Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MOVIE REVIEWS #131: "SULLY", "STAR TREK BEYOND", "GHOSTBUSTERS (Feig)", "FINDING DORY", "THE HANDMAIDEN", "SWISS ARMY MAN", "A BIGGER SPLASH", "OTHER PEOPLE", "THE INVITATION", "EAT THAT QUESTION: FRANK ZAPPA IN HIS OWN WORDS", "AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY" and "SUFFRAGETTE"!

So, apparently, me saying that Post-Credits Scenes need to Die, as I did with my last commentary blog, was apparently the most controversial thing, I ever could've said, 'cause I got more comments on that post than anything I've ever posted. Including that one post I did on Bill Cosby. So permit me, dear readers, this opening will be a diatribe of my thoughts and responses to the comments for that blogpost, which included several different insults takes on the subject, although the funny thing, I kept being told, was that I was "whining," and most people's big criticism of my piece was some variation of "Just don't watch them."

Okay, one, that's a stupid argument, because A. this isn't television where there's choices, this if film, in a movie theater, I'm not changing the channel people, that argument doesn't work for film, and B, the really stupid part of that argument, it's a movie, saying "Just don't watch them" is also dumb, because I could just not watch the movie to begin with, you know? I was criticizing their quality and their existence in the greater scheme of film, it's not a matter of whether I watch them or not, is not part of this analysis. And C, it's apart of the movie, why would I not watch it; I'm a critic, I'm not gonna just watch part of a movie. That's like saying, "Don't watch this horrendous part of the movie, 'cause you won't like it," well, fuck, if it's so bad than I don't have to watch the movie at all, do I? That's like people who watch "Old Yeller" but then turn it off at the end; why are you watching it at all! Or any movie really, at least as a viewer I don't have to, but as a critic, I do. And I don't know if people realize this, but I actually don't choose what I watch for the reviews. Ever. Not since I started this, and frankly I didn't even do it much before then. I won't bore you with all the details, cause it's a lot of minutia that makes me seem John Nash crazy when I say it out loud,  but I determine what I watch, not based on what I want to see or what I feel like watching, but based on what's next to watch, on several different lists of movies to watch; it's basically out of my control.

Like today, after I'm done writing this, the next film I'll watch, is... (Let's see, today's a streaming day, so.... [Bringing up, list, and searching, calculating on computer.]) I'll be watching "Cameraperson" today, cause today happens to be a streaming day. The next Netflix DVD day, I watch, (Scrolls up on Netflix tab) "Suicide Squad", and the next library day, it will be,-, (Clicks local library tab) well, it was gonna be "Addiction Incorporated", but somebody requested "Spinning Plates", so that's just moved up to the top, since I have to return that now. And if for some reason I ever again get a day, where I'm not watching anything on those lists, I'm watching, "Daisies", the old Czech New Wave film, and there's also more lists of what I'm watching in case all those options are out. Basically, I take as much of myself out of the decision-making process when it comes to movie-selection as possibles. (I try to do this for television too btw, admittedly that's not as successful) As to what goes on the list, well, if I haven't seen it, it's on at least one of these lists somewhere. Other than that, I try to put the movies I most need to see, due to cultural importance, popularity, any major awards it's up for, critical praise, and/or whatever other x-factors reasons that I might need to see something up near the top of these lists, (Never right at the top, the lists are too long for that, or else I'll never see anything older than yesterday) and there's reasons a film or two may jump up one of the several queues,, like suddenly having to be brought back to the library earlier than planned, or suddenly everybody talking about how good the tenth sequel in the film and now I gotta watch the other nine, or somebody ordered the movie On Demand, and now I gotta watch it, because or else, I'm losing money, but even that's heavily regulated based on a pre-determined rules on how and when a movie can jump like that. In the meantime, I watch everything else as it comes, and then there's occasions where it's still out of my hands what I watch, like when I'm dragged to a movie at a theater, I don't pick the film, or if I'm not with anybody, I use one of the previous standards that have been set to pick the film to watch.... basically, I'm not a fan, I'm a critic, I don't watch any movie, based on whether I want to see it, any part of the movie, and that includes, the post-credits scene, if a film has one! You might as well, just ask me, to not watch movies, in general, which is like, asking somebody to not listen to music. It's a stupid thing to request of anybody, and even in the best scenario of saying it, you're probably just being mean to a deaf person.

So, yeah, I'm sorry, but that argument of, "Just don't watch them," it's insulting. Because, basically, you're all just saying, "We like them, you don't, fuck you!" No, fuck you! First of all, I don't care if you like them, they're ruining movies, 2nd of all, you're basically segregating yourself from everybody else. "We have a little part of the movie that only the cool people, who know, will see!" You know, this isn't a VIP room of the Playboy Club, right, this is just movies? Yeah, fan service, is garbage! It always will be, because it's for fans, and fans only! And movies, all art, is supposed to reach and grab and effect and influence, as many people as possible, even the most obscure avant-garde crap tries to do that. This is narrowing the audience, and it's insulting, even if I know damn well what the hell they're talking about, it's insulting and stupid and just frankly, shouldn't be done, ever. It's basically the cinematic equivalent of being grope, and fuck you, either grope me and everybody else too, or don't grope anybody! This isn't a private moment between you and the movie, do that on your own time, nobody wants to see your PDA!

That's probably why I flipped out over the "Ghostbusters" post-credits scene, and decided to write that blog earlier than I intended. (Yes, I had plans to write about post-credits scenes, long before I actually did; I do plan these blogs ahead of time as much as I can, but sometimes, things happen, and I get to something else first when the mood strikes me) But, it was, just arbitrary and frankly, when you think about how this incarnation of "Ghostbusters" could really make and be their own thing, to include such insipid fan service, especially after a barrage of post credits scenes I had to sit through lately, (Seriously there's like, almost half the movies I saw this week, they had a post-credits scene) and most of them, just being blatant and moronic fan service, or if they weren't that, they were usually just bad scenes in general, yeah, I flipped out. And maybe I should've have said they needed to die.

However, the fact that you all so vehemently defended them, probably makes me think they need to die more than I realized. I mean, really, defending, "Post-credits scene" like I told you guys to burn your sacred dogmatic scriptures, that's not healthy. I wasn't saying, "Sex scenes need to die," or "Dnner conversation scenes need to die", or "Protagonists need to die," or something truly obnoxius like that, I'm talking about scenes that half of you argued, "Weren't even part of the movie, and why are you complaining about them!" Well, why are you not? Especially when they suck, an added scene that's not needed and bad to a movie, I'm gonna complain. And again, while the studios, are somewhat at fault for overusing post-credits scenes and doing it poorly, they have some blame, they're still just reacting to those who buy they're products, so, I don't blame the studios for this trend, I blame the fans more. Cause your the ones paying for them, your the ones asking and obsessing over them, and therefore, your the ones making movies worst by making more movies have them! So, yeah, fuck you Fans. Stop demanding movies have post-credit scenes and maybe they'll stop making them!

"But they help continue and get you excited for other projects..." I heard that praise too. Yeah, and that's stupid. It's not a weekly television, you expect me to get excited and wait years for something that might not even be any good? Yeah, I have no respect for people who has that happen to them, they can go to hell. And no, that's not a good use of post-credits scenes. To tease other projects, that's called a trailer! I'm not cheering or defending an advertisement, this isn't the Super Bowl, it's a movie.

Now, some of you, a shocking minority, did actually tried to defend post-credit scenes at artistic choices. I disagreed with most of the arguments and examples, but at least, I can appreciate that perspective, and that's the debate I would rather have; the one I was trying to have. And if you guys read the whole blog, which you can find here:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2017/02/post-credit-scenes-need-to-fing-die.html

You would've known that. I didn't simply dismiss them entirely, I praised good ones, explained why I praised them, and gave examples of why and when they can be used to enhance a film experience, the experience of the movie itself, not the movie being made five years later. I also put them in historical context, and in the context of the art form itself, and I explained the similarities between post-credits scenes and similar ending scenes that basically do the same thing, I went into pretty good detail about why and how they're ruining movies, and much of this argument, had nothing to do with whether I "Liked a scene", mainly 'cause, and I've said this before, I just care about good or bad, not whether I like something, again, I'm not a fan, I don't care whether I like it; I care if it's good. I like watching a lava lamp for six hours straight some days, that doesn't make the lava lamp a great piece of art, right? (Annoyed sigh) Yeah, I don't argue like, but anyway, I argued how most of the modern uses of the post-credit scene, their artistic merit was overstated and sometimes just non-existent and unoriginal, and not compelling, except as a fan, and frankly, I stand by it, 100%.

You don't like it, too bad. I heard complaints that my argument for it was weak, I disagree, I thought it was a strong argument, and I truly thought most everybody else's arguments for it, were piss-poor weaker. I suspect, you guys don't see just how bad they actually are, or how much harm their causing because most of you, unlike me are fans, and are therefore so insular that you can't separate your bias from the quality of the work themselves, that's part of why I criticize when you guys might not be aware of just how bad a trend may be, and how your behavior can sometimes be doing more harm than good to the art form we all love.

Somebody couldn't believe it when I told them, I never get excited or anticipate movies. It's true though I don't anticipate movies anymore, and I don't think anybody else should either, 'cause mainly, you're begging to be disappointed, and that's an entirely avoidable feeling in this case. It's not always an instant reflex, you can mitigate expectations and emotions for something, and I find it helps make the film viewing much more enjoyable than when I go into a movie excited and pumped and full of expectations that, can sometimes be disappointing, even when the movie itself might be good. You know when I get excited about movies, when I've just finished watching a really good film, I'm excited. Not before, I'm excited after. Partly, 'cause I get to tell people about it, both here and elsewhere, but mostly because I just watched it myself, and that's a great feeling, especially so, when you don't come in with expectations of seeing a great movie, just a fresh, open, unbiased mind. It makes the great films seem better, 'cause you feel like you discovered them new and it was this great unexpected present that you didn't even know you wanted, but now you can't imagine living without it. That gets me excited.

Also, not anticipating and being excited over the next movie(s) I watch  also helps me enjoy the lesser quality films as well, a little less than I probably would've if I had gotten so pumped up and excited to watch them, only to be disappointed by shit, and therefore I can usually handle them with more ardor and in stride. Well, most of the time, I enjoy them more, sometimes not. Sometimes really not, but I'm not gonna talk about the other films I saw this week. (I'll make up for it next Reviews blog) Besides I prefer to focus on the positive, this helps me do it, I recommend it, if you don't think it helps, I understand.

Okay, now that that's been addressed, we have a lot of movies to review, so let's get to it. This week's MOVIE REVIEWS, starting with the Oscar-nominated features, "SULLY", and "STAR TREK BEYOND"! (Oh, next blog is Oscar predictions btw!)



SULLY (2016) Director; Clint Eastwood

★★★



So, this is one of those examples of a "based on a true event" where I have to wonder, "Is this actually enough of a story here for a movie?" You know those sets of stories, happens with biopics a lot, but historical events can happen like this too, where, you end up with a subject that's interesting, and possibly even important, but it may not be enough for a feature-length film? This is a pretty quintessential example; it's literally a movie that's about 208 seconds. It's a helluva 208 seconds, but, stretching that to a feature-length film.... You know, one of my mother's more infamous criticisms is that on the news, you always hear about the one airplane that crashes, never about the thousands that take off and land safely everyday, so, in that sense, yeah, Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) or "Sully" as we all now refer to him, really became the rare true American hero for, landing an airplane, safely. It was a forced water landing, after engines went down because of two sets of Canadian geese were ingested into the engines, and the movie, I guess, basically takes place during the aftermath of the landing, when the National Transportation Safety Board comes in afterwards to investigate the crash. This is where one of the problems with the film lies, they're trying to build up drama about the ultimate results of the investigation. Purportedly, in some simulations of the accident, pilots were able to get to either LaGuardia airport, or to New Jersey airports in time, but...- I mean, let's be real, I have no idea whether or not that actually happened, but more-than-that, I doubt anybody actually seriously cared, even the investigators about whether or not he could've or should've been able to land elsewhere in time. (And Spoilers, no, he probably couldn't have) But, it's an investigation and it has to be done; I just wish the movie took that approach to it, instead of trying to pump up the drama of the investigation. In-between, we get mostly Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) as they're placed in hotels and begin their uncomfortable tour of the talk-show circuit. Katie Couric shows up herself, recreating her original interview with Sully. (They couldn't get Letterman live, so that scene is a photoshopped clip essentially) We get some nightmare scenes from Sully, scenarios where the plane doesn't land and whatnot. New Yorkers and nightmares about planes, remember, at that time especially, and replaying the alternate scenarios where everything doesn't go right, is probably the one drawback to being a hero, especially one for whom doing their job essentially requires a perfect 1000-1 like the "Miracle on the Hudson". The best scenes, are of the footage and recreations of the landing itself. Thinking back on airplane movies, which is a bit of a strained genre to begin with; they're almost all basically the same thing, the miraculous survival of a crash. "The High and the Mighty", the "Airport" movies, eventually, "Airplane!" which pretty much ended all those films by satirizing it to death, but I guess there's been a few others lately, and most of them, basically take a look at the aftereffects of having become such a hero. I guess the most recent comparison is Robert Zemeckis's "Flight", and yeah compared to that film, I prefer "Sully", not just because it's based on a true story, and one that we're more familiar with. But still, I think "Sully" is barely a good movie. Hanks is certainly good in the lead role, but, I don't know how much work that is for him. He's basically the stoic, quiet hero, and that's about it. The movie is well-cast, Laura Linney has a scenes, mostly on the phone, as Sully's wife. Still, I found myself ultimately underwhelmed by "Sully". I can't think of a reason to not see it, so I'll recommend it, and I guess this is probably the best film we could've gotten on the Miracle on the Hudson. Yeah, sometimes what's exciting and dramatic and heroic and amazing in real life, isn't really as interesting as what's all those things in a movie.


STAR TREK BEYOND
(2016) Director: Justin Lin

★★1/2



(Sigh) I don't hate any of these "Star Trek" reboot movies. Hate implies passion, which is the thing that these movies lack the most. (In case any of you think that sounds familiar, I'm paraphrasing from "Dinner Rush") Looking back over my review of "Star Trek: Into Darkness", I basically said the same thing, only I focused the metaphor on how J.J. Abrams knew the words but not the music of "Star Trek", and boy, I really wish I saved that one for this review, 'cause-eh, the music,- holy hell! You know, it's not simply that they used classical orchestral music predominantly in every version of the series and movies beforehand, because they couldn't use the modern music of the day; it was used to help inspire a tone that invoked a classical feeling for the work, not because they couldn't get the rights to the Beastie Boys, songs at the time. Yeah, I'll say this, this is the first of the new "Star Trek" movies that, mostly just feels like a long episode of a television show. A television show that, doesn't exist, so... (Sigh). So, it's a few years into their mission, Well, it feels episodic to them, it seems. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is seriously thinking about taking an Admiral position and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is considering a transfer because with Vulcan destroyed, he's suddenly interested in protecting and continuing his race, which is something he can't do while still dating Uhura (Zoe Saldana), which is when you remember that, "Oh yeah, that's a thing in this universe." (Yeah, that's never fully worked for me.) Anyway, they're on a space station for time off and repairs, and suddenly they're deployed to a planet, that turns out to be a trap, of course, and they're on the run from Kroll (Idris Elba) who's sent out a scout, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) to convince the Enterprise to come. Kroll's looking for an object that Kirk has, and which has hidden, somewhere on the ship, which has just crashed leaving the remaining skeletal crew, investigating the planet that Kroll has apparently taken over. The movie, unsurprisingly got an Oscar nomination for the Makeup and Hair Effects, which is normally par for the course for a "Star Trek" movie. Again, I guess there's nothing wrong with this movie, but, it just doesn't feel like "Star Trek". I was more willing to let that go, with the previous films, give them a break for trying their new thing, but this one seems so far outside the parameters, that I think I have to knock it down for it. It's hard to explain, why this is so bizarrely non-"Star Trek", the movie was co-written by Simon Pegg, who of course plays Scotty, and has a good history of writing himself, and I would've thought seemed like a natural choice to come up with an original "Star Trek" idea. That said, I don't know if this is so much original, as it is, blown up on steroids. There's a nice touch of an added subplot about how Ambassador Spock's passed, which, effects Spock hard as well. Oddly Kirk and Spock are rarely together in this movie, the focus is often spread out to other characters. I think that's the problem, "Star Trek" for all it's grandiose epicness, has always at it's core, been a more intimate franchise than people realize. It was about ideas, and relationships. I mean, okay there's that one scene, where Sulu's reunites with his husband and daughter, that's a cute nod, but strangely, when I think back on the serie(s) and this consider this incarnation of the movies, most of the best and most dramatic action scenes I remember, had little action in them. Kirk setting the self-destruct sequence as a bluff, Janeway offering a deal with the Borg, Picard's diplomatic negotiations are sometimes amazing, the stuff of great television. This "Star Trek", doesn't really have that. Maybe, it's supposed to be inferred, the few light conversations the characters have can be interesting, but they're hardly or rarely between the characters we truly care about, and even still, most of it's just, well, actually, come to think, it's just a variation on "Forbidden Planet". Yeah, this is just "Star Trek" does "Forbidden Planet", which itself was just a variation on "The Tempest". No wonder they couldn't come up with a decent title. "Star Trek Beyond"! Beyond what? Well, I guess Beyond "Star Trek". 




GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) Director: Paul Feig

★★★



It's impossible to discuss the "Ghostbusters" reboot without all the controversy surrounding it. (Sigh) So, let's try to tackle each one of them. First of all, people were pissed that they were making it at all, because apparently "Ghostbusters" is one of those movies that's apparently beyond making a remake of, especially one that, oh my god, has a female-led cast. (Eye roll) Look, I may or may not have a "Ghostbusters" Canon of Film entry that I may one day pull out of my drawer and post here, and I get it, there are definitely certain movies that probably and shouldn't be remade and redone and I would complain if they were attempted, especially if it ended up sucking, but, honestly, I don't think I get the "Ghostbusters" phenomenon, or why this franchise is somehow within that pack. I love the first movie, don't even hate the second one as much as it's reputation suggests, but I never wanted a third one, never understood why we were so hell-bent on having one, and frankly if we are gonna have a new version of them, honestly, this approach makes way more sense than continuing the story from before. (And by the way, I never cared much for the animated television show either; in hindsight, it's not as bad as I recalled, but I still don't think it's as great as everyone thinks it is either) So there's the people who hate that it's women, and the people who hate that they're making another "Ghostbusters" without the main cast, both of them are being complete idiots. The misogynists were idiots enough, but within that group were the people who really didn't want to see the movie, because of the film's trailer. Look, I've written multiple times and how stupid everyone is who watches trailers and uses them as a guide for determining whether or not to see a movie, you can see some of those posts, and these links below:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/04/trailers-trailers-trailers-why-you.html
http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2016/04/trailers-again-grrrrrrrrrrrr-and-now.html

so already, these people do not have any sympathy from me, but yeah, there's a huge deal being about the trailer, not looking, good? (Scratches head)

(Youtube, rewatches trailer)

I've sat through this trailer like, four or five times now, I legitimately have no idea what the hell they're talking about. Is it the best trailer I've ever seen? No; is it bad? No. It's kinda funny. Effects looked cool. I-eh, I don't see what they're problem was with the trailer itself. (Not that that's why you should've or shouldn't have watched the movie, but still...)

Then we get the really obnoxious people, most-notably, James Rolfe, aka The Angry Video Game Nerd, who for reasons I do not fully understand, made some video declaration about how he wasn't gonna see the movie, because...- what the hell was his excuse again? The trailer, and that instead of seeing it to complain about, he was just not gonna see it, was that the jist of his little soapbox thing there? No? Dammit!

(Youtube, AVGN, "Ghostbusters", annoyed grunt)

UGGGGGGH! Look, I got like three minutes through this six minute thing the first time, and that's about all I can take of it now, 'cause, honestly, whatever his defense, and he rambles on about nine different reasons for his explanation about, why he wasn't gonna see the movie, but look, whatever his reasons are,  they were stupid. You know why? Basically, becomes all his complaints come down to "I'm so biased in favor of the old movies that I know I'm gonna hate the new one, so I'm not watching it." Look, I can think of many reasons not to watch a movie, the only good one I've ever come across is "Because the critics didn't like it," but this is one of the stupidest and most pretentious ones I've ever heard. (And his "lack of fan service" argument, is the stupidest part of it all. Especially since, "Ghostbusters" has way too much fan service in it, but I've already half-spoken about that on my last blog.)

You know the only good excuse not to see a movie? The critics say it sucks, that's the only good acceptable reason! Any other reason is just being an obnoxious pretentious dick. The experts say it's good, take a look at it, I don't care what emotional appeal you had to it beforehand or whatever, leave that crap at home and come into a movie as unbiased as possible.

Now, since I am a critic now, I try not to read reviews ahead of time anymore, so I guess now I should check, what exactly did the reviews look like?

(Rottentomatoes.com)

Hmm, 73% on RT, that's good. Top Critics, eh, 29/49 liked it, oh-kay. Let's find some critics I like with disparate views on this. Let's try, Manohla Dargis I always like her, and for a negative review, eh, let's try Justin Chang today, I've been liking his stuff more and more lately anyway. Hmm, well Dargis is mostly praising it from a feminist perspective, to paraphrase, and she brings up how a franchise can be strong enough to survive this long and endure such catastrophes as a mediocre sequel and a gender-switch reboot is a good thing; I agree. She mentions how Kate McKinnon's role would've probably been the secretary in an earlier version of this film, that's, actually astute; I didn't catch that before, but yeah. That's certainly a good change. Chang, on the other hand... Um, he talks about preferring the new one to the Ivan Reitman films, and I'm sorry, I thought this was a negative review. Wait, it is? It's listed that way on RT? Huh? Oh, okay, he says the original was overrated, mostly surviving as a nostalgic piece of pop culture effluvia. Eh, I don't know if I agree with that completely, but yeah, I can see the overrated point. (Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman's best film together was "Stripes" btw, not "Ghostbusters". Why isn't "Stripes" getting a sequel or a reboot, that could've been funny now! Why isn't the internet on that?) So, he's grading on a curb, probably should've went with Richard Roeper there, thanks for ruining my comparison Justin Chang, you just made the list!

(Writes "Justin Chang" onto list, after "Bug" girl, Fans, GOP, and Bitch-that-stole-my-seat-on-the-bus last Thursday)

Okay, enough stalling, what do I really think of the reboot? It's okay. I'm giving it a passing grade. I will say that, I am starting to notice something about Paul Feig's filmmaking that I think might be the problem with some of his films, including this one. There's something about his jokes, where he's very good at, putting his characters into a comedic situation, but he's not necessarily great at pacing the comedy. Like, the scene in "The Heat" where Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock are changing clothes in the women's bathroom, and Bullock's wearing spanks, that was funny, but it should've been a lot funnier. There's no scene in "Ghostbusters" like that, but there's a lot of scenes, where, the pacing is always a bit off. The character bits are always funny, and Kate McKinnon in particular is hilarious in this film, but the pacing is weird. It's like he sets up, so many little chuckle jokes, that by the time he gets to a joke that's actually funny and comedic, that it's kinda undercut by all these sporadic subtler jokes. Especially when he's got so many characters to focus in on; one of the strengths of "Bridesmaids" his best film, was that we mainly focused in on one main character for most of the film, and everybody else was essentially working around Kristen Wiig's work. Here, however, everybody's focused mostly equally, and therefore an absurd and over-the-top supporting role doesn't really shine as well as it could've because the focus is all over the place. I mean, he still has his actors, basically playing over-the-top versions of their best personas and to their strengths, McCarthy's over the top ghost enthusiast, she's good. Wiig's the subdued professional who's trying to be more scientific about catching ghosts; she's great, McKinnon's the weird geek who's the master engineer gives the best performance and Leslie Jones is street smart, loudmouth that carries a big proton pack. I like these characters, but they might be more funny, when they're surrounded by a funny world, instead of being the funny things in the world. Since, this is the world of "Ghostbusters" they do, just enough of that to get away with it. There's some good work from Chris Hemsworth, and there's some good one-shot cameo work from a lot of people, I'd single out Steve Higgins and Cecily Strong as the funniest in their scenes in particular. I feel sad, 'cause the movie is good, the franchise still has legs and this movie had potential to be a lot better, but eh, I think this could've been done in better hands, by say, somebody with a more quick-witted and slapstick-based comedy in their skillset, perhaps, a Steven Moffat would've been an interesting choice for this material, but I can't say it's bad or that one shouldn't watch it. Even though, yes, the post-credit scene pissed me off, as I've mentioned before. Don't skip it, just, prepared to be annoyed by it.


FINDING DORY (2016) Director: Andrew Stanton; Co-Director: Angus MacLane

★★★1/2



Well, I'm probably not gonna make any friends for this declaration, but (sigh), okay, I never saw what the big deal was with "Finding Nemo"!

(Ducks under desks, avoids objects being thrown at him, for a few minutes)

Alright, hold on, let me explain.... Look, I thought it was very good, but, not a great movie. I love the animation, but the story, eh, I always kinda placed it, just a notch too far to the manipulative side. I mean, it's pretty simple; I just think the pathos is a bit heavy-handed, and I don't know if it totally earns it. I think it's a good film, I don't know if it's great however. I don't know, maybe because I grew up with "The Little Mermaid" and another underwater animated adventure just didn't appeal to me as much. Anyway, so, however many years later, "Finding Dory" comes out, and it's, weird, Just, weird. The pathos is still there, but, it's...-, well, I hate to say this, especially about a beloved film character. but it almost feels like a story about how a special needs person finds his way home. I guess that's not a bad thing, in fact that's a good thing; it's just kinda creepy feeling, especially since this is a character who was so beloved already, it's taking a somewhat darker turn on the character than I think people would want, or kids for that matter. Maybe they'll see that as a good thing; I don't know. I wasn't the only one that picked up on that, pretty much every reviewer did as well, and, as somebody who watches his autistic brother all day; I understand the sentiment.

Anyway, Dory (Ellen DeGenerous) is famous for having a bad short-term memory. She's basically Guy Pearce in "Memento", without the tattoos and clues, and trying to find her wife's murderer part. Anyway, now that she's started to live with Martin and Nemo (Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence) she's sometimes seems like someone they need to put up with, a lot, and have to revolve a lot of their world and days around her. Especially, after she suddenly remembers her parents. There's flashbacks where we get to see her parents, Jenny & Charlie (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) struggling to help Young Dory, (Sloane Murray) to remember. Eventually, she gets lost, and forgets how to get home, but now, she remembers and her, Nemo and Martin, are back to traveling across the Ocean, to find Dory's parents, and eventually, trying to find Dory, who it turns out, came from the Morro Bay area of California, and was not originally an Ocean fish, she was born and raised in a marine life institute.. There's some new friends along the way, most notably an octupus named Hank (Ed O'Neil) who is trying to get to a truck that will send him to Cleveland, where he suspects he'll have a happy life. The gang also gets help from a beluga whale, Bailey (Ty Burrell) who has the best sonar around, and a hammerhead shark, Destiny (Kaitlin Olsen) who can guide Bailey but can't see straight ahead well. (Which is kinda weird considering half these fish have that problem, but oh well...) Overall, I guess I can knock "Finding Dory" too much; it's a good film on it's own, if not great as a sequel to "Finding Nemo", but I think I still have some of the same criticisms I had of that film for this one here. The story is big and epic, but perhaps, too much so. These films do such a great job at establishing these characters, that I believe them so much as fish, that some of the more dangerous and over-the-top antics of these films, don't come off as realistic to me. I know they're not humans, but they are human enough for me to care about them, which means, when characters are risking life and limb outside the water for prolonged periods of time; it really does take me out of the movie. I had similar complaints with the "Toy Story" sequels, neither of which of those I thought were as good as the first film-

(Ducks again, objects fly pass/above him)

I still gave those films 5 STARS people; c'mon! Ugh, over-sensitive much! (Sigh) So, yeah, "Finding Dory" has it's faults, but ultimately, this is still Pixar and even at their worst, they're not gonna produce anything bad, and especially a sequel like this to one of their most beloved entities,... Yeah, "Finding Dory" is exactly the movie you think it is, and everything good and bad about that scenario, but thankfully, most of that scenario is good and sometimes very good.


THE HANDMAIDEN
(2016) Director: Chan-Wook Park

★★★★★




I had to think over this one for a little while, trying to figure out, exactly what it is, and how to consider it. I already do that a lot with Chan-Wook Park; I find that I don't always think much of his work on original viewing, but over time I tend to appreciate him more. I had that concern with "Thirst" and especially with "Oldboy" a movie that, in retrospect, I seriously underrated on initial viewing; I outright gave that film a negative review originally, but, it stuck in my head, and ultimately, I forgave it's storytelling flaws, because it's luscious yet confrontation style was just too interesting and hard to ignore. I might rank that one as his best film to this point. I didn't have a positive reaction, during or after seeing "Stoker", his first English-language film, which, I still don't think much of at all. Actually, that film is not that different from "The Handmaiden", in fact, all his films, seem to be about people entering or realizing their place in a new world that's opened for them, whether they've been locked in a prison for fifteen years, or they've become a vampire, or they're moving into a haunted house with a questionable stepmother. Or, here, where a young Korean girl, Sookee (Tae-ri Kim) who grew up, basically as a thief, second generation thief btw, and is now sent to be a maid for a Japanese mistress, Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim). The movie takes place in the 1930s, so this requires a little bit of a lesson here, uh, Japan was, occupying I believe, both Koreas at this point, or were they even two Koreas, maybe not then, and even the Treaty that permitted this occupation, dated back to the 1870s...- I wish I knew more about the history of these regions, but there's much of it, it's difficult for a Westerner to fully get, especially an American, we have maybe 500 years of history, and most of it, fairly, China, Japan, Korea, these cultures are thousands of years old, and China and Japan in particular, have gone through several different periods of occupying and invaded other places periodically, and Korea's history, I know even less about, and from what I can gather from a quick search of Korean history, pre-Korean War, I'm actually amazed that it hasn't been occupied or invaded more often, especially considering it's geography, stuck between China, Japan, and don't forget Russia on the North. If this was Europe, that country would be Poland, which seems to be stuck in the middle on both side of whoever or whatever's occupying and invading. That said, this is a prominent time period, we're talking here. For awhile, Korea was influenced more by China, but Japan influence had been taking over before then, and during this occupation, the country, was basically forced into the customs and traditions of Japan, and in many cases, took a rather subservient role to the Japanese. This, is important subtext, to this film, (And, now that I think about it, a lot of Korean films I've seen, there's a lot of subservient behavior in them) but, I'm not gonna give a history lesson that I only barely can follow, so getting back to the story, Sookee is sent to Lady Hideko by a Count, Count Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha), who, just like the most famous count in literature you can think of, is also, not a count. This one is also, a conman, and has somehow found his way into Lady Hideko's Uncle's good graces. The Uncle, Uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo) is rich, and a collector of expensive and rare books in particular, mostly of an erotic nature. So, Kouzuki sends Sookee to help convince Lady Hideko to marry him, essentially, being his house spy, and figure out how to win her over, in exchange for part of the fortune that he plans to take, once he then gaslights Lady Hideko and put her in a mental home, leaving him, the main heir to Uncle's fortune and collectibles. If you followed all that, good, 'cause that's only a third of the movie, and even then I'm leaving a lot out. Mainly, that Sookee and Lady Hideko seem to have fallen in love with each other, and yes, this is an erotic movie, complete with multiple references in different contexts to nipple pulling, and some round beads, that look and are exactly like what you will think they are. This film, basically is a con movie, the kind with several double-and-triple crosses, one that could challenge a "The Sting" expert. I guess, taking symbolism out of the equation, the most logical comparison would probably be the Wachowski's "Bound", 'cause there's definitely a lot of similar characters at play, but that's a fun popcorn movie more than anything. Actually the movies that this reminds me of the most is Claude Berri's "Jean de Florette" and it's paired film, "Manon of the Spring". Those movies also, essentially were also stories about long con jobs that involved getting over on somebody in order to achieve monetary gain, (Well, more the first one did that than the second, but that was apart of it) and one that took a long time, and a slow approach, that, seemed successful at first, until the ultimate backfire comes in, and that one, also involved forbidden love too, come to think of it. Part of me, is not crazy about how this film, plays out; it's one of those films, where we see one thing, and then, see the same thing happen from a different perspective and angle, which is one of those cliches that I'm a little tired of, even though I honestly can't figure out how to do too many con movies without it, but, actually, it works really well here. The writing in particular is really strong here from Park and his co-writer Seo-kyeong Jun, and that might have to do a bit with this being an adaptation of a British novel from Sarah Waters called "Fingersmith", which actually makes sense, 'cause this film does have a bit of a "Dangerous Liaisons" feel to it, that definitely seems more Western and British in nature, and considering Waters is one of the best writers of gay fiction at the moment; I know her best from "Tipping the Velvet" which was turned into a wonderful miniseries on the BBC. Park is constantly inspired by Western novels and stories, sometimes more obviously than others, but this feels like one of his strongest adaptations yet. I can see why "The Handmaiden" has gotten so much praise, this is a film that will benefit from repeated thought and viewings and the deeper you go into it the better and more intricate it becomes. It's a truly impressive feature.


SWISS ARMY MAN (2016) Directors: Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinart

★★1/2



(Depressed sigh)

Oh Gah-, what the fuck is this?! Seriously? Alright, um, I'm getting the easy jokes out of the way early, and I'm just gonna presume everyone else has already said them, so....

"You ever wonder, what the volleyball used to say to Tom Hanks in "Cast Away", well, this movie tries to answer that. The part of the volleyball will be played by the rotting corpse of Daniel Radcliffe"

"You ever want  all that fun of "Weekend at Bernie's" but with more realism, well, I've got the movie for you...!

"You know, how annoying it is, when you're trying to commit suicide on the beach, and then a corpse just floats onto the beach, well, what if somebody tried to do something about it...-" ugh, look, I don't know what-the-hell I'm writing about here. I can-, I can understand, why this movie would appeal to some; I've heard some people give some great reviews to this movie, and the film is definitely different and unique, and really well-made and thought-out and different, but I'm really close to panning it. Right now, I've got it at 3 STARS, I wouldn't be shocked if by the end of this review I changes it to 2 1/2. This is, inventive, I guess...-? Yeah, it's original and unique, but...-, well...?

Okay, so, yeah, Hank, (Paul Dano) at the beginning of the movie, has "Run Away" and is now, on some deserted beach area, and all alone, and is about to kill himself, when Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) a corpse, swims up onto the sea. And he's a real corpse, farts, shats and all. But, he's all Hank's got at the moment, so,....- well, I'm told the movie is called "Swiss Army Man", because of how he uses Manny as, basically a Swiss Army Knife, something that can be manipulated and used for anything...- (Wait, that's not what a Swiss Army Knife does! You can't manipulate the knife, it's something that's got a bunch of things that were designed and built into it already. You use it to manipulate other things, and even then, only the things a Swiss Army knife can manipulate! So does that mean, that the corpse Daniel Radcliffe can only help him in ways that the corpse is designed to help Manny-, okay, I'm thinking way too hard about this.) Anyway, basically, what Hank does with Manny is make him his friends from scratch, and from scratch, since he doesn't know much about Manny, and Manny doesn't remember anything about his past life, or anything about the world, Hank is there to teach him what he knows. This, is to be honest, pretty surreal and a lot of the times, pretty funny.

That said, yeah, ultimately there's something about the movie that doesn't work for me, and I can't recommend it. (Changing stars to 2 1/2 STARS.) I don't want to give away exactly what happens, I mean I've hinted at sort of what happens, but...- basically, this is one of those movies where the reveal is that....- (Sigh) Damn, how do I describe this. eh, it's-, dammit, I hate doing this but.... (SPOILER ALERT, STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS)

Basically, it's a variation on the reveal that everything is inside a character's head. Now, I will say, it's done well here, but I can't say it's a good reveal. I've mentioned how "Fight Club" is a movie that doesn't work 'cause of it's reveal, and that's a similar variant of this reveal as well, and it works better here than that film, but the implications it leaves are kind of icky and strange. It makes us asks a lot of questions, about what happened before, but I think that's basically the only reason for the reveal, to make us ask a lot of questions about what happened before. When this reveal works, it should usually provide you with answers, instead, I found just found myself annoyed and disturbed at just how freaky this character was, and not in a charming indy way either. This is the first feature film, from Dan Kwan & Daniel Schienart, who have already been deemed "The Daniels" in some circles, and it's a well-made and confident directing effort, but I think their intention is for the absurdist macabre aspects of the film to overshadow the more whimsical aspects of the piece, when really it just makes the characters, including the main one, come off as less human and more of a contrivance. It's all in his mind, because the plot dictates so, not, that he's trying to hide something. (And when you find out what he's hiding, it's pretty underwhelming when you think about it. Maybe it's because I'm tired of that cliche, I mean, god knows, I've written that cliche of a character trait myself, so I know it's realistic, but it isn't dramatic. And this whole movie's been about a talking corpse the whole time, realism shouldn't be that big a concern.)

I've mentioned a few films for comparison so far, but actually the movie this most reminds me of is Todd Solondz's "Storytelling", especially the "Fiction" part of that movie, which also features a young man, who's sense of reality starts to get jumbled up as he lets his mind and his fantasy take over for him, 'causing him to do some severe damages to his real-life parents. That movie also played with the idea of fact vs. fiction, in a way that I think this movie is trying to achieve; "Storytelling" separated those ideas into two different sections and stories within the film, and that helped it work and make more sense, and it gave you something to think about, as well as, give us a different take on the film's storytelling aspects. Here, my gut instinct tells me that, the deeper I look, the more trivial the thoughts behind the film are. I feel like there's an idea here that's good, but the characters themselves to execute the idea were never fully thought out. If this film wasn't getting such acclaim I problem would be a little nicer to it, admittedly, this is The Daniels's debut feature, and for a debut it's impressive. Maybe I'll feel about them the way I felt about Xavier Dolan before he made "Mommy" in that, he's good, the talent's there, and they'll break eventually, but they're a long way from making a good movie yet, but when they will; it'll probably be a great one.


A BIGGER SPLASH (2016) Director: Luca Guadagnino

★★★★1/2



I've spent, about a week now, considering "A Bigger Splash", and part of me is still debating how I feel about it. About ninety minutes in it, I was ready to declare it the first great film I've seen from 2016. Then, it a went in a direction, that I'm not gonna reveal what or how it goes there, but it-, it kinda turned me off on it. Partly, because I fear it was where the movie was going; this wasn't an unpredictable storytelling choice, in fact I can think of a few movies off the top of my head, that did something fairly similar and most of those movies are fairly good as well. I suspect the part that bugged me about "A Bigger Splash" doing it, was that, it almost fit too conveniently into the narrative it was heading towards and that's what slightly turns me off to it, but I don't think it ruins the movie entirely. The film is one of those movies especially prominent in European cinema, where a group of people, get together or connect for some kind of vacation, and then, things happen. In this case, the vacation is for Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton), a famous rock star, who's recovering from a vocal surgery, and she not only needs the vacation to rest, but also, to go to somewhere secluded and private so that she doesn't talk, so her and her husband Paul (Matthia Schoenhaerts, in the typical Alessandro Nivola role) go off to, and this challenged me on my geography, the island of Pantelleria, which is a volcanic island, in the Mediterranean, that's apart of Italy, and it's between Sicily and Tunisia, in fact, you can see Tunisia from the island. Then, as they're bathing in and out of the water, suddenly, they get an unwanted visitor, in Harry (Ralph Fiennes) a music producer from the past, who decides to put in on their party, unannounced and not alone, as he brings, somebody young enough to be some new pop star he's dating, but is actually his daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson). She's an intriguing character herself, and an intriguing archetype, the outsider who's brought into a situation that she barely understands, and doesn't know much about, a typical role, usually for a young female nymphet character, particularly one that seems to have an affinity for Ann Lyon glasses. The only other consistent person in the house is the maid, Mirielle (Aurora Clement) who doesn't speak English. We do see flashbacks of how these people met before, but it's mostly there to show why their dynamics are the way they are, at least the main three, as they try to circumnavigate what to do with these two new variables coming into their world. If the movie feels familiar, like I said, this isn't a new trend, this could've of in other hands been done by Antonioni, eh, Eric Rohmer, he had a few movies like this one, also honestly, there's a bunch of films kinda like this, and apparently "A Bigger Splash" was intended as a direct remake of Jacques Deray's film "La Piscine", or "The Swimming Pool". I have not seen that particular film, but I guess that's part of why this movie in particular holds up as well as it does. The director is Luca Guadagnino, who I know mostly for directing Tilda Swinton, in a different although surprisingly similar movie about a disastrous situation between several people's clustered and confusing emotions, "I Am Love". These are the only two films of his I've seen, and he's definitely got a type of story. He loves, the outside influence who comes in and disrupts what on the surface seems like a perfect and ideal situation. Fiennes, in particular got noted for his performance from several critics group, but I actually thought the ensemble was great and Swinton in particular, who, is the coolest person alive, let's be real here, and part of it is the strange and unusual choice of roles that she continues to take. This latest one, wasn't even intended to be a mostly silent part, but she requested it, and it's actually a great idea to improve the story, 'cause it give the stasis location and situation a great excuse and it presents her and everyone else around her with an intriguing acting challenge. There's a lot to admire here, the wonderful cinematography from the underrated Yorick Le Saux, the multiple different kinds of directing involve, the acting in particular is really strong. I guess, the more I think about the ending, I like it, in theory more than execution, but that's a much more minor quibble upon reflection, and even if it wasn't, there's too many other interesting things going on. I wish, it did something that wasn't so obvious with the major twist at the end, but I can't necessarily claim to have a better idea for what should've happened either.



OTHER PEOPLE (2016) Director: Chris Kelly

★★★1/2



"Other People" on top of having one of those strange titles that could literally be an alternate title to 99% of every movie ever made, is your basic personal story of a parent's death, one that I imagine, seems to be based heavily on the film's writer/director Chris Kelly's own experiences, and it's good enough as that, plus the movie is elevated by some particularly great acting, especially by Jesse Plemons. I know, most have been noting Molly Shannon's work, she's quite good too, but Plemons's work is the one that truly impressed me, personally. Plemons plays David, a writer for "Saturday Night Live", who's in the middle of a break-up with his boyfriend Paul (Zach Woods) when his mother in Sacromento, Joanne (Shannon) gets sick, and basically, he's the only one of his eccentric family that's capable and duty-bound to take care of her while she fades away. We know that the mother is dying from cancer, and that she will die, the movie is told in flashback, and for the most part, we see it from David's perspective. He flies back-and-forth to New York over a year time, but eventually begins shopping around a pilot script, that's got some interest, although it's mostly an excuse to be out in California to deal with his Mom's illness. There's a lot of movie's like this, especially indy movies right now, basically are about a grown up having to deal with a sick and dying parent, just last year, was "James White", a movie that was much darker than this one, and feature Cynthia Nixon in the best film performance she's ever given as the troubled title character's mother. I think it helps that this film is a bit lighter, but it also helps by being better cast. "James White" for all-intensive purposes was a two-hander, but "Other People" is more of a elaborate family piece. Everybody's an eccentric and interesting as a character, even small cameo parts by the likes of Paul Dooley and June Squibb give us a great richness to the film. Also, since it follows the main character, we get to see him, going back home, and going with his old high school friend Gabe (John Early) to Sacromento's only gay bar, and reconnecting with some old high school friends who barely know anything about what his life's been like for a decade. It's that interesting part of going back to one's old life, especially after going into a creative industry and seeing how much and how little everything has changed. Writing for "SNL" would be a dream job to basically anybody, unless that is your job, it's just a stepping stone to the next job, but everybody, no matter how creative or successful will have that freak out moment in the drug store, when they're just hung in their emotions a little too long. That's what strong about "Other People" and why I'm recommending it. It feels and plays as real, emotionally if nothing else, and the acting, is top notch all around, especially Plemons, who, I'll admit, I've basically joked about him being the chubby-cheeked Matt Damon, but this is a star-making role for him and he carries this movie, and makes the movie, not just a typical indy film about a parent dying. I highly recommend it.


THE INVITATION (2016) Director: Karyn Kusama

ZERO STARS



Oh boy, here we go.

(Annoyed anger-filled sigh)

When did this one get released? 2015? No, American theatrical release 2016. (Sigh)  Okay, so, we've got an early contender for Worst Films of the Year, at least for me and my traditional path of being a year behind everyone. Surprisingly and unfortunately this is not the worst movie I saw this week, but luckily for "Veronica Mars", I stopped reviewing movies from two years ago or earlier, on a regular basis. (Yes, that "Veronica Mars" and that movie. 2014 was a shitty year for movies, and it just got shittier on me than I realized, and I'm not still not quite over that trauma of having to sit through it, so if you happen to be a fan, don't try to defend it to me, at least not right now; especially since fans paid money to get that made so I've already got a kickstarter list of people who I'm trying very hard not to chop into a million pieces and bury in the desert! GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!! [Grinning teeth, calming down, deep breath] Deep breath, David, deep breaths, deep breath. [Heavy breathing] Sorry about that. (Last deep breath) Sssssssssssssso,....,  "The Invitation", consider yourself, the luckiest piece of trash movie of all-time).

That said, this was still torture to sit through. And moronic and stupid torture at that. So, "The Invitation" is to a dinner party, with a bunch of guests, the kind of Hollywood-area, get-together of friends, enemies and frenemies, that it seems like everybody with the least amount of success in the industry tries to make at some point in their career. Hell, Joe Swanberg has basically made this movie, like seven times now. but none of those films were as bad and boring as this one. (Although "Digging for Fire" was close, Joe) So, Will (Logan Marrshall-Green) was invited to this party at his former home, and now the current home of his ex-wife Gina (Michelle Krusiac), who disappeared after they broke up, shortly after the sudden death of their son. Not, she's got a strange new husband, David (Michiel Huisman) and a new set of friends, who she seems to be combining with some old sets of friends for this dinner party. Now, Will, also brings his girlfriend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) to the party, which is, I don't know, somewhere north of Mulholland, it seems. It's one of those place and parties, except, for reasons that aren't examined as they should've been, almost all the doors are locked, even for when they're not. So, let's talk about the big scene, basically, David and Gina get everyone together to explain that they've become part of a cult. Not, in those words, in the same words that everybody who's in a cult, but doesn't think they are say, even after they show a video of the retreat in Mexico they were in, which shows somebody, dying on camera. This, somehow, doesn't cause people to scatter and leave, possibly 'cause the doors are locked, although I would've found something that broke a window. Let, me just explain the rest of the movie here, Creepy thing happen, Will goes off to think and explore, pondering either the creepy thing or the past, he comes back, creepy thing happens, Will,leaves comes back, and repeat nine or ten times. For a movie about a dinner party, this is basically a film where there's only one person that matters and that's unfortunately, Will. I won't give everything away, but yes, there's something fucked up about this dinner party, and with the guests, most of whom are too stupid to realize the problem. Or are interesting enough to care that they're stupid. I've noticed this, whenever I see a party movie go kerplunk, splat, and fails this badly, it's usually bad character writing. "+1" for instance was horribly cliched, and the only interesting character is barely seen, and treated like shit by the story. Meanwhile, a movie like "The Anniversary Party", which is basically just one big Hollywood in-joke about Hollywood in-jokes told at Hollywood parties, actually works because all the characters are intriguing, and we have enough time to dive into each and every one of them and escaped into the meditative vibes of the party. This movie, does none of that. This is just a very boring and tired cliche of a horror film, with predictable results, only differentiated by the thought-process and motives of it's killers, and the fact that it delays the inevitable, to the point where none of these characters seem plausibly intelligent. And, I don't normally complain about this particular aspect of a film, and I'm apprehensive about bringing it up, but, I can't help it, this movie is one of the worst-cast movies I've ever seen. I'm told, there were other, more notable and noteworthy names attached to this film, at one point, but most of them for one reason or another dropped out. I recognized John Carroll Lynch, but other than that, this is one of those movies where everybody looks so beautiful and so similarly, that I legitimately couldn't keep track of which actor was playing which role, and frankly, there's just not a memorable performer or star here, other than John Carroll Lynch, which, if you know that rule, SPOILERS sometimes the most famous person is the bad guy. There's not a single aspect of any character that stands out, and frankly, I didn't even like Lynch in this film. His talent was being wasted. I know, this is a low-budget, independent film and I'm not judging the acting itself critically, this was gonna be bad on the script, as far as I could tell, they aren't bad and were trying their best, but I don't think I could've picked the black girl out of a lineup of the actors in this movie, and there was only one black girl in the film! There had to be a better way to cast this movie, even if you were just going with unknowns and lesser-knows actors. I know, some of them are big on television and whatnot, but I didn't recognize many of these actors, even when they were on shows that I watched. The film itself, had trainwreck written all over it, and the writing is just awful. There's like half a dozen scenes of just Will coming back into a room and joining the party that was already going on without him. I mean, if somebody did that, like, more than twice at the same party, especially one with the goal of it's guests being what it was in this one, I think I would've taken some measures to stop it, much earlier. This was a wonderful reminder, of why I don't go to dinner parties, and not much else.


EAT THAT QUESTION: FRANK ZAPPA IN HIS OWN WORDS (2016) Director: Thorsten Schutte

★★★★1/2



I did a quick quick of some of the more recent Greatest Artists of Rock'n'Roll lists you see made, VH-1 for instance, they didn't have Frank Zappa on their latest list, which doesn't surprise me at all considering some of the ones who made that particular list. (I think the one they did in the '90s was far more accurate, which he was on, at #64) but Rolling Stone's most-recent list put him at 71 on their 2004 list and #22 on their 2011 list, which, hmm, that's a little more reasonable, but trying to place Frank Zappa's music into any kind of context, especially rock'n'roll is a bit limiting. In the history of rock'n'roll, Zappa doesn't fit anywhere. He became famous originally by playing the bicycle. No, seriously, that was his original claim to fame, using bicycle as a musical instrument on "The Steve Allen Show". Look it up, and they include that and numerous other surreal appearances Zappa made on television, as well as sort through the rest of his life in "Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words" a documentary that takes a chronological look at Zappa through his three decades-long career as a composer. And "composer" is the right word, by the way, especially late in his too-short career, he had moved onto primarily classical composing, but his music, is a basically rock'n'roll's equivalent of Mozart. Taking everything he could at his disposal and creating these amazing orchestrations, that are, quite simply unlike almost anything else. I have a copy of "Joe's Garage" on cassette somewhere around here, one of his over fifty+ albums he of music he made in his 53 years on Earth, and those were just the ones he made when he was alive; I'm not counting the posthumous albums of previously unreleased material. Basically, whatever was big in music like ten years later, Zappa did it ten years early. He broke in the sixties but hated the hippie movement, and then in the eighties he testified in front of Congress protesting the Parental Advisory Warning labels that, we still see on records today. His music was particularly vulgar lyrically for most of his career. He played with the earliest electronic sounds, he conducted symphony orchestras..., I'm fairly certain the only thing he didn't do was rap, and I'm not too sure he didn't unknowingly invent that either. He was on a few labels early in his career, but he spent most of his career instead as an independent artist, had his own label for awhile where he found other artists like Alice Cooper, but this documentary, similar to say, "Tupac: Resolution", with the exception of one or two talking heads, is basically a chronological look at Zappa's life and career, through all the home movie and video footage they have, and it's freaky, in a good way. Actually, it's a fairly conventional, but it's all Zappa. Some famous performances like the one he did at Royal Albert Hall, and much of his touring through Europe throughout his career. He only had one Top 40 hit in the states, and only once did one of his albums break the Top Ten on Billboard, but late in his career, he was touring Europe as American's cultural representative. Especially the Eastern block that had just started opening up. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to anybody at the time, until it was too late, he passed away from prostate cancer that went un-diagnosed too long. I would dare say that there was nobody more anti-establishment than Frank Zappa, and nobody who created more visionary music in their life that was just way ahead-, not just his time, his music is otherworldly and his artistic vision is incomparable. He directed a movie at one point, and even then, he was doing things with wavelength manipulation that wouldn't become common practice for years later. His first album with the Mothers of Invention was "Freak Out" and he the ultimate freak, and "Eat That Question..." shows why.


AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY (2016) Director: Jeff Feuerzeig

★★★★



"...And I used to pray, not, 'God, please make me a beautiful pretty girl,' it was, 'Let me wake up as a cute blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy. A blonde-haired, boy-eyed boy that a man would love, and wanna fuck.'" 

Wo-owwwwwwwwwww!

(clicks tongues)

You ever just stand back and look at a sentence and think, "Wow, that's a combination of words!" Like, I know, every sentence, is literally, just that, but, still, especially if you're literary inclined and you spend half of your regular daily life, thinking about how to place words in a sentence in the right way to get people to understand what you're talking about and where you're coming, and still, you just sit back and go, "Whoa, somebody took those words, and put them in that order. Yikes!" That's a-, that's a kind of fucked up, where even fucked up people, stand back and go, "Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttt!" That person is seriously fucked up.

So, there's a good question, that everybody in any art form, wonders and considers, and it basically what's the difference between somebody who's good and stomebody's who's great at their art. In this case, literature but you can play this scenario with any art form really, but especially with literature, and basically all forms of the written word, I might argue that the big x-factor is voice. You, have to have, a distinctive voice when you're writing and creating. You can learn all the technical stuff, in any art form, filmmaking, acting, painting, writing, sculpting, music,..., etc. they're all skills that can be taught, and even the most inept person with a decent understanding of the basics, but having a distinctive and unique voice, that's something that maybe some can develop, but truly the best will eventually distinguish themselves with it, Sometimes I can tell when I hear the next great voice, I caught it with Tina Fey, like the second I realize that a Tina Fey existed. Sometimes I don't, it's not perfect or easy to do. It does beg a question however, can "voice" be faked? I mean, a painting for instance, can be a fake and forged to mimic someone else, but can you mimic an original voice? Especially in writing? Well, if all art is a lie, then why not?  

The person who said that, around seventeen minutes into "Author: The JT LeRoy Story" is Laura Albert. Who's Laura Albert? That's a good question. She was the person behind the famed author, JT LeRoy. Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy, was a young man who was the son of a truckstop prostitute, who became a prostitute herself. And no, I didn't just switch my gender roles accidentally there, she was a-, well, I'm not sure what the term is, but at one point, she had her genitalia mutilated, by some particularly vicious ex-husband of his mother, forcing him to not develop puberty, and went out as either a boy or a girl as he/she struggled for most of his young life with sexual identity (We'll refer to him/her as transgendered) and he had numerous other things happen to him. He has AIDS, for one thing, and was a junkie himself. He somehow made it out of the West Virginia truckstops and made it all the way to San Francisco where he lived with a family friend, a British publicist named Speedie, who also worked as a singer with her husband Geoff, under the name Emily Frasier, and formed the band Thistle. JT, on the advice of his psychologist, began to write, and soon had a short study published under the alias "Terminator" and then had three books published under his real name, JT LeRoy, and became pretty famous. He was praised as one of the best new writers of our generation, he wrote three books, one of which Asia Argento turned into the film, "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things", which like most of his work, was based on much of his own life, although a fictitious version, and became a major figure in the literary and even the celebrity world, being friends with, Argento, who they shared a particular intriguing night in Rome it seems, and with the likes of Tom Waits, Bono, Courtney Love, Billy Corgan, David Milch, among others. She was an associate producer on Gus Van Sant's masterpiece "Elephant" which she helped wrote a draft of the script for, and had a major scene stay in the movie, and worked as a writer on an Andy Warhol documentary as well. Except, there is no JT LeRoy. There's no Speedie, either, and while their is a Laura Albert, there is no Emily Frasier. LeRoy, was the creation of Albert. Well, creation, might be the wrong word. Watching this documentary, which primarily tells the story from Albert's point of view, Laura Albert, is herself, an interesting person. How trustworthy she is, I don't know, but she seems like the kind of cool person I'd run into at a coffee shop or a bondage club, and we'd have fun hanging outside and talking literary theory with while smoking cigarettes, but yeah, she was a 30+ old mother, who was overweight, before getting a lap-band surgery, and had a difficult childhood, one that included multiple stints being institutionalized in a group home, think, "Girl, Interrupted", and even at one point, her parents had to give up their rights and make her a ward of the state. She also, did some pretty unconventional things with her Barbie dolls. I, will not speculate on her motives or actions, in creating, this huge fantasy world. She tries to explain, and I'm sure it makes sense to her, but eventually, the "hoax" was found out. She now publishes under her real name, but that still leaves the text of JT LeRoy, who one might argue, was a real alter-ego of hers, in some complicity. Some claim disassociate-personality disorder, others think it's just another part of her fiction, (Shrugs) LeRoy did make appearances, except it was her sister-in-law Savannah in disguise and for the most part pulling off a hell of an acting job, although most of what we get, are recorded phone conversation, between JT and/or Speedie, or her other alterego, Speedie, along with several people, almost all of whom were in some way tricked by JT LeRoy. Laura did reveal, to a few, the truth before the story came out, David Milch and Billy Corgan, seemed to take it in stride when heard. Which, sorta makes sense actually. They're creators of fiction, I'm one as well, and I get it. You don't just write in your own voice, and do it all the time, I myself, don't necessarily have complete alteregos, but you takes some emotions and personality traits from other places and try to emotionally replicate that, and suddenly, I'm writing from this part of my psyche and not necessarily one of my other parts more, depending on which one might feel the best or most appropriate for the situation. However, the downside to that, is, voice. When we do analyze and consider works of art, the thing we consider firstly, rightly or wrongly so, is the Author, and se author's life and perspective. Emily Dickinson was a spinster, Charles Dickens was an orphan, Mark Twain was from Hannibal, Missouri, Edgar Allen Poe was a drunk, etc. whatever, these teachings are often more ingrained in us than the actual work they produce themselves. So, JT LeRoy, was a truckstop prostitute's transgenders child, is it so wrong that that's not true. The books and writing he produced still exist, they were never labeled as biography, they were always fiction, so it's not like a Norma Khouri situation where she claimed the story was true, despite all evidence indicating that it wasn't, (You can learn her in the documentary "Forbidden Lie$" which I very highly recommend, almost as a counterpoint to "Author...") although she did get sued and had to pay Van Sant's film company for signing a contract under LeRoy's name. This documentary is very narrow, we basically, except for a few talking heads in the beginning, just get, Laura Albert, explaining and telling us her side of the story. I'm told there's a documentary from the other side of the story, called "The Cult of JT LeRoy", which I have not seen, but appears to depict the story from the perspectives of many of the other people who seemed to get caught up in the JT LeRoy mythology. I guess I feel a little sympathy at the moment for Laura Albert, if for no other reason than the fact that she is herself a very interesting and dynamic human being who's talent is inarguable. Now the question becomes, would the same material have been as big or as popular, if it was from the beginning, said to have been from the perspective of Laura Albert the entire time? And, if the answer is no, is that the fault or her, or the literary world, searching for their distinctive, unique, celebrity voice that will transform and change the literary world?


SUFFRAGETTE (2015) Director: Sarah Gavron

★★1/2



The women's suffrage movement, is not discussed, or taught enough in most history classes, and that's wrong. Really wrong. It's hard to fully understand, the way it reads, is that basically, there wasn't women voting, and then, at least in America, the 19th Amendment was finally passed, almost, 97 years ago, and women have had the right to vote ever since, but it was a lot more than that. It was a movement, and a political one at that. A violent, political one, that involved protests and even, martyrdom. Now, in America, the movie that most comes to my mind, at least for me, is the HBO TV film, "Iron Jawed Angels", with Hilary Swank as Alice Paul, who even among suffragettes are seriously overlooked historically, because she was the one who led the fight for national suffrage, while most of the Susan B. Anthony disciples in the Movement, were more concentrated on a laborious state-by-state movement, and was, in general a more aggressive protester and voice of the movement. "Suffragette",  I'm told doesn't take it's history as accurately. (Although "Iron Jawed Angels" did have some anachronistic touches)  For instance, Carey Mulligan's character, Maud Watts, is a composite character. Also, it's a bit of a mess. It's good at depicting the era of Women's Suffrage, women on the workroom floors, causing stirs with rallies and speeches, the general violent disapproval of the men, the continuous struggles and protests of government and other societal institutions. Still though, the movie comes off as hollow. It climaxes with the death of Emily Wilding Davidson (Natalie Press) who was killed when she went out onto the racetrack at the Epsom Derby and was run over by one of the king's horses during the race. It was caught on camera; I've seen the actual video of the incident before, it's pretty shocking. It did lead to the United Kingdom granting women's rights, in 1918, five years later, two years before america did. I don't know, I found myself uninspired by "Suffragette", maybe it's because it's the UK and not the US, so the story doesn't have the same historical relevance and significance for me, but I somehow doubt that. The movie, overall tone is just dreary and dark, and again, more or less, go through the motions of a women's rights movement story, but I never felt engaged with it. Compare that to "Iron Jawed Angels" the characters were placed almost in a modern perspective. You had good actresses playing good roles, but what you didn't have was a personal touch. The main character arc is for a character who was a combination of roles, and then suddenly, the movie ends with Davison's death. and a long list of countries and what year women got the right to vote in them. All of the countries, gave permission a lot later then they probably should. It's a great message and history lesson, but like many history lessons, they might not always be as entertaining as they could've been in the textbook. Or on the screen.



Post a Comment