Wednesday, February 28, 2018

MY OFFICIAL 2017 OSCAR PREDICTIONS! (Still fighting a cold so, no special gimmicks this year either, just predictions. Might be briefer than usual.)




Alright, 24 categories, 24 predictions. Let's do this. Oscars are Sunday, Happy Oscar Weekend everyone,

I'll give a few thoughts on some of these like I usually do, but I think I'm gonna run through them since, I'm still mostly trying to not fall into NyQuil-induced coma, before I take my NyQuil, so let's power through this fascinating Oscar year.

And reminder, none of these are preferences, I haven't seen enough of these to have any of those, these are just prediction. Anyway, let's start with the big eight, beginning right at the top.


BEST PICTURE
Call Me By Your Name-Producers: Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito
Darkest Hour-Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski
Dunkirk-Producers: Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan
Get Out-Producers: Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm, Jr. and Jordan Peele
Lady Bird-Producers: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O'Neill
Phantom Thread-Producers: Jo Anne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi
The Post-Producers: Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macoska Krieger
The Shape of Water-Producers: Guillermo Del Toro and J. Miles Dale
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri-Producers: Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh

Honestly, as long as the don't F*** up the envelopes again, I don't even really care who wins this year. (I am almost ready to begin being over that!) Well, I think I may have to eat some crow, or not, because I basically predicted a while back, that, whoever wins Best Original Screenplay was going to win Picture, and I still kinda believe that, but I'm probably not going to listen to myself again and split those two anyway. Anyway, most pundits have it between four contenders, "Get Out", "Lady Bird", "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards...." with the latter currently leading on the Gold Derby odds. So, we're gonna get either #OscarSoBlack, #OscarSoFemale, #OscarsSoStillSortaRacist, or weirdest one of all, #OscarsSo-um,eh,soFishF***ers? (Shrugs) Honestly, despite Del Toro a shoe-in for Director, I'm not buying "The Shape of Water" winning; that lack of a SAG Ensemble nomination is a red flag everyone ignored last year, and I'm not falling for that again. Frankly I think it's between "Get Out" and "Three Billboards...." and this is a very close race; I wouldn't be surprised by either winning here, I was picking "Get Out" for the longest time, but BAFTA came out is when I finally switched. Not just because McDonagh won Writing there, that was as-expected, but "Three Billboards..." won both Best Film and Best British Film there, which is shockingly rare, even when it seems like it would be obvious. (For instance, "Slumdog Millionaire" winning Best Film but losing British Film to "Man on Wire"; they like to split that up.) Last year that happened was "The King's Speech", and we tried to dismiss BAFTA that year for, well, being British and sure enough it won. That and a SAG win, I think are too much for "Get Out" to overcome, which is gonna hopefully fight to get the consolation Writing prize. #OscarsStillSortaRacist takes it this year by a nose.

PREDICTION: "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" 


DIRECTING
Paul Thomas Anderson-"Phantom Thread"
Guillermo Del Toro-"The Shape of Water"
Greta Gerwig-"Lady Bird"
Christopher Nolan-"Dunkirk"
Jordan Peele-"Get Out"

Don't overthink it. Del Toro's won everywhere he can, including DGA which has gotten it's prediction wrong once since 2000, and that was the year Ben Affleck wasn't nominated for "Argo". The rule of Picture and Director automatically matching has been long out the window for years.

PREDICTION: Guillermo Del Toro-"The Shape of Water"


ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Timothee Chalamet-"Call Me By Your Name"
Daniel Day-Lewis-"Phantom Thread"
Daniel Kaluuya-"Get Out"
Gary Oldman-"Darkest Hour"
Denzel Washington-"Roman J. Israel, Esq."

I've heard Timothee Chalamet's campaigning everywhere trying to scrounge enough votes to Eddie Redmayne this thing, but you know, here's the thing, Hollywood didn't want to give it to Michael Keaton, but they really, really do want to give it to Gary Oldman. Chalamet's young, so is Kaluuya, they'll be back. Again, don't overthink it, he's won everywhere, including SAG, including BAFTA, including the Globes, he's playing Winston Churchill,....

PREDICTION: Gary Oldman-"Darkest Hour"


ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Sally Hawkins-"The Shape of Water"
Frances McDormand-"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Margot Robbie-"I, Tonya"
Saoirse Ronan-"Lady Bird"
Meryl Streep-"The Post"

Wow, Saoirse Ronan's got three career acting nominations and she was born in 1994. She's not 24 yet. She's not gonna win, I just wanted to make all of us including myself feel incredibly sad about our lives and what little we've accomplished with them.  (I should post a Saffy Herndon video here, just to warn you all of what's coming, but-, eh.) I do think she's in the race actually, but it seems like McDormand's just riding the trend and is everyone's favorite and has, as usual, won everything and everywhere that matters. Sally Hawkins might be an interesting second choice here, but I'm just not seeing it. Better luck next year Meryl.

PREDICTION: Frances McDormand-"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"


ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Willem Dafoe-"The Florida Project"
Woody Harrelson-"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Richard Jenkins-"The Shape of Water"
Christopher Plummer-"All the Money in the World"
Sam Rockwell-"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Look, if "All the Money in the World" had gotten anything else, I might've thought to consider Plummer here, but it's just a F*** you nomination to Spacey, and you know what, fine. Plummer's already won, so he's out and that leaves four beloved amazing characters actors to choose from. I can see scenarios for all of them, but again, don't overthink, Sam Rockwell's won all the biggest prognosticators going in,- there could be a vote split between him and Harrelson, maybe, btw, the last time two nominees in this category came from the same film was 1991 with Keitel and Kingsley for "Bugsy" and the last time somebody won in this category against a cast mate, you gotta go back to 1980 when Timothy Hutton pulled the upset win over Judd Hirsch, both were up for "Ordinary People", but Sam Rockwell has been an innovative and original actor for a long time now, actors want to honor him, finally they have a chance, they're taking it.

PREDICTION: Sam Rockwell-"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"


ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Mary J. Blige-"Mudbound"
Allison Janney-"I, Tonya"
Lesley Manville-"Phantom Thread"
Laurie Metcalf-"Lady Bird"
Octavia Spencer-"The Shape of Water"

Okay, this is the one category where there's basically been one heavy favorite winning everything that I'm a little hesistant on, 'cause even though Allison Janney has won pretty much everything, every indication otherwise says that this race might be close between her and Laurie Metcalf. I think there might've been a few outstanding votes for Lesley Manville, but if she can't win at BAFTA I can't figure out how she'd win here. I think Laurie Metcalf is finally campaigning, she's been doing a play for most of the Oscar seasons, but Allison Janney has such an advantage in the ground game that I think it's just too late. They're both very similar roles, evil mother parts, plus these are two similar actresses with similar backgrounds, and a history of winning. Metcalf, people forget won like three Emmys in a row for "Roseanne" years ago, and who knows, she might win again now that that's back, and Allison Janney, she's like tied the Emmy record right now, and who knows "Mom"'s still going, she might keep it up. If they want to honor "Lady Bird", and I think the Oscars do, this is the most likely scenario, but god, even if Laurie Metcalf was an unstoppable force, she's running into a brick wall going up against Allison Janney. And let me tell ya, you ask anybody in town who truly are the best actors around, like, they might say Meryl first, but second or third, they're saying Allison. They know how talented she really is, and that's half the reason why she wins everything, and I don't see that changing here.

PREDICTION: Allison Janney-"I, Tonya"


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Call Me By Your Name-James Ivory
The Disaster Artist-Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan-Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly's Game-Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound-Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Don't overthink it again, "Call Me By Your Name" is the only Best Picture nominee in the group, and three of the other nominees have only this one nomination, you have to go back to 2004 to see a non-BP nominee win at either Screenplay category and that was "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" getting an upset win, and to see a film win a Writing category with only a Writing nomination, you gotta go back to the '50s with "Designing Women" winning, and it's never happened in the Adapted Screenplay category. Plus they want to give it to James Ivory, who I can't imagine wouldn't become the oldest winner ever with this win. If there's an upset maybe "Mudbound", but boy that's the stretch and a half. Maybe to honor Scott Frank, "Logan" could be a player, but I think it needed a lot more to get in and be a player here.

PREDICTION: "Call Me By Your Name"-James Ivory


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Big Sick-Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjani
Get Out-Jordan Peele
Lady Bird-Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water-Guillermo Del Toro & Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri-Martin McDonagh

This is the one I'm worried about. I think we all have "The Big Sick" out of contention, easily, and I think "The Shape of Water" is probably out considering the small plagiarism claims that's out there in the ether haunting over it. Um, Greta Gerwig could pull this off, but most the winners have been split between "Get Out" and "Three Billboards...". "Three Billboards..." has done better in this category, everywhere, but America. It won the Golden Globe, but that's the Foreign Press, "Get Out" won at WGA but "Three Billboards..." wasn't eligible there, but it was at Critics Choice where "Get Out" won, "Three Billboards..." beat it at BAFTA...- They're both one and two, by my counts for Picture...-  I said whoever wins this wins Picture,.... but....- maybe they don't.

PREDICTION: "Get Out"-Jordan Peele

Okay from the big 8, let's go to the other three film awards, Animated, Documentary and Foreign Language Feature!


ANIMATED FEATURE
The Boss Baby-Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito
The Breadwinner-Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo
Coco-Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson
Ferdinand-Carlos Saldanha
Loving Vincent-Dorota Kabiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan MacTaggart

This is another easy one, "Coco" is the only film of the nominees that's consistently showed up everywhere, it's won more awards, it's the most popular and most-well known of the nominees, it's a nominee elsewhere, the fact that it's Pixar helps...- this is a relatively easy call. If there is a second choice, it's probably split between "The Breadwinner" and "Loving Vincent"...; don't overthink....

PREDICTION: "Coco"



DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail-Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
Faces Places-Agnes Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
Icarus-Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogen
Last Men in Aleppo-Feras Fayyad, Karem Abeed and Soren Steen Jesperson
Strong Island-Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes

Okay, this one's a little tricky because one of the presumptive favorites, "Jane" didn't get into this category, so it's a bit up in the air, and there's reasons to vote for each of these. "Abacus..." could get the votes as a long overdue makeup to Steve James, who the Documentary Branch has been screwing with since "Hoop Dreams", they could go to "Strong Island" which would make Yance Ford the first openly trans filmmaker to win an Oscar, but there's also "Icarus" a timely film about Russia's Olympic steroid scandal, also, "Last Men in Aleppo" is about Syria and is about the same subject as last year's short subject winner, "The White Helmets", those last three are all streaming on Netflix btw, so there's that. "Faces Places" has to be the current favorite though, that's a film by the great Agnes Varda, who the Academy just gave an Honorary Oscar to, and again, there's years of make up that could be done if they were to finally reward that French New Wave pioneer. So, it's a bit of a toss-up, but I think I'm going with "Faces Places", just because I think they're in a mood to honor Agnes Varda, above everything else.

PREDICTION: "Faces Places"


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)-Sebastian Lelio
The Insult (Lebanon)-Ziad Doueiri
Loveless (Russia)- Andrey Zvyagintsev
On Body and Soul (Hungary)-Ildiko Eriyedi
The Square (Sweden)-Ruben Ostlund

This is always a tricky category. Name-wise, if we're going by Directors, I'd imagine "The Square" and "Loveless" are favorites, for different reasons. "A Fantastic Woman" is the most easily available, currently on Netflix I believe and is probably the least divisive and most enjoyable of the group. Chile's an interesting film country anyway, that's in the midst of a modern Renaissance, they might want to honor that. "The Insult" is Lebanon's first ever nomination, and that looks like something I can see them voting for. GoldDerby has "A Fantastic Woman" pulling away with "The Square" and "Loveless" as their second choices. I can see it either way, "The Square" has some noted American actors, most notably Elisabeth Moss in it, but that didn't help the Diane Kruger movie that didn't get in here. I can't imagine Hollywood's in the best mindset to honor Russia at the moment. Hmm, this is a bit of a toss-up, but I'm gonna go with "A Fantastic Woman" until Sweden wins for a film that's not made by Ingmar Bergman.

PREDICTION: "A Fantastic Woman" (Chile)

Now, we get to the ten technical categories.


CINEMATOGRAPHY
Blade Runner 2049-Roger A. Deakins
Darkest Hour-Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk-Hoyte von Hoytema
Mudbound-Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water-Dan Lautsen

Don't overthink it, they want to give it to Roger Deakins, it's his fourteenth nomination, he's never won, they've promoted that fact, literally since before the film was made. "Dunkirk" or "The Shape of Water" might be in for spoilers, for Deakins hasn't lost anywhere, including the Guild.

PREDICTION-"Blade Runner 2049"


COSTUME DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast-Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour-Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread-Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water-Luis Sequeira
Victoria & Abdul-Consolata Boyle

Costume Design is interesting. The Costume Designers Guild went with "Wonder Woman" upsetting "Beauty and the Beast", so that's out,  with "The Shape of Water" upsetting "Phantom Thread", with an outside win for "I, Tonya", which didn't get nominated. I think it is between "The Shape of Water" and "Phantom Thread", gut instinct tells me they'll pick the film where the costumes are more important, other gut tells me the one with the most costumes. This could go a couple ways, the category does have a history of going against the Guilds and trends, Gold Derby's leaning towards "Phantom Thread" and I think that makes the most sense.

PREDICTION: "Phantom Thread"


FILM EDITING
Baby Driver-Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
Dunkirk-Lee Smith
I, Tonya-Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water-Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri-Jon Gregory

This was the other category that hurt "Get Out" and "Lady Bird" Best Picture predictions. Only once since "Ordinary People" has a film won Best Picture without an Editing nomination, and that was "Birdman..." which didn't have much any editing in it. "Dunkirk", war movie, won at A.C.E. Eddies, Lee Smith is overdue, that's a favorite. "I, Tonya" upset "Baby Driver" at A.C.E. Eddies, still wouldn't be shocked by that upset though, but I think "Baby Driver"'s more viable in Sound categories. It's possible for something to win without a Best Picture nod, normally it's some kind of chase or mystery movie though, like "The Bourne Ultimatum" or the year "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", won, I'm not seeing that here.

PREDICTION: "Dunkirk"


MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Darkest Hour-Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
Victoria & Abdul-Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Wonder-Arjen Tuiten

Don't overthink this one, most makeup and most obvious makeup usually wins, and it doesn't hurt if it's a Best Picture nominee, especially if the centerpiece of that film is a performance with a lt of makeup involved.

PREDICTION: "Darkest Hour"


ORIGINAL SCORE

Dunkirk-Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread-Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water-Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi-John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri-Carter Burwell

This is one category I'm not entirely sure about. "The Shape of Water" seems to have the momentum and it's definitely between that, "Phantom Thread" and "Dunkirk", but I'm not exactly sure why. A few weeks ago "Dunkirk" seems like an easy call here, but "The Shape of Water" is the one picking up the most steam. I think it's between those two, and basically a coin flip.

PREDICTION: "The Shape of Water"


ORIGINAL SONG
"Mystery of Love"-Call Me By Your Name-Music/Lyric: Sufjan Stevens
"Remember Me"-Coco-Music/Lyric: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
"This is Me"-The Greatest Showman-Music/Lyric: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
"Stand Up for Something"-Marshall-Music: Diane Warren; Lyric: Lonnie R. Lynn (aka Common)
"Mighty River"-Mudbound-Music/Lyric: Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson

Another category that doesn't seem to give anybody much hints. Personally I'm cheering for "Stand Up for Something", 'cause Diane Warren is inching closer and closer to that Randy Newman number of nomination without a win, but it seems like "Coco" and "The Greatest Showman" songs have pulled ahead. Both are penned by former recent winners and both songs are popular. "This is Me" seems to be everywhere lately. There's no obvious musical in the mix or something that outright screams it must win, so I'm going with the trend.

PREDICTION: "This is Me"-"The Greatest Showman


PRODUCTION DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast-Pro.: Sarth Greenwood; Set: Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049-Pro.: Dennis Gassner; Set: Alesssandra Querzola
Darkest Hour-Pro.: Sarah Greenwood; Set: Katie Spencer
Dunkirk-Pro.: Nathan Crowley; Set: Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water-Pro.: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set: Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A.
Melvin

Art Director's Guild went Period Film for "The Shape of Water" beating both Darkest Hour" and "Dunkirk" while Fantasy Film went for "Blade Runner" so sorry Sarah & Katie. Between those two, I think it's close but "The Shape of Water" is a lot more popular than "Blade Runner 2049" is and that's guaranteed to get rewarded.

PREDICTION: "The Shape of Water"


SOUND EDITING
Baby Driver-Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049-Mark Mangini and Theo Green
Dunkirk-Richard King and Alex Gibson
The Shape of Water-Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi-Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

Sound Editors Guild is a bit divided here between "Blade Runner 2049" and "Dunkirk". "Blade Runner" I suspect is a little too quiet to win for Sound, plus just as a general rule, especially when it's open to the wider Academy for a vote, when it's Sound Editing, they lean towards the loudest film, and that's usually the War movie.

PREDICTION: "Dunkirk"


SOUND MIXING
Baby Driver-Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis
Blade Runner 2049-Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
Dunkirk-Gregg Landaker, Gary A Rizzo and Mark Weingarten
The Shape of Water-Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
Star Wars: The Last Jedi-David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

Sound Mixing, usually goes to the same as Sound Editing, unless, there's a musical around. Now, "Dunkirk" won the CAS Award this year, but, I'm gonna take a gamble here, 'cause there is one movie with a lot of music that's quite integral to the story, and that's "Baby Driver". So, I'm taking a chance on this one and going with "Baby Driver". (BTW, this comparison Editing goes to War films, Mixing goes to Musical, make absolutely no sense when you look up the jobs of Sound Editors and Sound Mixers, but we go with it.)

PREDICTION: "Baby Driver"


VISUAL EFFECTS
Blade Runner 2049-John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2-Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island-Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meanardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi-Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlon and Chris Carbould
War for the Planet of the Apes-Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

Most awards at the Visual Effects Society Awards split between "Blade Runner 2049" and "War for the Planet of the Apes". Everybody's a bit reluctant to predict "War..." because "Planet of the Apes" hasn't done well in this category, getting nominated every year but then losing to something more popular. I'm tempted to think that again and go with "Blade Runner 2049" just because that's the most nominated of the bunch, but- I don't know, last year, they went with "The Jungle Book" and the year before that, "Ex Machina" was a surprise winner over three BP nominees and "Star Wars....". Maybe the trends have broken in this category?

PREDICTION: "War for the Planet of the Apes"

Now, to the three Short categories. Here's where we can win the pools.


ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Dear Basketball-Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant
Garden Party-Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
Lou-Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
Negative Space-Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
Revolting Rhymes-Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

I'm really worried that "Dear Basketball"'s gonna win this, but I actually saw that short and three of the other nominees, that just doesn't seem right to me. Maybe I'm being blind here but...- "Garden Party" would be my vote but I tend to know to pick the most ambitious and elaborate of the shorts, as well as entertaining one, so I'm going out on a limb here and taking "Revolting Rhymes".

PREDICTION: "Revolting Rhymes"


DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Edith+Eddie-Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405-Frank Stiefel
Heroin(E)-Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
Knife Skills-Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop-Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

"Edith + Eddie" is the only one of these I haven't seen, and the favorite. Of the others, I thought "Heaven is a Traffic Jame on the 405" was the weakest, but that's the second choice on Gold Derby, so what do I know. I'm just gonna play this one safe and go with the one that's won elsewhere.

PREDICTION: "Edith+Eddie"


LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
DeKalb Elementary-Reed Van Dyk
The Eleven O'Clock-Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
My Nephew Emmett-Kevin Wilson, Jr.
The Silent Child-Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote/All of Us-Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen

When did Oscar voting start? 20th? When was the Parkland shooting? The 14th? Yeah, I'm not screwing with this, I'm going with the one about the school shooting. Maybe "The Silent Child" or "My Nephew Emmett"'s in the mix, but I'm not thinking too deeply on this one; I'm taking the most relevant nominee.

PREDICTION: "DeKalb Elementary"

Alright, that's my predictions folks, time for my NyQuil coma. G'night. see ya Oscar Sunday!

(Opens bottle of NyQuil, pours down throat.)






Sunday, February 25, 2018

MOVIE REVIEWS #145-PART 1: "ICARUS", "LAST MEN IN ALEPPO", "GIRLS TRIP", "A GHOST STORY", "WHOSE STREETS?" and "KEDI"

(Cough-cough-cough, hack-ack-ack, cough-cough!!! Wipes mouth, sadly sighs.)

Okay, some of you may have noticed my lack of appearances on social media, especially Facebook recently..., well, I've been sick. Still sick, and normally I can fight through anything, but I think I caught a pretty bad flu, and frankly, I can focus or pay attention to anything for a prolonged period of time without getting tired and needing to rest or sleep or just getting dizzy. It is annoying and frankly, I hate it, and just when I thought I was about to do better, I got sicker again, and my mind and body has just been fuzzy the last few days. It's even invading my dreams. But, I need to post, and while I've seen more movies than this, although not in the last few days, I'm posting the reviews I finished now, and hopefully by the time I get healthy next week, I can focus on the Oscar predictions at least and I'll finish these batches of reviews then.


ICARUS (2017) Director: Bryan Fogel


★★★★1/2




As I write, I'm currently frustrated being a Team USA fan watching the Olympics as my country hasn't earned a single medal in two days, something that quite frankly, even for the Winter Olympics, is a major disappointment. Especially our hockey teams lately....-, anyway, it is funny to see this backstory right now. For the second time in my lifetime, back when they were apart of the Unified Team in 1992, Russian Olympians are competing under the Olympics flag, not their own; they're competing under the moniker "Olympic Athletes of Russia" as their country has been banned from these Olympics after the world's uncovered their extremely vast illegal doping conspiracy which spread across almost any sport you can think of, particularly Olympic sports, and was state-sanctioned and executed all the way up to Putin himself, although the way it's describe by Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of  Russia's Anti-Doping Laboratory, which is the most ironic name the place could've had if it tried. Before becoming a whistleblower and now currently living under witness protection, although a statement from him was recently released as the cases regarding the anti-doping violations and claims continue to go on.


Bryan Fogel's "Icarus" is the kind of documentary that started as one thing that then evolved into something else. Director Bryan Fogel originally planned to do a documentary on how easy it was to evade the doping testings of the sporting world; he's an amateur cyclist and was fascinated by how Lance Armstrong managed to evade getting a positive test all those years. He got into contatct with Rodchenkov in order to have him organize his training regimen as he prepares for the Haute Route, the world's biggest amateur cycling race, it's similar to the Tour De France in terms of route, and Rodchenkov, who he was first contacting on Skype, eventually went to L.A. with him, as the story began to get leaked and eventually word spread of Russia's corruption. By the way, the actual details of how the state, in particular the FSB, which is modern arm of what used to be the KGB orchestrated this corruption, is both amazing and ridiculous, and if you're a germophobe, there's a lot of talk about urine samples.

The movie doesn't just detail the downfall of the Russian Olympics team, which, by the way, if the state is corrupt enough to give this big of a shit about sports...- I mean, we'll take the hit for Lance Armstrong's out there but we didn't help him out with his lying or inject him personally or steal, taint and switch urine samples for him, but it the state basically regulates it so the athletes can perform, then what-the-hell else are they up to.... it always shows a profile of a wonderfully fascinating and eccentric man as his life is turned completely around. One of his closest advisers and partners drops dead suddenly under suspicious circumstances and he's gone from a Medal of Friendship recipient to public enemy #1 in Russia. They still claim that he's lying, this documentary reveals how blatantly ridiculous that would be. The movie's titled "Icarus" but it doesn't surprise me that Rodchenkov is a huge George Orwell fan cause everything that he seems to do and think feels like it's right out of a doublethink mentality, as does the entire Russia state it seems these days. It's not shocking to me when athletes personally justify their cheating behavior, but it's far more disturbing when it comes from the government; there's clearly other stuff going on.

"Icarus" is a fascinating film, not only for it's look inside Russia and the Olympic doping scandal, but it also works as an investigative thriller and even dives into the athletic underworld of illegal performance-enhancing substances and shows us how they can be so widespread, how tests and results can be altered or twisted and the lengths some people and some nations will go for what, in some cases, isn't even as illustrious a prize as a Gold Medal at the Olympics. And just how easy they can be convinced that they're doing the right thing by cheating the system and lying about it to everyone else.


LAST MEN IN ALEPPO (2017) Director: Feras Fayyad; Co-Directors: Steen Johannessen and Hasan Kattan

★★★1/2


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So, last year, there was a documentary from Netflix called "The White Helmets", you might have heard of it; it won the Oscar for Documentary Short Subject. I saw it, it was pretty powerful. It was about the Syrian Civil Defense, there the civilian search and rescue group currently working in Aleppo and the surrounding war-torn areas and their job is to basically come in after the bombing or the battle and then, help or save whoever they can. You're forgiven for possibly confusing "Last Men in Aleppo" as a sequel from to "The White Helmets", 'cause it's basically about the same thing, only a bit longer. That's not a knock by any means, and lord knows the more eyes spotlight on this group and the atrocities going on in that part of the world at the moment the better, but yeah, I couldn't help but get the feeling of deja vu come over me while watching "Last Men in Aleppo". The movie has the unfortunate timing of having competition with Amazon's documentary "City of Ghosts" a documentary about the civilian-lead news source Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered which also takes place at around the same area at the same time, and frankly, I liked "City of Ghosts" more. That's not to dismiss "Last Men in Aleppo"; I'm sure if I had seen it separately from this these other films I probably would appreciate it more. This one, is a little long for me, but I imagine it's long for them too. There's some harrowing scenes of them saving babies and kids from rubble and debris that's both harrowing to see and hard to watch. I can say that for the whole film though.


I think ultimately I appreciate that "Last Men in Aleppo" exists much more than I admire it as a film. That's enough to recommend it.


GIRLS TRIP (2017) Director: Malcolm D. Lee

★★★


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Okay, I'm gonna give this film a break, it doesn't deserve it, but...- (Long deep sighing breath) alright, I'm probably gonna regret this, but-eh, Black People, we need to talk.


Ye-ah-up, I definitely, definitely regret that, but, we still need to bring this up anyway. I understand that as a white person that there are going to be aspects of African-American culture that simply I will just not understand, like, how have you guys of all subgroups still so devoted to the ideas of a Christian God and a monolithic deity is so ingrained into your culture that you can have a movie like "Girls Trip", which basically just repeats the premise of "The Hangover" and still involve a scene where the characters are praying? Or, why a barbershop for a local hangout; that's almost literally the last place I would've thought about for something like that. Or how about marriage, too, I know it's a pushing of a message, but you guys are way too fascinated with marriage, in general really. You'll notice that's a lot of rom-coms, especially ones with white people that just do not have that aspect as apart of it.  Hell, there's plenty of aspects of African-American culture that have infiltrated culture-at-large that I simply do not understand, like why is Beyonce still famous, (or ever famous) or Tyler Perry, I know that's an easy one, but he's relevant to this conversation, 'cause "Girls Trip" is a bit of a Tyler Perryifcation of a narrative.

Well, maybe that's a little bit harsh, I'd definitely prefer "Girls Trip" to nearly everything else I've seen of Tyler Perry, but the themes he repeats and deals with-, and you know, it's not even just him, it feels like this movie wants it both ways, it begins with a look at three kind of new-age cliche characters that all eventually find out that they can be happy/happier by doing something in particular and they're doing it this weekend, and one, whatever-the-hell Dina (Tiffany Haddish) is .

One member of the-, (Sigh) Flossy Posse, as they were apparently called in college, as though that was a normal thing, (Seriously, is that a thing? A bunch of friends who go out and party together being so notorious that they get a nickname when they're together? I see so often in movies like these that I never question it, but now that I'm thinking about it..., really, is that an actual thing people do?)  is Sasha (Queen Latifah) who got a journalism degree and now uses it for a gossip website called "Sasha's Secrets", which apparently is a bad career move? (Shrugs) Is it? I mean, in this universe it is, and I don't mean to seem defensive but you know, from what I can tell, most of the Perez Hilton's of the world seem pretty happy with their career choice, including me-, well I was until I just compared myself to Perez Hilton in a positive light, but besides that, is this such a negative career choice? The second is her friend Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) a successful-, um, brand (Shrugs?), who's apparently this hugely iconic modern-day Oprah-figure who's got the ideal life in the public eye. She's happily married to a former pro football player, Stewart (Mike Colter) and she's being given an award later, which is why is at Mardi Gras for a weekend, and also she's got a relationship book out on, I swear I'm not making this cliche up, "Having It All". Okay, this character archetype confuses me even more, 'cause why the hell is she so common in movies? The famous "Has-it-All" girl who, shock, doesn't have-it-all, which means her husband's having an affair, and a rather uninteresting one at that with Simone (Deborah Ayorinde) who is something called an "Instagram Celebrity". (Okay, normally I'd probably put something (Eye Roll) around here, but I'm literally eye-rolling through the whole review.) There other Posse member, is Lisa (Jada Pinkett-Smith) who also had a cheating husband and has now gotten divorced and is currently a single mom with two kids who hasn't had sex in a couple years and has become such a parental figure that the Posse's objective with her, is to get her laid. Okay, that's the beginning of a party-to-end-all-parties scenario that I can get behind, 'cause I know friends like that and I know Dina's who would set up stuff like that for those friends. Hell, I think I've been both those people on occasion before.

I think that's my main issue with this movie, I get that successful people need to party out too, but the reason these people are so successful in life or have these deficiencies in their pursuit of happiness is solely so that they can have these issues overcome later on. I wasn't the biggest fan of "The Hangover" but I did like that how after the partying and the hangover was over, nobody was exactly improved afterwards, some of the characters were incredibly worst off, including missing body parts in some cases. I don't want "Girls Trip" to emulate that either, but I don't feel like I'm observing relatable characters. I feel like I'm looking at the modern African-American celebrity version of real female characters, and I don't know, if you can sit through "The Real" and not want to drill a hole in your skull at how all those women seem like the fakest people you've ever seen, then maybe you'll appreciate "Girls Trip" more than I did. I'm still recommending it, 'cause it's a positive movie overall and there were parts that were genuinely funny to me. Also, I like this cast and these performances. Tiffany Haddish got most of the credit, eh, I guess she's funny, I'm kinda still on the fence on her character and how she's portraying this, but I did enjoy Jada Pinkett-Smith, who seems to find way more fun roles than her husband ever does anymore, and I like Regina Hall, and she's got assistant played by an underused Kate Walsh. Also, speaking of underused, Larenz Tate, man, is it nice to see him again. He's got a small role, where he was an old friend of the girls back in college, so he's aware of the thing that's going on, and he's a potential love interest to one of the girls who he's clearly been in love with from afar for years. He is just a delight to see, anytime really, and it's nice when occasionally pops up in this film. I haven't seen him show up in a feature film role in a long time. You know, I happened to rewatch "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" recently, and I guess he's been on TV a lot, but he does not get enough good film roles; I love seeing him light up the screen every time he's on.

I'm very mixed on this film; I think there's enough that makes me recommend it, barely,, I think I enjoy this film, in spite the issues, not with the execution necessarily, but with the framing, with the perspective that a movie like this is coming from. I feel like there's still a stronger, better story out there that needs to be told, about strong African-American older woman, having a raucous, debaucherous "Girls Night" out, that's a little more deeper than simply, "Quit your job", or "Get a divorce" or- okay, maybe not deeper than "Get Laid" on the other end,- I mean, this is a movie where some really horrible, funny,  sexual things happen to grapefruits and lamps, I'm not sure a tacked on message of happiness is the best choice to frame this in.


A GHOST STORY (2017) Director: David Lowery

★1/2


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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 ghosts 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 with him? 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 as 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 to 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.


WHOSE STREETS? (2017) Director: Sabaah Folayan; Co-Director: Damon Davis

★★★★1/2





So, Missouri sucks. I'm sorry for not being unbias, and I have good friends and colleagues from Missouri, but frankly, this state sucks, and I'm not the only one saying so. Even the NAACP put out a travel ban on the state, something they never did before. So what gives? Why has the streets of, some place I've never heard of before named Ferguson, become the ultimate battleground for the Race War in the 21st Century in America? Okay, Missouri's not alone in this, but they do this stupid thing where, especially in the big cities, the people in the town, instead of forming suburbs they end up separating out a section of say St. Louis and forming their own town so as to, usually...- well, I'll just be blunt here, it's been done mostly to separate the town from African-Americans. If you've never heard of places like Black Jack, Missouri, I suggest seeking out the great documentary, "The Pruitt-Igoe Myth" to look more into the actions that Missouri leaders and people have gone to segregate the African-American population. Ferguson at one point, seems to have been another one of these enclaves that eventually became it's own small town, only this one over time has been taken over by an African-American population. That said, the police in the town literally run the town like it's Falluja, and I'm not being facetious there. Tanks, military weaponry and tactics are all involved, as we see from the battlefield in "Whose Streets?" a documentary that takes us right into the middle of the protests. The more you're there and the more you see how corrupt the police are, how ingrained the corruption is, and how far they'll go to misinform the public about what's happening...- Honestly, an alternate title of this film could've been "Missouri Burning".


Personally, I'm most a fan of the guy whose job,-, well, I guess it became his job, but he's the one who's on the scene watching and photographing the police to make sure there aren't any more Michael Brown. He doesn't always succeed, but the town is always under attack, so they're always fighting back now. "Whose Streets" puts us right in the middle of the battle; it might be a neighborhood that looks like any other neighborhood in a city that looks like any other city, but that's why the fight for civil rights has to take place there. It is their streets, and they need to take them back.


KEDI (2017) Director: Cedya Torun

★1/2


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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.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

CANON OF FILM: "DARK CITY- DIRECTOR'S CUT"


DARK CITY: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1998)

Director: Alex Proyas
Screenwriter: Alex Proyas and Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer



At some point, it went from cool to cliche to say that you were a fan of "Dark City". I think it's well-respected and well-known enough now, but at one point in time, even people who thought they really knew sci-fi and all the famous archetypal elements and the films that created them like Fritz Lang's "Metropolis' or Kubrick's, "2001..." or Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner", a lot of those fans didn't catch on to Alex Proyas's "Dark City" 'til way later. It was practically ignored by the general public and awards upon its original release, although through critical praise has become a favorite cult film, and in time is keen on surpassing some of its more popular contemporaries. (The next year, “The Matrix,” came out with a different but similar premise and was far more popular)  Proyas, who’s had previously directed the infamous Brandon Lee film “The Crow,” and has gone on to more popular sci-fi himself in “I, Robot,” and "Knowing". Everything else he's done is interesting for one reason or another in their own right, but in "Dark City", Proyas creates a completely new universe, one that is part film noir, part mystery, and completely reinvents what sci-fi can imagine. I say “create,” because unlike most of those other films I mentioned, Proyas didn’t adapt “Dark City,” from a previous source like a novel or comic book, so this really places him in the same atmosphere at Philip K. Dick, and Gene Roddenberry and Arthur C. Clarke. 

It’s a little difficult for me to explain to much of the plot because the movie has one of the most amazing reveals of all-time, and so much of this ever-changing world filled with dark corners, dork alleys, and,… well, darkness, that revealing too much would spoil some of the more intricate surprises the movie has for us. (Actually revealing how there is so much darkness is itself too much of a reveal) In the only theatrical version, there's a narration at the beginning that similar to the “Blade Runner,” fiasco, that reveals certain aspects of the world before the characters were aware of them, which is why I’m specifying the Director’s Cut version for the Canon. 

What I can reveal is that the story involves a man who wakes up with apparently amnesia, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell). He also wakes up in a hotel room, naked, and with a dead hooker. While the police start looking for him, led by an observant and perplex Det. Bumstead (William Hurt), he slowly starts searching for clues as to who he is and who or what is setting him up. A postcard, a wallet, a briefcase with strange initials,… but where did these clues come from? A mad scientist, Dr. Schraber (Keifer Sutherland) seems to have some of the answers and informs John’s wife, Emma (Jennifer Connolly) of his recent disappearance and suspected activities, but is very nervous and twitchy about the information he’s giving away. We see certain clues, the shifting of architecture, the way everyone goes to sleep suddenly at what appears to be midnight, and we see the race of apparently aliens that live underground that seems to control the world above, but we and the characters are only allowed certain pieces of information of what’s happening and why. 

Looking back on the film, I can't help but think about all the uproar and popularity that Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's feature "The Cabin in the Woods" has. I've never liked that film, partially because I found no surprises in it; it takes a lot of the aspects of "Dark City", changes the genre from sci-fi to slasher horror and basically strips the movie of all metaphor, and lays out how it's a deconstructionist look at the genre writing process. I never even thought about "Dark City" while watching "The Cabin in the Woods" at the time, and why would I, the conventions that started, or were at least mastered with that film had become cliches of cliches by the time Whedon & Company decided to do their fanboy version. Now, looking back it's obvious that the biggest difference between "The Cabin in the Woods" and "Dark City" and even it's imitators, including "The Matrix" films, is that instead of being about the twist and reveal, they focus more on the characters instead. Rufus Sewell is an underrated actor and despite one corny and obvious line at the end, he plays the classic Hitchcockian wronged man really well. We care that he's stuck in a world he's trying to piece together likes broken puzzle pieces that he doesn't have a full picture to guide with, and there's strong acting and storytelling all around, that makes us care about the fate of these characters as oppose to other films that use their characters own existence as necessary evils to be turned into punchlines.

It may borrow from some of the useful sources as it needs to, for dramatic effect and effectiveness, but “Dark City,” even in a genre filled with similar repeated and boring ideas remains a truly unique and original work. Dare I say, even a seminal work in the genre. A film that itself has been borrowed and sourced from for dramatic effect and effectiveness ever since.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

MIXED BAG BLOG #15: FEMALE VERSIONS OF EVERYTHING?, THE ANTI-SPORTS BIAS IN NERD CULTURE, and a STATE OF THE BLOG UPDATE!

Every once in a while, when there's nothing going on in the entertainment world that seems important or relevant enough to garner a complete or full review,we do a little Mixed Bag Blog, where we take a couple quick looks at a few different subjects or events going on in the entertainment world, and we're gonna do one of those today. We're gonna talk a little bit about the apparent trend of taking some famous characters in pop culture and recasting them as different sexes or races, some thoughts as the anti-sports bias in nerd culture and we'll do something a little unusual, a state of the blog report. Hope you enjoy it Thank you.


FEMALE/RACIAL VERSIONS OF EVERYTHING? 



So, I really enjoyed "Wonder Woman". Despite everything else that's fucked about the DCU, up to and including that part about stupid shit like cinematic universes existing and being something I apparently have to pay attention and give a shit about, "Wonder Woman" by far is the best film in this franchise so far. And, let's face it's about time. Yeah, I'm not a superhero guy, but even I think it's ridiculous that they couldn't figure out a way to get a Wonder Woman movie done 'til now. That is sort of a side-issue that I've always had with comic books, especially superheroes, for the most part, they're very masculine-leaning, and ones that are female often tend to not get treated well, but half the time it's the conception of the characters as well. Wonder Woman is an original character, most of the other major female superheroes I can think of, (and I'm sure you can all list a bunch in the comment section that I'm missing, and go right ahead) they tend to be derivatives of male superheroes. Supergirl, Batgirl, Spider-Girl, even that one Elisabeth Olsen played in "The Avengers" came with a male twin partner. I think Captain Marvel is being played by Brie Larson in an upcoming film. Oh-kay. Apparently she's not Miss Marvel, she's just Captain Marvel, which-, fine whatever.  Hell, another casting choice, just this week, was that Hannah Simone is gonna to be the lead in an ABC reboot of "The Greatest American Hero", which,- you know, all the complaining about TV reboots I've made, you know what, that's actually not a horrible idea for one. (And that was a decent show to begin with. To begin with, it got stupid...., but eh, if Stephen J. Cannell was involved with it, decent odds, it might at least be worth a revisit.) "Elektra" came with "Daredevil", Catwoman in most cases should be a villain, but she's paired with a male hero,  hell, even Wonder Woman, first debuted on the big screen, not in her own movie, but in a movie, that had two male superheroes in the title, as the mains.

Also, we've had several hypothetical about having a female James Bond of a different-race James Bond, and-, you know, it's not that I'm anti-women in these roles, I mean, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that kind of casting, and I guess I'm happy about it considering the tide of the country and the trends in Hollywood towards more involvement of women in every aspect of the industry, but it just seems too simple. I mean, why do keep thinking that in order to make something equal, we have to take a male character, and then create a female version? Why a female James Bond, why not just have a great female action hero spy? I mean, I know why we think this way, and it's so systemic in our culture, that most people aren't even aware of it. And there's dozens of better, smarter, more astute, more has-a-vagina people who can probably pontificate on this idea better than I can, I know Lindsay Ellis has a good piece on what she calls "The Smurfette Principle" and yeah, this- this isn't new, but I can't help but get-, what's-the-word, disappointed when I hear these ideas sometimes. Is that the best we can come up with, female versions of male characters, that's equality between the sexes in pop culture? It's not that it's bad, it's just the wrong approach to me, or maybe not wrong, but a simplistic approach, perhaps a lazy approach even.

I guess it's stage one of this integration of the fairer sex into the culture, (aka we should've happened since the beginning of time itself) and it's gonna take a while. We need more female stars and parts, we need more women creating them and directing them, and just, most women in general behind-the-scenes coming up with original, unique and great characters. Not just switching the gender on things we already have, ("We," as in society, not we as in males) and the same for every disenfranchised group in society, btw, that goes without saying, but it needs to be said, of course. And it won't happen immediately or overnight, and even if/when it ever statistically does happen, we're gonna have issues of sexism and whatnot. Hell, it's integrated in most of our languages; English isn't too bad, but much of English is derived from French, and I don't remember too much from the four year of classes I failed in it, but it's a very sexist language. Nearly every noun has a gender association with it, and male is usually the default. Think about having to overcome that, the words we speak and write in everyday life, have a natural gender bias, no wonder when we think of good female roles, we think of traditional males ones and struggle to turn them female, instead of just coming up with better roles.

Maybe I wouldn't be so uncomfortable with these feminizing of parts, if only once, I ever once, saw it go the other way. And that's not even a good thing either, just by me saying that, I'm doing what I just railed against, identifying our popular culture and delineating parts of it between things that are male and things that are female, but since, advertising, if not everything else, insists on doing that, then why hasn't there been an original primarily female-based franchise that someone's tried to turn masculine? Our culture's so male-centric, I'm not even sure what that would be. Turn "The First Wives Club" into "The First Husbands Club"-, oh god, that would be horrible, forget I suggested that.

That's the problem however, our culture so male-dominant there's nothing that's, again, for-lack-of-a-better-term, feminine, that we immediately want to turn masculine.

But you see, what I mean? Males get to create the great characters and females, get, I don't know, the Minnie Mouse version. (Sighs, shrugs) I guess this is just my way of saying, let's do better than a female James Bond, or any female version of male character.


WHY ARE (Sigh, I hate using this word) "NERDS",  SO ANTI-SPORTS? 

I think I'm done complaining about NBC's Olympic coverage. I mean, it's not improved necessarily and there's still plenty to complain about, but I watch much of the Pyeongchang Olympics this year, and I think I've just grown to accept most of their deficiencies. Yeah, it's too figure skating-heavy, sure it's mostly tape-delayed even when it's purportedly live, okay, they put way too much programming on their subsidiary channels instead of putting more on NBC, but you know what, I like the figure skating, even though I can't tell whether I hate Tara Lipinsky & Johnny Weir 'cause they're so perfectly annoying together or I absolutely love them 'cause they're just so annoying perfect together. I like the idea of tape delayed program in Primetime that's just an extended highlight show of the day's events. I miss Bob Costas, but he's been doing the Olympics forever and I really like Mike Tirico a lot and he's doing a great job. I can't even complain about the lack of focus on hockey this year, 'cause the NHL decided not to participate this year, so yeah, I guess put it on the back-burner. I don't know what they're excuse is for putting the Women's Hockey on the back-burner.... And maybe there's the decent possibility that I'm on Super Bowl hangover mode, and am still just in shock that my Eagles won the Super Bowl. (I swear, after the last play, after yelling and screaming for three hours, I went almost catatonic for a few minutes. It was so weird. I-, don't- I don't know where that road sign came from.)

That said, it does bother me that I do see so many people being very dismissive of sports in the Facebook groups I'm around. I know, they're not sports group, their film groups, and I'm not, by any means saying that you need to like sports, but there an undercurrent of vileness towards them, that I frankly don't understand, and during this Olympic season when sports are at the forefront, I think I want to call bullshit on it. I mean, it makes no sense, we claim to love good movies, unpredictable storytelling, intense drama, sports are ready-made for all those things. Hell, that's why sports movies are generally so good. And you know, it's exception skill and talent, I can't do a triple axle and land without complete annihilating my ankle and knee, can you? That's impressive. A lot of it is also mental; you want to memorize an NFL playbook? Just memorizing a play is hard.

When I ask people about this, some of them have reasons, a lot of them talk about how in high school they were picked on by jocks, there's that classic nerd-jock dynamic; you know what, I've never really bought that, most athletes I know seem to like movies and "Star Wars" and comic books and everything else nerds supposedly endorse and promote as their own just as much. And you know what, in this post-"Moneyball", pro-Analytics era of statistical analysis in sports having taken over in recent years, sports has, for lack-of-a-better-term has become nerdier than ever.

Look, I don't think it's essential that people get so involved in sports that  it replaces any or all other obsessions, in fact sports-obsession at it's worst is just as bad as any other fan obsession, but comics gets released all the time, new movies get released once a week, new TV happen whenever the hell Netflix feels like it. The Super Bowl is once a year. World Series, once a year, Olympics every couple years, four years for individual sports. Hell, I don't even think soccer's a real sport but I'll watch the World Cup every four years, just because. (Sorry soccer/futbol fans, I know you're trying to convince us it's this great game, we've played it, you're not fooling us, you're just kicking a ball around and calling it a sport.)

Cultural appreciation goes a long way to me, and when I see it, outright rejected during times like these, I think it just really annoys me. Even things I don't like, I seek out to try to understand and learn, before dismissing them completely.



I like this Youtube video above. It's a Scottish guy who's recording his reaction to watching his first ever Super Bowl, which he's watching in a movie theater in Brazil. He posted an earlier video I like where he went to his first ever NFL game when he was in New York. I like stuff like this a lot, where you get to see people experiencing aspects of a culture that are unfamiliar to them and American sports is quite perfect for this. Sports in general, really, are quite a good entrance into other cultures. I feel sorry for the poor guy experiencing his first Super Bowl surrounded by Pats and Eagles fans, Philly sports fans especially are outliers, and maybe not the best underdogs to get behind, but I like things like this, where you see a clash of cultures. To me, I think that's what entertainment is about more than anything, getting a glimpse into a world that we don't know and are unfamiliar with, but finding little aspects and details that we can appreciate and understand and admire. It's weird, I get criticized cause I find superheroes battling each other boring, 'cause, well, they're no stakes involved in this "Captain America" film or whatever, but two real people skating around the ice who worked their whole lives to be at that moment, to figure out which of the two is the fastest at what they do, that's not interesting?


STATE OF THE BLOG UPDATE

I don't normally do State of the Blog posts like these, but-, eh, I've had some things on my mind recently. Most of this, admittedly comes from a Facebook group that I post in, that I'm not gonna bother naming. It's not the troll I had a couple years ago, and it's not even "Film Club" and that cancer of a Facebook group. Still, they-, they've been critical of me, and I've found their practices strange as well, and there's some people in the group that I think are trying to genuine their give their advice and opinion, and when I hear it I try to take it, but that said, I really think most of their complaints are bullshit. Mostly, the way their particular complaints come off, especially when I check out others' opinions outside of that group, mostly what this barrage of "criticism" sounds like to me, is just the same I always got growing up because I-, I don't know how many of you may have noticed this over the year but, I have a tendency to be "different", than everybody else. Just, ask anybody who ever grew up with me, I'm distinctly unique in general, and often I'm unique in my approach to things, not just this blog, but several other aspects of life in general, and instead of trying to understand where I'm coming from, they're just making fun of the fact that I'm different; that's what it feels like to me and frankly, I've lived through that bullshit enough already.

That said, despite that, they may have a point or two, in that, I do need a few of the things I've been doing and how I've been doing them. Some of the changes are minor, some people don't seem to like that, when I promote my blog on Facebook that I often ALL CAPS to exemplify certain words. There's a few reasons I do that, mostly 'cause it stands out when scrolling, partially because I don't have too many other great options to stand out on Facebook, a lot of it is also for emphasis, trying to promote certain words, mostly though I do it because it's reminiscent of my main career as an unemployed screenwriter. When you write a screenplay, lots of stuff is capitalized, characters names especially for dialogue, sluglines, onomatopoeia occasionally... a few other things depending on the writer, and I like that style and I, like everyone incorporates others styles into my writing in an effort to help accentuate an original voice. Personally, I think I'm starting to sound too much like Todd Nathanson, lately, but....

Anyway, maybe I should change that approach. I'm reluctant to make changes, 'cause every other time I've ever made changes that, might not be natural for me, it usually backfires. Once, after several complaints that my use of white lettering on a black background was too disorienting, I changed to a more traditional and clean white background with black lettering and immediately, I got hounded for it. Like, I couldn't barely finish posting until I got twice as many complaints about the new look than I ever had heard from those complained. I switched it back almost immediately the backlash was so steep, although it was nice finding out and hearing from people who liked my work. (Sigh)

Still, I've been doing this seven years, and enough is enough, and it's time for some changes. This is isn't the blog I started doing back then anymore and this site should reflect that somehow. Everything's different from what I post about, to how I post about it, to how often. I haven't been able to talk about some of this, but one of the reasons I so post so infrequently compared to say three-to-four years ago is that I've been getting more writing gigs on the side. A lot of it's some ghostwriting, most of it's been screenplay work, but not all of it, in fact, I've been doing more short stories lately, and that's about all I can disclose at the moment other than to say that it's been challenging and I've been quite proud of my work, but yeah, I'm writing a lot outside of this blog, and that's meant putting a lot of this work on the back-burner, and it seems likely that that will continue in the future in some form or another.

Still though, I'll be re-branding soon, the blog will have a new look. I don't know what it'll be, it might not even be on Blogger, I might switch to Wordpress or something, which will be a lot more work, but I'm considering it, especially since I contribute to Age of the Nerd a lot at the moment as well. I might consider something some other site as well. Either way, the biggest change is gonna be the name of the blog.

I was gonna do a small sketch making fun of the name, but...- the blog will have some form of the name "The Not-A-Fan"! Yes, it's inspired by this old article of mine.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2015/05/i-am-not-fan-there-i-said-it-and-im-not.html

I don't think it's entirely representative of the tone I want to use, cause normally I don't want to be so negative, but it does representative a lot of my approach and thought-process towards the entertainment world. About the one conclusion I've ever really come to for sure is that fans suck and they shouldn't have power over anything. More than that, i just like the idea of seeing an entertainment blog that's as passionate, thoughtful, and intellectual about entertainment, especially film and television as everyone else is, but still be very specific about not being centered around the fan perspective, which, I don't have anyway! (Despite what several previous comments about being an Eagles fan might indicate, because sports is different than film and TV.) So, I'm gonna set a deadline to get this done, and I'm aiming for, the end of March, beginning of April at the latest, 'cause Oscar season's gonna get in the way a little bit, but still I'm doing this, so fair warning.

I don't know if it's gonna be good or great, or even if falls completely flat, but this is where at now, and overall, I'm excited about the rebranding and the changes that are to come. I hope you are or will be too.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

CBS ALL-ACCESS IS STUPID! I Wish I had something cleverer to say here, but yeah, this is just stupid what CBS is doing.

CBS, what in the goddamn hell are you doing?



Why, are you putting original shows on your goddamn website? You-, have a network, you know that right? (Mocking voice) "Oh, of course, "Star Trek", that's popular, we'll put that online, of course! Put that with that "The Good Wife" spinoff nobody knows exist, that'll work!"...- Seriously what the hell are you doing!?!?!? No, you're not Amazon, you're not Netflix,- I'm sorry your network dates back to radio, but you don't get to do this. Okay, you obviously can; you shouldn't though, 'cause it's stupid! On so many different levels this is stupid. You're the number one most-watched Network on TV still, right? I didn't make up that advertisement you've ran for like, the last five years or whatever, and it's still true by the way. CBS is still barely edging out NBC, although I don't know if that'll hold after this year, and FOX and ABC are third and fourth respectively, because I still watch you with an antenna attachment!  You're a broadcast network; if the government told you to shut down tomorrow, then maybe, okay maybe then go online, but,...- UGH!

Okay, to even begin to understand the bizarre strange curiosity of CBS All-Access and really understand how insipid and moronic this is, we gotta go back a bit and see how we ended up here. Now, the first thing, is that I'm being a bit facetious here, when I say that channel's website shouldn't have their own series, it's actually occurred several times before, but most of those series were webseries, back in the day when we used to know what those actually were. Early television on the internet, outside of a few early experiments like "Quarterlife" were short, small vignette episodic series; it would've been shocking to see something on the web, longer than, the average episode of "Robot Chicken" back then. And when the major networks or Hollywood in general, got involved in trying to compete in the webseries market, they mostly dipped their twos the same way. NBC was great at this, with companion webseries that worked with their shows. "The Office" was known for having several of these, although probably the most noteworthy kind of series like this that was an original series, I always think of "Jay Leno's Garage".



Now, I just posted the very first episode of the webseries, which original was on NBC.com, and now like a few other series have done, like "Web Therapy" and "Broad City" among others, they evolved their experimental little webisodes into a full series and "Jay Leno's Garage" is now a regular on the CNBC lineup, and you know what, I never had an issue with that, even for the big networks. If somebody wanted to do something small but additional to a series, or if you had a big network star who wanted to try something a little different and experimental and it didn't really fit on their regular schedule, then, absolutely try it out on the network's website. That kind of thing made sense to me, and it help both the network expand to the web, while also distinguish a network's website as a brand in of itself, and not have one hurting the other. And I still like it if networks would do that. They were also making available their regular series to stream if you happen to miss a recent episode, and I enjoyed that immensely at well. There are some major series that made their work and stayed on the air, not because of the Neilsen Ratings but because of streaming options. Let's say "The Office" for example, which stayed on the air because of iTunes. And I loved going to a network's website and catching up on a past episode sometime later. That's the whole point of these network-affiliate websites in a modern age essentially. Catch it when it airs, if you can but, if for some reason you're not able to, a good second option would be to catch it online, at a reasonable convenience. Network websites wouldn't put every damn episode of their series and keep them on forever, I mean-eh, "The Tonight Show"'s backlog alone would blow up the website, but they usually gave us five or six weeks worth of episodes of each show they were airing at the time, and that was more than enough.

Then came, Hulu. Okay, there's a lot of business nuance and intricacies regarding Hulu's history and how they've evolved and what they've turned into over the years; that's it's own story, but here's the important aspect, Hulu LLC. the company, the company that owns Hulu, actually originated as a joint investment, with their biggest three investors being Comcast, 20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Corporation, in other words, NBC, FOX and ABC, the other three big networks. CBS, didn't jump in on Hulu, and that's important and it's noticeable. Obviously, some shows that aired or are owned by CBS either now, or have at one time, have been on Hulu, but for the most part, CBS is noticeably not prominent in their backlog and the currently-running CBS series that are available, usually aren't available 'til the show's off-the-air or well into the series' run, and usually those episodes are not updated weekly when a new episode airs.

Personally, I've argued for years that one of the bigger reasons that CBS has been the most-watched network over these recent years is because the majority of their shows are not easy to stream online. They have available outlets for certain series, Netflix for instance will usually updated their collections of CBS shows to stream every year, but for the most part, while I have occasionally seen somebody at a library watching a "Person of Interest" episode at the computer on CBS All Access, CBS's lack of streaming means that more Americans are inclined to turn on the TV and watch, say "The Big Bang Theory", as it airs on TV every week, then to miss it and go stream it later. I don't think that's the entire reason CBS has been so dominant in the ratings, but I do think it's an underrated reason.

It's also one that, kinda puts CBS in a weird spot. Most of those other networks, had been developing an online presence at the time they got into Hulu, in fact, Comcast complained about NBC.com's lower hits because all of their online programs were now more easily available on Hulu, so they had a difficult question regarding whether or not they needed an online presence at all The point I'm making is that, in a TV landscape that's more heavily influenced by streaming than ever, does that even make CBS, the true number one network anymore? It's definitely something CBS has wondered about. They had an opportunity to invest in Hulu at the beginning and turned it down, and while they will never admit it publicly, don't be fooled, they have regretted that ever since.

The first real clue though to this was when they first started taking their website and beginning to add an "All Access" pay option to their site, for those who really love CBS and want to catch up on all their favorite CBS shows, at least the last month. This, was weird. Although, it's now weird that in order for me to watch something on NBC.com like the new "Will & Grace" I need to log in with a cable account, which btw, that's stupid, that should be illegal for broadcast network series, and I don't know why the government doesn't shut that practice down by threatening to take away their license..., although I kinda get it from a business perspective. If people are going to be using their website, provide exclusive content for a price, to entice more subscribers..., that makes sense, for anybody, OTHER than a broadcasting network, that you already get for free! However....-

You see when it comes to Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, Netflix, whoever, when they started producing material that we wouldn't traditionally classify as a webseries, they had to put it on their streaming platform, that was their brand, and in essence their channel. They started as an internet product, that's where they should then stay. That's their established field. Now, I used to argue that those networks should also invest in creating a cable channels with all of their backlog as a promotional tool, Hulu to a degree has actually began doing this to an extent, as it now offers a Live TV option, as well as a joint deal with Yahoo for a channel of original Hulu content called Yahoo View! But CBS coming up with original programming that they're exclusively putting on their CBS All Access option on their website, and not on their TV network, is just outright bizarre and stupid. It's like to trying to go backwards in time and create an online presence, long after every other network got into the game years ago. They're trying to create their own internet pay channel, and that leads to the big reasons why this is utterly stupid.

If CBS wanted to create series that they wanted people to pay to watch, instead of airing on their broadcast network..., then why don't they put those shows on Showtime? Yeah, that's the thing that makes this particularly stupid, beyond the obvious jealousy the network has over not collecting on Hulu, if we consider channels like Netflix and Hulu as pay channels when it comes to their original content, which I generally do, 'cause that's essentially how they position themselves on top of all the other aspects that makes them a TV network and a brand, separate from and within the realm of being a streaming service, they why in the hell, are they not putting these shows on CBS Corps.'s actual pay channel they own!? Or one of the other several cable channels they have a stake or claim in or outright own? Showtime in particular would be perfect, it's a pay channel, with a long-established online presence, one that's actually popular and people own, and people are willing to buy just to watch a series, that, I don't know, might be a spinoff or a continuation of a previously beloved network series.... (Yeah, I'm bringing up "Twin Peaks" again, the original show still sucks, deal with it.) I don't know, do you think there's enough "Star Trek" fans out there, who might be willing to put in money for a "Star Trek" series that's not beholden the to Standards & Practices of network television? 'Cause I damn well think they would be, and I'm sure if they promoted it properly, Showtime could also get people to watch "The Good Fight" as well.

This is so illogical putting these series on a streaming service that almost nobody I know actually owns and uses...- I asked around too, I found very few people who owned CBS All Access and none of them recommended buying it, yet, I know several people who went to by Showtime Anytime just to watch "Twin Peaks". They have a branch for these TV shows that people would pay to see and pay to stream and they're not using it! Okay, they're different networks and technically the branches are separate in the same overall company, blah, blah, blah, you don't have to vertically integrate everything, I get that, and maybe some people would like to see TV shows that for whatever reason CBS doesn't want to air regularly on their network, but wouldn't want to have them be on cable.

Okay,  huge stupid reason number two, this makes no sense: fine, you don't want to put them on cable, how about putting them on The CW? You own that too! I mean, what the fuck, you're willing to move "Supergirl" to The CW, which, let's be fair, that's where it should've been to begin with, but god forbid, "Star Trek: Discovery" moves to The CW, it has to be online, with the spinoff show of the most critically-acclaimed drama series CBS has had since the early years of "CSI"?! They need to not only be online, but on CBS's own online pay website, that we're supposed to take seriously, compared to every pay channel and streaming service website out there, including those that Viacom already owns and are already successful???????????????????????????????

CBS, I'm sorry you fucked up your chance to get in on Hulu, but I say it again, what in the goddamn hell are you doing, with this CBS All Access crap?!

This is hubris meeting incompetence and I don't know what to make of it, how anybody's ever gonna take it seriously, or how this is every gonna get popular or important enough to matter. I'd call for a boycott of it, just on the sheer stupidity of it, but that would indicate somebody was paying for this to begin with, and I don't know why they would. Even the biggest Trekkies I know, I don't think too many are getting on this and are just waiting for that show to ever go on DVD or somehow survive long enough to start getting it's rotation in reruns. I know, I'm just switching to Heroes & Icons at night for when I need a Star Trek fix anymore. You've only got five original series, two are spinoffs of your regular network shows, two play off Star Trek, and something called "No Activity" that you paired with Funny or Die with, a streaming service that actually knows how to produce and stream original content online, 'cause you know, that's how they started, and why are you piggybacking off of them!- AAAAAAH!!!! Cut the damage before this blows your network's reputation and money while you still can, move those shows, to one of your dozens or so other channels that Viacom has a stake in, and stop with this CBS All Access crap and we'll go on and start pretending it didn't happen, capiche? Seriously stop it, you're embarrassing yourselves, please.

CBS All Access, that's not even a good name. You're a broadcast network, you're already all access! It's not like you're the television equivalent to the Playboy Club or anything. That's like having an All-Access-Pass to the Good Will store. Ugh!