LITTLE WOMEN (1994)

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Elizabeth

I wish I knew how many times I’ve seen Little Women. I had seen it enough times to quote the movie by the time I finally got around to reading the novel in fourth grade. Between countless views and reading the novel, Little Women is a movie I could probably accurately re-write from memory.

At different points in my life I identified with each March sister, usually identifying with all of them at once. First there’s Beth, played here by Claire Danes. After I read the novel there was a week at school where I tried to change my name to Beth by only answering to Beth. Around day 3 I forgot to correct people when they called me Elizabeth, so it never really worked. But while I was still deep in my Little Women obsession, another little movie called Romeo + Juliet came out and became something I practically lived my life around. Claire Danes as Juliet only further fueled my love for Beth and solidified my belief that Beth was the most underrated character.

Then there’s obviously Jo, played by Winona Ryder.  While Beth and I basically shared a name, Jo and I seemed at times to share the same personality. Was Jo reacting just as I would react? Or have I seen Little Women so many times that Jo’s reactions have become my own? Who the hell knows, and who the hell really cares. The biggest flaw I found in Jo growing up was her refusal of Laurie (Christian Bale)’s marriage proposal. Were Jo and I not looking at the same person? Not hearing the same words? It seemed completely insane to me that she would not want to be with someone who seemed like her perfect match. I remember my mom trying to explain to me that Jo wasn’t in love with Laurie and wanted to see who else was out there, but Laurie being played by Christian Bale really made that hard to believe at the time. Jo ending up with Friedrich (Gabriel Byrne), whom I saw as just an old guy,  seemed like it was practically a plot hole. But I admit that watching Little Women as an adult makes the situation much clearer. Christian Bale is still there, but now he kind of looks like a little kid. Gabriel Byrne is still there, but now he looks sexy. It just kind of makes more sense.

The oldest March sister, Meg (Trini Alvarado) struggles with trying to be a good “lady” while simultaneously trying to figure out what that even means. I had some rich friends in elementary school who treated me the way the Moffats treated Meg – like they were doing me a favor by letting me into their world. And like Meg, I ate that shit up. But, luckily also like Meg, I found my rich friends’ lives to also be a little sad and cold. An Abercrombie & Fitch spending spree can’t match to being able to talk to your mom.

The youngest March sister, Amy (played first by Kirsten Dunst and then Samantha Mathis), was ironically the hardest for me to identify with despite being the closest to my age during the height of my obsession. I know in reality that this was clouded with jealousy – I mean, little Kirsten Dunst, who had ALREADY KISSED BRAD PITT, got KISSED (okay on the head) by CHRISTIAN BALE. That blew my mind. Something I felt really deeply about, though, was the scene where Amy burns Jo’s manuscript. Jo and Meg go to the theater with Laurie and John (later Meg’s husband); Amy perceives being left out as a complete slap in the face. I remember 100% agreeing with Amy at the time. They could’ve invited her, they just didn’t, just to be bitches. Amy is filled with a rage that seemed so understandable at the time that I don’t think it even registered as rage to me. Watching as an adult her request is completely absurd – a nagging child begging to go to the theater with adults. But then something switches. While they’re at the theater, Amy takes Jo long-worked-on manuscript and throws in the fire just in time for Jo to come home and watch it burn. That was when my writerly side trumped my child side. Be mad all you want, Amy, but don’t fucking touch Jo’s writing. That’s just crossing a line too bold to come back from. Of course, Jo eventually forgives her, but watching it as a kid I knew I would never be able to forgive someone for doing that to me. As an adult . . . I pretty much feel the same way.

Susan Sarandon as matriarch Marmee really stuck with me, too. First of all, Susan Sarandon looks so beautiful the entire movie despite being in a completely unsexy role. But mostly, it was the fact that she reminded me of my own mom and her reaction to Amy being hit by her teacher at school. While reading her letter to the teacher, Marmee says something along the lines of “if you hit and humiliate a child all you will teach that child is to hit and humiliate.” Hearing that as a child made total sense to me. In fact, after hearing that, I thought parenting was maybe not as difficult as it seemed, if you just understood a basic fact like that.

Of everything that happens, though, there is one moment in Little Women that I will always love and identify with the most. Growing up, I was known for my long hair. I grew it from about 1st-6th grade. Along the way I would get small haircuts, each one ending with me in tears and convinced feet of hair had been chopped off. In Little Women, rather than asking her awful great-aunt for money to help Marmee visit their wounded father in the hospital, Jo cuts her waist-length hair to her chin and sells her hair. That night, hearing Jo quietly sob in their bedroom, Beth wakes up and gently asks Jo, “Is it father?” Jo fingers the ends of her hair and pathetically whines, “My haaaaaaaaair.” Beth bursts into laughter, which must put the ridiculousness of the situation in a clear light for Jo to see, because Jo starts laughing, too. It’s a moment that’s genuinely funny and charming, but is also deadly realistic to a girl who’s had at least a couple of similarly dramatic haircuts.

You’ve seen Little Women, right? If you haven’t, don’t tell anyone and just watch it right now. You’ll feel better about everything.

Christopher

I always thought this movie was an epic. Something that would warrant two VHS’s. Though it’s not long it still packs a lot of story. I was hesitant about whether or not I would enjoy this film but in the end I found it super enjoyable. I felt like some stuff didn’t quite work. Such as Laurie and Amy getting together but I’m sure that makes more sense in the book.

I also enjoyed the huge cast. Ever since I saw The Usual Suspects I’ve really liked Gabriel Byrne and seeing a young Christian Bale is always great.

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MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1994) + WE’RE BACK FOR 2017!

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Elizabeth 

While 2016 managed to be an infamously bad and crazy year in a lot of ways, for Chris and me it ended up being a very good, albeit very busy, year. So far 2017 is shaping out to be less busy and we’ll be able to devote the time we always want back into the blog. And we’re starting now!!

As for Miracle on 34th Street . . . FUCK. THIS. MOVIE. Okay, let me back up a bit. I’m not a very Christmas-y person. Most of my Christmas spirit died when I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real. In fact, finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real – therefore discovering a giant conspiracy between EVERY ADULT against ME, A CHILD – was probably the first step for me to really grow up. I admit, I was a sensitive child. I understand most kids didn’t feel their reality shatter when they found out this piece of news. But mine did, and that’s that.

Since then, I’ve been pretty adamant about not perpetuating the lie of Santa Claus. This is pretty easy for me to do without having any kids. But as nieces and nephews have come along, I’ve managed to avoid the subject altogether and maintain my goal of not lying. The thing is, I think Christmas would be more enjoyable without Santa Claus from the beginning. Without Santa Claus, there’s no lie to ever come clean about and nothing has to really “change” about Christmas per se. Even with outside pressures of media and other kids and family members, I’ve always thought it was perfectly reasonable to raise kids without raising them to believe in Santa Claus.

I never saw Miracle on 34th Street growing up, this version or any version. Christmas movies seemed to make the sting of Santa Claus that much more painful as so many of them address and subsequently explain away skeptical thoughts about Santa Claus. This fucking movie takes that to whole new heights.

Elizabeth Perkins plays Dorey Walker – my kind of woman. She’s a single mom working as the special event director for Cole’s, which is a stand-in for Macy’s. In addition to her dope job, she has a DOPE AS SHIT apartment in New York City, a dope 6-year-old named Susan (Mara Wilson), and a dope fuck-buddy-who’s-in-love-with-her-and-is-Dylan-McDermott named Bryan. Susan is a borderline child prodigy in her maturity – think real-life Louise from Bob’s Burgers. Dorey has raised Susan to believe that Santa Claus isn’t real – that parents pretend to be Santa Claus at Christmas and the Santa Claus that works at Cole’s every year is an actor. This works fine for Susan, who loves Christmas regardless. Dorey is always upfront with Susan, despite Bryan actively telling Susan Santa Claus is real behind Dorey’s back. But it still never seems to be a problem for Susan.

Until Dorey hires a new Santa Claus for Cole’s – Kris Kringle, played by Richard Attenborough. Kris throws Susan off by nonchalantly insisting he’s Santa Claus. Usually when met with Susan’s precociousness, adults would concede that Santa Claus was fake and move on. But Kris is Santa Claus, according to him. Susan pulls a pretty sweet move on Kris – she says she’ll believe in Santa Claus if Santa Claus gets her everything she wants for Christmas: a dad, the giant country mansion Cole’s uses for photo shoots, and a baby brother.

Some dumb shit happens where Kris is lazily framed for an assault that never even happened. The whole case suddenly rests on the idea of whether or not Kris is actually Santa Claus or not. Susan gives the judge a Christmas card containing a $1 bill with the words In God We Trust circled. This of course makes the judge realize that since the U.S. Department of Treasury can put its official faith in God with no hard evidence, then the people can believe in Santa in the same way. SOOOOOOOOO the judge dismisses the case and declares that Santa is real.

After the case is dismissed, Kris/Santa literally tricks Dorey into marrying Bryan. Afterwards, they for some reason take Susan to that country mansion, where Kris/Santa hasn’t really bought it for them but makes it possible to buy it, which for some reason they do. And goddammit, you know what happens next. Susan tells Dorey and Bryan about her wish for a brother, Dorey and Bryan literally look at Dorey’s belly and kiss. SANTA CLAUS IS REAL!!!!!

Okay, so who gives REGULAR people the presents then? This is a world in which parents (WHO FOR THE RECORD, IS SANTA CLAUS) KNOW Santa is fake (as seen in Dorey’s explanation to Susan) but also in which Santa is REAL and GIVES OUT PRESENTS, presumably to the same parents who know Santa is fake. So are parents buying all these presents or not? If they are, what the fuck, Santa? If they aren’t, what the fuck, parents?

In the end, this movie is a total nightmare and one every child should avoid at all costs.

Christopher

We’re back!! This year has been hectic but I think Elizabeth and I are finally on more of a routine to start this blog up again. We’ve been watching movies in between Sex and the City, Big Brother, and Channel Zero. Now’s the time to finally write some of those reviews. We may just post a giant list of movies we watched and just start from there too.

Since it’s the holiday season I felt like it was perfect to watch at least one movie that’s Christmas-themed. Miracle on 34th Street was not a movie I saw more than once as a kid but I felt like it was a good choice since it does have a somewhat star-studded cast. James Remar is always a great addition.
Before we watched this I assumed it followed the main girl who might not believe in Santa but with a little help along the way she would see he is real and that Christmas is a magical time after all. Once the movie started it was kind of like that. The kid didn’t believe, everyone else wants her to believe except her only blood relative. But what surprised me was how the kid still loves Christmas. She just knows Santa doesn’t exist. It’s unfortunate that every adult this kid runs into during the film tells her she’s wrong and she just has to believe. More than a little condescending and wouldn’t that really just make her not trust her mother??
Well this movie was pretty dumb. Not a lot makes sense but that’s most kids’ movies, right? I mean I’m pretty sure most adults would say that Minions is the best movie of the year so maybe adults do actually like this movie. For me though it delivered in its absurdity and in making Elizabeth roll her eyes at almost every line! I can’t wait to read her review for this!

HOOP DREAMS (1994)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

This was my first time seeing Hoop Dreams and it pretty much has everything I love in a documentary. It’s reputation pretty much precedes it, but god, Hoop Dreams is fucking good.

I feel like I should start out by saying I don’t know anything about basketball and I pretty much don’t care about basketball. I was happy The Spurs won the NBA finals this year, buuuuuut other than that I really don’t think about it. It’s also a sport that I find hard to tell when someone’s good at it; I usually can’t tell the difference between an amazing shot and a regular shot, but I know that’s just because I don’t know the sport. This didn’t deter me from wanting to see Hoop Dreams because that’s what I love about documentaries: if the documentary is good, it doesn’t matter if it’s on a subject I don’t like or don’t know anything about. It just matters that it’s good.

The story follows William and Arthur, two 14 year olds (at the beginning) living in projects in Chicago. They’re both sort of basketball stars among their peers and they both get recruited by St. Joseph, a private school outside of the city. From there, the stories change almost completely. William becomes a darling of the St. Joseph basketball program, being sponsored by a wealthy family to pay for his tuition and medical bills and he’s put on the Varsity team as a freshman. Arthur is put on the freshman team and obviously has problems adjusting that comes out in his behavior (he says himself he doesn’t know how to act around so many white people, which he’s never done before). After freshman year, the school’s tuition goes up. Arthur’s mother, like I’m sure most parents would, assumed that because Arthur was in school on a scholarship, the raise in tuition would be covered. But it’s not, and halfway through the year Arthur is kicked out and has to resume high school at an inner-city school.

You would think from here, the story would be clear: William will go on to be a basketball star, or at least play in college, and Arthur would end up on the streets (his father left his family during the filming and ended up murdered years after it ended). Instead, William is injured and the constant pressure from the St. Joseph coach, who singles William out all the time for better or worse, makes him obviously disillusioned with basketball. When William gets his girlfriend pregnant and his coach tells him it’s not important enough to miss a game over, that seems to sort of be the last straw in having a desire to keep playing for St. Joseph. William never makes to the state finals, which was pretty much his dream. On the other hand, Arthur continues to do better and better on his new school’s team, and by the end of the season his senior year he’s led the team to the State finals to become the 3rd ranked high school in the state.

They both go on to college and earn degrees, but neither of them make in the NBA. You would think that would be sort of tragic, considering how much hope William and Arthur put into becoming professionals. But what’s great is that the boys grow as the film continues on and they both mature enough to realize that basketball isn’t the end all, be all of everything.

There are so many amazing and interesting thing about this documentary, but I think the most interesting thing to me is just how people are treated differently, which sounds so corny. William and Arthur are treated so differently when they get to St. Joseph, and Arthur was subsequently screwed by St. Joseph (they withheld his grades, which would prevent him from applying to college, because his parents owed $1200 in tuition they couldn’t pay, though the grades were eventually released after a payment plan was put in place). But Arthur was the real “star” in the end, his love for the game didn’t wane like William’s, and he didn’t have an injury. It’s also crazy hearing about the lives of the boys’ families, both of which are continually going through hard times, usually through no fault of their own.

Everyone needs to watch Hoop Dreams. I don’t care if you don’t like basketball, or kids, or whatever, this needs to be seen.

Christopher

Documentaries really can’t get better than Hoop Dreams. I don’t really have a memory of when I first heard about this film but I watched it for the first time after graduating college. It was film I wasn’t too excited about watching by myself, the film being almost three hours, but once it starts it’s hard not to be invested. The film follows two boys who are 14 at the time as they develop through high school and go off to college as they do their best to make it to the NBA.

Watching this movie now, it’s kind of crazy how so much of William Gates’ story reminds me of high school baseball. I went to James Madison High School in Vienna, VA. I can say without hesitation that I have never experienced a worse environment than I did then, being a part of that JV baseball team. If I was able to change one thing about my life it would be that I never tried to be part of that and just stuck to town baseball. The people connected to Madison baseball are the only people in my life I would never shake their hands if I saw them today (and also probably this one kid from college). Hoop Dreams just brings back a lot of memories from that time because of what these kids go through.

This movie really needs to be watched by everyone, even people not interested in sports because if you’re against this movie because of that you really don’t get it.

ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD (1994)

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Christopher

I used to love this movie and watching it now as an adult I still find it uplifting but the story is a mess. Based off of this movie I now know that as a kid I did not know that much about baseball. Almost everything baseball related about this film makes no sense other than the fact that baseball is a sport and that the Angels are a baseball team.

The biggest example of this is that Tony Danza plays a washed up pitcher who blew his arm out a few years ago. So the first time they send him in to pitch he has an angel with him so he pitches a perfect game!!! But no one seems to really care other than the fact that he just pitched well? But that’s not the really weird part. The weird part comes during the next game he pitches. So he’s pitching in the second game in the season and during the 8th inning (I think?) when he’s at 150 pitches, he begins to struggle. And for some reason it’s this big thing where it’s a great shame that he can’t finish the game. That makes absolutely no sense. Pitchers get tired. They can’t always throw a whole game and the number of pitchers that actually do are so slim this whole conflict is distracting cause it makes no sense! Just take him out and let a middle reliever take over!

This movie was fun but I think I watched it for the last time.

Elizabeth

This season I watched more baseball games that I think I had previously ever seen my whole life combined. So watching Angels in the Outfield now made me realize how much of the movie really doesn’t make a ton of sense. I sort of have the feeling that the filmmakers maybe didn’t know a lot about baseball, but know a lot about football. The baseball in Angels in the Outfield is this weird mix of baseball, football, and things that wouldn’t make sense in any sport. For example, every game the Angels play in Angels in the Outfield is a huge deal, and every game makes a huge difference. Sure, every game matters in baseball, but considering each team plays 162 games a season, there’s not nearly as much weight put on every game. It’s just sort of weird.

Despite that, Angels in the Outfield still reminded me how much I love baseball movies. They’re just the best sports movies, in my opinion. It’s also great seeing little Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Although I think having watched Angels in the Outfield so much growing up, I just cannot find Joseph Gordon-Levitt sexy. I was sort of shocked when I realized so many people find him sexy. He’s good looking, yes, but sexy? Isn’t he just little Roger?

Also, it’s worth noting that the angels are kind of huge assholes in this movie. Roger wishes for the Angels to win the pennant, because when Roger asks his father when they’ll be a family again, he says “I’d say when The Angels win the pennant.” Because The Angels suck, he means this sarcastically. But Roger wishes for this anyway, and even though God must surely realize Roger’s dad’s sarcasm, he goes with that wish anyway, rather than making Roger’s dad come back. The head angel also ends up telling Roger that his idol, pitcher Mel Clark (Tony Danza) is going to die in 6 months from lung cancer, and there’s nothing that Roger can do about it. Oh okay! I mean, that’s not a terrible burden to lay on this orphan with a shitty life or anything. COME ON, ANGELS!