Hundred Foot Journey (2014)

Ah, white women. Thy wrath knows no bounds. You may be asking “Hbomb, aren’t you a white woman?” and my answer is: yes. I have accepted my fate and understand my place in the world as an unwitting tool of oppressive systems and general nuisance. Madame Mallory (played by Helen Mirren) had not, at least at the start of the film. Her constant antagonizing of this immigrant family led to a hate crime, whether she meant for it or not. I understand that when you’re tackling subjects like this you might need that source of conflict in order to show the struggles of POC, and even though by the end she’s somewhat redeemed herself, it still left a sour taste in my mouth. White women are gonna “white women,” but the least you can do is learn from it, so there’s that going for Madame. 

I gotta talk about the colors of this movie. Something I talk about a lot is how much color means to me in my creative process, even though I don’t draw, paint, sculpt, etc. In the opening sequence alone, they managed to make the two people we were supposed to pay attention to stand out by wearing bright colors-in a sea of bright color. From there, the colors a lot of the time come from the food. 

This movie was great, and not just because I wanted to eat everything that came up on my screen. I mean this movie has literal and figurative spice. People talk a lot about how animated food looks like the greatest delicacy known to man, and somehow this film had that “animated food” quality to it. I love how the use of food ends up also being a metaphor for how immigrants/refugees and the customs they bring with them make us better as a whole. 

On the whole, this movie made me feel like how Madame did when she ate Hassan’s omelette: inspired. I’ve been feeling very burnt out and tired of life recently, so this was a wonderful creative, colorful getaway from my own head. It also inspired me to cook, although my omelette skills aren’t great- at all.

The Vast Of Night (2020)

I’m a huge fan of sci-fi because of the themes and messages that you can “trojan-horse” into the stories, and a huge strength of The Vast Of Night was feeding the audience those messages through the minor characters. For example, the character of Billy, a caller into the radio station, was a black ex-military man who was stationed in the desert on a secret assignment for the government. Billy was chosen specifically because he was a black man so that they could keep the assignment a secret. Since he was black and it’s set in the 50s, not only was he “disposable” to the government (I assume they knew that these soldiers would get sick) but if they ever said anything, the public wouldn’t believe him. Obviously we’re still fighting for black lives in 2021, so this character seemed to be the perfect instrument for the genre to do what it does best. 

It felt especially “science-fiction-y” because it was set in the 50s, but the dialogue was extremely contemporary. Of course, there was a reference to Elvis, but other than that, the language was very modern. There were a few other references that I thought were cool though, like the radio station being called WOTW (like War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, another piece of alien media I’m a fan of.) The movie just didn’t feel very ’50s, even though narratively, it wouldn’t work in just about any other time period. 

The main male protagonist, Everett, played by Jake Horowitz, was witty and fun to watch for the first act of the movie, and afterward, he just became a blank canvas for the genre, which I prefer. Men shouldn’t have too much dialogue in a movie or else I just tune out. It’s their shrill little voices. 

I’ll be honest, I’m not a technical film person. I wouldn’t be able to spot the super-complex-magical-one-in-a-million-shot if it bit me in the ass. I’m a writer, so I’m more into the characters, the plot, the STORY STRUCTURE! That being said, once I read about the ten-minute long one-take shot with Fay, played by Sierra McCormick, I had to go back and look. Sure enough, it was lovely. If I didn’t come from a theatre background, I would be very, very impressed. I understand that in the film world you get multiple takes, and on average there are dozens of shots for a single scene, but theatre performers do it in one take 8 times a week (well, when there isn’t a global pandemic happening) so I’m only very impressed by it. Just one “very.”

Overall I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It’s hard for me to sit down and watch “serious” movies or TV, but I liked it.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine written by Michael Arndt was one of those movies that I’ve always seen pictures of or heard references to that I thought were cute, but never actually got around to see. Anyone who knows me knows that’s true of most movies, but I digress. The film follows Olive and her family on a “Griswold-Esque” road trip so she can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant, both because of her family’s support, and also to spite it. 

I always knew I was going to enjoy it, but it was the actual sitting down to watch it that was hard. It’s been around for as long as I can remember, but I was shocked to see that this film was made in 2006 because of the picture quality, but it truly adds to the charm, so I’ll let it slide just this once. 

I will say, it was really something to see Steve Carrel play a character with any semblance of emotional intelligence, he knocked it out of the park. I’ll take the mentally-ill gay uncle over Michael Scott ANY day (I would also take getting punched in the gut by the Incredible Hulk over Michael Scott any day. I’m not an Office fan.) This character from the get-go was one that never infantilized Olive, which he earns points for in the absolutely meaningless game of “Does Harmony Respect This Character/Person?” From the get-go, Frank always kept it real with Olive, but on her own terms. He never kept anything about his mental illness or his suicide attempt from her, which in my opinion was a great beginning to the film. It set up that Olive can actually handle the complex themes that come up in the movie, even though sometimes she didn’t necessarily react the way we think she should because of her authenticity. For example, later in the movie when she dedicates her dance to her grandpa (an icon, may he rest in peace) and says that he’s in the trunk of the van. She understands he’s dead, but she was asked where he was by that creepy child beauty pageant emcee, so she told him. 

The entire family rallied together to support this special little girl, and what made her so special was the fact that she was so unapologetically and authentically herself. Over the course of the film, Olive chose to be faithful to her dream over all obstacles, including her jerk father. 

That guy was a real piece of work, let me tell ya’. If he and Michael Scott were in the same room, and I could only punch one of them, I would still choose Michael Scott, but I would hesitate. The father was so insecure and slimy, he followed his ambition down the path of… a life coach? Gross! He then had the audacity to tell his little girl- who was a qualifier for the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant, thank you very much- that she would get fat and not be able to be a beauty queen if she ate ice cream. If he is so offended by a child eating chocolate ice cream, then he’s going to be really affronted when he hears what I think he should eat. He can follow his nine steps right off a cliff for all I care. Yeah, at the end of the movie he actually realizes his loser-ness but only then does he step up for his daughter. All this to say, Greg Kinnear did a great job as the antagonist of the movie if I had such a visceral gut reaction to him. Almost too great a job. It makes one suspicious. 

A moment that stood out to me was when Dwayne, the emo mute older brother played by Paul Dano, finds out he’s color blind and therefore can’t fulfill his lifelong dream of being a fighter pilot. We’ve all been there: on the metaphorical side of the road after having a panic attack because you’ve been in close proximity to your family too long. After his mom tried to comfort him, he told his entire family off, and although maybe some of it was a little uncalled for, it wasn’t entirely out of pocket. The only thing that calmed him down was a hug from his little sister Olive, which I think says a whole heck of a lot about her as a character. 

Olive’s mother Sheryl, played by Toni Collette, was the least problematic character of the entire film, other than Little Miss Sunshine herself. Due to that, I really have nothing to say about her other than I love her and she deserves better than Motivational Mike. Or should I call him Loser Larry? Or maybe Dead-Beat Dylan? Either way, she was too good to be supporting him when she was already carrying the weight of the entire family on her back. 

Last but not least: Grandpa (an icon, may he rest in peace.) He had his flaws, he was pervy and addicted to heroin, but he was Olive’s biggest supporter and best friend. Even when he was telling Dwayne he needed to rack up a body count while he was still in his teens, he made sure to protect Olive from his own terrible teachings. Poor Dwayne. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the film! I think everyone should watch it at least once if only to understand the references. Even though I personally struggle to accept happy family movies, this is one that gets it right: that your family is your best friend and your worst nightmare. It’s a double-edged sword, but it will protect you when a crazy pageant lady comes to shoo you from the stage with a cane vaudeville style.