NFLX2019 December 6th: Marriage Story

Marriage Story. Noah Baumbach. 2019. ☆☆☆☆★★

Oh, I’ve seen reviews of this movie in all the newspapers. And it’s always that way: A Netflix movie either has no presence whatsoever in mass media or it’s absolutely everywhere. So I guess that there’s certain Netflix movies that Netflix pushes really hard, and the rest they just drop into the void without any trace?

Scarlett Johansson is a great actor, of course, and Adam Driver is… er… a big name at the moment?

It starts off well with a double monologue thing that’s intriguing, but it’s over a bed of schmaltzy classicalish music that absolutely drives me nuts. How can anybody stand that stuff?

So I’m conflicted right from the start.

Emacs tells me that I’ve seen one of Baumbach’s movies before: Frances Ha at 20150411T211713. But that was before I was blogging about any random movie, so I have no idea what I thought of it.

See? All The Reviewers. Hm… OK, it had a very limited theatrical release — sixteen cinemas? But that’s enough to get all these newspapers to write about it?

Fortunately the musical bed disappears. I would have gone totally nuts.

Hey, this is pretty funny! One good line after another.

Adam Driver is surprisingly good. The constant stream of really famous actors doing supporting roles gets a bit “wha but wha” after a while… perhaps it’s too much? But I don’t mind. It’s fun.

Laura Dern is pure awesomeness.

Except the cringe comedy passages. I just can’t deal with that.

I think this movie worked perfectly for the first hour, and then it takes a nose dive. In between the interesting scenes, there’s scenes of pure tedium. I kinda started hating this movie at certain points.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 December 5th: A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby. John Schultz. 2019. ☆☆★★★

Oh, this is part of a series? At least, while searching for it, there seemed to be some other movies with suspiciously similar names.

And it starts with a recap.

Check.

Man, it just immediately seems like a super-cheap film: The early crowd scenes seems to have a whopping 30 extras.

It’s supposed to be set in an obscure kingdom in Europe, so of course all the actors (except the princess I mean queen) talk Estuary. So this is supposed to be kinda Britishish but more freeform?

Savage!

I want to say that this is easy, breezy, Xmas fun-zy, but it’s not. It’s a rather annoying movie; schmaltzy performances fully scored by the Now That’s What I Call Generic Copyright-Free Xmas Music vol XIII. I mean, I may not be the target audience for this, but… I almost am? I like silly, romantic nonsense? But this is just so uninspired and unfunny.

I guess Netflix is trying to stock up on these unoffensive movies? The ones you can have on at Xmas without actually watching? But this is not going to be one of those movies, because it’s just too bland.

I do like that they use really bright colours. It’s so unusual these days when everything is colour-corrected into blue/orange or teal/er orange, and the rest is shades of grey. Are? Is. I mean, look at this:

That’s a lot of colour.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 November 28th: Holiday Rush

Holiday Rush. Leslie Small. 2019. ☆☆★★★★

I think we’re getting to a certain … time of year. I think Netflix has done at least half a dozen Xmas movies this year? But interestingly enough, each one seems to target a lightly different genres. Or audiences.

So this is the black one.

Uh-oh. OK, but these day with all the racist brigading going on you can never trust audience scores.

That’s a weirdly specific reference! Who hurt you, Jeffrey! Who!

Well, nobody likes mild language; we all want some fucking swearing.

If I’m reading the director’s imdb right, he’s only done one feature movie before (in 2004). The rest of them are TV episodes, comedy specials and documentaries about famous comedians? I can see that. It’s got a slight TV vibe going on, and while it’s not about a stand-up comedian, it’s about a radio host.

That said, there’s things here I like. I like the slightly restless camera work: It’s not frantic or anything, but it sort of slides around a bit in many scenes; very attractive framing. The performances are good, especially the lead and his producer are fun to watch.

It’s kinda really extremely boring, though.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 November 27th: The Irishman

The Irishman. Martin Scorsese. 2019. ☆☆☆☆★★

So here it is: Netflix claim to cinematic greatness. They shovelled a whole lot more money in Scorsese’s way than anybody else would have, and they got a movie (shown in actual cinemas (for a couple of weeks)) that all the newspapers in the entire world wrote think pieces about.

I think! I never read anything about movies that I’m going to watch, so the that’s the only thing I know. Except that it’s… mafia related? As usual?

Let’s find out.

OK, it’s Robert De Niro… I like him… and those actors playing the wives are just perfect,… and…

AAAAAAAAHHH! WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT! WHAT IS THAT! WHAT! AAAARGHRHGH!

*takes a deep breath*

OK, they’ve youngified De Niro by slapping him with some kind of CGI mask? It’s horrifying! Absolutely horrifying. It’s like the faces even don’t match up to their bodies when they move. It’s like a saran wrap strangling the actors. And seeing these … leather masks poking up off of these old, old, old bodies, standing like old bodies, is just mind-boggling.

OK, OK… suspend disbelief… suspend disbelief…

I’m sitting here wondering, scene by scene, whether the reason this particular actor’s face looks like a horrible unnatural mess is because 1) it’s been CGI’d younger or 2) it’s just a whole lot of botox going on. Which, I guess, is kinda a win for the CGI. But it’s not really helping me pay attention to what’s going on.

OK, reset! This is an animated feature, not a live action movie. OK, let’s see whether that helps.

Geez, being a mobster sure is cool. Scorsese tries to dial it back by putting in these things:

But it doesn’t really help that much. Everything they do still seems cool. I mean, when they’re rigging an election or blowing up some cabs, it’s got cool jazz playing and cool camera dolly moves.

OK, I’ve now watched the first nine hours of this movie, and I got used to the rubbery faces. Sort of. All the bad wigs, not so much. All the celebrity cameos are fun, of course, but this is mostly just kinda pedestrian. I mean, on a shot to shot basis. It feels like a New Age Of Quality TV show that’s been edited into a movie. Perhaps because the plot is so obvious? I mean, just fifteen hours after De Niro met Hoffa, it was totally obvs what’s going to happen, but then it takes thirty five hours for that to happen. So you sit there waiting.

And then it happens and it’s like “not even a twist? They just did what was obvious?”

There’s barely a movie here, which means that everything rests on the CGI faces of the cast and whether the mise en scene is great. And the rubber is too squishy and the mise isn’t. It’s all so pedestrian.

So it’s no surprise that this is the rating:

It’s very much of its time, and nobody is going to watch this movie in five years time.

There’s one very, very special thing about it: It’s the only Netflix movie that doesn’t go to previews of something else as soon as the end titles start. You usually have to hit all the remotes to make Netflix shut the fuck up a millisecond after a movie is over, but they let this one have its subtitles.

That’s how much Netflix respects Scorsese.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 November 21st: The Knight Before Christmas

The Knight Before Christmas. Monika Mitchell. 2019. ☆☆★★★★

Uh-oh. This movie starts off with that sample of an eagle er falcon that’s used everywhere. Yeah, this one:

This doesn’t bode well for the budget.

OK, this is very high concept: A knight from the thirteen hundreds (I think?) is magically transported to the present day. Hi-jinx ensues.

It’s kinda… lame? Some of the jokes are fun, but none of them are actually funny. Everything moves sooo slowly, and there’s so much wide-eyed wonder… It’s like none of the actors take the gag seriously; their faces are saying “we’re so over it already”. When you’re watching something as silly as this, it doesn’t help when you feel that the actors are giving you the stink eye for having bad enough taste in movies to actually watch this crap.

I’m really easily moved by schmaltzy movies, but all I could muster here was a feeling of vague annoyance.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

NFLX2019 November 15th: House Arrest

House Arrest. Shashanka Ghosh, Samit Basu. 2019. ☆☆☆★★★

I think this may be the final Indian Netflix Original of the year. They’ve been more miss than hit, so my expectations aren’t high.

This one starts off really well: They’re going for a kooky, topsy-turvy aesthetic, and the actors seem charming. It’s basically a screwball comedy with everything spiralling out of control? I think? I’m only fifteen minutes in.

It obviously a low budget movie, but they’ve worked around their limitations very neatly. They’ve set everything in one (gorgeous) flat, but people call him and when that happens, we see them being “teleported” into a the background of the shots. It’s gimmicky, but it’s cheap and fun and keeps thing snappy.

So it looks good, the characters are fun and inventive (love the upstairs gangster daughter), it’s inventive and the actors are great. So everything should be fine, right? But no: Instead of zapping along and building to some crescendo, the pacing is just way off. We get way too much of the (admittedly cute) love story, and too little of the craziness that we seem to have been promised.

This post is part of the NFLX2019 blog series.

Translations are Hard

Yesterday I was delving into the wonderful world of crowd-sourced subtitles, and I was wondering whether TV translations are easy to do.

I downloaded the Emacs/mpv-based subed mode and got started.

And then stopped immediately, because the mode is really geared towards editing srt files, not writing brand-new ones. You can write new ones, but there’s really no workflow offered by that mode that makes it pleasant.

However! While Youtube doesn’t offer to auto-subtitle Swedish programmes, it does offer to mark out sections of the programme that has speech in it. (I guess they do it with elves. Or AI.) So I went to one of the Bergman things, Trädmålning (which is basically a quite different take on the same material that went into making The Seventh Seal), said “I want to subtitle this”, and it made an empty scaffolding, marking out all parts that have dialogue.

And then I went to a service that offers to download .srt files from Youtube (because it doesn’t seem like Google offers this capability itself), and then I had an empty .srt file!

Simple! Modern! Efficient!

(We got this instead of flying cars. People in the 50s would have been so disappointed in this stupid future timeline.)

So then I could start subtitling in Emacs.

Here’s what it looks like:

It’s kinda nifty. When you move around in the Emacs buffer, mpv automatically synchronises to the place where you are, and plays that bit in a loop.

However, it’s really grating to listen to the same thing in a loop, even if it pauses the loop while you’re typing. So there’s a lot of hitting the `M-SPC’ key to auto un/pause involved. And the mode lacks some commands (for smashing consecutive too-fast titles together into one, slower, longer ones) that I was writing while doing this, so doing this one 50 minute play took me… what… five hours?

I’m exhausted.

It’s strange how tiresome it is to do translations. My mind just isn’t up to it: I’ll be looking for even the simplest words for the longest time. “Oh, what’s the word for the thing on a branch… a thin branch… er… uhm… Twig! That’s it! Twig!” Repeat for all the words. Writing in a specific language is one thing, but listening to one and writing in another makes mah branes hurt. So there’s a huge number of er awkward word choices in the translation.

I put the .srt file up at Microsoft Github, and if you want to correct anything, use the Youtube interface. Or send a pull request.

The result is on Youtube. It’s a pretty good play! Very Bergman: Funny and emotionally draining at the same time.

Trigger warning: Some religious stuff may be encountered during the watching of this play.