RMR: Beasts of the Southern Wild

(Quvenzhzé Wallis)It’s late. I have 6 straight hours of class tomorrow (which is a lot for a college student), but I just checked the final best picture nomination off the list and I’m opinionated. (I’m not considering Amour as a nomination. Looks too depressing and just no fun. Not seeing it.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild was an absolutely stellar movie. It has the best camerawork I’ve seen in awhile. The characters and acting were all suburb, and the story can’t get much better. I think I enjoyed it so much because I had absolutely no expectations going in.

Although I enjoyed the movie from an entertainment standpoint, the movie still upset me. A lot.

The story follows a young girl that lives outside the levi in Louisiana in a community called the “Bathtub.” They do what they want. Drinking, partying, child abuse, you name it. When a Katrina-like storm comes it leaves the survivors in a tough spot. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m stopping there with the synopsis.

Politically-charged movies can be extremely moving at times. There are dozens of redeeming themes to this movie such as caring for one’s neighbor, unconditional family love, doing what you must to survive, and living the way you want to live, despite all other obstacles. Sometimes these themes can be taken to dangerous lengths.

Anarchy is one of the main themes that came to mind to me. Although “doing your own thing” can sound like a utopia, it was disturbing to find myself rooting for a community where education, discipline, responsibility, and any structure at all was viewed as evil. Where hospitals with hurricane refugees were viewed as prisons where one must violently break out of. Where blowing up a levi, potentially devastating to thousands of people, was celebrated just so the outlaws can drain the bathtub. Where blowing up your own house for no reason with no reprussions besides a good ol’ beating by papa, is okay. I found an article that took it even farther to compare it to Marxism, but I’ll leave it at anarchy for now.

Okay this is all fine and good. Movies are for entertainment, right? It’s rated PG-13, and if you’re, 13 you’re probably able to handle these themes even if you don’t completely understand it. As long as this movie isn’t shown at the White House and celebrated by the First Lady as one of the most important movies in a long time.

You guessed it. Michelle Obama called it just that. I guess my blog is based all around my opinion, but I think this is the first time I’m mentioned anything too political.

I was shocked that she showed the movie to middle-school aged audiences. I remember in middle school I needed a parent’s signature to see PG movies and they are showing PG-13 movies to them at the White House? That’s besides the point. The point is the FLOTUS mentioned many of the redeeming themes such as “Strength our community gives us… Hope in the midst of devastation…” and called it “beautiful, joyful, and devastatingly honest.” But failed to mention any of the other themes. The themes unmentioned that are going to stick with me way longer than something as wildly ambigous such as hope, joy, honesty.

I can’t disagree with anything she says. But there are many themes that shouldn’t be celebrated. Does it make it a bad move? Absolutely not. But if there is going to be a movie celebrated at the White House, it shouldn’t be a movie centered around anarchy, destruction, and living how you want to live with blatant disregard for anyone else. They burn a house down, blow up a levi, abuse their children, raise havoc in a hospital, and drink til they pass out. All qualities you want in your children, right?  I wonder what a middle-school David would do if the FLOTUS showed this to me and called it inspirational, joyful, and honest. I’d probably think “I don’t need school! I don’t need to shower! Let’s go blow some sh** up!” It is just impossible to celebrate the good while turning a blind eye the oh so bad.

It would not surprise me if Beasts takes home a few Oscars on Sunday, but let’s be careful about taking home every theme this movie gives us.

Like it or not, that’s what I think I think.

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RMR: Les Miserables

Les Mis

Before you see this movie you should know something that I didn’t know going into it: This movie is 99% singing. The total number of spoken lines is probably less than a baker’s dozen, and as soon as they say one thing they break into song. I knew it was a musical, but not a music-all.

The singing was phenomenal. Everybody in the movie including the kids are fabulous singers. I wasn’t expecting it from Hugh Jackman, but home boy has some pipes.  I actually have a studio album by Russell Crowe on my computer that I got from the Jeff City Public Library. The album is no good, but he can still sing decently. Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, heck even Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat) killed. The singing, the visuals, and the costumes were all very good. The story is obviously a classic, and the overall theme is redeeming as well. I’ll let you figure out what that is. (Hint: Miserable-s)

I just can’t get into musicals where it is ALL SINGING. I don’t know if I can say it was good acting, because it’s all singing. The fact that there’s no dialogue in the film at all can be seen as an accomplishment, but I see it as sort of a cop out.

Most of the singing was in awkward situations when:

1. There was back and forth dialogue. People can’t be fighting and arguing while singing. It just doesn’t happen. Try to sing out loud “I’m going to kill you” and have it be convincing at all. Can’t work. In these intense scenes I can’t adequately judge the acting because it can seem comical. You can’t be whispering in a grave yard one moment and the next burst out into song. I guess it was well done because this didn’t completely take me out of the movie, but was still extremely distracting.

2. The characters were talking to himself/herself. If it looks stupid for a guy to be talking to himself in a scene, it looks ten times stupider for a guy to be singing to himself. This is where I saw it as a cop out. Instead of further developing the story, after every major scene, there would be a scene with an actor by himself/herself singing to himself/herself. This singing would usually consist of “Here’s where the story is. Here’s why I’m sad. Here’s what I need to do.” We get it. You don’t need to establish where the movie is every fifteen minutes. Continue the story instead of insulting our ability as movie watchers to understand what’s going on.

There were a few really great musical scenes where you know a song is coming and it fit and was great. Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s scenes were much needed comic relief and were a lot of fun. They were too few and far between though. The writers also felt like they had to rhyme every single line sung. Great writing to be able to do that, but it was forced at times. I found myself trying to guess what word is coming up that rhymes with the last one instead of actually listening. Music doesn’t have to rhyme to be good music.

I also wish there was a redeeming song. After watching “White Christmas” I am always singing “White Christmas.” After watching “Lion King” I’m left humming “Circle of Life.” After I see “South Park,” I am can’t stop singing “Blame Canada.” After I watch… oh you get the point. I didn’t get that from Les Miserables. Mostly singing dialogue instead of good quality songs.

Overall I’d give this movie a B- still. I guess I’m just not one that can fully appreciate this type of movie. It certainly was a huge accomplishment and deserves a lot of credit. There were people crying after the movie, and one of my sister’s friends posted on Facebook that it’s her favorite movie ever. I think everyone should give it a try. Everyone I went with loved it. It will get some nods at the Oscars. There’s redeeming historical factors that I’m probably going to read up on, but all the singing was distracting. Not going to see it again. Glad I saw it, but wish I saw Django instead.

Miserable or not, that’s what I think I think.

RMR: Eric Church – Chief

Eric_Church_Chief

My first review is going to be of Eric Church’s 2011 album called “Chief.” After getting into country music last in summer 2011, I’ve found that there are two things I look for in a country song: Poetic lyrics, and upbeat rock-style rhythm. “Chief” has a perfect mix of both. The upbeat songs kick your butt, and the slower ones make you cry.

I truly believe we are in a golden age of country music (though I’ve only been a fan for a little over a year). Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, etc. are all legends, but their time is running out. Jake Owen, Zac Brown Band, Luke Bryan, and Jason Aldean are all pumping out hit after hit after hit. And they are all magnificent. These young guns are where country music is now and where it’s headed. With “Chief,” Eric Church has forced himself to be mentioned with the above.

You’ll recognize about 3-4 of the hits on there such as “Drink in my Hand,” “Springsteen,” and his newest, “Creepin’,” all very different style of songs that give homage to the versatility Church has. But look further, and you’ll find some of the deepest songs out in country music today.

“Over When it’s Over” is my favorite right now. A song about breaking up with lyrics such as “It’s the first snap of the last straw, where regrets outlast the alcohol.”

I’m going to use this word again, but “I’m Getting Stoned” when compared with “Over When it’s Over” is the epitome of the versatility of Church, because “I’m Getting Stoned” is another break-up song, but very very different. A favorite in our house now, this one is very upbeat and angry as opposed to sad, with the chorus going “She’s got a rock, I’m getting stoned.”

These songs along with a ballad like “Homeboy”, a toe-tapper like “Jack Daniels”, and a rocker like “Keep On”, all add up to an absolutely superb album.

Walk by my house this weekend, and chances you’ll hear one of these songs. Hopefully not too loud, though.

I strongly encourage all to check out this album if they haven’t already. Spotify has it. If you haven’t checked out Spotify yet, get on that right away. Like it or not, it’s what I think I think.