Friday, August 31, 2012



I wrote in my last blog entry how KSL-TV in Utah had chosen not to air "The New Normal," Ryan Murphy's new show on NBC about a gay couple and their surrogate having a child. The station is owned by Bonneville International Corporation, which is a company owned and created by the Church of Jesus Christ for Latter-Day Saints, through a for-profit arm of the  church called Deseret Management Corporation. In the past, the station refused to air NBC's show, "The Playboy Club," and short-lived American version of "Coupling" and they also, I learned today, they don't air "Saturday Night Live". They also change a few times for their shows on a regular basis, like the last hour of "Today" and "Days of Our Lives". Alright, I can't take this anymore, I said earlier that I didn't understand why NBC had this station as one of it's affiliates before, but now, I'm just calling for it. Consider this blogpost a petition to NBC for them to cut KSL-TV as an affiliate.

Ellen Barkin, who stars on "The New Normal," calls KSL-TV's actions, censorship, and she's right. There's no legitimate reason for banning these shows. I'll go a step further, I don't think affiliates should have the right to not air a program. I mean, what-the-hell is the point of being an affiliate of a network, if you're not gonna air the network's shows? It's not like NBC doesn't have a choice here, they can easily switch affiliates with an Independent channel in Utah if they wanted, or  they don't have to have an affiliate in Utah at all, if they didn't want to. I wouldn't if one affiliate was gonna keep treating the channel like those two guys in "Good Morning, Vietnam," that kept editing out the news of the war, so the troops don't hear anything about the war going lousy, as those they wouldn't know to begin with. The local CW station, KUCW is basically acting as NBC's version of BBC2 by airing all the programs KSL-TV refuses to air, why not switch to another channel. I don't know what the difficulties are involved with that, or if there's some kind of contract agreement that they have to get out of from that, but whatever-the-hell it'd take, I'd do it first chance I'd get. Why should an affiliate TV station have that much power over NBC, I don't get it? Especially this station, which is blatantly blocking selected programs. (And stupid personal and political purposes they are, I might add) It's very selective by the way, because KSL-TV does allow programs like "Law & Order: SVU," which is about rape and murder every episode, and has even broadcasted "The Book of Daniel," which was banned from many NBC affiliates, especially in the South. It is simply, by the way, 'cause gays having kids, this isn't even a new thing to see on TV. "Modern Family"'s been on the air for it's fourth season! "Will & Grace" was on NBC, they had a kid at the end of that series, as far as I can tell, they didn't ban that show at all. Hell, there have been gay characters having kids on TV since "Soap"!

Alright, I realize I'm starting to let my disgust take control of me, and make my thoughts come out in irrational spouts of anger, but this really so beyond stupid...- How can I explain this? Here we go, it shouldn't be the affiliate or the stations job to tell us what to watch on TV. That's my job. I'm an audience member. Maybe I'll like "The New Normal," maybe I won't, (Actually, considering what I generally think of Ryan Murphy's crap, I probably won't.) but once NBC announces that they've bought episodes, and they're putting their show on the Fall schedule, it's my job, to watch, or change the channel. (Or turn off the TV if there's really nothing on.) I can't stand Murphy's "Glee" for example. I think's it's a terrible show. One of the worst of all-time actually. I can't even understand how to respond to that show. Is it a parody of the "High School Musical" thing, is it supposed to be taken seriously, is it a comedy, are they actually singing or is it in their mind,- I seriously try watching, and am so confused by the whole concept, that I can't even understand enough to hate it, really. More than "Lost," even, that show completely loses me, in the most basic understanding of concept. Saying that, I would gladly defend Glee's right to be on TV, if one of the FOX stations decided not to show it. An affiliate, is not a brand, like KSL-TV is trying to claim it is,  it's a messenger. NBC is the brand. Affiliates have certain controls over programming, but they shouldn't have the kind of power to abuse these controls like this. The keyword in that last sentence is "Affiliates", with an S. When affiliates, have a problem with a program, then they may have an argument. This happened with NBC famously a couple years ago, when they decided to put Jay Leno on at ten o'clock, affiliates started complaining to NBC. Why, you may ask were they complaining about Jay Leno, and why this beef was legitimate? The 10 o'clock hour is crucial for most affiliates, because it's the lead-in to their local news, which is how most affiliates make their money. The advertisements on the news programs, usually brings in the the most amount of money for an affiliate than any of the other programs on the channel. Since affiliates produce the news programs themselves, they have to charge a higher adbuy-rate for the advertising, so getting higher ratings is crucial for your news programs, especially the late-night news, is incredibly critical. By-the-way, I was the one, who loved Leno's 10 o'clock show. Watch almost every episode, loved Conan at 11:30pm, thought it was great, but it basically kept most of the format from "The Tonight Show", unlike, a drama series on at 10pm, which is usually intense, and involves a story that requires people watching the entire episode. What was happening with Leno was that people were tuning out on Leno, especially later in the show, when they'd have guests. So, the channels that had, the higher-rated drama series at ten o'clock, after the show, the news would be on, and most people, don't change the channel to a specific news channel they may prefer, especially at 11, NBC's affiliates started complaining about their primetime news's ratings going down, because of Leno. That's really what caused the major late shift Leno-Conan clusterfuck a couple years ago. since it wasn't just one either, it was a bunch of them complaining. That's where affiliates have power, money. When affiliates don't make money, well, then there's no channel, so NBC wouldn't have a station or a 100 anymore, and that could've been catastrophic. (Alright, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it wouldn't been good.) Now, if I was an NBC affiliate, anywhere, I'd be calling NBC to put back-to-back episodes of "The New Normal" on at ten o'clock, because now the show has basically been lifted to the stratosphere because of this controversy, and now most everybody's gonna want to see it. KSL-TV is one affiliate that is acting like NBC, and NBC shouldn't take it.

NBC, you're one of the major networks in America. KSL-TV is refusing to broadcast your content, without any legitimate just cause and aren't acting in the best interests of NBC or themselves as a broadcasting station. If you need anymore proof of that by the way, KSL-TV still, (at least until recently) signs off for an hour and a half once-a-week. That's right, they shut down and show color bars. Couldn't put on a paid program and make a little extra money? I strongly advise that you sever all ties with KSL-TV as soon as possible.

If anybody else feels the same way, I'd recommend contacting NBC and tell them the same thing, as I am. Hey, I said this was a petition. Comment on the blog by typing your name below. It'll be considered a signature.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Well, it's a little bit early to talk Emmy predictions, Premiere Week is still a ways off (and in case some of you are wondering, I, may, be preparing something special again for Premiere Week, maybe....) and frankly, there's only so much I can write about Snooki's pregnancy; in fact, this sentence is about it. The point being is that there isn't a whole helluva lot going on in the Hollywood world that I think justifies an entire blog entry today, but there's a few minor points I'd like to discuss, so were gonna have a little Mixed Bag blog again.

"THE NEW NORMAL" banned in UTAH!


I thought seriously about discussing this in greater detail, but I think I was able to let all my true thoughts on this news story in a tweet, believe it or not. (It's true, sometimes 140 characters is all I need.) Anyway, for those who haven't heard NBC has on it's schedule this fall the TV show, "The New Normal". I wasn't planning on particularly looking at it, because I'm not the biggest fan of it's creator Ryan Murphy. His credits include "Glee," and "American Horror Story". (I haven't seen the latter, but it's gonna take awhile for me to trust him after "Glee".) NBC's Utah affiliate, KSL-TV, has chosen to not air "The New Normal" however, because the show is based around an extended family of a gay couple and the surrogate who has their kid. Now, thankfully, a renegade station in Utah, KUCW has already announced that they will air the show, on weekends, I guess this will be some sort-of-a syndication deal. Well, of course, the natural cause for blame, is KSL-TV, for being stupid and homophobic ignorant assholes. (They also didn't air NBC's "The Playboy Club" last year) However, I learned that, that's a little bit repetitive because KSL-TV, who's parent company is Bonneville International, is actually owned, I swear I'm not making this up, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Okay, time to back up a minute, because now we have a new issue: Why the hell does the Mormon Church have a TV station?! Okay, hold on that's not fair, churches are aloud to have TV stations, I shouldn't say things like that. Pat Robertson has had his TV station for years, I'm pro-First Amendment. (I don't understand why I have that channel for FREE on Basic, no less. It should cost about five times as much as HBO, but whatever.) But now, here's the next issue, why does an NBC, allow it's program to be broadcasted on a TV station, that's owned by, a church. Forget that it's the LDS church, NBC is one of the major national channel in America. It's one of the Big 3 (Sorry, Fox), they were one of the first to have a national television channel, and their history dates to the days of radio, where they were pioneers in that field. Now, I can understand, many years ago, if a church owned a local TV affiliate, especially one that was so prominent in the community. I don't think that should give them the right to not air programs that the major channel chooses to air. If you're going to be an NBC affiliate, you should air NBC's programming. However, there's also no reason now, why NBC should keep KSL-TV as it's affiliate? Why would you? Why would you allow a station that's going to be controlled by the major church, in that state, and let's face it, Utah, is controlled by that church, not just in perception, but in history, and in the LDS's church's own structure, it basically runs that state. Pretty much, one of the major TV channels is being bitch-slapped by a church, one that has in the recent years spent a great deal of money in numerous states fighting gay rights ballot questions, especially in California. It's not that hard for NBC to move. Change the affiliate. Ask KUCW if they'd be interested in carrying all NBC programming from here on in? It happens all the time, this is already their second time they've done this to them, what's stopping NBC here? (And I've noticed, as "The New Normal" co-star Ellen Barkin pointed out, KSL-TV seems perfectly okay with all the child rape and murder on "Law and Order: SVU," and they're okay with NBC's "Hannibal," about a serial killer,) This isn't advertising or audience motivating this banning, this is politically-motivated, 'cause KSL-TV is run by people who have an Anti-Gay agenda, and think it's a good thing to show the world how ignorant, stupid and out-of-touch they are in the world, and even if they weren't, it'd still be a stupid and hypocritical thing to do. If I'm NBC, I'm calling every independent station in the Salt Lake City area, and see if they've like to be the new NBC affiliate, starting with KUCW. If KSL-TV wants to show only TV they approve of, they can go make it themselves.


I think I accidentally stumbled onto something when I wrote in my review of "The Hunger Games," how they seem to be using aspects of professional wrestling of all things, in their storytelling. Since the film's real target is the infotainment, reality-show obsessed media culture, maybe it shouldn't be surprising; in many ways, pro wrestling is one of the first reality programs of television, even to the point where it's scripted. It's also over-the-top, filled with outlandish characters from all walks of life, and it all culminates in a competition, to determine a winner, broadcasted on pay-per-view. Actually, now I think there might be something to the notion that much of reality TV and the pop culture landscape is blatantly borrowing from pro wrestling. There's some obvious examples, most notably, the rise in popularity of MMA, which now actually has considerably bigger pay-per-view buy-rates than most pro wrestling pay-per-views. UFC promoter Dana White has been using many of the same tactics one used by pro wrestling to build-up matches. Not in a scripted sense, but many of the promotional tactics, can easily date back to the ones Vince McMahon used(s) to promote events like Wrestlemania. That's an obvious example, but to some extent, this almost all of reality TV uses some of these approaches. Let's take American Idol for instance. We've all seen it, so we can all compare. Now, they don't simply, get a bunch of young singers, put them together and hold a singing contest, do they? No. There's more to it. They show the auditions, many auditions, then they start to make cuts, and challenge the singers more. The further along in the competition, they get, we start to learn a bit about who they are. There's pre-taped segments with their families and interviews, a sense of their personalities. They're all a little bit different from another. Adam Lambert and Cris Allen for instance, two good guys, two very different people. who are challenging each other, in a singing competition. Maybe, you like one, maybe you like the other, but they've survived every challenge up until now, and now, it's one-on-one. What I did with that description, was do, precisely what pro wrestling tries to do, is tell a story. They do it with all of reality TV essentially. They use the same tools. Big audiences, a glitzy stage, high production value, pyrotechnics if they can. They have their own tweaks, but essentially it's the same practice. Come to think of it, on "The Voice," when the get to the battle rounds, the stage looks a little more like a professional ring, doesn't it? They might prefer it resemble a boxing, which is a more real and respectable sport (Well, not lately, but...-hey, who's the heavyweight boxing champ, right now? You don't know, do you? I used to always know if it was Tyson or Lewis or Douglas or Rahman, or Holyfield or Bowe? Tell me they haven't lost their way?) but, it can just as easily be a pro wrestling ring. Actually, let's think back, the reality TV boom, began with, either "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" or "Survivor," let's use both, as they both came around the same time, about a year apart. "...Millionaire," pushed the drama-building aspects of a game more than any previous show did since the scandals in the 1950s. It had a glitzy set, different camera angles than previous game shows, it was a limited program originally, (people forget that part, but it was at first only a two-week special originally, something known as "Event TV") it was more about what happens next, as oppose to, is he/she gonna win? Yes, is he gonna win is apart of it, but the whole event itself, was an appeal to the audience (One of the reasons why the modern syndicated version is unable to equal that.) "Survivor" was practically "The Hunger Games," before "The Hunger Games". Get a bunch of people, put 'em on island, one-by-one, they get eliminated. They don't get killed, be we're democratic, we can vote them off, slightly different than a fight to the death, but not that much. (It was also supposed to be a one-time thing as well.) Notice when those shows debuted, '99 and 2000 respectively, Those were the same years that pro wrestling was some of the biggest programs on TV. Especially WWE(F). How big? Now only were there ratings twice, what they are now, but they even showed up at the Primetime Emmys those years. Even the higher-end TV world was acknowledging, backhandedly admittedly, how culturally relevant pro wrestling was at that time. We're still seeing effects from it. One of the wrestlers from that time period, became and still is a major movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and with all due respect, he's a helluva lot better actor and is in better movies than Hulk Hogan was ever in, when he crossed over to the film world. (Even The Rock's bad movies are better than Hogan's lets face it. I'll take "The Toothy Fairy" over any random episode of "Thunder is Paradise".) Now, I think there's some legitimate debate on who exactly is borrowing from who here, or if possibly, all these different aspects would've been used without the prototype of pro wrestling being available. Building up drama is building up drama. These techniques go back to the beginning of literature and art themselves. Also, pro wrestling has a history of borrowing storytelling elements from other sources, in attempts to be a reflection of the times themselves. When Iran-Contra was happening in real-life, in the WWF, The Iron Sheik was battling Sgt. Slaughter. When the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls were in the NBA finals, Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone were fighting each other in the wrestling ring. Now all the wrestlers have twitter accounts. Okay, admittedly, it's been a bit of a downward slope for pro wrestling, and maybe that why other medium like movies, books, reality TV and MMA has had enormous success, and are more culturally-relevant than pro wrestling is, while borrowing their storytelling devices. 


NBC announced last week that this will be the final season of "The Office". Well, it's been, arguably the best TV show made on the air in the last ten years of so, one of NBC rare ratings hits, a mild hit granted, but I understand this decision. I don't agree, in fact I still think it's one of the best on TV, and was easily one of the ten best comedy last year, despite it clearly being a difficult and transitional season. James Spader came, and went as his character didn't really go where anybody thought it would, but I like Ed Helms in the lead, not only trying to prove he's capable at the job of manager, but also that the romance with him and Erin. This is gonna be a tough year for NBC, but if they're gonna decide to end "The Office," this is a good time to do it. They are already long into preparations for Dwight's spinoff, currently-titled "The Farm," where he will be permanently running his beat farm. What I don't understand in regards to that show, is that, why isn't Angela Kinsey's character spinning-off to that show too. I think it's pretty clear that the trajectory of her storyline should lead to her and Dwight, getting back together, along with the reveal that her kid isn't with the State Senator, who is clearly gay, but is in fact, with Dwight. They should be running this family farm, which seems a little bit "Fawlty Towers" to me, but so far, there's no plans for that. Well, I guess it could be a Frasier/Lilith-type relationship too, but I don't particularly find think that would necessarily work. Of course, this is presuming that the show is going be fairly successful, and let's face it, that's a little bit of a longshot at this moment. This is one of the reasons why NBC is putting a lot of publicity behind their new series, particularly "Go On," and "Animal Practice", which they've previewed during the Olympics, and a couple other times since. I think they should go back to the drawing board on "Animal Practice", but it does look like they're filling up a schedule that's more sitcom-based in years. They're still relying on two many reality shows, but at least they're relying on a good one, "The Voice," and not as much on "The Biggest Loser." Still, there's a sadness in "The Office," ending. I was the one last year, who discussed how easily the show can evolve and adapt, and how the series had done an incredible job at it by adding new characters that come in and out of the show, seamlessly. Perhaps the test of losing Steve Carell, was going to naturally be a little too big of a hurdle for many casual viewers to accept, but I still applauded the show last year, and had high hopes for this year, as they had plan to begin fazing in new characters and come up with an almost revamped office for the future. I thought that made sense anyway. How often does the same group of people work in the same office together for years in real life? It rarely happens to begin with. Now, the questions become, who will come back for the finale, Carell, most likely, and also, what will they do with all the documentary footage that this cameraman's been shooting for years now? The British version had that stuff make the air, and had the special movie finale be a "Where are they now?" type story that took place a couple years into the future. It was quite special, so I do hope that part of that is adapted, and it can be, somehow. It's gonna be sad, but it will be interesting, and I'll be it'll be pretty good television.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Whew! Well, one of the oddities with having computers that are erratic is that instead of being online, writing up my blogs and things, I end up watching more movies, which kinda sucks, 'cause now I have to write more, without the proper means or capabilities. However, I managed to get done this new batch of movie reviews, and there's a lot of them this week. I also want to mention briefly the documentary "Marley" that was released on DVD last week. I saw that film at the Las Vegas Film Festival and gave it 5 STARS. You can find my mini-review of it on my blogs about the festival, but it's one of the most complete bio-documentaries I've seen in a while as it traces almost every aspect imaginable of Bob Marley's life story, definitely worth checking out.

I also have to point out a couple pieces of sad news this week. As many of you heard, Tony Scott committed suicide a couple days ago. I posted my Canon of Film entry on "Thelma & Louise," yesterday, directed by his brother Ridley as memorial to him. It's weird to me a bit, 'cause I've never liked any of Tony Scott's films. I wish I could say something other than that since he's passed, but from "The Hunger" to "Top Gun," to "True Romance," to what became his last film "Unstoppable," I've always admired his skills, but I've yet to see a film of his I've actually liked. That's a shame considering he was amazingly talented and by all accounts a great guy who worked on a lot of memorable projects as director or producer. Nobody, as far as I can tell saw this death coming, and it's really shaken up Hollywood for the time being, and the film-world at large. There's a lot of unanswered questions and theories right now, but a truly shocking and sad death to note. I haven't seen all his films, so hopefully I'll go through the rest of his canon one of these days and find stuff I do like, just a shocking and sad death.

I should also note that the Queen of Stand-Up passed away also. Phyllis Diller, basically influenced everybody from Joan Rivers to Kathy Griffin to any comic that wants to complain about there husband/wife. Look her up some days and you'll just laugh like hell. A true comedy legend and icon. She'll be missed as well.

Oh, also, I still want people to contribute list of their "TEN GREATEST TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME"! So far, I've got four, counting me. I know there's more of you out there, write up a Top Ten list. Need many more ballots, and besides, it'll be fun.

Alright, that's all. Now onto this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) Director: Gary Ross


Just hearing about a handful of the plot to "The Hunger Games," going in, I was already having some grave concerns about it. The movie bore many similarities to other films that I wasn't a particular fan of, "Battle Royale," being the most notable. In my movie review for that film, I compared the idea of having a bunch of kids dropped on an island in order to fight to the death to a twisted and disturbing version of a pro wrestling pay-per-view. For awhile, there were some differences. The mood was more Shirley Jackson and based in horror-fiction than absurd attempted realism. The annual Hunger Games was approaching, where each of the 13 districts must have a man and woman represent them as tributes in a fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers after her 12-year-old sister Primrose (Willow Shields) was selected at the lottery by the games kabuki-dressed guide, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks, is apparently under whatever that was). Joined by longtime acquaintance Peter Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), they're given a tutor in a former champion of the event from their district, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson, and he's been on a roll), and apparently a fashion designer, Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who gives them an outfit for a Grand entrance in the Capital for the tributes, where it looks like they come in, wearing an outfit of, actual fire. It is getting really hard not to point out pro wrestling comparisons here, btw. Grand entrances, an elaborate production, filled with fire behind them, and they're not even fighting yet, but the music starts, and the crowds chanting "Goldberg!" in unison.... See, I'm telling you, pro wrestling. There's even a colorful commentator in a bad hairpiece, who interviews and gives us some analysis and exposition when needed named Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and a Satan-bearded overseer of the game, who seemed to able to change and alter the situation, and the rules whenever he feels like it named Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and an older, seemingly quieter but perhaps wise overseer to him in President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Many of the contestants seem to have weird symbolic names like Glimmer and Marvel and Rue. Since this bizarre and gruesome tradition is televised with big ratings, I guess we can presume that it's saying something about modern media, or modern government or the political scene, or how they're all done for reality-show based entertainment. (Or maybe reality-show style entertainment of all forms, is simply stealing blatantly from professional wrestling. Hey, if I'm seeing the parallels in what's not only a popular movie, but a popular novel now, I betcha others will.) At the end, I'm not sure what to make of "The Hunger Games," actually. I can't say  I like the movie, but there were parts of it I liked, more technical stuff than the story, although it's nice to see a fairy tale with a female protagonist that's about her accomplishing a feat of strength, that was different. I was expecting her to get raped at least once during this film, so that was cool. There's some great acting by Lawrence and Harrelson especially, but across the board, if it wasn't a cartoonish character, there was some good work being done. I'm told that this book wasn't the first in the series, but that's okay with me, and actually, I think a sequel or two of what happens afterwards with these characters, might be more interesting. I'm still not sold on this structure of getting a bunch of people, and especially kids, together to have them kill each other as an effective storytelling tool. I'm on the fence on it, but I'll recommend it for what's good, and for some of the ways the movie does give us stuff to think about. It is parable of something, I don't know of what. I'd prefer the parable be secondary and have it work completely on it's own, in of itself, which I don't think it does. Yet, you can make any sort of modern-day parallels you want, (I'm choosing pro wrestling 'cause I'm a little baffled it's being used in this manner.) but maybe that says something about me. Like I said, I'm on the fence on this, but good acting and characters, especially in the lead, helps it out a lot. I don't see the children's book appealing to me, but as a movie, it's worth letting it seep into you, even if it doesn't really lead you to any significant revelations.  

BULLHEAD (2011) Director: Michael R. Roskam


"Bullhead," one of the Oscar nominees this year for Foreign Language Film, (Which was surprising originally since it was chosen as Belgium's entry over the Dardenne brother's "The Kid and the Bike") is at times, a little too subtle for us to fully understand the complexities of the story. I think the structure has something to do with it, and Roger Ebert's review even suggested that the placement of a flashback scene in the movie might have been better suited elsewhere, like the beginning. Instead, the film begins with Jacky (Matthias Schoenhaerts), who's a farmer that's built up on animal-growth hormones that he uses on the animals, and himself. He's big, and intimidating, and unpredictable. He gets those hormones, and testosterones because his Uncle is a cattle farmer. He helps him, and they often are dealing with shadowy members of the Belgian underworld. In one instance, their tasked with getting rid of a car that's involved in a murder. The flashback scene comes in the middle of this, and explains not only the behavior of Jacky, and why he is able to consume what should be deadly amount of these hormones, but also, the reason behind his current conflict with a man who their doing business with. Believe it or not, I just made this sound simpler than it plays in the movie, at least plot-wise. Emotionally, it certainly works. The flashback scene involves him, right at the beginning age of puberty. He has just noticed the girl who he will obsess over for the rest of his life. He's known her previously, but now, she's begun developing. Soon after, that same day in fact, he and a friend follow an older kid, who's making a living passing out porn in the woods, and when they're caught, he attacks him, permanently. (I'm reluctant as a man, and as a critic to describe the injury and manor of the attack, but it's about as gruesome as you can imagine.) It puts an unusual spin on everything that's happened before. It's powerful, as I was watching the movie, the heaviness of the film, was clear, but don't ask me to reconstruct the plot of what happened. It's a little disconcerting that he put the flashback scene in the middle. Maybe that was the point; either that, or he's trying to get us to understand that the trauma caused by the attack is ever-continuing, as though it's still happening now, as he's an adult and so overcompensated from what he lost that day, that he's become a brahma bull caricature of a man. There's a lot to grasp in "Bullhead," I think ultimately a little more than is needed, but it's definitely worth watching despite that.

RAMPART (2011) Director: Oren Moverman

4 1/2 STARS

I've spent the last few minutes or so, (When I'm not waiting for my slow-ass computer to move the hell along) writing, and re-writing these few opening lines for my review of Oren Moverman's film "Rampart". I know what I want to say about it, and how to describe it, but I'm having trouble with the exact terminology. At it's core, there's a simplicity to it. It's a character analysis. The character, is an incredibly corrupt cop named Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson). He's nickname is "Date Rape Dave," supposedly because of an incident where he shot and killed a man who was a serial date-rapist a few years back. Frankly, there's probably dozens of nicknames that the department could've given him, considering his behavior. There's so many adjectives that describe him, and I'd have to use at least a dozen to begin giving a proper explanation of him. Something better than having me do that, would be watching the movie and seeing Woody Harrelson's performance. He thinned up for the role. His character rarely eats, although he hates it when others waste food. He has two kids with two different wives, who are sisters, Barbara (Cynthia Nixon) and Catherine (Anne Heche), who all live together in the same house, and he occasionally, still sleeps with each of them. He works in the notorious Rampart Division, in the late '90s, one of the most notoriously corrupt police precincts in recent memory. (The TV show, "The Shield, which was one-time going to be called "Rampart", was loosely based on them) The date-rapist is one of the many crimes that he's being investigated for. He intelligent and slippery though. One time, he threatens the Assistant D.A. (Signorney Weaver)  that if he's fired, he'll get a law degree, and defend himself in court, and we believe him. He's occasionally looked to by others in his precinct to come up with court precedents to get them out of legal jams. (Although, occasionally he makes them up.) When he's caught on camera, beating up a suspect, he's suspended, but with pay, and refuses any kind of forced retirement or firing. He has some inside help in Hartshorn (Ned Beatty) a retired corrupt cop who has enough connections to get him out of trouble most of the time. He keeps him on the payroll during his suspensions. He sleeps unwisely with a defense attorney, Linda (Robin Wright). I've stuck to describing his actions, because I'm finding it utterly difficult to describe him. Yes, he's a corrupt cop, but the way he is, he'd be a corrupt whatever job he had. The question that we never get answered is how Dave became such a monstrous creature, and they don't give us an answer. He occasionally uses his time in Vietnam as an excuse. I'm halfway willing to bet that he might have never been to Vietnam, but if he was, he would've thrived. Indiscriminately killing and massacring in a jungle no less; he was built for that. He was built, for Vietnam, not Vietnam built him. I can think of a few comparison characters, like Harvey Keitel and Nicolas Cage's role in both "Bad Lieutenant" films. There's something different though about Harrelson's role here. Those characters thrived in breaking all the rules of the system, Dave Brown exists, to break the rules, piss off the system, and then show it in their faces how he manages to evade punishments. Oren Moverman's whose first film "The Messenger," earned him and Harrelson Oscar-nominations, co-wrote this film with James Ellroy, who's written on L.A. cops for years, and is one of the leading experts on the subject (On top of stories, and other screenplays, he wrote the books that inspired the film "L.A. Confidential"). There's corruption, and there's people investigating the corruption, (I didn't even mention Ice Cube's role as an I.A. officer who tails Brown) but this isn't a movie about solving or eradicating corruption. This isn't even a movie about the way a character like Brown would thrive in a corrupt police world like Rampart. It's a movie about Brown himself. A corrupt police force is just a little toy he likes to bend and twist and step on until it either breaks, or he blows it up.

PARIAH (2011) Director: Dee Rees

4 1/2 STARS

It was right after Obama was elected, when people started floating a few wild theories about how California, one of the supposedly most liberal states in the U.S., who easily elected Obama and pretty much a straight Democratic ticket, would actually lose the vote for, correct me if I'm wrong on the Wrong on the number, but Prop 8, which, either repealed Gay Marriage, or made it illegal, it doesn't matter the particulars, but Gay Rights had a shocking defeat in California. The first main theory about the odd discrepancy that arose was that Obama's election led to more African-American voting than usual, and they voted heavily against gay marriage. I remembered that well, because later that week, at an LBGT rally in Las Vegas, the comedienne Wanda Sykes came out publicly for the first time, partly due to that theory. It was never proven by the way, and personally, I don't buy it, but what is true is that, while among much of America, behaviors towards homosexuality has becomes for more progressive and accepting, progress has been slower in the African-American community. "Pariah," the first feature film by Director Dee Rees, based on her short film, examines this phenomenon. The film focuses on Alike, (Aspero Oduye) who goes by Lee when she's out in the clubs, especially with her friend Laura (Pernell Walker). I've noticed this kind of relationship before in the LBGT community. She's a close friend, but basically, she's a mentor and advisor. Laura had long been kicked out of her house, has more likely than not, spent nights living on the street, and is now living with her sister, trying to get her GED, but she tries to help Lee out by taking her to clubs, and trying to get her laid. Lee's a virgin, and there isn't exactly a lot of out people at her high school, although Bina (Aasha Davis), a more popular student, who's mother is close with Alike's mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans), has expressed some bi-curious thoughts. Audrey notices that Lee is gay. She knows Laura is, and works hard trying to force her to wear more girly clothes and all but bans Laura from being near here. Lee's father, Arthur (Charles Parnell) also begrudgingly knows she's gay. He's a high-level detective who's constantly at work all hours. That he's a cop is a clue to why he's ever-so-slightly more accepting of Alike. He knows the neighborhood well, including the gay nightclubs, and has probably had to deal with more-than-his-fair-share of homeless gay teens, and others in the community, although he can't even say the words or talk straight about anything. Also, he seems to be hiding, presumably an affair of his own from Audrey. Their house is full of dialogue that's at right angles to what the characters really want to say, or wish they can say, or try very hard to not say. In that respect, the dialogue, and in some cases, the lack of dialogue, is very well written. The acting is also incredible, across the board. The movie, in a way, shows, not just the struggle of an African-American teen, who's still in the process of coming out as a lesbian, but perhaps, in a more subtle way, it reveals how this is slowly becoming more accepted in the community. Slowly, but surely. Laura's just not getting over some of the struggles she faced, but Alike, may not have to struggle as much. In that sense, I look at "Pariah," and see it as, a surprisingly hopeful movie.

GOD BLESS AMERICA (2012) Director: Bobcat Goldthwait


For those who don't care that much for the metaphoric commentary of our exploitative media culture in "The Hunger Games," you might appreciate the more upfront fantasy approach to the subject in Bobcat Goldthwait's "God Bless America". Where in "The Hunger Games," while they criticize it, they are actually still participating within it, here, for the most part, there's blatant criticism, and at least a suggested way of solving the problem. Not the best way, it involves,-, well, basically it is, murdering everybody involved with it, but that's hardly the worst way, and actually can seem fun. Frank (Joel Murray) is divorced from Alison (Melinda Page Hamilton) who's little kid Ava (Mackenzie Brooke Smith) is spoiled rotten as it is, and now, he doesn't want to be around her father, claiming there's not much to do at his apartment. There isn't, but she also throws temper tantrums at getting a blackberry and not an iphone. (Or is it the other way around? Ah, who cares?) Frank spends his quiet nights at home looking for something substantial to watch on TV, and instead finds spoiled little Jersey Shore wannabes, reality shows about people getting injured trying dumb stunts, and an "American Idol"-style show, where a really incompetent and delusional singing contestant is quickly made to become the next famous star of the week, Steven Clarke. (Aris Alvarado, think, a mentally-challenged William Hung that looks a little like Jonah Hill, before he lost the weight.) Frank is annoyed at how the world is becoming and blames the exploitative reality TV culture. After losing his job for trying to comfort one of his co-workers who was sad, and after finding out he has an inoperable brain tumor, he contemplates suicide, but decides to start by at least killing one of these untalented spoiled reality stars. He narrows in on spoiled rich teen bitch Chloe (Maddie Hasson) who complains about her father getting her the wrong car for her birthday. Her parents (Larry Miller and Dorie Barton) can't believe they made such a foolish decision either. Frank handcuffs Chloe in her substandard $50,000+ plus car, and blow it up Anton Chigurh style, or if that doesn't work, just shoot her a bunch of times. After that, Frank gets a fan in one of the witnesses, a former classmate of Chloe, Roxy (Tara Lynn Barr).who couldn't stand her, or most of these incessant douchebags polluting the airways, and after some convincing, she convinces Frank to go after a lot of these people ruining the world. Starting now with Chloe's parents, then moving on to people who talk, phone and text during movies, cable news commentators who make Glenn Beck look liberal moderate, they even swing by a cemetery to take down a group of religious zealots protesting a funeral because the deceased happened to be Jewish. (Either Jewish or gay, or both, it doesn't matter they're dead, and deserved to be, and hey, they're already at the cemetery.) They discuss the possibility of killing Diablo Cody for a bit, but finally decide against it. Now, I know a bit about what you're thinking, with this middle-aged man and this teenage girl on a crime spree, and yeah, it's a little creepy. They bring it up a bit, they run into a Pancake-Eating Pedophile (Tony V.) at one point. Frank and Roxy talk about it a bit though, and after all that, well, it's still creepy. Can't really help that, but yeah that's a questionable choice by Bobcat, but I found the movie fun anyway. It's more of a fantasy. If your life's pretty much over, I think the most decent think you could possibly do is start a shooting spree inside Fox News, or on the set of "I Love New York," or something that's equally ridiculous. Take out Simon Cowell maybe (Or his wannabes). I accept "God Bless America," as pure id fantasy. A movie for all those people who want to shoot the TV screen out when nothing good's on, like Elvis once did. (Man, if he saw TV now....) What do you call a country that loves those who try to systematically murder all those who are the fame-whoring mongers who've turned the culture from one of a Mary Tyler Moore heroine to one that idolizes Johnny Fairplay? I say, "God Bless America". 

LIKE CRAZY (2011) Director: Drake Doramus

1 1/2 STARS

"Like Crazy," has been the subject of criticism in the film world since it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year, and I can understand why. The movie for about twenty minutes, starts out really well. It involves a relationship between two college coeds, Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones). He's an American studying furniture design, she's a Brit on a student visa studying writing. So far, it's a cute little story. They seem cute, they're clearly in a blissfully quick kinda love, but he's certainly a more-than-adequate companion for Anna to show her parents Bernard (Olivier Muirhead) and Jacky (Alex Kingston), who are upper middle class Brits who seem to love playing "Balderdash". (Which to me, seems like a strange board game choice, but whatever.) Then, Anna makes the decision to stay past her student visa and stay with Jacob for a couple extra months. The reason? Love, maybe. It's not where the title comes from, but it really was like crazy, and pointless to do that. I say that it was pointless, because I've gone back over the movie in my head a few times now, and the movie could have hypothetically been pretty much the same, without that choice. The intention however, is to understand the choice that she made, to be so in love with somebody that they would risk never being allowed back into the country just to be with him again. Yeah, that's the problem. When you actually think about her decision, it doesn't make any sense. Not that long-distance relationships ever work, but let's just say that, she's in London, and he's in L.A., she's a rising star at a British magazine, which seems to consist only of her boss's office, where she gets informed of her newest and biggest promotions, but then she meets Simon (Charlie Bewley) and her feeling get more complicated, while Jacob meets Sam (Jennifer Lawrence) and his feelings also suddenly get more complicated. That in of itself, hypothetically could work, but A., we lose most of our sympathy with Anna after making her rash decision, and B. Even if we did buy it, their love story isn't developed well-enough for us to care about her drastic, possibly life-altering stupid rash decision, when she's making it. There's elements here for a decent film, but eventually, with all the drawback, continually coming back to this, one decision just gets frustrating on us, and frankly we don't care about these characters anyway.

WEEKEND (2011) Director: Andrew Haigh


"Weekend," is the ballad of Russel (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New). They hook up for a one-night stand one night, at least that's what they think, but afterwards, they start to talk. About life, about each other, past relationships, how the came out..., there's clearly a connection between them, and they decide to spend time exploring it. Unfortunately, they're on a time crunch. One of them is leaving for America. "For one long?" Russell asks. "Two years." I guess there's a few simplistic ways of looking at "Weekend," by that description. Comparison with films like David Lean's "Brief Encounter" and Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise," and "Before Sunset," are inevitable. They're more than compatible in the bedroom. Glen a little more outgoing. Russell is more private, guarded. He works as a lifeguard. Most of his friends are straight, and he doesn't really open up to them about his own struggles with romance. In the beginning, he's hanging out with them at a nightclub. Nothing seems inoccuous, but then, after, he picks up Glen at a gay bar. There's not a lot of time to get to know each other. Glen tries recording as much as he can, with a tape recorder he constantly carries around to ask provocative questions. We'd like for them to end up together, although we long know that that happening is a bit of a longshot, but perhaps they're bound to be one of those memories in the back of people's minds. What could've been, what might've been. Those moments where two people actually connect are so rare that it's worth exploring every available moment they can. "Weekend," is about one of those connections. It's a bare film of the kind of things that it takes for two people to fall in love. Sometimes it takes a lifetime, or in this case, a weekend. Naturally, they part at the airport, which memories, desires, and possibly regrets. I don't know if "Weekend," is the best of these sort of movies, but it's a good one.
BEING ELMO: A PUPPETEER'S STORY (2011) Director: Constance Marks

4 1/2 STARS

I so associate the Muppets with Jim Henson, that occasionally, I forget that..., well, I guess I shouldn't forget that there's others, he's been dead twenty years, but we haven't heard about too many of them until now. Although I've seen brief glimpses of Kevin Clash over the years, usually when he's collecting one of his many Emmys, but in "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Story," we get a very personal and rare glimpse of a man who's probably had the most famous post-Henson career as a muppeteer. Clash was one of the first African-Americans to work with Henson. He snuck away from a class field trip to visit the set of "Sesame Street" when he was a teenager. He started making puppets of his own years earlier, and even began getting slots on local television in the D.C. area. He worked for Captain Kangaroo, and a few others before finally permanently working with Henson on "Labyrinth." Elmo, wasn't his original creation, but it literally got thrown in his lap, after the original puppeteer was too frustrated with how we wasn't coming out too well. Clash turned the character into one that's the young child that's full of love and care. The one who's easily become the most popular character on "Sesame Street," the one who's constantly requested by terminally ill children to meet, and the one that became a cultural phenomenon when the Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls came out. There's a deep sense of emotional care into everything Clash does. His puppets, his family, everything. He created some other wonderful Muppets, my favorite would be Clifford, but it's that emotional center that makes him ideal for Elmo. He always seems on the verge of tears when being interviewed, even when he's not. There's a wonderful moment at the end of the movie, where he leads of tour of a little African-American girl through the Muppet workshop, just like he got when he was her age, as she's been creating her homemade puppets too. It's actually quite fascinating how incredible the magic of Jim Henson can inspire generations, still. "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey," shows us that for now, the work of Jim Henson is clearly in safe hands for years to come.

ROADIE (2012) Dirctor: Michael Cuesta

1 1/2 STARS

I remember that one of the more memorable disagreements I had with my Mom in recent years regarding a film, was over Michael Cuesta's first feature-length directorial film "Twelve and Holding". I won't claim that I was wrong in not recommending that film, but I'll admit that I thought her arguments, in terms of some of the metaphoric imagery used in that film were rather interesting, and credible. So, I was looking forward to "Roadie," his latest feature film, which couldn't be more different from "Twelve and Holding," but also isn't nearly as interesting as that film, and frankly, there isn't two-sides to "Roadie", in fact there's barely one. A roadie is a guy who's hired by rock bands to come on tour with them, and basically haul and set-up all of their equipment. Instruments, amplifiers, stuff like that. Occasionally, they can lead to other jobs in the music industry, such as producers and record executives. There's one cool story about a roadie that got to play guitar onstage with Metallica for awhile after James Hetfield burnt his hand during a pyrotechnic mishap and couldn't play for most of a tour. For most people, it's more of a temporary job that can easily be replaced. Jimmy Testegros (Ron Eldard) is learning that first-hand. He's back home in Long Island after he's been fired after decades of being the roadie for Blue Oyster Cult. He hasn't been home since his father died a few years back, and now his mother, (Lois Smith) is struggling with-, eh, getting old syndrome, I guess. It's not consistent or inconsistent enough for me to even call it Movie Alzheimer's, but she's certainly erratic, switching between tending to her garden, and making Jimmy a sandwich through the whole movie. Jimmy ends up at a local bar, where his old high school bully, Randy Stevens (Bobby Cannavale), who's still calling him "testicles", years later, and is now married to Jimmy's ex-girlfriend Nikki (Jill Hennessy, nice to see her for the first time in a while.), who coincidentally, has taken up a late-in-life career as a singer/songwriter with a regular gig at the local bar on Sunday night. Randy likes to play up with Rock star dream, by getting a motel room every Sunday night, pre-show, and having a nice drinking and drugs party, and naturally with Randy there, it's gonna get violent, and some things from high school are gonna get revealed, in bad ways. As a film, no necessarily predictable, but nothing was surprising either. Even the final conflict with Jimmy and his Mom at the end, over why he never picked up the guitar himself, seems a little light on drama. As a character study, maybe it's hypothetically accurate, but despite actors like Hennessy, and especially Cannavale giving it all, there's really not much here. One of the reasons Cuesta might be better with television is that he doesn't write the scripts, and the actors are far more comfortable with their characters, especially if the show's been on for awhile. They're characters are far more elaborate and drawn out. I think he tries to develop that in his films, but the lack of success is bothersome. "Roadie," isn't just bad, it's actually almost instantly forgettable, and that's really depressing. There's interesting material here, but Eldard's character, seems to have nothing to do. The other characters were far more interesting than he was, and his stumbling around them just was annoying. Maybe it was the acting; Cannavale is great at stealing any scene he's in, he's really one of the best and most underrated actors alive, but he also had a more interesting character. (Or he's so talented, he just decided to make it more interesting, which I wouldn't put past him.)  

ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (2011) Director: Jean-Pierre Ameris

4 1/2 STARS

"Romantics Anonymous," is a bit of a mistranslation of the French title, "Les Emotifs Anonymes"; it should really be Emotions Anonymous, but either way, it's a little bit of a leap of faith to accept that such a group would actually sit around and meet once a week like alcoholics, or some other kinds of anonymous groups, but there's a bunch of chocolate involved, so I took the leap. Angelique (Isabel Carre) is a chocolatier, who's looking for a new job, and finds it as a salesgirl at an old chocolate factory that's going towards bankruptcy, despite their chocolates being of excellent quality.  Angelique is painfully shy, and it's a bit of a struggle for her to walk into a room, much less walking into a store, with a bunch of samplers trying to sell chocolate. Even fighting her nerves though, the chocolates aren't selling. The factory is run by Jean-Rene (Benoit Poelvoorde), who's also painfully shy but hides it well by being the standoffish boss that nobody likes. It's clear that Jean-Rene and Angelique have a connection. They're quite similarly afraid of confronting emotions and being out in front of people, even each other, and they both love chocolate. We learn later that Angelique, was previously a mysterious chocolate maker that sold her chocolates at another shoppe, who's owner, M. Mercier (Claude Aufaure) recently passed away. Nobody knew who she was, although, rumors spread rapidly. Now, with this new shoppe in dire straits, she has to figure out how to save the shoppe, while not revealing either who true identity, or her fears, while also falling in love with Jean-Rene. It's light, it's simple, it's a bit whimsical (How can you not be whimsical when chocolate is the centerpiece of your work), and I loved it a lot. "Romantics Anonymous," is said on the box, as one critic put it, a cross between "Amelie," and "Chocolat". I think it's more "Chocolat," than "Amelie," but he's not far off. It's a sweet little story, not too long, it's barely 80 minutes, and almost too narrowly  focuses in on our main couple, and some of the interesting troubles between them, and they fumble through trying to be with court each other, and fumble through things after courting each other. There's a few colorful supporting characters as well, not too much though. Angelique's mother, (Christine Millet) is in the movie, just long enough to let us know why Angelique is the way she is, and not a second longer, without any extra exposition. "Romantics Anonymous," is a wonderfully, delectable little French romance, that everyone should enjoy. Had a lot of fun with it.

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (2008) Director: Kar-Wai Wong

2 1/2 STARS

I'm starting to be completely baffled by the continual praise that Wong Kar-Wai continually gets. I've seen many of his films now, including "In the Mood for Love," which, ranked exceptionally high on "Sight & Sound" recent polls, especially by filmmakers, but most of the time, he's just leave me cold. He's craft is great, but his storytelling never seems complete thoughts through. For one thing, somebody should teach him how the "Rule of Three" works. That was his big problem with "Chungking Express," and it's a bit of a problem here for one of his rare English Language films, "My Blueberry Nights". This one, is kinda like "Eat, Pray, Love," without the money to afford the trips, so the main girl, had to waitress for minimum wage the whole way. The girl in this one is Elizabeth (Norah Jones), who's in an occasional flirtation with Jeremy (Jude Law) who owns the New York diner she works at, as both of them are still coming off the affairs that have either ended badly for them, or are in the process of ending badly. They share their thoughts on life at the end of shifts with the leftover blueberry pie from the day before. It's then that, for some reason, probably to separate them for most of the movie, she begins traveling across country to, well, find herself. Her first stop is Nashville where she befriends Arnie (David Straitharn) the greasy spoon's late-night boozehound who's always celebrating his last night of sobriety. By day, he a cop, who seems put together well-enough, but by night, he pines over his divorce, from Sandy (Adriane Lenox), even though it's been years since the breakup. Later on, working in a Nevada casino, Elizabeth meets Leslie (Natalie Portman) a professional poker player who's broke and makes a deal with Elizabeth to stake her her savings, in exchange for a car and a ride to Vegas with some ulterior motives all around the scene. That scene in of itself was quite interesting, but by the end of that sequence, everything seems even more muddled. All the while of her travels, Jeremy is still playing the on-again, off-again dance with Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz) his ex-girlfriend who stills comes to the diner after hours. It's clear to me that Wong is trying to make his films work more on an emotional level, as opposed to a literal one, but even on that level, I had a very difficult time finding much emotions, particularly with Elizabeth because she's basically just running around the country, being an eyewitness to others. She doesn't even do that enough. I told you, rule of three, and New York doesn't count. If you're gonna do this structure, with intriguing but ultimately unimportant episodic vignettes, she should've been at a third diner somewhere. Maybe Seattle, working at a coffeeshop would've made sense, before she then returns to Jeremy in New York, so there long-delayed love story can finally begin. Still, I found myself more interested in this film that most of Wong Kar-Wai's, but I think that's more the settings and the lighting, which is always great in his films, and the mood of the movie. Norah Jones contributed to much of the music as well as acting. She's a capable actress for the material, and has some great chemistry with Jude Law. I know I'm not the only one to find "My Blueberry Nights underwhelming, it's been one of Wong's least-successful critical films, but I'm always underwhelmed by him. I think I actually appreciate the ideas in the movie better than most of his films, but the execution, and the emotional impact, is only so-so for me. 

WE LIVE IN PUBLIC (2009) Director: Omni Timonder


It's not an unfair statement to say that Josh Harris was a little bit ahead of his time, which is saying something considering the world he worked in was the internet. He was the pioneer behind, the first internet TV network. This was back during the boom of the '90s, and it was just one of his many so-called "projects" he had. He also occasionally dressed as his clown-alter ego Luvvie, which he named after Ms. Howell's pet name on his favorite show, "Gilligan's Island". To Harris, his foreshadowing of the future of the internet was revolutionary, but the manor in which it came out was almost Warholesque performance art. After he was kicked out of for his erratic behavior, he created a project called "Quiet!"  Which involved dozens of people, living in this underground cave which is completely lacking of all privacy from the hundreds of videocameras, all of which are connected to the web, and they had TVs which were connected to each other. The space had everything you'd want for your post-Y2K Orwellian dictatorship. Public showers, 5-star food and drinks and drugs, a church, an underground shooting range, medical personnel, it's own police,... everybody even had their own uniforms, for awhile. They also had their own little bunk with TVs that tuned into everybody else's own TV, so you can watch everybody else, while you're being watched. These were some of his projects. His last well-known one involved him and his then-girlfriend living their entire lives online. The channel had a following, and even his ex-girlfriend said it was fun for awhile, but Josh started losing control. Last heard, he's ran an apple farm in Oregon, and has traveled to places like Ethiopia. Now, he's fairly forgotten, even among many of the modern-day internet leaders. The first man through the door always ends up bloody, but the way Harris behaved, he was ending up bloody either way. He sees the internet almost as an art project, and his works are elaborate commentaries on the future. Now, he busted during after the bubble burst. Nobody, including his family even believes these gimmicks about the apple farm, are mearly just another part of his elaborate pseudo-performance art pieces. "Oh, he's an apple farmer now." "We Live in Public," is a good informative and strange biopic on this mad genius that is Josh Harris. It's a fascinating look at one of the bigger crashes of the boom, but it's also one of the but it's also the biggest warning story.

SHOW ME LOVE (1999) Director: Lukas Moodysson


"Show Me Love," is  a Swedish film, but I could easily have seen this movie made practically anywhere, and probably an American version of this high school teen light melodrama would be nice. It takes place in one of those out-of-the-way areas where the popular girls in the high school, are the cool ones. Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) is a mousy little girl who doesn't have any friends, and is never invited to any of the parties where popular girls like Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrom) frequently attend, party, get drunk, get hit on and felt up by guys, puke, often at the same time. Personally, she's getting tired of it, and despite rumors, she isn't that impressed with the few guys she's been with. Agnes's mother, Karin (Maria Hedborg) invited Elin and some of the other cool kids, against Agnes's wishes, for her birthday party,and they show up, mostly to make fun of her. Agnes is secretly in love with Elin, but knows that their presence is intended as ironic. Elin, on a dare kisses Agnes, who's long-rumored to be a lesbian, and then her and her friends rush out for the local party. However, Elin, begins having second thoughts about the act. At first, apologetic feeling about her cruelty (adding insult to injury, it was Agnes's first kiss, ever.) but as she attends the party to the same tired crap, she begins thinking about Agnes differently. It's one thing for the shy nerdy-girl who looks like she reads Sylvia Plathe all day to be a lesbian, but what about a popular girl who has all the latest clothes and is the best-looking girl in the class? She meets up with her to apologize, and start to hang out, and even brings her along to the party, and begin to secretly realize their in love. "Show Me Love," is the kind of slice-of-life, that probably isn't nearly as unusual as some may think. It always seems to become common knowledge after high school that looks can be deceiving, and here's a good example of how somebody might be good at trying to fit in,but it might not be what she really wants. I usually never care for these "Stresses of high school kliq" tales, but it works here. Possibly because it's a little lighter and more fun. This feels like a real high school to me, and nothing comes off as implausible. There's no bullies or any post-decision effects, or any other stupid cliches. It's just a nice little story of first love, and how that can be scary and difficult for both people involved to deal with.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Callie Khouri

“Thelma & Louise,” has never been a particular favorite of mine, mostly admiring it for it’s relevance to politics and pop culture than anything else. Truth be told, the only reason for my most recent viewing, was for a class, and even then I skipped the showing and had to watch it on my own time. It’s been held by feminist groups as a historical benchmark, being one of the few films with women leads who are not only 3-dimensional characters but also rebel against a world that places them as, for lack of a better term, second class citizens. Outside of that, there’s nothing particularly creative or important about the film in terms of story or plot, you can basically change Thelma & Louise to Butch & Sundance and not be too far off. Yet, recently the film got to me in ways I hadn’t realized the film could. There’s the famous melodramatic near-rape scene that sends Thelma and Louise (Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon respectively) on the run from the law and eventually escaping their lives and society, but where the film works oddly enough is in quiet moments like how after the murdering Thelma’s would-be rapist, Louise spends an awfully long time thinking about what to do next, and we actually believe that she doesn’t know what to do next, or what is going to happen. The film, surprisingly enough was directed by Ridley Scott, more famous for films like “Alien,” and “Blade Runner,” at the time, and in the future for “Gladiator,” and “Black Hawk Down,”among others. I am actually one of his most vocal critics, often noting how in many of his films he spends way too much time understating the movie with metaphoric images and sequences, often forgetting or disregarding the story or plot. In every version of “Blade Runner,” this hurts the film, and “Gladiator”to me is an embarrassment because of it, especially considering how it won so many Oscars. Oddly enough here though, he uses these moments as well, but he uses them sparingly but also correctly, not to understate any metaphor, but to create complete characters out of Thelma & Louise, like how Louise can simultaneously love and completely abandon her current boyfriend Jimmy (Michael Madsen) without a particular care in the world, and how Thelma, well, I’ve never put Geena Davis on the top of my actors I’d like to work with list, but maybe she’s a better actress than I thought, but that being said, Thelma is complete ditz who seems to constantly find a way of getting the two of them into more trouble. She falls instantly for a young hitchhiker, J.D. (Brad Pitt, in his star-making role) who even tells her he’s a robber, but she fucks him anyway, mostly out of anger for her dead beat husband (Christopher McDonald), and despite the fact they’re now broke, her spirit is rejuvenated giving her the confidence to use what abilities she does have to their cause. It’s interesting that there is a script with a truly complete character that can be looked upon as a hero, but still be a complete dingbat. The script is by Callie Khouri, who had the best Hollywood nobody-with-a-script-to-Oscar winner story until Diablo Cody came around. Khouri had a catering company and was working the food table on a film set when someone asked her if she had a script, and she passed on her script for “Thelma & Louise.” It would win her an Oscar and she’d go on to write“Something to Talk About,” and even directed her own film, “The Divine Sisters of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”. What makes “Thelma & Louise,” hold up now is the incredible acting by both Davis and especially Sarandon, and how they’re able to not only fully embody these characters, but how they’re able to get make us believe these characters have truly changed from who they were in the film’s beginning, a waitress and a housewife, to who they’ve become after a series of somewhat random and unfortunate events. There’s a scene near the end of the movie that shouldn’t work but does, involving the two girls pulling over a gas trucker who they’ve been running into periodically, and they finally decide to take out some rage against him for making lude facial expressions and comments. The scene is a stop in the action and has little to do with anything else in the movie, but by the time we get to the scene we know why they do what they do to the guy, and his tanker, and we know why they had no other option than having to do what they did. As to the film’s famous final scene, let me say this, there’s something interesting in how the Harvey Keitel character, playing the cop that heads after them, a member of the society they’re supposedly escaping from was probably willing and able to help them out if only he had gotten to them sooner. The ending is shocking and bitter because unlike Butch and Sundance, who were always bank robbers, all it would’ve took was one phone call or even a few different breaks. It didn’t have to be that way.

Sunday, August 19, 2012



Last night, I finally got around to watching the HBO movie, "Temple Grandin".I had purposefully been putting it off for some time, but eventually I got around to it. In terms of a movie, it was quite entertaining, and very well-made. The way in which they managed to edit the movie, using imaginary images, while juxtaposing numerous photographic images and film pictures together, to get a sense of how Temple's mind works was quite inventive, and creative. I also want to point, how while I've always loved Claire Danes, I hadn't really thought about her as one of the greatest actresses working today, until now, and now I want to kick myself for now having that observation previously. The performances were strong, and it was quite a powerful biopic, one of the best I've seen in a while in fact. It was very good, and now I can proudly declare that I have absolutely no intention of ever seeing it again. Didn't want to see it this time. In fact, it was a physical struggle for me to sit through this film.

You see, the title character, Temple Grandin is autistic. I've known who she is, long before this movie ever came out. I can give you the statistics on autism, and symptoms, and the signs, and the fact that there's no cure, and no identified cause either, but you can go look those up on any medical website. The statistic I care about is one, my brother. While my Mom is at work, I, a 27 year-old college graduate, spend my days watching my autistic brother. Frankly, I think one of the reasons I spend so much time devoted to movies and television and other forms of entertainment is that I basically use whatever I can to distract myself from my life. I think we all do that to some extent. It's a curious conundrum though. They tell us when we begin creative writing in some way, in my case, mostly screenplays, to start with the idea "Write what you know." Frankly, when it comes to what I know, I often don't want to write about it. Frankly, I don't want to watch it either, especially when I have to live with it all day. That's another oddity. We often watch such things as film and television to find characters and situations that relate to us. Things that we can identify with, or short of that, things we would like to be able to experience and/or identify with. It's a natural dilemma, we want to identify with a character, but not so much that we're watching our lives on screen. Now, my brother, Robbie, is nothing like Temple Grandin. Yes, they're both autistic, but she's a much more high-functioning autistic than my brother. She wasn't always, and they made note of that, and sometimes that does happen. It didn't with my brother, but there was definitely a lot that I related to with that film, too much so for me to really say that I enjoyed it. That's a typical problem with many kinds of films. They used to say that you couldn't have a movie or TV show that took place in an office, because too many people work in offices, and they don't want to come home and feel like they're at work when they're trying to be entertained. Some would say that "The Office,"'s success on American TV is proof that that hypothesis is incorrect. (Some of you who might be saying "Office Space," I'd point out that A., that was more of a revenge fantasy for an office worker, and also that it wasn't a major success when it first came out.)

I think we all will eventually run into something in entertainment that will make us cringe, not because of what's in the movie itself, but because the way it's done is too close on a personal level, and oftentimes, that will mean that we aren't particularly capable of watching the film properly. I mentioned one, briefly, a long time ago that I had that problem originally with the film "Mercury Rising". For those who don't remember, A. you're lucky, and B. that a film where Bruce Willis had to investigate a murder of the parents of a little autistic boy, and had a startling accurate portrayal of a young kid who had autism, and the difficulties involved in having to watch over him. I watched that film once, years ago. Now, I recognize how terrible the film is, as I recognize now the insipid way the filmmaker's used autism as a plot device to springboard the film into an high-level government conspiracy/action thriller shoot-em-up film, which really is just wrong on so many levels, but at the time, especially knowing how bizarrely accurate they portrayed autism in the film, it just simply unnerved me. It took me years, maybe a decade, for me to think back on that film subjectively to realize it's structural flaws. The other similar experience I had was in a middle school class, I don't remember the subject, but we were watching the original version of "The Miracle Worker". During the scene, were Anne Sullivan, played by Anne Bancroft, was doing everything to Helen Keller, played by Patty Duke, in order to get her to sit down and eat her dinner, including throwing a bucket of water of her, on top of lots of other unusual learning tactics, the class was laughing and getting really excited. The teacher had predicted that reaction even beforehand, giving us the expectation that a memorable and fun scene was forthcoming. For most of the class, it was just that. When the bell rang for the next class, I couldn't get out of my chair right away. I didn't laugh, I wasn't excited, I was just trying to regain my composure. When the teacher noticed my reaction, I explained to her that, having an autistic brother, the scene was a bit, "too real" for me. It was, so I took a minute, and showed up a little late for lunch I think. It might've been the next class, I don't remember now.

I bet many of you might be thinking about "Rain Man," and actually, that was a film that I used to love when I was younger. Yes, it was accurate, but it also told a good story around it, that wasn't condescending. It also helped that my brother isn't a savant like "Rain Man," so I didn't necessarily associate myself or my brother into the film, especially so that we were both much younger back then. Now though, as we're both much older, and I know that someday my brother will eventually have to be sent to some place that will hopefully take care of him, it isn't as watchable a film for me that it used to be.

I think the conundrum that I'm coming down to, is this, awkward area between real life and entertainment, and just how much real life can/should be in entertainment. I made a decision years ago that personally, I would never write about my personal experiences, if at all possible, regarding my life, directly. Symbolically, I have, but literally, I'm never revealing that part of my life to people. It wasn't an easy choice by the way; there was a time where I thought, one of my objectives in choosing filmmaking as a major and career choice, was to put my life, the way I saw it, and experienced it, out there, so others can understand. A lot of people do things like that, and the best of those artists, managed to make it palatable, and even relateable to the masses. Eventually though, I realized that, why I wanted to get into film was to escape from it whenever I can. So, why would I want to have others experience it? It quite simply didn't make sense. That doesn't mean that films shouldn't be made about the subject, it just means that I would rather not be the one making them, because personally, I'd rather not see them. Like I said, when I look I don't want to be reminded of my life. That's why I'll never watch "Temple Grandin," again, but on the other hand, I'm glad I did watch it, and I'm very happy that someone as amazing as her, did finally get to have her amazing life story made into a movies. People like Temple Grandin should have movies made about her. Not because she's autistic, but because she's an extraordinary person, period. As a film viewer, I overcame my personal prejudices to watch, which I think we should do no matter what subject matter gets under our own personal skin, if for nothing else, but because it allows for us to enjoy such amazing and talented works. It isn't easy; I can't claim that it gets any easier over time. For some of us, no matter how rigidly they may stick to a classical structure, some things we watch to entertain us, will not be nearly as cathartic an experience that we wish them to be, even if it was intended to be one. I highly recommend that everybody should watch "Temple Grandin". (or at least wikipedia Temple Grandin, and learn a bit about her) I say that not because I know about autism, I say it because it's a good movie. I'm happy I can say that, but I have no intention of reliving it, ever again. That may hypocritical to some extent, but to me, it's just, simply, a personal truth of mine.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


A few weeks ago, I asked you, the readers, to come up with your own lists of the "Ten Best TV Shows of All-Time". I had two purposes for doing this, one, was to get more people commenting on my blog, because frankly, hardly anybody does. I even encouraged disagreement from me, and frankly, I still want more readers to comment on my blog. It's nice to have an ever-growing audience, last month for instance, was the first time we reached 2,000 hits in a month, so I know people are reading my blog, but nobody was commenting on anything I wrote, good or bad, and frankly I'd prefer to have some input by you as to what you guys think. So, the first reason, was to come up with a topic that would naturally gravitate and induced you, the audience, to respond, and I gave you guys multiple ways of doing that. Commenting on my blog, through my Facebook, or through my Twitter, in fact, I even created a hashtag for the occasion. #TENGREATESTTVSHOWS. So far, though, if you count me, I have a grand total of 3, people who have turned in a list of their "Ten Greatest TV Shows". So obviously, while I got literally, a couple, readers to respond, I didn't get enough. I want to thank "The Critic Show," which is now called "Beyond the Screen," for entering their choices, and trying to spread the word a bit, but still, I haven't received nearly the fan input that I was aiming for. Saying that though, I've decided to press, and ask people, once again to submit their lists, and the reason for that, is the second reason.  I brought it up a bit in my original blog post, which you can link to below:

But my main intention was to create a definite list of the Ten Greatest TV shows, of all-time, similar to that of the poll that "Sight & Sound" magazine takes every ten years for movies. Recently, they released the results of that poll, which I've already discussed heavily here as well, as most of you are aware. ("Vertigo" beat out "Citizen Kane" this year, if you haven't heard) I said that because one of the problems with other lists about television is that they try to take into account all forms of television, or genres for that matter, and determine a show's importance, on top of a show's quality. For instance, I noted that the "Today" show, ranked 17th on a TV Guide Top 50 list a while back, and while "Today" is an important and influential show, I argued that it's kinda ridiculous to even put it in such a conversation, and I think a lot of shows, can make that claim. Now, there's two ways to go about this, one, is to completely separate genres completely. Best Sitcoms, Best Dramas, best Soap Operas, Best talk shows, best reality, etc. etc. While, part of that, is somewhat fun-sounding, and it can be. I'm a list-maker, and I love ranking things, but if we're talking the very best of an art form, like television, if were start, breaking down and comparing genres, almost exclusively, it brings down television as a whole. There's this group, that's one group of television, and everything on television is separate, and in their own little. Now, we can do that with film too, and we do. We separate genres, we separate by length, short films and feature lengths, we can list comedies and drama, and the AFI even did multiple Top 10 lists of subgenres, like westerns, and animation and romantic-comedies and courtroom dramas and a bunch more. It's tempting to do that, and it helps make comparisons simpler and more distinct. With television, it's easier to do, 'cause there's more genres. That's why, I think a "Sight and Sound"-type structure, is more important though, to let's really include everything, and all cards on the table, what really are the absolute greatest of an art form, in this case, television. When "Sight and Sound," did their first poll in 1952, it varies a bit depending on when people consider the beginning of film, but moving pictures had been around, for about, 60 or 70 years maybe a little older, but it didn't start reaching the masses, until the around the turn of the century, which is around the time when it started developing as an art form. Around the time of Melies and the Lemiere Brothers, and all the others of that time. Television has an equally complicated beginning, some patents go back to the 19th Century, but Let's say from the '39 World's Fair, where it heavily found an awareness in America, and let's call the late '40s, as when TV started reaches the masses, across the Western World, so by that standard, TV's been around, about as long as moving pictures were when "Sight and Sound," took their initial poll. I think there's a good justifiable argument to be made that, it's really time to begin narrowing this down a bit, and really begin discussing, of all of television, what really is the greatest programs they've ever created.

So, so far, there's been three responses, including mine; so, really 2, and one of those was my Mom. (And I very much appreciate it, thanks Mom.) I want more people this time participating, and let's share and pass this blog around a bit. Get a lot of people interested. I'm sure some of you, must have your own thoughts on this. Remember, anything is eligible, as long as it was originally a television program. Any genre, any kind of show, daytime, primetime, late night, PBS, news magazines, reality,... whatever. However, you can only list 10. You can't list 11 (Although my Mom tried), you can't list 5. You must list 10, and only 10. It's your list entirely, but I want to stress, we're talking GREATEST. It's easy to pick favorites, and you can, but we're aiming for absolute best. (So, if you wanna put "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" on there, you probably want to have decent argument, set. Just saying.)

Okay, here's the three ballots entered so far.

1. M*A*S*H
2. All in the Family
3. Cheers
4. Seinfeld
5. The Dick Van Dyke Show
6. The West Wing
7. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
8. The Honeymooners ('55)
9. Roseanne
10. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

MICHELE BARUFFI (My Mom's Official list)
1. The West Wing
2. M*A*S*H
3. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
4. Murphy Brown
5. Jeopardy! ('84)
6. Donahue ('70)
7. Law & Order ('90)
8. Married... with Children
9. The Twilight Zone ('59)
10. Saturday Night Live

PATRICK BENNETT (of "The Critic Show", nka "Beyond the Screen")
V (Series, '84)*
Knight Rider ('82)*
The A-Team
Magnum P.I.
Miami Vice
Battlestar Gallactica ('78)*
The Six Million Dollar Man
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century ('79, Series)*
The Greatest American Hero

So, that's all I've gotten so far. You'll notice Patrick Bennett chose not to rank his list of the Top Ten. That's totally fine, you don't have to rank, 'cause the way this will eventually be counted is based the amount of times a show gets mentioned. Rankings may come into effect, in case of tiebreakers, but it's hard enough coming up with only 10, I'm not requiring people to rank them all, although I do recommend it. So right now, "M*A*S*H" and "The West Wing" have been mentioned twice, so they'd be 1 and 2, respectively and 28 other shows are tied for third. There's three interesting lists here, but we need a lot more than that. So, come up with your list, and like earlier, either post them on my blog, contact me on Facebook, or on twitter. I've been rethinking the Hashtag, but it's still in effect, so either #TENGREATESTTVSHOWS, or to my twitter account @DavidBaruffi_EV.

Note: The * next to a few shows indicates that there's multiple titles for the names given, and I haven't confirmed which exact series was voted on here. (Although I did write-in what I deemed a reasonable guesses for which series was intended) As soon as possible, we'll get confirmation on which exact shows were voted on, the list will be properly corrected if necessary.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Sorry for the delay this week everybody. I didn't intend on it. I also want to apologize for my previous blog. Not for anything I wrote, and I stand by it all, but it was an annoying personal rant, and frankly I try to use this blog for better things than that, but honestly, I don't always have that option/opportunity. It's since been, mostly settled, me and Netflix, and my bank. Hopefully there won't be any more issues with that. Frankly, now, I have issues with my computer. Apparently, I've gotten a virus that's attacked my Clear, my internet provider, installation device, and it's effected, possibly everything on my computer, which includes, many of my Canon of Film posts that I haven't posted yet, as well as my Lists, and numerous screenplays and drafts that I've written, as well as other personal things, basically my entire life. I thought that it could be singled down to a single USB drive, which may or may not be infected, but there it is. Let's hope for the best. I have a temporary computer and alternate internet source for now, so hopefully these blogs will remain regular, but I apologize in advance for any future delays. I do sincerely try to avoid them as much as possible, but this time, it couldn't be avoided.

Well, enough updates on, well, me, let's get to the Movie Reviews!

CARNAGE (2011) Director: Roman Polanski


Not that I ever particularly thought Yasmina Reza's Tony-winning play "God of Carnage" was that filmable to begin with, but Roman Polanski would've been one of the last names I would've thought of to direct it. I guess there's some similar themes in the work comparatively, but this is quite a strange departure for him. The film, which has been titled just "Carnage," earned some wide acclaim, especially for it's performances, and he correctly gets some of the best actors around to be in this really-closed in play, about two parents coming together, originally to discuss an incident between their kids, that led to one of them severely injuring the other, by beating him with a stick. The Cowans Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Cristof Waltz), have taken some time out of their busy lives to come to the Longstreets, Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly) to discuss what should happen now that they're in this situation, and Nancy and Alan, spend much of the movie, trying to leave the apartment, which they never seem to be able to do. Alan is on the phone with work a lot, he's a lawyer for a major pharmaceutical company that's currently the subject of a lawsuit. Both the Longstreets are middle working class, although Penelope is a published author, specializing in working on books about mass suffering and genocide in Africa. Their New York apartment has quite a view. They've gotten flowers, Penelope made her famous cobbler, and they hopes things can soon be settled. Their son needs dental surgery after the incident broke a few of their son's teeth. We gets a faraway glimpse of the incident in the beginning of the film, as well as a second long shot of the playground at the end. I'm describing a lot of the setup I notice, possibly because it's tricky to describe the events in the film, other than to say that they will inevitably, completely devolve from whatever original attempts at feigning sincerity that they can perceive, and there more primal and anarchistic natures soon take over. I was somewhat familiar with the play going in; it was hard not to be. It's had very successful runs in New York, London, and Paris, which is where Polanski probably first saw it. It's definitely one of those works that plays better on stage than in film, that's pretty unquestionable, but I think the reason gets revealed in this film. It's cause there actually isn't much to this story. Humans devolving into their more predatory natures, New York liberals really are just guilt-ridden ex-hippies, and that the behavior of the parents is often a clue into the behavior of the children, as well as their attitudes and behaviors. Not only is it not new territory, it's actually quite thin in this film. They shot, from what I could tell, pretty much the entire play, mostly in tact, and the movie doesn't even reach 80 minutes in length. That's not necessarily a requirement, but it's telling. It's as much a sign of a lack of substance in the work. Saying that though, on stage, it can be entertaining. Here, it's well-directed, and very well-acted, although Jodie Foster, who I almost never have a critique of, might be overacting a bit, especially when she's yelling and angry. There's some scenes where you can almost see veins in her forehead about to pop, and I'm not quite sure I would've went with that choice, but still, this is about as good a film that could've been made from this material. "Carnage," is basically a four-person play, just filmed, and that's about the only way it can work on stage, and on screen, and it's one of the better examples of shooting how to adapt such a play onto film, and do it really well. It's helped by good filmmaking and good acting, and that alone is more than worth a recommendation. Better than it probably should be.

PUNCTURE (2011) Directors: Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen

2 1/2 STARS

Every once in a while, I find myself watching a movie and going, "Why did I have this on my Netflix again?" It can be a good movie, or a bad movie, but watching it, just seems like, a little bit of a waste of time. Based on the very long waitlist at my library for the film "Puncture," it seems that a lot of people were interested in watching it, while me, I frankly, can't remember why I wanted to see it in the first place. I can't even remember hearing about it even. It's not a terrible movie. It's based on a true story that actually sounds like something that should be made into a film. As I watched it, certain things interested me, but I pretty much forgot all those reasons, within minutes of it ending. Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a personal injury lawyer who a drug addict when he isn't tearing apart witnesses. His law partner Paul Danzinger (Co-director Mark Kassen) is the more straight-laced of this pair, with a pregnant wife, Kim (Erinn Allison) and wants to work cases so he can pay the bills and earn money. Meanwhile, a case involving a Nurse, Vicky Rogers (Vinessa Shaw) gets dropped in their lap. She was a nurse who contracted AIDS at a hospital, because of a faulty needle, that broke upon puncture, and she accidentally shared blood with a patient. She doesn't want monetary compensation though. A friend of hers, Jeffrey Dancourt (Marshall Bell) invented a safety needle that would not only eliminate such accidents at hospital, but is also only a one-use needle, so it was instantly disposable and would save lives. However, hospitals weren't buying the needles, 'cause of a company called Thompson Pharmaceuticals was making hospitals not buy them, and enforcing deals making them use their regular needles. The film goes a little into "Erin Brockovich" territory, without the interesting dialogue from here. Well, the dialogue wasn't always terrible, it was fine. The acting, was fine. The directing, was fine, sometimes good. Nothing was particularly special or great in "Puncture". It hit all the notes,- well, it lightly brushed the notes I should say. It just didn't do anything particularly special or do the things that weren't special, it didn't do them well-enough. This is almost a typical, 3am film. Three in the morning, with nothing else on TV, and if you happen to run into it, it might be a nice thing to keep on when you're counting sheep. You might fall asleep, you might not, but either way, the movie wouldn't make a big difference either way. There's no reason to go out of your way to see this film though. It's a bit of a shame, 'cause it's a good enough story to be told through film, but it's insistance on placentness is just frustrating. It's not bad. That's true it isn't. It's just the best thing I can say about "Puncture," and really, does that really make a film worth your time?

HOUSE OF PLEASURES (aka HOUSE OF TOLERANCE) (2011) Director: Bertrand Bonello


The funny thing about brothels, (and please, don't confuse the rest of this sentence as expert opinion, it's mearly observational curiousity) is that there's a such a matter-of-fact manor in the way they're run. It's one of oddities we don't think about, but a brothel, is actually a business. That's still how they're run today. (Again, not an expert opinion. I just live a full tank of gas away from legal ones, it's something I've just been around all my life. I've seen "Cathouse", I get it.) It's least the oldest, and one of the least glamourous of professions, and yet, a major appeal of the industry is that it works very hard at trying to be glamourous. Well, at the level of the turn-of-the-century, upscale Parisian brothel in "House of Pleasures", glamourous. On the low end... I guess they're hoping for glamourous but will settle for desireable. There's no real plot in the film. It looks like a painting, as it should, but the movie is mostly a slice-of-life, at a time when it's around the last bastion of the cultural acceptance of brothels. The men who come are rich, some are powerful. The lifestyle is one of debt and servitude to their Madam, but hardly slavery. In fact, considering some of the options, available, this is a desireable job. They even get girls writing in, hoping to work. One of them, a 16-year old gets a tryout. Most of them have regular clients. One of them still has dreams and nightmares about how it was she got those disheartening scars. It can be a dangerous job too. "House of Pleasures," brings us unto a world. A description used on of the film is claustrophobic. We never do actually go outside the brothel, or even outside, until the last shot. I've heard of director Bertrand Bernello before, but this is the first film of his I've seen, although I've had "The Pornographer" on my Netflix list for years. After seeing "House of Pleasures," I think moving it up wouldn't be a bad idea. "House of Pleasures," is erotic and sensual, but it's most of the time, it's just part of their job. Not that it isn't a bad one, or a bad place to work.


4 1/2 STARS

There's something enjoyably playful and fun about Roger Corman. He's made hundreds of films. Directing, producing, acting, writing, whatever is needed, he makes them,and he makes them quickly. He gave many people their start by having them make drive-in B-movie schlock. Scorsese, Nicholson, Demme, Howard, Bogdanovich, De Niro, Greir. Occasionally, almost by accident, he happens to make a good movie. Hell, Hollywood has started remaking his films. He made the original "The Fast and the Furious". Actually, and this is full disclosure, he recently produced a film directed by one of my old film professors, which a lot of former classmates of mine worked on. I've seen only a handful of his films, and mostly, I've never been impressed, but I'm not the audience. Besides, they were made to make money, not to be good. Nicholson even talks about one movie he made for Corman, where he dares people to watch it and explain the story to him. He's still working, making movies which nowadays go straight-to-DVD, or on the Syfy channel, but they make money, almost all of them. Well, they practically have to, some of them cost a few cents to make. "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel" is a good entry to the movies and life of Roger Corman for those who might not be that educated about him. A few of the filmmakers note how sad it is that he isn't as well-known now, because he didn't make a lot of great classics, made sci-fi, made exploitation picks, often added nudity and violence, just so it could be there. More people should do that actually. There isn't anything I particularly learned about Roger Corman while watching this film, but that's okay. I was certainly entertained, and now, have a bunch of B-movies that I have to catch up on. The great part about Corman is that, you don't need to take him too seriously to enjoy his films. Well, that might be harder for me than others, but to not see any of his films at all, is to miss one of cinema's great joys.

LEAP YEAR (aka ANO BISIESTO) (2011) Director: Michael Rowe


In case you can't tell by the fact that the movie has a Spanish, alternate title, this "Leap Year," is not romantic-comedy with Amy Adams that came out last year. I haven't seen that one, and wasn't planning to, but I'll put it on my waitlist if I get asked. (Although based on what I'm heard, I'm not particularly hoping for that request) "Leap Year," or "Ana Bisesto" is a Mexican film that depicts one of the strangest and most fascinating characters I've seen all year. She's Laura (Monica Del Carmen), who apparently works as a journalist in Mexico City, although you never see her working. You hardly see her doing anything, in fact. She sits around her apartment all day, usually in various stages of undress, sometimes she talks on the phone. Her editor seems to have fired her at one point, and she has a younger brother, who occasionally visits. When she occasionally does go out, it's to find a guy at a club, for a one-night stand. Soon, she meets Arturo (Gustavo Sanchez Parra). At first, he just seems like one of her long line of fucks, but soon, they develop a routine. She prepares the house, for him to come over. She's wearing, whatever he asks, if anything at all, and they're relationship gets progressively more violent and sadomasochistic. It enthralls her. The more humiliating and dangerous, the better. It is clear that to some extent, Laura has a death wish. She marks on a calendar as it gets closer to February 29, which has a bloody red mark on the date. I'm reluctant to reveal much more. In some ways, their isn't much to reveal, 'cause their isn't much to Laura. In other ways, there's so much deep dark emotions and pains inside her, that we find ourselves wondering about her. Her motives. Her secrets. Her seeming insistence on this lonely and closed-off lifestyle that she's chosen, and "chosen" is the correct word. I'd be shocked if there was more than 5,000 words spoken in "Leap Year", half of them are over the phone, and I'm not counting the moans and groans spoken during intercourse, (and other sexual acts). Early in the movie, Laura looks out the window, to neighbors, yet, it's us that seems like the voyeurs into this woman's world. Catching graphic glimpses, but not learning a whole lot. I might be making this movie sound boring and pretentious even, but it's absolutely fascinating. She a mysterious character, who I still want to know more about. I couldn't wait to see "Leap Year" a second time, just so I can try and dive further into this character, and into her interests and fascinations. Few movies are capable of giving us so little, and keep us so utterly fascinated. One of the best films of the year, and one of my favorites I might add too.

CHASING MADOFF (2011) Director: Jeff Prosserman


Harry Markopolos compiled evidence for years on the fraudulent business practices of Bernie Madoff for years. Over a decade before he was finally caught in 2008. He, along with two others who had similar suspicions about Madoff, made inquiries to the SEC 29 times to look into him. Not investigate Madoff, but to arrest him. They had already done the investigating. Markopolos, a family man, who switched from Wall Street analyst to Fraud investigator after getting sick of working with the crooks on Wall Street, had caught the biggest of them all, and yet, nothing was ever done about it. He gave all the information to the authorities, but they didn't do anything. Meanwhile, he feared for his, and his family's life everyday for years, figuring that somebody who inevitably must weild such great power as Madoff, to continue with such a worldwide scam, he must be powerful enough to get rid of any detractors who might come close to what he's done. "Chasing Madoff" based on Markopolos's book, is a documentary that follows how these few people, were the first ones to not just catch on, but to catch Madoff in his Ponzi scheme. It wasn't that hard to catch him. They were Wall Street accountants and analyzers, they looked at his numbers, they did the math, and they realized it was a scam. He had nearly everyone convinced unfortunately, that he was just a really good stock analyzer. "If he was a baseball player, he'd be batting .964" one of them noted. In stocks, it wasn't possible. He was a crook, but he was the competition, and he was making other lose competition, because investors wanted his portfolio structure, accuracy, and his high-risk, guarantee reward plans. He was the man in charge of the NASDAQ exchange. Yet, what I always got out of the Madoff scheme, which is what Markopolos got too, was not that there was a crook able to climb the highest heights of Wall Street, and able to scheme the uberwealthy out of their money, but that, he was able to, because the people who were in charge of making sure somebody couldn't do what he did, did nothing. Anybody who ever gives me an argument for deregulation, I can just point to Madoff as Exhibit A, for the rest of my life, as proof that it doesn't work. "Chasing Madoff," tells this shocking tale, from this relatively small perspective. The underdog, who's right, but can't convince anybody to do anything about it. Like that Greek oracle who could see the future, but nobody believed them. No, it's even worse actually, it's not that they didn't believe him at the time, it's just that nobody listened to him at all. Markopolos is basically recognized as the ultimate hero by fraud investigators everywhere now, as he should be. Congressman called him a Greek God-like hero, as he testified about the failures of the SEC. They didn't quite do as much as they probably should about the SEC, but they are slowly getting there. "Chasing Madoff," probably could've found ways of giving us a little more about Madoff himself. The only time any of them, actually got close to him, literally, was when a reporter, who did an article in the Wall Street Journal in 2003, about his questionable practices, did he, get a call from Madoff. The article should've been scathing, and Earth-shattering. What's that line about how evil can only triumph when good people do nothing?

PRINCE OF BROADWAY (2010) Director: Sean Baker


Sean Baker's first feature-length film, comes with name-recognition with it, as the DVD box credits, notes that Lee Daniels is presenting it. Daniels, the Oscar-nominated director of "Precious...", is certainly a prestigious name to get a recommendation from. (He's only the second African-American filmmaker to earn a Best Director Oscar nomination) I can see why he appealed to "Prince of Broadway". The movie, has two stories, although one is better and more interesting. That one involves Lucky (Prince Adu), an illegal immigrant from Ghana, who works for Levon (Karran Karagulian), who runs a Fashion District store, which is known locally for having a back room where counterfeit designer clothes are sold. Lucky is one of the ones on the street, trying to entice people to check out the clothes. Suddenly, a woman he hasn't seen in forever, drops a toddler onto him. She, Linda (Kat Sanchez) claims that the kid is his, and that he needs to watch him for two weeks, and then, she speeds off. He has no clue what to do with the kid, who he eventually starts calling Prince (Aiden Noesi). He actually doesn't learn if he has a name, and the mother becomes increasingly harder and harder to get ahold of, although he gets some help by his girlfriend Karina (Keyali Mayaga). Levon, has his own troubles, as his wife, Nadia (Victoria Tate) is quickly starting to leave him. She's going out at night, and probably having affairs. She really wishes that he'd take the marriage, for what it might've at one point been, a green card marriage, but that doesn't matter to Levon, who not only loves his wife, loves his marriage just as much. I don't think that part worked as well as Lucky's story of trying to take care of a baby. He normally barely seems capable of taking care of himself, but..., and yeah, it gets a little cliche, the story of how a new baby can change someone's life, but it's done really well here. New York City is alive in this "Prince of Broadway". Some have even compared the movie to "Mean Streets," in it's praise. I won't go that far, but I did always wonder about those counterfeit clothing places, and the people who frequent places like that. There is a wonderful setting in this film, and the complexity of these characters, who already live troubled lives as, barely legal immigrants in a post 9/11 New York, struggling to get by. There's a lot to like in "Prince of Broadway". There's still some room for improvement, but overall, very good first feature for Baker. It's a movie that has some typical stories, but he manages to make them seem realistic and believable here. Not an easy feat. He's got some skill, and he's young. Can't wait to see what he does next.

ERASERHEAD (1977) Director: David Lynch

4 1/2 STARS

It's always somewhat difficult to rate a David Lynch film. He's clearly one of the great and most original auteurs of cinema. He makes the films he wants. "Eraserhead," was his first movie, and it's a explosive an announcement of a new filmmaker that anyone could've imagined. The title "Eraserhead," I guess come from the hairstyle of the movie's protagonist, Henry (John Nance). He's on vacation, from his normal industry work. He works... Let me start again, his job is... It takes place in-, well, if any of those questions can be answered, it's not by me. He lives in an abandoned building, with a next-door neighbor, and he apparently has a girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart). He meets her parents in the beginning of the film, Mr. and Mrs. X (Allan Joseph and Jeanne Bates) and soon, almost unexpectedly, Henry and Mary have a kid. Well, I guess that how I would describe it. It looks like the thing that came out of John Hurt in "Alien". It's deformed, wrapped in a sheet, and it's driving Mary mad. Henry isn't sure what to make of it himself, but he's expected to take care of it, as does Mary. From here on in, there's no real point in explaining anything else involving the story. The movie, is clearly low-budget, but filled with numerous images that are definitely, although of what, is certainly up for interpretation. All Lynch's films are like that essentially. (There's a couple rare exceptions like "The Straight Story," and "The Elephant Man") I know the reasons why "Eraserhead," effected me the way it did, but I'm not sure it would effect others in the same way or for the same reasons. In fact, I know it wouldn't. It's one of those films where it's practically about what you take into the movie to begin with.  It's practically psychoanalytical. I don't know what to make of all the images and events. Henry occasionally listens through the radiator to a woman who sings songs about heaven. I think that's a clue to help explain Henry's actions, but I found myself wondering things like, "What would I have done if I wa in Henry's position? It's actually somewhat surprising just how close to him we actually get, and how we can feel for this man, this one man, while the rest of the world this film takes place in, seems so far from reality, it might as well be Oz. It'll take more than one viewing to get a real sense of "Eraserhead,' that I know for sure. It certainly has to be seen though.

SWINGERS (1997) Director: Doug Liman

4 1/2 STARS

I don't remember even hearing about "Swingers" 'til years after it's original release. Strange, considering that it's one of those movies that's since become synonymous with Las Vegas, which as you all know by now, is my hometown. Strangely, the movie doesn't spend that much time in Vegas. (Well, maybe that part's not so strange for people who don't live here.) Vegas is used as an expression of cool. Maybe not the modern day Vegas, but, eh, more like Rat Pack era, Las Vegas. That's probably more accurate. The movie was Doug Liman's breakout film, and only his second directorial effort, but maybe more telling was that it was written by it's star, Jon Favreau. Jon plays Mike, an unsuccessful stand-up comic, who's moved from New York to L.A., and is still getting over his break-up with his girlfriend, six months after the fact. As usual, per movie like this, and I think a good example of a movie like this, might be something "Annie Hall", Mike has friends, who are really well-meaning, but they aren't exactly the best people to have as friends in this kind of situation. They're idea of getting over one woman, is to find another woman to be with that night. Their idea of a woman to get over, is a woman who is still there in the morning. Hence, the Vegas trip. Mike tries, but he's clearly not as interested in getting with a Strip performer and cocktail waitress as much as Trent (Vince Vaughn) is. That doesn't seem to stop him necessarily. If anything, Trent can't figure out why the girls keep falling all over Mike's sappy story, and completely ignore Trent. "You're so money, you don't even know it." He tells him at one point. Mike still refuses, despite the trip to Vegas, the industry parties, the friends of friends who he doesn't recognize that come up to him. Well, he doesn't completely refuse, he tries. He tries calling one girl, way too early. And then calls her again, and again, and again.... digger himself deeper and deeper into a hole. There's some other good friends of his like Rob (Ron Livingston), who's more understand of Mike. There's also a late but always enjoyable appearance of Heather Graham. I make the comparison to Woody Allen earlier, and I think this basically is one of his films, if it happened to take place in L.A., and with L.A. people, in modern time. A man, who's lovesick confused about love, friends in and out of the industry who are trying to help him get over it, some thoughtful women, some light comedy. "Swingers," is pretty much in his tradition, and thanks a good thing. It makes it smart and observational. The comedy is there, but the heart is just under the surface all the time, and believably so. Sure, Mike's friends are kind of hopeless, but so are mine much of the time. Everybody's is to some extent. They still took you to Vegas, at least they're trying.

THE FACE OF ANOTHER (1966) Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara


I've finally finished that trilogy of films by Hiroshi Teshigahara, and the third movie, "The Face of Another," is the best of the three. The moods he creates in his films are some of the most intoxicating. This movie begins with a man who's face is wrapped in bandages. Mr. Okuyama (Tatsuya Nakadai) was in a severe accident, and his face is now permanently disfigured. He's notices how people now react around him. His secretary (Eiko Muramatsu), his co-workers, his wife (Machiko Kyo). He talks with a psychiatrist (Mikijiro Hira) who offers a radical solution, to have a mold made of another man's face, that he can wear when out, for a brief period of time, about 12 hours before he has to take it off to breathe normally. The idea alone is rather interesting for a film. There's always been numerous experiments involving dressing or disguising oneself a different way, in art and in real life. (And occasionally, both at once). Mr. Okuyama, has a different idea though. He starts by testing it, by going to some of the same places he went to, while wearing the bandages, and then, to some of the places he went to without. It's not entirely successful. At a place where he rented out an apartment, a young girl who plays with a yo-yo, Yo-Yo Girl (Etsuko Ichihara) spotted him pretty quickly, but promised not to tell anybody. Later though, he reveals his real intentions, which is to seduce his own wife, as a way to prove his suspicions that she's cheating on him. I won't go in to how it plays out, but the way it plays out, as does the film's ending, asks us some deep questions about identity, and appearance, and how one can shape the other, but were not exactly sure how much it does though. There's a second, seemingly separate story going on too I might add, involving a beautiful young woman (Miki Irie) who's has a disfiguring scar on the right side of her face. Her hair blocks it from the outside world most of the time. She makes a very disturbing request to her brother (Kakuya Saeki), which also has some ulterior motives that she's hiding from him. Strangely, Mr. Okuyama, never meets the Girl with Scar. I think the reason is as much economical as it is, storytelling. He's rich, well-off, and has options on the latest available procedures. She doesn't but she has some available options for her. I don't think either got what they probably hoped for at the end. "The Face of Another," is beautiful is look and in story. His characters always seem somewhat, ghostly in their feel. Sometimes they're real ghosts, but there's always this sense of past regrets mixed in with their beauty. It creates a real eerieness with us, that seems strangely comforting. "The Face of Another," is my personal favorite of the three I've seen; I reviewed "Pitfall" and "Woman of the Dunes," earlier. I think it's possible though, that I'm just most prone to liking the idea of "The Face of Another," compared to the others. They're all great, and all are in many ways quite similar. I wish I watched all three in a row, and at once; it would've been a moving experience. Well, 'til the next time I find a Teshigahara come across me.

BETTY BLUE (1986) Director: Jean-Jacques Beineix


"Betty Blue," earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film when it came out, which was back in '86, which surprised me, because it looks like it could've been made yesterday. You know there's something wrong though, when I start off by talking about how great a movie's cinematography is. Although that shouldn't be too surprising considering Jean-Jacques Beineix. He made the influential film "Diva," which started what's been called the "Cinema du Look" movement in France, where French films tried to be more like American movies, in terms of look, structure, plots, stories, editing structure.... Maybe the most famous film in the genre is Luc Besson's "La Femme Nikita", and "Betty Blue," certainly qualifies. Although it has a lot more nudity than Hollywood films. Usually that's a good thing. The movie begins with Zorg, (Jean-Hugues Anglade) a handyman, who has a secret pension for writing, whose life soon changes when he falls in love with Betty (Beatrice Dalle). Soon, her erratic behavior leads to her burning down a house and a whole development that Zorg worked for. Her behavior is unpredictable, too much so, that it's a little hard to imagine that someone like Zorg would be with her for so long. I guess it helps that's she's smoking hot, usually hanging around naked, and that they have a lot of sex. Well, I guess that really just helps the audience get through this nearly three hour sprawling romance epic, of a man's love and devotion to his wife, who we find out by the end is sick. I can't remember if it's psychologically or clinically sick, or both probably, but by the time her book gets a publisher, she's strapped down in her hospital bed and hopped up on pills, for her own good. Probably for the audience too, actually. I guess the movie's trying to achieves this sprawling lifelong romance epic, with a "Love Story," type twist ending. It's well-acted, but boy it was hard to care. The movie is based on, what's apparently a famous novel by Philippe Dijon, but that doesn't really make the movie any better or shorter. I have a feeling that this material, might work better from a more first-person perspective than this film was able to achieve. We get a little narration at the beginning, that doesn't really explain much about Zorg's fanatical devotion to this beautiful but problematic Betty, that might have been helpful. I'm very shocked this movie got an Oscar nomination actually, but this really does feel like an American film, in another language, and I think certain members of the Academy miss the eras when Hollywood would make these beautiful epics where love tries to conquer all, and is more than the world. I'm not nearly as sure. It's got moments that are interesting, but it asked a lot for me to care about these characters, ultimately too much, even with this abundance of nudity.