Sunday, February 16, 2014

A week of judgment comes to a close

This past week I participated in a fun activity organized by Hannah Keefer on her blog Hannah and Her Movies. It was actually more organized on Facebook, with her blog playing a co-sponsorship role.

Hannah decided to do something really ambitious this year: She's watching one movie per day. That in itself is not the part that takes a lot of coordination. She's leaving 71% of the movies she watches (each of the weekday movies) up to her friends. Or in my case, acquaintances she met through the Flickchart discussion group. (You could call us friends, because we have quite a friendly interaction, but I have never met her in person.)

So she put the call out for interested parties to claim a week, and each person would then give her one title for each weeknight of that week. The initial response was overwhelming, so I didn't even have one of the 52 spots at first. However, someone dropped out, so this alternate became a full-fledged curator. I was assigned the week of February 10th to 14th, and had her a list of five within minutes.

(Do I sound like a guy who sits around, just waiting for the opportunity to recommend movies to people? Nah.)

Hannah's been calling this Hannah's Movie Challenge Adventure 2014, and she has a Facebook group set up to join together the people who are participating, and as kind of a home base for the project. That's where we have most of the discussion about the movies she's seeing, but she does also write about each on Hannah and Her Movies. And yes, I do consider it a shame that people seem to be more interested in having lively film discussions through Facebook groups than through the comments sections of blogs. :-)

Here are the movies I chose, and here were her responses to them:

Monday, February 10th: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006, Tom Tykwer)

See what I've written about this movie here.

What Hannah said on Facebook: "Well, dang. This was a good start to Vance's week. A crazy, almost fantasy-esque serial killer movie with an incredible soundtrack and a great story. I loved it, though I had to think about it for a little while after it ended to decide whether I did or not."

Star rating (out of 5) she gave on her blog: 4.5

My comment: I was riding high at this point. Perfume is one of my favorite movies to share with people. No one I've recommended it to hasn't liked it.

Tuesday, February 11th: Agora (2009, Alejandro Amenabar)

See what I've written about this movie here and here.

What Hannah said on Facebook: "Another movie I knew almost nothing about and ended up really enjoying. It had kind of unusual subject matter, like Perfume did yesterday -- I'm not sure I can think of another movie I've seen about a female philosopher. Nice pick."

Star rating (out of 5) she gave on her blog: 4

My comment: Pretty pleased with that, especially since Agora has not been a hit with everyone to whom I recommended it. It does feel a bit more like my movie than Perfume, since it's significantly more obscure. 

Wednesday, February 12th: What Maisie Knew (2013, Scott McGehee & David Siegel)

See what I've written about this movie here and here

What Hannah said on Facebook: "The movies this week appear to be losing a half a rating every day... From 4.5 to 4 to 3.5. Hmm. But I still liked this one. The interactions in the movie felt very real, even if it was sometimes difficult to watch because of that."

Star rating (out of 5) she gave on her blog: 3.5

My comment: It didn't occur to me that yeah, not everyone wants to watch warring exes yell at each other about what they want to do -- or not do -- with their daughter. Glad Hannah liked it enough to give it a half-star higher than merely thumbs up.

Thursday, February 13th: Bound (1996, Larry & Andy Wachowski)

See what I've written about this movie here.

What Hannah said on Facebook: "Unfortunately, this one broke Vance's streak of movies I really enjoyed. It's tough for me to really care about crime movies, though I did enjoy the characters and watching them interact."

Star rating (out of 5) she gave on her blog: 2

My comment: That's a shame. Bound is another personal favorite to recommend, and no one's ever turned their nose up at it to this extent. However, if she doesn't like the genre, she doesn't like the genre. Not a lot a person can do about that.

Friday, February 14th: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008, Nick Stoller)

See what I've written about this movie here and here.

What Hannah said on Facebook: "And my final movie of the week, which I found both funny and heartwarming. I'm glad Vance picked this one, as I'd been meaning to get around to it for a really long time. I had a bunch more written here, but then I realized it was pretty much just all the same thing I said in the review, so if you want to know more, you can read that."

Star rating (out of 5) she gave on her blog: 4

My comment: I figured this would end the week on a winning note. For the record, I didn't intentionally pick this for Hannah and her husband to watch on Valentine's Day, but I'm glad it worked out that way.


Note: You may notice that many of my picks are recent. In fact, four of the five came out in the last eight years. Well, Hannah is in her twenties, and I gambled on her liking new things better. That said, I also know she's a fan of musicals, and those had their heyday decades ago. 

It's funny that I ended up dwelling on her dislike of Bound, because really, four out of five is pretty darn good. The five movies had an average of 3.6 stars for her, which means I certainly didn't waste her time this week. And yet we tend to be so sure that the movies we love are great, that it can be an oddly personal kind of blow when someone doesn't like even one of them.

The competitor in me was a tad disappointed, too, since Hannah is keeping track of who has made the best picks for her by computing the average Flickchart position of the new movies she's ranked. One guy (another from the Flickchart Facebook discussion group) already has me beat with a slightly higher average, and it's only February. Oh well, I'll shoot for finishing in the top ten.

Overall, this was incredibly fun. I really looked forward to Hannah's daily posts (which would arrive in my inbox around 4:15 p.m. my time), with her latest assessment of a movie I'd suggested. I guess it felt kind of like when someone asks you to make them a mix. "What? You want me to show you what I think is awesome? Sure!"

And the truth is, Hannah thought most of the things I thought were awesome, were awesome, too.



Travis McClain said...

I, too, am a participant. My week isn't until May. I've been following everything, and I've wanted to sync up with her calendar for some viewings but I've failed to do so yet.

Of your picks, I was keenest to see what she thought of Bound (because I know it's so dear to you) and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which probably would have been one of my picks if it had gone unclaimed by then).

I've been brainstorming my group. I'm not sure that I would put whatever my Bound is out there like you did. I tip my hat to you for putting that out there. In the grand scheme of things, it's not all that important, but you're right; there's a risk of a very specific and personal kind of rejection-by-proxy.

I'll also confess that I've been a bit mindful of the sort of friendly competition among us and I want to do a better job besting everyone else at picking movies that Hannah will love. For that reason, I've ruled out almost every Ingmar Bergman film, though Smiles of a Summer Night is still a candidate.

Perfume has been on my To See list since it came out. I very nearly plucked it from the $5 DVD bin at Walmart several times, but for one reason or another never did. Your other picks were movies that weren't even on my radar, but they are now. Agora especially sounds like a movie I need to have already seen.

Vancetastic said...

I am envious that you still have it ahead of you.

I honestly just came up with my choices in five minutes after cross-referencing a number of titles I thought of right away with titles that she had on the list of movies she's already seen. However, I wonder what it would be like to prepare for it truly strategically, like you were preparing for a fantasy baseball draft or something -- preparing your list in order to win. Certainly, you'd come up with some great choices (a terrific musical that she hasn't somehow already seen, for example), but you'd probably overthink the appropriateness of others and get it totally wrong. Anyway, I'm eager to see how you do.

See Perfume. You won't be sorry. I have yet to meet someone who had bad things to say about it, though I know those people do exist. The only consistent complaint is people think that Dustin Hoffman kind of sticks out. Since I love the film in toto, I don't agree.

I think I would have felt something of a sting if she hadn't liked any of the films, but I guess Bound particularly surprised me because I thought its plot was sufficiently clever to win anyone over. I don't love westerns, but show me a truly superior one and I will still love it. I think for a true film fan, a person's feelings about a particular genre has more to do with how they feel about an average entry in that genre, not a great one. A great film is a great film, no matter the genre.

Travis McClain said...

Make no bones about it; I'm in it to win it! I want to be crowned Best Movie Picker of All-Time in the History of Movie Pickers. I've got a running list of candidates and I've been editing it as she's posted her reactions to different things. Her blog and Flickchart are also helpful to me.

As for genre prejudice, I can see both sides. Like you, I can be won over by greatness regardless of its form. However, there are also some innate turn-offs that I have that are going to be very difficult for any film to overcome. I can appreciate how if those turn-offs are the kinds of things that are conventions for an entire genre, that it would be difficult for said genre to successfully engage someone.

I know, for instance, that Hannah dislikes spy movies. At first, I thought, "Well, maybe she just thinks of them as ridiculous Roger Moore Bond flicks", which I could understand not endearing someone to the genre. But then a couple years ago, she panned Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a spot-on adaptation of John le Carre's masterpiece that's the entire antithesis of the Moore Bonds. So she's seen as truly great a spy movie as she's going to, and it still failed to win her over.

That's been an area of great consideration for me. As a spy movie fan, I'm tempted to try to prove that I can find the exception that she enjoys. I'm still sussing out precisely what it is that doesn't work for her about them, though. Once I do, that should help with the other selections as well.

Not that it matters. I'm pretty sure Jandy is gonna smoke all of us at this anyway.