“Call Me By Your Name” and the Heartbreak I’ve Never Had

Why you need to watch Call me by your name
Photo: Sony Picture Classics

On Sunday afternoon, I watched Call Me By Your Name and left the theater weeping.* Not because I left feeling hopeless, but simply nostalgic, for old lessons and old times.  Continue reading ““Call Me By Your Name” and the Heartbreak I’ve Never Had”

Thom’s Thursday Thoughts on Cosiness

Very Highbrow Thom's Thursday Thoughts on cosiness

Tom is all about cosiness. And retirement. He works so he can afford to do cosy things both in New York and all around the world. If he were single and on Tinder, I imagine he’d list his interests as “Beer, bitches, and cosiness. In front of a fireplace. Or on a boat.”  Continue reading “Thom’s Thursday Thoughts on Cosiness”

Movie Recommendation: "Gravity"

I’m pretty terrible at movie reviews. Whenever I try to review a movie, it ends up being loads of summary interspersed with enthusiastic gushing because I basically only “review” the movies I like. So never expect to read a bona fide Very Highbrow review because it’s really just a recommendation and really just me saying, “Oh my god. So good. Watch it.”

During my first and only semester at NYU, I watched a ton of movies. Movies and “Law and Order: SVU,” which is kind of an interesting choice of TV show to become engrossed in, when you’re 18, becoming increasingly anti-social, and think you hate the big bad Apple. Movies at least got me out of my sunless dorm room and… into another sunless room, (albeit much larger and filled with other people). But I wasn’t doing much else aside from playing the occasional game of badminton (including a match in which my doubles partner and only friend from NYU defeated Columbia – if you’re reading this, Lauryn, big smiles) and scrambling to write crappy essays at 2AM about Plato and Antiquity. So I watched a ton of movies.

Well times have changed. I’ve always loved movies and go to them a whole lot more when I’m back home in California, namely because in my hometown, there’s not much to do on weekend nights. My friend E and I love the hokey, Disney-castle looking Cinema City Theaters tucked between the freeways that divide our cities. It’s where all the local high school students hang out, and the raucous way they laugh and shove each other in line, sipping huge sodas and large trays of nachos with the abandon afforded by having a teenaged metabolism – that crowd brings me back.

But I grew up (sort of), moved back to New York and once, when I walked past the movie theater, checked out the prices and nearly ran into a bag lady because the number seemed to be some kind of mistake. Freakin’ A movies here are expensive! $18.50 for one adult – it seemed cheaper to me, walking past, to make more friends to not watch movies with. For $18.50 I could watch three movies at Cinema City. If I was still in high school in New York, I might have been compelled to watch three movies today. Needless to say the price was what economists call “prohibitive.” Understandably, the price of real estate is worked into every financial transaction in New York, and while AMC Lincoln Center is a really nice, conveniently located theater, it is without a single human ticket vendor. They’ve all been replaced by blinking kiosks that spit the tickets out rather aggressively, onto the floor.

But tonight, C and I had made up our minds to see a movie – a romantic comedy to be precise, in the vein of “Notting Hill” and “Love, Actually,” a feel good British romcom and the perfect thing for a chilly fall night. Neither C and I are in a position to be spending $18.50 on a movie (three movies, maybe), but when we get together economics go out the window. A simple lunch turns into a $50 affair at an Austrian Cafe. We have to get dessert. We have to get coffee. A “simple” dinner turns into a longer-than-anticipated three-course meal at a nice vegan restaurant, from which we rushed to the theater just in time to find “About Time” sold out. It was too cold (I was stupidly underdressed, wearing Converse sneakers and capri jeans so that my ankles were exposed) to head back immediately onto the street and our consciences had already settled upon the idea that we would watch a movie.

“What shall we watch then?” C asked, noting that we could make the next showings of “Ender’s Game” and “Gravity.”

“I heard ‘Gravity’ was really good,” C said, just as my brain was leaning towards “Ender’s Game.”

I had heard the same, but was wary. I had seen the trailer, which at two minutes and twenty-two seconds made me feel so utterly hopeless. Where was Sandra Bullock going to go? I didn’t end up taking my astronomy final, nor did I take physics in high school, but I know a thing or two about space. It’s infinite. And once, someone of authority had said to me that if you were to throw something in space, it would never stop until it hit something, which could be like ten million light years away. That was infinitely (literally) more terrifying to me than being lost at sea, where at least one was guaranteed to hit land in one’s lifetime. The trailer made it seem like Sandra Bullock would be lost in space forever. Then what? I was frightened of what the one and a half hour movie would do to me. Would I cry? Would it be some existential hogwash – a meditation on death and dying and life and living? With a Mexican director, this was likely, though in Cuaron’s defense I loved “A Little Princess” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” I had shied away from the reviews because I didn’t want the movie to be given away, but also I shied away from the movie itself. A part of me felt I could live life perfectly well without ever seeing it, and this is true, but, as Cuaron would say, “Nunca sabemos lo que no sabemos hasta que nos conocemos y todo se vuelve diferente.”

I stalled for a few moments but C was insistent.

“Seriously,” she said, “My friend said it was like the best thing she’s watched all year. Maybe in more than one year.”

I nodded, thinking back to the last “good” movie I’d watched in theaters. One film I came out from wanting to recommend it from the mountaintops and drew a blank. Maaaaybe “Star Trek?” Maaaaybe “Life of Pi” though the book was ten thousand times better? Definitely not the “Silver Linings Playbook” which in my opinion won way too many awards.

In the end we did what most people do when trying to make a decision. We went online. We consulted Rotten Tomatoes. 97%, it said. That is almost unheard of (though at the moment “Captain Phillips” and “Twelve Years a Slave” are at 94% and 97%, respectively, which makes me think I should watch those too). We were like, “Okay let’s do it.” We paid the $18.50, watched in bewilderment as the machine spat our tickets onto the ground (“Where’d it go? Where’d it go? Wait. This is the receipt…”), and marveled at the size of the AMC Lincoln Center, which seems to be the favorite theater of many a (wealthy) New Yorker.

We were handed plastic wrapped 3D glasses that looked surprisingly stylish, like something from a Brooklyn boutique, found seats neither too close nor too far, and settled back for what, we had no idea. But first we groaned through four bad 2D previews and were asked to put our glasses on…if only to groan through three mediocre 3D previews (Another “Hobbit” movie. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m all done with the Hobbits). C and I looked at each other, wordlessly conveying to each other the dire state of Hollywood. The dearth of original content!

And then “Gravity” began.

For 1.5 hours and thereafter, our minds were changed.

Seriously, don’t let go. 

So what follows is my review:

If you haven’t seen “Gravity,” get on it.

To the Academy, let me make it easy: Sandra Bullock for Best Actress, George Clooney for Best All Around Male Supporting Character and Person I’d Most Like to be Lost in Space With, Alfonso Cuaron for Best Director, and Gravity for Best Original Screenplay and Motion Picture of the Year.

(I told you I was bad at this. For a real review, written by a paid professional for a notable publication, click here.)