posts tagged with 'movies'

partying like it's 1992

Leah and I don't really do movies. But thanks to their culture loving grandpa, the boys get to experience all the greatest animated hits of the last half-century or more; two weeks ago it was the turn of Aladdin. For the most part, Grandpa provides a complete service: he shows them the films, and talks about them, and plays through the imaginative reenactments, all so we don't have to. But Aladdin's music is a cut above the rest—several cuts above—and it's leaked through to daily life here in our house. After two weeks of requests to sing the songs, including on almost every car trip (our car stereo is out of action, so singing is all we got), yesterday morning I finally broke down and procured the soundtrack. We were treated to three and a half playthroughs before I called a halt and told the boys they had to go outside.

Not that I minded the music: Leah and I wouldn't remember it if it weren't so catchy, and while they were listening (and dancing and acting) the boys left me alone to do work. As Leah remarked, it's funny how they constructed the score as by layering a few stereotypical Arabic instrumental sounds (not entirely racist in effect) over some 20s-style jazz. It sounds good, and would have sounded even better if Robin Williams had sung his lines rather than acted them. Good, that is, except for the Magic Carpet song. Guess which one I had stuck in my head as I was getting ready for bed last night?

And the funny thing is, as I heard the saccharine tones playing in my mind I didn't think of the movie at all; no, what came to mind was listening to KISS 108 radio back in 1993 or whatever. Up next "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers, or "All For Love" by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting. Good heavens the early 90s were a tough time for music. I had to resort to Wikipedia to recollect the details of the latter gem; but clearly the concept still haunts me. Thank goodness I discovered Sonic Youth a couple years later, and free jazz shortly thereafter, and was able to leave commercial music behind forever.

But yeah, "Friend Like Me" still sounds pretty good. At least for the first three plays in an hour.


Facebook: the movie

The past two evenings Leah and I watched The Social Network, the movie about Facebook's founding (we try and take in a film every year or two to, you know, stay current with modern popular culture). It was quite enjoyable and I'm sure completely accurate—judging by how annoyed I am by so many facets of facebook, it makes sense that it was conceived by people who were, without exception, complete jerks.

However, my attention was distracted from the intricacies of the plot relatively early, in the midst of a thrilling scene featuring facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg typing on his computer:

"Mozilla didn't have spellcheck on text boxes in 2003!" I exclaimed to Leah. She muttered something roughly affirmative to make me stop talking, but I couldn't let it slip. Wasn't this supposed to be a film about technology?! (Well, that and co-ed strippers and snorting coke off of half-naked sorority girls...).

In the end, though, a little research proves that I'm probably wrong, and the filmmakers right. This page suggests that Mozilla had in fact implemented spellcheck by the end of 2003, and that even if they hadn't a computer-user as savvy as Zuckerberg could have found a way to use one even if wasn't yet officially supported. Also that the Mozilla devs were pretty snarky back in the day, but that's neither here nor there.

So yeah, good movie!


food on film

The past couple days Harvey and I have been watching Food Inc., the Michael Pollan-inspired movie that has its own display at our local Whole Foods. Obviously, I already agree with the filmmakers' agenda. But I don't think it's an ideal film.

The movie is all about the unnumbered evils of "big food": inhumane treatment of animals, terrible conditions for workers, unsafe food, pollution, reliance on petroleum, monoculture, unhealthy food, produce that tastes crappy, junk food that is cheaper than vegetables... you get the point. Really, it's just too much. If you already agree with the film's thesis, you're happy to say "right on!" to each charge, but for those still needing to be convinced it comes across as a bit scattershot—or worse, as a reach. "Wow, these guys sure hate the food industry!" the movie makes you want to say. "What, are they going to tell us that Tyson chicken nuggets are actually made from ground-up babies?!"

And then, the filmmakers don't really offer much in the way of a solution either. About all they can come up with is "buy better things at the grocery store." I understand why this is: ideally, they want their movie to reach people who aren't already shopping at farmers markets and growing their own food. They want changing the food landscape to be something that seems possible without too much sacrifice. But it doesn't really work, because how on earth can anyone imagine that their supermarket choices can affect the incredible litany of evils presented above?! And even if it could, the supermarket is a really confusing place. Is organic food good, or is local better? Is processed food ok if it's made by a "hippy" company? How much can we even trust labels, anyways? And the film acknowledges this: it's most compelling interviewee talks about how his meat will never show up on Walmart shelves, because getting that big would compromise his operation. (That's just before we hear how excited the dude from Stonyfield yogurt is to have broken big with the big box stores.)

To me, the movie goes at things from the wrong end. Don't tell people that everything they're eating is full of evil. Who knows what to do with that?! You either shrug it off, or get overwhelmed with the scope of the problem and do nothing. Wouldn't it be better to present stories of people who are doing better, even if in small ways? "Grow a garden," the end credits tell us. Why not show a few people who are growing their own food? Or even farmers serving local communities? Or a farmers market, for more than two seconds? Those things aren't in the movie, and I think it's because the filmmakers want to speak to the mainstream, and feel that the alternatives are too far out. But if they don't talk about them, they won't even seem possible to people who don't already know how easy they are.

Still, it's a better movie than most of what's out there. If it can steal a little multiplex time from the latest Marvel superhero rehash maybe it'll speak to one or two people who hadn't thought about the subject before. It's well-filmed, too.