Sunday, February 3, 2019

CANON OF FILM: "THE PHILADELPHIA STORY"

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)

Director: George Cukor
Screenplay: Donald Ogden Stewart based on the play by Philip Barry



So, I think I've mentioned this before but, I'm not as fond of Howard Hawks as others are. You see, when the Auteur Theory Movement first came around, and this would be the Caheirs du Cinema guys, they singled out certain directors, of course, most famously Alfred Hitchcock for their distinct style. One of the other big ones they first singled out as an auteur was Howard Hawks. It's clear to see why; the more films of his you watch, the more distinctive properties, tropes, motifs, tones, that you can identify as distinctively Howard Hawks. I think it also helped that he was a pretty notorious guy for a director at the time too. Hawks was known for being athletic, he was a Junior Tennis Champion, he was an engineer, he was fascinated with racecars and airplanes and motorcycles back when both of things were still the cutting edge of modern transportation. He was a rapscallion who hung around with adventurers and made comedies and action films. He's basically looked upon in certain circles as the original man's man director. I guess you can also point to him and many of his works as a very American director as well, and something that, people like, the French cinephiles of the time might've picked up on more than us.

Now, I do love a lot of Hawks's movies, but if I'm being honest, I'm kinda uncomfortable with how masculine many of his films seem to be in this regard; not that there's anything wrong with masculinity, but the fact that that's why he's singled out and his works so positively looked upon now because of it, eh, I just wonder if perhaps that's not an influence that we should be looking at as much. For instance, why not single out a director who had just as much, if not more acclaimed and popularity from around that time, who perhaps was just as equal at singling out and focusing on more feminine aspects in film and cinema.

Now, ideally, I'd of course would like to seek out a female director for this, but tf you think there aren't enough of them now...- to me, the feminine equivalent to Howard Hawks is George Cukor. Cukor was a New York Hungarian Jew who got his start on Broadway before transitioning to the screen. He also worked on just as many different kinds of movies as Hawks, and he did for longer, directing films, shortly after coming to Hollywood after being hired as a dialogue writer at the beginning of the sound era, despite focusing mostly on comedy. He was capable of other things, like "David Copperfield", or even writing most of the dialogue for "All Quiet on the Western Front", but he would give us some classic thriller, epics, musicals, he wasn't just held-back by the limits of his stage background. Think of a movie like "Pat and Mike", one of the great Tracy/Hepburn movies, which is basically a movie that shows off Hepburn's athletic prowess. and the comedic special effects he would use to show a tennis and ball looking bigger and bigger as she gets distracted by her fiance that she always starts performing badly for. That movie almost seems like a shot at Hawks to me, telling a feminine story about such masculine activities, creating a romantic-comedy out of a character who was clearly inspired by ahead-of-their-time female athletes like Babe Diedricksen-Zaharias.

Given the chance, Cukor always leaned towards the feminine angle. He famously got fired as a director on "Gone with the Wind", (Which Hawks was an uncredited screenwriter on) for focusing too much on Scarlet O'Hara. It was a well-known secret that Cukor was gay, which means that everyone in Hollywood knew but nobody outside suspected a thing back then. That may add another layer to much of his work, especially with his films that basically seems like stories about who the main female character will marry. Of course, he made movies about women that didn't focus entirely on romance or love too, and he did some that undermined many of those expectations, like his best thriller, "Gaslight", but it's a common topic and back in the Golden Age of Cinema it was one of the few that he could make. Probably the best, funniest and most memorable film of his that's like that is "The Philadelphia Story". In some ways, it's the ultimate "Who's the girl gonna marry?"-movie.

It's also one of those movies where, if I try to describe the plot to anybody in any logical way, it's simply just not gonna make any sense in a modern world, which is part of why I decided to zone in on talking about George Cukor for most of this review, which, frankly I'll use any excuse to do that, but moreso with this film 'cause it's my favorite film of his; the one I've seen the most times and can watch again and again several times over. Yet, there's nothing en vogue about this film on the surface. I mean, it's partially confusing, who's concerned these days with the problems of the rich social elites, of Philadelphia of all places?

Okay, so it's based on Philip Barry's hit Broadway play, and it was inspired by an actual Philadelphia socialite named Helen Hope Montgomery Scott. You gotta remember that for, much of the 18th and early 19th Century, Philadelphia upper class was very much a WASPy, "The Age of Innocence"-like culture and was the dominant place for that world and the sociality. (The movie was actually remade as a musical in the '50s under the title, "High Society") So, essentially Traci Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is basically,- you can reasonably sorta think of her as-, sort of a Paris Hilton of her time? Kinda? It's not a perfect comparison, and it really seems like an odd role for Katharine Hepburn, at first glance at least.

She had made the role famous on Broadway; in fact the role was specifically written for her, but she was classified as Box Office Poison by the press at the time, so she took a huge change by forgoing a salary for the stage performance and instead bought the film rights, determined to play the role on screen. Louis B. Meyer, decided to cast two major stars opposite her, as precaution. In hindsight, this seems both ridiculous and genius. The film rejuvenated Hepburn's career and it's a movie that shows her being the object of two of the biggest stars alive. And why not cast big stars in this; this is a movie this witty over-the-top socialite screwball comedy, the fact that this movie has Cary Grant and James Stewart fighting over Katharine alone makes this a classic. On top of, of course, the amazing dialogue.

In the beginning of the film, Hepburn has just thrown out her husband, C.K. Dexter Haven. (Cary Grant, and what a name for a Cary Grant character!) Now she’s about to get married to George Kittridge (John Howard) who isn’t nearly as funny, quick-witted, or fun as her ex, but he’s rich and a very safe, reliable choice for a husband. C.K. Dexter Haven btw, is a yacht designer by trade. He's the risky choice in this world. 

Why she needs a safe, rich, husband is never properly explained considering she’s pretty well-off on her own unless we play it as though she looking for boredom. She has a history of excessive and scandalous behavior that everybody's award of. In fact, word of her latest wedding has led to two writers for Spy Magazine (James Stewart and Ruth Hussey, oh and think TMZ for the day.) to come in and cover the wedding and for reasons that are better left unexplained, all of Tracy’s family, and her ex-husband are all in her house the day before her wedding to George. As the day becomes into night, the real movie starts to evolve, or devolve maybe, and this suddenly goes from an inside-look at the lifestyles of the rich and famous to aristocrats gone wild. Or to be more precise, aristocrats gone drunk. Really drunk! 

The things that actually occur from hereon in is the stuff of the movie, so I won’t go into too much detail describing it, I think in modern upper-class lingo, we'd call these things a New York Evening. The kind where truths are revealed as nights turn into days and everybody ends up a little off-kilter and a little under-the-influence. The next morning, a barely-sober Tracy has to make a last minute-decision about her marriage, and in one of the craziest wedding sequences of all time,… well, I guess you can tell she not going to marry Kittredge, but I won’t reveal who she does actually marry. (You probably figure it’s between Stewart and Grant though) "The Philadelphia Story" is the kind of movie that we just don't make anymore, a true screwball romantic-comedy that knows how to deal with love, and all it's artifices and excesses. The film won two Oscars, one for it's screenplay and more infamously a surprise Best Actor Oscar for James Stewart, the only competitive Oscar he'd ever win. It's unfortunate, 'cause he is amazing in this movie, but it's generally accepted that he only won because of him surprisingly losing the year before for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". Stewart wasn't even planning on showing up, figuring that Charlie Chaplin was gonna win for "The Great Dictator", only to show up at the last moment after word began coming down that he might've won it. 

Mostly though, despite everything, the best part about the movie, is the dialogue. Characters are blunt to each other and everyone's got their acid tongue sharply in cheek in this film. I may be standing here on my own two hands and going crazy, but dammit this film remains hilarious even today, despite how much it even takes to fully understand how a movie like this could exist, it's still hilarious and hell; more screenwriters should study this film's dialogue and recognize it as one of the great comedies of all-time. 

And more people should remember Cukor as one of the great and most influential and important directors of the Golden Age, if not of all-time. Maybe if more critics had a more feminine perspective on auteurism...? (Shrugs)
  




Saturday, January 26, 2019

THE TOP TEN WORST FILMS OF 2017! Eh, I know, late again....

Yeah, I know, I'm late for this too. (Shrugs)

Honestly, I'm not particularly disappointed in being so late for this annual tradition. Not that there weren't any bad films this year, there definitely was, although not as many, but eh, part of it is that there wasn't much that I particularly cared enough about to truly be annoyed at their awfulness. I don't like going through the muck of the year to begin with, but this particular year, yeah, if I hadn't started the tradition, (Or had a better idea for a blogpost) I probably would've simply just shoved this list on the bottom of my Top Ten List, but also, I just don't have much visceral emotion towards these bad films this year. 

Most of them, at least among the ones that I did actually watch, which, admittedly, I don't exactly seek out films just to make sure I have films on this list, so keep that in mind, but, (Sigh) they just didn't illicit a huge amount of passion. I have a couple titles that will probably piss off some people, but as to me, I was more annoyed at the boring and pointlessness of some of these films as oppose to the outright bad. 

(Sigh) 

Anyway, yearly reminder that I slant my viewing choices towards critically-acclaimed films, I'm sure there's plenty of worst films out there that I didn't see, blah, blah, blah, blah, let's get to this so that I can start catching up on last year's films faster. 

THE TOP TEN WORST FILMS OF 2017

Number ten.

Just like my Top Ten list, I've got a few documentaries that made my Worst Ten List as well. I didn't want to, most documentaries even boring ones are usually fine, and I'd rather bash something that's more of a blockbuster, like, some bad overdone Hollywood sequels or just some pretentious surrealistic blowed up crap that I'd like to talk about instead but documentaries aren't immune from badness, and there's this movie that, really kind of annoyed me because, it really should've been good. A lot of people did indeed like it, but there was something about it that kept knawing at me, even months and months later. 

10. Step

Image result for Step film

There's a few things that bothered me about "Step", which on the surface, is fine. It follows some likable and appealling characters as they go through a successful step dancing program at a Baltimore high school, but for a movie about dancing; this movie goes into way too little detail or focus on dancing. 

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW
"Step", the acclaimed documentary from Amanda Lipitz, tells the story of the Step Team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, which is a charter school, the first all-girls one in the city that had secondary and high school education. It opened only in 2009 with only sixth graders, and a Step Team that has gone on to compete locally,... and more impressive than that, every member of that team had earned academic scholarships for college. The movie follows some of these girls from the beginning 'til there graduation.

(Sigh)


I have one question, what the hell is "Step"? Like, maybe they explained it, but the personal stories were more interesting, but- what's Wikipedia say:


"Step dance is the generic term for dance styles in which the footwork is the most important part of the dance. Limb movements and styling are either restricted or considered irrelevant."


I'm still confused, what the hell is Step dancing? I'm not a dancing expert, but isn't most dancing, the footwork the most important part? I mean, that's why it's called "Steps" when you learn it, right?


Okay, I guess, that's a misnomer, having done a little research on this, there are specific dance styles that especially focus on such things as the footwork, but-eh, I-, I don't know. I watched a few step routines on Youtube after watching this movie, and-eh, I-, I kinda think I'd rather just learn like a particular kind of step dance, like tap or clog,or riverdance even. I'm sure these girls are impressive, but I don't get it, and that's not a good thing for a dance documentary. Dancing, is always a little tricky when it comes to filming, but it's also simultaneously the artistic medium that most needs to be filmed, in order for it to be preserved. I think the stories of the few girls they focused on were interesting enough to preserve, but I kinda would've liked to have seen the dancing more honestly. At least enough to get a sense of what it is.


Anyway, the movie follows most closely, three of the young girls from the original class, Tayla, Cori and Blessin. Blessin, is the one that founded the team and also it's most devoted, vocal and high-profile member, all three of those facts have periodically gotten her into some trouble of the years, including once being kicked off the team because of failing grades. Despite this, she seems the most mature of the group, partly 'cause she's probably had to take of things on her own for much of her life as her mother suffers from a severe depression; even most of her teachers have never met or seen the mother. Cori's mother had her when she was in high school and feared the same with her, but she's turned out to be the class valedictorian in response and is trying to become a doctor and get into Johns Hopkins. Tayla's the most skilled and knowledgeable abot the dancing although her mother is a corrections officer who's particularly enthused with her work.


It's not that these aren't inspirational stories, they are, but there's something about the presentation here that doesn't feel earned. I've seen this film compared to "Hoop Dreams" for instance, eh, I can see it, but no. That movie followed characters intimately for years, and that's not a knock against "Step", this movie's not required to do that, but "Step" seems to be trying to have it both ways, or all ways. It's about the school, it's about the kids, it's about the class, it's about the step dancing...- I mean, it's all impressive and the accomplishments are quite special, but...., this doesn't quite feel like a finished film product to me. It's the first feature film from Amanda Lipitz, who's got connections to the school, although she's also a Tony-winning Broadway producer and as much as I love Broadway, it does have a way of smoothing the rough edges if you will. (I mean, the first major rap musical to capture Broadway's attention, was about one of the whitest of white American revolutionary heroes.) I kept feeling like the movie was telling me to be inspired, instead of just inspiring me, and that's where I think I draw the line. I'm torn, and maybe if it was more zoomed in and focused I'd give it a break, but ultimately I think it's too scattered.


Yeah, I think my ennui towards the movie is clear, but yeah, after thinking this through, and this is some high-level film criticism but "Step" is getting compared to "Hoop Dreams" and some other films about troubled youth, but most of those movies were organically made. They may have originally had an intended goal or idea, but they let the story grow and evolve over years and show several positive and negative sides of school, their lives, and the thing is, while you have inspirational people as the focus, the way this film struggles to tell their story, and connect it to, the huge success of this charter school, and the Step program. I mentioned the connection that the director has to the school, but it wasn't until I looked at Ignaty Vishnevetsky's review of the movie, where he mentions that her father actually founded the program, so she's got quite an insentive to show how positive the program is.

https://film.avclub.com/the-dance-team-documentary-step-is-as-feel-good-as-it-i-1798191854

That's not to say that the girls she follows aren't inspiring or that their stories aren't great, but there is clearly this biasness from the filmmakers to focus on the positivie and inspirational, in order to show the school in a positive light. None of this is inherently bad, but in this film, it is a hinderance, and none of that would be particularly worthy of such a worst list, but it's also fairly mediocre-at-best as a dance movie. Literally, every aspect of this movie, falters in some way, and you just don't quite see that in most documentaries like this, and the last part might be the worst part about this film considering Amanda Lipsitz is a Broadway producer; you'd think, everything else, the focus and interest in the step dancing would be able paramount, and it just frankly wasn't. 


Number nine. 

Here's a weird one, this is a movie that had the kind of surprise twist ending that actually makes me interested in wondering what happens next in the franchise, even inspires me to seek out the next sequel. It still makes the Worst List. 

9. Split

Image result for Split

Also, there's a distinct possibility that I called the twist ending, "Stupid." 

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW: 
(Growls under breath.) Excuse me, for a minute.

(Gets up walks out of room. Loud banging of wall continues and correlates as the next words are heard offscreen, being screamed)


STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUIPD! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!, STUPID! STUPID! Stupid! Stupid! (long breath) Stupid!


(Lots of deep breaths, water running being heard from another room for a few moments.It's then stopped shortly before David walks back out with a handtowel drying off bloody and cuts hands, holding his wrist tightly but softly as he prepares to retake his position behind the keyboard. Deep breath!)


Okay, I'll give him this, at least, technically that wasn't a post-credits scene. (Sigh) That was still stupid though.


Before I begin, I had heard part of the "twist" to "Split" ruined for me before going into the film. I hadn't looked it up enough to know everything, but I was aware that the movie's "secret" is that it's not called, "_________ 2". Yes, "Split" is a "sequel" to something, or maybe you could argue it's instead perhaps, an alternative story within a universe-, oh, you know, screw this damn technicality crap, it's a sequel to a previous movie. I'll give the film some credit, in that it wasn't the movie I thought it was a sequel too, which is actually probably the bigger problem I have with the film: Why are we still making DID movies? Seriously? Like, c'mon, Shyamalan, you're not that unoriginal.


DID or Disassociative-Identity Disorder, is probably better known to you as Multiple Personality Disorder, and whatever you think legitimately of the diagnosis in the medical community out there, and there is a debate out there about it, as a tool or device for a horror/thriller movie, eh.... Really? I mean, this has gone on since "Psycho" since "The Three Faces of Eve", since  "Cybil", and hell, the movie that "Split" actually feels like a sequel to is "Identity" the, "Oh yeah, that movie," from the early 2000s where a locked-in horror mystery turned out to be really locked in as it was all happening inside a character's mind and was a battle between all of that persons multiple personalities. This was done best in the criminally underrated and underappreciated Showtime series, "The United States of Tara" that won Toni Collette an Emmy and helped solidify Diablo Cody as one of the best writers in Hollywood. That was a more interesting and realistic take on the syndrome to me, one that I would argue has altered people's perceptions of it to the point now, where it just seems ridiculous and stupid to use that cliche for a villain in a horror film now. The guy with about a couple dozens personalities, we're gonna call him "Dennis" for the sake of sanity here (James McAvoy) is a kidnapper of three teenage girls, who he looks up in the barrows of a zoo that he works at. The girls, themselves are not great at getting along, as Claire and Marcia (Jessica Sula and Haley Lu Richardson) are a bit normal traditional mean girls, while Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) is the school outsider who frankly prefers to be in detention than in class so that she can stay away from people. She's also, had a rough life, we see through flashbacks that she's had to fight her way through a father (Sebastian Arcylus) dying and having to live with her sexually abusive, Uncle John (Brad William Henke) but she's tougher to break down and smarter than the other girls, more intuitive in fact, more capable of handling the situation at hand then the other two. Also, more capable of overcoming and manipulating Dennis than Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) the traditional psychiatrist who's in over her head in these movies.


You know, the really strange thing is how little these two films are really connected, even when I learned this movie's villain compared with the other's, I mostly thought, "No, not really. The other guy was way more destructive and purposeful in his actions; I actually don't see much comparison at all!" Strip the fanboy artifice, which shouldn't be there to begin with, "Split" just seems like a well-made but,  typical psychological-horror-thriller with the cliched villain, with the cliche disease. "Split"'s really only interesting because of that twist ending, and, frankly now that Shyamalan has completely last-episode-of-"Newhart"-ed himself, I must admit, I'm actually kinda interested in where he goes from here. He's actually opened up some opportunities, that-, frankly I wouldn't have thought was there before, but, as to "Split" itself, it feels like it's a side story to the real big story, and while I think that worked for "Fantastic Beasts...," that had a lot more of a world to expand on, and had a different point that the "Harry Potter" franchise had. This one, it's there to serve it's purpose, but I'd be hard-pressed to argue that it does anything more than that.


You know, I really debated whether or not to put this on the list. This is a movie that, at least generated interest, actually had some people talking about this being one of M. Night Shaymalan's better movies in recent years; it's definitely true that he's had worst movies, much worst movies than "Split", but as you're watching this movie,- I mean, I get what he's going for. A lot of people actually really admired and enjoyed James McAvoy's performance, but this is such a cliched evil insane villain character,- I felt like his character came from some psychological "The Silence of the Lambs" wannabe thriller from the '90s or something. Take away that twist ending and it's "Color of Night" meets "Maniac" or something. And you know, the thing with "Unbreakable", was that, yes it was just as stylized and dealt with an outrageous comic book-like premise, but the situation was treated a little bit better and a little more ethereal. I wouldn't say realistically, but it certainly felt like a movie that, if those characters existed, they behaved and acted in a way that's believable in a realistic world. "Split", is basically just a movie about a crazy psycho villain being a psycho villain until someone stops him. I've seen that; I've seen it better; I'm not impressed. 


Number eight. 

Oh, I'm gonna piss some friends off on this next one. I said that last year when I put Nicholas Winding Refn's "The Neon Demon", and I did piss some off, but I stand by this choice by the way, that movie's shit, but that said, if I can squint and tilt hard enough, I can how some people could misconstrued that movie as being good. It is well-made, the cinematography is spectacular, it's not terribly-acted, and while I think his choice of material and he view of it is tired, cliched and been-done before and better, at least it's a point of view on the modeling world and the monetization of beauty, I guess. (Shrugs) There's clearly craft involved in that film is what I'm saying, and skill. If we're looking solely at the filmmaking, "The Neon Demon" certainly has a case for being good and having an appeal. 

(Sigh) 

Look, I know he's not entirely en vogue at the moment, there's no scenario where the best use of your Casey Affleck is as a goddamn mute, white sheet!

8. A Ghost Story

Image result for A Ghost Story

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
Oh boy. Well, I'm not gonna make friends with this review. So funny story, within the same week, I read both a Richard Brody piece for the New Yorker and a Mike D'Angelo piece for the AV Club that discussed the reasoning behind the recent Oscar trend of splitting both Best Director and Best Picture, and ironically both of them, D'Angelo in much more detail, they believed that David Lowery's "A Ghost Story" deserved Best Directing consideration, and even winning the award, even if the film didn't or shouldn't get in anywhere else, including Best Picture. Then, that same week, a friend of mine who's a Hollywood producer whose name I won't reveal, posted on her FB account her thoughts on the movie, and I won't go into complete detail, but she called bullshit on the film and claimed that it was nothing more than an easy-to-make low-budget short film that's extended to an hour and a half. (I'm paraphrasing immensley btw, she was much harsher and in far greater and graphic detail.)

All that, was before I ever saw the "A Ghost Story", and now that I have, I can understand both perspectives, but honestly, I'm with my producer friend on this one. This movie, is kinda bullshitting us. It starts off, eh, normal enough, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are a couple, known only as C & M respectively in the credits, and then C dies suddenly, and then he arises as a white-sheeted ghost. It's a nice sheet, it's really well-draped, does amazing things for the body, white's a bit of a bland color, but it works here, I would've preferred a little skin, somewhere, just to get some relief,...- um-, sorry, I dipped into my Zac Posen impersonation there. Honestly there's just, not much else to talk about though, I'm literally just looking at a white sheet. Yes, this is that rare ghost story that is actually from the ghost's perspective. That's something you don't see that often. Off the top of my head, spoilers, "The Others", and-eh, well I guess there's always been Casper cartoons, which are just disturbing and morbidly dark today...- What the hell were they thinking ...? Anyway, at first C, stays in the house with M, until M moves out, and he doesn't go after her because apparently, he is the house and therefore he stays waiting for her. I don't quite understand it. There's another ghost across the street that he sometimes talks to, we never find out who that is. We then see him periodically haunting the house as new residents come in and out, at one time the house is bulldozed and an office building goes up in it's place. At some other time, it seems like he goes back trapped in time and witnesses some pilgrims, I think?

I think I can read this, in that, basically the ghost isn't just trapped in a spiritual world, he's trapped in an ongoing time loop where he is continuously experiencing all parts of several time frames at once? At least that's my theory, so it's kind of the same theory that "Arrival" plays with, only in that film it made sense and was awesome. Here, I think it's mostly just a gimmick. I mean, there's greater emotion told through the metaphor of the ghost, I'm not even sure the love conquers all cliche works, even though we end with M arriving at the house and C's ghostly presents, in the way it's played out it's just as meaningless as all the over time periods and scenes, even if those scenes are interesting. 

This is the second film in a row after "Pete's Dragon" from Director David Lowery that I've outright hated and it's not that he's untalented but I think he's over-obsessed with visuals over story, again that's not a bad thing, unless the visuals don't really add to the story. He first broke out a couple years ago with "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" a movie that some people liked more than I did even though I did like it. It was quite an interesting Malick-esque tale of a robber who's spent his time in prison only to run into new roadblocks when trying to reunite with his love. That movie however, I mostly remember for having a double-feature add-on on the DVD of an obscure previous film of Lowery's called "St. Nick" that I really didn't care for. The guy mostly seems to love magical-realism above anything else, but I think he loves soaking in it and doesn't know what to do about it. (Shane Carruth comes from this same modern school, who Lowery is often a co-editor for, and longtime readers will know my disdain for him, but honestly I think Carruth has more vision than Lowery, even if it's mostly misguided)

There's an article on IMDB.com where he lists some movies that inspired him in making "A Ghost Story" and I certainly understood many of them, the phantoms from "Spirited Away" for instance,  "Under the Skin", yeah, there's a lot of that in this film, "Post Tenebras Lux" makes a lot of sense, although I hated that film.  "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" as well. (Shrugs) I think the interesting thing that delineates all those films he picks is that, they were doing a little more than, just following a sheet. They were way more ambitious than this film was and they felt like it. One movie that he doesn't list is the movie I thought about while watching "A Ghost Story" and that would be Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void", another movie where we follow a character from the moment he's alive 'til after his death when he becomes a spirit and looks out upon the living world until he rejoins it. Now, these films aren't trying for exactly the same thing, but when you compare them, my friend's right. "A Ghost Story" just looks and feels like a bad student film version, and Lowery is better than that. I can't really see how I'm supposed to justify giving him credit for this when others who've made movies about this subject have given it much more thought and had a much more intriguing perspective and had way more technical craft and ambition in their storytelling in their work.


As soon as my friend, the film producer who I'm still not gonna name, said that this was a student film project, and then I saw the movie, honestly, I couldn't not see it. She was 100% right, I'm seen student film projects like this movie, I know people who made some of them. I mean, I do totally get what Lowery's going for. He's aiming for poetry, he's aiming for a tonal movie that's mainly told through images and emotions. There's nothing wrong with that, there's great films that have that as a goal and a focus, but there's no ambition here. If you're going to do that, the craft has to be more compelling, there has to be way more to say, there has to be a story that matters. The story of this film though is just, relationship, they break up, he dies, and then seventy minutes of walking around, drifting, nothing much else going on. (Okay, he does have the friend that's also a ghost, for a little bit, but even that's pretty minor in the greater narrative.) And here's the thing, David Lowery is a good filmmaker; he's more thoughtful and inventive and until this movie, he had a real vision and point of view in his films. The guy has a voice that's worth listening to. He can be creative and ambitious enough to make a movie that I might confuse for a film that Apichatong Weerasethakul or a Jonathan Glazer would make, he's capable of making better movies than those guys even. He can even make a great ghost story like they would, even on a lower budget, but this is such a step backwards from that goal that I don't even really know how were supposed to take him this seriously as a filmmaker now to some extent. Some people were literally thinking best directing job Oscar for this work? In a year Guillermo Del Toro won for "The Shape of Water", c'mon!?


Number seven.

I want to stress that this really was a good year for documentaries, I swear, but even documentaries can have the same failures and tropes that other movies fall into as well. 

7. Chasing Coral

Image result for Chasing Coral

I was gonna give this film a pass at one point. I'm certainly not, pro-destruction of our coral, that's not a thing and for all the faults and annoyances I had with the main people the film was showcases, their goalis admirable and I hope they eventually achieve it and that we as a planet find some way to combat global warming and saving our oceans corals is huge part of that. (Sigh) However, these guys don't need to be such assholes about it. These are the kind of Michael Scott-like people who think that because they're in a movie that they're movie stars and that smugness bothered me throughout the film, and then, the thing that really gave this film a spot on my list, the song....

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
This is a perfect example of a documentary that just kills itself with too much talking. And, look, I get why the people in the film doing what they're doing is impressive, but why they're doing it, is far more interesting, and they really needed to shut up so we could see more of that..... I'm not sure how, but it needed to happen. The strange thing is that I think I'm one of the few who thinks this, 'cause every review I've seen is praising the people as characters they were interested in, and it's not hard to see why, 'cause they are doing something powerful. They're basically creating visual evidence to show that the Corals in the Oceans are dying.

I love the Ocean, and I've known and followed talk about the dying and bleaching coral populations all over the world, especially at the Great Barrier Reef, which is quickly turning into, a decent-sized barrier, that used to be a reef, for a while now. And I want to see that. I can watch a film of just underwater photography and be enthralled, even if it's just to show how the Ocean are dying and that we are doing it through Global Warming, which we totally are btw, but more shots, less telling. God, where are those damn "Microcosmos" filmmakers when you fucking need them?!... Eh, anyway, we do get to see these characters, the main ones being a former business executive who gave up his high-power career in order to feel like he was doing something important like saving the Corals, Richard Vellas (Shrugs), okay; and the other is the film's director Jeff Orlowski who also made another environmental documentary that others liked more than I did called "Chasing Ice", which documented the people who recorded the Ice at the poles of the Earth and show how that was evaporating, and it's interesting seeing them, having to figure out the specifics of it all. Just getting the cameras into the water to record months on end is hard enough, much less knowing the right direction to put them and manipulate them and then getting them out. I enjoy being admired by the process, but I don't want to feel like I'm apart of it; I just want to see the images. That's what's going to be powerful, that's what going to induce inevitable change. (Sigh)


Maybe I'm just annoyed by these guys, maybe they're a little too Type A personality for my taste, and that smugness that I get from people, who, for all-intensive purposes are good people and are doing great things, is misguided and they just rub me the wrong, but you can get the sense that they're doing it to say they're doing it, and not because it's what they'd be doing naturally. I didn't love, "Chasing Ice" much, but I never got that impression from that group. 


(Shrugs) 

I guess that's just me. Anyway, other than the fact that, the talking heads seem a little too enthralled with idea of talking in a documentary, I guess there's nothing terribly wrong about this documentary. Sure, there's better environmental docs on the same subject you can find, and it's an important issue to focus on and one that needs to...- (Stops typing, turns around to TV and listens movie's closing song.)

WHAT THE FUCK,,,,!?!?!?!?!?


You've got to be fucking kidding me! I-eh,- I did not just hear that!!!! Tell me that didn't just happen! Please tell me I just imagined that?




"...Tell Me How Long,

Tell Me How Long Will it Take
'Til we wake up."

'Til we WAKE UP!?!!?




Okay, I know it's a trend for a half-ass documentary to shove a song at the end to get an extra Oscar nomination, but, blatantly and lazily copying the first, most famous and arguably the best song that did that! This isn't homage, this is outright hackery! This is taking the tense and changing it around enough hoping nobody would notice! Oh, and making it 50X worst times in the process. Oh fuck this-, I don't normally care about a movie's song enough for it to effect my rating, but ooooh-grrr! They ran into the wrong die hard Melissa Etheridge fan. No, my negative instinct's are right, this is a path to Hell, filled with good intentions, by people who, are doing good work, but think they're more important and insightful than they actually are because they're doing that work. This is, "We're in a movie, let's do everything like movie stars do now," bullshit, and that's the exact wrong place to be for an environment documentary! That's why this movie seems so impressed with itself and why they thought they can just get away this kind of laziness for the song at the end, in a desperate attempt to get a cheap Oscar nomination. I was gonna give this movie a break, but screw it now-, I'm changing my rating to a negative review. There's better documentaries about the dangers of the eradication of the Coral population, go seek them out. 


So yeah, first of all, fuck this movie for ripping off Melissa Etheridge. Second, I can see how some people would find these guys enjoyably eccentric, but as to me, the best parts of "Chasing Ice", were not the people who were following and photographing the ice. I liked those guys fine, but the amazing stuff was their work and they knew that and they faded into the background, 'cause what they're doing was more important. I just got too annoyed at these guys for the exact opposite reason, they seem full of themselves over what they were doing. Altruism turns into selfishness when all you do is talk about and promote how altruistic you are. The sad thing is, they actually are doing a great and important job and had the movie focused more on what they were doing instead, 'cause the images they catch are incredibly striking and important and their documenting global warming destroying our ocean in real time essentially, but their arroganc and smugness, at least the way the movie was edited to portray, just put a sustained stench over the whole movie, that you couldn't get rid of. 


Number six. 

Okay, of all the movies I've got on this list, this is the one that I could honestly see becoming a minor so bad it's good film. I mean, it shouldn't, but I can kinda see it. 

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Okay, buckle your seatbelts folks here, 'cause I went a bit avant-garde with this review for this one, but seriously, this is a distressingly accurate account of the film.

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
In "Catfight", Anne Heche and Sandra Oh, beat the living hell out of each other. (Shrugs) Well, I wouldn't have booked it, at least not as a main event, but for an undercard match on a decent episode of "Celebrity Deathmatch", ehhhhh, alright.

(BELL RINGS THREE TIMES)

JIMMY LENNON, JR.
Okay, fight fans. Tonight's Special Attraction, scheduled for three rounds, in coherence with the "Rule of Three" contrivance according to the Hollywood Screenplay Commission, and fought with Queensbury Rules, introducing first, in the Blue Corner, she's the brazen trophy wife-turned-mother, the wine connoisseur, who loves to fight, The Rich Bitch, Veronica, "Coarse" Salt! (Oh)

(Pause for applause)

And in the Red Corner, the painter with the stroke of death, the blood-soaked power lesbian who's the talk of the Manhattan art scene. A mother-to-be, who takes shit from no one, and is just as violent and graphic with a right hand as she is, with the brush,  The Artist Cunt, Ashley "War Machine", Miller! (Heche)

(DING)

ANNOUNCER
And we're into Round One, and remember, Queensbury Rules, the fight doesn't end, until a knockout is recorded, and in this fight in particular, being limited to three rounds, a knockout, of course, means beating your opponent until they are in a coma for a minimum of two years. So, this is gonna get ugly folks,- OH! And it's getting ugly already! These two babes are just back and forth, rights and lefts, and- slamming heads into the wall, and-, hey foreign objects are not allowed, but the referee has lost control of this special attraction,

(Five minutes later)

Oh, and Veronica is down, she's not quite out, yet, still moving,- Oh, and she falls down the stairs! And, we're getting a ruling, and yes, she's in a coma!

(DING)

And back to the corners, oh, and Veronica looks pissed, but she's fully recovered from the coma, and looks very determined, while Ashley seems more confident and collected than before...

(DING)

Round two, oh, and Veronica attacks and has completely blindsided Ashley! Ashley's fighting back, but this is going out onto the streets, and these two bitches are going at it! Vicious, rights, lefts, kicks, this is a true beating. These two aren't messing around, they are trying to kill each other. Veronica, finally seems to have the upper hand, but Ashley's got a hammer, and, oh, Veronica's got a wrench, and they're battering each other. Oh, Ashley's seems out. She's just breathing, oh, and that brick, lands right on her head. Let's see, yes, we have a coma!

(DING)

Two more years and now, it's the third and final round, both these women, they just hate each other. Really, really hate each other. They were in college together, we're told. Also, there's a war on terror happening, the draft has been reinstated, both these girls have lost their love ones and all their money just from hospital bills...- Um...- there's something else about a war, that's supposed to have a point, of satire, or something, but nobody really can tell what the hell that's supposed to be about.

Seriously, I can't tell what that was about. I'm sure it was funny at some point, when this idea was probably first written, but now...  (Shrugs)

(DING)

Anyway, round three, fight starts a little more slowly, as they try to feel each other out, not like that, but they're at it. Both tenuous of each other, oh, and it's a screaming match, and they're back outside, into the woods, near the stream, and there clawing and grappling and slaughtering.... That's about it. They fight, they fight, and they fight...., it's time to bring out the fart machine.

I mean, this is the one movie that's so stupid that you could legitimately recommend it. The thing is that I kinda hint at, is that, the movie does have some satire of modern society and and it-, I mean, it has a lot of weird jokes at the side of the screen, that are really, just as dumb and stupid as everything else. but it's honestly so supremely pointless. Honestly, this is one of those ideas where it's just better to have no plot and no story and just-, like I show, make it a fight, 'cause once you add stupidity like, war or terrorism or how horrible the health care system is, you just end up with nothing. 

You end up, throwing everything away and bringing in the fart machine. No, I'm not explaining what that means, you can go watch the movie if you dare. I wouldn't watch it again, but I'll say this, at least it was an interesting kind of too stupid to really exist. 


Number five.

I bring up how entertainingly bad, "Catfight" is, because much of the rest of this list is forgettably bad. Not all, we'll get to a couple big ones that aren't, but much of this list is just generically awful.

5. The Discovery


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I mean, I know I saw this movie awhile ago, but I'm usually pretty good at remembering details even the most obscure and forgettable movies, but most of the time, the only thing I really remember about the damn thing is that I absolutely hated it.


MY ORIGINAL REVIEW
...I'm unsure whether or not something should technically count as a feature film. Honestly, I would normally not even bother reviewing this film, because I can't find an official theatrical release for it. It screen at Sundance and then the rights were picked up by Netflix, where it was released. It has a TV-MA rating, but not an MPAA rating, and normally I would count that as a TV movie but it's got more than a fair amount of Top Critics reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and I double-checked the Emmy ballots, and "The Discovery" wasn't submitted in the TV movie category. I'm not sure why, I think it would've been eligible, (Other than quality of course...; this isn't a good film, at all) at least from everything I can tell. (Shrugs) If I see anything that confirms it's a theatrical released film over a TV movie, I'll make a note of it, but in the meantime....

So, "The Discovery", I hate to say that a film had "potential", 'cause all films essentially have potential, but this one in particular.... It's got a good cast, and an intriguing premise, so intriguing that it ended up causing a fifteen minute argument between my mother and I that neither one has budged on. So, in this world, Thomas (Robert Redford) is a world famous scientist who was proven the existence of an afterlife, scientifically. You see, what I mean when I say potential... This has caused a severe uptake in suicides across the world, even one during a rare televised interview he gave. For those wondering, the argument was whether or not this made sense; I thought it did. One of the reasons that we stay here is the knowledge that we are completely unsure of the fact that there is life after us means that there is a possibility of a second chance to do things better, make things or just restart and therefore more people would commit suicide as oppose to now, where it's simply a matter of not caring whether or not we go anywhere, and it's instead a determination of wanting to end our existence in this world permanently, which means potentially no life after this, therefore you have to really believe you're troubled beyond repair. She argued, that it was stupid and doesn't make sense because just knowing that there is an afterlife doesn't guarantee that it'll be better, and some crap about how she already knows there's an afterlife...- (Sigh) Honestly, I think she just watches to much John Edward, but no, nobody actually 100% knows for sure on this Earth, and I don't buy any arguments that some do because of belief or faith, or whatever, and besides it's not relevant to this film anyway, since it's a scientific discovery. Anyway, from there, this leads to a few years later. Thomas has continued his experiments, which I'm not 100% how to describe but they're fairly similar to "Flatliners" I guess, in comparison, (Shrugs) another movie I never fully got but, this one, takes that great premise and doesn't do anything with it.

We get introduced to Will (Jason Segal) and Isla (Rooney Mara) who meet on a mostly empty ferry ride. Will is Thomas's son, and doesn't like his discovery or for that matter the huge Tolstoy-ian mansion for his followers or believers around him. People have swarmed and they give them a place to stay and work instead of attempting suicide again and of course, show people the afterlife from time to time, using some kind of electrical machine whatzit. Anyway, Isla tries to drown herself, Will then saves her and reluctantly brings her over to them, 'cause there's not much else to do. I won't go over the rest of the details 'cause I could barely follow and care about; it had something to do with stealing a dead body for an experiment, but the body turns out to be something...- I don't know, I was falling asleep and that was before the "twist ending" which, (sighs) it's-, I won't give it a way, but it's one of those endings, where you've got a good, complex, intriguing idea, and then, "Ah, you went that with it? That tired, cliche, way, that hasn't worked in like fifteen years!? Really?"

That's a shame 'cause there's a good idea here, but me and my mother had a more thoughtful argument and discussion than this film did, just on the premise. There's an idea here, but it's spoiled. This was co-written and directed by Charlie MacDowell, the post-Mumblecore director responsible for "The One I Love" from a couple years ago, which was also terrible sci-fi romance-thriller that introduced it's supernatural elements and ideas but didn't go anywhere with them, but that was thrilling and confusing at least, even if it was just a bad "Twilight Zone" episode spread over an hour and a half. This was a better concept and idea, but instead of exploring it, he then went and made it a gimmick in order to explain a twist that we didn't want, didn't care about, and frankly wasn't needed. There's some good performances here, I'm glad to see Robert Redford one last time before he retires, there's a couple films left that he's working on, and the performances are good, but that doesn't save this.

Yeah, after reading all that it's starting to come back to me now, "The Discovery". I don't know why I ended up watching this or how it ended up on my radar, but this was just a very well-cast film festival movie. One of those movies that's interesting enough to keep getting screenings at some lesser film festivals but not anything more than that. It's got just enough of an idea to seem compelling and interesting, but when you see it play out, you realize that that's basically all it's got. 


Number four! 

(Sigh) I mentioned at the beginning that my film choices are somewhat slanted as I tend to seek out critical acclaimed films primarily, so I often miss the truly, truly useless pieces of trash out there. I mean, I only got the "The Room" a few weeks ago, and even then, that was mainly because I felt obligated to watch "The Disaster Artist" 'cause it got an Oscar nomination. Still though, that doesn't mean that just because something gets award or acclaim that it's automatically truly good. (Sigh)

They're not usually this mind-blowingly bad though. 


4. Roman J. Israel, Esq.


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I'm not saying that it's a bad performance, in fact, his work and the acting in general is probably the least problematic part of the film, but God, did they really have to give Denzel an Oscar nomination for this???!!!!!!

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW
"Roman J. Israel, Esq.", let's start with the first thing, terrible title. In fact, this might be the worst-titled film named after a main character I've ever seen or heard of. To be fair, I can't think of a better alternative title, but still....- I mean, I'm sure it's the guy's name in real life, but they couldn't have come up with something better, like, just Roman J. Israel? (Oscar-nominated Denzel Washington) I mean, I've never heard of the guy and this is my introduction to him? I mean, I'm glad he's actually an Esquire, unlike say, Bill S. Preston, but...- (Sigh) 

Actually, you know what; let me look this guy up. (Google search)


(Five minutes later)


He's not a real person. If he is then I can't find it. Oh-kay; I guess there's plenty of examples of that in film too, but-eh, I can't think of it working since "Michael Clayton"; which was Dan Gilroy's brother Tony Gilroy's film. Frankly, I'm not as surprised as much as I'm letting on. "Roman J. Israel, Esq." doesn't feel like a real movie; it feels like one of those moral philosophy questions, that may have started off somewhere thoughtful, but just went off the goddamn rails in classroom discussions. So, Roman is a lawyer, but he's one of those lawyers who writes the briefs for the main guy at his firm, he does all the technical gruntwork. There's some who have analyzed the character's knowledge of the penal system and other assorted ticks to confirm that he's autistic or suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, but I think that's giving a little too much credit. No this starts with somebody saying, "What would be a moral conundrum for a lawyer," and then they would go, "What if he was an activist lawyer?" "One who's now working for a corporate lawfirm?" And then they'd have to explain how did that happen, and figure out what he would do and why he would do it then. 


(After)...His more well-known figurehead of the firm slips into a coma. His lawfirm is taken over by a former student of his partner, George Pierce (Colin Farrell, in an underrated performance) Roman, who, has been doing this for around 45 years and dressing like he's been doing it for fifty-five, accepts a position at George's bigger, more splashy corporate firm, and he begins taking some smaller cases, basically just like his old lawfirm used to, which they used in order to fund their more progressive activist lawsuits. He even prepares a major class action suit that would supposedly forever alter the plea bargaining system. 

Okay, the system for plea bargaining in the law, does indeed need a radical transformation. Maybe there's actual litigation out there like that, or inspired by that, but mostly this film feels like a sub-par John Grisham adaptation made by the guy who did "The Pursuit of Happyness". It's weird actually that Dan Gilroy is the one behind this. He's by no means perfect, but he's been involved in more than a few good movies. He previously wrote and directed "Nightcrawler" a movie that's actually a great thriller that poses some ethical and moral questions about society. He also helped write "Kong: Skull Island", which I'm reviewing later and spoilers, that's the movie I prefer of his this week; that's a shock to me. Even the crap he's been involved with like "Two for the Money" or Tarsem Singh's "The Fall" or two of my personal cult favorites "Chasers" and "Real Steel", at least those movies all, actually seemed like movies. "Roman J. Israel, Esq." has the pieces of a movie. There's a hastily introduced love interest for instantce, a young minority rights advocate in Maya (Carmen Ejogo), but all she does is, sorta fall in love with him, and she's just a representative of his past more than a real character. 

I guess there is this narrative of a man who's identity, beliefs and work ethics are from a different time and he's trying to adjust to today, but honestly it doesn't work at all. For one thing, I can do math, and assuming Roman was some kind of law school savant, he'd still be a Senior Citizen by now, which can work; that Nancy Meyers movie with Robert De Niro, "The Intern" kinda played with that, but here's a guy still stuck in the Revolutionary '60s essentially and now he's coming in to change corporate law? Honestly, it would've been a better, more interesting film if they did this, the complete opposite way. Have a yuppie Gordon Gekko-lawyer type suddenly have to come into the low-paying, low-profile work of modern activist law, which in these days is actually a more growing side of law actually. Roman would actually fit right in nowadays, wouldn't he? 


Eh, maybe not. It's still a different form of activist law than ever before, but it would've seemed like it made sense. The more I think about this movie, the more I hate it and the more baffled I get by it's very existance. I'm not even sure why Denzel was nominated for this; it's not a particularly special performance from him. I understood his nomination for "Flight" a lot more than this, and that movie was a structural mess of a screenplay and film as well, but at least somewhere in that mess there was a compelling story about an eccentric and disturbing character and his struggles with alcholism. There's nothing that compelling in "Roman J. Israel, Esq." 


I don't think I really dived as much into it as I did in the review, but this movie, once you give it ten minutes of thought, makes so little sense. It's not really a courtroom drama, it's not really a profile of a person, the person they made up for the lead character isn't real and that's not necessarily an issue, but then, nothing seems to make any real sense here. This is just a series of scenes shoved together. Not even like a full story- I don't want to give a spoiler away, but this is the first courtroom movie I can think of, where there isn't even a courtroom scene. In fact, the big scene is when the case is actually filed. It's like, "Draft Day", when, by the end of the movie, we learn absolutely nothing about whether or not everything Costner did actually worked or not. This movie, completely sidesteps  where the actual drama could be, or should be in this story. The pointlessness of this movie, really bumps it down way more than it probably should. I don't know what happened here, but this movie is just awful.


Number three.

Ah, this one's unfortunate. 

3. Ingrid Goes West

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I'm probably ranking this a little high; it certainly doesn't piss me off the way "Roman J. Israel...", does, there's clearly a decent idea and premise for a good movie, even a good comedy. And Aubrey Plaza's is really good in this, but,- "Ingrid Goes West", just tries to have it's cake and eat it too, and because of that, we ended up with a very wishy-washy tone for a more high-concept premise. 

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW
“Ingrid Goes West” includes a scene where Aubrey Plaza does a striptease while doing a Catwoman impression.I'm only bringing that us because I know some people who are such Aubrey Plaza fans that they will be interested in watching this movie for that fact alone, as for me, as much I adore Plaza as well, um, yeah, that's not enough for me unfortunately. 

I can see why this film would be somewhat interesting for some of the online critics though, especially those Youtube, Instagram and Twitter “influencer” types though, which I guess technically could include me, although in this rare instance I hope it doesn't. That really is a strange name, “Influencer”; I mean, it's not inaccurate, I can easily list a bunch of Youtubers and bloggers who influence me, but,- I don't know, maybe if it was more “inspirers,” I'd be more receptive of it. (Shrugs) Anyway, Ingrid (Plaza) is a lonely young woman who's had difficulty connecting with people over the years, and has apparently spent much of her adulthood caring for a sick mother who has since passed away. She's alienated what friends she used to have, and decides to, go west and seek out a new best friend, someone who seems similar to her, but is having a much more successful life as an online influencer.

I must confess that I'm constantly tempted to call this movie “Ingrid Goes Down” in my head, because of it's similar title to the movie “Igby Goes Down”, the underrated coming-of-age film from about fifteen years ago. The movie's have little else to do with each other, but it would be a decent title for the film., Ingrid finds a place to live and a landlord, Dan, (O'Shea Jackson) that's suspicious but attracted to her, and she then begins following Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olson) the famous social media influencer she follows and tries to get into her inner circle by going to the same places and even changing her look a bit to look like her, and stealing her dog so that she can meet her when she returns it. Yes, it's very “Single White Female” behavior, if you ever wanted to see that movie exclusively from Jennifer Jason Leigh's character's point of view, this is basically what you might get, only, a com-ed-y?????

I presume that was supposed to be a dark comedy, but honestly I didn't laugh too much. It was just painful; there's only a few ways this film could really go and they went with one of the obvious predictable ones. I suspect this film might've been inspired by real incidents, and it's actually a fairly realistic approach to the material despite some obvious indy-film quirkiness, maybe too realistic. Like, the final confrontation seems like something that would happen in that situation. I don't know, maybe it's because there's so many goddamn influencers out there and it seems every other week some popular Youtuber I've never heard of before does something so stupid that I have to start looking them up and wonder why they were even popular to begin with,....

I don't think so though, there's variations of this material that have worked in comedic senses before. I think what happened is that whoever had the idea for this probably interviewed some real influencers and friends of there's and observed their lives and perhaps even talked to them about real stalker fans and kinda tried to take something was probably more absurd and outlandish in it's original context and then decided to make it realistic. Or tried to picture more what would happen if someone like Ingrid came along to try to bump their way into one of those social media influencer's inner circle. I think it confuses the movie and ergo, confuses me. Maybe that's what they're going for, but that's a tough balance; think about how Jason Reitman's“Young Adult” pulled it off. For one thing, Diablo Cody created a more interesting and complex character at the center to pull us in and then examined her in her most desperate and worst spot, as she was trying to get back together with a now-married high school boyfriend. For Ingrid, this isn't an anomoly, she's just following her pattern of getting too close to people until she loses it completely when she gets shunned. Honestly, it's not even that strange an objective to find yourself trying to make friends with an influencer or two. I'll be blunt here, I was taught in film school classes about how to engage and make friends with people in the industry; you have to, you need work, they might be your co-workers one day and more than that, they can't hire you for anything unless they know who you are and preferably like you enough to tolerate you on a film set or in an office or whatever. This isn't absurd enough to really truly be funny and it isn't so absurd or ridiculous that you're in shock at how unbelievable this Ingrid girl is or what she's doing.

I'm glad she decided to Go West, it's peaceful there and in the open air and the skies are blue..., but I just didn't care.

Yeah, my main issue with "Ingrid Goes West", and why it makes the list so high, is that it's just so inconsistent with tone that frankly I didn't know what the film was entirely going for. Was I supposed to laugh, or be creeped out, was this a cautionary tale, is a sardonic comedy that satirizes modern social media culture. I felt like it was trying to be all of theses things and ended up being none of these things. More than that though, if you're going to have, this kind of character be your lead, this stalker-y, manipulative, sociopathic to some extent, you have to make them interesting, distinctive in some way. Now, Aubrey Plaza, is one of the most interesting and compelling actresses working today and her casting really does improve this movie for awhile, but if you look at her character on the page, and then you kinda focus out on it. you realize that there's nothing really compelling about her. I used the comparison to "Young Adult", you take the story out of that movie, her character is fascinating. This character, as written, it works when the story is not from her point-of-view, 'cause now you create mystery around her, like, the most obvious example, "Single White Female". Having this story so under-thought and under-written, at least in these aspects, takes something that should at least be compelling and made it a chore to sit through. 


Number two: 

2. Staying Vertical


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You'd think a movie with as many vagina shots wouldn't be so annoyingly boring, but the worst Foreign Language film I saw last year was the annoyingly pretentious "Staying Vertical", what I must assume is an ironic title based on how much the film centers around sex. Also, parenthood, I guess, and, sheep that are annihilated by wolves? 

FROM MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
So, I'm not terribly familiar with Alain Guaraudie's work, like, at all, so you might have to take this review with a grain of salt, but, from what I can gather, this film is not that unusual for him. Take that for whatever that's supposed to mean, for me, my initial observation was that for a film called "Staying Vertical" it had a lot to do with it's characters constantly being horizontal. Not to mention a particular focus on a vagina when it's in a horizontal position. There are a lot of sex scenes and a lot of vagina closeups in this movie. I'm sure there's a reason for them....

(Shrugs) Honestly, I'll spoil the review a bit here, but this movie mostly just bored and confused me. What the hell happened here, based on the description I read, it sounded like "Three Men and a Baby" minus the two other men. Sure, that was originally a French film that was darker than the American remake I suspect most of you are more familiar with but still, that's not gonna help you, or me, try and figure out this movie, that seems to be a movie about how babies are like wolves that eat our sheep and so we, eh,  love them?!?!?!

So, the movie has a weird opening, that I'm told is important involving the main character, a screenwriter named Leo (Damien Bonnard) sees a kid, Yoan (Basile Meilleurat) who he mentions that he thinks he could be in movies and basically sorta/not really but kinda, propositions him. Honestly, it's creepy and I'd rather just think of this scene as the arbitrary Steinbeck opening scene, that's supposed to give us insight into the characters through an unusual scene. At least I hope that was an unusual scene, although I doubt it. Anyway, he drives down to some rural house, (Apparently this director likes to shoot in rural France, a lot.) and eventually he comes across a young woman named Marie (India Hair) and after a few moments, they have sex and jump cut to a kid being born. Again, I'm not joking about the vagina closeups. Leo, at some point ends up back at the house, where apparently Yoan actually lives with an old man, Marcel (Christian Bouillette) who I presume is the Kid's grandfather, and I- I guess he mostly listens to this acid rock track that perpetuates much of the movie. (I'm not 100% positive but I think it's "Persephone" by Wishbone Ash; um, remind me to defer to my music friend on that one, that's a little outside even my classic rock purview, but-eh, I like the song anyway.) At some point, Marie isn't there anymore and while he's supposedly working on a script, he's now watching a baby. (Shrugs) And yeah, there's this thing with wolves terrorizing the shepherd's sheep...- I'm sure there's a metaphor or point I'm missing with this but I don't really care if I ever dissect this and figure it out.

"Staying Vertical" is a pretentious mess, and not in the good way either. I think there's a bit of flash forwards and flashbacks in this as well, and that just makes it more confusing. There's the mood piece elements like the acid rock soundtrack and the ambience of the French prairies and grazing land, but even these moods seem to be from different movies. It's like part, "High Art" and part "The Tree of Life", those are two great films that you could describe as mood pieces, but they don't go together tone-wise, and I'll be damned what any of that has to do with the plot about the baby and the relationship and what that has to do with his career as a filmmaker/screenwriter, whatever. Oh, and all the goddamn sex scenes....- Look, I'm not a prude, at least not when it comes to movies, but I-, I guess they're an interesting couple and that she leaves this kid with him. Hell, that should've been the plot of this movie, like I referred to earlier. I think we're supposed to care and ride along with Leo as he goes through these erratic feelings and emotions, but here's the thing, A. he doesn't change enough for us to care about him, and he already started out like a creep, and B. it doesn't seem like he really goes through any substantial changes, at least none that I can see, not enough for me to care about how well he's improved. Maybe this makes sense within Guaraudie's work, but I doubt it's actually any good either way, honestly.

Look, I suspect that this a movie, I might appreciate more if I was more knowledgable about the film's director; there is talent and intent here, but-, between this and a movie that just missed my Top Ten list, "The Ornithologist", I just had very little tolerance for some sub-Malick attempts at cinematic philosophy, but "Staying Vertical", I was particularly annoyed at more, because it was just boring and meandering and pointless. I mean, this is one of those movies where it seemed like no matter what happens, nothing matters until maybe something actually does happen that's important, kinda like why I never liked Bertolucci's "The Dreamers", but like, nowhere near as interesting or compelling as that film was. This movie's just, utterly boring. I mean, maybe if I had incredible insomnia, and I really needed to fall asleep, and this was the only movie on and I didn't have a sleeping pill, then maybe I'd sit through this and try to sleep, but this movie's so bad, I don't think it would work. It's hard to explain this, 'cause this film seems like it's a movie with ideas, I suspect there's some metaphor about having a kid involved, but honestly I just left the movie thinking, "These people are assholes, I don't want to be anywhere around them!". And-eh, you know, I didn't have that visceral a negative reaction to the worst of the worst films I saw this year, so to me, like that's way worst than some of the other films. 


Alright, bottom of the barrel, the #1 WORST FILM of the YEAR!

(Long pause, sigh)

My worst film is a documentary. 

I know, I said it already, this was a good year for documentaries, I had three in my Top Ten, but I also had three in my Bottom Ten. I don't like having this many; I don't like having any documentaries in my Bottom Ten actually. I don't plan it out that way, but sometimes I manage to find a couple that are just too deceitful, too boring or are just poorly-made or poorly-conceived docs. And yeah, in this case, maybe I should've picked out from more of Hollywood's garbage pile just so I could bash on some of Hollywood's more notorious producers of it, or bash one or two of the people who are finally getting shutout of the industry despite their years and years and years of indiscretions. But, there was only one movie that was ever gonna be my number one this year. I tried to put something else in this slot, but...-

Okay, you know the old starworts of Hollywood, the Spielbergs, the Scorseses, etc., how they're really obsessed with how movies should be seen on a big screen in a real movie house, in a theater, with people having a shared experience, and they really look somberly down on the modern days of people watching movies on their phones and Netflix sweeping the Oscar nominations? Like-, I know personally that most of this is sorta bullshit, but mostly I get their point. When you go to a movie or watch a movie, it should be a physical thing; it's not supposed to be able to just see or view something that you could easily see on TV or stream on the internet anytime you want. There is a correct and most proper way to watch some films and they, rightfully, fear a lowering of the standard for what constitutes a theatrical film and a theatrical experience. 


1. Kedi



Image result for Kedi film

MY ORIGINAL REVIEW:
It's a 78 minute documentary about street cats in Istanbul. That's my review!

Look, I mentioned that I was sick and I am, and I'm cutting this short on purpose, but seriously, this was literally all that was. Maybe in another mindspace I could've enjoyed it the way I enjoyed say "Sweetgrass" which was about sheep, but- you know, that film was interesting. "Kedi" would've been good as a 30-minute short maybe on Youtube, who I'm displeased to find out was behind the funding of this, 'cause of course the top progenitor of cat videos are, but no, I can't pretend this was interesting enough to make a full movie out of. You like following cats around the city? No, of course you don't, you're human right? So, no, there's no reason you'd enjoy this film. The end.


That was literally all I wrote, I was sick the day I wrote that, and maybe there's another context where I could've enjoyed "Kedi". I mean, I like cats. I don't have any, but if I were to get a pet someday, it would probably be a cat. Hell, I liked the "Garfield" movies, but he's an interesting cat. He's a cool cat. There was nothing interesting about about "Kedi", and there was nothing else to say about this movie. Somehow, this ended up on my radar. A movie financed by Youtube that was just one long, montage of cats. 

You know what, the Spielberg and Scorsese's are right, streaming sucks. Go see something in a theater; I mean a real movie in a theater, not this. This you can find anytime, anywhere with a decent internet connection, and I'm not even talking about the Youtube link of the whole movie above. Alright, not all streaming is this, and much of what we stream is good, but this movie is their fear of what film is becoming incarnated. 

Also, I actually am ironically, kind of sick now as I write this. Might be cat allergies. So, here's a short list other movies that just missed the cut but deserve dishonorable mention. 

DISHONORABLE MENTIONS
Baby Driver-Edgar Wright
The Girl with All the Gifts-Colm McCarthy
In This Corner of the World-Sunao Kotabuchi
It Comes at Night-Trey Edward Schulz
The Lovers-Azazel Jacobs
Megan Leavey-Gabriela Cowperwaither
The Ornithologist-Joao Pedro Rodrigues
Victoria & Abdul-Stephen Frears
The Wedding Plan-Rama Burshtein

Wait, that's it? Man, half of those wouldn't even make my Dishonorable Mentions in other years. Huh? Well, I guess that's one benefit of being a year behind on films and not watching enough. Still doesn't forgive "Kedi" though.