Thursday, May 31, 2018

THE TOP TEN FILMS SET ENTIRELY AT NIGHT!

Hmmm.....

FINAL VOTE TALLYS
TOP TEN FILMS ABOUT WWII:                                   15

TOP TEN TV SHOWS WHO'S HIGH RATINGS
WERE ENTIRELY BECAUSE OF THEIR LEAD-IN      2

TOP TEN FILMS SET ENTIRELY AT NIGHT               20



Well, this one should be fun. I mean, this should be difficult, but, you know, not Worst Theme Songs of All-Time painful, thank fucking Christ. God, whose stupid-ass idea was it for me to do that one anyway?

(From "Top Ten Worst TV Show Theme Songs" Post)
And yes, in a runaway, TOP TEN WORST TV SHOW THEME SONGS won by a landslide!. And I'm happy about that, that was one of my suggestions to the list and the one I most wanted to see win.

Oooooh, right, mine.

(Sigh)

Well, I guess I've got no one else to blame on that one. Instead the crowd has spoken and based on the suggestion of Alex Willoughby, oh hey, old friend of mine from high school, thanks for the suggestion; I appreciate it, and we're gonna turn the lights down low, and talk about NIGHT.

Yes, yes, we're counting down some Night Movies, oh, I love the night life, as much I love to boogie, as if I don't suffer from any, Night Fever, I can be dancing the night away, in the still of the night, all night long, so let's the spend the night together, twisting the night away- Okay, I'll stop! Although when I think about night, I usually think about songs, and not-so-much, movies. In fact, it's actually a little weird to think about movies that only take place at night. Especially ones that entirely take place at night. And if they do, it's usually, one night. And one long night, I'm actually kinda curious to go through my lists of films I've seen that take place, only at night, or at close to only at night as I can get, (Well, talk the full criteria in a minute) that actually take place over several nights. It's a little hard, usually there's that pesky day in the middle that screws everything up.

Stupid days, I hate them. All that brightness and sunlight and heat, and people waking up, who needs all that crap? (Shrugs) Sorry daywalkers, but what do you expect, I'm a writer; the ultimate night owl. That stereotype's true as Hell and I'm a Las Vegan where half of us sleep in the day and work at night anyway, partly because we lost track of time to begin with and we don't realize it's not night until sometime around nine or ten a.m. when we finally eat dinner and go to bed.

Anyway, night time, it is an interesting suggestion. Hell, it's almost like a challenge; I bet a lot of good movies could be made with the prompt that the entire film has to be set at night. So, how will I determine this?

Well, fair warning, as of my writing this, I haven't made the list yet, so hopefully it won't be subject to too many alterations and changes, there's a chance it might though, but obviously the first priority, we're talking the top films, so we're talking the best films. That's one. Two, obvious, the action in the movie should entirely take place at night, although that is gonna be tricky. Most movies we naturally think of as taking place during the night, usually have at least one scene that takes place during the day, and you know the damnedest thing about that is that it's probably gonna be either the very first scene or the very last scene in the movie! I mean, it makes sense, for several reasons, logically at the end of the night, comes the day, and of course symbolically, and least in Western literary and philosophical metaphor, we often go through darkness in order to come into the light, and there's no better symbolism for that then the transition from night to day, and the vice-versa is true, we often start out pure and then descend into the darkness. Yep, day and night have a hard time separating themselves from each other, they always seemed to be joined.

So, let's say, perhaps, approximately 95% of the movie, minimal, maybe, give-or-take a couple percentages, should take place at night for it to count? Or at least be considered, with movies with higher percentages of the action taking place at night, being given more prominence? I think that's doable, but this also leads into a 3rd, or perhaps 4th criteria, depending on how you're counting, what exactly is, well, night? No seriously, are we talking, complete darkness out side, from sundown to sunrise? From dusk 'till dawn? Or, should we say a particular time, to be more specific? And what about Daylight Savings Time? Or what about movies that take place by the North Pole or down in Antarctica where it's night for half the year? Or can I just say, it's nine o'clock somewhere and get away with it that way? Nah, of course not. When we say night, it's sunset to sunrise and according to Wikipedia, when the sun is below the horizon, and we're also talking, darkness. It has to be dark outside, at least at the time that the story is taking place, in the location that the film is taking place.

Speaking of locations however, for the sake of sanity, I'm gonna disqualify anything that takes place, in outer space, where that's the obvious known location. Yeah, I thought of that, ha, ha, ha. Although that doesn't technically mean, the film has to take place on Earth, or even on any known existing celestial body that exists in the real universe as we know it, but yeah, claiming it's outer space and it's always dark there, eh, no. Scratch that line of thinking out of right away. Sorry, "Alien" fans.

As to night itself, well, just because something takes place at night, that alone doesn't make it enough to make this list to me. There has to be something about the fact that it takes place at night, that matters. It can't just be, that was the time they shot, or it just happens to be when the events of the movie take place. Maybe not as stringent as the only time this story could've possibly taken place is at night, although that'll help, but the setting of night, it should have meaning and value to the film. There's so many different things that night can invoke, you know? Romance, enchantment, shadowy figures, dark corners, frights, loneliness, mystery, etc. Night and day aren't just constructs, they each have a different tone and a different mood from each other, and within those moods and tones, other moods and tones that are also very different from each other. It means something to go out during the day, and it means something very different to go out at night. So that's gonna be the last x-factor, the movie's usage of night. How necessary is it, how does the film use it, how does it improve the story, and a bunch of other naval-gazing questions along those lines as well. Basically, the fact that the movie takes place at night, has to matter, and it has to matter a great deal.

So, I think those are the main qualifications, well also, I had to have seen the movie. There's that caveat, and I suspect that's gonna knock out a few popular ones, so let me know about them in the comments. comment here, comment on Facebook, Twitter,... (Shrugs)  Google Plus, if you want, I forget I have that account, but by all means....

(2 DAYS LATER)

(Long deep breath)

Okay, that wasn't as painful but that was still quite challenging. I had to seek out and rewatch a few things on fast forward just to double-check, some of them were tougher to hit that 95 or so threshold than you'd think. Setting is weird, there's always a possibility that a lot of movie that we think of as being dark or associate with nighttime, probably a lot more of them took place in the daytime. more than you'd realize. There's some examples of the opposite happening as well too. Alright enough chit-chat; I think I'm good; let's do this. We're counting down....!


THE TOP TEN FILMS SET ENTIRELY AT NIGHT! (Well, mostly at night. Basically entirely at night, essentially...- THEY'RE CLOSE ENOUGH!)

Number ten: I know it would be very attracted to put a bunch of films on this list that are essentially just a couple people talking for a couple hours, or having an all-night evening, maybe a date. I've talked about some of the more popular films like that many times before, even some that kinda suck I have some level of attraction too. "Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist" could've been a helluva lot worst you know? (Although it still annoys me that there's not one self-aware "The Thin Man" reference in that film.) That said, obvious choice is usually obvious, for a reason. When we're going out to have long conversations with possible friends or acquaintances about life, where do you like to go? I like to go to a nice restaurant.


10. "My Dinner with Andre" (1981) Director: Louis Malle



I guess I could've picked something more obscure here, but this is pretty much what I think of when I think of going out at night. Long, deep conversation at a nice restaurant with an old friend, or maybe an old foe who I can catch up with an debate. I mean, I guess in some modern times this movie could take place in the daytime and maybe in a coffee shop or some place more casual, but, I don't know, something about this conversation taking place in some place less, I don't know, sophisticated, feels wrong. Talking long into the night is way more intimate and revealing than catching up during the day does. Anyway, this film's already in the Canon of Film, you can check that out at the link below if you want more details on this one.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/01/canon-of-film-my-dinner-with-andre.html


Number nine: So, there's definitely a few genres out there that are intimately associated with night,
one of the big ones is horror. Still, what's really scary about night in most of these movies, is the contrast. Night is mysterious, frightening, full or lurid darkness and shadows where threats can hide, so more of them than you think, have a significant portion of the film taking place in day time, even some classic that take place predominantly in daytime just to undercut that calming sense of light and safety that day is supposed to bring. That said, not all the classics of the genre do this.


9. "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) Director: George A. Romero



I actually wrote a review for Romero's original "Night of the Living Dead", way back, back, early, early on, like, maybe a month or two into starting this blog. The link is below, although I don't recommend you click on it unless you really want to see how evolved my writing has gone from the early days.

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/08/random-movie-reviews-edition-3-cedar.html

Yikes. I mean I'm sure ten years down the road, I'll look at my writing style now and be just as embarrassed, but, eh, no-I,- (Sigh) No, no. I'm mostly just embarrassed to read those and think I could've done better even then. And in regards to this film in particular, I do want to take another shot at it at some point in the near future, 'cause I think I underrated this film. It's really difficult to look at "Night of the Living Dead" with fresh eyes now that zombies and zombie movies have become so ingrained into our culture. I've confessed before that I'm not particularly enthralled with zombies as a villain, but I gotta give it up to the original here. Watching the film, there's actually not as many zombies as you'd think and the majority of the film takes place in a house that's quickly trying to stand guard as they await the march of the living dead to swarm in on them. Simply put, that's great tension-building. It's also truth in advertising, the events all take place, at night. That's rarer than you'd think, as I've found out doing this list. It manages to get, or in some cases, all those aspects of horror movies that make them frightening, including the nighttime setting laying an extra undercurrent of fear, unable to see what's out there and how far, or how close the threat may be, and the added level of effect that has on the characters and the situation is played perfectly.


Number eight. John Huston's name came up a lot as I was doing this list. That's not surprising, he basically invented what we now know as film noir with "The Maltese Falcon". That's still his best film, but it was far from his only great one and he did other films that explored night as a part of the setting. He's actually one of the few filmmakers I had a few options of picking from for this list. But I chose the one where night is the time for revelations about one's true emotions get revealed.

8. "The Dead" (1987) Director: John Huston



Huston's final film, "The Dead", based on a James Joyce short story called "Dubliners" is a somber film, ironic, since most of it is a party somebody's throwing. An all-star cast get-together, and it's only at the end of the night, after the party when one character reveals something to their significant other, something personal, something they never knew about that person. There's always that cliche about how the biggest events usually happen in the middle of the night, and yeah, this is one of those movies. It's also the only all-night party movie on this list, (Well, unless you count...- well, we'll get to that one later) I thought about a couple other, again most of those movies usually had a significant portion of the film take place in daytime, although I do wish I had more comedies on this list. That said, "The Dead", is one of those brilliant reflective movies that says more about life and circumstance than many of us would like to admit we have a connection to. It's one of those parties you go to, whether you want to or not and things happen, but from a different time and era.


Number seven. Oh boy, this one.I thought a great deal about this one, and remember I'm judging this, not solely based on film quality, but also the importance and relevance of the films taking place at night, and how night is used to great effect to add to a film. I mean, if I just listed these films solely in terms of quality as films, "My Dinner with Andre" would probably be at the top of the list, so.... That said, um, outside of this qualification of "night", I think this movie is highly overrated. Not bad, by any means but-eh, personally I consider the best movie in the franchise to be the first sequel.


7. "Die Hard" (1988) Director: John McTiernan



Yeah, I'm that one. The one who argues that "Die Hard 2" is the best "Die Hard", and I think it's easily the best in the franchise in fact. I actually think "Die Hard" has periods that are too slow and at some points the tension and action comes to a complete halt, and Paul Gleason's character should've just been written out completely, and while I think it's really good despite all that, to me, the more interesting and most entertaining "Die Hard" film is the second one. That said, "Die Hard 2" takes place at night, almost coincidentally more than anything else. It helps tells the story, sure, and there's some strategic advantages to it, but "Die Hard", undercuts it's otherwise exuberant-yet-benign nighttime setting, (Fine, Christmas night setting, but no, it is not a Christmas movie, screw people on that one.) and allows it to enhance the situation, the danger, the intensity of being trapped in a building that's under a terrorist hostage situation, and a lone man who's out there trying to stealthy save the day while not getting killed himself. I mean, the terrorist prepared for the night, they even prepared in case light was thrust upon them by the LAPD. Sure, it's never been unusual that action films take place at night, but I would have a hard kind coming up with an earlier film that used it's setting of night to it's advantage as much as "Die Hard" did. It's still the standard of it's genre, and for good reason.


Speaking of the strangest most improbable things happening at night, number six:


6. "After Hours" (1985) Director: Martin Scorsese



So, we've had nights out at dinner, nights out at parties, nights out at parties that turn into hostage situations, so nothing unusual so far, but we haven't had a really surreal night of insanity and paranoia, that kind of Kafkaesque nightmare that's both frightening and hilarious. Martin Scorsese has had so many great films that it's easy for one or two to slip through the cracks; that used to be "After Hours", although in recent years, it's gotten a bit of a popularity resurgence. It was overlooked at the time a bit with Scorsese famously splitting the Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director with the Coen Brothers's "Blood Simple", which unfortunately I could not find a spot for on this list. That said, "After Hours" takes this horrific scenario of everything going completely wrong for a main character and turns what would normally be a wronged man narrative of empathy and fright, into a sadistically twisted joke. It's too ridiculous to explain what happens, you just have to experience it to believe it. There's a long list of movie about bad nights out where everything goes wrong, so few of them use the night as more than just setting, "After Hours" is one of the few that really, genuinely feels like "Don't Go Out at Night" is genuinely good advice that would've prevented everything from happening if the main protagonist had followed it.


Number five: (Sigh) I debated this one for awhile, and I decided to go with it, but this is gonna be a really controversial pick.


5. "Daybreak (aka Le Jour se Leve)" (1939) Director: Marcel Carne



So, one really common theme I discovered while doing this list, is that, well there are a lot of movies that are technically set at night, but the actual story that's being told, might be in a world that's not so full of night. Usually these are flashbacks, or in some cases, dreams. If you think about it, technically, a movie like "The Wizard of Oz" takes place primarily at night, even though most of that night is spent with the main character in an unconscious slumber dreaming about a Technicolor world. There's several others that fit into this category, "Double Indemnity" for instance arguably, and I was trying to figure out whether or not to include a movie with this kind of storytelling conceit or not. I certainly think putting a list together of a bunch of them would just be cheating, but it does make sense in some cases, and it happens enough that I think it should be represented, so I picked the one that I think most used the night setting of it being the time where our main character is confessing the story for our experience the best and to me that's Marcel Carne's "Daybreak" or it might be better known to some as "Le Jour se Leve". It's the only foreign film I put on the list, (Well, one is half-foreign, but we'll get to that) which is a bit surprising considering some of the German Expressionism uses of light and dark, but again, they're not all mostly set at night. In "Daybreak" the main character has killed a man and is holding up in tall building overnight while Police are surrounding him and as they are actively trying to force their way in, we see in flashback what happened to Francois (Jean Gabin) that led him to this point.

I must confess, it's been awhile since I've seen this film, and I do need a rewatch, and to be honest I've never really been as enthralled with Carne as others have, (Why exactly does "Children of Paradise" need to be three fucking hours long!?) but that said, if there's one movie where it matters and effects the films that the narrator is reflecting on other events in the middle of the night, I think it's definitely "Daybreak".


Number four. You know, going out to dinner, going out to a party, you know what's really a night thing, where all the shit really hits the fan? The after-the-party, (finger quotes) "party."


4. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966) Director: Mike Nichols



Yeah, I suspect that this might've been an easy call for most. I actually have a lot of affection for this film and the play, it's one of my personal favorites. In fact, I've even done some scene work with it in some basic acting classes; I think I made a pretty good George if I say so myself. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" takes place on an Ivy League campus after one of those cliched but totally realistic faculty soiree that go into the night and everybody gets sloshed, and follow the exchanges of two couples, one new to campus and the other who's done this routine so many different times, they've developed a little game of it. A game that, can get a bit out of hand, especially in the middle of a long, drunken night. The movie and original play by Edward Albee were both controversial, in fact the modern MPAA ratings were basically created for this movie. I'm probably ranking it a little high, 'cause most of the movie is basically inside a house, or a restaurant, so the night aspect is sorta mostly just a detail than a feature, although I can't imagine any believable scenario where this story happens in daytime. That's what really saves this one for me and makes me consider it a legitimate night film, not just one that takes place in night.


Number three: So, you know one of the funny things about being a Las Vegan is that there's a great deal of people who work at night here. There's people that work primarily at night most everywhere sure, but you definitely make more connections with people who worked at night here than most towns, and there's a lot of different jobs that happens in. Bartenders is a big one, waiters and waitresses, hoteliers is a bit unusual, convenient store clerks, sure, hookers and dancers in certain parts of town and times of night. One profession that this is really common, so common in Vegas in fact that there was actually a long-running reality show based on those late-night connections, is cab drivers.


3. "Night on Earth" (1991) Director Jim Jarmusch



"Night on Earth" is an anthology or compilation movie of sorts; it's five stories taking place at five different times at night and in five different world cities, each story centered around a cab ride. Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch has made some other films like this before, most notably "Coffee and Cigarettes" and his inspirations have usually been related in some way to his original inspiration, poetry. He's one of the premiere vanguards of the American Independent Film Movement of the '80s, and you can basically think of "Night on Earth" as five short stories of his, and they're all pretty good and each one is very different from the others. (The one in Rome is particularly unique, fair warning Roberto Benigni is involved. I know some don't think of that as a good thing, I tend to be okay with it.) You can debate which stories are your favorite or are the best, I prefer the Paris one myself, but you can also read the movie as a journey through the night itself. The movie celebrates each part of it from sundown to sunrise and tell each tale at a different time of night and the tones of each little hour are just as different as the characters and the cities themselves. Night of course, always walks in beauty in Jarmusch's films and in a way "Night on Earth" is his way of celebrating all the ways the night is beautiful. I'm honestly surprised this one never caught on more and that there aren't more imitations or pseudo-remakes or re-imaginings of this film; it's one of his most universal films, especially early Jarmusch, but, well, I hope, like all these choices if you haven't seen them, you'll seek them out.


Number two: Yeah, yeah, I didn't forget the obvious. Which one did I pick?

(Clears throat, gets into characters, Transylvanian accent)

Ca-rea-tures, of the night; what muuu-sic they make."


2. "Dracula" (1931) Director: Tod Browning



Ye-up. Vampires, I didn't overlook this obvious trope of night films, but again, not as many as you'd immediately think take place primarily at night. Mainly because, you need the day to contrast with the world of vampires at night, or to reveal the sun coming up and kill them. (You know, I never really think about it, but that is weird.) I guess there might've been one or two other vampires movies I could put here. I would've considered; "Interview with the Vampire" more if, you know, it didn't suck. (Look, I'm sorry, I've tried, she sounds like a nice and interesting person, sure, but in terms of her work, I don't get Anne Rice at all.) but when it does come to vampires, I usually end up back at the classic "Dracula". And you know, yeah, there's a little opening in daytime, but actually, this is one of the rare instances where I re-checked a film and it actually had less day scenes than I remembered. Everything else, takes place at night, and not just because it's convenient for Dracula, it's convenient for everybody else to talk and eventually investigate and capture him, once they realize he's the one, well, murdering and raping essentially. (Sighs) I do tend to like more romantic versions of vampire stories, outside of this film. (That reminds me, I'm like five seasons behind on "True Blood," still, I should really catch up on that.) Tod Browning is one of the great forgotten names of early cinema and it's a shame he gets overlooked as a director. He retired quite young and many of his films are considered lost, but we still have the original and best.


Alright, before I reveal my number one, I'm gonna throw out some honorable mentions in no particular order that didn't make the list, but for one reason or another I seriously considered, and what the hell, why stop recommending films at ten now.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

"The Fireman's Ball"-This is the satirical comedy that put Milos Forman on the map, and damn-near got him thrown out of Czechoslovakia. It's a great movie, I don't know how important it is that it takes place at night though.

"Blade Runner"-You know, I didn't even realize that this movie takes place entirely at night until I started looking things up. That said, if you know my position on it, than you probably shouldn't be too surprised that I left it off. By the way, while we're on the subject of overrated, same goes for both versions of "Evil Dead".

"American Graffiti"- Eh, there's too many memorable scenes that do take place in daytime, including the climax.

"Die Hard 2"-Yeah, I just want to elaborate again that "Die Hard 2" is the best of the franchise. I stand by it; he blows up a plane in mid-air, with a lighter!

"Blood Simple"-I don't know how well this holds up now that we have three decades of Coen Brothers works to compare, but I probably need a rewatch; I honestly have trouble remembering how much of this film takes place in daytime.

"Night and the City"-It's weird, I genuinely couldn't find a spot for a film noir movie on this list, too many of them, including this underrated Jules Dassin one, just spends a little too much time in the daytime, which is weird considering it's title; "Night and the City" are the basically the two biggest ingredients you need for a film noir.

"The Sweet Smell of Success"-Oh, there was this classic noir as well. This I seriously thought about including for a little while, and it's one of the few movies that takes place primarily at night, that doesn't take place in just one night. Still, great movie though.

"Key Largo"-One other film noir that just missed. This was the other John Huston movie I seriously considered, and I'm definitely tempted especially since it has both Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson, possibly my two all-time favorite actors in it. It's a great tense hostage movie in of itself.

"Dick Tracy"-Did you ever notice that very little of this film takes place specifically in the daytime? Granted, it's unusually forgettable and it's not particularly among Warren Beatty's best directing pursuits but I do tend to be an apologist for it. As an adaptation, it's actually closer to the comic than it probably should be.

"Hard Eight (aka Sydney)"-I just happened to rewatch this recently, it's really underrated. Just one-two many daytime scenes, but it's more of a night film than people might realize.

"Get on the Bus"-This one gets forgotten among Spike Lee's work, but I think it's underrated. Might be difficult to explain the context these days, The Million Man March in '95 has kinda become more forgotten than even this film.

"Collateral"-I know some rank this as Michael Mann's best; I tend to put "Heat" in that position, but "Collateral" really is very good.

"Nocturnal Animals"-This is another one I debated over, because of the "Daybreak" thing, but ultimately no matter how I sliced it, there were too many scenes during the day and if I'm wrong about that, it's so Pinteresque in it's structure, who can tell?

"Victoria"-I don't know how many have seen this German film from Sebastian Schipper, but it's really impressive. The whole thing is shot in one take and takes place from like 4:00am to a little after 6:00am. It's an amazing feat, and it's entertaining with that trick, unlike say, "Russian Ark" which is just boring as Hell. Ugh.

"Edmond"-Another lesser known film, this is a Stuart Gordon film based on the David Mamet play, and has one of William H. Macy's very best leading roles in it. Despite that, the movie just barely escaped being a straight-to-DVD release. (Shrugs) I personally think I would've tried for a wider release, but that's me.

"Only Lovers Left Alive"-This Jim Jarmusch love story was the closest I came to putting a second vampire film on the list. I know some people who really love it, but I'm just in the "It's okay" camp on it, myself.

"Irreversible"-Yeah, that scene... that said, as a film, it's honestly not as interesting as people think it is.

"Rope"-As much as I love this film, I don't think this movie needed to necessarily be set at night, if it didn't want to be. For most of it anyway.

"Dinner Rush"-I really wanted to put this on the list; I consider it one of the most underrated and underseen films of all-time, but I would've had to get rid of "My Dinner with Andre" and I can't take out one great restaurant film for another. That said, still seek this film out if you haven't already.

"Still the Drums"-You've probably never heard of this movie, but interesting fact, it's in the "Guiness Book of World Records" for most wins by a single person in a film festival, for their work on the same film. Talbot Perry Simons won for Directing, Writing, Acting, Producing, and Best Song at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. It's also actually, a pretty good film, and I think it takes place mostly at night. I think.

"Radioland Murders"- Nah, I'm kidding, I didn't seriously consider this one at all, but this should be a better movie than it actually is. That said, we really should make fun of George Lucas for this a lot more often than we do.


Alright, number one. What's the best films set, entirely (Almost) at night? Well, like I said, there were a few setbacks in making this. Night, usually ran into day a little too much. Clarifying night specifically can be tricky, how important is the setting of night in the movie, and I couldn't cheat with "Outer Space", but I did say it didn't have to take place on Earth though. And if something doesn't take place on Earth, or any known place, than maybe we can create a world that doesn't necessarily follow the day and night pattern, and perhaps see what happens....? Yeah, I probably gave too much away with that hint.


1. "Dark City" (1998) Director: Alex Proyas



Alright, first of all, I never saw "The Crow", so that's why that's not here. I know, I've been told it's all night as well, but...- anyway, Alex Proyas's "Dark City", it's a great movie, it takes place over multiple nights, the only scene of day is at the very end, it makes sense why there are no day scenes between the night scenes, it's called "Dark City" and it's very dark in all the best literal and figurative ways, it's makes sense in the universe that's created.... If I wanted to, I could even argue that it basically covers my missing film noir requisite...., and it even has some German expressionism stuff there too. It's a great movie that lives and bathes itself in night, so much so that for the characters it's hard to even remember what day looks like. I've written on this film before, in fact my Canon of Film post on it was republished on Age of the Nerd recently at the link below:

http://www.ageofthenerd.com/2018/03/canon-of-film-dark-city-directors-cut/

and I think this is a solid number one choice that's difficult to argue against. I can't think of too many other great movies where the setting of night matters this much and is this intricately important to the film and story itself.

Hope you enjoyed this list, let me know if you have thoughts on my choices or others that I should've considered, or recommendations for others. Well, that's all for now; I got about half a dozen documentaries to write movie reviews about.

Oh, good night, everyone. Good night.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

FOX IS WEIRD!!!!: "BROOKLYN NINE-NINE" OUT, "LAST MAN STANDING" BACK; A LOOK AT THE STRANGE PAST, PRESENT AND POSSIBLE FUTURE OF PROGRAMMING AT AMERICA'S 4TH AND WEIRDEST NETWORK.



Eh, I guess I should pay a little attention to the May Upfronts. Anything interesting happening this year?

FOX CANCELS BROOKLYN NINE-NINE
https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/10/entertainment/brooklyn-nine-nine-canceled/index.html

Huh...
.
FOX BRINGS BACK TIM ALLEN'S "LAST MAN STANDING"!
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/05/14/fox-picked-up-last-man-standing-after-being-emboldened-by-response-to-roseanne/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7f90f4d441d4

Oooooh-kay?

"WWE SMACKDOWN" TO MOVE TO FOX IN FALL 2019!
https://deadspin.com/reports-wwe-smackdown-will-move-to-fox-next-year-1826198872

Ahhhhhhh-Hmm, Ah-ummm, huh. This was all within like a week span? .

Huh. So, what's going on with FOX anyway? So, as per usual, the network upfront announcement have led to several pieces of discussion on certain series as they get canceled or picked up, or in some cases, canceled and then picked up, believe it or not, I actually prefer these to be relatively uneventful but there's always one story and in this case, the story became FOX, who canceled a slew of their more popular live-action sitcoms including "Brooklyn Nine-Nine", which less than 36 hours later was basically a free agent before NBC (Who won the bidding war to renew. The other shows, "The Mick" and "The Last Man on Earth" didn't fair so well, so far, although if I'm being totally honest, I'm not exactly surprised by any of these shows' cancellations. They were all bubble series, even "Brooklyn..." is basically a critically-acclaimed cult series, I liked "The Mick", but I can't really claim I would go out of my way for it, and- well, I'll be honest, I didn't like "The Last Man on Earth" that much actually. I thought it was intriguing at first, but the joke got old and eventually they just added too many characters. (I mean, it's called "The Last Man on Earth", I swear why can't shows just stick to premise sometimes anymore?)

What really caught my eye was FOX picking up "Last Man Standing". For those who forgot, "Last Man Standing" was Tim Allen's ABC show last year that was "controversially" canceled last year, after six years. It's been off for a year after being deemed too expensive to be picked up, I believe it was CMT that had the most interest, but was still fairly expensive to pay for Tim Allen. Now, Allen, and several others have claimed that the show was canceled was partially to be blamed on ABC executives not wanting a Trump-conservative on the network, which I highly doubt to be honest, but, that partially makes it unsurprising that it ended up at Fox, although not entirely for the reasons you're thinking, that has more to do I imagine with the fact that 20th Century Fox owned the rights to the series and funded the previous six seasons...- You know what, Bob Chipman did a great overview of this a year ago, I'll just post that video:



That said though, have I ever done a piece on Fox? I know I've done several on NBC, at least one on NBC and I think I did one on ABC. Maybe I didn't, I probably should. I know, I didn't do one on Fox though, and yeah, this is as good a time as any.

So, before we take a closer look into their recent moves and how they got here, I think we need to take a look at how we got here, 'cause Fox has an interesting history that's probably worth noting, for a couple reasons. One, is that it's still fairly young, in fact I'm actually a year old than Fox, so I've grown up with it all my life and watched it evolve, and the other is that, Fox, has always been a little "WEIRD"! Very weird. (Get used to it, I'm using the word "weird" a lot in this article) It's been weird in different ways, some good, some very good weird ways, although other times it's just been weird in bad ways for weirdness's sake at times. A lot times they've had to weird just out of necessity to get noticed at all, and since it was new at the time, it sorta worked.  The joke has always been that Fox would put literally anything on the air, and absolutely, before the influx of reality TV becoming a mainstream thing, they were considered the network that easily put on the most exploitative of specials and programs, again in good and bad ways and to some extent they've never really kicked that perception entirely. That said, there were nuances and strategies to their scheduling and a lot of those innovations have been adapted and attempted by other networks since. CW, comes to mind as they basically seeked out a WB-like young adult audience that's basically a retread of a similar young adult audience that Fox aimed to get back when "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" were the most popular shows to talk about in the schoolyard.(And they were back then.)

They've basically always branded themselves as the cool network in some manner, the one with the more taboo and edgy series of the time, and why not, they were the rebel, they were the young upstart, it was a glove that fit. Even their damn sports coverage, ever since they picked up the NFL, which people forget was a major game-changer at the time; the network had no previous national sports experience before they picked up the NFL back in 1994, of any kind and they a lot of things that they did revolutionized network sports broadcasting in that regard as well. That's the weird thing about Fox, it seems like almost everything they ever did was something that you could argue transformed the basics and ideas of what we think of as network broadcasting, often in a lot of minor ways that when you add it up gave the network a real identity, but on the same token, they are probably responsible for just as many disasters on the other end.

And yet, the weirdest thing about Fox, that has always annoyed the shit out of me from day one 'til now, and hardly anybody ever mentions it. Why does it stop programming at ten and not eleven. Seriously, how has that not bothered anyone else? I know they've always attempted to be different, but this has always genuinely confused me, especially the fact that they still do it today. I mean, for a network that's built it's success on edgy stuff from "Married with Children" to "The Simpsons" to "Cops" to "24" to "Family Guy" and "Arrested Development" and far beyond those shows too I might add, they cut to the local news, right at the time when most networks would be wetting their lips to put on the most edgy adult content that the kids would love, and where it would be more legal to do. (Yeah, remember that little weird thing, where the networks can show more adult content, and do things like say the seven words on network, but only between 10:00am and 6:00am when young kids are presumably not watching; that's still a thing.) There are a few reasons for this, one is classification. Eh, it's a little complex and involves a weird circumvention of Financial Interest and Syndication rules that the FCC had, but basically they didn't qualify as a basic network at that point, and were instead (and maybe still are) basically a bunch of TV stations. It's weird and complex, but it actually worked towards their advantage in the beginning, since they would air fewer shows and could focus in on those shows while still allowing the stations to air mostly supplemental syndication shows to fill up the rest of their schedules. That said, it's always been strange that they never adapted the ten o'clock series, and after thinking it through, I have my own theory on this. Now, at the time, a lot of Fox affiliates didn't even have local news programs, I suspect most of them do now, mine in Vegas at the time didn't, but it seems like, if you ever watched "Outfoxed" the local stations they owned that did, well, they felt the early effects of what Newscorp and Reagan's repealing the Fairness Doctrine before anybody, and I suspect that's a lot of why they keep with this model. I mean, it outright hasn't worked anywhere else, UPN and WB and now CW have basically shown that, although CW's success or lack of it with it is still TBD, but, they love having a ten o'clock end of Primetime, and possibly just as a strange, a beginning Primetime at seven on Sundays.. Lord knows it's more successful than anything they've ever had at eleven, the few times they tried, most notably "The Late Show with Joan Rivers", and "MadTV" (Alright "MadTV" I guess, was a cult hit), but they focus on promoting their local news, which, yes is important without the funding from that, most local stations affiliate would be bankrupt quickly and that's not a Fox thing, that's every network and every station.

And yet, it's also weird that even though they have Fox News under the Newscorp umbrella, they don't have a nightly news show, which seems like an obvious natural fit.... Why not a half-hour Fox News style nightly news program; believe me I wouldn't watch it, but it seems like a natural vertical integration? Huh; I told you, Fox is weird.

In it's little-over thirty years of this network, and going back through those old shows and their schedules, they've just been weird. That's basically been their signature, whatever it is, they've always been a little different than the other networks, mainly to attract a more younger demographic, or a more urban demographic at one point...,- that's always been Fox's prerogative and signature as a network, and the good thing about that, is that for the most parts, the network has kept a pretty solid brand and identity, but the other part about that however, is that it's so off sometimes from the beaten path, and generally they have so much fewer original programming than the other networks, especially in Primetime schedule, that it's sometimes also difficult to determine what actually works on the channel and what doesn't. Like, if you ask me to describe the channel in the last five years or so, I'd probably just show you this guy.



Boy, I can't seem to evade Gordon Ramsay from coming back into my life. But yeah, since they lost their cash cow in "American Idol" and "The X-Factor", the show that was supposed to replace it completely flopped and the trend of some of these reality shows seems to be to sliding a bit, it does make some sense that they'd be looking for an image alteration, right about now. So, yeah, let's maybe take a closer look at their recent moves, and see if we can see a pattern. Even before, all this recent action, let's not forget that their airing NFL Thursday Night Football starting next year, so that's one huge get, and one less night a week of Primetime programming to worry about. "Thursday Night Football" probably deserves it's own blogpost, but since nobody seems to like it when I write exclusively about sports here, I'll just move on and say, guaranteed moneymaker, good move.

Then the cancellation of these sitcoms. Again, they were cult series at best, but they were a continuation of the more high-profile, more critically-acclaimed and more culturally-significant recent trend of single-camera sitcoms that Fox has been one of the forerunners on since, "Arrested Development", actually long before that to be honest. They had experimented with that form for years with shows like "Action!" with Jay Mohr, and of course, the last hour-long sitcom to win the Emmy, "Ally McBeal" and even long before that too, like, from the beginning of the network. What else in that section of the network has gone on.

"NEW GIRL" RENEWED for FINAL SEASON
http://deadline.com/2017/05/new-girl-final-season-details-cancellation-avoided-fox-1202094465/

Ah, so they winded down their big show in this set. Or presumptive-, the one they put the most money in-, I have never understood the popularity of "New Girl" to be honest, but Fox had always invested in that series until now, and this isn't even the first multi-cams they've given up on; Hulu picked up "The Mindy Project" after several false starts trying to break that one out as well. So, why, did they bring back "Last Man Standing" back from a year of being dead. I mean, it's already in syndication, and 20th Century Fox is flipping the bill to make more, but were people really asking for "Last Man Standing" to come back?

Overall, I don't think so, but...- there is a minor trend to consider. The two biggest new network sitcoms right now are "Will & Grace" and "Roseanne", two single-camera sitcoms who are both revivals of older successful shows in the nineties and that trend isn't stopping yet. CBS is bringing back "Murphy Brown" for next season, and boy is that a timely move, but it's clear that a trend is leaning this way on the network landscape. (Although side note: Hot Take: I think most of the reason the networks are pushing these shows is because they're some of the only shows anymore that they know how to market properly). Now, I would think demographics-wise, the fans that watch "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" probably are worth more than the ones who watched "Last Man Standing", which skews a little older, which is a bit weird for Fox, actually. (Demographic shorthand: a younger more city-based richer viewers are generally worth more than an aging, older more rural viewers, because of the amount of money they will spend leads to the network being able to charge more on advertising for that show and therefore make more money with less viewership because they have more profitable demographics.)

I mean, I guess, it's a gamble that you could see as six-to-one, half-a-dozen but I'm not sure what David Madden's thinking; this is a big shift for him.

DAVID MADDEN to head AMC, MICHAEL THORN takes over at FOX
http://variety.com/2017/tv/news/fox-michael-thorn-david-madden-amc-1202542947/

Oooh, I missed this. It isn't Madden in charge there anymore, it's Michael Thorn. So, it's not just a rebranding onscreen, there's a behind-the-scenes one too.

Oh-kay, this is interesting. Thorn, does have a belief in multi-camera sitcoms, and I'm noting Ken Levine's blogpost for this information; you can find that, here:
http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2018/05/whats-going-on-at-fox.html

Now, I love his blog, but he does go on a bit about some of the differences between three-camera and single-camera, that is a little off-topic here and I may or may not agree with them, but the point he's making is that, they are switching to this, or at least, dipping their toes in, for now. And, it's a bit of a weird pairing. I mean, sure Fox, has a lot of success with multi-cam sitcoms, but not lately. That said, the two biggest sitcoms the channel's ever had, "Married with Children" and "That '70s Show" were multi-cams. (Although the only two to ever with the Emmy, "Ally McBeal" and "Arrested Development" were very much, single-cams.) I guess this is a pick your poison thing, try to grab what seems to be a bigger audience, or get a more Vanity Fair audience with the single-cams, but it does feel like a weird fit while they're still the network of Animation Domination in Primetime, and simultaneously the network that's banked on reality the most this century.

And with now, bringing back pro wrestling to a major basic network on a weekly basis in Primetime, for the first time since I don't know when, by picking up "WWE Smackdown Live". (So with football and wrestling, that's two full nights a week they don't have to schedule.) That's not a horrible move either btw, wrestling, like everything else doesn't get the ratings it used to, but the fans who are there will keep coming, just like the NFL.

It also means that, I suspects all the networks will be transitioning towards in the next few years, they're gonna be focusing in on live programming to get ratings more than scripted series. I don't think any sitcom, even three-camera ones are going live anymore after the "Undateable" fiasco, and lord knows, Fox has bad experience with that already after "Roc" did that for a season, but expect more play adaptations and specials. I don't about Thorn's thoughts on reality, so we'll see whether or not Fox will keeping seeking out the next "The Voice', but I somehow doubt that's in their objective however.

If you take each of these decisions, in a bubble, they all seem sound to one degree or another, but it's when you combine a lot of them together, that's when it all seems a little..., odd. And yet, while this switch to multi-cams is eye-opening, I can't necessarily say strange or too weird to work or even too weird to work for Fox. Fox has always gone in so many different directions that it's always gonna be hard to tell what they're gonna focus on in the future; they basically are determined to just find a hit and stick with it, and go with the flow, but that seems to indicate that there's no planning or strategy or point of view involved at all in their decisions and that's never been true before and it's not true now.

It's chaotic and little schizophrenic, sure. I mean, they get rid of the single-cams shows to get the broad audience with multi-cams but then they keep the animation block of they have, a niche market. They pay a buttload for more football, a mass-appeal sport, while they pick up pro wrestling, an ultimate niche attraction. Oh, and if anybody cares, and surprisingly people apparently did, they canceled "Lucifer" and "The X-Files" the sci-fi/fantasy cult series, the latter a previous breakout Fox stable, but kept "Empire" a modern-soap old-fashioned soap opera, for adults, and kept "Gotham" which from what I can tell even the superhero crowd is heavily split on. If I'm gonna guess, I'm gonna predict that "Last Man Standing" is not gonna last much longer than a year, although that might not matter since it might ring in a new era of single-camera sitcoms that Fox hasn't really had since the days of "Martin" and "Living Single", but are they gonna get the audience that this new revival of sitcoms pasts gets? (Shrugs) I'm not even 100% sure these sequel series and remakes trend isn't a fluke yet, and they're betting on Tim Allen's second series to help them get a part of this pie? Admittedly, unlike the other networks Fox doesn't have the great history of shows to bring back and revive and update at a moment's notice. Let's face it, nobody, except maybe me, would ever ask for a new "Herman's Head".  (And any successful past series they might be able to pull out of their ass in perfect circumstances for a reboot, well-, they don't have perfect circumstances unfortunately. Looking at you "That '70s Show"....) so maybe it's the best gamble they got left, if they want to go in this direction, but...- that brings about the question of is this a good direction to go into?

(Shrugs)

I guess we'll see, but here's the thing, let's say it is successful and they play off of it and now we have a major broadcast network that's mainly based around popular, funny single-camera sitcoms that would make them...- something every network has already done at some point in their history successfully, at least once, if not multiple times. The network is 32 now, maybe it's time they grow up and stop being so weird, and this might be the first step towards that? Michael Thorn, he's the guy who helped developed "This is Us", one of the best and most adult shows on network television right now; is this an experiment to see if this approach could work for Fox in the future or is this perhaps, a turning point in the channel's history. No longer being the other network that sprawled out of the ashes of DuMont and other failed 4th networks, no longer the channel that'll air anything from the revolutionary to the distasteful, from the unique and innovative to the obscene and controversial? Now, it's more likely than ever that it'll turn into every other network.

Then I remember it's still got "The Simpsons" and all it's legacy series and now it's got pro wrestling.

(Sigh)

FOX is just WEIRD!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

MOVIE REVIEWS #148: "DETROIT", "WIND RIVER", "CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS:THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE", "DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME", "LUCKY (Lynch)", "ELIAN", "MR. ROOSEVELT", "UNREST", "THE KIND WORDS" and "CLOSET MONSTER"!

(Sigh) Well, I've gotten a little healthier since the last batch of reviews, but yeah, we seem to be catching everything lately. Anyway, work's been slow, but I've been getting around to more movies lately. I finally got around to "Cherry Blossoms", the beautiful German movie about a terminally ill German man who's going to Japan to see Mt. Fuji after in honor of his wife's sudden passing. I enjoy that one that one, it was quite good, great cinematography. I also "The Law in These Parts" a documentary about the history of modern Israeli law. I don't know why I keep getting these Israeli history documentary, it's honestly not something I seek out, but this one was, I'm sure informative but so pedantic that I just couldn't...- I actually studying case law and analyzing important precedent-setting historical cases, but man, like, you gotta make it a little entertaining. There's a reason I didn't go to law school, you know?

Not too much going on, other than just, the usual watching of the TV toke boards to see what shows got renewed or canceled or picked up or whatever; admittedly it's been unusually interesting this year, but I'll save any other thoughts on that 'til later. I'm also thinking of doing a Top Ten soon, so if you have a good idea for a Top Ten List that you haven't seen done before, let me know, either comment below or better yet, find me on Facebook or Twitter. Remember, I don't want to do the lists that everybody else does, so I want entertainment-based (Preferably film or TV, but not limited to them) topics that you haven't seen Top Ten Lists done for, if possible. (Or rarely if ever have seen them.) Anyway, enough of that.

Let's get to the reviews!


DETROIT (2017) Director: Kathryn Bigelow


★★★★1/2


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I'm not exactly sure how to tackle a review of Kathryn Bigelow's controversial "Detroit". It's by no standard a bad film, although there are some critics of it out there. Most of their criticisms,- well, some I don't mind, but the main crux seems to be this notion that, as Christopher Orr of the Atlantic put it, "Detroit... is strangely disengaged from the cultural and systemic forces that led to Police brutality in 1967 and continue to do so today." I'm not saying that's not necessarily true, although I'm not sure I agree with that. I hear that same complaint about Paul Haggis's "Crash" all the time, and I never agreed with it there either; mainly 'cause I never got the impression that that film's intention was to explain racism, only to examine aspects of it through a modern lens, how it's practiced and shows up in everyday modern life. "Detroit", well, it's goal is to create a document about a very specific incident, involving corrupt, abusive and murderous white cops and their actions against a group of African-Americans and as far as I can tell, it does it really well. Does it have to get into a detailed history of racism in the United States and it's Social Impacts on Society today lesson as well? Also, how disengaged can it be, it's a whole movie where a specific historical event is used as a symbolic reference to shine a light on how the modern society's view on Police Brutality today, have in many ways not been changed too much as well as show just how the Justice System has been systemically broken not just now, but always. This feels like asking more of the movie than the movie's trying to do, this line of criticism to me.

So, the Detroit Riot of 1967, also known as the 12th Street Riot lasted for five days, at the time, was considered the largest riot in American history and certainly the largest race riot until the L.A. Riots of '92, as the African-American community and the Police were basically at arms against each other after the Police raided an unlicensed nightclub called the Blind Pig. During this time, there were attempts to alleviate the raid by local leaders in the African-American community, but also outside forces from the state and national level were brought in. In total there were 43 deaths over the five days, including that of a four-year-old girl who was killed by National Guardsman because, and yes, this is as stupid as it sounds, because they thought she was a sniper. The movie shows several of these scenes and incidents, but it's all briskly shown in chaos, which is understandable, all this happening in a short period and we have a lot of characters to inevitably introduce as they head to the Algiers Motel.

So, it's in the middle of this race riot that an incident at the Algiers Motel occurs, one where the Police act beyond the scope of their legal means and end up killing three black men, all of them, in cold blood, none of them in self-defense. I'll spoil the punchline, they were found not guilty, despite basically terrorizing the occupants of a motel, mainly because they could. There was a report of a sniper that seemed to be after a group of Police, and at least according to this movie, there was a customer, Carl (Jason Mitchell) who did something stupid and decided to mock shoot at the cops, using a starter's pistol, just to scare them. Then, believing there to be a gun and that they were legitimately shot at, led by Officer Krauss (Will Poulter, in a really amazingly evil performance), a cop that's already been accused during the raids of shooting an killing an unarmed Black looter trying to escape, (And one that might not have even been a lotter by the looks of it) decides to use the situation to terrorize and abuse as many of the motel residents as possible until things started to get worst and worst and one cop, unaware that they were only insinuating that they were killing African-Americans one-by-one until someone confessed, actually killed someone.

There's other storylines crossing here, for instance, two of the members of The Dramatics, Larry & Fred (Algee Smith and Jacob Lattimore) were at the hotel at the time after their performance was canceled due to the riots, this was right before they hit it big in Motown, there's two white girls from out-of-town Karen and Julie (Kaitlyn Dever and Hannah Murray) staying the hotel who they hook up with and when they find the girls in a room with a Black man, the police immediately presume they're hookers and that one of the men, Greene (Anthony Mackie) a soldier home from Vietnam is their pimp. There's a Black security guard Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega) who's hired to protect a local store where the Police and national Guard are staying and he's able to manipulate the situation well in order to make sure he's protected and not mistaken for, a looter or sniper or something. The movie is a bit of a mess, but the situation is a mess within a mess and it doesn't attempt to hide what it was or make it understandable, maybe to it's detriment it unflinchingly shows us what happened, to the best they can reconstruct, at this time.

And remember, Bigelow's main motif through the majority of her work isn't race or any social issues for that matter, her fascination has always been the study of masculinity. Now that certainly has a major role in race, but she's fascinated by the examining of it in dire situations and say whatever else, "Detroit" is a fascinating portrait of masculinity on multiple levels through many different forms of it. From that perspective, I have to give "Detroit" some credit. There's certainly some flaws in the film, but I couldn't look away if I wanted to. To me, that's a successful movie.


WIND RIVER (2017) Director: Taylor Sheridan


★★★★


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I think I'm safe in saying that the biggest accomplishment that Taylor Sheridan have figured out is that, rather conventional, classical narratives can become new again by setting them in new modern environments. His breakthrough screenplay was for Denis Villeneuve's "Sicario" a movie, that I thought was okay, although I don't get the huge acclaim it got; I called it "Traffic"-lite, and that's not a negative but it was nothing special. He then got an Oscar nomination for the script for "Hell or High Water" a modern-day western about bank robbers that was...- (Shrugs) okay. I didn't see the big deal about that film, outside of some performances and oddly not even Jeff Bridges's one to be honest. Basically all it really amounted to was, give a decent reason for the robbers to be robbing the banks. (Shrugs) I guess, cool, but that seemed a little simplistic to me. It might also be that he's used the Desert Southwest and Mexico for his previous films and as somebody who lives there, granted in the weird part that right next door to the adult playground of Las Vegas, eh, let's just say the setting didn't inspire me.


"Wind River" is probably the first of his films where he uses the setting and location to a real advantage in telling his story and not just a convenient symbolic one. The title, "Wind River" refers to the Wyoming-based Indian Reservation, where Eastern Shoshone and Arapaho tribes still live. If you're not entirely familiar with Wyoming's demographics, it's the state with a lot of land but very little population, especially in the Western part of the state. We know Yellowstone, but it's also quite a mountainous terrain that could easily be confused for say, the Yukon perhaps. Now, it's also this weird area where law enforcement, what there is, is itself handcuffed given the worst of circumstances, like a woman found dead on the Reservation. Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) finds a young dead woman, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) while. Lambert is a Wildlife Service tracker, which young rookie FBI investigator Jane Banner (Elisabeth Olsen) quickly realize that he's probably the most useful person to have around as they seek out her killer, along with the look Indian Reservation Sheriff Ben (Graham Greene) Cory, meanwhile finds Nathalie's boyfriend Matt (Joe Bernthal), who is also found dead, both of them beaten and sexually assaulted, with less-than-viable clothing considering the weather.

The movie take a chance by having some strategic-placed flashbacks to these two as we slowly reveal their secret relationship and their inevitable deaths. One of Sheridan's weak spots is how he's inspired by real-life events for these otherwise interesting genre pieces, and it's true, there's been a large amount of missing Native American women on reservations such as Wind River, and several accounts of sexual assaults against them, although calling this film, "Based on a True Story", is maybe a bit of a stretch. It's strange and contradictory to some extent, like he thinks he's foreshadowing real issues with the world and society when he's basically just making some decent westerns. It works here, 'cause it's a different environment than we're used to, the cool, frigid, mountains of Wyoming that are so out of the way, that what few people are around, they don't exactly have much to do or easy contact with others; it's almost too perfect a place for the most violent of crimes to take place. It reminds me a lot of wonderfully Courtney Hunt feature "Frozen River" which also involved crimes taking place at a cold frigid northern areas of the country, that also coincidentally involves a strategically-placed Native American reservation. It's not that good but it's easily the most interesting and best of Sheridan's work so far and I appreciate his directing as well. 


CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE (2017) Director: David Soren


★★★1/2


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Wait, what? Oh-kay, maybe I missed this, but apparently there's a joke/trope in comic books that, apparently superheroes look like they're running around town solving crimes in their underwear. Ummmm-, I-eh, huh? What? I'm sorry, am I missing something, 'cause I've never thought that at all. (Sigh) Let's do some Google Image searches.

SUPERMAN: Uh, who wears a blue unitard as underwear?
BATMAN: God, I hope some of those don't resemble underwear, some of those metal things look uncomfortable as is.
SPIDER-MAN: Eh, he looks like the world's worst Luchador jobber, but not underwear.
WONDER WOMAN: I mean, it's revealing; it looks like what half my friends wear to either "Rocky Horror" shows or to their bondage orgies, and what my one slutty friend wears almost everywhere. (You know who you are!)
GREEN LANTERN: Nope
GREEN HORNET: Nope
CAPT. MARVEL: Eh, maybe gym clothes?
IRON MAN: No.
CAPT. AMERICA: No-, okay kinda.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK: Alright, I'll give you this one, but that's not fair, he busts out of his clothes, so he's in his underwear essentially.
DAREDEVIL: Mostly just looks somewhere between Kane and a Ninja.
BLACK PANTHER: I don't see it.
WOLVERINE: He always just dressed weird to me, but he never dressed in his underwear.
AQUAMAN: Well, he's like a fish, so...-
GREEN ARROW: Okay, am I missing something here, 'cause I'm not getting this trope, like at all?
ROBIN: Oh-kay, now I see it.

Still though, eh, is this as common as thought as the movie thinks? Maybe I just grew up in a post-Madonna world, but if someone tells me their outfit looks like underwear, I'm gonna need more than spandex + '80s gym clothes patterns. It plays less like underwear to me and more like, "American Gladiators" for most of them, although there are some obvious exceptions.(Boy Wonder, boy does he make me seriously wonder.) Anyway, apparently this joke is really funny to George and Harold (Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) two young best friends who live in ridiculous prison-like school where the Principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) is a sadistic dictatorial menace who's out to get them because they prank everyone. Okay, this is like the second film I've seen recently that involves elementary and middle schoolers having to pull off pranks because to spite their Principal, are Principals really these big bully villains everyone makes them out to be, who are just making school miserable? 'Cause the only people I ever knew who thought that got in trouble a lot, and not the pranks going too far kind, like I don't remember anybody going to far out of the way for a prank i school, and least that students would relish and admit to, and people found out about. Usually it was the quiet person who sat in the corner of the lunchroom alone that nobody was paying attention when something would happen and he would quietly disappear all of a sudden and nobody would be the wiser...-, um, perhaps I'm revealing a little too much here. Anyway, they live next door to each, which really makes Mr. Krull moronic idea of separating them and keeping them apart forever particularly moronic. (Like, how does this even work, they won't be friends anymore 'cause they're not in the same class? Like half my best friends I never had a class with-, what-the...-) Anyway, Harold and George put their juvenile sense of humor and artistic vision towards their comic book, "Captain Underpants". Anyway, due to circumstances, the Principal suddenly, magically becomes Captain Underpants and they can control him, through, some kind of hypnosis when they snap their fingers. Using this, they help struggle to improve the school.

This is when Captain Underpants's arch-enemy, Prof. Poopypants (Nick Kroll) a mad scientist genius who wants to rid the world of humor and along with the school intelligent inventor, Melvin (Jordan Peele) who doesn't have a sense of humor in his brain, constructs a device that will alleviate the sense of humor of all the kids in the school. So, it's time for Captain Underpants, and George and Howard to the rescue, since Capt. Underpants is basically a Hong Kong Phooey kind of superhero who thinks he's more powerful and doing more than he is. Uh, look I hate to sound like Melvin here, but I guess I've just outgrown this flatulent-based sense of humor. (See, farts aren't inherently funny, unless there's an embarrassment factor involved, something that I think is elusive to some kids' minds; that why whoopie cushions never really worked. Well, that and they're usually way too big to properly hide, although nice try 4th Grade assholes, hope you liked those expulsions you got in high school, that you swear you didn't do and were framed by somebody for, but can't prove it, not that I know anything about that or playing any other kind o long con game....) I guess I'm recommending this, it's fun and harmless and apparently it's a popular book series for kids. I mean, it wouldn't be my choice, but I laughed, it's goofy, it feels like something that immature elementary school kids would come up with, and that's all that really matter with "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie"; I guess I just like my dopey comedy children's lit to be based a little more in realism than this. I think I grew up in the last generation of kids that this would really work for and I wasn't really apart of that generation. I think I was more Minkus than Melvin is, I certainly have never been talented enough of an engineer to invent anything, but I can't say I don't empathize with him a bit. (Although Stuart Minkus had a sense of humor and self-awareness.)

I suspect most kids will like this, and it will click that repressed part of an adults' minds that can appreciate the goofiness of this kind of humor, and it goes for all it all the way through, so I'll definitely recommend this for that. It's fun if nothing else, so.... (Shrugs) I still don't think much of the "Superheroes look like their wearing underwear," thing.


DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME (2017) Director: Bill Morrison

★★★★★




Before I get into everything else, I'm not overly crazy about the movie's constant use of subtitles instead of a narrator. That's a bit of a curious choice, but that's a minor issue; "Dawson City: Frozen Time" is one of the best films of the year and one of the greatest love letters to classic cinema ever but more than that, it's a look into a history of a town and of early cinema that feels likes it's only now being discovered and written.

So, there's a place in the Sierra Nevada's called Bodie, California that at one point was the state's third largest city. That was about 125 years ago, it's now a ghost town. It was a mining town that benefited greatly from both the California Gold Rush and the Comstock Lode silver discovery in Nevada, but after the profit ran out on that, people eventually started leaving and now the town resides as basically is a tourist trap for those historically-inclined enough to even know about it. I bring it up, it's probably the most comparable thing I can think of to Dawson City, at least in America. Now Dawson City, is not a ghost town, there's still about a 1,000 people living there, but it's literally about as out-of-the-way as you can get; at one point it was the capital of the Yukon Territory where after the land was originally owned by Natives, of course, the town found a mass population boom in the late 1800s as the Klondike Gold Rush hit. And no, I had never heard of this place before I saw this movie; I really have to study maps more like I used to, my geography knowledge is slowly whispering away it seems)

Now, the movie has two stories, one is the history of this town, which it tells through photos, old articles and subtitles; it's basically a meditation on the birth, rise and inevitable decline of this town, and the town is amazing! As obscure as this place is, it's apparently one of those weird places where like, everything happened. Jack London lived and wrote there, Sid Grauman of Grauman's Chinese Theater started his empire there, even Fred Trump, yes, that Fred Trump, ran a brothel that was located on the travel route to the town. I'm leaving a lot of stuff out too, 'cause this is a gold mine that needs to be discovered, in more ways than one. This is one of the most historically fascinating towns you'll ever see. The more you read into this place, the more fascinating it becomes, even like the early remnants of what would becomes the National Hockey League has origins there . That was until the end of the World War II, when the Alaskan Highway bypassed the town by 300 Miles, and since then it's basically become this dwindling small town that's mostly cutoff from the rest of Canada. By the 1950s the capital city of the Territory switched to Whitehorse, leaving almost no reason at all to go there.

That is until 1977 when, inside a long-abandoned swimming pool that now resided under a hockey rink, they found 533 nitrate films, most of them dating back to the Silent era, having remained protected from the elements by Permafrost, the majority of these films were long-thought lost or destroyed. (Remember, this was nitrate film, so it was, and still is, highly flammable so the fact that it was basically preserved by permafrost is kinda amazing, even if it led to most of the films having suffered from severe water damage, the restoration efforts are worth it.) It's weird to think of just how recent the Gold Rushes were, but right as Dawson City was becoming a hub at the center of the Klondike, film was beginning to explode across the world and the town has itself a rich history of entertainment, including multiple movie houses in those days. The thing is, it was still really out-of-the-way and back in the days where film reels would literally travel from town-to-town and Dawson City, was literally the last stop, like the last places the reels would travel to, after traveling up and down the continent, and before the days of film preservation, Hollywood, never picked them up. This led to a few fires and some movie houses and entertainment hubs having to get built and rebuilt and pretty soon, the idea of what to do with the films came up. Many were destroyed, purposefully burned, some were thrown into the Yukon River, but several found homes and survived and the story of their survival and inevitable rediscovery and preservation is probably bigger and more important than many of the actual films.

"Dawson City: Frozen Time" doesn't tell these two stories to fill up the time either, they're both intertwined with each other and with a part of our history that's forgotten and under-told. One of Director Bill Morrison's great tricks is now only splicing in footage of the films or other time period movies and movie scenes with the historic photos whenever possible, but it's amazing to see just how much of the films made back then, really were also telling the recent realities and stories of the time, much of it easily fill in as tales of Dawson City itself. Not only do we have all these films, we now get to look at them with fresh eyes, but also imagine them being seen by the Miners and their families of Dawson City and perhaps wonder what they saw and what they were thinking as they watched this representation of life and rare glimpse into the outer world on the screen. In a way, "Dawson City: Frozen Time" gives us a rare opportunity to look into our past and the past of cinema as a tool for recording history as it's happening, and simultaneously as it's already happened. It's one of the most inspiring and important films of the year, and it's absolutely a miracle that such a document can be made today.


LUCKY (2017) Director: John Carroll Lynch


★★★


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“Lucky” isn’t so much a movie as it is a hallucination. The ones you get when you’re somewhere between daydreaming and falling asleep while watching one movie and suddenly remnants of other films and other random thought seem to intervene and invade the film you’re watching. (In this case, I suspect the movies are probably “Paris, Texas” or more likely, the lesser-known Sam Shepherd/Wim Wenders collaboration, “Don’t Come Knocking”, or maybe it's the other way around.) There’s a scene in this movie where David Lynch sits at a bar with Harry Dean Stanton and mourns about how his tortoise, President Roosevelt, ran away from home. That alone is worth the movie and this whole movie to some extent feels like a long sequence of just random, bizarre scenes like these that you'd only imagine during those late-night REM sleep dreams that peak out into your memory, or those that might simmer randomly to the forefront of your mind during those medicinal "Trips" that don't go horribly wrong. It's a rare starring role, and inevitably it became the final one for the great Harry Dean Stanton who passed away shortly before the film's theatrical release. He plays the titular Lucky, a role that only he could play. 


The movie takes place, in some out-of-the-way desert town, one that's small enough where everybody knows exactly where everybody else lives. Lucky is...- but that's a hard question to answer. We occasionally learn a little bit about him. He lives alone, likes a game show, is good at crossword puzzles, has gotten thrown out of most places in town, goes to a small convenience store for cigarettes every day, he does yoga, which is pretty good for a 90-year-old. In fact, when he does have a sudden fall, his doctor, Dr. Christian Kneedler (Ed Begley, Jr., with a curiously symbolic name for a character who only shows up in one or two scenes) says that at his advanced age, he should keep smoking and drinking 'cause any drastic changes to his current lifestyle could be death. 


The rest of the movie, is just one episodic strange sequence after another, and I don't know how else to explain it. Some seem like they happen in real life, the scenes at the bar he frequents every night or the diner he visits every day seem plausible enough. He gets into a disagreement with his friend Howard (Lynch) after he decides to give his entire estate and fortune to his aforementioned missing pet tortoise President Roosevelt, something he discusses with his lawyer Bobby Lawrence (Ron Livingston) who Lucky considers a conman as he does all lawyers, presumably. Other scenes,- well, there's one sequence in the movie where a red light leads him down an alley and path to a club that feels like something that came out of some old David Lynch project. I think this is a dream sequence, but the whole movie feels like some surreal look at Americana that I would've expected Bunuel would've made as a sublime joke in his old age. Instead, it's directed, not by David Lynch, but by John Carroll Lynch of all people, the great character actor who you've seen hundreds of times before just never knew his name. He's that tall bald actor who that you see all the time, most likely lately from either "American Horror Story" or one of the McDonald's brothers opposite Nick Offerman in "The Founder". I have no idea what possessed him to suddenly direct this or why, I don't even think they worked together before now. (Somebody can correct me if I'm wrong about that assertion) There's nothing wrong with the directing, it's actually quite intriguing to be honest. 


Whether it was intended to or not, the movie basically just feels like a tribute to Mr. Stanton. The more you know about him, his work and the iconography of Harry Dean Stanton, the more this movie-, well, I won't say it makes sense, but you can relate to it. It's a meditation on accepting the limitations of one's life and it's upcoming inevitable end, and part of that is surrounding oneself in a world that's unequivocally their own. This one wasn't written by him or anything, but it does feel and play like an homage to him and all his eccentricities. If I were to guess a theory, well-, my theory would be that this world of his probably does exist moreso in the Heavens than it does on Earth; that's the only thing that makes sense to me. I doubt that's the case but like all men and tortoises, we all go off on our own at some point must escape from the comforts of our lives and seek out something greater, whatever that is. If Harry is somewhere in a world like this now, I'm sure he's happy enough with it, probably signing some Spanish folk tune for people between puffs and drinks. I have no idea if "Lucky' is a movie, but as an experience I can't imagine not recommending it, but I'll be damned if I know what to do with it afterwards. 



ELIAN (2017) Directors: Tim Golden and Ross McDonnell

★★★


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(Angry, annoyed scoff)

Please don't let this be a real movie, please don't let this be a real movie, please don't let this be a real movie, please don't let this be...- CNN Films, that's- eh, that could go either way....- dammit, I got to look it up.

(IMDB search)

TVR rating, no MPAA rating, that's something. Won awards at film festivals, that's not good...- No, it's got a U.S. release date before it's internet release, ooooh, I gotta look this up...- Reviews, let's try the Wikipedia page...- There isn't one, let's look up Elian Gonzalez...- (Scrolling) Documentary on the bottom of his page...- It says, "Debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. It opened in Limited Rel-, SONOFAGODDAMNMOTHERFUCKING-!!!!

(Davis gets up and stomps outside, screaming commences and continues although constantly fades out the farther he walks)

WHY! WHY! WHY DOES EVERY GODDAMN MOVIE I EVER SEE ANYMORE SEEM TO JUST BE ABOUT ALL THE PARTS OF THE 90'S THAT I'VE SPENT 20 FUCKING YEARS TRYING TO FORGET! IS IT O.J.? IS IT GIANNI VERSACE? IS IT PRINCESS DIANA NOW, NOW IT'S ANOTHER ONE ON O.J.! THE MENENDEZ BROTHERS THEY BROUGHT BACK AND NOW IT'S TONYA FUCKING HARDING OF ALL GODDAMN THINGS? BIGGIE & FUCKING TUPAC, AND NOW IT'S ELIAN FUCKING GONZALEZ, WE'RE BRINGING THAT BACK UP? WHAT ELSE CAN WE MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT, HOW ABOUT DON KING, TERRY SCHIVO, HOW ABOUT A 12-PART MINISERIES ABOUT THAT ONE TIME WINONA RYDER SHOPLIFTED WHILE WE"RE AT IT, EVERY PIECE OF NOSTALGIA EPHEMERA....-

(30 Minutes and one movie and two three latge pina colada slurpees later)

Hmm, (Slurping straw, relaxing sigh) Alright, I think I might be okay now. Sorry about that. Look I- I recognize that that might seem like a-eh a bit of an overreaction to you, but it's- it's been a bit rough personally. I realize that there's probably a good portion of my audience that only knows the name Elian Gonzalez from that "The Racial Draft" sketch from "Chapelle's Show" and half of you probably didn't quite get the joke then. That said, you gotta realize that this stuff, eh, it's hard to explain, but you gotta realize that, while there's certain things that maybe 20 years ago my mother and her generation looks upon, eh, I don't know, like the Patty Hearst kidnapping I guess, but you see, those kinds of exploitative tabloid article stories,- it's-, it's different if you grew up in the '90s, 'cause this was the coming-of-age-, well, that's a terrible term for it, but that form of "journalism", kinda took off around then. There was 24 hours of news on Patty Hearst back then,  it was just a really big part of the news, all this shit, that we're bringing back up now, these were like, major 24 hours a day, CNN, Fox News, CourtTV events that, frankly we were just, so goddamn sick of. They seem like weird, strange, surreal footnotes to the nineties to some of you, who might've found out about these weird things on old VH-1 nostalgia series, to us, (Sigh) they were just...- God, I don't even know how to describe them. It was this weird combination of a major weird, new thing constantly happening, mixed with the beginning days of how we were newly finding these medias. The internet was barely a thing, if it was at all for some of these stories and now we have people who have grown up in this and think it's normal, well, no, it's not. It wasn't normal, 'til all this stupid shit happen, then it became normal. You gotta get that timeline right, you know?

So, "ELIAN", Elian Gonzalez, this poor kid. Basically, he was caught in the middle of a custody battle in the wrong places and the wrong time. So, (Sigh) what year was it, Thanksgiving 1999 I think, six-year-old Elian Gonzalez is found by Florida fisherman, alive, floating in a raft; his mother had decided like many Cubans did at that time, to take that ninety mile journey from Cuba to America in hope for a better life not under Castro's rule. He barely made it, his mother didn't. I hope I don't have to explain Cuba-America relations' history at that time, but the Embargo was still intact and while there was some talk between them, they were really not in the best place friendship wise with each other at the time. So, he had an Aunt in Miami who was taking care of him, and there also was his Father in Cuba, and this under the best of circumstances was never gonna play out in any scenario that would be good, but Elian Gonzalez, basically kinda became a symbol of Cuban refugees in America, and in particular Florida, and with the Press and media attention, he also became the center of politics for awhile. (Oh, right, this was also in the middle/beginning of the 2000 Presidential campaign, and yeah, so sure's that shitshow, and yes, as Tim Russert famously put it, Florida, Florida, Florida.)

Going over all the twists and turns of the story and public opinion, and the courts, trying to figure out how the hell to deal with this, and remember between it's between these two countries on top of the family situation, there's precedents upon precedents that's everybody trying to not set, but they're inevitably gonna be set, plus there's this Castro vs. America aspect...- I mean, basically it boils down to, what's more important, the rights of the Father, or what were clearly the intentions and wishes of the Boy's mother, who risked her and her son's life, and lost hers, trying to come to America. (Sigh) Somehow this ended up with Elian being taken away from one home, at the end of a soldier with a gun, sent by Janet Reno, and man, was that not a good picture. I think Reno gets a really bad rap most of the time, including her actions here, but that was a bad photo, but then again, why the hell were the paparazzi staking out this kid 24/7. Then again, the family seemed to be playing it up whenever they could, and there's about 20 other "then agains..." I could add here.

This was the one of the '90s tabloid pieces 'cause this really was a no-win scenario for everyone involved. The most interesting part of the documentary for me, is to see what Elian Gonzalez has become and is now. He's still somewhat famous and Castro, actually did take a genuine interest and liking for him, not just for publicity, and having lived and grown up in Cuba most of his life now, he's basically a Castro disciple. He seems okay in every other aspect; he just spent a brief and memorable time in the U.S. for a bit there. Who knows what'll happen to him now, he seems educated and smart; I imagine he might somehow find his way into local politics at some point; he's currently a pretty skilled engineer now. Cuban-American relations are, better now, although who knows with dipshit in the White House now if that'll stay the same, but the Embargo's lifted and there's still a long way to go. This documentary, basically reminds us one of the strangest, saddest and more surreal of the conflicts the country's had during that time. For some, it'll probably educate and teach, so for that I'll recommend it, for me, it really only reminds me of a past that hopefully we'll never have to go through and repeat those events in any way again.


MR. ROOSEVELT (2017) Director: Noel Wells


★★★


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I can't believe I'm reviewing two different movies in the same week that involve pets named after President Roosevelt.

Like seriously, what are the freaking odds of that? Anyway, yes, Mr. Roosevelt is a cat who's sudden death is the catalyst for Emily Martin (Noel Wells) a struggling comedienne and editor to come back home to Austin, Texas where she finds out that things have changed since she left. When she previously left for L.A. to hope her career would take off, she and her boyfriend Nick (Eric Thune) were still together and trying the long-distance thing, which inevitably didn't work. Now that she's back, and to her surprise she's greeted by both Nick and Celeste (Britt Lower), Nick's new girlfriend, who now lives with him, and is also in deep mourning over Mr. Roosevelt's sudden passing, who she considered hers as well. She's nice, in what Emily correctly analyzes as being in a life coach sort of way, and is not quite sure how to handle this news. Meanwhile, she's in town for about a week- that is, if she can find a way back home. She's basically broke and between failed auditions and working in the L.A. Improv circuit, she does some commercial editing work for a pharmaceutical company that basically works out of her Boss, Todd's (Doug Benson) apartment.

Also, for those, unfamiliar with Austin, Texas, eh, well, it's a little hard to explain, but it's sort of the San Francisco of Texas, and a little "weird" in general besides that. From what I've heard, the best way I can describe it's recent population burst and pop culture relevance over the last thirty years or so, is that, maybe not literally, but it feels like at some point The Grateful Dead came to perform a concert, and for whatever inexplicable reason, the Deadheads just kinda decided to stay. As Emily puts it, she left because had she stayed, "like everyone else, they would've been to at home to try to achieve anything." So, going into town to, blow off steam, can get you sucked into this culture pretty easily, as it does here when she reconnects with Jen (Danielle Pineda) a waitress at a party a few years ago that apparently remembers her way more than Emily remembers her. ([Shrugs] I'd say this was weird, but I'm the kind of loner that this happens to a lot, so, yeah, that makes sense to me.) She ends up engulfed in her inner circles of potheads and exhibitionists, and even during one horrible prolonged emotional freakout, she ends up sleeping with Art (Andre Hyland) who's the exact of pathetic, delusional loser she hooks up with, in general now, and usually at the worst possible times with the least possible amount of forethought.

There's a lot going on here, most of it is okay, but not transcendent. Admittedly I can't think of too many stories about people going back to their childhood home because of their pet dying; that's the right kind of yuppie surrealism confused for hippie idealism to find here though. It almost sounds like something I would've expected from say, Miranda July, but instead, Writer/Director Noel Wells's first debut feature is charming and delightful and rather endearing. You might recognize her from "Saturday Night Live" or "Master-of-None" before this, where she showed off some serious acting chops, especially the latter. (I remember being shocked she didn't get an Emmy nomination for one episode of that show in particular) I think she's an interesting talent with a quirky new voice; I know she doesn't like being called quirky, but she is, you could call her eccentric though. "Mr. Roosevelt" overall is a nice twist on a tried-and-true indy genre and I'm looking forward to seeing what else she'll do from here on out.


UNREST (2017) Director: Jennifer Brea

★★★★1/2


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It's scientific name is myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME, it's more commonly called "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome"; I know, it doesn't sound like a real thing either, but it is, and "Unrest" reveals that in unflinching, emotional detail. Director Jennifer Brea, suffers from it. She was a Harvard grad who was studying for finals for her, like twelfth degree or something and then, she suddenly had a hard time even standing up, much less walking. Nowadays, she doesn't seem to leave her bed all that much and the majority time she's basically filming her illness. Her husband, is Omar Wasow, a name that might be familiar to those more digitally-inclined entrepreneurial than I, back in the '90s in the beginning of the mass consumption of the international superhighway era, he was one of the original talking heads who promoted the web; he created one of the early social networking sites, BlackPlanet. He's currently a Princeton professor, but mostly he's his wife's caretaker as they struggle defiantly through medication and cure-all home remedies that supposedly might alleviate some of her pain. At one point, she basically tents outside figuring more sunlight will help; it doesn't really. She even makes him shower and change clothes repeatedly, figuring that may be a way that it might be spreading. "Pain" is the keyword; I believe. It's easy to think that a disease like this might just be confused with normal everyday laziness that some purportedly suspect this new age generation is guilty of. However after seeing Jennifer take one medication that allowed her to get up and walk around outside for awhile, seeing the syndrome, out of nowhere and seemingly un-triggered suddenly take hold of her, practically paralyzing her from inside the mind onward is just startling to see. I'm not gonna pretend that I'm not particuarly sedentary in my lifestyle, moreso than I wish I were, but I have seen pain like that before from people for whom it is a struggle to get up in the morning at times. It's easy to confuse it for being tired, but it is a painful syndrome, to be wanting and trying to get up and being physically unable to, and you don't know why, only your body is rejecting this idea.

She decides to seek out others like her and she begins finding them online, almost creating a community of people suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with little-to-no end in sight of it getting cured. There's little-to-no funding on the disease, in Denmark, they're still not convinced the disease exists at all, considering cases to be psychosomatic. One woman's husband left her after not believing her illness was real for years, hoping it would be the charge that would get her out of bed. It didn't happen and no their daughter is suffering from the Chronic Fatigue as well.

It's actually a fascinated disease that's been around forever it seems but has only recently been discovered. It usually occurs after somebody gets a thread of some other severe cold or flu or something that's large enough to spread around and what happens for some people is that, the disease will eventually dissipate but not before it attacks the immune system. It's kind of an immune deficiency syndrome; it doesn't lead to AIDS, or anything, it's not that strong as far as I can tell, but since it attacks the immune system it makes you less strong enough to overcome other illness, and it deflates your energy. At least, that's the theory now and there's history on it's side, there's lots of accounts of similar fatigue syndromes occurring in the past, usually after major pandemic or near-pandemic level illnesses. Well, at least we have a theory, unfortunately nowhere near a cure at the moment.

Hopefully "Unrest" will become a chronicle of a syndrome that will in the future only become a punchline for those who are actually lazy in the future, but I don't think that's happening anytime soon. I'd mention Brea's directing and how I can't wait for her next feature but I'm amazed she managed to pull this off. Credit to modern technology, Skyping and video and editing programs helps, but it's still really impressive. It's a brave and powerful picture to make to document your own disease, especially one that makes people so static. Hopefully this film will educated those on the illness and hopefully be the first of many films and other art pieces as well as several other private and government-funded endeavors and protests into treatments and investigation of the syndrome and hopes for a cure. We're only starting to understand this syndrome....


THE KIND WORDS  (2016) Director: Shemi Zahrin

★★★★1/2


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"The Kind Words" is one of those family mystery epics that I seem to admire more as I get older. I'm honestly not exactly sure what attracts me to them, maybe it's just that lately when I've seen them they've been good. This latest one, "The Kind Words" an Israeli film begins with interesting characters to begin with. Three siblings, all of whom are going through their own struggles as adults. Dorona (Rotem Zissman-Cohen) has had several miscarriages and is struggling to keep her marriage together. Her two brother, Natanel (Roy Assaf) recently had triplets, and her younger brother Shai (Assaf Ben-Shimon) has a kid from his past wife that lives in Hungary, but has since come out as gay. Then, she finds out from her Father (Sasson Gabai) that he's been unable to have a kid with his current, younger wife, and he reveals that he's been impotent his entire life. Then, the mother suddenly passes away after a blood clot was formed after having a tumor removed and no, she did not reveal who the father was.

This causes some friction and inevitably a search that leads them to France, and their Aunt Rosa (Florence Bloch) who has only limited information for them, that she's willing to reveal. Without giving too much away here, the strength of the film is how there are so many different dynamics at play here. There's the inner crises of the characters, there's the worry about whether they should seek out the truth about their past and who their father is, there's the realization of the possibility of who he could be and why it was kept secret, there's the dramas between the siblings themselves as they barely get along...- it's a family drama that's full of great characters and great conflict. It isn't perfect, this probably would be a better TV show than a two-hour movie, a la in the "This is Us" vein, but there's a lot of richness here. That's why this genre, when done well can really be special. The movie reminds me a lot of say the six-hour Italian epic "The Best of Youth" or even more specifically with Denis Villenueve's still underrated and underappreciated "Incendies". "The Kind Words" isn't necessarily as great as those, but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Great film.


CLOSET MONSTER (2016) Director: Stephen Dunn

★★


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"Closet Monster", a title that, honestly I don't quite get, is a- (Sigh), well, I won't say typical coming-of-age story, but it's one that, feels like a certain kind of "personal film". The kind that gives that term a bad name. Dark, moody, eccentric, the kind of movie that struggles to get us to feel the emotions of the character. The character is Oscar- (Checks IMDB page) Seriously that's his last name? Oh boy. The character is Oscar Madly (Connor Jessup) a young teenager who grew up in a badly broken home and who at the age of nine (Jack Fulton) witness a particularly gruesome hate crime, him and his pet/spirit animal hamster, Buffy (Isabella Rosselini). Yes, he hear's his hamster's thoughts, who like him, also has a bit of a sexual identity crisis as he grows up aware that he's gay, but not sure quite how to handle it yet. He and his best friend Gemma (Sofia Banhzaf) have some plans and even a down payment on an apartment to move to New York to eventually help fund his career as a make-up artist, which he uses Gemma to help model. He also ends up with a crush on his co-worker, Wilder (Allocha Schneider) and they begin to get-together a bit as he begins to realize his sexuality.

In between this, he's in-between houses and his mother and father Peter and Brin (Aaron Abrams and Joanne Kelly) if/when they are ever together seem to do nothing but fight and claw at each other's throats and meanwhile he's trying to figure himself out, I guess. This is the kind of movie that's fun of surrealistic imagery and, not necessarily dreams but elaborate ideas and sequences, all a way of trying to make us feel as though the character does. The movie is writer/director Stephen Dunn's first feature and I think he's got promise as a director, and the movie is apparently autobiographical, but not everybody's personal teenage angst is really strong enough to be a movie. I know, we all want to be able to express our emotions through our art and as filmmakers we all think we can do this visually with creative shots and effects; I've had moments and thoughts where I've been guilty of that myself, and thankfully I had some professors and classmates who managed to beat me down until I managed to be convinced that it wasn't necessarily a movie. I suspect that this is somewhat more elaborate than my ideas, but "Closet Monster" is basically the same thing, with a little more interesting of a teenage character, but not more interesting of a film. The acting helps, but I just don't think there's enough story here. Which is fine, it's about the emotional perils of the character, but I just have seen better, even among gay teenager films, Gregg Araki's made a couple good films like "Mysterious Skin" and "White Bird in a Blizzard" that I suspect the director was inspired by, at least tonally, but yeah, I'd tell you to just go seek those films out instead. "Closet Monster" is a first feature that I suspect the director will hopefully learn from for his next feature, at least that's the most I feel I can hope for.