Binge Blog gets festive for the holidays — in a sense — with "Iron Man 3" and "When Harry Met Sally…"
Cringe Blog is such a big October hit with, uh, myself, that I have decided to introduce another theme: 'Nog Blog.
A different type of rhyme, yes, but fun nonetheless. This December, 'Nog Blog will be dedicated to covering films that take place during the holidays — but are not about the holidays because those types of movies tend to be bad. But fear not: You can still have your favorite cup of joe, or cocoa, or yes, 'nog, while you read it. I want these picks to make you feel good, whether that is because of a movie/show's greatness or its joyous storyline. There will be no complete downers here. (Emphasis, probably, on "complete" because my tastes are still my tastes.)
LET'S POUR THAT 'NOG.
“Iron Man 3” (2013)
Disney+, rated PG-13, 131 minutes
Not only is this a secret holiday movie, but it's also one of the more hated Marvel movies by general audiences.
This is dumb and wrong because “Iron Man 3” is great.
Now, I’ll say this: I didn’t like it when I first saw it in theaters. I went with my dad, and we both walked out of it going “… huh.” That’s because this movie is weird as shit. The twist comes out of nowhere — I’m going to talk about it below, so this is your spoiler warning — and there are so many things in it that are more often seen in indie sci-fi or horror movies than multimillion dollar blockbusters. I get why people hated it at the time, but I think it deserves another shot. Here’s why:
This movie was directed and co-written by Shane Black (“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Lethal Weapon”). The dialogue is punchy, and the story takes real risks, ones that will probably never happen again now that Disney controls the entire universe. Having Tony Stark suffer from PTSD in a realistic way was something new for comic book movies. Having Stark’s obsession with pushing technology forward be his downfall, and having Pepper Potts save him in the end, is also genius. This is not the story of a superhero; it is the story of someone who needs a superhero.
In the lead-up to the film, everyone was excited about The Mandarin, a villain from the comic books largely considered one of Iron Man’s greatest foes. Unfortunately, the comic book portrayal is also a stereotypical one and played off Western fears of China and communism in general in the 1960s. In the film, The Mandarin is portrayed by Ben Kingsley, which had the potential for even more issues — until it is revealed that the film’s version of The Mandarin is nothing more than a brand mascot.
His real name is Trevor Slattery, and he’s a British actor whom the film’s real villain, Aidan Killian (Guy Pearce), hired to portray The Mandarin and take credit for a string of deadly explosions. Killian knew that people would be scared of a foreigner and consider him a bigger threat, which allowed Killian to work behind the scenes to carry out his plans. Maybe people didn’t like having their biases shoved back down their own throats, but it’s brilliant, from both a supervillain and screenwriting perspective.
It's also got great action sequences (seeing dozens of iron suits floating in the air together is awesome), a heartwarming subplot with a little kid looking up to Stark and even manages to elicit sympathy for Killian (the explosions were the result of testing a new medical procedure he needs to perfect to save his child). Of all the post-"Avengers" Marvel movies, this one is perhaps the most "out-there" attempt at doing something completely new. It didn't work with audiences then — shocking that comic book fans want things to be familiar to them, I know — but it might now. At least, it does for me.
"When Harry Met Sally…" (1989)
Showtime, rated R, 96 minutes
Up until last week, one of the great cinematic shames of my life was having not seen this movie.
I knew I would love it. I could feel it in my soul. I had watched the Katz's Deli scene, of course, and thought it was hysterical, but besides that, how could a movie starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan go wrong?
With the film celebrating its 30th anniversary and coming back to theaters for a limited time, I figured there was no better time to clear up that blindspot than now*.
As expected, I loved it. What chemistry! What comedy! Honestly, the thing that stood out to me the most was just how much modern rom-coms have aped this movie. Harry's whole speech about why he likes Sally ("I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts," etc.) has been redone over and over — and worse and worse — in the years since. It's a testament to how much this movie means not just in the film community but also our everyday lexicon, our zeitgeist.
There's not much else I can say about it that will sound smart. This is a rom-com, through and through. It is a warm hug. It hits the beats you expect it to hit, especially for a movie made in the late 1980s. None of that bothered me enough to impact my enjoyment. Nora Ephron's flirtatious dialogue is perfect, and director Rob Reiner injects the same adoration for the material here as he did in one of my favorite movies ever, "The Princess Bride." As much as I love films, like "Iron Man 3," that break molds, I also sometimes enjoy movies that give me exactly what I expect — as long as they do those things at a high level of precision. This one does.
And yes, I know this takes place of a long span of time. But they buy a Christmas tree, don't they? I rest my case.
*As an aside, theaters need to do a much better job of advertising these anniversary screenings. I just happened to see a listing for this one while purchasing other movie tickets. Otherwise, I would have had no idea it was playing. There are other films this has happened with as well.
Quote of the Week
Harry (Crystal), leaving a message for Sally (Ryan), in "When Harry Met Sally…":
"The fact that you're not answering leads me to believe you're either a) not at home, b) home, but don't want to talk to me, or c) home, desperately want to talk to me but trapped under something heavy. If it's either A or C, please call me back."