The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (IMDB) was a bit of a surprise movie for me.  It showed up in several podcasts I listen to – one of which was The Adam Sandcast (Apple Podcasts), so my first thought that this was another Adam Sandler Netflix low-effort vehicle.

But then I saw it pop up on Filmspotting (Filmspotting.net).  At the time, I had no clue that this was a film directed by Noah Baumbach, so this was my first clue that The Meyerowitz Stories had some pedigree behind it.  Filmspotting usually thumbs its nose at the Adam Sandler Netflix films, so to give it some attention came out of the blue for me.

Seeing it on one of the longer running film review podcasts sealed the deal – I was going to watch the movie anyway, but I made a concerted effort to watch it sooner than later so I could properly enjoy the podcasts.  My next wave of surprise was at how good the movie was.

I’d have to say that Dustin Hoffman’s elder, partially dysfunctional Harold Meyerowitz was my favourite part of the movie.  The next favourite part was that you could see pieces of him in each of his three children (played by Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel).  I thought it was great how you could tell that these were his kids in terms of personality, if not looks.

The story is rather straightforward, so not much to write home about there.  It’s more about the characters in the movie and how they react to what’s going on.  It was nice to see Sandler give a bit more of a nuanced performance than his comedy stylings, though you could see bits of his comedy dip into the role (in a good way).

I REALLY liked how Baumbach plays with the screen; many times characters will be cut off mid-sentence, and often characters will pop in and out of the frame during a scene.  I won’t try to delve too deeply into analyzing the use of these cuts and framing devices, but I feel like it helped to serve the nature of some of the characters.

I definitely recommend this one.  It’s not an Adam Sandler movie, it’s just A Movie.  Has me thinking it’s about time I re-visit a few other “artsy” films I haven’t seen in a long time.

Podcast Recommendation: Filmspotting #651

I’m about a week behind, but just recommending the 651st episode of FilmSpotting: American Made / Top 5 Tom Cruise Performances

I find myself skipping FilmSpotting more than I used to (they’re just really long – I don’t always have time to listen to them apart from Massacre Theatre), but this was a really good episode.  Great discussion, and you’ll probably get a long list of movies you need to watch out of this.

New on Netflix in October (Canada)

I was a holdout of Netflix for a long time, but with the demise of Shomi last November, I finally bit the bullet.  Most months I don’t even pay for it out of pocket money, using cash earned through SwagBucks.  So I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

Here’s the full list I’m reading from, courtesy of MobileSyrup.  Go ahead and click, I’ll wait for you to come back for my highlights.   Note that this list is for Canada only – I have no idea what’s coming in other regions.

My List

First and foremost, Stranger Things 2 is at the top of my list, coming October 27th – just in time for Halloween!  The trailer for it looks pretty sweet, too; you can find that on YouTube.

Goosebumps – I don’t think this movie got very good reviews, but in keeping with the Halloween theme for October I think it’s worth a watch and worthy of going onto My List.

Wheelman’s description makes it seem very much like it’s a B movie dressed up with some moderately high production value.  I don’t know, it sounds like it could be worth watching on a Saturday afternoon.

That’s about it for my list of new things to watch; but apparently after October 9th, Mad Max: Fury Road is going by the wayside.  I’ll have to find some time to watch that one, since I still haven’t gotten around to it.  Interestingly, Fellowship of the Ring is leaving Netflix, but NOT The Two Towers or Return of the King.

Historical Inaccuracies in Hidden Figures

I missed the boat when Hidden Figures was first in theatres, and finally caught up with it when I picked up the Blu-Ray in July.  I really liked the movie!  The cast was really good, and even though I recognized a lot of the bigger names, they took a back seat to the persona of the characters they were playing.

One of the bigger nitpicks in this movie – and 2012’s Argo – is that it’s historically inaccurate.  Critics of the film complain that in Hidden Figures, it’s silly to show Katherine Johnson racing the clock to complete some calculations so that John Glenn’s historic flight can take place.  Other complaints were that the issue of segregated bathrooms was partially invented by the movie to create a challenge.

I’m okay with all of that.  I am aware that I am watching a movie, which has to contain certain elements in order to function as a movie.  I feel that the purpose of movies such as this are to show people an overview of what happened – as long as they are sticking mostly to the facts of the life they’re telling, it’s understandable they take some liberties.  One of the functions – at least that’s my belief – is that they jump start curiosity and get people to look up the full story.

That’s exactly what I do, almost every time I watch a movie based on actual events.  I look up what really happened.  I don’t mind learning about several inaccuracies along the way.  It’s only really a problem if the movie creates falsehoods that obscure the real story.  In writing that, I realize that technically Hidden Figures and Argo create some falsehoods – but the difference is that they do so to raise tension for a story, but are still telling the underlying truth.

I can think of similar movies that probably have many historical inaccuracies, but still work.  Apollo 13, for one.  42.  The Blind Side.  Moneyball.  Coach Carter.  The Martian.  (I kid).  If you look up the events they’re based on, you often find paragraphs that go something like, “In the movie, this event happened, but in reality…”

Why is this a problem?  A lot of these movies are made for a dual purpose – entertainment as well as education.  But in order to get made, they need to bring in money, so they need to bend the truth a little bit in order to be successful.

There will always be little embellishments of the truth in movies based on true events – life is never as perfect as a 3-act movie will have you believe.  Just sit back, enjoy it, and then relish in the fun of reading about the true events afterward.

Favourite 80’s Mythical Monster Movies

I watched 1984’s Splash (starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy) last weekend, finally crossing that comedy off my list.  It got me thinking about my favourite movies growing up, and a lot of them had the same theme: mythical monsters.

I’m not sure if there’s actually a genre for these movies, but this fits best as far as I can tell.  If you weren’t familiar with Splash before, it’s about a man searching for love who finds it in the form of a mermaid, temporarily granted legs for a short pe

riod.

 

We had a lot of movies taped off TV growing up, and one of the tapes that got repeat views was a little-known movie called Bigfoot.  It was one of ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney” presentations, but other than that, until looking it up on IMDB, I knew nothing about it.  I assumed it was either made for TV or had a small theatrical release – apparently it was part of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”.

Bigfoot (1987)
Bigfoot (1987)

This movie had some pretty great production value for a made-for-TV movie, if you ask me.  Sure, Harry and the Hendersons is probably the most recognized Sasquatch film out there from the 80’s, but Bigfoot is my favourite.  It’s got comedy moments and even a little bit of suspense.  If you’re young enough, it can even be scary at times.

Some other mythical monster movies I remember watching – Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (which I should re-visit, one day).  Actually, that’s about all I remember.  What are some other good ones from the 80s?

Late to the Fan Party

I remember when I was younger I was introduced to two franchises with zero prior knowledge: Harry Potter, and The X-Files.  Back in 2001 when The Philosopher’s Stone was released in theatres, I had zero knowledge of the franchise – I simply never grew up reading those books.  I guess it just wasn’t on my radar.

Same thing with the X-Files – my friends in high school got me watching it in order to start a website – and we started with 8th season, ostensibly the worst of the series, the One Without Mulder.  I went into it without any knowledge of it beyond remembering being scared of an earlier episode that may or may not have something to do with cockroaches – I’m really not sure at this point, because I don’t think I’ve watched it since.

The point I’m trying to get to is that the experience of going into these franchises blind was pretty great.  Since then I’ve read all of the HP books, seen the films, and watched quite a few X-Files episodes.  But my first experiences with these franchises were without any previous info and my friends got to laugh at me at some of my questions and observations.  It was fun!

I miss that feeling.  It’s hard to re-create too, especially since there are references to just about every major franchise (literary or visual) online every day.  And I listen to a lot of pop culture podcasts, so somehow, somewhere, little nuggets find their way into my head and just sit in the back of my mind.

I almost had that feeling with Game of Thrones, but it’s not a show I’ve watched with other people.  I share the ‘new’ experience with David Chen on the podcast A Cast of Kings, but that’s the closest I’ve come.  But the feeling of experiencing a new series of books or TV or film isn’t the same thing I’m referring to; it’s hard to describe.

I’ll try to give an example: I really want to read the James A. Corey novels starting with Leviathan Wakes; there’s a TV series that started last year called The Expanse that I’d watch after as well.  But I don’t have anyone in my circle of friends to watch with or have them watch my mind explode at whatever plot twists may turn up.  Luckily, I still know nothing about the series, so there’s still a chance I could share that experience through this blog.

What series or franchise did you discover blind that you ended up enjoying?  What about one that you absolutely hated despite hearing it being talked up a lot?

Coming up this Thursday: Monthly Podcast Update 

Top Baseball Movies

The World Baseball Classic has officially started, and Spring Training has been underway for weeks now.  I can’t think of a better time to talk about my personal top baseball movies.

Other than being about baseball, there’s no real criteria for how I’ve ranked these.  They range from comedy to drama, and the genre doesn’t really affect how much I like the film.

Moneyball

I read the book well before the movie was announced; I think I wasn’t the only one just a little bit skeptical of whether or not an adaptation would be successful.  A lot of liberties were taken to be sure, but the movie works.  The characters are great and visually, it looks gorgeous.  You can’t help but be romantic about baseball.

Major League I & II

I watched these out of order, first seeing Major League II with my brother in a hotel room when it came on TV.  I understood none of the jokes that weren’t obvious, but years later I re-watch both of these films often.

Field of Dreams

You could probably group this one thematically with Moneyball if you were planning a baseball movie marathon.  Everyone remembers “If you build it, they will come” and it’s pretty much a movie being entirely romantic about baseball.

A League of Their Own

“There’s no crying in baseball!”  Another one I watched as a kid, and another one where some of the jokes went over my head.  A fantastic telling of the women that played baseball during the war.  Did not realize until much later in life that Bill Pullman (aka Lone Star) was in this film.

Angels in the Outfield

I’ve watched this movie countless times, and even today it holds up.  I recently discovered that there was actually an earlier black & white film of the same name that centered around the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I have yet to track it down, but would love to watch it.

42

I’ve got a few issues with this movie, but overall I think it’s great.  The actors buy in 100%, except for Harrison Ford, who buys in 120%.

Trouble With the Curve

This isn’t the greatest movie on the list, but has its charm.  Clint Eastwood plays an aging baseball scout going on One Last Road Trip with his daughter.  Justin Timberlake is also in this for some reason?  The funny thing about this movie is that it feels like a direct response from the baseball scouting world against Moneyball, where the villains of the movie rely solely on computer data and analysis instead of the good old eye test.

Mr. Baseball

I watched this one recently – I’d never seen it, even though we had it recorded on VHS.  I thought it was a really great “clash of cultures” film that happened to be about baseball.

Bull Durham

I think I’ve only watched this once, but it’s definitely a good film.  I need to mark this one down for a re-watch.

Rookie of the Year

The prevailing memory of this baseball movie for me is renting it (on VHS, remember, I’m 33) for a sleepover party when I was 9 or 10.  Daniel Stern gets his shot at putting in 120% in this one.  Hot ice!

Basketball

Not technically a baseball movie in the literal sense, it is however a spiritual baseball movie.  From the creators of South Park, this is a great one to watch that picks on some of the weirder aspects of sports.

Bad News Bears(remake)

This remake wasn’t all that great – it was basically Billy Bob Thornton picking up his Bad Santa role and plopping it into the timeless kids movie classic.  But for what it is, it’s not bad.  It earns a spot on my list, if only because I watched it.

 

What’s your favourite baseball movie?  Or sports movie in general?  

 

 

Filmspotting Madness 2017: Pantheon Challenge

One of the long running podcasts I listen to is Filmspotting. The brief summary is that two hosts review films, but that’s not germane to this post.

In the past few years, they’ve run what’s known as Filmspotting Madness, their take on the popular March Madness NCAA Basketball tournament. They’ve pit actors, directors, and films against each other to determine the last one standing. I don’t normally take part, but this year I will.

This year, they are putting movies that are in the Pantheon against each other. The Pantheon is basically the “hall of fame” of movies for Filmspotting. 

There are some pretty tough choices in the brackets, and some of them are Oscar Best Picture winners too (oh yeah, that’s on tonight!). It might even inspire a movie night playlist if you’re not a fan of watching the Oscars. 

Latest Snoke Theory

I’ll just leave this here.