Saturday, December 11, 2021

Maybe even a *little* better this time.


One of my favorite podcasts that doesn't make me wish I can go over and throat-punch the hosts is Trick or Treat Radio, a weekly movie podcast that focuses on horror and genre fare. The episodes usually run anywhere from 2 - 3 hours, with the first hour having a kind of morning radio vibe as they just talk about various things (usually pop culture related) while getting on each others' nerves. Then they move on to discuss that week's film, rating them as a Trick (bad) or Treat (good).

As a Patreon patron, I've been invited as a guest on their program, to discuss two movies of my choosing. My first time was last year, where we discussed Phantom Thread and Death Wish Club, and a couple of days ago I joined them for a second time to discuss the 1968 Mexican ghost story Hasta El Viento Tiene Miedo (aka Even the Wind is Afraid) and the 1978 thriller The Silent Partner

You can listen or download the podcast by clicking this link. You also have the option to watch the archived live stream from that evening, where you watch as I nervously fidget in my chair, drink coffee & bourbon from a New Beverly Cinema mug I received after a Dario Argento all-night movie marathon, straight bourbon from a glass, and just plain water from another glass. I also make things uncomfortable for them with my asshole sense of humor, as is my wont. But overall I had a good time. 

We get into vague spoilers on the Mexican film, but kinda skirt them for the Canadian one, so if you haven't seen either one, perhaps you should. They're both good films, so you should watch them anyway; Hasta El Viento Tiene Miedo is currently on Tubi (at least in the United States), and The Silent Partner is available to stream on most of the major sites and is also available on Blu-ray (again, I can only speak for Murican availability).

My apologies for the occasional sound of my fuckin' nose breathing into the microphone, by the way. I was on some Sweet Dee doing open mic stand-up shit with that, which makes sense because she's my spirit animal whenever I have to do public appearances like this -- it's also why I opened with "Howdy howdy howdy" like she did -- and so it makes sense that I also nose-breathed into the mic like her as well. All that's left for me is to dry heave like her as well. I'll probably save that for my third appearance.



Saturday, November 20, 2021

Zero percent APR or I start dropping bodies




Car salesmen are creepy. Now, if you are a car salesman, please understand that I understand. You are someone who is just trying to make a living, and you probably have bills to pay, a family to support, tables in constant need of food to be placed upon. You are a human being, I know this. We are all human beings.

But all of you are fucking creepy.

Now, DMV employees are rude, TSA officers are assholes, and fast food workers are indifferent. But you car-selling motherfuckers are creepy. 

You're creepy in the way cult members are creepy, or gym employees.

That's just how it works. I don't make the rules, I just do my best to keep my interactions with your type to an absolute minimum -- as in, hopefully fuckin' never. 

It's why I dealt with private party sales for most of my life. There isn't a need to be fake with one another in those situations, just one person looking to buy a car from another person, and you can be as real and honest with each other as you want.

But you go to a dealership, and they are overly fakeity fake fake with you, and I'm like "Dude, dial it the fuck down". Don't get me wrong, I believe in polite customer service, and I believe that whether you want to or not, if you're an employee in a field that involves dealing with people, you put on a happy face. 

But car salesmen, they dial it up in such a patronizing manner, like borderline sarcastic. Because I know, man, to them you're just another sucker, just another notch on the belt. To them, you are the bitch of the hour who will cough up the sweet commission that you were born on this planet to give them. They won't even remember your name later that night at their weekly jerk-off session, where these wannabe Joe Girards get together at someone's house and collectively beat-off to Glengarry Glen Ross or The Wolf of Wall Street, jizzing on the photo they took of you that morning when they shook your hand while handing you your keys to your new car -- the same hand they jerk off with, by the way.

In return, I then have to up my normal everyday politeness to their exaggerated scumbag levels. Now we're just fakes faking it up in the fake Olympics, and depending on how the sale goes, one of us will get the fake gold and the other will get the fake silver. And for some inexplicable reason, I find myself talking differently, using words I normally don't use in response, like "Beautiful" or "Top notch". The motherfucker's telling me how on a beautiful day like this, I should take my new ride on to PCH and I responded with a Tom Cruise-style smile, saying "Oh yeah, nothing like cruising down Pacific Coast Highway with blue skies and not a care in the world, brother!" 

Huh? What the fuck? Why did I say that? Why can't I just go "Yup", or better yet, nod in the affirmative with a simple "Hm", like the unemotional manly-man-man of few words that I wish I could be? 

No, instead here I am not being myself, and the worst part is that the salesman knows this, and I know that he knows, and he knows that I know, and that knowledge will only make his dick harder at tonight's meeting. 

Now I say all of this to you, despite the fact that things worked out for me in the end -- oh yeah, I bought a new car, by the way. I walked in that place with the swagger that only an 800+ credit score can provide, and got what I wanted on my terms. 

But it took forever and a day to get my way, and I know -- I fucking know -- that they already knew how this was going to play out. They were prepared to give it to me but they were gonna make me work, and these sleazy fake-ass fucks threw as many bumps, spikes, and roadblocks in the way, just to bolster the impression that I got one over on them. Hell, they were probably ready to knock a couple thousand more off the price, had I more stamina. 

Speaking of stamina, notice I've said "salesmen" this whole time, and not "salespeople" or "salesperson". That's because I've only dealt with men in these horrific trials. For all I know, female sellers of vehicles can be a whole other ballgame. I doubt it, though. They probably do the same shit, but because they have  vaginas and I have a penis, I'm sure I would have the opposite opinion. My 800+ credit score would be powerless against them. I'd probably love it -- and if these ladies were to draw a heart or smiley face on the invoice, I'd probably love them.

Speaking of car salesmen, the Terrence Malick film A Hidden Life has absolutely nothing to do with them, which is one of the many things that works in the film's favor.



This film is based on the true story of Franz and Fani Jägerstätter, an Austrian couple who live in the beautiful village of Radegund, where they spend their days working their balls off as farmers, and all that that entails. They have sheep, they have fields to plow, there's plenty of wood to gather -- sometimes in the snow. They have long hours, is what I'm getting at. What they don't have is a Walmart, and so one had to work a loom to create the fabric necessary to make clothes, and one actually had to grow fruits and vegetables, because what the fuck is a Whole Foods? But these people, they enjoy it -- because this is the early 1940s, and well, if that's the only life you know, well, that's the only life you know. 

But the Jägerstätters really do appear to have no issues with it, and in between their duties and chores, there is also plenty of time spent enjoying their lives together, and with their three young daughters. What I see, or at least what I see as Malick presents it, is a genuine honest-to-goodness life of contentment.  

Now maybe you noticed that I mentioned just a few seconds ago that this film takes place in the 1940s. In Austria. As in, the birthplace of one Adolf Bernadette Hitler.

Yup, World War II is in full effect and the Nazi party is always in need of new dudes to step up and defend the offensive regime trying to take over the world. That really wasn't a problem early on for Franz, who had undergone his conscripted military training under the impression that, well, he's not ever gonna be called up for service, right? 

Wrong

But I'm jumping ahead here. For a while, we watch as the Jägerstätters frolic through and around nature, as expected in one of these movies. Franz is played by August Diehl, and Fani is played by Valerie Pachner. Up until this film, Malick's projects were cast with universally-known stars and up-and-comers, but I'm glad he didn't go that way for this one.

Now, I was familiar with Diehl, having seen him as Major Hellstrom in Quentin Tarantino's WW2 film Inglourious Basterds, while Pachner was a new face to me. But they might as well have both been new to me, so good are they at portraying these characters, there's no trace of artifice or theatricality in their performances. It felt as I were watching real people, not actors. They're fucking great, is what I'm saying.

So we watch as the Jägerstätters live, love, and laugh, but the looming specter of induction hangs over the couple, while little by little, the beautiful landscape surrounding our couple gets soiled by brown-shirted followers prowling the village, looking for donations to the cause. These strangers wear red, white, and black armbands featuring a bastardized symbol of peace. Even the town's formerly level-headed mayor begins to parrot the same kind of hateful statements made by the monotesticled vegetarian helping to Make Germany Great Again. 


It's bad enough for the Jägerstätters to watch as their fellow villagers take their masks off to reveal their true selves, but it's worse for them to imagine what these same people will think if they were to find out that Franz isn't too hot on the idea of doing his part for the Motherland. See, Franz and Fani are devout Catholics, so there's the whole killing-is-a-sin thing that he's not too hot about. But as more than one person tells him: OK, fine, you don't want to go into battle? I get it. So go in as a conscientious objector, and do your service as a nurse or orderly at a hospital. 

Sounds like a simple solution, right? Except there's more to it than just a simple matter of To Kill or Not To Kill, there are a couple little pesky problems that stand in the way of just going about his service the non-combatant way. First, all soldiers much take an oath and swear allegiance to Hitler; as far as Franz is concerned, that ain't gonna happen, because his allegiance is to the Big Man Upstairs. Second, Franz has been wondering that maybe, just maybe, the Nazis are evil motherfuckers doing the Devil's work -- so why would he want to throw in with those assholes?

You know what's another name for a village? Small town -- and all that that entails, which is to say eventually everybody knows your business. It's why I could never live in a small town, I'm a psychotically private person, and I'd hate to imagine a bunch of these local hens gossiping about every fuckin' fart I let out. They say "no man is an island", to which I respond: No fuckin' duh. But one man can buy an island, and as soon as I make my fortune, I'm buying one and ridding the rest of you people of me.

But I digress; this village, Radegund, with all of its loose-lipped residents soon gets the word out on the street that Franz is not down with the cause. This is initially met with indifference, but then becomes creeping resentment, and not too long after that, outright hostility -- most towards Franz, and some towards his family. 

I can see how some are offended by his refusal to serve, if they truly believe in what the Germans are fighting for. But I feel others are pissed for different reasons, like, maybe some kinda wish they had the balls to do the same, and maybe some are unsettled by someone daring to break the status quo. Because that's a thing: People hating on others who break from the mold, who do not fall into line like easily led automatons. 

Man, you want to read some fucked-up shit? In this Foul Year of Our Lord 2021, there are people out there who feel persecuted because they refuse to get vaccinated and they don't want to wear a mask when going to a public place. Some even have the audacity to compare their plight to those of the Jews during World War II, if I can somehow connect this digression to the movie I'm rambling about.

For the record, I am vaxxed and I have no problem wearing a mask. But I can see those people watching this film and thinking to themselves "Man, I know how that guy feels. Why won't these people see that they are being just as harsh on us as the villagers were on poor Franz?" 

And now some of you might have the temerity to say something like "Uh, I don't think those people are watching Terrence Malick films" and to that, I have to say, if you're being serious, c'mon man. Because what makes this whole fuckin' pandemic even scarier is that it's not just the morons, there are plenty of otherwise intelligent people who do not see the point in getting vaxxed up and/or wearing a mask. They feel it's overblown, or it's part of some conspiracy, or they just feel that science can get it really fuckin' wrong sometimes. If you see it from their perspective, people like you and me are the weirdos. 

I mean, shit, for all I know, Terrence Malick himself is out having drinks with Letitia Wright and Gina Carano and tossing babies out of windows with Eric Clapton while they all bemoan the obedient sheeple who are having poison willingly injected into their bodies because The Government told them to. I would like think he would know better, or maybe he does and I'm wrong.

Fuck, man. I fucking hate this digression. 

So anyway, "Different" is bad, no matter how you slice it. That's not my opinion, I'm saying that's what People say. That's why some get bent out of shape about, I don't know, people who don't eat meat, or people who identify as a different gender. I think they see it as a challenge to The Way Things Should Be, because it's too much work for them to go "Hey, maybe things aren't as simple as we want them to be". 

In World War II-era Austria, Franz Jägerstätter is definitely different. 


So yeah, Franz eventually gets called up for service. And upon arriving for his induction, when it comes time to say "I pledge allegiance to our one-nutted nut of a leader", he says No Thank You, and then the military police say "Come right this way, sir", and take him to prison with the rest of the traitors, captives, and mentally unwell. As expected, of all the residents, Franz gets the worst treatment, with the kind of physical and psychological abuse that we humans are just aching to dish out, if given the opportunity -- as the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment proved to us back in, uh, 1971. 

But I think it's more than just power-tripping sadism that the prison guards are getting off on, I think they share a similar hostility towards Franz that the villagers had towards him, and again, it stems from not being able to understand why and how Franz is able to march to the beat of a different drummer. How can he not simply go with the flow on a purely surface level -- you know, wear the swastika, stick an arm out for the Führer, occasionally shoot a Hebe in the face -- it's not like he has to really mean any of it. As we find out later in the movie, some people find or make up a justification for taking part, even if they don't agree with the war or its policies.

Later on, Franz is offered multiple opportunities to take the oath, and in exchange, all will be forgiven. He still refuses. Even his priest tells him something to the effect of "Dude, God doesn't care what you say, or what you sign on an earthly piece of paper, He only cares about what you mean in your heart". In other words, just sign the paper, and let these assholes think you're all about this Charlie Chaplin-looking motherfucker, while remaining true to your Lord and Savior. 

Nope. He still won't do it. And so he's in for a fuckin' ride, lady and gentleman. 

I've covered Terrence Malick's films on this blog before, such as Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, and he is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers; the visual beauty of his work pulls me in, and his existential, philosophical, and outright spiritual themes hit me hard. Over the last few years, I've lost faith in humanity and I've lost faith in God -- and it was nice knowing both while it lasted -- but if anyone has ever come close to convincing me that maybe, just maybe, there is somewhere we go after we die, and that perhaps there is a higher power watching over us, it's this motherfucker.

Because these stupid fuckin' preaching-to-the-choir lowest-common-denominator products like the God's Not Dead franchise or anything Kirk Cameron is involved in, they have the gall to call themselves Christian movies, but I feel what Malick puts out is the real deal because it's never just, you know, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people" answered with "Well, He moves in mysterious ways and you should never question Him because He's God and He loves you and by the way, don't be gay" followed up with some shitty low-rent country song on the soundtrack. Our boy Terry, on the other hand, knows goddamn well that Faith is a completely different thing than Certainty. 

It's why this film never answers the questions that Franz has about the pain he's about to undergo, there's never a moment or sign that there's somebody up there to give him a wink and a nod to encourage him or give him a heads-up that all his suffering will pay off in the afterlife. If anything, there's more evidence in this movie of there being no God, if one chooses to ignore half of what is being shown to the audience. Because as with most of his other films, Malick is contrasting the ugliness of humanity against the natural beauty of the world, like "Look! Look at the playground God has set up for us -- and watch as we play in it for a while, only to eventually fuck it all up by our damn fool selves!"  

This is the first time in a long time that he hasn't worked with master d.p. Emmanuel Lubezki, instead it's his longtime cameraman Jörg Widmer in charge of the cinematography, and yet his visual style hasn't skipped a beat. As with his previous films, most of the events are covered in wide angle handheld shots, under natural lighting. In this film it appears that the lenses employed are even wider than usual -- some shots border on looking like they've been captured with a fisheye lens. But it still looks good, it enhances the hyper-real vibe he's going for, and so long as he skirts the fine line between overwhelming deep focus and Wash Out's point-of-view from Hot Shots!, I've no complaints. 

In the past, Malick's approach was one of an artist discovering his film through the process of collaboration, rather than someone with a strict blueprint for the cast and crew to work from. The cast would often work without a screenplay, instead playing moments as if they were free-form jazz, with variations upon variations for each scene.

This extends to the editing process, where he has been known to not give his editors exact directions as to how a scene should be put together, but allowing them to put a scene together however they'd like. It's been said by many filmmakers that one actually makes three films in the process of making one: The film that was written, the film that was shot, and the film that was edited together. Never has that adage been truer and more fitting than in reference to the works of Terrence Malick. 

His freewheeling visual manner, with an always roving camera following the characters, remains the same, only this time he is telling a linear story, rather than a stream-of-consciousness study of the soul.

While I believe part of this was due to wanting to change things up a little and not get stuck doing things the same old way, I also feel this approach was a respectful choice by Malick to tell this true life story about real life people without the risk of straying too far off the path. Maybe some filmmakers wouldn't give a fuck about completely bastardizing some dude's actual trials and tribulations, but not our boy Terry, he manages to stay true to the events while still telling the story very much in his inimitable fashion.

That means there are still plenty of parts where we watch characters go through their lives while we listen to their inner monologues (which in this film are passages from actual letters written between the Jägerstätters), and there are plenty of jump-cuts during scenes, as if Malick was giving us the greatest hits of this particular album -- that is, if dialogue scenes were albums, and uh, you, uh, aw man you know what I mean, bro. 

I suppose I'm not spoiling anything by telling you what became of Franz Jägerstätter, because the shit happened back in the 1940s. He was declared a martyr by the Catholic Church in 2007, so I guess you can guess the end result of his refusal to fight for Team Nazi -- and if you still can't put zwei and zwei together, Franz was executed for the crime of not being a piece of shit. They guillotined the poor soul.

I'm not one to get visibly moved while watching a film. I don't cry at movies, and I don't really laugh out loud at them either -- I'm like Daria Morgendorffer in the movie theater. But I do feel and I feel well, it's just that I delay my emotions until I'm alone and then I express them -- unless the emotion is rage, of course, that is an emotion I will gladly make public. And yet, when I first saw this film in a movie theater back in January 2020, I found myself trembling during the sequence leading up to Franz's execution, and my eyes eventually got a little watery.

Part of it is that Malick has always had that effect on me, in addition to knowing exactly which philosophical buttons to push, he also has a way to build up a scene into a kind of crescendo of catharsis that I find exhilarating. Another part is just a reaction of pure empathy, as the sequence cuts between Franz being sent towards his final destination, while his wife back home reacts to the news that he won't be coming back; on the soundtrack we hear Franz reading out his last letter to his loved ones, while Henryk Gorecki's "Symphony No. 3" plays in the background. It was all very overwhelming to me. This entire film was very overwhelming to me, which is par for the course with this filmmaker, and so, I loved it, and by the end of 2020, A Hidden Life remained my favorite film of the year.


As I mentioned before, I first saw this in January of 2020, which meant I watched both on-screen and in real life, the citizens of a country giving in to their worst impulses and inclinations, due to the deranged ravings of a man in power who shared their ugly thoughts. Meanwhile, certain dark clouds from the East were beginning to spreading their contagious gloom Westward. And so this film also had the unintentional effect of helping to prepare my mind and warn my soul for the absolute shit show that was about to unfold from that point forward to, well, whenever the fuck this ends -- that is, if it ever ends.

I'm not talking about COVID-19, I'm talking about the way we wonderful human beings are handling COVID-19, I'm talking about how when given the opportunity to roll up our sleeves, stand tall, and show the goddamn universe the best version of ourselves during a global emergency, we instead have become an even worse version of ourselves. Somehow, millions confused their childish "I don't wanna" temper tantrums with a rebellious stance not seen since The American Revolution.

Hell, I suppose I should be grateful for this goddamn virus because it led to the ultimate confirmation I needed in my life: That people indeed fucking suck. Content with this knowledge, I no longer need to waste any energy or faith or tears on these people. No longer will anything regarding humanity ever surprise me, and the occasional exhibition of empathy, gratitude, and all around good manners will remain a freakish occurrence to me -- or a miracle, the way I consider someone saying "Thank you" after I hold open a door for them a miracle. 

Or maybe I'm full of shit, and there's still a pesky dot of light of faith in my heart that I can't put out. Because if I had completely written off my fellow man, I wouldn't have even bothered with those goddamn creepy car salesmen, I would've known better. I'd be riding a bike. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Don't let your aim ever stray




I was long overdue for a new wallet.

As I entered my local mega-chain retailer, I noticed a lady of the Hispanic persuasion at the customer service section. She looked to be in the hardest version of her late fifties, and she had a sizable assortment of pants and shirts on the counter. Behind the counter, were two employees; the male employee was translating what the lady said to the female employee, and all I caught was something about not having tags for the items. 

I continued my merry way, and picked up a wallet -- one of those RFID-blocking jobs. Then I went to the self-checkout line, and I heard a commotion. It was the two employees politely-but-firmly telling the older lady that she could not take those shirts and pants back to the clothing department. She angrily shrugged them off and tried to make a beeline to her intended destination, but the male employee blocked her, and she tried to push the man out of the way. The female employee then got on a walkie-talkie and called for security, and I think she may have thought she was far enough from earshot or she just didn't care, because I distinctly heard the employee refer to the lady as "this bitch". 

The lady became increasingly unruly, her voice got louder, and this was now becoming A Scene. The security guard -- all ninety-eight pounds of gangly shy teenager -- arrived and politely-and-only-politely asked her to leave, or at least that's what I could make out, over the lady's much louder and angrier voice.  

I was only able to make out the occasional swear word from the lady's mad invective, because despite being a Spanish-speaker myself, my Spanish is Mexican Spanish, which is to say, slow enough to be able to comprehend the fully-pronounced words being spoken. Her Spanish, on the other hand, was Non-Mexican Spanish aka Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Dominican, etc., a fast-paced onslaught of partially-completed dialogue which is where the stereotypical rat-a-tat-tat speech you hear in such funny movies come from.

There's also a third kind of Spanish: Castilian, which is what you hear Gwyneth Paltrow speak impressively in interviews. It's what they speak in Spain, but they speak it with a lisp. Imagine Ice T speaking Spanish, and that's Castilian. 

Anyway, our Non-Mexican Spanish speaker was vocally motherfucking the employees, while slowly but surely inching closer to verboten clothing department. She, like everybody else, had her mask on, so I was grateful for that, but I kept expecting her to pull it off to do something stupid, like spit at people. Instead, she violently shoved the boy guard, nearly toppling him over a display stand containing discounted Blu-rays and DVDs.

Listen, I'm not really an anxious person, or at least, I only get anxiety when I have to go to parties or get-togethers or any other kind of otherwise friendly situation with friendly people. But as far as negative scenes go, I'm surprisingly chill. I've had firearms aimed at me by cops and non-cops alike -- those are long stories for another time, preferably after you've bought me dinner -- and I was either too calm and/or stupid to freak out about it. 

But this situation with the lady literally made my heart beat faster and harder with every passing second. I also began to sweat despite the excellent air-conditioning in the building. At that point, I just wanted to leave, and every cell in my being started to scream GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. But the lone stubborn cell located somewhere in my testicular area responded with "Nah, buy the wallet, then leave." 

So I waited as the guy six feet ahead of me began to check out his various household products, all the while reasoning with my heart and my sweat glands to please -- please! -- keep it together for a couple more minutes. And that's when I heard the unmistakable sound of the absolute worst thing for me to hear. It is the sound that had, has, and will drive me into Lovecraftian depths of insanity, if I hear it long enough. It is my vocal Kryptonite, this sound, and it makes me feel helpless, anguished, scared, and enraged all at once:

It was the sound of a crying baby.

A placid-looking Asian woman and her well-behaved daughter had just entered the store, pushing a baby cart containing a toddler who should know better. But the spoiled boy on the overworked cart was pitching the biggest of fits. 

I desperately scanned the vicinity for an available register elsewhere, and there certainly were some available, if one wanted to wait behind scores of other customers. I even thought about just leaving while tossing a random employee twice the amount of the wallet's cost -- after all, I've pulled similar moves at restaurants, leaving money on the table mid-meal because of inconsiderate parents bringing their screeching spawn -- but I knew that would just cause more drama. 

Lady and gentleman, I had managed to make it for nearly a year-and-a-half of this goddamn pandemic without losing my shit, yet here I was, about to punch that clock. Because I don't believe in God, I could not pray to Her. Because I don't believe in people, I could not depend on anyone else doing the right thing. But I still believe in myself! And so, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, and I transported myself somewhere else -- anywhere but that store.

I don't know where I went, all I remember is that it was not unlike the darkness, quiet, and serenity I fantasize about taking myself everyday. It was nice. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder and I opened my eyes and my ears and the baby was still screaming and the lady was still angry. I turned around to see who the tapper was; a young Asian woman, holding a basket, smiling while motioning towards the now-available register.

So I stumbled over to checkout my item, and looked over to see the angry lady with the clothes, now being walked off the premises while screaming mashed-together way-too-fast Spanish, but I was able to make out the swear words, and she would end every sentence by pointing at each employee and screaming: "Corona-vee-ruuus! Corona-vee-ruuus!" They managed to get her out of the store, and as she angrily walked out with the clothes, she gave out one last gesture of defiance by slamming her fist twice against the front window. 

As soon as the register spat out my receipt, I grabbed that and ran out the store with my new wallet, while making sure I was going the opposite direction of wherever she was going. When I got home, I still felt kind of rattled, so I turned on the Roku and looked for something to watch, and that's when I remembered: Oh my goodness! The Adorable Amy Adams had two films released on Netflix in the past year, and I've yet to watch them. Then it all made sense; the angry woman, the crying baby, the anxiety, the despair, all of that was the universe punishing me for ignoring our dear Triple A. 
 



Based on the memoirs of author/venture capitalist, J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy begins in 2011 with young Yale law student Vance burning the candle at both ends. In addition to doing the school thing, he's working three jobs to make up for what financial aid won't cover.

Money is definitely a big issue for the man, who in true modern-day American spirit, pays for things with multiple credit cards of varying limits and overextensions. It's too bad I didn't know him back then, otherwise I could've preached him the gospel of micropayments, but I'm sure he'd dismiss me on account of being a dirty ethnic and what do I know? 

Anyway, you'd think with his workload, Time is something of which Vance has little to no amount, and yet, he also has a girlfriend. I guess it wasn't enough for this asshole to have his hands full, he just has to have them fuller, and just as he's about to begin a week of interviews for a potential paid summer internship at one of the big law firms -- RING RING goes the celly. It's a call from his sister back home with the bad news that his mom has not only gone back to bootin' up that damn heroin, the dumb bitch has gone and gotten herself OD'd.

And so Vance drives his fried baloney sandwich-lovin' ass back home to Ohio in an attempt to get help for his absolute mess of a mother, and the film flashes back to Vance's youth in 1997, a year that shall remain forever glorious because that was the year that Good Burger graced silver screens all across this great nation. Unfortunately, this movie never acknowledges the release of that film, but at one point they do play "My Boo" by Ghost Town DJs, so I'll let it slide.

We watch as younger tubbier 1997 Vance lives with his mother Bev, played by The Adorable Amy Adams, but in the case of this film, I will have to refer to our Triple A as The Aggravating Amy Adams, because my word, what a goddamn trial! As we find out throughout the film, Bev wasn't always a completely addled chore of a human being. Having graduated high school, she went on to have a respectable career as a nurse, but somewhere along the way she started sneaking away an extra pill or two from her patient's prescriptions, and so on and so forth.

Faster than you can say Mommie Dearest, Bev displays magnificent feats of head-spinning manic-depression; she'll start as a happy loving mom who will gleefully drive her son to go buy some baseball cards, then one wrong word about one of the latest in a long line of boyfriends later, she'll stomp on the gas pedal and wonder aloud about just ending it for the both of them in the kind of fiery car wreck that would make Duane Hall jizz in his pants. 


I think it's supposed to be frightening to watch, but as someone who hates kids -- especially crying ones -- I got a huge kick out of watching Amy Adams beat the shit of this child. She's raining down thunder and calling him names and while I'm sure other viewers might be thinking "She's a monster!", I was like Go Amy Go! 

(By the way, the opening of the film features another adult punching another child, and that was also something I applauded during this film and will applaud in any other film.) 

Adams is pretty amped up throughout this movie, and that's both a highlight and a lowlight. To clarify, I don't think it's Adams' fault and I found it easy to find the truth in her portrayal of a boyfriend-hopping drug addict with emotional issues.

OK, I know what you're thinking, you're thinking "Well, of course you don't think it's her fault, it's never your precious Amy Adams' fault". First off, get your fuckin' head -- get your fuckin' head straight -- she's not my Amy Adams, she's her own Amy Adams, thank you very much. And second, nobody's perfect and everybody is fallible, even The Triple A.  

But I don't think it's a bad performance, it's a lopsided one -- and I don't blame her so much as the filmmakers for that. See, the problem is that the movie doesn't give us nearly enough of sober even-tempered Bev to compare & contrast with the drugged-out hotheaded Bev that we see, like, ninety percent of the time -- and so, where are we to find any range, where are we to find the tragedy in what her character has become, if we don't ever really get to see that much of the better angels of her nature?

When you look over at the comparatively subtle performance by Glenn Close as Vance's grandmother Mamaw, I don't think it's a surprise that she ended up being nominated for an Academy Award while Adams wasn't nominated at all. Of course, I use the word "subtle" for lack of a better one. Maybe "nuanced" would be a better one? Maybe not?


What I'm saying is that as Mamaw, Close plays a tough-but-fair granny with a cigarette practically fused to her hand. But she's not just playing a one-note type, we get to see more of what makes her tick. For example, we find out that in her earlier years she ran away from a troubled home, only to have found herself in a brand-new version of the same thing.

On the other hand, we're mostly told that Bev grew up observing some of this turmoil, and we're told that she was particularly close to her father, despite the growing rift between the family. It would've been nice to actually see some of this, the way the film was eager to have us see Bev's wild and crazy antics, giving us plenty of Effect but very little Cause.

I get that there's only so much to get across in under two hours, so what I'm saying is maybe director Ron Howard and screenwriter Vanessa Taylor should've worked more on finding the right balance before committing anything to celluloid -- ahem, I mean digital files.

It's too bad because here and there we see hints of Howard and Taylor's potential in making a very effective film; for example, the flashback format enhances the heartbreak because when we see a scene of Bev choosing to clean her act up, it only hurts more, because we know from the present day scenes that it didn't work out that way for her. 

But overall I was left feeling as if I had watched an early rough cut for what could've been a really good movie. Instead, Hillbilly Elegy is kind of a mess that's less a proper adaptation of the book and more like a haphazard dumping of all the book's various threads into Thunderdome and forcing them all to fight each other for narrative supremacy: It's a mother & daughter story, a mother & son story, it's a fish out of water tale, a fish back in water tale, it's a drama about dealing with an addict in the family, a comedy about cultural differences, and an overall lesson on how one must not fall into the same rut that previous generations fell into because of family trauma.  

Regarding that last part; I did feel that the running thread about characters being placed at the crossroads of doing the right thing, and sticking with family, right or wrong, was something Howard and Taylor did get 100-percent right.

Now I haven't read the book and for all I know, it handles all the above-mentioned themes, topics, and plotlines a lot better. Not that I'll ever find out, because I'm not gonna read that fuckin' book. I mean, the only reason I watched this movie was because The Adorable Amy Adams starred in it. But I don't give an inkling of an iota of a shit about J.D. Vance, and I know the ending already: He goes on to become an ardent chugger of Orange MAGA-cock. The End.



The second Amy Adams film I watched on Netflix is also an adaptation of a book by a morally questionable author, (and where she also plays an unstable character): The Woman in the Window, written by A.J. Finn -- and I was about to do an entire bit about how that's not even his real name, and what kind of cowardly douchebag would write under a pseudonym?

Uh...

While we're talking similarities, I found myself way beyond flattered upon realizing that my favorite living actor is playing...me! I mean, look, Adams' character, Anna, is a shut-in who keeps her human interactions to a minimum, preferring to plant herself on her comfy couch drinking and watching movies all day until she passes out. It's like looking in a mirror, only not.

Obviously they changed many details, like the name, gender, and occupation -- for the record, I am not a female child psychologist recently separated from her husband and child. I don't live in a NYC brownstone, nor do I rent out the basement of my brownstone to some dude played by Kurt Russell's son.

Speaking of that dude, there's a scene between him and Adams that shows quite possibly the biggest difference between the movie's version of me and the real me who is currently talking to you, and that is the way we celebrate my favorite holiday, Halloween. Let's just say we wouldn't see eye to eye on that issue.



Also, Anna suffers from genuine agoraphobia, whereas I am just insufferable. Anna's attempts to step outside result in her getting overwhelmed by her phobia, whereas my attempts result in me getting overwhelmed by my hatred of humanity, then returning home to bitch about these people on various social media posts and blog/podcasts. 

By the way, my misanthropy is why I didn't have as difficult a time as others during this pandemic, because as much as I enjoy going out to eat and going to movies, I enjoy not going out even more. If anything, the outside world completely showed me its whole ass during this past year-and-a-half, the outside world confirmed my worst suspicions about it, the outside world said "It's OK to stay inside". 

The plot begins a-brewin' when Anna partakes in her other usual pastime: Being a fucking snoop, which is something that I would never do. But here she is, spying on her new neighbors across the street, played by Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore.

They have a son, played by somebody's somebody, and he's one of those shy awkward teens that make you either want to hug and tell them It's OK, or you want to slap the shit out of them and order them to stand up straight and Speak Loud Enough So Everybody Can Hear You.

Anna gets friendly with the son, becomes wine buddies with the wife (who's amusingly named Jane Russell, like the actress), and is the requisite minimum of polite with the husband.  But soon Anna finds herself in a Rear Window kinda situation, except in this case, it's more like Front Window, because it appears that she spies with her little eyes the husband doing something really bad -- maybe even permanent -- to the wife. But good luck convincing everybody else, Anna. 

See, something happened in Anna's recent past; it is the reason for her agoraphobia, the separation from her family, and the lovely prescription drugs that she washes down with vino. Anna is all kinds of all over the place, and even her shrink is kinda getting tired of her shit. The shrink, by the way, is played by Tracy Letts, best known for writing the plays "Bug" and "Killer Joe" and for writing the screenplay to this movie.

Director Joe Wright makes a pretty canny choice of having Anna's everyday movie-watching consist of Alfred Hitchcock classics. Normally I'm against this sort of thing, because showing classic movies within your movie usually results in people wishing they were watching the classic instead. But I think it works here -- regardless of how you feel about this movie -- because it allows the viewer to consider the very real possibility that Anna is just seeing things.

Hell, I remember spending a three-day weekend at home fucked up on booze, weed, and shrooms, watching nothing but Shaw Brothers kung fu films all day and night. By Tuesday, I was convinced everybody around me had disgraced me and the Shaolin Temple. So why wouldn't Anna think she's in the middle of some real Hitchcockery?

Oh, that's another difference between Me and Anna; you can straight up O.J. a bitch six feet in front of me, and as far I'm concerned, I didn't see shit, I don't know shit, I don't want to know shit. I was busy tying my shoes the entire time, officer. But no, Anna's calls the pigs over and digs herself an increasingly deeper hole with a She's Imagining Things shovel. 



Now the movie is referencing Hitchcock, and it's aping Hitchcock, but the end result actually felt more like Dario Argento. This felt kinda/sorta like an American giallo at times, with a wonderfully garish mix of colors and lighting, a pulpy plot that favors trash over class, and where emotion beats out logic -- it just needed an extra on-screen murder or two or three. I don't think it's as good as early Argento joints like Deep Red or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage -- this is an American distillation of an Italian genre, after all -- but it's still a fun watch, if watched in that context.

I understand the reviews for this are pretty terrible, and I kinda get it; with a prestige cast and crew of award-winners and nominees behind it, one might expect something a bit more hoity-toity, and this ain't that. But I will not stand anybody who might have the audacity to say that Amy did not come to play.

She is excellent as Anna, and she manages to come off as both prickly and wounded -- probably from being so prickly, she can't help but hurt herself the most. She has a couple of certified emotional bangers late in the film; both are monologues, one given to a group of people, another to a camera, and either one would've made for a great Oscar clip in the category of Best Actress in a Fun Trashy American Sorta-Giallo. 

The film was delayed multiple times -- much to my dismay -- partially due to COVID-19 making a theatrical release not the most eligible option, and partially due to reshoots. I don't know what came out of the reshoots, but if I had to guess, the climax of the film was one of the results, because it does feel the most out-of-place with the rest of the movie. I've nothing against the climax, but I wished the film would've slowly worked its way to that wildly different tone, rather than suddenly whiplashing the audience into it. 

Also, I wonder if the reshoots are the reason Jennifer Jason Leigh's role seems so minor for someone so major; she doesn't really get much to do with a role that could've been given to somebody cheaper for the same effect.

Actually, her role isn't that much smaller from the rest of the supporting cast, who definitely live up to the "supporting" part, because this really is The Amy Adams Show. If Anna can't leave her house, that means the movie doesn't leave her house. She spends most of her time alone, and so the other characters are left to be occasional visitors or intruders. If I hadn't known about the novel, I would've totally assumed that this was based on one of Tracy Letts' plays, because this story could easily play out on a stage.

While the movie is expertly made and very well-acted, I couldn't help but think that there was an even crazier and better version of this story begging to be told, just aching to let its freak flag fly, and I'm afraid Joe Wright was just a bit too buttoned up a filmmaker for the job. This needed someone like Brian De Palma or Paul Verhoeven or Julie Taymor -- someone with a strong sense of the operatic, absurd, and theatrical. They also would've known how to make the climax and the rest of the film feel like one and the same.

Hell, why not give it to Argento himself? It could've been his best American work -- or his worst movie ever, although I don't know how the latter would be possible, unless he had Brian Tyree Henry's character turn into a praying mantis somewhere along the way.

Minor complaints aside, I thought this nutty little ditty fit the bill, and it passes the test as actual entertainment and not simply an Amy Adams thirst watch, because I'm pretty sure I'd still dig this movie if it instead starred, uh, I don't know, uh, maybe, uh someone like Isla Fisher, or Karen Gillan, or Jessica Chastain, or Emma Stone, or Christina Hendricks, or Bryce Dallas Howard -- you know, any random actress would do. 

Well, it was nice while it lasted. I don't mean the Amy Adams double feature, even though that was nice as well. I'm talking about my brief post-vaccinated return to the outside world. I got to eat in a couple of restaurants, went to see a couple movies in actual movie theaters. But I'm going back inside. Not because of a virus or its various variants, no way. My reason is something else, something that I feel was best expressed by one America's last great poets of the late 20th century, Andrew Dice Clay, in his 1993 special No Apologies: "...'cause people are scumbags". 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Touché.





I'm officially out of the movie rambling request business -- or so I thought I was, until I remembered that I still had one request left, and it was from my friend Alec who asked if I would ramble about the 2002 Brian De Palma film Femme Fatale. I said "sure thing buddy", because it would be a good one to go out on, and it was a film I had already seen and watched, having seen it twice on opening weekend in the Fall of 2002.

And as luck would have have it, the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Los Angeles was about to have a 35mm screening of the film, and I thought "perfect, just in time for my ramblings about the film".

Except this was February 2020, and it was no longer Fear that was infectious, and what was Over There was now coming Over Here. Priorities changed fast, and I felt my time was better spent panic-stocking on food, water, and ammo, rather than jerking off about a movie for a friend. Wait, that didn't sound right, I don't mean I was literally jerking off for my friend, I mean -- you know what, let's just move on.

So, speaking from the relatively calmer waters of March 2021, I can say it's been one hell of a year, even for those who weren't personally affected by The Virus That Will Not Be Named, and while it's certainly not over yet, at least...um, at least we can....um...

Ah, I know. At least I won't have to shake anybody's hand anymore. I was never a fan of handshakes to begin with, partially because of my existing germophobia, and because I hate having to squeeze the other person's hand so hard, lest they think less of me. Silly me, I always thought you got to know somebody by how they treated people, and not by the strength of their grip.

Sometimes I'd get a person practically crushing my hand with their grip, and then I would have to respond by whipping out my dick to show him who's boss. Which nine times out of ten, would mean they were boss. So I'm done with handshakes forever. From now on, it's namaste & bowing and if you don't like it, you can take that bigger cock of yours and go fuck yourself.




The film opens with Billy Wilder's 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity playing on the tee-vee, and I always felt that showing a classic film within your film is a move as dicey as Andrew Clay, and more often than not, the unintentional result is that the viewer is reminded that there are better films out there that he or she could be spending their time on, rather than the film on which they're currently wasting their time.

In the case of Femme Fatale, it works. Not that I feel they're equals, because I don't -- sorry Bri, but I gotta go Team Wilder on this one. But what De Palma is doing by showing you a scene from that film is making it very clear to the viewer that he knows damn well that he's not reinventing the wheel, but rather, doing his own spin on a genre. And by introducing the main character of his film watching that film, he's planting some seeds that will sprout big time by the end of Femme Fatale -- and based on the constant liquid motif that runs throughout this picture, De Palma is watering the hell out of those seeds. 

And who is this main character, anyway? Well, she's Laure Ash, played by Rebecca Romijn, who is credited as Rebecca Romijn-Stamos on account of her being married to John Stamos at the time. She has since divorced Stamos and is currently married to Jerry O'Connell, and so she now goes by the name Rebecca Romijn-Fat Kid-From-Stand By Me.

So Laure is introduced watching Double Indemnity in her hotel room, but is then interrupted by a dude who turns out to be her partner in a heist they are about to pull off at the Cannes Film Festival located conveniently across the street. What follows is a fifteen-minute sequence that I feel fits very comfortably among De Palma's best set pieces; it takes place during a movie premiere and involves Laure, her partners-in-crime Racine and Black Tie, and a model named Veronica who is wearing a gold and diamond number that, uh, I don't know if it qualifies as a top or is just a piece of jewelry, but whatever it is, it leaves very little to the imagination as far as tits go. It's like, I guess I'm left to imagine what her nipples look like? But aside from that, I can draw this chick from memory; it would be a stick figure with long hair...

(I never said I was Bazille.)

The movie being screened at this premiere is the 1999 film East/West, directed by Régis Wargnier and starring Sandrine Bonnaire, and I guess De Palma is a fan of this movie about Russian expats returning to Soviet Russia only to realize you really can't ever go home again. Whatever the case, both Bonnaire and Wargnier appear as themselves in the film, and I like to imagine De Palma telling Wargnier about his idea to include him in this movie where he's going to play a dude who is unknowingly cucked by a tall blonde.

See, Veronica is Wargnier's date at the premiere, and Laure's part in the plan involves seducing her away from the director, so they can have some We Time in the ladies room. And so, Wargnier's left in the screening room, watching his film play to a captivated audience -- but what's the point when you don't have a sexy broad sitting next to you to impress with such an experience? This poor man was depending on the thunderous applause to get this chick wet, thereby doing half of the work for him, and thereby making it easier to slip in the saucisse later that night.

Instead, he can only politely smile at his leading lady Bonnaire -- who he either already banged during the making of his movie, or he fucked it up and got friend-zoned somewhere along the way -- and he can only sit impatiently while both Veronica and Laure are in the restroom, dyking out harder than a couple of Tegan and Sara fans hopped up on Ecstasy. And while Veronica is caught up in the rapture of lady love, Laure slowly strips the diamond-encrusted coils away from the model, and drops them to the floor, while Black Tie waits in the next stall to swipe it all away.

It is all hypnotically shot by Luc Besson's regular cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, and it's lushly scored by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto -- who is doing a little bit of swiping of his own with a track that sounds very much like Ravel's Bolero. While there is dialogue spoken during this sequence, the visuals are strong enough that one could watch this with the sound off and understand it 100-percent, as with most of De Palma's best sequences. One would understand the various actions and reactions by the perpetrators and victims of this heist, and one would definitely understand that both Romijn and the actress playing Veronica (Rie Rasmussen) are absolute goddamn smoke shows here. 

By the way, let's get this straight: With the constant fetishistic lensing of women and their gyrating bodies and lovingly filmed lips against other female lips, this movie is male gaze as fuck. And as a pig with a penis, I have no problem with it whatsoever. But if you have a problem with it, well, there are plenty of places on the Internet to go pitch a fit and bitch about it -- as for me, I'm just gonna sit back and laugh and thank God I'm a part of the patriarchy because this is a maaaann's world! 

Suffice it to say, things don't go as planned, blood is spilled, and even worse, names are called. It ends with Laure skipping off with the diamonds, while a bleeding Black Tie informs his partner about this betrayal over the radio mic, telling him something in French that the subtitles translate as "The bitched double-crossed us". 

Now, that's not a typo on my part, that's how it's spelled in the subtitles: B-I-T-C-H-E-D. As in someone having complained in the past tense. 



I wondered if De Palma meant "bitch", B-I-T-C-H, but there was a mistake with the subtitle people. But then I thought, really? I mean, De Palma comes off as someone who'd be a bit of an exacting perfectionist in his work. Would he allow such an obvious error to slip by? Hell, it didn't so much "slip" as it fuckin' did a Michigan J. Frog "Hello My Baby!" dance across the stage. I've seen it spelled this way in the 35mm prints I've watched, it's spelled this way in the Region 1 DVD from Warner Brothers, and it's spelled this way on the version I watched last weekend on HBO Max.

No, it can't be a mistake, it must be intentional, I thought. And so I looked up other uses and definitions for "bitched", and here's what I found as the top definition on Urban Dictionary: 




Uh, so maybe it was a mistake. 

A lot of Femme Fatale's fun comes from not knowing where it's going, and tripping out when it gets there. Granted, this film came out in 2002 and that's enough for me to recite my standard sarcastic asshole routine about how I don't want to spoil a film that is now old enough to vote. But this certainly wasn't some blockbuster movie that took the world by storm that everybody quotes from, nor was it spoofed in one of the Scary Movies or one of those Seltzer/Friedberg pieces of shit -- this movie bombed and was pretty much forgotten except by film geeks and maybe Mr. Skin types. 

So I won't get into it in any further detail that could potentially spoil it. But the funny thing is, there is an alternate trailer for it that rather cleverly spoils the entire film if you pay super close attention; it plays nearly the entire film from beginning to end in very fast motion, occasionally stopping for a moment at regular speed, before speeding up again, and it goes all the way to the end credits. It's one of my favorite movie trailers and you can find it online

Anyway, skipping some plot developments here and there, we jump ahead seven years, and the men Laure double-crossed are back on the search for her, and more importantly, the diamonds. We are then introduced to a photographer played by Antonio Banderas; his name is Nicolas Bardo (no relation to Brick), and he's not so much out-of-work as he's just not really looking for it. After a phone call from his manager (voiced by an uncredited John Stamos), he takes a quick-cash gig where all he has to do is take a photo of an ambassador's wife. 

This leads to Bardo making the acquaintance of Laure Ash, who is trying to lay low in an airport hotel. Bardo, thinking himself quite the slickster, barges into her room, taking on the guise of a very effeminate man. Some may find this portrayal offensive, and these same people may also find themselves unable to comfortably sit down for the rest of their lives, on account of the excruciating pain emanating from their backsides. 

Wait, I'm afraid that didn't come out right. I was trying to say that these people are butt-hurt, but not like something caused them to have a sore ass, such as an uncomfortable chair or a leatherman's fist. And I'm certainly not making the connection that the kind of people that would have a literally hurt butt would be the ones to get offended. I mean I'm talking about overly sensitive types, that's what I -- oh my god, first I quoted the N-word, now I'm implying that the homos can't take a joke, oh geez -- PLEASE DON'T CANCEL ME. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Antonio Banderas worked with Pedro Almodóvar before Femme Fatale, and he's continued to work with him after Femme Fatale. So I'm sure it's all good. 

As Bardo, Banderas plays someone who has probably gone through life being crafty in both the literal and figurative sense: as a part-time paparazzo, he knows all the tricks in getting the perfect shot from those who'd rather not have their picture taken, and he also has this giant collage of photos on his apartment wall, forming one giant landscape of the view outside his window.

But soon Bardo finds himself in over his head, as it becomes increasingly clear that he is going up against someone craftier and who looks a lot better in a pair of panties. Or so I assume. For all I know, that sexy Spanish stallion might rock a French cut like nobody's business. But until I actually see that -- and god knows I've tried -- I will have to give the advantage to Laure. 

The second half of the film becomes a Parisian journey for Bardo in and out of sterile hotel rooms, standard police stations, and seedy night spots. I'm not kidding about those seedy night spots, by the way. I mean, one of the patrons at a scuzzy bar full of drunken, horned-up Frenchmen is none other than Le Tenia from Gaspar Noe's Irreversible -- so you know it's gotta be bad.  

Despite not being given any moments of what my friend Alec and I refer to as Pure Unadulterated Banderas (basically moments where he hams it up), Antonio Banderas is very well-cast and game for a role that requires no trace of ego, as his character finds himself increasingly humbled. A role like Bardo could be ruined by some actors who would try to maintain too much strength throughout, plus, going back to ego, there are more than a few scenes where it's very clear that Rebecca Romijn has a good three or four inches of height on the dude.

I love that; because more often than not, Hollywood does that thing where they always have to make the shorter male actor appear to be as tall as his female co-star, or worse, taller. Because I guess the average moviegoer isn't ready for that idea, that women can possibly be taller than men. So points to Banderas and De Palma for not giving a fuck about Romijn looking like she could easily cradle Banderas and rock him to sleep. And I say this as someone who pays women to rock him to sleep. Don't kink-shame me.

Of course, the tall woman/short man visual helps to further sell the idea that Banderas' character is outmatched compared to Laure Ash, but I feel that's more of an unintentional bonus that was realized after the leads were cast in these roles. 

Banderas is great as the schmuck, and Romijn is very good as the titular femme, doing a fine job with either being conniving or just simply not giving a fuck. Although to be honest with you, I actually thought she did a better job at playing hurt or fragile. And it left me wanting to give her a hug -- and not the kind of hug that I already want to give her, you know, a hug that allows me to perv out while feeling her body against mine while smelling her and all that, no. I mean, like a genuine hug of compassion and warmth. Or so I've been told about such hugs, if such hugs actually exist.

Not that it matters, because if I'm not doing handshakes, that means hugs are out the window as well. Because while you motherfuckers are trying to go back to normal, I'm prepped for the new normal: I'm talking Demolition Man for real, which I knew was coming. I didn't go around saying "be well" all this time for shits & giggles, you know.

I am not as well-versed in Rebecca Romijn's roles as an actor; most of what I've seen her in is from the late 90s and early 00s. I know her as Mystique from the X-Men movies, and I know her as The Bearded Lady from Dirty Work, and I know her from that Rollerball remake and the audio commentary she did on said Rollerball remake. But this rewatch reminded me to search out any other movies where she shows a more vulnerable side, because I think that's what she does best. 

Something staring me in the face this whole time that I'm just noticing now is that Romijn's current husband Jerry O'Connell was in De Palma's previous film to this one, Mission to Mars. And at the time, Banderas was married to Melanie Griffith, who had worked with De Palma in both Body Double and The Bonfire of the Vanities. I don't know what my point is other than some random trivia with which to pad out these ramblings. But I'm sure they all at some time or another have compared Working With Brian De Palma stories at some time or another, I'm sure.  

Anyway, this is all just a long way to say that I've always really liked the film. It never tops its opening set-piece, but that's because it's really the only set-piece, and it's kind of a ballsy move by De Palma, as if he were saying "OK, normally this is what a movie leads to, but I'm just gonna go ahead and start with it, and then you're still gonna stick around to see what happens next because I'm gonna rock your world in a different kind of way"; and he does.

That opening heist precedes a fun, sexy, and twisty joint, complete with the usual audacious De Palma touches here and there -- both in the screenplay and in the way he presents these scenes. There's split screen, slow motion, hypnotic camera movements, giddy splashes of blood, tits, and ass, Gregg Henry, and just the general overall feeling that De Palma is gleefully fucking with you -- the viewer -- the entire time. And you either go with it and enjoy the ride, or you feel strongly negative about the experience.

In other words, it's 100 percent pure Brian De Palma, in the same way that films like Blow Out and Raising Cain are 100 percent pure De Palma. Movies like The Untouchables and Mission: Impossible, as awesome as they are, are more like 70-80 percent pure De Palma. 

Femme Fatale is also probably the last solid film -- pure or otherwise -- that De Palma has made, as of this Foul Year of Our Lord 2021. I remember liking his following film The Black Dahlia in 2006, but I also remember making a lot of excuses for it. Then came his 2007 found footage Iraq War movie Redacted, which wasn't my cup of tea. Then I saw his 2019 film, Domino, which felt less like a real movie and more like the pilot for an internationally produced television series, the kind that plays in syndication on weekend afternoons. I've yet to see his 2012 film, Passion, and so I hope that when I finally get around to that one, it will feel more like the De Palma I know and love. If not, well, you can't have everything, right? 

Well, I don't have anything else to say, so instead I'd like to close out by catching up on some comments and e-mail from my fans. I mean, I haven't posted a real rambling since December 2019, I'm sure I have some people out there who have wanted to stay in touch.

So here's the first comment: It's regarding my post on the film Righteous Kill, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Oh man, I posted that one back in 2009! Anyway, this comment was left on my Wordpress site, which is the same as the Blogger site, it's just a backup. Anyway, it's from someone named "George" and he says: 




OK, cool. He's clearly referencing the skater character in the film played by Rob Dyrdek, and he certainly was a moron, but I think he's a few years too old to be considered a millennial. But I get where you're coming from, George, and I appreciate the comment!

Next, I have a comment left on my Instagram, where I leave much shorter ramblings on movies, and you can find me there at "efcontentment". And this comment is regarding my post on the Paul Thomas Anderson film Punch Drunk Love, starring Adam Sandler, and which came out the same year as Femme Fatale. 2002 was a good year for movies! Anyway, he says the following: 



Well, I don't think Anderson was doing a review on Adam Sandler's character, but more of a study, and I felt this was a very interesting study on an emotionally fragile human being who was able find a meaningful connection with a lady who was able to understand him. And what you call "personal life crap", I call the intriguing drama that comes from Sandler's day-to-day interactions with others as he tries not to get emotionally overwhelmed. Anyway, thanks for the comment, oh and I almost forgot, in regards to your opening question, the WTF podcast with Marc Maron has nothing to do with this blog -- but I sure wish it did! 

And finally I have an e-mail sent to me by a "Jonathan Baker" and it's titled "amyadamsismywaifu" and it says: 



And so I won't. Anyway, thanks for reading -- now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the bank! 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Not *too* bad.

This year for me has been about preparing for the worst during the first half, and then hunkering down and trying to distract myself from the worst during the second half. And while coming back to blog and podcast long-form style seems like the surest way to accomplish the latter, I find curling up into the fetal position and sleeping during every spare moment to be a lot easier. 

But I do intend to continue this in some manner, I really do. See, I have been posting mini-ramblings regularly on Facebook, Instagram, and Letterboxd, and I've been thinking of intertwining them with the blog/podcast, if for no other reason than to stay in practice. Because I swear, every time I do a new episode, I have to learn the whole process all over again, having spent too much time between shows. I don't know where I got this idea that every rambling has be a fuckin' tome. If it's short, it's short, and if it's long, it's long -- that's what I tell the ladies and that's what I'm telling you. 

We'll see what happens. So long as things in the outside world remain shitty or get shittier, I'll probably need something to occupy my mind between now and whenever I catch the 'rona -- or the 'rona catches a loved one -- and then I'll either not want to do anything anymore, or I won't be able to do anything anymore. 

And while I'm not back on my own podcast train yet, I did hop on to someone else's for one night; I've been listening to the Trick or Treat Radio podcast for the past couple of years and really enjoy it. The program consists of four friends reviewing movies (generally horror and genre fare) and it's lots of fun to listen to them discuss movies and get on each other's nerves. Usually when a podcast starts up a Patreon, I book from the motherfucker, but not with these guys. In fact, I became a Patreon, uh, patron.

As a member of the higher Patreon tier, I was invited to be a guest on the show and pick the films they were to review. Because I was able to pick any movie -- not just relegated to the type of films they normally cover -- and because I was genuinely interested to hear their opinions on this movie, I picked the 2017 Paul Thomas Anderson film Phantom Thread

For the second movie, I picked the 1984 Philip Yordan production Death Wish Club, which I have rambled about before on this blog years ago, under the title Gretta -- one of many alternate titles for this film.  

You can listen or download the show by clicking this link. You can also watch me on the included YouTube archive of the live stream, if you feel the need to see me looking way too shiny -- but be aware that due to tech issues on YouTube's end, the three-hour podcast is a fifty-minute video with random skips along the way. (Naturally, seeing less of me makes it a better video.)

Once the alcohol put my anxiety in a chokehold, I had a good time, and I'm sure I embarrassed myself enough during my ramblings to make it entertaining for others. I certainly insult many of you by calling you lazy bastards, but take comfort in knowing that as someone who has not posted a new blog/podcast entry in nearly a year, I am indeed the blackest pot among all you kettles.

I also mistakingly confuse Peru for Uruguay somewhere during the show, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you're just gonna have to go over and listen to the episode. See people, that's called a teaser. 


Sunday, December 8, 2019

I also suck at responding to e-mails.






I'm a shitty friend when you get right down to it, specifically when friends request things of me, like, I don't know, let's just say, uh, ramblings about movies on this blog.

The way it goes is this: a friend will ask "Hey, I'd like to read you talk about this particular movie" and I'll go "Sure thing, buddy" and my reaction should be "Holy cats, somebody actually reads this blog? I should show them my appreciation and get to work on this immediately!"

Instead, it'll be about a year before I go, "Well, I guess I'll blog about this movie now" and then I'll watch the movie -- which is the easiest part of the whole process -- and right after the movie, I'll sit down in front of the computer, open up the ol' Blogger, stare at the blank white page on the screen for a few minutes, and then I'll open up another window and spend the next few hours watching YouTube videos featuring cats or dogs or cats and dogs or videos about credit cards or videos about food reviews or videos about video game play-throughs and OK wait wait wait wait wait wait wait --

Don't get me wrong. I know watching-other-people-play-video-games sounds kinda lame, but let me clarify myself -- let me defend myself -- and tell you that I don't watch those stupid "Let's Play" videos, you know, the ones where people talk through their play-through, as if I cared about what they have to say as they play? No way! I just want to see somebody beat a game I've had difficulty with in the past, just so I can see how to go about it if I were to play that game again.

As for the food review videos, I'm very selective; I don't go in for those "mukbang" or gang bang or whatever they call those videos about people eating on camera. And I certainly don't go in for any of those videos featuring stupid fat fucks making stupid fat fucking faces on the thumbnail next to a picture of a slice of pizza. I'm not gonna click on that thumbnail just to watch some stupid fat fuck shoving pizza in his face and go OMIGAAAWWWD THIS PIZZA BE SEX ON WHEELS DOWN MY TRRROAT, SON!

But while I'm in Unreasonable Hater mode, you know which YouTube videos I will never understand actually having an existence? The absolute worst kind? Reaction videos. These are the ones where someone or a group of someones will sit and watch a clip of a comedian or a movie trailer or something like that, and these are easy to spot because their thumbnails always consist of that person or persons sitting next to each other making some goofy-ass reaction face -- maybe a couple with their hands up to their mouths while making the OMIGOD face, like people do in movies but never in real life -- and usually on the lower right hand corner is the video to which they're making said reactions.

Do you see what I'm doing here? Do you see? I'm procrastinating, I'm hesitating over here and that's how I do when it comes to other people requesting things of me. It's hard enough to sit my fat ass down to write about stuff I plan to write about, but it really comes down to the plain and simple fact that if I have a choice between spending my time talking about a movie I watched or using that time to just watch another movie? Well, sweetie, I don't know how to tell you this -- or actually, I do know: I'd rather use my time to watch more movies.

And by saying this, by confessing this -- I realize that the true enemy is not my procrastination, it is not what I choose to do with my time, but it is time itself that is the bad guy. If I had more time to sit around and watch movies and eventually get around to doing something, that would be great. But instead time is what it is: the ultimate prison, where I'm held in this cage of hours, minutes, seconds, and the clock just keeps ticking ever so forward towards finality. I need more time! Then maybe I can fit in all the stuff I want to do.

But alas, time remains something linear and fleeting, for it is but a strict progression of cause to effect -- it is not some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff in which I can hop back and forth and up and down and everywhere else. Because I'm not a Time Lord, and that lady and gentleman, is how you make a clumsy-ass segue.




Requested by my buddy Kris Wallace -- at least I hope we're still buddies -- the 1996 made-for-television film Doctor Who: The Movie begins with a Time Lord known only as The Doctor, who is transporting the remains of The Master, who is an evil Time Lord and also the Big Bad of this entire series.

Maybe I should take it back a little bit, in case you're too far from a phone to Google it; this is a show that's been around since the 1960s and it's about these beings known as Time Lords -- they're aliens or demi-gods or whatever, I don't know -- and they have the ability to do the hipping and the hopping around time and space. The series focuses on one particular Time Lord -- that would be our boy The Doctor -- going on many different adventures along with his Companion, which I guess is the proper English way to say "sidekick".

They get around in a time & space craft called a TARDIS, which looks like a British police box because those were a common sight back during the show's creation in the Jolly Old. Had the show been created today, he'd probably get around in a food truck.

Like James Bond, the Doctor has been played by various actors over the years, but unlike James Bond, they actually acknowledge the change by explaining that the Doctor has to regenerate into a new body whenever there's too much mileage and wear & tear on the current one. Like the James Bond movies, the otherwise consistently released series took a hiatus between the late 80s and the mid-90s. Unlike the James Bond movies, the mid-90s return of Doctor Who resulted in another hiatus that ended up lasting nine years.

Also, unlike the James Bond movies, Doctor Who is a television series. I don't know why I even compared the two when they are completely different things. Why did I do that? Because they're both from the U.K.? That's some embarrassing shit right there. That's like welcoming your British friend to the United States with a boxed set of The Best of Benny Hill, assuming your Limey pal is gonna dig it because Hey, Benny Hill is from the U.K. too! And let's go get some fish & chips too, because that's what you people eat, right? That's really fucking embarrassing and I apologize for that and so let's move on.

So the film begins with The Doctor chilling out in his TARDIS, the remains of The Master stored in a box, but because the Master is literal slime, he (or it) manages to ooze out the box and fuck with the TARDIS so that it has to make an emergency landing on Earth -- specifically San Francisco 1999 (as played by Vancouver 1996), where we are then introduced to some Asian-American bros having a shootout with other Asian-American bros. I assume they're bros, because after shooting at some people, they all give each other high-fives.

The Doctor arrives, stepping out of his TARDIS just in time to get caught in the crossfire and take a couple slugs to the chest -- that's just the preferred way for Americans to greet visiting foreigners -- and the sole surviving Asian-American bro on the scene, Chang Lee, gets him an ambulance.

Lee must've fallen out of bro-love with his bros, because despite his friends having just been killed in the shootout, he never even gives them a passing thought from this point forward. His priorities are on claiming The Doctor's personal belongings from the hospital, which really, that's just a shitty way to live your life, stealing the belongings from some dying Hobbit in an emergency room. Why does Lee not care about his dead friends? Who knows what had happened before we were introduced to his character? Maybe Lee's bros had just admitted to running a train on his mom and they even had the photographed proof of it?

That would explain why this young man never goes home at all during the entire film, even though serious end-of-the-world stakes do get raised later. I don't know about you, but even if I found out that my mom once let my closest friends give her the rotisserie chicken treatment -- if I knew that all of existence was going to end tonight, I'd still want to stop by and say Goodbye to her. I just wouldn't let her give me a kiss.

Anyway, The Doctor is taken to a hospital and he ends up dying in the emergency room, and this is where I tell you that up until this point, he's been played by Sylvester McCoy, who was the Seventh incarnation of the Doctor in the television series. But after he goes tits up, the baton is passed to Doctor Number Eight, who is played by Paul McGann, who I thought was not only fine as the Doctor, I actually preferred him to McCoy, if for no other reason than that I prefer my Doctors to be less Bilbo Baggins and more Aragorn. His introduction has a very Resurrection of Christ feel to it; he steps out of the morgue, still wrapped in a sheet, with flowing shoulder length hair -- but no Jesus beard -- and the sight of this causes Young and Fat pre-Mad TV Will Sasso to pass out.

The Master, meanwhile, ends up possessing a paramedic played by Eric Roberts, and when you consider the fact that Eric Roberts really likes to work and will take on any job handed to him, including advertisements for motorcycle clubs and walk-in bathtubs, it's not hard to imagine that maybe this paramedic is supposed to be the real Eric Roberts, making some extra dough between movies, commercials, television shows,  and music videos, by helping to save lives. This is made even more believable when Eric Roberts' wife Eliza Roberts shows up later in the film in the role of Eric Roberts' wife.

I'm not bagging on Eric Roberts, by the way. I'm just pointing out that it's fairly obvious that if there's a paycheck attached, he'll take it. I think he's awesome and based on his appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson's 2014 film adaptation of Inherent Vice, he's still got it. Now you can argue that his performance in this film might not fit what you define as the word "good", but I dug, and you can tell he's having a blast doing it -- and typical of Mr. Roberts, he's puts in 100-percent.

(UPDATE AFTER THE FACT DUE TO POOR RESEARCH: in 2019, Eric Roberts returned to the role of The Master for the Doctor Who audio story "Day of the Master", also featuring Paul McGann as The Doctor.)

So The Doctor sets off to find Eric Roberts, who is now decked out in a leather jacket and sunglasses ensemble that made me wish I lived in an alternate universe where Eric Roberts played The Terminator. With the help of stupid gullible Lee, Roberts opens The Eye of Harmony, which I guess is to the TARDIS what the Flux Capacitor was to Doc Brown's DeLorean. It also has the potential to mess with the fabric of time and space in the most severe manner possible.

Because this is all happening on New Year's Eve, The Doctor has until the stroke of midnight to stop Eric Roberts before it all goes to shit, as I alluded to earlier while talking about my friends banging my mom. By the way, it hurt to even write about that, but sometimes you have to commit to the nasty shit that spills out of your head in an attempt to make these ramblings remotely entertaining. This is what I do for you and my hungry ego.

Because this film was intended to revive and continue the Doctor Who series, it was also made as a sort-of re-pilot in an effort to garner new fans -- namely, the goddamn Yanks across the pond -- and so as a convenient way to explain the going-ons to newbies while not boring the seasoned fans, the tellers behind this story give the newly regenerated Doctor amnesia. As the plot thickens, The Doctor realizes what his own deal and reason for being is, in turn helping Joe and Jane Murica, who are watching this at home on the Fox network realize Doctor Who's whole deal and reason for being.

Oh, that Joe and Jane Murica, now that there is a couple made for each other. Love at first sight, it was -- they both grew up in a small town with true American values, working for a living unlike these lazy goddamn millennials who expect to have everything handed to them, and now here they are, in the current year of 1996 as they sit back and eat freshly popped Pop Secret movie theater flavored microwave popcorn, watching this weird movie on the tee-vee about some guy from either England or Australia -- it's the same thing -- and he's chasing after Julia Roberts' brother from Star 80, and hey, Jane, who's the lady he's with the whole time?

Well, Joe -- that there is Doctor Grace Holloway, the cardiologist who figured something was up with this gunshot victim because his x-rays showed that he had two hearts, and her suspicions were confirmed after said gunshot victim came back to life. So now you have Doctor Holloway helping out The Doctor, which I guess makes her his new Companion.

But here's my question, having only a passing knowledge of this television series: has the Doctor ever macked on one of his Companions before? Because that's what happens here, he and she have themselves a little kissy smooch-smooch action and if you'll excuse me, I'm about to shoot myself in the face for writing "kissy smooch-smooch action".

Ladies, if you're ever in the sad position of being my date and somewhere along the way I ask for a "little kissy smooch-smooch action", you have every right to cancel my creepy ass on some old Louis C.K. shit, as if I had blocked the exit and asked you do that for me -- not that I would ever have the balls to do something like that, cornering you and asking for a "little kissy smooch-smooch action". Besides, it's not like I'm in some position of power to help or hinder your career, I'm just me. So all a move like that would get me is a swift punch to the nose, and as I fall to the ground in a pathetic crumple, trying to stop the blood from gushing out my snout, you walk past me triumphantly to the strains of a Beyonce song, stepping out the door while calling me a "little-dick motherfucker". And I just don't need that kind of pain and humiliation in my life.

Not like Dr. Holloway is having any better luck on the dating circuit; early in the film, she gets paged during a night out with her boyfriend at the opera and has to leave to attend to her life-saving duties. This frustrates him and he ends up packing up his things from her place and walks out on her. This Val Kilmer's stand-in-looking motherfucker is a real lame-ass; I mean, dude, you could've married that chick and eventually you would've had some of the sweet, sweet doctor cash coming your way.

Of course, that's just what I think, and this is coming from a guy who would have no problem with my partner being the primary breadwinner in our relationship. The only time I'd have an issue with it would be knowing that every time we'd have a serious argument, she could always pull that card on me, and at any time she could be like "Then why don't you go get a fucking job and stop leeching off of me, how about rather than writing those stupid ramblings about horror movie marathons, you go fucking get a job so I don't have to support your lame ass. My father was right, I never should've dated outside of my race!"

Speaking of race, the two doctors race their way towards the film's mid-90s television-budgeted computerized special effects extravaganza -- aka the climax -- but then a motorcycle cop gets in the way, stopping them, and so the Doctor pulls out a bag of jelly beans from his coat and offers it to the policeman in order to distract him. It's a good thing the Doctor is as lily white as the cop; if the Doctor were a man of the darker persuasion and instead of Doctor Who it was Doctor Bho, I'd think there are about 41 ways -- all of them the same -- that it could've gone as soon as the Doctor reached for those jelly beans.

I'm going to go ahead and spoil a big part of this, so just skip ahead a paragraph or two, if it really makes a difference to you. But by the end of the film, a number of people have died during this adventure, including Lee and Doctor Holloway. After The Doctor defeats The Master, he then turns back time, and suddenly this golden mist comes out of the Eye of Harmony and goes into the dead bodies of Lee and Holloway and shazam! His friends are now alive again.

So wait a minute -- what was that golden mist and why did it come out of the Eye? Was that mist supposed to be their souls? Is the Eye a gateway into the afterlife? Are Heaven and Hell just a big part of the whole timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly mess? Should I really just relax?

To add further confusion, The Doctor then sends them to the first day of the year 2000. So does that mean he only brought Lee and Holloway back, while all the other poor schmucks like the various security guards, the non-possessed version of Eric Roberts, and even Eric Roberts' wife stay dead? That's not fair, dude. Either change all of it or none of it, don't just pick and choose what to fuck with -- determining who gets to live and who has to die, I mean, who the fuck are you, Doctor Who? OK, enough of that.

So here's the deal, folks. I am not what they call a "Whovian", but I have seen a few episodes and like I said earlier, I have a passing knowledge of the program, at least enough to be able to sound like I know what I'm talking about, should I find myself in a conversation with real Whovians  -- and I can always bullshit the rest. But what I'm about to say could possibly expose me as a fake to those people
 -- Doctor Who: The Movie doesn't feel that much different from the series.

I can't fault the film for not letting us get to know the characters beyond a basic surface level that is relevant to the plot at hand; had this Doctor Who reboot/continuation been picked up as a series, I'm sure they would've delved deeper into what makes the characters of Lee and Holloway tick -- to say nothing of The Doctor himself. As for everything else, I don't know what the general consensus among Whovians is when it comes to this movie, but I thought it was just fine. I mean, I've seen better episodes than this film, but they're all about the same when comes to their overall entertainment value.

While I'm at it, let me piss off another group of hardcore fans of a popular science-fiction fantasy property: the Star Wars movies are all more or less equally good to me. I swear to you, I'm not trying to be a contrarian -- if anything, it's an opinion I've kept to myself up until now, because I'm not looking for a fight. I paid good money to see every one of those movies in the cinema and I always felt I got my money's worth. Now please leave me alone, I don't want trouble, just get out.

Anyway, I'm guessing one reason Doctor Who: The Movie might not be seen in as bright a light as everything else in the Who-verse -- or whatever the hell you nerds call it --  is that the producers were not only intending to introduce Doctor Who to American audiences, but that it was also going to be an American-centric program (despite being shot in Canada) and the Brits could either love it or leave it and it wouldn't mean a goddamn thing because what's a little place like the United Kingdom compared to big bad America, right?

But, like soccer and the metric system, America rejected this television movie/backdoor pilot, because we had better things to watch on television like "Suddenly Susan". But it did do well on the correct side of the pond, to which I'm sure these same producers then did a 180 and used the U.K. numbers as a selling point in a desperate attempt to have the show picked up. It wasn't, and it took nearly a decade before it came back and stayed for good, currently featuring a female incarnation of The Doctor, which you know has to be pissing off somebody out there.

And that's all well and good, I'm glad the show has a huge following and all, but when it comes to watching a time-traveling do-gooder on television, give me "Quantum Leap" any old day. That's right, I said that shit: Quantum Leap, bitches! I lied about not wanting trouble -- NOW FIGHT ME COWARDS