Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This Week In Tickets: 16 September 2013 - 22 September 2013

Last week of Red Sox home games of the regular season, so, yeah, let's get to Fenway a few times.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: The Red Sox vs. the Orioles on the 17th. One of those full-sheet-of-paper printouts, so it's not lost, but just too big.

Three games this week, though it wasn't originally planned that way. The Sunday game was purchased as part of one of those four-packs back during the winter, but I picked up Tuesday's game when I got back from Montreal, saw the Red Sox were waiving fees for online ticket orders that weekend as a Sales Tax Holiday offer, and lucked into the one Thursday because someone had an extra.

On the whole, a fun set of games. Tuesday's was a let-down at the end, when the almost unfathomable happened and Koji Uehara gave up two hard-hit balls in a row, allowing the Orioles to score the winning run; he had been automatic for the past couple months, including a hidden perfect game and then some (thirty-odd straight batters retired in relief). He got some deserved applause, and while we probably won't be taking him for granted, I still figure to be saying "Koji's got this" when there's a lead in the ninth, because he regularly makes batters look silly.

The Sox salvaged a win from the series on Thursday, though, with an excellent start by John Lackey, which is becoming so commonplace this year that the jokes about how I never thought I'd see the day when I'd look forward to him pitching have become old and stale. Apparently it's my fault that it wasn't as good as it could have been; after the sixth inning I turned to Tony and asked if MLB Network was switching to the game, he asked why, and I said six innings without a hit allowed. Soon after, Brian Roberts hit one to the parking garage, and I was informed that he obviously heard me from five hundred feet away, and this gave him the extra bit of inspiration he needed. People believe weird things.

The last home game of the year was another one that went by quickly. I had extra tickets because the last couple of years have been lessons in how making general plans well in advance (buying enough tickets to bring family members to a few games) tends to fall in he face of specific plans made closer to the date. I might have been able to unload them, but I always forget how the "scalp-free zone" works, and wound up in the park early rather than the part of the gate where you can sell them. Ah, well. It was a beautiful afternoon, the game moved quickly - the other team pitched a knuckleballer who had a good day around the homers by David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Junior - and I moved down to hang with Tony & Ken for the last couple innings Now it's time to start figuring out how many postseason tickets I can afford.

Even with all that baseball, there was plenty of time for movies. Most of it was spent at Boston Common for some things that didn't quite get a wide release: Monday, I finally got around to seeing Mexican comedy and sleeper hit Instructions Not Included, which has hung around for a month and was good enough to merit a little thinking about later. Saturday was a double feature, starting with The Wizard of Oz Imaxified and threedeified, followed up by Zhang Ziyi's My Lucky Star. That's something like the third follow up to a hit Chinese romantic comedy that China Lion has brought over day-and-date with Beijing despite the first not having been much of a blip in the States (Sophie's Revenge came out in 2009, I saw it at Fantasia in 2010, and it finally hit region-one DVD in 2012). Shows how much they're targeting the expatriate/immigrant audience, even though this one stands quite well on its own. Finally, I made it back there after the last ballgame for The Short Game, a documentary on seven and eight year-olds who play golf that's kind of adorable.

In between, I made it to the Brattle for Byzantium, which was supposed to have played at Kendall Square back in July but got yanked from the schedule, but was fairly well worth a bit of a wait.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 September 2013 in the Brattle Theatre (Recent Raves, DCP)

I'm not a particular fan of vampire stories, but when you cast Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan in a movie, you get my attention and raise my expectations. I gather Neil Jordan with vampires perks some other folks' antennae up, though, although the vampires in Moira Buffini's script (based on her own play) are unconventional enough that I half-wonder if they're only called that because it brings people in.

Still, I do quite like it as a larger-than-life story of a mother and daughter. I especially love the arc Gemma Arterton's Clara takes in this movie and what it says about the world: The flashbacks reveal a woman who saw an opportunity at controlling her own destiny and seized it, and for that is disparaged as an abomination even by other vampires. It's a bit of a paradox that two hundred years later, she's still trading on her body, but there's something harshly true about how it's hard for her to see herself as anything but the harlot men have made her feel like, even when she does demonstrate a fierce intelligence and sense of initiative, especially when it comes to protecting her daughter. I really hope that the way Arterton fills out a series of tight/skimpy costumes, and how her character always seems lower-class, doesn't completely blot out how great she is in this.

Saoirse Ronan is just as good, especially since her character is fitted with a backstory that makes it relatively easy to believe that she would still be acting like a teenager after centuries. She gets across this great combination of young and old, a modern sixteen-year-old girl until you scrape a little bit off the surface, familiar with death and for all her intelligence, still able to be shielded by her mother. Her love story is impulsive but invested with a familiarity that makes one wonder how often it's played out in another way.

It does kind of suffer from the issue of being a small story told on the fringes of a larger one, which can often be a problem, but more or less rights itself at the end. Jordan and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt do a great job of capturing the setting of a seaside town in the off-season, and they found a great spot for some of the most pivotal scenes. There are bits that could be better, but since Jordan absolutely does not waste his two lead actresses, it's still damned good.

The Wizard of Oz

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 September 2013 in AMC Boston Common #2 (Special Engagement, Imax-branded 3D)

Don't think less of me, but I never really connected to The Wizard of Oz. Despite getting ample opportunities during its annual Thanksgiving broadcasts on CBS, the magic was just never there. I later came to like the basics of the story - Marvel's adaptations of the original L. Frank Baum novels by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young get picked up in hardcover, and I dug Sam Raimi's prequel movie this year - but the 1939 movie? I acknowledge it as a classic, wonder why there weren't many other fantasies made during Hollywood's "Golden Age".

But, revisiting it as an adult... Man, do I find that this thing has problems. Like the way Dorothy and company seldom really seem to do anything to earn her way home - Glinda just makes it snow in one scene after the members of the party who need to breathe have passed out, and if water is so dangerous to witches, why is there just a bucket of the stuff lying around, especially since her minions don't seem too disappointed when she melts? Plus, given that Judy Garland doesn't particularly look like a pre-teen, "there's no place like home" seems to be a horrible lesson, the exact opposite from the attitude you'd want an intelligent, curious teenager to have. It'd be different if Dorothy looked like a nine-year-old, but she really doesn't.

That said - there's still a lot about this movie that's wonderful. For all that it hits its themes and lessons directly enough for the four-year-olds in the audience to not miss anything, it doesn't ever seem to be going overboard in anything. Even the big song-and-dance numbers are just enough. I love the Scarecrow more than I ever did as a kid, just because I can see how Ray Bolger is absolutely nailing the body language of a man whose body is filled with straw rather than bones and tissue, and the make-up job is really incredible - I can't see where the sack ends and his face begins. The restoration/conversion job to get it in IMAX 3D is also one of the best you'll see, especially the way it takes the inherently two-dimensional backdrops and gives them depth without changing their essential character.

I'm probably never going to love this movie, certainly not like my nieces do, but I certainly like it enough that I'm glad I went to the IMAX show out of more than just curiosity.

Instructions Not Included
The Wizard of Oz
My Lucky Star
The Short Game
Jinxed No-Hitter
Home Finale

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