Reviews of movies we viewed for Mom’s birthday party on this past Monday: “Stan and Ollie”. You DO have to be passingly familiar with Laurel and Hardy movies from the 1930s to fully appreciate the film, which I’m not and Tom is. There are moments of humor—they’re really like their slapstick movies in real life—but ultimately it’s a sad story. In their heyday, when they were the most popular comedians in the movies, they didn’t get paid well by their producer, didn’t get paid at all for reruns, and therefore were perpetually financially strapped. As we meet Stan and Ollie in the present story, it’s 1953 and they’re desperately doing a tour of England to raise interest in a prospective new movie, which a producer is attempting to finance. For viewers interested in the subject matter. Not a bad movie, but not particularly uplifting, either.
Downsizing” starts with a high-concept SFnal premise: technology has been perfected to shrink people to six inches tall. Why would they do this? Being six inches tall stretches your dollar a thousand times so that the $150,000 equity the protagonist (played by Matt Damon) has in his over-mortgaged house becomes worth $12 million in the community of “small people” where he plans to relocate. The story should have stayed focused on all the complications becoming irreversibly ”small” would entail. Instead the story veers off in odd directions and strays from the premise so much that this viewer had trouble remembering the benefits and limitations of becoming small and how the Big World interacted with them. Sadly, only for the curious. I was disappointed.
Yesterday”, on the other hand, is a delightful high fantasy concept that stays true to its premise until the very end. A talented but failing young musician is hit by a bus (literally) when the entire Earth goes dark for two seconds. (I don’t mind a good deus ex machina; I’ve even used a few DEMs in my books and stories.) He awakens in a world subtly changed. The first change he discovers is that no one knows who the Beatles are, knows their music, and only he can remember the melodies and the lyrics. When the realization dawns on him, he does what any sensible person would do. He runs home to his computer and googles “The Beatles,” only to keep getting pages listing insects.
The premise raises in this viewer the question of social context: how would Beatles’ songs fare in a world without Beatles? There a scene near the beginning in which our musician sits down at a piano (he also plays guitar) in his parents’ living room. The parents, deeply skeptical of his creative aspirations, listen as he expertly starts the opening chords and begins to sing “Let It Be.” Before he’s gotten through the first line, the doorbell rings, an equally skeptical neighbor comes in and sits down, the musician starts again, the neighbor’s cell phone chimes. And so on and on. He never does get past the first line. The scene is meant to be humorous, a send-up of how distracted we are these days and also that context thing—will anyone ever listen to the musician even though he’s singing “Let It Be”?—but I wanted to reach through the screen and smash everyone’s freaking phone.
In sum, “Yesterday” is a very enjoyable film and recommended for light entertainment. I wanted to see the copyright permissions on the Beatles’ songs (got it—who holds the rights now—I have my own reasons for finding out) and so kept the film on through the screen credits at the end. Huge bonus—over the end credits, they play Paul McCartney singing “Hey Jude.” Well worth the wait even if you’re uninterested in the copyright permissions.
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