Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Making of a Lady

The Making of a Lady is a HORRIBLE movie!

It is about a well-educated but poor secretary in a wealthy home who marries the one of the possible heirs. It's at first a marriage of convenience, and then they fall in love. This part of the movie is so-so.

Then the tone shifts in a weird way. The husband leaves for a military operation and his new bride is left alone in a creepy estate. She is soon visited by his odd and mentally ill brother and his wife from India. Somehow she doesn't notice how creepy and crazy he is, and she becomes friends with the wife and the wife's older mother (?). But the movie makes is super clear that there is something sinister about this crazy man and the Indian women. It is blatantly racist.

From here it becomes kind of a horror movie, as it slowly dawns on the new bride that these people are trying to kill her and her baby so that the crazy guy will be the heir.

It's just awful.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Big Short

The Big Short is about three different groups of hedge fund managers who realize that the housing market is going to crash several years before the big crisis. It follows them as they work on getting more and more money to bet against the mortgage interesting. It's fascinating and really sad the extent to which borrowers were scammed, and the indifference of the financial big shots involved.

The Big Short has a tense momentum. On one hand, you are kind of rooting for these guys who are going agains what seems the largest odds, and who weirdly seem to be heroes as they uncover the enormous flaw in the economy. On the other hand, they are going to benefit from the devastating 2008 collapse. This is mitigated by their growing cynicism and self doubt.

The movie is shot in a frenetic pumped up way that gives an otherwise pretty dry storyline more energy.

The Painted Veil (novel)

After watching the movie version of The Painted Veil I quickly bought the bought the Somerset Maugham novel and I gobbled it right up.

The books is so different! The first half is almost exactly the same, but the screenwriters took the characters time in the cholera town in a whole different direction. In the novel, their tense relations persist, but throughout them Kitty begins to transform and develop compassion for him. This is in part through her friendship with a English neighbor (who is important in the movie as well) and through her relationship with nuns. Unlike the movie, she never really understands the significance of her husband's work. Slowly she begin to hope for the ability to live a worthwhile life.

When tragedy strikes, she returns alone to Shanghai (Hong Kong?) and is not as changed as she hoped she was, the final ending brings her to a point where she makes a surprising loving and devoted choice. But so different, so much more grim than the movie!

The Painted Veil (movie)

I watched The Painted Veil last week and was so enthralled with it. It tells a very strange love story.

An odd socially awkward scientist becomes obsessively enchanted with a beautiful socialite in London and proposes to her. Inexplicably she accepts and they return to his station in Shanghai. Their marriage is stilted and polite, until he discovers her infidelity.

He gives her a horrible option: she can move with him to a remote cholera plagued town in the mountains, he can divorce her for adultery and disgrace her, or she can ask her lover to leave his wife and pledge to marry her (this is particularly cruel in the circumstances).

The rest of the movie is about their harrowing time in the cholera town where it seems he is on a suicide mission. It is grim and quietly sadistic. But as he becomes involved in his work dealing with the dying and trying to transform the water system, she becomes involved with a charitable convent and eventually they see new sides of each other, and, beautifully, fall in love. She develops a deep appreciation for his work, which had always bored her.

It ends tragically, and the final scene is a kind of annoying cliche, but it was pretty great. The landscape provided a sense of magic and wonder and fear as a crucially atmospheric backdrop to their personal lives.

I was so interested in the story that I immediately downloaded the Somerset Maugham novel.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Boys from Brazil

The Boys from Brazil is pretty funny to watch now. I think I remember it as being a serious thriller back when it came out.

Gregory Peck and Lawrence Olivier are kind of in a competition for who can do the most over the top overacting. Peck plays the sadistic Josef Mengele, and Olivier plays a Jewish Nazi hunter. Olivier's accent is just too much to bear.

The plot, for those who don't know it, concerns a conspiracy that has cloned Hitler. About thirteen years earlier, Mengele created a bunch of Hitler baby clones and distributed them through adoption to families all over the world where the father was 50 years old and a civil servant, and the younger mother was presumably likely to be doting. Now it's time for the fathers to die in accidents, and Megnele convenes a bunch of secret evil Nazis to carry out a mission. They meet at his home in Paraguay where he has a kind of Dr. Moreau thing going on. Unfortunately the plan begins to fall apart as Olivier begins to figure it out (based on a tip provided by a young Steve Gutenberg).

Anyway, it's all good fun. The 13 year old Hitlers are great.

The Danish Girl

I loved The Danish Girl. Set in Denmark and Paris in the 1920s, it tells the story of Einar, Gerda, and Lili.

Einar and Gerda are happily married. He is a successful artist and she is an emerging one. They seem to love each other very much. One day Gerda's model for a painting of a dancer is running late, and Gerda asks Einar to pose in her stockings and shoes. As Einar puts on the stockings you see something happen to him as he experiences their texture and sees his legs in new way. This is when he begins to rediscover Lili. Soon he is gazing at new versions of himself, drawn by Gerda, wearing Gerda's nightdress and playing with Gerda as Lili. More and more Lili becomes real and Einar begins to fade. Throughout this, the intimacy between Einar, Gerda, and Lili changes and shifts. Gerda is pained at the loss of Einar, and unsure who to be for Lili.

Lili's story is haunting as her own identity, belief in herself, and integrity emerge, as she fights against medical and psychiatric intervention, and finally finds a doctor who understands that Lily is real and will perform sex reassignment surgery.

Einar and Lily were exquisitely portrayed with depth and sensitivity, and Gerda's emotions, and her devotion to them was very powerful. The Danish Girl is a very beautiful movie.

The First Wives Club

Pretty much drek. The First Wives Club is a shlocky over the top comedy starring top notch talent (Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn) kind of making fools of themselves.

It's about three women in their forties who had been good friends at college in the late 60s. Although they have been estranged, when they learn one of their friends killed herself, they meet up after the funeral. Soon they discover all of their husbands have left them for younger wives. Sharing their rage and resentment, they begin a plot to ruin each man. In the end they raise funds to open a women's crisis center, and this, combined with them singing You Don't Own Me, somehow is supposed to elevate this broad comedy (no pun intended) into some sort of feminist work.