Monday, August 4, 2014

Two Movies: Under the Skin and Enemy



I watched two movies over the weekend, both from the same studio: A24, both having similar themes on consciousness and identity and awareness, but both eliciting very different reactions.

Under the Skin is all about identity and what it means to be human. We work, we sleep, we eat, we poop, so what makes everything worth living? Connections and happiness (on this point I do agree with the movie). But how do we go about making those connections? Well, sometimes we have no idea and we do it entirely wrong. I saw a few different posts on Tor that had me really interested in the movie, but in the end it just didn't stand up for me.

I liked the message this movie was sending, but unfortunately there wasn't enough story to the movie for me to actually care. Scarlett Johansson is great, but there were only a few second-long moments where she was able to shine. The whole point of her character is that she can't genuinely connect with human emotion, so most of the time her face was completely blank and she was just driving around, picking up dudes. This movie was long and weird and I really can't get into things (movies or dance performances or whatever) that use disparate chords instead of music (call it a flaw if you must, I call it inevitable after a childhood steeped in music). Not to mention, I'm usually really good at deciphering thick accents, but these Scottish accents were like molasses and I had to keep asking Phil what everyone had said.

Under the Skin also left so many things unanswered there was nothing to connect to and I found myself caring even less about the little things I liked in the film. Why is she here? Who is the motorcycle dude? Why does the lonely man elicit emotion, but the crying baby does not? (I'm pretty sure the baby's sole purpose was to make her foreign-ness stand out to the audience: a cheap trick.) This is two hours of my time I will never get back, but watch it if you're into theory or you like comparing books to movies: this was based on Under the Skin by Michael Faber. I am interested in seeing how similar the two are, and which tells a more compelling story. I'm all about flipping gender conventions and expanding the idea of what it means to be human, but dude the basic requirement is that I have to give a shit.

Enemy tackles the same themes, especially concerning identity, but to me it succeeds where Under the Skin did not. I cared about the characters. I cared about what happened. I wanted an explanation. I didn't get one, but I got enough information that I still cared, and I am still thinking about the unanswered questions. Are they two people or one person? Is it a past and future story, told nonlinearly? What the fuck is up with the spiders? (But if what I'm thinking is right, that the spiders represent his relationship with women, I love it!) Enemy feeds you just enough to keep you wanting more.

We watched this through Amazon Prime and after the credits there was an interview with Jake Gyllenhaal and the director Denis Villeneuve, which really didn't *explain* anything, but watching the lead actor and director both struggle to put the movie into their own words somehow helped to clear it up a bit for me. But still, it is so hard to put into words. There is another special feature about the women of Enemy that I also want to watch, but haven't yet.

I absolutely loved Enemy. While I already liked Jake Gyllenhaal, I respect him even more after watching him portray Adam and Anthony and seeing all the subtle differences between the two characters. Lots of reviews said this movie was slow, but I was never bored. It was like reading a good book: the faster you go the sooner it's over, so you might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.  Definitely see this one.

Enemy was also based on a book: The Double by José Saramago. (In Spanish at the link but my library has an English translation!) This one I am definitely picking up, but I have a feeling the movie is going to outshine the book. It was just so brilliant.

I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks about these two movies!

Another favorite song/music video

Friday, August 1, 2014

Some good reads

Just wanted to drop in to share some articles I've enjoyed this week.

I've mentioned before how I stopped writing in March. Life got crazy, I still feel like I'm running on overdrive, and I'm desperately trying to sort everything out while working on the house and giving up my weekends for the endless stream of social gatherings and prior engagements, and occasionally fitting laundry and dishes into the mix. This post on The Art of Rest by YA Highway reminded me that I don't need to feel guilty about not writing, I need to enjoy what I am accomplishing. I have a library now, full of my beautiful books. I have single-handedly organized, researched, and purchased backpacking gear for two people. We have more (hand-me-down) furniture that makes our house look like a home and not an extended closet. I have cucumbers, tomatoes, raspberries, and daisies in the backyard. And my favorite coworker started a writing group. This non-writing spell will not last forever. =]

Hacking the Writing Life: On Being a Writer with Three Jobs by Kameron Hurley. I could never be a person to give up all manner of traditional jobs. And by traditional, I mean something other than 100% stay-at-home/self-employed. While I am an extremely motivated person with a hundred things I want to do, I still need something to get me out of bed and dressed or I'll just watch Netflix all day and never shower. Plus, I go stir crazy easily. I need something to get me out of the house. And... I don't know. I like seeing a successful writer who doesn't feel the need to quit society for the sake of their art.