Wednesday, August 26, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "BACK TO THE FUTURE"

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale



I'm looking at what I originally wrote years ago for my Canon of Film entry for "Back to the Future" (I've mentioned this a few times before but, most of these post I wrote years before I ever started this blog and I mostly use those pieces as the original base for these posts, with some re-editing of course), but it's clear to me as I read it, that, I don't have any idea what the hell I'm talking about. Seriously, I start off on, some pandering about the possibilities of time travel and the sci-fi philosophical theories on the effects and aftereffects of the possibility of time, like the ancient theory of how, stepping on a cockroach during the stone age can lead to alternate universe in the the Nazis win WWII and you know all that Butterfly Effect stuff and whatnot but, honestly, what the hell does that have to do with "Back to the Future"?

Or maybe a more precise thought should be, "Why this film?" Of all the damn postulation about time travel, dating back to the beginings of cinema, and I don't know, eh, H.G. Wells, or perhaps Mark Twain, or if you really want to press it, since Washington Irving, or just or fascinations with other time periods of the past, or possibilities of what the future will be like, how did "Back to the Future" become the film that is forever lauded and ingrained in our consciousness as the perennial example of time travel? I can bullshit all I want, but let's just face it, any logistical perspective you take on it, this film, shouldn't be the movie that is our standard for time travel. But thirty years later,eh,-, I just got the irony of how it's now 2015 and I'm talking about "Back to the Future", but 30 years later, this is the film?

What is it about "Back to the Future", really? I mean, I'm with everybody on it, it's one of my all-time favorites, like everybody, and this seems to be the one iconic '80s movie that even Hollywood sees absolutely no point in reviving or bringing back, and they would get bloody hell, from everybody in the world if they ever tried. This movie, about a DeLorean, turned into a time machine, that involves a plot revolving around a mother falling in love with her son, is the greatest,- or at least the most beloved time travel film of all-time? And there's a lot of time travel films out there; I even had a screenwriter professor tell me not to write time traveling scripts, because they don't accept them anymore in Hollywood, 'cause there's too many of them, and there's nothing really new to add to it, so we've sorted through this idea pretty thoroughly, and yet, explaining why this crazy, kinetic, zany film is the beloved masterpiece that everyone says it is, is truly almost impossible.

I think a lot of this has to do with the brilliant execution, perhaps a lot of it is expectations as well; we know how all the time travelling theories and films worked and the movie knows them too, so maybe it's just because it's such an out-of-nowhere version of such a story that we had. How somebody, or who that person was that came up with the idea to turn a DeLorean into a time machine, I don’t know, but we love whoever it was.... The main plot line involves Marty McFly, (Michael J. Fox) as a teenager who’s life isn’t the greatest. He’s got a band, sort of, he has a girl (Claudia Wells), but his family is a mess, so much so that somehow, he’s become good friends with Dr. Emmett Brown (A brilliant Christopher Lloyd) who concocts the now famous time machine using a flux-compaciter. What happens is that, Marty ends up in the time machine, and somehow ends up in 1955, when his parents were just teenagers. And now, his mother (Lea Thompson), God help Oedipus, has developed a crush for Marty, which leads to one of the most bizarre and memorable scenes in the history of time-travel movies involving a parked car out of a school dance. I imagine most people have seen the movie, and know that for a first-time viewer, it’s best to let the movie deconstruct itself through as Marty tries to get his parents together, get Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) to stop picking on his Dad (Crispin Glover), find the 1955 Doc, who can figure out a way to transport him to 1985, hopefully, and if all goes well, wake up and realize he’s hopefully just having a bad nightmare. Whew!

I'm gonna propose that, the popularity of the movie has quite little to do with time travel. Ironically, it does hold up on that level, but the movie is just pure absurdist id. It revels in just how preposterous the story is. Christopher Lloyd, I realize now, gives one of the greatest performances in film history, making a completely ridiculous character who's job is to, basically explain the importance of everything that's happening, (Exposition dialogue, always the toughest dialogue to do) and make him an interesting enough character that we're intrigued by him, and questions like, "Why and how is this mad scientist good friends with Alex P. Keaton?", seem completely irrelevant. It's also the first movie that really takes a look at parents, as teenagers. Roger Ebert's review mentions how children don't conceive of their parents as ever being teenagers, and maybe that's true or not, and I certainly think that, in this modern day and age, I'd rather not think of my parents as ever being teenagers, but it's definitely the first film that really analyzed that possibility. I think mostly though, it's just a great classic example of pure Hollywood filmmaking. Zemeckis was always great at taking something absurd and treating with the such comedic earnestness that we can help but get caught up in the film, he probably did this best with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", but that actually had a historical characters and concepts at it's helm. "Back to the Future", with the exception of the use of time travel theorems, is completely original. Yeah, it's a three-act structure and all, but it's amazing how all the jokes and plotpoints work so well.

It's just fun; it just works. I wish there were more concrete ways to explain why "Back to the Future" is so great, but...-, well, it just is. Whatever it catches onto us, whether we just love Michael J. Fox and Marty, whether we like the idea of a DeLorean turned into a time machine, or the mythos works, or the idea of going into the recent past and changing how our actions effect the future, whether it's just a great comedy, the amazing score by Alan Silvestri, the incredible using of building drama, even at the most unexpected times, etc. etc. It's really quite brilliant, and yet, explaining why it's brilliant or better than others.... I guess this is one of those times where, for those few people who haven't seen, you'll just have to trust me and say that, "Just watch "Back to the Future" and trust me, it's good." It's everything that we hope a Hollywood blockbuster should be.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

THE TOP TEN GOOD TV SHOWS THAT WERE ENDED/CANCELED AT THE RIGHT TIME!

Well, I wasn't going to do this Top Ten List, in fact, part of why I decided to listen to my innermost id and do that Top Ten List on Lilith Fair Era Songs before, was partially a response to the fact that, despite posting in multiple groups, FB groups, asking for Top Ten Lists ideas, requests, suggestions, etc. (This time I added a caveat that this list be about television in respect to the upcoming Emmys) that they hadn't seen or would like to see, I didn't get one fucking response! I know, my computer presence has been severely lacking and compromised lately, but still, not one damn response, c'mon! Frankly, the only reason I got this request was because I was explaining/threatening to do that Top Ten Lilith Fair Era Songs Lists, to me friend and former fellow blogger Jackson Shrout, who then recommended it, and to be honest, I didn't respond well to the idea. (That could be partly why my #1 was what it was on that list but btw, although I do love Alanis in general, or as I refer to her as, God) Mostly, because I-eh, simply disagreed with the concept of this list.

Now, Jackson's thinking was that he's seen way too many lists of shows that went on too long or were canceled too early, why not split the difference and do shows that ended at the right time; eh, I can kinda understand that, it's clever. Plus, I never liked those other lists either, but generally, when a show, supposedly goes bad or "lasts too long," or "jumps the shark" or whatever, I tend to not be so simplistic in my thoughts, and I usually go back and figure out if the show was actually any good to begin with, and to be honest, usually the answer is no, they weren't that good actually. I can usually catch it a lot earlier than most, but anybody could if they were really paying attention. The severely overrated "Homeland" for instance, I figured out by the 5th or 6th episode that there was a clear limit to how good that show could be, although I've heard it's rebounded this last season, redefining itself but yea, the original problem was that the show had "Short Term Show" written all over it, and once that's faded, they have nothing left to do.

Well, hey, but we're clearly talking good shows here however, the very best, they should know when to end, shouldn't they? Actually I think the best shows, could pretty literally have lasted forever, if they wanted to. No, really. Think about it, sometimes a good show shows becomes less than what it was, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was inevitable for that to happen. "Murphy Brown" probably lasted a little too long, but not because it was a bad show, but it made some questionable by the end that definitely started making it sink, but if they made other choices, there's no reason it could hae still been an amazing show for a few more years than it did. Hell, even without Ted Danson, I'd argue that "Cheers" could've lasted another ten years, easily; it was that good. Hell, it's spinoff, "Fraiser" half-way proved that, and hell, that could've lasted another five or ten years. Every time I hear people bitch that "The Simpsons" should be canceled or has gone on too long, I think they're insane. That show can go on for another 30 years, it's still as good as it's always been. (It's not my fault you guys all overrated it.) but, hell, it's a good animated series, those can and hell, I think think they should last forever. "Family Guy" and "Futurama"'s multiple comebacks from cancellation have shown that. Hell, I'm still pissed that they stopped making "Looney Tunes", the original, old ones, not that these new reinventions are bad, but still, why would you ever stop to begin with?!?!

As you might've just guess there won't be any animated series on this list 'cause, well obviously if they were any good they should still be on and if they weren't then they shouldn't have been on in the first place, but I did think about a lot of television and went through every genre I could think of, and still this was a real struggle for me. I had narrowed down to about 50 or 60 songs for my Lilith Fair Era list to chose from, and I still completely forget Garbage's "Push It", (Man, how did I miss that one. I remember to consider all the other great Garbage songs, but that one somehow alluded me; I'm stupid sometimes.) but this list.... I have a really high TV IQ, but I barely managed to come up with ten shows that I felt confident about for this list. Remember, this isn't how good the ending of a series was or wasn't, it's about how well they timed exactly when to end the show. So, sorry "Newhart", although I did think/consider that one for a bit, but yeah, very, very, very difficult to come up with.

Well, no more stalling, let's get to it? We're counting down:

THE TOP TEN TV SHOWS THAT-uh..., hmm, hold on, let's try that again.

THE TOP TEN GOOD TV SHOWS, THAT ENDED OR WERE CANCEL...- wait, AND/OR- what, no, no,- ENDED/CANCELED, - oh dammit! Sorry, give me a minute.

(Under breath)
Ended and/or canceled? We're Ended/We're Canceled, and/or were canceled, UGH! Damn Jackson with his stupid request-,
(Deep breath)
Okay, hold on I can figure this out.
(Long thinking pause)
Okay, I got it now.

THE TOP TEN GOOD TV SHOWS THAT WERE ENDED AND/OR CANCELED AT THE RIGHT TIME!

10. "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-2005)


Sia - Breathe Me (Six Feet Under Finale) by CarolinRoark

I had a few shows that I considered for the last few spots, and all of them seemed a bit off to me. "Barney Miller" came pretty close to making it, but I had to rethink it 'cause I'm fairly certain that could've continue on if it wanted to. I thought about "Wiseguy" for a bit too, but, eh, that ended probably as much because of how no one liked working with Ken Wahl as anything else. This is a tough one, but I finally decided to go with "Six Feet Under". Now, I also thought about "The Sopranos" but I always thought "The Sopranos" was overrated a bit, and I always actually considered "Six Feet Under" to really be the premiere HBO show of that time, but that said, it's hard to imagine this show going on much longer than it did. It was starting to basically move into some repetitive storytelling traits, doing them well, but still, if any show, ever needed to have closure, it was definitely this one, and the more it would've been prolongued, the less powerful it would've become. I know that seems strange considering this show only lasted five seasons, but if you've seen this show and how rich the characters were and became you'll understand it. The Fisher Family of Fisher & Sons Funeral home had become so ingrained into us, even after they had passed. Yes, the finale episode itself, "Everybody's Waiting" will easily make any legitimate list of the best last episodes of all time, but still, it ended at the right moment, and it was one of the first shows that chose to end as quickly as it did. Now, it's not uncommon, especially for cable shows that seem like they're at their peak to suddenly cut their show off but it was unusual when "Six Feet Under" did it, but even Alan Ball, the show's creator said, "63 episodes, 63 hours of that story, that's enough.". And yeah, he's right, as great and as much as I truly love this show, I've never once thought that I need another hour of this, this is was a great ending, and it ended and the exact perfect time. Any longer, this show couldn't been one of those, "Shame it went on too long" series, any shorter and we would've felt like we didn't get enough. This ended at the right time.


9. "Ally McBeal" (FOX, 1997-2002)



This was probably a much tougher decision than it looked at the time to cancel "Ally McBeal". I know on the surface, this doesn't make that much sense. The show had clearly jumped the shark a few years earlier, and even after the somewhat successful, albeit somewhat disastrous off-camera troubles with the fourth season's addition of Robert Downey, Jr., but this was one of those landmark shows that caused controversy and discussion. No, seriously it was. At one point, Time Magazine used Ally McBeal as the basis for arguing the feminism was dead. What the fuck?! The show with the creepy CG dancing baby? Well, I'll be honest, I never was that big a fan of this show, in fact, I didn't start watching it until the last season oddly enough, and from what I could tell, it was just going through the same absurdist troughs that most David E. Kelley show, even his very best ones like "L.A. Law" and "The Practice" would inevitably go through, until he just decided to start a show like that with "Boston Legal" and therefore make the show crazy and ridiculous to begin with. "Ally McBeal", is definitely the in-between show that shows him experimenting with these more abstract and surreal storytelling devices, but he also showed that they can work more times than not, and to some extent, he was in his prime at this point. The other weird thing is that, this was a FOX show, a network known for keeping shows on the air longer than most if they're successful, at that time. (Shut up, "Arrested Development" fans, go back and check how long some of FOX's earlier shows lasted) Plus, this was a critical and commercial success, becoming the first FOX show to ever win the Best Comedy Series Emmy, (and still the only hour-long comedy series to do so) this was a centerpiece show for a network that was only now getting the credibility that the other three networks had. So, I can easily see why, a show that had shown they can come back from disaster before, it would make sense to give them another try or two, but still..., this show already feels to most like a forgotten show, even though it's influence is all over network television now. This was a risk, but it was the right call to end "Ally McBeal" when they did. You can only be so absurd and over-the-top as this show was for so long, even with a rotating cast of actors and characters. (And that was just during that last season, it was ridiculous, but I don't know, I actually kinda thought it worked. Shrugged)


8. "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998)



(Sarcastic voice) Oh, what a shocking choice, the greatest TV show of all-time, happened to end at the right time. (Normal voice) Yeah, this is a pretty arbitrary choice for most of these lists. An yeah, "Seinfeld" is one of those shows that probably could've lasted forever, if they wanted to. But that said, have you guys really gone back and watched the last couple seasons of "Seinfeld"? They're definitely great, but they were kinda getting out there, even for the show. Really out there, bordering on the cartoonish at certain points. Cartoonish is definitely a word that sometimes damns a live-action sitcom, when the last time anybody's seen a "Malcolm in the Middle" on in reruns randomly? I'm not saying it would've gone down, but I do wonder if we would perceive "Seinfeld" as this brilliant and generally accepted legendary show, if it was on longer. Plus, on the other end, the show was at a commercial peak when it ended. It was literally the biggest show on TV when it ended, and it's just as risky to end a show then. I remember, no less than a week or two before the announcement that this would be "Seinfeld"'s last season, entertainment reports came in and said that the show won in the ratings that week, by 2-1 over it's nearest competition, and they aired a rerun, that had already won it's week. "Seinfeld" was huge, and ending a series at that point was certainly a gamble, even if it might be starting to head down a path of quality that might be questionable. Leave it to Jerry Seinfeld to not care about that, and know that it was time to end it and that the show very much could've started to lose it's quality drastically later. Part of the allure of "Seinfeld" now is that the show, supposedly ended early, that wouldn't have been the case, if it didn't.


7. "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (Syndication, 1987-1994)



Well, for those who wonder why the original "Star Trek" doesn't make this list, well, it was supposed to be a five-year mission, and it only lasted three years. Oops. (Uncomfortable pause) But actually, this is one of two shows on this list that inevitably would continue it's stories on in feature film form. I think that was definitely an intentional reason for why "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ended, plus, it would also spinoff "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and later "Star Trek: Voyager", which would actually make you sorta think that ending the series was a bit of an iffy move, but actually, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" definitely knew when it was time to move on. The series had recaptured and expanded upon the mystique of "Star Trek", even adding to it's mythology greatly. The show was still very good, if not great, hell, it even broke into the Emmys Best Drama Series category it's last season, the last time a Syndicated show ever came close to that kind of acclaim. People forget how big this show was, and how big it's series finale was. In fact, it's still the 3rd highest-rated Drama Series Finale episode of all-time, behind, believe it or not, "Magnum, P.I." and "Dallas". (Yes, "Magnum, P.I." is the highest rated, look it up.) This is a strange ending in that it was perfectly timed to set up other series, as well as springboard the show into a new condition and adjusting to feature films; you don't get television shows that have to end to head towards films often, the last one I can remember that was actually done intentionally before this, even somewhat, was, "The Monkees", and that was more canceled than ended. The show could've hypothetically continued as both a series and a movie franchise too, but the fact that they did this, also right at the show's peak, was ballsy and incredibly successful. The timing of this ending helped elevate a show that was once looked upon as a joke or a gimmick and solidified it, not only as the best "Star Trek" series, but as one of the best shows in television history, period.


6. "The Fugitive" (ABC, 1963-1967)



You aren't gonna find too many older series on this list, it's actually kinda difficult to determine with older series, whether or not they ended or why, mostly because, they rarely, if ever ended. While some shows do in fact have finale episodes back then, "Route 66" for instance, as a good example, but most shows didn't have official endings, as most feared/thought that a show ending would ruin the syndication possibilities for a series. The logic being that, if audiences knew that there was a supposed ending to a series, then nobody would watch the reruns of that show. In fact, before "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", only one series was allowed to officially "end", and that was "The Fugitive" and that's only because, they basically had to end it. It would've been pretty fucked up if they didn't, the whole show is based around a guy, who's running from the law for murdering his wife, while constantly on the search for the real killer, the infamous one-armed man. If they ended this show without an ending, he's be looking for his wife's killer, forever. I mean, it's one thing to have Lucy forever getting into antics and her and Ethel forever scheming behind Ricky and Fred's backs, but this...- I mean, I'm amazed how much crap there is for even the worst long-running serial TV shows that get pulled early, and suddenly, there's a fan reaction and outrage insisting they give it a conclusion. This is one of the first shows to use that structure. and there were far fewer channels back then so everybody watched it. Putting "The Fugitive" on here, isn't so much for the timing itself of when, although that's part of it, this isn't a show that could've gone on for a decade or two, but the guts it took to actually end the series at all, puts it one here, especially back when that practice, just wasn't done.


5. "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004)


Sex and the City - Il finale by cicciabella

Yeah, this NEEDED to end. I mentioned there were two shows on this list that later would continue into movies, ye-ah, where "Star Trek: TNG" did that well and seamlessly, "Sex and the City" really, really, really didn't. Look, I've talked about how big a fan I was and still am of "Sex and the City" before, and how I really think a lot of the hatred for this show is mostly based in the fact that people have completely misunderstood the conceit of the show and completely missed the subtle stories on the edges of the screen that's actually going on, in between the elaborated sexual adventures, misadventures and trysts that are detailed in the article that Carrie Bradshaw's writing, that are then detailed/shown in the episode, (Many of which I argue can often be exaggerations, happened differently than are simply shown, or could sometimes be completely made up by Carrie) However, it's clear to me that one of the people who's also doesn't see that at all either, is Michael Patrick King. (He also completely misses, everything that should've mde "2 Broke Girl$" good and funny, but...-, I've had that rant already) If anything, the two movies now are more proof that this show definitely shouldn't have continued on, but even eliminating that, since, they definitely weren't planning on a future with feature films, the show had pretty much ran it's course, and it's definitely not aged well. Even when it ended, I tended to regard the show mainly as a commentary on dating at the turn of the century, and it should really remain being viewed in that perspective. That said though, this is a great show, that was legitimately funny and sexy, and raised the bar for what a sitcom could do and be. It's also a show that really had a limit. You can only keep and do so much with a narrow perspective of characters' sex lives, especially when those lives inevitably lead to marriage. (Okay, Samantha could've probably gone on forever without leading to marriage, but the rest of them?) So, really this show had a shelf-life and thank God the show ended right as that shelf-life was ending, and was at the top of it's game. It's still the only cable sitcom to win the Best Comedy Series Emmy, as of this writing anyway, and it was for it's final season, and it deserved it. It peaked at the right time, with a show with a quicker half-life than most, and it ended right at that climax. You gotta admire that, and it definitely belongs on this list.

Oh, here's my article on "Sex and the City" btw:
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/08/dear-sex-and-city-please-die-already.html


4. "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (Syndication, 1996-2002)



Holy Hell, has this been so thoroughly erased from our recent television history, even our recent daytime history? I mentioned that I went through all of televisions' genres to make this list, well, I did, and once I remembered "The Rosie O'Donnell Show", the hire and hire it jumped up on the list, and yes, it's the only talk show to make the list, and this is definitely one of those times where it was not at all obvious that this was timed perfectly until later. Okay, for those who don't remember, Rosie O'Donnell, basically owned daytime almost as soon as she went on the air with her new talk show. Yes, she did. In fact, she was the first serious contender to actually nearly dethrone Oprah. There had been a couple pretenders, like Joan Rivers, or Montel Williams would say, steal a Talk Show Host Emmy from Oprah every so often, but Rosie O'Donnell, actually started beating her in the Series Race. In fact, she's the reason Oprah started taking her name out of competition, that's how big Rosie O'Donnell was. And she's a great host. Now, you gotta understand the timing aspects too, O'Donnell was "The Queen of Nice", in an era of exploitative talk shows like Jenny Jones and Jerry Springer moving up the ratings airwaves, Rosie actually used a late-night format to daytime, something that wasn't en vogue by any means at that time. (Yes, Ellen DeGeneres's success owes a lot to Rosie O'Donnell) She would go on for six years, and left at the top, claiming that she wanted to stay home with her wife and kids (Oh yeah, that's part of this, she wasn't quite out at the time for most of this series, which makes her particularly strange running joke about being in love with Tom Cruise seem odd today) but it seemed like right after the show ended and the next generation went head-to-head with Oprah, words about Rosie's behind-the-scenes behavior caught up to her. Her very public divorce from Kelli Carpenter, her more vocal positions on news, most of which I agree with, and then there's the fact that Donald Trump is fascinated with her, not to mention her public fights over the years with Howard Stern and Tom Selleck, Anyway, while I do think of her as genuine and passionate, it's kinda hard to imagine her now as the Queen of Nice. Go back and rewatch episodes of this show and, yeah, it's hard to picture her now, doing this show, the way she did it back then. That's why, I'm pushing "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" way up on this list. If this show lasted longer, well, it wouldn't have. "The Rosie O'Donnell Show", ended right before it became, just unbelievable and forgotten completely. Sad, but yeah, not everyone remembers how big "The Queen of Nice" was. And frankly, I watched it too, I was a huge fan and yeah, if you're doing any list of the best daytime talk shows of all-time, this should be up there.


3. "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993)



In doing some research for the blog, I'm actually a bit shocked to find out that "The Wonder Years" was a show that was canceled and didn't have their official "ending" sculpted out until after the narration was recorded. This to me, seems like a clear and obvious choice for a show that fits this description though. "The Wonder Years" was a strange fit to begin with, a great TV show, that was critically acclaimed and commercially successful, and was based around a teenager, and from a teenager's perspective, (Well, an adult's perspective retelling about being a teenager, but still...) It was also a period piece, and a single-camera sitcom with no audience and no laugh track, and this was in 1988. It seems like a huge anomaly now, but back then, it really was strange and unusual. It's a show that dared to take place and follow a kid growing up and it ended, basically when he became an adult. (Okay, not exactly, but from middle school to the end of high school [Okay, not exactly, but close enough]) It's easily the best show like it, and the most heartfelt and memorable. This is a show who's whole mythos and tone was based in the past, so this was a show that legitimately couldn't have lasted too long. Nobody wants to see Kevin and Winnie in college, and if he's still wondering by then.... "The Wonder Years", it sets it's standard of time in the title, it stuck to it, and kept true to it, and it's an amazing show that still holds up, a lot of it because it only lasted the few years it was on. "The Wonder Years", is almost too perfect sometimes. The reason it was partially canceled was because the network was limiting the kinds of stories that could be told, especially since the kids were getting older and they weren't willing to allow for more adult storylines. Maybe that's true, but, I'm gonna side with the network on this one. The innocence of the show helped the tone of the show, so I think it's fair that the show probably shouldn't have gotten too adult, and therefore, definitely deserved to end when it did.


2. "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-2013)



I'm pretty certain, that if most everybody else did this list, the show that would show up at the top of most lists would be "Breaking Bad". Yeah, one of the best shows of all-time, ending at the top of it's game, and like "The Wonder Years", it set itself up with a deadline, a literal deadline in "Breaking Bad"'s case, and sure enough, it stuck to it, and of course, the fact that the show was as brilliant as it was, makes it being so high on this list a must. So many shows that do a deadline serial plot, and most of them, yeah, they usually suffer for it and that's part of why "Breaking Bad"'s special and will be around forever. I don't think I need to defend this choice too much, it's a show about a guy who's giving little time to live and he decides to do the most with what he's got left. Being a meth kingpin is a bit of an unusual choice, but, what-the-hell. Vince Gilligan said he was gonna turn Mr. Chips in Scarface and dammit, he did, and he didn't cop out or anything. He's sick at the beginning, remains sick at the end, and then, he dies. (Spoilers?) In that time, we've seen one of the riskiest and most successfully gambled characters arc every attempted on film, and it's success, ten-fold. At a time when limited series idea concepts are probably more common then they should be, "Breaking Bad" showed everybody how to do it better than anyone, just by sticking true to it's initial idea.

(Drumroll)
AND NOW, THE #1 GOOD TV SHOW THAT WAS ENDED AND/OR CANCELED AT THE RIGHT TIME IS....

(Drumroll)

This pick is going to surprise and even shock a lot of people, but the more I thought about, the more this clearly made sense, and has to be number one, and I'm gonna explain it, because, while I mentioned "The Wonder Years", as an anomoly, it really is an anomaly when you consider TV shows that are based around teenagers, especially ones in high school. When you're doing a TV show for such a tumultuous time in people's lives, there's a very, very brief window, and the rate of success rate, is temporary at most. Most of these shows, get old, fast. Go ahead, let's go through them. "Saved By the Bell", that's a laugh. How about "Malcolm in the Middle", yeah, that lasted a little longer than it should've too. Oh, how about some really forgotten ones, "Joan of Arcadia", remember that, nominated for Best Drama Series it's first year? It was canceled the next though. Even going all the way back, "James at 15", a remember and influential cult classic, "James at 16", complete crap. "Welcome Back, Kotter", eh, okay there was some behind the scenes issues but still, they definitely went way too long. "Happy Days", eleven seasons, about six too many, "That '70s Show" even, nine seasons, covering five years and half the cast left by the end, etc. etc. etc. "Glee", ye-ah, I don't know what you guys were thinking with that one. I mean, this is the toughest genre period, and there's no way around it frankly, it's almost inevitable, I really wonder, why bother to be honest? If it last at all, it's probably too long and you lose the concept of what you're going for. This is my reasoning for my number one choice, a show that lasted exactly as long as should have. One more season, no, one more episode, and we would not remember this show. It would be forgotten, there wouldn't still be a cult fanbase, fan fiction, continuations in book form, etc. It lasted one season, if it lasted two, it wouldn't be on this list.

1. "My So-Called Life" (ABC, 1994-1995)



That's right, "My So-Called Life". One season, canceled, and that was it. I've often said that no show has ever captured at least from my perspective, an accurate portrayal of high school, but "My So-Called Life" came pretty damn close in my book. I didn't even catch it at the time, btw, I'm late to this series myself, but it has to be number one. Hell, it even jumped the shark during this season, with the homeless episode, but it's a still an amazing and great show. Not, any show that I would call the best, but I certainly wouldn't think about it if it lasted longer than it did. The show was done by the same people who've created shows like "Thirtysomething" and later the influential web series, "Quarterlife" and both those show suffer from the same problems of being so based on the time period, the now that the show takes place in, they're banal and are mainly about how the characters exist in the world today, there's not much to them, and they didn't last that long and for good reason, despite being pretty good themselves. "My So-Called Life" ducked that, by staying on the air, just long enough. "My So-Called Life", remains relevant because it was canceled so early, and that's why it's number one, considering how every other show with this subject matter lasted too long, even by just a second year too long, it's more impressive that, whoever pulled the plug, pulled it, no matter why he did, but they did it, and now the show still holds relevance, and it very easily could've been at most, a minor forgotten footnote. I gotta give credit to that, knowing that a show was good but only good for a year, that's why it's number one.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

TOP TEN SONGS OF THE LILITH FAIR ERA! (Yeah, I'm doing a music blog!)

I don't talk about music must here, even though I call this an entertainment blog, the fact is that I do limit my focus a bit too much to film and television. I bring this us 'cause I happened to get into a little trouble recently in a music discussions group on Facebook by saying that I hadn't listen to an new music in the last 15 years, which is admittedly an exaggeration..., not much of one, but an exaggerations. There is a reason that I started to basically abandon the music arena, and that reason is that, most of the music that's come out since, fucking sucked! Holy God did some of it suck!

I know I'm being a bit facetious here, but again, not by that much. Music just started getting overly manufactured, artificial and on the off-chance that music was good it was rarely popular and often wasn't easy to find (No, I didn't download anything, legally or illegally then or now, and I'm still on Metallica's side on that dispute; and "St. Anger" is pretty good too, so screw all of you on that one too.) but, it also generally wasn't as good as stuff before and it certainly wasn't worth the search most of the time. What can I say, 2X amount of money for an album of someone I might like, or X amount of dollars that I'll listen to for the rest of my life? The more option B seemed valid and the less likely that music was gonna go back to good, I mostly don't regret that choice.

Now, many of my regular readers who know that I tend to praise quality of a piece of art over one's personal preferences, when it comes to movies and television; so do I think the same thing for music? Um..., well, if music was a true passion of mine, and I really did and/or could study music the way I do/have studied film, I might, and it certainly does play a part, but honestly, while I can appreciate that which I might not personally liked, I actually think the opposite with music. This might be that I just don't have as trained an ear for music as I do an eye for film, but I think the bigger reasons for this are A. there's just way too much music out there to get through, (Yes, as much as I complain about there being too many films and television series out there nowadays, and there are, that's still nothing compared to to all the kind of music out there there are, not just today either, music's been around for millenniums while film is at the most, 150 years old, maybe a few decades older including early photography, so there's a lot of history to go through) but even if you do that and acquire all the music appreciation abilities and knowledge you can, you're still shoving your ears, often with stuff that, frankly you're gonna try hard to get out of your head. Compare to a bad film or something of the like, you can't still learn or enrich yourself from it, you can still more or less push out of your mind, but something as intimate as unwanted noise pushing through your ears and into your mind, ugh, at that point, I think it's just better and more appropriate to just jam your own jams mostly.

So, now your wondering what music I actually like? Well, if you can't tell by the title of what I apparently jam to, my music is that post Grunge singer-songwriter era of females of kicked ass or rocked out! Half of you probably don't know what I'm talking about 'cause for some reason, unlike grunge, gangster rap, or the godawful boy band teen diva eras, this is pretty much erased from music history, even though it was awesome. When grunge, hair metal and Michael Jackson started to wain a bit, we were soon bombarded, with a singer-songwriter era, that unusually was led by mostly females, this was unusual. Very unusual, especially since most of these girls were rockers. Well, okay, pop/rockers, but still. Many of the artists like Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, Paula Cole, etc. broke through at this point, but this also included a lot of other artists who were fairly well known like Melissa Etheridge, or Tori Amos and, even at one point, Blondie, would gain or regain their highest points of fame. Yes, I'm that emotional white girl in hippie/goth clothing that sits in the corner of the cafeteria reading Sylvia Plath and am probably a still-in-the-closet lesbian. I'm Meg Griffin. I don't care it was awesome, and the Lilith Fair Era never gets any credit! Yeah, that's what I call it, and for those wondering, who's Lilith Fair, uh, Lilith is not a person, moron. (I hate to be mean, but yes, I had that conversation with somebody recently.

Lilith Fair was the concert series, named after Lilith, who was supposedly the first woman created by God who Adam rejected and God then made Eve, was the culmination of this huge boast of a then unprecedented amount of female rockers, on the charts. Started by Sarah McLachlan, another of these female singer/songwriter started a summer tour of female musicians in '97, and the original run of this festival happened for three summers, and included, damn near everybody. You can go to the wikipedia page and see the whole list, but this was huge. This, after at the time, and this is absolutely true of 1997, producers didn't think a tour of multiple women could earn money. I'm dead serious, that's how bizarre this was, and how much they changed everything, this is an idea and concept that seems basically ridiculous now, but back, this was damn near revolutionary.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilith_Fair

So anyway, in order to try and bring back some resurgence of the Lilith Fair era, which, I'm gonna call '93ish, to early 2000s, I guess. Some time around then, and name my choices for the ten best songs of the era. There's a lot of great songs btw, and this was a difficult list to make, very difficult. There's just so much great music in this ear, I had to make very painful cuts to make this list and am still not quite sure on this list 100%, The many favorite artists that I couldn't find a spot for on this list is just, ohh, so painful, but here we go, let's count down:

THE TOP TEN SONGS OF THE LILITH FAIR ERA

Okay, we're gonna start this off with one of the original leaders of the Lilith Fair movement, and really, one of my very favorite songs. If I ever learn to play acoustic guitar, this is the song I want to learn how to play first.

10. "You Were Meant for Me"-Jewel



Those who know me, know that I'm still a huge Jewel fan, this song in particular, off her breakout "Pieces of Me" album, is just a beautiful song. She famously of course, lived in her van before breaking out, but for a cliche guitar playing loser living out of a van, this song is beautiful. I love the acoustic guitar on this song, but more than that, this is one of those deceptively great songs lyrically. It's a love song, but it seems desperate to talk about anything else. It's actually on the surface, just the banal activity that she's going through, while waiting for the person she loves to fall in love with her. That's creepy. It gets more creepy and weird when you think about it. You want to learn subtext in songwriting, I would advise people to study this song and how it's performed with this little girl youthfulness and yearning, you genuinely can't tell whether the song a broken relationship, a diary entry wish, a crazed girl who's stalking somebody, or trying not to stalk somebody, either way it's just heartbreaking I don't think too many people can convey that as well as her.

Remember, this doesn't mean strictly Lilith Fair performers, but any female artist and song in that era, and in case you're wondering, I'm not narrowing this to only singles. In fact, some of these artists that don't make this list is because they're work is often better on the course of an album. (And I'm somebody who still only listen to albums, from beginning to end. Hell, I still call them albums even though they're now mostly CDs. And no, I don't have an Ipod or anything) If I were doing a Top Ten Albums of this era, make no mistake btw, the album my number ten song came off of would be my number one, easily though. This album still kicks ass.

9. "Divorce Song"-Liz Phair



That album is Liz Phair's debut album from '93, "Exile in Guyville", which was promoted as a female response to the Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street", but was actually just a gloss up collection of Liz Phair's underground "Girlysound" tape. Most might know Phair for her later pop hits, "Why Can't I" or "Extraordinary", which are awesome as well by the way, hell, I loved her "Somebody's Miracle" album as well, but this early album is just amazing. I still listen to it regularly, hell, one of my screenplays was actually titled, "Fuck and Run" after another song on this album, and I could've picked any number of songs from the album, (I could've been really devious and picked "Flower"), but despite the fact this was never released as a single like "Never Said" or "Stratford-On-Guy", but boy, this song, with her realistic casual fuck-it-all lyrics and the crunchy beat, really feels like a conversation. It's sardonic tone and lyrics are just amazing. It's probably the song off that album that everybody can listen to and like.

Hey, also, I should mention, that, while the overly manufactured pop music took over in the '00s, after they started, showing how the manufacture them on TV, (Grrr, "American Idol") but, I should mention that the Lilith Fair era, also had a Kelly Clarkson. By that I mean, we had a girl who broke into music by winning a televised singing competition as well.

8. "L.A. Song"-Beth Hart



Unless you really pay attention to the blues charts, you probably have very little recollection of Beth Hart, I remember waiting and waiting and waiting, hours at a time, for VH1 to play the music video for this song. Yeah, you had to wait for this song, For some reason, this wasn't a hit in America, only reaching #88 in America, and this is probably her biggest hit, sadly. But you gotta see Hart performing this live. I know a lot of women get compared to a modern-day Janis Joplin, I've heard that description for Melissa Etheridge, Nikka Costa, Joss Stone, Crystal Bowersox, etc., but really, I use that to describe this girl more than anybody, especially when you see her live, even on tape, it's just amazing what this girl does. She actually started as a grand prize winner on "Star Search". This song just gets me everytime, a simple, beautiful tale of a girl struggling to find her place in the world as she goes from one disastrous boyfriend to another and back and forth from L.A. It's one of my favorite piano ballads of all time. If this had come out a couple years earlier, it would've been huge and more people would know about Beth Hart.

Speaking of girls with a piano,... well, people who follow my Facebook and Twitter feed might have occasionally noticed me quoting lyrics from this next artist, um, when I do that, it's probably best to stay the hell away from me. This is who I listen to when I'm really pissed off. Usually after an Eagles, but just in general as well.

7. "She's Your Cocaine"-Tori Amos



Oh, I can't believe this song wasn't a single. Now, ironically, I personally prefer Tori Amos's work before and after this era more than I do her songs from this era, like "Little Earthquakes" her amazing debut album, or the obnoxiously bloated and absurd concept album, "Scarlet's Walk", (What can I tell you, I like concept albums about a porn star and her travels criss-crossing the country; it speaks to me) but while her early work was great, it was mainly her and a piano, until her "From the Choir Girl Hotel" album in '98, which includes her biggest single, "Spark" as well as such great songs as "Jackie's Strength", and my personal favorite, "Playboy Mommy", (Which came close to making this list) she was mostly just, her and a piano. Okay, a couple pianos. (She is a classically-trained pianist, although she was thrown out of the Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute of music for her interest in rock'n'roll, btw, she was 11 at the time and was there for six years at that point) but this is the song I love. It just rocks, It's slinky and sultry, sexy. This is a song that should be lap danced to in a smoky red-lighted room. It's androgynous, and bizarre and yes, I know the real dance hit from the album was "Raspberry Swirl", but I never really thought that song was sexy, even the remix version. This song is what I imagine being played at the lava lamp fueled after-party pot-smoked orgy from the local "The Rocky Horror Show" performers.

Actually on top of a Kelly Clarkson, the Lilith Fair era, also had a Britney Spears. Yeah, a teenager who bursted onto the scene with an overly sexualized video and image that caused loads of controversy and became a major hit. Unlike Britney Spears, our is actually a helluva musician.

6. "Limp"-Fiona Apple



Yeah, I thought about putting "Criminal" on here, the controversial and most popular song Fiona Apple has done, and it's amazing, but honestly, I like my Fiona Apple a little older and more drugged up, allegedly. Her second album, "When the Pawn Hits the Conflict He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and he'll win the...." Okay, I can actually type the whole thing out if I wanted to from memory, but I won't, but her blend of jazz rock alternative is just a revelation on this album. If "She's Your Cocaine" what's playing during that orgy above, that album is played when everybody wakes up and stumbles home the morning after. And "Limp", the second single, is just beautiful and vicious. Still only 22 when she did this, This is the song about, what I believe are empty threats against whatever man or men wrong her, but oh man, this song. It's actually kinda amazing it's only three and half minutes only, it feels like an epic, complete with an incredibly drum solo in the middle, that starts out her usual sultry self, but just gets angrier and angrier as the song goes on. It was definitely way too weird to be a hit, although the video from director P.T. Anderson, who she was dating at the time, is pretty awesome, (Not as great as their video for "Paper Bag", but still) Years later, this originally ignored and mocked album would start being considered a masterpiece and I agree, no 22-year-old should put out something that's this mature and yet still seems like so lyrically selfish and childlike, in a good way.


5. "Come to My Window"-Melissa Etheridge



Definitely one of the greatest bridges in rock history, Melissa Etheridge's Grammy winning, signature song, "Come to My Window", on the surface is just a great love song from an already established great artist. Etheridge had broken through years earlier, most notably for her debut album, and such great songs as "Bring Me Some Water" and "You Can Sleep While I Drive", However, with it being her first single after coming out as a lesbian in early '93, on her fourth album, "Yes I Am" the song takes on a more personal definition, especially that kick-ass bridge that most everyone read as a proclamation of her insistence on coming out, remember, this was years before Ellen even came out, and most anybody else frankly, so this power ballad about wanting love at any cost, creates a double-meaning that still holds for a lot of people in the LBGT community. For me, it's just one of the best songs I've ever heard after the desperate desire of loving someone. How many so-called love songs ever come up with an line like "I would dial the numbers just to listen to your breath." This is one of the few songs where you actually truly believe that there's actual love involved, and no surprise, it's easily the highest-ranked love song on this list.

Now, this next girl is probably, by far, the least well-known artist on this list. That's a shame, but while she oddly wasn't apart of Lilith Fair herself, if any artist is the living definition of that doing whatever you want, and getting it out there however possible style of guerrilla music, it's this righteous babe.

4. "Not a Pretty Girl"-Ani DiFranco



I have to mention this amazing alternative folk rocker who only has one gold album, but that's not because of a lack of talent. Ani DiFranco produces about a double-album or two a year of new material, and releases it on her own record label. each time experimenting with everything from hip hop to punk to jazz, to, whatever-the-fuck some of her stuff is. I could've picked any of her songs, my personal favorite is "Little Plastic Castle", which is probably her most successful album/song, but the title track to "Not a Pretty Girl', a song about how this outrageous can-do girl dares intimidates others with her mere presence, really is a defining Lilith Fair Era song. Hell, it could easily be the theme song for the whole movement. It's blunt, and just cutthroat like all great folk rage songs, and while it's lyrics, might seem simplistic on first glance, it really does tear down basically every female stereotypes and when she says won't be caught dead working for some man, you know damn well this one means it. This is the feminist that scares the feminists, and you get that and more from "Not a Pretty Girl". I often joke that musically I got stoned at Lilith Fair and never really came home. That's not true, but if it did, 2-1 that it was probably her joint. Radical, political, everything that truly defines Lilith fair can be summed up in Ani.

Now, most of these other artists, I'm already huge fans of and are generally the artists I think of as the best of this time (Hell, I think of them as the best now too). This one, however.... Well, it's not that she's bad, she's not, and she's definitely one of the Lilith Fair regulars, but I gotta admit, she's not a name I think about when listing off the great artists of this era. She only has the one hit, but oh man, is this a great hit.

3. "Bitch"-Meredith Brooks



One of the few people who toured all three years of Lilith Fair, it's not surprise that Meredith Brooks's "Bitch" is easily one of the era biggest and most remembered hits. Remember, this wasn't a time where there were many brazenly titled songs on the radio, but "Bitch" was just too catchy and too powerful to ignore. Brooks is a great guitar player, and it's unfortunate that this punk rocker is probably the era's biggest one-hit wonder, she's way more talented that that, but this is also easily her best song. Both sexual and abrasive, and filled with everything from sardonic rage to double entendres, ("I'm a goddess on my knees...") I don't care if you're a girl or a guy, when "Bitch" comes on the radio, you're blasting it up and singing along.

Now, for probably the biggest artist of the era and a perennial Lilith Fair leader,-, oh enough, stalling, Hit It!

2. "All I Wanna Do"-Sheryl Crow



Believe it or not, this was actually the third single off of Sheryl Crow's debut album, "Tuesday Night Music Club", after "Run, Baby, Run" and "Leaving Las Vegas", which, in hindsight is just-, how did realize how catchy this is? This broke out, right as grunge was on the way out, and after all that depressing downboat rock, this was a literal breath of fresh air on the radio. She's probably got better songs admittedly, like "Strong Enough", or "There Goes the Neighborhood", and frankly I love much of her post Lilith Fair stuff like "Soak Up the Sun" even more, but man this song is just awesomely catchy. And it's so strange, a song with seemingly improvised spoken word lyrics, except for the chorus, and it literally seems to be nothing but describing an empty bar that she's hanging out at. According to Crow, she was pretty drunk when she wrote this, but how many songs are this good at setting up tone and scene through lyrics? Lyrically, it's a song that should be spluttered out of a bar juke box, but it's a song that seems more at home strangely, just walking down the street. It's probably the last song she wanted for a signature song, but it didn't take long for us to realize how talented this former elementary school teacher is. This a song that some might try to recreate, but nobody does it this well.

And now, drumroll: 
(Drumroll)

 #1 SONG FROM THE LILITH FAIR ERA IS

(Drumroll ends)

Huh, for all these amazing songs and artists, you know strangely, the one thing you didn't have was a song, about being really angry at a man? Just you know. Not really, you didn't get a song about a girl raging and being angry about a guy? Well, so much for that stereotype. (Sly smile) Yeah, like you didn't know it was gonna be number one.

#1. "You Oughta Know"-Alanis Morissette



Of course, this is number one, what the hell else could be? Even if I didn't think it was, I'm too scared to put anything else number one. Yeah, Alanis Morissette didn't do Lilith Fair, 'cause she was just too big at the time, as "Jagged Little Pill", exploded over the world, and the song Alex Forrest would sing in the bathtub, if she had gotten out of it alive (Sorry for spoiling "Fatal Attraction" for any of you), "You Oughta Know", took what was clearly a personal experience and then, well, just fucking raged it, and forever reminded us, well, mostly for me, it just taught me never to piss off a songwriter. Yikes. For everybody else, this became an anthem and a call to arms for anybody who's ever been fucked over. It's raw, beautiful, violent and brilliant and without it, who knows whether there'd be so many other female singer songwriters to break out at that point. This made her the biggest star alive and she'll probably never live it down, but who'd want to. Well, except Dave Coulier, especially if you do the math, but-eh, well, I think he and a lot of people learned their lesson after this. "You Oughta Know" is the number one song of the Lilith Fair Era.

Oh, on top of some of the other songs mentioned throughout, here's a few others that missed the cut for one reason or another, in no particular order, seriously, this was a very difficult list to make:

"Don't Speak"-No Doubt"
"Goodbye Earl"-Dixie Chicks
"Doll Parts"-Hole
"Waterfalls"-TLC
"Get Ur Freak On"-Missy Elliot
"Here With Me"-Dido
"Undressed (This is Love)"-PJ Harvey
"I'm Only Happy When It Rains"-Garbage
"Angels Would Fall"-Melissa Etheridge
"It's Oh So Quiet"-Bjork
"Torn"-Nathalie Imbruglia
"Wise Up"-Aimee Mann
"Save Me"-Aimee Mann
"Conflake Girl"-Tori Amos
"I'm the Only One"-Melissa Etheridge
"Turn Off the Light"-Nelly Furtado
"I Don't Want to Wait"-Paula Cole
"Stay"-Lisa Loeb


Saturday, August 15, 2015

EVEN MORE SPORADIC RANDOM THOUGHTS ON LIVING WITHOUT THE INTERNET! (BANG HEAD ON WALL, BANG HEAD ON WALL, BANG HEAD ON WALL) Owwww!

(July 2nd, 2015)
Okay, that was fun for a minute, hopefully my computer will be back up and running soon, I won't have to do any more of these Sporadic Random Thoughts... and I should be back to my regular blogs and everything very soon.

(Today, Kinison-like scream)
FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fucking great, now I gotta start writing these fucking things down again. It hurts my hand writing on pen and paper anymore. On top of my general terrible handwriting. Ugh-Ah! What's happening in the entertainment world anyway? Anything I can comment on?



Oh, now I just wanna cry. So, we're in a post-Jon Stewart world, officially. I wanna cry; I am gonna cry, this is just sad. He was/is the best of all-time! Better than Letterman and yes, I'll say it, better than Carson even! What else is there?

I'm not one to typically take Hulk Hogan's side, and yes, what he said was abhorent, but- he said it, eight years ago, on a sex tape with his best friend's wife, that his best friend was secretly taping him, and or that one statement, he's all but erased from the WWE's history, and stranger than that, he's apparently still relevant enough that this made the Nightly News? This hurts my head honestly.

Great, now I gotta remember all those quips I forgot to write down for the last month, that I would normally forget to tweet even when I did have a working computer, UGH!

"The Wire" is overrated! I'm trying, it's good, I'm finally getting around to it, but-eh, it's a good cop show, it's not the greatest thing of all-time.

Dear Teen Choice Awards,
What's teenager-dom about a surfboard as your award? No, like, seriously, I don't get it; I never got it. Are these teenagers Frankie & Annette? I don'w know what random whatever should represent the Teen Choice Awards (Not that you should exist to begin with but...) How about a skateboard, Tony Hawk was the shit when I was young and as far as I can tell, he still is. Or how about a snowboard, that would be better; that seems popular and cool still. I know there's some Kelly Slater fans out there, but even 15 years ago and living relatively close to an Ocean, I don't remember teenagers really into surfing, maybe I missed it, sure, but even if I did, shouldn't you have changed it by now?

I know with Emmy season coming up I should catch up on other shows but all I ever feel like watching are Channel Awesome/Chez Apocalypse reviews, "Project Runway", and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver".

Hey, remember that episode of "The Simpsons" where, I think it's Homer's brother that invents that machine that allows people to understand what a baby is saying? Yeah, why don't they use that. It was successful, it worked, that episode was what, 25 seasons ago, and still, Maggie doesn't talk. Did I miss an episode or something?

Oh, Jesus Fuck, can we stop all this goddamn rebooting of old TV shows? "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", really? Good lord, has any of these reboots even worked once, btw? And no, I 'm not counting "Hawaii Five-O" or "The Odd Couple", like really?

What, "Frozen" is related to "Tarzan"?! and all the Disney movies are in some ways related to each other in a multiple universe!? I DON'T CARE! Holy God, can we stop with this? Isn't it bad enough that all of television is stuck in Tommy Westphall's mind, these multi-universe theories is just, ugh. How about enjoying something for what it is anymore and not fan-fic it into everything else, God, what-the-hell's with this obsession?

And now, they're bringing back "Xena: Warrior Princess", it's like every other day, something coming back. Didn't I write a blog on how Nostalgia sucks?! Yeah, I did, didn't I? Have you guys read it? Apparently not.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2015/04/is-nostalgia-good.html

Ariel Winter, the mousy, smart daughter on "Modern Family" is having a breast reduction. She's 17. Um, she's going down from an F to a D. Hmm. Well, that's her choice, but I think breasts keep growing 'til your mid-twenties at least, and it can be troubling for somebody to get breast reduction surgery who's still growing..., but then they'd get bigger and she'd probably hate that more. Alright, whatever, the Emmys should start recognizing the kid actors on that show, they're just as good as the adults sometimes.

Oh, IMDB does a Top 250 TV LIST?! Ugh, let me guess, "The West Wing" is way too low, yup #83, and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer is like in the Top Ten or something...Wait, no! Holy shit, it didn't make it. Cool, "Firefly", is #15 though. (Frustrated growl) One more reason why IMDB lists are unreliable and stupid.

Well, nothing else going on really, but at least I got the Roku back, and NFL Roku channel has some Top Ten and old classic great games on now, this'll be a fun weekend to prepare for football season. Alright!

NFL ROKU CHANNEL is OFF while we reboot.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK!

Anything else going on before I embarrass myself by posting this? Hmm,  I better check twitter, you never know what's on there. Hmm, let's see what Kyle Kallgren of "Brows Held High"'s posting about, he's usually got something interesting...

Reminder that the point of PBS programming was to help poorer kids keep up to richer kids. PBS to HBO defeats that:

Wait, what-the-hell is he...-WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is-, this is a joke right? This is a prank, "Sesame Street" isn't moving to HBO, it's just something Jimmy Kimmel did, isn't it? Yeah, I'll go on IMDB and there will be nothing about "Sesame Street" moving to HBO, except for the ten articles from different sources announcing that "Sesame...- ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME! I HAVE TO GET HBO, or HBOGO now for the future of children to watch "SESAME STREET"! Okay, that's it, that's the last straw! We all sat quietly when "Looney Tunes" stopped airing on basic, when "The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show" was canceled, I screamed and was the ONLY ONE and goddamn, because of that, a whole generation grew up thinking that "Pokemon" was good. What now, huh? What now?! Congratulations, you just loss Big Bird and Oscar and Elmo and Snuffleupagus to fucking HBO! And I know, HBO, is a good place for them, hypothetically, I know HBO will keep "Sesame Street", "Sesame Street" and not fuck up anything else about it, but holy mother of fucking God, "Sesame Street" is no longer on PBS! How did I not hear about this! Why am I only finding out now about this atrocity...!


AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! WHEN THE HELL AM I GONNA GET MY FUCKING COMPUTER FIXED! AGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AGH!!!!!!!!!!
AGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, see folks, this is what happens when you don't pledge money to your local PBS station, happy now? No more fucking "Sesame Street". Well, okay, actually there is still "Sesame Street" in some form and episodes will eventually be able to air on PBS, but still, support your PBS stations, motherfuckers!

I'm donating right now...-, except I'm broke and can't even afford to fix my computer.... FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKK!





Thursday, August 13, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "LEAP YEAR (aka ANO BISIESTO)"

LEAP YEAR (aka ANO BISIESTO) (2011)

Director: Michael Rowe
Screenplay: Michael Rowe & Lucia Carreras



I have to confess that there are certainly aspects of "Leap Year (aka Ano Bisiesto)" that I'm inherently prone to appreciating, not the least of which is that it's easily the best erotic thriller of the decade so far, it doesn't seem like it would be though. After a beginning scene in a supermarket the movie takes place entirely in Laura's (Monica Del Carmen) apartment, or at least from Laura's apartment. And what a startlingly lonely and quiet place and life she has. She basically eats ramen or something similarly simple to make. There's no sound in the apartment, it's infested with ants and bugs that she burns sometimes with her cigarettes for amusement. She also stares out the window at her neighbors and masturbates to a couple, who are just, well, doing nothing mostly, just existing and being with/in love with each other, sitting on a chair or a bed watching TV. Is this just a mysterious character who's introverted to the point where she desires even the illusion of human contact? Well, maybe, but she's not that introverted, in fact, she often gets dressed up, goes out and comes home with a guy to fuck, even though she's not particularly attractive. But, here's the thing, when you're alone mostly, away from your family, or anyone really, you end up diving deep into your innermost painful, tragic and even sexual thoughts and desires.I think it's fair to say that the movie is about this character, going through those desires, although who knows what's going through her mind either.

She's apparently a reporter, although I can't imagine she's that good of one, she's fired pretty early in the movie and no wonder, she barely goes anywhere. It's February, and between random fucks, the most menial of banal everyday tasks and occasionally seeing her brothers when they come into town, she has a calendar the days 'til February 29th. Why? Well, eventually we find out it's the anniversary of her father's death, but we don't learn much more than that. In fact, part of why the movie works so well is because we ultimately learn very little about her. She's one of the more mysterious characters in recent cinema. It's the debut feature from Michael Rowe, who's actually an Austrian-born director who lives in Mexico, and there's definitely a European tone to the film. The movie has been compared to "Last Tango in Paris", and that's a good comparison, but Laura actually reminded me Juliette Binoche's character in Kieslowski's "Blue", a mysterious character who goes through a tragedy and then seems to disassociate herself from the rest of the world. We don't learn much about Laura, although occasionally we get insinuations at the corner of the screens.

She eventually brings home one guy, Arturo (Gustavo Sanchez Parro) who is aggressively sexual enough for her and she then becomes his submissive. Basically, you could read the movie as a woman who waits for somebody to come home and fuck her all day, and that's basically what she's doing and the darker and more violent and sexual, the more enthralled she becomes. Yes, this movie is about a sadomasochistic relationship, sorta. It's sexual, and this is a movie that involves sexual acts with rope, spankings, piss, and even knives and as the relationship continues and the closer to February 29th it becomes, the sex becomes more and more violent. "Leap Year" isn't as erotic as it is striking and mysterious. It dives not into the mental mindstate of somebody who ventures into these sexual extremes, but the emotional personal extremes that one is going through them. Sex is used for Laura as a way to feel anything, other than, basically whatever she was already feeling. It doesn't give up anything more in depth, it doesn't even allow us to get into more of our protagonist, it's just an examination of that. In my original review, I wrote that few movies give us so little and keep us so utterly fascinated and yet, that helps the movie work on so many levels.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/08/movie-reviews-40-carnage-puncture-house.html

Saturday, August 8, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "AU REVOIR, LES ENFANTS"

AU REVOIR, LES ENFANTS (1987)


Director/Screenplay: Louis Malle



With each viewing of Louis Malle’s most personal film, “Au Revoir, Les Enfants,” (“Goodbye, Children”) I find myself more moved by it. Based on his own personal experience at a Catholic school in France in 1944, Louis Malle's last French language film is probably one of the last films people mention when they think of a Holocaust film, but they should bring it up more often. Malle's not a director known for being, bold in his film choices. Actually, he's more quiet, a minimalist in structure, more willing to just show events play out as naturally as possible. I've written Canon entries on "Atlantic City", and "My Dinner with Andre", the latter literally taking place, entirely in a restaurant and was just a conversation between two characters. "Au Revoir...", which translates to "Goodbye, Children", is a small tale, about how he accidentally turned in his best friend to the Nazis, for being Jewish. 

A new student Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejto), has arrived at the school after Christmas. As pertaining with schoolyard tradition he is quickly made into a target for ridicule by the other students, including Julien (Gaspard Manesse). In French movies, it never fails to see schoolyard kids all seem to be particularly mean and cruel to each other, which befuddles me compared to my memories of elementary school, where I always tried to resist getting anywhere near trouble, but even so, Julien, who also participates in ridiculing Jean ends up becoming fast friends with him. We know immediately that Jean is a Jewish kid who the priests are hiding in the Catholic school to protect him from the Nazis, but Julien doesn’t know this at first. He doesn’t even really know for sure what a Jew is. When one student tells him that they killed Jesus, Julien quickly points out that the Romans killed Jesus. But, slowly but surely, he begins to suspect clues, like how the priest skips Jean’s wafer during mass, or how Jean seems to be a superior pianist compared to Julien who continually misses notes to the detriment of his piano teacher (Irene Jacob, from “Red,” and “The Double Life of Veronique”). He than finds a book in Jean’s locker which has the name “Kippelstein,” written in it. He may not completely know why, but intuitively, he realizes that it’s crucial to protect his friend’s identity. The only real scene of racism that Julien witnesses is in a French restaurant where a longtime customer, an old man, is attacked by French fascists, and ironically, it’s the German officers at another table that tells the French to leave and let the old man finish eating his dinner. Another incident involves German officers finding both Jean and Julien stuck in the woods late at night, and they give them food and blankets before taking them back to the school. I don’t think he wants to show that the Nazis were in fact human beings who simply followed a blind philosophy and got caught up in a bigger net somehow, ‘cause they still come off as frightening, but Malle gives some of the officers these certain human traits that were probably more common than anybody, including the Germans would probably like to admit to. Finally however, their’s a raid on the school, and in one second and one false move, literally, Julien makes a mistake. It’s so small, we aren’t even sure if he even realizes just what he had done.

When I first saw the movie in a French Film class, many of the students in the class, myself included didn’t quite realize the gravity of it all, despite Louis Malle’s own words at the end informing us that three students who were hiding died in concentration camps, and the priest was arrested and tortured and died weeks after the war. It took me until the bus ride back to think it through a bit more. Now on subsequent viewings, I find myself brought to tears, not because I had similar experiences, and not because of what happens in the film, but rather, it’s the gut-wrenching guilt and pain one suffers after making a mistake and having to live with it. Sure, he didn't, couldn't realize completely what he was doing back then, but that just makes it more tragic. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

MOVIE RATINGS #2 (Including 2 MOVIE REVIEWS):"MAPS TO THE STARS", "MOMMY", "WILD", "THE DUFF", "WELCOME TO ME", "THE VOICES", "BLACK SEA", "BALLET 422", "THE IMMIGRANT", "20,000 DAYS ON EARTH", "PADDINGTON", "TAMMY", "LISTEN UP PHILIP", "LIFE OF CRIME", "WINTER'S TALE", ""TO BE TAKEI", "ART AND CRAFT", "I AM DIVINE", "PELICAN DREAMS", "INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED", and "VIOLA"!

(Frustrated Sigh)

Well, obviously, I was hoping that I wouldn't have to resort to my "Movie Ratings" format, to briefly explain what I think about the films I've been watching, but unfortunately, I do seem to be having to go through this again. My computer is still in the shop, well, metaphorically. (I'll level here, we haven't had the money to put the computer in the shop, and besides that, the local place that fixes computers just closed, we're working on it, but,...-, well, that is the why my work has a lot of "(frustrated sighs)" in it lately, when describing my current situations.) So, until that can be improved, which I hope will be shortly, I really don't have the ability to write proper reviews of the many, many, (Frustrated sigh) many films, that I've watched lately. Most of the time. I still did manage to write a couple reviews this time for the films, "Maps to the Stars" and "Mommy" so they're at the top, the rest however, I wasn't able to write full reviews, so, I'll writeW a sentence or two about each of these films, except for the two mentioned above, but mostly these are my MOVIE RATINGS for most of the recent releases I've seen. Just, my ratings, on the traditional 5 STARS ratings scales that I imply, so.... (flubs lips)

Alright, enough of me, let's get to this week, two, MOVIE REVIEWS!!!!! And, the unfortunate, dozen or two, movie ratings. (You get a lot more time to watch and not enough to write when you're computer/internet is out.)


MAPS TO THE STARS (2014) Director: David Cronenberg

✰✰✰



Well, this film was fucking weird. Not the first time I or anybody has said that about a Cronenberg film, but-eh, I'm at a bit of a loss on this one. Again, not the first time someone's said that but-eh, well...- Let's just see if I can kinda decipher this. Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) is back in L.A. after spending years in Jupiter, Florida. Once in Hollywood, she befriends and starts dating her limo driver Jerome (Robert Pattinson) an actor/writer and gets a job as a P.A. for Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) who's an older 2nd generation actress that's trying to get a role playing essentially her mother in a remake of one of her older film, so, she's doing a Carrie Fisher...-? type character-, ah, yeah, she has a cameo, so she's doing Carrie Fisher. Her "therapist" which is really, her talking while getting a massage in her underwear, is Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) who's some kind of Tony Robbins life guru or whatever. His son Benji (Evan Bird) is an actor who's 13, already been through rehab and is a bit of an asshole, even to his fans, one he keeps seeing everywhere after she passes away, Kammy (Klara Glasco) something that turns out to be similar to a problem Havana has, seeing her dead mother Clarice Taggart (Sarah Gadon). She passed away in a fire which is ironic since she and Benji have the same agent and Agatha is disfigured from a fire in the past. Whew! I'm making this sound like "Magnolia" the way everything a little bit interconnected and skewers Hollywood. It does do that by the way. Yeah, this is in some way a comedy. Very dark comedy. Julianne Moore won Best Actress at Cannes for this film and she definitely has the most interesting performances. I think I could argue it as more of a Supporting Role than a lead as the movie is really about Agatha and her connection with the Weiss family as we wonder why her arrival causes them so much stress, especially the mother played by Olivia Williams, although I have a sneaky suspicion who should've been in that role. (I won't give it away who that is 'cause it would give away a huge plotpoint but her initials are J.C.) Somewhere between David Lynch, Atom Egoyan and Emily Brontes is "Maps to the Stars" and I still don't know what to make of it. I guess I'm gonna recommend it 'cause it's just so out there that it needs for others to interpret. I think my ultimate hangup is that I'm just not sure what it's really skewering. It's making fun of a Hollywood type or two but other than that I'm not completely sure why this film was set in Hollywood. It's also just strange and dark in general, but the story can kinda take place anywhere I can see like, the Coen brothers doing this movie in Texas and having make just as much sense. Compare it to something like "Birdman..." which could only take place in the entertainment world, this feels like it's Hollywood-adjacent and not really Hollywood.


MOMMY (2014) Director: Xavier Dolan

✰✰✰✰✰




I've given one negative review after another to Xavier Dolan's films, but it was always with the understanding that I was grading him on a curve, 'cause I new eventually, this insanely young talented kid, was at some point gonna come up with something that was really special. Sure, he's still obviously sorting out his mommy issues, quite literally in this film, but dammit, it's a near emotional masterpiece. The "Mommy" is Diane (Anne Dorval) a single mother, in, for some reason a fictitious Canada, and no, I'm not saying that, that's the warning in the film's beginning, and she's not quite capable of being a mother, in general, and she's definitely not capable of controlling her ADHD son Steve (Antione Olivier-Pilon), who's in and out of Juvenile Hall, and this time, he has set fire to the cafeteria and now Juvenile Hall won't take him so he's back with Diane. They're both tumultuous creatures, both uneducated, both not really sure how to relate to each other and the outside world and while Steve says he's a good boy, it's easy to see why such a declaration could be seen as disingenuous. They soon befriend a shy neighbor, Kyla (Suzanne Clement) a former teacher who's on sabbatical because of a sudden stutter she can't get rid of. She begins to help out and soon things get a little better. Not much, but a little. Dolan does something interesting with the frame, by putting enclosing bars on the widescreen, almost to a square screen size that's often smaller than a traditional television screen, and it represents a closing in, claustrophobic quality to Diane and Steve's lives. Sometimes, the screen is widened when things starts to seem good, something Steve even pushes the screen wide, a sense of freedom, happiness? It's an interesting device to use the widescreen this way, but it forces you to watch what are sometimes very troubling characters and behaviors. Both Steve and Diane are calmed, if not energize by the presence of Kyla, giving both of them reason and inspiration to get ahead, the inspiration, but not necessarily the capability, even with the tools. "Mommy" is a tough film to watch, but an engrossing film. There's one scene that could've been better, a scene involving a lawyer that Diane's trying to hire for Steve and this involves a disastrous idea on all counts of the three of them going to a karaoke bar. It's a bad choice for all three characters, each of whom having countering motives and emotions that neither of them can fight through. It's a minor complaint though and I guess I'm supposed to overlook most of the logical anyway since this is a fictitious world and I guess ergo, a fictitious story. I guess it's not the greatest reasoning behind letting Dolan off his hook, I still think he's got better films in him, but he's maturing fast. "Mommy" won the Jury Prize at Cannes, making him the youngest filmmaker to ever win the award, ironically, he tied with the oldest to ever win, Jean-Luc Godard for his "Goodbye to Language 3D". Dorval, Olivier-Pilon and Clement each give some amazing performances and the movie itself, shows an assured young filmmaker, finally maturing into his talents, while still keeping his most distinctive voice. He's finally placing himself, not just as one of the best young filmmakers around, but one of the best filmmakers around, period.


WILD (2014) Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

5 STARS



Boy, I wish I had time to write a complete review of "Wild". This really was a special film. I wasn't a big fan of Vallee's previous film, "Dallas Buyers Club", 'cause I mostly felt that film seemed to mainly be a by-the-book biopic to me, structurally at least, but "Wild", was a more interesting personal journey. Reese Witherspoon is Cheryl Strayed, who's determined to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She's never done anything that exhausting before, and the majority of her adult life involved being a drug and sex addict. Even her name, she gave to herself after her divorce, symbolizing she did to their marriage. There is the personal journal into oneself, as you'd expect with this kind of film, but it's done unbelievably well here, the Nick Hornby script helped this movie a lot, as well as Witherspoon's performance, leading a stand-out all-star cast, plus the amazing directing. This movie's first scene alone is quite unbelievable alone. Great film, and I got to learn what a zipless fuck is.


THE DUFF (2015) Director: Ari Sandel

3 1/2 STARS



I'm sure I must've missed a lot of the high school abbreviations over the years...- Actually, no I didn't, this is a new phenomenon, either that or my high school, just didn't have this shit, but apparently a D.U.F.F., is a "Designated Ugly Fat Friend", the friend that the really hot girls have in order to make them look good. Well, I guess if the G.B.F.'s can get their own movie, the why not a "The DUFF"? And, while the DUFF, in the movie, an artistic girl, Bianca (Mae Whitman) is not that fat or ugly, but she fits that Molly Ringwald average high school girl mold as she tries to escape her friends and spot in the high school chain and become something, other than a DUFF. I know there's reasons to hate this movie, but it's effective and worked for me. It's definitely better than most of the other high school movies lately.


WELCOME TO ME (2015) Director: Shira Piven

3 STARS



This strange role and film must've been written for Kristen Wiig. Nobody would dare walk a tightrope from uncomfortably disturbing and absurdist humor than her and this strange fantasy fulfillment movie about a bipolar, disconnected young girl, Alice (Wiig) who wins the lottery and decides to spend the money to buy her own local talk show, called "Welcome to Me", where she talks about, herself. Basically, she's buying an hour of TV, for, ... well, you have to see it to believe it to be completely frank. This is a girl who's videotaped every episode of Oprah, and now she thinks she can do what she does. It's a vanity project, put into the hands of somebody, who, for all intensive purposes, shouldn't have that kind of money and power. It's a unique and strange comedy, and frankly just a good idea. I'm recommending "Welcome to Me", just on sheer originally and what-the-fuckness.


THE VOICES (2015) Director: Marjane Satrapi

3 STARS



This is the first film I've seen from Marjane Satrapi since her amazing, "Persepolis", and I don't know what I expected, but this wasn't it, necessarily. This is a dark, dark comedy, about a schizophrenic serial killer, who struggles to, well, not kill anyone. He's caught the eye of a couple of co-workers, Fiona and Lisa (Gemma Arteron and Anna Kendrick), and he tries to go out with both of them at certain points, but with him continuing to not take his pills, the voices of the animals and everything else keep getting to him. Something I didn't realize until reading the credits is that Reynolds does all the voices in "The Voices" that he hears, all incredibly well I might add, as he's constantly arguing with his dog, cat, moose and the two women about whether he take the happier path of living without the pills, even if a circumstance is an occasional murder, or continue a doldrum solitary existence without them. It's a weird movie and it does end with a musical number. There's some risky comedies so far in 2015, this might be the riskiest, but it's definitely good. Strange, but good and Reynolds deserves a lot of credit, this is practically a one-man show to some extent.


BLACK SEA (2015) Director: Kevin MacDonald

3 STARS



This is a bit of a classic treasure hunt film, a la, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" kind of movie, mixed with a classic submarine tale. It's an interesting combination, of two classic kinds of films, and it's done well enough to recommend. Not much more than that, but good director, good acting, good filmmaking, solid film. Solid, not special.


BALLET 422 (2015) Director: Jody Lee Lipes

1 STAR



Ugh, this movie annoyed me the more I thought about it. I really wanted to like "Ballet 422", I've enjoyed movies about ballet over the year, and especially these behind the scenes movies, like "Black Swan", or the underrated Robert Altman film "The Company". This movie documents Justin Peck's, a dancer/choreographer of the New York ballet, and the first current dancer to be allowed to choreograph an original ballet for the production. What does that entail? Well, not much to be honest. We see, a little of the technical, sometimes the real technical, like how they dye the costumes using the washer, that's actually one of the most interesting parts of the movie unfortunately. At barely 75 minutes or so, we basically get a behind-the-scenes, and not much of the actual ballet. That could be interesting in of itself, but this wasn't captivating, or really taught me much about how to put on a ballet production. I feel more cheated out of this film than any film I've seen in a while.


THE IMMIGRANT (2014) Director: James Gray

4 STARS



"The Immigrant", first of all, looks amazing. It's got some of the best cinematography, production design, costumes, all the great technical stuff that you'd think the Academy Awards would've soaked up, and they easily could've. Getting a limited U.S. theatrical run before getting wide-exposure on Netflix, the movie tells of a Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard) who is rejected by her family after news of her dubious activities on the boat over are found out, and has to take a job as a performer/prostitute in an underground burlesque show. She then gets caught up in a love triangle, with two brothers, her manager/pimp, Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) and his magician brother, Emil (Jeremy Renner). I wasn't overly fond of James Gray previous feature, "Two Lovers", more famous now for being the movie that Phoenix partially sabotaged when he did his "rap career" gimmick, but there's something more over-arching and luscious about "The Immigrant". Great performances help too, this movie feels like one of those truly sad amazing immigrant tales that feels both real and novelistic. It's heartbreaking sad, but I mostly enjoyed it.


20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (2014) Directors: Iain Forsythe & Jane Pollard

3 1/2 STARS



I usually don't buy into the theory that the quality of a documentary is determined mainly by your interest in the subject, in fact, that's usually the last thing I find that matters, but lately, I gotta admit, it does seem that way sometimes. Honestly, while I've heard of Nick Cave, I really don't know much about him or his work, including his music, although from what I heard in "20,000 Days on Earth", I liked. Other than that though, I don't really know much more than the fact that I enjoyed watching the film enough to recommend it. It's mainly Cave and a few of his friends and contemporaries talking, but it was interesting to me. Whether that's interesting to you, I don't know, but it was good enough for me;


PADDINGTON (2014) Director: Paul King

3 1/2 STARS



I've always had a bit of a soft spot for "Paddington". He was more of a cult figure in America than in England where the talking bear from Darkest Peru, named after the railway station that the Browns found him at, where he's still remembered as a iconic, beloved childhood character. I've never thought that a film version would ever really work, I mean, no matter how you cut it, it's a bear, and only a bear talking and living with humans and he's never been a particularly exciting story at that. That said, I enjoyed "Paddington". Maybe it's mostly nostalgia, but it's a nice little story once you accept that this is a world where there are talking bears from Darkest Peru making their way through London. It got "Paddington", about as right as any film could've.


TAMMY (2014) Director: Ben Falcone

2 1/2 STARS



I think some were a little too critical of "Tammy" to be honest. I heard a lot of bashing of this Melissa McCarthy vehicle written by her and her husband Ben Falcone, who directed the film. She's not bad in it. I'm not recommending although I might have if the tone could've been a little more set. It's a bit schizophrenic on whether it wants to treat it's story seriously or for comedy. It's not bad, to that extent, it's a nice story about a daughter and grandmother on the road, but it just sorta fizzles out. I think I would've liked it if it didn't go for such obvious laughs and instead played itself more realistically. Can't quite recommend it, but can't hate it either, it was a first attempt at writing by some talented people, didn't work, the next one could be better.


LISTEN UP PHILIP (2014) Director: Alex Ross Perry

3 STARS



"Listen Up Philip" I most remember hearing about because they were a favorite of the Muriel Awards, and I am much more on the fence on it. Shot with a handheld style that's part Cassavettes and part Mumblecore, the film's narrated by Eric Bogosian and details the story of Philip (Jason Schwartzman) an egotistical successful novelist, who befriend Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) another egotistical novelist, but one with much more acclaim. There's also the subplot, and yeah, it kinda is a subplot really, of Philip's girlfriend, Ashley (Elisabeth Moss) a successful photographer, who for some reason is still beholden to Philip, or maybe it's the other way around, even after they've broken up multiple times over. Moss gives an amazing performance, partly because the camera, is right up to her face, more proof about what Bergman said about the close-up is right. I'm not the sure the movie completely works, it's certainly about unlikeable characters and they don't become likeable at all, so don't think that's happening, but I think I'm recommending it for the performances more than anything else. They do make us buy into these characters, however much I'd rather not be bought into them.


LIFE OF CRIME (2014) Director: Daniel Schechter

3 1/2 STARS



This film is actually based on Elmore Leonard's novel "The Switch", but the title was changed because Jennifer Aniston, was in a previous film called "The Switch", this movie is infinitely times better than that one btw. Directed by Daniel Schechter, who did the very good indy comedy "Supporting Characters", this is a nice little tale of a kidnapping and ransom gone wrong. Frank's (Tim Robbins) wife, Mickey (Aniston) is kidnapped, while he's on a business trip with his mistress, Melanie (Isla Fisher),and things go, comically wrong, as it becomes apparent that he is preparing to divorce Mickey and mary Melanie, so the kidnapping is little more than an inconvenience to him. If this sorta sounds familiar, they tried making this movie once back in the '80s, but the idea was scrapped after it was deemed too similar to another film, the Zucker, Abrams, Zucker team's "Ruthless People". I can see the similarities, ("Ruthless People" is actually one of my personal favorite films) but this is done differently. It's a good all-around cast, funny, smart, well-acted, well-made, and it's a good story from one of the best modern storytellers, especially when it comes to such classic pulp ideas. Not a great movie but I can't imagine this film not being an enjoyable watch. Might be a better film to come across than seek out, but still, definitely a fun movie.


WINTER'S TALE (2014) Director: Akiva Goldsman

1 STAR



Apparently this was adapted from a famous novel eh, (unknowing scoff), I don't know quite what to make of that, all I really remember about this through this boring, non-sensical, time-traveling, mess of a, whatever the fuck it was, was that I was glad when it was finally over. Nothing much to mention with this one, it was garbage.


TO BE TAKEI (2014) Jennifer M. Kroot

4 STARS



I think I was a bit spoiled by "To Be Takei", because I actually already knew, just how awesome a guy George Takei is to begin with. That iconic voice, a leading symbol of the LBGT community, a man who basically planned out and got built the L.A. Subway system (Yeah, seriously, he's awesome), and of course, just him as the iconic Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek". George Takei is a great guy who's lived a great life, from the Japanese Interment Camps to today. I knew most of this already, so not much was truly new to me, but I enjoyed the film.


ART AND CRAFT (2014) Directors: Sam Cullen & Jennifer Grausman; Co-Director: Mark Becker

2 1/2 STARS



It's definitely an interesting story. Mark Landis is one of the most successful of art forgers and his story, a man who posed as a philanthropist that donated his forgeries instead of selling them is pretty unique, but I don't think it was enough to make a successful documentary. There's been a bit of a trend lately towards the respectability of art forgers, and I can kinda understand that. I'm a bit, hmm, skeptical of it personally, although better films have made a good argument, like Orson Welles's "F for Fake" most famously. That said, it's really difficult to try and hang around Landis for any length of time. This might've been better as a short film, while I respect the talent, and deride his actions and behaviors, I mostly just found him to be a boring subject for a documentary, especially one that we, essentially just follow around.


I AM DIVINE (2014) Director: Jeffrey Schwartz

4 STARS



I guess in certain circles Divine was a giant movie star. I haven't seen all of John Waters's filmography, but I'm certainly familiar with his work and how he his muse, the drag queen Divine, born Harris Milstead, turned into a star through such films as the infamous "Pink Flamingos" and "Hairspray". I remember vaguely Divine, working on "Married... with Children" before her passing. She had actually started getting cast in many male roles late in life, despite only playing females in Waters's films and becoming a stage icon on the coasts. She had a big life and I think we probably aren't aware of just how talented she was or how big she could've been. It's nice to be reminded about her I guess and this is a pretty good film to do that.


PELICAN DREAMS (2014) Director: Judy Irving

3 STARS



I enjoyed Judy Irving's last documentary "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill", and "Pelican Dreams" is on a similar plane. It follows the days of a pelican, after it was arrested for stopping traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, and see it as it recovers and eventually is released back into the wild. It also looks at the plight of the pelicans in general. It's not as engrossing as I think it was trying to, emotionally at least, but it's still a compelling documentary.


INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED (2013) Director: Eugenio Derbez

1 STAR



Holy hell, this film was awful. Manipulative, contrite tale of unexpected fatherhood. Director Eugenio Derbez, who I'm presuming is a bit of a star in Mexico, wrote and directed this film and stars at Valentine, a local playboy who gets a baby dropped off on his doorstep one day. Determined to find the mother in California, he crosses the border with the kid, and becomes a stuntman to make money while searching for the mother and taking care of Maggie (Loreto Peralta when she's 7) I won't give away how this ends, but there's a court case, there's a mysterious doctor's appointments, there's... there's a lot going on that frankly, it's just frustrating and disgusting the choices in the film. I wish I could get into this film, but just, skip it, you really don't want to bother.


VIOLA (2013) Director: Matias Pineiro

3 STARS



"Viola" is an Argentinean film that takes place behind the scenes of an all-female production of "Twelfth Night". I probably need to rewatch it to remember much else to be honest, but there wasn't much else. There's some characters, they talk, sometimes rehearsing, sometimes discussing their personal lives, there's revelations, all of it is interesting. It's not much, more of a tease this 65 movie is; I've seen some compare it to the work of Eric Rohmer, who also liked to tease, show characters talking about sex than them having it, and that is quite erotic in itself. There's not much here, but what there is, is interesting.