My favorite holiday tradition:thirteen free movie screeners(updated)

Posted in blog post on December 2nd, 2009 by Merrill Markoe
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Its the happ-happ-happiest time of the year for me. This is the time of the year where  all my union memberships finally pay off each time Fed Ex shows up unannounced in my driveway  to bestow upon me unexpected ‘for your consideration’ movie screeners. And generally the movies are all the ones I already put on my netflix queue;  the weird or smart indie films that were well reviewed and had light attendance. Yes, each screener comes complete with  an accompanying threatening message which sometimes go so far as to ask you to destroy the screener after you have partook. These warnings seem to get increasingly dire every year. I will not be surprised to get one this year that asks me to kill myself after I am done enjoying the film. But know what? It will be a small sacrifice to make considering how much I love getting these darn things delivered unasked for, for free. And last year this approach paid off for Slumdog Millionaire in spades. I don’t know how many people saw it before the free screeners went out. I know I didn’t. But I was instantly riveted by my free screener . In fact you can probably use that as a standard of comparison as to whether or not you agree with my taste/and/or recommendations. Some people had complaints with that movie. I watched it twice in a row and loved it.

So far this year I have gotten six seven ninethirteen free movies and spent the past few days watching some of them.

Here are my first six sevennine ten eleven reviews.

1. 500 Days of Summer: A better than I expected twenty-something dysfunctional romance full of nice performances, good writing, imaginative directing. Zoey Deschanel is appealing and believable as a commitment phobic girl (a nice twist on the usual marriage obsessed members of her gender in this kind of movie.) But I adore Joseph Gordon Levitt. He’s fantastic in everything. And he’s  great in this.

2. FUNNY PEOPLE: Zzzzzzz.  When it started I heard a voice in my head saying “Okay. I can hear structurally that the written intention here is humor. But since I am not finding it funny, per se, I will just pretend it is funny so that I can comprehend what happens when he…Zzzz.”

3. A SERIOUS MAN:  This movie is a Jew-centric re-telling of the Book of Job set in a 60’s suburbia by my beloved Coen brothers.  I LOVED it. If you are trying to gauge whether or not you would like it, you should know that I also REALLY loved Burn After Reading , one of last year’s free screeners  for which many did not share my enthusiasm . A Serious Man is very dark and really funny and full of the puzzling, hilariously detailed, eccentric egomaniacal characters  that fill me with delight and make me think the Coen brothers might be making these movies just for me.  I am their ideal audience.

4. PRECIOUS: Well, its dark. Its a tragic realistically told story about poverty, sadism, incest and dreaming big. It does have a kinda sorta happy ending. But its the tragedy that stays with you. You would never know Mo’nique was a comedian based on the impressive dramatic acting she offers in this movie. She was really great. But its a very dark story.

5.IT’S COMPLICATED: A very watchable if hard to believe woman’s fantasy film from Nancy Meyers,  a writer director who lately specializes in Geezer Rom Com and actually writes lines for men to speak to women over fifty like “Your age is the thing I like best about you.”. Meryl Streep stars as the  woman in question who begins having an affair with her ex-husband. And she is great. She actually makes being older look appealing. But then she makes everything she participates in look appealing. And the same can be said for Alec Baldwin as her ex husband who turns in a very sexy performance despite the fact that when he takes off his shirt, he appears to be in his second tri-mester. Nancy Meyers even somehow pulls  human performance  from Steve Martin, who, as an actor , in my opinion, usually looks like a Martian trying to mimic what the earthlings do when they experience those things they call “feelings”.  But the ending of the movie is really wrong and that ruined it for me. Still, this would probably be a good rental for women  over forty  who long to see physical evidence of the bright side of aging.

6.PUBLIC ENEMIES: Everyone in residence at my house was excited by the premise and fell asleep to this movie. Including my insomniac hyper active 20 year old fraternity boy nephew. So the producers are to be congratulated for that. Its hard to get Carey Markoe to go to sleep.

7.BRUNO: I didn’t go see this movie at the theater because after the massive publicity campaign that accompanied it, I had a feeling I was over Mr. Baron Cohen. I was wrong. I still love him. He is relentlessly silly and astonishingly brave. There’s a fair amount of male frontal nudity in this movie and a lot of things that probably will make some people very uncomfortable so if naked dicks are a problem for you, or squirming homophobes, then forget about this film right now. Maybe its a little long but when you watch it at home…not a problem! That said, it made me laugh over and over.The premise is just Mr. Cohen’s German narcissistic-exhibitionist gay fashionista character’s search for wider fame. Toward that end he does a lot of funny/uncomfortable stuff in the midst of scary people who rarely know he’s kidding.  One part I was particularly fond of  has him chatting with what appears to be an actual leader of The Al Aasa Martyrs Brigade as he pursues the goal of being kidnapped by terrorists.  ” I’m gonna say something to you that will get you so angry that if you have a gun, you’re gonna pull it out and shoot me:” he says to this unsmiling terrorist guy, ” You hair is sun damaged.”

Another scene has him trying to become straight by getting counseling in Alabama from someone who specializes in re-programming homosexuals. Here is a clip I pulled from this section of one of these guys discussing how Bruno might learn to better cope with women. I thought the reprogrammer guy’s spin on the good things  a woman can bring to a relationship with a man that make heterosexuality worth the effort was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. (There are also some extra scenes on the DVD that show Bruno acting seductive with that delightful Bush U.N. appointee John Boulton and getting on Pete Rose’s last nerve that are  worth sticking around for. No other movie in this or any other decade will ever contain footage of any one doing a booty dance in hot pants in front of the head of the department of homeland security. And when you think of it…who deserved it more!)

8. The  Lovely Bones:I loved the book. I loved the movie. Its riveting, it has great acting and its really beautiful to look at. Great. I love Peter Jackson.

9. CRAZY HEART;  Jeff Bridges is amazing as he totally inhabits the role of a Kris Kristofferson-like alcoholic country western singer song writer named Bad Blake who is broke at 57 and still out on the road performing in bowling alleys.  Seriously, he’s fantastic. And he can sing! And so can Colin Ferrel ( who is good as Blake’s former collaborator.) The original songs by T-Bone Burnett are almost a co-star. The whole score is just right. And its beautifully directed. In fact, I liked everything about the movie except the ending, which reeks of studio committee meetings and focus groups. I can not imagine that the ending that is in the movie right now was the original ending. So I am just going to pretend that I never saw it… thats how much I liked the movie. It has earned the right for viewers to make up a better ending. I am going to come up with a perfect one and then edit it  in my brain.

10. BROTHERS: ZZZZ. At least in the opinion of one hyperactive insomniac fraternity boy and one overly judgmental sort of cynical middle aged writer. We were both asleep by minute 15 ( which means it failed my ‘first 10 minutes’ test..a test that is rooted in good sense since the development process of a movie really forces the poor beleagured film makers to load up the first ten minutes with everything they’ve got.)

11. HURT LOCKER: Great. Insightful, engaging, absolutely riveting, and this from someone who doesn’t usually like war movies. Beautifully directed by the impressive Ms. Bigelow who I am proud to say used to be in my yoga class. (Or rather, I was in her’s . I’m the one who stopped going. Maybe she is still there.)

12. UP IN THE AIR:.I read so many glowing reviews of this movie that I saved it for Christmas Day. And…all five of us who watched were very disappointed. Its a great premise that goes all disjointed, hodge podge and even a little maudlin pretty quickly. Reflecting back on why we all hated it, I decided that it was missing all of what  I wanted it to have: motivation and back story for the Clooney character, and some involvement with the consequences of his actions. Instead it takes a dopey left turn in to a lecture about the value of family that  seems to have just been left over from some other movie . I could go on but I didn’t even like it well enough to want to write a well thought out piece of criticism for it. Also: the music was horrible.

13. JULIE AND JULIA: Its a great pleasure to watch Meryl Streep doing Julia Child in this film. I love cooking and I love Julia Child so I found it all very enjoyable. And Nora Ephron wrote a great funny script. My two nephews, however, had never heard of Julia Child until we watched this. It turns out they didn’t know she wasn’t a fictional character and so found the deadly accurate impression Meryl Streep is doing annoying. So I took them to clips from “The French Chef” on You Tube afterward. A few minutes later, my older nephew made an omelette the recommended French way. Apparently the movie can be of value even to twenty year old fraternity heathens.

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11 Responses to “My favorite holiday tradition:thirteen free movie screeners(updated)”

  1. Joyce says:

    Thanks for posting the clip! Bruno’s going on my Netflix list right now.

  2. Susan Mac says:

    don’t know who’s more disturbed, Bruno or Dr. Cameron, but they make a great pair…

  3. Laurie says:

    I love the December picture of Bob’s Christmas decorations!

    • Merrill Markoe says:

      I know. I am just about to revisit my Bob Dylan Christmas photos for another blog entry. Because you know he has a new Christmas album out. I went past his house last night to see if he has some new decorations. But no. He does not. Looks like he gave up after that year. Altho some of the same ones from before are still stuck in a tree and probably can’t be removed.

  4. Susan says:

    Do you have a favorite holiday movie or selection of films? I have a kind of guilty vice — The Holiday, along with a wintry British film, The Girl in the Cafe w/Bill Nighy. (and yes, I’m now back to plain Susan.)

    • Merrill Markoe says:

      I’ve been thinking about this and I guess I don’t have a holiday movie category in my head. “It’s a Wonderful Life” never did it for me…especially that crazy part where the angel takes Jimmy Stewart back to see what would have become of his wife and it turns out that if she had never met him, she would have been all dressed up, looking great, working at a library. And I thought “That’s it? That’s the nightmare for this writer? Healthy, attractive and working for a living?” I tuned out after that.
      I think my favorite movie at every season though is “Idiocracy”…Mike Judge’s epic about the future where only stupid people have been breeding because smart people have been so circumspect and so busy working on the timing that they forgot. And now everyone is illiterate and a wrestler is President. (And the secretary of commerce is an eleven year old boy who won it in a contest.) Its a brilliant movie. I love Mike Judge. Which, of course, didn’t answer your question.

      • SusanM says:

        That reminds me of what one of my brothers said a few years ago – “Assholes breed independently. They’ll always be with us” Someone else said at that time that really smart people weren’t having babies

  5. Couldn’t even get through the Bruno trailer in the theater! It was painful! Thanks.

  6. vacation says:

    wow..i like ur site background effect….when i hover the image it is changing…
    how did u do that ??

    • Merrill Markoe says:

      Well, I didn’t do it. I worked with a Web designer named Elena Reeves Walker who has a company named Tchopshop Media in New Orleans. But I know how she did it because I supplied her with the graphics. It was done with two photos. Thanks for liking it.