I watched three DVDs and two theatrical pictures this week:
Looper is a 2012 action movie written and directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Pretty trippy! And apparently we're only 30 years away from hovercycles, which is kind of cool.. Beyond that, I liked that it wasn't just a series of set pieces showing Willis fighting his younger self. Not that there wasn't plenty of that, but that there were plenty of quieter scenes where the characters were able to interact with each other without guns ablazing. I wasn't 100% convinced by Emily Blunt's accent though.
Midnight in Paris is a 2011 film written and directed by Woody Allen. This was a pleasant surprise! I knew it was one of Allen's more highly regarded recent films, but I didn't expect it to be quite so charming. The characters hew largely to Allen's standard character archetypes, but there's a lot of fun to be had in watching Owen Wilson (in the Woody Allen role) interact with Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and the like. The one extra on the disc was a panel discussion in which Allen said he had seen Wilson and Rachel McAdams (who plays his fiancée in the film) in a movie together, and I forget what he said next because my mind was reeling at the idea that Woody Allen had seen Wedding Crashers.
I moved on to the second disc of the complete Star Trek: The Animated Series collection. The six episodes on the second disc were a mixed bag, ranging from very good ("Mudd's Passion") to the not good at all ("The Infinite Vulcan"). I'm willing to cut that last one a little slack because it was written by Walter Koenig, but "Once Upon a Planet" didn't have that excuse. The animation is still terrible, and it's made even worse by recycling footage in inappropriate places (such as using a clip of Mr. Kyle operating the transporter when Scotty had previously been seen at the console). Still, it's enjoyable enough, and disc 3 is en route.
The Criterion Collection edition of This Sporting Life (which I watched last week) came with a second disc containing a four short documentaries: three by Lindsay Anderson himself and one about him made by BBC Scotland. Kind of a mixed bag. Two of the Anderson documentaries, Meet the Pioneers, his first film, about a manufacturer of industrial conveyor belts (not what I expected, given the title and that it opens with "Hoe-Down" from Aaron Copland's Rodeo). and Wakefield Express, about a local newspaper in Yorkshire, were very good and quite interesting. I especially liked the latter, particularly the segment about how the paper is typeset — they were still using Linotype machines and hot metal in those days — and printed. The third, "Is That All There is?, wasn't as interesting to me; it's a day-in-the-life sort of film, and it's just not that enthralling watching a man in his late 60s going to the dry cleaners or going over correspondence with his secretary. The documentary about him was not bad, and it gave me some ideas for future films to look for, so it was worth the 30 minutes.
UW-Madison Cinematheque's Preston Sturges series continued with his 1941 film Sullivan's Travels, starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. It's funny, of course, and it's always a pleasure looking at Veronica Lake, but was really interesting to me was how it managed to work within the Hays Office strictures and convincingly show McCrea and Lake falling for each other without even kissing.
Wordwise, I started Emma, Jane Austen's fourth novel. It's not really one of my favorites of hers; I just don't find Emma that appealing as a character. Those busybody types always get on my nerves, whether in real life or on the page. I'm up to Chapter 13.
The only other thing of note I read this week was an interesting article from Smithsonian Magazine about a family of six found living in an isolated area of Siberia who had been so out of touch with civilization that they were unaware that World War II had happened. I predict this article will be the basis of a motion picture before the end of the decade. (They'll need to rewrite the ending, though … it's kind of a downer as is.)