03-Movie wrap-up

This is the look back at the last three movies I watched. Quite different movies. One Norwegian one, which is fun.

Whiplash is a 2014 Oscar nominated movie. It is about Miles Teller, or Andrew, which is his character’s name, who goes to a prestigious music academy in New York. He wants to be a jazz drummer, and really wants to be admitted into the house band where Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is the conductor. Fletcher finds Andrew in the basement one night, practicing his drumming, and a couple of days later he invites Andrew into the house band as an alternate drummer. Fletcher is both verbally and physically abusive to his band. When he wants Andrew to give him an answer he makes him count and then slaps him in the face. Eventually Andrew gets promoted to core drummer. But Terrence is a psychopath and keeps being abusive to his students. He also invites a sort of rival of Andrew to the band to make Andrew work harder.

It’s absolutely astounding. There is so much jazz music, and dudes everywhere. Not a lot of ladies in this movie. Let’s move past it. There is so much music weaved through the whole movie, and it’s so beautiful. The musicians are pretty much at the top of their game, the best musicians of their generation, that kind of stuff.

Terrence is incredible. I feel like in a lot of music movies/TV shows it’s very inspirational, and if you just try for a bit it’ll all be good, and let’s do a montage. Terrence Fletcher basically acts like an officer in the army getting his soldiers ready. He is verbally abusive, he’s physically abusive. He demands absolute perfection from them.  When Andrew (I really want to call him Miles, I don’t know why) is told off, or abused basically, he goes to extreme lengths to become good. Playing until he bleeds, playing until the skin is chafed away from his hands. He cuts his girlfriend out of his life and he does nothing but rehearse. The other music films/TV I’ve seen has made music, even on a more professional level it doesn’t seem like hard work. I might not have seen the best music films/TV. But this makes you think that succeeding as a musician is really tough work. It means you have to work hard, and a lot. You can’t just slide through. I don’t know that Terrence Fletcher’s approach is correct, but he seems to come from a place of wanting the best for his kids. He wants them to be the best they can be.

I really loved J.K. Simmons. He’s a great performer. He doesn’t really look like a jazz conductor, I have no idea why I think that, my own preconceptions I suppose, but he does a great job of being a crazy person who works his students as hard as possible. He’d make a great field marshal. I also love Miles Teller, because he’s magical. You’d think that because Fletcher is so awful you sort of sympathize with Andrew, because of… well why wouldn’t you? But Andrew isn’t a particularly nice person. He starts off as really sweet, he’s a 19-year-old who goes to the movies with his dad and wants to be Buddy Rich. He becomes incredibly obsessed with becoming the best, and cuts people out of his life. He’s also entirely insufferable. He thinks he’s the best and god help people who don’t feel the same. He clearly has reason to, his extended family, and to a certain extent his dad, seem to think his drumming is silly, and he’s not a jock, so like, how could he be of any value? And also his teacher is insane, but he’s still sort of an asshole. Miles plays it beautifully. He is so good. And so perfect, and he has great hair. Also his dad is played by Paul Reiser, who was so good, like what up Paul, how you doing? I’ve had wine, I’m being weird. Anyways.

I really loved how it made music seem like hard work, like something that takes dedication. We see so little of what musicians actually do. We hear their records, and we see their shows, and like we don’t see their hours long sessions where they work and work and work at their craft. We don’t see the blisters they get, the blood and sweat they pour into it. And that’s very much what the movie is about, and it was amazing. 

So this is a Norwegian action adventure movie about these soldiers called the Birkebeiners. It doesn’t have an English translation really, and also doesn’t really mean anything. They were a political party and soldiers fighting against the Danish occupation of Norway in the 1200s. So what the movie is about is this legendary thing that happened in like 1204. The Norwegian king, Håkon, is killed. His killers are like; sweet, the king is dead, we can totes get the Danish in here, and I Guttorm, can make my brother Inge, the next guy in the succession seem like the killer, and I can totally be king under the Danes. Sweet. Little does he know that Håkon had a bastard baby with a lady named Inga from Varteig. Håkon Håkonsson. And apparently the baby doesn’t need to be legitimate to be king, because who cares, right? So two Birkebeiner guys go to Inga, take the kid, and on skis, go across the country to keep the baby safe, so that he can become king. I should say, Inga is totally on board, they don’t kidnap him. She doesn’t want her son to be killed. They basically save the day. This isn’t a spoiler, it’s a real thing that happened 800 years ago. Håkon Håkonsson is eventually the longest reigning king of Norway. When Håkon is 13 the regent, the formerly mentioned Inge, dies, and Håkon takes the throne, and he rules for 46 years. Badass.

So I thought it was fun. It’s a very cool story. It’s so Norwegian. It’s about dudes who look like Vikings, skiing across the country with a king strapped to their backs. Rebellion by cross country skiing, that’s us. It’s also cool that I share the name of Håkon’s mother. Which is fun.

It also made me laugh a bit, because it’s a bit camp-y. And it’s so odd. Basically there are a lot of dramatic scenes with horse riding, but because it’s the north, and snow-y, and everything they use these sturdy little ponies, which makes sense, they can’t use tall, thin-legged horses to carry big burly guys through show, but it makes the horse chases look incredibly adorable. It’s funny when tall, burly Viking-looking dudes ride ponies.

I really liked it though, because I like our history. It’s a very cool thing in our history where we sort of stood up to the people trying to occupy us. I also keep throwing “Viking” around. They weren’t really Vikings. This happened after the Viking age ended, these guys are just Norwegian farmers and soldiers.

I feel like the performances were pretty solid. Kristoffer Hivju plays one of the guys who goes across the country. Yes, Kristoffer Hivju, of Game of Thrones. He looked basically like he looks in Game of Thrones, so I’m on board. I have a massive crush on him. Thorbjørn Harr plays Inge, the regent. He is/was in Vikings, he plays/played Jarl Borg, I haven’t seem the show, no idea if he’s still in it, too lazy to check. Apparently Norway exports actors with blond or red beards who play Vikings or guys that are sort of like Vikings. That and salmon. We’re fun. Such a varied range of stuff. Not a big range admittedly. The wine is getting to me. Let’s move on.

I feel like it could have been better, it was a bit camp and forced sometimes, but it’s a really compelling story, and it’s funny. Also, a guy I know was an extra in it, so that basically made it for me. I mean he was on the side of the bad guys, but still. I know him, and he was in the credits. Like. Wow. I shouldn’t review movies when I’m tipsy. I feel like I veer.

I watched Sideways because Greg Proops does a podcast called the Greg Proops filmclub, and he was going to see it for that. That podcast has still not been released, but I was like fuck it, I’m gonna see it now. So I did. It’s about two guys, Miles and Jack. Jack is played by Thomas Haden Church, and he is going to get married to the prison director from the first season of Orange is the New Black. Was that her job? The actress’s name is Alysia Reiner. Anyway. Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, is Jack’s friend, and an aspiring, but unsuccessful writer. They’re going to California wine country for a sort of bachelor party week where they drink wine, play golf and do other white guy things. Miles is a wine buff/functional alcoholic, and he goes up there a lot to write and has a crush on Maya, who works as a waitress in his regular restaurant. Jack wants to have a last fling before he gets married and when they meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a pourer at a vineyard, who knows Maya, they go on double dates, drink wine and Stephanie and Jack start hooking up. Miles is pretty displeased with this development, and really doesn’t want to be involved, but he’s very drawn to Maya, so he goes with it.

It’s really quiet and beautiful and so sad. And so beautiful. It made me want to go to California wine country, it was absolutely gorgeous. They drive around, while drunk by the way, and it’s so gorgeous and lush. I realize that the US has different laws concerning driving and alcohol than my puritanical homeland, but it’s so internalized that I got incredibly anxious. Anyway. The story… so Thomas Haden Church, who is weird, and sort of gorgeous, plays this actor whose work is declining and he’s considering going into his father-in-law’s business. And he wants this last fling before he marries. And he basically lies to Stephanie and he thinks he’s falling for her, and it’s so infuriating. It’s an incredible movie, but good god. The arrested development is real. He’s clearly panicking about his declining career and the fact that he’s becoming this boring married dude, and he just needs to re-establish his masculinity. And maybe he does fall for Stephanie, or maybe he just falls for the idea of being young and bohemian and cool.

Miles is a wine buff, or an alcoholic with a hobby. He seems to be very anxious and uncomfortable with human interaction. He is divorced, but he also doesn’t move on from this divorce, he’s pretty sure he’ll get back together with his wife, even though he obviously won’t, because you know. That would never happen. Because his wife is beautiful and magical and a functioning grown-up. He is beautifully played by Paul Giamatti, who is an incredible actor. Seriously. I realize this isn’t news, but he’s incredible.

I really loved Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen’s performances. They’re incredible women. Sandra Oh is so cool that it’s sort of infuriating. I loved that they both had agency, and good backstories, and weren’t just there for the men to bonk. Obviously it was Jack’s intention to bonk Stephanie, but she’s tough, and strong, and beautiful, and she has a child and a story. And she gets to beat the shit out of someone, which is nice. I thought Virginia Madsen was incredible. She was subtle and wonderful, and so restrained and gorgeous.

I really loved this. It was incredibly beautiful, and it was very quiet and subtle, and weird, and wonderful. So yes, all the superlatives I can think of, clearly.