she was and where she came from, to the point of affecting a fake French accent, and why she dedicated her life to being a nanny in the first place. There were hints at reasons for that but there are easier ways to spend your day taking photos on the street.

Having just now looked at a lot of her work online, what’s interesting to me is that the more you look at her pictures, the more you realize that a lot of her subjects were aware that she was taking their picture. Many people are looking at the camera, as if they took just a split second to pause and let Vivian snap a photo. Many appear to be truly candid, but the more I look the more I see evidence that people just like to have their picture taken, no matter the circumstance. I can’t imagine her camera back then was silent so I bet it was easier to hide in plain sight and not try to be too sneaky about it.

I think this is why her work is so appealing. She has a sense of framing, distance and capturing emotion in a way that just standing on the street snapping photos will not convey. A lot of thought or inherent talent is evident in her photos. This one in particular was the most appealing to me, and I’m not sure why. I guess that’s what makes it art. I couldn’t tell you what art is, but I know it when I see it. The intangible, indescribable quality of it is what makes it worth looking at.

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We have a tile!

So San Francisco has this thing, well it’s actually two things, where an artist gets to decorate the front-facing side of a staircase as a public art project. A new one opened up recently so my loving wife and I decided to go take a look. Here’s what it looks like from the ground:

CAM00149 Once you get past the top of the stairs you see in the picture, it goes on for a little while longer. Here’s what that looks like:

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If you look close you can see writing on some tiles. This is because you could buy a tile, sponsor it if you will, to help fund the project. Not to mention have a permanent, special part of the stairs with just about any text on it you want.

So my wife lays down on a step near the top and asks me to take a picture. Which I do. She keeps telling me to get closer, and I’m like ‘Nope, I’m good. That one turned out.’ Some people started walking down the stairs so then I try to get her off the steps. She’s resistant, and I’m so stupid I just don’t get it. Finally, she has to tell me to just look at the damn tile, that on right there, you idiot. (I’m paraphrasing.) Turns out my wife bought a tile for us months and months ago and has managed to keep it a secret, and I couldn’t take a hint and ruined the whole moment. Ha ha. Here’s what it looks like, it’s just under my elbow and says ‘Laura loves Matty J’. She was smart enough to have it say something unique so there’s no mistaking it’s our tile (click the picture to zoom in on it):

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It’s only appropriate that since I have parts of San Francisco permanently etched into my arm that we now have some part of us permanently etched into San Francisco. It takes our love of this city, our love of unusual but beautiful things, and our love for each other and wraps it all up nicely in one little yellow tile.

Of all the thoughtful things she has done, this is the most thoughtful and meaningful. I love you so much honey! I hope you realize that there is no topping this and any gifts I get you from here on out are going to suck. Ha ha.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So, Marvel Studios is in a roll. I wonder how much autonomy they have from Disney? It gives me maybe a little hope for the new Star Wars franchise, but not too much. I hear they’re dicking with Lucasfilm quite a but. But screw that place, we’re here to talk about Captain America.

This installment finds S.H.I.E.L.D. in turmoil, nobody can trust anyone else. Captain America himself is still getting used to the modern world but has a better handle on things by now. He’s no longer a ‘yokel’ but still has some things to learn. It’s an interesting time for the character because he still holds his 1940′s ideals but he’s starting to come to terms with the reality current times.

It’s difficult to talk about plot without ruining anything, so I won’t talk about it at all. The IMDB trivia mentions that the original writer of the Winter Soldier storyline liked the script, so my guess is that it sticks close to canon, so you comic book nerds will like it. But it also covers other parts of the story pretty well. In some ways it might be thought of as a political thriller with some action sequences thrown in. I think a large part of that has to do with Robert Redfords work on the film. He almost brings some dimension of legitimacy to it that is missing from other Marvel movies.

I also have to give props to Scarlett Johansson. I always thought the was a good actress but mostly in movies I didn’t like. She was okay as Black Widow in the Avengers, but seemed to kind of fill the voids with vignettes of kicking people in the face and whatnot. She kicks people in the face here, but also has a lot of dialog-heavy scenes with Chris Evans which were well written and funny. She brings the street-wise smarm pretty solidly to Chris Evans’s innocent fish out of water. Let’s hope that they find a way to bring Chris Evans into the Black Widow movie they’re supposed to be making.

Lastly, and this is not to say the CG was totally missing from The Winter Soldier, but it seemed like they went out of their way to do more practical effects than what I’m used to, and it showed. There was a lot more hand-to-hand combat, which I guess is fitting for Captain America, and one big car chase in particular that looked nearly devoid of computer-based embellishment.

Star Wars Models

A couple weeks ago I went to the Tech Museum in San Jose because they were having a Star Wars thing, which amounted to models and costumes used in all six movies. Many of these I hadn’t seen so it was pretty cool.

My own phone was an the blink that day but I had our on-call phone. They didn’t turn out half bad under the circumstances.

Noah

OMG! A religious movie!

There’s no getting around the religious aspects of the story of Noah, or as I’m coming to learn by reading Wikipedia, *one* of the stories of Noah with a bunch of other tangential stuff thrown in.

But is it a good story? Well yeah, it kind of is. It’s a fantastical tale that at it’s core is one of righteous vs wicked, and the possibility that a bit of each is in all of us.

Noah is portrayed as a fairly simple man, trying the follow the will of ‘the creator’ without any clear direction on what that will is. One he’s convinced about what his life’s mission is, there’s no stopping him, even to the point of a little psychosis in the third act. There are fallen angels, a mystic great grandfather, descendents of Cain and family conflicts thrown in for good measure. Somehow it all worked without being too muddled, and I assume it’s not entirely true to the bible.

In any case, it’s a grand film. Epic, if you will, in scale. Russel Crowe lends a level of gravitas to the role that few living actors could deliver. The visual effects are big. The flood is big. The ark is big. It’s just big. I was entertained.

The Muppets Most Wanted

The wost Muppet movie ever (Muppets in Space) is still kinda funny to me in places, so I’m a built-in audience for this one.

In any case, it didn’t disappoint. I feel like the story was more of a throwback to the Muppets tradition, if you can call it that, where most of the movie is made up of short scenes, random gags and puns, but is somehow all held together with a loose plot. Somehow the Muppets make that kind of mess work.

I haven’t decided if I like this one better or worse than the previous one, I think I like them about the same but they definitely have a different feel to them.

Bad Words

The directorial debut of Jason Bateman turned out to be pretty damn good. I hope they let him direct more movies, he has a light but keen touch for black comedy, that’s for sure.

Bateman directs himself in a story about a 40 year old that finds a loophole in the rules for the National Spelling Bee and proceeds to crush kids in regional competitions so he can get to the big show. I won’t spoil the reasoning behind it, but in the end it almost seemed like it didn’t matter. He somehow takes a character that by all accounts should be despicable and makes him sort of charming and endearing.

Friends and enemies are made on his journey, things kinda work out at the end, people learn lessons, etc., but there are many laughs along the way.

I doubt this will be in wide release but it’s worth looking for at your local arthouse.