THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Meow. It’s been a long time.

1625454_10201731630993298_125276479_nHowever, I feel that when there is snow outside, it is absolutely imperative that I do NOTHING. I have to preserve my precious body heat. I’m a cat, not a snow leopard!

Speaking of snow leopards.

While in the great state of Idaho with my humans, we visited the zoo. It sounds like a great plan until you realize that January in Idaho means SNOW. And COLD. Most animals in zoos don’t like that.

Except the snow leopards.

Two baby snow leopards and their dad snow leopard were out in FULL FORCE. The baby snow leopards were running, playing, punching, chewing, and thoroughly irritating their dad snow leopard. It was glorious. I told my humans that I thought I might be part snow leopard and that they should permit me to join this herd. They told me that I was the size of these snow leopard’s paws. I stood down.

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

BABY SNOW LEOPARD

Speaking of snow leopards, my humans and I just saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Why is this related? Well, to not give too much away, there is a scene that has a snow leopard.

I must admit that the trailers for Walter Mitty got me all aflutter. I love cool music when it plays alongside hyper-realistic and creative running and jumping. Yet a whole movie can’t just be that, and this one isn’t, which is almost too bad.

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The basic plot is this: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is the photo editor for TIME magazine. As a kid, he dreamed of traveling the world, but instead has worked a bunch of boring jobs and lived a super boring life. At the start of the movie, new management, led by Ted (Adam Scott), takes over TIME and announces that it will publish its final issue before transitioning to an only-online version. The cover of that final issue will be a photograph by famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Unfortunately, in the roll of negatives O’Connell sent to Walter, that photo’s negative is missing. This begins Walter’s epic journey of self-discovery and world travel, where he learns that life is crazier than daydreams!

Oh, there’s also a love story with Kristen Wiig, but it’s not that important.

The good: the music is great, there are some gorgeous vistas of Iceland, Greenland, and the Himalayas, and there are a lot of sweet moments. Unfortunately, on the whole, Walter Mitty fails to coalesce into the sweet, magical movie it wants to be. It’s neither as funny nor as romantic as it thinks it wants to be. This is disappointing. Ben Stiller is a consummate actor, though, and he’s so easy to watch and love that, on the whole, Walter Mitty is a really enjoyable way to spend two hours.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTYThe snow leopard is the sole cat in the film, but considering my current snow leopard obsession (I WILL JOIN MY PEOPLE), it was a highlight. Below is the PawPrint Plot. I gave it a generous score of 20 points. Not great, but SNOW LEOPARD.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 12.53.08 PMStay warm out there, fellow snow leopards!

xoxo
Franny

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AMERICAN HUSTLE (and Greetings from the Rocky Mountains!)

Dear loyal blog readers,

I have been out of touch because I am currently ensconced in my grandparent’s home in the Rocky Mountain West.

It is heaven.

They give me wet food AND dry food, have a huge house with a bunch of different beds I can sleep in, and windows where I can watch squirrels anytime I want. The only thing I have to do is occasionally wear themed pajamas. We all have a cross to bear.

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But let’s jump right into it– I’ve seen a couple of movies recently but have been too lazy to write. Till now!

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this year at the movies .

Gravity left my hindquarters sore from clutching them with tension.
12 Years A Slave was simultaneously a feast for the eyes and unbearable to watch.
Wolf of Wall Street was an adrenaline rush of disgust and delight.
Captain Phillips was an action movie with a big brain and one of the strongest single scenes of the year.
Short Term 12 was unbelievably simple and if you haven’t seen it, find a way.
Inside Llewyn Davis starred a cat.

There’s still much to see (and Inside Llewyn Davis does require a full review), but I need to preface this review with some of the year’s best to convince you that I can afford to be a little picky here. So let’s move on to tonight’s picture: American Hustle.american-hustle-poster-636-380
Despite what you may have been told, American Hustle is not a mob movie, or a con movie, or a sting movie.
In fact, it’s not a movie that cares much about plot or narrative at all.
This movie is about really great art design and unbelievably complex, stunning performances.
Which, frankly, disappointed me.

Look, I’m a cat. I prefer my movies to focus less on humans and more on cats. I mean narrative.

Essentially, American Hustle focuses on the Abscam scandal of the late ‘70s. Two con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to team up with an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to try and take down a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) and some other top dogs.  It’s a great story and I wanted to know about it! Unfortunately, after seeing the film mere hours ago, I’m not quite sure I could provide more detail about the plot than I just did.

Now, a great story does not a great movie make. You’ve also got to have great characters and great actors to play them. Here, Russell hits a home run. Each of his stars are scene-stealers, and there are a few scenes that nearly steal the entire movie (the club scene with Adams and Cooper, Renner and Bale singing together in a bar, Robert DeNiro’s excellent cameo). Unfortunately, the actors are SO good, SO honest, and SO bold in their work, that nothing else felt important. When Jennifer Lawrence, who played Bale’s wild wife, was onscreen, I was smitten, but when she wasn’t, I didn’t quite know why the character needed to be so important. The stakes of the heist were low, and the consequences of each character’s actions didn’t feel risky. I felt enormous empathy but very little danger.

Perhaps David O. Russell likes his characters like I like my morning dry food—a little bit too much, a little bit too fast, and then vomited. (Maybe that’s just my food.)

It’s a good movie, but it’s not a great one.

As far as cats go, not to fear, cat-lovers!! We’ve got a few felines to feast your eyes upon (albeit briefly, and albeit in 70’s-era polaroids). One of the people who the schemers work with is a woman who controls the wires (which wires and for whom? Therein lies what I was saying about narrative holes). Anyway, in order to get on this woman’s good side, they give her fancy liquor and tea, and talk to her about her cats. She has lots of photos, and they all have names.

I know we’re supposed to laugh about the cat lady, but she and her photographed felines (one of whom was definitely named Barnaby and “likes to play the piano”) get a passable 30 points.Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 11.03.28 PM

I’m back to watching squirrels. G’night!

–Franny

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CLOUD ATLAS

Hello again readers.
As you know, I don’t make it out to the cinema often.  I am, however, a Netflix fiend.  So when my humans went and saw a crazy flick called CLOUD ATLAS and raved about it, I thought I should put it on my Netflix queue.  That way I could take a look at it when it was released on DVD.  This past week, I saw it.  And what a trip it was.

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CLOUD ATLAS, with a budget of over $100,000,000, is one of the most expensive independent films ever.  Based on the novel by David Mitchell, it interweaves six separate story lines that take place between 1849 and 2321.  Using crazy makeup that sometimes turned Hugh Grant into a passable Asian and Halle Berry into a not-quite-as-passable Jew, the film uses the same core cast to portray different characters in each story.  This highlights the film’s underlying themes of universal connective tissue and global cause-and-effect.

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Since there are six separate stories, I shan’t go into each one here.  Suffice it to say, though, that the cast handles the odd material with finesse, and the cinematography is spell-binding.  Each setting, ranging from a 19th-century slaving ship to a 1970’s San Francisco warehouse to a futuristic South Korean city with flying cars and laser guns, has its own feel, its own palate, and indeed, its own director.  Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski shared the screenwriter, producing, and directing credits in this behemoth, and I think the collaboration paid off in spades.

But really though, Franny, what’s the deal with the cats?  Where can we find them?  Ahh, dear readers, this film is – unfortunately – not cat-heavy.  The one instance of cat takes place in the story of Henry Cavendish.  Played in spectacular fashion by Jim Broadbent, Henry Cavendish is a book publisher living in London, 2012.  Due to some unforeseen events (having somewhat to do with a rough-neck author version of Tom Hanks with a giant prosthetic nose pushing a critic over a balcony), he finds himself examining his life and what he has made of it.  He dreams of yesteryear and muses on his salad days, when he was courting a young woman named Ursula.

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There is a flashback scene with a young attractive couple canoodling naked under some bed sheets when Ursula’s parents walk in.  Young Henry Cavendish leaps up and grabs the closest thing he can find to cover his genitalia – a cat.  Oh, that my species should be used in such a manner as this is thoroughly unbecoming of our inherent high status, but these things do happen sometimes for the sake of comedy.  The cat meows and scratches at the boy’s nether regions, distressed by the prospect of being a human’s underwear (the finest bit of acting in the entire film), and Henry Cavendish falls out of the window in a panic.

All in all, although the cat presence in this film leaves something to be desired, the film is quite good.  It’s so good that it makes me want to cuddle up on the couch with my humans and read the original novel.  I’ll make them hold it for me, though.  No opposable thumbs, you know.

So, the final score for CLOUD ATLAS is………………………………………

Cloud Atlas Pawprint Plot

50 points!!!!!!!!

Wow!  That surprised even me!

Well done, CLOUD ATLAS!

Until next time, readers, I remain yours in reviewing.

– Franny

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PORTRAIT OF JENNIE

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My male human fancies himself a writer. I put up with this because “writing” usually means “sitting on the couch in soft pants and thinking,” which ends up providing me a soft place to sleep and a captive ear-scratcher. All day long. I’m telling you, my life is HARD.

Now, my human is a writer of many things, but lately, he’s doing crazy stuff like making up alternate steampunk universes and post-apocalyptic landscapes. To spark his creativity, he’s been venturing into the great canons of sci-fi filmmaking. The limit of my interest in technology begins and ends with the remarkable CGI Richard Parker in Life of Pi (we could be TWINS), but with a soft lap just waiting to be napped in, I resigned myself to settling in for a classic of the genre—1948’s Portrait of Jennie.

The film opens with Joseph Cotten as Eben, a dejected artist wandering snowy Central Park as a pensive voiceover tells us, “those were the years when therewas a hunger in you for more than food… It was a winter of your mind when the life of your genius seemed frozen and motionless.”As a cat, I understood this well. Under an icy arbor, Eben meets a strange little girl named Jennie (Jennifer Jones), dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing. They strike up a merry conversation, and Eben begins a sketch of what will become the eponymous Portrait of Jennie.

Eben’s return to his boarding house is where the reason I’m reviewing this film comes in. THERE’S A CAT! The landlady (Florence Bates) meets Eben at the base of the stairs, and informs him there’s a package waiting. Eben fetches it and leaves, and we’re treated to a brief scene in which the landlady and her elderly friend discuss… something. I didn’t hear a word, because one of the cutest cats ever captured in black-and-white was prettily weaving around their ankles. I got very excited, but I hate to say, this was the beginning and the end of that charming kitten.

The film continues, and Eben runs into Jennie intermittently over the next year. Strangely, it seems she has aged 9045568_origsignificantly between each meeting. By meeting number three, she’s of marriageable age and they become engaged. Perhaps I’m a prude, but wasn’t she thirteen less than a year ago? Anyhow, Eben is naturally a bit suspicious, and does some digging. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll leave the plotting there. The only thing I’ll tell you is that Eben does finish the Portrait of Jennie.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this little movie. It is predictable and a bit trite, but there are also some real gems in the screenplay, though not quite enough to call it “great.” The story is engaging and never lags, and while I wasn’t entirely convinced by the romance, Jennie is undoubtedly magical. The most impressive element of Portrait of Jennie, though, is the massive, atmospheric shots of winter in New York City by cinematographer Joseph August. It’s incredibly beautiful, evocative work, and worth a Netflix queue jump there. My favorite moments were those shot in Jennie’s convent/college, filmed at the Cloisters in Northern Manhattan, right near where I live. I’ve been known to spend time in the nearby park with my humans, but I’m not allowed inside since it’s a “museum.” Like I care. It was a great pleasure, though, to see the nooks and crannies of the Cloisters through the literal lens of 1948. This exemplifies my experience of Portrait of Jennie on the whole—you know what it is, but that doesn’t take away from the beautiful, enjoyable journey.

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

Me, in Fort Tryon Park (the leash was a compromise).

So, for Portrait of Jennie, a small 30 paw-points, but a good-hearted recommendation.

Till next time,

Franny

Pawprint Plot Jennie