The Visit

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My sweet boyfriend has gotten me more into horror, so when I was at the library and saw an M. Nigh Shyamalan movie about possessed grandparents I was like, “Oh what a fun thing for us!”

Now, a couple of red flags right off the bat: never hearing of an M. Night Shyamalan movie is a very bad signs (pun intended!!!!!!!). When he hits, he hits big but OOf when he misses. (The Happening???? The one with the devil in the elevator???). Also, no one I’ve ever heard of is in it (except Kathryn Hahn for a few minutes but she’s basically on a Sandals cruise the whole movie). Big name director and no name actors usually means that that script is terrible and I mean, TERRIBLE.

The premise of the movie is that the mom (Kathryn Hahn) hasn’t spoken to her parents in like 15 years because of an incident that happened when she decided to elope/move in with her older boyfriend that she won’t talk to her kids about. She won’t tell them exactly what happened, just that she hasn’t spoken to them since, and that it was terrible.

Since that time the older man and her had two kids (he also left her, but we’ll get to that later!). A boy, Tyler, and his older sister Becca. Lemme say a couple of things right here about these kids. Number one: the writing was atrocious. The definition of atrocious is, “of a very poor quality; extremely bad or unpleasant” and boy does it fit in here.

Tyler is a nine year old white rapper who is always saying PAINFULLY outdated/lame/trying too hard “slang” like calling girls hoes, or saying “shiznit” or something. There are MANY different times in the movie where he expresses his feelings about a situation/event by RAPPING INTO THE CAMERA for more than a minute. MORE THAN A MINUTE. It is TERRIBLE. He has no flow or an understanding of sounds that rhyme. Often he wears things like a baseball hat that says “I heart haters” or a ripped denim vest, or graphic socks or something. It is terrible and so is he. I say he is too because I can have a soft spot for little white kids who haven’t learned about the world yet and are very cringe inducing. That’s alright. I cut my own bangs and was very self-righteous about D.A.R.E., we’ve all been there. But this kid, (Ed Oxenbould) is also one of those child actors who’s too rehearsed in his emotions so he just seems like a tiny serial killer. There is a very fine line with child actors between extremely talented and tiny murderer. How do you know how to be smarmy already?? Can you even read? I really hated him. He also was supposed to have this thing with germs but most of it got edited out so it seemed like they just put it in one scene to make a point later. He also had this gross “poignant” monologue about freezing up at his football game and not tackling someone who needed to be tackled. His dad wasn’t mad at him for that and that’s why he’s not mad at his dad now that he abandoned their family (yikes Tyler!) and it was truly painful to watch.

Becca is older and “into filmmaking” that’s why she’s making this documentary (oh yeah the whole thing is supposed to be found footage kind of-so it has that against it as well-like everything we see the camera has to be explained why it was put there, or someone chooses to bring a camera with them while they do a task that it makes no sense for them to, etc). Becca is supposed to be really smart and the way we know that is she talks like a smug adult for the entire film and references things she wasn’t alive for and uses words I studied for the SAT. It. is. so. annoying. when. writers. try. to. make. kids. sound. really. smart. by. just. having. them. say. big. words. UGHHH. I don’t think any of the writers of this movie have ever met a kid. Becca is constantly having these little sardonic soliloquies and acting world weary and generally being terrible.

Anyway, so after many years of not speaking, the grandparents write their daughter and say they want to meet their grandchildren by hosting them for a week at their house. The mom doesn’t want them to go, the kids want to go, so they end up going. After a few raps on the train (in the presence of a very patient black attendant) they arrive in somewhere that is indistinguishable from anywhere in Connecticut (the land of grandparents).

The kids get settled in and weird stuff starts happening, mostly at night. The grandma is scratching at the wall naked, or running around naked, or hitting herself, or spacing out, etc. It is explained by some weird disease that only happens at night and the grandpa suggests, “it might be easier if you just stay in your room after 9:30.” So, they do but over the course of the week weird stuff keeps happening in increasing frequency and also during the day too. Some creepy highlights: the grandma keeps asking Becca to clean the inside of the oven (“really get all the way in there! Get the back!”) that allows for some good tension. The grandpa tells them to stay out of the shed so of course Tyler goes in there and finds a lot of the grandpas’ soiled diapers (it’s really funny how much of the weird stuff in the beginning of the week the kids chalk up to them just being old), the grandma has a really intense game of hide and seek under the house where it seems like she’s trying to eat them?

So, this stuff keeps happening and the day the mom comes back from her cruise with Miguel (she deserves this!!) the kids are like you need to come get us, Nana and Pop-pop (white people) are being weird. Then they show them just staring blankly at the barn outside on Skype. The mom kind of freaks out and is like, “you’ve been with them all week? They aren’t your grandparents.” Also, throughout the week people have been stopping by the house to check on them because they keep missing obligations they have, all relating to this hospital, which we find out later is a mental hospital. Basically two people from the mental hospital escaped, killed the grandparents and were pretending to be them to have this week with the kids. The man wanted his wife to feel like a grandmother again because she murdered her kids and drowned them in the lake.

There’s this whole other plotline about their psychosis that gets revealed through “stories” Becca encourages her grandmother to tell for the documentary, but basically they believe in aliens and that the aliens spit into the water which fills in with drugs that make people sleep for a long time and they keep them at the bottom of the lake asleep until they can bring them back to their planet (which had an INSANE name, Synmorphia maybe?).

They start a game of Yahtzee (which is hilarious. This movie had some moments of sheer comical joy but I don’t think ANY of them were on purpose) but then halfway through Becca excuses herself to go look for her murdered grandparents in the basement. She finds them, then the fake grandparents try to kill them. Becca stabs her “grandma” to death with a shard of broken mirror and Tyler tackles his fake grandpa to death (meaningful because he couldn’t do it in the football game! And his dad!) but not before getting a dirty diaper shoved in his face, which was too much by any estimation of what is too much. The kids successfully kill both fake grandparents and the cops show up with the mom one second later.

Then later back at the house for the “final interview” (wouldn’t you just scrap the movie if you got kidnapped and had to murder your way out????) the mom FINALLY says what happened to make her not talk to them for 20+ years- the real grandmother got in her way when she was leaving and she hit her mom, then her dad hit her. Then they read this letter that Tyler intros by saying, “shouldn’t we say we found this in the house under some gasoline?” and Becca goes, “don’t spoon-feed the audience Tyler.” (Which, YOU JUST DID! When someone writes in a deprecating joke about something they also wrote and decided to do, UGH I hate it, I told you they were the worst). There’s also an alternate ending in the bonus features that’s EQUALLY as terrible and Miguel’s in this one. God, this whole movie was truly terrible in a specifically egregious way. I will say, I like the concept and if there had been completely different script with completely different actors, I think it could have been better. I also liked the title cards that announced how much time had passed. That was probably my favorite part of the movie.

One out of seven sleeping alien lake babies,  would not masturbate again.

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Midnight Special

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For something that sounds like a Wendy’s promotion this movie was oddly artistic and science fiction-y. But still incredibly disappointing, exactly like a Wendy’s promotion!

This is a weird lil one-off about a magical boy who was raised in a cult and worshipped as the voice of God but ACTUALLY he’s just an alien who belongs to another world! The FBI finds out about him and tries to chase him, but since he has powers and is telepathic, they don’t get him. The whole movie is one long chase. Like if a normal action movie took a muscle relaxant and Signs was playing in the background.

All the actors were fine (and white!) they were just acting in a very slow burning fuse of conceptual dynamite that relied on the viewer to love something like “conceptual dynamite.”

The boy Alton wears goggles most of the time because the special effects people saw X-Men and liked it. (It makes NO sense how when he opens his eyes without goggles there’s this white light that can upturn trucks and blow holes in walls BUT behind simple every day swim goggles the light is rendered harmless). His parents, Michael Shannon (bae) and Kirsten Dunst (opposite) are trying to take him somewhere-coordinates he predicted in a dream?-but they are being chased by the FBI who saw something powerful and weird and immediately decided they need to confiscate & weaponize it . Joel Edgerton helps out because he knew Roy (Michael Shannon) as a child and he thought this movie would get him something at Sundance. Sorry Joel!! 😦

Adam Driver plays some kind of FBI person and it’s the first role he doesn’t seem like a complete asshole in, so I guess he really can act.

I’m sorry, I’m just so full of hate right now-this movie has taken me about three weeks to finish and I keep renewing it from the library because I’m a psychopath and I didn’t want to return it until I was finished but I’m also a horrible procrastinator so now I have fines on it and resentment built up towards it. But also it wasn’t a very good movie.

It looked cool and people you know are in it which might fool some but no great artistic depths are being plumbed here. Also Kirsten Dunst has a long braid as a character choice and in the end she cuts in off in the mirror as some kind of V for Vendetta lite which was derivative to me. ALSO there’s a scene where Alton is finally going up to his rightful world (where everyone has light coming out of their eyes and they don’t even NEED goggles), and she’s left on the ground and there’s just these bright flashes and she “lets him go” and just, HOW MANY more movies do we as a society need where Kirsten Dunst is bathed in symbolic light before nodding meaningfully?? I know I personally don’t need any more! Not even one more!!

I think I felt bad for Kirsten’s braid because you could tell it had a lot more to give, but it just didn’t get a lot of airtime or emotional consideration to be honest. First of all, she’s in this cult where everyone lives on a farm and there’s a few hundred other people so right from the jump that’s a LOT of braids to compete with. Also I do think it got out shined (pun intended) by Alton’s goggles because they were always in scenes together and you know what they say-never do a scene with babies, animals, or goggles that defy the laws of time and space because no one’s going to pay any attention to you! Then she just cut it off at the end and you KNOW she didn’t donate it to locks of love or anything, even though it was definitely long enough. That braid just screamed wasted potential to me. Maybe it’ll get a spinoff where the braid goes out in the world looking for a kid with cancer but finds love instead. We can only hope.

Usually in these I talk about some of my favorite scenes but this whole movie was one long scene that just kept stopping different places. A gas station here, a motel there, an all white FBI interrogation room, a clearing in the woods that’s really a portal to another world, blah blah, you get it.

I truly genuinely have nothing to say. That’s a specific kind of failure of art when it doesn’t even elicit bad emotions, just nothing. An all blank expanse of feeling and thought.

I think they made this movie for people who love cults, who love action movies, who love science fiction, but who have very very serious heart conditions, who need everything to be calm and boring all the time so their blood pressure doesn’t go up. If any of that is true, this movie was a huge success and I hope they’re all eating pudding and blinking at it happily.

I however, as a person living in the world, felt very very bored and underwhelmed and truly wish this movie didn’t exist at all because then I wouldn’t have had any hopes for it and checked it out of the library, and then I wouldn’t have wasted three weeks of my life and two dollars in library fines that I’ll never get back. The good thing though, the silver lining if you will (and I will) is that the writer and the director are the same person so we know EXACTLY who to blame. Sometimes there’s confusion and it’s hard to tell what specifically was at fault but in this case, they are the work of the same man, Jeff Nichols, and that work was not good to me.

All Jeff Nichols’ movies sound like Urban Decay lipstick names: Mud, Take Shelter, Loving, Midnight Special. For that, and that alone, he has my respect. 

One and a half out of three zip tie handcuffs, would NOT masturbate again even if under extreme circumstances.

 

 

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Both Steve Jobs Movies

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So, I just finished Jobs (the Ashton Kutcher one) and a few weeks ago I watched Steve Jobs (the Michael Fassbender one). I compared them the whole time and wanted to write a post comparing them because art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in a bowling alley where a bunch of dads meet to eat popcorn and blow off steam and discuss the competing merits of art.

So, there’s really not much of a debate here in my mind, I really really liked Steve Jobs (the Michael Fassbender one) and did not like at all Jobs (the Ashton Kutcher one, and I promise I won’t do that again in the post, but I might again actually because it’s very confusing).

Steve Jobs (Fassbender) takes an unstructured approach that I’ve never seen a biopic do before. They split his whole life up into all the major product launches of his career. Then they only show us the ten minutes or so right before each launch. We get filled in on the details that have happened over the years through context clues or flashbacks but most every scene and all the information they contain is through these hectic/intense moments before a huge unveiling. This version focuses on his relationship with his daughter Lisa, his personal assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), his partner/oldest friend Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan) and a bunch of others that kind of come in and out over the years: the mother of his child (Katherine Waterston), the Pepsi CEO (Jeff Daniels), and other notable people he’s worked with.

Through this we learned lots and lots about him, especially the difficult balance between genius and asshole that he seemed to ride with ease (Kanye is right, he is exactly like Steve Jobs and anyone who can’t see that just doesn’t want to). Fassbender’s  Jobs is so frustratingly callous at times to his daughter, people he’s worked with for over 10 years, friends, etc., you just wonder, what the fuck is wrong with you Steve?? Take a chill pill, pull the turtleneck out a bit! But you come to accept it’s just who he is.

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In DIRECT contrast, the Ashton Kutcher one plays like an inspirational football movie but with computers, where Steve seems like a tough guy but he also gives and has rewarding moments where he learns from others, and at the heart of things is just a curmudgeonly billionaire who’s just a little too hard on his employees at times but can still laugh over breakfast about eggs or something. In this one I never got a feel for a unique personality, it just seemed like Ashton Kutcher acting the same role he kind of always does, a lovable but stubborn whomever.

In Jobs (Ashton) there were parts of his life that it seemed like the filmmakers had to include (for example that he didn’t want to sign the visitation rights document, or that he said that there were 1.5 million people in California who could be the father of that child besides him) because it’s public knowledge/very famous information, but it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of his personality in the movie. In this version, first they present him as this asshole who denies he’s Lisa’s father, then a few years later without any explanation suddenly he’s a normal family man and he and Lisa are just paling around the house, having repartee and eating toast.

In Steve Jobs (Fassbender) they show all the ups and downs of Lisa learning about his very public refusal of her, navigating how hard love and a relationship are for him, differing opinions about money, her mom, ideas-it’s a fully fleshed out relationship. In Jobs (Ashton) she’s more just like an afterthought that they kinda had to squeeze in there. Also in Jobs, Steve Job’s secretary isn’t even in there at all! Not even a non-speaking part, she just isn’t a character in the movie. (According to IMDB she’s in there but I watched it and was looking for her and didn’t find her). In Steve Jobs (Fassbender), she’s the other main role. That seems an odd discrepancy that I would be curious about the politics behind. I’m curious about a lot of the different choices between the films.

A lot of the things Jobs (Ashton) cover are similar to the answer to the question, “Why did Leelee Sobieski leave Hollywood for good?”-no one cares. (I spent a lot of time on IMDB today). It seems like they just took a chronological approach, like when you are five and you draw a story map. They found all the major plot points in his life and just went through them in order. Whereas Steve Jobs (Fassbender) figured out who he is as a person and crafted a film that could present moments where he showed that the most.

The irony about the Ashton Kutcher one is that they’re presenting him as some kind of radical outside of the box innovator but they present it in the most uniform, boring, tired way. I think Steve Jobs would respect how unique a storytelling structure the Michael Fassbender one is. Also Kate Winslet does a phenomenal job, she’s so subtly layered and it’s really interesting to find out her boundaries and motivations as the movie goes on.

After doing the most surface level research I found out that Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay for the good one and Dany Boyle directed it, so, that makes sense. The director of the other one is Joshua Michael Stern and the “Known For” movies on his IMDB page are all things I’ve never heard of that look bad. He’s also a writer on all of them, maybe this was his first big directing role. I’m sure his mom would tell him otherwise and she can, but he did not do a good job. There are scenes where soft music plays as someone says something inspiring and then Ashton Kutcher looks down and smiles and then it cuts to him doing something inspirational. Also in Ashton’s he at many different times asks other people their opinions on one of his ideas and if I believe the Michael Fassbender one at all, I don’t think Steve Jobs would EVER do that. He was just a boss ass bitch who knew what he wanted and was a complete asshole to everyone around him to get it but it brought us these true wonders (ipod, iphone, mac) that changed how we think of and use technology.

I guess one of the biggest differences in approach and execution is that the Ashton Kutcher one tried to make him likable but he ultimately he didn’t need to be likable because he was right.

Theory: Maybe when there’s two biopics that come out around the same time about the same person there is always one that’s clearly better, like what we’re seeing here and with both those Truman Capote movies. Capote was clearly better and I bet you never even saw Infamous. Well I did and I saw both of these as well and I’m gonna save you the time. Although once you watch Steve Jobs (Fassbender) you’re so curious about him you’re gonna want to see the other one, then you’re gonna be disappointed and then you’re gonna be exactly where I am right now. (Alone in my room).  

Anyway, would masturbate again a bunch to the Michael Fassbender one (four out of five perfectly square black cubes), never again to the Ashton Kutcher one (two out of seven ipod shuffles), which is not what I would have predicted at all!!!!

Thank you for bearing with this very confusing breakdown where often I refer to a whole movie as “the other one” and try to talk about two things with basically the same name in a very confined ideological space. Bowling lanes, you get it.

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Hidden Figures

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Hello! It’s Black History Month AND the world is dying so I figured I needed to watch some art championing black women. Hidden Figures is just that. The THINGS these women did, all while their hands were tied behind their backs is breathtaking and humbling. The three women in the film, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine G. Johnson (played by Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and Taraji P. Henson respectively) faced ridiculous odds. They were already BLACK WOMEN WORKING AT NASA and it STILL wasn’t enough to prove their worth.

One of the first scenes in the film (after Katherine’s childhood prodigy is shown) is the three women as their car breaks down on the way to work, and a white police officer stops to question them. This scene is a wonderful introduction to all the women: Dorothy tinkering under the hood, and figuring out how to fix the car, Mary defiant almost to the point of trouble, wavering JUST before she crosses that line, and Katherine, the voice of reason who is polite and along for the ride.

We follow the three of them as they work to find recognition within NASA where they are currently relegated to a separate building doing computations without any job security or respect. Dorothy soon learns she must learn an entire new language (programming) if she is to make herself valuable to the company. Mary goes to COURT to change a law for a segregated school that she must attend if she wants to take classes to be eligible to APPLY for an engineer position (the work of which she is already doing by the way) and Katherine is brought into an all white all male work environment where she is hindered at every possible turn and manages to outshine them all.

How many times did I cry in the theatre you ask? Well four or five is a safe guess. I watched this movie at 11:00am after going to the gym and drinking a free Sprite so my emotions were rife for the taking.

Every scene is basically: Black woman faces near impossible situation stacked against her, she somehow manages to overcome it in anonymity and without recognition, just in time for a new situation equally as stacked against her and impossible at which point the cycle begins again. It’s exhausting to watch, let alone live. There were some triumphant moments, (Dorothy finally gets hired as supervisor, Mary wins her court case, Katherine is invited into the launch room after John Glenn specifically asks for her to check the math on the landing coordinates) but they are all half victories because they are all still within a system of racism (Mary can only attend night classes, Katherine still doesn’t have a JOB that recognizes what she is to the team and those missions).

It’s intense, especially so when you immediately recognize that none of this is in the past, these roadblocks are still very much intact, people of color don’t have to use separate bathrooms but they do get different sentencing for the same crimes as white people and are arrested in disproportionate rates. There’s no legal segregation but there is the cycle of poverty that traps communities and prohibits them from being able to own property. These things all still exist just in different more subtle forms.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was after Mr. Harrison (Kevin Costner) abolishes separate bathrooms, (after interrogating Katherine about why she’s missing for 40 minutes every day when the work they do is so important and she finally cracks her veneer of polite deference and educates him about the bathrooms and the coffeepot and the endless minor and major obstacles she faces that are invisible to him) Dorothy is washing her hands and Ms. Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) is exiting to wash her hands as well. They have had a back and forth about the supervisor position that Dorothy is filling but not being compensated for, work for all the other black computers, etc. etc. Ms. Mitchell has always preached, “follow the rules” and has cited that for never helping Dorothy in any of the many endeavors they discuss. When Dorothy is heading to leave Ms. Mitchell calls out to her and says, “Regardless of what you may think, I have nothing against any of you” to which Dorothy replies (smooth as butter) “I’m sure you really believe that Ms. Mitchell.” 🙂 🙂 🙂

Shortly after this exchange, Ms. Mitchell hands Dorothy the assignment for supervisor and Dorothy accepts it but isn’t falling over herself to thank Ms. Mitchell and I LOVE that!! Because all she did was the right thing, late. White people shouldn’t get praise for that, and this movie doesn’t give it and it’s awesome.

There’s a beautiful love story (Katherine and Colonel Jim Johnson) in this movie and I say beautiful for a couple of reasons, 1. Because Mahershala Ali is beautiful 2. Because he wants to be a father to her three girls as much as he wants to marry her 3. Because in the credits we find out they stayed married for almost 60 years (and counting?) and MOST BEAUTIFUL OF ALL 4. Because the storytellers made this NOT THE FOCUS OF THE MOVIE ABOUT HER LIFE and I appreciate that so so so so so so so much. All of these women had fulfilling relationships with wonderful men in their lives and they managed to show that without overshadowing their accomplishments as their own people. Amen.

I especially appreciated Mary Jackson’s romantic relationship portrayal because it showed how often even the ones we love can be the ones naysaying/putting up blocks for us (out of love and fear for us but that’s still what it is) and I loved that in the end he realized he just needed to get with the program and support her. Women!!!!

Also side note: Janelle Monae wearing a tuxedo in the public eye for almost ten years is a powerful statement about femininity and sexism and power and reclamation that’s been so key for many many women and young girls. HOWEVER her body in this movie is insane and she looks so incredible. It feels like it was almost a trick, so that she could shock us on the big screen with what she’s been hiding under there. Like she’s kinda like, “Oh and in case y’all didn’t know…” but I feel creepy and bad as I write this so I won’t continue with it but the beauty of all these women (even though that’s not the point!!!!) was striking and undeniable.

Also this movie really made John Glenn out to be a handsome non-racist and I wonder if he really was at the time? (Non-racist, not handsome) because I hope so, but maybe they just needed one white person who wasn’t a passive devil.

8 out of 10 chalkboard equations, would masturbate again.

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The Lobster

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Yo!!! What a cool interesting movie!! I think along with Nocturnal Animals, this is my favorite movie of the year.

This movie is set in an alternate reality where people have to be in couples. By the law, the police can come check your papers to make sure you are in a relationship and have a partner. If you are single for some reason (breakup, partner dies) you have to check yourself into The Hotel where you have a finite number of days to find a new partner (often through chance physical similarities like both getting nosebleeds or having a limp which seem to indicate that you are right for each other). If at the end of your stay (which you can extend by hunting single people in the woods) you haven’t found a partner, you are turned into an animal. You get to pick which animal, and you get to choose the activity you want to do on your last night as a human (kind of like a last meal). The hotel director (Mark’s love interest from Peep Show I can’t remember her name!!!) calmly explains, “It would be smart to pick something you can’t do as an animal, like reading a classic work of literature or cooking a gourmet meal. A walk in the woods would not be a good choice.”

Colin Farrell is our protagonist and I love the way the movie gently learns you these things I just stated. One of the first scenes is him checking into the hotel (I think his wife died?) and we see the registration process where a woman is asking him a series of questions that are so formal yet personal it’s unlike almost any exchange I’ve seen:

Hotel lady: “Are you heterosexual or homosexual?”

Colin: “Heterosexual. Well, I did have a homosexual relationship in college.”

Lady: “You have to decide now if you want to register as homosexual or heterosexual.”

Colin: “I think I should register as heterosexual.”

Lady: “Okay.”

He also has a dog with him that we learn is his brother, who came to the hotel and did not find a partner. All animals are single people. There’s also a renegade group of people who live in the woods who have rejected this mandated love and have their own community where love/flirting are forbidden and punishable with physical deformation. The leader of this group is the french lady from Blue is the Warmest Color, I’ll look up her name later. She’s wonderfully heartless. She has someone on the inside of the hotel, a maid who is part of the resistance but works there to get necessary keys and supplies for symbolic missions they pull to undermine the society’s ideologies. One of them involved going into the room of the two directors of the hotel, gagging the woman, asking her husband if he loved her then giving him the choice to shoot her, which he did. There were no bullets in the gun, but after proving that he would have readily killed her to save himself they left.

The french lady also visits her parents in the city with a fake husband (a man from the woods) so that they don’t worry about her/she can see them. This is where Colin meets Rachel Weisz (they meet in the woods but pretend to be married on these outings and are allowed to express affection openly) and they quickly fall in love. (They are both short-sighted). They soon devise a plan to escape the woods and go live in the city together as a couple. Unfortunately for Rachel Weisz, she writes this plan down in her journal which she accidentally drops while they are doing exercises in the woods (every day they do drills where they practice hiding, running, attacking. They also each have to dig their own graves that they will crawl to if they ever get fatally injured, because “it’s unfair to expect someone else to dig it for you”) and the maid sympathizer finds it and shows it to the french leader. She does not like this at all and that day brings Rachel Weisz into the city to an eye doctor under the guise of fixing her stigmatism but really he BLINDS HER. Rachel soon figures out why and is pissed and says, “you could have blinded him, it didn’t have to be me.” This coupled with the French lady’s private conversation with Colin where she’s instructing him to dig his grave and says, “If you are killed before me I’ll come visit you as often as I can, I promise” hints that she likes him she just can’t act on it. Also weirdly, the french lady brings the maid with them and Rachel stabs her, thinking it’s the french woman (who pretends to be dying) then after a few minutes gets up and says, “Well you can come back to the woods or I can leave you here, I don’t think you’ll make it” so Rachel comes back with her, but like, did the maid need to die for them to have that conversation?? I don’t think so Rachel!!

So Rachel is BLIND NOW which is nuts, and Colin visits her on this beach island she’s sort of relegated to. He brings her objects to feel and guess, but he quickly tires of this. He wants to kiss her but for some reason she thinks they can’t now? Maybe because she no longer is short-sighted and therefore not suited to him? Anyway, you can tell the situation is wearing on them both. Suddenly he suggests a plan in their secret physical language they developed (since they couldn’t openly show affection in the woods, they had hand signals and other body gestures that meant something. Weisz stated, “after a few months we could discuss almost anything without speaking at all”) by describing motions, “I put my hand behind my head, turn my face to the side three times, lift my arm and shrug” (something like that) and she’s like, “Would you really do that??” and he’s like, “I wouldn’t have suggested it if I wouldn’t.”

We obviously don’t know what this means, but apparently it means “kidnap the French leader and bury her in her own shallow grave and leave her to get eaten by wild dogs, then we escape to a cafe where I will blind myself in the bathroom in solidarity with you.” Love!

Yeah, the last scene of the movie is Rachel Weisz waiting at a table in a diner while Colin Farrell  has taken a steak knife to the bathroom with the purpose of blinding himself. It ends before we see what happens, so I guess it could be the spinning top of Inception where it’s left open for us to wonder, “Did he do it and come back or did he leave and abandon her there?” but I assume he did it, there’s no real reason why he wouldn’t, and cinematically nothing was indicated to support this choice. There’s just a big window by their table so it lends itself to that dramatic irony movies can’t help sometimes where we see someone running away through a window that the other character can’t see, you know because they’ve been blinded by a renegade French woman in the woods.

Another interesting scene I forgot to mention is that Colin Farrell thinks he finds a partner at the hotel, it’s this woman who’s the best hunter, who is absolutely heartless. She fakes choking to death in the hot tub they are sharing and he just watches her pass out, after which she lifts her head up and says, “I think we are a match.” So they move into a double room (there’s all these prioritized weird status symbols couples get, like better accommodations, a “yacht” is an option) but soon after he wakes up one morning to her telling him she killed his brother (the dog) by kicking him to death. Her leg is covered in blood and she describes the whimpering his brother did over the hours she was kicking him until he died. She then asks him to tell her the funny anecdote he had alluded to earlier. Colin goes into the bathroom to collect himself and starts trying to tell the story but starts crying a little and she comes in and catches him and says, “I knew you were lying” then she starts to drag him to the place in the hotel where they turn you into an animal (the offense for lying about compatibility traits) but he gets away, then stuns her with a dart crossbow with the help of the sympathizer maid (that’s how he finds the community in the woods, she brings him there after), and turns the heartless lady into an animal instead. We don’t know what kind though. Everyone gets to pick what kind of animal they would be, that’s why the movie is called The Lobster, that’s the animal Colin chose to be if it didn’t work out.

Hmm, other interesting things, John C. Reilly is in the movie for a little bit, as another guest in the hotel. Most notably he gets his hand put in a toaster for masturbating (you’re not allowed to- the maids come and grind on you until you cum) and almost shoots Colin in the woods when they cross paths again after he’s escaped but gets knifed in the leg by Rachel Weisz. There’s also a man who fakes nosebleeds to make a woman who gets nosebleeds think they are suited for each other and on one of the missions Colin enters their yacht houseboat and tells his partner that he fakes them, then leaves. Oh! Another funny thing is that if you and your partner are arguing, they give you a child to smooth it over, which, lol. Also in the woods they have silent dance parties where you can’t dance with anyone else, so they’re all dancing at the same time to their own music, there’s a wonderful short scene that shows one such party and it’s pretty great, kind of like the dance party in the mental hospital in Bronson, or the silent disco I went to in England when I studied abroad. Experience is limited!

I can’t think of anything else! I loved it very much, especially the music, which was a great example of something I would call “dynamic minimalism.” Really great. Everyone did a good job, all the elements were high quality and executed well.

9 out of 10 shallow manmade graves, would DEFINITELY masturbate again.

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I’m Still Here

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Not to be confused with I’m Not There, I’m Still Here is a documentary style movie made by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck that follows the actor in 2009 when he announces his retirement from acting, and begins a transition into “hip hop style music.”

I say “documentary style” because even though they have come out and said the whole thing was staged, and that it was a mockumentary, I’m not 100% convinced. I mean I’m like 90% of the way there, but I also just feel like they could have done it and when they saw how it tanked him and he was losing money, that was just a way to spin it to remain in control. I haven’t done much research, I’m sure with a few google searches I could be completely convinced but for now I will hold on to the few nagging doubts I have.

The only thing I can be completely sure of is what a smug piece of shit David Letterman is. Wow, is he awful. There’s a point in the movie (and pivotal point in the real life roll out of this hoax if we’re calling it that) where Joaquin goes on Letterman to promote his movie The Two Lovers (did anyone see that?) and it’s one of the first major public appearances where he looks like he looks and is withdrawn and a little testy. David Letterman doesn’t know how to interview people on a good day, so when this happens he gives a lot of snarky asides to “the audience” which is just him looking at the camera every few seconds with a simpering smile. After he tries to ask a few questions about the movie (his “questions” are him mentioning the women in the movie and repeating that they are “lovely” and/or “beautiful” then waiting) that don’t land, he just insults Joaquin’s appearance and personhood. It’s so infuriating to watch an old puppet of a man give a “this guy” look to the camera a million times, for refusing to laugh at things that aren’t funny and share an inane anecdote about something that happened on set just so they can both go “isn’t that zainy??” then plug the movie two more times. Maybe the only reason I don’t want the movie to be a joke is just so for fucking ONCE someone can acknowledge how stupid and fake late night TV is in general, and how incompetent and asinine David Letterman is specifically. But I digress.

I watched the first hour of this movie (it’s very long) at three in the morning because I couldn’t sleep because of existential dread, which I don’t recommend. Then I picked it back up at the reasonable hour of 2:00pm because I was getting sick and didn’t want to leave the house (which I totally recommend!). Sometime during this second viewing I asked my boyfriend if he had seen it and he mentioned that it was a hoax. Which I didn’t know at all, so I had the interesting experience of both pre and post viewings with this knowledge. Before I knew that, I hated it and it was sad and depressing. After knowing that (mostly) I think Joaquin Phoenix is one of the best actors of all time and it became way more interesting to me. But isn’t that interesting, why did I have to know the art wasn’t sincere for me to like it? I feel like that happens a lot lately and I don’t know how I feel about it. Where something is bad but then if you’re in on the joke of it being bad on purpose, somehow it becomes good? Why? Who knows.

The scenes with P.Diddy are really funny either way, (Joaquin wants P.Diddy to produce his album and he has this whole saga of trying to contact him, then waiting, then flying to cities to wait, then meeting with him, then bringing him a CD) P.Diddy is in the relatable position of knowing something’s bad but not being able to outright say that, and it’s fun to watch him maneuver those situations.

The knowledge that the scenes are staged makes sense that they could have Joaquin doing coke and hiring prostitutes in the film, and made the scene where he’s throwing up into a toilet less gross (I hope). There’s also a scene where Ben Stiller comes to pitch him a movie and that was great because I love Ben Stiller.

In general, the ruminations on “celebrity” and “reality TV” they’re pushing are interesting and they probed the conversation a lot further than had been done before, I guess my biggest question with art is always Why, and the answer here just seems to be “my friend and I wanted to play a joke on the world” which is cool I suppose.

This whole movie I just kept imagining Joaquin in Gladiator, like the way he looked and talked in that, wearing armor, doing the same stuff he was doing in this movie- like rapping or throwing up or chasing a bird with a sheet, and that was personally entertaining.

Joaquin Phoenix was a particularly interesting person to do this because I think so many people really like him and they don’t know why- people seem to route for his success just cause. Unlike with some actors where you think they do a good job but they seem like dicks or you secretly want them to fail (Tom Cruise, Chris Evans), I think people are sweet on him because of his cleft palate scar, people don’t know what he’s been through and they are routing for him. So it was interesting to see how many people continued to support him despite all the shit he was putting out, like people kept booking him to do club appearances even though they would hear about how bad the other ones were, and even though P.Diddy thought his music was bad he kept meeting with him and encouraging him. I think if someone less likable and talented had tried to do this same prank (like Ben Affleck for example) it would have been a much shorter movie and things would have turned on him way faster.

This was a movie I really wanted to see and I’m a little disappointed in what it was, but happy I finally saw it.

One and a half cleft palate scars, would not masturbate again.

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Manchester By the Sea

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Whoa!!!!! This movie was incredible. To get the first thing out of the way- I read an article that outlined two women who worked on a project with Casey Affleck and are suing him for sexual harassment cases. I read the article and his treatment of them sounded awful. It’s here if you want to read it. So, that definitely affected me going in because I hate hate hate supporting the work of abusers/bad people. But unfortunately I am not perfect and I do often consume art by people who have done things I think are reprehensible. My cousin invited me to go with him and we haven’t hung out in 15 years so I decided to go.

The movie was incredible. I know I already said that, but then I said some other stuff so I decided to say it again. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a stoic complicated man with pockets of emotional rage that sort of unearth themselves throughout. Normally I don’t like it when male characters express themselves emotionally through mainly hitting things, but it worked for me here. The first scene of the movie is him on a boat with a little kid, (Patty/Patrick) and he and the guy driving the boat (Joe/Lee’s brother/Patty’s father) are joking with the kid about how they’re going to feed him to sharks. It’s very funny.

Men: “You know a school of sharks is going to come up and eat their way through the boat. The only way you can get away is to throw a kid in there to get them off the trail”

Patty: “Sharks don’t even swim in schools”

Men: “Smart kid. You know, an intelligent kid is exactly the kind of balanced meal a shark craves”

And so on. The writing in this movie was very sharp and there were a lot of suddenly funny moments. Slowly, slowly, slowly, all the details of the situation come out. That was one of my favorite parts about this movie- the pacing and the way the story unfolds.

Lee is a maintenance man and a lot of the beginning shots are this montage of him fixing things in people’s houses/interacting with tenants. This one woman comes over while he’s plunging her toilet and she’s like, “I’m sorry this is so gross” then we hear her on the phone with someone asking, “Have you ever had sexual fantasies about your handyman? I have such a crush on mine. Like right now he’s literally cleaning shit out of my toilet but I want to fuck him” then she continues on for a while and hangs up then comes out to pay him being normal and it’s really funny.

We sort of watch Lee as people interact with him and deduce from context clues, something horrible has happened to him and that he is an intense person. Very early on in the film his bother dies. Through flashbacks that are actually more just like cuts juxtaposed in time, we find out that his brother had a congenital heart disease that is common enough in older people, but very rare in young people. But he has it, and it kills him.

A lot of the movie is guess work, figuring out what has happened/changed between the present situation and the scenes they show from the past. Very rarely do they show an incident actually occurring, it’s usually the build up or aftermath of it. In fact, only once do they actually show it and it’s horrifying. I’ll say what it is, but if you’re thinking about seeing this movie AT ALL, go watch it and don’t spoil it for yourself here because it’s amazing in the movie when you don’t know.

But Joe dies (that’s not the thing), and we watch as Lee goes to help out Patrick/figure out the affairs. All the scenes with Patrick (and there are a lot of them) are wonderful. He does such a good job of acting a full teenage emotional scale with subtlety and control. Lee and Patrick have such a cool relationship, they’re honest, and they joke sometimes. At one point Patrick has a panic attack over frozen chicken (we’ve all been there) and Lee just stays with him until he falls asleep, after kicking the door in. It’s that combo of violence and quiet support that’s so winning! Very Boston. Another incredibly Boston thing I appreciated was that everyone curses and no one apologizes for it, even the kid when he’s like eight is calling his Dad and Uncle motherfuckers, because it’s their culture.

Lee also has an ex-wife, Randi (Michelle Williams) and their dynamic is simply heartbreaking. There is one scene between them that makes Blue Valentine look like a light-hearted after school special. I don’t know how much I can say in this review because in looking at the IMDB page I realized that the movie didn’t even have it’s wide release yet, it’s only “select theaters” which means New York and nowhere else. But actually as I’m looking it up more, perhaps it opened on November 18th everywhere and it’s fine. Ok so here’s the big thing that we don’t find out until halfway through the movie (IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT AND YOU WANT TO STOP READING!!!!!!):

One night, Lee goes out for some beers. He has been drinking/smoking/doing coke and walks because he doesn’t want to drive fucked up. It is the middle of winter, and his wife has been getting these really bad sinus infections which the central heat in their house dries out and makes worse. Before leaving he puts some more logs on the fire to keep her and their three kids warm. Halfway to the store he can’t remember if he put the grate on or not. He assumes it’s fine and keeps going. When he comes back, the house is in flames and Michelle Williams is screaming through her restraints “I have three kids in there.” They all die. Later at the police station after he gives his statement, they tell him he can go. “You’re releasing me?” and he’s kind of aghast. Then as soon as he walks out of the interrogation room he grabs a cop’s gun and tries to kill himself. Whoa buddy!!

This whole movie is about loss and how complex it is. Everyone in the movie has lost something in some way and it’s about how often you have to figure out how your personal experiences interact with what other people that you love need from you, and the emotional balance that all takes. Did I cry during the movie? Yes. Am I crying now? Yes.

Michelle Williams was my favorite part, she has such control over her face. She holds it differently in every movie I see her in and the only other person I’ve ever seen do that is Daniel Day-Lewis and he gets so much credit for film transformations and she doesn’t at all. But seriously between Dick, My Week With Marilyn, Blue Valentine, Brokeback Mountain, Shutter Island, she holds her face differently in all of them. And I’m glad that she’s blonde in every movie, you tell’em Michelle!

In a hilarious turn of events the actor who plays Joe Chandler (the brother who dies) is Kyle CHANDLER!! (Remember Early Edition?) His real last name is also his fake name in this movie!!! Crazy. We didn’t get popcorn which was probably for the best because it would have felt bad to be eating popcorn while watching someone’s kids burn to death. The seats were red leather (well, probably not but close enough) and they reclined ALL THE WAY so I watched this movie LAYING DOWN in public and that was cool to me.

The kid was kind of a piece of shit? But loveable and sympathetic too. Mostly I say piece of shit because he had two girlfriends and seemingly just wanted to fuck them and didn’t care about their emotional well-being, and he keeps lamenting that one of his girlfriend’s mom’s always checks on them every few minutes so they can’t have sex easily while they’re lying to her and Lee lets them be in his house alone while he runs errands and they exchange this smile that makes it seem like Lee is giving her sex as a gift to Patrick which is creepy and gross.

OH MY GOD something I almost completely forgot- MATTHEW BRODERICK comes out of NOWHERE like 2/3rds of the way through the movie and is Patrick’s alcoholic turned clean mom’s Christian boyfriend who is kind of a controlling asshole and ends up emailing Patrick saying he should contact his mom through him. But it was so shocking to see him, all the older people in the theatre (everyone was older than us in the theatre) audibly commented/gasped. It was so funny to witness. And he’s wearing this blue pullover cardigan sweater thing and it’s really hard for me to imagine him and Sarah Jessica Parker having sex and I know no one asked me to but I try anyway.

The runtime of this movie was 2 hours and 17 minutes and when I heard that I was like, “Oh brother” but when you’re in there it’s actually perfect because they don’t rush through anything or have anything set to music as time passes. Things just happen and it takes two hours to deal with them and that was great. Also the ending is good because it’s an unfinished compromise which is the realest/best thing anything can be. IMDB is telling me that one of the girlfriends (Kara Hayward) is Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom. You’re welcome!

Only two complaints that a lot of white men are going to roll their eyes at (I bet they are already rolling them because I called them that!!!) but: lots of the women weren’t interesting or important or unique. They just kind of seemed like props for the men to act out stuff on/to AND I think there was one (MAYBE two) black people in this movie? One asian. LOTS of white people, lotssss of men. I think men get annoyed when you point that stuff out, because they’re like, “Why does that matter???” but it’s annoying to constantly always be identifying with men and giving them emotional allowances/hear their stories when they won’t/don’t do the same in return. Like if this movie was made and everything was the fucking same, same writing, same setting, same production value, same direction, but the main character was a black woman, half the men who are going to see it and think it’s “brilliant” (which it is) wouldn’t see or care about it and that’s annoying!

I can’t think of more to say. My thoughts are kind of scattered, I know I’ll remember more parts in time and I’ll come back to add any persisting thoughts I have. Overall really, really incredible. Casey Affleck is an emotional tour de force and will get a lot of acclaim for this role probably. Michelle Williams is a blonde gem and no one deserves her. The director, Kenneth Lonergan, gave himself a cameo in this movie just like Alfred Hitchcock and I like that!

5 out of 5 boat motors, would absolutely masturbate again.

 

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The Neon Demon

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Y’all. What the fuck. Hi, I hated this movie. Have you ever wondered what it would look like if a man had carte blanche to create his idea of what he thinks women are and also wanted to make something he could masturbate to for the rest of his life? No? Because it’s been done so many times before and is most cinema? Fuck me? Ok.

This fucking movie. Basic plot: a nubile ingenue moves to big city to become a model. Men are enchanted, as are other women who want to fuck her but also murder her because of jealousy!! (You know how women are with their psychosexual murderous tendencies). There’s a bunch of glittery low lit surreal violence because art, and a couple poorly written monologues about “beauty.” Jessie, the girl, (Elle Fanning) goes to one casting call where some fashion gatekeeper (Christina Hendricks) tells her she’s going to be the next big thing and sends her to meet some photographer that everyone cares about. He borderline sexually assaults her (classic will they/won’t they chemistry!!!) but she’s cool with it because it’s advancing her “career!” The makeup artist, Jena Malone, (revamping her role as the “acclimated insider who shows hot new girl the ropes” from Sucker Punch) has offered to be her friend but she also participated in a public bathroom shaming incident so what even is friendship?

Two other models are REALLY jealous of Jessie (because they’re 21 and basically dead already) and they antagonize her throughout. There’s some surreal shit that they throw into the movie to separate it from a Sia music video, like a mountain lion getting into Jessie’s motel room, and her making out with herself inside a giant crystal.

There’s also a boy who likes Jessie for ‘who she is’ and keeps encouraging her to look inside herself/insisting that she has other talents even though she’s like, “I’m just pretty.”

Side note: I really wanted her to look him in the eye and say, “No, I’m just pretty and that’s fine. You’re just projecting these other things onto me because then it’s easier for you to convince yourself you like me for an actual reason and aren’t just shallow.” But alas. 

Then more stuff happens, until Jessie has a dream that her motel landlord (Keanu Reeves???????) put a knife in her mouth, then she wakes up and someone is trying to get in so she locks the door more, then hears someone murdering the thirteen year old runaway girl in the room next to her who Keanu has described virulently as “VERY Lolita-esque.” So she calls Jena Malone and goes over to her huge beautiful mansion house where Jena is like, “You were almost murdered? That’s so scary, let me brush your hair and try to have sex with you” and Jessie pushes her off. Then Jena (who is also a makeup artist at a morgue) draws a face with X’s for eyes and mouth in lipstick on a mirror.

Then the two models who have been awful the whole time start to chase her with knives until they corner her by an emptied pool (that earlier she stood on a diving board giving a monologue over) and then Jena comes up and pushes her in. The next day Jena waters the flowers, then reads a book in a shallow grave.

Then we follow the two girls as they go on a photo shoot and one of the younger models there is laughing about her friend who is old and not getting jobs. She then asks one of the models, “has a girl ever beaten you out for a job?” and when she says yes the girl asks, “What did you do?” and she replies, “I ate her.” Forgot to mention: earlier at a casting when Jessie got the job and the other girl didn’t she threw a huge blunt object into the bathroom mirror and it shattered all over the floor. Jessie came in to see what all the fuss was and found said girl upset. She seemed to try to comfort her then the girl kind of lunged at her and Jessie cut her hand pretty deep on mirror glass. Then the girl took her hand and started to look at it but just drank her blood for a while until Jessie ran out. Women am I right??? Always drinking each other’s blood!!

Back at the shoot- they are dressed up and in the sunlight and by a different pool when one of the girls starts feeling nauseous. She finally runs inside where she keeps dry heaving. When the other model/her friend comes to check on her, she vomits up an eyeball on the carpet, then says, “I have to get her out of me” and stabs herself in the stomach with a pair of scissors. The other model takes off her sunglasses (they have been on the whole time) and leans over and eats the eyeball.

Then I don’t even remember what happened after that even though I watched it approximately 15 minutes ago. To be honest I was ready for this movie to be over the second it started. The first shot of the whole movie is Jessie sprawled backwards on a couch with her makeup done and her throat slit. Then she’s gone and reappears at a makeup table wiping the blood off her chest and you see that it was for a shoot. Which just-ughhh. It scares me how much I would have liked this movie in high school. There’s this idea that coupling beauty and violence is edgy in some way but it’s so boring and tired. Also I think it should be illegal for men to write female characters.

Oh I remember what happens at the end. So after Jena Malone has sex with a corpse at her job, she wakes up in a bathtub covered in blood and her friends the two models are also covered in blood and are sensually taking a shower together and washing the blood off each other in a sexy way. Then I think it just ends? Idk my eyes were bleeding.

Other things: the makeup in this movie was great. Is a neck fetish a thing? If so that’s in here a lot. Umm I hated it? Is that a note?

This movie was so devoid of artistic value to me it’s hard to even know where to begin. All the women depicted were hollow shells of real people, obsessed with beauty and willing to do anything even kill each other to get approval in a male dominated world? The only character development we get from Jessie is that her parents are dead and that she thinks she’s pretty.

Instead of watching this movie I recommend you get the DVD, go to the “Scene Selections” menu option, appreciate the stills for the art that they are, then take it out and throw it in the trash.

Three out of ten blood-stained swimming pools, would NOT masturbate again.

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The Eyes of My Mother

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Well. It is Halloween weekend and instead of binge eating chocolate I have leaned into the darker traditions of the holiday-scary movie watching. Tonight before going out I started the first episode of Stranger Things (only months behind everyone else!) and interrupted it to go to an early screening of The Eyes of My Mother, an art horror movie that was debuted (or just shown maybe? Who even knows?) at Sundance this year.

The IMDB description of this movie is: “A young, lonely woman is consumed by her deepest and darkest desires after tragedy strikes her quiet country life” which, is a very euphemistic way to talk about what is basically a perfume ad for serial killing. The movie begins (well I missed the first three minutes because I was late, so my experience of the movie begins) with a little girl and her mother in a field outside their house. The mother is speaking a combination of Portuguese and English to her daughter as they navigate a filed of cows and flowers. Cut to them in the kitchen and a severed cow’s head on the table. The mother is calmly speaking to the girl as she slices into the cow (some close shots here of liquids popping and dripping) and removes both eyes.

Next we see (through the kitchen window) a man talking to the daughter. The mother rushes outside and calls the daughter to her. The man (Will Brill as “Charlie”) takes this as an introduction, “Oh, her name’s Francisca?” and smooth talks his way into the house by asking if he can use the bathroom. Once inside he murders the mother in a tub. The acting in this scene from Charlie is pretty stand alone in the film. The subtle dance (that’s right, I said it) between calm and unhinged that he weaves was engrossing and impressive and wretched. He was the DEFINITION of horror. Also apparently he had to leave this filming early to do a top secret David Fincher project so he will probably blow up in the next year or so!!

The father comes home in the middle of this killing (shown from a single continuous shot-like if the car scene in Children of Men was in a bumpy truck) and ends it with a bang. That last sentence isn’t euphemism, a lot of the action is not shown, so the audience is left to infer from noises they hear what occurred. As it turns out, the father didn’t kill Charlie, he simply beat him with something made of glass (a large cat figurine? an old window? Samuel L. Jackson’s cane from Unbreakable?? We don’t know!!) and chained him up in the barn. The daughter (who is around 10 at this point) goes into the barn to clean his wounds, feed him, and then remove his eyes (we all turn into our mothers!!!). We get a very satisfying question and answer session between serial killer and victim that I haven’t ever seen before where she gets to ask him, “Why us?” and he answers, “You let me in.” She probes further, correctly assuming that he’s done it before (affirmative nod) and then asks why. His, “Because it feels fantastic” answer is pretty on par for the course of most horror films- the scary thing is supposed to be that people are so different from us and they just do these horrific things because it’s good to them.

The daughter (Francisca) then goes back into the house, sits on the couch with her father and informs him, “He won’t scream anymore” (something to that effect) because she has also cut out his voice box.

The story is broken up into three numbered chapters, “Mother,” “Father,” and “Family.” There’s a whole bunch more horrifying things in this first chapter- the dad (after ignoring his daughter and watching TV the night his wife is brutally murdered), comes into her room, sits on the end of her bed and says, “I need help with your mother.” If we were anywhere else that phrase might mean, “She’s shopping too much again!” or even a little darker, some kind of addiction that needs to be addressed, but here in this terror farm, it means her dead body is heavy and I need you, her tiny daughter, to help me drag it into the woods.

Oh, in the barn before the daughter performed amateur surgery on him, Charlie asked if she was going to kill him and Francisca replied, “Why would I kill you? You’re my only friend.” And it must be clarified: it’s not in the singsong doll language that we often get from little kids in horror movies, it’s in the surprised realism of a person who is aware of a situation/so indoctrinated by isolation that her response to the man who murdered her mother basically in front of her is one of friendship. Somebody get this kid a Polly Pocket amirite??

The second chapter (“Father”) starts with him dead in his bed and the girl about 10 years older, moving his corpse around the house with her, doing things with it (dancing, bathing, watching TV, crying) and generally being creepy. After we see her do some house stuff (eating a meal by herself very slowly) and feeding Charlie in the barn (he’s also been chained up for about ten years now) she goes out. We see her pull up to a bar called Donna’s, but we never see inside.

This could have been because the filmmakers wanted the landscape of the film to mostly be in the barn, or because they didn’t have a very big budget.

Francisca has brought a woman back with her, Kimiko  (Clara Wong). They’re kind of flirting/ exchanging small talk and unfortunately for her Kimiko brings up Francisca’s parents. After Francisca says her mom was “killed by somebody” (way to keep the mystery alive Francisca!) Kimiko says, “And your dad?” and she says, “I killed him” which it’s unclear if this is a joke or the truth. Kimiko realizes she’s made a horrible mistake and tries to get out, but as we found out leaving Donna’s when Kimiko asks, “Are you from here?” and Francisca says “a few towns over,” they are absolutely in the middle of nowhere. Kimiko starts panicking and saying she needs to leave and Francisca keeps offering to give her a ride more and more frantically, then we cut to a scene of Francisca cleaning pooled blood off the floor.

Something I perhaps forgot to mention is that this movie is set a while ago. I’m not sure when exactly but there are only rotary phones/landlines. No cell phones/any technology besides running water.

Realization: I guess I shouldn’t go through scene by scene and describe what took place because we are like one fifth of the way through and it would take wayy too long. Basically, Francisca keeps lowkey murdering and one day she hitchhikes a ride home from the forest from a mom and her baby. She asks to hold the baby for one minute and the mom says no at first but then gives in, at which point Francisca takes off with the baby into her house. Once the mom finally gets in the house, she runs upstairs towards the sound of her baby crying from behind a cracked door. As she’s peering through it and finally opens it, Francisca comes up from behind and stabs her. Then she moves the mom to the shackle station in the barn (she murdered Charlie after she let him out to have sex with him and he tried to run away 😦 ) removes her eyes and voice box, and raises the child as her own.

When he’s like eight, one night he follows his curiosity into the barn and encounters his mom for the first time. Then a few nights later he goes in and sets her free. She escapes and somehow communicates to the police where the barn is. The cops come in the night while Francisca is in the woods hugging her dead father’s body that she dug up (you know how night is!). She runs back to the house to protect her “son,” and the police shoot and kill her. The End!

Ok so some general thoughts: I saw the movie at an advanced screening and there was a talkback at the end with one of the producers and two of the production designers where people asked questions that I feel gave me a lot of insight. First, the producer guy said the point (because my friend I watched the movie with was like, “What was the point?”) was that often when someone catches a serial killer, huge parts of their life become publicized and speculated on but there are a lot of other moments leading up to that point that contribute to those that aren’t thought about/considered and I think in this movie they tried to show the steps leading up to perhaps the more public ones in a serial killer’s life.

I don’t know- generally, I hate horror as a genre- it seems unnecessary and base? When horror movies are good they can be engaging and thought provoking and when they’re really good they’re called psychological thrillers (lol just kiddinggg). I liked some of the moments that were created in this movie- first being, when the boy saw his mother for the first time, and she looked so scary, she was this monster (it looked like) but for the audience to know that his “normal life” was the real nightmare, and what looked to be scary was actually his life, that was a mental punch I appreciated. From an acting stand point, Charlie (Will Brill) knocked it out of the fucking park, as did Clara Wong. The scene with Clara was my favorite because it seemed the most genuine and unique interaction (some of the other ones relied on horror tropes pretty heavily-the singsong voice, staring into space, talking slowly and with weird affect- I didn’t really think Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) was a consistent actor- some scenes were phenomenal, others felt very campy). Visually the film was pretty stunning, there was an aerial shot of Francisca’s dead father in a milky bath, a huge panned back shot of Francisca getting into the mother’s truck, lotta good tree/forest shots in general, a bird’s eye view shot of the house at the end when the cops shoot Francisca, etc. It looked great for the most part. It was also all in black and white which I stopped noticing really early on. It was like when you read a book in an old vernacular but then you get really into it and it stops registering to you as not normal.

The version I saw didn’t have subtitles for all the Portuguese but apparently that was a mistake. I kind of liked it, it reminded me of Mean Streets, where the audience has to work and sometimes you don’t “get” everything that’s going on but that’s okay.

There were some plot holes in the movie that bothered me a little as someone who does like psychological thrillers and wanted everything to be air tight. How did the woman (blind & without a voice box) communicate correctly to the police where the barn was? Why didn’t the father call the police in the beginning when his wife was murdered in front of his daughter? (That one I kind of figured out in the talk back- they’re just supposed to be really isolated/only rely on each other/be understood to be very insular) How did Francisca pay to keep the electricity on if she didn’t have a job? Where did she get the matching white lace bra and underwear she’s wearing under her sheer nightgown when she murders Charlie in the field? Does she eat the bodies after she packages them up and put them in the refrigerator? If not where does she get the money to buy food?

There’s a lot of those kinds of questions I have and I’m fine with things being unanswered/not the focus but I would like my movies to be thought through enough to at least have embedded hints to answers ya know?

While I was watching the movie I had a lot of “what the fuck” moments, where something just seemed unnecessarily violent just for violence’s sake. (And not the actual depiction of violence, because a lot of it was offscreen, but more so the plot points that relied on the knowledge of the violence). But when looking at the totality of the film and hearing the talk back I feel more centered in it’s purpose. I think a lot of the dad stuff didn’t need to be there? I wish it would have been witnessing her mom’s murder, normal-ish life with dad with some weird tendencies, then dad’s death (killed or otherwise) and then some psychological behavioral pattern stuff. I felt like there was a little too much being tackled and the movie felt slightly gratuitous and a little overwhelmed with plot/content.

Three out of seven severed cow’s heads, would potentially masturbate again if my boyfriend wanted to see it.

 

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Mascots

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Just finished watching the newest Christopher Guest movie which (if I’m not mistaken) he just released directly onto Netflix instead of showing in theaters at all, which if you saw For Your Consideration was probably a good idea.

This world was constructed a lot like Best In Show, a competition people have traveled to attend & compete in, except instead of showing dogs they are all mascots of some kind. I think the world was fun and gave them a lot to play with, there were lots of tropes/archetypal characters I saw: fighting husband & wife couple (also a lot like Best In Show), a son who’s carrying on a family tradition, a “bad boy” who doesn’t really care, a dancer type who takes everything very seriously and considers it all “art,” etc.

Um, overall I thought there were interesting and funny parts, but it just seemed to be following a formula and I felt a lot of people were underused. So many people who we’ve seen do amazing nuanced comedy acting in his films in the past seemed kind of shoehorned and lost in the shuffle. For example, Jennifer Coolidge who is such an interesting actress and pretty unlike anyone else was a trophy wife again (remember Best In Show?) and she really only has one speaking scene, an interview with her rich husband where they’re talking about why she doesn’t leave him (he bought her a baseball team!) and then the only other shots of her are crowd reaction shots during the final competition (which were very funny and she did an amazing job with what she was given, it just kind of seems like she was given scraps).

Aside from Parker Posey and Susan Yeagley (who was my favorite part of the whole movie!!) not that many women were really centered/utilized. Even Jane Lynch who has become (well really always been, she just got more famous) a comedy powerhouse in the years since the original Guest movies, was a pretty stereotypical snobby judge: vying for the spotlight, thinks she’s better than everyone else. I thought Parkey Posey and Susan Yeagley’s thread (sisters Cindi and Laci Babineaux) was the best part of the movie and yielded some really honest and funny moments. One of my favorite scenes was when they’re in an airport going to the competition and they’re telling how they found out they were sisters, and the interplay between the two actresses is really amazing- very supportive and quick, nuanced and funny. There’s also a scene later where Cindi came to wish Laci good luck and watch her (after Cindi got too sick from sushi and had to drop out) and Laci calls out to her, “I love that you came” and it’s not funny it’s just real. Writing this, I’m remembering so many more moments between the two of them that I loved (Cindi wants to go get food and Laci says “anything you want!” but balks at the mention of sushi, but quickly agrees after Cindi informs her, “they have fried stuff”).

The husband and wife pair (Zach Woods and Sarah Baker) were both individually very funny but didn’t really have chemistry together or interesting routes to take- all the jokes were kind of predictable. He cheated on her 5 years ago with Cindi Babineaux, and always looks at other women. At the end of the movie when they do the “One Year Later” checkup on all the characters, they seem to be changed and happy then he looks at the pretty young nanny (his wife specifies he hired) for a long time. It’s just kind of tired and old. I remember that actor from the later seasons of The Office and he was so interesting to watch, I really liked the stuff he was doing and this kind of felt like anyone could have done it and it would have been the same.

There were two black people in the whole movie, I know because I counted, including crowd scenes. So, that.

John Michael Higgins who is SO funny, and I just saw him be funny in Pitch Perfect 2, again had basically one or two scenes of talking, where he said some things that were funny? I just finished watching the movie 4 minutes ago and I literally can’t remember anything his character says. I know he’s some kind of TV exec? He had a protege (Maria Blasucci) and she was interesting, I wanted to see more of her. Her acting was really subtle and felt very dynamic in a quiet way. I’m excited to see her in more things.

Um, the performances in the Mascot competition were funny sometimes? There was an opening one with a pencil and a pencil sharpener from India that was funny in an uncomfortable way that I liked. They seemed to be trying to do something with race- there was a scene where Cindi’s participation was in question because her school’s mascot (The Leapin Armadillo) used to be the Squaws, then they had a whole scene where 3 white people discussed the use of the word squaw and if it was offensive or not. I liked that this angle was introduced, there was also a thematic side note of “Furries” who had infiltrated the hotel and were trying to have sex with the mascots? It’s interesting to think about all the plagues of the mascot community and some are truly interesting but they just weren’t presented in a full enough way to be successful in my opinion. Like, they could have really done something with either of these topics instead they just entered and exited with the same base knowledge we all had going in-just acknowledged that those things exist, then left them.

There was a man who was a hedgehog mascot which his father and grandfather had been before him and his whole storyline seemed to be about pushing the boundaries and getting acceptance from his father for doing so, and it’s just like, how many times have we seen someone in a competition who wants to buck their mentor to add a “new” element to their performance that clashes with tradition but then they do it because they believe in themselves and they win? Well, he did it and he won.

I don’t know, it feels like I’m being really harsh. I’m not asking him to reinvent the comedy wheel but when you have such a cast of talented actors who have been doing this for more than 16 years now, you should let them play more. It felt like the characters didn’t have room to play.

I’m glad I watched it, and it was definitely better than For Your Consideration, but overall, not the level that I would expect from him. Christopher Guest seems in kind of a slump and I want him to do a comedy with Darren Aronofsky. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? They’re both good at creating these worlds and I think a dark comedy from them would be cool. Can someone let them know? Thank you.

5 out of 8 sushis, would not masturbate again.

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