movie review

Once is a little film out of Ireland that won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2007. I found it during a visit to the book mobile last week. It bills itself as a musical, and I would have to agree with this assessment. The songs the two main characters write and perform tell their story as much as the action and dialogue. 

It’s a small film. The camera work is documentary style and the two lead actors are songwriter/musicians, one of whom had never acted before this film. And it’s a simple story. Boy meets girl. They discover a shared love of music. They get to know each other, share music and a strong attraction.

The leads wrote and performed the lion’s share of the music, which is not presented MTV style but in it’s entirety and as part of the story.

If you have 86 minutes sometime, this film is worth every minute.

Yes, you read the title correctly. With Rob away this weekend my Sunday movie review is of the little remembered feature film that introduced He-Man’s twin sister to the mesmerized hordes of impressionable children in the mid -80’s.

I have ElderD to thank for this movie and a companion disc of the “best” of She-Ra Princess of Power finding their way into BabyD’s realm. Rob’s daughters were enamoured of He-Man and his sister as children. And why not? The cheesy Dance Fever music, the pastels, the bulging, the complete gayness of it all.

“What movie did you watch tonight,” Rob asked when he called.

“She-Ra,” I said.

“Really, the girls wanted to watch that too as we drove up here. MidKid had gotten ElderD her own dvd set.”

“Did they watch it?”

“No, because I didn’t bring along the headphones and then I would have had to listen to it too.”

“You know, I was in college then, so I never saw He-Man or knew much about it, but…it’s really gay. Did you know that?”

Rob just laughed and I felt ashamed of my politically incorrect assessment. But it is. He-Man (well just about all the men portrayed in the cartoon) had a distinct Village People aura about them. It was so 1980’s when every guy on TV or out at the bar on the weekend was wearing colors my dad thought only girl babies should be decked out in and had hair as feathered as mine.

The story involves He-Man’s mild mannered Clark Kentish alter ego, Prince Adam, being sent on a quest to find the twin sister he never knew he had. Dual long lost twins must have been an 80’s thing too. Together they use their powers to keep their people safe from tyranny.

BabyD was more impressed with She-Ra than He-Man.

“She has way more powers, Mom,” she needlessly pointed out because it had already occurred to me she was a cross between Wonder Woman and Jana of the Jungle. “How come?”

“Because she is a girl, I guess.”

“Girls get better powers then?”

“Only in cartoons,”

An hour and more minutes than I care to remember later, it was over. Another low point in children’s entertainment history.

I wonder though where the idea that men should be overtly masculine in appearance over a basically female interior came from because, when I think about it, that is a theme of that time period. And the reverse as well. Hyper-sexual women overlaying male aggression.

Fortunately, BabyD was not so enamoured that she has asked to watch the other dvd. She was impressed with She-Ra’s flying horse and the rest was a bit “scary” for her. Thank goodness. I have enough trouble keeping her away from Total Drama Island and trying to redirect her away from the bad language she is picking up from the older kids on her school bus. I think the only word she hasn’t used so far is “fuck”. But Canadians swear like sailors on leave, so that is probably a losing battle.

Skip the compilation discs of She-Ra and He-Man. That is if you were tempted.

In an attempt to reverse some of the effects (and remove aftertaste) of our weekend of man movies, the last two nights we have been watching arty flicks. I am not sure what makes something “art” as opposed to “commercial” because the intent to reach audiences and sell tickets and dvds is the same, but art as I see it is quiet, not bludgeoning one with story though perhaps it is doing the same thing with its pretensions.

Run Fat Boy Run is the David Schwimmer  (yes, that would be Ross of Ross and Rachel fame) directed rom-com of this last summer. Set in London, it’s about a man whose life is seriously devoid – of just about everything. Dennis is just a bloke who works a security job at a lingerie store, hangs with his best friend who is a professional gambler and spends his free time with his five year old son. The son is the product of a relationship Dennis abandoned literally at the altar, leaving his obviously pregnant girlfriend with a few issues.

Over the course of the movie, Dennis’ ex, Libby, inevitably gets serious with a new man and this revives Dennis’ latent manhood to the point where he decides to enter the Nike Charity marathon to prove to her he is capable of changing his drifting along with life ways.

It was a very good movie. Funny. Uplifting in an everyman beats the system sort of way.

Then She Found Me is a Helen Hunt co-scripted and directed project that I think I remember reading didn’t do well in the theatres. Not a surprise. The blurb sells it as a “hilarious” comedy, but it is funny in the way that those really uncomfortable dark ironic moments of life are, which is to say – you laugh because what else can you do?

April (Hunt) is adopted. She is 39, recently married to a mama’s boy (Matthew Broderick) who seems to have a mysterious sexual hold over her and desperate to get pregnant and have a baby of her own. Already, I am not laughing. As Rob told me after,

“I didn’t think when I picked it out the issues would hit so close to home for you.”

Notice he said my issues, not his. He was 39 once and married for twenty years with two nearly grown kids. I was the old maid who had a baby at 38 after a two year battle with my fertility and married to a man whose mother loathed me because I wasn’t going to give her the horde of grandchildren she become a mother for in the first place.

Oh, and have I ever mentioned that I am adopted?

Big theme in the movie is the whole blood tie aspect of family. I am of two minds on the subject. It matters a lot and not at all.

There is a burial scene, April’s mother dies early in the picture – also not hilarious – and at the grave while everyone is bowed in prayer, she is scanning the mourners. They are her family. Her dark, eastern European Jewish family and she the only blue-eyed blond. And I felt for her in that moment because I have scanned family photos looking for some camouflage myself . I watch people when they are gathered in large crowds and wonder if any of them are related to me. I have been startled by pictures in the paper or faces at the mall that seem to mirror my features. Mostly before I had BabyD. Her arrival anchored me more firmly to humanity than I had ever been because I finally had a physical connection to it.

Yet, the majority opinion in the film is that genetics don’t matter. It is hard to make someone without those ties truly believe that though. It is easy to dismiss something as small when you have it. And even so, it is true on a certain level. 

The characters are all too human but quirky beyond what most of us would consider entertainment . Perhaps that is what makes it art? The story meanders as real life does. No one is particularly good or bad. Choices are not black and white and those taken by the characters will not necessarily make you cheer or like them.

I continue to be disturbed by skeletal leading ladies. Helen Hunt was emaciated. How I am ever going to get my own body image issues in order if I am continually being exposed to women my own age who embody the idea that I must shrink and shrivel with the ensuing decades because the only thing worse than being an aging woman is being a fat one to boot.

The cast was rounded out by Colin Firth as April’s new love interest who literally steps up to the plate within hours of her husband’s leaving her. Matthew Broderick plays the husband. He is Ferris Bueller minus the wit and with a beach ball belly. And Bette Midler is the “she” of the title. April’s birth mother. She is wonderfully over/understated.

Don’t believe anything you read on the box for this one, but if you like uncomfortable slice of someone else’s life movies, it might be for you.


*Sorry this is late today. Our worthless internet provider is having its semi-annual “we don’t give a fuck about consistent service – just pay us” issues again.