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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) – If you’re looking for a holiday of a different kind, try this Finnish Christmas tale of the original Santa Claus. He’s not as kindly and jolly as the later stories claim, and you should really watch out for his elves. A December archaeological dig in the outer regions of Finland, on the Russian border, unearths something that should have best stayed hidden, and it’s up to one studious and determined little boy and his father (a butcher) to ensure that their tiny community doesn’t lose all its children by Christmas morning. Don’t swear, don’t drink, and wash behind your ears, or else, watch out! An instant holiday classic that I’m putting on my Christmas list.

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Short Takes – Fall Movie Division

A quick rundown on some of the movies I’ve seen in this fall. Short takes inspired by the Movie Blog method.

The Master – Impressive performances from the two main actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix), and a very scary and intense Amy Adams. This one offers lots of fodder for film school discussions, parsing symbolism etc., but the further away I get from it, the more its initial impact fades for me.

Seven Psychopaths – Despite a great movie-stealing performance by Sam Rockwell, this one struck me as half-baked, with some scenes that work and others just not quite gelling. There are some funny lines, and some very clever meta stuff, but merely having a character acknowledge the awful treatment of female characters in movies such as this one does not absolve you of trying to actually do better on that score. Even with a great Christopher Walken turn, this one doesn’t quite come together.

Looper – Loved it. It’s fun, tense, with great attention to detail in set design and look, and fabulous secondary characters. There are real stakes, difficult moral questions, and a very innovative use of time travel. Highly recommended.

Argo – Seems to be widely considered a favorite. It’s a solid piece of entertainment, fun and tense in all the right places.

End of Watch – I could have kept watching Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena for several more hours.  Fantastic character work, which looks effortless but packs a punch; these guys seem like real people, and the movie takes its time to build the world they inhabit.

Pitch Perfect – This movie delivered exactly what I wanted from it. So much fun. Plus, college a capella. Just put this one on your rental list already.

Under My Skin

I had a post all lined up about Friday’s soul-thawing flirt with spring weather, the endless clear blue sky, so high that you could finally stop slouching under winter’s cast-iron 5-foot ceiling and stand up straight with a sigh of relief. The birds heralding the changing season, fat sparrows frolicking in the bare but budding branches, gigantic robins, red breast puffed, hunting grubs or worms or new life. Berries bursting red from under the season-spanning dark greens of bushes that love both winter and spring – all those lovely things you notice on the first day of real sunshine when hope breaks though at last and you feel winter might end (never mind that it almost didn’t really start this time around). Continue reading

Dear Academy

My, how time flies. Although, not so much when you’re watching the Oscars. Every year, I tell myself that it’s really not necessary for me to actually watch the Academy Awards, that the show is boring, too long, not really that important, and half the time they get it wrong anyway. And every year, I find myself staggering bleary-eyed into work on Monday morning after a very late Sunday night spent groaning at the TV. This year, same thing. I am still tired and my eyes are like sandpaper, thanks to the endless, endless show. And my apparent compulsion to watch it, even when I totally disagree with the results and am bored by all those montages and songs. Those songs. Dear John. Continue reading