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 Movies/TV Series consumed in 2015

Comment if you want further thoughts on any of these. There are some spoilers in the movie notes.
 

MOVIES

Dancing in Jaffa
Documentary. A famous ballroom dancer and instructor was born in Jaffa, an area of Israel where Palestinians and Israelis both live. He decides to go back there and get Israeli and Palestinian 11-year-olds to dance with each other. It's hard work but he succeeds. Three children are focused on - a blonde Israeli girl, a Palestinian boy from a fishing family, and a Palestinian girl who lost her father. The Palestinian girl is fat and scrappy. I thought it was kind of body positive because the Palestinian girl is chubby and she is shown dancing in a bodycon dress and also doing something akin to belly dance. Otherwise, the only reason I was able to watch it was that I know that no one will ever, ever, ever make me do that shit. As I recall, being 11 years old and feeling pressured to touch other people really sucked. I had a problem with several things: (1) He absolutely insisted that the pairs be boy-girl, which seemed to go against the culture of a lot of the Palestinian children, although not so many Jewish children, because the Jewish schools he worked with were not Orthodox. The cultural aspects of the discomfort with touching were swept under and it was made out to be about the children's age. (2) He made a competition out of it, which meant that after teaching the classes for 10 weeks, he picked something like six kids from each class to go to the final event. That hurt some of the kids he didn't pick. (3) The girls in the competition wore sexy dresses and makeup. It seems like they were maybe a little young to be doing that, but Western values. I think it probably ended up being helpful for the kids who were chosen to dance, in terms of their becoming a little more comfortable with the other ethnic group in the area. Maybe it helped the parents who went to the competition too. 
 
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Iranian vampire spaghetti western about a vampire who dresses in chador and rides a skateboard. Very atmospheric, beautiful noirish cinematography, good soundtrack. 
 
The Hairdresser (Die Friseuse)
German film, directed by a woman, about a recently separated superfat (as in she doesn't fit in armchairs) woman with MS who is trying to put her life back together. Her hair and clothing are very stylish. Lots of nude scenes with loving and respectful attention to her body. Some people discriminate against her because she's fat, in various ways (snarky looks, refusal to hire her) but no one tells her to lose weight. It's got some problematic elements and it ends up interacting badly with obesity myths to some extent: There's a scene where she has to go to a veterinarian to get an MRI. I read a bunch of reviews and a lot of people misunderstand and think she uses a pulley to get out of bed because she's fat. No, it's because she has MS. Also I read later that the actress was wearing a fat suit and a body double was used for the nude scenes. 
 
Interstellar
Slow-moving sci-fi post-apocalyptic-ish movie. At times scientifically accurate and at other times they gleefully toss that out the window. ("OK we're totally not noticing the gigantic waves on this planet we're landing on."). I didn't like that we never saw Murphy actually figuring out much on her own, it was always only when her scientist dad was guiding her. I would love a movie about this same thing from her point of view. I liked that the movie was a sort of cross between Contact and 2001 and that they turned some of the plot points from those movies (2001 especially) on their heads. 
 
Ikiru
Kurosawa film from (and set in) 1952. A bureaucrat finds out he has a year to live and tries to figure out how to make something out of the rest of his life.
 
Once Upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone, Charles Bronson, and a harmonica
 
The Prestige
Rival magicians, each with a double. Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine. David Bowie played Tesla.
 
Snowpiercer
By the Korean director who did The Host, a very good monster movie. Multi-race cast and Tilda Swinton. Terry-Gilliam inspired. 
 
Sunset Blvd
The classic with Gloria Swanson. Heartbreakingly sexist and feminist at the same time.
 
The Tempest
Live-action movie based on the Shakespeare play and directed by Julie Taymor. Prospero is a woman (Prospera) played by Helen Mirren. Ariel is an androgynous being, played by a man. Caliban is played by Djimon Hounsou, a black actor who is very physical in this role, and has makeup that makes him look like he's part of the landscape, and has one blue eye/one brown eye. The film was made in Hawaii and Lanai. It oddly combines a landscape that is very much a character with stage-like scenes (characters wandering the landscape of volcanic rock, having their Shakespearean conversations). Also an Escher-esque building for Prospera's laboratory. Mirren is AMAZING. She plays the role very genderless and very powerful, and then at the end she has to be laced into her corsetry for her return to her old life. Ariel shapechanges and is sometimes solid and sometimes insubstantial. The actor has fascinating physicality, like Andy Sertis' Gollum only different. The chemistry between Prospera and Ariel is wonderful. Overall it didn't really work as a Shakespeare play but it worked as a vehicle for Mirren, the actor who played Ariel, and Hounsou. The DVD has a very long detailed "Making of" feature.
 
This Is It
Documentary about Michael Jackson's final tour that never happened because he died. I loved it because I like learning about how shows are put together.
 
Training Day
Denzel Washington plays a cop who kinda goes off the deep end while training a rookie cop. He won the Academy Award for the role. 
 
Tuyo's Marriage
Chinese movie set in Mongolia. Female star. All the other actors are supposedly not professional. Her husband is injured and so they agree to divorce and she can marry someone else who can help her with the sheepherding, water fetching, etc. Things get complicated. Right before the end I said to the OH, "...and she leaves them all and joins a feminist collective." 
 
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Continues the tradition of telling the history of Middle-Earth by means of focusing on the humans that hang around with hobbits, with special emphasis on battle and escape scenes. This tradition started in Fellowship of the Ring. I saw Fellowship with a sweetie, who left to go to the bathroom (which was located on the other side of the theater) when the troll fighting scene in Moria started. When she came back, the scene was still going on. Well, in this movie, I could have spent half of my time in the bathroom and still not missed anything but battle scenes. Then again, since the title is Battle of Five Armies, I suppose I knew what I was in for going in. I watch these because I'm a Tolkien fan and Jackson's designers have done a fabulous job designing a Middle Earth that mostly tracks with the one that's been in my head ever since I first read The Hobbit at age 9. I don't think the plots track so well but I don't particularly care about that. 
 
Jurassic World
"There's a certain amount of beef. There's a lot of long pig. But WHERE'S THE FEATHERS?"
[Dinos featured in film that had feathers: Velociraptor, Pterosaurs & Pteranodons (proto-feathers), Tyrannosaurs (probably), Deinonychus (the dinos that the Jurassic franchise "velociraptors" most resemble), Gallimimus, Dilophosaurus, etc. etc.]
4th film in franchise, I saw the first one and didn't even remember the other two existed. 
Much better use of actor Chris Pratt than in Guardians of the Galaxy IMHO.
Vincent D'Onofrio (who also plays Wilson Fisk in Daredevil) plays the military guy.
It was a very accurate depiction of a modern animal park, not entirely in a positive light.
I hated the way Claire was treated. She ended up turning into an action hero, but for much of the movie, she was shamed for not caring about children, not having children, wearing high heels, etc.
Because part of the appeal of movies like this is to read scientists nitpicking them, have some links like that:
For the Smithsonian's Carrano and Johnson...
MC: They're all way too noisy....The loudest animals in the world in these movies are the predators. In real life, they're usually the quietest animals. It's a good way to starve, running around screaming your head off.
...
Washington Post: Will feathers on dinosaurs ever catch on?
KJ: Oh boy. They look so ugly. It's really ruined the whole dinosaur thing. They looked pretty cool but now it's like, "really, that's what dinosaurs look like? Some sort of weird punk rocker." 
MC: pterosaurs could do you damage, but it's hard to believe a pterosaur could lift a person. They're not that strong. Their bones are like paper....You could crush one, probably....
MC: ...They're mouth predators. If they can't pick you up with their mouth, they're not going to eat you.
...
KJ : My big pet peeve is, of course, everybody short-shrifts the vegetation in the landscape. Everybody puts dinosaurs in modern landscapes. It's even worse if you call it "Jurassic World." All the implications are that you're going to build this entire world. But really it's not; it's Hawaii with dinosaurs....
 
Mad Max: Fury Road
This has been written about at such great length elsewhere that there's not much I can say. 
 
SPECTRE
Fourth Daniel Craig Bond movie. Not nearly as good as Skyfall, but Judi Dench had a bit part to give Bond his post-(her)mortem marching orders; M and Q got to go into the field. I didn't like that his love interest resembled Lauren Bacall from Casablanca. I liked that they let his face be aged. The guy who played Moriarty in Elementary Sherlock played a sub-villain who was poised to take over British intelligence from M. There was a very good opening sequence where Bond and his lover are swimming around with lots of tentacles (SPECTRE's symbol is an octopus). There was also some beautiful opera music during the scene where he meets the widow of the guy he kills in the opening act ("Una furtiva lagrima" from L'elixir d'Amore | "One furtive tear" from The Elixir of Love"). 
From the IMDB trivia: 
Cultural appropriation: "There are no Day of the Dead parades in Mexico, as shown in the movie: the writers somehow mixed Brazil's carnaval celebrations with the Day of the Dead Mexican tradition." 
"Spectre is the first Bond film since Die Another Day (2002) to feature the iconic gun barrel sequence at the start of the film." 
"First James Bond theme song sung by a British male solo artist in 50 years with the last having being Tom Jones' title track for Thunderball (1965)." 
"The massive gigantic explosion seen towards the end of the film has been awarded a Guinness World Record as the largest film stunt explosion ever." 
"Dave Bautista's Mr. Hinx character speaks only one word in the film, 'shit'."
Funny lines from review on rogerebert.com: "He's turned into the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" but with a sidearm" and "The payoff of his character's storyline is so dumb that it makes the "twist" in "Star Trek Into Darkness" seem sensible and heartfelt."
 
Spy
Melissa McCarthy is very funny and kicks a lot of ass, and does not get fat shamed at all, although she gets "middle-aged-lady-shamed". The very end of the film is super problematic and possibly triggering.
 
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Discussed elsewhere 


TV Series
Agent Carter
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Being Human
Columbo
Daredevil
Doctor Who
Elementary
Hawaii Five-O
Heroes Reborn
How to Get Away With Murder
Jessica Jones
Lost Girl
Luther
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
Miss Marple
Noein
Orphan Black
Sherlock, season 3 2
Witch Hunter Robin
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