Friday, October 21, 2022




What do you guys want me to tell you, I told you so? Alright, I told you so. 

But y'know, who cares now? I mean, I don't feel like bragging about this or anything, and not because I quietly like to rub it in, mainly it's because I stopped banging the drum on this fight years ago, and frankly now, I don't really care about this. 

Yeah, that's the thing, everybody else seemed to be really frustrated and annoyed at this, "How dare, HBO Max take off shows all for a tax write-off because Discovery+ plus wanted more room for their shows!" and it was the big thing for awhile and Kenan Thompson made jokes about it at the Emmys and all, and I was like,- (Shrugs) yeah, that's pretty much what I expected. 

I tried to warn everybody. I warned about streaming, and how it wasn't gonna be as secure or great a future as it you thought it was, and as long as film, and television were businesses, streaming was never gonna be as secure as actual physical media and it should be a secondary option, but everybody said, "Nah, nah, nah, you don't get it, streaming is the future!" And you know, that future is now; I'm watching Al Michaels commentate the most boring NFL games every Thursday night on Amazon, for some reason, and sounding like a dead relic of what he used to be inside unless he's making a sly reference to sports betting that goes over everyone's heads, but the point I always made when I would go after streaming, with blogs after blogs, starting, with this one, from like, eleven years ago!, was that, streaming was never going to be the ultimate catch-all of media that people thought it was. Especially when you let all the networks and studios themselves cultivate and collect their own exclusively libraries, and have them all charge their own separate fees and control the distributions of their content, then you were gonna to have stuff that slipped through the cracks and wouldn't be available for the most amount of people as possible. 

I mean, it's all bullshit that HBO Max and Warner Bros. is get lauded and controlled over by Discovery of all goddamn entities, 'cause that's what I wanted when I got by HBO Max account, more um-, what the hell even is on Magnolia Network...- (Goes to channel's website, clicks on original shows) eenie meanie, miney mo, catch a tiger by the toe, eh, something, something, not that word, eh, let her go, eenie meanie miney mo, more, um "The Garden Chronicles"?! whatever the hell that is. But, it's not like I saw anybody trying to stop it at the time either, or stop any of these bizarre corporate media mergers, that should all basically be illegal, but y'know, even if they weren't working within well-established, well-regulated and well-funded loopholes, if you did manage to legally close them up, good luck enforcing any of that. 

So you're losing a bunch of shows now, and yeah, it sucks, but you know what, it's not like shows haven't been going away or never returning to begin with. How often have your favorite shows or movies suddenly went on or fell off all your favorite streaming services? Not to mention that shows that for one reason or another just don't show up on streaming, or don't show up in their complete original forms. 

Film has always been a business, from the moment Thomas Edison put patent numbers on his short films, more than any other modern art form the moving picture, was spurned and evolved from a business standpoint, not an artistic one like most other art mediums. Until that's eliminated businesses and business decisions are always gonna get in the way. And no, this is simply not a good look on the business venture to begin with.

I don't know, what bizarre monstrosity combination of HBO and Discovery and what will inevitably become of HBO Max from it, which would be like HBO's what, fifth or sixth separate generation attempt at becoming a streaming service brand now? I mean, I could point out that this deal is just, nonsensical and ridiculous on several levels and that I ultimately would predict that, like say, when AOL and Time Warner combined way back when, that the deal is shortsighted and ultimately is gonna flop, and Warner and Discovery, have way overestimated Discovery+'s actual value in their programming and that the two brands are just not a good clash for each other, and that this forced removal of programming on both sides is the first sign that this is a truly bad combination, but eh, do I need to? 

Seriously, like, even before this news about the shows going away broke, we all knew this was just weird right? I mean, I wasn't surprised, but I feel like, in a normal world, Warner would've just bought out Discovery+ and incorporated it naturally into their own collection, let them otherwise be on their own and continue to create, produce and distribute their own programming and HBO would I feel, know to stay standoffish enough to let that happen, but instead, they merged and from these depictions, it feels like they're either being treated equally, or possibly the Discovery+ people coming into this, are actually higher up in the corporate structure, which baffles the fuck out of me the most out of this. I mean, obviously, the uproar and the fact that all these programs are getting taken off the air means that there's people who've noticed and care and I suspect either, after the year, they'll either be back on HBO Max/Discovery+-whatever, eventually be included into whatever the weird combination both of them come up with at Warner Bros. Discovery, or some other media distribution outlet will pick them up and have them streaming that way. And if they're not, then, I don't know, they'll join the same in-between media rabbit hole that stuff like, "Dream On", or "1st and 10", or the "If These Walls Could Talk" movies, or a bunch of other programs that HBO has previously lost the rights to or just refuses to air on HBO Max already. (As well as several other programs across all major networks and production and distribution companies; HBO's not alone in this.)

Look, there is commentary to talk about here, but everyone else has talked about it, and frankly, I'm tired of the business minutia of the entertainment world. Until we actually get, some kind of deal where everything that's ever been filmed is easily readily available on a single, legal platform, like the way a video store used to be, this is not gonna end with this deal, or in the near future at all. Everybody has to get together and just come to the conclusion that making sure everybody has equal availability of their content, than none of this matters. It didn't matter to most anybody else either, until the programs starting getting removed and everybody realized too late that maybe streaming has limitations. 

But this isn't about streaming either, it's about preservation, and film and television don't have a good history of preserving their arts. And, that's the big problem here, it's not the deal, it's not even the fact that they're doing it for a tax cut, although, yeah, that's bullshit capitalist greed for ya, but like, that loophole isn't the problem itself, the problem is that we don't encourage or enforce media preservation like we should. It seems like we do, because we have all these streaming services, logically you think, "Well, that must mean that anything that's possible to be available to me, surely must be available, right?" NOOOO! and that's really what the big uproar and frustration, that there's a massive amount of people at one time, who are only now realizing that that's not the case. And again, in terms of the big picture, this is minor. Half of Youtube entertainment media now can sometimes seem to be people finding, seeking out, or discussing lost media, and for good reason. There's a lot that's missing, some that seemed to be there for us to always have, and now they're not there. Or not as easy to get to. 

Anybody try to find Kevin Smith's "Dogma" on streaming lately? Yeah, it's, not easy. It's copyright's owned by Harvey Weinstein and it, among other titles are being held up while he's being held up, and some copies of the used DVD are priced in the $80 and up range on Amazon now, which is mindboggling to me, 'cause that was a movie when I was growing up, just always seemed to be around; I watched it rerun on cable dozens of times, and borrowed it from video stores and libraries regularly. It's not unavailable or lost or anything, you can find copies and plenty of people have downloaded their copies on Youtube if you have to see it, and most of them haven't been taken down yet, but it's kinda bullshit still that the filmmakers aren't making money on it right now. 

I'm using "Dogma" as a recent example but there's so much more out there that we've lost and we're currently losing and the thing is, most of it we might not ever even really know about until or unless things change and it pops up again. To use another famous example, John Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate", one of the great American movies was held without being re-released to the public until 25 years after it's release, all because Frank Sinatra didn't realize that he actually owned a majority of the rights to it. There were generations of filmmakers and cinephiles who might've only vaguely recalled seeing that film, or missed decades of possibly being influenced by that film's ever-presence, all because, it wasn't widely present. 

That's the thing, I've gone through the lists of the shows that have slipped off HBO Max, and I'll be damned if I know whether or not quality-wise these shows are "worth preserving", but that honestly doesn't matter as much as one might think because we shouldn't just be preserving the absolute elite of stuff, we should be preserving all media and art as best we can and as much of it as possible. Sometimes, we may not know what's important or what we're missing until years later on down the line. 

Anybody happen to catch Wink Martindale's Facebook page lately. I follow him and FB and Youtube 'cause in terms of classic American game shows, he's a goldmine of rare content and preservation, and recently he posted a link to this amazing find: 

For those who might not look at this and see much related here, but this is, currently the only known complete episode recording of the game show "The Wizard of Odds". It's not a particularly important, or even a good game show, it's basically just a low-end "The Price is Right" rip-off, except for this one thing, it marked the first American television appearance of it's host, of Alex Trebek. I had only heard about this for years, and only knew previously of a single sound recording that existed, and possibly one rare episode in an university archive that only existed because an actor Don Defore was on, (DeFore, oh, eh, he was on "Hazel", I think, old time, forgotten actor, more well-known for his work now as a SAG board member and early president of NATAS) and that was it, before somebody just randomly posted this one episode. This was a major piece of American television history, and it had been a lost show. Alex of course would host several game shows over the shows, most famously "Jeopardy!" for over thirty-five years before his sad passing a couple years ago, but this was where his national career in America started. (He had a few hit hosting gigs in Canada before he came here of course too, and not all of that is preserved either) The series only lasted one season, and lost big in it's timeslot to "Gambit" which wasn't even that big of a hit, and NBC just wiped out the series and taped over it. It wasn't just them that did that, a lot of television did that back then, in America and elsewise. BBC for instance, it's almost like, impossible to find any television pre-"Monty Python" from them.

That's really what this is all about the fear of media that we've got now, one day becoming lost in the future. And it is a real fear, especially since we thought, of all things, streaming, as opposed to actual physical media, was the way to go for the future. God help us if we're ever hit a "The Trigger Effect" calamitous event and the internet and electricity ever goes out completely. (Note: It's far-fetched, sure, but it's not as far-fetched as you'd think....)  

So, what is there we can do? In terms of what HBO Max and Discovery+ are gonna do, probably very little. If you can do your part to preserve the media they got rid of, in case they don't eventually return it the current or some other streaming or physical platform, be my guest. 

As for what really needs to happen. Personally, I'd go to Congress. Seriously, I think there should be laws preventing media producer and distributors requiring them to preserving their media. Once it's released to the public, at least, then, they need to take any efforts possible into preserving that media, in some reasonable amount of form. Now, I'm not gonna tell them, it has to go on a streaming site, or it has to be on DVD, or that it has to be out for the public all the time for anyone to see, that's taking it too far, and for several reasons there are certain pieces of media, that do indeed exist, and are preserved, but don't need to be shown or revealed regularly to the public. To name an extreme example off the top of my head, I know for a fact that there's footage, somewhere in Stamford, Connecticut at WWE headquarters of the night Owen Hart fell from the rafters and was killed, because they have to keep it for their own sake and protection, but it's in a vault and labeled not to be released, and it's evidence, and blah, blah, blah, preservation and public are two different things, and some things need to be preserved, even if they aren't, and in some cases, should never, be seen by the public. And even taking that extreme case out of the equation, there could be other good reasons, legal or not, why some media isn't public. Perhaps there's some other legal copyright claims that are in dispute, perhaps there's some unlicensed uses of footage or music that has to be resolved, or perhaps, people just don't want something to be readily available in the public. That happens too. It's there right not to put something out into the public, however, not preserving it, is something different to me. So, reasonable efforts should be made to preserve media as much as possible, that should be a requirement of any media electronic-based artistic media. We're documenting ourselves and our lives here, we should have notes of it. Once it's out there, it should stay out there. Even recently, if you think about all the old forms of streaming media sites, Vine, Blip, etc. that don't exist anymore, lots of recent media are gone now because there efforts aren't required by the owners and distributors of those sites, you make that a legal requirement, I can't guarantee it won't ever happen where something will become lost, but it's an extra level where it makes material more likely to be preserved and by the people who should be the ones preserving the media. It shouldn't be up to us to do this. 

I know, this is a longshot, btw, I seriously doubt that this kind of legislation would get any modern traction and to be frank, there are more important battles politically to have at times, but you know, starting the movement now for media conglomerates to make preservation a requirement is the first start. 

There's one minor thing that I think we could do right now, that won't help out this immediately, but something that really needs to get done. I've talked about this before occasionally, but in America, we do have the Film Preservation Board, which works with the Library of Congress every year to name films for preservation as apart of the National Film Registry. They compile a list of 25 culturally, historically or aesthetically important films in order to preserve America's film heritage. Whatever happens from here on in, these are the pieces of film that are of the greatest significance to evoking America. They've been doing this every year since 1989, a year after the National Film Preservation Act was passed into law as apart of an Appropriations Bill, and it's been renewed and refunded multiple times ever since, and it's gathered a huge collection of the history of American film. Not just the big films and titles you would expect either, on top of several feature films, there's lots of experimental films, documentaries, short subjects, even advertisement material, industry films, old shorts they'd only used to show in classrooms, home movies even, there's even a music video that's apart of the collection. What's not included in the registry are television productions. Nothing that's made exclusively and intently for television at least.

There's no equivalent Television Preservation Board and there's no National Television Registry, which is really kinda insane at this point, 'cause let's face it, television is a dying medium. A dying medium that you might think would get preserved through the advent of streaming but frankly it's a medium already missing a lot of it's media and as it continues to slowly die, it might continue to lose more, and more quickly than you think. 

I don't really know why we don't have a National Television Registry, but there should be one. I doubt one that's equivalent would've now or later would have saved any of these shows but, it's a start. I recommended this years ago, even gave a list on Facebook of what I would recommend be the first television programs inducted. 

"The $64,000 Question" (1955-'58)
"All in the Family" (1971-79)
"American Bandstand (1952-'88)
"An American Family (1973)
"Captain Video and His Video Rangers (1949-'55)
"The Ed Sullivan Show (oka Toast of the Town" (1948-'71)
"Experiment TV Broadcast with Milton Berle (1929)
"Guiding Light" (1952-2009)
"Gunsmoke (1955-1975)
"The Honeymooners (1955-'56)
"The Jack Benny Program" (1950-'65)
"Life is Worth Living" (1952-'57)
"I Love Lucy (1951-'57)
"M*A*S*H" (1972-'83)
"Meet the Press" (1947-Present)
"RCA Felix the Cat Test Patterns (1928-'39)
"Roots" (1977)
"Saturday Night Live" (1975-Present)
"See It Now" (1951-'58)
"Sesame Street" (1969-Present)
"Star Trek" (1966-'69)
"Streets of New York" (1939)
"Texaco Star Theater" (1948-1956)
"The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" (1962-'92)
"The Twilight Zone" (1959-'64)
"Your Show of Shows (aka Caesar's Hour)" (1950-1954)

I thought it was a pretty decent start list, that includes something from just about but even this is hard to preserve. The Original Felix the Cat tests, they only exist now in recreations and a few photos, and that's more than I can say for the original Milton Berle tests, of which nothing exists now. "American Bandstand", much of their old programs before 1964 were destroyed in a fire, including a lot of pretty historic and important television moments, especially for regarding documenting the history of early rock'n'roll. "Captain Video and His Video Rangers", only about 24 episodes of the estimated 1,500+ of the series is known to still exist; the rest are all long lost. "Streets of New York", one of the first dramatic productions made specifically for television, a 60-minute TV movie, it's reported that only eleven minutes of it still exists. Hell, we're still finding old episodes of "Sesame Street". Literally. 


Yeah, we're finding old episodes of "Sesame Street", but were losing Elmo's HBO Now talk show. I didn't care for his talk show admittedly, but how does that make any sense at all?

If there's a time to stress again that we need this, it's now. And this shouldn't just be an American thing, every country should have their own preservation boards for film and television and have registries like the NFR. I think they need a TV registry as well, and there should genuinely be a serious push for that. Make it a national to preserve the most important pieces of all media we have, and we do for film. We do for even recordings, there's a National Recording Registry as well, but we don't for television. I don't know what the hold up is or why we don't, but we really should.  

So if you're frustrated or annoyed at HBO and Discovery, these are the steps I would be channeling your anger towards. Creating and promoting legislation, not to prevent this from ever happening again, but to mitigate the loss of media when it does, and start calling Congressmen and those who might be influential to them and start the processes of getting these preservation regulations into law and to creating a real National Television Preservation Board and Registry. This is what the future can hold, and if we start using these weird HBO/Discovery decisions as the catalyst for it to come to pass, then by all means, perhaps the frustrations we have now will not be in vain. 

Monday, October 3, 2022


Ugh, procrastination. Like all writers, once we stop putting it off, it's our favorite. Lately, I've been getting around to it a lot. Not all of it my own fault, much of what's been delaying me from writing more here, and in general, has been stupid and idiotic things like life getting in the way, but other times, yeah, my free time has been going more towards turning my mind off than it has striving to advance it lately. It happens sometimes, I hate to admit. Every so often, you just gotta turn everything off. 

That doesn't mean I'm not watching and analyzing a lot. With the Emmys last month I tried to catch up on as much as I could. I haven't gotten to everything, but the Emmy shows were actually pretty decent this year. I've never been as sold as everyone else that we're in some kind of golden age of television; in fact, if anything, I think television might be dying quicker than any genre at the moment, but the quality at the top is always gonna win out. 

Movies-wise though, yeah, I've been slowing down more, and I gotta catch back up. Especially with all the Oscar films coming up and I'm still two years behind, and yikes, it's already October. Let's get some reviews in before I have to really start knuckling down and run through every inch of my spare time watching everything. 

ENCANTO (2021) Directors: Jared Bush & Byron Howard; Co-Director: Charise Castro Smith


I think when it comes to Disney, separating a good one from a- well, rarely, if ever bad, but maybe, average or mediocre film, is that if it just has one little thing that I can notice as being truly unique, different and downright inspiring. You could probably argue that this is double for the princesses, and I'll be damned if I haven't seen a quote-unquote "Disney Princess" as uniquely intriguing in recent years as Mirabel. (Stephanie Beatriz) The obvious note that was in fact taken by request of a young woman in the UK, is that Mirabel, wears glasses. Yeah, I never thought or noticed it before, but there had never been a Disney Princess character that wears glasses. (You would've thought at least Belle must've had reading glasses, but no, she had perfect 20/20)  Which is a shame, 'cause not only do I generally find eye glasses to be appealing, but they do add a aura of intrigue and mystery to a character.

Mirabel's mystery is that she is the only one in her family who doesn't have, some kind of special X-Man-like power, but that's way too simple. She's a teenager for whom being a teenage girl is appropriate for the story and not at all about any kind of romance, thank god. She's a middle child in a busy family who's filled with magic. Abuela (Maria Cecilia Botero), the family matriarch founded their enchanted casita after escaping a conflict and in the decades since, their home in the mountains of Columbia has looked over the growing village town, that's formed from the large family and their special gifts (As well as the actual gifts of the enchanted house, which, is a lot more Disney and Pixar-like, but yes, does have moments where it feels like Pee-Wee Herman might live there) helping oversee and protect the town. Mirabel, however, is the one family outcast who doesn't have a gift, but she still remains very proud of her family and of their gifts, and of protecting them and the town. 

At first, I thought based on the opening Lin-Manuel Miranda song, which actually does go through all of these characters in quick succession, that perhaps her skill was as a storyteller. Their abuela is the matriarch and protector of the family after all, she's old and someone will have to eventually take her place, and the rest of her family seemed to be trying to find ways to move on with their personal lives. Again, this is also more complicated. Mirabel is quite complicated. In fact, it took me a minute to realize who I really think she reminded me of, and I couldn't confirm this, but I wouldn't be surprised if she was inspired by Vanessa Marquez's character in "Stand and Deliver". The young, really smart girl, Ana, the quiet shy one who does also wear glasses periodically in that film, but has a homelife where she has to help out the family restaurant business, and almost drops out of school because of it. Mirabel, feels like a similar smart character who's out-of-step from her caring but flawed family and has to struggle to find a way to appease them, and herself. I didn't find any evidence of a direct influence, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was there; she was always my favorite from that film, and I got the same good vibes from Mirabel that I always liked seeing from Ana. (Sidenote: BTW, I looked up the real Ana Delgado, to see whatever happened to her; apparently she was the only one of the students in that film who were directly inspired by an actual person and her life did turn out pretty successfully after. That said, um Vanessa Marquez's life, um, did not.... it's actually really tragic what happened to her and I didn't know about it until I looked it up. If you ever get a minute, google her and shed a tear for her.)  

The movie itself, like most Disney films recently, on the surface, is fairly predictable. We start with this beloved perfect world, and then, we start suspecting that something's off with the world, in this case, Maribel starts seeing cracks, literally appearing around the enchanted house. Nobody else sees them, at least publicly, but eventually, it becomes known how fragile the house and the family dynamic actually is. Obviously, this movie is basically a huge metaphor for the internal struggles of families, and how they will often try to eradicate those elements when they fear them. Obviously, the most notable one from this movie is Bruno (John Leguizamo) who was found to see the future and apparently was the first to see the cracks. He was tossed out of the family years ago for it, and has since been secretly living within the halls of the house, "Parasite"-style looking over the family, concerned as their gifts have been eroding. The metaphor is also too obvious in this case, but I can see why it's an important film to be made. In fact, I really should be more mad at this movie; it's problem and solution is petty simple when you break it down, but the way it's revealed and discovered is good.

"Encanto" is a rare Disney film that gives us a complex but loving complete family, and is about the family coming to help strengthen their bond. Usually Disney films are often about the struggle to find or reconnect with family in some ways from having been lost from it, but here's a film about a family starting off well,-, relatively well on the surface anyway, and then overcoming their own obstacles to be back to fulfilled again. It's inspiring and unique in its own way. As for the film, perhaps there's potential for more fulfilling stories in sequels, but I still liked this a lot. The music helps, Lin-Manuel Miranda could probably be given a potato and he would manage to make it an entertaining three-star musical, but "Encanto" shows how we can be "Enchanted", and yet, still have to struggle to stay together and that even the happiest of families still have secrets they have to overcome and come together on.  It's different enough and done well, and for that, it's an easy recommend. 

HOUSE OF GUCCI (2021) Director: Ridley Scott


I gotta be a little honest here, of all the tabloid fodder that paraded through that most alien of time periods that we mysteriously call the 1990s, the murder of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), done by a hitman paid off by his wife Patrizia (Lady Gaga), and the circus of the trial therein, was kinda off my radar. I imagine this may have been bigger in Europe, as for us, at that point, we were just done with the epic that was the O.J. Simpson trial and frankly sports is much bigger than fashion in this country, especially American football. Honestly, Gucci, as a brand and image,- uh, you know, I'm not anti-fashion per se, I mean, I'm watching the new season of "Making the Cut" while I'm writing this in fact, but the name,- in fact a lot of the big names in fashion in recent, I feel like have become so shorthand for something luxurious or exquisite, that honestly I kinda feel like the appeal has been lost on me. In fact, I actually know someone who constantly uses the word "gucci" as a way of saying something, anything, is "Good", and it's not like I don't like Gucci, or think it's bad, but y'know, I-eh, I don't know. I mean, it's- yes, Guccio Gucci did start the idea of leather hand bags that he noticed appealed to the customers he was serving as a bellhop, and he was an entrepreneur and even though Gucci itself is more of a brand, a label, than a specific idea of fashion anymore, I still feel like, we're kind of way off using a designer's name as just a pronoun for good. (Especially in the urban and hip hop communities, like, what is your deal with Italian fashion designers, exactly? Even this movie basically tells you at one point that the "fakes" or  "replicas" of their own items are often just as good. Or, as long as your going through fashion history books anyway, how about we use "Chanel" as a pronoun for exquisite more often? Or St. Laurent? or Dior? Of Van Furstenberg? Or Ann Lowe?)

Anyway, most of that wasn't what I was thinking of anyway during this film. Mostly, I was thinking a lot about how generally underwhelmed I usually am with Ridley Scott's films. Seriously, for a household name director, he's got one of least compelling filmographies I can think of for any great director. And he is a great director; I'll always give him that even I think much of his work is overrated, the guy's made more than his fair share of great films, and yet, for a lot of his supposed best films he's always had some storytelling tendencies that I just find frustrating. Oddly, I won't go over most of them here, even though this movie did in fact, feel like it had like, six or seven endings.... The main observation I had was that this is kind of a strange subject matter to discuss to begin with, and after thinking it through, this wasn't the best way to tell it. 

This is definitely a film that might've been way more compelling if say, the people behind "I, Tonya" had written and made it. But, man it did get me thinking that, Ridley Scott's apparently been into a lot of stories about the foils of the privileged lately. Or the rich. Just something I've noticed, to me, unless he's doing sci-fi stuff, his most notable recent films have been about people with money, sometimes it's about the unscrupulous ways they get them, but most of the time it's about their erratic behaviors. "The Counselor", "All the Money in the World" and now, "House of Gucci". That's what's always kinda befuddled me about Ridley Scott, he's the biggest name director who you just can't get an auteur-like read on. Stylistically you can, but content-wise, I never know what he's gonna make and worst than that, I never know why either. 

It's just weird. And I know that are plenty of great directors who are infamous and well-known for being chameleons, two of Scott's British director compatriots that come to my mind are Stephen Frears and Michael Winterbottom in this regard. Yet, it doesn't bother me with them, partly because Ridley's constantly put on a taller pedestal, but also their films are also done much more on indy-film level scales and while they are chameleons, there's definitely more definable trends in their work and inspiration. Ridley, is a big time Hollywood director and every time I hear somebody try to list themes to his oeuvre, I feel like I'm hearing things that apply to, maybe a quarter of his films, maybe. Like, the guy's in the science-fiction Hall of Fame, and yet, I never think of him as a science fiction director. Maybe it's because I'm the weirdo who thinks both "Alien" and "Blade Runner" are both highly overrated, but-, I think it's more that I just never get a sense from his films about what he's actually passionate about. (Maybe that's why everybody singles out "Blade Runner"; perhaps Ridley Scott is just a replicant who's inspired by the false memories that have been put inside him and now he's making his movie choices believing that they're something about them that he relates to closely, but he's unaware that those memories and personal instincts themselves aren't real? Well, that's my theory anyway...)

Anyway, I guess I thought a lot about that 'cause I had a very hard time caring about this film. Scott himself has called this film a satire; um, yeah, I can kinda see that, but eh, he's not exactly a great comedic director.... This movie definitely could appeal to some; this wouldn't be a bad film to put on to make fun of at times, and not because it's bad, because it just is a little too over-the-top at times. It's a story of a rich aristocratic family with an outrageous outsider character joining in and it's all very soap opera melodrama. I mean, Salma Hayek plays Patrizia's best friend who happens to be a high-end psychic that advertises on TV. That's before we get into Jared Leto's weird role as Paolo Gucci a failed designer who was basically the Fredo of the brothers. Oh yeah, the Gucci legacy is actually pretty familial, and before Patrizia just goes ape-shit mad, she orchestrates how her husband Mauricio manages to overtake through legal and questionable means the family business from the elder Gucci's the New York based Aldo (Al Pacino) and the Milan-based Rudolpho (Jeremy Irons). Paolo is Mauricio's brother who's put up with, but is basically too incompetent for anybody to really trust with anything serious, and it's him who gets manipulated into selling his shares. Nice makeup jobs, and mostly good acting all around, but honestly, I wish they focused more on the murder and trial instead. A lot of this history is just not as compelling as they think it is. 

Well, maybe it is in some fashion circles. For a film comparison, there's a lot of similar ownership drama involving the Warner Brothers and their studios and brands and IP over the decades, and it does intrigue me, but that I don't think about it every time I see a Warner Brothers logo before a film or a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and I don't think about the struggles over the ownership and rebranding of Gucci every time I see a leather handbag with it's logo on it. There are interesting characters here, but "House of Gucci" is a painfully narrow tale to watch. It's a movie that makes the simple mistake of having a film be more about the extravagance and popularity of the brand as opposed to creating a compelling story narrative about the people behind the brand. There are moments where it tries to show it, but yeah, maybe a director with more vision and care could've pulled this off. I'm sure Ridley Scott got whatever compelled him to make this film out of his system and had it fulfilled, but many, I just never know exactly what that is from watching his films. as for me, I just found myself struggling to much to find a reason for me to care enough about this story.   

TEST PATTERN (2021) Director: Shatara Michelle Ford


I don't normally look through the User Reviews on, because...- well, because they're user reviews on, of all amateur critic reviews, they're by a large margin, the absolute least credible or worth looking into, but I was scrolling down the page, I caught one of them, and-eh, yikes....! I won't say which of the reviews for "Test Pattern" popped up on the front page, or quote it directly, mainly because I don't want to give this ignorant asshole any form of acknowledgement, but trust me, even saying that doesn't narrow it down as much as you'd think it would. Man, there are some real ignoramuses who write what they think are their "hot takes" on this film in particular. ("Ignoramus" is the nice word I would use to describe them btw. Some might find it hard to believe but I do actually censor myself here.) 

Anyway, some of those (finger quotes) "reviews" (blows raspberries) ring as being especially horrid considering the subject matter of "Test Pattern", the low-budget indy from first-time writer/director Shatara Michelle Ford. The movie begins  following the early parts of the romance between Renesha and Evan. (Brittany S. Hall and Will Brill) She's an African-American corporate worker who eventually begins transitioning to working on the business end of social work, while Will is a white tattoo artist, and they seem quite lovely together. Very caring and knowing how to give each other space when needed and love when needed. The next major sequence is Renesha going out with her friend Amber (Gail Bean) the night before she starts her new job. Evan, is not worried, not jealous, nor should he be. The two girls do connect with a couple of guys, Mike and Chris (Drew Fuller and Ben Levin) while out at the bar. 

Then, the movie takes a very dark turn. I should warn people who might be sensitive to talk of sexual assault, but yeah, while Amber seems okay, Renesha has a bad reaction to an edible and inevitably blacks out, and wakes up on one of the guy's bed, and with one of the guys. She doesn't remember what happened but she knows something bad did, and doesn't quite know what to do about it. Much of the rest of the movie is something I've never actually thought about before, but after I did think about it, the nightmare possibility scenarios did begin to go through my head, as Evan drives Renesha around from medical center to medical center, searching for somebody to administer a rape kit. 

Now, a normal and admittedly trivial movie, might use this time to have some kind of great conflict between these characters, probably one where, in an effort to blow off steam, the boyfriend would become angry, unsupportive and begin making some backhanded statements about how and why she ended up in such a position. "Test Pattern", doesn't do that. Oh, he's definitely mad, in fact he's madder than she seems to be. She seems content to forget the whole situation entirely, especially as it does get comically and tragically more and more difficult and ridiculous to find a place that A. has rape kits and B. has somebody who's actually certified to use them. Yeah, I didn't know this either until I looked it up, but in America they're called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, or SANEs, and because of how invasive, time consuming and possibly traumatizing the rape kits themselves are to conduct-, well, it's not always a requirement that administrators be trained, but it's not exactly a bad idea, especially considering that this is a process of gathering evidence for the police. and there are ways in order to preserve that evidence without tampering or compromising it, that a regular, standard-issue nurse might not be astute or aware of how to do it. And, not every medical facility has them on hand, and this frustrates the boyfriend who basically wants to get whoever did this, while the wife would rather, just want to forget the whole night and day.
Maybe I'm just a guy, but I relate to Evan here; this guy drugged and assaulted his girlfriend and he'll do it again to someone else. I get his anger and I like that, it's not him blaming her and while she's nowhere near being the most comfortable she could be, nor how comforting he could be in this situation, but...., mostly we get her perspective and that means, it's all traumatic, insidious, and very useless. Like, the whole affair, and just how things can happen to her and even after going through that, and everything that comes after, and still have little-to-nothing done, that kind of uselessness, where the system's basically too weak to protect her. Or designed not to. 

"Test Pattern" is fairly minimal overall, It's barely 80 minutes long and doesn't come with any satisfactory ending. I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't be shocked if this film was at least a little autobiographical, and it's nakedness is basically just an attempt to document not just the events, but to get to the core emotions afterwards. This feeling that everything around you is freaking out and scared, but you're just trying to block out all such noise in an effort to shelter one's own pains and traumas of being violated. "Test Pattern" is a good title for this, and it is the peoples' reactions to these events and how they're portrayed that says more about the audience than the film and story itself. This is a movie that's definitely intended to show and reveal our biases while it shows it's flaws in society and the system's treatment of rape victims, and how we perceive them, and for that, I think it more-than-accomplishes it's goal. Strong, memorable and albeit, disturbing first feature film. 

AZOR (2021) Director: Andreas Fontana


It's always at times where a country needs major reforms, isn't it? It's never when the country, is just doing okay, or just needs a few changes. That's what a bellhop at the beginning of "Azor" tells the movie's protagonist Yvan (Fabrizio Rongione) when asked about some of the country's delays he's noticed when getting into town. I'm not entirely sure, if it's always when the country was actually in a bad place, when dictators would rule to power, or if perhaps that's only what the propaganda that they themselves probably perpetuated said, but it's not incorrect to say that most countries are indeed struggling at the time. I mean, the trains really did used to run late in Italy. 

It's something that peppers along the edges of "Azor", the debut feature by Swiss filmmaker Andreas Fontana, a Carol Reed meets Joseph Conrad mystery that dives deep into the depths of rule under dictatorship. Yvan and his wife Ines (Sephanie Cleau) travel to Argentina searching for Yvan's partner in banking Keys. They're Swiss bankers who have quite a few customers among the Argentinean upper crust, but his banking partner has become missing.

He's not the only one though. The more he dives into the sophisticated world, the deeper in the nation's underbelly he goes. The movie takes place in 1980, four years after Videla headed a military junta to overthrow Isabel Peron, and this would've been right in the middle of what's been called the nations "Dirty War", a time when, well, a lot of Argentineans who protested, criticized or rejected the military dictatorial rule, were suddenly apart of "Los Desparacidos" or "The Disappeared". 

It's a weird kind of mystery where we'll dealing with a search for what happened to a missing comrade, but essentially you're there to ensure everyone he was working with that the job of handling their money is still secure. Swiss banking is of course infamous for it's strict adherence to privacy and it's severe lack of quality control over it's clientele, so while, in the streets there's murder and crimes against the public going on, we're actually getting guided through this journey of capitalist corruption, through the eyes, of another person participated in that corruption essentially, but he's seeing it from a differing perspective. I saw a lot of Conrad comparisons in the reviews, and by the end, he actually is travelling down a river into a literal jungle, looking for his Kurtz, but he never does find his "friend", he just finds the situation and the country, and perhaps himself, deeper and deeper into this world of dictatorship.  

Of course, why go down that trip down a river when there's a rooftop pool one could traverse at the hotel you're at? "Azor" is a complex film that says a lot about authority and genocidal dictatorship and those who help fund their orchestrations. It shows how easily some can get suckered into such a world, especially when you're surrounded by it and only observe the horrors of the world from, the inside of the cab you're taking, at a distance. Or even if you do see it, you just remember, just how bad it was beforehand....

ANNE AT 13,000 FT. (2021) Director: Kazik Radwanski 


There aren't too many genres that are genuinely guarantee to always pissed me off, but "Anne at 13,000 Ft." is definitely a good member of one of them. It's that classic indy genre I call, "Movie Where You Keep Waiting To Find Out What-The-Fuck's With This Person, And Then They Never Tell You"! Or as I sometimes might call it, "The Other Parker Posey Indy Film Genre." It's slightly different than the normal "Parker Posey Indy", where you only have like half of a movie written out, so you cast Parker Posey as a lead and hope that if she'll go as over-the-top and ridiculous as possible, and somehow by doing that, you'll end up with a full movie. No, this is the other version, where the main character just keeps acting out in weird ways and you keep waiting and wondering for why and what the great reveal of this character's behavior is going to be, and then eventually, you don't really get an answer, she just, apparently is that. I don't really associate Parker Posey with this genre, although she's definitely been in a couple, but my usual go to example for this genre is Tea Leoni's performance in "Spanglish", but despite how batshit what-the-fuck performance that was, it's not really the best example in this case. These are small indy drama films where we focus in on a troubled erratic character, often, usually a young attractive woman like Anne (Deragh Campbell), who's behavior is just so bizarre and out there, but she's still somewhat sympathetic and you're just trying to figure out why she's acting in such ways, and then, they don't really get to a good answer or any answer really.

Not that you necessarily need a good answer for films like these mind you; in fact there are actually some really good films that have this structure, but the best of these, do reveal and filter through, not complete answers always, but they give us more exact indications as to why these characters act in the ways that they do. Patty Jenkins's "Monster" with Charlize Theron's performance for instance, can easily fit this. One of my more favorite recent ones is Adam Salky's "I Smile Back" which has a very underrated performance from Sarah Silverman at it's core, but in those films, they dive way more into why a character is like that. "Anne at 13,000 Ft.", it-, I don't want to say it doesn't have an answer to it, but boy, it's not a real good one. Basically Anne acts in these ways where she's constantly struggling to get her grip on the world, because she went skydiving.


Yeah, skydiving. This is supposed to sorta explain why she's a trainwreck, I think; I guess? 

This is actually a Canadian film, so-eh, perhaps there's some kind of stigma or cliche about skydivers in Canada that I'm just not aware of, maybe? There's a decent chance that I could just be missing something here. Well, okay, maybe I am missing a little bit; I've never skydived myself, but I do know that people who skydive a lot, tend to enjoy it, (At least I hope they do; that'd be a dumb thing to keep doing if you really hated doing it) but I've also heard that the reason that a lot of them do it, on top of the adrenaline rush obviously, is that they're often more, "at home" or "at ease" in the air, than they are when they're simply going about the regular goings-on of the day. I've heard similar anecdotes about a lot of extreme activities in fact, people struggle with the benign and trivial realities of life and so they find activities like skydiving to help them get through that. (Shrugs) The thing is so, with this film, it kinda feels like, we start with the skydiving and then the main character Anne, starts behaving strangely to the world, which, I'm not sure that's how that works. I think it's more likely that people who are already struggling with their environments and then they find a sense of relief with activities like skydiving. Is this why she's like the worst elementary school teacher who's constantly complaining and getting belittled by all the other teachers because she comes in late, doesn't sign in for work, or throws water on teachers who are trying to help her, under some vague threat of feeling closed in? Is this why her dating life is a mess? Or her homelife? It's all erratic in ways that you keep feeling like there's gotta be more going on here. We don't get any solutions or answers and the last shot is of Anne, being the last one to exit a plane, by skydiving, and, I assume her parachute works and all, but I don't know, she really likes skydiving and everything else is kinda just, bleh?

I feel like there's gotta more to this. I was stunned when looking this film up that it took two years to film, it's barely 75 minutes long, and frankly felt like it was stretching for that; I would thought this was shot in like, a month, at most two months. I have a few suspicions about this, perhaps there is a greater, more deeper script but it got sliced heavily in the editing room, or during shooting they could barely get enough time and money together to shoot the material they had and that means they didn't quite get enough? Or it was too thin on the page and he just kept shooting and shooting and possibly improvising a lot, until he had enough to sorta cobble together for a feature. I'm speculating on this here, I'm not too familiar with the film's director Kazik Radwanski, but he's mostly known documentaries for television and short films before; this is only his third feature film but his other two features, at least by their descriptions, "Tower" and "How Heavy This Hammer" sound like similar kinds of meandering slice-of-life pieces, but they also sound way more interesting and much more like they're telling a full story, or at the very least, giving a full and perhaps more complex character arc. They seem way more thought through. "Anne at 13,000 Ft." I think had potential; maybe if they showed real differences and distinctions between Anne, before she goes on her first skydiving adventure and then seeing a lot of these interactions afterwards, and really showing how the experience changed and shifted her, I think it would be more compelling and I'd be more accepting of some of her stumbles through work and life, but here, it just seems like a character who stumbles through life, had always stumbled through life, and she stumbles through it so badly that you're downright amazed that she somehow was competent enough to become an elementary school teacher, and after she stumbled into skydiving, she's now stumbling with an obsession of going skydiving? 

Honestly, she seems way more like the unstable best friend Jo, played by Norma Kuhling in Dan Sallitt's film "Fourteen", a character who goes through severe undiagnosed and diagnosed mental disorders and drug addiction before dying too young, which, might possibly be true for this character, but I don't think that was the intent. 

There's potential here, but as this films stands, on a letter grade of A-F though, it's an incomplete. 

BEANS (2020) Director: Tracey Deer



George Carlin was right about golf courses. He was right about a lot of things, but whether you admire, participate or like the sport or not, it is a stupid amount of wasted land and there are too many of them out there, and they should be retaken by the public. Or, in this case, the rightful owners. 

"Beans" is a Canadian film, but really it's a Mohawk film. It's filmmaker Tracey Deer grew up on the Kahnawake First Nations Reserve in Quebec, and was the creator/producer of the series "Mohawk Girls". which was kinda the First Nations version of "Girls". "Beans" is titular nickname of 12-year-old Tekehentahkhwa (Kiawentiio) a young Mohawk girl who's life and family get caught up in Kanesatake Resistance. Or, as it was known more often at the time, the Oka Crisis. 

If you're a millennial American like me, you'll probably have little-to-no recollection of this, even if, again, like me, you were alive through all of this.... Okay, so Oka, Quebec is right on the Ottawa River, it's about 30 miles west of Montreal, and near the Reserve. Brief history of Canada treatment of Indigenous Peoples, um,... think of America and Indigenous People and it's about the same, and maybe worst even, somehow.... I'd be here all day if I go into everything, but for our purposes, there was a land dispute that involved Oka wanting to build a golf course on property claimed by the Mohawk. Eventually, Now, this original dispute went all the way through the courts before a small golf course was built, but when they wanted to expand the golf course over more land, the city used that original ruling to claim that it was their property and despite stiff resistance and protest, refused to even consider or acknowledge the Mohawk's claim. The Mohawk people, refused to let this go through. This lead to a severe standoff between them; it's one of the few really big and violent and yes, deadly disputes to take place in the Americas between Indigenous Peoples and national government in the late 20th Century, and this Resistance lasted a couple months, and, there are documentaries and other texts that go over all the details, and we see it play out through Beans's eyes here, 'cause this thing lasted well over two months, including bringing in several policing forces- and all over a goddamn golf course of all things.... I don't think you could've concocted something more moustache-twirling cliche and evil if you tried. 

It's at this time that Beans is caught in the middle of several growing crossroads here. At the beginning of the movie, we see her in a school interview that her mother Lily (Rainbow Dickerson) was pushing for at an exclusive mainly white private school. She's smart enough to go of course, but once the Resistance starts, she begins to get disappointed and disillusioned with some of the expectations after experience the racism and violence first-hand. She also befriends a tough, older Mohawk girl, April (Paulina Alexis) who she sees as inspiration for her outspoken don't-give-a-fuck demeanor. Once she gets in with her, she becomes influenced by her. Making her clothes slightly more adult and modern, starting to use more cursed language, and even, during one weird bonding moment, eh, whippings with a stick, so that she can learn to live with pain...- That part was weird, but I kinda got it, when afterwards she starts cutting herself after flipping out after the family car was attacked by rock-throwing Quebec protestors and the cops that didn't do anything to protect her. Only in Quebec can "They don't even speak French" be considered an insult to people who speak English. (Oh yeah, eh, Quebec is weird. I know we all like to link all of Canada together as though they're all just they're own land, but there are different parts of the country and different traditions and such, and without going into too much detail, eh, Quebec is like their weird province. [Especially back then, I might add, 'cause there was actually a lot going on in the province back in the '90s, people forget that now, but it was fairly contentious there on multiple fronts.{I mean, contentious for Canada at least, but still....}])

Beans also has a tender crush on April's brother Hank (D'Pharoah Woon-a-Thai), who's probably not the greatest choice for a first crush, and also, her relationship with her younger sister Ruby (Violah Beauvais) who admires her, begins to get suddenly strained, but as things get worst around everyone from the Resistance and as Beans starts acting out in response, she gets caught up in the middle. 

Believe it or not, I'm still kinda being vague about a lot of the events in the film; it's ultimately a coming-of-age story, but even then, there's a lot of life going on here and it's not just as simple as one side vs. another; it's a complicated film that has more layers to it. Like how April's family is much more troubled than Beans but she doesn't quite see that on first glance and only kinda eventually realizes it. In some ways the Mohawk deal with the same problems as we do, and in others there's deeper and more troubling contexts to their problems that resonate far deeper from centuries-old wounds that will never heal. 

For those curious, eventually the Tribes and several of the nation's liberal and empathetic Canadians begin to come together and defend the Mohawk from the impeding militarization of the conflict and the government eventually bought out the land, cancelling the golf course, although the land still remains in the government's control, not the Mohawk. As for "Beans", she finds herself, probably in a little too cliche a tidy-up manner, almost going for a little too much symbolism in the end, but it works. It's both a good reminder of a very dark time in recent history, and also shows the struggle of having to grow up, not just in the shadow, but right in the crossfire of the conflict. It's a bit of a story of a war-torn country with Catherine Hardwicke's "Thirteen" in the middle, but sometimes the story at the center of your own life will differ greatly than the one going on outside that'll be written about in history books. 

RAMS (2020) Director: Jeremy Sims


"Rams" is a curious little film. It's an Australian film that's a remake of an Icelandic film. Now Australian cinema has it's own quirks that fascinate me, but Icelandic cinema is a little more of a mystery to me, but I had heard of "Rams"; the film was their submission for the Foreign Language Oscar film that year, and it's a highly beloved film there. One publication called it the 2nd greatest Icelandic film of all-time! That's high praise. Unfortunately I haven't seen that original film yet; it's on my Netflix queue, and I'll get to it eventually. but I'm not surprised this was an Icelandic film first. However, I'd also buy it if you told me this film was Australian. Both countries, are surprisingly similar in a lot of ways, one of them, is their farming traditions, especially sheep farming.

"Rams" is about two brothers, Colin (Sam Neill) and Les (Michael Caton), who are neighboring sheep farmers, often competing in local competitions, but never talking to each other.  We don't get exactly why they're so at odds, and why it's been going on for, apparently several decades. Things change after one of Les's prized sheep are diagnosed with Ovine John's Disease, or OJD. It's a pretty nasty disease and it can spread like a pandemic. The whole Western Australian area is in trouble, which is sparsely populated an they're in a heavily sheep-farming area, and now, all the sheep have to be killed because of how serious the disease is. This puts the whole town and especially the two brothers at odds. Colin is the more dependable farmer, who seems to be obliging by the federal regulators who are coming in to oversee the humane slaughtering of all the sheep in the region, with compensation for the inconvenience, but such a change to the area. Both brothers inevitably find a way to fight against the government's attempts to cleanse the area. 

Western Australia is actually fairly known for having been free of this disease, so I imagine something similar has either happened there, or this story is a warning or an imagining of what could happen if that changes. The movie has a somber feeling for most of the film, especially as so little is revealed and so slowly about why these two brothers don't get along. Actually, this strange disagreement oddly reminded me of Walter Salles "Behind the Sun", and the conflict between the two families in that film, which is weird 'cause tonally that's not at all comparable, although that was a film based off of a European text that was adapted to be told in a completely different part of the world. I can't tell if this kind of tension is just common, or perhaps if this Eurocentric idea of conflict kinda contrasts with the location here. It seems reasonable enough though. 

The film was directed by Jeremy Sims, the guy behind "Last Cab to Darwin", an intriguing road movie that dealt with a man dealing with his own impending death. So far, I can't quite get a read on him as a filmmaker, but "Rams" is probably a little better. I think I would've enjoyed it more if I didn't see it after a surviving a pandemic. Sam Neill is really good here, and Miranda Richardson is strong as the local veterinarian who likes Colin, but isn't really willing to make any real leap romantically, hell he can't even talk to his brother who literally owns the shed next to him, and they're both grazing sheep that came from their father's own lineage and barn. I do like how the movie inevitably comes together and reveals itself at the end, but it also portrays the government in this instance as particularly douchey. Apparently the ending from the original was changed from a snowstorm to a fire where the climax ends; I think that was a good idea, but I think the film had ultimately dried up for me by then. I might appreciate it more when I finally get around to the original, but I don't like it that much more. For what's good about it, it's worth recommending.