(500) Days of Summer (Review)

Right from the get-go, the somewhat annoying narrator of (500) Days of Summer warns us not to expect a love story. Someone should have told Tom Hansen. Oh wait, someone did. The girl of his dreams, Summer Finn, makes it clear up front that she isn't looking for a boyfriend, that she doesn't even believe in love. (Her following actions could be said to send a bit of a mixed message, though.)

The movie takes a unique, non-linear look at the relationship between these two, showing the ups and downs of their time together as Tom tries to make sense of their break-up. Most of his memories of the past idealize Summer, but a shift in perspective later makes us question all we've seen through his eyes. (We should have known better than to trust someone who misinterpreted the ending of The Graduate.)

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is slightly emo but earnest, sweet and so clueless that he relies on his little sister for relationship advice. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is quirky and cute, sometimes maddeningly contradictory, but with an aura about her that (almost) justifies Tom's obsession. (Maybe it's her amazing eyes, highlighted by the signature shades of blue she surrounds herself with even in her apartment.)

The movie utilizes nontraditional ways of telling the story, including animation, putting a grieving Tom into foreign films, and, perhaps most effectively, a split screen segment emphasizing the vast gulf between Tom's expectations and reality. The music, good throughout the film, is especially excellent at this moment. ("Never ever saw it coming at all...")

For all its protestations about not being a love story, (500) Days of Summer is still a story about love. And, through its characters, it has some interesting things to say about it. Summer questions the meaning and reality of love, pointing out how most marriages end in divorce. Tom, on the other hand, asserts that you know love when you feel it. (While Tom and Summer seem to exchange viewpoints for a time, in the end they are still who they always were: an idealistic guy and a girl that does whatever she wants.)

If we can't quite see ourselves on one side or the other of this story, as either the hopeless romantic or the fiercely independent personality, we can probably recognize the types and why they make an uneasy match. Tom tries so hard to put Summer into a box as "the one" that he can't see she doesn't really fit. His wise-beyond-her-years-sister sees it: "Just 'cause some cute girl likes the same bizarro crap you do? That doesn't make her your soulmate." (Fair enough. But what does?)

At one point Tom goes on a tirade against greeting cards, movies and pop songs and the way they keep people from saying what they really feel while creating unrealistic expectations. But ultimately (500) Days turns into one of these movies, with an ending that promotes the ideas of fate and soulmates. (While it's not the happily-ever-after of your typical love story, the ending's still blindly optimistic, and maybe a little too cute.)

(500) Days of Summer is unique and fresh, an intelligent and unusual romantic comedy. (It's just not as brave as it pretends to be.)


(Although I could do without a couple of scenes and would probably like the TV edit.)


("Bad Kids" is the only real clunker.)

I leave you with a music video, not from the movie, but with its two stars dancing to Zooey's song "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" from her band She & Him. (I can't watch this without smiling.)


Feeling Fabulous!

An embarrassingly long time ago, Clarabela at Just Chick Flicks tagged me for the Fabulous Blog Award. I am grateful, though slow to react, and now in honor of award season I'm here saying thanks (I think Just Chick Flicks is fabulous, too!) and passing it on. The rules (there's always rules to these things, you know) are to link back, post, write 5 random things, tag 5 more people...

So here's those 5 things you may or may not be interested in knowing about me:

  1. Like the person who tagged me, I look younger than I really am. When I was a teen getting kids' menus this bothered me more, but the older I get the more OK I have become with still getting carded. ("Let's just say I'm old enough to know what to do with my young feelings.")
  2. I love cheese. I've never met a cheese I didn't like. But I do love some more than others. One of my favorites is Manchego. Yum!
  3. I graduated high school a year early. Not so much because I'm so smart, but because I had the credits and was ready to get out and move on with the rest of my life.
  4. I stink at real bowling, but I'm really good at Wii bowling.
  5. I have this strange thing about numbers, being comfortable with some and uncomfortable with others. Like, say the number of blogs I'm following is 30, or 33, or 35, that's all good. If it's 38, it really bugs me, and I seriously consider unfollowing 3 or adding on 2 more. (I said it was strange!)
And here's my tag-you're-it picks:

Kate Gabrielle of Flapperdoodle (Who is currently having an unfounded crisis of confidence in her art, as well as an awesome sale.)

The other girls keeping my Chain O' Movie Reviews going:
KC at Classic Movies
Amanda Cooper of A Noodle in a Haystack
and Sally, who's Flying Down to Hollywood (I only recently discovered this blog, but I love it!)

And, to round out the 5, (good thing it's 5 and not 6, which would bug me) a blog I've enjoyed reading for a while but have only recently gotten around to following:
Insight Into Entertainment

That's all, folks. Feel free to talk about awards in general, or the Golden Globes in particular (Avatar? Really?) in the comments.


2009 Movie Consumption

As I mentioned previously, in 2009 I decided to keep track of every movie I watched during the year. Now that we're a few days into 2010, I've had time to process that list. Here's the results:

Number of movie viewings in 2009:
141 (45 new and new-to-me, 96 rewatchings.)

What's included in this number? See below (links are to my reviews).

Old movies I just discovered (or finally managed to sit down and watch all the way through):
  • Anna Karenina (1935)
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • Easy Living (1937)
  • The Farmer Takes a Wife (1935)
  • I'll Be Seeing You -- Watched while I was on a Ginger kick. Crazies on vacation find each other and fall in love, the moral being that if you settle for second best, it may just turn out to be first best. This movie includes what just may be the worst advice ever given by an aunt. The rather pedestrian script is elevated by the acting, especially Joseph Cotten's tender performance.
  • Idiot's Delight -- I'd seen the clip of Clark Gable singing "Puttin' on the Ritz" before, but it was neat to finally watch it in context.
  • Key Largo -- How did I never see this wonderful film before? I liked seeing a more subdued side of Bacall.
  • Kitty Foyle
  • The Lady From Shanghai
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
  • Meet John Doe
  • Modern Times
  • Ninotchka
  • Random Harvest -- I was surprised at first by how much the movie differed from the book, but really the plot twists in the book would just not work on film.
  • The Secret Garden (1949)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) -- Loved Leslie Howard, not so keen on Merle Oberon. Favorite lines: "It rhymes!" "Oh, yes, it's a poem!"
  • Son of Paleface -- The enjoyment here was not so much from watching the movie as from making fun of it.
  • Stage Door
  • The Women (1939)
(Guess I'm slowing working at rounding out my 1930's movie knowledge.)

A surprising number of documentaries:
  • The Business of Being Born (recommended for anyone expecting or thinking of having a baby)
  • Following Sean
  • Man on Wire
  • Maxed Out
  • Seven Up (a few in the series)
  • Word Wars -- Fascinating look at the world of competitive Scrabble, I watched this after I read the book Word Freak. The one moment that sums it all up is the interview of a young boy playing in a lower division of a tournament. When asked if he wants to make it to the top division someday, he explains how he doesn't want to become super obsessed to the point of not having a job (like the characters we've been following all along). Ouch.
  • And from Ken Burns: Jazz, The National Parks, Lewis & Clark
Movies made in 2009 that I actually managed to see in 2009:
  • He's Just Not That Into You
  • Julie & Julia
  • Star Trek
  • Up -- I love how Mr. Fredricksen looks like Spencer Tracy, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner era. The brilliant visual storytelling that sets up the background of Carl and Ellie is the best part of the film, and leaves me teary-eyed every time.
(Of these, only Julie & Julia and Star Trek were actually seen in the theater.)

Some other new-ish movies I watched:
The Worst Movies I saw in 2009:
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (2002)
  • Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist -- I hated this film. Perhaps I'm just not the intended audience, but this movie has the distinction of being the only movie this year I couldn't even watch all the way through. I didn't think it was at all charming but instead found it gross and vulgar and turned it off. (I weep for the future.)
Movies I hadn't seen in a while that I was really happy to rewatch in 2009:
  • The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
  • Benji -- I'm a sucker for cute dogs. And "I Feel Love" is such a great 70's theme.
  • Breaking Away
  • It's Always Fair Weather
Double Rewatched:
(I did a lot of rewatching of old favorites as always, but I revisited these movies more than once in the year.)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951)
  • The Apartment
  • Casablanca
  • Double Indemnity
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Laura
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • North by Northwest
  • The Third Man
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • WALL-E
  • You've Got Mail
That's it for my list. I'm glad I kept track of the movies I watched in '09, and now I'm already two movies into 2010! This year I'm sure I'll keep rewatching my favorites while supplementing with Netflix, and maybe I can catch a few more flicks while they're still in theaters. Hopefully it will be another good year for movies... and Moviewings!
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