12 Months of Movies 2007: September

September: the month before the drought. Until December, the rest of the year would be pretty lean. Summer is a huge time for movies here, so for some reason Spring has to really suffer. It’s a good thing that September was able to produce some of the better works of the year before I went into hibernation (ironic that I went into writing hibernation before I published this – most of it written at the start of January!).

Ratatouille
Thursday, September 6, 5:45, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 2

Brad Bird returns from The Incredibles with a movie about a rat whose greatest dream is to become a chef! But it’s nowhere near as good as the movie that inspired it, Ratatoing:

… on balance, I would recommend against watching that (from the people who brought you Little Cars and Little Bee!).
Anyway, Ratatouille is a very good movie, chortle-inducingly hilarious. Ian Holm is totally unrecognisable as the villain, so it’s difficult to think of the movie as a rat versus Bilbo Baggins. It is beautiful, and I even teared up towards the end. I’m cheering on Peter O’Toole in his late career resurgence.

December Boys
Tuesday, September 11, 7:30, Greater Union Bondi Junction (Popcorn Taxi)

Look, I’ll be terribly honest here: I’m sick of the idea that we have to say good things about Australian movies simply because they’re Australian. December Boys is an unremarkable but enjoyable enough movie about a self-contained world that existed for only one Summer back in the sixties. It was released in the US sometime last year, but I didn’t hear anything else about it, so I’ve got no idea how it went. I wonder if it’s the sort of movie that can effectively cash in on Australian exoticism? Unlike The Homesong Stories, it gives off an Australian vibe without making that Australian vibe the most depressing thing ever. It’s an Australia that I only distantly know but at least we can see that there is another face.

Hairspray
Friday, September 14, 5:50, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 2

So if you’re a redhead, a blonde or brunette/take my advice, and you might just get/the only thing better than Hairspray/That’s me!

Hairspray is a movie that infects you with enthusiasm and teaches you that intellectual pursuits are unimportant (“Who needs to read and write when you can dance and sing?/Can’t tell a verb from a noun, but they’re the nicest kids in town”).
However, its real message, about acceptance and shared joy, is not quite conveyed to the younger people who watch it (young children seem to love musicals, for some reason). I was listening to “You Can’t Stop The Beat” while my eight (seven?) year old cousin was in the room. Her reaction: “The girl in Hairspray was fat.”
Good work, John Waters. Despite moron children (uh, not that my cousin is a moron …), this is a worthwhile and highly enjoyable movie and one of those that is putting James Marsden back on the fast track to awesome and far and away from his line in pathetic super cuckolds. I thoroughly approve of Hairspray. I believe that it “won” some “awards” for John Travolta as “worst actor”, but that makes no sense. All of the performances in this movie were spot on and Travolta was both well-conceived and majorly funny. If there’s any movie to make an argument for men wearing dresses (and I think that, although it shouldn’t be a requirement, it should definitely be encouraged), Hairspray is it.

Ratatouille
Sunday, September 16, 10:30, Greater Union Hurstville, Cinema 6

Now this was a disappointment. I saw Ratatouille the first time in a city cinema with people of comparable age to myself. This session was on a Sunday morning in the suburbs with my parents and some children. Barely anyone laughed! This was a rollicking adventure and never anything ever short of pleasant, but there was hardly a reaction! I think my parents, despite enjoying it, even called it “slow”!
This is why you’ve got to choose your audience well, folks. It saddens me to think that so many of us don’t have a choice.

The Kingdom
Wednesday, September 19, 6:30, Greater Union George Street, Cinema 1

The Kingdom is a strange movie, and absolutely nothing like it is promoted in the trailers. For the first three quarters of the film we’re treated to a forensic investigation in Saudi Arabia, conducted by intrusive Americans. Apparently Saudia Arabians don’t have the right skills or mindset to tackle such work – although I’m fairly certain that I’ve read this isn’t actually the case. Anyway, at the last second one of the four (the funny one – Jason Bateman! What’s Jason Bateman doing being tortured in a movie?) is kidnapped and Team America has to bust in and perform a guns-blazing rescue effort.
It’s well-cast, but it falls into traps of generic action movies for reasons that aren’t strictly discernible to the common man such as myself. It presents an interesting ending that resolutely fails to equivocate, and Chris Cooper is always a delight. Without exception.
That said, this was a free screening and I’m not convinced I would have had it any other way.

Stardust
Saturday, September 22, 10:30, Greater Union Hurstville, Cinema 2

The terrible thing about romance is that a lot of keeping the fated couple apart until story’s end is based on the premise of misunderstandings. Stardust is the victim of ambiguous wording almost tearing a fated couple apart, but apart from that it’s a grand adventure. It really does not feel like so many of the other movies of recent times, even though it shared flying ships with The Golden Compass. There is a lot to like about this film, not least of which being Claire Danes eternally pissed off portrayal of Yvaine. Even when she’s happy, she looks really angry to be there. I wouldn’t say that she makes the movie, because that task falls to Michelle Pfeiffer, who looks alternately insanely beautiful and (deliberately) sickeningly horrid in the film. Even more so than her, (and here is where you would put in the “layered like an onion” analogy, but I would prefer to kick Mike Myers) though, is Robert DeNiro. He gets the best material in the film and, just before the end, provided a huge laugh for me.

Superbad
Saturday, September 22, 1:30, Greater Union Hurstville, Cinema 3

The problem with modern society is that, if I were to describe Superbad as the “gayest movie ever”, which it likely is, they think that I’m saying that as a negative thing. No! In fact, it is glorious! Superbad is a ridiculously funny movie and is further evidence that Judd Apatow and his crew of ne’erdowells are taking over comedic cinema. It’s the traditional “we must have a big party before graduation” type of movie, but with more love between the main characters and the true impression that we are being subjected to one crazy night.
I mentioned, when I covered Knocked Up, that these movies are also being charged as the vanguard of the new misogyny. One of the better jokes in Superbad occurs when Seth dances with a girl at a party, only to find that she has been using his leg as a tampon. “Oh no,” say those who speak out against such things because they’ve got something better to do, “this movie has made a joke of a basic human bodily function!” Now, let me understand this, walk me through it: women have periods, right. They have them once a month. No one is going to debate this. But when this happens … they use things other than other people’s legs to receive the blood – this is where the humour lies! It is disgusting – it’s not perfectly natural for a woman to bleed on a guy like that, it’s subverting the norm into something unfamiliar and uncomfortable! Therein lies the humour!
Beyond that, Evan makes a very clear argument in favour of respecting women. The girls of interest in this movie are all very nice indeed, so why shouldn’t they be treated right? It’s all about mutual respect and “surprising” depth of character that shouldn’t really be a surprise at all.
Plus McLovin and his police adventures are great. In closing:

Jules: You scratch our backs, we’ll scratch yours.
Seth: Well Jules, the funny thing about my back is that it’s located on my cock.

I rest my case.

Kiss Me, Baby
Sunday, September 30, Palace Academy Twin, Cinema 2 (Italian Film Festival)

What a strange little movie. Its actual international title is “Three on the Road” but the one that we were presented looks like the literal translation of its Italian title. It’s about how bad Nazis were, but also how bad fascists were. One gets the impression that Italy was not a particularly happy place to live in the late thirties and early to mid forties. Kiss Me, Baby is a comedy that’s not particularly funny, but it does offer a nice tour of the (literal) Italian political landscape for travellers without radio contact at a particularly sticky period in the country’s history. This was actually my birthday, which was a very strange day: my parents were out on holiday, and I saw this very briefly with Liz before we parted ways and I had to return to my own devices. The Italian Film Festival itself was very short, and I have to wonder what it would have been like to sample its other offerings.

Pick of the Month: Hairspray

This was a tough one, because September contained some of my favourite films of 2007. I’m giving it to Hairspray because I have an almighty bias in favour of musicals, which are making a comeback in a huge way. Great all around, if not as certifiably insane as its inspiration, Hairspray is the modern movie from which little children learn nothing. That’s the way it should be: if it takes my cousin five years to realise that the point of the movie is that we shoudln’t ostracise the overweight or people of other races, well, then that means she’s a very slow little girl.

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