Eating Boiled Peanuts with Juno and Benjamin Button
Got back from Florida yesterday. Spent a few days visiting family. The weather was nice, but it’s nice to be back. I like sleeping in my own bed, and I hate traveling. We had to stop over in Ohio on the way back home, so the flight back took forever.
Didn’t do a lot in Florida, mainly because we were short on cash. But I did get to try boiled peanuts (they taste like cooked beans and they’re soft – I didn’t hate them, but I really don’t see the point. Hard peanuts are much more flavorful), and we rented the movie JUNO. I thought it was okay, but I’m not really sure what all the fuss was about. Ellen Page turns in another interesting/smart peformance, but she still seems a little too clever to be believable. Sure, the character’s intelligence is supposed to protect her vulnerable soft center, but still, I found some scenes hard to believe.
I like her, and she certainly can carry a movie, but I had the same problem with her in HARD CANDY. She just seems so smart that it’s obvious she’s reading lines written by an adult.
Then again, I heard that in real life, Ellen Page is 20, even though she keeps playing teenagers.
Another problem I had with JUNO is what I call “selective knowledge.” She worships bands like The Stooges and Patti Smith, yet doesn’t know who Sonic Youth is? Why would her knowledge grasp the 60s and 70s (when she didn’t even exist yet), yet leave out cool bands from later decades? It just didn’t make sense to me. And how could she know what SUSPIRIA is, but have no idea who Herschell Gordon Lewis is? If you like punk rock or classic horror films, then you’re likely to know a lot about the subject, not just selective bits here and there. Especially if you’re as smart as Juno seems to be.
Of course, the movie itself is about a smart girl who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption to a yuppie couple. How smart is Juno if she got pregnant in the first place? Especially since it seems like she planned to seduce her boyfriend beforehand. How could she leave out such an obvious detail like birth control? Once again, it just doesn’t seem plausible. And why is she so attracted to Michael Cera, who I still think is one of the least masculine actors around today? Is it because he’s so gentle and unthreatening? Wouldn’t someone like Juno seem the type to be more attracted to a “bad boy”?
And her parents take the news of her pregnancy so non-chalantaly, especially her dad played by J.K. Simmons (remember, this is the guy who first came to fame playing a sadistic Nazi in the HBO prison show OZ. Now he plays J.Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man movies, and easy-going dads in movies like JUNO. It’s kind of funny). I mean, her parents are kind of perfect, the way they support her without batting an eyelash, and I wish more parents were so forgiving in real life, but wouldn’t they at least be a little angry that their genius daughter would do something so dumb?
The yuppie couple, played by Jennifer Garner and Justin Bateman are kind of interesting and boring at the same time. They’re interesting, because you wonder why they would ever get together in the first place. He’s creative and likes edgy stuff (he’s the one who shows Juno a DVD of The Wizard of Gore and plays her Sonic Youth’s cover of the Carpenters’ “Superstar”), but at the same time, he’s kind of childish. He connects with Juno because she has the same kinds of interests, but she’s 16 years old, so some of their scenes together are almost creepy. Nothing happens, but you can feel the tension. Garner’s character is one of those one-track mind characters who I find incredibly irritating. The only thing that she wants in life, the only thing she thinks about, is having a baby. Of course her husband feels alienated! It clearly does not matter to her if he’s part of the equation at all. All she wants is the baby. It’s her entire reason for exisiting. Yawn!
All in all, I found JUNO tolerable, but didn’t love it, and I certainly didn’t understand what all the hype is about. This movie was an indie film that turned into a sleeper hit (a lot like Little Miss Sunshine did a couple of years ago – although JUNO is way better than that overrated flick), but I’m clearly not its target audience.
The often child-like music of the Moldy Peaches on the JUNO soundtrack, however, fits the movie perfectly.
I also got to see THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON at the theater while we were out there. I thought it was a good movie, but way too long (at over 3 hours!) and somewhat predictable at times. It starts out with one of those gimmicks I can’t stand. Cate Blanchett’s character is old and dying and has her daughter read her the diary of her true love Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). The rest of the movie is told in flashbacks. Why? Why do we need the modern-day storyline at all? Whatever happened to simply telling a story without this tacked-on crap? In a movie like MEMENTO or PULP FICTION, the use of time is clever and adds something to the film. In a movie like BENJAMIN BUTTON, this device simply adds unnecessary filler to the running time and brings the movie to a halt every time we’re pulled out of the real story. These scenes could easily have been cut without hurting the film.
It’s directed by David Fincher who also gave us SEVEN and one of my favorite flicks FIGHT CLUB. He’s worked with Brad Pitt several times before, obviously, but this is probably their most straightforward collaboration, and it has “Oscar Nominee” written all over it. And it will probably get a ton of nominations. But I think it’s one of Fincher’s weaker films, and while Pitt is just fine in it, I feel like the whole movie could have been a lot better.
It’s an interesting premise: the tale of a man who is born a shriveled-up old man and who ages backwards (based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald). And it’s certainly well-made. It just seems to revel in its own self-importance, and it wallows in sappiness a few times (especially toward the end).
Cate Blanchett, however, is stunning in her scenes (except for those gimmicky scenes where she’s old and dying – and you can’t understand anything she’s saying). She is simply one of our best actors, and she’s beautiful. I just found my eyes glued to the screen whenever she was on.
Otherwise, it’s good to be back home. The weather was better in Florida, and it was a drag to see the snow on the ground when we got back, but it’s real nice to sleep in my own bed again, and not to have to travel anymore for the holidays.
At least now I can focus on my writing again.
Some people have asked me about my BEST OF THE YEAR list. This is something I’ve done in my blog every year for awhile now. And I’ll probably be posting something soon. However, if you’d like to see my choices for the Top 5 Horror Films of 2008, you can check them out at Fear Zone, where they posted a Cinema Knife Fight column this week where Michael and I discuss our favorite films of 2008.
Just go to: BEST HORROR FILMS OF 2008
And Happy New Year!