Wednesday, December 30, 2020

THE 9TH ANNUAL ONE-YEAR-LATER AWARDS! Honoring the Best in Cinema from the Year Before. (Sorry for being a year behind with the OYLs this year, again.... [sigh])

(David presses record) 

Good Evening, Everyone, and welcome, to the 9th Annual One-Year-Later Awards! Honoring the best in cinema from the year before, or the year before the year before in this case. Again.


Anyway, thanks to COVID-19 and everything that's gone wrong in 2020, we're just gonna get over with like we did the nominations. 

(Motions to the side of the desk)

I got the envelopes right here. We're gonna start with the first category. Outstanding Makeup and Hairstyling. And I should have this set up to go through the nominees here....

(Looks intently at screen while fumbling with mouse)

there we go.

(MONTAGE of nominees plays)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Makeup by Christien Tinsley, Corey Welk and Rolf John Keppler; Hairstyling by Matt Danon
Black Panther-Makeup: Joel Harlow, Ken Diaz and Sian Richards;  Hair: Camille Friend, Jaime Leigh McIntosh and Louisa V. Anthony
BlackkKlansman-Makeup: Martha Melendez; Hair: LaWanda M. Pierre Weston and Shaun Perkins
Bohemian Rhapsody-Makeup/Hair: Jan Sewell, Charlie Hounslow-Smith and Rebecca Cole; Makeup: Mark Coulier; Hair: Julio Parodi
Border-Makeup: Goran Lundstrom and Pamela Goldammer; Hair: Sara Englund and Johanna Ruben
The Favourite-Makeup/Hair: Beverley Binda, Samantha Denyer, and Nadia Stacey
Mary Queen of Scots-Makeup/Hair: Jenny Shircore, Hannah Edwards and Sarah Kelly; Makeup: Jessica Brooks; Hair: Marc Pilcher 
Never Look Away-Makeup/Hair: Anett Weber; Makeup: Matteo Silvi, Maurizio Silvi and Linda Eisenhamerova; Hair: Marco Perna and Aldo Signoretti
Vice-Makeup: Kate Biscoe, Greg Cannom, Chris Gallaher, Ann Pala Williams and Jamie Kelman; Hair: Patricia Dehaney 

(Grabs top envelope) 

And the OYL Award goes to, 

(Open envelope) 

The team from "VICE". Kate Biscoe, Greg Cannom, Chris Gallaher, Ana Pala Williams, Jamie Kelman and Patricia Dehaney!

NOT PICTURED: Chris Gallaher and Ana Pala Williams

(David claps his hands for a moment while the photos appear on screen, finishing after it cuts back to him.)

Well, normally we'd have some music play, and there'd be an audience cheering and we'd hand out the awards and...- Man, even fake award shows feel weird during COVID. 


Alright, next award. 

(Grabs top envelope)

Best Original Song. Here are the nominees. 

(David clicks mouse)

"When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings"-The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Music & Lyrics by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
"A Cover is Not the Book"-Mary Poppins Returns-Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Scott Wittman
"The Place Where the Lost Things Go"-Mary Poppins Returns-Music & Lyrics by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Scott Wittman
"Dancing Through the Wreckage"-Served Like a Girl-Music & Lyrics by Linda Perry and Neil Giraldo & Pat Benatar
"Shallow"-A Star is Born-Music & Lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt

Alright, the OYL goes to...

(Opens envelope)

"Shallow"! from "A Star is Born".

(David claps his hands again, less loudly this time as the pictures go on the screen. He stops before he returns to them.)

Alright, next up, ummm....

(David grabs top envelope)

Ah, one of the big ones. Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actor.

(David clicks mouse)

Steve Buscemi-"The Death of Stalin"
Steve Carell-"Vice"
Adam Driver-"BlackkKlansman"
Armie Hammer-"Sorry to Bother You"
Oscar Isaac-"At Eternity's Gate"
Michael B. Jordan-"Black Panther"
Sebastien Koch-"Never Look Away"
Oliver Masucci-"Never Look Away"
Henry B.J. Phiri-"I Am Not a Witch"
Linus Roache-"Mandy"

And the OYL Award goes to... 

(Opens envelope)

MICHAEL B. JORDAN for "Black Panther"!

(David claps hands a few times and stops early as the photo pops up.)

I don't know whether to keep clapping after each of these or not. It seems like I should do something, but I don't want to keep clapping like an idiot. Oh well... the next category is-eh, Best Production Design, I think.

(Grabs envelope on top of pile.)

Yep, Production Design. Here are the nominees:

(Pauses for a moment while looking intently at the screen before clicking the mouse.)

Black Panther-Production Design by Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration by Jay Hart
BlackkKlansman-Production Design by Curt Beech; Set Decoration by Cathy T. Marshall
Crazy Rich Asians-Production Design by Nelson Coates; Set Decoration by Andrew Baseman
The Favourite-Production Design by Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration by Alice Felton
First Man-Production Design by Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration by Kathy Lucas
Isle of Dogs-Production Design by Paul Harrod and Adam Stockhausen; Art Direction by Curt Enderle
Mary Poppins Returns-Production Design by John Myhre; Set Decoration by Gordon Sim
Never Look Away-Production Design by Silke Buhr; Set Decoration by Julia Roeske and Yvonne von Krockow
Roma-Production Design by Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration by Barbara Enriquez
Sorry to Bother You-Production Design by Jason Kisvarday; Set Decoration by Kelsi Ephraim

The OYL Award goes to...

(Opens Envelope)

"BLACK PANTHER". Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart!

(David claps hands again.)

Alright, next category. 

(Grabs top envelope)

Best Editing. There are ten nominee-, I've been forgetting to do like, the official, intros to these things, haven't I? There are ten nominees, the maximum, in the category of Best Editing. The nominees are...

(David clicks mouse)

Black Panther-Debbie Berman and Michael P. Shawver
BlackkKlansman-Barry Alexander Brown
Capernaum-Chief Editor: Konstantin Bock; Editor: Laure Gardette
First Man-Tom Cross
The Guilty-Carla Luffe Heintzelmann
Never Look Away-Patricia Rommel; Co-Editor: Patrick Sanchez-Smith
The Other Side of the Wind-Bob Murawski and Orson Welles
A Quiet Place-Christopher Tellefsen
A Star is Born-Jay Cassidy
Vice-Hank Corwin

(Opens envelope)

And the OYL Award goes to... Christopher Tellefsen, for "A QUIET PLACE"!

(David claps again until photo fade out.)

I think he's been nominated before, and this is his first win? Yeah, we couldn't afford the announcer guy that knows the statistics this year. Also, it seems kinda pointless this year to have him for this. 

(Deep Sigh)

Anyway, what's next? 

(Grabs top envelope)

Best Documentary Feature. There are ten nominees, the maximum, in the category this year, and here are the nominees: 

(David clicks mouse)

Call Her Ganda-Director/Producer: PJ Raval; Producers: Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, Marty Syjuco and Lisa Valencia-Svensson
Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes-Director:/Producer: Alexis Bloom; Producer: Will Cohen
McQueen-Director/Producer: Ian Bonhote; Co-Director: Peter Ettudgui; Producers: Andree Ryder, Nick Taussig and Paul Van Carter
Of Fathers and Sons-Director: Talal Derki; Producers: Hans Robert Eisenhauer, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias Seibert
RBG-Director/Producers: Julie Cohen & Betsy West; 
Science Fair-Director/Producers: Cristina Constantini & Darren Foster; Producer: Jeff Plunkett
Shirkers-Director/Producers: Sandi Tan; Producers: Jessica Levin and Maya E. Rudolph
Three Identical Strangers-Director: Tim Wardle; Producer: Grace Hughes-Hallett
Whitney-Director: Kevin MacDonald; Producers: Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn and Lisa Erspamer
Won't You By My Neighbor?-Director/Producer: Morgan Neville; Producers: Caryn Capotosto and Nicholas Ma 

(Opens envelope) 

And the OYL goes to "SCIENCE FAIR"!

(David claps again)

The next award is for, Best Ensemble Performance. This is the award for the Best Performance by the entire cast and is award to all the accredited cast members of a film. Here are the maximum, ten nominees. 

(David clicks mouse)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Boy Erased
Crazy Rich Asians
The Death of Stalin
The Favourite
If Beale Street Could Talk
Never Look Away
A Quiet Place

And the OYL goes to...

(Opens envelope) 


(David claps again, this time starting before the picture comes up and ending after the picture fades out.)

Alright, we're getting there. Next up...

(Looks at top envelope)

It's the weird category. It's the Outstanding Narrative Voiceover, Character Voiceover or Alternative Performance. There are, nine nominees in this category, and they are....

(David grabs at envelope, realizes he forgets to click the mouse, so he hurriedly clicks the mouse.)

Josh Brolin-"Avengers: Infinity War"
Bryan Cranston-"Isle of Dogs"
David Cross-"Sorry to Bother You"
Lily James-"Sorry to Bother You"
Patton Oswalt-"Sorry to Bother You"
Liev Schreiber-"Isle of Dogs"
Sarah Silverman-"Ralph Breaks the Internet"
Phoebe Waller-Bridge-"Solo: A Star Wars Story"
Ben Whishaw-"Paddington 2"

And the OYL goes to...

(Opens envelope) 

DAVID CROSS for "Sorry to Bother You"!

(David claps hands again briefly)

Alright congratulations. We got Casting up next. This award is presented to the film's Casting Director, and here are the ten nominees.

(David clicks mouse)

American Animals-Casting by Avy Kaufman; Voice Casting by Sylvie Yarza
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Casting by Ellen Chenoweth
BlackkKlansman-Casting by Kim Coleman
Capernaum-Jennifer Haddad
Crazy Rich Asians-Casting by Terri Taylor
The Favourite-Casting by Dixie Chassay
If Beale Street Could Talk-Casting by Cindy Tolan
Never Look Away-Casting by Simone Bar and Alexandra Montag
Roma-Casting by Luis Rosales
Sorry to Bother You-Casting by Eyde Belasco

And the OYL Award goes to...

(Opens envelope)

"CRAZY RICH ASIANS"! Casting by Terri Taylor. 

(David claps his hands a few times, but stop early this time.)

Alright. I think we're almost half-way through, not bad. It's nice doing it this way, it's much quicker, much less elaborate. Next up...-

(David checks top envelope in pile) 

There's ten nominees, the maximum, in the category of Best Costume Design. Here are the nominees: 

(David clicks mouse)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Mary Zophres
Black Panther-Ruth Carter
Bohemian Rhapsody-Julian Day
Crazy Rich Asians-Mary E. Vogt
The Favourite-Sandy Powell
In Fabric-Jo Thompson
Mary Poppins Returns-Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots-Alexandra Byrne
Never Look Away-Gabriele Binder
Sorry to Bother You-Deirdra Elizabeth Govan

(Grabs envelope and begins to open it.) 

And the OYL goes to.

(David finishes opening the envelope) 

"Black Panther", Ruth Carter!

(David claps a few times)

That's a good win. Alright, a big one, Best Cinematography! There's ten nominees, the maximum, in the category this year, and here they are. 

(David clicks mouse)

At Eternity's Gate-Benoit Delhomme
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Bruno Delbonnel
Black Panther-Rachel Morrison
BlackkKlansman-Chayse Irvin
Cold War-Lukasz Zal
Free Solo-Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer
If Beale Street Could Talk-James Laxton
Never Look Away-Caleb Deschanel
Roma-Alfonso Cuaron
A Star is Born-Matthew Libatique

And the OYL Award goes to.

(Opens envelope)

"ROMA", Alfonso Cuaron!

(David claps a few times, before suddenly stopping)

Eh, he wins a lot, I don't need to clap that much for him. Congratulations still. Next up Animated Feature. In coordiance with the A.M.P.A.S. standards, we have five nominees in the category. The award goes to the film's directors and producers. The nominees are: 

(David clicks mouse) 

Incredibles 2-Dir.: Brad Bird; Pro.: Nicole Paradis Grindle and John Walker
Isle of Dogs-Dir./Pro.: Wes Anderson; Pro.: Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales and Scott Rudin
Mirai-Dir.: Mamoru HOSODA; Pro.: Takuya ITO, Genki KAWAMURA and Yuichiro SAITO
Ralph Breaks the Internet-Dir.: Phil Johnston & Rich Moore; Pro.: Clark Spencer
Tito and the Birds-Dir./Pro.: Gustavo Steinberg; Co-Dir.: Gabriel Bitar and Andre Catoto; Pro.: Daniel Greco and Felipe Sabino

And the OYL Award goes to....

(David struggles to open envelope)

Oh, god-dangit, open.

(Envelope rips awkwardly.)

AH! I hate when that happen. The OYL goes to "ISLE OF DOGS"!

(David struggles to disgard the envelope and doesn't clap 'til after the picture had faded out. He stops shortly after realizing he's onscreen.)

Okay, that looks weird, me clapping randomly on screen; I'm just gonna stop the clapping now. Next up, ah, a big one. Best Supporting Actress; there's the maximum, ten nominees in the categories and they are...:

(David clicks mouse)

Amy Adams-"Vice"
Emily Blunt-"A Quiet Place"
Marina de Tavira-"Roma"
Laura Harrier-"BlackkKlansman"
Regina King-"If Beale Street Could Talk"
Saskia Rosendahl-"Never Look Away"
Emma Stone-"The Favourite"
Tessa Thompson-"Sorry to Bother You"
Rachel Weisz-"The Favourite"
Michelle Yeoh-"Crazy Rich Asians"

And the OYL goes to... 

(Opens envelope)

RACHEL WEISZ, for "The Favourite"

Alright, congrats to her. Next up is, Best Foreign Language Feature.

(David grabs envelope)

Boy that pile's starting to finally wittle down. Here are then ten nominees, the maximum, in the category of Best Foreign Language Feature: 

(David clicks mouse)

The Cakemaker-Ofir Raul Grazier (Israel)
Capernaum-Nadine Labeki (Lebanon)
The Guilty-Gustav Moller (Denmark)
I Am Not a Witch-Rungano Nyoni (United Kingdom)
Mirai-Mamoru HOSODA (Japan)
Never Look Away-Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany)
Of Fathers and Sons-Talal Derki (Syria/Germany)
Revenge-Coralie Fargeat (France)
Roma-Alfonso Cuaron (Mexico)
Shoplifters-Hirokazu KOREEDA (Japan)

And the OYL goes to...

(Opens envelope)


Alright. up next, we got Original Screenplay. There are ten nominees, the maximum, in the category, and here they are: 

(David forgets to click the mouse for about thirty seconds before realizing his mistake and then hurringly clicks it.) 

Capernaum-Nadine Labeki, Jihad Hojeily & Michelle Kerserwany
Eighth Grade-Bo Burnham
The Favourite-Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed-Paul Schrader
Isle of Dogs-Story/Screenplay: Wes Anderson; Story: Roman Coppola & Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi NOMURA
Never Look Away-Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
A Quiet Place-Story/Screenplay: Bryan Woods & Scott Beck; Screenplay: John Krasinski
Roma-Alfonso Cuaron
Sorry to Bother You-Boots Riley
Vice-Adam McKay

And the OYL Award goes to... 

(Opens envelope)


Alright, now, we go to, Best Adapted Screenplay. Again, ten nominees this year, the maximum, and here are the nominees: 

(David clicks mouse)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Black Panther-Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
BlackkKlansman-Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Boy Erased-Joel Edgerton
Crazy Rich Asians-Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim
The Death of Stalin-Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows
The Hate U Give-Audrey Wells
Lean on Pete-Andrew Haigh
If Beale Street Could Talk-Barry Jenkins
The Wife-Jane Anderson

And the One-Year-Later Award goes to...

(David grabs and opens envelope.)

"BLACKkKLANSMAN", writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee!

Okay, down to only big ones now. Next one is Best Actress. You know, when we'd have presenters, we'd usually try to give descriptions of the characters or the plots of some of the movies and performances that were nominated, something a little more formal then this, but-eh, since we don't have presenters, or a real, fake show, here, I hope you're all okay with just, here are the nominees, again...:

(David shrugs before clicking the mouse)

Yalitza Aparicio-"Roma"
Glenn Close-"The Wife"
Olivia Colman-"The Favourite"
Tyne Daly-"A Bread Factory Part One: For the Sake of Gold"
Elsie Fisher-"Eighth Grade"
Lady Gaga-"A Star is Born"
Regina Hall-"Support the Girls"
Helena Howard-"Madeline's Madeline"
Melissa McCarthy-"Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
Amandla Stenberg-"The Hate U Give"

And the OYL goes to... 

(Opens envelope)


Okay, congratulation. Okay, now onto Best Actor. The ten nominees, the maximum, for Best Actor are...: 

(Slight pause, David clicks mouse.)

Zain Al Rafeaa-"Capernaum"
Christian Bale-"Vice"
Jacob Cedegren-"The Guilty"
Willem Dafoe-"At Eternity's Gate"
Ethan Hawke-"First Reformed"
Stephan James-"If Beale Street Could Talk"
Tim Kalkhof-"The Cakemaker"
Tom Schilling-"Never Look Away"
LaKeith Stanfield-"Sorry to Bother You"
John David Washington-"BlackkKlansman"

And the One-Year-Later Award goes to...: 

(David grabs top envelope and opens it.)


(David starts clapping unconsciously quietly, before realizing he said he wouldn't clap anymore.) 

Oh, dammit. I forgot that I wasn't clapping anymore. Alright, two categories left. Here are the nominees for Best Director: 

(David clicks mouse)

Ethan Coen & Joel Coen-"The Ballad of Buster Scruggs"
Alfonso Cuaron-"Roma"
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck-"Never Look Away"
Yorgos Lanthimos-"The Favourite"
Spike Lee-"BlackkKlansman"
Adam McKay-"Vice"
Boots Riley-"Sorry to Bother You"
Julian Schnabel-"At Eternity's Gate"
George Tillman, Jr.-"The Hate U Give"
Orson Welles-"The Other Side of the Wind"

(David grabs envelope and rips it open.)

And the OYL Award goes to...-


(David picks up the last envelope. Turns it to the camera to show "BEST PICTURE" written on it.)

Alright, last one. Here we go. The nominees for Best Picture are:

(David clicks mouse. A longer montage than the others have been plays)

At Eternity's Gate
    Producer: Jon Kilik

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs 
    Producers: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, Megan Ellison, Robert Graf and Sue Naegle

    Producers: Jason Blum, Spike Lee, Raymond Mansfield, Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele and Shaun Redick

Crazy Rich Asians
    Producers: Nina Jacobson, John Penotti and Brad Simpson

The Favourite
    Producers: Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Lee Magiday

The Hate U Give
    Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Robert Teitel and George Tillman, Jr.

Never Look Away
    Producers: Quirin Berg, Christiane Henckel von Donnersmarck, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Jan Mojto and Max Wiedemann

The Other Side of the Wind
    Producers: Frank Marshall, Filip Jan Rymsza

    Producers: Nicolas Celis, Alfonso Cuaron and Gabriela Rodriguez

Sorry to Bother You
    Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, Forest Whitaker and Kelly Williams

Oh-kay. That actually was cool. Ummm...-

(David bangs on the edge of his desk for a second.)

That's the drumroll for this year.

(David picks up and opens the "Best Picture" envelope.)


Congratulations to the winners and nominees. Sorry for all the delays, and hopefully, soon enough I'll catch up and actually do these One-Year-Later awards in a decent time period and also, when we're healthy enough to actually do a real, fake awards show. G'night, everybody. 

(Tsk) Sorry there's no outro music this time....

(David presses stop)

(David presses record)

Dammit, I forget I have to read the legal stuff now....

(Clears throat, picks up printed sheet of paper to read from) 

All votes tabulations are done by the in-house accountants of David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews". The results of those tabulations are kept secret until the envelopes are opened on the night of the show. 

The ONE-YEAR-LATER Awards are a David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews Production. 

In association with Midnight Green Studios. 

Okay, now I think we're done. 

(David presses stop.)


Michel Birtel (1968-2019)
NOMINEE-BEST DOCUMENTARY-"Waiting for Superman" 

KIM Ki-Duk (1960-2020)

John Sessions (1953-2020)

Isao Takahata (1935-2018)
WINNER-Best Animated Feature-"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"
NOMINEE-Best Foreign Language Film-"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"
NOMINEE-Best Animated Feature-"The Red Turtle"

Orson Welles (1915-1985)
NOMINEE-BEST DIRECTOR-"The Other Side of the Wind"
NOMINEE-BEST EDITING-"The Other Side of the Wind"

Audrey Wells-(1960-2018)

Eric Zumbrunnen (1964-2017)

Saturday, December 26, 2020


Happy Holidays Everyone, 

I don't really much to say this week for an opening for the reviews. The only thing of note for me, is that, it's that, I'm healthier now. I'm not back-to-work yet, but I hope to be very soon. Mostly, I've been spending Christmas catching up on stuff that's been piling up. I'm feeling better though and I'm starting to think about writing a bit more these days. I'm starting to get some ideas again which is good. 

In the meantime, I got around to more movies this time around then unusual, including some newer ones, thank you streaming, so let's get to them.  

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019) Director: Joachim Ronning


I went to look up my original review of "Maleficent", and I found that I was much more forgiving then I originally thought I was. I knew I recommended it, barely, but I do have to stretch that I didn't care much at all originally for "Sleeping Beauty"; which I think of as easily one of the worst of the really big Disney animated features in the classic canon, but I also didn't care much for Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) herself as a character. I even noted that a 3 STARS review from me is basically a 4 STARS review from a normal critic at the end because of my bias. That seemed to be the consensus. Most people liked it fine enough, and to be fair, among all this-eh, um, what are we calling this era of Disney again? I've heard it called "Post-Disney", I've heard "Late Stage Disney", eh, this era of reboots and remakes and  et. al, anyway, "Maleficent I think generally gets some of the most praise among these movies. And I guess for good reason; it's the one that wasn't just a direct remake with a few minor changes in details and it actually was a distinctly unique new perspective and retelling of an old classic that actually worked to recontextualize a villain character into a heroic character, among other changes. That said, eh, I still don't get exactly why they wanted to do this? I seem to be in the minority on this, but I just never thought Maleficent was as interesting a villain as everybody else seems to think she is. People talk about how powerful she is and all, and she is admittedly. She's some kind of sorceress, in this world specifically, she's a faerie, I think, or a fey, she holds power and influence over the forest? I'm not sure this is right, but I'm going use the a-e spelling to describe her kind of faeries, 'cause I think Thistlewit, Flittle and Knotgrass (Juno Temple, Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton, respectively) are the other kinds of fairies in this universe?) Anyway, I-, I don't know; I just never felt that she was worth redeeming. Like, I guess some people think of how badass she is for going through all this just because she didn't get invited to a party, she prepares a decades-long plan to inevitably kill the kid or whatever and turns into a dragon, blah, blah, blah, but I always just found her petty. I guess others found that lack of a real excuse for her actions compelling, and I guess "Maleficent" comes out of a desire to create a more interestng one for her. I know some friends of mine personally, who always thought of her as really badass, but I always just found her petty. Like an old Italian woman who will hold a grudge forever because she got in a fight with a neighbor over who borrowed who's casserole pan and never returned it. Like, even as a villain, I always felt like she should just have better uses of her time then to care so much about Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). 

Ugh. Anyway, that's me. This movie though, is this any good? Eh, not really, but it's some moments. Aurora is now Queen of the Moors and has just become engaged to Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). She is then invited to a get-together with Philip's parents King John and Queen Ingrith (Robert Lindsay and Michlle Pfieffer). Hey, she's actually invited, and she comes, and things go badly. The King faints and everybody incorrects blames Maleficent for it, and the Queen attacks her. This leads Maleficent underground where she's saved by group of underground militia feys, led by Conail (Chiewetel Ejiofor) and Borra (Ed Skrein). They introduce her to a world of her own kind that she's never known existed before, and they're preparing for a battle with the humans that have shoved them underground. 

And, that's where the movie basically feels like it's on Disney autopilot. Even at the time, the big complaint with "Maleficent" was that it's twist were actually a little too close to "Frozen", which came out the year before, to some extent this feels like it's even worst here, but the thing is, this feels like a problem for a lot of animated films actually. The new world that main outsider character never knew about before and now find others like themselves? It's not a bad sequel narrative, off the top of my head, I can think of like half a dozen recent kids movies, mostly animated sequels that basically are just that narrative and a lot of them, like "Frozen II" are really good, even great. "Maleficent" is where it doesn't work. Not because of the technical filmmaking; I actually really admired these scenes, in some ways they were the best of the film. It also meant, that this movie became, unbelievably predictable and boring. This is one of those movies where I can already see the plotpoints coming and basically the order they're coming in and you're just sitting there waiting for the inevitable. At the thirty minute mark, its clear that there is only one way this movie will end. 

"Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" earned an Oscar nomination last year for Outstanding Makeup and Hairstyling, which is admittedly one of the only reasons I'm even getting around to it now instead of much later, and admittedly the makeup is pretty good. So are a lot of the Visual Effects; the world of the underground Feys are quite spectacular and I guess it does technically add to the mythos of Maleficent, I can't quite recommend it. The main narrative story however, which really seems to focus mostly on Aurora and her wedding, it's just, obvious plot by numbers. It's an unnecessary sequel to a film that I barely tolerated the first one of and I'm not sure they had that many ideas to begin with for it.

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7  (2020) Director: Aaron Sorkin


Well, confession time; I wasn't actually going to watch and review "The Trial of the Chicago 7" so soon; I've gone over my process of selecting what movies I watch and when and why before, I wrote a blogpost about it awhile ago, but-uh, honestly the process is not nearly as interesting or sane as I recommend, but the fact that I'm about two years behind on movies in general.... (Like, I'm literally in the middle of creating my One-Year-Later Awards blog that's a year late for while I'm writing this), so,  occasionally I'm going to try to start finding reasons to jump the queue on certain things. In this case, I was inspired to get this out of the way by a Youtuber named Devin Stone, who goes by the name Legal Eagle. He's a lawyer who reviews and explains the letter of the law in recent news cases, and occasionally looks into the accuracy of how the practice of the law is portrayed in media, and I didn't want to see his review until I saw the movie. 

That said, I was probably gonna find an excuse anyway. I've made no secret of my appreciation of the film's writer/director Aaron Sorkin. At his best, he is the best writer in Hollywood. At his worst, he's, still the best writer in Hollywood."The Trial of the Chicago 7" is somewhere in between, although leaning towards him at his worst. Now, I've been hearing about this movie and script for years, back when Spielberg was attached to direct in, like, eh, well over a decade ago I think. The movie got passed around for awhile and after Sorkin directed his first feature, "Molly's Game" a couple years ago. I'm not certain he is a great director, although he's certainly competent at it, and I'd say getting better. 

For those who don't know the story of the Chicago 7, (Deep breath) so-eh, the 1968 Democratic Convention in 1968, was a shitshow. There's a bunch of reasons for this, and the movie begins with a pretty good montage of them but basically before 2020, the Summer of '68 is arguably the most tumultuous political climate in the history of the country, (In fact you might still be able to argue it), and there was a riot outside the Convention between the protestors, and there were a lot of protestors, and the police, and there were a lot of police. 

Anyway, shortly after Nixon's election, his D.A. John Mitchell (John Doman), and if you know your Watergate history, you know the kind of crook he turned out to be, instructed his lawyers in Illinois to prosecute those who he claimed started the riot. Mostly, as the prosecuting attorney, Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explained, the Radical Left in different clothing. The Seven are the heads of several different left-wing groups who formed protests outside the convention, there's The Mobe, which was the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, they were led at the time by longtime anti-war activist and conscientious objector David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch). There was also one of the strongest arms of the political New Left, called the Students for a Democratic Society, which was led by Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden (Alex Sharp and Eddie Redmayne). There was also the Youth International Party, or the Yippies as they were called, now they were the real cultural side of this Radical left led by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin (Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong), we would recognize them as the extreme counterculture, hippies of the time. They were part of the protests, but they were throwing a party, with musical acts and free love, sex and rock'n'roll as well; a love-in, they might call it.
They were the main five, the other two members Lee Weiner and John Froines (Noah Robbins and Danny Flaherty) were essentially hangers-on that they could charge supposedly for their actions, and then there was Bobby Seale, (Yahya Abdul Mateen II), the head of the Black Panthers Party, who was the eighth man prosecuted. He really wasn't involved in anything regarding the riots, but he literally got thrown into the case too. I'm not even joking, he flew in to give a speech, and then literally flew back out to Oakland; he was in Chicago for like four hours and wasn't near the riots at all and that's the least insane shit regarding the crap that happened to him during this "trial". 

I think that's where the issue is with this film, it doesn't actually go far enough; I wish this was a miniseries and you actually could make a Ryan Murphy-esque "American Crime Story"-like miniseries out of this story. Perhaps it wouldn't be particularly believable; in fact the last movie I remember seeing that discussed the Chicago 7 Trial was this documentary "Chicago 10", which is a really good documentary btw, but the movie actually recreated much fo the insane antics, both judicial and non-judicial that went on in the trial, through rotoscoping animation, similar to the rotoscoping techniques of Richard Linklater's films "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly". I recommend "Chicago 10" a lot too btw, that's a really underrated documentary, but yeah, I kinda feel the same way about this film as I did about "Charlie Wilson's War", another script penned by Sorkin which is a good movie, but it's one of those real-life stories that's actually much more dramatic story to find out the background about then it was to dramatize. That's one of Sorkin's few weaknesses; he's actually so good at details that it's better when he's dealing with stories that might actually deal with excrutiating minutia and find the ways to drag the drama and comedy out of them, instead of the truly absurd and amazing real-life stories that don't necessarily need his skillset. That's why "The Social Network" works so well, he's taking really complex ideas detailed about computer programming and finding the drama in some otherwise really benign deposition hearings and showing why they're so important and we have to pay attention to see just how hugely important they are.

The Chicago 7 Trial is like the exact opposite of this; it's an infamous insane trial, led by an aged, racist bias judge, Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) who was completely unfit for a highly politically-motivated Conspiracy Trial, where all the defendants were charged with a crime that literally nobody else had ever been charged with before, and this guy can't even understand that Bobby Seale isn't being represented by William Kunstler (Mark Rylance). Kunstler was the main lawyer for the defense, but he didn't represent all of the defendants and Seale's lawyer was hospitalized at the time of the trial and for reasons that I, and even the prosecution at some point couldn't father, wouldn't allow for either a continuance or for Seale to get a new lawyer, or for him to act as counsel in his own defense, and I want to stress this even further then that, this judge was not fit for any trial court. No case had more Contempt-of-Court charges filed against the defendants or their attorneys then this trial, and every one of them was reversed on appeal, and of course, all of the Chicago 7 were acquitted on appeal. 

I don't want to express my pickiness over the movie to dissuade you; this is still a really striking and smart film. There's some amazing performances all around; I didn't even mention a striking cameo by Michael Keaton that it's own insane misuse of the Justice System. Rylance as the legendary lawyer is particularly good here; I barely recognized if was him. Eddie Redmayne also gives one of his best performances. Cohen also gives a strong performance as Abbie Hoffman. Some of the best scenes involve the characters discussing their judicial dilemma along with their political disagreements. How the fear of the Far Left Yippies and their cultural revolution would taint activist Left politics forever. I'm amazed were still having this debate today. In fact, a lot of these debates we're still having today. (In fact, a lot of Trump's Presidency corresponds to Nixon's only his corruption and breaking of the laws of justice was better hidden, as have most of the recent GOP presidencies have been.) 

I'm glad that "The Trial of the Chicago 7" didn't come out until now, when it's probably at its most cultural evocative, at least I hope it is now. To paraphrase Seth Meyers's recurring monologue segment, this is the kind of film we need right now. A reminder that history always repeats and always has our eyes on us. It's always a constant struggle and fight for justice, and that single thing we have in common must not overshadow our personal differences. We may fight by infiltrating the establishment from the inside so we can change it, or by fighting against it on every front from outside it, but when things matter, we need all hands on deck and to remember exactly who we're fighting for. 

BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM (2020) Director: Jason Woliner



I also jumped the queue again to watch this movie before I watched a favorite Youtube essayist discuss it; in this case, it was Lindsay Ellis;s that made me get to this now. I'm glad she did though. And to be honest; I was already debating about when was the best time to get around to "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" myself, since the reports of Rudy Guiliani's "involvement" in the film seemed particularly timely. The movie itself is timely. Maybe I wasn't paying that close attention, but this film seemed like it was sprung on us out of nowhere. To be honest, I wasn't expecting it, nor particularly wanting a sequel to "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan" and I wasn't sure I wanted one. It'd be years since I last revisited or even thought much about that film, and I really hadn't paid that much attention to Sacha Baron Cohen's comedic work lately. Or really ever, despite the fact that I absolutely loved "Borat..." and hell, I gave five stars to "Bruno" and I seemed to be the only one who liked that one, I really wasn't too familiar with his comedic ouevre. 

Like, I knew the Borat character originated on "Da Ali G Show", which I honestly never watched. I remember a few British classmates of mine in film school who said they were kinda tired of him and were a bit annoyed he had made it to America. I only knew about Ali G through that one Madonna music video and...,- I swear to God, until I literally just looked it up right now, I didn't realize that Cohen actually was Ali G. Seriously, I'm so blind to this I thought Cohen was an Ali G side actor who created Borat and that became big from the show; I didn't realize Ali G was also him too!

(Very long pause) 

Wow, he just spent 20 years fooling me and I didn't even notice. Oh-kay, I definitely get it now. I get how, some people can be totally lured into these pranks of his. I'm a little surprised he brought back Borat to do it, and the fact that he even could is really surprising honestly. He mentions it at the beginning that the movie was popular and that it would be hard to do his work undercover here, and we see that a bit early on with clips of him trying to hide his face from fans who recognize him instantly. I guess that's another reason I didn't pay that much attention to Cohen before, despite how hilarious and in hindsight foreboding his interactions with other Americans has been over the years, I never fully embraced this prank style of humor over the years. Lindsay Ellis's video, which I mostly agree with about how the humor or the Borat character, as well as Cohen's prank style of humor actually works better today then it did at the time, brings up Tom Green, who was big around the time Ali G broke, and I always hated him even as a dumb teenager, but she also mentions in a positive comparison, Nathan Fielder's work in "Nathan for You" about how the people on that show would open up more to Nathan as they trust and appreciate his supposed business advice. She does have a point about that, but I never liked or thought much of "Nathan for You" either. I guess I just never felt sorry for anybody fooled by Cohen because they were often doing it to themselves and Fielder, I always thought he was taking advantage of people who actually were in desperate need and he comes in with a camera crew and the pose of being an expert to help out their struggling businesses, and-eh, it always rubbed me the wrong way. (Although in hindsight, I guess any business owner that gets convinced to sell poo-flavored ice cream probably deserves to have their business fail, but yeah, even still, I think he crosses a line that I don't like.)

I mean, look at the sequence where Cohen, literally spent five days in character, like with QAnon conspirarists during the beginnings of the COVID pandemic. He's not taking advantage of them, in fact in the narrative, he's getting help from them since he has no place to go, and they think they're just helping out a confused foreigner trying to find his daughter Tutar (Maria Bakalova). They might have some, truly horrendous and disturbing views on Democrats, like they're worst then the Pandemic, fuck these guys, but on the same token, they're not actively trying to physically hurt anybody. They actually end up helping Borat find her. They also point out how some of the supposed beliefs he's been taught from his country and about the world that are wrong. Hilariously wrong, but still wrong, and correctly. Just because they believe in Pizzagate or whatever insane thing QAnon is saying exists now, doesn't mean they should let Borat be wrong about the horrors of female masturbation. 

That's the big difference to me, when Cohen is pulling these stunts and pranks on others, it's to reveal their true selves more or less. There's a famous scene in the movie that shows Cohen at an event where he sings a song at a right wing rally that goes through as many offensive and racist right-wing beliefs you can find. Now, in real life, apparently they caught onto the joke eventually and the event coordinators tried to denounce Cohen's song and act, but he did catch on video several people singing along and cheering such sayings, and even one person giving the "Heil, Hitler" salute. 


Thinking back on the original "Borat" film, I remember laughing a lot and some of the better sketches and segues, but I kinda figured at the time that the comedy in the movie would actually age pretty badly. It has, but not for the reasons I figured it would. I thought the prank jokes would just seem particularly mean-spirited and those who fell for it, well, I wouldn't feel sorry for them exactly, but I figured that we'd look back on that film and ponder how stupid we were, and now I look back at that film, and watched this one, laughing loudly stil, but laughing at how truly stupid we are. 

That's basically the movie; I haven't described too much of the plot which is a bit surprising since this movie actually has one; it even has characters and character development, and it's really well done. Frankly, I think it's better to be surprised, but I do want to showcase Maria Bakalova's performance as Borat's daughter who's traveling with him to America this time around. She arguably gives a braver performance then Cohen does, and they get to go into details, like some of the disturbing revelations of how people think about sex and sexual politics and norms. She has some very funny sequences with a Christian women's health place where she's being refused to get help having a baby removed (Not what you think, while also being exactly what you think, but not what you're thinking.), and having a touching, yet disturbing father/daughter dance at a Southern Cotillion, I think. My favorite stuff though is when she gets advice and help from her babysitter, who was both the only African-American character I remember in the film and also probably the most genuinely nice and uncorrupted character they manage to fool; well her and a couple old Jewish ladies that Borat runs into at a synagogue during his lowest moment, and it's really telling how the ones who were the most ostracized based on the history of their race are the ones that are the most instantly accepting and helpful, and just seem like the nicest people around; the best of America, the ones not corrupted by the toxic culture or political misinformation. 

"Borat Subsequent Moviefilm" is a funny and sharp look at the modern climate, and just how easily it can and has boiled up in society and just how easily it can truly be undermined, both by corruption at the top, but also from a particularly inventive, intelligent and ambitious prankster, and for that reminder, I say thank you, "Borat". Also, thank you for shortening your film title this time. Apparently the original title was "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan". Eh, that'd be fun to keep saying of course, but I'm glad it's shortened. 

MANK (2020) Director: David Fincher


Oh-kay, this is some really classic Hollywood insider-y stuff here. "Mank" tells the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman). Mankiewicz, is, kind of a curious figure in my ming to make a movie of. Now, he's most famous for being the co-writer of "Citizen Kane". Now, there's always been some debate regarding exactly how much credit Mankiewicz should get for writing the film; but thankfully that's not mainly what the film's about. Apparently it's early drafts were somewhat more focused on Pauline Kael's infamous takedown of Welles's role in the script in her articles which praised Mankiewicz as one of the best and most important screenwriting voices of the Golden Age of Cinema. Her reporting has been heavily disputed regarding the Kane script, without going into too many details, while it might've been Mankiewicz's idea, although even that is disputed Orson Welles's (Tom Burke) additions to the script is what led to the film being so masterful. It's good that the movie's not about that though, thank God. 

It's still kind of a strange choice of a next project for David Fincher, until you realize that his late father Jack Fincher was the screenwriter for the film. That explains his involvement, and that arguably makes this his most personal film to date; he originally was gonna make it almost two decades ago until plans fell through, and decides to examine Mankiewicz's life in Hollywood. Kael was technically right about him being a huge influence on the Golden Age. He's mostly know for being a hanger-on around the society parties, and the movie does show that as well, but the movie about Mankiewicz screenwriting, and other works. He was quite production; not credited but productive. He was what we'd call today a script doctor. He took a lot of scripts and even was hired to write some for others but mainly he was a polisher, especially with the dialogue. It makes sense, he was apart of the Algonquin Round Table before heading out west. His brother Joseph (Tom Pelphrey) of course went onto have a long career directing and writing himself, most notably "All About Eve", and the Mankiewicz's are still a fairly well-known family in the West Coast artistic circles. Hell, Ben Mankiewicz, Joe's son, film critic and the current AMC presenter has a small voiceover cameo in the film. 

That said, I've also had the sense, as accomplished as Mank was, that his reputation isn't particularly great. I mean, he won that Oscar because he was a constant hanger-on presence in Hollywood; they hated Orson Welles for showing them up and because some of the studios were in William Randolph Hearts's (Charles Dance) pockets, or at least connected with people who were friends of his, or even were just friends and acquaintances with him. He was basically Hollywood's favorite drunk. The sharp-tongued, razor-tooth critic, playwright, journalist, script doctor, who worked and got thrown out of every studio around, drunk. And the movie shows that....

I think where I'm kinda getting at is that, I don't really know what this movie was about. It's about Hollywood, and Herman Mankiewicz is an interesting character to trickle through, and I guess the main idea is that, they're showing you kinda, how he got the ideas and images from real life, including and especially his friendships with Hearst and especially his mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), who somebody really should make a movie about btw, but it drifts to a few other places too. Most notably, the 1934 California Gubernatorial Election. I'm not gonna go into exact details here, but the myth that Hollywood is just a liberal paradise, well, it's not exactly true, but it really wasn't true back then, and Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley) helped lead a campaign against Socialist candidate Upton Sinclair (Bill Nye, of all people, in one of the odder cameos in the film, and that's saying something, and yes, he's playing that Upton Sinclair) by producing fake newsreels that actually were ads for his Republican ultra-conservative opponent Frank Merriam. It worked, he won the election, and apparently this was one of the last straws for Mank with Thalberg, Hearst, and several others. They toy with history a lot here; in fact, it's arguable that it's just a weird thing to include at all, in terms of a Mankiewicz biograph, but you get the shots of the failed political campaign scenes that would go into "...Kane", I guess.

That's kinda the problem with the movie in general, and with these kinds of stories anyway. As a writer, I can tell you that, where you get your ideas and how you get them, the correlation between actual events and twisting them into a story or narrative or script are rarely as concise as people may think, often has nothing to do with each other. I mean, maybe Hank saw a political rally, and maybe he knew about how the studio heads were Conservative, and many of them were Jewish, while Hearst was pro-Hitler too, I might add. Anyway, the movie is told in flashback as Herman, recovering from a broken leg after a car accident, is separated from Hollywood at Orson's request and John Houseman's (Sam Troughton) as the go-between and from there. The story or stories of Mankiewicz's adventures are scattered and told from flashback from there. His wife Poor Sara (Tuppance Middleton) who's referred to as "Poor Sara" enough that she actually complains about it, partly because of Mank's occasional dailiances, mostly for his drinking. Mostly, it deals with his observations as a witness to the behind-the-scenes sausage between the studios and their connections with Hearst, although it wasn't only Hearst either, but he was the biggest name. A good portion fo the scenes take place at San Simeon, and of course the best scenes usually involve some form of Marion's famous parties that she held. Yeah, this one of those movies where the fun comes in spotting out all the other famous people, whether they namecheck them or not. It's like a game of Insider Hollywood Bingo. Oh, Louella Parsons, I only need a Charlie Chaplin and a King Vidor to win!

I'm not sure why it's not more entertaining; perhaps it's simply not that straightforward, ironically, which was something supposedly is what Mankewicz contributed to most of his scripts, including "Citizen Kane" a more clearcut, straightforward structure, even to the most non-traditional of structures, which was "...Kane' at the time. I guess the idea is to kinda show that Hearst's life wasn't a straightforward narrative which is why "...Kane" does have that structure, but actually, what it ends up doing is showing that Mankewicz's life was just as scattered and messy. Honestly, I think it would've been better if it wasn't framed within the timeline of him in flashback writing "Citizen Kane"; I mean, you can make a movie or two about several of these events, and people have actually; it's the first time anybody's told these stories through Mankiewicz's eyes per se, but it never feels like a full perspective. 

Honestly, I'm not sure how to rate this; I've gone back-and-forth on this one a few times during this review. The filmmaking is top-notch especially the cinematography; they old-style black & white is appropriate and I like that Fincher is trying to take on and mimic a different aesthetic for once. The performances are also mostly good; Arliss Howard is a very compelling Louis B. Meyer and he had a good few minutes of screentime that I can easily see getting an Oscar nomination. Lily Collins and Monika Gossman in particular also have some good scenes and give wonderful performances. That said, Amanda Seyfried seems to be the one that's getting most of the award focus, and despite the odd choice of a Brooklyn accent for Davies, (That's not the accent she actually had, we've kinda rewritten her history unfortunately since "Citizen Kane", but she actually was a huge star who transitioned pretty well to the talkies; we know what she sounded like.) but yeah, she is the performance that's probably the most likely to be singled out. So far, the film is getting mixed reviews and I kinda get why. I'm pretty knowledgable about these people and even I found myself struggling to keep up and genuinely bored during a lot of this. I'm gonna recommend this, barely, but...- I've always kinda suspected that Fincher is only about as good as the screenplay he's working on to begin with, and the more personal something is that he's working on, the more I think he actually struggles with it. It's not always true, but, for instance, I'm still the one who absolutely hates "Se7en" because I think it was just an excuse for him to show off his visual style instead of actually being a good detective horror mystery. Now, to his credit, whether I've liked his films or not, I haven't gotten that feeling in any of his other films since then, but it definitely creeped in on this one. And I'm not surprised and unlike with "Se7en" and I understand and am much more tolerant of it, but this might've dipped a little too personally for him. He's trying to include a lot and I think the focus should've been narrowed. 

"Mank" is one of the stranger biopics I've seen in awhile, and I think it's going to end up being a good one overall, but I don't think it's gonna to anybody who doesn't intimately know the material to begin with, and I'm not even sure to those who do, it's gonna be played that well either. Even at it's best, it's a missed opportunity.

THE VAST OF NIGHT (2020) Director: Andrew Patterson


On October 30, 1938, as a special Halloween-themed episode of "Mercury Theater On the Air", did a special adaptation broadcast of H.G. Wells's "The War of the Worlds". His adaptation was to tell the story, from the perspective of a normal radio show, being interrupted by a breaking news report. Most know the story, the program scared the hell out of Americans who didn't realize until too late that the program was just a program and not an actual news broadcast, and naturally the prank made it's creator, and ambitious and talented 23-year-old named Orson Welles, a star and household name. I thought about that often while watching "The Vast of Night", a wonderful little intense classic thriller that also uses the radio and sounds in particular to it's best advantage. I mean, sound, there are scenes in this movie that are just blackscreen with an unseen radio caller, telling a story. There's also a lot of long dolly takes where the camera just follows its characters for awhile while they matriculate through the small New Mexico town in the 1950s. 

Now, immediately, known the location and the date, I can basically tell where this is going. I can always tell based on the framing image of the movie, how it's gonna be told. It's not entirely consistent throughout the film, but the movie opens and occasionally returns to an image on an old '50s style black-and-white television along with some spooky narration, giving us the literal direct image that this movie is basically a long episode of one of those classic old time thriller anthology series like "The Twilight Zone" or "The Outer Limits". Mostly we follow two characters Fay (Sierra McCormick), a teenage switchboard operator working the town's night shift, and Everett (Jake Horowitz) the town's local nighttime deejay. Tonight should be a light night for both of them, the whole town is at the local high school's basketball game, where Everett is there to help with some wire issues regarding the recording devices, as they play the game on the radio the next day. Fay's interested in recording too, and they're in constant communication many nights as she rings in the phone calls into the radio station. Tonight though, there's been a weird sound that's been transposed over both the radio and over the switchboard that no one can seem to identify. 

Phone calls keep getting cutoff when Fay is able to connect to others, but with the whole town out, and things getting creepier and creepier, they ask for people to help identify the sound. There's one particular caller Billy (Bruce Davis) who tells a horrifying tale of recognizing that sounds from some top secret military projects he was apart of, that left him sick from dust and possibly radiation poisoning as well as killing an old military buddy of his who might've left a recording of a similar sound or theory about the sound to the school library before he died. Meanwhile, when they do go out of their offices and investigate, there's reports of something being seen in the sky that night. 

Like I said, we all kinda know the direction it's going; the inspirations are clearly leaning towards aliens, and while "War of the Worlds" is the most obvious inspiration, another, different famous re-imagining also comes up, Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". is homaged. 
"The Vast of Night" is a beautiful little thriller that feels like a long lost 90 minute episode of "The Twilight Zone", but it also gets how tension can build not only from the visual, but the lack of them. I love the idea of a switchboard operator and radio deejay being the main characters, two people who deal in communication through the vast empty darkness of the waves of sound. While there is clearly some great visual flair to the movie, first time Writer/Director/Editor of the film Andrew Patterson clearly has some cool directing ideas but my favorite ideas of his are his use of blackness and negative visual countrasting with the more classic looks of a period piece. Sometimes it's what you imagine and what you see when you're forced to use your imagination, work without the image so much that's just as appealing and cinematic. 

That said, there's a second interview sequence that's done well and makes in the movie, but it's also a bit cliche, and it's an actual physical interview with another "witness", Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) that I didn't care for. To an extent, I think it betrayed the events priod to that scene being so narrowly focues in on the world of recording sound that I think the on-screen interview scene, while still intense and moving the story forward, also felt less successful and consistent. I also don't like that the TV framing device wasn't more consistent either and kinda got dropped by the end of the movie. That's a minor nitpick; this is one of those great, intense thrillers that you can actual listen to instead of watch and be just as entertained. Even the more conventional dialogue is pretty good and well-written acted; a lot of it sounds and seems improvised and natural, but that's only 'cause of the style and the great acting all around. This is one of the most assured and successful debut feature I've seen in a while and this guy Patterson is a complete unknown before this film. No other credits to list whatsoever; I hope he's got more in him. This is such an eloquent little thriller too. It's not perfect, but this is the kind that shows that perfection could be in this guy's future soon.

BLOW THE MAN DOWN (2020) Directors: Bridget Savage Cole & Danielle Krudy


Well, this was a lovely little quaint dark comedy this. "Blow the Man Down", which in hindsight might have a double-entendre meaning considering some of the content of the film from the first-time feature film directing team of Bridget Savage Cole & Danielle Kurdy. You don't see too many pair of female directors making movies together, so I wanted to focus on them, and this a female forward cast. 
The movie focuses on two sisters in a Coastal Maine town, Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) They're two sisters whose beloved mother has recently passed and now they're debating over what to do next. Mary Beth had been putting off college to take care of her, but she didn't know that their mother's house was mortgaged to the bank and now they're too many months behind, with only her shop left. Now this alone would be interesting enough for a full movie, but this movie takes some weird turns. A frustrated Mary Beth ends up at a local bar, where she meets Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) who is one of the hired guns for Enid (Margo Martindale) and Mary Beth ends up killing him after he tries to attack her. They hide the body, but then, another dead body, Dee (Meredith Holzman) who was a prostitute that worked for Enid. 

Enid, is the old woman who runs the local whorehouse, which all of Mary Beth and Priscilla's mothers friends, led by Susie (June Squibb), all of whom know about Enid, and suspect that she's up to something. The sisters weren't as aware of Enid or their mother's past that connects them all, and I'm still only starting to scratch the surface of this narrative. I guess the comparison most would make is that this is a little bit of a darkly comic version of "Twin Peaks" only in an indy film version and in a different setting. I think it's more comparable to something like a "Blood Simple" or "Fargo", but either way, it's a clever little script for a clever little movie. It's a delightful little film that gets to see some good actress of almost all ages give some good performances in roles you don't really expect. 

The movie earned Cole & Kurdy an Indy Spirit nomination for their screenplay, I think is a little better then the movie itself, but I do like the touch of the fisherman at the beginning and end of the movie singing the sailing song that gives the movie it's title. It's also nice to see a movie like this in a different setting. It's a reminder that most parts of the country have just as much sketchiness and secrets to them. I'm looking forward to what they might come up with for a feature with a larger budget and more ambition. "Blow the Man Down" is a fun, creative little indy to enjoy on a lazy Saturday afternoon, one of those rare random films you watch streaming that's not terrible. 

ALICE (2020) Director: Josephine Mackerras


Okay, before I get into anything regarding this film, can we please stop naming movies "Alice". Or for that matter, all media, can we just stop with "Alice". I can think of like five movies named "Alice" off the top of my head, and that's not counting the TV show, and not counting titles that have the word "Alice" in them, including ones that also have the word "Wonderland" in them, and that's not counting books et. al. Just- if you have to name a piece of media after the main female protagonist, please pick another name. As somebody who keeps track of every film he's ever seen, including an alphabetized list, this is getting annoying. 

(Deep sigh)

Anyway, how about this movie called "Alice"? Well, it starts out interesting enough.... It's the debut feature film from director Josephine Mackerras, an Australian director who curiously is making a film in France and in French, she tells the story of Alice (Emilie Piponnier) a young loving housewife who finds out that her husband Francois (Martin Swabbey) has left her and her son Jules (Jules Milo Levy Mackerras) and taken all of her money in their accounts, and they're overdue on everything, including a year late on payments for their home, and she needs to get a lot of money, really fast. I won't go into how exactly she ends up becoming a high-end prostitute in order to make the payments, but she ends up becoming a prostitute, and actually it's not a terrible transition. At first, it gets stupid later but, originally I was intrigued. 

I mean, I once heard a tale from a former Parisian pimp that in France, Paris in particular, it's not that uncommon or even unaccepted for women in financial straights to occasionally work as a prostitute temporarily. (Believe it or not, that pimp was James Lipton btw; look it up....) I mean, there's plenty of movies about young women turning to prostitution for one reason or another, so I was hoping this would be a good one. I couldn't think of any particular good film about a single mother turning to prostitution before. (Well, I can but those were late-night Skinimax movies, so I'm not counting them.) This is an interesting premise, and when the movie confronts that premise, it confronts it well. When it doesn't deal with it well, it falls into some pretty questionable cliches. 

For instance, the one main friend she has, Lisa (Chloe Boreham), which in of itself, is a cliche, but they don't do much with her. She helds guide Alice through the process of becoming a high-end prostitute, tricks and practices of the trade, but...- well, apparently Mackerras did interview a lot of prostitutes for research for this role, and you kinda get the sense that she was trying to condense a lot of different prostitute narratives into this one character. Oddly, the effect is that it makes her far less interesting then she would on paper. 

Also, the johns actually, for the most part, aren't that compelling either. Thinking back to some of the best films on this topic, they usually use these scenes for progressive certain ideas and themes and personal narratives. "Belle de Jour" comes to mind, or even some stuff that's more exploitative like "Student Services" the scenes reflect the state of mind of the character. These scenes, well, the first one's kinda funny, but then they kinda just, feel like time-wasting scenes. There's not too many of them, and I get that there's a way to consider these scenes being uninteresting as also being apart of the narrative as well, that she just gets used to them, but then there's the fact that half-way through the film, the husband returns....

Yeah, I kinda wish he didn't. For one thing, his excuse is just stupid. Now, they do find a way to keep him around reasonably, sort of, by having him watch his son when she has to go to work; there was a great scene where she's got a last-second appointment call, but can't find anybody to watch Jules. That stuff was interesting; what wasn't interesting is seeing her past return and frankly we're not even empathetic to the guy to care about him. Again, I'm sure this is more realistic then it should be, but I wasn't looking for that. I wanted to see Alice strive on her own, managing to pull off being a single parent and working to repay all her husband's damage and return to something resembling normal. Maybe if this film was longer or paced better, or just didn't fall into that trap of a trope too early. By the end of the movie, there's only one obvious way the film could end, that would make me relatively happy, and I'm just waiting for it to happen. 

I think intentions were good here, but "Alice" just kept downhill for me, and by the end of the movie I'm thinking about better movies. This was a missed opportunity; there's plenty of potential for a great story here, or a great character piece at least, but it doesn't reach that level. This is a script that could've used, one or two less rewrites through the three-act structure machine. This movie could've been really interesting if it stuck to the places where the drama was the most compelling...- Forget that she's becoming a prostitute thing, think of movies like "An Unmarried Woman", or other stories about a woman having to force herself to grow up and learn to survive on their own after their husband leaves them high and dry; like, she kinda understood a little to focus on that, and when she did I liked the movie, but I thought it just went the route of least resistance at the end. I thought about recomming it anyway, but there's better movies with all these elements out there and this movie didn't provide enough different for me to really back.  

MIDSOMMAR (2019) Director Ari Aster


Huh, okay. I've been hearing a lot of people talking about this movie for awhile now. I can kinda see why. It's definitely memorable, even if it's mainly just "Get Out" meets "The Wicker Man", (Well, the original "The Wicker Man"). This is my introduction to Ari Aster; I haven't gotten to his previous feature, "Hereditary", which I've also been hearing most hearing most everybody talk about forever. (It's on my Netflix queue; I'll get to it when I get to it.) It's an interesting idea for a movie, and it's definitely memorably well-executed. 

That said, am I the only one who was, mostly bored? 

Yeah, I'm recommending it 'cause it's too interesting not to recommend, but honestly, this isn't that much different then most of those other horrors movies where it's clear that when one character dies that everybody else in the movie should just leave, but for one reason or another they don't. So, the film centers on a group of four Americans 20somethings, Dani (Florence Pugh) a psychology student who's going through a personal traumatic hell when her sister not only kills herself, but also kills her parents after carbon monoxizing the house. Her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) is a cultural anthropology student, who was intending to break up with Dani before the tragedy, which-, yeah, I guess that would be in bad taste, but he's still biding time, until Dani finds out that him, his friends Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper) are going to Sweden, where their friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) is from. He's going home to his ancestral commune where they're holding a once-every-90 years celebration. Dani decides to come along, and the other guys, are cultural anthropology classmates of Christian, mostly for the adventures as well as to study among this secluded group and possibly come up with subject for their future thesis papers. 

So, Aster apparently wrote in this breaking up of a fragile relationship between Dani and Christian as apart of the metaphor as they both slowly-but-surely get more and more separated while they're sharing and engaging in the practices, routines and traditions of these people, who refer to themselves as the Harga. Honestly, I didn't like that metaphor, and I don't think it was strong enough. In fact I didn't particularly much care for these characters in general, but I do like that he made most of them cultural anthropology students; that is genuinely genius. It's like in how most good haunted house movies these days, although I think it started with the original "The Haunting" with how, the people who end up staying and living int he haunted house and then experiencing the ghosts, are indeed paranormal researchers. I mean, who else would actually want to go in the middle of an obscured forested, mountainous area in the middle of Sweden of all places, except those who would actually be interested in studying, documenting and participating in the culture. 

So that makes sense, and therefore the movie, essentially makes sense from there. It's still a nightmarish drug-fueled surrealist horror filled with gruesome violence and a disturbing amount of sex, and all this is essentially compelling and scary, but honestly I just didn't care that much for these characters. I think it's because the movie, gave away the game a little too quickly. There's a scene about forty minutes into the movie, when the group has just gotten to the location, maybe a day or so earlier and the festival, which lasts nine days, I think, and I won't give away what happens exactly, but there's a very sudden, ritualistic death that occurs. At this point, I'm frickin' leaving, and one of the visitors does, and there's more then just this main group, there's other outsiders coming in for the event, want to leave, but eventually get talking into staying by Pelle, who is trying to explain and calm others down with the cultural understanding of the death. 

At this point, we might not know exactly, what's gonna happen, but essentially we know what's gonna happen, and essentially we do get that. We just don't know exactly how we're getting it, but things are gonna get worst and worst and somehow these guys are gonna be convinced to not leave and then bad things mostly happen. That for me, killed it a bit, because I wasn't so invested in the drama so I was more or less waiting around to see what would happen. And what happened, is interesting. I'm not sure I love all of Aster's long take and wide shots approach. I get the inspiration and influences, I'm not so sure it works for horror though most of the time. Horror is typically a more intiment genre where you want things to be closing into tight, enclosed, claustrophobic spaces as the doom approaches. At least that's me, I guess it works enough here. Maybe I'll like "Hereditary" better when I get to that one. 

I'll give him credit for having a vision, and there is an interesting take out there about the movie being about gaslighting and how it can be encompassing, something that definitely feels prescient nowadays, so I guess I can see why this movie effected a lot of people, but personally, I think it's in the good-not-great category. It's an interesting and fun movie though. 

QUEEN & SLIM (2019) Director: Melina Matsoukas


"Queen & Slim" is a kafkaesque nightmare through the fears and frustrations of Black America. In some ways, it's basically the anti-"Bonnie & Clyde", but it actually feels more reminiscent cinematically of the dread and foreboding that you might get in say, "The Night of the Hunter". The fact that it frightningly seems more plausible and realistic then it ever should, only heightens the terrorizing suspense it makes us feel. "Queen & Slim" are not the main characters names, but those are the monikers given to them, (Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya, respectively) and that might as well be their names. Queen is a talented and ambitious young lawyer in Cleveland who's mostly not overly impressed with her blind date Slim, a smart and observant religious young man who is to some degree her opposite intellectual equal. 

On the way home, something happens; it's exactly what you think would happen, they're pulled over and get into a confrontation with a racist cop, Police Officer Reed (Sturgill Simpson), one who turns out to have had a history of violence and racism. It ends in the cop getting killed and suddenly, they're on the run from the law. Is it the right decision to run? They discuss and argue over it, but on the run they are. In fact, there's a lot of decisions they make that are questionable, but I also can't say that I know what the right decisions would be. They end up traveling down the country, running into and heading through many of the more, hmm, what's the word, systemic trappings of Black Americana? Something like that. For instance, they run out of gas in Kentucky and unknowing get help from an off-duty local Sheriff (Benito Martinez). Once he finds out, he claims to be willing to help him out, he even buys them gas. They end up stuffing him in the trunk of their car while they steal his truck. Queen says that he's just gonna turn them in, and that acting like their friend and will help them is just part of their scheme. She's not wrong, but what exactly is the alternative? What's the plan? To keep running until, when Where? He actually did seem like a good cop, and once the video footage of what happened was shown, they started to become idolized across the country. There were protests for them, vigils, for them. Some wondered if they were vigilantes out there determined to kill all the bad cops. Frankly, I think the dashcam footage would just prove that they acted in self-defense and that they should be able to get off for that. Keyword, "Should", sometimes things that sure still don't help in the Justice System, and at this point, it's too late to just turn around or turn themselves in. (And if a lawyer is saying that...)

Eventually, they come up with, one half-ass decent plan to head towards Miami and try to get a plane to Cuba. This include visiting Queen's Uncle Earl (Bookeem Woodbine), one of those, I guess he's a local pimp who always has a few half-naked girls around the house admiring and pleasing him, when he's not freaking out an smacking them around because he lost a ring. I guess people and houses like these are more common in the Black Community then I would've thought they were, if they're showing up here, although this kind of home seems more realistic then you'd see in most movies I guess. It's backroad, big, but not excess; it's basically like any other unkempt country house. They get some money and a car from him, and promises to get to a friend of Uncle Earl's from the war in Miami, Mr. Shepherd (An unrecognizable Flea) and his more stone-faced wife (Chloe Sevigney, in an almost too perfect of a cameo casting), who has connection to set up a plane. 

I'm leaving a lot out, there's a lot of people they run into and just things they see along the way, and eventually they continue their date essentially as they slowly, sorta get to know each other. There's one sex scene in the movie, which is curiosity intercut with sequences of a protest that turns into a violent riot. I'm not actually sure they'd make a good couple, or if circumstances were different, they even go on a second date, but they're forever connected here. I wouldn't call "Queen & Slim" a fantasy, or even an ideal. It's definitely a narrative of another time; it's the story of folk heroes in modern-day, representing a time and a place, and all the ills of that place. Most stories like these are about the building of a nation to some respects. Most of our Americana folk heroes, are Wild West folk heroes, and even the most violent of gangsters and outlaws from that time are not only gloified, but they're told through a lens of Manifest Destiny and as a positive step in the goal of Manifest Destiny. "Queen & Slim" is one of the first movies I've seen that completely flips that narrative in order to showcase all of the ills of our nation, and how much we still actually need to change and how much our system has failed too many, how much that destiny was destiny for the few; built on the broken backs of the oppressed. 

The movie was written by Lena Waithe, who you might know from a few places in film and television; I know her from Aziz Ansari's show "Master of None", for which she won a Writing Emmy for arguably the show's best episode, and the film was directed by Melina Matsoukas; it's her debut feature but she's been a music video director for decades and based on this film, it's kinda astonishing that she hasn't been given a feature film project before. That's also a systemic problem with the country and the industry, but at least this one finally got made; hopefully it won't be the last one. 

THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE (2019) Director: Riley Stearns


Maybe it's just the timing, but I have a feeling that "The Art of Self-Defense" was sorta, supposed to be a comedy. That's not to say this isn't funny, but perhaps I'm just not in a comedy mood. It might also be that I'm just kinda skeptical about (finger quotes) "Self-Defense Training" to begin with, which would make you think that I would get the comedy of this film, but actually, I think I just find the behaviors and characters they're mocking, more disturbing and distressing. It could just be that nothing's funny anymore in this environment, but still, "self-defense," which in this case is karate in the movie, is basically just, a glorified street gang/fight club, with a neon sign out front. (The sign might not have been neon, I'm speaking metaphorically.) Or to be precise even, a cult. I get that sense from "The Art of Self-Defense" this critically-acclaimed indy film from director from Riley Sterns. I'm not familiar with Stern's work until now, but this is his second directorial feature and I don't think I'm far off with the cult comparison, especially since he previous film "Faults", was also about combatting a cult. 

It's kinda coincidental to have seen this and "Midsommar" pretty close to each other and for that matter, cults have just been in the zeitgeist lately. Even disregarding the political spectrum, which is admittedly hard to do, there's like half-a-dozen documentaries going around about cults and cult-like going around right now regarding both current and past cults. It's actually kinda fascinating to me this trend as well, 'cause it's admittedly something that I've been fascinated by as well for awhile. This might be just that I grew up in the nineties and that was the last time there was a big cult explosion in the pop culture scene, with David Koresh and Waco, along with the Heaven's Gate mass suicide, the Ruby Ridge seige if you want to count that too. I don't entirely know why, but its always one of those things that I've had a particularly sudden, strong negative reaction too; I'm not sure why, honestly. I don't have relatives or friends that I'm aware of that were in a cult of a victim of one or anything, and I don't have any experience with them, thank goodness, but it's one of those things that just disturbs and distresses me more then it would for most people. Perhaps that's one reason that "Fight Club" just never appealed to me as much as other films. (That and that film's stupid cheat of a twist ending, and yes it is a cheat; I will not back off of this.) 

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. Besides, this isn't the only thing to compare the film to, or to consider as it's major metaphor. It might not even be that much of a metaphor at all, really. The big deal with self-defense classes is that, while there are many forms and techniques of legitimate  martial arts out there, most self-defense classes, especially martial arts based ones, they don't actually teach much self-defense. They teach offense, they teach you techniques to hurt other people, they teach you to be more violent, assertive to a fault, and mostly help increase self-esteem, which yeah, I think we can all agree that self-esteem and movitation was all bullshit, right? Anyway, this is essentially what happens to Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), a lowly, unliked accountant at work, he was attacked by a motorcycle gang and barely survived. After he recovers, he decides he needs to find something for protection, and after weighing his options, he begins taking classes at this intense karate dojo run by a sensei named, um, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola). At first, he finds it appealing, and in particular, finds one of the daytime teachers of the kids, Anna (Imogen Poots) a brownbelt who's anxiously awaiting to become a blackbelt soon, appealing.

I wish I had seen Stearns's earlier film, 'cause the style of this movie's dialogue is very Wes Anderson-ish. Well, it's somewhere between Wes Anderson and Whit Stillman. I'm not entirely sure if that's just his style of dialogue or just what he intended for this film 'cause he thought it worked. It certainly works well with Eisenberg who is one of the best actors alive and can take any dialogue and make it plausible, hypnotic and strange in a way that I don't think we've seen since Nicholas Cage. (Come to think of it, how has Eisenberg not been in a Wes Anderson film yet?) Still, this movie at times felt like it was dancing on that thin line between inspiration and stealing for me. I can see how this kind of cutesy indy dialogue that's deliberately calls out and commentates on the actions like everybody speaks as though they're composing their own narration for their 1st-person autobiographical novel can be annoying. It kinda does work here overall, because essentially most of these characters are outsiders to most of society around them. They've might've tried as we see Casey struggle to join in with his co-workers and apparently only his bossed even contacted him when he was hospitalized. He doesn't even have family as far as we know, and he barely even seems interested in sex. 

Essentially, the thing that really appeals to him is the problematic machismo and toxic masculinty that Sensei preaches in class and executes in his actions. That's part of why I wonder about what the true intent of the film is; it has a tone of a philosophical metaphor as opposed to the literal meaning, but the movie could easily be literal too. Like I said, self-defense places, especially those who cloak themselves in the spiritualness of the martial arts, are mostly scams, but it's also the kind of scams where you can easily see the leader buy too much into their own bullshit; like an evangelical preacher actually believing they can heal the sick. Thinking about the movie is more interesting then the movie itself might be. It's a little too well-structured; since it's such a slick minimalist film in terms of characters, all the foreshadowing really stands out, so I kinda saw the ending coming. It's got a funny sardonic edge, and I do like that it's basically a well-done antihero narrative, but the influences and ideas displayed in the movie, both literal and subtextually are more interesting then the storytelling for me. 

It's definitely a film I'm highly recommending 'cause it's too interesting and well-made not to, but I can't say I'm immediately fully embracing the film. It's one of those movies where I might have to see it a second time to decide either what the movie's really saying or decide to that it's not saying anything at all. 

LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (2019) Director: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman


Linda Ronstadt is one of those artists who I really should've known a lot more about before going into this documentary. In all other respects she seems like somebody who should be right in my musical wheelhouse, an overly eclectic singer and rockstar who can literally sing anything, Literally, I'm actually amazed at how many songs of hers I actually know; I guess I don't always realize how omnipresent she's been in the music scene. I think part of it is that she's not really much of a songwriter; she's written songs but she's definitely more known for her singing. I actually own a Linda Ronstadt cassette, yes cassette, I think I got it from my Aunt when she passed, but it's one of those albums that I've never actually listened to. Partly 'cause it's on cassette, and it's not easy to find working cassette players these days, but eh, elsewise, I guess I never really looked into how truly great she was. 

I always knew a little; I knew she started as the lead singer of the Stone Ponies a late '60s band know for the song "Different Drum", which I didn't realize until now was written by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees of all people. I know that basically the Eagles formed essentially out of the remnants of our of her backup bands; she's had a lot of touring band members over the years, almost all men. I think I remember some controversy for her dating California Governor Jerry Brown for a while in the eighties. I know she's had some controversy in recent years, including causing a near riot on the Las Vegas Strip because she praised a Michael Moore movie, that was particularly noteworthy in my neck of the woods. I knew a few of her songs of course, and I knew that she known for often switching between genres fairly regularly. I didn't know she was Mexican. 

Yes, this is something that America kinda tends to completely but Mexico, is actually, full of immigrants, and not just from Latino countries, and had been for a long time; one of her grandfathers immigrated to what was then Mexico in the 1840s. (And Mexico back then, would've been around Arizona or California today.) She grew up in Tucson in a family that emphasized singing and she grew up with a pretty eclectic radio selection that she was enveloped with. And she just loved and was good at singing. She worked on that skill, and- well, obviously she became world famous for it. Listing off her accomplishments seems trivial at this point, but she did a little bit of everything. It helps that, even though she's considered one of the greatest of live acts, she hated touring, and cared more about the craft and getting the music right then whether or not she had a hit or was the biggest star out there.
Despite being the first female artist to have five consecutive albums go platinum, she always seemed to be looking for the next challenge as opposed to the next hit single. She constantly did other things, she performed on Broadway in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" just ot see if she can do opera and got a Tony nomination for it. She formed a country female super girl group with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris called "Trio", and she recorded the highest selling Spanish language album by just covering classic mariachi standards. 

The subtitle of the movie is "The Sound of My Voice" and everybody agrees that that by far is the clue to her greatness, which makes her recent years struggles with Parkinsons Disease particularly sad. She mostly narrarates the film in the present day, along with several talking heads discussing her career, many of them the biggest names out there, many of them aforementioned, but we do get one scene of her singing at the end today. Her relatives are singing a classic Mexican song and she hums a few bars with them. She still sounds decent despite everything, but she says that she's not truly singing. I'll trust her; I can't play an instrument, but I do understand how people are able to play different notes on a guitar or bass or drums and such, but I will never understand the intricacies of how singers, truly great trained singers are able to manipulate their vocal cords and diaphragms in order to hit the notes the do. I certainly until now didn't realize just how good and talented Linda Ronstadt is at it and how she got so good; that's more on me though. I'm glad the movie showed me, but I really should've known already.
Hmm... You know, I think one red cassette player I have just needs some batteries....

HORROR NOIRE: A HISTORY OF BLACK HORROR (2019) Director: Xavier Burgin


This is one of those documentaries that I watch with my Netflix queue waiting list nearby, 'cause I'm adding to it every few minutes 'cause frankly a lot of the movies discussed just haven't seen yet. Some I have obviously, but admittedly as a white guy who never really was naturally attracted to the emotional strain of a good horror movie, and being confined often to the trappings of my own race and culture, I just haven't a lot of horror, and certainly not a lot of horror that focuses on African-Americans. Admittedly, for most of the history of cinema in this country, African-American roles in horror films were unusually non-existent or worst. Even before the common trend/joke about how African-Americans are always the first one to die in horror movies, (And if not die first, die eventually) the depiction of African-Americans in general in American film, is pretty horrofic. I can easily never see another clio or "Birth of a Nation" and die pretty happy, but it does all seem to start there. 
It evolves from there. There's mention of the early great independent African-American filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux and Spencer Williams, all the way through the blaxploitation era, of films like "Blacula" and "Blackenstein" and such. What's really being documented in the horror movies though, is how the treatment and portrayal of African-American in cinema and in real life. Like, I essentially hear and know about things like the Tuskegee Experiment, for instance, and I know about the really horrorific and dispicable things that happened to the African-Americans who unknowingly participated in this gruesome of medical experiments, all for the sake of science, but it doesn't really hit for me when I see your average mad scientist in horror films trying to rise the dead or something, and it would probably allude me, the symbolism in something like "Blackenstein" as well, but there is horror and power in those scenes. Most sequences in movies in fact. 

The only thing I can really think to try to compare is this, old interview I remember Joel Gray giving once. He was talking about going to Germany, I think to tour for "Cabaret" or something, and even though he didn't particularly practice his faith, being of Jewish descent, he said that the second he walked out the plane, this feeling over severe grief came over him. Like, even though, for the most part Germany seems to be a pretty non anti-semitic society these days,  that haunting of the horrors of he past, just overwhelmed him. 

God, I wonder if that feeling must be how most African-Americans feel all the time in this country, where we put Confederate statues over our atrocities. Still, I miss things, I didn't realize that in "Get Out", the main guy using a deerhead to kill was a symbol to how slaves were referred to as "Bucks"; I legitimately didn't know that was even a thing. "Get Out", naturally opens and closes the movie; the film is actually based on a book from 2011 book by Robert R. Means Coleman, but yeah, it makes sense to update it. I'd been bored by most of the American horror that's dominated our culture, since the mid-90s; it's not all been bad mind you but it's certainly not been as interesting or compelling as say, the Asia Extreme movement of horror that's been coming out of Japan and in particular South Korea over that same time period, but African-American taking over the genre in recent years, at least in the pop culture sphere, they'd apparently been making their mark on the genre all along has breathed new life into the genre and the medium in general. And why not, they're the ones who've truly experienced true horrors and fears in society, and they can personalize it and create new tropes and ideas and scares. It's a shift from the final white girl movies that's just been badly needed for a long time. 

"Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror" is maybe not the most comprehensive look at African-American's place in horror, I hope it isn't anyway, but hopefully it's the first of many chapters, most of which are still to be written, but it's also nice to hear from those who were writing this story years earlier. There's a lot of interviews with the stars and filmmakers of such films as "Candyman" and "Tales from the Hood" and many, many others dating back to the work of George Romero, when he casted a black actor in the lead of "Night of the Living Dead". "Horror Noire..." is a must-see for those who seek out to be cinematically literate as well as for those who just want to understand how the world reflects art and vice-versa and shows us a small peak into that mindset for those who aren't African-American and a long-belated celebration of their achievements in the medium for African-Americans. I should also mentions this is just a fun and fascinating documentary as well. It screened briefly before streaming on Shudder and it's definitely worth the look if you can get a subscription.

MOUTHPIECE (2019) Director: Patricia Rozema



I'll admit that it's possible that I'm catching this film at the perfect time for me to see it. Still though, a much bigger part of me watched Patricia Rozema's latest feature film "Mouthpiece" and I thought, "Damn. I wish I thought of that." It's been a long time I've honestly had that thought I should tell you. "Mouthpiece" is an experimental film which actually has an idea that I haven't seen before; the main character is simultaneously played by two different actresses. One referred to as Tall Cassandra (Amy Nostbakken, who wrote the script for the film, based on her play, and wrote the soundtrack of the film.) and Short Cassandra (Norah Sadava). Both of them are two parts of the same character. They're always together, and sometimes one is talking while the other is off on something else, or sometimes they're both talking. It's not as jarring as it sounds, it's essentially the two sides of a person, both of whom have their emotional strengths and weaknesses and each one acts accordingly depending on the situation and whatever Cassandra's doing or thinking. 

Why would she be split like that? Well, don't we all have different personalities and feelings in a moment? Don't we all just sometimes want to express empathy towards others meanwhile just frustrated and annoyed at our own emotional turmoils that we have to deal with? Haven't you been in a situation where you want to be alone but somebody insists on trying to be there for you and all you want to do is crawl underneath the door and escape? I'm sure some people are going to spend a lot of time trying to decipher whether or not one part is the real Cassandra and the other is in her mind or whether one's the id or ego or superego, or whether or not one's the conscious while the other's the subconscious, but that's-, that's completely the wrong approach to the conceit. Parts of us are able to handle some things, parts of us handle others, and we are all split together parts that form a whole, sometimes you're in a mood and yet you still have to present and appropriate, calm, normal demeanor, even when literally everything anybody else does, just pisses you off; this just visualizes that idea. And it's especially an idea that seems more emotionally realistic when you're dealing with grief.

Cassandra's dealing with the sudden and unexpected death of her mother, Elaine (Maev Beaty). She wasn't in a particularly good place with her at the time, and her family is constantly trying to talk her out of doing the eulogy, because of an incident that occurred between them last Christmas. Meanwhile, she has to help set up the funeral, picking out the casket, get the flowers, buy the snacks for the after-funeral get-together, figure out what to wear that will appease her and her dead Mom. All this, while arguing constantly with herself while trying to write this eulogy. Everything's an inner struggle, and I totally get it. I've often been so caught up in our own mind that I'll freak out, stand up and try to leave my own self, even in the middle of a supermarket and then have myself remind me, "You need to get the snacks!" and then have to go all the way back and grab my cart.
There are a few fantasy sequences, including some musical scenes in the movie as well as diegetic scenes, and there's also some flashbacks as Cassandra remembers images of her mother when she was a little girl (Taylor Bell Puterman), as her mother quietly struggled with a marriage as well as holding back on her writing ambitions. Honestly, I can see how if this movie was a little longer it might annoy but this was the perfect length 90 minutes or so length and it doesn't end with some kind of cheesy version of "Persona"-like ending or anything. In fact, in hindsight, I like that they're different heights even; people's heights changes over time as they develop different communication skills, so naturally one is shorter 'cause she literally sees the world a little bit differently. (That's one of my theories anyway) It's one of the better depictions of the visual emotional mindset I've ever seen, and it's such a simple idea, I'm surprised I've never heard anybody come up with it before. 

The directing by Patricia Rozema is really on point as well; this is probably the most experimental she's been in a long time. She's mostly been a TV director in recent years, who occasionally made interesting films; I actually liked "Kit Kittridge: An American Girl" which I think was the first of those "American Doll" movies that came out mostly on DVD for awhile, and she also did the last theatrical adaptation I remember of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park", but when you check out her '80s and '90s stuff, including "White Room" which dealt with something a little similar, a character who felt like he was living a couple different lives, she's got an interesting experimental narrative streak in her and this time is really works. And I'm really impressed with Amy Nostbakken; on top of the writing and acting being really good; this is one of her first acting roles, period, I also like the soundtrack of the movie enough to listen to it which I normally don't do and didn't even realize that it was also her. Apparently she's known in the Canadian theater circuit scene and this one-hour play that's a much more physical piece on stage is wonderfully adapted to a more intriguing subtle visual piece. It's been called by some as one of the best Canadian films of the year; I can't attest to that, but this is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable surprises I've seen from this year so far; one that introduced us to a new interesting voice and reminded me of how compelling and talented another one is. This is one that people will have to look for, but it's worth seeking out. 

CITIZEN K (2019) Director: Alex Gibney


"Power in any country, even morseo in Russia, is always a projection of whether people are ready to protect it with in their hands."

That's a quote I wanted to write down from the documentary "Citizen K", Alex Gibney's latest documentary on former Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Partly 'cause it seemed quite relatable to America at this point. Currently, we got two sides preparing to use weapons, one because they've deluded themselves into thinking it's the only option to keep their way of life going and believes the other side doesn't have the weapons or the willpower to accept the fight, and the other side, has weapons and are more determined to use them when the time comes, knowing that the other side doesn't realize we have the same weapons they have. Ironically, Khodorkovsky's actually talking about why he believes Boris Yeltsin won the 1996 Russian Election, which some in the country still argue that it's disputed; even to this day, that's a bit of a tricky subject in Russia to bring up, although I tend to agree with Khodorkovsky on that anyway. (Well, he certainly won the runoff at least; I think that's clear. 
Telling the story of Khodorkovsky is also telling the story of the fall of the Soviet Union, and the straining, painful but too quick transition from a Communist society to an American-molded capitalist society. Honestly, despite living through most of this, as an American, I only vaguely knew and didn't understand many of the details and of this era. For me, I hear Boris Yeltsin's name, and my initial instinct is to immediately call him, Boris "Buy Me a Drink" Yeltsin, a famous Jay Leno insult he'd quip often on "The Tonight Show" during this time, and I honestly don't know much else. I mean, I know enough about Russia communist history to know that most of the leadership over the years, whoever it was, were basically high-level and well-dressed crooks, but the leaders who took over the new Capitalist Russia, we're also pretty much high-level crooks, who can now afford to take advantage of economic freedoms they never had. Although, it's kinda funny that their lives were more on the line for this for awhile. Moscow was the deadliest city in the world for awhile and the richer you were, the more often you were the target of assassination; this era's compared to America's Wild West, but instead of fighting and taming land for economic power, they were taming and fighting each other for economic power. (And the poor as well, which there were a lot of.) 

Don't think Khodorovsky is innocent in a lot of this upheaval though. He was the richest man in the country for awhile, starting the biggest bank in the country, and was part of a collective of these richest of the rich they called "The Oligarchs". He was transition to running an oil company that he won in a corrupt auction, and even when that was happened, he may or may not have been involved in the assassination of a mayor. It could've been him; it could've been Putin. Then, as poverty started to rise and the Ruble got devalued in '98 after a stock market crash, he started to become a humanitarian instead. He still ran his oil company, but he basically funded and built the areas around it, and in a sense, he rebuilt the Russian economy. That's around when Putin quick rise to power, led to his powergrab. Eventually he took over the country's TV networks, that two other Oligarch's controlled. He then worked around taking over the country's oil industry, right as Khodorovsky was trying to go public and make international trade deals with other companies. 

It's actually startling seeing Putin's words and actions; he actually does remind me a lot of Trump, or at least, what Trump wishes he was. Putin is a corrupt criminal politicial, but he was also a KGB agent, who's constantly reflecting a paranoid view of the world. His singular and loan actual political position is, "Power" and he knows just enough ways to dissuade the populace when he's potentially under attack. After multiple kangaroo trials that inevitably convicted Khordorkovsky of, he, I think it was embezzlement or tax fraud, or stealing tons of his own oil,- it really was a sham of a trial. After worldwide pressure, he was pardoned along with several other political prisoners, he ended up going to Kyiv during Ukraine's revolution, which- good God, I'm barely keeping up with the insanity of Russia, I'm not going back to remind myself of Ukraine, but he's since been fighting Putin from London. One of his organizations that he funds, 'cause yes, despite everything, he still has money, "Open Russia" was shut down by Putin, although he's opened a more investigative and confrontation anti-Putin organization called "Dossier". He does this under the threat of death, as many of his fellow anti-Putin exiles have been mysteriously killed in unusual ways, many of them in England. He also supports other politicians and parties in Russia that try to undermine Putin's Kremlin, which, counting the four years he was Prime Minister under Medvedev as well as some underground, or on-the-internet youth activists who he can sometimes talk with virtually, but he knows Putin's dictatorial grasp on the country won't be overtaken yet, but he suspects that, someday it will happen.

It's gonna happen eventually, a Russia without Putin, somehow, even if too many in the country can't imagine or foresee it, he's doing his best to prepare them for that. Personally, I think that's gonna be a shitshow too; Putin's got his own group of yes men Oligarchs now, and who knows which one will manuever and pull power in that shuffle, but maybe not. That's only what's sorta expected.... 

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER (2019) Director: Beniamino Barrese


Okay, so I kinda alluded to this vaguely on Twitter, but, streaming seems to be way more prominent then DVDs and at least for me, it's starting ot get annoying. I keep a list of films to watch as well as several other sidelists to the list, for how I watch these movies, and how I can watch these films. It's based on my DVD Netflix list, yes, I still get DVDs through mail, and you should too by the way, not everything's streaming. However, not everything is on DVD either anymore, which is probably more annoying for me. Anyway, this means I'm not just looking at DVD release dates now to figure out movies to add to these lists,... (Sigh) basically, long story short, "The Disappearance of My Mother" is one of several movies, like, well over a dozen, that I've been trying to watch for months now, but only now have found a streaming avenue for the film. I also haven't been able to find it on DVD, as the several other movies, that are clogging up my list. I want to stream movies to knock off DVDs, so I can add more DVDs later, but lately it feels like I'm streaming, or trying to anyway, since I'm unfortunately able to either stump most of the streaming sites, or simply don't have/can't afford the service that something is streaming on. So frankly, I was eccstatic to suddenly see the movie available and showcased on Kanopy, the library streaming service that a lot more people should use then they do, even if you're only able to stream a limited amount of titles on your card/per month. 

So, the fact that I just didn't like or care much for the film, is even more of a disappointment then it normally would be. I didn't know exactly what to expect from "The Disappearance of My Mother", but-eh, I didn't expect a documentary about a fashion model. The movie's subject is Benedetta Barzini; admittedly this is not a name that I particularly know, but she doesn't seem particularly interested in telling us how important she is. And she was pretty important, still is to a degree. The filmmaker is her son, Beniamino Barrese, who's a famous fashion photographer himself now, and says that his mother was his first and favorite subject. She however, is not interested in being a subject of another photographer anymore. 

She teaches fashion history and while clearly not the beauty she was, she still is quite a striking presence. The only real scene we get of her really reflecting much on her past is when Lauren Hutton visits her. She seems more fun and lively, and you see Benedetta perk up a bit around her. Most of the time we see her complaining about being photographed, even knocking over her son's tripod at one point. She also walks out of the room a lot.

Why does she do this? Well, I get it; she's spent her life being photographed. An object, a canvas to shape into another's muse. And famous muses at that. She was discovered by Diana Vreeland to be the first Italian cover model on Vogue; the American Vogue. After that, she was a muse for people like Lee Strasberg, Richard Avedon, Marcel Duchamp and probably most notably, Andy Warhol; she was briefly apart of the his Factory. She wasn't the world-famous model for long though, well, I mean, she was, obviously, but she left that career pretty early and spent much of her time since as a Women's Rights Advocate, which is very admirably, especially in Italian politics, which, I don't know if you're aware of the stuff that's happened there lately, but it's very meatheaded at the top at the times, and it's still a vast improvement from the past. Honestly, I liked these occasional spurts into archive footage and history the best from the movie; especially the really disturbing talk show sequence that she's a guest and getting belittle by some of the most insecure-about-their-masculinity I've ever seen. For literal decades she's spent her life trying to get away from the prying static eyes of a camera, even though, she can turn and strike a pose as glorious and glamorous as anybody can, even now; yet it's an image of someone else, and she doesn't want to be manipulated anymore. 

"The Disappearance" part of the title is a reference to her wanting to leave the world behind, dreaming of just escaping to some far off deserted island, and the movie comes from the son just realizing that he doesn't want such an immediate estrangement. It's admirable, but I don't think the movie works. It kinda does as an anti-documentary I guess; I mean, how do you make a movie about somebody so famous and known for being photographed, and yet just refuses to participate? Well, she is participating and she's not, so it's a little uneven in that regard too, but ugh..., maybe if I knew all about her beforehand this might read a little better, but as it is, I think it's too unsure of what it wants to be for me to really care about it. 

WHERE'S MY ROY COHN? (2019) Director: Matt Tyrnauer


There is little-to-no real dispute that Roy Cohn was one of the smartest, most talented and most successful lawyers in American history. That said, Roy Cohn was amung the worst kind of lawyers. Worst kinds of people actually. His friends and clients were often loyal, mostly too loyal, since one of the reasons he was inevitably disbarred was because he had stolen money from them. He even once tried to claim a client on his deathbed has signed his will while incompacitated to him. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see the-, what can generously be described as a, scribble, that was written down on the piece of paper that Cohn was trying ot claim forever was indeed, his client's name, and arguably, that's not even in the Top Ten worst things he's done.

I was too young to learn or remember much about Roy Cohn when he passed away in '86, so most of my knowledge is him is essentially secondhand. I didn't grow up with him as a presence, he was always more of an elusive, behind-the-scenes obscure figure in most of my modern history readings; I first heard of him when I watch "Angels in America" which documents, albeits fictionally, the last few weeks of his life, dying from AIDS. That's really unfair, 'cause he did a lot more and has had a larger presence onto the modern political landscape then almost anyone else during his life, again, none of that in good ways. He was a crook, a hypocrite, a monster, possibly a murderer after a guy was killed after his boat caught on fire supposedly for the insurance police (He got off after delivering the closing argument himself), oh and on top of everything else, a conman. Also he was gay. That last one is particularly insulting because one of his first claims to national fame was working with Joe McCarthy as chief council on the HUAC investigations, which are mostly known for going after supposed Communists, although something that's very underreported and mis-remembered about those was that they were actually just as much going after homosexuals, if not moreso, then Communists. Cohn in particular was instrumental in this, which is particularly disturbing 'cause Cohn was gay. He wasn't closeted necessarily, he never once admitted it, but he didn't exactly hide it that well. He was made fun of for it, innnuendo-wise, even during the HUAC interrogations with his close "friendship" with fellow McCarthy consultant David Schine. He didn't care, he didn't admit, and after the trials were over, he went back into law in New York.

His law career is pretty startling; his first big event, as most might know from "Angels in America" was prosecuting Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for treason giving. It's always been a little bit debatable on whether they were spies or if both were spies, but he worked for nearly everybody in New York high society afterwards, especially on the far right of politics and far astray from the law. We get talking head interviews with those who knew him, Roger Stone most notably, which leads to what makes this movie even more haunting. While he defended the liked of John Gotti and most of the rest of the five families at some point, George Steinbrenner and several others, the most notable thing nowadays about Roy Cohn was his close friendship with Donald Trump, who he looked fondly at as an acolyte. He helped him with settling housing discrimination lawsuit, which they still considered "winning" even though they settled, but he basically brought him up in the business world. (Which explains a lot of his bankruptcies come to think of it. Cohn in his spare time bankrupted the one really notable business he owned, Lionel Trains.) I've heard reports of Trump being angry at some of his recent lawyers, mostly from those who aren't lawyers for him anymore, for doing things like taking notes about a case, saying that "Roy Cohn never took notes." That's true, Cohn didn't take notes, which, ask any real lawyer they'll tell you that that's pretty amazing, but Cohn was an exceptionally smart guy and probably was more able to memorize and recall then most. He had graduated Columbia law school at age 20; he wasn't even old enough to take the Bar Exam. That said, while he knew the written words of the law, he didn't care about the law. His strategy was to do anything he could to win. Sometimes that's appealling not to the law, but to the patriotism of the jury, sometimes it was far more skeptical and illegal means like bribes and public manipulation.

It's honestly startling, especially at this particular point in time where Trump is trying to formulate a coup out of a conspiracy because he can't believe 80million 81million people voted against him, just how much he's working and has worked out of Cohn's playbook all these years, and now. Just lie and lie and lie until people believe it. Well, nobody believes shit about Cohn now. We get a little of his unempathetic background; his mother was apparently so ugly on the outside and inside that they paid Al Cohn, who was a major Democratic Party figure for most of his career as a State Supreme Court justice, to marry her. He taught him to be smart, the mother insulted and doted on Cohn for his appearance. He might've been one of the earliest self-hating Jews in American pop culture as well. He was born for the law, but he preferred to flaunt his fame of it. 

He had a few known boyfriends over the years, including one that was interviewed for this film to try to talk about the personal Cohn; there was a different Roy Cohn in private, but he never showed it to the public, even as he was dying of AIDS. You can see that he's constantly trying so hard to hide, I get why him in particular is such a frustrating figure; the guy's life was practically designed to live in denial and he did, and he formed a career out of denying both his own actions and denying the crimes for others, while accusing others of the shit he was often doing himself. And he never felt sorry, he never apologized to those whose lives he destroyed who didn't deserve it.

"Where's My Roy Cohn?" from director Matt Tyrnauer, who's quickly becoming one of the best documentary filmmakers out there, especially with films documenting the history of New York like this one, "Studio 54" and especially "Citizen Jane: Battle for the City" is a distressing and disturbing look at the growth of a modern cult-like culture of Trumpism being birthed through arguably the worst era of New York and American history. Proof that we need to stop this trend before it continues it's constant takeover. Cohn wasn't interested in law or order or anything other then power. Even being gay meant that he had to gain the power of the most conservative of the moral majority to show that he can bring his boyfriend to their parties and nobody say anything. It would practically be a game to him if there weren't consequences. That's what this strategy of dominance, bribery, corruption and a complete lack of morals and empathy stands goal is, power and control over others. Act like you're better then everyone and suddenly when reality comes crashing in, and you don't accept it, everyone else will too. 
The difference between Trump and Cohn really is that, Cohn wasn't stupid, which in hindsight only makes him more frightenting and personally, I'm a little grateful that he never did try to run for office. yet, everybody, including those who hated him, wanted him to be their lawyer. 

Man, they always talk about how violent and shitty NYC was in the '70s and '80s, but boy, the people in power at that time, real power; they were the worst of the criminals and we just let them get away with it.... 

A GERMAN YOUTH (2019) Director: Jean-Gabriel Periot


Near the beginning of "A German Youth" an old man, long after the war looks upon a young shopowner who's painted a swastika on his business wall, asking him, "I don't understand why you have to obey?" I should mention that this old man precedes that with a statement, "I was a young man at the time, I had to obey," talking about being a Nazi himself, but I think the sentiment is one I've constantly been wondering and confused by regarding modern politics, especially the Republican Party. They all seem so afraid of ever breaking ranks on the smallest things that right now half the party is trying to literally overthrow the government because one dipshit in the White House won't accept the fact that, he did indeed lose an election. I don't get it, these are nationally elected officials, what are they afraid; he's not a king, he's not a dictator, and as I'm writing this, in about six weeks or so, he'll be out of office. It's so bizarre, fascism is supposedly about freedom and patriotism but it's not; it's about falling in line behind a figurehead cult leader apparently. "You have to obey?", no you don't. What the hell could they possible, and yet, all these "career politicians" are so fucking scared, like their jobs aren't temporary to begin with? To paraphrase our current President-elect, when he was just elected to the Senate after his wife was killed in a car accident, leaving him a 29-year-old single father of two then-hospitalized young boys, "...if I can't do the job of both father and Senator after six months, I told the Govenor that they always get another Senator, but these boys can't get another father." Their fears are so unfounded that I don't know where they come from, except for the fact that apparently, as far as I can tell, just like following orders. 

Anyway, this film isn't about the Far Right oddly enough; "A German Youth" is actually about the Far Left believe it or not. In the West, we tend to focus in on the war in regards to Germany, mostly because that's the part that's mostly effected us in the last hundred years, but there's a lot that went on in the country following World War II. We tend to think that, WWII ended and that jolted Germany, at least West Germany at the time, into the progressive western country it eventually became now, but there was still a huge political struggle and around the mid-60s, the first wave of youths that didn't grow up with the war, who were just learning and understanding of the atrocities that, the literal singular generation above them did, started to rebel. There's a few films about this time period that have hit the west, including a great movie last year, "Never Look Away", but "A German Youth" is about the slow birth of the Baader-Meinhof Complex, which was itself a great movie a few years back. Now that movie was mostly a fictionalization of the real events, but "A German Youth" uses archival footage to document the birth of these radical far left terrorist groups, led in part due to Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. 

The group, which was kinda both collective and commune, better known as the Red Army Faction or RAF committed several terrorist attacks and other crimes, causing over 30 death, not including several of their own members who were killed for the cause. The movie, essentially takes footage from the group and other media themselves to tell and show their story, at least from the beginnings. It's kinda surreal, their earliest footage feels like it still has the blood, sweat and snobbery of mod-era art students on it; it's like watching some combination of "Berkeley in the '60s" if it was shot in Andy Warhol's factory. A lot of it involves symbolic uses of political leaders pictures as well as the German Press themselves being used as literal toilet paper. 

A lot of this footage is news and archive broadcast from German television as well, especially reports and interviews with Ulrike Meinhof who was a major political commentator and regular talk show guest until she and the RAF basically rebeled against her newspaper for not being left-wing enough. It's kinda startling though to see their own footage, especially their self-made videos, both home videos and their artistic ones. They're more well-known then other similar left-wing radical terrorist groups of the day, many of whom were far more deadly, but in hindsight, a lot of their actions were basically just elaborate publicity stunts moreso then anything else. They ransacked and graffiti'd houses, they confronted all the lines of regular life, especially art and media as political. They were just politically and publicity-wise, savvy enough to become the faces of the radical Left, which ironically probably did lead to a more socialist and left-wing Germany, by stamping out the Fascist right that, while certainly weren't the Nazis, they still used the controlling tactics and preferences of them. 

Perhaps a lot of why this doesn't entirely register with the American world is that it's just really complex. This is the first generation of kids who basically understand that their own world and government has basically lied to them their whole life and they're lying to them now. Admittedly, America might just be more interested in the '60s and '70s of their own country more, and frankly we had enough shit going on here to be that concerned with our old war-time enemies. These guys though  were caught up, not in an identity crises of a nation, but of a rebuilding of one, one that they didn't know whether to take part in, and one that they didn't ask for and being rebuilt by people who probably caused their nation's destruction to begin with. It's easy to see how they can be so militant and influential. 
By the end of the movie, as the group is heading towards their 2nd and 3rd generations, the political arguments of the time are shown, not-so-much as whether their messages are good or bad, although that's also defended, but rather, the debate is over a discussion of their message. Kidnapping, hijacking, assassinations, bank robberies, hostage-taking, it's all so romantic 'til it isn't, but it got their message out and people discussed them and eventually their demands and requests. I think more then anything, "A German Youth" aims to tear down their mythologized public persona; it succeeds at this; I suspect this is the equivalent of Americans trying to stop glorifying our wild west outlaws. Personally, the documentary is an editing mess; jumping from scene to scene from news footage to archive footage ar art video, to scenes of the terrorists or others talking about them..., it honestly feels like a Yugoslav Black Wave film at times. It often just jumps to black screen audio as well; it's a soft collection of everything we got on these guys and they place it in some kind of linear order, and I assume this would be easier for me to follow if I understood or knew the intricacies of the history of the era, but it can be a tricky watch. 

Still, it's a fascinating documentary. It was directed by Jean-Gabriel Perlot, a filmmaker mostly known for shorts, documentaries and otherwise; this was his first feature. It was originally released in Europe in 2015; it's only finally made it's way to America but it's worth looking up. Especially if you're interested in this part of recent European history, as well as the birth of Left-Wing radical extremism and the good and mostly bad that groups such as them started and led to, as well as how they can end up getting started. It's messier then you think, but I suspect it'd have to be a mess to begin with for groups like these to flourish in any part of the world. 

WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD'S ON FIRE? (2019) Director: Roberto Minervini


My constant immediate thought regarding "What You Gonna Do When the World's On Fire?" was that the film was basically like a really powerful, good, special guest speaker in your college sociology class, or like a similar TED talk speech you had to watch as a homework assignment for se class. I mean that in both the best and worst ways. It's the latest documentary from an Italian-born filmmaker Robert Minervini, and he follows a group of African-Americans, mainly Dorothy Hill, a struggling owner of a struggling West Monroe, Louisiana bar. It doesn't stay on her exclusively though, although she and most everybody else in the movie will pop up with some monologues of wisdom. The movie follows a few of the other people and groups who surround Dorothy, her kids are often in and out of school and minor trouble, although it seems like the only thing that they ever actually do that's kinda questionable, that we see is hang around railroad tracks. Maybe this is just me, but I actually do live near train tracks now, but even as a kid, that was one of my biggest fears. Maybe I just watch too many Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons over the years or something, but I stay away from them as often as I can. 

At the time the movie was made, somewhere around 2017, there was a string of local African-Americans getting killed in the area. The sad thing is I can probably point to nearly any African-American community in the south at any random time and be just as accurate, but this one was more prescient as it was incredibly clear that these murders were race related. There's talk of swastikas and other hate symbols at or near several locations of murders, and the New Black Panthers are around as the visual conscious of the community. I don't really have a great grasp on what this modern depiction of the New Black Panther Party to be honest; this movie, the leaders seem competent and I guess they're basically the representative of the neighborhood against the local police, who do either seem to be absent or antagonistic of the group, which sounds like a reasonable position for their existing "Party" to exist in right now. (Just FYI, I did try to look up more on the New Black Panther Party and, I kinda found it confusing... It's not associated with the original Black Panthers who were as much a political party as they were a militant civil right groups, and this version had a lot more difficult in the decades trying to figure out exactly what they want to do, and there was a higher-ranks schism in 2013..-, yeah, there's a reason you don't hear too much about them nationally.)

It's not all gloom and doom, there's some performances by musicians and there's other characters, for instance some Native Americans getting ready for eventual Mardi Gras celebration. There is a lot of life in the movie, and again, both good and bad definitions of "Life". Mostly I remember the long diatribes from Dorothy and others. I can imagine my mother saying this movie felt like a "Lecture", a word she speaks with such vile that she doesn't recognize any positive incarnations the word has. I'm not-so anti-lecture but I do kinda get it from this movie. I don't hate hearing people talk about their struggles and the struggles of the community and how it's all connected, but it doesn't feel like the movie is using these stories in a way that makes their inspiring or make us empathic to them. I don't know if that's the intent though either. 

Honestly, I don't know what to make of the filmmaking in general. I'm not familiar with Minervini's previous work, but I often couldn't tell whether the movie was a documentary or not; if somebody told me this was some kind of modern attempt at neorealism like Antonio Mendez Esparza's "Life and Nothing More", I probably would've believed it. That's part of why I'm on the fence on this one; I'm not sure of the intentions behind the filmmaking. There is a fairly powerful, albeit predictable scene at the end, where there's violence from the cops during a protest after one of the murders. Some of the Panthers are involved, but even then, I'm not entirely sure what to make of that. The cops don't seem to be the good guys, and I definitely feel like I have to trust the community against the cops, but it's also a little hard to tell what happened and why. Maybe it's because this is only half the story we're getting. If there is this Klan-like presence over the town and the people, where are they? Are they in the police? Are they from the community too? Are they outside them coming into the community to cause violence against the community? I'm not saying it's not there, but I wish the filmmaker would've tried to figure out where it was, exactly? He's got a camera, part of being a documentarian is investigative journalism; you can't just be cinema verite all the time, can you? (Shrugs) Well, I guess technically you can, but it doesn't feel like the right move in this case. 

Also in hindsight, now that I'm thinking about it; why was this movie in black & white? Seriously, why was it? Like I said, I didn't notice or care at the time, but would this movie not have worked in color? I mean, is it homage or something to make this film look like Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep" or something, was there just not enough interesting stuff in the movie to make color work? (Scratches head) Yeah, I'm convinced now; this is gonna be one of those reviews that started as a 3 STARS, but ends up a 2 1/2 star, 'cause the more I think about the film, the less it works, and yeah, that choice to make this in b&w instead of color raises a lot of questions of intentions and execution to me. 

TELL ME WHO I AM (2019) Director: Ed Perkins


There's a harrowing intenseness to the interview subjects of "Tell Me Who I Am". I'm not sure it was shot with the interrtron camera most famously used by Errol Morris, but the effect is quite similar. It's not nearly as in depth, but frankly it doesn't have to be, especially given its subject matter. It's the debut feature documentary from Ed Perkins, a prolific short documentary filmmaker, and it tells the disturbing story of identical twins Alex and Marcus Lewis. Alex got in a surreal motorcycle accident when he was a teenager and when he awoke from his coma, he essentially had amnesia. The only thing he truly remembered was that, Marcus was his brother. He didn't recognize his mother, and frankly, nothing else. He didn't remember who he was, or much of his old life. He basically had to relearn everything, and trusted his brother regarding everything. 

This hearts like a heartwarming tale, but honestly, I can understand how even in the best of circumstances, not remembering your past, or re-learning a more idyllic past, can cause more damage then one may realize. Over the early years, this system seemed to go over alright, but after both their parents died, they started to drift apart as Alex started to realized that certain pieces of information and evidence were simply not adding up. Particularly, Marcus's lack of feelings towards his parent's passings. 

I should note that the movie is based on a book, that came out a few years before this film was made, so there is a little bit staginess with this documentary. For instance, it's separated into three parts and while we do get fascinating compelling narratives from both Alex and Marcus's interviews, intersplice with other images, some real photos as well as some recreations of events, the movie can seem a bit stagey compared to other similar docs. Part three actually begins not with the talking heads approach but with the two twins actually talking ot each other, presumably for the first real time in years, and even then, Marcus doesn't tell Alex directly what he's kept hidden from him, but allows him to watch him discuss it in the earlier interviews' raw footage. It's still powerful though, I said it staged, I didn't say it was false or something, it's just somewhat offputting from a filmmaking standard. 

It ultimately does work for this off-putting story and narrative though. Alex's head injury was really severe; apparently his helmet flew off him and he was in a coma. That said, amnesia, in real life,often and usually is associated with a subconscious psychological takeover over the mind to just block out certain things. Hell, there was a good recent documentary, "Marwencol" about an amnesia victim who ends up escaping into a world of his own after getting being hospitalized from an attack; "Tell Me Who I Am", isn't that, but it is a story about how amnesia doesn't simply effect the person suffering from it, but also those around them that people love.

FIDDLIN' (2019) Director: Julie Simone


It seems more-than-ironic that I'm watching a movie called "Fiddlin'" while Trump is literally fiddling around during his lame duck period while COVID-19 is burning down, every large and medium American city. "Fiddlin'" is about fiddlin'. It mostly takes place at the 80th Annual Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia, where all the world of old-time appalachian music. Bluegrass, early, Country, Appalachian music, sometimes it's just called "Fiddlin'", mainly because of while there's a lot of instruments traditionally involved, acoustic guitars and banjos got a lot of focus, the fiddle is probably the instrument that most identifies with this music. The fiddle is basically the anchor of most of this music. The bow is strung across the strings in a fast consistent rhythm, mostly for the purposes of creating a quick dance beat. There's a lot of dancing in bluegrass and fiddle music, mostly flatfoot dancing. 

This is one of those documentaries that you suspect the soundtrack is probably better then the movie, but there's still a lot to the movie. This is the original pure Americana music and music tradition. The movie goes through that, with a lot of talking heads of some of the best and most well-known names in the genres. Honestly, I didn't know much of the names; it's not my genre, but I'm sure those in the world would know them. And the music world definitely knows them. It's hard to realize that this is the original American music dating back over 200 years, and there's a lot of tension about how original the genre is or should be, and who should be performing them. We get a lot of interviews with some of the current musicians in the genre, most of whom often work regular jobs in-between gigs which, yeah, makes sense. I mean, this isn't exactly a genre that get radio play. Still though, the tradition goes on. We get history lessons from the old-timers who can still rock it, and we get glimpses of the best and youngest of the performers, some as young as teenagers. Many of them make their own instruments. Some of this might interest you more then me, I mostly found it nice background ambience more then anything else. 

It's a pretty traditional documentary, using essentially the "Spellbound" formula essentially, combining history with interviews of those competing in the minor contest that they're all gathered for, but really it's just a celebrity of this early form of music. For that, I'm recommending it. It's not music I'm particularly fond of, but I get why others are and why it's important. I nice enjoyable fun documentary about the beginnings of music in America.