Thursday, August 16, 2012

In-flight movies quasi-reviewed

The insane, expensive, and exhausting process of getting a poodle to and from Germany is, at last, complete. Bisou minds flying a whole lot less than her humans, and cheerily peed for about an hour when she got out of her enormous kennel and onto Newark's familiar terrain.

At the Frankfurt airport. "Discover Germany."

I watched "The Five-Year Engagement" and "Young Adult" on the flight (spoilers ahead), and while the latter was the better movie by so, so much, the two blended together somewhat. One was in Michigan, the other Minnesota. Both contrasted sweet, fertile young women with flawed, screw-up career gals who don't know a good thing when it's right in front of them. Both showcased uprooted-cityfolk snobbery. Both were watched on no sleep, with possible nodding-off for 30-second intervals midway through. 

But gosh, "The Five-Year Engagement" was dreadful. It didn't help that the plot centered around the academic-career ambitions of the woman, yet this "career" was so vague that she seemed at various points a college student (smitten with a prof in a lecture hall), a grad student (which I believe she's referred to as at one point), a postdoc (the ostensible catch-all answer) and a professor (there's a party for faculty and their partners, which they attend), all during the same "job." Nor that the movie was pre-PC-level obliviously racist (the black postdoc-ish-thing among her colleagues can't cut it, while the Asian one is psycho, and Hasids are played for laughs for basically existing). Oh, and over-the-top sexist (its message being, a woman who has a higher-prestige job than her dude is an emasculating beeyotch, with a side message about how if a woman has any professional success, it's because her boss wants to sleep with her.) Nor, as someone who did in fact move to the woods to be with my spouse, did I appreciate that Ann Arbor (which I've never been to, but still) is portrayed as some kind of woolly-mammoth-filled forest. And what was up with the side plot that was "Knocked Up," except that Seth Rogen had made whichever micro-morph was necessary to become Chris Pratt? 

It's a bad sign in a rom-com when you're rooting for the female lead to for goodness sake go off with the other dude. Better-looking (this was not Jason Segel at his best), smarter, more enthusiastically into her, better job... The worst thing about him was that he anointed her an assistant professor, which, as bad qualities go, isn't so ethical, fine, but sure beats leaving a loaded bow and arrow for hunting deer out when a young child is around (with predictably gruesome consequences). And, speaking of male beauty, what kind of Apatow movie provides no Paul Rudd whatsoever? Normally, Jason Segel plays sweet with a creepy edge, a Nice Guy who's actually, at the end of the day, nice. But he makes for one lousy misogynist. When the man-child ultimately triumphs (after nobly dumping a sexy, sexually voracious 23-year-old we're expected to suspend extra disbelief to imagine liked him in the first place), the movie announces its commitment to blah.

"Young Adult," however, was kind of great. It's the rare movie that finds a way to make it make sense that the protagonist is being played by someone ridiculously beautiful. Normally, there's this odd thing where you can never tell if the character is meant to be as attractive as the actor in the role. Like, when someone will refer to Emily Blunt's character in "Five-Year" as pretty - is the character as pretty as the very pretty Blunt? Prettier? With theater, it's presumably more definitively about the character than the actor. Whereas in "Young Adult," the root cause of Charlize Theron's character's woes is that she happened to be born looking like Charlize Theron, which is to say looking, in each scene, like a still of it would read "Lancôme," and it's actually an ad for foundation. The movie wouldn't have been the same if it starred a Jennifer Aniston or Kate Hudson, a girl-next-door rom-com type who would, in this role, read as conceited and as perhaps overestimating the burden their beauty placed on them. Whereas a Theron born into a town of non-Therons (which is to say, any town or big city anywhere in the world) will have a different experience from the get-go. 

But what's great is how not-heavy-handed the movie is, how there's clearly something wrong with the protagonist, but you don't get the sense that you're watching a specific DSM diagnosis adapted for screen. Hair-pulling, alcoholism, depression, a quasi-psychopathic inability to feel emotions mixed with some ability to feel emotions... it all amounts to an original character, rather than one who'll simply read as real to those who've known someone with whichever issue (Sheldon's unstated Asperger's on "Big Bang Theory," say.) The only misstep was the overemphasis early on on the fact that the Patton Oswald character was neither gay nor impotent, despite having been gay-bashed and injured there as a youth. Once that's been mentioned, and mentioned again, and mentioned once more, you know he and Theron's character will be getting it on.


kei said...

Mitsu has no plans to travel anywhere beyond mainland USA by car, but I'm curious about how Bisou didn't mind traveling across an ocean. That sounds amazing. Did she fly in the huge crate as cargo? Or did she get a better situation? Was there medication involved?

Also glad to know that I don't have to watch the 5 year engagement movie. Had no idea it was about someone in an academic situation (though still a peculiar pick of vocation in Hollywood) but still don't want to see it!

Generally, often, I'll come to WWPD and find out about which (usually NYT) articles and such I don't need to read, but is good to hear about, _and_ I get insightful commentary--for that, I'm always grateful!

Phoebe said...

For the flight we took, on United, even tiny dogs had to go in cargo. When I learned this, we'd already decided for sure that we were both going for the entire month, and had just assumed a small dog flies in the cabin. Not so! But they make sure the pressure conditions are right, and that you get a crate that gives a ton of room to your dog - the kennel we got Bisou for this looks like it's for a golden retriever. From what I'd read, it seems like you don't want to do this with a snub-nose breed, but poodles are evidently the opposite. We didn't use any medication, and relied on the fact that Bisou is fine in her carrier in the car or on the train (she even goes into the carrier of her own volition if it's open in front of her). On the rare occasions we've been away from her for more than a few hours, she hasn't had accidents, so that aspect wasn't such a concern.

So there's the huge caveat that I have no idea how Bisou enjoyed her time on the plane. There was no webcam or anything. Every time there was turbulence, I worried. All I know is she appears not to have had any accidents (confirmed by the eternity she spent peeing outside Newark) and was in fine spirits once we reunited. I can't imagine she'd have preferred being squeezed in her carrier under a seat in front of us. Maybe she'd have preferred no trip at all, but in Heidelberg she finally got to meet lots of other dogs (and humans!) on a daily basis.

Overall, I think bringing Bisou was fine, even fun, for her, but not so great for her owners. The cost and hassle were so much greater than anticipated. You need to see a vet in the States first, then another once abroad. There's also an official USDA vet who needs to stamp some forms. There are fees for a pet in cargo, fees to bring a pet into a country, a tip for the guy who smoothes along the process (and asks for a tip) once you arrive back in the States, and obviously you have to take into account the giant plastic kennel when figuring out transportation to and from an airport.

I guess my advice would be, do it if you're going three months or more, or maybe just if you're moving somewhere permanently, but otherwise, maybe not.

kei said...

Thanks for all this information! I think Mitsu will stay on mainland USA or with her grandparents before going abroad for a long period of time, but it's good to know what your experience was like.

Also, based on a more recent post about taking Bisou to a dog park, it sounds like she's not unlike Mitsu in that she can handle playing with bigger dogs. In the daycare we take Mitsu to, there are two groups of dogs based on size. She probably fits in with the smaller dogs in terms of apparent size, but in spirit, she belongs with the bigger dogs so she hangs out with them. Though they are same sex, my hypothesis is that Bisou and Mitsu would be BFF :D

Phoebe said...


I totally want Bisou to frolic with Mitsu! Alas, after these travels, I can hardly imagine ever getting Bisou out of the 10-mile radius of our apt. But if you guys are ever in Princeton...

But yes, Bisou's happy with big dogs. The first dogs she met once we got her were these Israeli labrador mixes from, I think, Israeli army bases (long story), so that's what she's used to. The most fun she ever had in a dog run was being chased (playfully) by a German shepherd.