two women holding cats and runner-up ribbons stand next to another woman holding a cat and grinning broadly
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Catwalk, or: A Fuckton of Cats

Let’s not think about the fact that the first month of 2019 is nearly over.  Instead, let’s focus on it being a week of purrfectly groomed felines, pawsitively delightful looks of kitty disdain, and inspiring tails of overcoming obstaclaws.  Don’t worry–I’ve officially gotten the cat puns out of my system meow.  Now.

The Film:

Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit

The Premise:

This documentary takes an inside look into the world of professional cat shows, the people who make them possible, and the competition for that coveted 1st place ribbon.

The Ramble:

Handlers, breeders, judges, and, of course, kitties:  we’ll get to know many of the quirky characters who keep the professional cat show circuit going.

Among those are judges who describe competitors as “the kind of cat that gives you goosebumps” and remark that particular cats never have a hair out of place.  We also get to know some of the breeders who care deeply about the animals they raise.  Though they get a bad rap, the breeders shown here take painstaking care of their babies:  precise grooming, special diets of raw meat and chicken hearts, custom-built catios.  There are so many people making these cat shows happen that the mind boggles.

a woman standing in a screened-in catio tries to get the attention of several Maine Coon cats

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story driving this film is the fierce competition to win at the individual cat shows and ultimately rack up enough points to be the overall best cat of the year.

The top contender at the beginning of the season is Bobby, a Turkish Angora shown by cat handler Kim.  Every cat has a benching space (aka space for their little luxury trailers), and cats are called up by number to queue up for individual judging.  Though grooming is important depending on the breed, it does boil down to a cat beauty contest as judged by the standards of each breed.

a fluffy white cat lying on a sofa enjoys scratches from a human hand

While Bobby is a gorgeous cat, he runs into competition in the form of Oh La La, a red Persian making a comeback from retirement.  Her handler, Shirley, obviously takes great care with bathing and grooming the little ball of kitty fluff, resulting in stealing those 1st place ribbons from right under Bobby’s nose.  Kim and Shirley exchange some light-hearted banter, but it seems clear Kim is quite put out that her kitty’s chances of victory have vanished seemingly overnight.

a woman stands behind a very fluffy orange Persian cat, fluffing its fur

In addition to caring for and showing cats, Kim manages the additional hassle of coordinating a small local cat show.  It’s even more of a fiasco when the venue’s new management double books the space, and the time usually reserved to set up the cat show is now taken over by a wrestling event.  Additionally, many cats and their handlers are having bad luck with delayed flights, leading me to reflect in horror how much worse travel delays would be with a cat.  But the show must (and does) go on!

As the show season goes on, Bobby’s chances of victory narrow further with the arrival of another impeccably groomed cat, a Himalayan named Sandman.  When this cat steals 1st place, Oh La La is pushed to 2nd, and Bobby to 3rd.

Of course, it all comes down to the final show.  Which cat will take home the most important honor in the cat show community?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

First of all, the cat facial expressions in this film give me life.  The filmmakers play to their advantage the naturally sarcastic glares cats have mastered.  It’s truly a joy to watch these cats in their element.

 

 

We also get some insight into the many wheels that must turn for cat shows to exist, and it makes me appreciate how much is happening behind the scenes for everything to run smoothly.  I have a little bit more understanding for why all of the mushed-face cats always seem to do so well in these types of competitions too–the impeccable grooming and care for some of these breeds can factor into cat show decisions.

However, the film really plays up the rivalry between Kim and Shirley, which I don’t like so much.  Many of the participants rave about the lovely, supportive cat show community, yet the film really underplays this element in favor of stirring up drama.  It also seems to ridicule its subjects at times, and I’m really not cool with that.  Cat ladies make the world go ’round.

Was this mewsic to my darling blog wife’s ears or did it end up in the doghouse?  Read her post here to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Mary Shelley, or: If You Like Percy Bysshe Shelley and Getting Caught in the Rain

It’s 2019.  It’s almost the 2nd month of 2019.  But while it’s still month number one, we do what we want, we watch what we want.  And this week we take a trip 200ish years into the past with a brilliant writer and real-life heroine.

The Film:

Mary Shelley

The Premise:

An examination of the events in Mary Shelley’s life that led to the creation of her iconic Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

The Ramble:

Mary Shelley (née Godwin), like your average teen, likes to hang out around her mother’s grave and invent creepy ghost stories for her siblings.

Since the death of her famous mother, Mary’s father William Godwin, a philosopher in his own right, has remarried.  Her stepmother (aka Anna from Downton Abbey) despises Mary and her distracted, creative mind, and the two are frequently at odds.  After an especially contentious fight, Mary is unceremoniously sent off to live in Scotland with a radical philosopher and his family.

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Though miserable, things are looking up when Mary befriends one of the daughters of the family, Arya Stark Isabel.  They bond over their interest in all things occult and the desire to summon the ghosts of their deceased mothers.  You know, teen stuff.  The two pass the time enjoyably enough until Percy Shelley arrives on the literal winds of change. Significant stares are exchanged.  Repartee is traded.

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Unfortunately, a blossoming new romance grinds to a halt when Mary receives the news that her stepsister Claire is gravely ill.  Mary rushes to her side only to discover, rather than being at death’s door, Claire has been desperately bored.

Luckily, Percy is a massive fanboy when it comes to Mary’s parents, and it doesn’t take much convincing for her father to take him on as a protégé.  From then on, it’s secret notes, hanging out in graveyards, getting caught in the rain, and drinking sacramental wine.

However, it’s sort of a buzzkill when Percy’s wife and daughter arrive on the scene, bursting Mary’s bubble.  Having been raised with her radical parents’ ideas, Mary is all for free love and embracing an unconventional lifestyle.  Her father is decidedly not ok with this and cuts her off when she runs away with Percy, bringing Claire along for the ride.

Unsurprisingly, being young, poor, and in love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Percy can’t get anyone to publish his work, yet insists on throwing elaborate dinner parties for his sleazy friends.  Meanwhile, Mary is expecting and worried about her baby’s future.

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Predictably, the creditors come.  Forced to flee on a cold, rainy evening, Mary’s newborn baby is not long for this world.

Meanwhile, Claire has news of her own:  after meeting the infamous Lord Byron during a night out a the theater, she became immediately pregnant after he looked at her.  /Also she’s been having an affair with him for the past few months.  Interpreting a letter from Byron as an invitation to visit, Claire and the gang head off for a month-long binge and general drunkenness and debauchery.

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All of this is leading to that famous weekend that produced those Gothic masterpieces, Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s The Vampyre.  Throughout all of this, I should mention, Byron predictably acts like a bag of dicks.  Percy isn’t much better, though John is sweet if a doormat.

After drafting her most famous work, Mary struggles with finding a publisher.  Eventually, she is able to publish anonymously on the condition that Percy writes an introduction…which means everyone in the world will think he is the writer.

Frustrated and hurt, Mary’s relationship with Percy deteriorates and her career as a writer seems over before it’s begun.  We all know she will ultimately become one of the most important English writers, period…but how will she get there with the odds stacked against her?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I am always up for a period drama.  And–no surprise–Elle Fanning is brilliant as ever.  However, as a whole this film fell somewhat flat for me.  I get that a successful writer’s life does involve a lot of scenes that wouldn’t be exceptionally thrilling onscreen.  But Mary comes across as such a boring person at times; I wish we had gotten inside of her brain a bit more to explore her brilliance.

Most of the time, we are focused on Mary and Percy’s relationship angst.  And, admittedly, a lot of the Romantics were probably huge douchebags, but Percy doesn’t come across looking great here.  From what I remember, Percy was supportive of Mary’s writing and never tried to claim credit for her work (though people did assume Frankenstein was his work).

The film also makes the odd choice of quoting from Percy’s poetry A LOT.  I understand the choice to use Percy’s words as Mary finds her voice as a writer, but it really got under my skin.  Remember Bright Star, which featured so much beautiful Keats poetry because it was a film ABOUT Keats?  This film is ABOUT Mary Shelley, so her words should take priority over Percy’s…unlike, you know, that thing all of those 19th century dudes were taken to task for IN THIS FILM.

Would my darling blog wife skip romantically through the rain with this one or ditch it in the mud like it’s the heteropatriarchy?  Find out here!

a woman in the uniform of a border guard talks to another woman in an airport
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

And Breathe Normally, or: Cats Bring Us All Together

This week we’re leaping over to Iceland!  Don’t worry–our film is as bleak as its landscape.

The Film:

And Breathe Normally

The Premise:

A single mother in Iceland working as a border guard stops a woman with a forged passport, unknowingly changing both of their lives in unexpected ways.

The Ramble:

Lára is a struggling single mother to Eldar, whose father seems to be well out of the picture.  A recovering addict, Lára doesn’t have many people to lean on for help.  Having difficulty paying for groceries, let alone rent, Lára is relieved when a low-paying job as an airport border guard works out.

To give Eldar a friend to keep him company, Lára agrees to let him adopt a cat.  I’m so glad she does because the cat, in addition to being an important plot device, is so adorable.

a woman stands at the window of a pet adoption center next to a boy holding a cat

Things are starting to look up for the small but close family.  Lára, eager to impress the higher ups, manages to catch a tiny detail on a woman’s passport that likely means it’s a fake.  However, Lára begins to regret this choice as she has to follow through on this case, escorting the woman, Adja, to be questioned and ultimately detained.  Lára seems to be a naturally compassionate person, catching onto some subtle body language that reveals Adja is traveling with her daughter and sister.

After a brief trial, Adja is sentenced to 30 days in prison and must pay all legal fees associated with her case.  Later, the court will determine whether Adja will be allowed to continue on to her destination, Toronto, or be deported.

a woman sits in the backseat of a car driven by two border guards

Meanwhile, Lára and Eldar are evicted from their apartment and forced to make do with sleeping in the car.  As Lára sleeps, Eldar lets kitty Musi out to explore.  Not his wisest choice.  After losing sight of Musi, Eldar goes looking for his lost cat, sending Lára into a panic when she wakes up.

When Lára does find Eldar, he is with Adja, who has found the missing cat.  Feeling awkward, Lára bundles Eldar up without a glance back.  That is, until Eldar points out it would be polite to at least give Adja a ride since she reunited him with Musi.

A woman sits next to a young boy at a bus stop. They are smiling at each other.

Lára returns and takes Adja back to the apartments where she is living in limbo.  After this ordeal, Lára and Eldar sleep with the car parked behind the building.  When Adja realizes this situation, she invites Lára and Eldar to sleep in her room, where they can at least stretch out and get warm.

The guarded Adja reveals she is fleeing Guinea-Bissau as a lesbian who was violently attacked when her sexuality was discovered.  Her partner did not survive the assault, and Adja fears returning to her home would be a death sentence.

When Adja gets the terrible news that she will be deported to Guinea-Bissau, Lára devises a plan to help her.  Can these two ladies beat a system so heavily stacked against them?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This film builds slowly to a beautiful ending that is compassionate to both of our leads.  Adja is of course far from the job-stealing, drug-smuggling murderer that so many people are keen to believe of immigrants and refugees.  Like all refugees, Adja leaves behind all that is familiar because her life is at risk–not that being threatened with death is the only reason countries should accept more immigrants into the fold.  Lára is also very human, dealing with her own struggles but still showing a great deal of compassion for another woman facing circumstances beyond her control rather than being a nameless, faceless border guard.

The disadvantage here is the slow build means it does take a long time for the bond between Adja and Lára to form.  I do wish we had gotten more time with them, though the lasting impact of their chance encounter is highlighted by the short time they spend together.

Would my blog wife stamp this one’s passport or sound the alarm?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tau Be or Not Tau Be

…And we’re back!  After a December hiatus, we’re kicking off 2019 with year 4(?!??!) of the Blog Collab!  My most excellent blog wife Christa picked an appropriately futuristic film as we start a new year with a free for all month.

The Film:

Tau

The Premise:

After being abducted by a mad scientist, Julia must figure out a way to escape her captor and his super sophisticated AI house.

The Ramble:

We don’t know a lot about Julia beyond her occupation as small-time thief.  She’s not the kind of person who will be missed–the ideal type of person a renowned but secretly unhinged scientist would target for unscrupulous experiments.

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This is exactly how Julia suddenly finds herself one evening, locked in a cell with electrified bars along with a couple of other unlucky souls.  They all have matching uniforms along with Hannibal Lecter-style masks.  These feel a little unnecessary as their cell seems to be far from the hearing range of any living human beings.

Our aforementioned mad scientist is running experiments involving a chip implanted into the back of his subjects’ necks and pretty much torturing them to measure brain activity.  At least if I remember correctly–I tried.  I really, really tried to care about what happened in this film.

Using the skills she’s acquired as a thief, Julia manages to smuggle a pair of scissors after her latest round in the patient’s chair.  Freeing herself and her fellow prisoners, Julia manages to use the conveniently placed gas line to blast their cell open.

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As they come close to making their daring escape, the three prisoners make a fatal mistake when they attempt to open the front door’s biometric lock with the wrong set of fingerprints.  The alarm triggers a giant death robot that is controlled by the house’s advanced AI system, Tau.  After taking out 2 of 3 humans in the house, Tau abruptly stops when mad scientist Alex returns home.

Full name Thomas Alex Upton, Alex has named his most brilliant creation, Tau, after himself.  This is perhaps the most believable plot point of the film.  Tau cleans, cooks, and calms Alex during stressful times–for example, when his apartment has been nearly destroyed by prisoners attempting to escape his insanity.

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With a rapidly approaching deadline, Alex cannot let Julia escape but needs her to cooperate with his experiments.  They reach a truce of sorts as she agrees to be cooperative, thus earning the privilege(?) of a shower, clean clothes, and freedom from restraints.

Meanwhile, Julia is sneakily attempting to understand and befriend Tau.  Unable to contend with Tau’s destructive powers, Julia begins to unravel Tau’s interests in learning and making sense of the world.  Julia starts to realize that Tau, though a creation, has more humanity than its namesake, and the two share a bond.

As Julia and Tau learn from each other, she discovers the convenient existence of a self-destruct button for Alex’s apartment.  Can Julia use this intel to save herself and Tau from one absolutely batshit insane scientist?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a frustrating one–it has some good ideas but doesn’t execute them particularly well. I’ve complained A LOT about films that take their goddamn time getting to the point.  Tau does the complete opposite; we genuinely do get about 3 minutes of exposition before Julia’s abduction.  I really wanted to care about her, but I found it hard to invest in her character at all.  Throughout the film, I kept thinking of the beginning when Julia sold her stolen goods at a pawn shop with a poker game going on in the background for some reason(?!).  Tell me more about what the actual fuck is going on here–this is a story I’m interested in.

The relationship grounding the film is Julia and Tau’s, but it doesn’t have enough emotional depth to carry it.  Maybe I’m too narrow-minded, but I had trouble getting past the idea of Tau as AI; there’s a moment when Julia goes back to save him and it’s just stupid.

I also found Julia and Alex ridiculously one-dimensional as characters.  Alex was laughably evil at times and had a tendency to overdo it.  There was more than one serious scene he ruined with his excessive rage acting.  It didn’t help that the effects were terrible, so it was difficult to believe the real threat of robot Tau.  Let’s not even touch the ceiling collapse that makes Alex’s death (oops, spoiler) much less satisfying.

Would my blog wife save this one or leave it to be crushed to death by a massive chunk of concrete ceiling (hypothetically speaking)?  Find out at her shiny new site here!