Saturday, March 17, 2018

Streaming Annihilation, paying for Lady Bird

It's been a busy week involving various deadlines, so I haven't had a chance to catch you up on two bits of relevant personal movie news. Well, relevant by the standards of this blog, anyway. So I'm going to crank both of them out now.

Both involve watching movies I very much wanted to see, in ways I didn't really want to see them.

The first was on Monday, when Alex Garland's Annihilation finally became available to international viewers on Netflix.

It was a day I had been looking forward to on face value for some time. There was a while when I had been lumping together Mute and Annihilation as similar films I was anticipating about similarly, and when they both were given distribution by Netflix (in Australia) anyway, it cemented them further in my mind. Mute started getting terrible reviews, reviews with which I concur (see here), and I thought word-of-mouth for Annihilation was bad too at first. But then I started to hear the raves for Garland's sophomore effort after Ex Machina, and the appetite was whetted to unbearable levels -- especially unbearable because the movie came out three weeks ago in the U.S., and my various film outlets have been alive with chatter about it that I've had to avoid.

My desire was only to get my hands on the movie, and how didn't exactly matter. I mourned in a general sense that it would only be available on the small screen, though of course that had a certain novelty to it as well. I don't want to compare these levels of anticipation, because they wouldn't be accurate, but it would be like if someone told that you that a new Star Wars movie was suddenly going to be streaming. You'd wish you could see it in large scale, but you'd still be awash in a certain kind of thrill about it being available for free on your TV.

I also planned to review the movie for ReelGood (see here), so I thought I'd see if I could "sneak it in" before March 12 actually arrived. Even though I'm in one of the earliest time zones, I went fishing for it Sunday night, to no avail.

And then when I got home from work on Monday at about 5:45 -- nearly 18 hours into March 12 -- it still wasn't there. Stupid Netflix.

I immediately went to my Flickcharters Facebook group, where I knew various international viewers would be plenty awake and also trying to watch Annihilation, possibly also frustrated by this same lack of availability. Within minutes a couple chimed in that it was appearing where they were, and lo and behold, it turned out it dropped at 6 p.m. on March 12th. If Netflix is trying to emulate other film delivery methods, it should know that movies are available starting at about 11 a.m. on the day of their release in time for the day's first matinees -- or even midnight if they are highly anticipated.

Anyway, my wife and I did get to watch it that night as planned, and I immediately realized it was something I should be seeing on the big screen. From the opening moments I was reminded of the type of visual stylist Garland showed us in Ex Machina, and even though that had just about peak visual style, Annihilation might have been an improvement on it. I just think of those opening shots of the asteroid breaking Earth's atmosphere and striking the base of that lighthouse. Gorgeous.

I spent most of the rest of the movie trying to convince myself I was loving it more than I actually was. I was loving it a fair bit, but by the end I had to admit I merely liked it a lot. My mind was blown for individual moments here and there, and as I hinted at in my review, I don't know if I've seen something more frightening recently than the sounds of a dying woman coming out of a mutant bear's mouth. (Spoilers.) In the end, though, it felt like a lot of interesting strands, ideas and individual moments that don't totally coalesce -- though they certainly could on a second viewing. Which Netflix will easily enable me to have.

Thursday night it was another viewing with my wife, this time out in the theater for the first time in as long as either of us could remember. Seriously, is it possible that the last movie we saw together in the theater, just the two of us, was Selma? It might be.

The kids' grandparents are in town right now, and they wanted to give us a date night. What better date night than to finally, finally, FINALLY see Lady Bird?

But it wasn't easy, as I might have expected from a month of shenanigans related to seeing this movie following its release, some caused by me, some out of my control. A month to the day, in fact. (And it being February to March, that month was also exactly four weeks.)

We were supposed to go to a 6:45 showing at the Sun in Yarraville, and we even thought we might grab a quick bite to eat or at least a drink beforehand. But then the grandparents got delayed on their way back from the city, where they'd spent the day, and didn't arrive until just after 6. That was just him, and not her -- she had to go back to pick something up from their house, about a kilometer away from us, in order to make the dinner. So I went to pick her up as well, something they didn't need me to do, but accepted once I offered.

I immediately realized I'd been a fool to offer it. The drive between our house and theirs is under ten minutes round trip, but that trip is usually made just after 8 o'clock, when we've been delivering them home for the night. At just after 6, I was slogging through traffic, and it was closer to 20 minutes than ten.

As I realized I'd probably cost us Lady Bird, I went on my phone in traffic to research alternatives and found that -- weirdly enough -- there wasn't a 6:45 showing at the Sun. There was every other night in the next week, and there had been a 4:30 show that I could see there, meaning that it wasn't just that the 6:45 wasn't appearing because it was too late to buy tickets for it. Showtimes that had already passed were still displaying. This happens sometimes in Australia. Posted showtimes disappear mysteriously, as if they'd never been there.

So getting back to the house, I found myself proposing alternatives to my wife like Game Night and Tomb Raider. She proposed the alternative that we go to a different theater to see Lady Bird.

Indeed, it was playing at 7:10 at Cinema Nova, and we could still make that. But I knew they wouldn't let me get in on my critics card after the first two weeks, a standard the Sun does not adopt. So I would have to -- gasp -- pay if we wanted to see Lady Bird.

That seemed like the least of our problems though. We got caught in awful traffic on the original route we'd chosen, traffic that would have spelled doom for our showtime if I hadn't heeded my wife's suggestion of forging a different route. I usually take the "first thought, best thought" approach to traffic and think I'll make it worse for myself if I change horses midstream, but darn it if she wasn't right. The other path was almost obstacle free, and we were looking for a parking space by 7 p.m.

The final obstacle in my month-long quest to see Lady Bird came when we found our spot. It was in a permit parking area, but that's okay -- it's the neighborhood where the kids' Australian grandfather lives, so we have single-use parking passes in our glove compartment at all times. The thing about these single-use passes is that they need to guarantee they are only used a single time, so you have to write the date on them in pen. A pen we did not have.

It's right next to a school, so I quickly scooted down the footpath (sidewalk) to see if I could find a lost writing implement, not even considering that a pencil would not suffice. My wife did more or less the same. We both came up empty, and the bar on the corner was not open to pop in to ask someone for help. It was becoming a calculation of how far do we have to walk to accomplish this vs. how much time do we have before the movie starts when a woman walked by who turned out to be our savior. I always like the moment when the look of horror on a person's face softens once they realize you are only asking to use their pen for ten seconds.

The clerk at the ticket booth was someone I didn't recognize, so I made a final attempt to get in to Lady Bird for free, feigning ignorance of the two-week rule. He sniffed me out (without prejudice) but did give me an industry concession. So it was "only" $18 rather than the usual $21.

It seemed almost surreal that I was actually finally seeing the final best picture nominee of 2017, but here I was.

And my reaction was very similar to Annihilation. I spent most of the time convincing myself that I was loving it more than I actually was. Though I think, especially with the benefit of a few more days of hindsight, that I probably do come a bit closer to loving it than loving Annihilation. Both are still only four-star movies for me, and I finally answered the question of whether Lady Bird would have been a candidate for my top ten (top 20 maybe). But Lady Bird is very solid and has a couple unforgettable scenes, plus that magnetic performance by Saoirse Ronan, a personal favorite of mine. If you want a full review of a movie that's already been reviewed by everyone five months ago, you've come to the wrong place.

Now I can truly put the business of 2017 behind me and go see Tomb Raider.

1 comment:

Jaxon Bieber said...

I was surprised at how much I liked this lovely film. I like that it doesn't spoon feed the audience by trying to explain everything, tie everything in a neat package, or try to manipulate you to feel a certain way about a character. All the acting is superb, but Laurie Metcalf is a stand out. I appreciate the script and directing - it isn't slick and overproduced, but it's also not choppy and confusing. it felt like it duplicated a teenager's sense of things.
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