Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thank you Hudson River Park for RiverFlicks

This summer, RiverFlicks showed a strong slate of 2012 films on the Pier 63 Lawn: Silver Linings Playbook, Looper, Argo, Moonrise Kingdom, The Avengers, Pitch Perfect, Hunger Games. Tonight was the last one, Hunger Games. I was able to catch up on almost all the big movies I missed last year. The only big movie from 2012 I wish they had included is Les Miserables. The price was right, the weather was good, the communal mood was pleasant, and many pretty girls showed up. As far as I could tell, the operation worked correctly every week. The young crew that ran the show seemed conscientious.

My reactions:

Jennifer Lawrence, who was 21 when Silver Linings Playbook was filmed, surprised me with her impressive screen presence. She won an Oscar for her role. It's an engaging romantic comedy, which is risky, but it lacks the nostalgic ingredients of My Sassy Girl and I wasn't caught by surprise this time. Still a downer, but I was able to move past it with just a few sad heart tugs.

That said, Tiffany Maxwell shares a character type with the Girl (Ji-Hyun Jun) in My Sassy Girl. Both characters are manically quirky beautiful girls who are isolated and traumatized by the death of their husband or boyfriend. Both stories presume the audience's suspension of disbelief for the girls' unexplained fixation on schlubby protagonists, whom the girls doggedly pursue and singlehandedly rescue from meaningless lives with passionately intense unorthodox adventures. Then the girls fall in love. Did I mention they're beautiful? A dazzling feminine who actualizes your masculine is a hell of a fantastic solution for alienation.

A feature of the movie I'd like to take away is Tiffany and Pat's candid honesty and openness to each other without being overly confessional. They are each other's in-group of two. Tiffany even says to Pat that they tell the truth to each other, not like everyone else. They accept each other totally and empathize with each other enough that when one crosses the line, they pull back together. The problem with the takeaway is they don't need to confess because they already know each other's history and least attractive traits. And, it's just a movie - make-believe feel-good fiction. I've attempted their dynamic and learned it's a pretty lie.

A Hollywood career winds and twists in unpredictable ways. Jennifer Lawrence, born in 1990, seemingly launched overnight out of the pack of young actresses onto Hollywood's A list. Amanda Bynes was on top as a child star, and had ambition, looks, talent, range, and a carefully managed career as she grew into her young womanhood. Lawrence's career breakthrough is what was expected for Bynes. Yet when she was Lawrence's age, Bynes's career slowed, then stalled. Lawrence looks like Bynes and they're even the same height, 5'8". In an alternate universe, Tiffany Maxwell would have been a tailor-made role for Amanda Bynes. Of course, her condition may always have been a ticking time bomb even had she been more successful as a young adult actress.

I missed most of Looper. The ending didn't merit the critical praise the movie has received, so I assume that means I need to watch the rest of the movie to judge it fairly. 13SEP14 Update: I borrowed the DVD and watched the whole thing. It's well-paced, the mood is set well, and 5-year-old Pierce Gagnon turns in a very good child performance as Cid the maybe-Rainmaker. The ending doesn't make sense within the logic of the story. Young Joe's vision suggests old Joe killing Sara, Cid's loving mom, turns Cid into the Rainmaker with a repeating time-travel loop. However, based on Joe's original timeline, Joe's loop is closed, which means he doesn't kill Cid, which suggests the Rainmaker came about another way. The ending only makes sense if young Joe is wrong and Cid turns into the Rainmaker for another reason. Or, young Joe stops Cid's transformation into the Rainmaker by changing Cid with his brief interlude in Cid's life. Abe keeping a carved up Seth alive suggests young Joe's suicide will have harmful ripple effects, although removing Seth from his otherwise lived life should also create harmful rippling effects. That discrepancy can be passed off, though, by Joe's revelation no one in the future understands the secondary effects of time travel; they're just scared of the possible consequences.

The only problem with Argo is its oversimplified propagandistic blame-America historical frame, a reminder that popular history is mostly myth.

My reaction to Moonrise Kingdom is here. It hit me where it hurts.

The Avengers was the only movie in the RiverFlicks series I watched last year. I had to talk myself into seeing it again and only bothered to catch the last act. One viewing is enough.

The message of Pitch Perfect is loners are happier and healthier belonging to a group with mechanical solidarity. The team-style socialization of the acapella clubs in the movie reminded me of soldiering with soldiers. I do miss it. I like acapella and I liked the parts of the movie where acapella was performed. Otherwise, the movie was generic. I preferred the classic Bella "fresh faced, nubile" look and routine to their mash-up look and routine in the ICCA championship. Some suspension of disbelief was needed because almost all of the supposedly hodge-podge new Bellas were just as fresh faced and nubile as the old Bellas.

I was underwhelmed by The Hunger Games given all the hype about the movie. It was hard to keep up with the action on the screen and the significance of the whos and whats. I probably need to read the book to understand them sufficiently. The movie struck me as a moving illustration of a book I haven't read. 26AUG14 update: I have a better opinion of the movie after watching The Hunger Games on DVD and reading The Hunger Games Wiki. It's well-made and represents the story well.

I feel sad now that it's over. The next movie was something with value I looked forward to doing every week, same time, same place. Thank you, Hudson River Park for RiverFlicks. Good job.

PS: On Friday, August 23rd, I checked out the last showing of RiverFlicks for Kids at the smaller Pier 46. It had a different vibe with the smaller size, families with kids, and bordered flat astroturf surface. I caught the last hour of the animated movie, Aventures of Tintin. It was more entertaining than I expected - non-stop, high-paced action and a surprising amount of violence. There was a lot of animation. The same young crew ran the kids series. The evening was quite chilly; summer's winding down. Well, that's it.

Eric

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