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Challenge Week 24: The Punk Singer

I’ve been quite into music documentaries lately (not just due to Ryan’s double-header a couple of weeks ago), and I was looking forward to getting to see this one about Bikini Kill leader Kathleen Hanna. My intro to Bikini Kill was actually (shame) Rock Band, which included “Rebel Girl” as one of the playable songs. It quickly became of my favorites, with its combination of catchy music, strident vocals (in my range!), and in your face but humorous lyrics. I listened to some Bikini Kill and other riot grrrl music after that, but not enough to really name songs or know the band members names or anything.

So watching this was really interesting, since I knew a little but not a lot about the band and basically nothing about their background or Kathleen Hanna. It starts in the early days of Bikini Kill where Kathleen Hanna and some college friends basically started the band as a platform for their feminist thoughts. The insight into the punk scene in the early ’90s and how Bikini Kill really worked to make it a safer, more welcoming place for women was fascinating. Though I’m not quite as radical/provocative as Hanna and her friends, not getting crushed in a mosh pit by drunk out-of-control guys seems like a net win.

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Challenge Week 24: Beginners

Sorry, this is probably going to be a short one. I just don’t have a lot to say about this movie. It’s about Oliver (Ewan McGregor) whose elderly father Hal (Christopher Plummer) comes out as gay after his long-time wife dies. The movie actually mostly takes place after his father also dies, as McGregor tentatively starts a new relationship with actress Anna (Melanie Laurent). The story is told in multiple layers of flashback, as Oliver deals with the deaths of his parents and the extra surprise of his father’s sexuality.

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Christopher Plummer is tremendous as Hal, very enjoyable to watch (and his Oscar win is well-deserved), but Ewan McGregor often leaves me a little cold, and that’s the case here. I got that we’re sort of juxtaposing Hal’s late-life vitality and unbridled enthusiasm about his new life as a gay man with Oliver’s hesitation at embracing what he’s found in Laurent, and it’s not that the story isn’t well done, it just didn’t really grab me that much.

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Challenge Week 23: Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural

The whole time I was watching this, I couldn’t help comparing it in my head to Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, another film about a young innocent running into a bunch of alternately alluring and frightening vampires – both films are kind of dreamy and definitely cut from the same cloth.

Lemora is the vampire here, a beautiful but cold woman who spirits young Lila Lee away from her Baptist church in search of her bank robber father. Lila’s totally pure, a fact the Baptist pastor goes to great lengths to establish, despite her father’s sordid activity (oh yeah, her father also killed her mother). But can purity stand against ancient evil?

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Challenge Week 23: The Hole

I figured I’d be coming up against some of the odder films of the challenge when I got to Chad’s week – he’s got some of the more eccentric tastes in my main movie group on Facebook, and he didn’t disappoint.

Tsai Ming-liang’s 1998 take on the turn of the millennium in Taiwan has the city suffering from a strange virus that makes people act like roaches. The city is supposed to have been evacuated, but some residents are stubbornly staying behind, despite the epidemic and the accompanying breakdown of basic services. We’re focused on two people, a woman in a lower apartment that’s beset with constant leaking (a monsoon outside never lets up, providing an unrelenting buzz on the soundtrack) and the man who lives above her. A plumber fails to fix the leak, but manages to put a hole in the man’s floor/woman’s ceiling, connecting the two apartments and annoying the woman considerably.

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Challenge Week 22: The Last Waltz and Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Most people haven’t themed their weeks at all, but Ryan McNeil of The Matinee opted to give me a double feature of concert/music docs, which is almost prescient, since I’ve recently been really interested to see more of those. Both of these two would’ve been high on my list, so I’m glad he pushed me toward them.

The Last Waltz is the record of The Band’s final concert in 1978, and one of the first times a single band’s concert was filmed and released in theatres (of course Woodstock and Monterey Pop predate The Last Waltz). Martin Scorsese directed (his interest in music has resulted in several other music-related documentaries since this), and captured the joy and energy of the concert with some great cinematography despite having to be careful not to interfere with the concert from the live audience’s point of view.

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