Blind Spot 40: ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’

It seemed appropriate during the month of an epic comicbook movie release I should finally watch one of the most popular entries from the genre I have yet to have seen for my blind spot series: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

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Released in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a graphic novel called Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It tells the story of a dopey 22 year old kid named Scott (Michael Cera) who enters a video game world when he plays with his band the Sex Bob-Omb. He goes through many women, but he in particular loves a multi-haired girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be with her he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes in the video game using music and sometimes a little action.

For the most part I enjoyed watching this film. It is very well cast with a crop of young talent that would go places including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman. The visual effects and style of the film is unique and continually surprised me. It both feels like you are inside a video game and a comicbook at the same time. scott pilgrim5I also thought Scott Pilgrim vs the World was pretty funny. The big set up jokes like Brandon Routh having super vegan powers really paid off and made me laugh. I also really liked Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate. He was very funny.

What I didn’t like as much is Scott is kind of the worst. He’s selfish, inconsiderate and doesn’t respect women. He goes through them like candy and yet they all seem more than willing to put up with such nonsense. The main excuse the movie seemed to give is he is lovable and nerdy but that’s not a very good excuse. I got the feeling we were supposed to judge Ramona for having so many ex-boyfriends when we saw Scott go through multiple girlfriends in just a few days!

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All that said, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a pretty fun movie. The soundtrack is great and it has a ton of fresh energy to it. If you are tired of the same old story it’s definitely worth a try. I think I prefer it to the other Edgar Wright film I’ve seen Baby Driver.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

(This is my 40th Blind Spot pick! What a fun series it has proven to be!)

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Blind Spot 38: Garden State

The great thing about the Blind Spot project is you get to catch up on movies of great acclaim you missed out on when they were first released. Sometimes I end up loving the film in question and other times I’m left scratching my head at why the film is so beloved. This month’s movie, Garden State, I must admit is the latter experience. I was looking forward to it because I love quirky romances but it just did not do it for me at all.

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Garden State is written and directed by Zach Braff and he plays a young man named Andrew who returns home to New Jersey (hence the title) to attend his Mother’s funeral. While there he becomes reacquainted with his childhood friends including Mark (Peter Sarsgaard), a perpetually high grave digger who steals jewelry from the people he buries. I know the playful shenanigans of the these stoners is supposed to be charming but I found it very boring and repetitive. I get it. They get high a lot. Let’s move on…

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Then Andrew meets a young lady named Sam (Natalie Portman) who is a compulsive liar but only in the ways that make her adorable and precocious. I think her character literally created the term ‘manic pixie dream girl’. This would all be fine if they gave her anything interesting to do or say (ala Summer in 500 Days of Summer). Portman and Braff have decent chemistry but I just was not interested in their characters or anything that happened to them.

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The best thing about Garden State is the soundtrack featuring bands like Cold Play, The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel and more. That is definitely worth checking out. The rest of the movie you can give a pass too. It was definitely not for me.

2 out of 10

Frown Worthy

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Blind Spot 37: Henry V (1989)

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I don’t think it is too controversial to say that in America we are in a bit of a leadership drought these days. Gone is anyone that seems to be able to unite and inspire us to be better than we might otherwise be. You can make the argument this type of dogmatic leader is dangerous, and that is certainly true, but I nonetheless miss it.

William Shakespeare’s play Henry V is perhaps the greatest example of a dynamic leader who through their powerful discourse is able to convince people to do more than they ever thought they could. Now, whether invading France is a good thing is another discussion but Henry still got the men to do it and to win in spite of all the odds. Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 adaptation of Henry V is a visceral and intense version of this story, and I honestly can’t imagine it being done any better.

The film uses elements from Henry IV Part 1 and 2 in a flashback style and adds a narrator billed as Chorus played by Derek Jacobi. This is helpful as particularly the opening actions can be a little confusing.

It always takes me a bit to get into Shakespeare but particularly here as these scenes involve a lot of diplomatic negotiations. I especially found confusing a story-thread with Dame Judi Dench as an innkeeper and Robbie Coltraine as Falstaff. I’m not sure if they are supposed to be comic relief like the Thénardiers in Les Miserables, but I didn’t really get it.

Fortunately for us, Branagh quickly moves on to the soldiers and the battlefield, which is easiest to understand and become engrossed with. First, we get the rousing speech at the city of Harfleur:

“What say you? Will you yield?” I would yield. I can tell you that right now! Then the army continues to struggle through Calais where a member is hanged for stealing from a church. In a great scene Henry goes amongst the soldiers to see how they are feeling and they tell him ‘if his cause be wrong…it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it”:

Then we get up to the battle where they are outnumbered by the French 5 to 1 and it is there that Shakespeare gives Henry one of the most powerful speeches of all time:

“But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother…” That’s a leader! With such leadership they fight and defeat the French with Henry becoming King of both nations. It’s all quite riveting and while Branagh’s version is very violent it works to draw you in and build up the stakes of the story.

The easiest modern example to compare Henry V with is obviously Braveheart which follows very similar beats and executes them well. Some may cringe at the glorification of war but where is leadership more crucial (especially in this ancient age of intimate conflict) than in war? Do we honestly believe we would have gotten the Abraham Lincoln or the Winston Churchill in an era of peace and serenity? Not so much. The great leaders are great because they inspire us to be better and to gather together as a ‘band of brothers’ to face the struggles of the battlefield and of life.

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As far as technical prowess of Henry V it holds up quite well. The acting is great across the board (we even get to see a young Christian Bale in a small role). The sets, action and cinematography are all great. The music is soaring and draws you into the battle. Aside from the confusing scenes with Falstaff, it all works very well and is very impressive considering it is Branagh’s directorial debut (he was nominated for best actor and director for Henry V). I think it is even stronger than his a bit bloated version of Hamlet.

It is definitely smile worthy!

8.5/10

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What do you think of Henry V? Do you find it inspiring or is it too violent for your taste? Let me know in the comments section. What is your favorite Shakespearean adaptation?

2019 Blind Spot Picks

Since 2016 I have participated in the Blind Spot project, which is a monthly series where I watch and review a popular film I haven’t seen yet. So far I have reviewed 36 films in the series and it has been an amazing experience! Some I have loved like Tron and others weren’t for me like The Green Mile. Nevertheless, it is always interesting to watch and review these classic films.

So it is with great pleasure I announce my 2019 Blind Spot Picks:

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January- Henry V

This Shakespeare adaptation put Kenneth Branagh on the map and got him 2 Oscar nominations. I’ve seen the play once at the Utah Shakespeare Festival but it is not one I am super familiar with so I am looking forward to watching this film.

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February- Garden State

Hailed by hipsters everywhere as a classic, it’s about time I saw Garden State. I’m hoping for a fun sweet romantic comedy for the month of love.

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March- The Usual Suspects

I know this movie has a double bad name to it with Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer in it but they won’t make much money from my rental so I figure it’s time to check this ‘neo-noir mystery film’ off of my list.

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April- Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Directed by Edgar Wright this quasi comicbook movie/romance (it’s a genre mashup I am told) should be a lot of fun to finally visit.

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May- Brief Encounter

For May I am going to be checking off the art house favorite 1945’s Brief Encounter starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. It’s about a bored housewife who happens to meet a doctor while doing errands and the brief encounter turns into more than they bargained for. Sounds intriguing!

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June- Gidget

Sandra Dee became the ultimate girl next door in Gidget. She plays a young woman who finds surfing and a handsome surfer named Moondoggie Matthews all in one summer at the beach! I love the beach and romances so this should be a lot of fun.

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July- The Best Years of Our Lives-

Hailed as one of the greatest films to win best picture, The Best Years of Our Lives has long been on my radar. It’s just so long at nearly 3 hours that I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it but I am really looking forward to checking this post-World War 2 family drama off of my list.

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August- Take Shelter-

I love director Jeff Nichols films but I haven’t gotten around to seeing his film Take Shelter. It tells the story of a man played by Michael Shannon who starts getting apocalyptic visions and what he does to protect his family. Jessica Chastain is also in it and it looks very intriguing.

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September- The Pianist-

I have avoided this movie because of my distaste for director Roman Polanski but it seems like a perfect choice for the blind spot project. Adrien Brody won an Oscar for his role, and I know it is a moving Holocaust story which are always edifying if difficult to watch.

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October- Cowboy Bebop: the Movie-

Now that I have finished the Studio Ghibli films it is time to expand into other anime and Cowboy Bepop: the Movie is definitely something I have been curious about for some time. The story of intergalactic bounty hunters seems very creative and I look forward to checking it out.

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November- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance-

I like to have a good variety in my blind spot picks so why not pick a classic western! The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance stars 2 of Hollywood’s greatest leading men in Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne and it is directed by the master John Ford. That’s enough to sell me!

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December- Tokyo Godfathers-

My Christmas pick for blind spot is the anime film Tokyo Godfathers. It has been one I’ve been wanting to watch for a while. I’m just always so busy during the holidays to watch it! The story of 3 homeless people who find a baby on Christmas Eve is supposed to be really special and I look forward to seeing it.

So there you have it! What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of these films and are you going to participate in the Blind Spot project? You all should! It’s really fun and rewarding