Posts Tagged ‘netflix roulette’

by Alex Huntsberger (not to be confused by the one Andrew wrote)

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

It's like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it's GOD.

It’s like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it’s GOD.

God I fucking hated the first two Harry Potter movies. Like, seriously, you guys. Especially because I loved the first two Harry Potter books. (Well, okay, I basically shat my pants with rainbows when I read the first book and then read the second book and only really liked it.) I was in…lemme see (checks IMDB, realizes how long it’s been since these movies came out, weeps) my freshman year of high school and while most of my friends were definitely more excited for the Lord of the Rings movie coming out, I was 500% more into Harry Potter. JK Rowling didn’t waste 3 pages telling you the history whatever goddamn hillock her protagonists happened walking along at the time. Those books were lean, mean wish-fulfillment machines and their films were gonna wipe the floor with those stupid, prancing hobbits. It was gonna be great.

Until it wasn’t. Lord of the Rings got entrusted to some weirdo director of low-budget New Zealand gore-comedies, Kate-Winslet-starring teen lesbian psychodramas and Michael J. Fox ghost-buddy flicks whose strange, obsessive version of reality turned out to be just the thing that made Tolkein’s magical kingdom leap off the screen bestride a majestic steed and ram its motherfucking elvish blade right through your goddamn soul. Harry Potter got Chris Columbus, the guy who made Mrs. Doubtfire. He took a world teeming with originality and wit and flying motorcycles and moving stairwells and three-headed dogs and secret train stations and I MEAN QUIDDITCH FOR CHRISSAKES and he turned it into a fucking Thomas Kinkade painting with weirdly anti-semitic goblins.

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

So by the time Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was set to open, I was pretty much over it. By then I was reading Hunter S. Thompson and listening to Bright Eyes and, you know, the country was mired in Iraq so I had that to worry about and I just really didn’t give a shit. I was still gonna see it, cuz I was still a nerd who didn’t like the outdoors, but I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

And then I loved it. And the reason I loved it was because someone over at Warner Bros. had realized that Chris Columbus was as good at making movies as the explorer with the same name was at sailing to India. Chris Columbus had been fired and replaced by a little known Mexican guy by the name of Guillermo Del Toro I know it didn’t happen but how freaking cool would that have been Alfonso Cuaron. Whereas Chris Columbus was like a quarterback who wasn’t trying to score a touchdown so much as he was trying to not turn the ball over, Alfonso was like a quarterback who wasn’t a quarterback at all, but was actually a sexy, bearded poetry professor who seduced his students (both male and female) and read them Neruda while feeding them Turkish wines out of handmade clay cups and who just sped across the football field one day on his moped, grabbed the football out of the other quarterback’s hands and zipped into the end zone as pages of his never-to-be-finished-but-still-brilliant novel  fell out of his bag and scattered to the wind behind him and the entire stadium was filled with a spectacular sense of effervescent joie de vivre. It was an upgrade, to say the least.

2 years after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuaron released Children of Men, a piece of dystopian sci-fi that remains to this day one of my favorite movies. But after Children of Men there was nothing. For years and years and years, absolutely nothing. One of the best director’s working in film had all but vanished. I personally just assumed that he moved to Italy to study the art of cobbling, because if everyone was crazy in the way that Daniel Day-Lewis was crazy then the world would be a better place. But no, Alfonso was not cobbling. Or rather, he was cobbling, but not with shoes. He was cobbling with the very nature of filmmaking itself. He was constructing and, for the most part, entirely inventing anew a rig that would allow him to shoot a live action film entirely in Zero G. And not just floaty-floaty Zero-G but floaty-spinny-out-of-controlly-zoomy-zoomy-law-of-Murphy Zero G. It took him 7 years to complete.

And it’s called Gravity.

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to "clear my cache."

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to “clear my cache.”

THE BASICS: During a routine mission by the crew of the Space Shuttle Explorer  to service the Hubble telescope, disaster strikes. The shrapnel from a recently detonated Russian satellite destroys both the Hubble as well as The Explorer itself, stranding long-time-scientist, first-time-astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in the middle of freaking space. Kowalski, who Clooney pretty much plays as a cross between George Clooney in real life and every other character he was ever played, calmly explains that he and Stone are simply going to mosey on over to the abandoned International Space Station and take one of their escape pods back down to earth. (They have a different and actually official name but, fuck it, they’re escape pods.) But when they arrive at the ISS it turns out that neither escape pod is a go-go for re-entry. Kowalski, ever the cucumber, says that this isn’t a problem, as they can just use one of the escape pods to jet on over to the Chinese space station a little ways away and use on of their escape pods.  It is at this point in the film that things really start to go awry. And remember, this is a movie that began with its characters getting stranded in the the middle of freaking space.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, (And don’t worry, I’ll be berating you in a second) I’m going to stop this summary here. Some things just have to be enjoyed in the moment. For instance, the act of wiping the poop of your pants after this movie makes you shit yourself with horror.

Now, once again, for those of you who haven’t seen the film…What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film but haven’t seen it in 3-D, let alone in IMAX 3-D… What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film in regular 3-D but had the option of seeing it in IMAX 3-D…What the hell is wrong with you? Go see previous instructions.

Certain critics have derided this film as pure spectacle, and this is not entirely inaccurate. The script is pretty pro-forma, with moment’s like the revealing  of Sandra Bullock’s tragic backstory coming off as such an awkward info dump, it’s like living at the bottom of the info outhouse and then hearing that Newt Gingrich just ate a whole buffet full of info and is currently headed your way, Wall Street Journal in hand. But to write this movie off as just a spectacle is to write the Grand Canyon off as just a pretty sizeable divot. Gravity is a visceral experience. It doesn’t set out to make you think, it just wants to make you feel. And in that regard the thing, is a friggin’ masterpiece.

AND THE NOMINEES MIGHT BE…

Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects, Cinematography, Production Design and, fuck it, throw in Short Film (Animation) too cuz this bitch is gonna clean UP!

While a lot of people have been calling Gravity an Oscar front runner, it is in these categories that it can really be considered a juggernaut. There is barely a shot or moment in this movie that is special effect free. This because the nature of the story that is being told. These characters are trapped in outer space, orbiting above earth. As this is something that cannot be captured casually (for instance they couldn’t pull a Joss Whedon and just go film it at Cuaron’s house unless Cuaron was secretly Magneto and lived in a floating asteroid fortress), so the special effects are an integral part to the story. And even the few shots in the movie that essentially amount to “look how fucking beautiful Earth is from space, you dicks” are so well done that you really are just sitting there thinking “damn, that shit IS purdy.” Without the special effects, this movie would not work. It’s why it took Cuaron so long to make. He was obsessed with getting it right. Hell, they filmed the thing in 2011. All the rest of that time was spent in post.

When I remember the sound of this movie, the only thing I can recall is Sandra Bullock hyper-ventilating. Since the movie is set in space, where sound doesn’t travel, there are far fewer ambient elements to work with. The sound design here is very sparse, very elegant, and very terrifying because of that. And while some people might ask, “well shouldn’t we be rewarding the films that had the most complicated sound design?” these are probably the same people who listen solely to speed metal because those musicians can play the fastest. The soundtrack starts out very gentle, with the reassuring buzz of Mission Control bantering back and forth with George Clooney. Once the shrapnel hits and the astronauts are cut from their communications with home, that silence become deafening. It didn’t even hit me until a later scene where Bullock is able to pick a transmission coming through via HAM radio just how nice it was to hear the electric whirr of static. It’s become such a signifier of connectedness, of home.

I won’t get too much into the other visual effects, other than to say that this movie is beautiful. I think Gravity stands to wipe the floor in these technical categories, possibly setting it up for Titanic-esque Oscars takedown. It could definitely challenge Slumdog Millionaire’s eight statues and possibly go after Return of the King’s eleven. However, it most likely won’t win as many as Titanic, which I’m pretty sure won all of them. All. Even the shorts.

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Yes. This is going to happen. Maybe in a stronger year with a stronger crop of leading ladies she could be edged out…except that no, she would still be in it. Right now I would even call her an early favorite to win the whole damn thing. One could even say she’s…driving the bus?

Bus

Keanu’s helping

Okay, with my requisite Speed joke out of the way, I can actually talk about her performance. Cuz it’s kind of a doozy. Bullock here is that thing she does best: she’s our every woman. Dr. Ryan Stone ain’t no spacetronaut. She’s just a normal brilliant scientist that for vague and/or unintelligible reasons has been called to service the Hubble Telescope. You know, cuz sometimes that just happens. What’s amazing about her performance though is a) the relative dearth of quality dialogue she is given to deliver and b) that she spends almost the entire movie in various degrees of nervous breakdown without ever once losing our sympathy. Never once in this movie did I think “God, Sandy, why don’t you just pull it together already?!” Instead I just kept thinking “pull yourself together, Huntsberger, it’s just a movie, it’s just a—OH GOD SANDY WATCH OUT.”

Throughout her entire career, Bullock has possessed this inner steeliness that’s made her Hollywood’s go to Tough-Ass Cookie. She’s an Oreo made out of coal and C-4.  Oddly enough, it’s also the thing that’s made her a pretty damn good romantic comedy lead as well. When allowed to bring the sass, she’s actually got a very down-home-style Katharine Hepburn vibe. In Gravity, she uses that steeliness to mitigate Stone’s outright panic. Even when the character is literally hyperventilating her air supply away, Bullock maintains this undertone of control, of inner strength the mutes the panic and keeps you on her side.

That steeliness is also why her entire character arc works.  Once Stone is called upon to take charge of the situation and get her ass home, Bullock turns into a one-woman wrecking machine of pure will. If Bullock didn’t seem like she had it in her from the very beginning, then this moment would be laughable. But I wasn’t laughing. I was cheering. I was yelling “Go Sandy Go! Fuck Space! Kick it’s fucking Ass! U.S.A!!! U.S.A!!!”

In summation, Sandra Bullock is a goddamn national treasure, so much so that the third National Treasure movie isn’t even going to have Nicolas Cage in it. It’s just going to be Sandy getting kidnapped and then saving her damn self. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar. Take that, terrorists.

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney

SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!

So yeah George Clooney dies in this movie. Now he goes out like a fucking badass, sacrificing himself so that Bullock can make it home and then floating out into space, just talking about life and bullshit. But he does die. This is why he is in the supporting category and not the lead. It’s because he dies. (He DOES come back in a later scene as, basically, “The Ghost of Christmas Clooney” but he’s only a ghost because HE DIES.)

It’s not that George Clooney is bad in this movie, far from it. I think he’s great. Matt Kowalski  a consummate good old boy, bantering back and forth with Mission Control about his various ex-wives and then later calmly prodding a panicked Stone into conversation in order to keep her calm. When he sacrifices himself, it feels like a huge loss because he was the one who knew (or at least pretended to know) how they were going to get out of this. The characters a security blanket, and nothing makes you feel more secure than the dulcet tones of El Clooney.

However, “security blanket” is different than “complex, human being.” Clooney serves his purpose in this film very well but he isn’t asked to do much. He is perfectly in his comfort zone. Hell, he is the movie’s comfort zone. His character exists long enough to get the audience situated and introduce some hope and then he floats away, taking the rug that the audience was standing on with him. Matt Kowalski is not a human, and the role is not a challenge. And while the Wrinkled Fuckers love them some Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie, they don’t nominate him unless he’s stretching his comfort zone. He won the Oscar for Syriana, wherein he was schlubby and bearded and he was nominated again for Up in the Air where he had to cry and be a person and stuff. This role is not either one of those. It is “Danny Ocean in Space.” I’m not feeling it.

Best Screenplay: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron

The script for this movie is essentially the script for a video game. It sets the rules of how things work, bridges the gap between set pieces A and B and throws in a little pathos for flavor. But the quality of the writing is about the same. The only way that this script is getting nominated is if it gets swept in on the coattails of a bunch of other nominations. That could definitely happen, but it’s not very likely.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Clooney in repose.

Clooney in repose.

Look back at Cuaron’s previous films and Gravity is actually a very natural endpoint. It’s a huge leap forward, yes, but it is the movie that Cuaron has been moving towards for over a decade. Cuaron has always had a roving eye, wanting his camera to take in everything a scene has to offer. A lot of directors who wander in this fashion opt for either the 1st-person shaky cam (think Steven Soderbergh) or the sweeping tracking shot (Paul Thomas Anderson). Cuaron seeks to have both. He wants the scope that a tracking shot brings with the intimacy of the hand-held shaky cam. But both of those methods draw attention to themselves, to their sheer immediacy and/or virtuosity. Cuaron does not seek that. While his ambitions for the camera are far greater than probably any other living director (Orson Welles is honestly the best comparison I can think of) he does not want innovation for innovation’s sake. (Okay, so scratch Orson Welles. Citizen Kane is pretty much the original dick pic.) He’s a storyteller, who wants his stories to resonate at a deeper level than they have before. With Children of Men he pushed traditional methods about as far as he could go. With Gravity he creates something entirely new.

The reason to see this movie in 3-D is because it is movie that takes place in 3-D. When you take gravity out of the equation you go from a horizontal plane to a cubic one. The action can be moving in any direction at any moment. And with the complex rigging system that Cuaron constructed for this movie, so can his camera. The opening shot of this movie is 13 minutes long, covering the initial mission through all hell breaking loose. By never cutting away and instead staying in the chaos of the Stone and Kowalski’s world exploding he does not give you an out. He does not give you that split second to remember that this is just a movie. It is that immediacy, the result of extreme precision, that makes what Cuaron has done so amazing. Gravity doesn’t feel like it’s a movie. It feels like it’s just happening. Like it’s a force of nature. A force of nature like, oh, I don’t know, gravity ???

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Huntsberger, I hate you. I hate you so much.)

Best Picture: Gravity

The Wrinkled Fuckers love it when a movie looks expensive. They’re tacky like that. They don’t just want insights into the human condition, the kind of thing that can be executed solely through good acting/writing/directing. Nah playa. They want a little bit of grandeur in there too. You’re gonna set your story in modern suburbia with everybody wearing polos and sundresses and driving Nissan Ultimas? Well screw you, cuz THIS guy’s movie (note: it’s almost always a guy, and it’s almost always Ridley Scott) has got characters wearing doublets and they’re sword fighting in ballrooms and…oh my god is that a blimp! Holy Shit that is a fucking blimp! Oh I am SOLD. (note: it really should be called a zeppelin, and I’m pretty sure the film I just described is Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers.) When a movie like Titanic comes around, which isn’t often, the Wrinkled Fuckers are in heaven. Most other times they have to make do with a movie that wasn’t made with such an Ahab-like obsession, but they do often find a way to ultimately honor movies that have a little bit of technical oomph. Let’s look at the Best Picture Nominees from the past 10 years, shall we?

2013: Argo

2012: The Artist

2011: The King’s Speech

2010: The Hurt Locker

2009: Slumdog Millionaire

2008 No Country For Old Men

2007 The Departed

2006 Crash

2005 Million Dollar Baby

2004 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The most recent three were all period pieces which means that production values are naturally going to be on display throughout. Before that was a war movie and before the war epic was a high-budget fantasia set in a foreign country. The four before that were all actually pretty modern, but even then: No Country for Old Men was a western slash action-noir. The Departed was a cops and robbers epic and Crash won because lot’s of people thought two dudes kissing was gross. Even Million Dollar Baby was a sports movie. And then of course there was Return of the King: a restrained, low-budget chamber piece if ever there was one.

Remember, The Wrinkled Fuckers are not just actors and writers and such. Their ranks cover every inch of the industry. A lot of them are scenic artists and sound engineers and Mickey Rourke fluffers. They like to see the technical elements represented on screen too, not just the hoity toity “art” ones.

And holy shit are the technical elements well-represented in this movie. So what if the script’s not great when the movie’s also got an incredibly solid lead performance as well as an incredibly Clooney supporting one? The movie is riveting, in that it is like being attacked with a rivet gun and having your brain drilled into. This movie is getting a nomination for best picture. It’s getting a nomination for best director too. And best actress. And best all-the-technical-categories-that-no-one-gives-a-shit-about.

Internet, meet your 2014 Academy Awards juggernaut, courtesy of the guy who replaced the guy who eventually made Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I look forward to its eventual close defeat at the hands of Machete Kills.

by Andrew Mooney

Antichrist (2009) – Lars Von Trier (Dir.), Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, 

I will never look at Ents the same way ever again.

I will never look at Ents the same way ever again.

When I began this humble blog in twenty-aught-twelve Anno Domini ACDC Esquire, I decided I needed to expand my cinematic repertoire with a little more Film. That’s ‘Film’ with a capital ‘F’ for ‘Fucking Pretentious’. How appropriate was it, then, when my first course of many was the Lars Von Trier delight: Melancholia. And by delight I mean, “Bizarre dreamy fog of boobs and sadness”. Since that fateful day, locked in my room, my pajamas practically melting into my epidermis to become some kind of magical hangover-bark, I slogged my way through that 2.5 hour epic of wanton women and Kiefer Sutherland wearing glasses in severe not-torturing-people-to-save-the-world mode. It was a thing. Since then, I have also joked and jested about reaching into the Netflix Roulette jar and plucking out one of the more ‘rapey’ affairs, my main target and fear: Antichrist. Well, the fates of ordained it, the planets have aligned and chance has punched me in the dick once more, for, on that Halloween night in twenty-aught-thirteen in the year of our iPad, I drew the rapiest of the rapey. SPOILERS: it isn’t the lady who gets raped this time.

Before we begin, let me say, in these last few years wandering the sordid display of cinematic gems on display in the Flix of Net, I have grown a good deal. I have shifted from a wide-eyed moronic 23 year-old, practically still soaking in amniotic fluid (that metaphor is terrifyingly apt for this movie) to a fully grown Critique (it’s in French because it’s, you know, fancy ‘n’ shit) who grandly opines, tying the disparate threads of auteur imagination into a bundle of throbbing and mesmerizing humanity, a web of such intellectual and emotional gravity that would murder even Sandra Bullock. With that said, I would like begin with a simple statement of journalistic integrity:

EEEWEWWWWEEWWWWEEEWWWWEEWWWWW AAHA AHA AHHA MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP, MOMMY!

Just be aware there are SPOILERS in this bad boy. But then again, this movie has been out for almost 5 years. Deal with it.

Dafoe don't give no fucks about no chestnuts

Dafoe don’t give no fucks about no chestnuts

What is Antichrist? Is it a horror film? Is it smut? Is it Lars Von Trier’s wet nightmare? Is it the weirdest and least catchy Charlotte Gainsbourg music video ever made? Is it Willem Dafoe atoning for playing the stupidest incarnation of the Green Goblin ever known to man? Who the fucking fuck knows? Because Lars Von Trier sure as shit doesn’t. We begin, as you do, in super slow motion sex between a middle aged couple in the shower. And, as you do, you see full penetration. Then, while the aria peaks and both Mr. and Mrs. blow their so-called wads, their baby does its best impression of the kid from Ghostbusters 2 and tries walking out on the window ledge. Stupid baby. Much like Orlando Bloom’s career after the final Pirates of the Caribbean, the kid falls to its death. THAT’S IN THE FIRST FIVE FUCKING MINUTES. Granted, every movie could begin this way, apropos of nothing, and I’d be happy. Love Actually? Well, before the Hugh Grant gives his speech about Heathrow kissing, HOW ABOUT SOME FULL PENETRATION BABY SUICIDE. But it’s to classical music, so, you know, fancy ‘n’ shit. Wouldn’t Legally Blonde have benefitted from the terrifying countenance of Willem Dafoe’s vinegar strokes as a child hits the pavement face-first, skateboarder-style, before breaking into its overly pink beginning number? What about Monster’s Inc.? First we have to see the monsters in the real world before we can see the monsters in the their own world. And by monster, I am, of course, talking about Dafoe’s thrusting peen.

Well, after that, Gainsbourg, only credited as ‘Her’ in the credits (if you watch that far) has a mental breakdown. Dafoe (say his name like a bird call: will-em da-FOOOOOE) plays the eponymous ‘He’, a therapist who is, apparently, perturbed by NOTHING. Seriously, the entirety of Tim Burton’s Halloween Town could parade through his underpants and he’d be like, “Hmm, interesting. Where does it go on your pyramid?” THAT FUCKING PYRAMID. Anyhoo, Gainsbourg spends a majority of the film kicking, screaming, sobbing, wilting, walking in slow motion in the woods, mood-swinging, masturbating, leg-drilling, chasing her husband down like the dog he is and calling him a bastard for leaving after he painstakingly dragged his wound half-corpse of a body into a fox hole to hide. You know, like all woman. Dafoe, on the other hand, seems to have not read any of the script past that day of filming and is consistently horrified by what’s coming next…but sticks around because…well, fuck it, contract probably. That expressive half-mutant mug of his wears a look of half-interested bemusement the entire length of the film.

"I IMMEDIATELY REGRET THIS DECISION!"

“I IMMEDIATELY REGRET THIS DECISION!”

Anyways, after realizing that neither hospital nor home will cure the beleaguered Her, Him decides to take her to the place she fears, the completely-subtly-named and not-at-all-ironic “Eden” out in the middle of nowhere. Here, Dafoe envisions snowballing fragments of insanity, from a still-born deer hanging out of another deer’s vagina to a rather erudite fox covered in a mixture of amniotic sludge and gore (I assume he’s played by James Earl Jones because that would be AMAZING). Meanwhile, Gainsbourg goes from “understandably upset” to “genital mutilation” in fewer steps than one would expect. Everything about the movie is fairly surreal, with slow motion images of Dafoe getting rained on by chestnuts and random shots of hands coming out of tree roots as Dafoe’s flexing buttocks rhythmically ram his randy and rowdy spouse after she sprinted into nature to begin servicing herself with the fury of teen girl dry humping a cardboard cut out of Justin Bieber. I think the film piqued when Gainsbourg slams her husband in the dick with a 2×4 and then proceeds to jerk him off until he comes blood (I told you there were spoilers). I wish I was making that up. I think, at that very moment, my testicles decided “you know, this just ain’t worth it anymore” and crawled back into my lower abdomen, thus destroying any chance of actually growing any chest hair. Oh yes, then she cuts off her clitoris with a pair of rusty scissors. I can foresee this becoming a family holiday favorite. It just isn’t Christmas until someone is in the corner curled in the fetal position.

I wish I could take a brillo pad to my brain and scour that shit right off. I think it will be a couple of days before I can have sex without envisaging sanguine ejaculations or babies falling out of windows. I have seen horror movies aplenty. I am affected by precisely none of them. The Conjuring? Yeah, freaky until bitch-face-mc-witch-a-lot appears and you’re reminded this is just a silly excuse for a haunted house ride. The Shining? Granted, there is very little more terrifying than Shelley Duvall’s explosive fucking eyeballs…but the rest of it wasn’t particularly perturbing. This movie, however…I had to start icing my genitals just from sympathetic pain. Perhaps its effectiveness is tied directly to its quality.

"Bitch, what you say about my mama?" ~ Text from the Urbanized version of Bambi

“Bitch, what you say about my mama?” ~ Text from the Urbanized version of Bambi

It’s from Lars Von Trier, and Lars Von Trier is a Director with a capital D. Incidentally, that D stands for “Dear God, You’re an Asshole”. He is the genius, nay, the sadistic auteur responsible for this clit-rip-fest of a horror film. He’s also crazy (no, really, he was committed). He is, on the other hand, extremely talented and skilled. Every art form has a craft and a vision. While his vision is something so demented I would encourage a visit to the ophthalmologist, he’s insanely adept at filming things. This was the guy who came up with Dogme 95…95 rules for making movies, essentially stripping filmmaking to its essential parts. That’s like writing a novel without being allowed to use metaphors or more than two adjectives. Sure, it’s boring as a day old turd, but it requires thought and skill. There is no moment in Antichrist where you lose the awareness of the fact that this is a movie made by a Director. Shots and techniques run the gamut of modern technology, cutting back and forth through styles faster than Tim Gunn’s wit can cut through a Project Runway prep room. We’re given juxtaposition, simplicity, overt symbolism, metaphor, slow motion, black and white, disconnected soundtrack, sound-mixing tricks and treats…everything. It’s as though the man is simply content to wave his dong at the filmmaking community while spitting a raspberry at their unimpressed faces; he has to dip it in whipped cream and personally dick-wich each and every one of them. Both Gainsbourg and Dafoe give shockingly believable performances even though a good deal of that is screaming in each others’ faces while attempting to reach orgasm. Both actors draw you in with harshly naturalistic portrayals of a couple trying to come back from the brink of insanity. So, when Her drives off the crazy-bitch cliff with the zeal of a dick-punching Thelma and Louise, one can only watch with a gaping jaw and allow the ensuring chaos roll over you.

What is the movie about? Why did Von Trier make it? I haven’t been able to deduce anything close to an answer. Does he hate women? Does he see himself as the woman? Initially it certainly seems as though the film sympathizes with her plight and Dafoe’s maddening need to calm and logic his way through the emotions turns him into something of an antagonist. But then satanic texts appear, Gainsbourg goes into full Witches of Eastwick mode and all semblance of sympathy goes the way of the drill she uses to attach a 30lb weight to her husband’s shin to stop him from running away. It’s amusing to note that when Von Trier submitted this film to Cannes before it was released, they didn’t give it an award but rather an Anti-award (see what they did there? Those pretentious hilarious pricks). Cannes is a festival celebrating humanistic values and they seemed to believe this film portrayed nothing of the sort. I believe it was at this point that Von Trier said something along the lines of “Hitler wasn’t so bad.” So, yes, asshole to completion. However, as much of a throbbing dong as he is, he’s still one of the most talented filmmakers out there. I almost wish Spielberg or Del Toro could tame the beast and lock him up Marquis De Sade-style, forcing him to craft the basics of their at least mildly human visions.

He's my spirit animal.

He’s my spirit animal.

In the end, Antichrist is a confusing mess of a movie. On the one hand, it is supremely made and shockingly far more coherent than the slop that was the latter half of Melancholia. But what can be said for a movie where a wife is driven to murderous rage by the elements of nature to the point that we cheer when her husband chokes her to death? It is an exhausting quagmire of a movie, one that requires patience and endurance to complete. However, what is the reward once we do so? A flood of women a la some kind of documentary about Auschwitz, flooding down the hills and flocking to their about to be Vader funeral-ed comrade-in-vag? Dafoe limping into the sunset smiling at the previously aborted woodland creatures who are now so happy the bitch is dead that it looks as though they might break into a rendition of Bambi?

Note to self: get Lars Von Trier to direct the remake of Bambi. It begins with Bambi’s mom getting rammed in the shower and ends with Thumper looking into the camera and declaring “CHAOS REIGNS” before having rage-sex with Flower.

Happy Halloween, guys. I’m going to go weep now.

Prisoners (2013) – Denis Villineuve (Dir.), Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

THE BASICS: I’m pretty sure this movie was created in a sterile, European laboratory purely to give my mother nightmares. One time, while my sister and I were home alone all day, my mom called us from the office to tell us to be careful: she had seen a guy walking down our street and looking at houses in a manner that my mom had deemed “suspicious.” (spoiler alert: nothing happened). Another time, we were visiting the area in Philly where my mom grew up with her and a friend of hers (we drove around in a minivan gawking out the windows in a neighborhood that is now predominantly black, it was problematic) and every single memory they had of the place involved someone dying, or being abducted, or being raped. This in the place where she spent her childhood. My mom always imagines that the worst possible outcome has and/or will occur: a trait that she has passed down to me. Any time a friend of mine is five minutes late meeting me, I start at the assumption that they’ve been abducted, quartered and left in someone’s basement.

“Prisoners” follows a pair of families in suburban Pennsylvania: one white, one black, and both solidly middle class. On what is sure to go down as the worst Thanksgiving in family history, the young daughters of both families mysteriously vanish. The paterfamilias of the white family, Wolverine (okay, okay, Hugh Jackman), decides very quickly that the sketchy-looking RV that their daughters were playing on earlier that day is the key to their disappearance. The other paterfamilias, played by Iron Man’s Original Black Friend (okay, okay, Terence Howard) goes along with it, because his character is very thinly conceived. An APB is put out, which is how we meet Detective…um…The-Joker’s-Gay-Cowboy-Lover-And/Or-Batman’s-Girlfriend’s-Brother (Jake Gyllenhal). He’s a loner, he has tattoos and he’s super intense. DCI Donnie Darko soon finds the RV and, more importantly, its driver, Paul Dano. At first everyone is like “Woohoo” because Dano  looks and acts like he just received his Doctorate in Advanced Pedophilia and Child Murder. Unfortunately, there is a surprising lack of the little thing called “evidence” and so the police let him go, because apparently this town is run by DAMNED DIRTY HIPPIES. Wolverine is not pleased by this. So he does what any self-respecting Walking Talking Embodiment of The Bush Torture Memos American would do: He abducts Paul Dano, takes him to an abandoned apartment building and tortures the shit out of him, bringing along his black friend (and, to be fair, fellow concerned parent) for help/moral support/humorous cultural misunderstandings. Meanwhile, Detective Guy-Who-Was-Once-Considered-as-a-Replacement-for-Tobey-Maguire-in-Spiderman-2 sets about actually, y’know, “solving the case” with “detective work.” Seriously, what a bunch of hippies.

By the way, everything I just described is maybe the first 45 minutes of the movie. The running time is 2 and half hours. I’m gonna go ahead and say this helps its Oscar chances, because long movies seem more important than short ones. Same goes for books, which is why Infinite Jest is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK EVER WRITTEN.

Snikt!

Snikt!

Best Actor: Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal.

Putting both actors in this category is kind of a cheat for me. I don’t think that, come Oscar time, they are both going to be entered in the lead actor category. Hugh Jackman will be entered for the lead and Gyllenhaal will be entered for supporting. I’m mostly putting them into the same category so as to contrast their performances, and there’s nothing you can do about it. (BTW, for the one of you who reads these kinds of reviews but doesn’t already know this, The Wrinkled Fuckers can vote for an actor/actress in either best lead or best supporting. If the role is one where it’s unclear as to which category it fits into, then this could possibly lead to vote splitting and the actor/actress could not get nominated at all. This is why studios will decide to mount a specific campaign for an actor to be nominated in either lead or supporting to guide The Wrinkled Fuckers in their nominating process. Fun Fact: in 1944, the actor Barry Fitzgerald got nominated in both lead and supporting for his role in the film Going My Way. I’m sure it would have been a big to-do if America wasn’t busy fighting a war with Hitler.)

Now, I haven’t taken a stopwatch to their screen times (because I am not chronically depressed) but I’d bet dollars to cronuts that Jake Gylenhaal has more screen time than ol’ Hugh. Nonetheless, I think that Jackman is going to get campaigned for in the lead category because his performance is the one with ALL THE EMOTIONS.

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

For realsies, I think that this performance was sold to Hugh Jackman solely on the basis of: You’ll get nominated for an Oscar. They reminded him of how, back in 2003, every freaking awards show clip from Mystic River for eventual winner Sean Penn was just him screaming “IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THERE?!!! IIIIIIIIS THAAAAAAAAAT MY DAUGHTER IN THEEEEEEEERRRRRRREEEE?!!!!!!!!!!” Jackman is in full, “I’m wearing a beard and so I’m super serious right now” mode and he plays the role’s all-consuming rage to the hilt. It is not a subtle performance, but it’s not necessarily a bad one either. I’m sure if I was in that position (daughter abducted, obvious perpetrator set free) I wouldn’t be Mr. Subtlety either. Plus Jackman even gets to go down the fun “relapsing alcoholic spiral” trail as well. (Although, and I know this isn’t his fault, but the movie has him literally swigging from a bottle of whiskey, which isn’t something people really do outside of frat parties and comes off as annoying Hollywood shorthand.) But what it ultimately comes down to is this: Prisoners is actually two films. (I’ll get to this more when I talk about the script.) One of those films is an indictment of the American notion of justice and the means to which we’ll go to get it. The other film is a really fun serial killer noir flick. Jackman is the star of the “blah blah blah indictment” one, and that’s the movie that would get nominated for an Oscar.

They found a book report on "The Grapes of Wrath" in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

They found a book report on “The Grapes of Wrath” in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

Funny thing is though: Gyllenhaal gives the better performance. His character is a career detective working for some reason in the middle of suburbia instead of, oh I don’t know, in the mean streets of Philly which, as my earlier anecdote about my mother clearly outlined, is a dank pit of mayhem and despair. This guy is quiet, contained and methodical, but is just as driven as Jackman’s freaked out father is. When he asks his boss for permission to keep Paul Dano in hold-up one more night, out of fear/respect for Jackman’s wishes only to have Dano go free and then get assaulted by Jackman in the parking lot, his next scene where he rips said boss for going against him is a tiny peek into the whirring centrifuge that keeps him on the case. Gylenhaal’s scenes with Jackman too are like a game of acting Ju Jitsu on Gylenhaal’s part. Jackman comes in all fire and whiskey, only for Gylenhaal to quietly turn that bluster against him and come out on top. He’s a better, subtler actor stuck holding up the half of the movie that involves discovering dead bodies in a priest’s basement and boxes filled with snakes and bloody children’s clothes. Really, the only mark against him is his blinking. He’s given Detective Loki this nervous blink that, once you notice it, all you can think is “if this was a drinking game I’d be wasted by now.”

Best Original Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski

Now when you read that last sentence, I bet you thought “Detective Loki? What kind of joke on one of Gyllenhaal’s past roles was he making this time? I don’t remember him being in Thor, and I’m sure he wasn’t the guy who played Loki. Wait, did they change actors between Thor and The Avengers? Did Jake Gylenhaal play Loki in The Avengers and I just didn’t notice? What the fuck is going on?!!!” Nope. That is actually the character’s name, swear to God. Here:

Gyllenhaal

Yup. At first I thought it was maybe meant to be ironic, as Gylenhaal’s detective represents the forces of law and order methodically working to keep anarchy at bay, whereas Jackman’s character is the embodiment of raging, chaotic id taking the law into its own hands. Then I laughed and thought “No, they’re just idiots.” I really have nothing more to say on this particular subject. I just couldn’t hear anybody say “Detective Loki” without giggling and waiting for Gyllenhaal to call someone a “mewling quim.”

As I mentioned previously, Prisoners really does feel like two movies: one a serious melodrama that examines torture through the lens of American notions of masculinity and self-reliance, and the other a grand guignol serial killer thriller where people scrawl mazes on the walls and, once again, there are boxes full of snakes. (Fuck snakes BTW. Just fuck ‘em.) It’s not a problem that this movie tries to incorporate all these elements. It’s a problem that you feel the shift every time it switches. The two halves never cohere into a whole.

Father: What are you kids watching? Son: X-Men Origins" Wolverine. Father: Oh. So. What do you think? Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

Father: What are you kids watching?
Son: X-Men Origins” Wolverine.
Father: Oh. So. What do you think?
Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

This is because the movie starts in a very grounded realistic setting, and then tries to slowly reveal the crazy underneath. This is the wrong order to do things in, like that person from OKCupid who waits until the twelfth date to tell you about their elaborate foot fetish. If you knew about the foot fetish going into date number one, then you know exactly what you’re getting into and then, when the person also turns out to have written their dissertation on “Ulysses”, you can be pleasantly surprised by their depth and erudition. Take for instance, the movie that that Prisoner’s Oscar hopes clearly have in mind: The Silence of the Lambs. If this movie had an OKCupid account, its profile pic would be of a goddamn foot. Within five minutes of the movie starting, Clarice is sitting across from Hannibal Lecter, and systems are go.  It doesn’t take the time to let its audience go “Hey, Wait, This isn’t Reality.” It just kicks you into a pit, lowers down a basket of lotion and says “It is NOW, Bitch!”

Ahem. So yeah, I don’t see this movie scoring any nominations for writing.

Best Director: Denis Villeneuve

You know what? For all this movie’s faults, I think Villeneuve did a pretty good job here. If he was a French director, I would say he might stand an outside chance.

But he’s not French. He’s French Canadian.

He doesn’t have a chance in hell.

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Lemme ask, does that name sound familiar to you? Because it should. Let’s read off his resume, shall we? Better yet, let’s just read off his previous Oscar nominations.

  • Skyfall
  • True Grit
  • The Reader
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • O Brother Where Art Thou
  • Kundun
  • Fargo
  • The Shawshank Redemption

Two things. First, this guy is the cinematographer for the Coen Brothers. So he must be a Prince-Making-Charlie-Murphy-Pancakes-level baller. Second, all of these movies were fucking gorgeous. And Prisoners is no exception. Deakins takes the color gray and turns it into a rainbow. He uses shadows not like he adopted them, but like he was born in them.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

And during a climactic drive through the pounding snow, he cooks up a blurred vision effect that takes your standard “faster, faster, must go faster” moment into a nerve-splintering hell ride.

I don’t honestly think anyone else from this movie will get nominated. But Deakins? I think this will be lucky number eleven.

Best Picture: Prisoners

This category got a lot more ridiculous when they changed it to ten nominees, and then less ridiculous but still very interesting when they changed it to up to ten. Forcing ten nominees really felt like giving trophies to everyone on the team. It was mostly seen as a reaction to The Dark Knight not getting nominated the year before which led everyone to be like, “Do wanna hear how I got these scars, Oscar voters?” Now of course the actual solution to that problem, that the current make-up of the Wrinkled Fuckers (mostly the fact that they are overly wrinkled and a majority of them are fuckers)  precludes such genre fare from being considered is not one that is easily remedied, short of handing out Oscar voter cards at Comic Con and then watching in horror as Jonah Hex walks away with the field. (Jay Kay, nerds. We know you hated that movie too.) So the Wrinkled Fuckers decided to do the next best thing, which was include enough spots that films like The Dark Knight or District 9 or Machete Kills could get nominated but not win because one is about a man who dresses up in rubber suit and fights an evil clown, one of them is about space bugs but really it’s about racism but really it’s about super cool guns and one of them is—actually, scratch that—Machete Kills is gonna win the whole damn thing.

What was I talking about? Where was this going? Oh yeah. Even with an expanded field of up to ten nominees, which would seem to favor genre fare like Prisoners getting a nomination, I still don’t think it’s gonna happen. Prisoners is your classic “The whole is less than the sum of its parts.” It’s an okay torture melodrama (like Zero Dark Thirty’s dumb hick cousin) and it’s a fun little serial killer film and it ’s got some good performances and it’s got gorgeous cinematography but none of it really adds up to a great movie. It has all the right parts to assemble to the Princess Play Castle that is an Oscar-Nominee for best picture but it doesn’t know how to put them altogether, probably because some of the parts aren’t even from a Princess Play Castle. They’re from an erector set, or Lego Death Star, or a meth lab. And while you might end up making some kinda alright meth in your Princess Play Castle Slash Meth Lab…is this really the kind of meth you’re gonna smoke and think, “This meth deserves an Oscar?”

I don’t fucking think so.

Fin!

Wait! Un-Fin!

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo

I forgot to mention that Melissa Leo is in this movie. She plays Paul Dano’s creepy aunt.

Let’s be clear here: Melissa Leo is not getting nominated for an Oscar. I just brought her up so I could show you these:

LeoThose are photos from Leo’s self-financed Oscar campaign for her performance in The Fighter. Which she won.

Mr Gylenhaal, the ball is in your court. Your blindingly white, marble-columned, icy blue swimming pool containing court. Godspeed. And maybe take this floor length white fur robe for luck.

by Erin Coleman

The Pill (2011) – J.C. Khoury (Dir.), Noah Bean, Rachel Boston, Anna Chlumsky

This movie is so good, it makes you want to commit ritualistic suicide with us!

No, this isn’t a Planned Parenthood ad.

I went into The Pill with reservations that I quickly abandoned after seeing it had won awards and praise, and, to be honest, I was just looking for a good time. The Pill was essentially my night out at a 4 AM bar, so my expectations were low and my nether regions were excited. I’ll admit I hated this movie upon first viewing, but wanted to revisit it so I could really deliver my venomous review with a backbone made out of steel. Lo and behold, though, The Pill turned out to be a grower, not a show-er, and I actually LIKED the movie the second time around. I definitely wouldn’t save it’s name in my phone, but I’d probably drunk text it late at night until it blocked my number. That’s love in a big city, folks.

The film starts off like so many mistakes do, with Fred (Noah Bean) and Mindy (Rachel Boston) drunkenly stumbling into Mindy’s apartment, presumably after the kind of bar-mating-ritual that would make it hard for anyone to keep their drinks down. Fred, a seemingly clean-cut and buttoned-up bro with a failed writing career, feels like a ridiculous match for Mindy, whose sloppy apartment, quirky demeanor and flighty air make you wonder what the hell they were doing talking to each other in the first place. Fred’s in the door with his hands still around Mindy’s waist when he seems to have second thoughts. It feels like such a false move for a man that sauntered into their situation, and you begin to get the feeling that what he’s really looking for is permission. Regardless of good looks he seems to be missing that validation elsewhere, and what most likely started with a little bit of bravado and a lot of drunken flirting has turned into a sneaky way of saying “So, you’re, like, totally cool with this, right?” It’s the move of a boy, not a man, and neither character is given a chance to mature when they start their game of “I Never”.

"I mean, yeah, I'm on pills. A lot of pills, in fact. Just not, ya know, THE pill"

“I mean, yeah, I’m on pills. A lot of pills, in fact. Just not, ya know, THE pill”

It’s the perfect one-night-stand drinking game as they’re given the chance to lure the other in with stories of adolescent recklessness, sexual deviancy and enough questionable backstory to keep them from actually respecting each other. Their goofy banter feels real and almost cute, but we’re immediately allowed to hate Fred when he uses his trip to the bathroom as an opportunity to send a lovey-dovey text to his very lucky significant other Nelly (played by Anna Chlumsky in a more uptight Amy Brookheimer from Veep role), and wraps the whole thing up with some good, old-fashioned “slut”-shaming after seeing a used condom in Mindy’s garbage can. Mindy does some very unconvincing convincing that Fred didn’t really need because WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ANYONE IN THOSE DOCKERS, FRED?

The movie pushed the disturbing factor into overdrive for me when Mindy decides to take things into her own hands (and sadly, her vagina) after falling asleep before our two lovebirds could have protected, consensual sex. She wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to hop on a zonked-out Fred like some kind of brokedown quarter ride outside of a Walmart, sans condom, and this is just wrong for SO MANY REASONS. First of all, Mindy.. have you not seen the video for TLC’s “Waterfalls” , Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” or, like, any poster in a Planned Parenthood office? STD’s are out there, so watch yourself. Secondly, guys need to give consent too. Spending the night isn’t consent, being aroused in his sleep isn’t consent, and if the roles were reversed this movie would have taken a completely different turn. The lack of judgement on both their parts and the fate we all know is in store for them makes it hard to even care about the morning after.

"Unfortunately this wasn't him asking her to commit to a double-suicide pact"

“Unfortunately this wasn’t him asking her to commit to a double-suicide pact”

Once they’ve pulled themselves apart and the morning creeps in, Fred dons his ‘Relaxed Fit Dude’ act once more and asks if “everything is cool” and wants to make sure Mindy remembers to take her contraceptive-contraception (I’m still amazed he didn’t refer to her vagina as a “down-there”). Mindy reveals she’s not taking any form of birth control and suddenly Fred is an OB/GYN, quizzing her on her ovulation and menstrual cycle and urging her to go get the morning after pill. Mindy swings back and forth like a drunken socialite on a chandelier, unfairly throwing the blame on Fred for not using a condom, citing her Catholicism (“The religion with the Pope”) as the reason behind her questionable stance on birth control, and trying to soothe him with the fact that she felt fine about unprotected sex because she wanted them to feel close. Mindy’s fun and fancy free air took a turn for the worst, the way a wild night before devolves into you staring hard in the mirror the morning after, willing yourself to not throw up at brunch. The entire scene seems to sum up what I imagine is the inner dialogue they have with the other people they’ve had relationships with- “it’s not my fault, it’s yours”.

They’re almost beginning to feel like the perfect couple because they’re both off-the-rails nuts, and simultaneously using each other to feel better about themselves and as an excuse for the shitty way they feel. Fred cheats on his girlfriend as an escape and judges Mindy for enjoying sex unattached. Mindy lies about seemingly casual sex and is appalled at the thought of Fred not wanting to raise an unplanned child with her. Once we’re finally introduced to the other key players in their lives you almost want to buy the next round for whichever unlucky victim they meet next because it’s the root of their unhappiness and desperation is so clear. The personas they presented to each other the previous evening are clearly a response to the lack of confidence everyone else has in them, and you’re stuck feeling sympathetic the way you would to an abused dog that had just bitten off half your face. After spending a little time with the Fred and Mindy, you can pick up when they’ve turned themselves off and let their neuroses be the autopilot, and for two unlikeable characters it’s hard not to see that what’s happening is very real. The judgement from Mindy’s family of her single-lady lifestyle and Fred’s inability to meet his girlfriends (or his own) standards has turned the both of them into the last kids picked for the kickball team, and instead of growing into angsty teens they do the only thing adults a few years short of a mid-life crisis can do and just bang it out with the most inappropriate people in sight. They get a brief respite in between crises when Fred acts as a buffer between Mindy and her younger, judgemental sister, and when Mindy is eager and excited to read Fred’s unwritten book. They’re trying to be the very people they need in their lives, but unfortunately they’re forced to play all the characters for themselves.

"You're doing the whole quirky, Zooey Deschanel outfit wrong, girl"

“You’re doing the whole quirky, Zooey Deschanel outfit wrong, girl”

The problem with seeking whom you’d like to be through the response and love of another confused person that barely knows you is that you only ever get back a distorted image of yourself and an unhealthy pinch of the other person’s issues. Fred and Mindy aren’t guilty of anything horrible in wanting, just for the night, to have fun and feel better and forget. They’re not wrong in wanting to undo what they’ve done, and even if they’re stuck together for the day by strange circumstance, it’s nice to see two people not exactly holding each other afloat, but at least offering some comfort in the fact that they’re floundering together. It’s their resistance to reality and inability to own their faults that makes them cringe-worthy to watch, and their sad, but not soul-crushing plight of walking the earth trying to be better, or at least just good enough, that’s so hard. They’re two people that deserve what so many of us have which is a lot of silly, meaningless moments, but without realizing it those meaningless moments weigh a lot heavier on their hearts. It’s pointless to spoil the ending because the conclusion and the way Fred and Mindy act towards each other at the end of the film isn’t really important. They’ve obviously wanted to get it right and have failed, maybe deservingly so, but the heart of The Pill and anyone that’s ever made a mess out of a minor moment is that there’s a lot you can do to clean up afterwards. It’s the second chance and the self-evaluation (or the viewers ability to watch the wreck from a distance) that makes the entire hour and a half worth squirming through. You might not like them or yourself, but it’s real and there’s a whole lot you can do about it. Just don’t wait until the morning.

Erin Coleman: Visual Approximation

Erin Coleman: Visual Approximation

To all of you who follow this little ditty of an extra-curricular activity I like to call my Internet-based existence and path of expression for my depressingly obsessive need to display verbal acrobatics, like a mole on the back of the filmic community left in the sun for too long, I have decided to grow. That’s right! After the debut of Mr. Alex Huntsberger’s OSCAR PLEASE! segment, I have invited the delightful and delovely Ms. Erin Coleman to stretch her loquacious limbs by way of a new column. You might remember Erin as the lady, nay, the queen, NAY the Arch Duchess of Nipple Counting from my sure-to-be-watched-at-some-point webseries Whine and Cheese. She is, in every sense of the word, my cohort, a brave and brazen adventurer ready to spelunk into the deep, dark depths of cinematic turditude. She is a Queen of Schlock, a Lordess of the Dance…and she is currently gchatting me and trying to convince me to watch Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23. Yeah, not gonna happen, EC Rider. Anyhoo, Ms. Erin is going to be exploring a harsh and deadly realm I do not wish to venture, a beehive, if you will, into which I am not willing to stick my dick…and that is, of course, ROMCOMS. That’s right! The genre designed to make women obsessed with finding a man and convincing them that if they aren’t married before 25 then they are obviously a slut. Well, Erin will be delving into this pool of latent misogyny for me in her new column Ticket For One. Because there is nothing sadder than a single lady, a bottle of wine, and a Katherine Heigl movie.

Godspeed, you black emperor. In the valley of the blind, the man with one eye is king. And the lady with the bottle of merlot is having A REALLY GOOD TIME.

by Andrew Mooney

Trapped in the Closet (2005) – R. Kelly (Dir.), R Kelly, R. Kelly, Cat Wilson, R Kelly, Michael K. Williams, R Kelly some more and a midget

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

Trapped in the Closet: Now Stealing Fonts from LA Confidential

It is known that the pathway towards genius is a path well-trod and filled with obstacles, both emotional and physical, existential and intellectual, sexual and totally sexual. It seems that R. “Yes He Actually Made this Movie” Kelly has sprinted down the genius path hitting every fucking ugly branch on the way there. Trapped in the Closet is Kelly’s epic hip-hopera charting the events of a day in the life of some guy who has sex with a lot of women. There will be spatulas! Midgets! Lesbians! Omar from The Wire! Inexplicable edits! Flagrant racism! AIDS! This lyric poetry runs the gamut of western literary theory, dragging you through the truth, horror and beauty of what it is like to live in R Kelly’s brain. And trust me, it’s terrifying in there. So, be warned. Beware. Be ready to fucking do this people. There will be pizza! There will be shots! There will be a room of white people feeling really awkward! There will be flagrant mistakes about African American thespians including but not limited to: Morgan Freeman, Omar Epps, and Sean Connery. Join me, Erin and special guest star, and dragon, Ryan Lehmenkuler as we tackle this beast five ‘chapters’ at a time. Also, join us for our special Halloween episode airing on October 31st. It will be SPOOK-TAC-ULICIOUS.

The Breakfast Club (1985) – John Hughes (Dir.), Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Michael C. Hall, Paul Gleason

Set phasors to "Disaffected Youth"

Set phasors to “Disaffected Youth”

Alright, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Yes, there is a two ton elephantine lump of cultural awkwardness constantly resting in the doorway of my blog-based discussions. And, like the clown chasing me in my nightmares, it’s massive, pink, and has a mild obsession with the Youth in America. That’s right, I had never seen The Breakfast Club…until this last weekend. In fact, growing up in the UK, the antics of a bunch of North Shore brats drinking and charming their way through 1980s high school had very little cultural resonance for me. I barely understood what high school even was, despite frantically gobbling down Buffy the Vampire Slayer and to a lesser (read: far greater) extent Sabrina the Teenage Witch throughout my formative years (that might explain a few things). The work of John Hughes is unmistakably American. These tales are about American kids drinking American beers having American problems in American schools with American accents (unless they’re that one Asian kid in that one movie). Thusly, the extent of my Hughes-ian exploration was limited to the Chris Columbus scream-directly-into-the-camera-a-thon and Joe-Pesci-when-were-you-dramatically-castrated-fest Home Alone along with the bizarre exercise in repetitive futility that was Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It seems as though, like unicorns, Chimeras and the dinosaurs did with Noah’s Ark, I missed the boat on pretty much the most important thing ever. Children of the 80s practically subsisted on Hughes’ simultaneously bleak and unendingly optimistic image of teenagers. Unfortunately, as a Brit, all I had was Monty PythonTrainspotting and Doctor Who. So, when I realized that most people didn’t dress as women, walk sillily while dosing themselves with heroin and running away from toilet-plunger-wielding Daleks, I was sorely disappointed. But that’s what your 20s are for!

The Breakfast Club charts a single day in the life of five high schoolers incarcerated in Saturday detention for a whole slew of petty crimes, some obvious and others held secret until the ending. We have the nerd (Anthony Michael “Not Michael C.” Hall), the popular girl (an iconoclastic Molly Ringwald), an awkwardly puffy-haired and eyebrow-bleached wrestler-jock with a good heart (Emilio Estevez), a crazy chick (Ally Sheedy) and the most trying-too-hard badass since Rock Hudson married that lady that one time (Judd Nelson). Under the eye of a bored teacher (Die Hard’s Paul Gleason, RIP) these kids begin their day as five separate and parallel entities, content to operate and survive in their own tiny bubbles of social awkwardness and ineptitude. However, as Bender (Nelson) spends the day disrupting their individual peaces, he heats up the pot and those separate, rigid parallel lines soften and collapse into one another; a tangled mess of teenage spaghetti (Worst. Italian meal. Ever.) They skip out of the library to find weed, crawl through ducts, lock their teacher out of sight and out of mind, and, ultimately, in a beautiful climax of unspoken emotion, engage in perhaps the greatest teen dance sequence of all time set to Karla Devito’s “We Are Not Alone”.

Anthony Michael Hall's impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Anthony Michael Hall’s impression of a sex doll makes everyone uncomfortable.

Now, I’ve never seen Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink, the Ringwald Trilogy, as I’ve decided to label it. However, I’ve always found Hughes’ movies smart but lacking anything other than surface emotion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m basing this solely off of the hilarious, seminal and only-thing-that’s-going-on-Matthew-Broderick’s-gravestone Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as well as the ridiculously stupid, hetero-normatively problematic, and Robert-Downey-Jr-licious Weird Science. Here, though, it seems as Hughes set out to craft a treatise on teenager-hood. While, at the beginning, he seems to ridicule the meager maladies affecting these preparatory-protected progeny, it becomes clear that, as he strips each child of their obligatory masks and social veils, they are all essentially the same scared, good-natured beings underneath. Though it only lasts about 9 hours, this movie is a serious journey for these children. At the end, as each is picked up by their respective parental units, a simple and effective mirroring of the opening scene, we are coarsely reminded of how far each of these young adults have come.

More than once during the proceedings I was reminded of (PRETENSION ALERT) Satre’s No Exit, the existential tale of three people trapped in a hotel room for all eternity. In both cases, the protagonists, or antagonists, depending on your point of view, are driven by their sense of claustrophobia. The only inciting action in the tale is one of entrapment. There are key differences. While Satre was attempting to divulge the rotten innards of the human condition, eventually stating quite simply that “Hell is other people” (but in French so it probably sounds even more pretentious…and there’s probably a cigarette involved…and a croissant…man I could really go for a croissant right now), Hughes states the opposite. These kids are here for a finite stretch of incarceration. They will leave and everything will be fine. They could sit in silence, as they do for a stretch of the opening, refusing to interact and remaining on the separate islands. But for teenagers, without the benefit of time and experience under their belts, eight hours might as well be an eternity. These issues don’t evaporate when they leave that library. While in No Exit the three insufferable asses (because, let’s be real, everyone in that play is terrible) drive each other insane because they have nothing better to do, here, the five puncture each other’s bubbles out of sheer necessity. All five need to be saved. It’s no mistake that the teacher spends the second half of the film utterly absent, drinking beers with the janitor and lamenting the changing young. This isn’t any Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting. These children’s salvation is in one another. One by one they strip away their armor and show what they are within…just kids. They’re scared of everything. They barely understand the world and the few rules they’ve learned have done nothing but inflict horrors on their psyches. Every teenager feels like a felon until proven adult. I know I did. And I was a goody-fucking-two shoes for all 10 years (apart from one party where I probably could have died. You learn fast or you get fucked, I guess). Perhaps the best line in the movie comes from the janitor who, while listening to the embittered Gleason spew hatred after hatred on this generation, declaring them the worst he’s ever seen, finally interjects and says, “It’s not the kids that are changing. It’s you.”

"Hi, my name is Molly and I'm a child actor." "Hi Molly!" ~ They started counseling at a young age.

“Hi, my name is Molly and I’m a child actor.” “Hi Molly!” ~ They started counseling at a young age.

I never expected to be affected quite as strongly by this movie. I assumed shenanigans and antics and montages and boobies, you know, stuff from the 80s. What I discovered, on that harshly hungover Sunday morning, was something deeply touching. While I might have started with a sneer, especially balking at Bender’s heavy-handed attempts at basic authoritarian subversion, I didn’t want to let these five kids go after the end credits. As someone who has just escaped the event horizon of teenager-dom, I could still identify with the fears, the pressures and the insecurities of these five. We have the popular girl who despises her friends and is incapable of making a choice against the grain in fear of being ostracized; the jock who does everything his father tells him to, even to the point of descending to delinquency just because ‘that’s what boys are supposed to do’; the nerd who is so deathly afraid of a failing grade that he goes to almost unreal extremes; the troubled child of a broken home whose every day is a battle and, finally, the ignored weirdo who crafts her social isolation to be her defining trait because she’s afraid there’s nothing else below. Their adventures are impossible, almost surreal in their isolation. It’s as though these five have been transported to another plane, devoid of time and circumstance, where they can find this momentary connection across every social high-school divide. The climax, like an awkward threesome, is one of quiet contemplation and emotion. One of the most affecting moments in the entire film comes from Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian when he asks the damning question: “After today, will we all still be friends?” Ms. Ringwald tells him the harsh but inescapable truth: “No.” There has never been such a succinct assault on the terrors of high school’s emotional brutality.

In the end, they write a letter to their captor, a manifesto, if you will, declaring who they are, who they think they are, and who they want to be. It’s a carefully crafted set of words that I’ve heard quoted here there and everywhere. It’s good. It’s important. It’s Hughes’ thesis in a perfectly packaged nutshell. But that isn’t the point of the movie. Not for me. The most exhilarating moment that has plagued my brain in the most glorious of ways every moment of the day since watching this movie is the dance sequence. After these five have wept and connected and accepted that the future is scary and that perhaps they will never be together again, they do something so basic. They dance. All five of them, lacking any choreography or rhythm or talent or anything just begin flailing and kicking and cheering and head banging and air-guitaring and skipping and twirling and gyrating without giving any fucks whatsoever. If there was a sudden shortage of fucks spreading throughout the universe and these kids had vaults of the things…they wouldn’t give a single one. Of course the song’s refrain “We are not alone” couldn’t be more heavy-handed if it tried. But we see these five unhinged and free, each isolated in their own personal mangled dancing styles. Suddenly, though, we shift to their synchronized antics on top of the tables, dancing from side to side in tandem. It couldn’t be a more glorious catharsis.

Yep. That's all that needs to be said.

Yep. That’s all that needs to be said.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about The Breakfast Club is that at its conclusion, I wasn’t quite sure what I had just witnessed. It is epic. It is mythic. And yet, it’s probably the simplest thing you could ever fucking ask for. I sat there staring at the screen, mind blank and yet muddled with an infinite writhing mass of thoughts and considerations. It’s taken me three days to sort out that mess and order it into something at least partially coherent. I will say this, and I have never felt this in my entire life…entire life. The only thing I wanted to do when the credits rolled, watching Bender’s fist thrust into the air captured in a moment of victory and frozen modern mythology, was to press play again and witness this movie in its totality once more.

It was the most beautiful feeling in the world.