Movies have to do a lot in a short amount of time: tell a story, create sympathy—or the opposite—for characters, make the audience laugh, cry, cringe, etc.
Aside from the whole range of visual effects, which are the entire point of the medium, movies use plenty of other shortcuts to get the job done: music, sound effects, linguistics, cultural assumptions—and, of course, poetry.
Poetry also tells stories, creates sympathy—or the opposite—and evokes any emotion you can name, sometimes in only a few short lines and especially if the poem is so well known that the audience automatically fills in the rest.
Twanging heartstrings in five seconds of screen-time or less—what’s not to like?
Movies know that we know they do this. But if it’s done well, we don’t mind at all—in fact, that’s why we go in the first place.
The Outsiders is probably the best example of poetry for poetry’s sake in the movies—Ponyboy is a reader and a writer and it’s perfectly natural that he would share poetry with Johnny, because he knows Johnny won’t give him grief for it. We get the characters, we get their friendship, and we’re completely set up for what comes next—the choice of poem, in retrospect, is also foreshadowing:
But not all movies have S.E. Hinton source material lining up the shots. Most of them use poetry as a spoken soundtrack, which can work really, really well:
This poem usually has me reaching for the tissue box, anyway, but John Hannah’s delivery is absolutely. . . he’s just so . . . Excuse me for a second, please . . .
There’s a moment in Sense and Sensibility—the 1995 version, which is my favorite, despite Hugh Grant being . . . Hugh Grant*—that assumes audience recognition, which is safe because this is one of the most overused sonnets ever and people like this character are the reason why.
Though I have to admit that she gives it a different interpretation. It’s often been used as a warning and an admonishment—especially at weddings—but rarely as an actual lament:
While Marianne is kind of a nitwit through the first three-fourths of the story—book and movie versions—and Willoughby is hardly a prize, I have to admit that Sonnet 116 does help me sympathize with her profoundly wounded disappointment in a way repeating his name wouldn’t.
I have no quips for this next one—it’s a powerful scene done very well. I will say that if anyone other than Mr. Mandela himself had to recite Mr. Henley’s immortal poem in this movie, Mr. Freeman is the absolute right choice:
Then again, eight times out of ten,** Mr. Freeman is the right choice to read anything.
After all these poignant moments, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some movies use poetry for straight out, and even slightly slimy, laughs:
I’m told that this poem is by Danny Rubin—something about fine wine and the girl of his dreams—but if the movie had intended for this to be a genuinely romantic interlude, they wouldn’t have had Bill Murray speaking French.***
Anyone else have a favorite cinematic poetry experience to share?
*Don’t get me wrong—he’s not a bad actor and he clearly didn’t ruin the two of his that are included here. But while he’s essentially playing himself in Four Weddings and a Funeral, I expect a little more fortitude and a little less fumbling from Edward Ferrars. Just sayin’.
**Accounting, of course, for certain gender-specific literature, Benedict Cumberbatch (who can double for Alan Rickman), Tom Hardy, Matthew Macfadyn, and allowing for some inevitable overlap. What?
***Mr. Murray could have pulled it off in Lost in Translation, but French poetry didn’t belong in that movie. I knew he was talented, but damn, did I underestimate his range.
Random Thursday: the day when Sarah saves up all the weird wacky things that people have sent her and shares them in lieu of writing an actual post.
Only this time, it’s even more random: that’s right, your intrepid cub reporter Watson has stolen Sarah’s blog. Memes, memes, and more good memes!
I get random things emailed to me too, from my very random friends who include the “ladies” from my old all-girl biker gang (whose name cannot be mentioned on Sarah’s blog), a double PhD from MIT, a woman who sits on five corporate boards, and a guy with both a fine arts degree and a black belt in Krav Maga. Randomly, I appear to have an odd assortment of random friends.
Woe befall ye who read below.
******************* Act I: On Superheroes
Just Be Cos-Play
Sarah might be (slightly) obsessed with the Avengers movie, but I’m slightly obsessed with comic books in general.
Janie IS Captain Obvious
I have this weird tendency to make up nicknames, generally on a comic book theme for people, and will refer to people in public as The Purple Shirt when pointing someone out. In Janie’s case, she is either the old classic, Captain Obvious, or Captain Non-Sequitur. I was forced to explain what Captain Obvious was, so I found this:
Which of course just backfired, as now she runs around the house loudly pointing out “look, that’s the vacuum!” and “look, there’s my sister!”
******************* Act II: On Derping
Teaching Janie Math
Speaking of derping, Janie and I can have some serious derp battles over homework, and make the rest of the adults in the house wonder which of us is more mature (we might be tied at this point). She’s great at math, but tries to weasel out of having to do the problems. Problem is, she asks me ridiculous questions like “what’s 13 minus 8?” then gets mad when I don’t tell her. What I generally do to her resembles this:
******************* Act III: This Picture Says It All
(Sarah’s note: Thank you, Captain Obvious)
******************* Act IV: On Movies
Technological Difficulties, Please Just Stop
Blue-ray. Let’s take a moment to talk about blue-ray and the digital age. I’m dying to see Keanu Reeves’ new documentary about Hollywood’s current technological shift from film to digital. The Red system, a fully digital lightweight camera system, is cheap, by movie camera standards, and is therefore accessible to more and more filmmakers. And without the need for film and processing, anyone can make a moderately-priced movie.
But that doesn’t mean you can just take this new awesome format and go mucking about with my favorite old movies. Yes, please, transfer them to a new digital format so we don’t lose them in the first place! Please, save all the old movies from the 20s and 30s! I’m all for it.
But for the love of all that’s Hollywood, please stop trying to improve the movies as you transfer them. Leave them alone, or else we’re going to end up with this:
Because No Movie Discussion is Complete Without Mentioning Sean Bean
Janie and I tried to do the two-person thing where one person slides their arms under the armpits of another person and gestures while they talk. Janie was really bad at it, but Sunny decided she wanted to try. Have you ever seen Jim Carrey’s T-Rex impersonation in Series of Unfortunate Events? It looked a lot like that – short little stubby T-Rex arms. Doing T-Rex arms around this house is a bit in vogue occasionally, including the slightly awkward “high three” in lieu of a human high five, so the following was immediately emailed to Sarah — and possibly explains why the dinosaurs went extinct.
I Really Can’t Explain Why This Makes Me Laugh
Every single time I see it. It confirms my theory that ostriches are just funny.
Act VI: On This Defies Description
Mad skills? Mad genius? Just mad in general? You make the call.
Sorry—a little distracted this week, but that just makes for a more eclectic mix of random, right?
Bragging on my kids’ artwork has become so much easier now that their art teacher signed her students up at Artsonia‘s online gallery.
Naturally, tote bags and mugs and tee-shirts and all sorts of whatnot emblazoned with one’s kids’ deathless art are available through Artsonia, which seems a bit opportunistic, until you realize you’re set for grandparent gifts until they both graduate.
Plus, there’s actually free space on the fridge now, which is always a plus.
Here’s one Janie did—she’s heavily into cross-sections now, showing what people bugs are doing in the privacy of their own rooms cotton balls:
For her summer project, she did a huge city scape at Christmas, with at last twenty rooms of people living their lives—she even added in one that showed people holding their ears because the upstairs neighbor was jumping on the bed. Awesome stuff.
I’m pretty sure she’s going to draw comic books someday—maybe she’ll let me write them for her . . .
Sunny’s backgrounds are always full of abstract color—you can say this about the paintings of most five-year olds, I’m sure, but this is my five-year old and her placement of each block clearly shows a precocious grasp of composition and the blending of shades.
Or something—my talents don’t lie in the visual arts, but I know who what I like.
Best Dog Video Ever
Yeah, that’s a subjective statement, and this may actually be the only dog video I’ve seen since the advent of YouTube, but once you see it—or one of this dog’s other videos—I guarantee it’s going in your personal top five:
Watson: “Three seconds in, and that dog has already done more chores than your kids do in a week”
Janie: “Hey! That’s not—oh, wait, is that Jesse? Yeah, she’s right.”
The idea is to locate the word ‘look’ in whatever manuscript you have lying around (I may be paraphrasing here) and post the few previous and following paragraphs and then invite other authors to do the same.
Since I’m feeling a little protective of Pigeon and Wendy is most familiar with Full Metal Librarian (aka, the Drawer Novel That Won’t Die) anyway, I thought I’d post from the latter.
In this scene, Clyota, the narrator, has just been released on bail through the extra-legal machinations of a member of the cyborg Press Corps, who has attached himself to her in order, he claims, to investigate the truth behind her space-pilot mother’s posthumous conviction for mass murder. Cristina is her best friend and a paralegal, which is proving convenient:
“Do you know what the ALA is going to do to you for hacking our systems?” Damn—I had to get to a terminal and report to Sys Admin as soon as possible.
“What,” he said, “will the revocation of your bail do to you?”
Okay, so maybe an anonymous tip through my hard-wired Library Secure connection . . . which apparently wasn’t secure now, except physically—my terminal was locked up in my house under a Crime Scene Field.
I stomped my feet once or twice, more out of anger than to clean my boots of leftover slush, and got into the passenger side. The Pressman got into the back seat.
“What the hell just happened?” said Christina. “I didn’t think you’d get out tonight, not without counsel at your arraignment. I got Samantha Rhys-Hargaty to take your case.” From her tone, I’d won the legal eagle lottery. “She was heading out here when the trial hit the docket, so she wants to set up a meeting instead to discuss strategy and some quote, “amazing evidence,” unquote. What’s that about?”
I leaned back into the heated seat and let my shivers settle. “Someone hacked my Door and falsified the reports to make it look like I ordered the kill shot. He,” I hitched a thumb behind me, “showed the judge a recording of what really happened. Oh, and they can’t find the . . .” I yawned hard enough to crack my jaw, “da . . . the ambulance that took the Lieutenant. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. I’m tired. And hungry.”
“I’ll take you home. My home—you can’t go back to yours yet, it’s still sealed. Plus you’re missing a front door.” Christina glanced in the rearview mirror. “Where can I drop you?” she asked the Pressman, her tone conveying that doing so from a great height would pose no problem.
“Wherever,” he said, “she goeth.”
“The hell you will—”
“Oh, let him stay,” I said. “If nothing else, I owe him for getting me out of there tonight on bail. Actually, I owe him the credit, too.”
“One credit? Which judge did you pull?”
“Uh . . .” My mind was full of fuzz.
“Edward Rapton-Fitzgerald,” said a voice from behind me.
Christina’s mouth dropped open. ” Holy—do you know what they call him?”
A litany started up from the backseat. “Judge Death, the Executioner, the Ice Man, the Organ Grinder, the Harvester—”
“That’s nothing compared to what defense lawyers call him,” said Christina. “One freaking credit from the guy who once set bail at a kidney and half a liver. I’m actually impressed. Still,” she added, “I don’t want him,” she glared in the rearview mirror, “around my kids.”
I knew that Thomas and Sadie had been sent to their grandma’s for Chick Nite, but I was too tired to argue. “I understand. Take us to the Plaza Hotel.”
“No.” She gripped the wheel and took a deep breath. “No, fine, whatever. He can use the spare room.” We exchanged small smiles; the spare room is in the basement, and is a graveyard for sprung, lumpy furniture, dead exercise equipment, and tasteless gifts from relatives.
If you’re confused-and-or-interested—the story begins, in six sentence increments, here.
And now it’s time to tag some writer/bloggers in return—and if you think that this is my sneaky way of seeing more of their work, you would be right:
It’s Random It’s Thursday! It’s Random Thursday! And bacon!
Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s acquired during the week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as actually sitting down and creating genuine content.
Sometimes, though, there are themes. And bacon.
Bacon . . . it is EVERYWHERE
Having received a terrific bacon-centric response to yesterday’s post, I went home and took the family out for dinner last night. Not in celebration, but in the realization that a handful of dried spaghetti wasn’t going to feed the six of us.
Not only were there four signs hanging in the restaurant indicating that bacon is a great and good thing at any and all times,
they had a new, limited-edition Pie o’ the Month:
I don’t often experience descriptive wordfail, but this did the job.
1. Olde Worlde Clichéd European setting, costumes, and props (including cleavage)
2. Jeremy Renner
3. Major anachronistic weaponry
4. Strong female character who still needs to be rescued by her male counterpart
5. Jeremy Renner
6. Vampire Demon Witches
7. Midwestern American accents on half the cast
8. Plucky Wannabe Witch Killer
9. Missing children
7. Did I mention Jeremy Renner?
8. 3D glasses and a Suspension of Disbelief truss apparently issued at the door
9. A mental image of the producers of Van Helsing raising their eyebrows in polite disbelief
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am already mentally standing in line for this movie, jumping up and down like a little kid.
Make of that what you will.
Just when I thought I could take a bacon break, Janie found Sunny’s school library book and read it out loud in the car this morning the whole way.
Pig, by Jules Older, is a book of Amazing Pig facts about things like breeds and behaviors and that the size of the biggest pig ever (2,552 pounds in 1933, name of Big Bill), the number of pigs in Alaska (approximately 1,000 very cold porkers), and the strange fact that there are more pigs in Norway than people.
Or that’s what I remember. Except that pigs are one of the few animals that will stop eating when they are no longer hungry. Which means we should all eat like pigs. Pretty cool.
Oh, and that the Poland China pig—Big Bill’s breed—actually originated in Ohio. Sneaky, sneaky.
And yeah, I did ask Sunny to renew it so Janie could finish reading it on the way home . . . And to see if she could find Mr. Older’s Cow book, too.
(with perhaps a small ad—sorry)
I would skip Hansel and Gretel, Witch-Hunters for this.
No, you’re right—I lie. But if they open on the same day at the same time, this one wins.
In the interest of keeping Sarah’s sanity, but more importantly* getting her novel edited and submitted, I have been volunteered to be a guest columnist. So you’ll have to make do with a change of subject and my verbosity.
As I am not a writer, nor do I have kids, I’m afraid Sarah’s usual muse doesn’t quite work with me. I have three main interests — motorbikes, dogs, and movies. No one but a fellow gear head can tolerate my obsession with motors and speed, and writing about my dog is a wee bit boring even though she is the cutest little dog** you’ve ever seen.
So you’re stuck with my love affair with movies.
And yeah, I’m the total nerd that watches the commentary tracks and the making of specials and the special effects documentaries. I own a documentary about making a movie, and I don’t even own the movie that the documentary was about.
I guess it could kinda be about the writing — it’s a combination of the spoken word with visual images and music, more of a theatre on film thing. Clever writing with stunning visual images leads to a beautiful whole — much like clever writing with fabulous editing in the book world (see the Harry Potter series, you can tell when she got famous).
Anyway, since I’ve moved closer to my sister-in-law (perhaps closer than she wanted, as we’re now at that point where we’re finishing each other’s sentences and have been referred to once or twice as “that nice young lesbian couple down the way”), I consider it my sworn duty to catch her up on all the movies she missed while raising two kids. Turn about’s fair play — there is a small mountain of books I’m meant to read sitting on my dresser waiting my attention.
So if you’ve been wondering what Sarah and I have been up to, and want to play along, I’ve assembled this list of my favorites from movies that I have recently made her watch, or am planning to make her watch. Eventually. When the kids are asleep and we can turn the subtitles on — viewer discretion is advised if you’re playing at home. Remember, I’m a total gear head here, and we have an admittedly odd sense of humor and are impervious to cussing.
Favorite Nerd Moment: ‘We Don’t Hock the Trek’ from Fanboys. Fanboys is a fun little movie if you are a complete Star Wars nerd and can quote chapter and verse from Parts 4-6, or movies 1-3, depending on if you’re going in Lucas-time or chronological real-world time. Anyone besides me know the name of Chewbacca’s home planet?
(a little strong language, here, obviously)
(Sarah: I’d like to point out that the heroes couldn’t have won without the help of a certain Trek star. Just sayin’)
Favorite Squirm Moment from Sarah: My SIL is a delight to watch movies with*** because she watches a movie with her entire body.^ To date, my favorite squirm was accompanied by a pillow-face-cover, an “Oh, NO” and a squeal of embarrassed pain for our protagonist during the most cringingly awkward dance scene on film (it’s the one in Rocknrolla between One Two and Stella).
(Sarah: This . . . I just . . . Guh)
Honorable mention: Janie screaming with laughter and running from the room when Gru gets de-pantsed in Despicable Me.
Most Quoted/Sung Movie Moment In The House: also from Despicable Me, when the minions get to Best Buy, find the karaoke machine, and sing the wrong words to Copacabana.
Honorable Mention: Julie Andrews from the same movie, talking about her character — “She’s awful! She’s just awful!”
A very close Runner Up(Sarah: pun intended): One Two and Stella in Rocknrolla.^^
Favorite “Oh my god this is an animated movie and I’m having an emotional reaction to it” Scene: It’s in How to Tame Your Dragon. I defy you not to cry at the ending. I was in floods in the movie theatre. Seriously. It’s one of my all time favorite movies, period. It’s got the best acting in an animated movie I’ve ever seen, and Craig Ferguson as Gobber — how can you go wrong?
Favorite Character Ever Put to Film: Ooooo, I don’t think I can answer that. I love the humor of Cap’n Jack Sparrow, the honor-bound duty of Maximus, sweet bumbling Po, the father-son dynamic between Stoick and Hiccup, the horrible cringe-worthiness of Kirk Lazarus, Indiana Jones, the Cowardly Lion, the sheriff in Blazing Saddles, the ensemble of Full Monty… Sorry, can’t pinpoint it. So my final answer is Helena the Hussy of Horror — she was created by one of my best friends, I worked most of her early episodes, and what can I say, I’m a homer.
Favorite Scene: Sean Bean reading poetry in Equilibrium. Breathtaking. Gives me goose bumps just explaining it.^^^ It’s only a slightly above average movie, as movies go, but what a scene when taken in context of the whole.
Favorite Comic Book Movie: Sorry, Sarah, it doesn’t involve the Avengers, or Jeremy Renner’s arms (Sarah: Philistine). It’s The Losers, followed quickly by Captain America and Rocknrolla. And RED.+ And 300. And Iron Man. And Sin City. Then the Avengers. Aw crap, any comic book movie, okay?
Favorite Science Fiction Movie: We’ll mention Galaxy Quest in another category so the answer is Sunshine. You’ve probably never heard of it, and probably won’t ever see it but if you get the chance, do. It’s a mind-blowing film. Caveat: I haven’t seen Moon yet, and I do love me some Sam Rockwell.
Favorite Star Trek Movie of All Time: Galaxy Quest. (Think about it.)
Favorite Argument: The dude argument in Baseketball, which was featured here previously. I can’t think of any funny arguments on film outside of The Ref with Kevin Spacey – tell me some in the comments! (Sarah: What she said)
Favorite Made Sarah Laugh Out Loud So Hard We Almost Woke Up the Kids Moment:Hot Fuzz, it’s the “short cut” scene over the fences where the second-rate cop crashed through the fence. Or maybe it was anything to do with the swan, because Sarah grew up with geese. Actually there were several in Hot Fuzz — “look at his hoorse” — and I stand triumphant in this particular struggle. For the record, getting her to see Hot Fuzz involved begging and coercion, I had to watch four episodes of Leverage (Sarah: Hey, now you’re getting personal) to get her to agree — finally — to see it (and that was after another friend made fun of her for not seeing it yet).++
Favorite “Holy cow can this chase scene ever end?” Moment: sorry, it’s Rocknrolla again. There’s a fabulous slow motion chase on foot between two huge men well over six feet tall jogging on a rail road track, which then begins again when the second Russian shows up. Yes, it goes on forever – but that’s part of the humor.
Honorable Mention: the chase in the Bourne Redundancy (Sarah: Diss not the Renner, woman) even if it is on two wheels. Well, any chase scene in the Bourne series, really — they’re spectacular but they tend to drag.
Favorite Movie of All Time in Watson’s Book: no, it’s not a comic book movie or even science fiction, it’s The Insider with Russell Crowe and Al Pacino. Close seconds are Trainspotting,How to Tame Your Dragon, Sunshine, Gladiator, and (oh hell) just about anything with Russell Crowe in it.
There. I admitted it in public. The man can make me weep (Cinderella Man, Gladiator, LA Confidential, A Beautiful Mind), laugh (Sum of Us), be terrified (eek – Hando in Romper Stomper, LA Confidential; terrified for him in Heaven’s Burning), make you warm and fuzzy (Mystery Alaska, Silver Brumby, Sum of Us) and held me on the edge of my seat holding my breath for two and a half hours (The Insider).
My Favorite Movie You’ll Never See:Dear Frankie. Awesome movie about a mother who does the best she can to protect her son from the truth — which means she makes the choice to lie horribly to him every day. Brilliant subtle slow movie about how far you’d go to protect your kid.
Runner up:The Price of Milk, a little New Zealand gem about blanket thieves and cattle (I am SO not making that up).
Favorite Villain: Who doesn’t love a good villain? Most modern villains are too watered down for public consumption to be good – writers, take note. For modern non-animated movies, the nod goes to Max from The Losers. He’s deliciously slimy and I love to hate him. As for older animated movies, my vote goes for the Queen in Snow White and Cruella de Ville. And for the record, I was in college and had a nightmare about the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys — modern villains are just not scary.+++
Movie You’d Be Shocked to Know I Haven’t Seen Yet:The Hurt Locker. Still can’t believe I haven’t seen it. (Sarah: This may be the only Jeremy Renner film I haven’t seen . . . Guess I know what we’re doing this weekend)
Movie I’m Dying to See Next:Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. It’s a fairy tale. And it’s steampunk. I’m so in. And so’s Sarah – it features Jeremy Renner’s arms. (Sarah: Watch it—I’ll start rhapsodizing over your brother’s arms, and you know that weirds you out)
Honorable Mention:Ted, but I think I’m going to buy that one on the sale rack at Best Buy in about six months.
So there they are. Make up a category and let us know your favorites, or add your own to the list.
This is Watson signing off, just your average movie-loving gear head SIL that Sarah just can’t take anywhere . . .
(But I do, anyway—Thanks, Watson)
*No, my priorities are correct. This book is driving her nuttier than squirrel poo. (Sarah: You ain’t seen nothing yet, lady)
**Sarah: Little? She weighs a buck twenty and Sunny and walk right under her chin without ducking.
***If you discount her propensity to interrupt important dialogue by asking “tell me he’s not going to“ or “oh no tell me this works out in the end” at least ten times each movie. Seriously, the girl can’t stand not knowing what happens. (Sarah: I don’t do this in the theater. And it’s not my fault Hot Fuzz is so flippin’ wrong—awesome, but wrong)
^I was a little worried about my right arm when we went to see the latest Bourne. I do have a suspicious bruise on my forearm that I can’t explain… (Sarah: Lies. Lies and Slander. It was a Janie hug, and she knows it)
^^ Probably because of the back story. The sex scene was pages long and should have gone on for minutes according to Guy Riche’s original script (a long sex scene is 60 seconds or less, believe it or not). On the day of the shooting, Gerard Butler comes down with a terrifying throat infection that eventually puts him out for a week of filming (they had to rewrite the end of the film to use a stand-in; you can actually hear the difference in his voice in a few scenes). Thandie Newton is a smart cookie and said “ew, I’m not kissing that.” So they reworked the sex scene where neither of them are actually in bed together. Hysterical. And possibly a mean trick to play on the SIL — mention a sex scene with Gerard Butler and every girl’s heart gets racing (I might have coerced her into seeing the movie because of it) (Sarah: No, it was pretty much Tom Hardy). Instead it’s laugh out loud funny — and fully clothed. Seriously, the only action poor Gerard gets is being groped by Tom Hardy in my second favorite awkward dance scene, still in the same movie but during the credits (Sarah: Laughed so hard I cried).
^^^It should be noted that I could listen to Sean Bean reading the shipping report and probably have the same reaction, but I swear, it’s a poignant scene.
+Sarah’s: I’d like to remind someone that it took me two months to get to you watch this movie.
++Sarah: In my defense, I thought it was like Reno-911, which is right up there with Girls Gone Wild in my Death First list—if she’d started out telling me that Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman were in it . . .
+++ Speaking of: Rent the full version of The Wizard of Oz and watch the first 30 minutes. If you don’t start shouting “stranger danger! stranger danger!” at Dorothy and get the heaving squickies when the traveling professor invites her into his wagon, you need to read more of the newspaper and stop parking next to vans. Seriously.