Posted by: Sally Ingraham | February 11, 2010

Movie Mayhem: Feb. 1st – Feb. 10th

Shockingly, in the first 10 days of February I’ve only seen five movies. Between working, volunteering at the library twice a week, getting outside for winter adventures, and going out after work and actually spending time with real people, I’ve been busy lately. Yesterday I realized that the 12th was sneaking up on me and I was going to need to make a valiant effort to finish Orlando for the next Woolf in Winter party, so that will be filling the rest of my free time. While there is always time for a movie, I may not make any special efforts in that area for the next few days! Anyway…

Zombieland – Ruben Fleischer – USA – 2009
I normally steer clear of any movie that looks remotely scary. Thrillers I can take if they have an intriguing story, but gratuitously scary movies where the general idea is to freak you out don’t really interest me. This movie definitely skirted that line, but it’s version of horror comedy had a certain wackiness that appealed to me. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, as two of the last men in a world overrun by zombies, were both awesome – Eisenberg with his adorable and always humorous voice-overs, and Harrelson with his…er, Woodyness? The movie didn’t really go anywhere, and the characters, once introduced, kind of just did their thing – killed zombies, continued to survive – amidst plenty of zombie slapstick action. It didn’t cause me to make plans to meander much further into the horror genre, but it was fun.

the sunThe Sun – Aleksandr Sokurov – Russia – 2005 (Movie of the Week!)
I’m still thinking about this movie a full week later. It is an impressionistic portrait of emperor Hirohito and the days surrounding the surrender of Japan to the United States in 1945, as seen by Aleksandr Sokurov. I was struck by how immense the film felt – immense in it’s historical content, immense in it’s vision of human turmoil, immense in it’s silence. I felt weighted down by the film, and yet kept on the edge of my seat. Sokurov is not necessarily sympathetic, but he presents a very human Hirohito, one who wears the mantle of the godhood he was born into uneasily, and seems to be navigating life like a gasping fish, out of his element, and yet always stately. His movements are precise, but often slightly confused, and even while he gently shoos his servants away, he has never opened a door by himself. In this sense Sokurov shows us the humanity of a man who seems quite alien. Simple camera use, near-silence, and a soft-focus style all lend themselves to an eerie but completely mesmerizing experience. This is really good movie-making at every level. It’s taken four years for the film to make it to the States – if you get the chance to watch it, do! (And while you’re at it watch all the other Sokurov movies you can find – I’m definitely going to watch Russian Ark and Alexandra again.)

Sneakers – Phil Alden Robinson – USA – 1992
I’m not really on a Robert Redford playing a spy kick, but I didn’t mind when I found myself watching him in this lighthearted (but kind of confusing) movie about computers and cryptography. A rather large supporting cast added to the fun, and I got to geek out over a decent hacker storyline. Nice. 🙂

True Lies – James Cameron – USA – 1994
The first half of this movie is hilarious – really priceless Schwarzenegger. He’s a spy with a wife who isn’t in on the secret, and when she gets tired of her life as a housewife and starts looking for adventure elsewhere, it’s all he can do to keep up with her – played by a smokin’ hot Jamie Lee Curtis, I must say! The second half of the movie gets a BIT over-the-top, with Schwarzenegger getting a little Terminatorish, but it’s still enjoyable. There are some must-see parts in the first half though! 🙂

an educationAn Education – Lone Scherfig – UK – 2009
With a screenplay written by Nick Hornby and the acting talents of Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, and Peter Sarsgaard among others, this movie was bound to be at least decent. I can safely say that it was more than decent. I keep going back and forth over whether I really liked it though. So much of what it was about resonated with me – a highly intelligent and curious girl in 1960’s England is bored with the life of a 16 year old school girl, and longs for the mysterious excitement of Paris and, at the same time, the more realistic freedom that she imagines will come once she gets to Oxford. She is suddenly swept off her feet by a handsome older man who ushers her into a lively world of jazz, horse races, art auctions, and exciting trips to the country with his glamorous friends. He is equally successful in winning over her parents, and it is only her teachers back at school who beg her to take caution. She has a lot of things to learn about real life before the end of the film, as the title of the movie hints at blatantly. I have personal experiences that help me to really relate to her, and which also give me good cause to be quite disappointed in the ending of the film. My first reaction was to be annoyed that the film seemed to encourage the idea that relationships between older men and younger women were never a good idea. As I’ve thought it over I’ve realized that I’m actually jumping to the same conclusion that I wish other people wouldn’t – and taking that angle on this film is simplifying matters far too much. It’s a really interesting movie, and the acting in it is brilliant. It’s kept me thinking for almost a week now too, which is one of the things I hope to get out of watching movies. I still can’t decide if I really liked it or not, but maybe that’s not what’s important at this point.

It doesn’t always have to be about ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ – it’s more about the experience. That’s what this last batch of movies has made me think about. I can watch and enjoy movies like True Lies or Zombieland and say lightly, “I liked that movie”. When it comes to movies like The Sun, however I can’t come right out and say I liked it, because my experience of the movie was so much more profound than that. I can’t say for sure that I liked it at all – it was an uncomfortable, disconcerting movie, beautiful in a way that hit me in the gut, and it made me want to cry, more for the release from an astonishing build up of tension than anything else. And yet, of the movies I saw lately, I’m going to say WATCH THAT, it was AMAZING.

While I will eagerly take the goofy with the good, I am always struck by how much of an impact a really great film has on me, and am reminded anew that for me watching movies (like reading books!) is much more than just a pastime. 🙂


  1. If you liked Zombieland, you might want to check out Shaun of the Dead. Very tongue-in-cheek British horror movie. Great fun.

    • That’s actually been on my list for awhile, I just keep thinking that it won’t be as funny if I haven’t seen Dawn of the Dead – either of them. True? I do really like Simon Pegg though. Maybe I’ll finally go for it!

  2. I agree with you final point about ‘An Education’ that it would be simplistic to put it down as a film that shows a disapproval of relationships between older men and younger women. It’s more that he as a person is a rat, it just happens he’s older and I suppose his age makes it easier for him to deceive her as she doens’t question him much and he can hide his life from her because she doens’t know many of his contemporaries.

    There’s no crazy lynch mob out to get him because of their relationship which I find interesting because there’s no way you could set a film in modern times and get away with putting a 16 year old in that situation and show the relationship positively without getting some serious censure from parents and the media.

    What I really liked about the ending is the implication that one mistake doesn’t have to end a girls life. She works hard, her parents save for private tuition and she can continue on with her life, putting that relationship down as an unfortunate mistake, like any relationship she might have with boys her age, rather than a tragedy.

    • I definitely agree with you – once I took a step back and considered the story as a whole I quickly realized that his being older wasn’t so much an issue in the movie. The audience of mostly 16 and 17 year old girls that I happened to watch the movie with definitely seemed to respond to the ‘older man’ aspect of it pretty vocally, which partially caused my fixation on that aspect. I had to remind people I was with of the fact that it wasn’t such a big deal at the time the movie took place.

      Definitely an interesting movie in a lot of ways.

  3. Only five? For me, that’s a ton of movies.

    Zombieland sounds like spectacular fun, beginning with the name. My favorite zombie films are 28 Days/Weeks Later, which aren’t really scary but they do get bloody. So you probably wouldn’t be a fan.

    • Bloody has its place when it’s used in a skillful way and not just gratuitously. I like most of Tarantino’s work for example (although he flirts with gratuitous!). I’ve been thinking about checking out 28 Days Later recently. When I say I’m not interested in horror I mean stuff along the lines of Saw 19 or whatever…! 🙂

  4. An Education looks gorgeously filmed and well-acted! Your thoughts on it are really intriguing – I now want to check it out and compare notes! (And for a COMPLETELY non-judgmental book about a relationship between a very young woman and an older man, I recommend Marguerite Duras’s The North China Lover.)

    • Thanks for the recommendation Emily! An Education is a really well made movie and I definitely would be interested in your thoughts on it.

  5. I will never, ever forget An Education. It is one of the best films I’ve seen in ten years…I’ve been thinking about it since I saw it months ago, how easy it is for girls to get caught up in the glamour. I love that she redeemed herself. I loved the photography. I loved the allure of the ‘bad crowd’ even when we knew they were bad.

    • I too liked that she pulled herself together, had the humility to go back to her teachers and ask for help, and kept her life on track. It was beautifully shot – the colors were so vibrant! I loved Rosamund Pike’s character – she had all the glamor, but none of the culture.

  6. […] that I have enjoyed – I giggled my way through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the movie Zombieland was quite fun (I’ve been meaning to watch it […]

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