Saturday, October 18, 2014

Obvious Child (2014)

“I’m having your abortion…
Do you want to share a dessert?
Yeah, lead with that, definitely lead with that.

            Yes, this comedy is about a young woman who gets an abortion. Obvious Child did what no other “rom-com” has ever done before. It does not vilify a girl for not keeping a baby she does not want and the guy that got her pregnant is not mad at her for doing so. No one is mad at her. The girl does not have her shit together in her life, her life is not magically going to get better if she has a baby and stays with the guy.
            Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a young woman living in her New York City. By day she works in an old book store and by night she does stand up at bar. She also occasionally does commercials. When she does stand up, Donna is brutally honest about her life especially her sex life. After a show one night her boyfriend breaks up with her in the bathroom of the bar and also tells her he has been seeing her best friend for a while.
            Donna lets her world unravel for a few days as she tries to get over her breakup. Back at the bar she bombs her routine because she is too hurt and too drunk. A nice guy named Max sits down with Donna and her friend. They start flirting and later wind up back at his place and sleep together.
            Lo and behold a few weeks later Donna finds out she is pregnant with Max’s baby. She remembers certain things about that night like thinking they had used protection. Donna goes to the doctor and says that she wants an abortion. The doctor tells her she has to wait two more weeks. In those two weeks Donna tries to tell her mother and even tries to tell Max. She eventually tells both about her situation. The mother is not raging mad like Donna thought she would be. And neither is Max. Donna actually told him in her own way by telling the story as part of her stand up routine. Max stormed out of the bar that night but he comes to her place the following day to take her to the doctor.
            The procedure is done Max sits on the couch with Donna at his apartment. He makes a joke of sitting in the waiting room for her. Then they sit and watch Gone With the Wind together.
            Alright so my review is not the best but basically that is what happened and it was really good.
            Jenny Slate was beyond perfect as Donna. No one else could have played the character as well as she did. You can see just by the way Slate played Donna that she was torn the whole time about getting the abortion. She liked Max and felt bad. She was scared too. And yet despite everything she went through with it. Slate just nailed the character she was fantastic. I also loved the fact that a girl talked about farting. I have three younger brothers I think fart jokes and the like are hysterical. Girls do talk about this stuff and do so as well as guys. Thank you writers and Jenny Slate.  

            I liked Obvious Child because it was different. There was no slut shaming which was fantastic. There was remorse on the part of the character but they did what was right for them and that to me was great to see. Obvious Child is not a fairy tale happy ever after rom-com it is a real life rom-com. If you want to see something totally different and incredibly brilliant on all levels watch Obvious Child. It is one of the best movies I have seen all year. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Perils of Pauline: The Floating Coffin (1914)

In the final chapter of The Perils of Pauline serial entitled The Floating Coffin, Pauline Marvin (Pearl White) and her fiancé Harry are traveling on his new yacht. He also has a motorboat. Pauline has him show her how to work the mechanisms for the small boat.
            After some pleading Harry finally gives in and lets Pauline drive the motorboat for herself. She takes along her dog Rusty for the ride. The motorboat stops working and begins to take on water. Pauline manages to get herself and the dog onto an old boat.
            Not far off in the distance is a naval fleet. They are going to be using the boat that Pauline and Rusty are on for their target practice. The fleet shoots at the boat and puts enough holes in it to start sinking it. Pauline is frantic she tries desperately to get the naval fleet’s attention. She manages to find a pen and piece of paper and writes a note saying she is on board the old ship. Pauline gives the note to Rusty who she has swim to the battleships.
            The crew of one of the ships sees the dog swimming towards them. They take a small rowboat out to the dog. The crew sees the note and the captain calls a cease fire. The crew and the dog get to Pauline in the nick of time.
            Someone on the yacht has wised up to Koerner’s evil doings trying to get rid of Pauline for her money. The man punches Koerner and throws him overboard. Koerner eventually drowns.
            When Pauline comes back she embraces Harry and tells him she has finally had enough of having adventures and wants to marry him at last.
            For the past nine weeks I have thoroughly enjoyed watching The Perils of Pauline. Some of them were exciting and thrilling and some were just alright. Pauline Marvin is a great character. I liked how she went on all these adventures, planned or unplanned, and did so with such bravery and fun. My favorite aspect of all these episodes is that they were filmed in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Fort Lee was the original movie town. All the major studios started there. Over the summer I completed my internship as a museum registrar at the Fort Lee Museum working for the Fort Lee Film Commission. I found so many incredible movie artifacts from the early film industry and learned so much about it. The Fort Lee Film Commission are big fans of The Perils of Pauline and even use a behind the scenes photograph from one of the films as their logo.
            The Perils of Pauline is a must see for classic film fans. They are fun, innocent, and entertaining given the time period they were made in.  I can only hope that these films, if seen by more viewers, especially women, will inspire writers in some way to write strong, adventurous female characters. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Monuments Men (2014)

“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they'll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it's as if they never existed. That's what Hitler wants and that's exactly what we are fighting for.”

            I believe as Americans we do not value culture as much as other countries do. There is Americana in the form of certain objects such as cars, surf boards, and Palisades Amusement Park, but there is no truly great symbol of American culture in art and architecture. Yes, we have the Statue of Liberty but she was actually made by a Frenchman. The Smithsonian Institute proudly displays American achievements. But ask yourself this, what or who can most clearly define our culture in terms of art, technology, and architecture in this museum? If war were to ever, God forbid, come to American like it did in Europe during the World Wars what would be most valuable to us Americans that an invading army could plunder and we would miss that part of our culture?
            Art in its various forms carries a nation’s identity. Art history teaches more social history than we here in America could ever hope to learn in classrooms growing up.  Art carries the pride of nations. It also carries emotional bonds. Have you ever stood in front of a painting by an artist from your country and felt a sense of pride and emotional attachment? It is one of the most thrilling senses to feel. I well up with pride whenever I see works by John Singer Sargent, John F. Peto, Winslow Homer, and Frank Lloyd Wright. To think Americans could create such incredible works of art is amazing because the world is always focused on European art. For me if works by these artists were to be plundered and destroyed a part of me would be missing.
            Imagine living in a European country during World War II and everything your country holds dear art wise is taken by a mad foreigner. Almost your entire cultural identity has been stolen because some lunatic believes your people are inferior and should not be in the hands of who he sees as barbarians. Imagine how that would make you feel having someone not from your own country, your own culture, coming in and taking your people’s precious objects because he deems you as inferior. Think about this scenario and how you feel if America were stripped of its cultural objects.
My heart aches for the lives lost during World War II and it aches for the art that was stolen. It aches for the art that for years was removed from its home and it aches for those works that are still missing. You may be asking yourself why I feel so deeply for art. I am an art historian and I am currently working on my MA in Museum Registration. Art moves me and museums feed my passion for cultural intellect and knowledge. My classes have discussed countless times the plundering of art in Europe during World War II. In an article I had to read for a class the author wrote that Nazi looted art is one of the greatest unresolved issues of the War. Almost eighty years later Hitler is still creating problems.
Fortunately all art was not completely lost. Thanks to a group called The Monuments Men much of the valuable and well known works of art from Europe were found and returned. These dedicated men of the arts were not soldiers they did not sacrifice their lives as other men did. They saw the importance of saving culture. They knew that without culture there would be a great sense of loss to the people when war was but a distant memory.
The movie Monuments Men loosely follows the book of the same title. Of course, I have read the book and it was utterly fascinating. Instead of me giving a long winded summary that will most likely make no sense please visit The Monuments Men website to learn more.
The real Monuments Men. James Rorimer is behind the other men
The characters in the movie are based on the real life men and women in the book but they unfortunately, go by different names. The character of James Granger is based off James Rorimer. Like Rorimer, Granger is curator of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There was a young man named Harry Ettlinger from Germany who immigrated to Newark, New Jersey and signed up to fight against his mother country. He assisted in translating, naturally. The one character I was upset with the name change was Cate Blanchette’s Claire Simone. Claire is based off France’s hero Rose Valland. Valland single handedly saved France’s most important modern art works. She worked at Jeu de Paume where Gobbles and another Nazi would come and pick art they wanted for their own home, as if the museum was a store. Valland wrote down every detail about every painting that was stolen and where it was going. Valland is a hero to the French and to the world of art history. All the characters are forgettable because they are so one dimensional. There is so much missing to the movie characters. Their one dimensionality and what they are missing leave nothing for you to remember them by.
Rose Valland
I will say that for a movie the story was entertaining and it worked for the screen. There were several aspects that bothered me besides the name changes: the pace was way too fast the whole just jumped around and did not even give you time to really digest what was going on, there was a sort of love story going on with Granger and Claire that bothered me there was absolutely no need for that, Claire could have been a very interesting character instead she was boring and I hate to say typical, there was humor which is fine the drama needs to be broken up sometimes in dramas but it seemed more silly, there really was barely any explanation of what had been taken from France and barely went into the art itself…. Which I think was based on the aspect/issue of copyrights and reproduction which can be crazy expensive and tedious to get permission to do.
The Monuments Men as a movie was not too great. I believe it is a good way to gain interest in the actual organization and the actual men and women who saved art in Europe. I felt there was so much missing with the story along with the characters that it was almost hard to follow. There was a scene with Claire where I was left thinking what the hell is going on. It was a bit ridiculous.
 George Clooney had noble intentions with this film and I feel terrible that he fell short. I feel terrible that he could not create a better story. His character stressed how art is culturally important and what it would mean to the countries who were missing their culture but it was never explained what made these works so important to the countries and to the world of art. That is the most important part of the entire story. I will thank him for making people aware of this organization and of Nazi looted art.

I am not going to say to not see The Monuments Men. Do see it because you do not know if it will pique your interest into researching looted art during World War II and learning about actual Monuments Men, Fine Arts and Archives. I can only hope that you learn how important art history is and appreciate the culture you live because you never know if one day all the objects that give your nation’s identity will be taken away.