Uncut Gems

uncut-gems-adam-sandler

I resent this movie. When I heard it wasn’t nominated and everyone was upset I trusted public outcry because the Academy honestly has terrible taste and is old white men who are so out of touch they don’t see great art even when it’s right in front of them. They picked Crash for best picture over Brokeback Mountain (never forget) and also Green Book. Every person was like, “It’s so good but it’s stressful.” Maybe it’s because the world is literally on fucking fire right now but I did not appreciate this movie at all. I resented it. Why? What is the point? I don’t understand. I like art that even attempts to have something to say. What was that here? I’m definitely having a personal reaction, I think tonight is a culmination of being scared, stressed, and alone and I was excited to watch this movie as an escape and it just made everything feel worse. It took me way longer to watch than the run time because I kept having to pause it and do something else because it was so stressful and unfun.

This movie is about a jeweler, Howard Ratner (played by Adam Sandler) who’s addicted to gambling. That’s it. The entire movie is just him making mistake after mistake, digging himself deeper and deeper into these holes. He was awful to almost everyone around him-dismissive, abrasive, abusive, condescending, demanding, loud, etc. etc. etc. He seems to only be happy when he’s winning a bet. It made me so fucking stressed. And I get it, I was there, the whole speech to Kevin Garnett (it was very cool he was in this) about how he’s not an athlete and this is his way assert dominance and react to the world that’s mistreating him, and I also think there’s a specific thing about Jewish men and basketball that was interesting to explore. I heard all that and I get it but it simply doesn’t justify/make worth all the other shit to me. I am open to maybe this movie is a specifically Jewish experience and I didn’t get it, that’s the only way I can understand the value in what just happened.

When you’re getting stripped and stuffed into the trunk of your own car at your child’s play maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and say, “Is this working for me?” There was not a single ounce of self-reflection in the entire two hours and fifteen minutes. I hated his relationship with Lakeith Stanfield, why would you give away the Rolexes? People didn’t even seem to want them. And trading Kevin Garnett’s ring for money? Trade your Knicks ring! I always assess risk for my decisions and he consistently made the absolute shittiest choices. It became laughable. It’s incredibly difficult to have empathy for a character like that, and to be invested in them. He wears out any goodwill the viewer might have for him in fifteen minutes and then the movie just keeps going. Maybe that’s the point? That some people are irredeemable? But does anyone really not know that, and need this movie to tell them that?

Idina Menzel plays his wife Dinah and she was incredible, the scene where he’s asking for a second chance and she laughs at him and tells him she’s disgusted by him and wishes she would never have to see him again? That’s really one of the only times she gets to speak more than a few words but she does such a good job the entire movie of conveying so much emotion with very few words. Like when she runs out from the play to unlock the trunk and sees him. The look in her eyes alone lets us know the depth of her shock, disappointment, unsurprise. Sometimes a character like this is terrible in business and to their wife but they’re a good dad. Nope. He’s an awful dad. He doesn’t spend any meaningful/quality time with them, actively ignores them, then when he decides he wants to, sort of talks down to them (his daughter in particular) for not being warmer to him.

Usually I use plot to guide me in these paragraphs, but there’s literally no plot to go through. Howard has a jewelry store in the diamond district in Manhattan and he owes literally every person in the movie money and whenever he gets ANY he just keeps betting it and it stops mattering at some point if he’s losing or winning because he’s just going to bet it all again anyway. He never gains anything in the movie. Even when he wins he loses because his debt is unending because he’s addicted to gambling. I just realized, I’m sorry if you are addicted to gambling or know someone who is, I hope I don’t sound like a huge shit. 

Howard is cheating on his wife with a girl that works at his store, Julia De Fiore (played by Julia Fox-and boy is she ever) and he’s letting her live in an apartment in the city he owns. He treats her like shit and she loves him so much and will do anything for him. At one point he hits her smoothie out of her hand spilling it all over her and she gets a tattoo of his name. Just to paint a little picture. He’s so irredeemable that when he dies you’re not even sad about him, you’re just sad for Julia.

The movie opens in an opal mine in Ethiopia where someone is really fucking hurt, their leg is splayed open to the bone and everyone’s crowding around trying to see and two guys take this opportunity to find and take I guess a large raw opal embedded in the stone. Then the camera zooms in on the opal and we see lights and the universe, and slowly it’s clear we’re now in a body, and that body it’s Howard’s colon. That’s how we meet him, it’s like they’re foreshadowing-this is a character who is full of shit. Also, this visual connection is one of the only layered shots the movie has and even this, the choice to make the gem come from Ethiopian Jews, felt like an attempt at meaning that was larger but ultimately lazy and they did no work for.

This gem becomes his holy grail, he thinks it’s worth 1000-3000 dollars a carat and that it’s hundreds of carats, he thinks it’s a million dollar stone. There’s so many twists and turns it’s not really worth it to mention, Kevin Garnett comes in the store and is very taken with the stone, he wants to buy it but Howard has promised it to an auction house, but gets pressured into lending it to him for a night, then it’s hard to get back and he fights The Weeknd, all this shit happens. Meanwhile, every time he turns around there are different people trying to get the money he owes them and they range from persistent but non-threatening to violent and scary. He gets “roughed up” a couple of times but always kind of gives some back or manages to de-escalate the situation.

The final scene is these scary guys have come to get the money after he finally sells the gem to Kevin Garnett but he manages to smuggle the money out, gets Julia a Blade (uber for helicopters) to the Mohegan Sun casino to place all 165,000 of it on a bet for the Celtics game that night. He ends up trapping the scary guys in the security glass entrance that all jewelry stores have for the entire basketball game. He’s yelling, he’s up he’s down, but finally they win-he wins the bet, over a million dollars and lets the guys out of the glass and they immediately shoot him in the head. Which honestly, by this point, felt like a relief. The entire first half to even two thirds is just this assault of noise and stress and movement and people, there’s no beauty, no hope, no meaning- we’re just in this endless hamster wheel of stress and meaningless terrible decisions. They could use this movie to teach people Nihilism, that I would understand. But then ironically it would have a point.

Again, I take full responsibility for how much I hated it, if I had seen it when it came out I would have been in a theatre in New York, probably on a rainy day where I snuck CVS candy into the theatre in my backpack and I’d watch it and think, “Oh wow, nothing is going right for him!” and then feel saddened by his death and extrapolate some greater, larger meaning. I would then sneak into another movie and watch it and leave tired and happy and ride the train home buzzing with a weird glow that only comes from sitting in a shitty soft recliner in front of a 24 foot tall screen and being immersed in darkness and sound. I’m sure I would have been on the same page as the rest of you and thought it got “robbed” at the Oscars. But, unfortunately for all of us, I watched it right now. Alone in my dad’s laundry room on an air mattress at 4:00am while feverishly checking Twitter to see online a revolution happening and feel so overwhelmed with guilt and sadness that I can do nothing about.

I’m sorry but what the hell. I feel like the filmmaking had so much technical skill but no artistic vision. This movie felt so hollow to me, like what an eighth grader would put on a word map if you asked him to script a movie. “And then he gets shot in the head at the end.” Okay does he? Great, yes let’s do that. Even though he wins? Yes, ok I got it. Great. It feels very rudimentary to me. Also CLEARLY, they’re good at constructing tone, making the audience feel something, but they only chose a single emotion for the entire film and hit the fucking gas. It felt like someone who knows for a movie to be deep there needs to be visual indicators of symbolism so they made it look cool, and nothing else. What else is there here? What themes, what layers, what risks? For a movie whose protagonist is obsessed with risks this movie took none. He’s a gambler and he’s in debt then he gets killed because he’s in debt? Thank you. Thank you for your contribution. And the poster is in The Godfather font?? Are you fucking kidding me?

This movie is a bad movie that’s very well made. Great actors, great set design, great wardrobe, great everything but zero heart. There’s nothing at the core of this movie. I have a gem for you. You know those geodes that have the beautiful crystals surrounding a hollow? Well this movie is exactly that-a lot of sparkly beautiful things surrounding a big fat nothing. A hole where anything else should be.

The more I look at stills from the movie the angrier I get so I’m just going to end it here. I love Adam Sandler, especially in serious roles but this was not it. I feel bad for him because he did so well but it’s not his fault. He can act the shit out of anything, this was just a sinking ship he got put on. I’m sorry I hated it so much but I did. I don’t need a movie to make me feel bad for absolutely no reason. Make me feel bad for any number of reasons, anything you want! But have a fucking point, know what you’re trying to say. Even if it’s just that “people are like this” what is your opinion on that? Guide me through this experience you’ve created.

It feels like they just wanted to meet Kevin Garnett so they made this whole thing up and it just did way better than they thought but the whole time they’re both like, “Really?? This?? They like this?” I liked Gaspar Noe’s Climax for God’s sake so I know it’s not just that I can’t “handle” feeling bad. This movie is bad without any art!! There has to be art in it! You moving the camera fast over pretty things isn’t art!

Literally one of the only things I like is that they bill the cast in order of appearance, so all those miners get first billing. It’s like that in the movie credits and on the IMDB page which is rare. I like that. Lol also there was a cameo from John Amos. Loved that. And the guy who hired the people who killed him, who also married into his family and they share tense dinners after he’s paid someone to punch him in the face is Armenian! Eric Bogosian as Arno.

It felt like there was bait for anti-semitism in a way that felt a little uncomfortable at times- his last name being Ratner, of course that’s a name people have but of all the names you could have chosen that’s the one you go with for the Jewish jeweler? Also at his daughter’s play the coins coming out of her mouth?? This movie walked a fine line between being so specific in a portrayal and showing a type of person vs. feeding into negative stereotypes about Jewish people in a harmful way. On the other hand, it was cool to see him in a lot of black spaces because I feel like that relationship isn’t usually explored.

My friend Rachel said she felt like it was a modern day take on Death of a Salesman and that is the only thing that has made me feel better about it. I don’t think I liked that play either but that would at least make sense. Also my friend Leah said she felt the focus was that it made the viewer understand what addiction feels like and that’s an interesting perspective and makes me value it a little more.

1 out of 5 Furby chains, would not masturbate again.

 

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Magnolia

Magnolia, affiche

This movie is a million years long and 2/3rds of the way through I did NOT know how I was going to feel but the ending really brought it together for me and I decided I love it. It is rare that a movie can make clear what it is about without making the characters physically say it, and to do that AND have symbolism I can interpret in real time within the communicated theme is always movie magic. Like when something weird is happening but within the symbolic framework I have divined the movie to be about it makes perfect sense? That’s what happened here for me and it made me really like the movie. What is that theme and subsequent symbolism you ask? TO ME the theme of this movie is generational trauma, the cycles of abuse, and how all of that plays out within a community.

Am I writing in rambling run-on sentences as a stylistic choice to mimic the rushed pace of the film, or is my brain just manic & crowded and I don’t know how to write in syntax that doesn’t feel overwhelming without heavy editing? I’ll never tell….! Also a little inside baseball: an executive decision I made is that I’ve been being so good in these reviews about finding both the character & actor’s name and including them both and referring to either when it’s appropriate, and I’m going to do my best but this movie is too large for me to use character names all the time. If you wanted me to use their names, maybe pick less people or make the movie shorter. When it’s over 3 hours and we have like 9 main characters? Some things get left behind and for me, that’s going to be a name you made up. Sometimes it’s just going to be, am I looking at Tom Cruise? Then that’s Tom Cruise to me now. Thank you for understanding.

This movie was stressful for the entire time (until the frogs fell! Then we got peace and moved into the forgiveness & reflection portion of the movie). Also spoilers!! I should have said that sooner maybe, and also I think this movie is from 1999 but somehow I was able to go this long without knowing anything about it and I’m so happy I didn’t, I hope I don’t ruin that for anyone else.

So, there’s wayyy too much to cover plot-wise but there is a split narrative structure following about eight different people. A boy genius on a quiz show with a shitty dad, a woman addicted to cocaine who also has a shitty dad, her shitty dad who hosts the quiz show, a bumbling cop, a nurse caring for a man with cancer, that dying man’s young wife, a Men’s Rights Activist public speaker, a gay boy genius who won the quiz show and grew up and now wants to get adult braces, I think that’s everyone. In looking for if I missed anyone and in writing these descriptions I think I understand the people on the  flower petals on the poster, I think it’s saying we all affect each other more than we realize and are reliant on one another to survive.

The camera work from the very beginning sets a quick pace that never lets up, we keep following people and jumping from plot line to plot line like a bee in a field of flowers (we’re keeping the magnolia metaphor alive!). Each situation heightens to some culmination of tenseness, then we go somewhere else and each narrative just keeps building and building. It’s kind of insane to imagine going through all of them describing everything but I will do my best.

I’ll start with Julianne Moore’s character (oh by the way it’s an absolutely star-studded cast). Julianne Moore plays Linda, she’s married to an old man dying of cancer. Throughout the film we follow her to visit a lawyer and try to get her husband’s will changed (to take herself OUT), get prescriptions filled, be hysterical in an office, be hysterical in a house, and then ultimately try to kill herself in a car (she lives!). To be honest this was the character I thought that was the least well-done, not acted, Moore did a fantastic job with what she was given but the motivation and emotional depth of this character seemed the most poorly written.

In one of her first scenes, Linda manically explains to her lawyer that she married her husband for his money and “did terrible things to him,” but that now after seeing him sick and taking care of him she actually *has* fallen in love with him and she couldn’t bear to have the money when he died (please let the record show that I have never met a single person who has feels this way in real life, I think this is only a movie thing. Even if you feel guilty, people are accepting the money. You can always donate to charity or something, I don’t think anyone on Earth turns down inheritance money). Both of the main women characters (of which there are only two) felt like a caricature of a person. This was in stark contrast most other characters who felt incredibly interesting and unique. It felt like our director, Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA-who also did There Will Be Blood and The Master) just made her super emotional and ungrounded. It felt like sexism because how can you have the mental bandwidth to construct and keep track of an entire multi-layered fictional world and then by chance both female characters just happen to be irrationally emotional and one dimensional? This is just my read but it FELT not great. This is my biggest criticism of the movie!

Shifting gears, the nurse who takes care of Linda’s husband was one of my favorite characters, a young Philip Seymour Hoffman (PSH-whose untimely death is heartbreaking to me whenever I think about it. Remember how good he was in Patch Adams?? And just everything). As movie representation of male nurses go, it seems to be this and Meet the Parents, an amazing group!! PSH kind of has a cheeky back and forth with the old guy, they say go fuck yourself to each other (how adult men show emotion) and this lets us know they are friends. But when the dying guy (Earl Partridge played by Jason Robards)’s health takes a turn for the worse, he wants PSH to reach out to his estranged son (Frank Mackey played by Tom Cruise). PSH goes into overdrive to try and help and manages to find him, get him on the phone, but they get disconnected before speaking but then Tom Cruise COMEs to the house right as Earl’s dying and he gets to spend some moments with his estranged father.

Something BRILLIANT in the movie I thought, which sort of acted like a Checkov’s gun was the liquid morphine. In a scene where Julianne Moore goes to the Pharmacist (which would be an AMAZING children’s book) the druggist* is explaining that this will help with pain but once you administer it, there’s really no going back in terms of lucidity. We know this because she knows this, but then she doesn’t tell this to anyone else, most importantly, the nurse who gives it to him BEFORE Tom Cruise gets there. So now we as an audience know there’s no chance for them to have a meaningful exchange because the dad is no longer really himself/present. I found that so fascinating because it shifts the possibility of the scene drastically with such a simple and small measure. PSH gives him this medication without thinking, but he’s unknowingly robbed Tom Cruise of a chance to actually speak with his father. But does forgiveness require another person? I feel like that’s a huge theme this movie tackles and ultimately decides, no.

Tom Cruise’s character now because it feels like the next natural choice. He plays, Frank T.J. Mackey, a public speaker with his own line of sexist instructional books and informercial wisdom which seems to be a combination of Mystery the Pickup Artist (do we remember the fur hat and goggles???) and Jordan Peterson’s MRA psuedo-intellectual philosophy where the answer to any question is always “Put yourself first.” Tom is in full douche mode for this role, he has a high half-pony and leather vest and sort of struts around stage under his own spotlight barking about his cock and how to manipulate everyone around you as a sea of faceless men cheer him on. In the presentation intermission we follow him into a press room as he gives an interview to one of two black women allowed to be in the movie, April Grace playing Gwenovier. This was one of the best scenes in the movie.

Gwenovier starts to ask Frank softball questions and he’s simply dripping self-satisfaction, even giving part of the interview in his underwear rolling around and showing off, but as time passes she quietly escalates, upping the ante and corners him with more and more specific questions about things he’s trying to evade. The language here was really interesting, she keeps saying, “I’m not attacking you, I want to make sure I understand you and I need to know this to understand you.” We find out he didn’t graduate where he claims a degree from, his real mother died when he was eleven after a battle with cancer, his father abandoned them, and he was raised by a neighbor. Halfway through he stops answering questions and sits glaring, letting the clock run out. She asks, “What are you doing?” and he says, “I’m quietly judging you.” He then gets violent at the end and leaves and doesn’t take the call from his dying father. But as you know from the previous plot line, makes it over there to watch him die. I loved the evolution of this character because through so many little reveals we realize he was so wounded by a man he decided he never wanted to be hurt again and dedicated his life to emulating the behavior that hurt him (and his mother) instead of working to heal himself. I felt like this was one articulation of the cycle of abuse and how “hurt people hurt people,” that so often predators have been abused themselves. Not everyone and that doesn’t excuse it but it’s important to have insight and humanity because only then can we really see and understand what’s going on. You don’t have a prayer of helping or fixing something you don’t understand.

The next person I want to go to is Claudia. In a lot of ways she’s Tom Cruise’s opposite. His life is about being in control of everything, Claudia has control over nothing. She’s a natural segue from his character as well because the first scene we see her in she’s getting picked up from a bar by a guy following Tom’s instructions for how to get with women. Claudia and this guy have a one night stand, then the next morning he answers her door naked (??? completely unhinged behavior) and it’s her father, the host of a televised kids quiz show.

At this point, we have seen ads on multiple different people’s TVs and we know that the TV show has been happening for 30 years and he’s very beloved and successful. But in this context, we see that Claudia absolutely despises him. He tells her he’s dying of cancer and she’s screaming at him to get out, that she doesn’t want to speak to him. This made me think, “he molested her” and that was correct. He leaves, the other guy has left, and all that’s there now is Claudia and her cocaine. She does a lot of cocaine. She did it at the bar the night before and she’s doing it in the morning/afternoon alone now. But she’s playing music really loudly and a cop (John C. Reilly) who we’ve been introduced to before as a little racist and bumbling, gets a noise complaint and comes over. He clearly has a crush on her, she clearly is worried about him finding the cocaine, but over time and a bad cup of coffee, they are flirting. John C. Reilly gets a call and has to leave but they agree to go on a date that night. On the date, she sort of makes this rushed speech about how if they can just get everything out in the open in the beginning, they could make it and won’t have to fall into the traps of dating that other couples succumb to. John C. Reilly confesses he is a bad cop and lost his gun earlier in the night and they kiss, she never really says what her thing was even though we as an audience know. They leave and he’s driving her home when it starts to rain frogs.

The literal best part. There were a few instances of surrealism that linked all our storylines together and interrupted the breakneck pace the movie seemed hellbent on keeping-at one point every character sings the same song Aimee Mann song (Wise Up), and at this point, it rains frogs. But not a gentle rain, the frogs are coming down from the sky at a college baseball pitch level. They break glass, they knock people down, it’s bloody and green and weird, like a gritty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remake.

I will interrupt the plot recount to say, I loved the frogs. The frogs completely made the movie for me. Had there not been the frogs, nothing would have been worth it and I would not have liked the movie. They are fantastic. There’s obviously a lot of biblical imagery in a storm of raining frogs, but also a clear element of absurdism. Remember that I said the movie was about trauma? Well, this was the trauma. This felt like a symbolic representation of what a traumatic event/episode feels like. It’s unpredictable, violent, makes no sense, interrupts, changes everything and you have no control over it. I have been reading about trauma because we’re all going through a collective trauma together because of this pandemic and one of the key factors of a traumatic incident is that you’re unable to make sense of it while it’s happening. Yes. This shifted everything into focus for me about the movie. Especially because we see Stanley (the younger quiz kid-I will explain him in a minute) sitting in a library looking out the window at the frogs smiling a little saying, “This is happening. This is something that happens.”

Stanley is a genius little kid, he’s in the live tapings of the quiz show Claudia’s dad hosts. HIS dad is a shitty dad, not quite physically abusive (that we see), but emotionally and verbally so. He’s always pulling, pushing, criticizing, yelling. He is loud and terrible. Stanley just reads tote bags full of books and goes to this show and gets yelled at by his dad. A sad existence. His character’s emotional apex is that on the quiz show he needs to go to the bathroom but no one (especially not a young Felicity Huffman!!!) lets him take a break. So eventually he pees himself on set and then the final portion of the show where one kid is supposed to stand to compete he doesn’t want to do. This results in delaying the show and he gives a forced speech about how he is treated and smart kids in general. Afterwards running out of the studio, he goes to the library and breaks in, ultimately experiencing the storm alone (symbolism!!). But HERE to me, when he announces, “This is happening, this is something that happens,” this indicates that you need to acknowledge trauma as a possibility and something that just happens so you don’t internalize or blame yourself for it. Claudia and Stanley are both people who experienced abuse as children but she has a framed print in her house that was cut to moments before this with the text, “But it definitely happened.” I think this is indicating that she needed to go through years of pain and hurt before she could acknowledge this truth which Stanley is able to see now as a child. Also he weathers the storm alone but Claudia’s mom comes DURING the storm and they weather it together (symbolism!!).

I’m sorry this review is so long! There’s a lot to cover and discuss! I put off writing it because I was intimidated by how much work it would mentally be, but also because I was worried I wouldn’t do a good job. (This is where I would write “But nevertheless she persisted, but now we legally have to write, “But nevertheless Elizabeth Warren supported Joe Biden”) Anyway, we’re doing good, there’s not that many characters left to cover, socialism will prevail.

I mentioned cop John C. Reilly earlier in Claudia’s part before we got interrupted by the frogs so why not do him next. This character, Officer Jim Kurring, aged the worst. Clearly at the time they were trying to depict him as a lovable but incompetent buffoon who we’re routing for- but because there’s more consciousness around structural racism and the role the police play in it, the opening scene of him forcefully entering a black woman’s home and harassing her as he handcuffs her to a couch don’t really endow him with the trust I’m sure it was supposed to. He follows his “gut” (which is to think a black person committed a crime and was lying) and he was “right” but the breech of civil rights is so flagrant the whole scene just feels like an indication of racism in our world rather than some indicator of morality in the movie world.  Lol, also hitting on Claudia as he does a wellness check is also not the best.

Kurring sorts of trips his way through the movie. He doesn’t have much respect on the force and loses his gun, but his “hunches” seem to be right (supposed to be anyway) and he really connects with Claudia. After everything, he goes over to her house and there is a scene where he’s sitting on her bed and we can hear his voice but not see his face and for a few seconds you can’t tell if it’s him or her dad and I thought this was a brilliant tool to communicate how her relationship with her abuser affects all her relationships regarding giving and receiving love. Everything is connected!

I think the last person is Quiz Kid Donnie Smith played by William H. Macy. I left him for last because he was my least favorite. For some reason he made me uncomfortable and all his scenes lacked a grounding in connection to the rest of the world for me. He won the TV quiz show when he was younger and now he’s a local celebrity but he has to work at a furniture store because his parents stole his winnings (100,000 dollars) and he’s just a general mess it seems like. He crashes his car through the glass front of the furniture store and is quickly fired (by a young Alfred Molina!!!). He goes back to rob the furniture store because he needs money for adult braces, something he doesn’t need but wants to get to impress (or connect with??) a bartender named Brad who, might not even be gay.

Donnie steals money from his boss’ safe and breaks the key in the door on the way out which is crucial later, when he regrets this choice and turns around after he gets about a mile away to put the money back in the safe. He obviously cannot enter because the broken off part of the key is still stuck in the door and he is in the middle of trying to climb a telephone pole and get in through the roof when the frogs come. They knock him off the pole and he falls face first into the asphalt, breaking his nose and quite a few teeth, now ensuring he actually does need the braces. This character was somehow the saddest to me, he’s so lonely and out of touch with how to even begin to form connections and love. He frequents the bar where Brad works but never talks to him, sitting at a booth across from the bar and ordering only soda. This night (huge detail-all of this, everything that happens, takes place in a single day) something is different. He gets tequila with the soda, and then a little drunk as he sits next to an old gay at the bar (Henry Gibson) who antagonizes him. Between this, the alcohol, and the televised quiz show finale on a TV in the background, Donnie gets worked up and confesses his love for Brad, and yells about loneliness and life overall.

In general it felt difficult for me to place him. His trauma seems to come from not understanding his role in society and being deceived/robbed by his parents. You kind of imagine that they were like Stanley’s dad-didn’t care about Donnie just cared about the money and once they got it they left, leaving him with nothing. There’s an amazing line that I feel like is the articulation of his entire character where Donnie says, “I’m sick and I’m in love” and Henry Gibson says, “You seem the sort of person who confuses the two” and Donnie responds, “That’s right. That’s the first time you’ve been right. I confuse the two and I don’t care.” Which is so powerful within the context of love and abuse, then he tells Brad how he feels and leaves. I forget what happens to him in the end, I’m not sure we get a final check in. But writing about this now I feel like I understand him more and have more empathy for him.

I think that’s everyone? There’s a lot of stuff I could fill in little details about, like how the missing gun falls back down in front of John C. Reilly and Donnie as they’re talking in the parking lot, or how there have been these weather reports throughout the film that predict conditions (these felt to me like a reminder that you cannot plan for or predict trauma no matter how much you try to anticipate, it is only something you can react to in a moment and you shouldn’t judge yourself for how you react because there’s no way to be composed in a moment of unexpected violence) because we’ve been getting hourly updates on the weather and nowhere did any of that say frogs.

One more really important thing I need to touch on is a conversation between the game show host (played by Philip Baker Hall if that means anything to you) and his wife (Melinda Dillon!). He has cancer. He’s been given two months to live and he just collapsed at the show which seems to have spurred a coming to God moment. He tells his wife that he’s had affairs over the years but says he thought she knew so he hoped this confession wasn’t entirely self-serving, but wanted to say how much he regrets it and loves her. And SHE (in a masterful, gorgeous monologue) asks him why Claudia doesn’t talk to him anymore. And at first he is sort of fumbling around, “What do you mean? We don’t know, we both don’t know” and she says, “Say it Jimmy” while nodding. And he says, “I think she thinks that I may have molested her.” Which, is such an amazing way to write this character- completely absolving themselves of any guilt while still confessing, because he’s clearly not ready to see himself as someone who did that and is in deep deep denial. Her reaction is one of the best acted things I’ve ever seen! It’s flawless. A must see. Then she goes to be with Claudia and she gets to her apartment right as the frogs begin coming down and they huddle together on the floor, it is a particularly beautiful moment.

I felt like Jimmy and Earl (the other old dying abusive dad) were examples of what happens when someone recognizes what they did and when someone doesn’t, and then when you get to confront them and when you don’t. Really important and interesting parallels.

Certain movies the more I think about them, the more I get annoyed or realize I didn’t like them but this one, the more I think about it the more I’m impressed and realize how much I appreciated all that it did! It’s so much!! This movie is 3 hours and 8 minutes. Do you understand how much film that means they shot? Directing a film and writing a novel are two things where I don’t understand how one person’s brain can have a vision that big. I understand storyboarding/mapping helps and you have a lot of people helping you, and you start with smaller projects and work your way up so it’s a gradual process of understanding but STILL. It’s so impressive. I do love Paul Thomas Anderson. I know that makes me a pretentious film twitter bro but sometimes good stuff is just good.

The end is Julianne Moore waking up in a hospital (she tries to kill herself in her car two different ways and gets found by this little kid who rapped to try to get John C. Reilly to solve a murder but he’s so racist he can’t see that). My brain has concluded that Frank (who goes to the hospital to be with Linda because they call the house where Earl has just died) and Linda fall in love and heal each other. I don’t know if there’s any analysis out there (this movie came out 21 years ago) that would support this but it is what I believe.

10 out of 10 dead dogs**, would masturbate again.

*I realized after I wrote that description that the lawyer is the one who explains the liquid morphine to her but I had created such a lovely little scene for myself I kept it! But factually, it is wrong and for that, I apologize.

**In a particularly chaotic scene I think when the frogs begin falling, PSH is at home with Earl who is calling out in pain and in his rush to try to get him his pills, PSH spills two bottles of cancer medicine on the ground. Linda and Earl seem to have an endless supply of dogs in their home, (like 5-6) and the dogs immediately take this as an opportunity to try to eat the drugs. He gets most of it but in his rush to get the medicine to Earl, one dog eats all the remaining pills and dies. He is brought on in a body bag on a stretcher right after Earl’s stretcher when he gets taken away by the ambulance. Now we have two instances of PSH unknowingly causing harm. There’s something there I just don’t have the energy to fully unpack it.

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Elevator to the Gallows

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!!!! Okay, I’m on a Turner Classic Movies kick (living with my dad right now), what are we doing to protect them? They are an institution and I worry in like 10 years twenty-four year olds are going to let them die. This is a French movie starring Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet, directed by Louis Malle. It came out in 1958 but wasn’t released in America until later, so many American film critics didn’t include it in their write ups of early French New Wave. History is fallible because it is written by humans! Please remember that when you read positive depictions of colonialism/imperialism!!

This is an amazing film. It was scored by Miles Davis before he was super famous!!!! The TCM intro was talking about how saxophone is usually identified as the classic film noir sound but that after this movie, “Miles Davis’ trumpet sounds like the loneliest, saddest sound in the world.” And it was!

The plot of this movie is a little convoluted but the main guy, Julien Tavernier, works at a company (let’s start there). The first scene is him murdering his boss because he’s also having an affair with his wife who he is planning to run away with. It’s a great murder, Julien rappels UP the building a single story, kills his boss at his desk with his own gun he plants to mime suicide, then holds the mechanism on the door with a switchblade so it looks like it was locked from the inside. But when coming back down to his office, the phone is ringing and he’s rushing so he’s not discovered missing, and he forgets his grappling hook. Don’t you just hate when you forget your grappling hook?

After Julien leaves he glances up and sees the hook dangling from the side of the building. Not great! So he leaves the keys in the car with it running (why??) and goes back. Someone immediately steals his car, which makes perfect sense.  It’s a flower shop girl and her boyfriend who has a leather jacket, so we know he’s bad news. They go joy riding on the highway-literally riding up, then turning around and riding back down the stretch of highway-until they have a road race (early Fast & the Furious vibes) with some Germans in a Mercedes. This for some reason transitions to them all going and staying at the same motel. Flower girl checks in using Julien’s name while her leather boyfriend waits in the car (he’s got priors). She knows his name because he buys the married woman he’s having an affair with a lot of flowers (even the bad guys are good in this movie!! Women will love you through a murder if you buy them flowers often enough!!).

They all drink together (except the leather jacket boyfriend who doesn’t like champagne for some reason?) and take pictures on a miniature camera and later and eventually get into a mini fight because the German guy calls him out on lying. (He said his name was Julien but she keeps calling him Louis, he pretends he was in the army but knows nothing about where he was stationed, etc.). They part ways. Then the guy and girl get up to leave in the middle of the night because apparently you pay on check out, and they go to steal the Mercedes so they can’t be traced I guess for stealing the other car? It made sense at the time. But the German guy hears them and comes out with a gun, but the boyfriend has a gun because it was in Julien’s car and he shoots both of the Germans like 10 times. He shoots them so many times!! Decidedly too many times. They leave on foot I think.

Did you forget about the real Julien? Well, fret not-he got the grappling hook but then on the way back down someone was closing the building, didn’t realize anyone was still there and SHUT OFF THE ELEVATOR which I guess people used to do?? Like I think shut off the power to the elevator so he is trapped in there. And it’s Saturday. A FULL nightmare. He doesn’t loose his cool though, just starts tinkering with screws and taking them out with his pocketknife.

MEANWHILE something ELSE that’s going on is that Mrs. Carala, whose husband has been murdered and she has no idea, was supposed to meet Julien but he never showed AND she saw his car go by and couldn’t see the driver but saw the flower girl in the passenger seat. This was one of the best moments of the movie-instead of doubting herself or feeling insecure, her thought process is, “He’s with the flower girl? That’s so shabby” (SHABBY!!!!!) and then immediately decides, “He won’t let himself feel true happiness.” Can you imagine thinking someone abandoned you for another person and instead of getting jealous feeling pity for them because they’ll ‘never let themselves experience true happiness???’ That level of confidence and trust in yourself is something we should all aspire to.

But she doesn’t give up on him, she walks the streets of Paris looking for him, going to his haunts and places she’s been with him to see if she can find him. These are some of the most gorgeous shots in the movie, she’s walking along the streets, apparently the director put the camera in a baby stroller and only used the ambient lighting from shops and bars and it’s this dreamy dysphoria where she’s wandering around hopelessly searching. One scene she walks unbothered through moving traffic and none of the cars hit her but they don’t slow down either. It’s insane to see. Also, please remember, while this is going on the background is MILES DAVIS and a band just going nuts. It’s such a frenetic energy.

So, the cops pin the wrong murder on Julien which is funny because he did kill someone just not two German tourists at a motel, so they are looking for him but Mrs. Carala is putting all the pieces together and she shakes down the older flower lady for the flower girl’s home address, goes there, finds the two of them-forgot to mention-they have decided they’re going to get caught despite there being no physical evidence of either of them, so they decide to kill themselves. They take some sleeping pills and Romeo and Juliet it on the bed. But wake up like 2 hours later because they’re both 24 and they took like 2 pills. But then they remember the camera that has photos of them, he goes to get it but the cops are already there and they catch him.

Julien gets caught at a café (how French) because he got out of the elevator somehow (people kept coming in the building?? Then the cops came to check out his office and found the OTHER murdered guy, the boss/husband) and needed a croissant but his picture was in the paper and the waitress called the police. The lesson here is of course, never eat a croissant in public, no good can come of it. So the cops have him and they figure out he didn’t do the murder they thought, but he did do this now second murder. There’s also so much drama when he’s in the elevator by the way, because he dismantles the door but then can’t reach the floor in either direction, then he discovers a cloth covering in the bottom of the elevator and pulls it to reveal a removable grate, then he’s dangling below the elevator when someone turns it on and gets in the other side and it’s MOVING and you think he’s going to be crushed- there’s STRESS.

Mrs. Carala has followed the leather jacket boyfriend because she’s trying to clear HER dangerous boyfriend but the cops are there and they apprehend them both. They show her the developed photos which include evidence of the affair and tell her he’s going to be in jail for ten years. She immediately processes this and decides to wait for him. Once the picture becomes clear we realize we have never seen her smile once, nor have they been in a scene together. Fin.

I loved this movie so much, it has so much tension but was so clever and fast-paced and suspenseful. The first scene is masterful and so high stakes immediately and never lets up. It feels like there’s always like 3 balls juggling in the air and you’re trying to piece them all together. Well-acted too, everyone held their own in scenes and felt like they delivered clear motivation without needing dialogue to spell everything out.

Everyone is hot, I’m not sure if that says something about me or just that it’s true all French people are hot. Jeanne Moreau looks so much like Jemima Kirke I looked them up to see if they’re related but got nothing. She manages to convey so much emotion just on her face, she doesn’t say that much and we can always see what she’s thinking. I have to say though it made me never want to have an affair, they just seem so stressful. And I know you don’t want to hurt anyone either but ugh. Before people had cell phones you just had to accept the unknown more and I think that’s a lost art. People are too used to thinking they know things. I liked that love seemed like this unbearable burden that life wasn’t worth living without. Everyone was so dramatic! Everything was life and death, at the drop of a hat. Like, “Oh it’s Tuesday? Time to die for someone I love.” I could never be French.

The movie was gorgeous, not only is the lighting incredible but there are so many beautiful sets and pieces, down to the smallest details. In Julien’s office he has this kind of clock that’s just two stacked numbers on what looks like flippable paper that changes itself, in a circular glass/woo encasement. I’ve never seen a clock like it? Or maybe it was a calendar? It was very cool. And all the old cars with the gull-wing doors and fins, it’s so pretty.

An amazing movie with an amazing score, highly highly recommend. 5/5 miniature cameras, would masturbate again.

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Sex Education

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What a healing, perfect, beautiful show. I watched both seasons maybe in two days and I’m sad it’s over. This show is unique in its portrayals of high school relationships and the amount of solid information in it! They cover douching, harassment, vaginismus, so much about active consent and boundaries, dirty talk, covering someone’s face during sex, sex with the lights on, pansexuality, asexuality, etc etc etc. I saw myself represented multiple times about personal things I haven’t seen virtually anywhere else.

The central connection is Otis Milburn (played by Asa Butterfield-do we remember Hugo??) his mom is a sex and relationship therapist so he starts giving sex advice at school for money and Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) who sets up all the appointments and takes the money. Maeve is super smart and feminist (they are a LITTLE heavy handed with this at times-like okay she liked Jane Austen when she was 12, we get it) and her family struggles with addiction and abandoned her so she’s kind of on her own. It’s her idea to start giving therapy/advice. They both like each other but it happens kind of at different times and throughout the two seasons they each date other people.

Maeve dates Jackson Marchetti (Kedar Williams-Stirling) a popular swimmer who has lesbian moms and anxiety. They have such a tender connection and Maeve is really there for him but ultimately doesn’t love him and this comes out in a somewhat painful way and they break up. Otis dates Ola (LOVE this name-played by actress Patricia Allison), the daughter of the handyman Otis’ mom Jean (a very hot Gillian Anderson) has a thing for and dates but then fucks up. (There’s too much ground to cover with reviews of TV shows!!) His line to her for why they can’t get together after she kisses her ex-husband is, “You’re not ready for the kind of vulnerability I’m looking for.” DEVASTATING. Ola is cool and understanding to a degree but quickly starts to catch on/have suspicions that Otis is more into Maeve than he lets on. She tells him he can’t see Maeve anymore, then dumps him because she realizes it isn’t right. Otis has a very public and harmful speech to/about both these girls at a party at his house where he is very drunk, and is a dick to both of them. I liked that the show let him be unlikable at times. This moment is a huge one, and he’s also a dick to Ola’s dad. It’s important to see that “good guys” aren’t never bad, everyone makes mistakes-it’s how you deal with them that defines your character.

Otis’ dad left when he was little. He’s also a therapist and he and Otis’ mom Jean wrote a book together but broke up because he cheated on her with a patient. He is an asshole and has a new book called, “Is Masculinity in Crisis?” (Yes but not the way you think!). He seems to be capable of moments of clarity and self-awareness and acknowledges that his unhappiness is because of his own wrong-doings. His current wife is also leaving him.

Otis’ best friend is Eric Effiong (Ncuti Gatwa), is one of my absolute favorite characters in recent memory, he’s Nigerian and religious and gay and his favorite musical is Hedwig and the Angry Inch and he plays the french horn. He is such a complex character and is played gorgeously by Ncuti Gatwa. Their friendship is beautiful and has so much love and support and vulnerability and trust, it makes me so happy to see. I like the way they navigate conflict together. Eric also has the most amazing colorful outfits and makeup, feels like joy personified.

Eric has two main love interests, Rahim (played by Sami Outalbali) and Adam (played by Connor Swindells). Rahim is a French transfer student everyone is obsessed with. He has a worn leather jacket and a hot bowl cut. He is a lovely first boyfriend for Eric but ultimately doesn’t “make him sparkle” as Eric’s mum points out. (It’s a British show I have to say mum). Adam is the headmaster’s son. The first scene in the first episode is him and a girl we meet later, Aimee (played by Aimee Lou Wood), having sex and he fakes an orgasm. He’s going through a lot, he’s  bully but his dad is also a bully, he’s figuring out he’s gay/bi, he goes to military school for a minute, he has a huge dick and no friends (unrelated).

There are so many other characters we meet through all the connections at the school, I love how intertwined everyone is, but it always comes back to Otis and Maeve. They really leave us on a cliffhanger because they just have never managed to get their timing right but in the last episode Otis had had a big talk with his dad, figured out he wanted to be with her, told her he loved her in a voicemail only to have her neighbor delete it!!!!!

Maeve’s neighbor at the trailer park where she lives is clearly in love with her and intentionally misleads Otis so they don’t meet up when he comes to confess his love for Maeve. He (the neighbor, Isaac) is also abandoned by his parents who have addiction issues, he currently lives with his brother and uses a wheelchair.

I loved the wardrobe for the show, so many people look simply incredible. They also know how to properly film & light black people’s skin which is too rare. The end of year play which is a space age musical Romeo and Juliet is written and directed by Lily Iglehart (Tanya Reynolds), a girl very focused on losing her virginity and drawing the tentacle porn she writes. She tries to have sex with Otis but he has a panic attack and she discovers she has Vaginismus (we learn so much watching this show!!! Everyone should watch it. It feels like being held emotionally) and later that she’s into women and she and Ola start dating.

Ah! I almost forgot one of my favorite friendship pairings, Jackson and Viv Odesanya (Chinenye Ezeudu), she’s super smart and on the Quiz Bowl team. She helps Jackson audition for the play and tutors him while he helps her flirt with someone on the Quiz Bowl team who’s really into Rubik’s Cubes. Viv and Jackson become genuine friends and she saves him from himself by telling his mums that he didn’t ‘accidentally’ break his hand, he did it on purpose so he wouldn’t have to swim anymore. Ugh, all of it is so good!

I’m not sure what else to say. Having a parent that’s a therapist (let alone two!) seems like a very specific hell that I am eternally grateful to have never experienced. People who feel they have a monopoly on mental health are dangerous. Jean (Otis’ mom) is so frustrating to me. She’s so oblivious to her own failings and watching her try to “therapize” Otis while he’s really upset, or telling him to calm down after she does something objectively violating was stressful. She also calls Otis “darling” every two seconds and that was annoying to me but I understand. She wears a lot of great jumpsuits and inexplicably has a mullet in Season 2. Ultimately she is a very sympathetic character who loves her son and is doing her best, but there’s a lot of cringe along the way. One of my favorite moments was when she and Adam’s mom Maureen (Samantha Spiro) get drunk and go dancing together. We love drunk moms that dance!!!

Overall I loved this show so much and I’m sad it’s over and it said it was renewed for a Season 3 but who in the HELL knows when that could be? I just need to see Otis and Maeve kiss one time!!! I think the only thing I would change is that Maeve gets kicked out of school because she covers for her brother who was selling drugs at the school dance (either give them away for free or don’t bring them!!) and in a bid to prove how serious she is, dyes her hair from the blonde/pink cascade it’s been to a deep brown and I get used to it but I greatly prefer the pink!! It was the perfect ombré and you never get to see that outside of Instagram posts!!

The teachers are really funny, there’s this one guy (Colin Hendricks played by Jim Howick) who does swing band and Chemistry and the play?? He’s all over the place. But one episode focuses on his and another teacher’s (Emily Sands played by Rakhee Thakrar) sex life where it’s hard for him to dirty talk (a great problem to dissect!!) which is great. There’s one student he hates who he is really rude to despite being nice to everyone else and it sounds bad but it’s just really funny I promise. The teacher he’s hooking up with I also love, she’s an English teacher who’s also the coach for Quiz Bowl. She takes an interest in Maeve and fights for her!

There’s so many cool shots, they find interesting places to film, and build gorgeous ones as well (the as well is a British thing too, just like clear lemonade!). There is this abandoned bathroom outside that’s overgrown but kids hang out in there so it looks like this weird porcelain jungle that they do therapy confessionals in sometimes.

This show feels like the sweeter and more emotionally mature cousin of Euphoria. Euphoria is like doing molly and mushrooms at a school dance then getting in a fistfight with someone wearing mesh and this one is like spiking the punch then sitting in a circle and listening to everyone’s vulnerabilities and affirming them in a jewel tone jumper. Does that make sense?

Most of the characters have multiple sides so if they’re an asshole to one person, we see the backstory of why later, except for the headmaster-he seems pretty awful through and through. He’s the only character I can think of who doesn’t get a redemption arc of some kind and is pretty generally terrible to everyone without respite. His wife ends up leaving him (and having her own sexual awakening which is cool as hell), his son doesn’t trust him, he starts sleeping at the school, then he has a meltdown because the play has too many dicks and gets forced to take a leave of absence from his position. I hope he’s careening towards some pretty serious personal growth otherwise it would just feel so sad. I feel bad for this actor (Alistair Petrie) he just looks evil.

I loved Ruby Matthews (played by Mimi Keene). She is a perfect example of having a stereotype: a pretty, mean girl, but then introducing details over time to make her a full and complete character. It starts with a little vagina photo blackmail by one of Ruby’s best friends, Olivia (Simone Ashley who is STUNNING) to teach her that it’s hurtful to bully people and I love that she doesn’t really change after that. Sometimes in TV there’s this big ‘lesson’ learned, then the character is almost a completely different person the next day, which is not how the world works. Ruby’s best friend texted a picture of her vagina to the whole school because she wanted her to feel a little empathy and understanding for what she puts people through and afterwards Ruby is still a bitch! I love that, it’s realistic. No one fully changes overnight. It’s all slow & gradual. Also, we learn that her dad has MS and I love how they did that- they didn’t have Otis oversee a tender moment where she’s changing him or something, she says it when he’s not supposed to hear it and we learn that but never see her change. Again, great. This is how it works in real life, you’ll be talking shit about someone and someone else drops a, traumatizing and humanizing detail about them and then you have to incorporate that into your world view without anything actually changing at all.

Jakob Nyman (Mikael Persbrandt) is Ola’s dad who is into Jean but she wasn’t ready but guess what she’s pregnant! He doesn’t know yet. He’s a steadfast guy with a dead wife (I’m sorry-this feels like the one cliche/lazy writing thing they put in here, I know people are allowed to have dead wives but often it’s used to make a man seem like a saint really quickly) just raising two teenage daughters on his own. Something I just realized is that they keep saying there’s two of them but we’ve only met Ola, so in the next season I bet we’ll meet her sister and there will be some fun there.

Overall I just love the world, it feels funny and good. It’s so well made and I got so invested. I highly recommend. 5 out of 5 con-doms (pronounced the British way). Would masturbate again!!

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Sleeping With Other People

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This movie was cute. I liked that it normalized casual drug use, and this approach to relationships is ideal to me. Sex once then guarded friendship building emotional intimacy over a period of years until eventually you realize you’re in love with each other? Sign me up please. Very low possibility of rejection.

Before beginning the review it needs to be acknowledged that the ENTIRE time I was watching this movie I was MARVELING at how male comedians only need to be aggressively normal looking to be considered handsome??? Jason Sudeikis seems very sweet and he is funny, but he is married to Olivia Wilde. And I’m glad they seem happy together, but Colin Jost is married to Scarlett Johansson. ???? In what world?? Bill Hader (who I’m actually obsessed with and happy for) and Rachel Bilson? ? It’s insane that I’m pointing this out because I actually don’t believe attraction is quantifiable or that different people have objective levels, I hate that, BUT we do live in a society. The reverse of this would never happen and it’s frustrating. Why am I being conditioned to pine after Jason Sudeikis level men when according to this he would never date me anyway because now he’s holding out for Alison Brie? Frustrating.

So Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie meet in college, they lose their virginities to each other on a couch on a roof-Alison Brie plays Lainey (DO NOT call her Elaine) who was obsessed with this other guy Matthew Sobvechik (Adam Scott) and Jason plays Jake, who claimed her before she was thrown out by campus security for being in his dorm, “causing a scene.” Twelve years later, Jake and Lainey run into each other at the same sex addicts meeting (cute) and agree to be friends, because they acknowledged they both always fuck the sex part of relationships up. Then they are close friends for years and have sexual tension and emotional intimacy but never hook up. Lainey gets into medical school in Michigan (this takes place in New York) and she decides to move. Jake helps her, after the both confess they’re in love and don’t kiss, she drives away in a U-Haul.

Jake starts dating his boss (Amanda Peet) and has a great relationship with her and her son. Which starts, by the way, with him saying “Lainey” the first time they have sex, so maybe the writing’s on the wall with that one. (That has happened to me one time and it was such a terrible feeling). But everyone is living their lives, and one day Amanda Peet and Jake are out eating brunch at a café and he spots Sobvechik, and Jake goes over and just DECKS him. Sucker punches him in the café. Then they are brawling! Matthew’s pregnant wife’s water breaks and he maybe isn’t able to take her to the hospital because he’s being detained by the police. This spurs Jake to call Lainey from jail and tell her he loves her and ask her to move back. She is thrilled! No mention whatsoever about how much of a commitment medical school is, and how it would complicate her life to leave it, she’s on the next flight!

They immediately decide to get married and the last scene is them kissing for the ‘first’ time and deciding to have sex for the (technically second but first in like 10 years) time before their wedding. Jason Mantzoukas is Jake’s best friend Xander (who did these names?) and he and his wife Naomi played by Andrea Savage (so funny and hot) are joking around outside the courthouse while the credits roll. They had such an effortless funny chemistry, they were a highlight of the movie for sure.

There are some really great moments overall, Lainey and Jake take molly and go to a child’s birthday party and dance/drink pool water, he teaches her how to masturbate by fingering a juice bottle, she has a panic attack in Central Park when Matthew calls her out of the blue for the first time- I like that they made her embarrassing at times. And I like that Jake didn’t care. In one of the first scenes he’s chasing after someone he cheated on and he really comes off like an asshole but they do a good job explaining and rounding out his reasons for why that make him understandable and not sociopathic.

There is something Natasha Lyonne (there really are a lot of people in this movie) says in here that’s a rom com fever echo from When Harry Met Sally, ‘men and women can’t be friends, you know that.’ I HATE that, and it’s not true! You might think this movie agrees with that statement because they get together in the end, so were they really friends, doesn’t this prove that, and NO it doesn’t. Because if he was holding out for a romantic hope, hearing about all the guys she dated and helping her with it, and walking her through her panic attacks about another guy wouldn’t have made any sense, he would have quit after 10 years. And there’s a certain type of internet poison logic that thinks this is a gross strategy by “pathetic” men but ACTUALLY MAYBE women trust people who support them without agenda you sexist freak and feelings change over time and it isn’t the burden of women to validate men with love just because they decide they want it. Treating friendship with women as a long onramp to a relationship is missing the point and a disservice to everyone involved.

I am going through things right now, but I liked that he was fine with being her friend, then being in love with her and didn’t make any demands from her based on it. Just allowed it to be. The hottest thing alive is people who know how to have their feelings. I don’t have much more to say, I was engaged the whole time it was interesting at least, the writing felt authentic and funny enough-there were some cringe-y moments but overall pretty good. It reminded me of the movie Drinking Buddies which came to a different conclusion but similarly explores male/female friendships that deal with intimacy and attraction.

Omg how could I forget the breakup scene in the beginning where Lainey is telling her boyfriend Sam she cheated on him 16 times!! He flips out in the restaurant, and that character was…The O.C.’s own, Adam Brody!!

One of the best and most interesting lines in the movie comes after a particularly emotionally intense evening for them both, Lainey has met Sobvechik’s wife Emma for the first time and she’s pregnant, and Jake had sex with his boss and called her Lainey. Once he gets home she is on his stairs and he brings her in and lovingly takes her shoes off and lays down on the bed with her. They admit they love each other and she’s starting to ask what they will do or what will change and he simply says, “I love you for free,” which she repeats and closes her eyes (you REALLY felt like they were going to kiss) and goes to sleep. This is gorgeous writing, so simply and succinctly expressing such a deep and complicated type of feeling. It’s so perfect it feels like a cliché even though you’ve never heard it before. It just seems like something that’s been everywhere because it articulates something so universal.

I just looked it up and the director is Leslye Headland who did Bachelorette and Russian Doll which is interesting because I LOVE both of those projects, this one didn’t quite feel like it had the teeth of the other two. It wasn’t as funny or dark in my opinion, I wonder what was different. I’ve been watching Community, so this was a different Alison Brie than I’m used to. Still hot though!

3.5 out of 5 drug-fueled children’s birthday parties, would masturbate again.

 

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Fish Tank

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Yesterday was my 31st birthday, and that was a weird day. We’re in quarantine, and I can’t really see anyone or do anything-it ended up being okay, and one huge reason is because my ex-boyfriend (the good one) recommended this movie to me. I had just told him how much I loved American Honey (we communicate in movies) and he said this was by the same director, Andrea Arnold, and good. I looked it up and found it on YouTube?? A situation that is unprecedented in the history of this blog! I also discovered it stars Michael Fassbender, someone I was not prepared to be sexually attracted to because he looks so…German? But who is sexually undeniable nonetheless.

This movie is about a fifteen year old girl (Mia EXPERTLY played by Katie Jarvis) growing up in England. The movie opens with her head-butting a former friend (well, friend of a former friend) and then just kind of roaming around. She finds an emaciated white horse that she tries to liberate and in the process almost gets trapped herself. Once home, most of the familial exchanges with her mom (Joanne played by Kierston Wareing) and sister (Tyler played by Rebecca Griffiths) are screaming the word cunt back and forth. Most of her time is spent wandering around alone OR practicing breakdance routines in a barren room in their flat. THEN her mom gets a new boyfriend who is VERY hot (Conor played by Michael Fassbender) and sort of hits on her after he walks in on Mia dancing to a Ja Rule and Ashanti music video. The actual quote is, “You dance like a black” which…didn’t feel great!

There’s absolutely a sexual tension between them which, as a viewer personally I feel great about, and as someone who is aware of how culturally sanctioned pedophilia is I hated, but it was directed by a woman so I felt safe! Does this need to be explained more? Let me know! Basically, putting girls under the male gaze and sexualizing them when they are barely pubescent feels disgusting, but women exploring their own sexuality feels fine?? Also art can be fantasy, but when reality is so fucked up it’s important to distinguish what you’re perpetuating and why. If you’re exploring this because you have something to say about it or it’s interesting to you, great, if you’re simply regurgitating this unexamined because you were conditioned to, not great!

Conor is a breath of fresh air for the girls, he includes them in stuff with their mom-something she has previously explicitly avoided. They all go on a drive to a lake in the country side and he shows them he can catch a fish with his bare hands. There seems to be some symbolism in this scene because Conor wades into the water and Mia follows him (even though she can’t swim) and after he catches the fish he gets out, leaving her to figure it out by herself and she gets a huge cut on her ankle. Symbolism *and* foreshadowing!

Soon after this, Conor moves in with them because of some vague ‘problems at home,’ (which we are led to believe is his mother) and we get MORE moments of hidden inscrutable intimacy between them. Conor carries Mia to bed and takes her pants off and tucks her in, he encourages her to audition for a dance thing by lending her his camera, he gives her and her friend money to get drunk, you know, father stuff! This all comes to a head when Joanne has gone to bed and Mia and Conor are watching TV alone in the living room really late. He asks her to show him her dance routine for the audition. After a little persistence, she does. It’s to his favorite song thew Bobby Womack version of California Dreamin’, and as she’s dancing the sun comes up.

This proves to be too much and they have sex on the couch. Do we support it legally? No. Is it very hot in the movie, a controlled artistic endeavor?? It is. Then he does the usual, “We have to keep this a secret” spiel. Look, if you have sex with your girlfriend’s daughter, she knows it has to be a secret. She’s not dumb. She’s not a teenage boy!!!! (If you’re into this, there is a movie called A Teacher which is a slightly parallel dynamic, where a high school English teacher starts a physical relationship with one of her male students and he is, an idiot). Then the next morning Mia’s mom is SOBBING because Conor left!! Mia travels all the way to Tilbury, a place that sounds like biscuits but is actually a town, to find him. Once there, he seems really flustered and drives her to the station, kisses her, and says he’ll talk to her tomorrow which is what he said before evacuating their apartment. Mia is waiting but once the train comes she decides this isn’t enough closure and she goes back.

No one is home so she breaks in and discovers Conor is MARRIED and a DAD. His daughter Keira (Sydney Mary Nash) is twirling around on the video camera he lent her to film her audition! It’s, too much for Mia. But not enough to leave the house, she stays in there a really long time- I would be too nervous for breaking and entering- then manages to slip out the back once she hears a car pull into the driveway. But once outside, Keira keeps scooting by on a little razor scooter and Mia knows her name from the video so she does the next logical thing, KIDNAPS her. I had to pause the movie at this point because it was so stressful to me. Also, this movie is 2h3min. She gets kidnapped with like, TEN MINUTES LEFT. Do you know how stressful it is to be INTRODUCED to a kidnapping when you are aware there’s only 10 minutes to resolve it??? Whew.

Mia just seems to be marching her into nowhere and Keira eventually runs away and Mia chases her and this culminates in a horrifically stressful apex where Mia THROWS HER into the lake or ocean or whatever this body of water is and we KNOW Mia can’t swim and Keira is drowning, but then she pulls her out with a branch and they hug. This seems to be enough adrenaline and Mia takes her home and starts to head back. But Conor is driving around in the darkness looking for her and chases her and hits her? This scene wasn’t very well lit so I couldn’t really see but he definitely hits or pushes her then leaves her there and goes back to his car, to go back to his family.

The next day Mia has her big audition and she goes and everyone else there is in high heels and bikinis, slowly gyrating and she walks out. Also the horse died. One of the strongest scenes was this moment, Mia learning about the horse directly following the audition. After realizing things aren’t going to happen with Conor, AND the dance opportunity being dashed, AND the horse, it’s too much. She just hangs her head and cries and you feel so acutely how everything she had to look forward to is gone.

The last scene of the movie is Mia packing and leaving to go with the brother of the mean horse people (they have been having little mini adventures together throughout the movie, including breaking into a car lot and stealing parts from cars that still have blood and hair on them from the accidents they were in). Mia says bye to her sister in their way- they both say I hate you, her sister calls her a bitch and they hug cry. In an emotionally perfect moment, Mia dances with/across from her mom as a goodbye. I can’t explain it you need to watch it. But for their characters, it is the deepest expression of love they could allow and you felt that and it was beautiful.

I loved this movie. Not JUST because fucking your mom’s boyfriend is an artistic choice I worship (I have loved it since I read Diary of a Teenage Girl when I was 13) but because Andrea Arnold (the director, a genius) knows how to show who people are with little to no dialogue, a beautifully rare and valuable movie skill. This movie and her other I’ve seen (American Honey) deal with GIRLS and their internal richness, a subject we could never get enough of. There are also almost absurdist elements, the white horse chained in the parking lot could be mundane depending how near to a countryside this took place but it certainly lended an air of mysticism and weird grandeur to the story.

I like that we have sympathy & empathy for every single character, I like that there are total maybe 10 people who speak in this movie. I like that Mia has that over-straightened hair of teenage girls and when she takes it out there are bumps from where it was up. Through googling, I just found out that Katie had no prior acting experience and was cast after an assistant saw her arguing with her boyfriend at a train station. Huge fan of that.

Overall it was such a complete world. I knew it inside and out and was still totally unsure of how everything was going to pan out. It’s hard to write about something that’s so singular, I felt this about American Honey too, it’s just it’s own thing and it evokes a feeling! I’m sure some might argue that trying to put that feeling into words is what makes some people good writers, but if I don’t have to I don’t want to!! Sometimes when you try to describe something the magic gets lost a little bit and I don’t want that to happen here.

A technical note-something that was weird was that in the fishing scene, it felt like some part was edited out, there was a rough cut in the middle. And IMDB says the movie is 2h3min but the runtime of the video is a little shorter than that. Anyway. It’s on Youtube here’s the link if you want to watch it.

5 out of 5 hard ciders!!!! Would (will) masturbate again.

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Onward

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This one took me a few viewings to finish, I guess I wasn’t in the mood for a dad quest? The opening set up the world as a place where there used to be magic but it was finicky and difficult so creatures abandoned it with the advent of technology which was much easier and more reliable. Without practice, much of the magic was lost. This is a really interesting premise and I haven’t seen a lot of the images it brought us, like unicorns working at the bank, and centaurs with beer bellies as middling cops. That was fun.

Our protagonists are two brothers, the younger one, (Ian Lightfoot voiced by Tom Holland) is very timid and shy, and the older one (Barley Lightfoot voiced by Chris Pratt) is very lost in his own world of fantasy. Their dad passed away a while ago and they have a hot mom named Laurel, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who now dates the aforementioned centaur cop. The day the movie begins it is the morning of Ian’s 16th birthday.

There’s an incredible tweet from @philorphilip that I need to include here because it’s relevant: “What if we gave every mom an absolute dumptruck ass” -pixar

A few things before we jump in. I don’t like Chris Pratt because he seems like a weird Christian Republican, Jurassic World & Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t really do anything for me, and Anna Faris has been very cryptic about their divorce but it sounds like he just wasn’t a supportive partner which is gross because they were together for the entirety of the time when she was the bigger star but then when he started to get more famous and she’s older suddenly it didn’t work out? I hate it here. Should that bear relevance on whether or not I like this animated movie about two elves? I think so, yes. Tom Holland we love, did you see his Lip Sync battle where he’s Gene Kelly then Rihanna?? The range! I didn’t enter into this knowing who any of the voice actor’s were but I can recognize Chris Pratt’s voice (ew, why) and he’s just annoying to me!!

Ok so, Ian’s birthday, he tries to invite some kids who are monsters (not like they’re mean, like one is a dragon) to his birthday party after school and they are nice and into it. I love the choice to make high schooler’s nice, a lot of movies make them recklessly cruel which is absolutely a reality, but I like when there’s nice ones in the mix because that also happens. This feels like it will be good for Ian but it just doesn’t work out. Once home, Ian’s mom sees he’s defeated and upset and reveals that his dad has a birthday gift he made her promise to save until both boys were sixteen. We love an old gift from a dead relative! The intrigue!!

Once mom Laurel gets the mysterious present out of the attic, we find out it’s a magic staff and spell to return their dad for a single day. Everyone is pumped! But, the spell doesn’t work 😦 Barley, who’s obsessed with magic, just doesn’t seem to have the touch so everyone gives up but later Ian tries and it starts happening! But then the stone breaks because it’s not powerful enough (I think?) and they end up with only the bottom half of their dad. Then the two brothers begin a magical quest to get the Phoenix gem to complete the spell, and learn to appreciate each other and grow as people (elves) along the way!

So first I will say, the choice to make a movie where someone is only pants is brave. (Did someone say Brave? Now THAT’S a Pixar movie!) Not having a chest or face or arms is an emotive challenge as a character, and something I certainly haven’t seen before. And I’m not saying there WILL be a porn parody where a torso-less corpse gets a blowjob in a field from a wood nymph and show he’s done cumming by spasming his leg like a dog, but if there isn’t it’s be a missed opportunity. (I’m sick!)

So there’s a lot of parts to the Quest, first we go to a Chili’s that used to be magic and we meet The Manticore (Octavia Spencer) who was once fearless and killed things with a sword but now reheats onion rings with her fire breath. She is adamant about not helping initially, but once the boys point out that she is a shadow of her former self she has a mental breakdown and burns her restaurant to the ground (fingers crossed for that insurance!!) and is more amenable to helping. The boys manage to get a kids menu that’s partially a map and take off. In this scene we also learn there is a curse on the Phoenix gem when Laurel (their mom) decides to try and find them and links up with The Manticore. This begins Laurel and The Manticore’s own mini-quest to get the Curse Slayer (the only sword that can end the gem’s curse). I loved the b-plot of two middle-aged women on a quest, why isn’t that it’s own movie? Would pay big bucks to see a wine mom kill a dragon or a bored exec realize her full potential as a crusader. Your move, Pixar???

So everyone’s on a personal journey, at one point there is a hiccup because the boys use a spell that only works if you tell the truth and one of the cops they run into implies the older brother is a fuck up and Ian disagrees and the spell stops working (it’s like a Pinocchio thing but legs) and so Barley gets really sad/upset that his brother thinks that about him, but then they dance with their dad’s disembodied legs and all is forgotten.

The entire time Ian has had this checklist of things he wants to do with his dad and he gets sad when they only have like an hour left and he’s still just legs and he realizes he’s not going to get to do them with his dad. But then there’s an odd moment where Ian has all these flashbacks of the items on the list but with Barley and he realizes he has already done all those things with his older brother. This was the confusing part of the movie to me, it feels like they want you to realize as Ian seems to that his brother was his dad so it’s ok that he didn’t have one because he kind of did? Like, that that role has been filled by a different family member and that’s what matters?

Which is sweet and fine but then in the movie there’s a dragon and only five minutes where the dad will be a person again so Ian says he’ll take care of the dragon so Barley can ‘say goodbye,’ (we learn that Barley didn’t say goodbye at the hospital because the dad was hooked up to a lot of machines and he was scared, and so he decided never to be scared of anything ever again). But this felt…weird to me. You’re gonna let the older kid who at least has memories of him see him again and not let the younger kid see him once? If I was the dad I would be pissed.

So that was a weird note to end on, I feel like whoever made this movie didn’t have a dad and was trying to show other kids without a dad it’s okay. Which is a great goal but it felt like they did it in a really weird way? Although I’m not sure what way I would have done it but as a viewer it felt a little forced and unsatisfying and I feel like there was a way to have the same outcome and feel better about it.

There were great parts and maybe I’ll watch it again in a single sitting two years from now and love it but I just didn’t feel as invested as I expected to. Usually these Pixar movies SUCK ME IN and I’m weeping/cheering along with everyone within five minutes because I care so much and with this one I was like, “Sure, I hope they meet their dad? Seems nice for them.” I think if the older brother had been voiced by someone else I would probably have liked it more. I liked Chris Pratt when he was fatter but ever since he got billed as an action star he just feels smarmy to me.

I liked Ian and I’m happy he got confidence but the arc also just wasn’t that big? He didn’t have friends then he had them? He learned how to merge which I will say, IS difficult, but not enough to emotionally invest me in the character. I was most connected to the mom who is raising these kids by herself, has found new love AND friendship, and looks absolutely amazing in leggings. Maybe I’ve just seen too many male coming of age stories now??? Like we get it, boys are sixteen.

It felt like the only risk in this story was to make the dad just pants. If this story had been pretty much the same but the main character was trans and was figuring out their gender expression and maybe got a binder for their birthday and wanted to introduce themselves to their dad as they really are? I would have been much more on board. I’m just ready for more stories. I have seen the story of the timid boy who learns he can do things and gains friends. (Would love to do a character critic whose main problem with every movies is that the main character isn’t trans). But seriously just imagine if Joker was the same but they cast a trans actor, uh-oh suddenly it’s good, why is that?? Because the way to dismantle toxic masculinity is an inversion and dissolution of gender roles and the expectations we put on people to fill them and that’s crucial in art right now?? Mama mia!

Once again I am not quite sure how I got here, but here I am. This movie was incredibly well animated, simply stunning technically but the heartsfire just wasn’t all the way there for me. I think a lot of factors were working against us, Chris Pratt, me having a dad, Bernie dropping out, none of it was good for Onward. Overall I’m happy I watched it but I don’t think I would want to watch it again soon.

3 out of 5 van bumpers, would masturbate again if I was babysitting (I’m sorry for how this sounds).

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Dolemite Is My Name

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!!!!!!! This movie was fantastic. And it’s based on a real person’s life???? This is the coolest thing. It’s so feminist and positive??? There was no conflict! You didn’t want it and you didn’t need it! I was watching it on Netflix Party with my friends and 2/3rds of the way through I even typed, I know there has to be conflict but I don’t want it, and it never came!!!! It was so uplifting and great.

This was directed by Craig Brewer who I knew nothing about but looked up and found out he did Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan and just wrapped Coming to America 2 with duh, Eddie Murphy! I listened to a 20 minute radio interview with him where he sounds lovely and hyped up the old kung fu movie Lone Wolf and Cub and now I want to see that as well! This film had a dedication to Eddie’s brother Charlie Murphy who passed away in 2017 of leukemia, which I didn’t know and makes me sad.

Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, a stand up who hasn’t really found how to connect with the club audience where he has a gig opening for his friend’s band. But there IS a homeless man with ‘the gift of the gab’ as they say, and Moore has the idea: what if a polished comic told jokes the way he talks: more theatrical and with an internal rhyme scheme? So Moore finds this man and his friends one night and gives them a plastic bottle from the liquor store and maybe 30 dollars and records them telling stories and jokes.

(This is the only part of the movie I felt a little squeamish about because it’s still stealing, even if you pay them, if you don’t ask permission/say what they’re agreeing to and I was worried it would turn out bad but no one seemed to get hurt and he made it his own thing/a character after a while so I think it’s okay? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and this group of homeless men show up at some doorstep wanting to collect some royalties or something but it never happened and I guess it’s okay?)

So Rudy Ray Moore dons an afro wig and big lime suit jacket with a cane and oversized flower and does the new routine as “Dolemite.” It is a SMASH hit, there is a backing band and they compliment the style really well. Pretty soon Moore has enough of a following to do a house party show and record an album (with borrowed equipment money from Luenell!!). And after being rejected by record stores for being too lewd, he decides to sell the records out of the trunk of his car, and makes a killing. (This movie made me miss stand up a lot, particularly the house party show because it looks so fun! Dolemite was not built for Zoom and neither was I!!!).

This whole movie is the story of someone getting a million No’s and believing in themselves regardless, and making their own way with their friends then being rewarded for that. It was such a fun inspirational story. Ok so he makes the album, a record label finds it because it’s so popular, they sign him and he makes more records, all of which do incredibly well.

Prior to getting signed, Moore organized a tour through the South. One night at a show, he saw a woman (Da’Vine Joy Randolph beautifully playing Lady Reed) confront her husband/boyfriend who was cheating on her and there was some casual domestic violence (just a little) and Moore approaches her after the show and learns that she used to sing. He tells her it’s clear she has a star quality and ENCOURAGES HER CAREER AND INVITES HER TO TOUR WITH HIM AND THEY BECOME FRIENDS THAT SUPPORT EACH OTHER PLATONICALLY THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. It’s, the most fucking beautiful thing and was maybe my favorite part of the movie. When in a movie have you seen a man show interest in a woman because he believes in her and he’s not in love with her or trying to sleep with her?? I’ll tell you when, never. Normalize men and women being friends because friendship is good and you don’t need to have an ulterior motive!!!! Media does us all a disservice by not showing this more. Life is better when you have friends of other sexes, because you can borrow money from each other and have book clubs and talk about ideas and ask them if you should quit your job (which you always should). Trust me!!!

Friendship is also a huge part of the film in general because it’s what allows him to do everything-and it’s something I’ve found to be so true in the world of stand up. The people who have the money are (mostly) without vision and either: 1. Can’t recognize talent 2. Don’t want to take risks on unknown projects 3. Are racist (sometimes all three!) so brilliant people get projects rejected all the time. It seems like if you believe in something you need to just go ahead and make it anyway, (like Issa Rae making Insecure as a web series on YouTube) and often these projects gain their own success organically because guess what? You as an artist were right, they’re good, and that’s when the rich business people come back into the picture because now they want to capitalize on it. That happens in this-he wants to make a movie and everyone tells him no so he makes it anyway, etc.

Wesley Snipes plays the co-lead and director, an asshole who thinks he’s above the project and everyone involved. I was glad he was an asshole in this because even though I love Blade, Halle Berry has gone on record saying that he beat her so badly when they were dating that she lost 80% of her hearing in one ear which she never recovered and he has never had any public accountability or reckoning of that which is wrong! 😦 I wish someone would Bill Cosby him, is that bad to say? It’s what I wish. I want accountability for all abusers, is that bad?? Am I a bitch?

Ok but Wesley aside-there were so many stars in this movie! Snoop and Chris Rock as radio DJ’s, Tituss Burgess and Mike Epps as early friends and co-diner patrons, Keegan Michael-Key as the serious playwright who writes their script, T.I. was in there, but one of my favorite castings was Craig Robinson as the leader of the band who eventually writes the theme song to the movie. He’s so musically talented, I’m happy when a project takes advantage of that. The parts of The Office where he played or sang or made music are so memorable to me! Also once in New Orleans he came to an open mic and stayed after and played the piano and hung out and it was the first time I hadn’t gone to mics in two weeks and I was so sad I missed it and felt like God was punishing me for not going to mics which in hindsight is very funny.

Rudy Ray Moore, who goes by his stage name Dolemite, after the success of the albums has decided he wants to make a movie because that’s really how people learn your name. He stated from the beginning he wants to be famous, he tried so many ways and feels like he finally found the perfect one for him. As per our pattern, everyone says no and he does it anyway with his friends. It looks SO FUN to make a movie (and I know that’s not always the case) but aside from Wesley Snipes everyone was pitching in and doing their best. Two of the most endearing parts to me are that Dolemite says there should be a kung fu fight scene because people love kung fu and when Keegan Michael-Key (who’s writing it) asks if he knows kung fu he immediately says no but that he’ll fake it, and that scene is so funny and good, it turns out he’s right, watching fake karate is just as fun as watching real karate sometimes!

There’s also a sex scene and Moore is nervous because he’s not ripped and doesn’t think he’s sexy (relatable!!!!), and Lady Reed gives him a little pep talk (ugh their FRIENDSHIP) where she tells him to just make it funny and it turns into this over the top scene where the ceiling falls down, and all the lamps break, it was great.

Ugh and the last scene was so great-everyone who made the movie is driving to the premiere in a limo reading the reviews in the paper and they’re SO bad everyone is getting down but when they get to the theatre it’s mobbed. So packed they’re adding two more showtimes because everything sold out. As they’re walking in there’s a little kid who tells Dolemite how much he means to him and after the theatre manager tells them those people will have to wait outside for hours, Dolemite decides not to watch the premiere and entertain/hang with people outside and he and the kid have a back and forth and he gives him his cane. I’m glowing remembering it. Everything was so feel good about this picture. When has a movie never had sad parts? Even Pixar movies have miscarriages?? A true beacon during this trying time.

I have not a single thing bad to say about this movie!!! It was so fun and uplifting and you just loved him so much, and to find out it was all real!!! Amazing. I’m so happy and proud for this man! Especially glad someone made a movie in his honor to record what he did because it’s so cool and worth remembering, and how perfect that it’s Eddie Murphy who’s a comedy genius in his own generation. The most fitting tribute. Now I want to see the original movie! I asked my dad if he heard of Dolemite and he had so maybe we will watch it together in the future when that isn’t dangerous. Oh and I can’t believe I didn’t mention this until now but the COSTUMING was absolutely unreal. Every single character looked amazing and unique and they clearly had a BLAST with clothes, everything popped. Lady Reed’s green sequin wrap dress she wore to the premiere, Snoop’s hand-stitched dashikis, Snipes Who Must Not Be Named has a patchwork suede beret + matching pants, and of course the lime green blazer that started this all were particular stand outs.

5 out of 5 lime green suit jackets, would masturbate again.

 

 

 

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Train to Busan

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!!! What an amazing movie. It feels racist to to assume that Korean cinema understands class tensions better than American because of two movies, but between this and Parasite it’s like, wow. Also between this and Snowpiercer it’s like- ok trains!!!

The first scene with the deer was so haunting, I had no idea this was a zombie movie and it shocked me!! Such an amazing opening, I got chills on my couch watching it on a laptop, I can’t even imagine being in a theatre seeing it on a huge screen. Really impressive filmmaking throughout, every scene was so carefully built the story unfolded at this perfect pace where it would be these slower character constructions of, okay this is what we know about the dad, and his work, and his relationship with his daughter, and ex-wife then BOOM shit is immediately HITTING the fan. And it went in waves like that but shorter and shorter times between the fan shit-hitting, like contractions in a pregnancy? And the movie is the baby and our own fear is the delivery? I smoked weed earlier!!

I particularly loved the scene on the train near the beginning where the passengers have seen the zombies out of the window for the first time, they’re literally trying to punch through the glass, and the tv news is a reporter calmly explaining it’s riots. The way the our country has been gaslit by our major news outlets about our own experiences  felt singularly American, but now I know it’s universal!

There was so much meditation on human nature and how people act when they’re scared. That’s all I kept seeing, messaging of: if you act only for yourself it’s bad and you’re bad, which I agree with but it felt a little, I don’t know- not heavy handed but something close to that. But I guess it was done really well, I just am thinking what I thought about the movie and that’s the only idea I’m coming back with so it feels one note but I also think I was high for the second half and maybe a little bit now and watched the movie in installments and that probably affected it.

The movie follows a wealthy hedge fund manager who works a lot and is getting divorced from his wife and they share custody of their daughter. It’s her birthday and she wants to see her mom. The dad doesn’t want to take her but finally agrees after giving her her big present, and realizing immediately she already owns it. (Fellas? It’s a Wii). They were going to drive but get in a car accident and take the train.

It’s quickly established that the dad (Seok-woo played by Yoo Gong) kind of an asshole and only looks out for himself. The daughter (Soo-an played by Su-an Kim) seems very sweet and is chatty to everyone in contrast. So much happens over the course of the two hours but essentially we learn there are zombies, created by some company or the government, and they are turning everyone. Most cities have been taken over but Busan, which was chosen as a stronghold by the powers that created it for financial and personal gain, is protected.

I think a large message of the movie is that unquestioningly following orders is bad-at the end when the mom (played by Jung Yu-mi) and the little girl are walking through the tunnel the guy on the walkie talkie says to shoot them and he’s about to but then he hears her singing and decides she’s not infected and they get saved. Also on the phone the dad’s hedge fund contact breaks down sobbing saying they made it on purpose and he was just following orders and asks for Seok-woo to absolve him of guilt, which he does. It’s crazy how much intentions play into ethical discussions. Like sometimes it matters sure, or is one of the factors, but if the action is to sacrifice the lives of entire cities of people, you have some personal responsibility on that one.

The guy who was the biggest asshole (Yon-suk played by Eui-sung Kim) was the one always looking out for himself and sacrificing others and it didn’t get him anywhere he ended up a zombie anyway. Maybe it’s because I really need a rent strike to happen but the main message I got from this was that A. you can’t trust rich people or the news/government and B. when you are scared, stick together because there’s safety and power in community.

The train car where they kicked them out and didn’t want to let the other survivors in (at the behest of that awful man) they all ended up dying, and the people who survived only did so because they all helped each other. (Also only women survived and that was interesting).

In general this movie had so much tension and suspense! You know when you’re watching a superhero movie and it’s not fun because you know everyone will get saved in the end and it’s boring & predictable because of that? Like there’s no stakes in the problems they set up because you have no worry they will get resolved some way or another and maybe there will be a big loss of some close friend to the main person but generally we know 90% of the people we’re emotionally invested in will be ok? This had, none of that. There’s a scene near the end where the people left alive are kind of trapped under a sideways train and there’s zombies all pushing at the glass trying to get to them and I had NO idea if they would be saved or not. Love that.

A lot of lessons in this, I got high for the second half so my brain is muddled at extracting and analyzing them right now but they were there! The dad does a real 180 personality-wise, he comes around and isn’t an asshole and sacrifices himself for his daughter and a stranger which is lots of progress for someone who was rude for no reason as an identity.

There was a strong guy who also sacrificed himself (Sang-hwa played by Dong-seok Ma) and he went out in a zombie fistfight which was awesome. I really liked how the zombies were animated and vicious, in other depictions they can be lumbering and unaware and that isn’t as scary, this was intense. I like that they had no motor skills or object permanence, that felt organic and scary. I also liked the way the zombies had visible black veins and cloudy eyes. They remained human enough for that to be completely horrifying. Everything about the zombies was really well done, I think it’s hard to make monsters from makeup and CGI that are scary on their own and don’t need to rely on jumping out from something really quick or only seeing glimpses of them at a time.

The visual of all of the zombies throwing themselves on that pile and being dragged by the train was such a smart setup! We had had only these tight close shots inside the train for over an hour, to pull back and see all of them running, then this huge weird mass of snarling undead being dragged-it was so striking in contrast.

The dad was hot, that seems redundant to say about a big movie, that the male lead was attractive but I’ll say it!! I also thought this actor did a great job of slowly and believably completely transforming over the course of the movie. It was like a reverse Breaking Bad arc in way less time. I guess that makes the zombies meth? It’s not perfect but you get it. 

I loved the little girl, the scene where she’s explaining she couldn’t sing because she didn’t see her dad not because she was nervous was so heartbreaking! You kind of felt like, well thank god the world ended so he could get to know his daughter, which is a different level of heartbreaking! We never got to see the mom, it’s interesting they left that open.

The boy from Parasite (Woo-sik Choi) was in this and he’s such a good actor. I didn’t understand a scene in the beginning where a girl who the entire baseball team (thank god for those wooden bats later!) kind of catcalls but in a positive way? Goes to sit next to him and he seems to not like her, but then they are trauma-bonded? I couldn’t quite grasp that relationship entirely. Also there’s a homeless man (played by Gwi-hwa Choi) who was an interesting figure, he runs on the train and is covered in blood and keeps muttering, “All of them, dead” and slowly we figure out what he means but he’s been through some shit and manages to survive the entire time and then sacrifices himself so the pregnant woman and little girl can escape. A lot of sacrifice in this movie. I again interpreted it as a push that, the collective is more important than individuals which if you ‘re gonna live in a society I think you probably should accept.

Horror movies are VERY hard to do well, because it’s near impossible to genuinely manufacture fear in someone when they are physically comfortable and know they’re not in danger. You have to create a tension inside them fueled by their own worries and this does that! Societal collapse? In my mind I’m already there!!

I was really impressed by this movie! 4 out of 5 teen baseball stars, will masturbate again.

 

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American Honey

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This was a perfect movie. I feel both devastated and uplifted by it. Every single thing about it was perfect, the casting, the music, the plot, the editing. This movie is 2 hours and 43 minutes long and it is VERY rare in long movies that they need to be that long. This one happens to be a story that needed 2 hours and 43 minutes to tell. This movie was gorgeous, and there wasn’t one rape even though there were women who were poor and hitchhiking and for that, I want to give a hug to everyone who had a say in the script choices. I’m very VERY over rape as a device in movies, if I never saw another onscreen rape it would be too soon! Moving on.

This review took me a few days to write. Usually when I watch something I have a specific takeaway, or something in it reminds me of something else and I talk about that, but this movie was very insular, I felt completely absorbed in the story and the characters throughout, it didn’t remind me of anything else, and I just existed within it. After I didn’t know how to extract a specific perspective from the feelings I had about it which is really unique and unusual for me.

This story is about a girl named Star (played by Sasha Lane), living in poverty, but the outdoor kind of poverty we saw in The Florida project. She’s taking care of two small children-the opening scene is so shocking even to someone like me who eats food out of the trash all the time- they’re dumpster diving and Star finds an entire *raw* chicken sitting in the dumpster in the sun and plucks it out and throws it down to this little kid who drops it onto the hot pavement and it starts leaking raw chicken juice/blood. Then they have to hitchhike (her and the two kids) and the stress this two minute vignette establishes immediately the situation she’s in and how every aspect of her survival is something she works for.

We then find out the kids aren’t hers and she’s trapped with a man she hates. It’s slightly unclear if he’s abusive, but it seems a safe assumption he is. While trying to get the chicken home, a huge passenger van with a bunch of scraggly misfit kids pulls into a Walmart parking lot and Star sees Jake (Shia LaBeouf). They instantly have a connection and she follows them into the store. They end up having an interaction and he invites her to come with them to Kansas City the next morning. She drops the kids off with their real mom at a line dancing bar and sleeps outside the Marriott by the van. (I appreciated this-whenever people make a plan to meet “in the morning” but don’t include a specific time, it always feels unrealistic. Is morning to you 6:00am? 7:00am? 9:00am? 10:30am? It’s a huge window, we need to be saying a time).

Once there we meet Krystal (Riley Keough) and we find out that Jake is with her and all the kids traveling in the van sell magazines door to door. Star decides to go anyway. In the van we meet everyone else, all from different places, all different levels and types of teen. Everyone’s drinking and smoking but I like that it’s very casual and never becomes a huge problem. A lot of times if people are poor they’re not allowed to have casual drug use it always has to turn into some devastating thing and I appreciated this didn’t.

So begins Star’s training period with Jake. What follows is essentially, an animal magnetism between the two of them-they bicker and fight but have so much connection and desire for each other. That’s definitely a problem with Krystal, but there seems to be an ebb and a flow to it all, and it escalates in intimacy and connection over the few weeks they’re all traveling together, constantly selling and moving around. Jake is very jealous and protective (despite being with someone else) and things come to a head when Star goes on a “date” with an oil worker in his truck. Jake loses it and breaks a bunch of shit in the house they’re all staying in and goes to beat that guy up (we think? He disappears and comes back bloody). Krystal kicks him out, only to be brought back a few days later. In the end they’re all dancing around a bonfire and Jake gives Star a turtle that she sets free in the lake nearby.

The plot points aren’t really what’s important so much as all the things we see along the way. The wealth and poverty of the people and the cities they travel to, how they all interact with each other, how money guides so much of human nature, who you can trust, etc.

Star was a deeply good person. She has a clear moral compass and stands up for herself and others she feels are wronged. She also doesn’t lie about things she thinks are important and is trusting and genuine. I love that the movie doesn’t punish her for any of that. She also loves animals and takes care of them and children throughout the film, even when she has nothing. She is a good soul and you care for her so much.

Star’s relationship with Jake is both beautiful and sad. It feels like at the end they left it open-ended, you can either believe they leave everyone else and get a trailer in the woods together (their separate but shared dream) or continue this cycle of emotionally coming together and breaking apart within the misfit crew. I choose to believe they leave but maybe they don’t.

The sex scenes in this movie are maybe the hottest I’ve ever seen. I am in love with Shia LaBeouf and that’s probably part of it but the urgency of their desire for each other is breathtaking. I don’t think I’ve ever had sex like that where it feels like you need the other person and they need you. The dips in intimacy for him (would share and be so vulnerable, only to act distant and a little cold later) were so familiar and made the later brush offs so disappointing and hard to watch. Everything about him was a red flag to me but maybe that’s why I’ll never have great sex, maybe you need to be a little unsafe to feel saved.

Star also had no ego or pride when it came to love and that’s really hard for me. There’s a scene where after she and Jake had sex for the first time (I think), Krystal calls Star into her room and reprimands her while she makes Jake rub lotion into her legs as she walks around the small motel room in her confederate flag bikini. I just couldn’t do it, I would be humiliated and too prideful to go there after that and I appreciate that she just didn’t care. Their connection was so tender and genuine it felt inevitable to me.

I don’t have that much more to say about this one. So much of it is visual and about silence. You just need to watch it for yourself. This is one of the best movies I’ve watched recently and I’m grateful I did. Also whoever styled everyone and the casting department should win every award. The aesthetic for each person and town was PERFECT, so immediately recognizable and familiar yet specific.

A fun fact is that Sasha Lane was discovered specifically for this role (a Padma Lakshmi on the beach story) and she was so good. She made this role and this movie. You just believed her. I’m in love with Shia LaBeouf, I have been for a long time, not on Even Stevens but pretty soon after. Charlie Countryman, the Elastic Heart music video, Holes??????

5 out of 5 coffee cups of Mountain Dew, would masturbate again.

 

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