Friday, May 18, 2018

Honoring Kidder and surfacing from the bottom

I probably wouldn’t have watched Superman II Wednesday night only to celebrate the life of Margot Kidder. Although I cherished her on some level, this was really the only movie I much remember her from, as I only saw the original Superman like three times (one of which was in the past few years) and I only just saw The Amityville Horror last year for the first time. I’d memorialized her on the blog on Wednesday and that was probably enough.

But there was also an interest in surfacing Superman II from the bottom of my Letterboxd list for rewatched movies.

I’ll explain.

I’ve kept track of my movie viewings for a long time, but one of the most recent was starting to make note of when I re-watched a movie. That started about 12 years ago, in July of 2006. The first re-watch I recorded was Ghostbusters. I don’t know why Ghostbusters prompted me to start recording rewatches, or whether I made the decision and Ghostbusters happened to be the first one I saw after that. But either way, I’ve consistently kept track of every movie I’ve rewatched since then.

They say the flesh is weak, but so is the Microsoft Word file, even though I’m an avid backer upper. So when I started on Letterboxd maybe seven years ago, I decided to transcribe my list of rewatches over there, and kept adding any rewatch in both locations. Call it a cloud backup of sorts. I’d put the date watched in the notes field, so that information was preserved too.

When you add new movies to a list on Letterboxd, they automatically go to the end of the list. I might be able to tweak that but I’ve never figured out how. The list was more interesting to me, though, with the newest entries first. So each time I add a new movie, I change its number in the list from 400-whatever to #1, then it jumps to the top. (I’ve rewatched over 650 movies, but about 200 of them were before I started keeping track of rewatches, and I have not watched them since so they aren’t on this list.) This means that the same movie is always last.

For a long time that was Ghostbusters. Every time I moved the newest addition to the top, I’d have to first go down and look at the bottom and see Ghostbusters there.

But then I watched Ghostbusters again in 2016. And because no movie can appear in a Letterboxd list more than once, it was moved to the top, with the latest rewatch date added to the existing rewatch date.

The new last film on the list? Superman II.

It’s been that way for nearly two years, and because I like to consider very inconsequential things (which offers an explanation for this entire post), I had been idly wondering when I would give Superman II another watch and surface it from the bottom of this list.

And that brings you up to Wednesday night.

Now that I’ve watched it again, the new last film on the list could stand awhile, unless I artificially watch it just for the purpose of surfacing it. That movie is The Matador, and though that’s a film I like quite a bit, a third viewing is not really fighting its way into existence. I may soon surface the second-to-last movie on the list, though. That’s Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46, which I own and which I have been on the verge of popping into the DVD player for some time now.

I suppose I should actually devote some of this post to Kidder and Superman II, shouldn’t I?

I did appreciate Kidder in this movie, though I think I realized that I had slightly exaggerated just how charmed I am by her here. Although this is a childhood favorite that I thought was impervious to reevaluation upon multiple viewings, I had a number of small criticisms of the movie. I wouldn’t say that Kidder or her performance was one of them, though I didn’t feel the pang of nostalgia and sorrow I expected to feel when I watched it – that I feel when I watch Star Wars and see Carrie Fisher, for example. Ultimately it makes sense that Fisher would have had more of a sway over me than Kidder did, as she appeared in three beloved movies to Kidder’s one. The sense of sorrow is probably a bit greater as well as Fisher died before her work was really done, as she was going to appear in at least one (and probably only one) more Star Wars movie. (I should acknowledge also that Princess Leia in Jabba’s slave outfit was probably also working on my budding sexuality when I first saw it at age nine, and there’s no equivalent for Lois Lane – though if I had seen her turn in Amityville Horror there might have been.)

The interesting thing about Superman II on the whole was how hurried it felt to me on this viewing. You want a tight script to move you along in the action, but some of the jumps seemed downright nutty. For one, when the three Kryptonians first land in that hick town and start wreaking havoc, there is already talk on a concurrent newscast about the use of nuclear weapons being ruled out due to the risk to the population. Hasn’t the world only been aware of these three for like 15 minutes? Who’s talking about nuclear weapons? Sure, there was that incident on the moon, but at this point the powers that be are still likely trying to piece together what that was. When Zod takes the camera, he’s already asking if there’s no one on Earth to even challenge him. The very next scene, they’re changing the faces on Mt. Rushmore to their own. Isn’t that a little fast?

Then I was also reminded how little screen time there is between when Superman forfeits his powers and gets them back. It’s hard to say how much time is actually passing in the movie, but it couldn’t be more than a day or two, a week at most. The only scene outside the fortress of solitude is when he and Lois take a ride to a diner to get dinner and he has the fight with the local bully. He’s already walking back to the fortress (what happened to their car? And where did Lois go?) and already shouting in empty fury at his dead parents, telling them he “failed.” I should have timed it, but it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes of screen time.

Lex Luthor’s time with the Kryptonians also feels very hurried. Gene Hackman as Luthor is one of my favorite parts of the movie – he works so much better as comic relief than “the big bad.” But there’s barely any time between when he introduces himself and having to scurry to explain his relevance and avoid being killed. Both sides are shrewd enough and pragmatic enough for a feeling out period to be logical.

Still a favorite and I’ll still miss Margot Kidder.

No comments: