Midnight in Paris (Film Review)

Midnight in Paris (Film Review)

For me, Woody Allen has always been pretty hit or miss, but I find myself in the occasional mood where I want to watch one of his quirky movies.

For months now, Midnight in Paris has been on my Netflix list, just waiting for the day when I would feel like watching it. I knew there wasn’t much I wouldn’t like about it. Like our protagonist, I love the 1920’s era, believing that if I had my own Delorean and flux capacitor, this would be the era I would be traveling to, in hopes of hanging out with the literary giants of the century, enjoying the partying, music, and ideas.

paris-poster1The story is about a writer, played by Owen Wilson, who is in Paris with his fiancee (a pretty bitchy and unlikable Rachel McAdams, a definite departure for her, she does very well to be subtly detestable in the film) as they prepare for their upcoming wedding. A successful film script writer, Gil is trying to write a novel for the first time, and is getting there without getting there at the same time. One evening, at midnight, he is essentially transported back in time, to the Roaring 20’s, when Paris was inhabited by all of the great writers of the era: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein. The painters are there as well, such as Dali and Picasso.

Well, this is a dream come true for Gil, as he has never truly been satisfied in his own era, and was one of those people who believed that they were better off had they been born at a different time, whenever that may be. For Gil, it had always been the 20’s, and this was his chance to meet, and hang out with, all of his heroes.

The idea for the film seems pretty ridiculous, and I can’t say that it is too often that Woody Allen ventures into films about time travel, but it really isn’t about that. Midnight in Paris is a love story, and a story about being lost where you are. In some way, we all hope that we could have been born at a different time, for whatever reason. Maybe it is the 20’s for the art, or you wish you could have been a teenager in the 60’s and 70’s for the hippie movement, and the endless classic rock music that was all over the place. Perhaps you wanted to go back even further, the fin-de-siecle eras. Whatever it may be, many of us feel that another era would have suited us better.

The point of the film is that wherever you are, you probably always want to be somewhere else. People find their lives boring. And we always want to escape. While one era would look impressive from the outside, being pulled into it may be something completely different, and this is something that Gil is forced to deal with once he finds a romantic interest (Marion Cotillard) in the 20’s, who is as bored with her era as he is of his.

It is quite a clever way of doing things by Allen, and he doesn’t lose his quirkiness throughout, as he never does through the million movies he has made in his career so far.

Allen captures Paris very well, both in modern and 20’s times. He understands the beauty, and magic, of the city, able to look past the graffiti to see something incredible. That really is, in my opinion, what Paris is all about. The same goes for Gil. He quickly falls in love with the city and wants to live there, while McAdams barely tolerates it and wishes for her life back in the States.

A quirky story, and a chance to interact with legions of famous people from the 20’s is what makes this movie fun to watch. Seeing Hemingway and Picasso fight over a woman, seeing Fitzgerald dote over Zelda, Stein being the backbone of the group, Dali being eccentric as we would have expected him to be, it helps to bring us to that place that we will never truly get to see. Allen found good actors to play all of these parts, and they were done with a certain cheekiness that made all of the characters likable.

Midnight in Paris won an Oscar for the Best Screenplay (which shows how poorly I have followed the awards shows over the past few years) a couple of years ago. It is a highly regarded film, and I would agree with the reviews. It is fun, it has a great cast, and it does make us wonder about where we truly belong.

Is it in this era, or another? Or does it really matter anyway, since we do need to live in our current one.

Throwback TV: Northern Exposure

Over the holidays, I have time to pour through several seasons of whichever television series I desire. I already wrote about my experiences with Homeland Season 2.

Perhaps I was the most excited about delving back into the 90’s, the era of my youth, to get a couple of years under my belt of a show I was too young to care about when it was on TV. My love for 90’s television needs quenching every now and then, and even I realize that it must go beyond my annual re-watching of Twin Peaks, or My So-Called Life.

I wanted to get into Northern Exposure, the fish out of water show about a New York doctor who is basically forced to work in Cicely, Alaska to pay off his student loans.

northern_exposureTwo days and two seasons later, I love the show. There are so many great, quirky things about it, that it goes beyond your typical TV show. It is much smarter than it would originally seem, and this came to a head while watching Season 2, Episode 6 (“War and Peace”). In this episode, the show did something I had never seen before.

They completely, and knowingly, stepped out of a scene to make an important social commentary on the First Gulf War and our nature as a warring society. The actors stopped their acting, discussing the fact that they were being watched by an intelligent audience. With cleverness, they skipped the scene they were in the middle of doing, discussed using one of the possible script revisions, and the actors discussed their characters. It was odd, but it was brilliant, and it really worked. Once their couple of minutes had passed, they moved on to the next scene that they had discussed, since one of the characters told us that “it was a good scene.”

I thought that a show being socially conscious and not only existing within the borders it had created for itself was a bold and interesting move. I really appreciated this as a viewer. It gave the audience credit for being an audience, and gave us credit for knowing that this was not the real world that we were watching, but that, in fact, there was a real world that existed outside of our television sets. Well played.

There are so many other things to enjoy about this show. The best parts, for me, are the highly intellectual radio DJ, Chris, who takes time to read Whitman and Tolstoy over the airwaves, much to the pleasure of his fans in town. For a town under 900, one would not expect them to appreciate this, but they adore Chris and respect his philosophical and literate views on life. There is also Ed, a teenager who knows his way around town, and loves Woody Allen while desiring to become a screenwriter or filmmaker when he gets older. And Maggie, the tough and sassy bush pilot who obviously becomes the love interest for the show, who has a curse where all of her previous boyfriends have died in odd fashion, including freezing to death on a glacier or being hit by a falling satellite.

There are six seasons of this show, and I am excited to see where it goes. There is a certain amount of predictability with the character arcs, things that I know will happen. But there are so many interesting and quirky secondary characters, that I am very much interested to watch the rest and see where they are taken.

This show was originally recommended to me by my tattoo artist, and I pass along the recommendation to those who have a soft spot for 90’s TV.

Oh, and to satisfy my Twin Peaks nerdiness and obsession, there is an episode in Season 2 where they make direct reference to the show, apparently spotting the Log Lady through a viewfinder while the music changed to a somber, Peaks-inspired tune. Brilliant.