Seven days, six movies. A pleasant and sustainable pace.
First up was a preview screening of one I had been looking forward to since the first time the trailer popped up (and it has done so with some regularity in recent months), Brooklyn. I've been a fan of Saoirse Ronan long enough to have really been uncomfortable in terms of being a grown man so impressed by a teenage girl, but, hey, she's good. So is the movie.
I spent just enough time getting groceries afterward that I almost missed the 4:30pm screening of Spectre, which would not have been a huge tragedy, but, if you assume I'm going to see the new James Bond film opening weekend (save assumption), I may as well make the effort to see it on Screen #1 in Somerville. Yes, I did check which showtimes were on that screen and which were on an inferior one when seeing Love a few nights earlier; why do you ask?
Monday, I worked from home entirely so that I could catch Fantasia at the Coolidge that night, as Brookline by 7pm is a much easier target when starting from Somerville than Burlington. The movie remains great, although it's a shame that Disney didn't distribute 35mm prints to places that can still project it. There is, in retrospect, a reason why I generally sit further back for digital presentations than ones presented on film.
Tuesday was a long one day at work, and then on Wednesday I headed to Boston Common for the first day of The Last Woman Standing, which wasn't quite so crowded as the latest Chinese imports, but it did open on a Wednesday a few days after opening in China, and the pirates are fast.
I tried to make it to Room at the Coolidge on Thursday, but the T ground to a halt in frustrating fashion. Friday found the bus running at the right speed just after staying at work a bit longer than usual that I was passing the Capitol at just the right time to see The 33. OK, although it really should be better than OK.
Meant I missed the first half of Guy Maddin's two-day visit to Harvard (I gather he's been there for the semester, but these were his only in-person appearances for the series), but I was able to hit the second, when he introduced and did a Q&A for The Forbidden Room. As usual, Maddin was a lot of fun, both in terms of the movie he made and what a fun guy he is in person.
* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 8 November 2015 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, DCP)
About four years ago, DC Comics rebooted its entire line, with the idea of making it easier for new readers and recreating the characters to be edgier and cooler. Frustrating for long-time fans, but what's really frustrating is that every once in a while, they will do something like pair off various characters or otherwise do something that is only really impactful if the audience refers back to the previous iterations of the characters. It's a cheap trick, and a cynical one, and it's one that Spectre pulls several times, especially in the homestretch.
That's not the movie's only issue; but it's the most obviously frustrating, especially since its opposing impulse is to try and make some sort of personal connection between Bond and Blofeld. Because, you see, it's the 21st Century, and it's not enough that the world be threatened by some sort of grandiose disaster; there must be something personal as well: A last mission from the former M, a sort of brother-figure, a romance that isn't quite earned but is apparently strong enough to position the film as feeling like the capstone to Daniel Craig's entire run as Bond. It attempts to revive one of the more grandiose elements of the earlier films, but does so without a lot of the fun, stumbling even when it tries to be a bit lighter.
It's hardly all bad - there's a terrific sequence to open the movie, for instance, and Daniel Craig continues to home in on what makes his take on Bond work, doing a fair job of juggling the conflicting tones that the film goes for. The central cast of characters works very nicely; as much as I loved Judi Dench's M, I'm also very fond of Ralph Fiennes's more active variation, along with Ben Whishaw's Q and Naomie Harris's Moneypenny. Casting Andrew Scott (of Sherlock) in his role may have been giving the game away too obviously, but he certainly works.
The film just doesn't know how to embrace fun, though - there's a massive explosion that apparently set some records for this sort of pyrotechnics, but it doesn't feel important, and while there's some interesting ideas at play in the concept of centralizing global intelligence, Spectre isn't smart enough to really examine the idea or dumb enough to let it run. And, ultimately, it's too much about James Bond, rather than an adventure that is too big for anyone but James Bond.
* * * * (out of four)
Seen 9 November 2015 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (75th Anniversary, digital)
I gave Fantasia a full review at its last divisible-by-five-years anniversary, and one of the things that came up then was how the first time seeing it was a big deal because it was a special trip. Presentation was what I came away from this viewing with, and it was frustrating; the Coolidge did not seem to get a great digital file at all, with artifacts visible during any shot of conductor Leopold Stokes in silhouette and the fine linework of Mickey Mouse showing pixel structure when not strictly horizontal or vertical. It was probably less noticeable even a few rows behind me, but when I pay nearly $20 for a ticket, I like being able to sit close to the front row and not be distracted.
Let it be very clear that this is not on the Coolidge at all; their projection routinely looks great, and though I had some conversations indicating that different models of digital projector might have done better, this should have been film - and that's not even considering how anachronistic the "soundtrack" segment is in a digital presentation!
At least the movie itself is still excellent. Though I did find myself getting a bit impatient with the Deems Taylor introductions, which half the time seemed like little more than descriptions of what we would be seeing in the next few minutes, there is no denying the beauty of the music or the impressive ambition of the animation. Disney was not quite the only game in town in 1940, and they were not quite so beholden to a specific tone as is often assumed, but they were still doing bold things here, with a level of polish not generally seem on art-for-art's-sake projects.
That Disney's style eventually became synonymous with family entertainment may be what keeps Fantasia thrilling even now - though there may be far more animation intended for adults today, this film can still surprise by presenting something scary or grandiose right next to the expected cheerful whimsy. And while it's still a joy to watch on video, it becomes even more astonishing in a theater, both for the big-screen and surround-sound experience and for the audience, as one is removed that this sort of music, so often treated as the property of the elite connoisseur, can in fact be a joy for everyone.
2010's full review on EFC.