Tuesday, September 29, 2015

This Week In Tickets: 20 September 2015 - 26 September 2015

Hey, if I'm not doing these in order, I might as well do a this week rather than a that week.

This Week in Tickets

Stubless: Bite in the living room on Sunday; a Red Sox loss on Tuesday.

I really should mark down what else I did on these days when I didn't see a lot of movies, because it wasn't unpacking stuff at the apartment. For instance, I suspect that I was seeping in and then doing grocery shopping on Sunday, but it sort of looks like a wasted day before heading out to see Sleeping with Other People - an enjoyably crude romantic comedy - and then returning home to watch the last of my Fantasia Festival screeners, Bite, which, was passable but could have used a little extra effort in the story department.

Tuesday night, the MBTA tried to keep me from using the last game in my season ticket package (though not the last ticket of the season), a loss that seemed to start promisingly - the Red Sox pitcher perfect through four, the Rays' guy forced to throw 30 pitches in the first inning an not looking sharp - but it wound up turning, as can happen.

After working from home Thursday, I probably should have gone to the last screening of Ricki and the Flash in Arlington, but opted to get ahead of the weekend with the day-early show of The Intern instead (what do we call the now-ubiquitous shows the night before the official opening day, which were cooler when they were at midnight and only movies that had people really excited had them? I guess they're technically "previews", but that doesn't seem right). Mostly cute.

Friday I tried to catch Lost in Hong Kong, but it sold out like crazy and nothing that was starting at Boston Common at around the same time really grabbed me, so I went back home and watched what turned out to be a great baseball game. Saturday morning, I hemmed and hawed too long and wound up not able to catch the right bus/train to get to the furniture store's upgraded Imax theater for Everest, so I wound up watching Lost then.

After that, I went to Union Square in Somerville for the Fluff Festival, which is a real thing. For those who don't know - I have no idea how popular this stuff is outside of New England - Marshmallow Fluff is a sandwich spread that is usually combined with peanut butter to make what we call a "Fluffernutter" which has close to zero nutritive value but is really good, especially if you're eight. It was invented in that area, and the annual celebration had games, concerts, and, of course, different snacks. The longest line (though worth the wait) was at Union Square Donuts's table, where they filled one of their great donuts with peanut butter and had Fluff spread on top; while waiting in that line, I had a "strawberry fluffernutter smoothie" from a misplaced food truck with "keeping Boston healthy" on the side. Not bad, but didn't taste that different from any other strawberry/banana smoothie.

With my schedule thrown off by not getting to Reading, I was at least able to check out the Somerville Theatre's 70mm screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which remains pretty great. I don't know if it's the same print they had in February (this one dates from the mid-1990s), but it looked great from the front row, and sounded even better. Projectionist Dave Kornfeld pointed out that the print had five magnetic tracks for five speakers behind the screen, which Somerville has, as well as Dolby surround, which they also supported ("when I started this install, some called me mad!"). He also reiterated that they are planning a big 70mm festival for 2016, which should be epic.

The Intern

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 24 September 2015 in AMC Boston Common #11 (first-run, DCP)

Leading up to the release of The Intern, a couple of folks I tend to like were spewing hate and anger at this preview online, and I honestly can't comprehend why. The idea behind it - a 70-year-old widower takes a job at a start-up run by a young woman - and the two main parts are played by a pair of popular and charismatic actors (Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway) at their most pleasant and charming. This thing exists to be liked; indifference should be as negative a reaction as it gets.

And, to be fair, I can see where someone could walk out relatively unimpressed; writer/director Nancy Meyers sometimes seems to run from anything that could add conflict to the movie - De Niro's Ben Whittaker is not resistant to working for a woman half his age or learning new things at all, and while Hathaway's Jules Ostin may be kind of wired, she's not faking anything; she's a good boss, a good mother, a nice person. For a large chunk of the movie, this is enough - De Niro and Hathaway are good actors who seem to be enjoying a screenplay that calls upon them to play unambiguously nice people without falling into the trap of them being boring, as do Rene Russo and and the parade of younger actors joining the ensemble.

As pleasant as that is, it trips Meyers up a bit when it comes time for the movie to point itself toward an ending. As much as a moment where it looks like Ben is about to have a heart attack coming to nothing is a good decision - everyone sees that coming a mile away and it wouldn't fit into the story - the conflict she eventually introduces is just as hoary, and the actual resolution is so low-key that it feels like Jules has basically put disaster off for maybe a few weeks. There's perhaps an interesting movie to be made around that circumstance - that this pressure never ends, especially for women - but Meyers has soft-pedaled it too much by that point.

As a writer and critic, I must admit to being kind of fascinated by how the desire to get the right message out can strongly oppose what the film needs for drama. Myers seems to be keenly aware that Jules compromising her work because of the strain in her marriage (or vice versa) is bad symbolism, but it leaves the movie nowhere to go in the last act, even though it's pretty clearly set up as a story about how trying to do everything just isn't practical. Ideally, this movie probably best ends with Ben promoted from "intern" to an executive position (maybe a VP of Operations or something), but despite an awkward scene or two at the end that are right on the border of being mansplaining, Myers is so keen to avoid this being a movie where an older male sets a younger woman right - that she can't actually give the movie the end that it needs.

So, instead, Ben winds up becoming little more than an encouraging father figure, and it winds up highlighting a kind of weird decision - Meyers makes anyone else who could be any sort of authority over Jules invisible. Her mother is an impatient voice on the phone, while the various potential CEOs she interviews never show up on-screen. It's an unusual choice, and leaves the audience with a movie that seems to have much less than it could.

Still funny and pleasant, and maybe if that's all Meyers was going for, then the other things that pop up are interesting side ideas that don't really need filling out. A little more ambition would have been nice, but it's an amiable film regardless.

2001: A Space Odyssey

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 26 September 2015 in Somerville Theatre #1 (special presentation, 70mm)

Confession: I don't know that my eyesight is quite good enough to really distinguish between 35mm and 70mm, even from the front row. Don't get me wrong, it looked fantastic, great enough to remind me why I sit close for film and a little further back for digital, and the sound was fantastic as well.

Of course, it's not just the visuals that put 2001 right at the top of the list of great science fiction films; the grand scope that Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke place around what could be a sort of standard "computer run amok" story (although those weren't hugely common in 1968). It's a grand story, but what the characters are doing between "The Dawn of Man" and "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" is pretty easy to grasp.

One thing that always strikes me as I watch it is just how abrupt Kurbrick's transitions are; he's got no particular interest in transitions designed to smooth things over. Plenty of exposition to help build the future world, but the audience can fill in the typical blanks themselves. In some ways, though, that brusque editing style serves to highlight just how harsh and unforgiving space may be.

I've got more to say about this; and I think I did in the SF marathon write-up. Hopefully I'll find that when my tablet is repaired.

Sleeping with Other PeopleThe InternLost in Hong Kong2001 in 70mm

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