Category Archives: FAQ Movie Reviews

Viewer’s Guide to Into the Woods, FAQ

Q: I want to file charges against this movie for story abuse.
A: Uh-oh, what happened? Better start at the beginning.

Q: The film abducted four fairy tales — “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It sucked the soul out of all of them, forced them to do its bidding, and left their undead corpses to wander the forest. That’s four counts each of story kidnapping and vampirism.
A: But isn’t entering the woods a time-honored way to show the process of transformation?

Q: Only if somebody transforms! At the end of this thing Cinderella says, “I actually enjoy cleaning sometimes.” I thought I was going to somersault backwards, right into the lap of the woman sitting behind me. Seriously, Cinderella enjoys cleaning? Setting aside the obvious feminist commentary, the whole point of Cinderella is that she hates cleaning. If you’ve got a Cinderella who likes cleaning, and she is in a situation where she gets to do exactly that, you do not have a story! Furthermore, for transformation to happen, someone has to leave the woods eventually. This movie ends with the remaining characters still in the forest and sitting on a giant log, which is a fine metaphor for the piece of you-know-what we’re dealing with here.
A: Easy, kiddo. Just the facts, please. Maybe the filmmakers were having a harmless bit of fun with fairy tale tropes.

Q: Maybe, if harmless fun means draining the power out of some of the most luminous imagery in the fairy tale world. Red Riding Hood’s cloak, for instance, instead of vibrating with raw life force and the potential for creation that so often settles around the shoulders of a girl-turning-into-a-woman, is an incidental sleeveless jacket that Red hands over to the baker, just because why not. Rapunzel’s hair is nothing more than a length of rope, rather than the cascade of silken curls that shows how beauty and libido can burst forth when you try to imprison them. And the glass slipper is supposed to suggest transparency, destiny, and the miraculous aspect of walking one’s true path. Here it’s an opaque shoe that looks like somebody stopped by Payless to pick it up on the way home. Sure, there are a few overt, ham-handed metaphors — yes, the wolf is a sexual predator; yes, mothering can be overwhelming and crushing for a child (this movie has *giant* mommy issues, pun intended) — but not one of the metaphors points beyond itself to the great mystery from which it all rises. Also Captain Kirk staggers around half-drunk in all his scenes.
A: Oh come on, it was funny when he and the blond bohunk ripped their shirts open and sang the “We’re Awesome” song.

Q: It was called “Agony.”
A: So it was. …Nothing? Not even a smile?

Q: Fine, that scene was funny. But what about the random, pointless, emotionless deaths? When death means nothing, then life means nothing, and that right there is the worst possible lie to peddle. Stories are supposed to tell lies in order to tell the truth. This movie lies in order to lie. I’m telling you, this is flagrant disregard for magic and meaning not only in fairy tales, but also in life itself. In fact it’s worse than story abuse. This film is a crime against mythology.
A: All righty, that’s enough for an investigation. I’ll be honest with you, though — don’t expect a lot of follow-up. Our detectives are stretched pretty thin, and these jokers would plead out for a lesser charge, guaranteed. Probably something like negligent imagination, or petty fictionalizing. Maybe endangering the welfare of a plotline, but even that’s just a fine and a lecture from the judge.

Q: I’d like to prop their eyelids open with forks and make them watch “The Power of Myth” fifty times, back to back.
A: You work on that. Maybe the CIA can help. All I’m doing is filing the report.

Viewer’s Guide to The Book of Mormon, FAQ

Q: Oh my heck. Am I ready for this?
A: Yes your heck! You are so ready for this. Here, have a latte. That’ll fortify your spirits.

Q: But isn’t it all singing and dancing Mormon missionaries?
A: Yes yes yes! And so much more!

Q: All right, all right. I’m ready. Tell me who among us should see this show.
A: Everyone! Absolutely everyone, all over the land. By which I mean everyone except Mom, due to extremely naughty words and extremely naughty deeds, all enacted with extremely naughty, gleeful abandon. I’m thinking in particular of the Spooky Mormon Hell Dream, which includes a marvelous scarlet Lucifer and giant dancing Starbucks cups. (How’s that latte? Sinfully rich? Wickedly energizing?)

Q: Luci-who?… What on earth are you singing?
A: “Salt–a-Lake–a-Ci–ty, where life is–n’t shit–ty…”

Q: Jesus.
A: Yes, him too! But this is Jesus like you’ve never seen him. He marches around in a glowing white robe, clearly having a terrific time. He tells one of our heroes to quit being such a dick, and he inspires another hero to man up and grow a pair.

Q: He can’t say stuff like that!
A: Hello, he’s Jesus! He can say whatever he wants! And he obviously relishes the potent imagery of male genitalia. (Get it? Potent imagery?)

Q: For pity’s sake. Is nothing sacred?
A: It’s all sacred! This show pulls off the ultimate religious feat: it suspends judgment. It sets aside both approval and disapproval, and instead celebrates human weirdness by singing and dancing and swearing like a sailor. Most of all, it is just so fucking funny!!

Q: And evidently its potty-mouth vocabulary is contagious. Well isn’t it time for one of your diatribes about liminal zones or the numinosum or similar?
A: I’ll do better than a diatribe. I’ll bear my ex-Mormon testimony that this show is doing God’s work here on earth, and I am not even kidding. The story is all about myth-making and the collision of myths; it engages in myth-making of its own; and it allows myth to be spiritual and silly, both at once. Did I mention that the villagers teach the missionaries about metaphor, and about not taking scripture literally? I literally felt dizzy with joy.

Q: …Okey-dokey. That was the last of my latte. We’re done here, yes?
A: Yes, as soon as I send a great big MWAH to Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and every single player in every single cast and crew, for channeling such affectionate and rambunctious Trickster energy. They’re culture heroes, one and all. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but Viva la Book of Mormon!

Viewer’s Guide to La Belle et la Bête (1946), FAQ

Q: Sorry, no French movies. I’ve had bad experiences with French movies.
A: Relax, it’s Beauty and the Beast. You love Beauty and the Beast.

Q: In black and white? From the olden days when there was no such thing as CGI?
A: Yes, when there were such things as imagination and Jean Cocteau. Besides, the world didn’t magically become a magical place with the advent of modern film technology. Did Shakespeare’s vision rely on computers? Charlotte Brontë’s?

Q: I know the story. It’s about seeing with the eyes of love, check. Why watch it again?
A: Oh I don’t know, maybe because IT’S AWESOME! Plus this version has its own delicious details, trust me. And it’s not just about seeing with the eyes of love. It’s also about embracing enchantment, and having the courage to live your own life, and —

Q: Yes, but —
A: But what? Why are you being so difficult about this?

Q: It’s a romance. Romance is not the stuff of serious minds.
A: Wha — serious minds? Seriously?? Whence this drivel? Shall we discuss what Shakespeare and Brontë did with the tropes of romance? Didn’t they have serious minds? And didn’t their serious minds know how to relax and have fun too? Wait a second — are you afraid of what people will think if you talk about a romance? If so, you really need to watch this movie. You’ll see what happens when you care too much about what people think. You lose the key to the treasure house.

Q: I’m not afraid of what people think!
A: Prove it. Put the disc in the computer and press play. Right now. NOW!

Q: Fine! Geez! Bossy Bessie… Wow, that is a hairy beast.
A: He’s a heads-up for the uninitiated, an advance memorandum that men can be disconcertingly furred. Like, all over.

Q: By that logic, men have claws too.
A: Or, claws can be illusory and cause illusory fear, when actually things are fine and wonderful.

Q: Is it illusory that the Beast holds Belle hostage?
A: It’s an image. Think of the Beast as the outer self, wounded and distorted by life in the world, and Belle as the inner self, the incorruptible soul. The outer self (Beast) mistakenly keeps the inner self (Belle) prisoner at first because it knows it needs the inner self to survive. Meanwhile the inner self is shocked by what the outer self has become but learns that the two of them are the same — Belle discovers her own beastliness as well as the Beast’s beauty. And then, Houston, we have the inner union! Yin and yang, heart and mind, light and shadow, together at last, glory glory all day long.

Q: Shhh, please! These subtitles are not going to read themselves.
A: (But it’s also a romance and love conquers all.)

Q: Did you see that? The Beast just called Belle “strange.” Isn’t he supposed to call her the sun in his heaven, or some such? Are you sure this thing is a romance?
A: “You are a strange girl, Belle,” he says, “a strange girl indeed.” Translation: she’s authentic, she’s her true self, she doesn’t conform. He sees who she is and that’s who he loves. What’s more romantic than that? Come on, admit it, you love this movie.

Q: I admit nothing. And I still say it’s about seeing with the eyes of love, check.
A: You’re absolutely right. It’s all about seeing with the eyes of love. Check.

Viewer’s Guide to Star Trek Into Darkness, FAQ

Q: Why does my face hurt?
A: Because you’ve been smiling for the better part of 2 hours and 12 minutes. You couldn’t help it, given all the spaceships, fisticuffs, countdowns, and explosions.

Q: Don’t forget the frequent leaping off high places into certain doom.
A: Yes, cutie-pies in Federation uniforms are not allowed to hesitate. They run full steam ahead, and if there’s a cliff, they run faster. Similarly, they are required to accept all Calls to Adventure. Anytime Adventure so much as clears her throat, they snap to it and shout, “Yes, ma’am!” Doesn’t it warm the cockles of your heart?

Q: By “cutie-pies,” I presume you mean Chris Pine?
A: They’re all cutie-pies! But yeah, I mean Chris Pine.

Q: He is a very Kirky Kirk.
A: The Kirkiest. Spock was Spocky, too.

Q: Oh no, you’re about to start in on how the Kirk-Spock duality is an image of our collective inner cry for wholeness, aren’t you?
A: Of course I am! Nobody wants to be only logical or only emotional. We yearn for both, in harmonious proportion. That’s why we blubber when Kirk and Spock get all mushy with each other. If those two can be such great friends, maybe there’s hope for our own fragmented psyches to make peace within themselves.

Q: Speak for yourself. I didn’t blubber. But I liked it when they sprang the old gag, “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise…”
A: Mmm. In the tv show, that was the invocation. Here it’s a benediction. But don’t give me that crap about not crying. I was there. I saw you whip out the kleenex.

Q: I had allergies.
A: I see. Well, give it time. That green Vulcan blood of yours might adjust to Earth’s atmosphere yet, you never know.

Viewer’s Guide to Life of Pi, FAQ

Q: I don’t even know where to begin.
A: Use your words. One at a time.

Q: That — movie — was — infuriating!
A: I’m sensing you feel strongly about this.

Q: Yes I feel strongly about this! How dare it decode its own symbols at the end, nailing them down to one idiotic interpretation? Did the filmmakers not trust the images to convey any meaning, or did they not trust us to open our eyes?
A: Good, that’s right, let it all out.

Q: And why did the movie claim it would make us “believe in God,” then define God as a psychological defense mechanism? They should have deleted every sentence with the word “God,” and every mention of religion.
A: Feel better yet?

Q: No! They also should have cut that whole stupid “framing” story. It broke the spell the animals created; it made no sense (if Pi was really dissociating, would he have changed his tune so fast just because he had confused some guys from a shipping company?); and it gave away up front that Pi survives. Suspense, schmuspense. Start on the boat and end on the beach, period. Ok. Now I feel better.
A: Then you might be interested to hear there’s a new —

Q: Except I wanted to wring the neck of that simpering writer character, slinking in to steal somebody else’s story like that. I wanted to feed him to the tiger. Grrr.
A: For heaven’s sake, get a grip! Have you seen the —

Q: But I could have loved this movie! It was so close!
A: Enough! It happens! Deal with it! It’s time to move on and watch this, if you can stop yammering for a minute and a half:

Viewer’s Guide to Beasts of the Southern Wild, FAQ

Q: Wow, was that movie as good as I think it was?
A: Wait until tomorrow morning. You’ll love it even more.

Q: But I’m not sure it made much sense…
A: That’s why it’s so great! At every turn it says, “No, my dear, you may not take this literally. You must feel your way into any meaning that might or might not be here.”

Q: What are you talking about?
A: The movie’s impossibilities confuse your linear, logical, analytical mind just enough that it quiets down, making space for other faculties, such as imagination, courage, love, beauty–things that make no sense and yet make life worth living.

Q: Still, all that fuss for a bit of fried crocodile?
A: You could pretend the fried crocodile is an elixir brought back from the underworld. You could pretend it’s unevolved reptilian energy transformed into a substance humans can digest to fuel the soul’s evolution. You could pretend it’s something else. And you could pretend it’s fried crocodile, all at the same time.

Q: Ok, but was that woman Hushpuppy’s mother or not? She couldn’t be, because, come on, what are the odds? On the other hand, how could she not be?
A: Exactly! It’s one of the movie’s many mysteries that stand in for The Mystery. Criminy, it’s enough to restore your faith in film. That does it, I’ve got to go watch it again.

Viewer’s Guide to Les Miserables, FAQ

Q: I’m about 6 1/2 hours into the movie, and so far no one can sing.
A: Some actual vocalists show up briefly around the 8-hour mark. You’ll know them because they aren’t famous Hollywood egos, and their songs have emotional impact.

Q: The music is all tra-la-la but the images are revolting. I have a headache.
A: It’s called cognitive dissonance. You’ll have to restore cognitive consonance later by calling something as you see it, e.g. “That movie blew chunks.”

Q: Why doesn’t Wolverine unsheathe his claws and dispense with all this nonsense?
A: We’re supposed to pretend that Wolverine doesn’t have claws. I don’t know why.

Q: I keep thinking it’s about to end, but it doesn’t!
A: Leave. Get up and walk out. You’ll respect yourself more in the morning.

Q: Why is Anne Hathaway still anorexic even when she’s an angel or ghost or whatever?
A: The only difference between the movie’s hellish heaven and its hellish realm of the living is that heaven has bathtubs. Also we can’t rule out the possibility that this scene portrays Hathaway’s shampooed zombie. Why did you stay for the whole thing??