Why Paddington 2 is a Better Movie than The Post

During the month of January, I have gone to the movie theater twice. One of the films I saw is a delightful, charming, and heartwarming film about friendship, family, and loyalty; the other is a star-studded, Oscar-nominated “thrilling” drama that puts the audience to sleep in the first ten minutes (if not sooner).

Yep. Paddington 2 is a superior film to The Post in every single way. Fact.

Paddington 2 picks up where the first film left off: Paddington is happily settled with the Brown family and an essential part of the fabric of the community. Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday is quickly approaching, however, and Paddington has to work hard to buy her the perfect present: an antique pop-up book illustrating all the essential London landmarks. What Paddington doesn’t know, though, is that the pop-up book is actually a hidden treasure map, heavily coveted by washed-up actor Phoenix Buchanan (played to perfection by Hugh Grant). When Buchanan steals the book (in disguise, of course), Paddington is unjustly framed for the crime and sent to jail.

Yes. Paddington goes to jail! Gasp.

Poor Paddington. But Paddington, being Paddington, makes friends and improves jail-life for everyone: the uniforms become pink-tinged, bedtime stories are implemented, and there are orange marmalade sandwiches for everyone, even the hard-edged Mr. Knuckles!

Paddington 2 is better than the first Paddington (which is also charming and adorable), but it is most definitely better than a film that is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Rotten Tomatoes describes The Post as “a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light.” While that sounds promising, what that actually translates to on-screen is a very, very slow film with a minimal story and lackluster, underwhelming performances–including by the supposedly amazing Meryl Streep aka the most overrated, underwhelming actress ever.

Three-quarters of the film focuses on whether The Washington Post is going to secure The Pentagon Papers and scoop The New York Times. In the last quarter of the film, the papers are secured, and the debate on whether to publish them rages. It’s approximately 1000% less interesting than it sounds. All the President’s Men and Spotlight — two films that really showcase the tough grit, integrity, and relentlessness of journalists — it is not. Nothing is captivating or compelling, least of all the characters and the performers who bring them to “life.” Streep’s Graham is bland and lifeless; a somnambulant Jason Robards has more passion and believability as Ben Bradlee than Hanks can muster in two hours. I felt nothing for these characters or their dilemma. I was not moved to care, as interesting an example of media law The New York Times vs. The United States is. The only emotions I felt during the movie were agonizing boredom and relief when it finally ended. (I guess I also felt elation, early in the movie, when I spotted a movie poster for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid — and subsequently I would feel longing for that kind of sophisticated, witty film-making.)

With the current state of affairs, I understand the urgency and importance of The Post, but it really is lacking in acting (supremely disappointing) and storytelling (even more disappointing). The film has no heart, plain and simple. While watching Paddington 2, however, I was drawn into Paddington’s world, full of concern and love for Paddington just as all the other characters are in the film. I laughed, I was on the edge of my seat, cheering for Paddington, and in the film’s final moments, my throat even constricted and I felt a tear or two or a thousand welling up. Heart.

 

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Songs I Did Not Play at My Wedding Reception

If I were to blame my lack of updating this blog on one thing, it would not be the death of my beloved Macbook Pro (RIP) or lack of time or some silly nonsense, it would just have to be the fact that I am now a married Countess–Mistress of Collinwood, if you will–and I have responsibilities, people! (Nothing like poor Judith helping her dear Gregory– Reverend Trask’s great-grandson–rebuild his sadistic school or keeping herself out of the insane asylum, but responsibilities nonetheless!) But, beloved readers, I have not forgotten you.

My wedding day was perfect. Or at least I think it was. There was a lot of planning and stress, of course, but it was a fairly simple affair. (I think?!) One of the final things I worked out was the music playlist. I wasn’t too worried about the music because: 1) I have the best taste B) If all else failed, I would have just played Pet Sounds from start to finish ad infinitum and, D) I don’t think 99.9% of attendees paid any attention, anyway. And when I finally did create a dump playlist (you know, like a first draft–just get it down, man), it ran 3-4 hours for a 90-minute event. Oops. And so that is when the really hard work began: cutting songs. Should “Layla” be unplugged or not? How much Beatles is too much? (No such thing, I decided. Approximately 28.9% of the eventual playlist was by The Beatles, collectively or solo. Not that anyone was counting, except the one guest who dared to jest, “Too much Beatles!” To which I replied, “Off with your head, Alice!”)

I may be biased, but I would say the eventual playlist was perfect. There were, however, more than a handful of perfect songs that did not make the cut, and for no better reason than I have nothing better to blog about and have been stuck with the same playlists on my iPhone since my Macbook died, here’s me musing about why a few of them ended up on the cutting room floor…

“Cornerstone” – Arctic Monkeys

Tell me, where’s your hiding place
I’m worried I’ll forget your face
And I’ve asked everyone

I’m beginning to think I imagined you all along

This was actually in the playlist until, quite literally, the very last minute when I cut it – for time and because I had inserted another song that ended up to be that song. The lyrics really showcase how Alex Turner is heir to Jarvis Cocker’s throne of breathy, creepy, I’m-in-love-with-you-but I’m-not-stalking-you kind of thing. I mean, come on: I smelt your scent on the seat belt/And kept my shortcuts to myself. That’s killer. Oh, Jarvis, I used to think you were the real deal. I love this song. And the video. Arctic Monkeys are back this year, aren’t they? Hallelujah! 

“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” – The Smiths

…except I wanted to play the instrumental soundcheck version, false starts and all. Even though Morrissey’s voice can be the most comforting sound in the world (I believe I once famously compared it to your mom cutting the crusts off your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even though I’m an avid devourer of crusts – hey man, this figure doesn’t happen all on its own), I love this instrumental version — such beautiful music, the perfect juxtaposition to Morrissey whinging (I use this word in a loving way, mind) And in the darkened underpass I thought oh God, my chance has come at last…But then, I think this ultimately reminded me too much of relying so solely on the music of The Smiths and Morrissey and staring out of bus windows on long, cold, wintry days. Too solitary to be played on my wedding day.

“You Do Something to Me” – Paul Weller

Dancing through the fire, yeah
Just to catch a flame
Just to get close to
Just close enough 
To tell you that
You do something to me
Something deep inside

Or, actually, anything by Paul Weller. No Jam, no Style Council, no Paul Weller Movement, no nuthin’. Probably because I wanted to marry Paul Weller for the longest time before I met my husband, and part of me still believes that in a parallel time storyline, he and I would end up together. Not something you exactly want to evoke on your wedding day, right?

“Slide Away” – Oasis

Ugh, I love this song. So much. Back when the Gallaghers were still saying nice things about each other, I believe Noel once stated that this was Liam’s greatest vocal performance, and Liam called it the greatest rock ‘n’ roll love song. So many great lines in this song: “I dream of you and we talk of growing old, but you say please don’t”, “Let me be the one who shines with you/In the morning we don’t know what to do/We’re two of a kind”, “I don’t know, I don’t care, all I know is you can take me there…”

I spent a lot of time debating this one–and which version. The album version is, of course, amazing, but it  have you heard it live? Oh my heart. Ultimately, comparing the youthful arrogance, energy, and unity of the Gallagher brothers’ chant of “WHAT FOR?” at Knebworth in ’96 and the tired resignation of the band’s performance of the song at the iTunes Festival in ’09 broke my heart. This band, man. Put your life in the hands of this rock ‘n’ roll band and they just might throw it all away. (Even though they told you they wouldn’t.)

“Baby, I Love Your Way” – Peter Frampton

I am not yet prepared to declare to world exactly how many copies I own of Frampton Comes Alive! (but hey, like most people, I only own one copy of I’m In You), but hey, I love that album and this song. But no matter how many times I listen to it, I still have difficulty listening to it without being reminded of a greasy Ethan Hawke (is there any other kind of Ethan Hawke? Just sayin’…) mocking it.

“Simple Man” – Graham Nash

Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

What a song, man. (What an album! One of my favorite albums. Of. All. Time.) Graham Nash is the real deal for me, dude. He’s my favorite member of CSN(Y–what a loser, don’t get me started), with Stills a nose hair or two or heck, a mutton chop behind. This song, written about his breakup with Joni Mitchell, just tears the hearts to pieces, don’t it? I just want to hold you, I don’t want to hold you down. Duuuuuude. On a happier, note, I also wanted to play The Hollies’ version of “Just One Look.” I mean, Doris Troy is Doris Troy and all, but there’s just something about some scrawny white guys from Manchester singing Just one look and I felt so I-I-I’M IN LOVE! (If I could figure out a way to make the font get gradually bigger, I would.) Makes me happy just thinkin’ about it.

“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” – Carly Simon 

Ah, my girl Carly. The day my husband proposed, we went record shopping, and I found a good lump of Carly Simon records. The clerk commented, “A Carly Simon kind of day, huh?” As every day should be. Carly once introduced this song as “a kind of weird song about marriage.” (Pssst, what do you think Art and George were talking about? Doesn’t George look perturbed when he discovers the camera watching him? Heh, heh.)

You say we can keep our love alive
Babe all I know is what I see
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love’s debris
You say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds
But soon you’ll cage me on your shelf
I’ll never learn to be just me first
By myself

A great song. But maybe not one to play at a wedding reception.

“Your Smiling Face” – James Taylor

The real JT, people. What a jam. Unashamed to admit I know the words to this song by heart. No one can tell me that I’m doing wrong today whenever I see your smiling face my way…

And have you seen JT perform it on Sesame Street with Oscar the Grouch? No? Well, prepare yourself for a lil’ slice of divinity:

You know James, you’re so aggravating!

“Girl” – Davy Jones 

You know, it was a real turning point in our relationship when my husband admitted he had not seen every episode (or maybe even one episode) of The Brady Bunch. I think that stuff might just be in my DNA, and there’s a strong possibility that Mike Brady might just actually be my real father. So we watched my favorite episode of the series: “Getting Davy Jones.” And you know what? My husband-to-be didn’t exactly care for it. (His expression resembles the engineer’s in the studio.) YIKES! I had some real soul-searching to do that night. I mean, there are just some days when you feel like Marcia calling to tell her teacher that she couldn’t get Davy Jones and then–WHAM!–in walks Davy Jones…in the form of singing this song. See ya on the flip side, Davy.

“I Need You” – The Beatles

Please come on back to me.
I’m lonely as can be.
I need you.

Yep, there were a few Beatles songs that did not make the cut, and this one probably hurts the most. George never commented on this song, but it is one of his best early songs–so full of love and longing. The track features an effect called violining. George plugged a foot-controlled tone pedal into his trusty twelve-string Rickenbacker, allowing him to to quickly increase or lower the sound of the instrument. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

“You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Oh, I love this song. It is divinity. I have a vinyl record of The Very Best of The Lovin’ Spoonful, and it must have belonged to a radio station at one time–it’s marked WIDR all over, someone meticulously wrote the times of each song, and someone also lovingly inscribed the back cover: “All cuts are GREAT!” How true. But I wanted to play this song just because it reminds me of my husband — not because he is a Lovin’ Spoonful fan (“Who’s that?”, he would probably ask, bless him) or anything like that but just because he is the nicest guy. And he didn’t have to be so nice… I would have liked him anyway.

And just as a reminder of what a weird and wonderful world the 1960s were, here is–contain your excitement, ladies–Peter Noone introducing the Lovin’ Spoonful on an episode of Hullabaloo!:


“Without You” – Harry Nilsson 

I’m not really sure why I even put this in the running in the first place. The Badfinger version is probably superior (I debate this a lot in my head, but I’m 100% sane, I swear), but dang, if that band doesn’t break your heart. I think I like the Harry Nilsson version because 1) I instantly think of the cover of Nilsson Schmilsson (A+++ album & cover) and well, that’s like my life goal right there and 2) I’m 1000% convinced that if the note at 1:24 won’t grow hairs on your chest (just like any good ol’ jalapeno pepper), nothing will. I CAN’T LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE, I CAN’T GIVE ANYMORE! How could anyone even remember that Mariah Carey sang this song after hearing Nilsson and Badfinger do it? I was more than a little shocked. And disturbed. And instantly signed up for another session with my therapist, Judd Hirsch. (Are you guys watching me for the changes and keeping up OK?)

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd 

Reflecting on this playlist now, this is one of the songs that initially makes me scratch my head and wonder, Why did I want to play this song? But, you see, the answer is quite simple. The theme of the wedding reception was It’s A Wonderful Life (yes, the Christmas movie AKA the most perfect movie of all-time). Each table and its decorations centered on a quote from the film. My personal favorite? “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” I decorated the table with old family photos — of my grandparents, their parents, etc. People I wished were there but of course couldn’t be. It was my favorite table. But nobody really ever sat there all night — maybe because there were already others sitting there.

And well, I love this song, and it is a love song–like the entire album–for Syd. And oh, how I love Syd.

“All or Nothing At All” – Frank Sinatra

All or nothin’ at all
Half a love never appealed to me
If your heart, it never could yield to me
Then I’d rather, rather have nothin’ at all

After the Beatles, Sinatra was star of the night. Or the playlist–whatever. The best version of this song (Sinatra recorded several, y’know) is, without contest, found on Sinatra and Strings. There, Sinatra’s vocal really captures all the incredible turmoil and pain of the lyrics. He’s not messin’ around, boy. The first Mrs. Frank Sinatra once commented that she never married again because well, how do you re-marry after being married to Frank Sinatra? That’s how I feel about Frank Sinatra’s voice. How can you listen to anyone else sing something he’s sung? There’s no getting over that voice, man. And he could sing it all.

“Annie’s Song” – John Denver

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

If  you think you’re too cool to listen to John Denver, you’re not cool. At all. This is a beautiful, beautiful song. Not playing this song probably hurts the most. I should have cut something else in its favor.

Well, that’s all folks.

Much love & best regards (BLECH) FROM The Countess