A loser mom in Scotland dreams of being a country singer – it’s not the worst premise, but then her extremely well-meaning employer Sophie Okonedo wants to help this dream come true, as fiery Jessie Buckley undermines her own success at every opportunity, and the movie becomes an overly-smiley, Disney version of a John Carney plot (so, it becomes Begin Again).
Jessie is a loser because she gives up on everything, including her own family, as long-suffering mom Julie Walters reminds her, but when Jessie finally goes to Nashville assuming she’s be dramatically discovered by talent scouts within a couple days, sees the sad reality of the open-mic scene there, and gives up on this dream to return home, it’s a triumph. Anyway, the climactic Mary Steenburgen song is sure to get nominated, and Jessie (Chernobyl, Michael Pearce’s Beast) is already winning things. Director Tom Harper has already followed up with The Aeronauts (LWL: “the longest 100 minutes you’ll spend in a cinema this year”).
Surprisingly lightweight after the spectacle of Nausicaa, part two of my afternoon at the Belcourt. Again, the dubbed version, with a recognizable Phil Hartman as the cat (his final voice role), Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, Tress MacNeille (returning from Nausicaa) as the baker, Janeane Garofalo as the painter and Debbie Reynolds as the old woman with a broken oven.
Kiki is an apprentice witch, off to spend a year in an unfamiliar city to finish her studies. She doesn’t seem to refine her witch-skills much upon arrival, instead using the fact that she’s the only person in town who can fly to start a delivery service. She has maybe three delivery jobs in the whole movie (there isn’t even a delivery montage implying others), also helps out at the bakery where she stays and poses for a painter who lives in a cabin in the woods. My favorite part was actually the saddest scene: a customer hired her to deliver a baked dish but upon Kiki’s arrival the dish wasn’t ready because the oven had broken. So Kiki helps with the woman’s old brick oven, then makes the delivery, getting sick in the rain and missing her first date with a nerdy boy, only to find the recipient a spoiled rich girl who doesn’t appreciate the gift.
Anyway the nerdy boy forgives Kiki, but she begins to doubt herself and loses her powers (exit Phil Hartman). She hangs out with the painter for a while, but finally gets herself flying again when the nerdy boy has a life-threatening blimp emergency and only Kiki can save him.
Miyazaki’s first non-series feature, and the movie that spawned Studio Ghibli. It’s a surprisingly huge-looking feature for a startup/indie flick. Watched the well-dubbed English version on day one of the Belcourt’s retrospective, a weekday matinee populated by children and die-hards. Voices I recognized: just Patrick Stewart as Lord Yupa. Voices I Did Not Recognize: Alison Drag Me To Hell Lohman as Nausicaa, Shia LaBeouf as enemy gunfighter-turned-friend Asbel, Tress MacNeille (Babs Bunny, Principal Skinner’s mom) as the blind old woman, Mark Hamill as the warlord leader of Pejite, Uma Thurman as the warlord leader of Tolmekia, and Chris Jack Skellington Sarandon as Kurotowa, Thurman’s power-hungry buffoon assistant.
Nausicaa is the uniquely smart and capable princess of the wind valley, introduced scavenging in the toxic forest and helping her uncle Yupa escape from giant marauding bugs known as Ohm. Their village is invaded by Thurman’s Tolmekians, who aim to resurrect a giant mythical warrior and annihilate other tribes. While everyone else worries about becoming the dominant human force on a dying world, Nausicaa is aiming to make peace with the insects and discover why the world’s plants have turned poisonous. In the movie’s Planet of the Apes reveal, she and Asbel learn that civilizations past fatally polluted the soil and that the plants adapted to gradually purify it. Showdown between giant warrior (not fully recomposed, it melts), hordes of undefeatable insects, and prophet Nausicaa, who brings peace to the land.
1. Satantango at the Belcourt in Nashville with Jimmy and Trevor. Nice drive, nice theater, and the kind of movie that changes my feeling about movies.
2. Tales of the Tinkerdee and Handmade Puppet Dreams at the Center for Puppetry Arts – Heather Henson presents some of her father Jim’s early works, and some brand new shorts by indie filmmaker puppeteers
3. Bright Leaves at Agnes Scott. The movie was on DVD, but we got two Q&As by director Ross McElwee.
4. Viva Pedro! at the Landmark – six Pedro Almodovar movies in a week. Got to see Matador, Law of Desire, Talk to Her, The Flower of My Secret, All About My Mother, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and missed Bad Education and Live Flesh.
5. George Pal’s Puppetoons shorts at Lincoln Center with Justin and Trevor
6. Three Mira Nair movies at Emory with Katy, and a talk/Q&A with the director.
7. Pickpocket at Emory. It’s nice when an acclaimed classic lives up to its reputation.
8. Kill! at Emory. It’s nice when a movie I’ve barely heard of turns out to be a brilliant classic.
9. Warren Sonbert shorts at the Eyedrum. Another filmmaker I never would’ve heard about if not for local artist/programmer Andy Ditzler.
10. Spirit of the Beehive at Emory
Only an honorable mention allowed for 2046 at the High Museum since I’d just seen it three times last year.