It's A Wonderful Life



It's hard to believe that this movie tanked on its release. With the success of such classics as Miracle on 34th St, you'd think that this would have been an instant classic. Instead, we end up with a steady and growing following until eventually it becomes cliched and a Christmas staple. Let's review it as though it were new, however. 

We start with the sentimental story of a man who has given up everything for other people throughout his life. He has sacrificed all he has so that others can find happiness, and in the process has gotten fucked over by a shit-ton of people. However, that does not sway him, and even in his darkest hour, he decides to sacrifice all he has so that everyone else doesn't have to go down with him. Thank God that the other people won't stand for that, and end up giving back to him in the end the way he's given to them over the years. It's the happiest ending you could ever hope for because it shows people actually CARING for one another. Wait, what? That actually exists?

I fucking adore this movie, not just because of the sentimentality of Christmas, but also because it has a genuinely good storyline. I think that these days a lot of the time plot is lost among the desire to make money during the Holidays (Christmas Day is the one of the biggest box office income days)- see my Shittiest Christmas Movies list if you don't believe me. You have a character that you actually, genuinely care about and don't want to see go down without a fight. You have an angel that knows more than he's letting on, and you know it, and he knows it, and you want the main character to know it but he has yet to realize what his life has been about. You're engaged in the plot and in the characters, which is why you can revisit this movie over and over and over again even though it is strangely similar to A Christmas Carol (in reverse). I'm keeping my review short because there really isn't much to say in a review of a near perfect movie. It's a classic. 


The Movie Mistress


Magnolia (1999)


Rating: 6/10


My one criticism of this movie is that it felt like nothing was explained in detail, and because there were so many stories, you weren't as invested as you would be had the creators narrowed it down. It isn't that the story was confusing or hard to follow, but you had to pay such close attention to grasp basic ideas like the relationships between every character. If I hadn't noticed the credits on the television set, for example, I would have missed altogether that Earl Partridge was the producer for What Do Kids Know? and not known at all what he was doing in the movie. I understand that if they had gone into detail the movie would have been fucking 5 hours long, but there's an easy remedy for that: have less characters. Because there were so many fucking stories, it's like you got glimpses of each one instead of a complete picture, and as a result didn't gather enough info about any of the characters to feel anything for them. William H. Macy as the Quiz Kid Donnie, for example, could have been cut. While it was an interesting sub-plot, it wasn't really doing anything except taking time away from the other characters. 

Besides that, I thought this was an fascinating and thought provoking movie. It took a while to get into, but once a steady cycle of going through the perspectives of each character was established, the story got really interesting. I loved watching how each person's facade fueled their relationships with others; the cop, for example, had this front of being an upstanding cop and the best he could be, but when it came to actually dealing with people, he was kind of a dick because of the way he looked at himself. 

My favorite sub-plot was the one with Stanley, the child genius who supposedly got tons of attention from everyone, but when it boiled down to actually listening to him, there was no one there. His father was only concerned with making money from his son's talents, and even though he got press all the time, the school just sort of left him alone and treated him like a freak. He was the only character in the movie who I actually felt for because he didn't deserve any of the shit that people threw on him. Kids have to use the bathroom, for fuck's sake. It happens. Even the other kids, who you'd think would sympathize, stepped all over him. I was so fucking glad when he finally summed up the feelings of all the characters in the film and said, "Dad, you have to start being nice to me." Ain't that the truth. That was one of the defining moments of the film, and made me appreciate the other sub-plot (though I still think it could have been cut) of William H. Macy more because I was seeing through Stanley what Donnie had gone through. 

I think that if the creators had made this film more concise, it would have been a lot better. You wouldn't have had to pay attention to one line said by Stanley in haste in order to understand the purpose of the frogs, and more attention would be focused on less characters, thus making each one more important in the overall story. However, it is what it is, and I can't change that. I can, however, appreciate the fact that every single person, whether we want to believe it or not, is hiding something, and sooner or later it will be exposed (although the fact that his father left did not make me like Tom Cruise's character more- I still thought he was a dick). This movie did a wonderful job of connecting several characters whom you wouldn't think would be connected in any way, and doing it smoothly and interestingly, and I'll give it credit for that. 


The Movie Mistress


Avatar (2009)


Okay, so let me say that I'm going to see this again because the theatre I saw it in had a piece of shit sound system. I swear, I wouldn't be surprised if they had hooked up a laptop and were using laptop speakers in the corner. I'm going to see it in 3-D and might write a review for that as well, but I want to make one thing clear: this is a movie that HAS to be seen in theatres. You can't get the full effect otherwise. 

If I had to use one word to describe this movie, it would be "breathtaking." I am usually not a fan of computer generated special effects because they tend to suck (Freddie vs. Jason, anyone?), but the visual effects in this movie were astounding. Even though you could easily tell they were animated, they fit seamlessly into the plot because of the way Jake describes his time with the Na'vi: he starts to confuse dream with reality and can't tell which life of his is real. The creativity of the animated creatures blew me away. It must have been so fucking fun to work on the design team of this movie. Every time the scientific team went out, I wanted to see what new animal or plant was going to be introduced. Yes, I was THAT invested in it. 

I mean, the story itself was interesting and kept your attention, but it was one that had been done before. It was like watching Pochahontas meets Independence Day or something. You pretty much could see from the start what was going to happen. The brilliant thing about the visual effects and spectacularly imaginitive world of Pandora, however, was that you wanted to see how it would happen, so you were kept watching. I knew Jake was going to switch sides- you could tell that from the first time he ran out of the doctor's room. What I wanted to see was all the little details that affected his decision- the animal/ hunter bonding, the Tree of Souls- those were what drove the movie, because without them you had an overdone drama that had been seen before. With them, though, you have this beautiful world that hooks you in from the minute the credits roll. 

Oh and I did appreciate James Cameron's blatant slap in the face to colonialism. Political statements in movies make me happy (District 9 is a good example of this). 

The great thing about seeing this on the big screen is that you feel like you're actually there, which is why I would highly suggest, 3-D or no, that you go RIGHT FUCKING NOW. 


The Movie Mistress


A Guide to Seeing Movies With Your Parents

It's the holidays. Everyone is visiting the places they used to call home (or staying in a hotel to avoid awkwardness). From the leading up to Christmas and New Years, there can be a lot of downtime [insert socializing here]. 

"Why don't we all go see a movie?" Dad asks. 
"Ehhh..." You say. 

Given the stereotypical prototypes of family dynamics, however, it is certain that Dad will prevail. So, after a long, family-driven break, the Movie Mistress is back to give you a few pointers about how to approach this problem:

1. Avoid R-ratings. It doesn't matter how old you are- 14, 20, 30... Watching a graphic sex scene with your mother is awkward. You can claim to be the most open-minded person in the world and it will still be awkward. Granted, there are some perfectly acceptable R-rated movies to see with your parents- Constantine, for example. But then again, Constantine isn't really worth paying money to rent, let alone see in a theatre. Or The Usual Suspects, for example. Movies that said the f-bomb one too many times and were slapped with an R-rating. Or ones with violence. But I would say that unless you've already seen the R-rated movie and can give it a once-over, pick something else. You wouldn't watch Little Children with great Aunt Edna, now would you? Just assume that every movie with an R-rating has Kate Winslet full frontal on top of a dryer. 

2. Avoid G-ratings and most PG rated films. I know, I know. You're probably shouting "What the fuck?! No R and now no PG? What the fuck is left? Come on." I have reason for this. I know that PG movies are safe to see. However, when you're with your parents, they're most likely treating, and the movie you see affects the dynamic of your relationship in the theatre. Yes, I am aware that we're all adults here, but when you see a kid's movie, it is likely that you will be treated like one, and the last thing you want is everyone in the theatre to see your parents ask you, a self-sufficient adult who likely makes more than they do, if you need to use the bathroom before the movie starts. Like I said before, there are some acceptable films- Up, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, etc.- that are a different genre of family film, but if you haven't test-driven, don't bother. 

3. Avoid nostalgia films from their generation. THIS IS A DEATH TRAP OF ENDLESS REMINISCING. You don't want it. Trust me- I know. If your parents are of the self-indulged Baby Boomer variety, you most likely know exactly what I am talking about and I don't have to explain any further. Taking Woodstock was a great movie, but it induced several discussions with my parents talking about their youth. Which can be interesting... in moderation. When you hear for the fifth time about your uncle Ted's run-in with the crazy naked hippies, however, it can get a little bit uncomfortable. 

What's left, then? What CAN you see with your parents this holiday season to kill the time? I've come to help you out! I am good for something [insert that's-what-she-said-joke here]. I've made a list of movies to whip out when Dad, or Grandma, or whoever, asks that formidable question (if you've already forgotten what I'm talking about, drag your lazy ass up four paragraphs). 

The Movie Mistress' List of Acceptable Movies to see with the Fam this Holiday Season:

Avatar- PG13
You can compare it to The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Dad can compare it Alien, and Mom can say how she liked Titanic better. A win!

Sherlock Holmes- PG13 (Opening Dec. 25)
What's a better family film than one about two men who bunk together and solve crimes?

The Blind Side- PG13 
If anything, you can discuss the pros and cons of Sandra Bullock's strange Southern accent afterward. 

Invictus- PG13
Sports movies are always pretty safe, especially ones with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Happy ending, anyone? 

As a Precaution, DO NOT SEE:

It's Complicated- R (Opening Dec. 25)
It's like sitting next to your parents while watching them have sex. 

New Moon- PG13
The last thing you want your parents to do is compare you to all the screaming thirteen year old girls in the audience.

Happy Holidays!


The Movie Mistress


Double Feature Friday- The Shittiest Holiday Movies

So... it's that time of year. We are right in the middle of the holiday season. I read several movie blogs, and it seems to be the time to highlight all your favorite movies that you loved watching in December as a child. I think everyone seems to forget, however, that there are a lot of terrible movies about the holidays. I'm talking absolutely horrendous, "why-the-fuck-were-these-ever-made" movies. I'm sure that I'll jump on the bandwagon one of these days and celebrate movies like Love Actually and It's A Wonderful Life, but for now, I say, let's get fucked up on egg nog and enjoy...

Santa Who? (2000)

I don't know if anyone remembers this movie, but I'm pretty sure ABC aired it once and never made that mistake ever again. It's about Santa... with amnesia.... Yes, I'm being serious. The tagline? 

All he wants for Christmas is his memory back. 

The plot? Santa falls out of his sleigh driven by terribly animated, CGI reindeer and hits his head so he can't remember who he is and a special little boy has to save him. Now, I fucking love Leslie Nielsen. Airplane is the shit. But in this movie he just seems so washed up that you begin to pity him. It's as if he's no longer capable of being in a legit movie so he's forced to do shit like this to keep his name around. It's really sad. But back to the movie. Anyway, only a little boy can save him, blah, blah, until the elves come to actually help. HIP HOP ELVES. Oh, yes. I'm not going to give away the ending of this movie since I'm sure you're all just DYING to know what happens, but I can tell you that it would make a fantastic drinking game, and that's all that matters. 

Deck the Halls (2006)

My question is for this movie is, how the fuck could Danny DeVito produce such attractive children? And just because he and Kristen Chenoweth are both short does not mean that they would be married in real life. This entire movie is just a case of classy vs. tacky, and for some God-awful reason, tacky seems to win throughout most of it. Anyway, now that I've said that bit, let's move on to the plot of this movie, which is basically about neighbors outdoing each other with decorations until they discover the true meaning of Christmas. That's really all you need to know about this film. Really. It's sad when the plot of a movie can be summed up in half of a sentence. Mainly, it's about cheap laughs through crazy escapades. Except that they actually aren't that funny. I think that Matthew Broderick has done so much theatre that he's forgotten how to act in films. Seriously- the lines are so flat that when he talks about his concern for his children being weird, I actually can see why- I'd go crazy living with him too. And it only took five minutes for the creepy, misogynistic relationship between Danny DeVito and Kristen Chenoweth to get to me. Not to mention their twins that speak in unison. Other than that, the plot of this movie is pretty forgettable. I'm not going to bore you with any more details. Just watch it. Or don't. It's your call. 


The Movie Mistress


Almost As Bad As Giving the Vulcan Salute and Saying "May the Force Be With You..."

Identification Fail

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Good thing the FanBoys never saw this...


The Movie Mistress


Double Feature Friday- Fruit!

Okay, so I did a little experiment with today's Double Feature. I asked my friend to pick a random word, any word, and she picked....


My first reaction was, where the fuck am I going to find a movie about fucking mangoes? So I took some liberties (it is my blog, after all), and expanded it to movies centered around fruit or that have fruit in the title. There are quite a few, surprisingly- Bananas, The Grapes of Wrath, Watermelon Man (I've never seen this one but it looks intriguiging)- but to highlight my favorites: 

Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) (1994)

Beautiful film about a friendship between a homosexual older man and a super-conservative college student (really, if Cuba had a Young Republicans Club, this guy would be president) in 1990s Havana. It's one of the most realistic dramas I've ever seen- every single issue could be happening right now and yet it still has this heartwarming quality that could only happen in a movie. It's as if you're watching a wonderful blend of reality and fiction (which is what all movies should inspire to). If you haven't seen this movie, I don't want to give anything away, but the end scene is so well done, tackling a realistic situation with heart and feeling to the point that if you don't cry, then there's something wrong with you. 

James and the Giant Peach (1996)

I feel like this movie always gets overlooked when thinking back to Tim Burton's finest films. There is no better pairing than offbeat, twisted Roald Dahl and creepy-as-fuck Burton, and this movie is the spawn of that wonderful pairing. I am always a fan of Burton/Selick collaborations as well (and a fan of Selick himself- I'm telling you right now if Coraline is not nominated for Best Animated I am going to flip a shit. Chairs will fly). Anyway, not only does this kids movie revolve around a wonderfully animated peach, but the voice acting is stellar. I have no idea what Richard Dreyfuss is doing now, but he was AWESOME as the centipede. And of course, there's the ever-so-versatile Susan Sarandon as Miss Spider. I know a lot of people think she's overrated, but honestly, I think she's a badass. Anyway, when I was younger I remember liking the book so much better, but now, watching it again, I can finally see the awesomeness and beauty of this movie that I didn't appreciate because I was too gung-ho for Disney (I know, I know, it's sad). The image of the peach rolling into the ocean is so incredibly rich and colorful that it makes you want to, well, eat a peach. 


The Movie Mistress


Breakin': Casting Call for Dancers who Have no Acting Skills


I'm going to say right off the bat this movie has some fucking phenomenal dancing. That's right- phenomenal. I would watch it again in a heartbeat just for this reason. It kicks some major hip hop ass. If you don't believe me, allow me to demonstrate:

Awesome dancing. Even if it is littered with minor special effects, the effects are pretty classy. The story, on the other hand? Meh. The acting, on the other hand? It's a little painful. I had a friend warn me before we watched that the dancing is what gets you through the movie. If it weren't there, you'd end up with is comparable to what the Eagleman commercials would be like if they were made into a movie. 

BEST ACTING EVER. Really. I’m serious. I mean, if this kind of acting made it into Breakin’, it must be good. Right?


Then I thought back on all the shitty dance movies I’ve ever seen (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot- I fucking love them), and it seems to be a trend to either have actors who can’t dance (think Save the Last Dance- there’s no way Julia Stiles did her own stunts- she was way too awkward) or have dancers who can’t act (Center Stage, anyone?) And yet people eat them up (myself included), obviously, or else the Wayans brothers wouldn’t have had any material for Dance Movie (which I did see, unfortunately).

Why is this? Is there such a divide between acting and dance that makes it impossible to find people who are good in both worlds? The only movie I can think of where this is the case (besides the Fred Astaire classics- I’m not counting them because they are in a genre all their own) is Dirty Dancing, and that was made 25 years ago!

I know that these types of people exist, since Broadway throws away talented triple threats by the minute. So then, who makes the decision that a movie with incredible dance scenes can’t include any substantial acting? Is it the producers? The directors? Choreographers?

Seriously. I would really like to know who cast Breakin’. Wouldn’t you?

Just something to think about.


The Movie Mistress