Thursday, August 30, 2018

"THE BIG BANG THEORY" UPCOMING FINAL SEASON: THE STELLIFEROUS ERA'S METAMORPHIC CONSUMMATION COGITATION



I've brought up "The Big Bang Theory" a few times on this blog over the years. Some in direct ways, some in indirect ways,

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-big-bang-theorys-3-year-extension.html

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2012/03/mixed-bag-blog-1-bill-mahers-op-ed-big.html

One of my earlier pieces was about what was then the biggest battle on Network Television, between "Community" and "The Big Bang Theory".

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2011/11/good-on-tv-communitys-hiatus-and-why.html

That one caused some controversy at the time, especially from the rabid "Community" fans who didn't like how I dismissed that show. If anything, I actually think far less of "Community" now than I did even then. I mean, I do sorta get a little pissy at most everything Dan Harmon has a bit of a part in, but, yeah, the fact that with "Community" he couldn't just-, do a show about a group of Community College students and he had to just dive into a 100 other things every chance he had, like seriously, what the fuck?! I mean, I can respect that humor on "Rick & Morty" where it's baked into the premise that anything can happen, or even "The Sarah Silverman Program" 'cause his ideas are filtered through an insane-ass mind, and I mean that lovingly Sarah, but doing it with "Community" is just cheat-of-premise, especially there's so much humor that can be gotten, just from the base concept and he never took advantage of it. It's the same complaint I've had with J.J. Abrams, you can't just have characters stuck on a desert island, there has to be a bunch of other stupid crap? I read this as a major red flag that natural drama is something that they have trouble with-, UGH!

Sorry, I've- I've been holding that rant back for a while- Anyway. I don't want to discuss that, I want to talk about "The Big Bang Theory" as it's just been announced that it's upcoming, it's 12th will be it's last. The internet lit up with,- I don't know, the same useless complaining about how the show was never funny and (Sigh) I don't know-, I've never fully gotten the criticisms of this series. I mean, I get some of them, the misogyny claims, some of the stereotype claims, some of the other typical Chuck Lorre criticisms, only they're exemplified because, apparently nerds rule the world, for some reason, despite my objections, and apparently, I don't know, they go after it for not being funny or accurate to them...- (Shrugs)

Alright, not just nerds, but yeah, most of the criticisms- I know comedy is somewhat subjective but I don't think a lot of those criticisms are valid. I feel like a lot of them are just stuff-, annoyance at the medium; we're definitely at a time where people don't take multi-cams seriously and "The Big Bang Theory" hit right in the middle of that wave, which BTW is bullshit; multi-cams are just as good as single-cams. A lot of it is also people upset at the concept or some of the characters. I mean, I can't say I disagree entirely but the show has grown and all the characters have evolved in positive ways. Mostly, I think a lot of it is just petty though. Like, did you guys see this famous clip of the guy yelling at the show on TV?



The joke is that, Howard is unfamiliar with the situation he's about to oversee, a ping pong game to decide whether something he covets will remain in his house, and he's trying to put it into terms that he can understand. That's why it's funny. This whole show and comedy thereof is based on of a fish-out-of-water narrative. I'm not gonna pretend it's the funniest joke the show ever made, but it's a little funny, and just because there's a laugh-track doesn't mean it's not funny to begin with. (Yeah, laugh tracks are not their to help induce laughter or humor from supposedly unfunny jokes and that guy's just being an asshole.)

That said, I totally understand ending the series. It's about time. Purportedly it's because Jim Parsons was ready to move on and frankly I don't blame him. He's made enough money and his iconic legendary character of Sheldon Cooper is gonna survive for awhile. I don't think it's about time to end the show because the show's stopped being funny; it gone down in humor for the last few years, but I've never bought into the theory that a TV show can/should only last a certain amount of years. Good shows can last as long as they want and bad shows can't get off the air fast enough as far as I'm concerned.

However-, it's not that I can't imagine "The Big Bang Theory" lasting another five or six years, I actually can and think there's still some good story possibilities left, but the narratives of the show have basically all,- well, they've moved on. The difference between shows that run too long and ones that run too short to me, it's whether or not the characters have completed their change, their transformation effectively. Drama is change, how one starts to how one ends, that's the journey we watch. TV shows, and sitcoms in particular are interesting because most of the tradition of the genre and frankly most of the best series, well, the characters typically don't change much, or certainly don't change quickly, at least they shouldn't. I know there's occasionally exceptions to this, but if you suddenly change the characters very quickly on what's supposed to be a long-running series, well, then,- well, 99/100 times, you ruin the show.

This goes for any show, whether it's a good or bad change. It's easy to pinpoint jump the shark-like moments that are negative changes, but even when it's positive changes, inevitable changes, it can be a drastic downfall in quality. "The Big Bang Theory" is a really good example of this; it's a show about a bunch of committed bachelors who all eventually evolved and get married or are into longterm committed relationships.

What? It is! Strip the show of everything else, that's what you got. Okay, not committed bachelors, just single characters. Really, it's not different than "Friends" or "How I Met Your Mother" or "Sex and the City" or "Girls" most any other show that's about, dating essentially. It just so happens that the characters involved are mostly geniuses and have struggles with the modern dating world, or in Penny's case, struggles with, being surrounded by nerdy geniuses and having to enter that modern dating world. They're all fish out of their own waters  The thing is, these characters really kinda, well-, they finished their arcs already. The three main pairings have gotten married, and the fourth one's in a better position to be in relationships than he's ever been, that's entering the 12th season, and they've already make a prequel series, "Young Sheldon", which-, is also a really good show. (Seriously, I like it quite a bit; most things I've seen about child geniuses usually take place after the child's- well, not necessarily grown up, but starting living in the adult world, but we haven't seen too many shows about being a child struggling with childhood while being a genius; the only thing I can think of that did that well was the Jodie Foster film, "Little Man Tate", and that's a damn good movie, and I like seeing it done with a comedic slant, and you still got the fish-out-of-water comedic premise that made "The Big Bang Theory" work, and it works for that show) So, yeah, there's not much left to tell, at least unless they want to have the characters go through more radical changes, but that alone could take years to develop and make believable, and that's if the show doesn't jump the shark by doing that, which it very easily could, assuming it hasn't already, and-eh, yeah, Sheldon getting married...- that's- I mean, there's potential for comedy there, seeing him turn into a loving husband, but-eh, considering where we started with him, I think that's enough change, dramatically.

It's funny, that's how I think of the show, because the thing with "The Big Bang Theory" that really makes it impressive is that it really didn't start out well. It didn't start out badly, but- well, it didn't have a good first impression. It was the joke concept from the beginning. It's got a terrible pun title, it's about a bunch of nerdy-geek characters, and typically the audience is generally polarized enough when there's one of those in a sitcom, and the show was awkward in the beginning. With one character in particular who was unusually peculiar and quirky in a lot of what we would consider some abnormally annoying ways. There was a theory out there that originally claimed that the Sheldon character was autistic and that the entire show was about the struggles of taking care of an autistic person. As somebody who does actually take care of their younger autistic brother, I found this theory, credible and plausible to be honest, there's a high-maintenance factor that's both hilarious and often cringe-worthy with Sheldon. Lorre has discredited that theory since and I don't think anybody buys into it now, but there is a funny thing that happened with the series. Not that it got good, it always had it's moments, even in it's earliest episodes when you were still fleshing out the characters. but eventually you got used to the world and situation. I call it the "Rules of the Universe" theory, which I'm sure I stole from some professor, but you got used to the situation the characters were in and you accepted it, and the show started to go from, okay to, really one of the best shows on TV.

I mean, the situation itself is nothing unusual, it's the outgoing single girl living with the conservative single guys and they're two worlds colliding. It's "Ball of Fire" basically, only far less ridiculous, but the way they went about it was new and once you figured that out, you let the screwball comdy come. Honestly, the more classical I realize the show is, the more I'm amazed people do get upset at it. Any other sitcom I can think of that's lasted this long are regarded as important and influential classics of television. "M*A*S*H", "Cheers", "Frasier", "Friends",  there aren't really too many that hit the ten season mark, much less twelve, and none of those shows anybody would take totally seriously that they're bad, despite some dated aspects to their characters and humor. I don't know why "The Big Bang Theory"'s any different for some people. "Modern Family"'s inching up to that line too, and I've had much more negative criticisms of that series than I ever have "The Big Bang Theory". Not that "Modern Family" isn't funny, it is, but there hasn't been as much character development and change on that series, overall anyway. "The Big Bang Theory" has definitely had that.

Maybe it's that some viewers have this protective ideal regarding nerd culture and how it's portrayed. Honestly, fuck them. I'm serious, this isn't a culture that's essentially needed to be protected or presenting in an accurate or respectful. Seriously, I've heard people talk about that "Ready Player One" in comparison to things like what "Roots" does for the African-American experience. Yeah, any "culture" that thinks that deeply of themselves, that they're comparing their plight to a formerly enslaved race of people, they need to give it a break and laugh at themselves, at minimum. I don't remember Ted Danson getting told how horrible his portrayal of a lecherous former-athlete-turned-bartender was. And I also know people who say that "The Big Bang Theory" is quite an accurate portrayal of certain aspects of some characters, so...

I don't know what to make of any of that. I know I relate, or can at least empathize with parts of it, and that's more-than-enough for me, and believe me, I'm far less interested in the things they're interested in on the show than you can imagine. (They like superheroes and their science nerds! What do these women see in them? Geography nerds are way cooler than science pricks.) As I reflect on the series last days, I find that it's probably the last multi-cam of it's era that's gonna capture the cultural imagination. The genre won't die, hell, "One Day At a Time"'s reboot has proved it's just as great a medium as it's ever been and can be as powerful in quality and content as anything else, but this is probably the last time the genre gonna seriously be looked upon as an important and culturally relevant show. At least, for a little while; I'm sure something will come along soon, but it's the last time we're gonna get a show positively or negatively has truly become immersed by the public and critics and television-philes,TV-files, tube-, what's the television equivalent of cinephile? (Google search) Telephile? (Shrugs) I guess that'll work, telephiles alike are fascinated by. Positively, negatively, you don't find too many people who had no idea on the series.It's one of the  biggest ratings hits still, and it's one of the biggest hits in syndication history and that's gonna remain for years. With all due respect to other good shows like "Mike & Molly" and Chuck Lorre's own other project, "Mom", they may be good themselves and have somewhat of a following,- the television landscape is just saturated right now, especially with streaming options, there's not gonna be a multi-cam that gets the ratings or cultural relevance as "The Big Bang Theory" has for a long time. Even "Young Sheldon"'s a single-cam. Let's face it, we're not getting the a multi-cam that would be considered by some reasonable as the biggest show on TV, for...- it's gonna be a little while at least.

It's hard enough even quantifying that anymore. I remember a few years ago about how "NCIS" was the number show on televisions ratings-wise, I got a lot of comments amazed because they legitimately didn't know anybody who watched it. Hell, I see that comment all the time with "The Big Bang Theory", "Who watches it?!" Well, I did for one. but, nobody watches anything anymore. You're not gonna find a series that everybody watches, even the ones you think everyone does, the biggest shows or our time, at most, maybe 0.03% of the country is watching, and that's the percent of the country who watched the "Breaking Bad" finale; I can't even find a Neilsen rating for the last big series finale I can think of "The Americans". When "Cheers" had it's series finale, over 1/3 the country sat down to watch it, nowadays, one of the supposed biggest shows on TV can barely get a 1/3 of a 1% of the country to watch. I'm sure some other shows, including I'll bet "The Big Bang Theory"'s finale will be a little bigger, (Again, finale number that was, not average episode number) but we're never gonna see populace embrace something the way we used to with television, at least television as we used to know it, capturing the imagination of the public. Even if it's, probably lasted a little long, narrative-wise at lest, this'll be the last of it's format to do it for a little while. And overall, that's a good legacy to have.




Friday, August 24, 2018

MOVIE REVIEWS #152: "THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI", "DARKEST HOUR", "PHANTOM THREAD", "THE POST", "THE BOSS BABY", "ON BODY AND SOUL", "CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER", "OKLAHOMA CITY", "THE ORNITHOLOGIST", "BRIDGET JONES'S BABY", "DON'T BLINK-ROBERT FRANK", and MORE!

Well, I was complaining about their not being anything to discuss, now there seems to be too much. Asia Argento's under attack for apparently paying off her former co-star after they allegedly had an unfortunate encounter, let's call it that for now, when he was underage (And supposedly against his will) and her response was not particularly great, and seemed to throw her recent departed boyfriend Anthony Bourdain under the bus a bit. Ehh, it's not coming out well especially since she's been one of the big voices in the #MeToo movement and has claimed that Harvey Weinstein raped her, which nobody seems to be questioning her on, which, that's good, if for no other reason than we still basically are indicating that despite this, Weinstein, still way-the-fuck worst, which he most definitely is; I want to get that clear. And occasionally somebody who is a victim may also become an attacker themselves. There's some other elements to this; including a lot of texts that make both parties look pretty bad and there's plenty of angles to take this. Here's what I'm trying to determine, is she a serial sexual attack, was this some kind of display of power of another, in some manner, and is this the only incident or are there others with her, especially with underage partners? I'm not sure I know or anyone fully knows the answer to these and many other questions yet, and I'm going to withhold judgment until I do.

In the meantime, there's some scattered reports that their might be some movement on the Academy getting rid of that ridiculous Best Popular Film award, and thank god for that if that's true. Let's hope they replace it with something like Best Casting or something that actually should be honored at the Oscars, even if the show starts getting cut short.

Anyway, two movies I didn't get a chance to review this week, "The Grand Seduction" which I liked a lot; it's kind of a reverse "Northern Exposure" look how great our small town is, kind of narrative, about a small town that desperately tries to seduce a doctor into staying, 'cause the towns needs a local doctor if a company's gonna build a factory that could employ the town. That's a clever comedy idea. I also finally got around to "The Crow". Yeah, believe it or not, despite the majority of my friends being goths who still have insane crushes on Brandon Lee I never watched this film until now. I-eh, thought it was okay. I mean, I can tell this was a nightmare of a shoot; even before it's star got accidentally killed, there were reports that this was a troubled production. I mean, I guess I kinda get Sting's black and white gimmick in WCW and TNA now, for you wrestling fans, but mostly I just thought it was a good but average revenge thriller. Although I also now know why that weird trope of supernatural from beyond the grave revenge stories come from, at least the modern ones anyway.

Alright, we got a lot of big movies to review this week, so let's get to it. Onward to the REVIEWS!



THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017) Director: Martin McDonagh

★★★1/2

Image result for three billboards outside ebbing missouri

I can see how some people might be quite turned off by "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri". Before having seen it, I did hear rumblings about the movie having somewhat of a, what's-the-word, let's say, un-nuanced take on racism in America. Or maybe a delusional wrongheaded one. Or possibly it was so nuanced that it had no plausibility in modern America, which, for the most part, is when the movie takes place. However, I think that's as big an issue as anything else in the movie, the location, and setting; I'm not talking the modern-day outskirts of Missouri; in fact there is no such town named Ebbing, Missouri, the closest is Ebb, Missouri which is a long-dead ghost town hat barely survived ten years at the beginning of the century. That's both a shame and considering other news and stories that involve race in Missouri lately, probably a blessing. 


The story is old, apparently, the ideas for it from Martin McDonagh began 20 years ago, and the tone and structure of the movie,- well, the movies that kinda jumped into my head while watching "Three Billboards...", were mostly classic westerns. Henry Hathaway's "True Grit" came to mind, but there's a little more complexity to it than that. "Three Billboards..." is clearly a talented British writer's attempt at trying to imitate those parts of America that, he might see and perhaps even understand from a distance, but, might've gotten some mistaken impressions from the most American of movie genres, the western. I can see a version of this film directed by a John Ford of today. and I think that's what he's trying for. Or perhaps, he didn't misunderstand or misinterpret and that's simply pissed us off some more.

The movie opens with the titular billboards, three of them on a rarely-used sidestreet outside Ebbing, that are calling out for Willoughby (Oscar-nominee Woody Harrelson) to do something about a unsolved case involving a rape and murder of a young girl. Angela (Kathryn Newton). It's clear that the billborads were bought by Mildred (Oscar-winner Frances McDormand) the mother of the deceased girl. It grabs the attention of the town, and of Willoughby, although it's not exactly sure what he can do. He tries to explain to her at one point that whoever did it is clearly isn't it the system anywhere, but he begrudgingly decides to investigate again anyway. Now, I don't want to give too much of the several directions that the story turns, but the key device of Mildred buying the billboards is what introduces us to several other characters, who come in and out, sometimes literally just in and then they're suddenly out, of the movie. The most notable one is the Deputy Jason Dixon (Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell) the local racist dimwit who's Willoughby's right-hand man, known for apparently having tortured African-American prisoners in the past, although while he is racist, he is quick to point out and prove that he will abuse his powers of authority to hurt white people too in sudden extreme bursts of violence, often with little-to-no consequences. Or adequate consequences at least. During one sequence he beats up a woman and throws a guy out of a multi-story building. 

Everybody's got their own issues, however. Mildred's struggling to raise a teenage son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges), and dealing with an alcoholic ex-husband Charlie (John Hawkes) and his teenage girlfriend Penelope (Samara Weaving) Willoughby's dying of cancer and now the billboards are dividing the town as struggles through his job and his home life. If nothing else, the movie is well-acted and very well-cast, there's some good supporting work at the corners of the screen by people like Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Clarke Peters and Caleb Landry Jones to name a few. 

Similar to McDonagh's previous features, "Seven Psychopaths" and his best film, "In Bruges", he mixes both violence and comedy really well. The story is more slice-of-life than mystery than it first seems and the acting and the setting help with that, but ultimately, without giving anything away, the movie upon reflection has issues. I can admire the attempt and McDonaugh's too good a writer and too interesting a storyteller to turn this into a bad movie, but this seems to relate to law and crime in America the way it is usually centered in one of those old westerns where the bad-guy murderer is also the town's Marshall, and the reason he's in charge of administrating law & order is because he has such a bad pass that he can combat the evil criminal elements that reign terror onto the town. If this movie were made even as late as the early-to-mid '60s, I think the movie would ultimately work as a fascinating experiment and time capsule, and frankly, it wouldn't be out of place if this was a period piece and specifically took place at some other time period. There's a few scant references to modern conveniences, but essentially this movie is a western filled with intimidating men coming into places of business and threatening owners and overheard conversations leading to bar fights and cat-and-mouse chess games between the town's police and some of the more angry and obsessive townspeople. 

I don't honestly know quite what to make of it; I can see an argument for it being a positive film that admittedly reveals deeper levels of all its characters as they overcome, albeit somewhat simply and probably not entirely, their most devastating shortcomings, and help them come together. On the other hand, it is too simple and ultimately it indicates that the answer to such emotional struggles like grieving is more escalated violence. As a story, I think it's fine maybe even good, but it's when you dig a little deeper does it get disappointing. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" seems like it's about something; it certainly deals with a lot of issues, but they're all just tools used in the telling of a story that's really about nothing at all.  


DARKEST HOUR (2017) Director: Joe Wright

★★★

Image result for Darkest Hour

There's an old joke that in Hollywood that implies that if you play Winston Churchill, you'll end up winning an award. (Shrugs) I guess it's not so much a saying as it is, um-, well fact, apparently. This past year, two major actors won major awards for playing Winston Churchill; John Lithgow won a Supporting Actor Emmy for "The Crown", which is a great show btw, and Gary Oldman won his first Oscar for playing him in "Darkest Hour".

I've basically been staring at this screen for awhile since writing that paragraph, trying to think of something else to say about the movie, and to be honest, I'm not sure there is much else to say. I'm actually somewhat confused here, despite the performance, and this is a great performance btw, um, this is a really just a-eh, it's just a biopic, I guess. I mean, there's more to it than that, the title "Darkest Hour" refers to and takes place during those early days of Churchill's of his first term as Britain's Prime Minister in 1940, replacing the then-ousted Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), after a Parliamentary coupe. British politics are a little different than America's, but from what I remember, it's generally Parties that are voted upon as opposed to the politicians, but there's not always a 50% majority and there's a lot of dealings between political parties between places of power, and even though at this time both Chamberlain and Churchill were members of the Conservative Party, Churchill basically helped orchestrate a Parliamentary deal after Chamberlain's signing of the Munich Treaty and his positions of appeasement of Germany, up until they invaded Poland and Hitler broke every promise Chamberlain swore he had made to him.

Now, in my recall of history, this basically damned Chamberlain to the dustbin of history, but apparently in the early days of Churchill's administration, and while dying of cancer, he and Lord Halifax (Stephane Dillane) were still working to undermine Churchill's aggressive approach to the war while insisting that he entertain peace talks, or else, Parliament, lead by Halifax, who btw, both him and Chamberlain are in his war cabinet,- jees, and I thought Lincoln had a Team of Rivals, or they'll overthrow him again, or at least they think they will. Churchill was far from perfect but he had his moments as a master politician because he could rally the populace in a pinch. I have no idea whether this Henry V-like anecdote of him taking the bus is true or not, but it's as believable as anything else about him I've heard.

Mostly what we learn about him is that he's a bit of a drunk, a bit of a egotistist, a bit of a narcissist, very much an obsessed workaholic, and he seemed to do much of his best work when either naked or in the bathroom, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) as well as his secretary Elizabeth (Lily James). It is a glorious film to look at, Joe Wright has never made a bad-looking movie and from a filmmaking perspective, "Darkest Hour" is amazing. The Oscar-winning makeup is just as much the star as Oldman, but the costumes and cinematography are top-notch as well. The production design is great, particularly the contrasted by the dark but boisterous chambers of Parliament and the rather gloomy ordinariness of 10 Downey Street, as essentially Churchill works out the plan that-, well, ironically led to the Battle of Dunkirk that for some reason, I keep running into with movies. This is the third one I've seen after "Dunkirk" and "Their Finest" this year. Boy, I've gotten a lot about that battle lately.

Still though, something seems off about this film. I think it's the writing. Anthony McCarten was the screenwriter for this and he also wrote the script for "The Theory of Everything" the Stephen Hawking biopic that won an Oscar for Eddie Redmayne, and that movie in hindsight is fairly forgettable as well and that movie had a good director too in James Marsh. I think I like that movie more though, even though it's not nearly as technically impressive or memorable, he stumbled into somewhat of an interesting narrative with Hawkins's complicated relationship with his ex-wife Jane, but "Darkest Hour"; I mean, there's just one complication, is Churchill gonna do A. or B., and since I've read a history book in the past, it's not even that compelling a choice.

People nag on "The King's Speech" all the time for some reason but that's a biopic that takes place in and around the same time period or so, and it holds up because it's clearly more personal than that. It's screenwriter David Seigler also grew up with a stutter that he struggled to get rid of, just like King George VI; he related to that story because he related to it and felt an emotional connection to it and therefore he could relate it to us on the page and you feel that, throughout the film. With "Darkest Hour" it's mostly a by-the-books history complete with some scenes that seem so cliched that even if they did happen in real life I'm not sure I'd believe it. (Did Parliament always through papers around like that?) I mean, it ends with a great speech that supposedly changes everything. I mean, I know Churchill's one of the few orators who could do that, but it feels like a bad cliche here. We're not invested, 'cause the writing isn't invested. "Darkest Hour" feels little more than a minor history lesson. Churchill's vastly more interesting than that. The movie knows that, but it's also just, "Here's Churchill!", and out comes Churchill. I mean, I like Churchill, it's a good Churchill. I just don't really see it as more than that. The dramatic scene in the movie is him struggling to mumble his way through a speech that he knows he doesn't want to give and shouldn't give. It's great acting, and technically there are stakes thousands of lives are on the line, but- I mean, I wasn't the biggest "Dunkirk" fan, but it certainly made those people and soldiers seem real if nothing else; here, they seem like the abstractions.

I guess that's part of the problem too; the whole movie feels like an abstraction. I don't think I've seen Churchill played better, but I know I've seen more interesting narratives abound and around him. And recently. I'm really torn on "Darkest Hour"; I'm gonna recommend it, barely. It's technically impressive but I find it empty and hollow as a film. It's a great transformative, inward, personal acting performance that's in the center of a film that only superficially cares about its material to me and it doesn't ever seem to go further than skin-deep, and I know Joe Wright can do more than that, so I'm more inclined to blame the script. McCarten's writing that highly anticipated Freddie Mercury biopic too, btw. .


PHANTOM THREAD (2017) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

★★★★1/2


So, as much as everybody else seems fascinated by the fashion and clothes of "Phantom Thread", I want to focus on the food. "Phantom Thread" is a romance that doesn't start with the world of high fashion that Reynolds Woodcock (Oscar-nominee Daniel Day-Lewis) lives in, but instead with, a breakfast order at a restaurant. It also ends with him, lying with his head in the lap of the waitress, Alma (Vicky Kreips) that he has now gone on to marry, something he previously said that he didn't think he was capable of doing, and now he's mentioning that, he's getting hungry. This, after having eaten an omelet that Alma made for him. (Eh, don't entirely think "Big Night" with a parallel though, different kind of omelet.) 

So, couturier houses and couturiers still exist, but they're not as common in the fashion world, especially in America anymore, as they once were. but if I remember my Season 3 of "Project Runway", correctly, couture fashion is very high-quality, completely hand-sewn dresses that are made specifically for an individual client. The hand-sewing being the most prominent and distinctive aspect, when you think of a couture house, you literally think of a dozen or so people hand-sewing and fitting a single outfit at once, and really detail exuberant dresses at that, the kind, you probably shouldn't fall asleep in after having a party, and if you for some reason do, you shouldn't be surprised if the couturier will take it off you in your sleep, no matter how rich you are. In France, you have to be licensed in order to call yourself a couturier or a couture designer and they're not easy licenses to get. The movie does show this, it takes place in 1950s London and Woodcock is the biggest couturier in England. He is essentially an artist of his time, and he behaves that way, partly because he's expected to. Also, his sister Cyril (Oscar-nominee Lesley Manville) basically runs every aspect of his life, including what he eats and when and with whom. Now, at first, she's reluctant to bring on this little waitress Alma into the mold. She's enthralled although for a muse, she isn't necessarily excited about the world of fashion, she's most interested in being with Woodcock. However separating him from hiis sister also seems to mean separating him from his work, something he's reluctant to do, naturally. Other than being brother and sister, they have a deep connection and it's revealed early on that Woodcock they have a soft spot for their late mother, even going so far as to sewing parts of her hair into the lining of his clothers, to always keep her near him. 

Still though, despite the fashion and the parties and whatnot, the scene that feels the most important, is also a dinner scene. See, Alma's symbolic relationship with Reynolds isn't through fashion, it's through serving and through food, that's what she was doing when they became enchanted with each other, in her mind, waiting on him and serving him food, two things that his sister usually does with him. They eat together in the morning and discuss the business, 'cause the sister represents his artistic love, fashion. However now, he's challenged by this muse girlfriend who's insisting on being more than just inspiration and this personal dinner she prepares and what comes out of it, is the basic symbol for their relationship. It isn't so much a battle for Reynolds, but a battle to be his muse and how this change from one love of his life to another effects him as an artist. That's how I read the film at least. 

P.T. Anderson's by any standard one of the great filmmakers of our time, but I must admit I've been a little confused by some of his inspirations lately. There's basically two kinds of films he makes, the emotional character narratives, "Hard Eight", "Magnolia", and "Punch-Drunk Love", the films that are based more around the emotions of the characters, and then he's got his movies have focused on something particular. "Hard Eight" was the underground gaming world, "Boogie Nights" was the porn industry, "There Will Be Blood" was turn of the century oil tycoon, "The Master" was the beginning of Scientology, "Inherent Vice" was-um, Thomas Pynchon world, I guess. He's constantly shifting the time and location of his movies, it seems to fascinate him moreso than anything in his narratives lately. That's not to take away from the narratives and "Phantom Thread" is a good one, although some of these I just am wondering, why the fashion industry? Why Scientology? Why oil? I guess if there is one theme that overtakes all his films it's indulgence; that's usually his biggest criticism although I find it a strength most of the time, but sometimes it seems completely random. The director he's most compared is Robert Altman, who also switched settings all the time, but he also switched his narratives a lot. Usually, Altman had several narratives, Anderson has seemed to have decided not to continue with that trend since "Magnolia", even "Inherent Vice" is mainly about the detective's story and not everything around him, but there are some other more singular story films in Altman's repertoire too. He's also random in his settings, but the style of every Altman movie is basically the same. With Anderson, it seems like the look and slickness of the film is the only thing that seems to be a acontinuous thread. He DP'ed this movie, although he took his name off the credit so technically the movie doesn't have a cinematographer. Altman has a fashion movie, "Pret-a-Porter (aka Ready-to-Wear)" and that's a great film but it shows absolutely no similarity to "Phantom Thread". 

I think what I'm getting at is that I'm just not sure how to interpret Anderson's inspirations and since this movie is about the complications of muses compared making an artist's goals and objective conflictive...- hmm..., well, I guess it's better not to speculate any further on P.T. Anderson than that. (Although I do find myself more interested in that possible subtext of the movie than the film itself.) Anyway, "Phantom Thread" is a great film; I'm not sure how to rank P.T. Anderson's film anymore but it's another great film of his, but I'm just curious as to what he might be saying underneath all the fashion and get to the man himself, who seems to be way more mysterious now than I ever remember him being before. 


THE POST (2017) Director: Steven Spielberg

★★★★1/2


It's Spielberg, it's Hanks and Streep, it's an investigative journalism piece; of course I'm gonna rate it pretty high. Which, I guess shouldn't surprise anybody but it does actually surprise me a bit. "The Post", only got two Oscar nominations, one for Meryl Streep, because Meryl Streep and one for Best Picture because Steven Spielberg. (Subject matter probably helped a bit too.) and most of the reviews I had heard previously, basically kinda backhandedly-panned the movie. I mean, by Spielberg standards of course, so I didn't remember too many people outright hating it, but there was a few indicators that this isn't his best. Apparently it was rushed because wanted to get it made and out as fast as possible, because President Dumbfuck has been doing nothing but trying to discredit the mainstream press because they report things like facts and the facts simply don't have any connections to the fantasy world him and other members of the GOP want to live in, and that might seem odd, but Spielberg has always been a little more political than people realize in his work.

If you're coming into the movie blind, it's about the Washington Post, and mostly takes in 1971 during the early days of the release of what we now shorthandedly call "The Pentagon Papers". that Daniel Ellsburg (Matthew Rhys) snuck out of the Pentagon, a top secret report that documented America's entire history of their actions in Vietnam, and-eh, well, it's not good. I don't know how much this is taught in History classes, it should be taught, but the first Vietnam protests with in the late 1940s, and our actions through multiple Presidents on both sides of the Presidential aisle, were a series of just, bad, misguided decisions and inevitable military escalation and war that they knew, well before anybody else was a complete and utter failure. It lead to several lies being killed-, well, it led to the Vietnam War. I don't have to dig further than that. Anyway, made everybody look bad, including the Secretary of State at the time, Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) who commissioned the study. He wanted it kept for historical purposes, after the war was over, which of course it wasn't yet, which is why Ellsburg was the Edward Snowden of our time, except he was a lot less of a prick.

McNamara was also close friends with Kay Graham (Streep) who is the owner of the Washington Post. Originally, it was the New York Times that first published the papers-, and I say first published, because-, at least 7,000 total pages, but shortly after the Times began publishing, President Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell filed an injunction on the Times, claiming that publishing the documents was a violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. "The Post" deals with editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) and his team of reporters who realize too late that the Times had something big, but after a hippie chick (Sasha Spielberg) randomly drops a package of parts of the report on a reporter's desk, they start working on publishing parts of it on their own...-

Wait-, Sasha Spielberg? His daughter?! (IMDB search) Huh. Didn't know she acted? Oh, wait, she's mostly a musician, but still, she takes some interesting small parts here and there. (Slight chuckle) Boy if there's a double-edged sword of a last name you could have in this business, it's that one. I mean, doors will open for you, but everybody knows how you got in....-

Where was I? So, there's two conflicts essentially going on. One, is the fact that, the Freedom of the Press is on the line and the Post has to decide whether or not to, either basically report what they know, mostly without it entirely being checked by their lawyers, although who knows if that would help, since no one's sure how the injunction case will play out, and then there's even beside that, the owner's personal struggle over,- well, basically it's whether or not to publish, but there's more going on there. She's inherited the company from both her father and her husband and she's recent taken the Post public and now there's some stock concerns over whether or not to publish fearing that, if they do, they might never publish again and they'd and she would lose money.

Basically, this movie, from a cinematic point of view, is kinda like a prequel to "All the President's Men", directed by Spielberg and put through a "Lou Grant" filter. I think even Spielberg knows this and ends the movie, basically where "All the President's Men" starts off. What can I say though, it's an important piece of history, it's told well, it's the best actor and actress leading an all-star cast, from the best director in Hollywood, and hell, I actually love that it feels like it could be a "Lou Grant" episode. I like Hanks's different take on Ben Bradlee; Streep is Streep. Alright, it's never gonna rank on Spielberg's greatest list, but this is certainly a damn-near great film and he's telling an important story that needs to be told in this day and age and he tells it really well. Maybe a few too many romantic insert shots of the newspapers being printed, and that's mainly because we've seen it so often by now that it's lost it's meaning in a modern digital world, but eh, that's a wasteful complaint.

It's a good Spielberg movie, I'm taking it.


THE BOSS BABY (2017) Director: Tom McGrath

★★★

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So, like, ever since word of "The Boss Baby" came out, I've basically heard everybody make fun of it, from concept. Apparently, this was the idea that was so ridiculous and ludicrous that we just had to absolutely shun and insult it, and make it our new punchline. To point and laugh at it every chance we could and make fun of those who liked it, like apparently the Academy Awards, one of many groups that found the time and desire to nominate it for Best Animated Feature that year. Um, okay, can I ask one question, wwww-whyyyyyyyy exactly is this the one that broke the internet? 

No seriously, I- I don't get it. Of all the stupid ridiculous things we've gotten for movies, and especially animated movies geared towards children, why is this the one that everyone freaked out over? He's a boss baby? Have none of you ever been around a baby? The idea that a baby can be the boss of the house he takes over...- Is this that weird a concept, really? I thought it was a mob boss baby at first, just based on the trailer and screenshot first impressions I saw, but, hell that made sense to me too. I can totally see a baby acting like that and doing shit like that? This was that foreign and unrelatable an idea? Really? Does anybody remember this piece of insanity?



Just to recap to anybody who didn't clip on that, that is a scene from "The Secret Life of Pets", a movie where pets are talking to each other, and the two main dogs go into a sausage factory, eat a bunch of sausages and then,- I think, they hallucinate a utopian world of talking singing, dancing, sausages who are all excited to be eaten by the two main dogs and they're singing "We Go Together" from "Grease", while everybody's moving in a Busby Berkeley-esque musical style, and spoilers, that whole sequence is never explained or eluded to in the movie again, and has no bearing on anything.

(Pause for dramatic effect)

But-, "THE BOSS BABY", that's the idea/thing that needs to be incessantly ridiculed for being too stupid to exist!?!?!?!?!?!?  "The Boss Baby", is the one the public has chosen as the one they can't stand? Is it just the alliteration, does "Boss Baby" just sound weird to you guys? I mean it does sound funny and absurd. B-sounds are funny, that's a scientific fact of comedy,- they're not as funny K-sounds, but their right below them. Look, regardless of my thoughts on the film, I don't get the cultural obsession with it. I certainly don't think the movie's "Beauty and the Beast" or anything in terms of great animated movies, but fuck me, the attempts that people are making to convey this as the worst thing ever; I just find downright bizarre, especially when there's so much worst out there! I find it patently absurd that this broke the verisimilitude line for everybody. Meanwhile, I feel like I'm the only person who saw "The Secret Life of Pets" and saw the sausage factory scene and thought, "WHAT THE FLYING FUCK WAS THAT?!", and that's not even close to like the worst example of horrible animated movies in a while; hell, that's not even like tenth on the list in the last five years, but somehow that got a pass! (Resigned breath) Okay, whatever you say Doc, here's your spare.

(Resigned screaming sigh!)

Anyway, onto the actual movie.... "The Boss Baby" takes place in a world where all babies are either sent off to a family, or their sent off to work. A work, that- I think just promotes the idea of babies? I mean, BabyCo, they're in a constant fight with PuppyCo, over, the cuteness appeal of them...- you know what-, I don't know why I'm criticizing, the last movie that tried to explain this was "Storks", so, fine whatever, Babies are fighting Puppies for the affection of adults. So Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin) has come down to go undercover as Tim's (Miles Bakshi, Tobey McGuire as the grown-up Narrator, for some reason) new younger brother, a younger brother that he doesn't want and is very suspicious of. He's quite happy with his situation, but his parents, (Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow), bring him home one day, unbeknownst to Boss Baby's secret plan to break into PuppyCo Headquarters and find out their new secret plan to sell more puppies and put BabyCo out of business.

It's actually kinda like Tony Gilroy's film "Duplicity", you remember that one with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, where they're company spies? That was a good movie, I oughta revisit that. Anyway, turns out the evil PuppyCo owner Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi) has a vendetta against BabyCo., and then Tim and Boss Baby have to come together to stop Francis Francis, this involves a convention trip to Las Vegas, which, sounds way more realistic than it should be, but yeah, okay. There's jokes about this baby being such a business hardass, and naturally with Alec Baldwin cast in the role, there's some obvious "Glengarry Glen Ross" references and other in-jokes. They were funny and cute, although I honestly like the parable about a younger sibling into your life that Tim goes through. It's a dopey way of doing it, sure, and I'm sure there's better films out there that do this, but I enjoyed "The Boss Baby".

I found it cute and honestly a bit relatable. I can't think of too many other stories out there about how someone grew up to love their baby sibling; I think that's a good narrative and "The Boss Baby" did its job well enough to do that. Hope he gets his promotion for it; he seems to really want that.


ON BODY AND SOUL (2017) Director: Ildiko Enyedi

★★★1/2

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So there's this old psychoanalytical parlor game, I'm going with this Carl Jung version, 'cause it's the easiest to look up, although I am thinking of one that's slightly different I can't completely remember right now..., but basically, it's a personality test. You don't have to take it as I'm explaining but bear with me, I've got a point to make: First name a color, first one that comes to your mind:

Okay, now name three words that you think of that describe that color.

Alright, now, name an animal, first one to pop into your mind again.

Okay, and three words that describe that animal to you.

Okay, now name a body of water. Doesn't have to be a specific body of water, but imagine a body of water, what kind of body of water is it, and again three words that describe it.

Now, close your eyes, and imagine a white room; there's no windows, no doors, it's just an empty white room that you're in and surrounded by. Got it? Now, write down three words that describe how you feel in that room..

Okay, supposedly the answers to all those questions represent yourself. Your favorite color and how you describe it is how you see yourself, the animal and how you describe that animal is how you see other people, the body of water and how you describe it, represents your sex life and the white room, and how you feel about it, represents, how you view death. I have zero idea if there's any statistical basis for this. but I bring this up because I think "On Body and Soul" might have been inspired by this thought exercise. At least partly.

It's also got some other things going for it, but the main instigating scene in this movie is a dream sequence. It involves two deer in a snowy woods, having a drink of water near a river and falling in love with each other. It's a stretch but, an animal, a body of water, it's not a white room, but it's a white nature scene, and there's two of the same animals; this dream could represents the characters, right? In fact, the movie goes further than this as it turns out that, the two door are in fact people who are dreaming this situation. Separately from each other, and they both happen to work together. They see-, or at least, dream themselves, as deer? (I should point out that I've heard of a version of this test years ago that involved a question about imagining being alone in the woods and you see an animal, and you answer what animal you see, but then you also answer the question of what do you do when you see this animal, and the way the solution is that in this one is that the animal is the visual representations of your problems, and how you react to the animal is how you try to solve them.)

The two dreamers are Enrde (GEZA Morcsanyi) and Maria (Alexandra BOURBELY) to co-workers at an abattoir.(Abattoir is a fancy word for slaughterhouse, so for those who don't want to see things like that, eh, sorry and enjoy you meal.) [Oh, eh, I don't know if this is important to anybody, but the reason I'm capitalizing part of the names here is that Hungary is one of those weird countries that uses the family name first, so I'm capitalizing the family name if I'm fairly sure of what it is.]) Endre is the CFO of the abattoir whos' quiet and is a bit awkward about his left arm which is paralyzed although he hides it. Maria is a new meat grader who's a bit stringent on standards, rating everything as B-Grade instead of Prime. She's also somewhat autistic, which...- yeah, I'm gonna back-and-forth on this one, but yeah it seems like an accurate enough portrayal to me. She's quirky and not particularly fond of human companionship, but she's trying. They find out about their dream through a company-ordered psychological exam that occurs after mating powder is stolen from the abattoir and their informed about their shared dream. They're unsure of how or what to go about it, but the dreams continue and they begin to try to get together, or at least, begin trying to forge a friendship to begin with and see where that goes.

This is was the first feature-length film directed by Hungarian director Ildiko ENYEDI in almost two decades, with "Simon the Magician", and I haven't seen any of her other films, but the movie won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival and earned an Oscar nomination for Foreign Language Film, so I'm a little limited here, but all I can really think is that this is both a weird film for the Oscars. It kinda seems like-, something like I would've expected from a French movie, but-, Hungarian cinema is not discussed too much in the West scholarly or academically at least, outside of maybe Istvan SZABO, and while there are some consistencies between certain countries with film studies, each country does have their own weird history and quirks that you'll notice the more you watch European cinema, and "On Body and Soul" does seem quite similar to other movies I'd expect from say France or Germany or someplace like that, but there is one noticeable quirk that makes it's noticeable outside of the obvious that it isn't from there. The lack of water. Most of Europe borders a major and important body of water touching it, Hungary doesn't. It does have the Danube, so I guess the river makes sense, but this movie's is meat, animals and snowy woods. I feel like I'm missing something. Perhaps not, maybe this is just a dream and something that was pulled out of a personality test.

Either way, "On Body and Soul" is an interesting character piece, but it might be somewhat hollower than it at first seems, at least to my mind. Maybe if I learn this director's work more, I'll learn more of what's going on, but in the meantime, it's a mild recommendation.


CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER (2017) Director: Doug Nichol

★★★

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In "California Typewriter" Tom Hanks, is one of the most notable talking heads who talks about his love of typewriters. Especially how he appreciates type-written thank you notes that he gets, much more than e-mails that he admits, he usually tosses away. Whether I e-mail or DM or use Microsoft Word and print it out, or, is for some reason I ever feel desired to again, and to find a working typewriter to write out a message, I need to get better with my Thank You Notes; I never do remember to do send those out in a timely manner, if I remember to at all. (Oh, you think that's just a Jimmy Fallon sketch? Oh, hell no, he's not kidding, and you better write thank you notes in this industry, trust me!)

I think I might've been one of the last generations of people who actually learned to type on a typewriter. I had a typing class in Middle school, and I took advantage of it. In fact, as soon as I was good enough, I pulled one of my family's typewriters,- we didn't have a word processing computer, (Or if we did, we didn't have a trustworthy/working printer) so there were a few assignments that I would type up, especially if that teacher or class had a particularly difficult time reading my handwriting. (Which was a few, my handwriting still sucks.) You can tell by the way, that I learned on a typewriter; I haven't gotten the criticism lately, but for a while, after I switched to a word processor, more people than you'd think noted that I "typed loudly". I'm a striker when it comes to a keyboard. I don't know if I'm as accurate as I'd like to be, but I think I'm a pretty good typist, if I do say-, Actually, you know what, I haven't tested myself in a while. There should be a free online test for this somewhere. Give me a few minutes,...-

62 wpm, 98% accuracy
62 wpm, 97% accuracy
56 wpm, 98% accuracy

Huh. Well, I guess I could use some practice. I used to be able to go about 80 words per minute. Then again, something that's unusual for a typewriter oddly enough is the essential need for accuracy. Now, I like self-editing as I go, but I'm used to backspace and delete buttons, and that's actually not the best strategy as explained in the film. We forget our old ideas and thoughts rather easily and hand-written notes or typing even, when you just let the words come out, it might be more jumbled but the thought is more there. honestly, I understand that, a lot. I recently downloaded Grammarly, and to be honest, I don't like it that much. Sure it catches some things that I wish I had caught myself, but it also eliminates voice sometimes. I've writen "there are" a lot more than I've written "There's" since I got the damn thing, but to be honest, I say "There's" a lot in everyday speak when grammatically I should say "There Are", but it sounds weird. I'm not as big on grammatical correctness to begin with, but I got some criticisms for it, and I'm trying to adapt, but I'm thinking of turning it off to be honest, and perhaps a movie like "California Typewriter" is just what I need to actually do that and perhaps only use Grammarly later on in my process as an editing tool, and not so much a correction on what's supposedly more proper language.

So yeah, at this moment, a movie about the romanticism of the typewriter, is actually, something I can greatly appreciate. I'm not sure I can entirely buy the belief that the typewriter will be coming back soon, but I ccertainly appreciate it for some, and I'm glad there's still some people out there
trying to protect and fix them. I stopped using mine because it became too hard to find more ribbon. The movie shows us where the first typewriters were invented and goes around to show us some other collectors as well as the struggles of those whose work is to fix them. It's a weird position, 'cause they're in demand 'cause the people who collect typewriters have to keep them up, but they're harder to fix since, basically they're not made anymore. One guy's gotten some credit in the art world for having made modern art sculpture out of old typewriters, which I actually thought were quite impressive. I thought it was a strange thing to include in this movie though; it's a whole movie romanticizing the typewriter and all the great powers it has and here's a guy breaking them apart and molding them back together to look like women or other people like it's just clay. 

Eh, that's a minor concern though. This is as breezy and light a documentary you can find. Hmm, I think I'm gonna retake some speed tests in a bit; I should be a lot faster. I wonder if my keyboard is too sticky....


OKLAHOMA CITY (2017) Director: Barak Goodman

★★★★

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Oh Christ, I forgot about the daycare. I mean I didn't-, I didn't forget-forget, that there was a daycare on the Second floor of the Murrah Building; I just had managed to block that part out of my mind. I knew, the statistics, 168 total deaths, the bombing was at 9:03am Central Time, which means it happened at seven in the morning when I was watching it unfold on TV before heading off to- I want to say either 4th or 5th grade, the one day they really made sure everybody actually stayed silent during the moment of silence after the Pledge. (Sigh) 

Yes, it's another entry into this incessant painful exercise the film and television world has thrust upon me personally in order to relive the parts of the '90s I've spent the majority of my adult life trying to froget, and it seems that they've finally gotten around to the unfortunately, most relevant one to today. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building is still the biggest and most successful act of domestic terrorism in modern American history; and it was done by this far right-wing former member of the Michigan Militia named Timothy McVeigh. He called it a counter-attack on the U.S. Government, who the Far-Right racists believe were after them. (Sigh) Look, I'm not gonna continue talking about the path of Timothy McVeigh and not feel like I'm writing a parallel to something that sounds like it'll happen shortly in the future, although maybe not consider the Far Right's latest showing of strength disguised as a rally ended so poorly for them, but-eh, yeah,- I can't think of too many reasons other than historical notation to constantly go over O.J. Simpson or Tonya Harding, or what's the latest one, the Gianni Versace assassination, but-eh, yeah, if there are some events to cover from that era, that we probably should be revisiting and trying to learn from, than yeah, it's probably "Oklahoma City".

The movie does this, it doesn't simply explore "Oklahoma City" in the vacuum that most of us who were too distraught and angry to try to seek and figure out. The two big incidents they go over in regards to the '90s right of the terrorists right were Ruby Ridge, which is an infamous shootout outside Naples, Idaho which was an infamous shootout between the FBI and far right murder suspect and state's witness Randy Weaver, after the death of a U.S. Marshall that ended in Weaver and his family getting killed, and then, there's Waco. I'm not too familiar with Ruby Ridge; it's important in certain circles, but Waco is a big one. Timothy McVeigh was apparently there too, 'cause that standoff actually lead to a lot of far-right people coming down to Texas to witness the standoff thinking this was apart of their fictitious war on the government,- (Fictitious in the sense that they thought they were being attacked, because-, well, they're gun-loving Bible-thumping racists, so we probably should be going after them; I'll give them that.) but he was passing out flyers there apparently. David Koresh and the Branch Davidians were a lot of things, but racists and far-right wingers, that's actually a little debatable. As far as I can tell he should be talked about in the same way we talk about Jim Jones, only crazier. Koresh loaded up on weapons and everything else that would cause mass suicide if the FBI ever came to attack, which he claimed they would do, and released those he didn't want with them and kept the others. Also, he was probably a pedophile and a polygamist probably, and a bunch of other shit and the FBI was trying desperately to treat him and his cult like they were reasonable people and hostages, and that was their biggest mistake, but one that anybody would've made honestly. They tried to tear gas them and he throw rocket fuel all over the compound to burn everyone alive with. 

There's some idiots who still think Waco was some greater conspiracy, and they probably think other things too that are just conspiracy bullshit in for them to believe that progress is just an attack on them and their way of life. In reality, they're attacking our way of life, and those incidents and several other factors led to a homegrown, good old U.S. Terrorist who looks like he could've found in a jail in Mayberry, U.S.A. after a drunken brawl. (Sigh) They all look like that though. . 

Documentary's like "Oklahoma City" are the ones we need right now. They may be out in the open more than ever, but they've been around and causing havoc and hell on us for a long time, and I seriously doubt they're stopping anytime soon. 


THE ORNITHOLOGIST (2017) Director: Joao Pedro Rodriguez

★★1/2

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Somewhere near the end of "The Ornithologist" it somehow finally dawned that this movie is basically a retelling of "The Odyssey". Apparently there's more going on than that as I seek out reviews of the films, there's some notes about some parallels between the main character Fernando (Paul Handy) and St. Anthony of Padua. the Portugeuse saint who's a followers of St. Francis of Assisi and is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. Um...- Whoosh! (Moves hand quickly over head) Yeah, that all went right past me, I basically see a retelling of "The Odyssey". I mean, I don't think I'm that far off here, it's a guy struggling to get where he's going, he gets kidnapped by some women, he escapes, there's weather problems all the time he runs into, there's animals in the way,- okay, that's more Gilgamesh or "Gulliver's Travels", but he's searching for a rare bird, that could be a metaphor for women. Ornithologist kinda sounds like Odysseus? I think there was music coming from something that could be a siren.

Alright, maybe I'm stretching it a little bit. Honestly, this is one of those movies I was just bored by. I think it is clever in what they're doing, even moreso as I refresh my knowledge on saints and reflect on how I never got far enough to learn the saints in Catechism. (Wait, do they even teach that at Catechism? I don't know I only got to my Holy Communion.) but-eh, this is one of those independent allegorical movies that...- well, frankly, I don't think it leads to much. It's one of those personal films apparently, those directorial autobiographical pictures that's more symbolism than movie. I think I'm one of the few people who can't stand Tarkovsky's "The Mirror" for this reason; I think that film is just meandering through nostalgia for, what I'm shockingly told was only 90 minutes when I thought it was three hours. "The Ornithogist"' isn't that bad, although I think it's kinda worst at how much more it puts into it. It's director Joao Pedro Rodriguez was an ornithologist before he went into film, and Fernando is looking for some rare, endangered birds to study in this Portoguese forest, and that's when and where a bunch of strange shit happens to him. There's also clearly a spiritual presence and connection, especially if he's making St. Anthony reference, who is the most famous Portuguese saint out there, and yes, that's a big part of Rodriguez's background as well, and his story is important enough to basically represent both himself, St. Anthony and Jesus, I guess, and I thought it was Odysseus, so he's just the greatest guy that we're supposed to relate to.  (Shrugs) 

I don't know, maybe if I saw his previous films, I'd have a better understanding of this one; there is something admirably Jodorowsky about it, but I mostly just found myself, waiting around for the next strange thing to happen and that's not where you want to be with these kind of movies. You want to care about the next strange surreal-ass that happens, and frankly I just didn't. Sorry. 


BRIDGET JONES'S BABY (2016) Director: Sharon Maguire

★★★1/2

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Uh, you know what, since I'm doing this already, let's make it a double-review. 



BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON (2004) Director: Beebee Kidron

★★1/2

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I don't review enough older movies anymore anyway. So, can- can somebody explain the appeal of the Bridget Jones movies? 

Look, when I first heard that was a new Bridget Jones movie out, I think I made the same joke on Twitter that nearly everybody else did, some version of-eh, "Alright, that's my fault; when I said that I wished Renee Zellweger looked more like she used to, I should've been more specific," but honestly, I've always been somewhat perplexed by this franchise. And, as I realized that the latest one got enough decent reviews that I would have to watch it at some point; I decided to go all in and watch the first sequel, "The Edge of Reason" which I had skipped over when it came out and was fairly certain was gonna be the last time I would ever come across this character. After I saw the first movie after Renee Zellweger got that surprise Oscar nomination for it, it was a clear sign to me that the Academy was looking for excuses to give Zellweger an Oscar. I guess I prefer she'd have won it for that instead of "Cold Mountain" of all forgettable movies, but "Bridget Jones's Diary" was just strange. It wasn't a bad movie, I laughed quite a bit, but it wasn't a fun laugh. There were a lot of cringe-inducing moments, and it wasn't like "The Office" is about those cringes between the line, it was cringy-, like this character just couldn't shut the fuck up long enough to let something be or to see how truly Elizabeth Bennett she was being.

Yes, I know it was based on "Pride & Prejudice", I mean, for fuck's sake, they named the Colin Firth character, Darcy! Even I can pick that up. And "The Edge of Reason" was based on "Persuasion", apparently, and that officially continues my streak of hating all Jane Austen adaptations, except for "Pride & Prejudice", which is the only book of hers I actually like. (Seriously, even if I'm not aware of it, if it's based on anything else Jane Austen, I seem to just hate it. Yes, this includes "Clueless"; that film sucks. [TV show wasn't half-bad oddly enough though]) 

"The Edge of Reason" is more directly a sequel so it really brings back these confusing angry troubled thoughts I had with the first one. Like, "Is she too fat for these jokes about her butt, or not fat enough?" Seriously, was this character supposed to be heavier, or did we really fat shame that badly that even someone so pleasantly plump can be constantly assaulted about her looks while being sexually assualted and groped, fondled and fought over by men all the time? There was a bit of it in the first movie about how kind of quirky and odd she was, and it kinda made up for it, sorta. It always felt like a bad  pseudo "Sex and the City"-wannabe, complete with a group of close friends she has, that for some reason, we never see or know much about, but seem like they should be apart of her life more, but instead it's just, Bridget Jones, and does she want the charming philandering ladies' man, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) or the stuffy stuff-shirt ugly Christmas sweater wearing Mr. Darcy. Only now, there's a weird thing where she ends up in a Thai jail for drug smuggling at one point? 

It's-, eh, I-, I just don't get it. Just be with him or not or whatever. 

I gave the first movie a pass, the second I really can't see the purpose of it's existence, and now with the third one...; (Sigh) I think it's time I do some investigating, 'cause I kinda like this movie. Better than I liked the first one actually-, in fact I think I could kinda go into this, blind to the other two and kinda be okay with it? This, confused me a bit; it's not a perfect movie, but...-

Well, I always kinda gave blame to Richard Curtis for the first two films, which never made sense to me to begin with 'cause Richard Curtis is really a good writer, I couldn't figure out how he kinda botched these films. Now, I'm told that it's not Curtis writing the script for this one, it's Dan Mazur, one of the writers behind "Borat" and Emma Thompson, who plays a gynecologist in "Bridget Jones's Baby" and Helen Fielding, who wrote the original book. This might be why I've always been a little confused by the series; it didn't fit with Curtis's other work, 'cause it isn't his work. So, apparently Bridget Jones's is Fielding's character which originated as a column piece in a paper, and it's credited with creating this character and essentially this weird late '90s sex column girl franchises. I-, okay. It makes sense, especially with all those extra tertiary characters that seem like they would've been more drawn out in a longer series. I don't know how accurate they were aiming for or not, but, the character was always created as an exaggeration in the column the same way that Carrie Bradshaw was, and the same way, basically all those column girls were. I mean, I loved them, I used to read Sonya from the Las Vegas Weekly among others before that trend ended; I think film has proven to not be a good genre for that kind of writing though. Between this franchise and the "Sex and the City" movies and it's worst imitators, this is a genre that needs to be either on TV or perhaps just stay in column form, or in Bridget Jones's case, a column that read like diary entries. (Well, this explains why the diary has so little to do with the franchise in general.) 

Anyway, so once again, Bridget is stuck between two men, Darcy and Jack (Patrick Dempsey). Darcy she apparently broke up with, even after he saved her from Thailand and now he's re-married to Camila (Agni Scott) which...- (Sigh) seriously, you give the boring, humdrum stick in the mud Colin Firth-type a second wife, and you named her Camila! She's not in the movie much, they're soon to get divorced too, but seriously, Camila? Anyway, Cleaver is not here, 'cause his plane went down and the movie starts at his funeral, which is hilarious. I wish they had some funnier way for him to die, but anyway, no Hugh Grant for this movie unfortunately, but that doesn't stop much. So Bridget's alone again and Shazzer (Sally Phillips) her friend and co-worker takes her to, eh, some music festival that seems to be whatever Britain's version of Burning Man is, and she sleeps with Jack. Who she finds out is a millionaire computer love algorithm matchmaker-type, and then at her friend Jude's (Shirley Henderson, who needs way more to do in these films, as does most people in them) child's Christening party, thing I guess, she ends up staying the night with Darcy who's also there. 

And now she's pregnant, and really pregnant, unlike the last movie where she only thought she was after some period math counting while nearly killing herself on skis. So, we got a-eh, Mamma Mia, or a Maury Povich here. Two possible dads, and one 43-year-old geriatric mother, who's clearly not as chubby or chunky as her past character was, and she doesn't know which is the father. 

I don't know exactly why I prefer this film to the rest, maybe Richard Curtis was in over his head with this material, although this is the first of the films that's not directly based on a novelization of the character, so this could just be a good, entertaining story about a troubled woman that I like. Although Fielding was a writer for the other movies as well too, so maybe that's not just it. For some reason, I find it more believable and realistic, even in the comedy parts. I mean, it does flip between cringe and funny at times, as some of the reporting scenes are just-, I mean how is she not fired earlier, honestly? I guess I just like how this situation is treated. It's believable but not over-the-top ridiculous. There's some mean things said between characters and some things not said as well, but it doesn't seem completely out of line or off the rails in this case. Alright, the one line about the condoms that makes Darcy mad is kinda out there, but I understood the intention. 

I still find this franchise's appeal troubling; I really do think this is the wrong medium and it's time period is way past working today as a TV series or anything, but  I found this one better than the other films. It wasn't something so petty and childish like which guy to be with; this one had actual stakes and a real life-changing situation that frankly can't, or at least shouldn't be rewritten and revised in a next chapter, not that I'm hoping, encouraging or asking for another chapter. Maybe I'm not the audience, although I'm certainly a fan of work inspired by Bridget Jones, but this incarnation of this original character has always perplexed me. Still, a mixed review is mixed, it's half-good and half-bad, and this one had more half-good than the others. 


DON'T BLINK-ROBERT FRANK (2016) Director: Laura Israel

★★1/2

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I must confess that Robet Frank is an artist I'm not terribly familiar with going into "Don't Blink-Robert Frank". I'm honestly not terribly sure how much I'm familiar with him now actually. It might be that I've just been watching way too many artist bio-documentaries lately, but I don't know, this wasn't as interesting as I had hoped it would be. Frank has lived an interesting life. He's originally from Switzerland and he has a retreat in Nova Scotia, but he's one of those quintessential New York figures they make documentaries about these days. Like Bill Cunningham or Fran Lebowitz or Will Shortz even. New York isn't necessarily full of these people it's just that it's such the epicenter of the world that they seem to flock to that area and so do many documentarians who may one day make a movie about them. Robert Frank himself is actually a documentary filmmaker, probably most known for "Cocksucker Blues" the post-Altamont cinema verite Rolling Stones documentary. I haven't seen that or any of his films, but he's more famous just as a photographer in general. 

His "The Americans" series is considered a seminal work in modern photography. His general worldview and approach is actually kinda interesting. He basically always has a camera on him and is always looking to shoot something; honestly that's something I should do as well. His homes are also surrounded by art as his current wife June Leaf is a modern kinetic sculpture with a following and popularity of our own, and actually I found her more interesting than him. He's around photographing her sculptures a lot, but she actually has some intriguing insight of being an artist but also a wife of a famous artist, and just living a modern artist life. I found her far more interesting honestly. I wish this movie was about her.

As to the film, it's sufficent, but I don't think it's special even with the big-name cinematographer Ed Lachmann doing the camera work. I don't know; I've seen better and more interesting portraits of an artists lately.I'm interested in the art more than the artists and to me, that's the ultimate killer for this genre. Frank's work is compelling, but him, eh... (Shrugs) he seems okay, but nah, not really. Not feature movie compelling anyway.