Saturday, January 02, 2010

Another day, another set of movies: Fighter and Whip It

Films Seen in 2010: 3

I started writing this after we watched our first film tonight and realized, after we started watching the second film that I would need to start over and reinstitute something this blog used to do before it went on hiatus... “Oddcoupling”.

Oddcoupling is a fun game. Basically, you take a long list of movies that you haven’t watched, throw the names on pieces of paper and then randomly draw two of the names out of a hat. You’re absolutely locked in to watching those two movies together and you have to figure out some way to tie the two together. It could be a character actor that shows up in both, it could be a thematic element or it could be a common crew member, the key thing is that you find SOME way to tie the two movies together. Here’s the very first Oddcoupling we did. Danny DeVito’s ‘Hoffa’ and the sorority comedy ‘Pumpkin’.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I didn’t set out to try and tie the two together but I realized that it might be an easier way to talk about the two movies so this will be the year’s first unofficial oddcouple. Tomorrow Ang and I might set up a bracket of things we haven’t watched (which was the original intent in the first place... get Angela and I watching the things in our collection that we owned but couldn’t necessarily find the motivation to take off the shelf and throw in the DVD player.). Will ANY of this change how you feel about these two movies in any possible way? No, it’s nothing more than me goofing off, but it may be amusing.

Our first contender of the evening is 2007’s Danish film Fighter (trailer here). It originally made it on to my ‘I really need to see this at some point list’ after it played Fantastic Fest in 2008. The movie focuses on Aicha, a Turkish Muslim high school student struggling with her classes who has a passion for Kung Fu.

Our other contender for the evening is 2009 film Whip It (trailer here), the Drew Barrymore directorial debut all about Roller Derby in Austin, TX (but shot in Detroit... such a sad, sad thing). Ellen Page plays Bliss Cavender, a small town Texan girl struggling with her classes who discovers she has a passion for roller derby.

There are at least seven things that I’ve been able to find that loosely tie the two films together. In our loosest connection, both films feature TRAINING MONTAGES! Since at their heart both movies Rites of Passage sports movies it goes without saying that there are training montages. As Team America said it’s the easiest way to go from a beginner to a pro.

Connection #2
The girl hides what she’s doing from her parents because she fears their disapproval.

Connection #2a
This fear of disapproval is brought on because both sets of parents want her to be doing something that she doesn’t particularly want to do. In Whip It, Ellen Page is clearly not cut out to be a pageant girl. In Fighter it’s quite evident that our main character needs to be kicking butt and not fixing butts as a doctor.

Connection #3
Both movies feature a bad guy who threatens to or actually does out the character. The stakes are much higher in Fighter. Being accused of being a promiscuous woman who spends time around non family-member men in a muslim family could mean an honor killing. If Bliss’ parents find out she’s been driving to Austin to be a roller derby star she’s probably just going to get grounded.

Connection #4
By participating in their sports, they inadvertently punish characters close to them. After being accused of promiscuity in Fighter, Aicha’s brothers engagement is broken off which is a big deal when it turns out that the ex-fiancee is pregnant. Their pre marriage picadillo never would have come to light if the marriage had gone through as planned... and the brother wouldn’t have suffered a pretty savage beating. Again, the stakes in Whip It are much smaller. Bliss’ best friend gets caught drinking underage and goes to jail for the evening.

Connection #5
Both characters after they’ve ‘been found out’ make a decision to not participate in their crowning achievement. Both end up going to the event anyway.

Connection #6
In a slightly stronger connection, both films have a Bad News Bears-esque twist and they don’t actually win the events that they, in the sports cliche movie should probably win. In both films the characters come in second.

Connection #7
Strangely, and this actually really bothered me in Fighter. both lead characters make amends with their ‘outer’ after their ‘outer’ beats them. Seriously though, if your opponent could have gotten you murdered by accusing you of being promiscuous, I’m not giving him a high five as we stand next to each other on the podium. I don’t care how into the spiritual aspects of kung fu you are.

Minor connection #8 - both leads sort of end up running/frolicing with their romantic interest. That’s pretty minor and insignificant.

I think I appreciated Fighter much more as a film than I did Whip It. But I think that I'm generally more swayed by straight dramas than dramadies. That said, I really struggled with how I should react to the muslim parents. In our pluralistic society we're told not to judge but I have real issues with how women are treated a lot of times in Muslim society. Thankfully in our fictitious girls case she wasn't murdered to right her fathers honor but at the end of the story she only begrudgingly gets her fathers catatonic recognition of her worth as a human being. My original review dealt more with that aspect. That's honestly something that I'm still sorting out and maybe I'll try and collect my thoughts on another occasion.

So, what do you think? Are these movies the same film? Probably not. I’m kind of surprised at how many little connections there were though. There are only so many character arcs but it’s interesting when two plots line up like they do. Check out Whip It later this month when it comes out on DVD and Fighter is currently available over at Amazon.

More tomorrow.


Friday, January 01, 2010

Movies Seen in 2010: 1 - or, Brian comes out of Where the Wild Things Are slightly confused

apologies in advance. This is a bit stream of consciousness.

Ang and I ran over to the discount theater to see Where the Wild Things Are this afternoon. I know it's something we should have seen earlier this fall but often, for whatever reason, if I don't see something right away it ends up either not being watched in the theater or we catch up with it at the discount theater. Sometimes, if the movie in question doesn't happen to be anything high profile, this extra time period before catching a flick neither helps nor hinders my appreciation for the film but sometimes films are better fresh... without a lot of outside opinion... experienced on their own merits. I think that WTWTA might be one of those movies.

If I had been able to go in to the film fresh I might not have heard from friends that they could really relate to the story or that it's very episodic. I wouldn't have had the rave reviews from other friends and internet film columnists in my head. Going in fresh and not thinking about other peoples opinions, combined with seeing it in a theater that doesn't have cell phones and crying babies and a dim projector, would have probably helped everything. The sad thing is that while that would have helped, I don't think I would have loved the film much more than I did. I think I would have still been left with that underwhelmed feeling I left the theater with. Annoyed at how songs took me out of the movie. Annoyed at plot point that felt very slight but were exploded out into major narrative threads... and annoyed at the photos I've seen of hipsters wearing Max's outfit in the movie.

There were elements I loved. James Gandolfini does a great job voicing Carol. The creatures are amazing. Jim Henson's Creature Shop did a brilliant job. But, in the end, I'm underwhelmed. I'm a little sad. I really wanted to love it. I think it will be remembered for the visuals it created and I think it will be a good tool for (slightly older) kids who are having those issues to begin to unpack their inner turmoil but I can't put this on my best of 2009 list and that disappoints me.

Day one of a new year

Movies watched: 0
Food consumed: couple pieces of leftover christmas chocolate
Current weight: 263
Current state of mind: for the moment it's pretty clear

Settling in to a new year has always been sort of cathartic. While I don't necessarily believe change will happen, it's nice to think that it COULD happen. 2009, while not the greatest year I've ever lived turned out to be pretty darn good. We successfully moved, we made quite a few new friends, I managed to stay self-employed for an entire year (no small feat) and we finally started to learn how to save money ( turned into one of the year's best finds).

Not everything was positive. Disappointing to me was that I didn't get back to cycling. I tried riding on a couple of different occasions and ran into issues. A couple of times this year I aggravated a bunion or did something that had me hobbling around on crutches for a couple months at a time. Just as my foot would seem to be getting better, I'd step on it the wrong way again and be right back to square one. I'm still not sure what caused it... I know, I know... get thee to a podiatrist! Well, now that we're finally established and surviving in Austin, that's probably a good possibility, but it wasn't at the time. Like I mentioned, I'm not sure what caused it but I think at least one of the contributors was putting my feet into my cycling shoes. It took so long to recover after each injury that any momentum I could build up would dissipate. Things have been good for the last few months so I'm hoping that I'll be able to start doing some limited testing.

As I start to do that testing, I'm going to try and make it a point to take note of any progress or setbacks here so that I can go back and do some tracking over the course of 2010. I also dealt with some depression during 2009. I'm sure there were a lot of contributing factors amongst those being money stress at the beginning of the year as we were settling in, working at home all of the time and thus not getting out of the house sometimes for days at a time, seasonal affective disorder and the lack of physical activity. It' s something I need to deal with and that's another one of the things I'll hopefully be sorting through on this blog over the next year... along with the list of every movie we watch. Another one of those things I'd like to be able to go back and track.

Ang and I are off to see Where the Wild Things Are at the dollar theater. I leave you with this. One of my favorite bands with their take on New Years Day.