Spoiler Alert

When is a movie old enough that you can discuss it in-depth without it being considered “spoilers?” 5 years, 10 years, 75 years?

I belong to a classic Hollywood movie group and someone was discussing the film The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. It’s 75 years old.  A person commented that both leads die in the end and several – not one or two, but several – people got all upset and were chastising the person for spoiling the movie.  No spoilers!  But good grief, it’s a 75-year-old film!  What about Romeo and Juliet?  People know how that one turned out. Is it a spoiler to discuss it?

A friend of mine had a fight with her boyfriend because she “ruined” Titanic. Yeah, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio… by simply saying, “it’s sad when the ship sinks in the end.” Apparently, he didn’t know the ship sank at the end. And didn’t take the news well, either. In my opinion, for movies based on history, or true stories, can you really spoil them? I hate to tell you, but Bonnie and Clyde die at the end. That airplane filled with Uruguay’s Rugby team crashes in the Andes mountains, and they start eating each other to survive. I’m sorry, did I ruin the movie? Well, it was all over the news for weeks in 1993. Not to mention, it’s a piece of history.

Let’s say it wasn’t a movie of any historical significance, then how long do you wait? Whether we like it or not, I think for newer blockbuster movies, you have about a month after the movie premieres before it will be all over social media. And that goes for t.v. shows as well. For example, the AMC’s the Walking Dead. Fantastic show from what I hear. But if you happen to miss an episode, don’t even think about logging onto Facebook or Instagram the next morning. Hell, don’t even check the news. Some of the deaths of some of the major characters were listed right on the front of Yahoo News with clickbait titles like, “Walking Dead kills off another original cast member.” I’ve never watched the show but can tell you some major plot points just because it’s impossible to avoid. Game of Thrones was another one that was spoiler heavy, and yet another show I know a lot about simply from seeing unsolicited posts online.

But yeah, back on the topic of having a short window before movie spoilers run rampant. Are you into Marvel movies? Star Wars?  Hell, people were yelling out spoilers while in line to watch some of the latest movies. That’s going a bit far, if you ask me. What can I say? People are assholes. But if you still haven’t seen that popular Marvel movie that premiered a month or two ago, and you log onto social media, that’s sort of  asking for spoilers.

Personal conversations are different. People should keep endings and major plot twists to themselves when talking to someone who might not have seen a movie yet. Unless you’re the type of person who likes spoilers, I never spill the beans on newer movies because ruining someone else’s enjoyment is just a jerk thing to do. But there should be a time limit to these things. I mean, once you hit a certain age, if you haven’t seen at least a few of the classics, that’s on you, not me. Most of my banter is pulled from old movies and books and sometimes spoilers just slip out. I can’t help it if you don’t know the bad witch dies in The Wizard of Oz or that Clarence gets his wings.

And in the case of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, the person who discussed it in a classic movie group should be forgiven for thinking that the group’s members would have seen – or at least heard of – this 75 year old flick.

 

 

Ghosts and Gore and So Much More

I’m a pretty big fan of horror and action movies, as most of you know. But I will admit to enjoying the oft-maligned Hallmark movies. If I’m not actively watching them, I often have them just playing on the t.v. as background noise. My first dive into the Hallmark pool was with the ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’ trilogy from way back in 1991 with the incredibly talented duo of Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. The Hallmark movies have lost a little quality and/or diversity in plot since then, but some of them are still fun.

Recently, my daughter has been successful in talking me into movies I wouldn’t ordinarily watch, like The Goldfinch, Shallow Grave, Kill Your Darlings, and Wonder Boys. I must confess, I’ve really enjoyed these and others that aren’t my usual genre. I’m expanding my movie horizons, you might say.

However, I always to return to my roots when left to my own devices… horror. And I’ll admit to a little binging here lately. Hey, I like movies and I certainly have the time right about now. I tend to gravitate towards ghost stories, haunted houses, and supernatural tales for my fright fests. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like nowadays, it’s all gore, jump scares, gore, and more jump scares. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t any good mainstream horror movies, it’s just that many of the newer horror flicks have been a tad disappointing. Personally, I like smart horror movies, the stories that scare in their own right, not ones that rely solely on gimmicks to startle the audience. Being startled by a sudden overly loud sound or someone popping out of a cabinet isn’t the same as being scared, if you ask me.

A friend of mine, on the other hand, is a huge fan of the cheesy, gory style of horror movies. The gorier the better for him. And he’s not alone. To each their own, I say.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I can’t or don’t watch over the top gory movies, it’s not that gore sickens me… I just think it’s a cheap thrill. (For argument’s sake, we’ll ignore the fact that a very blood-filled ‘No-one Lives’ is one of my favorite movies.)  Films like Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno, and Human Centipede are shocking and gruesome, and I guess they’re classified as horror because there really isn’t another genre box to put them in. But no matter how well written they might be (not counting Human Centipede, that movie is as stupid as it is grotesque – and not in a good way), it’s difficult for me to equate them with truly scary films such as The Orphanage, Ju-On: The Grudge, Carnival of Souls, The Haunting (1963), and the like.

I don’t want everyone to think I hate every gory movie with jump scares. In fact, some make for an entertaining afternoon. It’s just that in general, where horror movies are concerned, I usually prefer to be scared, not grossed out.

What say you, my friends? Ghosts or gore?

It’s Got Everything

I was going through my phone’s photo albums and came across a screenshot I had taken months ago … no doubt saved as inspiration for future commentary.  And here we are, in the future.  So, let’s get to it.

This was a conversation in reference to the movie JoJo Rabbit, and I don’t know if any of you have seen JoJo Rabbit, but the thing that makes this comment funny – and no doubt the reason I saved it, is that this movie is nothing if not one giant political statement. I mean, I’m not sure what this guy expects from a movie about Hitler. In the words of the great Stefon, this movie has everything… Nazis (the originals, not the ones that just came out from under their rocks recently), a corrupt government, bigotry, you name it, and yes, Hitler – albeit, a buffoonish, idiotic, ridiculous Hitler (played by Waititi himself). JoJo Rabbit is a sweeping commentary on politics, society, war, and hate.

But, and this is where Taika Waititi shows his genius, it’s also a movie about compassion and bravery in doing what’s right despite what your government and leaders, and even your friends, might want from you. Ultimately, it’s a story about kindness and love. But make no mistake, political. In other words, it’s tainted to the gills with “liberal doo doo.”  So foolish comments like these, from people who, if they’re being honest, are probably pissed off at Hitler’s demise (in both the movie and in real life) are comical to me.

If you haven’t watched the film, I recommend it. For me, it will likely be a one off. Don’t get me wrong, Taika Waititi has created something wonderful and poignant and unexpectedly funny… and moving. So. Damn. Moving. I saw it in the theater and at the end, I was left awestruck and speechless and pained.  It wasn’t a movie I could comfortably, let alone enjoyably, discuss afterward – feelings which are a testament to Waititi’s incredible vision. Whether cowardly or no, once was enough for me, it’s not a movie I’ll revisit. However, I still highly recommend it… it’s more than worth the experience.  It won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay and perhaps, more importantly, it won the AFI (American Film Institute) award for Movie of the Year, along with many other accolades, all well deserved.

But yeah. It “gets political.”

click on Stefon to watch the JoJo Rabbit trailer

Animal Tales

Oh my gosh, guys.  Did you see “A Dog’s Purpose?”  Wasn’t it great?

Well, I wouldn’t know.  I refuse to watch it.  I hate any story where the dog dies, so why would I see a movie where the dog dies fifteen times?  I heard there is a sequel out now, “The Dog Dies Twenty More Times.”

“Marley and Me” traumatized me for life.  I refuse to watch “War Horse,” and several scenes in “White Fang” haunt me to this day.  Black Beauty still makes me cry, and yes, I remember Bambi’s mother (“Man is in the forest,” bang).  In fact, Disney is famous for jerking animal lovers around. Disney isn’t alone in toying with my animal softened heart, though.

Those that know me realize that I love horror movies.  I know all of the rules in horror movies:

  • Never run up the stairs to escape the killer
  • The dog or cat gets it first
  • The more annoying the character, the longer he lives, but, the more horrible his death will be when it finally does happen
  • The dog or cat gets it first
  • Women can’t run in the woods without falling down a hill
  • The dog or cat gets it first
  • The non-virgin woman with matching undies always dies
  • The dog or cat gets it first

Come on, I’m not alone here.  Here is the plot of every horror movie ever written:

The happy family unpacks the car for a week in a waterfront cabin in the woods. They open the door to the station wagon and two adorable, bright eyed kids bounce out with any variety of toys from doll to teddy bear. Happy, panting, tail-wagging dog follows them out of the car, usually a yellow lab or golden retriever.  His cuteness factor will play a part in the events to come.

Day one passes with camera angles hinting at a crazed killer in the woods. The dog runs out for his night time pee, and the audience inhales as he runs to the woods, barking.  Not this time, though; dog runs back to the house unharmed.  Audience visibly relaxes and lets out a collective sigh.

At some point the next day, the dog will disappear.  Sometimes he runs away, and an off camera “yelp” tells us he has met the crazed killer.  Other times, he is found in little bitty puppy bits and pieces.  The cuter and more obedient he is, the worse his ending is.

I have missed endings to good horror movies because I get too pissed to watch any more from the minute I see the dog in the beginning of the movie. Don’t judge me, Mr. or Ms. “choked up at a Hallmark commercial.” The whole idea behind books and movies is to bring us in, get us emotionally invested in the character(s), to make us CARE.

Members of my book club show little sympathy for the “animal-affected” – those of us who are bothered by abuse to animals or “when the dog dies,” in stories. We’re constantly reminded by the better than thou folks that it’s “just a fictional dog” and we’re advised to “suck it up already.”  Of course, these same people snort into boxes of Kleenex over the death of a human character (I’m looking at you Cedric Diggory, Fred Weasley, and Sirius Black!) and are inconsolably upset when the plot takes a sad turn.

On the edge of your seat over a thriller? Upbeat romance have you smiling? Horror movie got you looking over your shoulder? Is that tear-jerker causing real tears to well up? That’s the whole point!

As book readers and movie watchers, we’re SUPPOSED to get drawn into the story. We cry over fictional characters, laugh with fictional characters, get angry with fictional characters… why on earth wouldn’t we get upset over the death or mistreatment of a fictional animal?  Consider my tears the highest praise, story tellers and movie makers. You managed to destroy me in one “yelp” or sad scene at the vet’s office.  I know I’m not alone.

My friend was pissed that the dinosaurs didn’t win in Jurassic Park.  I’m still wrecked over Cujo, and don’t get me started about Old Yeller.  When I look for a book, I check to see if there are animals and whether those animals are in imminent danger.  If they are, I pass.

Life’s already sad enough, isn’t it? I don’t need my realm of escapism to be sad too.

Game Night

Did I die and go to heaven?  Is there a game that covers my two personal geek niches, trivia and horror, at the same time?  Well, yes, yes there is.  Here it is. One hundred years of horror! Sign. Me. Up.

You may not realize this, but 1981 was a great year for nerds.  This epic year saw the release of Trivial Pursuit (thank you Canada!), the game that allowed us to shine. Cut us some slack; chances are, if we were masters of Trivial Pursuit, we didn’t have a whole lot of outdoor sports skills available to us.  The game itself was originally released in 1979 … but it took a couple of years for it to catch on and catch on it did. It has since exploded with a litany of variations: Star Trek (lucky UK!), Baby Boomers, Lord of the Rings, Silver Screen, and even a Book Lovers edition, just to name a few.

At the peak of Trivial Pursuit’s meteoric rise – between 1983 and 1986, I was lucky to be surrounded by other nerds, and we threw intimate parties to showcase who knew the most about nothing at all.  We took this seriously, and generally divided ourselves into teams: the classic boys vs girls, with the boys excelling in the sports category while the girls swept the rest.  I think it goes without saying that alcohol was a part of these parties, but my memories are of good friends and good times.  At least I think that’s what I remember; like I just said, alcohol played a part of the gatherings.

Trust me, the apple didn’t far fall from the tree… at least in so far as gaming goes (remind me to tell you about my mother’s addiction to the original Mario Brothers sometime). Like most of us in days gone by, my family had game nights.  Today’s kids will never know the joy of bankrupting your brother in a rousing, friendship ending game of Monopoly.  My parents taught us card games like Hearts, and a quirky little game called I Blew It (back off, guys, it was just a dice game).  Then, geeks and nerds everywhere rejoiced with the release of Trivial Pursuit, and my family was right there with the best of them. We were able to showcase our knowledge of state capitals, obscure authors, foreign etiquette, and bizarre scientific facts.  Take that, jocks!

I still love Trivial Pursuit and it’s new-age ilk … I have an unrepentant addiction to the aptly named TriviaCrack.  My brain isn’t full of many useful things, but by golly, I can tell you that John Tyler was the tenth president of the United States, that the first letter on a typewriter is Q, that Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth Built, and that amoebas can group together and form something called a slime mold.

At the same time, anyone who would be so inclined as to check my Netflix lists would think I am slightly, or mostly, unhinged by my “recommended” movies and watched list.  Goofy monsters, slashers, aliens, and ghosts; if its creepy, I’ve watched it three times. I am nothing if not a horror aficionado.

Now, Trivial Pursuit has raised the bar with a horror movie edition. Horror trivia? Be still, my heart.

I can’t recall where I am supposed to be tomorrow at four (but I know it’s someplace important), what I had for breakfast, or what I did last night, but I can sing every word to the creepy “One, two, Freddie’s coming for you” song and I just happen to know the best-selling fiction book of all time.  Hint: it’s Don Quixote. 

In a world where walking fast is an Olympic Sport, I want to find a way to make money playing Trivial Pursuit, the Horror Edition.