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 #smileaday Movie night with Sweetman. 
 
We're regulars at the Retro series at the Carolina Theatre in Durham and tonight was so much fun! Schwarzenegger and Stallone, The Running Man and The Demolition Man. Retro movie series has confirmed again and again that I married the right man. He always springs for popcorn and candy, too. 

movie posters
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On the Basis of Sex movie poster #smileaday Female empowerment with my favorite females. I had a movie date with my daughters today. We saw On the Basis of Sex, the biopic of the early part of Ruth Bader Ginsberg's career (admission to Harvard Law school through the Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue case). 
 
Strong performances throughout and an excellent portrayal of handling both subtle and blunt sexism on a personal, professional, and institutional level with aplomb. Given that we already knew how the court case was going to come out, it was incredibly tense watching it get there. 
 
Left me feeling high and hopeful while I sat between two women of the next generation. Seemed like a good way to spend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 
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 Double Indemnity (1944). 
 
double indemnity movie posterBarbara Stanwyck is one of my very favorite actresses. I've loved her work in comedy, melodrama, and romance. She's brilliant in this film noir as the manipulative Phyllis Dietrichson. 
 
I got to watch it today at my library with a new film club that's just started in the area. I've seen it before, but didn't remember it in full detail. It's even better than I remembered.
 
The movie is beautifully executed and may even have benefitted from some of the limits the Hays Code put on the production. We never see Phyllis and Walter make love, but it's still entirely clear that there's a physical charge between them and that she's not above using all the methods of persuasion at her disposal. We don't the murder, but watched Phyllis's face while it happens next to her gave me the chills. That little smile, so much like Anthony Perkins's in Psycho for cold delight. 
 
The unfolding of the levels of manipulation and the way Phyllis and Walter fed into each other and fed the flames that eventually consumed them was gorgeous. It's definitely keeping its position in "must see movies" on my personal list. 
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 #smileaday Revisiting old movies with my munchkin. 
 
I've been on a little bit of a kick here lately, "making" my youngest daughter watch old movies with me. I'm usually nice about it and pick things I think will please her, like Beetlejuice and Lost Boys (though there was that time I made her watch Big Trouble in Little China she has not forgiven me for). 
 
Earlier this week, we watched Armageddon, which was even cheesier than I remembered, and I remembered it as inducing fits in lactose-intolerant moviegoers. It's arguably the worst performance by Ben Affleck I've ever seen. Cringe-inducing even. But we laughed so much!
 
Tonight we watched Big Hero 6, which I know isn't that old, but when you're only 11 like she is, 2014 was half a lifetime ago. It still charmed the heck out of me, even when it made me cry, and making me cry didn't make me feel as manipulated as Pixar machinations usually do. 

big hero 6 characters
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ahora entiendo meme #smileaday When a kid realizes how much they have learned. 
 
I'm showing a movie to my eighth graders right now: Bajo la Misma Luna. (If you haven't seen it, you should. It's brilliant). The characters in the movie speak a mixture of English and Spanish, just whichever they would naturally be speaking in the scene. I show it with the English subtitles on because it takes time to be able to listen to Spanish spoken at normal conversational speed and understand it, and very few of my students are ready for that yet. 
 
Kids are impatient and expect to be able to understand everything immediately. One of my big jobs is just keeping them hopeful that someday they will understand it better than they do now, and help them keep plugging away. 
 
Today, a kid who hasn't been all that strong a student came running up to me at the end of our class to tell me that he had understood enough to "get the gist" during one of the scenes. He's now newly enthused about his studies and I'm so pleased to have been there when we had that "maybe I *can* do this" moment of joy. 
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 #smileaday Good cheesy, pulpy fun. I wasn't sure if I was going to go see Aquaman or not, but Sweetman wanted to see it, so I went with him. And I'm glad I did. Such fun! Definitely not a story to examine too closely in any aspect. Nearly note for note predictable (though still satisfying enough in execution) and the criticisms about bad CGI are warranted, but if you go in expecting a romp through a pulpy ocean floor, you'll have a good time. 
 
I've got a special place in my heart for crazy mashup mixtures, and where else am I gonna get some kind of fish vampire monster thing, saddled sharks, kaiju, dinosaurs, and sappy romance themes all in one place? 

aquaman toy
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 infinity wars posterMy family got Avengers: Infinity War on disk as part of our holiday haul. My eldest daughter never got to see it in cinema, so we watched it together tonight, first time for her, second time for me. The rest of this entry includes spoilers, but I don't feel bad about this as the movie is hardly new anymore. 
 
I'm still profoundly ambivalent about this film. I'm not sure I've forgiven Marvel for the emotional abuse. 
 
It was a ballsy move to make a superhero movie where the superheroes lose, even if you have a back-pocket plan to make another movie to let them still win, in a way.  On a second watch, much of the emotional impact is lessened, since you already know its coming, but it still managed to punch me in the feels a few times, and I really appreciated the performances. 
 
There were lots of small movements and great eye work. Tom Hiddleston's Loki and the "go ahead and kill him" feint falling apart; Chris Pratt's Starlord keeping his word to kill Gamora like he'd promised; Danai Gurira's shocked grief as Okoye when T'Challah disintegrated before her eyes. 
 
(On the other hand, I was mostly annoyed by the Spidey/Ironman exaggeration. Tom Holland got longer to die so the kid could beg for his life and die in his mentor's arms. Chew that scenery a little harder guys; I think a piece of it was still standing). 
 
Like a lot of viewers, watching the first time, I felt suckered. On my big-screen viewing, a man seating near me slammed down his popcorn bucket and said, "The f*ck I just watch!" and a lot of audience members sympathized. Even now, months later and with previews of the sequel out there offering reassurance, I still feel wounded. That's probably a kind of compliment to the work-it hurt, lastingly. 
 
As a writer, I was very impressed by how well it functions, structurally. I have my doubts that it plays well if you haven't watched the whole MCU, but if you have, it does a deft job balancing so many moving pieces! The Guardians were used to great effect for the "worlds collide" moments of heroes meeting heroes. Everyone falling in love with the angel-pirate Thor. And the hero-vs.-hero misunderstanding over who worked for Thanos and who didn't with Strange, Ironman, and Spidey. 
 
The weakest bit in my mind was the whole not-killing-Vision thing. I wasn't that attached to Vision as a character from previous movies, so we retro-fitted a romance storyline with Scarlet Witch that I don't remember even a whiff of in previous films. It felt even more manufactured than the Hulk/Black Widow romance line and I thought that whole thing was a cheap shot, too. 
 
But, the movie needed us to feel bad about killing Vision, so we gave him a girlfriend and some scenes with a human face on first. Total cred for the writers though for using Quill and Gamora's "kill the one you love" moment earlier on as a foil for the "Scarlet Witch has to kill her honey-bun" moment. It really did help bolster the emotions for a scene that didn't have enough emotional payoff on its town. 
 
Whether this one becomes a film I can watch over and over again like some of the others in the MCU will depend on the sequel and if they pull this out without it feeling like a total cheat. Time will tell. 

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Samantha J Bryant

February 2019

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