Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ode to Musician Bio-Pics



I'm excited, are you excited?
So the production of Bohemian Rhapsody is well under way with director Bryan Singer who debuted with The Usual Suspects back in the 90's and went on to make no more good movies, and of class action lawsuit for having sex with underaged boys at his Hollywood mansion fame. Just so you know, this production went through like 18 casting changes and I don't even know how many fall outs over creative differences. Apparently the gramps with amps, leftovers of Queen; Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor want to make it more about the band than a Fred bio-pic. Let's be real, people only liked or in my case loved Queen because of Fred Mercury. He was the creative glue that gifted us with truly one of the most amazing stage presences and one that seems impossible for imitation, some of the most innovative songs in the Rock 'n Roll cannon, and an unforgettable voice making him truly one of the greatest front men of any era. And without him, the others would have faded into obscurity before the 70's even started. Sasha Baron Cohen was in line to play him and I supported that. He has a great voice as he's proved in the terrible film Les Miserables, and it's an inspiring casting decision considering he's a comic actor but has a presence and eccentricity factor akin to Mercury himself. Then they cast Ben Whishaw, I mean...whatever. Eventually it all fell on Rami Malek's gorgeously flawless shoulders, and early release photos are indicative that he's got this down. What is kind of annoying, aside from having a confirmed rapist directing a film about one of my favorite icons of music, is that Freddie has been dead for 20 years, his long time lover and life partner Jim Hutton died in 2010, and Brian and Roger are the only ones who 'want to do Freddie justice' granted, they know him very well, they were like a family, a band is a marriage blah blah blah, but it still seems like this would be their baby and their interpretation of Fred's legacy rather than an objective homage to this god-like figure. Well, we'll see. In this spirit of this highly anticipated film here's a list of other very inspired casting decisions in music bio-pics

The film culminates in Queen's iconic performance at Live Aid in 1985.

Val Kilmer as Doors frontman Jim Morrison and everyone in the supporting cast of Across the Universe can fuck off.

Also goes without saying that Jamie Foxx and Ray Charles and Angela Bassett as Tina Turner are iconic and it their performances are basically seamless. So here are some lesser-known imitators. 
Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter because well yeah.
O'Shea Jackson Jr. as his own father Ice Cube in Straight Outta Compton. That's quite the responsibility, in fact I kinda dig the whole cast of the film.

Gary Oldman's premiere performance as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy. I remember thinking; holy shit who is that. They found his fucking twin, also they make being a junkie look pretty glamorous. Also, lest we forget, this is the film premiere of one Courtney Love. (Strangely not as Nancy Spungen).
Most bio-pics about The Beatles really suck. This isn't that. In Nowhere Boy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays a very young John Lennon in his art school days, wanting to start a skiffle band and reuniting with his estranged mother only to have her die in a car accident a few months later. He meets Paul McCartney and the seeds of the Beatles are planted. It's really not about the band at all, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson gives a very mature performance while being only 17 during shooting and falling in love with his director Sam Taylor-Wood...they went on to get married despite the 33 year age difference, and she went on to direct Fifty Shades of Grey...it was a simple time. 



The main cast of The Runaways. Yeah Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart did Twilight movies together, but let's just forget that happened for two seconds and focus on this tiny film where no doubt the main cast had to take major salary cuts in order to play one of the most important glitter rock/punk rock cross over all-girl bands in an era of cock rock. But i'm sure Dakota and Kristen could afford it with their Twilight money to play Cherie Currie and Joan Jett respectfully. They actually nailed it. Teenage chicks in corsets and electric guitars...in the 70's...it was just so damn cool. I miss them.

professional alcoholic and pouty lip caddy John Rhys-Meyers was only 21 when he undertook the role of Bryan Slade; a Marc Bolan and David Bowie hybrid in Velvet Goldmine, hands down, one of my favorite films; one of my favorite sub-genre's of music; Glam rock. Directed by one of my favorite living filmmakers Todd Haynes, so really pretty fucking perfect. 
Ewan McGregor; same movie. Curt Wild was an amalgam of two of my favorite musicians; Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. And all the other favorites I mentioned prior, so you get it. 
Out of the 7 actors that played a version of Bob Dylan, Cate Blanchett definitely outshines all of them in I'm Not There (again, by Todd Haynes), not just because of the gender fluidity, but her speaking style, mannerisms, and attitude of Bob Dylan during his rock transition was absolutely something else. She should have won the Oscar that year. You know what? She should win every Oscar she's nominated for.
Oddly hot weirdo Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line was the role he was born to play. It was nuanced and really worked on, you could tell that it was almost an immersion and not an imitation.


Petit Frenchy Marion Cotillard won an Oscar for her performance of national treasure Edith Piaf. I kind of am severely in love with Edith Piaf, the first music I listened to was all of her recordings, so it's kind of an unhealthy obsession. I truly believe that no better music exists. A lot comes close but Piaf poured her heart into every song and the passion of her voice gets under your skin and grabs you by the spine. This metaphor is not making any sense. She is the greatest torch singer to ever torch sing, and the pain of her life is in every note she hits. Marion did her own singing, and she nailed the fuck out of this.

Ok trailers below: 








Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie That Can't Movie

Clever marketing I'll give them that. That's about all I'll give them.
So where do I begin ...I threw up, and I came home shaking. And no this wasn't from a night of heavy drinking. I don't drink anymore but after seeing Mother! I wish someone had stuck a bottle of vodka up my ass. So many things bother me about this absolute garbage presented as art, (and I should know, I wrote my graduate thesis on Warhol). So, let's start with the big one: ripping off so many filmmakers I can't even count. I'll take you through the short list. The obvious one is Polanski, in particular Rosemary's Baby, then the body horror sub-genre created by one David Cronenberg which was totally bastardized. The pseudo-realism of Michelle Gondry, and the female protagonist suffering and being unconscionably passive a la Cassavetes (who is one of my favorite filmmakers).

'What have you done to its eyes!?' The iconic ending of Rosemary's Baby proving that the real horror is on the face of the person reacting, therefore there is no need to actually show it. What the human mind can imagine is always worse than any horror you can show. Again, epic fail Mother!

Horror movie that took forever to horror was not so much a fright or a smart unraveling of a mystery like say Get Out, which breathed new life into a dying genre. This was just torture. I paid Aronofsky to torture me for 2 hours and three showers couldn't shake that shit off of me. 
This blog post might not make much sense but that's how disoriented I am. Fuck this movie, seriously. I know that Aronofsky has a penchant for religious symbolism and imagery but pick a fucking lane. You either utilize the symbolism or you go full monty on the blood and guts. This was the latter as if I was watching a film student ripping off the SAW franchise. To say that this was an unpleasant experience is an understatement, but back to the religion stuff. There's a shit ton of it and he's spreading it thick like cement; he's layering it like a parfait; pick a metaphor. 

This was in the trailer so it's fair game. Really driving the Garden of Eden metaphor all the way home. 
One thing that my friend and I agreed on was this whole idea that Aronofsky seems to be obsessed with is the parable from the Old Testament where God is apparently drunk on the job and keeps creating societies that he disapproves of, boom comes a flood, and clean new start. That's actually explored and nuanced (somewhat sloppily in his prior film; Noah), but that sentiment is crammed down our throats so hard with a chimney sweep's brush. Apparently Aronofsky has never heard of nor is familiar with the concept of subtlety. I really can't go further into it without revealing the plot and the marketing department made so sure that they weren't going to give away ANYTHING to trick people into shelving out 12 dollars to see CENSORED CENSORED of fucking CENSORED CENSORED. Here are a few biblical themes that I'm just going to shuffle for you just to confuse you because I'm confused and I don't want to be the only one: Cain and Abel, immaculate conception, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus healing the blind, lots of Jesus actually; garden of Eden, forbidden fruit, original sin, there's some myth of Sisyphus sprinkled on it as well. It literally just builds until even the most well versed graduate student in Divinity would go; fuck this shit. 

Director David Cronenberg in between takes with his star James Woods on the set of the film Videodrome; which this film steals heavily from and as a Cronenberg superfan, it's infuriating. 

Want to watch a competent film with religious allegory check out Fellini's Satyricon, Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, Todd Hayne's Poison, ANYTHING by Ingmar Bergman, or even some episodes of 'Lost' will do. 
Another thing that really pissed me off was that Aronofsky decided to throw out structure all together. You really would think that this was some bullshit made by a first year film student at a bottom tier film school (sorry film schools). Movie takes two and a half acts to movie and most of the first 110 or so minutes are following Jennifer Lawrence with a shaky hand held, camera making me more nauseous than watching Blair Witch on the big screen. It was done so much ad nauseam that I actually got to study her cool updo's and french braids pretty well because there was little else to do. 
Again, I really can't go into the plot, and if I did, you wouldn't see the film, but how about this; take my word for it. I'll even throw money into the pot. Don't see this movie. Or do, you might be a masochist, whatever. 
The golden rule of filmmaking that was first coined by the late great Billy Wilder and echoed by filmmakers worth their salt for generations is; 'respect your audience'. You're not making a film for yourself, you're making it so others will see it otherwise, what's the damned point? Aronofsky apparently didn't get that memo. 


Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Battle of the Tennis Movies

LaBeouf and Gudnason.
TIFF just opened its doors and premiered with the anticipated Borg/McEnroe with Hollywood's favorite bad boy de jour Shia LaBeouf as the favorite bad boy of tennis John McEnroe, and newcomer (at least to American Cinema) Sverrir Gudnason as Björn Borg; the machine. This film (bio-pic what have you) is about the 1980 Wimbeldon match. The first Wimbeldon and Borg in his record-breaking 5th. It was perhaps the most important match of 21 year old's McEnroe's career and just so happened to be the first out of the gate. He was the only thing standing between Borg and a record of 5 straight Singles Men's Wimbeldon wins. This is all before McEnroe started a reputation of yelling at referees, throwing rackets, and just turning the whole sport into a spectacle. Don't get me wrong, he's talented AF, so the spectacle was still one hell of a sport to watch when McEnroe was playing it. That's perhaps why LaBeouf was cast. Perhaps they are kindred spirits. The film premiered a few nights ago, and LaBeouf received almost universal praise for his portrayal of the tennis legend even though he looked nothing like him nor really played tennis.  

The real Borg and McEnroe minutes before their showdown. Costume and makeup are going to get major props for this. 
LaBeouf is a damn good actor (as tired as that hyperbole is), and yeah I said it so you know where I stand. I haven't seen the film yet, but I'm optimistic as hell. Everything about it looks like those great sports movies that used to exist in the 80's before Disney had to go fuck it all up; one word - Miracle
The only person that didn't praise his performance was the man himself, shocker. But I also want to see if Sverrir was any good and coming from a Swedish/Icelandic background I'm sure he's a machine, much like Borg. But what I really want to touch on and provide a good segway into the next film is the idea of sports films. In the 80's you had really great sports films; from Chariots of Fire (which started the trend), to The Natural, to Hoop Dreams, to Breaking Away.  It all climaxed with Field of Dreams, and then it all went to shit. And my generation was stuck with crap like Blue Crush, Hot Shots! and fucking Varsity Blues. What the hell happened there? I'm not big into sports but my god. Yeah, have a protagonists perhaps two and make it about the primal struggle which is basically what sports is. It's about winning and losing, no philosophy, no fuss. Just simple human competition. That's drama right there. I believe that these two films are going to restore that void that's been missing in cinema. Some sports moments last forever. One of which that I'm sure everyone has heard about is the Miracle on Ice in 1980 when team USA beat the Soviet Union in the Olympics. Basically accomplishing the impossible hence the term 'miracle on ice'. Thanks Disney for ruining it for a generation that never got to live through that or experience the actual brilliance of that moment. (I didn't live through it either, but I've seen the actual footage and it was way more intense and dramatic).

The media was right there capturing every insane moment leading up to the Battle of the Sexes.
Anyway! Speaking of another thing I didn't live through (I was born in '85, ok gimme a break, I'm not that old, but I do know my history) was the Battle of the Sexes. It was a tennis match, and that's what they called it. It is also being screened at TIFF and stars Emma Stone (whatever) as feminist icon and tremendous tennis player Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs; the has-been, outlandish and flamboyant champion from a million years ago pinned in a battle of man vs. woman, which really did turn the game into a spectacle when he challenged the former to a tennis match in 1973 basically to make an extra buck and draw attention to himself. Billie Jean King reluctantly accepted, and Bobby Riggs would not stop spouting chauvinist rhetoric at her just to get people's ire up. Billie Jean King was in her prime, and with an actual battle of the sexes going on in society at the time, this tennis match drew a great deal of attention and King's inevitable victory meant a great deal to the American feminist movement. She went from icon to legend. I'm not sure if Emma Stone is the best casting, but unlike Shia LaBeouf, the original that she was portraying gave her a wonderful review.

The real Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs posing for a publicity still. 
I'm excited for both films. I feel like Battle of the Sexes is going to be more of a politically skewed film that deals with the zeitgeist of the times and heavily pushes the second wave of feminism movement of that period, and Borg/McEnroe is going to be a much darker psychological exploration of athleticism and dreams; accomplished and broken. Both sound great to me and I'm really stoked. 
Another film that may redeem the genre is the upcoming Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan biopic; I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding, which I actually did live through. And I really can't wait for that one because when that whole shit went down, I was actually a figure skater myself. Granted I was 8, but I never lost interest in the sport. If a film can make you fall in love with a sport that you otherwise don't care about, they've done their job. 

Trailers for both films below: 



Friday, September 1, 2017

Casual Racism #SquadGoals


Happy 4th White America!
There was a great article after 1989 came out by I think (and pray) Judith Butler or Linda Williams (there goes my academia swag card) that labeled Taylor Swift and her 'squad' a bunch of neo-nazi Barbies. I tried to find it, and if you Google Search 'Taylor Swift Nazi' you get about 2 million results; the most compelling of which is this one. It's not difficult to see why that is. I'm sorry but Taylor has been selling herself as kind of a faux Jill-of-all-trades, twerking in her 'Shake it Off' video, and most recently blatantly ripping off Beyonce's 'Formation' video with 'Look What You Made Me Do'. She's a tall Aryan-AF looking blonde who loves to play the victim; and what do white nationalists do aside from playing the victim all the time.

Taylor's go-to music video director Joseph Kahn tweeted that the 'Look What You Made Me Do' video is not in Beyonce's art space ...I beg to differ. 
Perfect example: Kanye the villainous African American man is ruining the 'reputation' of a helpless young white girl. What is this, 'Birth of a Nation'? (The D.W. Griffith version). All you have to do is watch the Viceland documentary on the Charlottesville rally to see why that is. I won't go as far as to say that she's their cultural icon, but she's strange not to denounce the rumors much like Trump. However she has no trouble denouncing rumors about her flimsy and flighty love life...hm. But most of this started when the whole squad became a thing. She surrounded herself with tall blonde girls who looked just like her. It was only when she received criticism for that, that she 'allowed' Zendaya in her clique. Like the whole world is her basic Aryan high school. I think Zendaya is doing just fine without her. 
Squad goals?
Cultural appropriation is just as bad as outward racism in my opinion, so let's move on to the greatest 'culture vultures' of our time; Kendall and Kylie just can't help fucking up can they? Let's get this out of the way. They are white girls. Sometimes, I like to see what idiots on social media are getting up to, and it doesn't look any better for either of them. Firstly, the unspeakable and tone-deaf Pepsi commercial that would have ruined anyone's career that Kendall miraculously survived, where some genius thought that to make her the face of the Black Lives Matter movement was a good idea. Then came the T-shirt line. If you don't know, let me catch you up. Kendall and Kylie are so obsessed with their own faces they decided to super-impose them unto T-shirts of album covers by Biggie and Tupac. Are you fucking kidding me? And because they wanted to market it for basic bitches, the gave it a vintage look and charged a hefty 125.00$ price tag for them before quickly removing them from the market.

I'm sure the Muslim community is totally fine with this. 
Kendall herself is also getting quite a bit of flack because her IG is chalk full of offensive and insensitive imagery such as her dressed up in a Hijab, to a shirt with a confederate flag on it. Also, lest we forget, she tagged a photo of herself and her sisters with the caption; 'girl power ...sister power' with a fist bump emoji on it. Only problem is that the fist bump color was basically three emojis darker than white, implying she was somehow on board the brazen cultural appropriation train without actually doing anything for the community that she is stealing from. I think my fave response to that bullshit was a girl who told her straight up to stick in her emoji lane.
Tupac always wanted his legacy to be two white girls' initials over his image.

The most recent BS regarding members of Taylor Swift's Aryan squad that's popped up is with supermodel Gigi Hadid. You'd think she gets a pass because she's half Semitic; born to a Dutch mother and a Palestinian father. And yet, she got a shitload of well-deserved flack when she announced that she would be walking in the Victoria Secret fashion show that would be held in Shanghai this year. Now, don't think that because she's not full blood that she doesn't enjoy white privilege. Her entire life was spent in Malibu living with her mother and rich, white stepfather, David Foster. Perhaps you're the biggest asshole when you don't admit that yeah you enjoy the fuck out of white privilege. Anyway, someone managed to dig up an IG video of her at a Chinese restaurant with her sister Bella, who did a weird quasi and really racist Asian bow, as Gigi held up her cookie in the shape of a Buddha face and squinted. That's some ratchet shit right there. 

Presented without comment. 
Now yeah, these things may seem minimal, but this is how it starts. And with racial tensions at an all time high, I'd be a bit more careful if I was a cultural icon, especially one that children look up to ...for some reason. Ana Navarro? No thanks ...Kendall. They're role models whether they like it or not, and people are just not having anymore of their casual racism. You don't get away with everything just because you're pretty, ladies. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nolan Goes to War and Wins

I can tell you that this is Tom Hardy, but this is the classic nameless soldier that Nolan uses to magnify the breadth of the viewer to the film.
These are really hard to write, because as anyone will tell you it's much harder to write a good review than a bad review, but I was swept away by Dunkirk (ok that was a tired metaphor) ...it blew my socks off ...no even worse. It was amazing ok? And I dare to surmise that it's Christopher Nolan's best film in his repertoire. I know he has a strong following not only of fan boys, comic book nerds, but also cinephiles, and is revered as like the next Orson Welles or something, I mean he makes good films and is very skilled but he's not Orson Welles. Here's the thing, I watched Memento because everyone was pressuring me to do it when it first came out in 2000, and at the time I was still smoking pot so I watched it. I watched it literally the day before I saw Dunkirk for the second time and after all of these years it's still brilliant. 
Now, I know I'm going to get murdered for saying the following, but apart from The Dark Knight, which I don't even think is the best superhero film; I mean it's up there, but no. I don't like his movies. I think they are very conceptually interesting but very self-indulgent; from the crazy runtimes to the weird time parallels he loves to fuck around with, which I see as very self-serving. I didn't bother watching The Dark Knight Rises, and I hated Inception; Interstellar -- same thing. He's one of those people that I think starts out as a massively talented maverick indie filmmaker who turns completely cray once a studio gives him some money a la Darren Aronofsky. 
I'm a history buff, or huge History Channel nerd however you want to call it, and I am actually completely obsessed with World War II so going into the film, I was well aware about the battle and subsequent evacuation of Dunkirk. 
One of the most iconic scenes in the film, and Nolan spared no expense to make it look as authentic as possible. Word has it that over 10,000 extras participated in the film. 
Nolan does not give you any backstory, and good for him. He's a filmmaker that doesn't talk down to his audience and assumes that they are all as smart as he is. Except for in Inception, where there was a character who's whole purpose was to explain the convoluted plot to the audience by asking the questions that we all silently were. 
But back to Dunkirk. If you don't know the story -- The Nazi army is basically a few kilometers from total occupation of France. The only countries allied against Hitler at this time are France and England. The British are retreating and the only way out is across the English Channel which is pretty fucking far even though we have people swimming that shit now. But then again, those people don't get torpedoed by U-boat's or shot down by the Luftwaffe like fish in a barrel. At this time, Churchill had focused all of his military preparedness on fortifying England with the British Navy which was the best in the world. Unfortunately, he didn't plan for the aggression of Hitler's Luftwaffe air force. About 400,000 British men needed to be evacuated off of the beaches in Dunkirk, France, and this story is about the miracle of their survival. 
An actual photograph of the evacuation of Dunkirk.
As a film, it is a towering achievement in the war film genre. I haven't seen anything quite like it. In a world with wall-to-wall CGI, Nolan used basically none. It is breathtaking what he was able to accomplish filming from the three main locations of the evacuation; land, sea, and air...and yes it did lead to Churchill's 'We Will Fight Them on the Beaches' speech. 
I saw it with a Russian who shall remain nameless, and they're an art major (or were); educated in the Soviet Union. There, they are apparently taught to play against action. It's a very character driven, character-centric aesthetic. In fact, they they refer to excessive action as 'Zhelezo' which means metal. As in, too much metal, not enough humanity. 
A scene where the chaos is humanized and meditated on is usually one of a deafening silence. And yes that's Harry Styles on the left. Happy now?
I countered that by arguing that most war films; yes, have a singular viewpoint. Some of the best in fact; from Saving Private Ryan, to The Pianist, to Kubrick's Path's of Glory because someone apparently wrote it down somewhere that war has to be humanized. I understand that sentiment, but in all actuality war is the exact opposite of that. It is a conflict of chaos where everyone who fights in it from the generals to the privates are anonymous and just have one initiative in mind; survival. I would rather actually compare it to a film like Black Hawk Down, which according to my estimates has about 50 speaking roles. You don't remember who's who most of the time; their rank; and what they're whole deal is, because guess what; it doesn't matter. There is a mission, it goes wrong, soldiers are trapped under huge enemy fire and that's the story right there. It's a documentary style of narrative filmmaking, and Nolan just nailed it. His camera work, his beautiful imagery, and his signature aesthetic all worked in his favor and the film is an absolute masterpiece. Because in war, nothing really matters except staying alive am I right? Did that sound too Hunger Games?
But back to the filmmaking, again with about 30 principals in the cast, with seasoned actors like Kenneth Branagh who basically has like 5 lines and Cillian Murphy who just repeats the same thing over and over again, it's a sacrifice of telling the story as accurately as possible without making it about a particular person or a particular viewpoint. During the evacuation of Dunkirk, everyone's objective was the same, and that's how Nolan approaches it. Most of the characters don't even have names, IMDB it. All in all, well worth the hype, the wait, and definitely now that I come back to it, the best Nolan film to date. 

Trailer below: 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Remake that Doesn't Know How to Remake

Emma Watson makes the best of a movie that doesn't know how to movie taking example from another famous Emma who just won an Academy Award for the same thing. 
There was so much ridiculous hype and over-marketing (if that's a thing) over the live-action remake of arguably the best Disney film of all time. Trying to capitalize on the success of the live action remake of The Jungle Book which actually was useful and interesting, the studio heads decided to basically make a carbon copy of the original with a few new songs to make extra off of iTunes and to stretch the run time. If you haven't seen it, watch the original...and that's exactly what this film is. It's like when Gus Van Sant did a shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock's Psycho but that was for Avant-Garde performance art purposes so he gets a pass, not to introduce children to a totally bastardized and creepy version of what was a great film to start with. 

Good luck explaining sentient furniture to your kids now. 
So it's set in the most British part of France apparently where only Lumiere has an actual French accent. And in a cartoon world a lot of what was deemed unbelievable could be conceivable with enough suspension of disbelief. Now it raises a lot of uncomfortable questions like can Gaston really lift two heavy-set people with his hands, and do all of the sentient object in the palace actually have human souls? I mean, it's creepy as shit. 

The motion capture on Dan Stevens is basically ridiculous. He's terrifying, which kind of kills the love story which is central to the plot. 
But not as creepy as what they did to Dan Stevens, that poor son of a bitch. They could have used practical prosthetics, hair and make up to make him properly beastly looking, but they decided to CGI the fuck out of him so that he looks like he was drawn by a 12 year old on a Windows 7. Also, the sentient objects with actual speaking parts have more character and facial expression in the original, than the CGI moving objects in the old palace. I don't care how good of a French accent Ewan McGregor can do. 
As I said, with a few new songs added (because Bill Condon has a huge hard on for almost memorable songs that stretch the runtime), the songs are exactly the same, except they sound like cheap karaoke versions of the beloved originals like 'Be Our Guest'. 
They were fun, remember them?
There is a cheap half-assed attempt to fill in some plot holes like what happened to Belle's mother?  How did no one in this tiny town notice that the Beast has been beasting for like ten years? And how the hell did she get the damn Beast on the horse after being attacked by wolves. But it's so lazy, I'd rather just use my imagination. Speaking of which, I remember that as a kid, you really did fall for the Beast and understood why Belle would too, but in the live-action version he's so CGI'd to death that there's nothing remotely attractive about him. 
I'd also like to touch on the controversy surrounding La Fou as the first openly gay character in the Disney-verse. In this great article it actually surmises that La Fou is a piss poor tribute to the gay community. He basically meets the somewhat offensive and stereotypical gay tropes like an effeminate manner, and a one-sided crush on Gaston that's never really nuanced, but apart from that he's the gay comic relief that you expect in a film from the 50's that's more ignorant than anything else. He gets like one sincere moment that would make him a genuine gay character, but that's all that Disney allows him. Lest we forget that his name literally translates into 'the fool'. C'mon Disney, you had more going with Ursula or the Sherif of Nottingham. 
I guess I missed the take-acid-now instruction prior to this scene. 
Bottom line, this remake is not only useless, but it's superfluous. Apparently Disney couldn't leave well enough alone. The most iconic scene in the film; the ballroom dance scene between Belle and the Beast in that stunning yellow dress had more beautiful sprawling camera angles and lighting in the cartoon. It's like they're not even trying. If you haven't seen it, just watch the original and pretend it's in live action. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Sofia's Epic Fail

4 out of these 7 women have speaking roles. 
Was that harsh? Well, watching her new film The Beguiled felt like a one and a half torture ride to nowhere's-ville. I want my time back, and my money. And I want her to make better films, but that's not going to happen is it? 
The film was marketed as a radical feminist revenge story, perfect for the chauvinist rhetoric of the Trump era, but Valerie Solanas it is not. It's not even a 'hell hath no fury…' kind of thing. As I said, it's about an hour and a half of nothing. Which is a fair assessment of basically all of her films, yeah I said it. It had such great potential. It's a Misery meets Gone with the Wind story based on a Clint Eastwood movie from the 70's (arguably the best era of America filmmaking). With a stellar cast like Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, and the up-and-coming Elle Fanning, you were thinking how could this go wrong? In all respects apparently.

Admit it, this part from the trailer is why we all wanted to see it. 'Get me the anatomy book'.
I have to give it up to the marketing department. They did a great job with the theater art, the promo art, the trailers, etc. Basically building up this turd in a dress so that people would shelve out 11 dollars to see it. I saw it with a friend earlier today and we witnessed quite a few walk outs. At first we thought it was because we were basically screaming at the screen, but we couldn't help ourselves. Eventually, we realized that the walk outs had the right idea. 
So stop fucking with us, Coppola. Just because you're Hollywood royalty doesn't mean you can do no wrong. In fact you can do so much wrong to some seriously ripe and brilliant material that it kind of taints your family's legacy.
The film is photographed beautifully; with low-lit interiors, candlelight and sunshine, and dressing that looks like it's actually a house that has been lived in and not a matte painting that was put up the day before. Costumes are en pointe and that's about the only positive things I have to say about the film. I know it was just released, so unlike most of my reviews I'm not giving away the plot. Here's what we know. Colin Farrell is a Union deserter; a Irish mercenary who has been badly injured and is found on the outskirts of a large Southern plantation in Virginia. He is taken in by the children and their headmistress who have had to lay low three years into the Civil War. It's pretty obvious that 6 girls in their sexual prime or in puberty and a woman a bit past her prime but still hot AF (Nicole Kidman) would create sexual tension with the one man they're keeping in the house so palpable you could cut it with a bread knife.
I will give her the director of photography a lot of credit. He managed to make a dull film very pretty. So you have that to look forward to. 
Firstly, this house she runs with 6 pupils seems to have an endless supply of food and wine. What the actual fuck? Every movie about the Civil War, or any war for that matter is about people having no food or rations. Also, three of the girls don't even have speaking parts. That's a waste of space, they literally do nothing. You could just cut them out of the film and save the budget. For an hour and a half run time, I would say there's about 20 minutes of dialogue which is par for the course for a Sofia Copolla film. Every single time there is a moment for potential pathos, drama, and hubris, she builds that moment and then kills it. It's like getting really close to orgasm, and then the person falls asleep on you.
Although it appears deliciously sexually devious, the actually sexuality of this film has about as much erotica as a 13 year old's vampire fan fiction.  
It's almost as if Sofia is afraid of the sexuality of this film, which is basically the driving force of the plot. Even scenes that should be highly erotic are creepy and weird. Scarlet O'Hara crying on Ashley's chest was more erotic than anything in this movie. For a mostly silent film with no plot and no nuance of the main characters it seems to kind of move into the category of Avant-Garde, which I believe is actually Sofia's calling. But go Avant-Garde all the way. Film on 16mm silent Bolex cameras, with a 10 minute run time, and save us the grief. She so desperately wants to be considered a serious artist, but she comes off as uber-pretentious. She breaks so many film rules that it's just not right. 
I know breaking film rules can be fine, but what we think of as breaking is actually bending. Tarantino does it, Scorsese does it. But rules are there for a reason. Example: Your main characters have to be nuanced. They have to be three dimensional. They have to have motive good or bad. There has to be a plot that moves forward and doesn't just meander around waiting for shit to happen. I don't care how pretty it looks. 
People think that she's so unique because she plays up the subtlety which is actually giving her audience a giant middle finger. There's being subtle, which is fine, and then there's saying nothing at all, and that's what this film does. I don't need resolution, I can leave a film without closure as long as the film presents interesting questions to consider later. This film does not. You leave the theater thinking…'well, that happened'. Sofia is should really stop writing her own films because she writes about 30 pages and stretches it to an hour and a half run time (I keep mentioning that because it felt way longer). It's kind of sad that coming from such a talented family, we'll think of The Bling Ring as 'the good one'. Hard pass.

Trailer below...I mean...whatever.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

One Person Carried the Entire Season

Best friend and girlfriend of Poussey finally find an appropriate tribute to their lost loved one and I cried all the way home. 
It's rare in a multi-protagonist show that one person stands out. Early on, before OITNB became a thing, most of the first season was about Chapman. The writers saw that this clearly didn't work so they gave everyone a storyline, an arch, and a flashback …standard multi-protagonist rules, just watch Lost.
I was talking to a friend earlier about Mad Men, getting a little sidetracked, but that did also start out about one person; Don Draper, and then evolved with a plethora of new characters and the OG's having some serious stories, laments, and flaws. That's what makes them relatable.
Spoilers coming but you should have watched it by now; that show basically invented the binge watch culture.

Daya at the climax of Season 4. Sensing a pattern here. 
A little bit on what is happening in the new season. Daya shoots the sadist CO Humps in the leg, and a riot breaks out in the prison. The riot actually lasts through out the entirety of the season and that MCC bitch Linda somehow gets mistaken for a prisoner so she's along for the ride. If you remember correctly, The girls at Litchfield are pretty eccentric to put it mildly so the riot has some wonderful and sometimes cathartic twists and turns. It's really a great season, and there's one woman that carries it through to the very end.
Taystee leads an action to throw away the 'bribes' that the governor provides in order to stop the riot because according to her, it wouldn't be justice.
If you haven't guessed, I'm talking about Tasha 'Taystee' Jefferson. Poussey's best friend. Danielle Brooks who plays her is barely old enough to rent a car, but her training at Julliard did her well, to say the least. Usually we focus on actors 'on the brink' if they bag a role like Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook at the ripe young age of like 23. When OITNB started, Brooks was actually the exact same age, and has maintained a consistency to the character and a commitment to the arch of Taystee. This season was definitely hers. I don't know of the season's past if I could assign them as belonging to someone. No, she doesn't get the most airtime, or the smartest quips, but my god, the depth of this girl was incredible.

And of course they set in on fire because they want 'to be motherfucking taken serious!' You go Taystee.
I kept having to remind myself of the youth of this actress and subsequent inexperience because you would never be able to tell, and though just like every season, a different character gets a flashback, and in the end, it's all about Piper (who is the worst), Brooks upstaged everyone in her passionate fight as Taystee struggles to deal with her grief and get justice for Poussey.
At the climax of the last episode, it was like watching a Shakespearean tragedy, just watching the performance that Brooks gave. I don't often say this, but it seemed to come from the bottom of the gut, and I cried rivers. It was a catharsis that no one was expecting, and Brooks definitely spread her acting wings.
What Brooks is able to accomplish as an actor in this scene is beyond me. She keeps you guessing the entire time, and the emotion is so palpable that it's impossible to separate yourself from it. 
But what's truly important is that she is instrumental and a catalyst in every episode. As an actress, she has so much stamina, and so much of herself to give to the role I have no idea how she didn't fall down from exhaustion by the end. I've really never seem anyone so committed and playing the same character for 5 years, but her nuanced performance gives her so much staying power. It boggles the mind as to why we don't acknowledge her more. For such a tender age, you would never expect her to carry a show of over 30 main characters in its most chaotic season, but she managed, and she should be commended for it. There are a lot of brilliant actors that make up the Litchfield prisoners, and usually it is Uzo Aduba (Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren) who walks away with the Emmy's, which she definitely deserves, but I was taken aback at how well Brooks managed some really tough and complex material. Put it this way, if there was a riot at a prison I'd want to shadow Taystee, and if we were doing acting exercises at Julliard, I'd want to do them with Brooks. She is somewhat of an unsung talent that deserves way more recognition than she gets.

Prolly seen the trailer, but here it is anyway, it premiered in early June on Netflix so your binge should just about be over by now. Happy watching!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Christine Didn't Make It

This is Christine Chubbuck coming to you live from WZRB in Sarasota, back to you George.
I don't usually take a somber tone, I mean 99% of what I say and write is sarcasm. But I watched a movie recently that really affected me, and I've seen quite a few of those. Contemporarily speaking, this was perhaps the most overlooked film of this past year. It's called Christine starring Rebecca Hall as the titular character of Christine Chubbuck who is famous for shooting herself on air at the network where she worked. Rebecca Hall could very well be the most underrated actress of our time. People kind of lost interest in her after she was upstaged by Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Christina, Barcelona
It's one of those films that makes you immediately go on Wikipedia because you think to yourself that no way is this based on a true story, but it is. The tragedy of Christine is very much steered by the patriarchy that is constantly in her way. The film is meditative and a strong character piece and if you don't know what happens in the climax it can seem to drag, and yet Hall carries it so brilliantly. 
Christine is a co-anchor at some local station in Sarasota, Florida…jealous? And she's interested in positive human interest stories, alas her boss doesn't give a shit because it doesn't sell. One could say that it's the female Nightcrawler but the opposite of that. She doesn't want to sensationalize the news, in fact she calls it exploitative.
'Jesus Christ, just make your stories juicy!'
What's truly tragic is that she is optimistic to the very end. In the opening scene (this film takes place in the 70's btw) she imagines she's interviewing Richard Nixon, knowing she'll never even get close. We learn throughout the film that she lives with her mother, and about to hit 30, is still a virgin. She hates pot smoking, which her mother regularly engages in, and has a general disdain for the shall we say 'free love' of the times. She is so determined to not be famous per se, but to succeed in the job that she so much loves to do; a job dominated by male culture. She even volunteers at a children's hospital and is desperate for human connection. The lead anchor she frequently works with is the handsome George played my Michael C. Hall, whom she is desperately in love with, but because of her awkward workaholic demeanor, she doesn't really have a chance until he invites her out to dinner only to tell her that despite her hard work and cooperation with the whole 'if it bleeds it leads' attitude the station has taken on, that George has been promoted to anchor in Baltimore in a top 20 market over her. What makes it worse is that he was able to choose someone to take with him and surprise surprise it's not her. Things are made worse when she find out that she a cyst on her ovary and the entire thing has to come out. 
The fake flowers that symbolize a lot more than you think. 
Over time, Christine realizes that everything is working against her. We don't really get a sense that she's suicidal but we get clues that she has some mental issues that are only exasperated by her circumstances. 
Aside from Hall, it's the direction of the movie that is truly special. The camera follows her into an abyss surrounded by 70's glamour. There is a brilliant scene where she's clearly distracted in an interview on air by the fake flowers on her desk. She abruptly stops the interview and throws the flowers at the camera operator saying that it's all she can think about right now. 
I suppose there's a tenacious stubbornness to her that a lot of us, especially women can relate to. She works in a highly sexist environment where her abstaining from drinking and partying is looked upon as weird and she herself is looked upon as aloof. The amount of time she spends working shows how passionate she is, but left and right she is shut down even when she is cooperative. Her boss has nothing but disdain for her, and they are at odds almost constantly.
The way the film is directed, we can see that not only is Christine at the end of her rope towards the climax, but she sees no other way out. We don't see the gun, not really. We see it in her bag, but we don't see her staring at it contemplating what she's about to do, which is the lazy way out. 
Her final and only revenge is to put on a very false and somewhat creepy facade by going to her boss' office and asking to be lead on the following Monday about the weekend news. She promises that it will be sensational, and in the most prophetic and unforgettable way, through the strangest smile she tells him; 'I'm agreeing with you'.
The real Christine Chubbuck
I've already told you what ends up happening to Christine, and sometimes when you're not quite ready for that moment even though you know that it's coming, you need to see it again. But I couldn't watch this again. It was directed so viscerally that I literally jumped …off of the exercise equipment I was on, but give me a break. 
Back to Hall, I really thought she'd be at least nominated, but the film was small, the film was dark, and if anyone should have won, it should have been Natalie Portman for her haunting portrayal of Jackie Kennedy, but Hall needs to be acknowledged not only for the aesthetics of Christine; the walking style, the hair, the mannerisms, etc. But it was one in a few times where an actor inhabits a character so intimately that it really bothers you. You want so much to know what's going on inside Christine's head and her descent into making the decision that she finally does, and yet you don't want to know; that's great acting. Hall did Christine Chubbuck justice in a subdued, understated performance of a woman who is pushed into a corner by her male colleagues and no matter how hard she fights and how much she compromises, she feels that she's left with no choice and no other way out. And there's a strangeness in that part of you that actually does understand that.

Trailer below, streaming on Netflix, highly recommended.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Let's Talk About Bill Cosby

Polanski at the height of his success
With the giant clusterfucks of the current administration's agenda against women of constant shit and malice hitting us in the face like a curve balls at …I don't know what constitutes fast in baseball, whatever. I wanted to bring this subject up because among all of the Trump news to which I have almost become immune, almost (I mean, its great material for my non-existent comedy career). Alas, we've all recently heard among the Trump babble that the jury is in a deadlock about the verdict against Bill Cosby. A deadlock is not the best use of that word but at least they didn't call it a hung jury …Am I right? Ok! Enough puns. 
If you're not up to date because you've made a nice home for yourself under a rock, let me enlighten you. After a woman's accusation came out that Cosby had sexually assaulted and raped her, it was about 10 or so years old. Now, in the state of California that is still within the statute of limitations so he can still be prosecuted for it. After this very courageous woman finally spoke up, it seemed like every other woman in the greater Los Angeles area came out all with the same disturbing story. 50 to be exact. I mean, it boggles the mind. 50 women are accusing Cosby, and what really sticks in my craw is that these women will never be vindicated. They will never see justice. He's not going to stand trail for those 50 as he should considering none of them had the courage to speak up, which is totally understandable. What's the word of a lowly ingenue against one of the biggest celebrities of that era? If this teaches us anything, and knowing about rape statistics, the most important and best thing a woman can do if she is victimized is speak up. You would think that a comic as successful as Cosby doesn't have to drug and rape girls. Who knows, was it titillating? Was it amusing? At least we know that to a sane person it's sick and wrong, and according to the police an egregious violation on too many women to even wrap your mind around.
Now, I'd like to talk about a paradox of conscience that I've dealt with for a while. It's interesting that no one has yet compared this scandal to the Polanski scandal of the 1970's. Here's some backstory on that; Roman Polanski was and is a brilliant filmmaker from Poland who lost both parents in the Holocaust as a kid. He made a name for himself as an auteur in Europe, moved to Hollywood and after Rosemary's Baby, he was THE Roman Polanski. He was married to the beautiful and wonderful Sharon Tate for a little less than a year until she and others at her house were brutally murdered by the Manson family while Roman was in London. His life changed forever, I mean of course it would. It should be added she was 8 1/2 months pregnant with their child at the time. 
A few years later, when he decided not to give into grief but to survive and to keep going as an artist he made arguably his best film; Chinatown. Around this time, he started dating very young girls. He's European, they were European, I'm sure there was some legality there. Then, one night at Jack Nicholson's house, he was taking photographs of a 13 year old girl named Samantha Gailey, and according to public record, he proceeded to give her champagne and quaaludes to knock her out (sound familiar?), then sodomized and raped her. 
Because of a really long story about what happened to the system of justice in this particular case, even though he had admitted culpability and guilt, he fled to France. To this day he is not allowed in the United States. The crisis comes from the fact that as a film lover, I without any pretense, faux intellect, or politics, really admire and respect him as a filmmaker. He is actually one of my favorites, and given what he had survived in his life, is it time to forgive him? Should we have forgiven him before? Surprisingly most people did. Except the police. I will never in my life advocate what he did. I have had to separate the person from the crime like a family member would.

Cosby at the height of his success
However, there's a sense of betrayal with Cosby that I cannot come to terms with. I grew up on The Cosby Show, and he really was America's dad. Not only that, he was so wholesome, and so iconic, realizing what he had done was such a blow to me that I don't think I have any forgiveness for him. As a woman, it makes my skin crawl. What I think bothers me the most is that he thought he could go on and on and get away with it, but now he's learning that no one is above the law. I just have no mercy for him. Why his case is different to me than the Polanski case is a total mystery. I do not think of Polanski as a victim. Although the European press would argue that. There is a very interesting documentary that I will link that expresses how he became two different people to two different sets of press; The European press saw him as this wholly tragic figure who survived the gassing of his mother, the murder of his wife, and maintained his voice against the Hollywood machine, while the American press saw him as this malignant twisted dwarf who dabbled in Satanism (untrue btw), was highly controversial, and just the perfect villain.
13-year-old Samantha Gailey, Polanski's victim. 
And yet, Cosby would be the last person to understand as a villain. So many of us, particularly women, have difficulty coming to terms with that. He brought happiness to so many homes on TV night, broke race barriers in comedy, did a great deal for Civil Rights as well. And yet, his epic downfall is what his legacy will be, it is not tainted. It is forever tarnished. 
I think the moment where I truly felt guttural hate for this man is when someone not exactly known for being of sound mind or for telling the truth; Janice Dickinson was interviewed about her experience with him as a young model. She said her piece, but the camera man failed at his job and forgot to turn off the tape. You can see that she started weeping in a way I never want to see a woman weep. Sexual assault is no joke, and having to hold it in because of intimidation from Cosby is even more disturbing and disgusting. 
Back to Polanski, I would blanket statement this whole thing and say that of course circumstances aside it is never ok, and we all know this. What is it about a person that you can eventually forgive and one that is unforgivable. When Polanski received his Best Director Oscar for The Pianist in 2002, every single member in the Dolby Theater stood up and clapped their asses off. Is it time? I doubt it. It's ironic that a man like Polanski who made films that were really amazing and that's about it, is more forgivable than Cosby who brought us so much joy when we were children. But perhaps that's why we hate him more. And you know what? We should. There will always be an asterisk next to both of their names, and actually perhaps Cosby's name will be erased from TV history so that there isn't a giant splotch on their repertoire.

How the world will now remember Cosby. 'Shame' should be written on his lapel like a scarlet letter. 
Ironically for Cosby, Hollywood is a very forgiving city. Hugh Grant, Mel Gibson, fucking Tara Reid, I mean c'mon. But in this age where women feel that their rights are being peeled apart like an orange, he is not a martyr. He is the shining example of what happens when power in Hollywood goes unchecked. We've talked about what's most infuriating and for lack of a better word defiling about this whole case is that it took one woman to speak up to make a whole army of them who felt so little next to the great and powerful Cosby to speak up and lived in silence for YEARS. I really do hope he gets his comeuppance. If not in court, the certainly in the court of public opinion. Why? Because I'm a woman. We will always be intimidated by figures like that who have more power, more money, more everything to fear people into speaking up. But since Obama had put sexual violence on the map, and really made it a forthright issue, its time to say I don't give a fuck who you are. You're a monster, and that's all I see.

Below is the trailer for the film I had mentioned earlier. It's called Wanted and Desired. Don't bother with Netflix the full thing is on Youtube, it is a must-see.