I’m writing this on Wednesday, and tomorrow I am definitely not going to work. I really need a day or two off, and I prefer not to take Fridays, which are often my most productive days in the office. Also, I would rather be off on days when I know most people are working. I have a bit of housework piling up, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie or two. Although there’s a fair chance that where I think I’m really going is to a boba cafe to drink tea and read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It’s all I really want to do anymore.
Who do you think you are?
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m INFJ, which, according to the popular graphic someone put out several years ago, lines me up with Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter universe. I’ll take it, but I disagree with some of the characters this person put in the chart. I don’t know if there’s any way to tell Sirius Black is an extrovert, for example, or that Lupin is an introvert. Also, why are Lily and James Potter in this chart? We don’t even really know them, and there are so many other characters we could consider for these types. When I’m done re-reading the series, I really want to re-do the chart, although I doubt I’d be much better at it. I have to admit I like being a Lupin.
What’s gotten into you?
I’ve been working rather hard lately, and what’s gotten into me is a kind of weariness. Add my struggles with Lent this year (I’ll explain another time, maybe) and it’s physical weariness on top of mental weariness. Yeah, I’m a big wuss. Physically and mentally.
How do you expect to pay for all this?
I’m having to rein in a few things, but I mostly do all right, although I’ve been unable to save anything since my gig with the city councilmember ended last August. I dipped into saving to pay regular bills last month, and my car was in the shop most of last week for some clutch work. That was a $700 repair I’m still paying for. So mostly, how I expect to pay for all this is to cut back on a few bad habits I’ve picked up and be a little stricter with my impusive spending. That’s the plan, anyway! Next on the car list is to get the AC looked at.
When are you going to come to your senses?
Hopefully never. Without the MBTI chart, if you ask me which HP character I identify most closely with, I’d say Luna Lovegood. We’re very different in so many ways, but I feel like I get her, and I think she’d get me. Sense, at least the way we usually talk about it, is not one of Luna’s governing traits. My second choice would probably be Mad-Eye Moody, although I’m basing that mostly on the Mad-Eye we know through most of book four, and (no spoiler!) if you’ve read the book you know why I can’t honestly do that. It isn’t Moody’s CONSTANT VIGILANCE, but the way he knows how to say the encouraging thing to a student when the student most needs to hear it. I’m not the greatest teacher in the world, but that’s something I do.
Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Blythe Danner, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane. Written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch. Directed by Brett Haley.
I’m always disappointed when music documentaries don’t show us the process of creating music. There’s a bit of this in Dave Grohl’s Sound City, but I’m drawing a blank trying to think of another film that lets us in this way. Hearts Beat Loud, if it had been about a real band, would have satisfied some of my yearning.
Nick Offerman is Frank Fischer, the widowed owner of a vinyl-only record store in Brooklyn. His daughter Samantha is a few days from leaving for UCLA, where she’s an intended pre-med major. Deeply immersed in studies for a summer course, Samantha resists her father’s pleading to join him in a jam session in their studio, but finally caves, and we’re treated to a no-dialogue sequence where father and daughter lay down tracks in the creation of a song called “Hearts Beat Loud.”
It’s a good song. Frank is certain Samantha has it in her to make her living as a performing musician. She’s laser-focused on UCLA. Frank secretly uploads their song to Spotify, and it quickly gets attention.
Hearts Beat Loud is loaded with well-conceived characters I won’t describe because they and the movie’s songs are pretty much the heart of the movie. The story exists for character development, as do the settings and circumstances, and the movie’s joy comes from watching characters interact in different moments against different backdrops.
This is normally the kind of movie I love, but I have mixed feelings about this one, and I shouldn’t. The acting is very good; I especially liked the supporting characters played by Ted Danson, Blythe Danner, and Toni Collette. Kiersey Clemons as Samantha has future star written all over her, and Nick Offerman seems perfectly cast as the frustrated musician running a failing music store.
My problem is that for a film laden with emotional set-up, there’s just not enough emotional expression or confrontation. What we really want is some kind of work-through for Frank, with his friend the bartender, his landlord, his daughter, and his mother, but we never get it. I’m not asking for fireworks, but I’m asking for something, and we don’t even get that. We get setup and kind of an aftermath, and I want this to satisfy, mostly because I have similar problems in my own writing, but it doesn’t. Also a problem I have in my own writing.
The acting and music are good enough to recommend it but not enough to love it.
The days seems to be flying by, not only collectively but individually too. I don’t understand. I’m wondering if it has anything to do with my serious effort to get 8 hours of sleep each night even if it takes me 12 hours of bed time. That was only once, but it is usually 9 or 10 hours in bed to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Weirdly, I wake up from these sleeps rested for sure (honestly, I didn’t know sleep could be so deep on a night-to-night basis), but suuuuuper reluctant to get out of bed. I wake up fine. It takes a suuuuuper effort to get my body up, though. Like it’s almost painful. When I was a constantly sleep-deprived teacher, getting out of bed was easy because it was almost always in some kind of near panic.
Having a job where I’m expected in at around a certain time is certainly a completely different way of living a life. Man, when you’re a teacher, you really have to be in a certain space with a certain amount of preparedness at a certain time. It makes (or it made, for me anyway) for a life not unlike a series of hundred yard dashes.
Honestly, I don’t know how I lived my life that way for so long. And how can I ever go back?
It wasn’t nearly as bad near the end of my tenure as at the beginning, for sure. V and I lived in the same neighborhood and would ride in together. We’d start the week coming in at 6:30 or so, but since even that never seemed to be early enough, as the week progressed we’d be in earlier and earlier, in ten or fifteen minute increments. It was madness, I tell you.
It’s true that I’m a gifted winger, something other teachers have acknowledged, but winging it was seldom the plan. I prepared like a madman, as my classroom partners will testify. It’s also true that I was a very inefficient planner, taking three hours to prep something that should have taken ninety minutes, but whatever, you know? When it was time to go, I was ready to go.
Anyway. It’s not like that now. Sure, I’m still at the office until 6 or 6:30, like in my teaching days, but that’s when I get in at 9. Nine! Or sometimes 9:30!
I was all set to groove to the new Steve Hackett album dropping last Friday, but I discovered over the weekend that Presto Ballet snuck a new album out the week before Christmas without my hearing about it, so that’s been my jam all week. It’s not nearly as good a the band’s first album, but it’s still pretty dang excellent. So Steve’s on hold while I still enjoy Presto Ballet and last week’s new Evergrey album.
I saw Jonah Hill’s Mid90s last night. I’m really interested in Hill as a writer-director. I suspect he could be great. This film is not great, and it wasn’t reviewed super well, but Hill has serious promise. This is a thoughtful film, and Hill is going for somethng he doesn’t quite get to, and it’s okay. I love that he tried. Full review later. Looking forward to watching it with Hill’s commentary this evening. The guy shot it in a 4:3 aspect ratio for some reason and I wanna know what it is.
1. What’s something you hated as a teen but love today?
Tomato. I used to peel it off every burger. When McDonald’s featured its McDLT in my senior year (a delicious lettuce-tomato-mayo burger), I would peel off the tomatoes and put them on this rail behind the senior lockers. I collected them there. The line of dessicated tomato reached about 10 before the custodians must have cleaned them all up. Now, if it’s a good tomato, I can just about never get enough. Grape tomatoes especially.
2. What’s something you recently dreaded that turned out not too bad?
I had lunch with a couple of really good friends last week and I was not looking forward to it. I can’t explain it; it’s just how it usually is. I agree to go, and as the appointed time gets nearer I’m full of regret for even considering it. Then I go and it’s fine. This time it wasn’t great but it was fine. And the food, at a ramen place I was really eager to try, was fine as well.
3. How do you feel about February as it compares to January?
Behind October, February is my least-favorite month. January is my favorite month, although as I have said this year January was a bit of a bear. I just really never cared for it. January feels like an extension of the holidays to me, since my birthday is in it and I get gifts, and since most of my life has been ruled by an academic calendar and January is fresh and new in a school year. February’s a huge letdown, especially since football season also ends and baseball season hasn’t begun yet. Bleah.
4. Who among people you know is really making the world a better place?
I have a friend who’s involved in some really deep homeless ministry. As I have written in this space, I have a real burden for the homeless, and not only does this friend have a similar burden, but she puts it into motion and gets into it with them. I would totally join her (she invites me nearly every weekend) but I don’t want to meet all her friends who are into it with her. I’m sure I won’t want to get to know them. Which is stupid, I know, but most of my social life makes no sense that way. The city has really been making homelessness as close to illegal as possible, ever-tightening the noose around areas where homeless people are allowed to be, and it’s leading to major problems. The Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center thinks it’s going to have to shut down since the area around it is one place where our homeless residents have taken up residence. They have to go somewhere, though, and my heart breaks for them.
5. In what way is today better than yesterday?
I was in the foulest of moods yesterday. I still managed to be productive at work, but after work all I wanted to do was go to bed. Mid90s turned out to be a better option, and I felt a lot better after seeing it, but dang. I was so freaking grouchy I wanted to do something self-destructive, like eat a whole cheesecake. Today I’m still annoyed about what pissed me off yesterday, but it’s not that bad. I feel good overall, and had a decently productive day despite some forces working against it. It helps that I had a good night’s rest!
This week was as rough as last week, but I somehow managed to be pretty productive at the office and at least non-destructive away from it. Progress!
The office move is now happening. There’s even a date and schedule for when we’re supposed to have our stuff packed and everything. They’ve distributed our parking assignments and the seating chart (I’m between two of my favorite coworkers and don’t know how they’ll ever get any work done) and new direct phone numbers. We’re supposed to have our allotted three bankers boxes packed on our desks when we get out of here one Friday and then just show up for work at the new place the next work day, when our spaces will be waiting for us.
I’ve packed up a lot of stuff, but I still have my Christmas lights up and my wall art. Guess I’ll be coming in Saturday to strip it all down.
The new Weezer covers album is good. Reviews are lukewarm and I totally get it, but I’m down with the song selection (mostly songs from the 80s). As I’ve written elsewhere, I like a cover by a band I like of songs I also like. I’ve had it on almost non-stop repeat since the album dropped Thursday. And surprise! This week’s Friday 5 is inspired by the first five songs from the album.
1. Where in Africa would you like to visit?
Casablanca for sure, even though I don’t know anything about it. I have some friends who did missions in Morocco for close to twenty years and for some reason I’ve never asked them about Casablanca.
2. If you ruled the world, what would you forbid people to talk about in the company of strangers?
This might be too vague, so I’d put my experts to work putting it in more reasonable words, but I don’t like hearing gossip in general, and try to go away when it’s about people I know. When it’s about people I don’t know, I somehow like it even less. I get it. Talking about other people is interesting for some reason. However, geez. Spare us if we’re in a public space. Keep your poisonous storytelling to within your circle and keep it away from me and others who don’t care. New law!
3. In what way do you tolerate (or enjoy) being used?
I’ll tell you what. Being used is really kind of a matter of perspective. In a relationship, if someone is merely using me for whatever, and if I’m getting from the relationship what I want, who’s to say which of us is using the other? Are you using me for nice company while you get over whoever just dumped you? Fine. It might not end well for me, but I know what I’m getting myself into when I’m just the rebound relationship. So my answer is really this. If what I’m giving is a regular expression of my feelings for you — whatever the feelings are — use me any way you want. If I have the money to give, take it. If you just want my body (ha!), here it is. If you need to talk late at night about some jerk you think you love when I’m really the one you should be with, well, I’ve survived it more than once and I can take it. If I’m unwilling to give it, I won’t give it. In many cases I’m using you, too. I like that late-night phone time. I like having the money to give you. I can’t really speak to the body thing yet, but here I am, ladies, if you’d like to try me.
4. When did you recently have an a-ha moment?
This is going to sound idiotic. I have a bunch of chores I’ve fallen way far behind on. Nothing too gross, like not the dishes (I don’t let dishes stack up). Just stuff that needs doing but hasn’t been done. Over the New Year weekend, when pretty much everything was closed, I figured out that if I make myself stay put, I can get past the stir-craziness and what’s on the other side is an unexpected energy to get that stuff done. Was this a short-lived New Year’s resolve, or do I finally just say to myself that here I am with nowhere to go, so I might as well do the work? It felt like an important lesson. I’m hoping to try it out again on Presidents Day weekend.
5. What’s something you know about turtles?
I’m not allowed to have pets in my rented house, but I have gotten away with an aquarium. For a while, I considered getting a turtle for a separate aquarium, so I asked my friend about her turtle. She says they’re fun pets to own, but they stink up their tanks really bad. If you don’t wash them and whatever is in their tank every week, it gets nasty.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Brian Tyree Henry, Regina King. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins.
If Beale Street Could Talk is adapted from a novel by James Baldwin. It’s a discouraging film, but it’s a beautiful discouragement.
Tish and Fonny are a young black couple, friends since
childhood, ready to begin life together in 1970s Harlem. She works at a perfume
counter in a department store. He’s a talented sculptor. At a moment where
things seem finally to be turning their way, Fonny is locked up for a crime he
didn’t commit. Tish’s family rallies to clear Fonny’s name.
Some themes are familiar, and this is not a movie for
everyone. Yet I recommend it for excellent acting, the beauty of Baldwin’s
prose (delivered intermittently in well-chosen voiceovers), and gorgeous
filmmaking. When people say this about a film they almost always mean visuals,
and while the visuals are excellent, the audio is stunning. Ambient sounds from
distant record players playing jazz, mumbles of conversations through thin
walls, traffic on distant streets below, and rain create a background against
which you might expect intimate triumph or enormous heartbreak. I can’t
remember when the background noise of a movie moved me this way.
One scene by itself will justify the cost of your ticket and make up for a couple of bad decisions by director Barry Jenkins. Brian Tyree Henry (Paper Boi in Atlanta on FX) was in six movies this year, and if you’re not familiar with him yet you’re about to be, because he delivers a monologue about the effects of prison on a man, and it will stop your heart.
Brain’s been a little out of it lately. I do okay at work, but the place where the writing comes from feels tired when I get out of the office.
I’m still working on new year’s resolutions. Getting fresh wheels in September put a huge dent in my walking, and at first it wasn’t too difficult to make up for it on weekends and late evenings. Near the end of the year it was. I’ve been trying to make a good night’s sleep a much higher priority than I have for most of my life. With all my sleep issues, that’s just not an easy thing. Now I’m finding myself with less time for the walking I think I need to do. And please don’t even ask me when I last went for a swim. Ugh.
I have to make this all work. I’m rather sure it’s doable. Maybe the resolutions should be based on that.
What’s a song that recently moved you? The new WordPress doesn’t handle bulleted lists the way I like. This is going to take some getting used to or some code manipulation. I can’t even seem to get it into HTML view. So, a weird thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Someone at work sent me a link to a pop song on YouTube, and the ad ahead of the video was for a Miley Cyrus song, and it sounded really good. Then I heard the song in public places twice and Shazamed it both times (I didn’t recognize it the second time but it was the same song). It’s actually Mark Ronson (the guy who did “Uptown Funk” with Bruno Mars) featuring Miley Cyrus, and it’s good. It sounds like it was right off the Hell or High Water soundtrack, with that kind of evil, outlaw sound. Like a Highwaymen song. It’s my best song of 2019 so far, even though I guess it was released at the end of 2018. There’s a kind of irritating disco beat underneath it, but there is also an acoustic mix of it on Spotify, the version I’ve been listening to all week. Here it is as they performed it on SNL. I can’t watch SNL nowadays because the stuff that’s supposed to be funny isn’t funny anymore. Ugh again.
2. What’s a song that recently moved you — right out the door? Okay. It’s not a specific song. I went to a little restaurant in my ‘hood. It was blasting one of the local pop radio stations, and I just couldn’t take it. I ordered my food to eat there, but before they called my number I asked them instead to pack it to go. It was loud. It was insipid. I don’t hate pop music, contrary to popular belief, but most of it is unlistenable. Another reason that Miley Cyrus song impresses me.
3. What kinds of dance performances interest you? Dance just isn’t my thing. I don’t dance, and most contemporary dancing today just baffles me. Folk dances of just about every type (including those from my own Japanese heritage) (and including hula, which I can’t just tell people without considering my audience) bore me. However, I’ll say the dancing in some classic movie musicals does move me. I’m thinking of Singin’ in the Rain and maybe that’s it. Oh, I paid to see Stomp many years ago and that was fun, but I didn’t see it again when it returned once or twice.
4. What’s a good song with the word move (or some form of it) in the title? The ones that leap to mind are “You Gotta Move” (especially the recording by the Lost Dogs), “I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King, “She Moved Through the Fair” sung by Megon McDonough on the first Four Bitchin’ Babes album, and “Moving in Stereo” by the Cars from The Cars (1978). However, the very first song I thought of is the best. “Moving Right Along” sung by Kermit and Fozzie in The Muppet Movie. “We did what?” “Just forget it!”
5. How do you feel about prunes? Canned prunes were in the regular fruit rotation at my public elementary school cafeteria, and they were so gross-looking I never even tried them. I had to drink prune juice on occasion when I was a kid and hate dit, but about fifteen years ago, I gave it another try and it was decent. I’d willingly drink it again if I didn’t have to buy a whole quart. Of course, now I know that you can’t judge a food based on what it looked like in the school cafeteria, so I’m open to giving prunes another shot. Maybe even out of a can.
Saturday morning I slept ’til noon. Then, since I didn’t really have a plan for the day, I took my time getting up and out of bed. Close to two hours, just looking at my phone and considering options. Finally made myself brunch. Two hot dogs with sauerkraut and some potato salad, which doesn’t sound like much but was exactly what I wanted. I’ve been buying these no-fillers, no nitrites dogs, of which there are a lot of options lately, most of them labeled “natural” hot dogs, which of course is ridiculous. Dang it if they aren’t yummy, though.
Got into my car and headed toward town, still with no plan. If nothing called to me by the time I got to the university, I figured I’d just drop off a few plastic storage boxes for my personal stuff. We’re moving offices in two weeks, supposedly, and the company is moving up to three boxes of work-related stuff but not personal stuff, which we’re all supposed to take home since we won’t have any room in the new space for personal stuff.
As a little office experiment, I’ve been putting jigsaw puzzles on this unoccupied desk, so people who need a little break could come relax their brains a bit and work on something collaborative and fun. I was about to head back out when I realized there was nothing I’d rather spend the next hour or so doing than immersing myself in the puzzle, so that’s what I did. Probably not the best idea, spending time in the office like that when I wasn’t doing any work, but it was just an hour. Or two.
I actually did do some tidying up, which I consider work-related, and then I knew what I wanted to do. I drove to the zoo, paid for parking, and walked around Waikiki for a bit. I remembered that there was this ramen spot I’ve been wanting to try for a few years, in King’s Village behind the KFC. They’re closing King’s Village at the end of January, alas, so I figured this was my last chance.
Double alas: many of the businesses there have already cleared out, including the ramen joint. It’s too bad. In a neighborhood where things look typically the same, King’s Village really stands out as something interesting and fun-looking. I’ll miss its Hogsmeade-like walkways and alleys.
Now my heart was set on ramen (despite having driven into the area at first interested in Italian; I’m easily distracted), so I went over to Kalakaua Ave, the main drag along the actual beach at Waikiki, and took at look at Momosan, Masaharu Morimoto’s ramen spot. It was surprisingly casual and reasonably priced. I’d found my dinner spot.
I ordered the gyukotsu, a ramen served with a braised short rib. They only make 20 per day and what the heck? It was the priciest item (I think) on the menu but it was a day for indulgence. There were other ramens I was actually more interested in, so I’ll be back. I also ordered a side of gyoza, because you have to when you’re trying a new ramen spot, and a glass of the Morimoto Soba Ale. When I asked the waitress to tell me about it, she said “It’s a beer.” And when I asked why it was a soba ale, she didn’t know. I ordered it anyway and it was very good.
Oh wait a minute. The expensive item may have been a shot of the Yamazaki, and I was tempted but decided I’d rather have the beer.
It was a nice dinner on the lanai so I could people-watch (there’s no better place on this island than Waikiki for people-watching). I wandered about Waikiki a bit more after the meal, hoping to burn off enough to make room for dessert, but I just didn’t have the room.
I made it back to my car and drove aimlessly about for a little while, then went home, staying up late to watch The Breakfast Club, a new Criterion Collection edition I just picked up as a present to myself. I also got The Princess Bride from Criterion, and they are both wonderfully done.
Went to bed after returning a few text messages from well-wishers, and this is how I turned 50.
Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman. Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall. Directed by James Wan.
There was a point at which I almost said aloud, “This is completely ridiculous. How in the world am I supposed to believe any of it?”
Then in the very next second, I had a flash of some of my favorite movies, many of which would be unbelievable in any world outside the worlds created for them, for an audience ready to believe them. The Harry Potter movies, which I love, are in a fantastic world right against the real world. If I could accept the fantasy of Hogwarts, why not of Atlantis?
This is when my entire movie-watching self simply relaxed. I popped some Junior Mints into my mouth and eased comfortably into a world where a man speaks to fishes and his half-brother rides giant seahorses. Perhaps I’m ready to give The Shape of Water a try, now that I’ve seen and enjoyed Aquaman.
It’s a big, dumb, super-enjoyable movie, kind of a refreshing break from the darkness and ponderousness of DC’s recent films. Let Superman have his fortress of solitude and Batman his cave; Aquaman will do fine with a few enormous tankards of beer with his homies in the neighborhood bar.
Arthur Curry (the alterego I didn’t know Aquaman had) is the product of a romance between a lighthouse keeper in Maine and the queen of Atlantis. His half-brother, who sits on the throne in Atlantis, rallies the other undersea kingdoms for a war against the humans of the surface. To intervene, Aquaman must find the trident of his ancestor kings, so he might defeat his brother and claim his place as ruler of the sea.
Aided by Mera, a princess from another sea kingdom, and of course all the creatures of the sea, Aquaman chases the legend of the trident in something of a Temple-of-Doom manner. It’s all rather predictable but getting there is entertaining. The acting is fine, highlighted by Nicole Kidman and Amber Heard. Jason Momoa as the prince of Atlantis is like a better-looking Thor with slightly less acting talent.
It works for me, and it pretty much accomplishes exactly what it intends: brain disengagement and an escape from the sad ruminations of daily living, and who couldn’t use a bit of that?
Happy Christmas (2014)
Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg, Lena Dunham, Mark Webber. Written and directed by Joe Swanberg.
Happy Christmas is the first film I’ve seen by Joe Swanberg, but this guy gets me, and I want to see more of his work. Starring Anna Kendrick (one of my favorite actresses) and Melanie Lynskey in mostly improvised dialogue, this is a good example of a movie that doesn’t really go anywhere. Yet it goes so many interesting places that I look forward to seeing it several times more.
Kendrick plays Jenny, a twenty-something emotional cripple coming out of what seems to have been a very painful breakup. She moves in temporarily with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), themselves only recently out of their twenties and only recently new parents. It’s unclear where she’s moving from, but Jenny arrives in a cab from the airport, so she is a new part of this young family’s everyday life.
Jeff and Kelly seem to have a solid grip on the parenting. They’re careful but not stressfully careful, and they seem genuinely to enjoy their new duties as mom and dad. Only Jeff, however, seems to have figured out where fatherhood and his career as a film director fit together. Kelly, a writer who has published one novel, hasn’t worked out any time for her own career.
Jenny is the kind of upsetting force that will bring family issues to the fore. Everyone loves her, including the baby, but she occasionally self-medicates in dangerous ways, dangerous for her and for people around her.
Yet this is not that kind of movie. It’s not about Jenny’s drinking or weed-smoking, or about how emotionally needy and self-destructive she is, just as it is not about a young married couple trying to reconcile the needs of career and the duties of parenthood. Swanberg as director uses these premises instead to let his actors explore their connectedness, especially their compassion for one another at this moment in these lives.
Jeff and Kelly can’t undo their parenthood, but they can express their feelings about this moment, and with sympathetic hearts motivated by (I’m interpreting here) basic goodness, try to reconcile conflicting needs. Whether Jenny makes it happen for them, whether they all make it happen for each other, and whether they’ll continue to do so is irrelevant to this movie, something that may disappoint many viewers who expect cinematic closure. The fact that they are doing it in the moment, and that we can see how it happens, is what matters, and this is what makes Happy Christmas beautiful.
Swanberg is (according to his Wikipedia article) a major figure in the mumblecore school. This film has definite mumblecore filmmaking sensibilities, but it’s quite a bit less lo-fi than most movies I’ve seen in the genre. It still has indie written all over it, but despite its improvised dialogue, it doesn’t feel as messy as those other films while it maintains a kind of DIY vibe I enjoy.
Kendrick is an A-list Hollywood force now. I love that she still has room in her artistic life to do a film like this.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, Tom Hollander, Mike Meyers, Priya Blackburn. Written by Anthony McCarten. Directed by Bryan Singer.
I had pretty low expectations going into Bohemian Rhapsody. I worried that it would overly prettify Queen’s surviving members’ stories or overly dramatize Freddy Mercury’s sexual preferences and his related death. There was plenty of the former, and not too much of the latter, and since there’s a decent amount of emphasis on the music itself, the movie feels pretty good.
The movie follows the biopic formula, and I suppose that’s a good thing. For those of us unfamiliar with the band’s origins and its musical ambitions, it’s enlightening to see how members of the band worked together to create the sound and feel of their music, how (for example) A Night at the Opera began with the concept of rock and roll performed with the scope, scale, and aspirations of opera, and how the band moved into a farm for the recording sessions.
One recurring theme is that Queen was a band. In one early scene, an interviewer begins a question with, “As the leader of Queen—” only to be cut off quickly and sharply by Mercury, who insists, “I am not the leader of Queen; I am only the lead singer.” Other scenes show individual creative contributions by bassist John Deacon, drummer Roger Taylor, and guitarist Brian May. For a rock and roll geek like me, this is the good stuff, if the content can be believed.
This is where I have my biggest issue. Some of the dialogue, especially in scenes where the band is talking about itself, feel like promo videos for Queen albums. Here’s some made-up dialogue that’s not in the movie, but it could very well have been.
May (to a record label executive): The first single must be “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Exec: The song is six minutes long! Radio won’t play it!
Deacon: They’ll play it because we’re Queen.
Mercury: They’ll play it because it’s beautiful.
Taylor: And if you don’t like it, we’ll leave right now!
Mercury: And you’ll forever be known as the guy who let Queen get away!
The band takes several such moments to demonstrate how rock and roll it was, how Queen wasn’t just Freddie Mercury and some guys, and how its members always knew what they wanted. The overall feel is horribly manufactured as if to present Queen in its best possible light.
And that’s not rock and roll at all.
My second-biggest issue is the issue I have with most musical biopics. There’s just not enough of the band creating the music, and there’s not enough of the band performing the music, although there’s a good amount of the latter. Not once do we see the band perform a song in its entirety, not even the track whose title is the movie’s. This is a crime. The film does get big points for showing us an enormous chunk of the Live Aid performance, but again: it would have been nice there to experience at least one whole song the way the audience experienced it.
That music, though, is as sweet as ever. If you love Queen, it’s impossible not to leave feeling good.