Friday, July 18, 2014

It’s Been a Year Since Spring Breakers and What Have We Learned?


Ok I jest it’s actually been a year and a few months, but still, since the cataclysmic world-altering event that was James Franco’s grillz first hit American theaters and mainstream America finally knew who Harmony Korine was. But has the earth appropriately shattered? And with the talks of a Spring Breakers 2 already abuzz on the internet, will our perception of the best thing that ever happened to the 21st century be ruined?
Anyway, back to life lessons.
Point #1: Now everyone not just Silicon Valley hipsters know who Megan Ellison is, as more than just the eccentric daughter of Larry Ellison. Suck it, Silicon Valley?
Point #2: The Disney channel is not just one giant black hole of mind-numbing content and jail-bait and can actually produce genuine talent. I know, I was shocked too when I found myself saying the following; Selena Gomez can act, ya’ll.

Point #3: St. Petersburg, Florida is a toilet.

Point #4: Where did Gucci Mane’s ridiculous face tattoo disappear to? Was it ever there in the first place?

Point #5: Rachel Korine is married to Harmony Korine, you guys


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And finally, let’s wrap things up with the man that encompasses the most important life-lessons of all, Mr. James Edward Franco of the Palo Alto Franco’s is a Renaissance man.
Let's face it folks, and fellow Columbia students who saw him walking the circumference of Dodge Hall smoking two cigarettes in his mouth, fiddling with his smart phone and then falling asleep in class. Maybe he had just shut off that part of the brain that actually does stuff so he could meditate on further projects...Like perhaps reading the script of Spring Breakers in that labyrinthine craziness that is his mind. Anyway, no one would give you any kind of argument if you say that James Franco completely stole Spring Breakers for himself, so much so, that he could stand head and shoulders next to his directors like they both contributed equally to the outcome. Most of Alien's dialogue, mannerism, and general debauchery was ad-libbed and conceived by Franco himself (case and point the sucking a gun like a dick scene as well as the infamous 'Look at my shyyyit' speech). Alien is truly one of the greatest anti-heroes in contemporary cinema.

But lets please give credit where credit is due. This film is the brainchild, and the labor of love of longtime contraversial director Harmony Korine. But let me back up. There are two kinds of iconoclasts in the film world, ones who do it in the face of art to break rules in order to make their own artistic artistic statement which almost always comes of preachy and pretentious, and then you have a real iconoclast like Korine; 

He breaks the rules because it's in his bloody nature. It is completely impossible for him to make a film that is not completely his, and just his aesthetic and talent are so out of bounds of anything, they force him through his art and process to not only break the so-called rules, but not to give a shit when they are. He's a real whistle-blower, devoid of pretension and personal gain or loss. He just wants to make a film damn it, it's really that simple. And when he does, it's pandemonium. Critics are ripping their hair out deciding whether to like it or pan it knowing that when a Korine film comes out, you better be en pointe considering no one likes to be the unpopular voice in that cannon, not even Armond White. But the one thing that's sure is that whether achieving any kind of indie box office success, the film culminates with instant cult status, and films haven't done that since the 70's...or Verhoeven. The wild success of Spring Breakers (2013) is just proof of how multi-faceted Korine has always been. Not only can he make a quirky bizarre indie cult hit a la Vincent Gallo, but he can make it a huge commercial success considering its modest budget and also make it the film du-jour of not only snooty New York intellectuals but right down to your average, run of the mill, dumb it down teenagers. He had us all saying 'Look at my Shyiit!' He has impacted not only as a film industry but society as a whole with his free wheelin', devil-may-care attitude and proletariat filmmaking approach that shakes us, provokes us, and ultimately makes us deeply admire his spirit, and an aesthetic that danes not to take itself seriously at all and yet still maintain a serious impact with its precedence. I smell honorary Oscar.

Fun stuff below







Thursday, June 26, 2014

Enough Already! (A Prayer for a Better World)



It’s beyond difficult for me to write about the tragedy at UC Santa Barbara and that is why I’ve avoided it for so long. My mother, on the other hand, could not stop talking about it. When I first heard about it, I am ashamed to admit I was rather blazé. Considering that there’s a school shooting in this godforsaken country an average of twice a year, and after the immeasurable tragedy at Sandy Hook in December of 2012, I thought, along with many others that it could not possibly get any worse. In fact, I was at a point of giving up on society, and not in a superficial pseudo-philosophical Dostoyevsky kind of way, in a profound way that blackened my heart. I was too young to fully understand the gravity of 9/11 even though I completely absorbed the ramifications and the profound changes it had on our nation as a whole, but when I was 28 and was sitting in my cubicle with a co-worker running towards me asking me to tune the TV in the lobby to CNN because of a school shooting, and then watching as our entire office of over 200 people crowded around it, listening to sniffles and cries from the girls, and exclamations of disbelief from the men, I was changed forever.
What kind of world are we actually living in when something like this happens? I don’t want to compare it to something like shellshock after two of the greatest wars in human history that both took place in the 20th century, but I felt like a soldier who had spent years in the trenches and upon being furloughed had no idea how to assimilate back into culture once again because to me, there was nothing left of value and goodness to care about or fight for. We could march in the streets protesting the 2nd amendment, ring our fists in the air and demand change from the administration and then go home and eat our dinner with our family. And that’s the true horror of it all. We bare witness to atrocities everyday in our lives. Atrocities that could have been prevented. And we say ‘oh how horrible!’ and then go on about our day, thinking that one day there will be change, one day we’ll hit our bottom, but after Sandy Hook I realized there is no bottom. It’s an endless spiral into the abyss to where we as a species have no means of rescuing ourselves from apathy, selfishness, and discontentment.
So when Elliot Rodger rampaged through the dorms, sorority houses, and campuses of UC Santa Barbara, I had almost expected it, but what I didn’t realize was the absolute abhorrent nature of his act. There are certain atrocities we as reasonable people will never fully understand, but Rodger made sure that he gave us a play-by-play account of exactly why he was going to do what he did, like it even mattered. In his tapes, he actually feels that he is not only justified but a martyr for his cause. It took me right back to an incendiary incident that captivated the heart of the nation back in the 1920’s that most of us never lived through but we had definitely heard of.
In 1923 two young and rich lovers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in Chicago kidnapped the son of a family friend and brutally murdered him after luring him into a park. They did so for no other reason than they thought they could. They, like Rodger believed themselves to be the reincarnations of the Nietzschean Superman, in which laws, morals, and ethical codes no longer apply. The superman lives by only his own rules because he is an ‘enlightened’ being, a being of absolute power who exists on a plain above the rest of humanity. If they were indeed Supermen then the notion of being caught for this senseless crime never entered their minds. The crime was in itself a means of proving to themselves and each other that they were indeed what they claimed to be. Alas, they were not. Both were arrested and sentenced to death. The trial is infamous in that the best defense attorney in America at the time, Clarence Darrow (who famously defended John Scopes during the ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ and won) decided to defend Leopold and Loeb pro-bono and rather than enter a plea of not-guilty for which they would have definitely been hanged, he submitted pleas of no contest, not even by reason of insanity, instead arguing that capital punishment in this case was unconstitutional and won. Loeb was killed in prison, and Leopold died after being paroled in the 70’s.
But unlike Leopold and Loeb, had Rodger survived his murderous rampage, no attorney would take his case for a billion dollars.  With his half-baked manifestos and Youtube rants, he proved to be nothing more than a deranged lunatic with delusions of grandeur, and a deeply dangerous inferiority complex, not to mention the worst manifestation of sexual frustration.
The question becomes not that which we keep asking ourselves; which is ‘how do we prevent this from happening?’ because it will continue to happen. I’m sorry to say that, but we fight and fight for change and yet nothing really changes. As evolved as we think we are, nothing really changes. In truth, as John Locke or Emanuel Kant would have put it, and to a greater extent Machiavelli; is that we as human beings are born with a darkness in our soul. We are conditioned to put ourselves first, to thrive in our selfishness, and drunk with the idea of being better than the person next to us. It is very likely that Rodger took that idea of being ‘supreme’ just like Nietzsche hypothesized and took it to atrocious and unimaginable conclusions. What is supremacy anyway, and what is entitlement? Entitlement, like respect is earned. And therein lies the sexual divide.
He skewed his entitlement towards a particular psychosexual conceptualization that Freud would have a field day with. As a woman, it’s hard not to be completely sickened by the rants and raves of such a subhuman mass-murderer believing that his actions are to be blamed on women at large considering the few he came in contact with never paid attention to him like it’s our fault as a species. What we have to remember is that there is no one to blame but the perpetrator. Another paramount thing to remember is that when a cataclysmic event that changes and reshapes our culture as we know it forever, the way towards ramification and rectification of it is not to superficially find superficial things here and there that we think we can fix, because there will always be people like Elliot Rodger. There will always be those who’s mentality is so perverted and skewed that are capable of afflicting the worst atrocities on the human race. What we can do is take a long hard look at the progress or lack-there-of that we’ve made because as much as we say ‘never again’ there will be an again, it will just be under different circumstances. If history has taught us anything it’s that. Every murderer, subhuman monster, and deranged lunatic will always affect our culture, and we as victims will try our best to cope with the damage done. We need no longer to be victims. All that can really be done individually is to take responsibility for our actions and hope that we set an example for the next generation based on empathy, brotherhood, and affection so that future generations learn from that and hopefully utilize those aspects that make us actual supreme beings in our ability to give love rather than inflict hate. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

My McConaissance has had a resurgence….Fuck

McConaughottie as Palmer Joss in Contact (1997)


Alright alright alright, I thought we were past this. He won his Oscar for Dallas Buyer’s Club (2014) where he played a skeletal cowboy suffering from AIDS opposite Jared Leto who also won, and to whom I had ALWAYS been attracted. Matthew basically stayed under my radar. He had a Southern twang that just didn’t agree with me, and I was never a fan of True Detective because I don’t fancy myself a pretentious ass who knows more about philosophy than I actually do, also I’m a girl c’mon. Last year, after the Cumberbitch fog had lifted, the McConaissance was in full swing, he not only dominated the headlines for his virtuoso film work, but for his TV work, where he basically plays that same guy we see in every tv show, and did something all actors do to get noticed…they get ugly. For Dallas Buyer’s he lost close to 45 lbs. As Tiny Fey called it ‘or what actresses call being in a movie.’ 
As the completely emaciated Rob Woodruff, a role that won him the Academy Award. Suck on that, Christian Bale.
As for True Detective he gave himself a ridiculous fu-manchu mustache, and a celebutante-inspired messy and loose ponytail. I would have said to go whole hog and grown a mullet and knocked out a couple of his front teeth, but that might have been a bit much. And through it all, every woman in America was getting to throw her panties at the tv and started to pretend she cares about The King in Yellow.

Rustin, the man, the myth, the chain smoker.
So yesterday, Sunday, the day that I don’t move at all except to extend my hand for the remote, SyFy decided to play a cruel joke on me. They decided to air back-to-back blocks of the film Contact (1997), you remember that one serious film McConaughey before he was typecast a slightly goofy stoner with endless barrels of Southern charm? He plays some kind of ‘scientist’ whose title they clearly made up for the film, because there’s no such job in astronomy…I think it’s like a spiritual analyst of extra-terrestrial phenomena...whatever. 

44 and CUUUUUT! Don't ever change, McConaughey.
Anyway, he falls in love with renegade astronomy maverick Jodie Foster who's character just won’t roll over and die damn it, which is I guess a good thing because she starts to pick up a bizarre noise on her ginormous headphones that are linked to about a football field full of giant satellites. But anyway, that’s like the plot and everything, but what’s really worth it about the film is watching a clean-shaven McConaughey play it straight as a PhD astrophysicist. I mean I’ve never seen an actor stretch so much, where else has he done anything remotely like that in his acting career or otherwise. I love how we have to buy him as smart and then just a year later he’s arrested in Texas for playing the bongos naked and stoned. Atta boy. That’s the McConaughey we all know and love. Don’t ever stop being ridiculous Matty. We’re laughing with you not at you, also I sent you massage oil a few weeks ago, did you get it? Because it doesn’t seem like you’ve been using it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Spurned Horned-Fairy Bitter Ex-Girlfriend


I'm sure they stole contacts off the Twilight set for this.
So I went to see Maleficent (2014) last Friday with dwindling optimism. I'm one of those girls that's not a huge fan of Angelina but that's really due to resentment and jealousy more than anything else. So myself and my hetero life-mate Shannon, parked ourselves in one of the back corners and because we both get dizzy from 3-D prepared for a regular screening of Maleficent. Neither of us had seen the original Disney version since we were this side of 8 years old, but it wasn't too crowded in there and we snuck in yogurt, so how bad could it be? The answer is surprisingly, not at all. I was actually feasibly impressed, and my dead heart fluttered just a tiny bit. Don't get me wrong I rolled my eyes quite a bit and had a few choice sarcastic quips for the growing more and more annoyed person I was with, but I left that theater feeling like that was not time wasted. Shocker.
Angie makes a splendid comeback to the big screen after a four-year hiatus and being publically humiliated at the Golden Globes by Ricky Gervais, and then her weird leg-dress moment at the 2012 Oscars. I mean what was that exactly? Then she reappeared to support her husband’s producing efforts last year at the Oscar and even went up to the stage when 12 Years a Slave (2013) won for Best Picture even though she had nothing to do with it besides being married to the Executive Producer, but that’s H-Wood I guess.
Let’s just admit it female community, we were never fans. She was too intimidating with her long legs, her crisp cheekbones that could cut glass, the most sensual lips ever, and long wavy locks of brunette hair. Fuck her seriously, who’s born like that? So we aren’t exactly itching to bring our boyfriends along to one of her flicks, unless we know we’re going to be prodding them the entire time with asinine questions like ‘do you think she’s prettier than me?’. Poor men, they have to lie and say ‘no not at all sweetie, I enjoy how ‘normal’ and ‘boring’ you look’… or ‘I find tattoos gauche and vulgar’…and my favorite ‘I’m not attracted to perfect-looking women’. UGHHHH!
Just admit it you would cheat on me with Angelina Jolie, and that goes for every man in America ladies, even the blind ones. Moving ooooooooon!
We all (and by we all I mean the women amongst us) remember the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty (1959) like it was yesterday. Don’t know about ya’ll but it used to terrify the everloving shit out of me.
I especially cowered at that part when Princess Aurora is hypnotized and wanders into that old forgotten room full of broken spindles with her eyeballs dilated like she just dropped 8 hits of E. I swear that would haunt my nightmares, also that's a huge hole in the story, seriously. They couldn't just burn the spindles in a giant pire, they have to hide them in a room that no one will ever get into? Really? ...really really? 
But as traumatized as I was and as much as the night light company made off of me, I did not expect the re-imagining of the classic tale to be at all scary. I honestly thought it would a farce and at the very least yield a lot of snarky eye-rolls. But I got distracted by the ridiculous amount of homages or rather pastiches of Lord of the Rings, and the endless who's who parade of marginally famous actors for whom I carry a deep appreciation such as Sharlto Copley who made a huge impression on all of us with his debut film District 9. Then there's Sam Reilly who made HIS debut in the disastrous clusterfuck of a movie On the Road (2011) based on the American Opus by Jack Kerouac where he played the Kerouac-inspired character of Sal. Then there's Dakota Fanning prettier and more talented little sister Elle as Sleeping Beauty herself, with basically the entire Mike Leigh company including Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton rounding out the cast. I mean, that's pretty effing impressive. You would expect a cast list like to read like the opening credits to a Shakespeare adaptation. But Shakespeare this is not. It was amusing, and at times campy as hell, and in the good way. Angie is definitely not taking herself too seriously which is a feat for her. But she is bringing all of her chops to this rather sparkly and ridiculous parable. She doesn't chew the scenery, and in fact holds back when she has to making her performance enigmatic, emotionally charged, and at times sarcastic. It works, what else can I say? Oh yeah, and Juno Temple is there too so what's not visual masturbation about this film. T&A from Angie, walking and talking trees a la Lord of the Rings for the geek crowd, and enough glammed out costume changes to make David Bowie jealous, it's a sensual feast for the eyes, but don't expect it to warm your heart or anything. It's completely predictable and somewhat banal, but who cares? Angelina has horns and a catsuit. What else do you need exactly, needy! It's a formulaic Disney live-action film with little depth and an actress that should reside nowhere near Disney street, but now that she's a momma to like 45 toddlers, has started to mellow out a bit. It was enjoyable. And don't even get me started on the S&M fetishies that's all over this freakin' film that went flying over the kids' heads. It's a tongue and cheek sexual interpretation of a beloved old classic which is the best kind of interpretation you can have. I mean seriously, who's more sexually explicit than Ang? It's giving a new generation of 12-year-old Disney fans something different to wank to. More power to it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Behind Bars with Pipes

The girls of Litchfield Correctional Facility return for some serious Season 2 hijinks.
The crazily long-awaited return of Orange is the New Black came to pass last week as we all watched our smartphones to vibrate with a message from Netflix that the whole new season is up and running. Then we collectively sneaked into the bathroom on our cigarette breaks to watch snippets of the first episode on the can. Even IMDB got in on the fun posting an animated ribbon on it’s front page with the entire main cast which is around 16 to 20 girls seemingly reacting to something gross and atrocious.

Crazy Eyes partying it up with Taystee.
            Orange is the New Black has had as much of an impact on the female TV audience as something like True Detective had on the male audience. But unlike the latter it doesn’t take itself so seriously that you have to google books anything on existentialism after every episode. The unbridled ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude speaks volumes to girls and out of the incredibly vast and diverse cast of the show, there is someone for everyone to relate to, and at times we find ourselves relating to all of the characters…except for perhaps Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning).  Me? I’m a cross between Chapman (duh), Big Boo, and Poussay…but it depends on the day. A lot of the time I’m feeling the plight of Red the Russian mob ringer (Kate Mulgrew) ('It's fucking funny!'). But there’s an inmate for every mood. And that’s what makes the show so endearing. The troubles of the characters which on the surface might seem alien to us because most of us have never done time, are at the same time universal, because we’ve all struggled and done things we shouldn’t have, and now are striving to find redemption.
A big part of the reason I couldn't wait for this season is to see how it works out with Daya and Bennett; hottest prison guard this side of scripted TV.
            So when you think about it, the show’s very simple in that respect, and it’s entertaining; the two main cornerstones of TV. I don’t need to peel back all the layers of Rustin’s inner demons on True Detective like I’m a philosophy post-doc. If a show can make you laugh hysterically and cry like no one’s watching within the same hour, that’s a good show. And finally there’s something on TV that treats women more than just the whore the mother or the wife…am I right Mad Men? I mean seriously, it’s the 21st century and we’re still disenfranchised playing second fiddle to middle-aged white men with problems. I know that TV is inherently frightened about shows that cater to and center around women, especially one with a cast of ONLY women (with the exception of Jason Biggs…and Pornstache), but that’s folly because apparently, as Orange has proved there’s a huge niche in the market for that. I mean, we DO make up half of the country’s populace, and you can’t play us off with Peggy Olsen anymore.

One endearing lesson this show teaches us that whether weathering a storm or living large, in prison or in St. Tropez, ya gotta have friends.
But aside from all the politics, what’s great about the show are the characters and the actors who play them. Aside from resurrecting the careers of long forgotten actors such as Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, and Laura Prepon, the show is basically a who’s who of newbies and hot young upper-and-comers. With the resurgence of female protagonist shows like Orange, Scandal, and even Bates Motel, we might find redemption yet like we had in the 90’s when our estrogen fueled material also had a presence (remember Allie McBeal or My So Called Life)? This show explicitly states; we might be in prison but we’re not the bad guys, and we will persevere. And that’s an admirable notion. So turn off your phone, plug into Netflix, and join everyone else in this gargantuan estrogen fest. Happy watching!

Season 2 promo below:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Who Run the World? Nerds!

(L to R) Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis and Lee Pace look out of their clandestine offices at IBM representatives who invade their territory with a mixture of defiance and intimidation.
So the highly anticipated series on AMC that's not Mad Men or Breaking Bad premiered this past Sunday. Halt and Catch Fire tells the almost unknown technology story of tenacious and rebellious renegades in the 'Silicon Prairie' a decade before Silicon Valley ever crystallized as the center of the technology revolution, that stole IBM's flagship product; the PC, to basically create some of the most important innovations in the field birthing the Dell computer, and without whom we'd all be staring at a black IBM screen typing in green face letters. I exaggerate, but we'd definitely not be as technologically evolved. 
Speaking for myself I was so relieved to watch the premiere of a new AMC show without immediately thinking; 'well this is pretentious'. Let's face it people, AMC has a weird streak of broadcasting good material on its viewers and then letting it fall into bleakness, pretentiousness, and mediocrity...am I right Breaking Bad? But this series, promises to be new and different, exciting and incendiary, sexually charged and spy-thrillery, throughout, and yes all of that came through just in the pilot. Not to mention how refreshing it is to wax nostalgic about the 80's rather than the 60's.

I wish I could tell you there was a love story between these two characters; Joe and Cameron, but it's more of a hate-sex thing. It's much better!
Faux-rebellious protagonists who turn anti-heroes because of blind ambition like Don Draper and Walter White are out. This show focuses on desperate people with nothing to lose and an enormous thirst for power, legacy, and entitlement. The three protagonists could not be more different from one another nor from any protagonists in scripted television right now. Though they may have certain familiar quirks and characteristics, they are fundamentally unique, and we have the writers and actors playing them to thank for this.
Lee Pace as Joe MacMillan; the ring leader.
Joe MacMillan (played by Lee Pace) seems like your typical 80's yuppie. He drives a cool car, wears a sharp suit, blow dries is hair, and always has something elitist to say to his 'lessers'. But he's not everything he appears to be. Even though he's what's commonly known as a 'closer', he can't seem to catch a break. Sure his job pays well but no one really takes him seriously when his ambition gets the better of him. He might have the appearance of a staunch business man, but he wants more. And the way to get it is to do it his own way and circumvent those standing between him and ultimate power. 

Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark; the 'brain' and most of the time, the voice of reason.
Gordon Clark (played by Scoot McNairy) is basically his polar opposite. Thin and physically inferior with huge glasses and a face-masking beard, he's the 'misunderstood genius'. There was a time when he had brilliant ideas, but his dreams were crushed, along with his self-confidence when he tried to build his own computer with his wife which turned out to be a pyrotechnic disaster. No one ever took him seriously again until Joe offers him a new means of recognition; not to build a computer from the ground up but to reverse-engineer the IBM computer and make it their own. It's hilghly illegal, and yet extremely titillating. Where would we be today if innovation ideas weren't pirated and nuanced to make that particular product better?

Brilliant Canadian actress Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe; the rebel.
And then there's Cameron Howe (played by Mackenzie Davis). Is she ever a loose cannon, and she perfectly rounds out this trifecta of brilliant thieves. She's her own kind of rebel, outwardly and aesthetically punk, extroverted, and defiant, inwardly an enormous genius for someone her age (I'm guessing she's about 21-22 considering she admits she's a college dropout). She's beautiful and spunky and doesn't take shit from anybody. She doesn't belong within a 5 mile radius of an office building, but when called upon by Joe to work on the reverse-engineering plan, she jumps to the opportunity considering all that's on the horizon is 'repairing VCR's for 3.25 an hour'. 

Two enormous egos battle for their time in the harsh glare of the tech spotlight.
The three formulate a plan to take down the biggest and only computer company in existence, but are soon met with opposition not to mention their mutual hate and resentment of each other. There's sexual tension basically everywhere, and if this show teaches us anything it's this: 1) Don't live in Dallas. 2) Be bold and do whatever the fuck you want even when everyone tells you not to, because that's how great people become great. I'm on board AMC, thank you for redeeming yourself with really enthralling material for a change. I have high hopes for this show, I can't wait for the next episode, and it's been a while since I cancelled plans for TV. This is the story never told, and the story we've suddenly become fascinated with thanks to The Social Network (2010). It has a unique point of view, and shed new light on a quiet revolution that happened behind locked doors and curtained windows. It takes a million artistic liberties but who cares? It's not on The History Channel. 

Trailer below: 



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is It Just Me Or Has Sherlock Lost It's Flair?

Sherlock awkward at weddings? Well that's an obvious 'duh'.
Sherlock used to be the most exciting show that damn near ever aired on this or any side of the pond. It made Benedict Cumberbatch a household name, as difficult as that name was to pronounce and launched a revolution in people picking up books again (and no 'The Hunger Games', and 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' don't count) I mean real books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who created a character that seemingly lives forever. But now, after it's third season finished, I've noticed that there's a lot different and not in the good way. Cast is still there and all, but it's no longer the Sherlock Holmes show...it's turned into some ubiquitous Dr. John Watson love-special with crime happening in the background and far too many camera tricks to compensate for lack of content. 
Paul McGuigan, the visionary behind re-appropriating Sherlock for a modern audience in a modern setting.
The two genius creators and Sherlock uber-dorks Mark Gatiss (who doubles as Sherlock's brother Mycroft on the show) and Steven Moffat still serve as writers, but now they have copycat directors all trying to be the creative genius that is Paul McGuigan who directed 4 out of 6 episodes of the first two seasons. The four best ones I might add. There was a magic to Paul. He understood that 'appropriation' doesn't have to be a bastardization...a lesson Baz Lhurmann has yet to learn and re-envisioned the cannon of Sherlock Holmes that absolutely worked for a modern audience. Under his direction, the show, as different in aesthetic as it was to the original matertial maintained a level of integrity particularly within the obtuse and superhuman character of Sherlock Holmes.
John Watson's wedding...you know, who cares? It might as well have been something spoken about between the two protagonists in the past tense to save time.
The first episode of the third season was...not bad. It was basically back tracking to the cliffhanger of the last episode of season 2 where Sherlock 'dies' but we all know he doesn't and had to sit twiddling our thumbs for a fucking year and a half waiting for them to finally explain how the FUCK he managed to trick every motherfucker on the planet...including John Watson I might add. So that was fun to watch, a string of reveals, all of them seemingly plausible at first, but then we realize how, I'm not going to give it away but obviously we know Sherlock couldn't die because they had announced the renewal of the show for two more seasons even before that episode aired, and quite honestly it wasn't that important. But from that episode I already knew, they had switched protagonists. And don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with John Watson, he's a cool dude, a bit of an uptight white guy type, but not nearly as interesting, funny, witty, sexy, etc. as Sherlock Holmes, and to be fair, the show as well as the Arthur Conan Doyle cannon are named after him, and don't even include Watson's name in the title. 
Another character that has really stepped into her own this season is Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) She's really becoming the Peggy to Sherlock's Don Draper. She's been much more involved and more influential in his life and that's actually paid off.
The second episode is of course also based on one of the original stories, but Gatiss and Moffat already exhausted the 'Big 3' (The Woman, the Dog, and the Professor) in the second season, so all that's left is scraps, and what they lack in content they have to improvise in irrelevant stories like John Watson's marriage to Mary...and by that point it's like...whatever. Detective Inspector LeStrade (Rupert Graves) gets an 'emergency text' from Sherlock and what he finds out is that Sherlock is perturbed on how to write a best man speech for the wedding...really? That's all well and good for light comedy, but the wedding itself takes up more than half the episode. 
Here's to Season 3 not sucking as much as it appears to be.
The rest is the actual investigation, which is also a bit dull to say the least. I was not impressed. And granted, I haven't yet seen the third and final episode in the series but all in all I'm not to excited about it. I keep turning it on before I hit the hay and end up falling asleep. I have never fallen asleep on a Sherlock episode, not ever, doesn't matter if I just put in the hardest day of my life, it's usually that engrossing. So perhaps I'm going a bit hard on this series as it is now. Because I expect more from it. To me, it's been the best show not only of its genre, but of anything we've seen in a long time. It was big news when it was announced that McGuigan would not return to direct Season 3, and it shows. Maybe they can redeem themselves with season 4, but we'll have to wait a while to see about that. I really hope they rehire McGuigan and pump life into something that's seemingly dead in the water as it were.

Monday, May 19, 2014

'That Ain't Fair' - Rape in Hollywood

Jodie Foster minutes before her attack in The Accused (1988)
There's a film I like to show to most of my friends, it's a flawed documentary called Girl 27 (2007) about a rape case that was kept quiet by the Hollywood studios, mainly MGM for over 70 years. The story goes that in the early 30's a young teenager who worked as an extra for the studio was lured to the Hal Roach Ranch (a place where a lot of MGM films were shot) under false pretenses to be 'entertainment' for the MGM sales team, basically the people who sell the studio's films to theaters. Champagne and whiskey was flowing like ground water, and eventually this 17 year old named Patricia Douglas was dragged out into a parked car and brutally assaulted and raped by one of the salesmen, a man named David Ross. He was never served, never charged, and never had to pay for what he did. The studio heads snapped into action and made sure that even though Pat Douglas brought a class action law suit against him at the age of 17, they paid everyone including the only witness to the crime and even her own mother a substantial amount of hush money, and the whole thing stayed buried until a documentary filmmaker accidentally chanced on the headline while working on his book on Jean Harlow.
Pat Douglas and her mother outside the courtroom in a picture from the headlines in 1932. The mother was later paid to keep quiet about the whole thing. She took it and didn't ask any questions.
It's been a long time since then but have things really changed? In the documentary, the victim, Pat Douglas brings up the 1988 film The Accused. In which Jodie Foster stars as a rape victim with Kelly McGillis as her attorney, who later came out in People magazine admitting she was raped. Jodie won the Academy Award that year, and everything seemed sealed up with a nice little bow. As if Hollywood was saying ok now we know the gravity of the issue and look, we addressed it so let it go away now. If only it was that easy.
There's a scene early on in The Accused where McGillis visits Foster and asks her about all of her 'bad habits'. As in, was she dressed provocatively, does she go to bars alone, and when she does does she get drunk? Even if she's had sex with multiple partners and when she does have sex if a man hits her does she enjoy it? Foster rightfully is unhinged by these terrifying questions and gets irate while McGillis explains herself saying that 'these are the questions they are going to ask you on the stand', to which Foster replies 'That ain't fair'. If that isn't the biggest understatement of our century. 
'That ain't fair'.
No it isn't fair, and to this day that's what women have to endure. Just like what happened to Pat Douglas over 70 years ago, when they immediately labeled her a 'tart' and a 'tramp' because back then a tramp couldn't get raped. We see it happen again and again. It's what I like to call the 'double rape standard'. A woman gets attacked physically, and then she gets raped again on the witness stand when she is brave enough to fight for her dignity, her rights, and her life. In The Accused Foster is a self-described 'white trash bimbo' who works in a diner, drinks during the day, and goes to bars alone. And at first all of that is used against her even by her own lawyer. What hasn't changed at all is women being afraid of a predominately male-dominated world to speak out against injustice. In Girl 27, it was Pat's mother, in The Accused it's the best friend who actually witnesses what happens and once one of the male onlookers turns to her and says 'you're next' she runs off. 
Pat Douglas in a Vanity Fair photo shoot when she finally revealed her story, about a year or so before she died.
Since that film, this ugly subject matter has rarely been brought up because Hollywood daintily thought well we addressed it (because Foster does get her comeuppance in the end)  and that's that. Let's close the book on that forever now. It's not that easy Hollywood. I bring up these two examples to illustrate how little has changed. And even though the outcome for Patricia Douglas was different than that for Jodie Foster's character, it's the hardship in between is something that continues to go unaddressed. In a world that is still highly dominated by the male perspective and male filmmakers, it's not going to be easy to get a woman's point of view, the exact point of view across. This is far from over, and until this stops happening basically every single day, we need to keep putting a mirror to it. Especially when we have (albeit inexplicable) public figures like Melissa Gorga from Real Housewives for New Jersey fame advocating marital rape in fucking 2014. It just goes to show that little has changed. It's never ok, and it's never the woman's fault. It's really not that hard folks. What I've been talking about is basically an archaic version of 'slut shaming' and we all know that that leads no where good. It's not ok either, and it's time to stop.



Friday, April 25, 2014

My favorite Music Videos (No Particular Order)

Smashing Pumkins' 'Tonight, Tonight' (dir. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris), 1996. A very literal nod to the cinematic trend in music videos that had taken over around that time by basically recreating the Melies film; A Voyage to the Moon (1902).

Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Dani California' (dir. Tony Kaye), 2006. What a tribute to rock 'n roll trends. No snark here.

Miley Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' (dir. Terry Richardson), 2013. I had to...don't you dare judge me...I know I can't look at myself in the mirror either...I know Terry's awful...yes I heard about the allegations...yes all of them...No I do not excuse nor condone them...yes this video is shot beautifully.

Fiona Apple's 'Criminal' (dir. Mark Romanek), 1997. She has a wonderful been-dead-for-a-few-days look about her. Romanek later went on to direct One Hour Photo (2004).

The Verve's 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' (dir. Walter A. Stern) 1997. None of this was staged. Lead singer Richard Ashcroft was asked to purposely bump into people as hard as he could.

R.E.M's 'Losing My Religion' (dir. Tarsem Singh), 1991. A great eclectic recreation of Renaissance art, Soviet propaganda posters, and Michael Stipe's indescribable dance moves.

Lauryn Hill's 'Doo Wop (That Thing)' (dir. Big TV!) 1999. I was beyond in love with this song and this video. Can't believe she stopped making music after that.

Justin Timberlake's 'Cry Me a River' (dir. Francis Lawrence), 2002. The ultimate indictment-of-a-cheating-lover public statement ever. And it's so sexy don't we all wish we had a music video like that to our name?

FatBoy Slim's 'Praise You' (dir.  Spike Jonze), 1999. High concept, high art, really really original and hilarious stuff. We all know what Spike Jonze as the delightfully dorky and slightly unhinged filmmaker of such critical darlings as Being John Malkovich (1999), this was a first glimpse into his particular brand of self-effacing humor.

And finally...

Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance' (dir. again, Francis Lawrence), 2009. Because most of my friends will have a fit if they don't find this on the list, and quite honestly it's awesome. What can I say? I'm a little monster.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Best New COMEDY on Television. Nerd Out America, Party's Up North!

The principal cast of Silicon Valley (2014- present) all doing their best Steve Jobs pose.
This show is like a warm hug from an old friend. Since I moved to LA I've pined for a little piece of home and would use any excuse to get behind the wheel of whatever shitty car I was driving at the time that allowed me to still pay student loans on time and drive up north 5 hours just so I can bask in the glory that is Palo Alto, a place popularized by The Social Network (2010), it's embarrassingly most famous film star alum; James Franco (who actually made a film called Palo Alto (2010) which blew hard), but also recently is stealing the big glaring spotlight from the botoxed stars of Hollywood to the real magic workers that wear Ivy League hoodies and 'fuck-you flip-flops' and write code all day...for about just as much money as movie stars make. 
Big Head (Josh Brener) and Richard (Thomas Middleditch) discuss coding technique
Culture in Silicon Valley could not be more different than culture in SoCal. There's no such thing as bro-code, wearing sports jerseys, or cheering for ANY sports teams. No one goes to Coachella, no one drives a car that's over 60K unless it's a Tesla (seriously a Mercedes is a mythical creature up here), sweater vests run rampant and the drug of choice isn't sizzurp, it's adderall. It's heaven. Remember all those kids who we thought of as 'geeky' in middle/high school? That's right they run the fucking world. They work for Zuckerberg, Bryn, and Wozniak who combined make more than every film that has ever been produced ever. One line of code could bring in more money than all the returns on Avatar (2009)...easily. They ride bikes, drink tons of Peet's coffee, and don't know what to do with a stripper if she was grinding buck naked on their junk (which actually happens in one of the episodes).

Palo Alto isn't exactly cheap in fact it ranks as one of the 3 most expensive places to live in the US, so all these 20-something geniuses decided to sublet million dollar Palo Alto homes to friends at their company and split the rent costs. Don't worry none of them ever use the pool.
From the brilliant mind of director Mike Judge, this show has a fantastic cast, who actually look like every guy I ever met in Silicon Valley ever. Every time I'm up north visiting mommers I run into one of these guys at University Cafe (if you're a local you know exactly where that is and why it's popular). I know they only shoot the exteriors in Palo Alto, because I actually recognize the streets without seeing the street names but the rest is shot in sunny yet shitty LA, but you know, it IS television. On top of everything else, I'll give a shout out right now to an old friend of mine with whom I did drama club every year at I. Weiner Jewish Secondary School (funniest name ever I know) when we both lived in Houston TX; Josh Brener. He plays 'Big Head' a coder on the show who get usurped for a salary of 600K (not shitting you) to write code for a competing company. This show is basically geek heaven, but without all the D&D nonsense. It's written brilliantly, and has the same tenacity, wit, and snark that Mike Judge brought to Office Space (1999)...It's white collar torture but ya love it.

Trailer below, get 'wired in'...like today.