Friday, July 14, 2023

Dog Watch: Lassie (1994)

Watched:  07/13/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Daniel Petrie

Like all good Gen-X'ers, I grew up in the aftershocks of the baby boomers, and Lassie - the very clever collie - was certainly a character and concept we knew of, if not through direct experience, then by osmosis.  I guess there was a book, originally (1940).  Our canine hero starred in wildly popular movies beginning in the 1940's (it's where Roddy McDowall got his start as a lad) and television - running for a cool 20 years, from 1954-1974.  Plus several more movies and TV shows over the years people who are not huge Lassie fans probably are unaware of.

I know!  That's a lot of Lassies.  

The artificial monoculture created via mass media and limited outlets did, at least, give us a chance to have some familiar talking points, and you never knew where they'd coalesce.  Personally, I didn't watch Lassie in reruns.  Or the movies.*  For most of us, Lassie was one or two jokes about kids falling down wells and dogs alerting us to calamity.  Maybe we whistled the theme song at our dogs.  

This 1994 film is more or less an original story, but if you know anything at all about Lassie from the TV show, etc... this movie carries on quite a bit of the world's bravest, smartest, wisest dog *and* best friend to a boy who needs one.  This dog seems like it's ready to pick locks and drive cars.  Three cheers for Lassie.

Our story:  

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

WA Watch: Asteroid City (2023)

Watched:  07/11/2023
Format:  Amazon Prime
Viewing:  First
Director:  Wes Anderson

So, I was as surprised as anyone else when I looked at Amazon to ponder watching something and up popped the new Wes Anderson movie, Asteroid City (2023).  We don't get out to the theater like we used to, so I was a bit bummed that I wouldn't probably prioritize this with so much else coming out/ lack of time/ lack of money in this economy, etc...

Anyway, apparently I'd also been socking away "credits" on Amazon for purchase of digital services, like movies, so although the movie was pricey to rent or buy vs., say, free or $3.99 for something else, I basically paid nothing for it and now have a digital copy, so... go me, I guess.

It's a curious period to be watching a Wes Anderson movie.  Film Twitter has basically just decided that liking anything is bad, and Wes Anderson is nothing but a collection of well mannered tricks, both visual and in his direction of actors.  That's plainly reductionist and a take I can't take seriously.  

Asteroid City may be the most ambitious Anderson film to date, carrying with it all of the lessons of the prior entries I've seen (which is not all of them).  Framed as a documentary about a play from the very complicated 1950's which also shows the leads of that play recreating the play, the film is communicating on a multitude of levels - with the story of what an imaginary playwright (played by Edward Norton) told about a group of people who have come to a remote locale in the desert for a science camp for teen-sci-fi-geniuses.  I won't get into the issues of the far more normal adults, but they have them.  And then an alien shows up.

But the story Anderson is telling folds in on itself.  This is a dramatized telling of how that play came to be.  

It's a movie that challenges with everything it says and does - from consideration of the careers of the characters in the play, to the concept of the cosmos, to what it means to have a world-changing event happen right in front of you. Especially to a photographer (who is paid to observe and not participate) and an actress who knows how to play emotions more than experience them.  But it's also a movie that feels almost primordial in its location, and some of its allusions.  But, of course, there's a play that has to be acted and completed and understood, and you get the feeling the third layer is Anderson himself, commenting and commenting upon the creation of his work, upon the seeming meaninglessness of it to some, to what it means to make illusions and share them.

More so than even usual, the film is absolutely littered with recognizable name talent in innumerable roles, including walk on parts.  Sure, you have Jason Schwartzman - honestly the best I've ever seen him- and Scarlett Johansson as a mix of a number of Hollywood stars of the 1950's, but an original character altogether.  Tom Hanks plays a minor role as a sonuvabitch father-in-law.  But then there's Hope Davis in a scene with five lines.  And Jeff Goldblum in a faceless, voiceless role.   The IMDB on this is nuts, but we're also now getting the movies that were made during the pandemic when folks had @#$%-all else to go do.  

As always, Anderson gets how just a few things can be hysterical.  Kids, for example.  Or a line delivered just so.  The right visual gag like a dancing road runner.

But, god, this movie is gorgeous.  And, I think, shot on Kodak.  

I'll need to watch it again.  It practically begs for it, but in a way that doesn't feel like homework, like "oh, you need to rewatch it to get it".  Nah, it's easy enough to get.  But it seems like a rewatch would be deeply rewarding, and - of course - give you time and brain space to appreciate what's there all the more.  

But, yeah.  I know there's plenty out there who will focus on the very quotable lines or the visual gags, but, man... you have to appreciate how astoundingly well crafted this movie is on every level.