In Theaters Now – Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name is at once beautifully shot, perfectly acted, and possessed of some of the richest visuals I’ve ever seen. It is nominated for a slew of awards, and rightfully so.

It felt strange watching a peak arthouse movie (a bildungsroman about a young musical prodigy falling for an older grad student in 1980s Italy doesn’t get much arthouse-y-er) in a multiplex theater, especially when we already have an arthouse theater down the road that’s still playing The Shape of Water, but the times they are a-changing.

My co-blogger Achariya loved it, devoured the book, and has been looking forward to it since last summer, and although she watched a screener for her most excellent preview earlier this week, we wanted to get the full theater experience.

Achariya: At the end of the movie, I looked around and spotted no fewer than three gay couples (and a few more straight couples) wiping tears from their eyes due to a certain scene. It’s nice to see this at an AMC.

Jen: I know, it was so sweet!

Call Me By Your Name, as mentioned, is a coming of age romance about Elio (Timothee Chalamet), a 17-year-old Jewish musical prodigy summering with his family in their elegant Italian villa. His family are warm, cultured, and incredibly European as they all dine alfresco all the time, read each other 14th century sonnets, and smoke like burning tobacco warehouses.

Every summer the family takes in a grad student for six weeks who helps Elio’s father, an archaeology/antiquities professor, with his notes and projects. Enter Oliver, played by Armie Hammer. Almost from the start, Elio is captivated by the tall, blond, dashing Oliver, who wears his Star of David as easily and overtly as he wears his billowing blue shirt.

I would recommend CMBYN to anyone who loves a good romance amid beautiful settings. The sex scenes are carefully blocked to avoid any full frontal, per the actors’ contracts, but there’s still lots of male nudity on screen, which you would expect in a movie where men get it on. Do not take an elderly, conservative relative to see this film unless you are really hoping to broaden their horizons or kill them with a heart attack.

For a more in-depth discussion involving spoilers, journey under the cut. We are going to demarcate my reaction to the film from our chatter by putting our discussion in italics.

Continue reading “In Theaters Now – Call Me By Your Name”

Creepy, Creaky Old Houses Week: Crimson Peak

THEN I knew that Del Toro had in fact been reading my diary because GOD ALMIGHTY– a well-dressed, incredibly dapper gent who turns up out of nowhere, has intelligent input on her writing, and exudes manners and charm?

October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!

Creepy, Creaky Old Houses Week is a gear-switch from Hell Week; in Hell Week we donned our raincoats and galoshes to wade into the Hellraiser movies– bloody, fleshy, hooky, painy, S&My wonders that they are. This week is all about subtle, understated horror, with very little blood, highbrow content, and plenty of atmospherics. So put on your Edwardian nightclothes and some hard-soled shoes– we’re creeping slowly up staircases while clutching unreliable lighting sources this week!

Today’s entry is Crimson Peak, which just opened last week! Since it’s still in theaters today’s entry will contain NO SPOILERS.

The colors! The colors!
The colors! The colors!

If I had to describe Crimson Peak in a single long word without taking a breath, it would be RomancySwoonyBloodySteampunkySexyCostumeyVictorianyHiddlestonsassy. There, you’re all caught up! I leave it up to you if that last one is ‘Hiddleston sassy’ or ‘Hiddlestons assy’ because both are apt.

Ripped from the sweat-stained pages of my secret smut diary!
Ripped from the sweat-stained pages of my secret smut diary!

I was SO. EXCITED. when the trailer came out almost a year ago. Maybe my expectations were overbuilt or something, because although there were many, MANY things I loved about Crimson Peak, I did feel myself a bit let down. I just wasn’t feeling it… I cried big ugly sobs during so many of Guillermo Del Toro’s other films– even Hellboy 2!– but for some reason the emotional center of this film never gelled for me.

Without a doubt, the film:

  • Is composed of a beautifully twisted world of extremes: the sun-drenched golds of Buffalo and the slate-sky’d, wintry moors surrounding Allerdale Hall define the light spectrum of the film
  • Contained some of the most magnificent sets and costumes, especially the aforementioned Allerdale in all its decrepit, strangely sentient glory
  • Is atmospheric almost to a fault
  • Was advertised as brain-melting horror but never quite got inside my head– the ghosts were grotesque, but ultimately quite sad
  • Held fascinating characters, an engaging setup, and plenty of promise
  • Reminded me of Poe’s The Fall of The House of Usher, and I wondered why I haven’t seen that mentioned in reviews.

Edith Cushing is a young, well-to-do lady not content to lay around and spend her father’s hard-earned money; she’s got a dream. She’s a writer, so right away my interest was peaked (HA! yes we are still doing bad puns). Literally stained with ink, she waits, with her heart in her throat, while an editor boredly pages through her work. He dismisses it and tells her that since she’s a woman, she ought to write romances instead of ghost stories. She astutely points out that it’s not a ghost story, but a story with a ghost in it, which all but sets up the film for us. Undaunted by the rejection, Edith resolves to learn to type so that her feminine handwriting won’t give away her gender to the next editor.

"Who's that idjit dancing with Edith?" I LOVE JIM BEAVER SO MUCH EVER SINCE DEADWOOD!!
“Who’s that idjit dancing with Edith?” I LOVE JIM BEAVER SO MUCH EVER SINCE DEADWOOD!!

Her industrialist father Carter, played by Jim Beaver, is supportive of her dream and so she practices her typing at his firm’s typewriter, which is at the front desk of the firm. It is there she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe, baronet whose come to town to drum up financial support in a machine he’s designed. Believe me when I say his intro is magic; with a spring in his step and tophat on his head, he saunters along a ray of sunshine, radiating confidence and integrity. He notices her story and picks it up, fascinated, and THEN I knew that Del Toro had in fact been reading my diary because GOD ALMIGHTY– a well-dressed, incredibly dapper gent who turns up out of nowhere, has intelligent input on her writing, and exudes manners and charm?

I'd faint if I weren't so busy swooning
I’d faint if I weren’t so busy swooning… oh, what the hell. *thump*

Although she’s sort of attached to ultra all-American Dr. Alan McMichaels (Charlie Hunnam) she is quickly swept off her feet by the dashing Sir Sharpe when he literally waltzes her around the room. But Sharpe has a secret that Carter hires Holly (Burn Gorman, who is in EVERYTHING, I say! EVERYTHING!) to ferret out. A murder, a funeral, and a marriage follow, in that order.

Although the characterizations start out strong, they start to fall apart as the movie loses its footing. For example: Edith is from BUFFALO, a town famous for encountering ridiculously harsh winters. And yet later in the film when shit has Gotten Real, she is only too ready to run out into the snow in her bedclothes to escape the house. I found that hard to swallow, and it’s one of the main reasons I don’t get why people are calling her such a great character. The situation wasn’t so dire that she had to escape right away, and she would know full well that such a move would get her frozen faster than if she asked her sister-in-law Lucille for a hug.

My hair caught fire from just looking at this picture
My hair caught fire from just looking at this picture

Another dumb nit I must pick – there is a huge hole in Allerdale Hall’s roof, through which leaves tumble gently in a continual cascade. And yet– there are no trees around the house!

File 404: Foliage Not Found
File 404 Error: Foliage Not Found

I know it’s a stupid thing to focus on in this otherwise beautiful and haunting film, but I can’t help it. I pick because I care!

I won’t tell you Crimson Peak isn’t good – it’s great and it does a lot of things right. For one thing, it turns the gothic romance genre on its head in a lot of ways, even as it celebrates them. Thomas is dashing and mysterious, but he’s also an inventor who’s trying to rebuild his family’s lost fortune, and his endearing sweetness sets him apart from the usual brooding hunks you find in these films. Allerdale Hall is perfectly vast, creeply and creaky, but it’s also falling apart and slowly sinking into the red clay upon which it’s built. A perfectly cast Jessica Chastain appears as Lucille, an aristocratic iceberg who must do most of the housework herself since the Sharpe fortune is long gone.

The critics are raving about it, it’s already got a built-in fandom, and I will definitely add it to my Del Toro collection when it’s out on blu-ray.

Thanks for reading this installment of Creepy Creaky week! Sorry there are only two entries, I have some personal business going on that precludes me from blogging. Next week’s theme will be Halloween And the Kitchen Sink, in which we explore horror movies that threw everything Halloweenish at the viewer, including the kitchen sink!

Have a great week!

ALL THE THINGS I LOVE…

… are in the trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak.

Atmospheric Gothic setting?

Check.

Huge incredibly-designed house that calls back to a gilded age?

Check.

Fantastic art direction in a Victorian setting that includes elements of steampunk and crazy-ass CG ghost effects?

Check.

Jim Beaver from Deadwood and Supernatural?

Check, idjits!

Tom “TiddlesmyDiddles” Hiddleston…. shirtless?

CHECK. That is a BIG ten-four, folks.

And…!!!

…It’s coming out within a week of my birthday!

Should be in theaters in October, but whether it’s the 13th or 23rd I can’t tell.

Attempted Rational vs. Irrational Entry: Thor

In all, see Thor. See Thor run, see Thor fight. It’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, although I didn’t spring for 3D because I am cheap and because what’s the point of seeing Thor in fake 3D if I cannot reach out and molest him from my theater seat, but at least I have my imagination. Oh yes.

There. A perfectly legitimate and rational theatrical review.

Yup, loved it.

And I already know what you’re going to say, and I promise that YES, this will actually be a film review and not a sweaty, giggly, ‘omghe’ssocuteMUSCLESANDPRETTYHAIR!!!’ entry. I shall be completely objective in my review.

“Oh no! Your shirt is ruined! TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES RIGHT NOW.”

 

As a film, I found Thor to be as enjoyable as Iron Man, the film to which it is inevitably being compared, as both characters will be in The Avengers movie coming out next year.

 
I left the theater having a few questions (or hopes) for the upcoming Avengers film.
 
1. Will Thor be as big a hit as Iron Man? I think there’s a distinct possibility of this. Granted, Thor’s opening day moneywise wasn’t as big as Iron Man, but the overseas gross is already huge, and Chris Hemsworth himself is made of magic and sinew comes with a LOT less baggage than Robert Downey Jr. Even though RDJ is hot a megastar himself right now, a lot of people didn’t care for the politicized, stylized, look of Iron Man as a film overall, and RDJ’s personal history, weirdly enough, turns a lot of people off. I loved Thor, it was well done and seemed to be a big hit. I don’t know if word of mouth will carry Thor as much as Iron Man did, but I found the movies to be equally good in terms of execution and writing; and I personally liked Thor’s cartoonish muscles and pretty hair character more and would do things to him. I do think Iron Man was more accessible as a character, though because he came off as kind of a whore which is also hot. Also, Iron Man was informed a great deal by the political situation in the middle east, which of course is going to tug American heartstrings a little more.
 
1a. If that is the case and Thor is considered as big as Iron Man, will their plot be central to the Avengers movie? I know NOTHING about The Avengers. Marvel was never really my world, because I didn’t read too many comic books as a kid. Anyhoodle, I would dearly like to see a movie where Iron Man and Thor must join forces, possibly after a long bout of making out  an ego clash. Think about it, Thor shows up and literally steals Stark’s thunder; for someone intelligent, who has spent years perfecting a design that just about gets him to the level that Thor is at naturally, that would be galling. At the least, I’d like to see a slow motion naked wrestling match a bit of tension between them. It wouldn’t be out of character for them to clash, given their respective backgrounds–after all, even though Thor matured by the end of his story, what you basically have are two Golden Boys in the same room.
 
I’ve seen little criticism of Thor that seemed genuine, and not sour grapes, being spouted from people who didn’t already have an agenda, or just flat out didnt’ understand the movie. I found the character development compelling; after all, Thor’s a golden boy, he’s never failed or be denied anything. The tantrum he throws when denied the kingship is evidence of this. He also isn’t the brains of Asgard, and is easily manipulated by Loki.
I want to say that Loki came off as much more interesting as a character, but only because I would consider him an appetizer and cover him in cream I recognize the Shakespearean tropes at work. He’s a runty guy with a thin face, a bookish type growing up in a culture that values might. At the very least, his fashion sense is at odds with the rest of Asgard; he favors darker colors to the Asgardians reds and golds. The obvious setup pays off, though, through Hiddleston’s performance. He does not realize his own penchant for duplicity at first, probably only considering himself an opportunist at worst, but once he does, glories in it. And his scheming is born from the worst source of evil: plain old good intentions.
 
Did I know the good guy was going to win? Certainly. But nobody goes into a James Bond film wondering if this is the one where he finally catches a headshot; we go to see the thrills, stunts, pretty people and places. We don’t care where we’re going, we’re along for the ride, and for a film with as many classic tropes as Thor had going on, it’s a joy to see it succeed. Kenneth Branagh uses a light touch when needed, but also knows exactly when to break out the firehose.
 
Chris Hemsworth is definitely the right guy for the job; his combination of physicality and easygoing charm carry him through a few scenes that would otherwise have been weak, and his performance as blustery, overconfident Thor feels natural and not forced. He’s a guy who’s been on top see? I can restrain myself for most of his life, so of course he would think he was the cat’s pajamas in every situation. And when it comes to fighting, he really is.
 
On PZ Myers’s blog, he criticized the film for not spending enough time developing Thor’s character between the ‘I’m a golden boy!’ and ‘I’m humbled!’ points on his character arc. I didn’t see that at all. What I saw was someone who, once they had failed, was almost relieved to be free of responsibility. And it’s not like he didn’t have some bad moments; one minute he’s flying around using Mjolnir as everything from a helicopter to a club and smashing things to bits, and the next he’s tied to a hospital bed with that most nefarious of evil weapons, plastic zip-ties, and getting hit by Natalie Portman’s jeep. Who wouldn’t be freaked and humbled by that? Thor’s not a brains guy, as I said; the whole source of his overconfidence is his CARTOONISH HOT BODY AND PRETTY SMILE strength. Couple that with Mjolnir not recognizing him, and it’s no wonder he can suddenly empathize.
 
I found that kind of inspiring, the idea that empathy and gentleness are not things that must be learned, but that they are inherent to humanity (or whatever the space vikings are) and sometimes waiting to be expressed in the right moment. Sure, he needs some practice, which he gets in the form of guidance from Stellan Skarsgard. (BTW, **KIND OF SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY** there’s a scene where Skarsgard, playing Erik Solveig, claims he and Thor got drunk and got into a fight; reading between the lines, I’m sure he THOUGHT he was in a fight, and that Thor was kind enough to let him get in a few hits before letting the boilermakers they were drinking end the matter). **END OF NOT REALLY SPOILER** I could also be filling in some blanks myself, and there really was some lazy storytelling, but to be fair, if you’re comparing Thor and Stark’s character ars, well one of those two starts out a MUCH bigger asshole than the other. Just saying.
 
I also have to say I really liked the fight scenes. When Thor is in Godmode, he’s literally awesome. But when he’s a man, his fighting is useless against a new kind of foe: hospital orderlies and thorazine. I hate in movies when someone goes through psyche ward orderlies like they’re made out of cotton candy– those are the people who do this shit for a living, and don’t mess around. Sure, he fights his way to Mjolnir later, but he’s figured himself out; the old methods he used are just as efficient against humans as they are against frost giants.
 
In all, see Thor. See Thor run, see Thor fight. It’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, although I didn’t spring for 3D because I am cheap and because what’s the point of seeing Thor in fake 3D if I cannot reach out and molest him from my theater seat, but at least I have my imagination. Oh yes.
 
There. A perfectly legitimate and rational theatrical review.