Sunday, March 25, 2018



Director/Screenplay: Albert Lamorisse

It’s one of the most famously whimsical and parodied images in world cinema, a little boy being with “The Red Balloon.” It’s an image so wonderfully captivating and pure that it’s influenced thousands of young filmmakers and filmgoers for generations. My mother said that she saw the film every year in school; it would be shown at a school assembly, and it never got old. I wasn’t so lucky; I’m only recently discovering it by watching it on Next to Luis Bunuel’s and Salvador Dali’s surrealist “Un Chien Andalou,” it’s probably the most famous short film in movie history. At 34 minutes in length, it not only won the Palme D’Or at Cannes in the Short Film category, but most impressively won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, making it the only time a short film ever won an Oscar in competition against feature length films. 

The film has very little dialogue, and the story itself is very simplistic, yet I continue to watch the film astonished at its wonderment, but perplexed as to just how this film was made in 1956. The story involves a young boy (Pascal Lamorisse, the director’s, Albert Lamorisse’s son) as he finds a red balloon on a lamppost one day, begins taking it with him wherever he goes. First thing I should say is that, this balloon in very red, in direct contrast to the cold, rainy French town the film takes place in, but soon, it becomes apparent that enamored with the young boy, the balloon, which apparently has a mind of it’s own begins helping out and following the boy wherever he goes. I’m still in amazement at how the balloon, seems to not only move like it’s an actual balloon, and yet is able to move with an apparent mind behind it. I’m sure there’s some sort of oxygen or helium or wire trick, but for the life of me, I can’t see how they did it, and of course this is nothing compared to the amazing ending shot, which both enthralls and frightens me simultaneously. Once word gets out of the boy with the red balloon, the rest of his classmates, jealous at the kid with a balloon who follows him loyally, try to take the balloon and destroy it. 

The film’s writer/director, Albert Lamorisse was a photographer who switched to short films in his 40s, receiving much critical success, often going back to the image of the little boy and the balloon in continuations of the story, before eventually switching over to documentaries. His other critically applauded short is "White Mane" about a kid who befriends a horse. He also worked as a documentary filmmaker, earning an Oscar nomination for "The Lover's Wind" what would inevitably be his final film as he was killed in a helicopter crash during production. His other interesting claim to fame is as the inventor of the board game “Risk.” and he did direct two other feature films in his life, "Circus Angel" and "Stowaway in the Sky", the latter being a story about a grandfather and grandson having an adventurous trip, in a red, hot air, balloon. 

A lot of his stuff involved flight and adventure around the world and I suspect he  this will forever be his most remembered work, as it waits to be discovered by children of all ages to be amazed by it.   

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


So, in the past week or so, Annabella Sciorra got cast in "Marvel's Luke Cage", Mira Sorvino, on top of having six films in post-production at the moment, (Wow six films, really? Wow!), has been cast in CBS's high-profile pilot, "The Code", and Kathy Griffin sold out at Carnegie Hall. All three women had basically been relegated to Hollywood's infamous Blacklist, Sciorra and Sorvino were put there by Weinstein, 'cause of him, and Kathy Griffin, basically has burned most of her bridges that she still had, after bumbling through a stupid controversy involving a photo shoot with her holding up an image of Donald Trump's decapitated head. Then she the stupid, horrible thing and apologized for it. (God, it's hard enough teaching this to Lena Dunham, don't apologize for your "gaffs," real or imagined, you're not gonna make anything better.) To be fair, Kathy Griffin is probably still on several blacklists, although I suspect that she's gonna inevitably come out of this stronger than ever, if she hasn't already. The other two are far more interesting as they along with several, several others like Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan who yeah, were Blacklisted, basically because a sick fuck violated them and they objected to it. (Sigh) Hollywood really is sick.

Is this the end of the Blacklist? Well, I'm happy that the Blacklist is losing a few of it's members, and of course gaining a few who should've been on it a long time ago, but eh, we'll see. I'm not saying that things will calm down and we'll go back to the way it was, there's no putting this toothpaste back in the tube, and there's nothing negative about that, if anything the Blacklist is gonna more accurately depict, well, the people who should be blacklisted.

And BTW, when I talk this "Blacklist", there no official list or anything, let's be frank for a second Harvey Weinstein's reach in Hollywood was strong, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't unlimited. Look at Annabella Sciorra's IMDB page, it's not like she stopped working entirely after Weinstein blacklisted her, she still got regular enough work. Same with Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd too. I mean, did they get high-profile roles in big movies, no they didn't. We know for a fact that people were using tactics to dissuade others from hiring them, They might not have been in too many movies you recognize the titles of, but they were still working. I'm not saying this was good, essentially their livelyhood was compromised and in a sense, on top of everything else, Weinstein was stealing money from them for making sure they wouldn't get other roles they may have otherwise gotten. I'm just saying that there's nobody powerful enough in the entertainment industry who could actually threaten that they'll never work in this town again, and actually mean it.

Well... (Reluctant sigh), in theory, anyway, there isn't. In practice....

Okay, so, I'm going to talk for a little bit about somebody here, without expressly talking about him, 'cause I don't want to use specific names and I don't want to give away too much about what happened to this person.... Basically, I know somebody who was blacklisted from Hollywood. He was a Professor of mine from film school and he got blacklisted essentially because he was married to somebody who got blacklisted for awhile. She was blacklisted because, and again, I'm trying to say this without revealing too much but...- let's just say that she got into a high-profile disagreement with a major producer. One who's name you'd recognize, as a producer. I don't know how many producers names you'd recognize and think "He's a producer", but this is one of those guys. Anyway after all was said and done, she barely got any work for years and he, at a certain point got even less regular work and eventually went into teaching and became one of my professors.

This is by no means the worst story I've ever heard, that goes to the story of the camera operator on "The Twilight Zone: The Movie" that testified for the prosecution in that case; he really never got to work much again 'cause of that; which in hindsight makes Spielberg's declaration about #MeToo and #TimesUp a little hollow considering he a defendant in that case...- but-eh, the point I'm trying to going to make is that the true sign of the Blacklist is if people who are either, in the right in their disputes with the uber-elites of the town, (And yes, in the case I'm not mentioning above, she was in the right) and even those who, maybe do something they believe to be right despite such pressure and maybe some legitimate disagreement or complex morality arguments get in the way, if they also end up, working again, that probably be a step in the right direction.

Honestly, while I'm happy to see people I like coming off the blacklist,  I'm mostly happy to see that the Randall Miller's of the world are still on the Blacklist than anything else. I mean, it's also nice to see The Weinstein Company filing for bankruptcy but this is a changing of the guard and it's a good one, I'm just wondering what's going to happen the next time something that's a little more iffy comes up, not that easy calls but when this new group gets challenged regarding how they're running Hollywood. That's awhile away, but you know it's gonna happen eventually. It's easy to take out the truly disgusting and wretched ones, but you know, I still see the Casey Affleck's of the world have a few projects in different layers of development and major ones at that. Have we made a decision on him or are we still trying to thread that needle? I mean, we gave Kobe Bryant of all people an Oscar last year at the most #MeToo ceremony ever, we're still struggling to figure out where the line is.

I'm not saying one way or the other is the right one, I honestly don't know what's the best thing to do there. And look, if we start diving into everybody's, I assure you we're almost certainly gonna find something about them. It might not be anything so horrible as rape or sexual assault or throwing around their power and influence to blacklist but it's inevitable, something will eventually happen and...- We don't worry about that for now.

But, since we are in this, new era, where we're gonna be microscopically analyzing such things as who gets paid how much more than their other gender'd go-stars and those added to the blacklist are gonna be those who violate the trust of others and not those who's trust was violated, hopefully, what should we get? What are we going to be looking forward too? More leading roles for women in film and television, hopefully, if for no other reason than more television than ever, but in films too, this bizarre and fictitious notion that movies have to be male-centered or male-oriented or white male-oriented in order to succeed is hopefully gonna eradicate. That requires more than just stories though, that requires storytellers that are something other than white male getting major positions, films and projects. We're starting to have that come around. Ava DuVernay, Patty Jenkins, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig,... we're starting to see that change, and we're going to start seeing some of the old rules and tropes be challenged if not outright die entirely. They're still using superheroes movies as the standard base unit of currency, so some changes happen right away, and others will take a little more time. It won't be "Black Panther" or "Wonder Woman" representing the real change either, it's gonna come from something else a few years down the line and it'll come out from seemingly nowhere, whatever it'll be. Those are remnants of what was already going on in Hollywood, progressive remnants sure, but still parts of already established cinematic franchises; I'm looking out for the project that represents the next generation. (It might be "Get Out" but, I'm still gonna suspect that something else will come along later.)

The Blacklist is never officially going away. Would what happened to the Person I know, if it had happened now would've gotten him and his wife blacklisted, almost definitely not. I honestly don't know what would've happened to "The Twilight Zone: The Movie" guy if that happened today. The way I always learned it in film school was that, when you get hired, show up early, show up prepared to work, do as much as you can, legally, (Unions laws) and whatever you do, don't ever say "You'll do anything," in case you run into one or two Weinstein's who decide to test out that theory. (Also, don't cross a border to pick up a package for someone.... If you know that story...)  After that, no matter what else you do, as long as your a professional on-set, you're pretty much guaranteed to find new work eventually. This is why Lindsay Lohan is persona non grata still, not because she's a trainwreck, there's plenty of people still working regularly who are just as bad if not worst on their own time, but they don't cost productions time & money. This is why you've barely seen her in anything in years; anybody that hires her is putting up a lot of money and taking a huge risk, 'cause she's not coverable by insurance companies anymore.

That's the kind of behavior that I was taught would get you blacklisted. And it still is; see, that's not gonna change by this, but it- it is going to seem weird when somebody's taken over by their inner demons costs them a job now. "Demons" used to just be code for addiction or personal issues, things that can cause problems to others but are mostly self-contained until their not.  Those people should be blacklisted if they cross the line too, but yeah, their crossing that line and Weinstein's playing jump rope with them are very, very different. It's the kind of thing that if anybody ever heard about it and only took a look at the headline and didn't follow the nuance, it probably wouldn't be publicly too good for Hollywood.

Most of us are worried about who's the next career to suddenly drop because of how they treated others, and there's a lot of contenders out there but, I wonder who is gonna be the next one to burn these new bridges, and suddenly disappear not because they're a piece of shit human being, but because there's too much trouble costing production companies money and delays on the set. Show up late, show up unprepared, or just be a general pariah on the set that doesn't do anything horrific, but actually is just, really difficult to work with. (That does happen a lot too; that's why those texts from Peter Jackson about how Weinstein had dissuaded him from casting Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd are so damning; when that's a legitimate claim, everybody will find out and hear about it, it will eventually come around to everybody. When it's not though, that really is maliciously derailing someone's career.)  Find out who the next [NAME DELETED] or as rumored by some, the next Brittany Murphy during the last couple years of her troubled life will be. How will that look when they get, what is essentially the same treatment than some of these other names are getting?

I guess that's what we will find out eventually. Eventually, hopefully this is all years away at worst and conjecture at best. It's gonna be an interesting thing to keep an eye on anyway.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Okay, I've been avoiding this TV genre, but it's been on my radar lately though. Well, it's been on-and-off it more or less, and it's hard to really explain it, but it's become distressingly popular in certain circles.

Eh, god how do I begin with this one. Alright, full disclosure, while I do have things like a Roku, I haven't had cable, cable in a while. Like a real hundreds of channels package deal in a while; it's just become too expensive, and there's a whole bunch of reasons for that, that I don't feel like getting into, but a few years ago, a friend of mine told me she watched a lot of ID, which I didn't know what the hell that even was at the time.

Naturally I looked it up, and yes, it's an offshoot of the Discovery Channel, it started as one thing originally but at some point, because of ratings, it basically morphed into a 24-hour True Crime documentary channel. It kinda freaked me out honestly.

Like I know, most channels are basically one genre of show that's runs on marathons these days, and sure some of those channels, especially some of those reality channels, they're pretty awful if you watch too much of them, but-eh, this still kinda took me back. I don't know why it does, or did, it did freak me out that I had a friend that said she basically only watched that channel anymore. Then, when I went on vacation back east for a bit last year, I found out that my Aunt basically spends most of her day only watching this channel too. Like, she knew it was bad for her to be watching it, but she kept it on all day, anyway. It was basically her background noise for when nobody else was home and nothing else was on, and then she gladly let everybody else change the channel, 'cause even she knew it wasn't healthy to do that, but she had just gotten used to it, and it appealed. I think we've all done some version of that at some point in our lives, where we basically put something on TV, just to have the TV on and only have pay attention to during the day while we work on everything else. I do it even now, I use to keep on PBS like that, you know, it was nothing else on, and even though it was kids stuff it was calming, nice, good,... honestly I should probably start doing that again, but I've done it with some reality shows, some sitcoms on Hulu and or one of those classic TV channels, the old game shows channels, I'm even doing it right now, I'm finally catching up with "House of Lies" on Amazon Prime as I write this.

I never understood doing that with something that might be too dark or morbid however; when I did pick something to keep in the background, I always wanted to keep something on that was, eh, mind-engrossing. That's why PBS always stuck on, 'cause sure, it's not the most complex thing, especially during the day, but it trying to teach kids to learn and it was calm and peaceful and some of those shows actually were really good and even funny; there's subtle adult humor in things like "Sesame Street" that you wouldn't catch as a kid, you know? Even with things that are essentially junk that I'd use, like, "Storage Wars" or something, a look at a culture of interesting people and there's also the historical aspects of what they're finding, among other things...- I would always be looking for the thing that would engross me and keep me interesting mentally, somewhat. I don't like things that simply shut you off when you put on something like that. To be fair, in that respect, these "True Crime" things, they don't do that. So I guess that's a plus and it's honestly not that they're talking about serial killers and murderers and whatnot, or that it's even morbid, and to be fair it's not just ID, there's also Justice, and Escape, there's a few channels focusing on this kind of programming, and the other weird thing, is that, these aren't objectively bad shows either.

I know it sounds like I'm demeaning or demoralizing this genre, in some way, but I can't even really do that, here, like I would, for say dating shows or judge shows like I have in the past, how I've looked at the differences in quality between the best and worst of those shows and I could I guess, but honestly, watching and analyzing any of these shows separately in a vacuum and not as a genre, I can't really say there's a bad show here. Nothing awful-awful, off the top of my head anyway; I'm sure I can seek something obscure out of course, but these shows, they have an objective, they're telling a story, through a documentary, usually it's exploitative to some degree, but even at their worst, it's still compelling, it's still a mystery, it's a profile on a real-life event, some of them might be funny years later in hindsight, 'cause of some of the claims and updates in technology and whatnot, but, I can't say that there's too many that are truly bad in of themselves. I know the ones I like more than others, and we'll go over the history of the genre and talk about one or two of those series, but is there anything inherently wrong an episode of say, "Forensic Files" or "American Greed", or even the really tacky and exploitative stuff like "Dateline: To Catch a Predator", okay maybe that one, but honestly not really, not in a vacuum. I get the appeal; I like a good mystery, we all like a fascinating true story, I took a Forensic Science class in high school, because of how fascinated I was with how detectives and police work to solve crimes and I loved watching "Forensic Files" and "Exhibit A" episodes during that class. (And it didn't hurt that "CSI..." was still watchable and the coolest show on TV at that time) I get the appeal..., in a vacuum I get the appeal.

It really does freak me out to see and know more and more people put this genre on top of their watchlist and end up binging these shows day in and day out though....

Alright, let's start at the beginning of the genre, which, again, "True Crime" is a weird modern genre. I guess the most notable beginnings of the genre start with stuff like Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood", these non-fiction stories. This is back when the real big idea was to take a true story and turn it from a journalistic narrative and form it into a structure that was more fictional. Since, we're focusing in on True Crime Documentary series here, that doesn't necessarily apply here, it's just taking one journalistic structure and turning it into another, in this case. It goes without saying that there's always been a journalistic appeal to the genre of course, for television, it's a little trickier, to pin down. I always like to think about this genre being more associated with "Unsolved Mysteries" or "America's Most Wanted" when I was a kid. Not only were those compelling, albeit, now in hindsight, they seem more open for parody, especially "Unsolved Mysteries" those shows at the time though, also played like public service announcements, and they were aired with an attempt to try to solve the mysteries, find the suspects, etc. There some aspects of those shows still around, but that's not really where these series get most of their inspiration from nowadays. Most of these documentary series, essentially are inspired by, what we used to call News Magazine shows.

While there are other thing that count in this genre, for instance, docu-miniseries like "Making a Murder" or "The Jinx" and technically there's also the narrative series, especially miniseries like "American Crime Story" and "Law & Order: True Crime-The Menendez Brothers", (That recent miniseries trend deserves it's own blogpost but maybe some other time) the series that I think about as really perpetuating this genre are these docuseries that are more inspired by those news magazines, the "Dateline"'s the- not "60 Minutes" so much but "48 Hours", "20/20", "Nightline" to some extent, those shows. It does make sense that news programs would be the inspiration for these things, although that's weird in it's own way, but you see, I remember back when all those shows previously had respectability. ("60 Minutes" still does btw, despite everything) and were actual integral parts of the Primetime network lineup, and again, they're not bad shows, in a vacuum, but they also were formatted a lot differently. The reason that genre is referred to as "News Magazine" is because they imitated the structure of a magazine at that time. People, Time, Newsweek, etc., they usually would have, three or four segments per episode, and each segment would be a little different. They'd be more in-depth stories than the Nightly News shows, but they've one darker topic, one somewhat light but informative topic maybe a celebrity interview segment,... the kind of longform stories you'd read about in a magazine, and once in awhile, you'd get a profile on a story that was a little more exploitative, that was about a shocking crime and investigation, once in a while. This would be a semi-regular thing, and when it actually happened, especially if it was a local story that somehow made this segment, it would probably be big news, and it would be really big news if they would devote the whole episode to it. We'd be like, "How, I guess they're doing the faux-Milgram experiment test thing next week!" (Yeah, that "What Would You Do?" show on ABC also started as a common segment like this. [Sidenote: Am I the only that runs into that title and thinks for a moment that they're gonna air reruns of that Nickelodeon game show Marc Summers hosted in the '90s?]

At some point, because news is supposed to make money now and everything else that "Network" predicted would happen, happened, at some point, and I'm not sure when exactly but within my lifetime, they started realizing that people tuned in for those exploitative murder investigation stories and suddenly there were more of those shows, being devoted, just to that every week. This is what made me go from, going out of my way to watch "Dateline" every couple days to, well, seeing it only when Bill Hader parodied Keith Morrison every week on "SNL".

It's not even really just that, it's the fact that I know people are just watching fascinating facts about disturbing death after disturbing dearth after disturbing death all day, and you know, most of these stories, because there's so much saturation now, they're not even necessarily that compelling. That parody is kinda right, "Let's forget the obvious suspect is the obvious suspect for awhile. and move on to whatever will kill time....-" I know most every part of the country at some point I guess, must have some huge case that fits these kinda shows theme, and I can certainly think of more than a few local ones in my lifetime that were ready-made for these sort of series to examine, and many probably have, but that leads to another issue, there's only a limited amount of interesting cases.

Forget the other twisted and maybe more disturbing aspects that if you're watching shit like this all day, you're gonna start thinking that America's just full of people killing each other, even though statistically murders have been going down in this country year after year for over two decades now, even with all the mass shootings, but beyond that, at a certain point, you're gonna run out of interesting cases to do these shows on. There's always gonna be a little more, but there's either gonna be a lot of shows retelling the same crimes or you're gonna be scrapping the bottom of the barrels and we're no longer talking about the more interesting and fascinating cases, we're just talking any murder.cases. Or suspected murder cases, or suspected-by-somebody even if their evidence and claims were fishy....

(Yes, despite the condition of the footage, that is a segment of the original "Unsolved Mysteries" doing an episode on Kurt Cobain's death; no I didn't remember they did that either.)

I'd honestly be impressed that they find all the content they do, until you realize that series like "Forensic Files" has actually had like five or six alternate titles throughout it's run and beyond by various networks that have broadcast the series. (Hell, that show was originally called "Medical Detectives", which I seriously doubt anybody even knew or realized until I just informed you.)

I don't know, I believe there's a time and a place where we can explore the more morbid sides of our curiosity and indulge in stuff like this, but if this genre really is becoming a go-to for people, the baseline for what they allow placed into their mind over everything else out there, I get concerned. This isn't a genre like sitcoms or drama series where there's such a wide variety of content within the genre where even divulging in the worst they have to offer can at least be fascinating on an intellectual comparison level, true crime documentaries-, the only real difference I can see from the best of the genre and the worst is how many exploitative tricks they have for enticing us to stick with them through the commercial before they reveal some not-at-all-shocking twist-that's-not-really-a-twist in the case later on. More of these are coming off like things that should've just a "20/20" segment that aired between the political interview and the test that determined which baby cribs were safest. I know there's a saturated market everywhere right now, but there's something, really irksome about having too much of this genre, and it's starting to bleed into everything else. Mostly in positive ways so far like those docu-miniseries and miniseries events I mentioned before but not always. This is the kind of trend that eventually lead to all the networks coming out with TV movies of Amy Fisher in the same ratings week that one weird time. If you like these shows, fine, hell, I like a lot of them too, hell, but maybe more than any other TV genre, you need to take in small doses at best, even if it requires drastic actions like racing to the remote to change the channel at the end credits before they start the next episode of whatever show with that frightening-yet-intoxicating narrator comes on and suckers you into wondering, "Just what did happen to those two toddlers after they were hijacked?" (Fuck it, I'll spoil that one if it helps; they weren't hijacked, the mother lied; she drowned them. There; let's hope that stops people from turning that nightmare of a '90s tabloid infotainment into a miniseries.)

Maybe I'm overreacting, I can admit that but...- but the thing is, that these are shows that's whole appeal is that they're making you uncomfortable. To freak you out, to keep you on the edge of your seat, etc. I may hark on people of all fan genres and trends for limiting their viewing choices and preferences too much, whether that's superhero crap or fantasy dramas to bad dating reality series, or whatever, and yes, in general, I'm not big on anybody being too fascinated by any one particular genre or subgenre or trend or whatever, but I'll take people who talk about nothing but comic book series and movies or watch the crappiest of bad reality shows or basically anything else, than people who's go-to genre is true crime documentaries, at least those things as bad and limiting they may be, they're not just this swan dive into the morbid deluge of death. So if you are one of those people who's go-to is this genre, please, actively seek out something else, something else that, for even a little while you can accept and keep yourself interested in for the sake of sanity and perspective, and just for clearing your mind's sake. Put on a random stand-up special, laugh for a bit, watch a sporting event, something, watch literally watch anything else for a little bit, except the News. Don't just fill yourself up on a diet od this genre; it may feel and seem healthy and nourishing at first glance, but it's empty calories disguised as carbs. Just something a little more nourishing regularly mixed in, that's all I'm suggesting.

Thursday, March 8, 2018


Ugh. Well, I'm mostly over my previous illness, but still pretty tired more than I usually am. Anyway, Oscar Hangover didn't last too long this year, but-eh, Super Bowl hangover, still on. (Shrugs) Yeah, I know, honestly I'm trying to get to more movies, but honestly I'm mostly just watching and rewatching highlights and clips of the Eagles winning, and then crying emotionally, and then watching more highlights and people reacting and the Parade, and then more highlights and more emotions...- (Sigh) look I might be screenwriter by trade and most of the time I'm engulfed in the film and television sides of entertainment, but there's a reason that if I ever do create a production company, it's probably gonna be called Midnight Green Productions, that's the color I bleed, and most of the time, it's been a painful existence being a Philadelphia sports fan, and um...- (Sigh) it's hard to explain, but imagine you've read a comic book series where the superhero keeps losing. Superman doesn't beat Lex Luthor for decades. Sometimes he gets close to winning, and sometimes he just keeps getting the piss and shit beaten out of him, but he never ever wins, and- I don't know why you'd keep reading such a thing for so long but, you think it would legitimately never happen, and suddenly Superman actually won. That's what being a sports fan, especially a tortured sports fan is like. (Not to mention, Philly sports fan are already crazy beyond normal sports fans to begin with) That kind of emotional release, decades in the making, is the kind of thing me, and I'm sure other Eagles fans are still going through, so... Yeah, sorry, it's hard to push my way through that, but I am.

Anyway, this is Part II of this edition of the Movie Reviews as my previously edition was delayed due to illness and timing, so some of these reviews were written a little while after I saw the movie, a little while longer than I would normally like, (Shrugs) but-eh, hopefully I'll write better reviews later. Or at least better films, SPOILER: This is a mediocre group of films.

Well, let's get to PART 2!

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) Director: Denis Villeneuve


(Frustrated sigh) I'm the one who's never thought much of the original "Blade Runner". I haven't seen every version, but I'm fairly certain that at best, it's overrated as Hell. Every clue goes two-ways and the twist at the end doesn't make any difference. Sorry, it doesn't, everything would've happened the same way and there's no guarantee that he wouldn't be effected differently. And frankly, in hindsight, after watching "Blade Runner 2049", why wasn't he just told he was a replicant to begin with? K (Ryan Gosling) is a replicant, that didn't stop him from being a Blade Runner, in hindsight, why would it, if he was designed to be a Blade Runner, why would it matter if he knew he was a replicant or not? I hate those mysteries where every clue is a double-clue that both means one thing and it's exact opposite.

That said, there's one other major thing that's always annoyed me about "Blade Runner", and alas, I hate to go back to my anti-Ridley Scott position, but he didn't direct that movie well. In fact, the movie is just boring. I mean, I get why, but Scott's already got a world with no human characters and he's telling a film noir, a genre that generally needs some good characters to work at all, he has none, but then, he spends all this stupid time world-building and beats down the metaphors of the work until it no longer exists, instead of telling the story. Villeneuve has a few moments like that in this film as well, although not as many and not as severely damaging to the storytelling as Scott is, but he's got a few and this movie is very laborious. It also just doesn't go anywhere. The movie dives into a world and warns about a future where replicants are about to take on, the establishment, whatever that even is anymore, but it's all, at the corners of the screen, and instead it's a lot of scenes of, interesting production design standing in for locations. The Blade Runner in this movie, knows he's a replicant, this one named K (Ryan Gosling), his job is to find the remnants of the older blade runners to disengage, as a new owner, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) has remade replicants in such a way that they are no longer going to rise us against the humans, 'cause stupid, but he's also become incredibly successful at colonializing again because of them, and they've managed to begin farming on several planets. (He's also a major farming process guru of some kind.) Him and his top replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) are the top villains and they get interesting in K's investigation into a discovery of old bones at an old replicant's farm, which happen to both be bones of a woman who apparently gave birth before dying, but also that of a replicant. Now, this seems like something that actually makes some sense as frightening in this world, the world revolves around the replicants being crucial but a disposable workforce, but if they're able to create life on their own, that changes everything. K's boss Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) wants him to find the kid and destroy it if possible, 'cause while she'd rather find out who stuffed the poor woman in the box, she realizing the damning effect if the story got out.

That said, this leads to K eventually discovering the not-so-surprising underworld of replicant freedom fighters currently hiding out in Las Vegas 'cause apparently in this universe it didn't survive the nuclear blackout years earlier. (Middle finger) Screw you for that one movie. (Annoyed sigh) I guess technically I like this "Blade Runner" more than the original although i'm still not sold that either of them are these great pieces of work. To me, they're more interesting from a philosophical standpoint then they actually are to watch. I get how this idea of a world with replicants running around can be compelling but as a story I don't find it particularly entertaining, or even that interesting a world to experience. I just posted my Canon of Film on "Dark City' recently, which takes so many of the same tropes but has much more to say about them and actually has new and unique ideas both about film noir and the sci-fi genres but also about our lives being taken over by a technological force that it still feels fresh and new. Meanwhile two "Blade Runner" movies in, and it's so lacking originality and ideas and is so stiff and boring that I can't really look at it as anything but a pose. It sounds good in theory but to actually experience it, it doesn't really hold up or have the deeper meanings that people think it has. This is one of the quintessential to me of people wanting and thinking about the movie they wanted to see as oppose to actually looking deeper at the film they really have. (Hell, I partially think that's why Ridley Scott's constantly going through and re-cutting the damn thing over and over again.)

I hate to put "Blade Runner 2049" in the same fate, but the more I think about it, the more it fits as well. This is a movie foreshadowing a war between replicants and higher-ups and how does the movie end? With a climatic fight scene, mostly centered around the lives of three little people who's problems don't really amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. We'll always have Vegas, I guess?

GOOD TIME (2017) Directors: Benny & Josh Safdie


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Alright, I will finally concede that this is the first performance from Robert Pattinson where I generally can see his potential as an actor. I think some where jumping the gun a little bit by thinking that this performance was award-worthy, but he finally has an energy, personality and intensity that I had never seen before from him. "Good Time", the latest from Benny & Joshua Safdie, the brothers behind "Daddy Longlegs (aka Go Get Some Rosemary)" basically have one real take and that's that their family is really loving and typically full of really awful people. They took a small break from that usual M.O. to work on the underrated "Heaven Knows What" which was distinctive because it was about some other poor sap's homelife surrounded by horrible people, in that film's case, it's author and star Arielle Holmes, a homeless drug addict who was desperately in love with her shithead boyfriend who was trying to coax her into suicide. In this case, we have a poor sap, Nick (Benny Safdie) who's unfortunately a mentally-challenged young man who's controlled and manipulated by his piece of shit brother, Connie (Pattinson) a thief, who is constantly in over his head and has own somewhat talented skill of being a believable and likable enough conman that he can convince others to help him out, even though he's one of those people who thinks he's two steps ahead 'cause he does know how to slither out of a tough situation, but is still usually two steps behind because he usually slithers into one situation that's impossible to get out of into a worst situation that's impossible to get out of. In this case, a bank robbery that he brings his brother in on, that succeeds, but then naturally turns disastrous. At one point, the brother gets caught and sent to jail, and now, he has to figure out how to get the money to bail him out, (The money from the bank is inked, naturally, and now unusable) so they can both escape. At first, this involves borrowing from friends and family, which is best represented by Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) Connie's latest girlfriend who tries to pay with her piece-of-work Grandmother's card, but is decline. Connie then finds out that his brother is now in the hospital after an incident in prison, so he decides to just kidnap him, and this also fails in a spectacular manner, after among other things, kidnapping the wrong patient from the hospital and having to get help from a 16-year-old stranger, Crystal (Tallah Webster) who, the much-older-than-18 Connie, ends up making out with. (Eye roll)

I'm still barely beginning as there's a lot more to this, essentially one wild night that gets more and more out of control. "Good Time"'s best talent is it's kinetic speed, and that is quite the benefit and an unusual one from the Safdie Brothers who tend to be more slice of life in their work until now. There's still enough of what I liked in their other films that I will recommend "Good Time" but this is a bit like watching a trainwreck in slow-motion and honestly, I think the movie went off the rails by the end. This is when it would be better for the film to be more slice-of-life instead of being so kinetic intense to the plot. It definitely fits with the Safdie's work but I wish their more naturalistic tone complimented a naturalistic story. That said, this is a powerful film with strong performances, I didn't even mention Barkhad Abdi as a security guard that gets taken advantage of, although everybody gets taken advantage of in "Good Time" by Connie, and yet Connie, doesn't really have the ability to get that far. This might be the Safdie's most fatalistic feature yet, which is itself weird to think about but there isn't much to cheer for in this film, and that's something that's lacking from their earlier work. I get it's an interesting experiment for them and these are the biggest names they've worked with yet, but it's still a marginal recommendation from me 'cause I know they can do better.

(2017) Director: Kogonada


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Huh. Okay, first off, I watched this on Hulu and there's a half-way decent chance that the TV I watched it on might've had the lighting off, 'cause this was a weirdly darkly-lit film. That doesn't usually bother me, 'cause I usually that address, but I suspect my old-ass TV, might've accidentally changed the setting and had the lighting tampered with, 'cause -, I don't know, maybe he was going for a Gordon Willis feel, but it didn't seem right to me, so.... take that for what you will. Also, this movie's kinda just, um...- well,...- how do I describe this; I feel like this film had a lot of inspiration behind it, but I'm not quite sure it had any real story direction.

So, the film's Director, Kogonada, is a famous video-essayist, who specializes in pieces on classic arthouse analysis. (Shrugs, searches "Kogonada Video essays" on Google.) Oh, okay, he's more prominent on Vimeo; I really should check Vimeo out more often.

Well, I'm looking at some of his work while I write this, and yeah, he seems interesting. It's seems like he's done some work for Richard Linklater among others in the past, but he's definitely more influenced by Eastern filmmakers. He does pieces on other filmmakers too, but he mentions names life Ozu as an influence, I'm looking at his video now on Koreeda; yeah, I can kinda see where he's coming from with "Columbus", which has a slice-of-life tone, the characters that are fascinated with talking about, basically the meaning of life or lack thereof. (Shrugs) I will say though, that the name that struck me while watching "Columbus", was Michelangelo Antonioni. Not necessarily stylistically, but because of the film's fascination with architecture.

I had to look this one up, so the movie is titled and takes place in Columbus, Indiana; which would've been like my sixth choice if I had to blindly guess what "Columbus" they were talking about, but actually it makes sense. Apparently this home of Mike Pence, (Eye roll) and only about 44,000 other people is apparently ground zero for modern architecture and public art. Seriously, every architect you can name from the last 3/4 century, apparently has a building of some cultural or historical importance. Like I said, when I think use of architecture in film, I think of Antonioni, 'cause architecture isn't so much a symbol as it is a setting.

So, the Jesse and Celine, sorta, of this movie are Jim and Casey (John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson) Jim, is the son of a famous architect who was in town giving a lecture series, but then fell ill and is now in a coma. Casey is a high school graduate who works at a local library, and the movie is basically going back-and-forth between her talking with Jim or her talking with Gabriel (Rory Culkin) a fellow co-worker. In between, there's some other splices of scenes, most notably with Casey and her dysfunctional mother Eleanor (Parker Posey). But, Jim and Casey are both stuck in town and both are dealing with their parents' current situation, so they talk and they both have architecture in common, and they're surrounded by it. I guess if this movie was made in Las Vegas, we'd be seeing this movie go up and down the Strip (Naturally in the wrong order) as the main pairing dissect and analyze the history of the casinos.

I'm not sure what to make of this film honestly. I think it works more in theory than in practice, 'cause honestly, if you don't know the significant importance of Columbus, Indiana regarding the architecture world, this film could completely go over your head, on the other hand, I don't think there's much else. This isn't really a romance, and I can't really call it a "Strangers in a Strange land" film a la "The Before Trilogy" or "Lost in Translation", because only one of the main characters, of the ones that are awake enough to talk, is a stranger. This is what I mean when I say that there's a lot of inspiration, but not a lot of story. I guess that's apart of it, but on the other hand I kept just wondering what kept these two talking to each other. And talk to each other a lot about, architecture. I'd bet money that this does relate to local Indianans more than it does me, believe me, I've had some conversations with visitors where basically all I did was pontificate on things like the odds of every bet in every casino betting game and whatnot, but then again, I live in a tourist town, we're supposed to do that. Casey just seems to talk to others because, it's a movie and she's girl we're fascinated over so she better have something interesting to say. (Shrugs)

Maybe if I caught up on my Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei I would get more out of this film, so I guess I'm recommending it, 'cause it is strange and interestingly different enough; I just hope there's more to Kogonada in the future and that he has more stories of his own that he can tell me that are fascinating, as oppose to just talking about how great the works of others are. Although to be fair, based on his video essays, he is really quite good at talking about the works of others.

THE MONKEY KING 2 (2016) Director: Pou-Soi Cheung


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I looked back at my notes on "The Monkey King 2" before writing this, apparently all I wrote was, "I just don't get this series. I think it's a..."- and I didn't finish the thought. I'm not sure I had any thought to finish honestly. I actually double-backed even and watched "The Monkey King" before going into it's sequel that for some reason was deemed quality enough to deserve an American theatrical release; I'll give them this, they're right that the sequel is better but...- this is another instance where I just feel like I'm not adept or knowledgeable enough about a culture to properly qualify a film; this is some bizarre mix of, if Stephen Chow wasn't as good and he tried to make a live-action "Kung Fu Panda" franchise, only with a monkey; that's about the best I can come up with to describe whatever the hell this franchise was that burned my corneas for a little over four hours of my life.

Apparently this is another retelling of "Journey to the West" a novel I'm starting to think I better read up on if I'm gonna understand Chinese culture. It's a different chapter in that story and one that's about 500 years after the events of the previous film and The Monkey King or Sun Wukong (Aaron Kwok) has to escort Guowang (Fei Xiang) to India on a pilgrimage to find some holy document. There's several other subplots here, but it's- I can't follow most of this. This movie, to me, was just the green screen equivalent of watching static. It's strange and alien, but not in any way that makes you compelled to seek out more about it; it's the kind of way that makes you suspect that even Hong Kong is probably a little bit embarrassed by the product. Like being introduced to a culture through it's worst reality show kind of embarrassment. If you're interested in anything this cartoony then I guess there's nothing wrong with this, but I feel like I've seen better versions of this story done in this style by somebody who's more adept at using the artificiality of the style and effects to their advantage to help us accentuate and care about what's going on. Maybe animation would've been a better medium than live-action, I'm not sure. Personally this is my equivalent to whatever the term "Uncanny Valley" is supposed to mean. (Seriously, I've never understood what the hell people are talking about with that term regarding animation; but see live-action shit like this, now I kinda understand it)

I'm giving it some slack, there's talent and craft here but if you can put up with it, good for you, me...- this is just too zany to take seriously.

KING GEORGES (2016) Director: Erika Frankel


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I've done quite a few things and gone to quite a few places in Philadelphia, most of which I'm fairly proud of, one thing that I haven't done and sadly, never will now is go and have a mean at Le-Bec-Fin. "King Georges" is Georges Perrier, a Philadelphia institution and a mammoth in the culinary world. His restaurant was the standard-bearer for classic French cuisine and dining in this country for decades. It was always way too expensive for me and my family to ever go, but the upper crust and elite, it was the diamond of fine dining. It's since closed, unfortunately and "King Georges" documents the last couple years of the restaurant and Perrier, who's a determined personality. There's several foodie docs out there on the running of restaurants and to be honest, they're all pretty much the same since anybody who runs a successful restaurant is basically married to it. "Le-Bec-Fin" in it's glory days was the premiere standard of elegance in dining. An elegance that frankly is outdated in most foodie circles, which is hard to fathom for Perrier, and to some extent, his executive chef Nicholas Elmi, a name people in food circles will also immediately recognize since he's gone on to major acclaim now, including winning Season 11 of "Top Chef" and a James Beard Award with his new Philadelphia restaurant, Laurel. It's interesting to see the evolution of him as well, as Perrier is winding down and starting to close and sell his restaurant and figure out what next step he'll take in a foodie and culinary world that's passed him by and yet see the top people who he's inspired and mentor begin to take it over from his influence. Perrier is an old-time French-born chef, he's loud, boisterous, obnoxious, a stickler for standards, and he had adapted to the local color. He has season tickets to the Eagles, even still, although he barely understands football. He definitely fit in with the culture. Philly's weird, foodie-wise 'cause it does have some high-end places by the best chefs in the country, but it's also a place that's probably more familiar with less food that's less sophisticated in tastes. And there's a great charm and good food related to this, but frankly I'm amazed some of these places like Le-Bec-Fin stayed opened and popular as long as they did, and Perrier helped start and develop that culture in the city.

The movie is brisk and entertaining, it's basically a quick little documentary about a great chef and what he means to food and the city, and not much else, which, I'm okay with. Sometimes, you just want a nice little documentary and sometimes that's all you need. I wish I could eat it instead of watch it, but all foodie docs have that issue.

THE CONFIRMATION (2016) Director: Bob Nelson


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"The Confirmation" to me was kinda like "The Bicycle Thief" only imagine it from the kid's point of view and the father is a complete fuck-up. (Shrugs) At least, that's what I got out of Bob Nelson's directorial debut; he's most famous for writing Alexander Payne's "Nebraska", but I guess there's other themes going on. The movie is bookended by the young kid, Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) by going to Confession where at first he tells Father Lyons (Stephen Tobolowsky) that he hasn't committed any sins, but by the end he's committed quite a few because of his father, Walt. (Clive Owen) is a struggling alcoholic who just barely is allowed to be with his son for a prolong period of time. His ex-wife Bonnie (Maria Bello) is remarried to Kyle (Matthew Modine) and she allows him to have Anthony for a couple days while they're on a brief trip. Walt's a freelance carpenter between drinking and hasn't had work in a while, but a job opens up after he accidentally stays at a bar too long while Anthony was in the car. The next morning, he realizes that his tools are stolen. That's where "The Bicycle Thief" aspect comes in, they're special tools and he needs to track them down. (You could also point to Chris Weitz's "A Better Life" as inspiration as well, I guess.) From there, they both go around town, while trying to get to know each other and find the tools. This includes telling a lot of lies and committing some crimes and nearly getting killed a few times,  Also, making an effort to make sure his Dad wouldn't drink. Oh, and Walt didn't pay the rent, so they got kicked out of his place and had to break into his mother's for a bit...- the movie is basically one long collection of crimes and misdemeanors that the kids see and tries to rationalize. At the beginning, his stepdad has made him very religious, but he's still figuring out the world in that way that we all are as kids as that age, and doesn't quite understand or realize what's really going on, like when he presses the "Give to Charity" button on the change machine at the supermarket, while Walt's trying to collect money for-, well, he's broke. There's other good performances as they go from interesting character to interesting character trying to find the box of tools, Patton Oswalt and Tim Blake-Nelson most notably.

This was a better movie to watch than it is to write about. I'm making it sound more generic than it is, but it is a lively and well-made slice-of-life. I think it's just one of those film's that's predictable. I basically know every beat that's about to happen or could happen, and that made it a little disappointing. It's not the most original story, but I don't think that's too much of a negative. It's just hard not to compare the movie to the better similar films it's clearly trying to emulate. For what it is though, it's got it's charms and it's well-made enough to recommend.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


As I write the Oscars post-mortem, I'm still unable to get ABC on my TV. I'm not sure why, apparently it's a local thing 'cause a friend of mine from the Nevada Film Office said the same thing to me on Twitter and I had to piggyback off a FB's friend's of mine's live stream to watch the network just completely...- I don't know what. The In Memoriam started, and then, boom, ABC, gone from all three TV's of mine. I'm sure it's an issue with the digital connection, or whatever but, my ABC's out and I don't know what the hell happened.

So, anyway, thanks Palatasai for letting me piggyback off your FB livefeed. Well, "The Shape of Water" broke the SAG Ensemble streak; I considered it an upset, I had it in 4th place going in and did not believe had a real shot at winning,... it's not my predictions were good beforehand anyway, so... I guess it deserves it. "The Shape of Water" had the best night, with four Oscars, including Picture and Director, which apparently go together again. It also took home Production Design and Original Score, and that's the first time a film won only those four Oscars. Weird combination. Also, one of only five films, to win Best Picture with a female as a credited screenwriter. "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" was the last, (Why is it always fantasy) and you have go back to like, "Rebecca" to see that previously. Seriously, it's that long apart.

Acting awards went paint, with Frances McDormand's and Sam Rockwell winning for Lead Actress and Supporting Actor respectively for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri", and McDormand had every female nominee stand up and insist on an Inclusion Rider. Or something like that, awesome! (Again, I'm recapping the ending a bit from 3rd degree scraps.) Gary Oldman won his Oscar for "Darkest Hour" and Allison Janney took Supporting Actress for "I, Tonya".  (P.S. If you don't know what an Inclusion Rider is, look it up. I love it when the stars use really insider Hollywood talk)

Jimmy Kimmel, was okay hosting, not great, not spectacular, although the show had it's moments all the way through. I liked that Mark Bridges, the Costume Designer for "Phantom Thread" took home a jetski, for shortest acceptance speech, that was a fun joke, although I liked it better when Billy Crystal gave away a TV back when he hosted for the 2000 Oscars. He didn't have a TV onstage though, and maybe I just like TV's more than jetskis, but that was still nice.

Jordan Peele became the first African-American to win for Original Screenplay, btw for "Get Out" and James Ivory, became the oldest Oscar winner winning for Best Adapted Screenplay for "Call Me By Your Name".

"A Fantastic Woman" became Chile's first Best Foreign Language Film winner and it's star Daniela Vega was the first trans performer to present at the Oscars. There were a lot of interesting presenters. Despite this being the 90th Oscars, they brought a few old stars back, Eva Marie Saint, Rita Moreno, who wore her old Oscar dress for when she won for "West Side Story", 'cause she's a freak of nature. They didn't go all out with it though like they have in the past. Annabella Sciorra presented, which was interesting and tense. Rose McGowen would've been a better fuck you to Harvey Weinstein, but I like the subtle touch on that one.

What else, "Dunkirk" did really well, winning Editing and both Sound categories, that was actually the biggest winner outside of "The Shape of Water", so this was not a year for the actors. I can't remember the last time, the two big winners at the Oscars both got shut out in Acting. Remind me to look that one up when I have more time, and less annoyed at my TV. (Flips channel) Oh, great, now my ABC affiliate's working. Sonofabitch.

"Darkest Hour" won the Makeup Oscar, which was nice I loved Kazuhiro Tsuji's speech about Gary Oldman, 'cause Gary talked him out of retirement to do that makeup job, and it's nice to see that they both got rewards this year. And he had never won before, and he's a legendary makeup guy.

Speaking of never won before, Roger A. Deakins, the streak is over at 14, "Blade Runner 2049" won Cinematography and Visual Effects this year. I guess the ape vote was split with "War for the Planet of the Apes" and "Kong: Skull Island". The Short categories were all interesting. Animated Short went to "Dear Basketball" which means that Kobe Bryant is an Oscar winner, 'cause he never wins enough, so good for him. (Sigh) Also, in things I got wrong, "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405" won in an upset for Documentary Short, the documentary about the troubled artist was quite touching and "The Silent Child" won Live-Action Short, so both Live-Action Short and Best Picture had lead characters that spoke in sign language. That's odd. (Shrugs) Okay.

"Coco" won two Oscars, winning Animated Feature and in a bit of an upset won Best Original Song. The performances btw were okay, although if you ask me Kaela Settle gave the starmaking performance of a lifetime, that was the highlight at the Oscars for me. Sorry for Diane Warren's losing streak to continue on, but, oh well.

They gave Agnes Varda the Honorary Oscar earlier this year, but "Icarus" pulled off the upset for Best Documentary which, makes sense, it's timely considering voting was during the Olympics and also, Netflix, it's their first win outside of Documentary Short now; nothing won for "Mudbound" but that's a big win for them.

Overall, this was a less-exciting Oscars, which, frankly considering last year, I'm happy about. Nice touch also bringing back Faye and Warren to present Best Picture at the end. There were good speeches here and there, I like how everybody had their own little thing. It was a good, quiet, subtle elbow-jerking to the rest of the world, instead of being insistent on them, and everybody seemed happy and defiant in one way or another, which I think is the right tone. They've could've done with doing something different than just monologues and the occasional legend presenter, but I think this was a good year not to experiment too much and they didn't. They gave us a nice regular Oscar shows and that's all we needed and all we wanted this year.

Now, if only I didn't miss the last half-hour or so because my ABC affiliate's light went out...! (Annoyed sigh) I don't know what happened with that, I'm sure I'll find out eventually, or not, knowing this town, but...- (Sigh)

Also, don't look at all my predictions, I did terrible this year. I am determined that one year I will go perfect predicting the Oscars, I promise.... Just not this time.

Okay, this is two-, no, three days after the Oscars now, and yes, KTNV the Las Vegas ABC affiliate had a technical snafu of some kind and a good portion of the Las Vegas audience, myself included, were unable to watch the Oscars for the last,- 45 minutes or so. From the beginning of the "In Memoriam" onward, and it didn't come back on until two hours later. The article below explains what they know,

no, the Review-Journal didn't post any of my tweets on the issue, but,...- honestly, just, happy to know that it wasn't me going crazy and that there was an actual issue. So, yeah, overall, I don't know what the technical issue was, but if you're wondering why this Post-Mortem is much more, tonally disappointing than it probably should be, this is why. Maybe I shouldn't let something like that throw me off so much, but it did, and that's wrong, 'cause this wasn't the Academy's fault, this time, but man, that was annoying.