365 movies

365 Movies in 2015 || 289/365 Mad Max (1979)
Director: George Miller
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel and Hugh Keays-Byrne
Plot: In a self-destructing world, a vengeful Australian policeman sets out to stop a violent motorcycle gang.

365 Movies in 2014 ||  269/365 American Mary (2012)

Directors: Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska

Starring: Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo and Tristan Risk

Plot: The story follows medical student, Mary Mason, as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted with the surgical world she once admired. The allure of easy money sends Mary into the world of underground surgeries which ends up leaving more marks on her than her so called ‘freakish’ clientele.

365 Movie Challenge

Misery

I always forget how fantastic this movie is, maybe be my favorite Stephen King movie next to the Shinning.  What is one of those terrifying fangirls…you know, the ones you meet at a con that you slowly realize is clearly tweaked?  What if they got their hands on person they’re obsessed with.  Maybe that’s not fair, but I’ve seen that look from Kathy Bates before.

160/365

365 Movies in 2015 || 121/365 The Crow (1994)
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott and Rochelle Davis
Plot: A man brutally murdered comes back to life as an undead avenger of his and his fiancée’s murder.

365 Movie Challenge

It Follows

REALLY loved this movie.  Everything from the acting to the pacing to the costumes, soundtrack, and down to this cool poster…not the usual one but I love it.  It was just a great, timeless horror flick and I loved it to bits.  

My only issue was it was SO 80s/early 90s and I was all for it, but then randomly this girl had an electronic reader.  It was like 1993….why for e-reader?  Everything else though, really liked the characters and the whole “it’s just a thing that slowly walks after you, and if it catches you, you’re dead” never got old.  Also not an insane amount of gore, just a couple of times so when it happened it was really effective.  Please more classic horror flicks like this!

AND PLEASE GIVE IT A LIMITED EDITION VHS RELEASE!  I will buy it in a second!!

43/365

Movie 277 - My Go To Recommendation for an Intro to Buster Keaton & Silent Cinema in General

Sherlock, Jr. (Dir. Buster Keaton, 1924)

Joseph Frank Keaton, whom the world would know by his stage name Buster Keaton, was born on this day in 1895. Keaton was born into a vaudeville family, and joined the family act at the age of three. He transitioned from vaudeville to film, like many comedians of the era, making his debut in the 1917 Fatty Arbuckle film “The Butcher Boy.” The action comedies he would later star in, as well as do some combination of writing and/or directing for, were innovative and ambitious. Keaton’s films were never critically or commercially lauded during the peak of his career. He weathered the coming of sound better than most, but not the loss of his creative control. Alcoholism overtook him for decades until his third wife Eleanor helped him not only overcome his addiction but get work at a time when his contributions to cinema were being realized and appreciated.

My interest in Keaton’s work began with “Benny & Joon,” and wanting to know the inspiration behind the ‘90s flick about a pair of misfits who fall in love. The first Keaton film I ever saw was “The General,” and between that film and everything I read about the guy, I kinda fell in love with him. As I explained in my post on “The General:

“Keaton is my favorite silent film actor. At 5’4” and change the stone faced gent doesn’t look like much, but he was ripped and wiry, and as mechanically proficient as he was with physical comedy. The guy inspired Jackie Chan for a reason.”

Douglas Fairbanks? Rudolph Valentino? No, give me Buster Keaton any day of the week! Plus, how do you not love a guy that was an analog techie, and loved trains and baseball? Pity he had such awful taste in women early in his life. (Seriously, read up on his marriage with Natalie Talmadge, that whole episode of his life is awful and messed up for both parties.)

Anyway, enough of me counting the ways I love Keaton. Let’s talk about why “Sherlock, Jr.” is my go-to case study for his greatness, and silent cinema in general.

When my friend theinnkeeperlibrarian told me she wanted to learn more about silent film, I wasn’t sure what a good point of entry would be. Science fiction fan that she is, she wanted to see “A Trip to the Moon” (“Le Voyage dans la Lune,” Dir. Georges Melies, 1902), which is a great early film. However, for such a diverse era of filmmaking, where to begin to show what made silent cinema unique relative to sound cinema and why it continues to be compelling to this day?

I asked my L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation classmate, the Boy Genius, since he is quite the devotee of silent cinema, what he thought was a good entry point into that era of cinema. He advised me to show the Inn Keeper Librarian “Sherlock, Jr.,” because it was engaging and only 45 minutes. I had seen the film before, and while it’s not as flashy as the hurricane sequence in “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” or as epic as “The General,” it highlights everything Keaton did well and if a person doesn’t like it, they only lost 45 minutes of their life. To this day, the economy of “Sherlock, Jr.” is a selling point I use on people who are skeptical they will get into it.

“Sherlock, Jr.” builds slowly: Keaton plays a projectionist, who aspires to be a detective, who is trying to court a local Girl (Kathryn McGuire) despite his modest means and her receiving attention from the Local Sheik (Ward Crane). The first part of the film introduces the frame story and the fact that the Local Sheik is dishonest, and that dishonesty gets projected onto, well, the Projectionist. Rebuffed by his girl, the Projectionist goes to work, and that’s where the film becomes really interesting. While projecting a film he falls asleep and his consciousness wanders onto the screen via a bunch of camera tricks that are indebted to magician-filmmaker Georges Melies’s work. (Keaton, like Melies, loved experimenting with motion picture technology and tricks of the medium, and it’s fully on display in this sequence.) The dream sequence then transitions into a detective drama in which the projectionist is the famed detective Sherlock Jr., the Local Sheik is a dastardly villain and the Girl is, well, still the Girl, but fancier. More camera tricks, slapstick and stunts abound, including a sequence where Keaton is riding on the handlebars of a motorcycle. His reaction when he realizes that the motorcycle’s driver fell off resulted in the Inn Keeper Librarian delivering the best reaction I’ve ever heard to Keaton’s acting ever: “Why are his eyes screaming?”

Needless to say, “Sherlock, Jr.” helped the Inn Keeper Librarian realize the appeal of silent cinema and Keaton. We later went to a bunch of silent film screenings, including Keaton’s “Our Hospitality,” which had a sequence that left us laughing for minutes after its completion. It was with she that we coined the term to describe Keaton’s mechanic mastery “analog techie.” Despite how the term “techie” has become something of a pejorative in the Bay Area, I continue to maintain it sums up Keaton’s skillset, apart from his athletic skill, beautifully.

As of the date of this post, most of Keaton’s feature films, including “Sherlock, Jr.,” are up on Netflix Streaming. If you’ve never seen a silent film period, or just haven’t seen any of his films, I highly recommend “Sherlock, Jr.” as a starting point, then give “The General” a go.

365 Movie Challenge

Kill Bill

I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would.  I mean I dig all of Quentin’s films, but in this case I’ve never really seen any martial arts films so I don’t have that love of the source material, to understand the references and such.  Still, was a really great watch with awesome music and fantastic fight scenes.  So bloody, excited to see the next one!

98/365

365 Movies in 2016 || 121/365 Watchmen (2009)
Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Plot: In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.

Movie 214 - The Epic Film That Ruined Most Other Epics For Me

Lawrence of Arabia (Dir. David Lean, 1962)

Peter O'Toole was born on this day in 1932. He had a long, esteemed career, but for me, and others, I can’t look at him without thinking of him as T.E. Lawrence in David Lean’s epic biopic of Lawrence’s involvement in the Arabian Peninsula during Word War I, “Lawrence of Arabia.” The film itself is epic, but O'Toole plays Lawrence as both larger than life, and accessibly human, creating a film that is as sprawling as the desert and yet thorough intimate.

Watching Lawrence go from cocky, anti-authoritarian hot shot officer, to unlikely genius strategist, to icon, to disillusioned soldier is quite a trip. The film clocks it at slightly under four hours and every minute is needed.

The first two times I watched “Lawrence of Arabia” all the way through was in 70mm at the Castro Theatre. The third time I saw it at the Castro again, but the newly transferred digital restoration, which was stunning but lost some of its spirit in the transfer. Still, the new restoration led to the blu ray release, and me finally buying a copy of “Lawrence of Arabia,” a movie I considered too beautiful for just DVD quality.

It’s beautiful, iconic, and an all around quality production, albeit somewhat problematic in its casting. Anthony Quinn and Alec Guinness playing Arabs is slightly cringe inducing, despite how good their performances are otherwise, and how much Guinness actually looks like the real life Prince Faisal. The presence of Egyptian actor Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali doesn’t really counteract the racism behind the castings either, since obviously actors of more appropriate racial background were available for the major speaking roles. It’s all a product of its era, however, and we should be grateful that Sharif is in the movie at all. Granted, the first time you see Sharif, you’re more awed by one of the greatest character introductions in cinema history to really give a damn about such things. (Sherif Ali is one of the most underrated badasses of cinema.) Plus, he turns up before Faisal or Quinn’s Auda abu Tayi, so the problematic casting choices isn’t as apparent yet.

Since we’re on the subject of representation, I can’t think of a film that fails the Bechdel test as thoroughly as “Lawrence of Arabia” does, but I forgive it since it’s a war movie, which is a notoriously exclusively masculine affair, and a film about homosocial bonds anyway. Just saying in case you need an example at a cocktail party.

Anyway, all its representational problems aside, “Lawrence of Arabia” is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s also one of the epics that I judge all epic movies by. Only Abel Gance’s “Napoléon” really tops the epicness of “Lawrence of Arabia” in my mind. They lugged a 65mm camera around in the Tunisian desert, where they filmed scores of people, camels, horses and a train crash. The insanity of the location shoot in an era before computer effects is why things like “Avatar” fail to awe or impress me. It’s not just the film, it’s the story behind it.

365 Movies in 2014  ||  47/365 The Elephant Man (1980)

Director: David Lynch

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt and Anne Bancroft

Plot: A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.

10

365 Movie Challenge

Grand Budapest Hotel

I feel like I don’t really need to say anything.  Look at the pictures, look at how gorgeous this film is.  It might have replaced Royal Tenenbaums as my favorite Wes Anderson film, it’s at the very least on par with it.  This is one of those special movies that sort of exists outside of time.  It’s just fun and sweet and is simply enjoyable to watch, even if it does make you crave sweets.  I weirdly sometimes compare it to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette because I feel like they both look like cakes?  But where as the Antoinette cake is beautiful but…kinda stale, this one tastes as good as it looks.  It’s moved into a special place alongside Catch Me If You Can, Almost Famous, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?  All movies I watch when I just need to escape and be cradled in the arms of a good story.  

24/365

Movie 264 - The Most Racist, Yet Culturally Significant Film Hollywood Ever Made

The Birth of a Nation (Dir. D.W. Griffith, 1915)

Today kicks off Banned Books Week. It’s a week of celebrating freedom to read, while also discussing issues of censorship, community standards, and the impact of literature. When I was doing my 365 photo project last year, I did a series of posts featuring frequently banned or challenged books that I love. Since I’m more film focused with this year’s 365 project, I will spend Banned Books week doing posts on films based on books, films based on books that are frequently banned or challenged, as well as films that were subject to calls for banning or censorship. Keeping those parameters in mind, it seems right to kick off this series of posts with a movie I mentioned in the “Vampire’s Kiss” post that I did for theinnkeeperlibrarian’s birthday, “The Birth of a Nation.”

To those of you who have never heard of this movie before, “The Birth of a Nation” is an historically and culturally significant silent film, based on the 1905 novel “The Clansman” by Thomas Dixon Jr., about two families during the American Civil War and Reconstruction. Running over three hours long, the film blazed the way for American feature film lengths to increase to an hour plus run times, in addition to employing aesthetic and technical devices, which we take for granted today but were innovative at the time, all in one film. It’s no wonder that “Birth of a Nation” was one of the first films added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, or that it was listed on the American Film Institute’s original list of the Top 100 American Movies of all time. However, the film is seldom screened at silent film festivals in the United States and doesn’t always make it onto the curriculum of introduction to cinema studies courses because, as you might have guessed based on the title of its source novel, “Birth of a Nation” is probably the most racist mainstream Hollywood movie ever made.

The archivist who runs the L. Jeffrey Selznick School at the George Eastman House maintains that “The Searchers” is in fact the most racist movie Hollywood ever made, and while I respect this man a great deal, that film’s racism is far less inflammatory. With “Birth of a Nation” it’s not just that the major African-American characters in the film are played by white men in blackface, or as Donald Bogle pointed out in his book “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in American Films” that every stereotypical African-American archetype appears in the movie, though both obviously contribute to the film’s racism, but the film’s conceit that it’s depicting history when it shows African-American men as aggressive brutes obsessed with sleeping with white women and glorifies the Ku Klux Klan as being a group of noble, justified vigilantes.

D.W. Griffith cites from history books throughout the intertitles to lend legitimacy to his Civil War and Reconstruction epic, and real history–like the assassination of Abraham Lincoln–is mixed in with fiction and white supremacist propaganda. The biased Dunning School of U.S. history angle is pretty frustrating from an academic standpoint, given 99 years later we know that view of history is inaccurate and that bad sources still look like respectable research.

What’s even uglier, and incredibly hard to swallow irregardless of your academic background, is the film’s attitude toward interracial relationships. The mulatto characters are shown to be the most deviant and unbalanced of characters, and a the film implies that when a black man proposes to a white woman that it’s as good as a declaration of a promise of rape. Flora Cameron (Mae Marsh) flees to her death off a cliff rather than accept a marriage proposal from Gus (Walter Long), a freed black man, and a proposal to Margaret Stoneman (Lillian Gish) from mulatto lieutenant governor Silas Lynch (George Siegmann) sets the woman into horrified hysterics. The former example, of Gus pursuing Flora to the cliff, is often shown as an example of the shot and editing structure later employed by horror movie directors, so there isn’t even much room to interpret Flora as just being an overreacting racist. As somebody who is in an interracial relationship, and whom many of her friends either are in or are products of interracial unions, the patriarchal racism of “Birth of a Nation” is offensive.

The black characters and fear mongering approach to interracial relationships in the film, of course, is there to justify the need for the existence of the Ku Klux Klan, who inevitably become the heroes of the film. The ride of the Klansman to rescue the Cameron family from the mad with power black militia is the suspenseful, chase climax that most of modern cinema hinges its final act on, and it’s masterfully executed, but how can anybody but an outright racist feel okay with cheering for the KKK? The film’s happy ending isn’t really happy, because it operates under the premise that a segregated society and blacks keeping to an inferior place in society is a good thing.

Now, you may be thinking, “But this was 1915, most people were unapologetically, willfully racist, wasn’t ‘Birth of a Nation’ just a normal pop culture work back then?” Despite the fact that minstrel shows were still considered wholesome entertainment back then, no, “Birth of a Nation” wasn’t status quo institutionalized racism even in 1915. The film was so much worse than the norm of the era that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was founded in 1909, protested the film’s release in major cities across America, circulated petitions against it, and instituted campaigns to try to educate the masses about the actual history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. It also motivated black historians and filmmakers to create works countering the inaccuracies of “Birth of a Nation.” Conversely, “Birth of a Nation” is credited with leading to the revival of the KKK, and was used as a recruiting tool until the 1970s.

“Birth of a Nation” is without a doubt historically and culturally significant, yet it flies in the face of the quote frequently attributed to Mark Twain that a classic is something that “everybody wants read, but nobody wants to read.” It’s a film that every American probably should watch, because as we continue to learn time and time again, most recently with the events in Ferguson, Missouri this year, racism and depicting blacks as brutes in mass media is something that continues to be a major problem in the United States. Yet, due to its inflammatory content, despite the fact that the film is now in the public domain–and can be viewed for free, with musical accompaniment, on Archive.org–it’s not often screened, even in academic contexts.

As important a film “Birth of a Nation” is to cinema history, not just US history, it was never assigned while I was in undergrad. We watched clips from it, but never the full film. Part of the reason why we never screened it no doubt is its three hour run time, and at San Francisco State University they didn’t separate lectures from screenings, so watching a film that long would require breaking it up over two weeks, thus losing its unity of effect. However, it’s also possible that at a university that prides itself in having the original college of ethnic studies that feared the controversy that showing an incredibly racist film, even in an academic context, might generate. There was no cause for me to view the film whilst studying abroad in the UK either, so it wasn’t until I was taking a film theory course my final semester of graduate school that i had cause to watch it. I rented a tinted and toned transfer of “Birth of a Nation” on DVD and watched it in my dorm room, which was not the optimum environment for seeing it. D.W. Griffith’s cinema, not just “Birth of a Nation” only really makes sense in a movie theater. However, I assumed I’d never get to see “Birth of a Nation” theatrically, so the home viewing experience was just how it had to be.

Then an odd thing happened a few months later. The Capitol Theatre in Rome, New York declared that they would screen the Library of Congress’s 35mm print, with recreated tints and tones, of “Birth of a Nation” with live organ accompaniment. The theatre was a commute drive away from Rochester, and while I wasn’t super psyched to sit through that incredibly racist film again so soon, I knew it was an opportunity that I might never have again. So, I asked the Inn Keeper Librarian, whom I had recently turned onto the joys of silent cinema, one night while we were in the George Eastman House Cafe, waiting for a screening at the Dryden Theatre to start, “Want to go see 'Birth of a Nation’ with me?"Her reaction was great: "Why would you ask me that?!” She was largely kidding. Turns out the Capitol wasn’t far from her hometown, which also happens to be the hometown of Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s oft banned novel “Slaughter-house Five.” So we made plans to take a roadtrip that weekend, crash at her parents’ house, see the Baseball Hall of Fame, which was also close by, and go see “Birth of a Nation.” The only way the weekend could have been more American centric was if her mom baked us an apple pie.

Her parents, incidentally, weren’t thrilled with us going to the “Birth of a Nation” screening. There had been protests leading up to the screening, and the Capitol had nearly canceled the screening. However, the show went on, albeit with an obvious security presence, and a panel discussion following the screening. No one did anything stupid, no picket lines needed to be crossed to enter the historic movie house, and the crowd wasn’t just full of white people either. For all the people who were offended, many of whom in interviews revealed they’d never even seen the film, more people seemed to want to see this work of controversial cinema, or at least were morbidly curious whether its reputation was deserved.

Now in terms of content, I knew what we were getting into, and to some degree I had warned the Inn Keeper Librarian, but not really. The best part about seeing the movie with her at the Capitol Theatre was when we got to the ride of the Klansman at the film’s climax because, in keeping with the film’s original score, the organist went into Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” It was too much, she couldn’t believe it. For me it was amusing as hell to watch her try and wrap her brain around it. Even better, not long after we went and saw “Apocalypse Now!: Redux” at the Dryden and when “Ride of the Valkyries” started up during the beach assault we were both cracking up, appreciating Coppola’s homage to “Birth of a Nation." 

Despite my delightful anecdote, "Birth of a Nation” isn’t really a fun watch. It’s a movie you watch to educate yourself. It’s a movie you watch because it makes you think. It’s a movie that captures something that’s the dark side of Americana that most of us hate to acknowledge. It’s like going to the National Holocaust Museum or the Museum of Tolerance, you do it for edification not pleasure or entertainment. “Birth of a Nation” needs to be seen to remind us where America has been as a country and how much further it still needs to go to live up to its ideals.

Movie 331 - The Film I Most Associate with Thanksgiving

Addams Family Values (Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld, 1993)

Happy Thanksgiving, America! Or as the Canadians might say, because they celebrated Thanksgiving last month, Happy American Thanksgiving!

Freed of its questionable historic origins, and the capitalistic frenzy that follows, Thanksgiving is a holiday about being thankful for what we have and the wonderful people in our lives. I think it was theinnkeeperlibrarian who pointed out that it was a great holiday because it had all the benefits of Christmas without the worry or bother of presents: just good food and good company. My friends in the UK thought Thanksgiving was a good idea for no other reason but it allowed for family drama to get taken care of early, enabling Christmas to run more smoothly. I’ve been lucky to experience major holidays with limited drama, so I think the Inn Keeper Librarian may have its virtues right.

In terms of Thanksgiving, nothing captures the holiday in movie form quite like “Addams Family Values” to me.

…and if one of my coworkers actually reads this post–which I very much doubt–at this point he will be thinking, “And you say you’re not really a Goth.” Well, look, just like Tim Burton’s early films, Charles Addams’s gothic family that revels in the macabre is just as much to blame for any Goth predilections I may have. My dad and step-mom were fans of both the 1960s television series and the ‘90s films, so it’s no wonder talk of doing a family photo all Addamsed out circulated, though never came to be, throughout most of my childhood. They also hooked me on Tim Burton movies. If I am a Goth, part of the blame rests on them.

No, really, my dad and step-mom took me, and possibly just me, as I don’t really recall my brother being there, and my half brothers weren’t born yet, to go see “Addams Family Values” during its theatrical run in 1993. It may have been a birthday present as the film came out near my birthday that year. It may have been way after the fact at a second run house. I don’t remember. I just remember the theater was next to a bowling alley that was attached to a 1950s themed diner, and we did lunch or dinner there and the movie. (My love of retro styled diners is also influenced by my dad and step-mom, mostly the former.) It was a grand afternoon out and I loved the movie.

Given familial appreciation for the Addams clan and the Thanksgiving pageant scene in “Addams Family Values,” it’s not surprising that I associate the film with Thanksgiving for those reasons alone. However, there’s another reason I associate the Addams Family with Thanksgiving, and it has to do with a Thanksgiving that was either the same year as the release of “Addams Family Values,” or a few years prior. Some local Los Angeles television station, maybe channel 9 or channel 5, did an all day “Addams Family” marathon of the old '60s show on Thanksgiving Day during one of the years where my brother and I spent the holiday with my dad and step-mom, and that was all I wanted to watch. My dad probably initiated the viewing of the marathon, but I ran with it, much to everyone else’s chagrin. I could not get enough Addams Family. As I said, what I don’t remember is whether I saw “Addams Family Values” first or the '60s series marathon. I am reasonably sure I didn’t see the first Addams Family feature film until after I saw its sequel, even though I was aware of it.

As for why I loved the Addams Family so much, beyond them being a counterpoint for the average sitcom family and actually a healthy, loving household amongst its family members, a lot of it no doubt comes down to Wednesday Addams and Christina Ricci’s performance in both of the '90s films, but “Addams Family Values” especially. In a world of cute, bouncy blonde girls Wednesday was a smart brunette. Much like why I preferred Strawberry Shortcake to Barbie, seeing a character who looked like me with qualities I perceived as positive was a major attraction. Wednesday was smart, self-possessed and didn’t suffer fools or bullshit well, what was not to love?

The television series was more focused on Mr. and Mrs. Addams, Gomez and Morticia, and the primary plot of “The Addams Family” involved Uncle Fester’s (Christopher Lloyd) return after going missing in the Bermuda Triangle. “Addams Family Values” was about the family adjusting to the birth of the newest Addams, Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper), leading to the hiring of a nanny, Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), who seduces and marries Fester (Lloyd, reprising his role), in the hopes of killing him off for his fortune, and sends Wednesday and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) off to summer camp when they pose a threat to her plans. The summer camp section is a full on subplot with Wednesday taking lead, furthering the portrayal of her in the previous film as being the more dominant, narratively developed of the Addams children. It was Wednesday who was the most suspicious of Debbie’s intentions toward her uncle, and it’s her who tries to lead a breakout from the affluent WASP summer camp with Pugsley and fellow misfit Joel Glicker (David Krumholtz). And it’s Wednesday, yet again, who hatches the plan to take down the summer camp during the hackneyed pageant depicting a romanticized, Anglo-centric take on the first Thanksgiving.

Let’s talk about how fantastic the politics of the Thanksgiving pageant are, shall we? All the Aryan poster child WASP kids get cast as pilgrims, while all the non-white, Jewish or nonconformist kids get cast as Native Americans, except for Pugsley who is cast as a turkey, with Wednesday set to play Pocahontas, who wasn’t even at the first Thanksgiving but is the leader of the Native Americans because it’s a play more about colonist mythology than history. Wednesday initially rejects the role of Pocahontas, telling the counselor who wrote the play, Gary Granger, (Peter MacNicol), “Your work is puerile and under-dramatized. You lack any sense of structure, character and the Aristotelian unities.” She only agrees to be in the play, after a supposedly life changing session in the Harmony Hut, only to take down the whole pageant. 

The pageant seems to go off without a hitch, white exceptionalism and all, until Wednesday as Pocahontas ad libs that no, she and her tribe will not break bread with the pilgrims, explaining in a fantastic monologue, “You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, you will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, "Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller.” Then she declares that she and her tribe will now burn this place to the ground, and they do, and it’s awesome.

Admittedly, it should be an actual person of indigenous decent calling out the bullshit of an overly optimistic, Anglo-centric depiction of the first Thanksgiving, but it’s still great to watch a nonconformist, teen heroine in a mainstream movie doing it. Plus, Addams Family is one of those movies that has smart kids without making all the adults look overly foolish in the process.

If it hasn’t been established already, “Addams Family Values” had a big influence on me as a kid. Wednesday was definitely a role model for me, but it’s not the only reason I love the film. Raul Julia and Angelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia are a couple whose relationship is worth aspiring to. They both love each other deeply, and support one another, and they dance. I want to learn how to tango, not because of Rudolph Valentino, but because of the dance scene in “Addams Family Values.” I will watch Krumholtz and Cusack in nearly anything to this day because of how much I loved watching them in this movie. In fact, I nearly did this movie back in October for Cusack’s birthday because it would have been incredibly easy to write a post gushing over how fabulous she is as the black widow killer who sometimes has to use violent persuasion and slides.

Actually, it’s the scene where Debbie explains the method to her madness to the captive audience of Addamses in electric chairs that has led to whenever my dad asking me what I want for my birthday or Christmas, my request ending with, “And I want a ballerina Barbie, not Malibu Beach Barbie.” Not that I really need to add that; my dad knows his daughter is like a ballerina, graceful, delicate. It’s just fun to note because I know he’ll get the reference. He is the reason I know the reference in the first place, after all.

365 Movie Challenge

Zootopia

This was just so fantastic, one of those Disney movies like Wreck it Ralph that feels more like a pixar film in the best way possible.  The world they build is so intricate and cool, and I love the way all the animals are size appropriate to each other.  Also really amazing story that shows kids important lessons about gender and racial stereotypes and class systems…all that good stuff, lol.  One of the best Disney films in awhile.

88/365