Tuesday, January 17, 2017

MOVIE REVIEWS #129: "HELL OR HIGH WATER", "KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS", "THE NEON DEMON", "CAFE SOCIETY", "APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD", "THE NICE GUYS", "WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT", "THE WAILING", "HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE", "GLEASON", "THE INNOCENTS", "CITY OF GOLD", "THE IDOL", "MISSISSIPPI GRIND", "ARABIAN NIGHTS", "WILDLIKE", "THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION" and "CENSORED VOICES"!

Okay, it's been an unusually long time since I got a batch of reviews done, 'cause of several reasons, not the least of which, the OYL Awards taking up most of my time on the blog, as well as outside work taking up much of my time, so I'm not gonna discuss every film I'm not reviewing, 'cause there's way too many, and I want to get this posted quickly, and most of the movies are old films that aren't that important news that I watched them now. (Although I'm deftly aware of the irony that I finally got around to "The Greatest Show on Earth" right when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announcing they're closing down) I do want to talk about a couple movies, first off, a film that I would normally, a documentary called "In Jackson heights" from the great documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman, was honored recently with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar, I consider his film "At Berkeley" to be one of the best documentaries this decade so far, and what he does is just film a bunch and bunch or a certain place or location, and just records everything that goes on, and when he's at his best, his movies will be long, but full of this wonderful mosaic of people and them, generally just going through their regular day-to-day life. The reason I'm not reviewing it, is because despite some of the acclaim it's received, well-deserved at that I might add, the film was not theatrical released as far as I can tell, at least in a traditional theatrical run, so I won't review it in full, but it's about the goings on in Jackson Heights, New York, arguably the most diverse neighborhood in the world and it does a great job of making us feel apart of that neighborhood. Highly recommend.

Also, a movie, I wanted to touch on, an older film that only recently got released in America, and that's Isao Takahata's "Only Yesterday", the great anime director behind "Grave of the Fireflies" and "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" among others, he's one of the founders of Studio Ghibli, this was a film he made in the early nineties, only got an American theatrical release, in 2012, I have no idea why. It's not his best film, it's a story about a young woman, reflecting on her childhood while she's about to make a life-changing decision, but it's still pretty good, and I'd definitely recommend. Not sure at all, why this took so long to get an American release, but it's worth checking out. The animation is of course amazing, and it's got a good take on this kind of narrative, so definitely recommend.

Anyway, too many big movies to get to this week, and I gotta work on the Oscar predictions, so let's get to this week's edition of our MOVIE REVIEWS!


HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016) Director: David Mackenzie

★★★★1/2



I gotta admit, that I'm never seriously given much consideration to David Mackenzie as an auteur. He's not a named director that I find myself thinking about or seeking out when his films come up; if you asked me to list his, I-eh, I wouldn't be able to name one without looking them up, but looking them up, the ones I've seen I've certainly liked quite a bit. I do notice that I've only seen one of his films that he wrote, the controversial NC-17 "Young Adam", and to be honest, while I did like it, it's not exactly something that I think about for the writer. There's good character stuff in the film, but it's a bit of a mess, but that was okay because the movie around a mess of a murder that was being investigated. "Perfect Sense", as I recall, and re-checking my review, I did indeed dislike, 'cause it was too much of a mess, and it was a sci-fi romance on top of that; which was itself a strange combination. In hindsight, that film reminds me a lot of "Upstream Color", another sci-fi romance that didn't work, but "Perfect Sense" was much better than that film, 'cause at least the romance in the context of the film's universe was realistic and worth caring about. He's Scottish, so much of his films have at least a British flair to them, but there's none of that in "Hell or High Water", which is very distinctly modernist western, but if there's something in common, with most of his films, at least the ones I've seen, it's a duel struggle between the characters inner demons and their struggles to combat a part of the world that's someway brought them down? That's probably most obvious in his previous film, and objectively, probably his best, "Starred Up", which was a prison about a father and son force to confront and reconnect with each other behind bars after the son moved up to adult prison. That movie gave us two of the better performances of the year in Jack O'Connell breakthrough role and especially Ben Mendelsohn as his father. I didn't have time to write a full review of that movie; I probably should get some time for a rewatch of that one, but these conflicts are pretty clear in "Hell or High Water". The main characters are brothers Tanner and Toby Howard (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) and they're bank robbers in Texas, are the Midland area we're informed, and they are on a crime spree. It's clear they've got some very specific intentions with their actions, but it's up to a soon-to-be-retiring Sheriff, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) to put the pieces together and quickly before somebody else gets hurt, or before they hit another bank. Now, I've read a few reviews that explain, what's exactly going on, 'cause it's not necessarily technically giving something away, since there's even more going on with the characters than the simple whodunit and whydidthey's, but I'm gonna leave it out here, other than to say, what they're doing is smart, in a way, and probably dumb in a way, for basically the same reasons. (And, even that wasn't the case, discovery helps this movie) That said, the movie does have the unfortunate problem that it rings a little too familiar. Storywise, I doubt this is new, it's pretty standard for a western, except for probably it's more revisionist ending, but that doesn't necessarily help because there's also too many modern revisionist westerns it feels like. Most notably, it definitely looks like it takes place in the same world that the Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men" took place in. It borrows from a few other films too, there's a lot of the Coens' "True Girl" in it too, there's some reminders of Sam Peckinpah's more modernist stuff, "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" for instance. Actually, that's kind of the problem, the movie is way too familiar. That's not a negative per se, that's what the movie's going for, in fact, but I do think it hinders the film a bit. The movie was written by an actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who wrote a movie last year, that I had similar issues with "Sicario", which I looked at my review of that again recently and I realized that I called it "'Traffic'"-lite", which, is interesting 'cause I looked up other reviews of that film, and somebody called it "'Traffic' on steroids", um, no, I have to disagree with that; I really read that like it was just a slicker, more Hollywood-ish, action version of "Traffic" and in some ways "Hell or High Water" has basically the same problem, it's a slicker version of a film that's probably best told with some rough edges around it. That said, this is more memorable than "Sicario" and much better. There's some great storytelling and wonderful acting all around. Bridges is probably getting a Supporting Actor nomination here, Pine and Foster are also great, but there's some other good Supporting work. Katy Mixon for instance has only a few scenes and she steals them, probably more than she should, but I'm okay with her doing that. Gil Birmingham has a good part as Bridges's Deputy and he's got some great chemistry with him and they have different ideas and approaches on how to capture the robbers, and the story does reveal to be far more complex than a simple good guys and bad guys tale that the movie could've been. It's still a little too slick and neat, but it's still one of the better films I've come across so far this year. Whether you're gonna appreciate the movie or not is probably determined by whether you can appreciate it's classical nature or it's modernist nature more.  

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (2016) Director: Travis Knight

★★★★1/2



So, I've had some wildly mixed reactions to Laika Animation over the years. Laika, is the small Oregon studio that seems to be at the top of the heap when it comes to American stop-motion animation, first coming onto the scene with contracted work for "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride", which, I still haven't gotten around to watching, however it's is comparable to Tim Burton's previous animation productions, eh, than I'm not looking forward to it. (Yeah, I'm the one that hated "The Nightmare Before Christmas", I stand by it; it sucked!) But, I did like "Coraline" enough, in it's own quirky way, and I really admired "ParaNorman", which unfortunately came out in a good animation year, but it's seriously underrated. That got me excited for their next film, "The Boxtrolls", which then made my Worst Films of the Year list. So, that was disappointing. I genuinely don't know what they were thinking with that. There seem to be a theme in their films though, a plot device, that there's the regular world on-hand, and then, some other world that it's main character must enter/combat/overcome/all three, in order to achieve their ultimate goals. "Coraline" had a literal alternate universe, "ParaNorman", had a paranormal alternate world that was attacking the neighborhood, "The Boxtrolls" they had the weird thing in a weird world, and also a weird human boxtroll who's been missing for years, and is only now recovering, but the cheese-based economy universe, wants to have his disappearance continue, 'cause the Boxtrolls are supposed evil and taking children-, God damn, "The Boxtrolls" sucked! Give me "The Nightmare Before Christmas" any day over that. Ugh-, sorry, I'm coming back now; I'm coming back. (Deep breath) So what's, what's changed here. Why is this one so special. Well, for one thing, this doesn't look or feel like any piece of stop-motion I've seen before. Especially recently, where it's either been, for the most part, Laika's more darkly gothic take on stop-motion, or Aardman Animation more cerebral British sensibility, or Laika, trying to be Aardman, and failing with "The Boxtrolls" (Eye roll, sigh) I'll get off it, I promise! With "Kubo and the Two Strings", I don't see either influence here. The look, is more, well-, it's from a lot of different influences actually. There's a hero's tale, but there's some myths and legends, there's transformations that involve animals, there's a ghostly otherworld; I guess there's a Japanese influence, part Kurosawa, part Miyazaki, part just regular folklore from the area. It also hinges on the power of the storyteller, which is also an interesting twist. I don't know, exactly where this takes place either, which in this case, I like, 'cause they've an interesting full world. Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young kid, who plays a two string guitar, a magic guitar, that when he plays, he manages to bring out the townsfolk as he tells some wonderous magical stories while playing the guitar and with the help of some well-done origami. His mother, tells him stories of his father, who was earlier killed when he turned on his family. She warns Kubo that he must remain hidden from them, as they already took his eye when he was an infant for his father being with his mother. One night however, during a town festival to honor the Dead, he stays out too late, and he's taken into...- how the hell do I finish that sentence. He's brought into this otherworld, with an overprotective Monkey (Charlize Theron) as his guide, and later on a Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) who turns out, was a student of Kubo's father. And his Aunts, or the Sisters (Rooney Mara) as they're called, are after them. Through his mother's old stories, he knows he must get a sword and breastplate in order to help defeat his undead family, but finding them is hard and they're quicker and know where he is and going, and can sneak up on him. The journey and plot itself, I don't think is really that interesting, but this is a strikingly beautiful film and world that's been created here. The animation is off-the-charts, it's some of the best stop-motion I've ever seen, and it works for this world, that continues to fascinate the more layers we peel at it. You know, it wasn't that long ago I wrote a controversial blogpost about how the fantasy genre has way too many characters, You can read it at the link below: 

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2016/05/fantasy-has-too-many-characters-yes-i.html

I honestly took a lot of flack for that article, but I stand by it, the fact that the fantasy genre is so obsessed with constantly coming and bringing out new extra characters, I know you're world-building, but at a certain point, it becomes way more of a hindrance than a benefit of the genre, especially since, the world itself is something that viewers like me, are struggling deftly to even follow and understand. I almost feel like "Kubo and the Two Strings" is almost a response, not a critique, but an attempt to set the challenge that I gave them, come up with a fantasy that isn't hinging on the constant influx of bringing in more and more characters, set it up in the story of the personal. "Kubo..." does this, pretty damn well. Do I know everything about this world, no, but I know enough to follow and have enough imput on the characters that matter that I care about them and their accomplishes and I'm not sidetracked by too many extra ones that come in, just to, be apart of this journey. (And the one that does come in, makes sense and is foreshadowed and integral to the story) And it's set in a wonderful, magical world, that, I'm intrigued by. I probably am underrating this movie based on my ratings; I guess that's because I'd like a little more than I got, but honestly, I find myself appreciating more and more upon reflection. This is a way of doing fantasy that I can really get behind, and I honestly haven't been able to claim that enough.  (Bumps rating up to 4 1/2 STARS) Yeah, the more I think about "Kubo..." the more enthralled with it I am, and now I'm back on the Laika train, let's hope their next one reminds me why stop-motion can be as special and amazing as any other kind of animation when done right.


THE NEON DEMON (2016) Director: Nicholas Winding Refn





So, I tweeted while I was watching/suffering through "The Neon Demon", Nicholas Winding Refn's latest feature film and I kept to this tweet. I wrote....

"What the hell's with THE NEON DEMON"? It's just REFN filming pretty young girls in well-lit rooms? He's getting more boring every movie."

Um, I've had a little time to think that tweet over a bit, but-um, ugh, yeah, that's legitimately all the movie is. And I get that he's supposedly trying to satirize or parody the fashion and entertainment industry and how they and we focused on this ideal of beauty and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, it's still just, a bunch of image pretty women in well-lit rooms. Okay, sometimes they're covered in blood or something, but you know, what difference does that make? Okay, so it doesn't make a difference, therefore, it's the nothingness of beauty and dwelling on the nothingness of beauty and the shallowness in beauty and riches and-, oh good lord, am I describing Nicholas Rinding Refn, or did Bret Easton Ellis writes David Lynch's next meandering. Ugh! Really? This is a revelation, that the fashion industry is shallow and there's not much more to models than their looks and how they're used for the industry-, I saw people calling this a great piece of art and a revelation! What the hell are they talking about? There's nothing new here, there's nothing here but literal style over substance, dwelling on style over substance? And the thing is, the reason I'm bitching about it, is that Refn didn't used to be like this. No, none of his films are particularly outside-the-box of traditional narrative or anything, but his stylistics choices weren't a substitute for substance, they helped the story previously. "Bronson" is stylistic as all hell, and challenged a lot of narrative conventions of biopics, but the directing and writing style benefited from his ideas, "Drive" is not a revolutionary story or script, but the way the movie was shot and told was what extended the movie beyond a tradition narrative. "Only God Forgives" was the first sign that he was losing his mind. I gave that a negative review, but there were creative ideas and touches there, a different setting, interesting characters with unusual motives and actions, great scenes, but it also started dwelling on it's style, which had become less progressive and active and more, laid back and observant. I thought it was bizarre that he was tribute that movie to Alejandro Jodorowsky who was surreal and strange but in my mind, was never boring; his movies always made me ask "What's he gonna show us next?", not, "When's this gonna end?" I mean, but at least "Only God Forgives" was about something, it had a story and narrative. I-eh, I'm told things happened to the characters in this film; I can reprint what it says on the movie's Wikipedia page, but I don't know, if those are barely things that happens, there's nothing I care about-, Okay, the main "character", and I'm using that word loosely is Jesse (Elle Fanning) the new 16-year-old kid in town, in the modeling world, who apparently is the next big thing and everybody tell her how she's going to be big, and the next big thing, and then she becomes the next big things, and is totally exploited and-, okay, these sort of scenes, would work in say, a David Lynch movie, 'cause he's clearly playing with the cliches and subverting it, slightly. Everything's too perfect and off-kilter, that you know something else is going on, or about to happen, whether the audience or characters understand it or not. In this movie, I guess there's this, sorta horror-effect, a la, Aronfsky's "Black Swan" that's slowly taking over, but not-, not really. There an interesting character or cameo that come in an out,  Christina Hendricks is a good modeling agent who's enticing young Jenn, a makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) splits her time between fashion shoots and the morgue, that's an interesting idea and character; I would love to see a movie from her point of view, if any of these women were anything but scenery that eats. That's another thing, this is another one of those movies that clearly has no actual idea about how women talk to each other. I know, there's plenty of movies I can recommend that do that too, but yeah, Refn has never created a truly interesting female character that wasn't at least on the page a cliched side character, and that's not good, since most of this movie is a bunch of talented young actresses who would be amazing in another movie, but since they're just fashion models, they just stand or sit or be whatever position they're supposed to and look pretty doing it. I mean, what bunch of famous people come together and talk about, how much this other person loves the fact they know all of us and are working with us; I've met a few famous people, and know people who've worked with a lot of them they don't act or talk like that, even in the Fashion industry and I can't imagine Refn doesn't know that? Fine, stylistic choice for the art, but what the hell am I looking at!? What art? I can pick up a fashion magazine and see this, is that the joke, that all these images, conflicting scenes of beauty mixed with devastation, in cheap hotel rooms, covered in blood and makeup, looking like it's a bloody murder scene in a movie. Oh wait, this bloody murder scene in this movie, is only a bloody murder scene in a movie, so it's not an actual, bloody murd-er, scene....- I can gaze at my goddamn naval for so often, before I just have to realize, that "You know what, it's just a damn bellybutton, who cares?" "The Neon Demon", pretty girls in well-lit rooms. I live in the true Neon Demon of Las Vegas, I literally can pick up my camera, pick, almost at random a casino on the Strip and start taking pictures of the same damn thing, and maybe some of them aren't as well-lit, as I'd prefer, but you know what, there's a lot and lighting in casinos; I can find a pretty well-lit space easily enough, just ask them to be photographed there for a second.


CAFE SOCIETY (2016) Director: Woody Allen

★★★



Okay, just so in case, other people excited to get in and become a part of the industry at some point, NEVER, NE-VER, tell anybody that you'll "Do anything!" Whether that's true or not, just don't say it, even if it is a relative who's a higher-up in the business, just don't. Most likely, nothing will happen, 'cause they don't like to hire too many people who say that, and be weary a bit of those who do. Just saying.

Anyway, now that that's out of the way, "Cafe Society", Woody Allen' latest is both, one of his more interesting films in recent years, and yet, possibly one of his most forgettable. It's not a bad Woody Allen, he's made more than a few recent bad ones, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger", "To Rome with Love", "Scoop", etc. it's not in that level of crap that he's produced, but it's definitely an oddity of his. It's one of his more reflective films, it's a period piece for instance, and is told in flashback, with Woody himself providing the voice of the omniscient narrator, but it doesn't quite have the emotional pull that his films usually have. From a deconstructionist standpoint, the story doesn't stray that far from the typical Allen plotline, a male protagonist who's a bit awkward and unsure of life, finding himself in a romance with a girl who's emotionally unavailable to him, for one reason or another, and he either gets her or moves on with his life, but still reflect fondly upon her. This could be "Manhattan" or "Annie Hall" or either story in "Melinda and Melinda", or you know, one of a bunch of his other films, that aren't outright screwballs comedies. That said, there's a couple things unusual. For one, it's a California story of his, and a New York Story. Period pieces are new to him, all they always seem that way, but this one takes place in the 1930s, and the golden days of Hollywood, two things you don't normally pontificating on. Anyway, the main character is Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) who's a young man from a good Jewish family, but he's not particularly interested in any of the family businesses and decides to go out west and get a job with his Uncle Phil, (Steve Carell) who has become a big Hollywood agent. At first, his Uncle barely acknowledges him, and honestly doesn't have much work for him, but he manages to eventually give him an odd job or two and he starts to earn his way up through the industry. So, we get, one story of rising through the ranks of society, but then he falls in love with Phil's assistant Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) who also happens to be dating Phil, even though he's happily married and it's tearing him up that he's having an affair with someone twenty years younger. He even tries to break it off a few times, but it doesn't quite work, although Vonnie eventually starts falling for Bobby soon enough, especially after one breakup. This itself, could be a whole movie, instead, Bobby ends up going back to New York, after earning some West Coast cache, he takes over a nightclub that his older brother Ben (Corey Stoll), who's in the mob runs, and soon enough, it becomes the talk of the town, and he's getting the high class society of New York to arrive at his new place.

So, there's a lot going on, a lot there, and it's actually quite well-made, and well-written. I don't think this was one that Woody just shoved together, in fact, this became one of Allen's highest-budgeted films to date, actually going over-budget for once and there's some wonderful set design and costume, that definitely indicate that he went overboard. Still, the reflectiveness, yearning for a past era, or a past girl, or what one's life could've been? That's the thing, this film, feels like one of his more normal films, but it's probably more reminiscent of one of Allen's more episodic ones, "Radio Days". Yeah, this movie could've been titled "Hollywood Days" or "Motion Picture Days", it's essentially about the films, the people who make them and the people who watched them. That's what sorta problematic, there's a strong narrative, but it's tucked away in a world that really should be more episodic than it is. That doesn't mean it's bad however, but it's just strangely


APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD (2016) Directors: Christian Desmares and Frank Ekinci

★★★★



So far this year, I've seen "April and the Extraordinary World" come up at the Top of Ten Best Lists or not at all; I can kinda see why either way, but I'm leaning towards the, it's pretty good but not great crowd That said, it's still pretty good, despite being out there. This is a French animated feature, and it does something that I don't think I've seen before, consciously anyway. I'm not gonna pretend I know everything about this, but "April..." is the film that I can think of, that takes place in a Steampunk universe. I'm actually not too familiar with the literary traditions of Steampunk, I'm actually more familiar with the movement in terms of other art forms, mostly fashion and design, but from what I can tell, this is based on the idea of a hypothetical universe where steam and not electricity remained the major source of energy, so the future exists in a world where the steam engine aesthetic is still the prevalent design, so the futuristic inventions and world that come after, reflect that. It's, an interesting idea; I'm not generally a fan of alternative history universes myself; I'm too much of a history buff to truly buy into most of it, but it worked for me here. Especially since the visionary world was so well-designed and thought out. Anyway, April, is a young daughter of two scientists, which, in this world, circa, 1931, they are banned, because of reasons, and they've created a formula that hypothetically could make people indestructible. She also has a talking cat named Darwin. Her parents are killed, or supposedly killed while they were escaping the police, and her Grandfather, Pops is also in hiding. Oh, even if science wasn't illegal, the major scientific names of the time, do exist and they then mysteriously disappear. Now, she's a young adult and is beginning to experiment on recreating this formula, which catches the attention of both the Police, who have sent an undercover informant to spy on her, Julius, as well as some characters interested in the advancement of society who identities I'm not gonna give away, although it did bring me back to a famous miniseries that, frankly I'm not a fan of. Anyway, the story itself, is interesting; I don't think it's revolutionary or overly inspiring; I've seen these sort of sci-fi stories done better. Alex Proyas's "Dark City" comes to mind, but I haven't seen it done this way. I think if you'll like the steampunk aesthetic and choices, you'll like the film more than I do, but outside of that, it's quite a visual feast. It's hand-drawn with a very European approach, similar to Herge, who did the Tintin stories, although I'm told it's more inspired by the word of Tardi, who I'm not familiar with. To me, it plays like, if Terry Gilliam was serious with his animated and not parodying it. As a whole, I get getting caught and swept into the world, I don't know if I buy it as a great film or piece of animation; I suspect the best film with this style and approach is yet to be made. It's the first feature from these pair of filmmakers together, so I'm looking forward to what they come up with next. The other animated masterpiece that is kinda reminds me of is Miyazaki's "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind", which isn't a masterpiece either, but was a great first sci-fi first feature that took place in an alternative energy universe, with a fascinating female lead character, from a great animator that became the base of what many of his best later works would improve upon. So if this is Desmares & Ekinci's "Nausicaa...", then they're well on their way and I'll look forward to their next feature.


THE NICE GUYS (2016) Director: Shane Black

★★★1/2



Hmm, Shane Black. Hmm, tsk. I'm starting to wonder, if maybe, we've given him a little too much carte blanche. Now, don't get me wrong, I actually really do like Shane Black's work quite a bit, and I'm recommending this, his latest directorial effort, "The Nice Guys", and as far as I'm concerned, the screenplay to "Lethal Weapon" is untouchable. but that said, I'm always a bit surprised when people bring up how much they admire, well, pretty much everything after "Lethal Weapon". I think I'm sorta coming around on "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", his directorial debut as a great comedy-, well, a good comedy; I still think it's more inconsistent that some may want to believe, but still, everything since "Lethal Weapon", while not all bad, has never come off as great or special to me. "The Last Boy Scout" and "The Monster Squad" I don't think have held up, and I loathe, "The Long Kiss Goodnight"; I've brought that up before, but really, Amnesia!, Mr. Black? Seriously?! And still, I still generally like him as a writer for hire. I actually liked "Iron Man 3", it's the worst of the "Iron Man" films, but at least he finally gave Gwyneth Paltrow something to do in that ridiculously overblown universe, but I've started to notice a trend that I'm not fond of in his comedies lately. "Last Action Hero", "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and now "The Nice Guys", they're "Hollywood" movies. Not, "in-movies", necessarily, although, yes, the first two clearly are, but there seems to be this condition in Hollywood where, certain filmmakers have become so inundated with Hollywood and the movie industry and business that, basically all they make now are movies about or based around L.A. and the film industry. I call it Barry Levinson syndrome, even though I know he's made other movies since "Wag the Dog", but it sure seems like every other movie he makes, at least his theatrically released films anyway, all seem to be meta-commentaries/comedies that dwell on the film industry or L.A. in some way. Alright, I know "Lethal Weapon" also took place in L.A. but that was pretty purely a buddy-cop movie, the location was coincidental. "The Nice Guys" is very Hollywood. Like, "This is the City, Los Angeles, California", Hollywood. It takes place in the late '70s right as the smog crisis is about to hit it's peak. This is subtle commentary; you want to know what California loves Liberals, 'cause the made it easier to breathe there, Bill Maher said it best, to paraphrase, we put liberals in all the higher rolls of government and suddenly, they restricted the air pollution and within a few years, we looked around and suddenly, "Oh, there's a mountain, there." (Oh, and-eh, everything about how great the economy is run, and even Orange County voted Democrat this year, blah, blah, blah, Meryl's speech was awesome) Anyway, so he's making that point, and hitting it hard, as a porn star, Misty Mountains's (Murielle Telio) car flew through a house, and she ended up dead. Now, there's two private eyes, one, Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is hired by Misty's mother (Lois Smith) to find her, after she claims to have seen her, after the accident. The other, is hired by Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who is hired by Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to fend off whoever's looking for her, until she eventually ends up missing, and several people surrounding the last porno film that Misty Mountains shot, end up suddenly dead. There's plenty of suspects and reasons to not trust anybody, in this whodunit, and whokeepsdoingit, and why, but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you that this movie feels much like anything other than a comedic version of "Inherent Vice", which is unfortunate, on it's own it's fine. There's great sartorial chemisty between Gosling and Crowe and Gosling and his young daughter Holly (Angourie Rice) who's one of those kids who manages to just tag along and get herself in trouble, and get people out of trouble when needed. She's probably more device than character, but I enjoyed her, hell, arguably, she gave the best performance in the film. There's also some good work by Matt Bomer, and Kim Basinger, showing up in a surprise cameo. Still though, I couldn't shake the feeling that this movie seemed like an extended Hollywood in-joke, some well-intentioned but misguided love letter to the hard-boiled L.A. noir mysteries. At one point, Beau Knapp's character, opens one of those bags of money that's got a blue dye rig attached to it, and for the rest of the movie, his face is half-blue. At first, I thought that might've been a "Braveheart" joke, but they call the character Blueface afterwards and in the credits, and considering the genre, location and time period they're emulating, that's clearly a reference to Blue Boy from the infamous, "The LSD Story" episode of the '67 version of "Dragnet". (Yes, there's two "Dragnet" references in this review, I'm gonna assume you all knew, "This is the City..." is from that.)  I can't hate this too much, it's entertaining enough, everybody seems to be having fun, it still feels style over substance, but I certainly don't mind that in this case, there's enough of confusing, convoluted mystery here to keep me interested and guessing, the acting is great, the production's slick, if borrowed from other films and ideas, and it's just trying to be a fun little comedy movie and it succeeds at it. Maybe I'm a bit bias, 'cause "Lethal Weapon" to me was so good, that I'm still waiting for him to make something equal to that, and everything feels like a downgrade otherwise but, "The Nice Guys" will do in a meantime.  


WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (2016) Director: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

★★★★



"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot", which I'm sure most of you would've easily figured out stands for "What the Fuck", is an entertaining comedic slice-of-life look at war reporting in Afghanistan. Ooh-Ha! Party in Kabul Everyone! Well, it's not quite like that, but it's a bit like that. That's the thing that people don't always realize that, surrealism has a way of slipping into normalcy a little too easily. War reporting, is certainly one of those professions, where normalcy is surreal. Still though, I never saw this aspect of war before. The movie begins with Kim Baker (Tina Fey) deciding to suddenly take a job in Kabul, since she's one of the few desk reporters out there who doesn't have kids or a family. She has a boyfriend, Chris (Josh Charles) but she barely sees him to begin with, and six months assignment turns into a few years, of putting her life on the line, sometimes unnecessarily to get footage and interviews on the front line of the war in Afghanistan. And getting some dick when that's not happening. Okay, she's reluctant on that part, but she's a woman, one of two female war reporters on the scene, along with Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie, stealing the show) thousand of miles from the normal world as we know it, and surrounded mostly by men, half of them military, the other half, other lonely single reporters, mostly male, who are going through the same realization that she is. Tanya warns her in advance that she may be a six in New York, but she's a solid 9 in Kabul. (Tanya, is a 15, 'cause she looks like Margot Robbie, and yeah, that's about right) Anyway, Kim, takes to the conditions and situations surprisingly easily, but it's definitely seen with an appropriately surreal eye. There's something that's never felt right about the worst party hip-hop jams being played in this warzones; somehow I guess it must've seen just as strange when flower power rock'n'roll spilled over into the jungles of Vietnam, but too many of those songs felt like war to be strange for too long, three-to-four wars into the hip-hop era and it still seems like the biggest contradiction, to have an in-house rave stopped by a nearby bomb blowing up. There is one guy she starts ending up with, one she's warned about with Iain (Martin Freeman) a Scottish war reporter who is naturally untrustworthy, but just charming enough that eventually everybody with a vagina gets swept into his net at some point. I like how it still isn't a natural relationship and in the relationship itself, reveals the conflict between the temptations and addictions of the job, and of their life. (From what I've heard, war reporting can be just as addictive as war itself to certain soldiers; there's a version of this story that could've easily been an equivalent of "The Hurt Locker".) The movie is based on the autobiographical novel by Kim Baker, and the movie simplifies from the novel a bit, where there's a lot of shuffling between both Iraq and Afghanistan, this movie sticks to Kabul, and makes it a point that the Afghanistan War isn't being as covered on the news, something that war reporters are constantly battling. It's a bit simplified here, but I don't mind it. If the movie has a fault, it's probably that it's not episodic enough. It's a movie that should be slice-of-life and have plotpoints kinda flimsily come in and out, just enough, but I wouldn't have minded if this movie dwindled around for another half-hour, looking through the peculiarities of the world it's creating and revealing to us. There's some great work by Christopher Abbott, Cherry Jones and Alfred Molina also that I should bring up, as well as Billy Bob Thornton as a Marine general who helps her out Kim on getting stories.


THE WAILING (2016) Director: Hong-jin Na

★★★★



I think the simplest way I can come to describing "The Wailing" is that, it's probably South Korea's version of "The Exorcist", considering the gruesome otherworldly demon-like violence and possessions that perpetuate the film, but upon reflection I couldn't help but think of another movie, David Fincher's "Se7en", which is by far, Fincher's worst movie. I can hear your gasps and keyboards typing, go ahead and try to convince, but screw you all, you're all wrong on this one; it's absolute garbage! I've never understood how people think "Se7en" is remotely good, and don't get me started on the ending, that's the worst part-, (And no, the ending is not the part you think it is, either) but one of that movie's problem, was that it's idea, was to take, essentially a detective archetype, a film noir aesthetic to be more specific, and then surround this, with a "Monstrous" (finger quotes, shrugs) villain character, I guess. Mostly, it's just filled with, decent set decoration surrounding a dead body, but (Eye roll) that was the intent of the movie, and it also made both cops idiots, so this guy kept getting away it, and then it really got dumb, but basically it used the template of a detective story, to tell this other, "Story", (finger quotes) about this religious zealot serial killer, that's supposedly too smart and powerful for these two morons to catch. "The Wailing" starts out with a particular gruesome murder scene, two dead, several stab wounds, and a bloody-muddied mess of a suspected suspect. And no, the cop is not particularly smart, if I think about it, but in this case, the villain is actually as supernatural and incapable of being caught as the bad guy in "Se7en" supposedly was. That helps a lot, because in this case, even if you were smart, there's not much to do, except go from one gruesome scene to another, as a whole town suddenly starts to become murderous possessed, I-don't-know-what, which is exactly what I'm gonna call them, because, they're something otherworldly and spiritual that's conflicting in what it is and it's purpose and reason for suddenly, but it's all just nightmarish, surreal terror inflicted upon the town and these character. The detective is Jong-Goo (Do-wan Kwak) and he's first assigned to these troubling deaths, and he's also finding the town, not only infested but the civilians dreams are too. Either they're dreams, legends, folklores that are being retold through ancient superstitions, as the dead bodies and possessed victims continues to pile on and pile up, and even his daughter, Hyo-jin (Hwan-hee Kim). Most signs put to the sudden emergence of a Japanese stranger (Jun Kinumura) who's arrived in the town suddenly, but whatever it is that's causing this, it too otherworldly to simply be one man. There's an amazing scene where Jong-Goo flips out seeing his daughter's reaction to a local tradition that I'm gonna refer to as an attempt at an exorcism, 'cause I don't really have too many other ways to describe it. It's a maniacal and continuous musical performance, that becomes hypnotic to the point of craziness. It's hard to tell sanity from possessed in this movie. Still though, the other reason I have to recommend this film, is that it's just fucking frightening. The mood and tone and looks of the town and characters, and what they do and say and dare I say, during their darkest moments, wail, is just haunting. This movie and the mystery feel like a labyrinth of fright that's engulfing and surrounding the Detective, everybody else and us. This is how you do a horror/mystery thriller, you don't explain although you try to, you just show how unexplainable this kind of true evil is. It's sudden, and without reason, attacks at every aspect of your life including your dreams, and everyone and everything around you. Make whatever metaphor you want out of it, the result on film, is two and a half hours, of drowning in a pool filled with nightmares, and no we to wake up or to tell that we're even asleep to begin with. This is the third feature film from South Korean director, Hong-jin Na, after Na's interesting failure "The Yellow Sea", which was also violent, but was more a character piece, and his best movie, the sickening Asia Extreme horror action-thriller, "The Chaser", which takes the most sickening aspects of blood and gore to new and memorable heights, and that's also based in a mystery, but that's "The Silence of the Lambs" meets "From Hell", if Tarantino directed those films. He changes styles and look each movie but his approach is the same to bombard with the excess of whatever it is that Na decides to excess us with, and with "The Wailing" it's the fear of the unknown, and instead of just taking an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" formula and pumping it up to eleven, he creates a setting and world where that's too simple of an explanation and makes it's more chilling and nightmarish, and then cranks the thriller aspects up to eleven. I don't always get it when people tell me that horror can be fun, and how it's fun to be scared, but this is a fun to be scared movie that sticks with you, because it's legitimately scary.


HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016) Director: Taika Waititi

★★★



So I've seen this film, pop up on quite a few Top Tens list and get some other acclaims and it's not a bad movie, but I'm a-, I'm a bit surprised that it's this beloved. Especially since there's one monologue in the movie, in one scene, that's-eh, that I'm a bit surprised a bit surprised people are allowing this movie to get away with. Okay, this review's gonna go in a weird direction, right off the bat, so I'm warning most of you about that now, but eh, it appears that I'm one of the few people who actually liked "Milk Money"...- yes, that "Milk Money". I'm not claiming it's great or anything, but I didn't hate it and I thought a lot of it was funny, clever and believable. Apparently it's weird to have prostitutes living in your treehouse for most people, but I live in Vegas, it's not as weird as you'd think, and yeah, I may have had one or two prostitutes assist me in an oral exam as a visual aid over the years. I mean, they were already staying in the treehouse, they might as help; they're people too, they can do a chore or help out on homework. (Awkward pause) And I like the one scene where, Ed Harris think he's talking to Melanie Griffith about helping out with his son's math homework, while she think he's asking her to help him with sex. I find it funny, in a "Three's Company" sorta way. But "Milk Money"'s a dopey sex farce, and it's a misunderstanding that actually makes sense in context because both the son and Melanie Griffith can't tell Ed Harris the truth about her profession or how or why she's staying there, so she's reluctant to confirm what he thinks he knows and she's confused but going along with it, because she's homeless and got no other choice, and she's not that big an idiot, she knows something up just not what. The thing is, there's a scene in "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" where this young tough kid from the mean streets of-, eh, well, it's a New Zealand film, so, Auckland, I guess, (Shrugs) Ricky, (Julian Dennison) has a monologue at a crucial moment, where he starts talking about some of the things he's had to do as him and his foster Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) have done with each other, and the joke is that it sounds like he's talking about him being molested, when he's really not, and people misunderstand. It's basically a similar scene from the one in "Milk Money", except I don't find it as funny. Actually, it's really reminiscent of a joke in "The Cleveland Show" that I remembered, but it was done, just a little more cleverer there; it seems a little bit of breaking the verisimilitude to me, in "Hunt for the Wilderpeople".I mean, they make a point of revealing how, like a few minutes afterwards, he realizes the mistake he made, but so, it's not like he's entirely tone deaf or unaware, so...- I don't know the scene just feels awkward to me, in a movie that's otherwise, basically a decent PG kids film that's got a story that's I guess reminiscent to say, Jack London or, actually the movie it most reminded me of, and it's a movie that I haven't once about in 20+ years until now was "A Cry in the Wild", which isn't a bad comparison, but it's a little more interesting and whimsical than that. So, Ricky is an orphan who's constantly be tossed around the foster care system, and one day, he has enough while living with Hec and Bella (Rima Te Wiata) which is a vast different from his usual foster homes, and while he doesn't exactly hate it there, he doesn't exactly want to stay, so he makes it look like he's killed himself in a fire, which doesn't fool anybody, much less Uncle Hec, who goes out to the woods to find them. And from, there, it gets a little tricky and episodic as Hec is injured and unable to travel they need to survive on the land, both because Hec is injured, but almost because they're now both outlaws, even though they're not, but there's a lot of misinformation. There's also a particularly determined Foster care head, Paula (Rachel House) who's a little too determined to catch the kid and put him back in the system. She reminded me of Miss Trunchbull from "Matilda", not quite that bad, but pretty bad. I liked enough of this movie's charm and appeal to recommend it, but honestly I don't think I get this movie. Director Taiki Waititi has made some quirky and clever little indies before, "Boy" and "Eagle vs. Shark" most notably which were two movie that I didn't particularly think we're as good as others, especially the latter, but there's definitely something here I like, much for the same reasons that I suspect I liked something like "Where the Wild Things Are", even though I didn't consider that as great a film as others. It definitely hits on the innocence well enough of some of the more likable childhood books I was forced to read in school. The movie even separates itself into chapters like a book would and this is based on a book by Barry Crump; I have a feeling I might like the book more than the adaptation. Tonally, it's mostly interesting, a few weird jokes aside, and overall I can appreciate the movie, but I don't think it completely works, and that one "Milk Money" irks me, but it's still got it's heart in the right place.


GLEASON (2016) Director: J. Clay Tweel

★★★



So, Steve Gleason blocked a punt in a football one time.... I'm gonna have to elaborate, 'cause that's not gonna sound too impressive if you don't know the backstory; he was a member of the New Orleans Saints. Okay, that actually is impressive, considering the history of the Saints, a team that's famously nicknamed, by friends and foes alike, The Aints, over the years, but-eh this was the first game the Saints played in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. The Superdome, which, let's be fair, has never really been the creme de la creme of stadiums to begin was used for months on end first as an  evacuation spot for many who couldn't get out of New Orleans, and when that didn't work entirely and the stadium suffered severe damage from the storm, the Saints temporarily relocated their home games to San Antonio for about a year, and it wasn't until Week 3 of the 2006 NFL Season that they finally played their first game in the New Orleans Superdome after the storm, and on a Nationally Televised Monday Night game, the Superdome was re-opened for the first time since Katrina, and in the game after the Atlanta Falcons first possession of the game had gone nowhere after three plays, Steve Gleason exploded up the middle, blocked the Falcons punt, that was later recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, a play that spurred the Saints 23-3 upset blowout win over their arch-rivals, and some say, would be the catalyst that would eventually lead to their eventual Super Bowl run a few years later and for many, it's the moment that's considered the unofficial rebirth, of the city of New Orleans.

A few years after his eight-year NFL career had ended, Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, or better known to most of you as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Or, for some of you younger people, it's the disease that made everybody drop a bucket of ice water onto themselves. "Gleason" is the documentary about Steve, and there's some of his backstory and history, obviously a lot of footage from his playing days, but he also kept a video journal of his disease, which also coincided with his wife's pregnancy and his son's birth. He now, speaks with the help of one of those electronic devices that Stephen Hawkins uses and he's helped pass legislation to make sure the government pays for such voice machines to be paid for through medicare for all ALS sufferers. That's the, statistical analysis of his legacy and work. He's still alive today by the way, and his life is hard. He's honored with a statue built in his honor one second, and then he explains on a video that, when he gets home, he needed help cleaning himself from his wheelchair after he soiled himself. I really can't be completely sure how good this film is as a documentary. I guess it's good and inspiring, as a biodocumentary I guess compared to other subjects, I don't really find Steve Gleason that compelling personally. There's nothing against the guy and in terms of modern-day folk heroes, I guess there's nothing wrong with looking towards him for inspiration, I'm just not sure I'm the one to be inspired by him. Call it biasness for being an Eagles, perhaps it's the fact that I spend most of my days changing my autistic adult brother's diapers, and hope he doesn't attack me out of nowhere and for no reason, calling it just being jaded as a film critic for inspirational documentaries, or blessed as a film critic for having seen too many other, better ones about subjects that are frankly more interesting and compelling for me. (Shrugs) Either way, I liked the movie fine, I just was waiting for it to end more than I was swept up by it and his story. Maybe it's because I was already somewhat familiar with it, being a sports fan... (Shrugs), but hell, I was able to get caught up in an O.J. documentary that was five times as long, and I knew that story more intimately than I ever wanted to beforehand, and there's absolutely nothing inspiring about him, but he is unfortunately a more compelling figure. (Shrugs, sigh) I guess I'll recommend "Gleason", there's nothing to be gained for me from panning it, and besides there's nothing technically wrong with it; I just don't think too many will really be fascinated with the movie, unless they were already previously infatuated with the subject, and I'm sorry, I'm just somebody who I consider a Steve Gleason fan or observer.


THE INNOCENTS (2016) Director: Anne Fontaine

★★★1/2



I haven't gotten around to everything that French writer/director Anne Fontaine has done, I've had "Adore" and "Gemma Bovary" stuck on my Netflix queue forever, never seeming to be able to find a way to get to them, but I've seen a decent handful of her films. "The Girl from Monaco" was an interesting mess, but still, mostly a mess, "Coco Before Chanel" was, sort of an interesting biopic about a character, who their probably isn't a truly interesting biopic to be made about, although France, has just been on a kick of making biopics of all their world famous fashion designers, lately; I've still got to get to "Saint-Laurent", and hell, that wasn't even the only movie about "Coco Chanel" they made, as their was the slightly more interesting bio-romance "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky", her best film, by far was "Nathalie...", a movie so good that one of my favorite filmmakers Atom Egoyan did a pretty damn good and arguably better remake that was called "Chloe". That said, I really have a hard time getting a grasp of her, she's somewhere between the poor man's female Michel Haneke, and, well, based on her choice to make a movie like "The Innocents" all of sudden, which fits in almost nowhere else in her filmography as far as I can tell, she's the poor man's Pawel Pawlikowska. You might remember him for making the Oscar-winning Best Foreign Language Feature "Ida" a couple years back, and he's another director who I think believes he's deeper and more interesting than he actually is, but unlike Pawlikowska, who seems to believe long takes can express emotion by the simple fact that their long, and are a take, and therefore simplistic underwritten human interaction is therefore upgraded to deep thought through the long takes, (or as I call it, Wong-Kar Wai syndrome) I don't think Anne Fontaine takes herself that seriously. Not that she's making comedy when she's trying to make genre, but-, look, "Ida" is Pawlikowska's best film, but that was a really lower bad than people realized and multiple viewings of that film later and I'm still not sold on it's greatness, but I can see how most people might think of "The Innocents" as her attempt to rip off Pawlikowska. There's clearly a lot of similarities, same time period, same area of the world, post-war Poland, there's religious aspects and war atrocities to be dealt with, but I'm while I'm exactly sold on Anne Fontaine, I vastly prefer her. She at least seems like she's interested in really exploring some of her subject matter's themes and ideas, even if she's coming at it from oddly incorrect angles once in a while. "The Innocents" is about a French Red Cross worker, Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laage) who is brought into a Benedictian nunnery after there's a sudden medical emergency. The emergency, a nun, is giving birth. And many other young nuns are pregnant. This is based on a true story, before you think this is comical even for a true story, they got that way after being raped and pillage by an invading Soviet military force. during the war. (Sigh) Yeah, atrocities are done on all sides during wars; it wasn't just the Germans. The nurse decides to stick around quietly and keep an eye on and figure out exactly what to do with the situation, while the nuns themselves, are fighting amongst themselves on their next actions and of course, as you might imagine, struggling with their own beliefs. Mathilde is naturally a non-believer, but that helps her because she becomes business-like with the women, and the nuns, which are headed by Mere Abusse (Agata Kulesza) and Maria (Agata Buzek) struggle to keep there's and others faith and figure out what to do with the upcoming children, and before you ask, they did their, excuse the pun, plundering at the end of the war and it's months later, and they're all about to give birth.This is by no means a perfect movie, nor does it necessarily go as far as it could examining such struggles of faith and conflicts and consequences of war, but still, "The Innocents" is a surprisingly entertaining and fascinating film about a disturbing and little-told and known aspect of World War II, which, I know, we never seem to run out of stories from that war, but this is definitely one I never heard before. It's not glamorized either, what Fontaine lacks somewhat in compelling character writing, she makes up by being a more casual director, who's at her best by simply letting the story play itself out, not doing too much or too little. I like that about her honestly. She would've never remade "Nathalie..." into the flashback and flash-forward almost action-y, erotic-thriller that "Chloe" was, but in a way, that's what made the revelations in "Nathalie...' so compelling when they were revealed. That doesn't work entirely here, but a lesser director would've tried to accentuate and stylize the movie more than it has too, and it's quite a relief to see this kind of story told as straight-forwardly as it's lead character acts.


CITY OF GOLD (2016) Director: Laura Gabbert

★★★★1/2



"What is the role of the critic, is the question that I think is being asked in every area of culture, right now, because it's like, 'Why do I need a food critic if I have Yelp, and why do I need a book critic if I've got Amazon reviews?' I think what a critic brings to the table is knowledge. You know that he's done his homework. You know, if you're really interested in a subject, you are gonna find the critics that speak to you, that you don't always agree with, but that, that speak to you. That you feel, you'll learn something from. That you've found a new way of seeing something after reading what they've had to say."---Carolina Miranda, Arts Writer, L.A. Times

I wanted to make sure I wrote quote from "City of Gold" down and accredit it appropriately, by the time you're reading this, and if you check the Favorite Quotes section of my personal Facebook page, you'll find it added on the bottom of my long list of Favorite quotes. Mostly, I wanted to preserve it, partly for the next time some moron talks tries to bring up how film critics are useless because, the Rotten Tomatoes score on their new favorite comic book movie that week is lower than they hoped, but it's a good quote to have, for all criticism. It's one of many things I got out of the wonderfully meditative and transcendent documentary, "City of Gold".

Jonathan Gold is one of the few people out there who's job is slightly better than mine, he's a food critic. Of course, by "better than mine," I mean that under the most delusional standards I place myself in the pantheon of film critics, but still, just on a purely job-to-job comparison basis, food critic, is a pretty enticing job to have for someone who's main career goal is to sit down, and then write about the experiences they've just experienced and thoughts on the world that they've had. Of course, criticism of any kind, isn't that simple, and food criticism in particular is probably the reddest of all red-headed stepchildren of the literary world we called art criticism. There are, more television critics that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, than movie critics, the three that have one for film, nearly everybody in position can, or at least, be able to name without thinking, Roger Ebert, Stephen Hunter and Wesley Morris. Only one food critic has ever won the honor and that is Jonathan Gold, food critic for the L.A. Weekly, a job he stumbled into once upon a time, after his failed attempts to be a classical cellist player in a punk rock band. No, I didn't make that up. Gold, is quite a big man, heavyset sure, but full of presents even in his quiet behavior; he talks like the king of guy I feel like I must've unknowingly started a conversation with while waiting for either a bus or a library to open and he elaborated and he would continue talking for ten minutes in the most fascinating ways on the most banal of subjects. A positive review from him, is not necessarily hard to get, although he does make a point of mentioning the one restaurant in L.A. who's food is terrible, but his mosaic 2nd verse prose that turns into a myriad of a mosaic sprawl of the food, the culture, the world, the city. He's been compared to Raymond Chandler, one of my favorite writers, because of how he's opened up so many aspects of Los Angeles, experiencing the city one sushi taco truck in Koreatown at a time. I would not at all be shocked if I found out that Anthony Bourdain is a direct influence. Of course, Bourdain before traveling the world was a New York chef, primarily, but Gold has put Ludo Lefebre, Roy Choi, Nancy Silverton and David Chang on the culinary map, although the others small, out-of-the-way places he finds, that he visits and eats at, sometimes dozens of times before he writes his review, (Boy, I wish film critics had that luxury...- actually, on second thought, that's probably a luxury only a food critic should have.) that make the melting pot of cultures that is L.A.

The title, is apropos, Jonathan Gold is very much something that, I think I just only now realize I've struggled mightily and failed at being as a writer, a representative of a city. His city, is Los Angeles, not the first writer, not the only or the last either, but definitely one who's gone out of his way and explored numerous aspects of it, many in a way that nobody else has or done in the past. None so delightfully as Gold, and none so appetizingly either. I'm brought up my Vegas "roots" numerous times, sometimes seriously, other-times jokingly, for instance, I'm lying in my earlier review of "Hunt for the Wilderpeople", nobody has a treehouse in Vegas, but trying to encompass the city, is hard. I can think of a few beat writers who have, Steve Freiss comes to mind, Jon Ralston, Steve Sebelius, but I have a difficult thinking about anybody who's been a great writer who's completely encompassed the city not only in their work but in their way of life and style embody Las Vegas. Los Angeles, is a much more inspiring city, especially if you're literally devouring it starting with Pico Blvd and spreading yourself out from there. Las Vegas, definitely has great food, you can't throw a rock on the Strip anymore without hitting a restaurant from a Michelin star chef, but trying to explain this constantly dividing, sprawling, constantly growing pseudo metropolis that never understood to this day, that is was supposed to a be city and not a bunch of suburbs surrounding a bunch of hotel rooms and slot machines.I hate to tell people who insist on the greatness of smalltown America myth or whatever, but if you don't have culture, real culture, that's both ingrown for generations and that constantly adapts to newly-added outside influences, then there's not as much I can learn about your town that I couldn't learn from somewhere else. Gold is constantly, showing and teaching us about the dozens of aspects of L.A., and from the inside-out. Sure, he's from somewhere else, but most people who live are, their hearts and minds remain somewhere else and just go through the motions of living in this contradiction of a town, like some metaphysical creature that can't tell if it's a zombie or a ghost. Myself included and I am born and raised here.

"City of Gold", is probably one of those movies that will have a greater impact on me than it would most of you; this is the kind of inspiring film that makes me reflect and...-, well, more than anything, even more than wanting to try a Guerilla Taco or to the best place in L.A. for hagfish, was that it makes me want to be a better writer. As a documentary, I can easily argue it's nothing special. Talking heads, we follow Gold around as he drives in some old beat-up Dodge on his to Tehrangeles (The Persian section of L.A., yes, it has one.) We meet his co-workers, his family, we find out about his past and how he got into food criticism, and so on, there's some talks about the numerous different L.A. Riots, he witnessed, not just the most famous one, his family of course, he brother who's a world-famous Conservationist; he also was as the forefront of the L.A. hip hop scene believe it or not, but there's nothing here you wouldn't find or wouldn't expect to find in this kind of documentary, but then again, I can say that about any piece of food, too, it's just fuel and energy to help us go on with our lives, and continue onto the next thing we do, before we excrete it out. Yet, as somebody explains in the movie, cooking is what separates humans from every other species; preparing our food, to taste good, and we don't do it just for us, we cook for others. We're the only species that does that.

We're also, so far as I know, the only ones that make movies, and for others to watch, and review, but, no, preparing food is definitely more personal.


THE IDOL (2016) Director: Hany Abu-Assad

★★1/2



Tsk, (deep depressing sigh) Wha-, (Sigh) I-eh...- Okay, Todd Nathanson, aka, Todd in the Shadows, often brings up, something regarding music about, determining the quality of a song, based around whether or not he or anybody else has any amount of use for the music at all. I don't always agree with him on this, a lot of the recent music he seems to bunch into this category like X Ambassadors and Halsey are artists I actually like quite a bit, but I get what he's saying. Is this piece of music, for anybody. Are the lyrics adding something, or make sense in some world in some manner, is it a beat you can get behind, can you have sex to this music, can you dance to it,..., I get what he's saying, there's a minimum standard of quality based around, whether or not the song has some value that it provides to the society at large, and preferably a value you couldn't somewhere else better. I bring it up, 'cause I don't normally think this kind of analysis applies to film criticism. but I can help not think of this line of critical analysis when I consider the Palestinean film 'The Idol". I don't know, or think it's bad necessarily, but I-, I-eh, I just have absolutely no clue what I'm supposed to do with this movie. That's not to say that I don't think this film is without value to everyone, I can certainly believe that there's an audience in the Arab World, particularly in Palestine and nearby regions where this was and is a powerful story, and this is by no means a bad filmmaker either, Hany Abu-Assad won a Foreign Language Oscar for "Paradise Now" and was nominated a second time for "Omar", those are two very good films, and this isn't horrendous or anything but...- (Deep beleaguered sigh) This movie is about a guy who became famous, for winning, "Arab Idol". As in, the Arab World's version, of "Pop Idol", or as I spent way too much of my life living through it and we know it is, "American Idol". To those in America, reading this, which I presume is most of you, did you just groan as well. (Sigh) Yes, "The Idol", is about an Arab Idol, a Palestinean wedding singer, Mohammed Assaf (Tawfeed Barhom) who inspired the country and Arab world, when he went from a longshot, with little hope of competing, much less winning...- He had to break into a hotel just to get a ticket, he had to acquire a forged passport to make his way to Egypt for the finale, and his story sparked wide cheering across the Gaza Strip, including some of the largest gatherings of people that the area has ever seen, that wasn't a protest or a military incursion. Look, this was probably was a concept and idea that was very new to this part of the world, and even with previous singing reality show attempts in the area, I suspect that this man's story and does seem to be pretty inspirational, is great. I watched the movie, and I tried to get into it. There's some good scenes, it's well-acted, but I've heard and lived through dozens of stories like this already. Not even just from America, we gave eight Oscars to a movie, because it was really good at telling a story about a young man who won the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", and that guy wasn't even real. And just "American Idol" alone, not even counting that "From Justin to Kelly" movie, we gave an Oscar to a girl who finished fourth on her season, and genuinely has a terrible and emotional backstory as well, and one that actually got sadder, after she got famous, and there was the television movie about one of the early season winners, Fantasia Barino, and I don't know how many fucking seasons, too many, of that show, before finally a better version of that show came around and replaced it, (And then unfortunately became too much like it that it became as unwatchable) and,-, look I couldn't, I just couldn't. We're tired enough of our own underdog stories, hell, we invented the underdog story-, well, I guess there was that one guy, who won a fight he wasn't supposed to win first; I think he came from that area of Palestine as well come to think of it. If I remember correctly, he got pretty big there, but other than that, yeah, we not only invented it, we exploit to hell and try to recreate it, naturally and artificially as much as possible. From what I can tell, "Arab Idol" is still running in that part of the world, and rather successfully at that. I'm glad, and I'm really happy about this guy who won and all the things he had to do and confront from his own struggles and combating the beliefs of his friends and family as well, to accomplish his dream, and he's found a worldwide platform and stage; I have nothing against him or any of his accomplishments, but I-, I-eh I really can't make myself care about this story again, and I don't think there's enough people in America who can be forced to care about it either. Sorry. I'm-, I'm Idol'd out.  


MISSISSIPPI GRIND (2015) Directors: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

★★★1/2



I'll give the directing team of Boden & Fleck this, I legitimately never know what the hell to expect from them from one movie to another. They're capable of drastically switching genres at a whim, and usually they're good at finding fascinating self-destructive characters and simply follow them as they struggle. Their first film, "Half-Nelson" earned Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination for playing a heroin-addicted schoolteacher who befriends a student, their second, and best, "Sugar", followed a young Dominican pitcher as he travels to the Midwest to play Minor League Baseball and adapt at the culture. Their third feature is probably their strangest, "It's Kind of a Funny Story", was a comedy about a teenager who checked himself into a psychiatric ward for depression. This movie, "Mississippi Grind", they're back to their more dramatic roots, which, even thought I liked "It's Kind of a Funny Story", yeah, probably a better idea. This film in particular though, happens to be a subgenre that I'm quite familiar with. gambling movies. As somebody, who's done, decent at a Vegas poker table a time or too, I know a little bit about this little subgenre, most of these films are, a bit, eh, to me, but there's some pretty memorable ones out there, and it's pretty not to compare "Mississippi Grind" to a couple of them, especially the '70s ones, 'cause this is shot and feels like it's from that era. The first one is James Toback's "The Gambler", which already had a modern-day remake but the even bigger influence here is Robert Altman's "California Split". The two buddies on a bit of a winning streak at the tables and races are Gerry (Ben Mendehlson) and Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), they meet at a table in Iowa, and they start heading down the Mississippi after getting on a streak, they're heading to New Orleans, naturally. Now, Curtis and Gerry are two particular kinds of gamblers, I've run into a few of each of these over the years, Curtis is more of an agitator, but he's got a purpose. He says he's played some big games at big tables and seems believable in everything he says, a clear sign that he is a good liar, and, therefore, at least a somewhat decent gambler. Gerry, is more of a lost soul, who drifts from game to game, drink to drink, table to table. I don't think you're gonna find a future professional card player who's a bad read and is just temporarily down on his luck like the Matt Damon character in "Rounders" for instance out of these too. Also, that movie is only about poker, they two are looking for any action. It's actually craps and horse racing that they really hit their stride and Gerry starts believing Curtis to be lucky, so he keeps him around. The movie isn't so much about the gambling, as it is about, how we slowly learn about these characters, through their gambling. Gerry for instance, has an ex-wife, Dorothy (Robin Weigert) and a kid that he never sees, and doesn't even mention 'til late in the film. Curtis's background and reasons for his need to be at the tables is even more complex. Naturally, all winning streaks devolved into losing streaks, and it's always when they're at their most dire moments that we get to see the real people behind the hands their playing and, just how important it is for them to be playing. People come in and out of their lives, an incident where Gerry gets held up and stabbed, seems and plays almost like an afterthought, it really just is, and it's secondary to figuring out how to get to the next game, money or not. There's some good performances from some of people who come in and out Sienna Miller and Alfre Woodard in particular. I'm hesitant to call "Mississippi Grind" a great film in the gaming movie genre, but it's a solid two-hander with two actors playing good character at the top of their game,


ARABIAN NIGHTS (2015) Director: Miguel Gomes

★1/2



Oh boy, I'm gonna get some crap in some of the more artistically inclined members of internet film community. (Sigh) So, um, "Arabian Nights". yeah, this is a six-hour movie, (sigh) from Portugal, and it details, actual real-life events that have plagued in the country over the last few years. Look, I'm not gonna pretend expertise here, but yes, I've heard about some of the problems in Portugal, lately, on the far sliver of news items that barely scrape the back of the International Section of the newspapers on my newsfeeds, and yes, they've been going through a lot of tough shit recently, so I get why it would make some sense to place some of that anger and pain and show to the rest of the world some of the events that have occurred that have strategically and periodically depressed a nation, but-eh, the way he goes about. By, He, I mean, the director, Miguel Gomes, who's made a couple feature films before but is not a name I'm particularly familiar with, and this is by far his most ambitious undertaking yet. Here's the thing though, the title, you might be going, "Wait, "Arabian Nights", why is this called "Arabian Nights", this, Portuguese movie, well, so, for reasons that, I find befuddling, he's decided to tell this story of Portugal, using the conceit of "1,001 Arabian Nights". Which is why this whole six-plus hours movie, that I rushed through at the end of the year, since I wanted to catch as much as I could in order for it to be eligible for the recent OYL Awards I just did, doesn't work at all, and it's utter crap. Okay, it's not all crap, but,-, (Sigh) actually, it might be, it's getting worst and worst the more I think about it. So, you may be wondering, why the Scheherazade, why place these stories in the context of them being told by a murderous Sultan's wife who's trying to stay alive? Yeah, I'm wondering that too, what the hell, does these two things have to do with each other? Look, I'm all for creative license and literary leeway, but this is a terrible approach. For one thing, the stories that Scheherazade told, themselves, they don't actually matter, and they're not particularly interesting in their original form to be honest, what's important is that she's telling them, in order both to save her life and to win over her husband, who in turn, will love and not kill. (There's also the part about, how the whole thing is that she doesn't finish the stories until the next day so that she makes him not kill her until she reveals the rest of the story, but let's ignore that) However, that's not really what he's doing here. Separated into three sections, Part 1 is called "The Restless One", Part 2 is "The Desolate One", and Part 3 is "The Enchanted One", and with an explanation at the beginning of each, you see, there's no actual Scheherazade in this story, somebody who's telling these stories to somebody, it's just,-, basically, we're in the position of the Sultan. (It might be a king; I won't lie, I'm not exactly knowledgeable on "The Arabian Nights" story either, not as much as I'd like to be; you're getting the cliff notes from me here, but I still think this is a valid point) And that, doesn't work. We're not about to kill Portugal or Gomes or some woman, if we don't get told about the horrible plights of Lisbon's working class. So, yeah, this conceit, just ruins the movie. It's that there aren't good stories in here, there are but, that doesn't make it better; it makes me wonder why he didn't just make a movie about one of these stories. This is a tough writing trick to understand, but you don't tell the story of everybody by telling everyone's story, you end up with telling nobody's story, 'cause we therefore, can't care about any of it; you have to tell one story we can relate to, and therefore that one character's story becomes everyone's story. But, even if you're hell-bent on not doing that, there's certainly better way to tell the multiple stories in one movie, even on really long movie. Off the top of my head, Robert Altman's "Short Cuts", arguably his best film, takes several different Raymond Carver short stories and finds a way to weave them together into a mosaic of Los Angeles. P.T. Anderson's "Magnolia" did something similar, but you don't even have to be so literal, if you just want to tell a bunch of stories that are on or barely connected, or even not connected at all, Damian Sfiron's "Wild Tales" did that a couple years and that's one of the best films this decade so far. Or just, have these films and multiple anthology movies, with several stories in each one,... there are proven ways to do this, which are accepted and make sense, and you can do this, in a way in which that has an extra layer of symbolism or borrow from a previous text that's not so literal and bend it in a way that gives it more power and resonance and still have it relate to the greater goal you're trying to achieve, but when you take something with almost no relevance, just to sorta create a gimmick for the movie that just a bunch of sprawling stories, that, supposedly and probably represent all the issues that you're trying to address in one shot 'cause the whole world's blowing up and the sky is falling and even if those things are true, (Which, no it doesn't seem that outlandish these days but still) all I end up thinking is, I don't care about any of these stories, I was killed this wife if I was in the Sultan's position, and even outside of that, I just feel like I've listened to an overly long, lousy version of "We Didn't Start the Fire". JFK blown away, what else do I have to say? I don't know, but you gotta find a better way to say it?  


WILDLIKE (2015) Director: Frank Hall Green

★★★1/2



It took me a couple viewings before I feel like I could fully comprehend "Wildlike", ironically it's got a similar plot to a movie I reviewed earlier, "Hunt for the Wilderpeople"; I think I prefer this film, they're both good, but I guess I was more in the mood for a serious take on this subject matter as oppose to the more whimsical take "Hunt..." had. This film, takes place in Alaska, where young Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) is sent for an undisclosed period of time, Summer, presuming the fact that it's bright during the year, I presume, and she's sent to live with her Uncle (Brian Geraghty) Her Uncle, turns out to be a creepy pedophile. So far, her parents, (Diane Farr and Joshua Leonard)  are two of the worst parents I've seen in film in a while. She's dysfunctional and the either Leonard character is a stepfather or he's suddenly died, I'm not sure I remember which, I'm getting conflicting reports in some of the others' reviews I've read (Yes, I read other people's reviews before writing mine, especially when I saw it three weeks ago, and it's only an above-average movie, if it was good enough or bad enough for me to remember in it's entirety, we wouldn't have this problem), but either way they're a mess. So, naturally, she runs off, into the wilderness of Denali National Park. There, she gets help from Bartlett (Bruce Greenwood) a veteran hiker who's on his inner quest to fight off some emotional demons. Both of them are reluctant to work together or explain their actions and what or why they're running, but he helps her out as they're constantly being chased. I guess, that's what I appreciated about "Wildlike" compared to "Hunt for the Wilderpeople", while this is just a ridiculous a situation, maybe moreso for a young person to be in, it's not as unbelievable as it should be, and it's more dramatic and frightening an experience. One that, doesn't just require, luck and some knowledge of being out in the wilderness to navigate; even if she manages to get out, she still has, almost nowhere to go, and he's still looking for her. There's a much darker undertone to "Wildlike" not just in the content but in the nature of the conflict itself. This is the third feature directed by Frank Green Hall, his first, was a movie so obscure I can barely find anything on it, called "Once a Child of God", that's apparently about a they're word, not mine, former "fetishist" who became a born-again Christian, and the main guy it's based on, seems to playing himself in it. and- huh...- I'm-, well, let me put it this way, his second movie, "Shooting Script" was a auto-biodocumentary about him getting shot, like, for real, shot, and survived, and frankly, this "Once a Child of God" movie is sounding more and more bizarre and interesting the more I hear about it, and that's not like I can hear much about it; I can barely find anything on it to begin with, but-um-, based on the few clues I have, this doesn't sound like your normal Christian film. Not that it sounds good, but this-, huh. Somebody twitter The Cinema Snob on this one, maybe he can have better luck, this feels like it's right up his alley. Anyway, I can't even find a trailer or that movie, and since I don't want to download it illegal on some questionable website, I'll leave that mystery to be solved later, although, I imagine he's done a good enough job hiding it for a reason, and frankly it doesn't sound like something that I want to think about either. "Wildlike' is his first mainstream directorial and it's a pretty good one with an inventive take on a classic tale. I don't know what to expect from him next, but I'll definitely take this one. 


THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION (2015) Director: Stanley Nelson

★★★1/2 



If you're like me, you probably have more-or-less heard of the Black Panthers and have some conflicting ideas about them, but I gotta be honest, I don't really know a lot about them. Honestly, I don't know how many people actually do. So much happened during that chaotic Late '60s in America, that frankly The Black Panthers generally feel like little more than a footnote when studying them, and I've taken college Sociology courses called "Understanding the '60s". and even I'm only partially familiar with them. I know, the image, or the one that the media has thrust upon us without too much explanation, militant black man, carrying shotguns in broad daylight, dressed somewhere between a soldier and a college student and I know some of the names involved, although like most ignorant white people, I remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and I remember Malcolm X, and everybody else of importance that was African-American at that time, I mostly know enough to recognize their names and possibly get the right answer when their a question on "Jeopardy!", but if pressed, I'd be a little lost as to what they actually did or how or why they were important. I know Malcolm and Martin had nothing to do with them, although that's mostly 'cause they didn't necessarily survive long enough. Neither did Fred Hampton, who was murdered by the Chicago police. I certainly remember J. Edgar Hoover's name, who, now just seem a slightly smarter but twice as insane Donald Trump if for reasons beyond any amount logic or intellect, we decided to put him in charge of policing the nation. (And he was a closeted gay man, of course) and we know damn well, that not only did he consider the Black Panthers, a national hate group and designated them the biggest threat to National Security. A close-up look at an image on the news of them protest on the floor of the California Statehouse, might make one think that was plausible and reasonable, but then you listen to Huey Newton or Eldridge Cleaver or Bobby Seale, speak on episodes of "Meet the Press" or even more surreal, with William F. Buckley of all people, and you actually sort through their history, including interviewing several of the actual Black Panthers, most of whom by the way, were women, which far outnumbered men in the group, even though the leadership remained mostly male, you get a very different story. Basically, inspired by the likes o Stokely Carmichael among others, the group was formed, originally in Alabama by a student members of the SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, it exploded on the national scene in the inner cities, particularly in L.A. and New York. At first, they're goal was self-defense against the Police who were constantly harassing and assaulting the African-Americans in the inner-cities, including several high-profile deaths. This was why the brandished loaded shotguns, their Second Amendment right to protect themselves from government intrusion, through use of militia. Gov. Reagan, then started having a stronger position on gun control then he's usually known for. How coincidental and foreboding. They're often referred to as a Political Party, they did run people for local offices later in their existence, as part of a far left branch of the Democratic Party normally, Bobby Seale in fact, got to a run-off election for Oakland Mayor, before losing a close race to John Reading, but a more appropriate term is that they were an activist group. And like most left-ist activist groups of the era, they collapsed from within, although Hoover, certainly didn't hurt. He did indeed take out their leaders, or try to; I was amazed looking back on how much support they had, not just within the African-American community, but the Liberal community at large. They knew their treatment was unfair and most of the court cases against them, eventually showed it, as they won most of them. Not all, in fact, there's still some Black Panthers in jail, as of today for their arrests back then. The double-edged sword of movements like these is that they tend to strive to revolve around a singular person as a leader and for inspiration. Now, depending on the movement and the person, that's fine, but one leader was imprisoned for much of the time, and the others were often conflicted, Cleaver flew the continent to evade a murder charge, and he was in Algeria for much of the run, and others weren't as capable, or sane enough to run it, and with Hoover running in informants to screw with the works on top of that, the Panthers were devolving right before our eyes, on the streets, through gunfire. Most everybody who came out of the movement, ended up disillusioned in some way, and trying to pinpoint exactly what the Black Panther Party was all about to some degree is tricky in hindsight. The subtitle for the movie is "Vanguard of the Revolution", certain members of the group certainly were Vanguards, but the Revolution the '60s promised was greatly exaggerated and the Black Panthers became a footnote, when they probably could've or should've in another world, really became the instigators for change, real necessary and crucial changes, that would've made the world better. Looking now at some of their complaints, I can't help think that their messages have not only been lost and ignored, they've been vanished. We live in a society that by any standard is too complacent in accepting that the way things are, remain the way things are, and if The Black Panthers, did anything, it was that they at least tried, maybe harder more ferociously, and with greater demand, for change, and through entirely legal means too; wanting to work within the realms of government to change it. There's power in their messages, as conflicting as they ended up being. I have little doubts that if this wasn't an African-American-based/led activist group, they'd have accomplished far more than they actually did.   


CENSORED VOICES (2015) Director: Mor Loushy

★★★



I swear, I have no idea, why exactly I'm in the middle of a run of documentaries about Israel, I- I certainly didn't plan on that, and it's not like it's a subject I naturally gravitate towards; it's really not, but they keep coming up and I don't base my film selection based on what I want to see at that moment, if I did that, I'd pretty much just be watching the same ten or twelve movies over and over, when I'm not watching the seven 20 or 30 television shows over and over again. But, the subject of "Censored Voices" is Israel, and it's a pretty fascinating film. Actually, it's mainly about the Six-Day War, which, I'm gonna butcher and really simplify this for the sake of time and my own sanity here, but the Six-Day War, could be construed as the turning point in Middle East relations, where the barely existing by the thread of it's teeth nation of Israel, under the threat of attack, from Egypt, which is a bit of misnomer, it's actually a coalition called the "States of Egypt," which also included the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Israel's closest neighbor, Jordan. Instead of falling back as expected, Israel attacked first, at their strategy and might blind-sided the Allies, especially the Egyptian Air Force, which was decimated, and after six-days the war ended, with getting control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Penisula, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights, all of which are hugely important and crucially historic victories that effected the lives of those living in those areas, Jew and Arab, to this day, but even more than that, it established Israel, what most of the Arab World feared, at least the Political Arab World. then and now, which is a dominant Israeli military presence. Even as recently as fifteen years ago, Israel, despite not being a large country in either size or population had the 4th biggest military in the world. That number's gone down a bit in recent years, and Pakistan and India might have a stronger claim to that title, in the greater region, but don't be too fooled, in the Middle East they are top dog, and considering every one of their neighbors hates them, it's understandable, but still, this was a historic affront that much of the region hasn't fully recovered from. That said, it's shocking on Israel's side too. "Censored Voices" is title after interviews that were done and recorded by Amos Oz, then and now one of the Israel's most world-renowned authors and intellectuals and Avraham Shapira one of Chief Zionist Rabbis of the time, and he interviewed several soldiers on the grounds, shortly after the war ended, and within the chaos that surrounded that days after. The recordings were never released publicly as they were suppressed by the Israeli government, and hearing them, they paint a severely different picture of the war and it's immediate aftermaths. The conflicts as well as several disparaging depictions of how the Arabs, who lost 20,000 compared to the only 1,000 Israeli soldiers were treated during these days. The documentaries, along with archival footage, and of course, the actual recordings, also brings in many of the soldiers who Oz and Shapira interviewed, to have them hear the interviews they gave, most, for the first time since they were given. I can't say that this movie provides much revelations; it's not the first time we've learned that the successful tales of triumph and victory at war, don't necessarily mess with the messy and brutal truth of the incidents that happened on the ground, but it's definitely unusual to hear this conflict, in this situation and in this war in particular. It doesn't depict Israel in the most positive and some soldiers are especially critical of the some far-radical Zionist perspectives that led to this battle, and of course, to some degree have led to all their battles, since they began their campaign for finding Jews a homeland. What's documenting mostly, is the ugly and messy, but victorious beginnings of Israeli military power, and yeah, the poetry of that story, is clearly more grandiose and inspiring than the prose that we find here, but that doesn't make it any less important or essential to being told. "Censored Voices" is another good enlightening documentary on one of the more important moments in the young state of Israel's existence, and had I not felt like I've just been inundated with docs on Israel lately, I'd probably find the doc more effective, but still, it's another reminder that we're constantly re-writing own history books, as new aspects of that history get revealed to us.