Critical MeMe

Time spent watching films, even crappy ones, is time well-spent.

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Location: Missouri, United States
    These aren't comments on ALL of the movies through which I've cried, yawned, laughed, and rolled my eyes, but just about everything I've seen since early 2002 is here plus a few from earlier. Post dates reflect my screening & parenthetical dates are the year of US release (aka Oscar eligibility).
    Yeah, a movie review blog isn't very original. But originality is overrated. Just ask Michael Bay.


A Star Is Born (1954)

An actor who is becoming more famous for his drunken antics than for his acting happens upon a talented but unknown singer and decides to give her a push toward stardom. Well, it works, and she quickly starts rising as he starts to wane. If there were any spark between the two leads, this could've worked. But the relationship never felt like anything other than a source of pain.

And -- oof -- those musical numbers. I could barely buy that she was becoming adored for her work when the work they showed was so bland. I think this is the least successful of the three adaptations I've seen.


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Shoeshine (1947)

Two young friends work as shoeshine boys on the streets of Rome, saving up to buy a horse together. To earn the rest of what they need, they take a job delivering blankets to an old woman -- not realizing that they're part of a bigger scheme to rob her. They are picked up for the robbery and thrown into juvie, where they must adapt quickly.

This really moved me. The terrible cycle of poverty. the joy of friendship, the pressure cooker of prison, and the pull of family obligation are all well-realized here. These boys broke my heart.


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Downton Abbey (2019)

Every series has disappointing episodes. This is simply the longest and most disappointing episode that Downton Abbey has made. And was anyone really asking for it? And, if so, couldn't it have just been run as a PBS special?

Mary's superior, Carson's obsequious, Branson's tamed, Robert's benign, Cora's a non-entity, Thomas is gay, Violet's snippy, Daisy's ambitious, and Molesley's an absolute idiot -- none of that's changed. But the things that did change didn't do so for the good. Andy turns into a jealous asshole (don't worry, Daisy's into it), and most of the Downton staff goes off the deep end trying to sabotage the visiting Royal staff. Oh, and Branson thwarts an assassination attempt on the king because he may not be a royalist, but he ain't down with murder!!

It all just felt thin and unnecessary. Perhaps Downton was always this slight but the smaller screen kept my expectations in check.


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Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

Karin, her husband, her brother, and her father are all gathered at their rough seaside home after her recent stay in a sanitorium. They are all, clearly, there for Karin -- hoping she's recovered herself -- but those hopes are in vain. She has several schizophrenic episodes in which she can see what no one else can and no longer wants to try to stay tethered to the real.

The cinematography is beautiful and the acting is solid. The story itself, however, is pretty seedy. At one point I'm pretty sure she had a romantic interlude with her teenage brother. I spent the entire time with my nose wrinkled.


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The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)

Cameron is being raised by her Christian aunt and, since this is 1993, it doesn't go over well at all when she's discovered making out with a girl. Cameron is sent to "God's Promise" -- a kind of gay conversion boarding school run by a brother and sister.

This is a quiet film; it's much less sensationalistic than "Boy Erased," which tackled the same type of subject. The school seems to be well-meaning even as the students understand that they can't really be helped, which was just so familiar. I'm not gay, but I grew up taking all of the rhetoric -- especially the purity crap -- to heart and always feeling like I was the only faker in the room. The damage can last a lifetime & this film does a decent job of conveying the despair of the kids forced to see their sexuality as perverted.

But, even though the film gets the vibe right & conveys the message perfectly, it feels as though it's not quite enough. I think the biggest issue is the character of Cameron: she's erected a wall between herself and everyone else for most of the movie. Good -- that's probably accurate -- but that wall is present between Cameron and the audience as well. I feel like I had an experiential "in" for the subject matter. I wonder if those viewers who haven't lived Christian school, church, and church camp felt anything.


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The Meg (2018)

Jason Statham has been living in a perpetual state of drunkenness for five years, after having to abandon half of his deep-sea rescue crew. He claimed it was necessary due to attack by massive sea creature, but no one believed him and it cost him his career, marriage, and reputation. Spoiler: he gets to be the "I toldja so" guy when he's called in to help with an attack by a massive sea creature.

This movie is big and loud and dumb. So dumb. The romantic storyline is ridiculous and misplaced and has zero spark. The kid is cute. Statham and Ruby Rose are hot. The end.


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Penelope (2008)

Penelope is an heiress suffering the curse of being born with "the face of a pig" (really just the snout of a pig), which can only be cured if she's accepted by someone "of her own kind." She's grown up isolated but loved and, now that she's a woman, is accepting blue-blood callers in hopes of breaking the curse.

This is a lazy, poorly-told fairy tale, buoyed only by the energy of Catherine O'Hara and charm of James McAvoy.


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RBG (2018)

This documentary does a pretty decent job of covering the career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I wanted more. Her early arguments in front of the supreme court and her scathing dissenting opinions alone could've given us another hour at least. This felt more like a student project than the work of someone with real access.


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