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20 Mini Movie Reviews

I’ve not been feeling well, and almost a month ago I worked my first Black Friday sale in a clothing store. It reminded me of why I don’t even leave the house on Boxing Day (Black Friday is kind of new to Canada). It broke something inside of me. I wasn’t free to work through my negative thoughts and feelings because I had to smile most of the time. So I watched a bunch of movies. I’m going to write brief thoughts about them. Maybe I can write some detailed, intelligent reviews later.

Force Majeure (Ruben Ostlund. Sweden/ France/ Norway, 2014): This is fantastic. I like the visual style, I like the score, I like the pace, I like the tension, I like the humour, I like the performances, and I hate that I don’t know how to add an umlaut in this wordpress template. The avalanche scene makes the most perfect shift from terrifying to funny that I’ll ever see. Without the “help” of sentimentality, the story captures the negativity that can arise in a family when quick decisions are made and regretted. The cinematography is so clever and beautiful that at times it almost distracted me from the dialogue. I saw an IMDB review that described it as similar to the work of Stanley Kubrick, which is exactly what I thought in the cinema. I’m a bit worried that if this movie doesn’t win Best Foreign Film at the Oscars (which are a total sham and should be ignored), a lot of average moviegoers won’t bother to watch it.

Friday (F. Gary Gray. USA, 1995): Obviously a step down from the last movie. It wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, but I get why it’s so frequently quoted. It was written by Ice Cube. Maybe he should only write music lyrics.

Working Girl (Mike Nichols. USA, 1988): I’m confused as to whether this is a satire of greed and climbing the vicious corporate ladder in the ’80s, or this is sincere and I’m supposed to feel happy for Tess (Melanie Griffith) at the end. I don’t want to talk crap on this because Mike Nichols just died, so Tess’ hair was cool and I enjoyed Joan Cusack.

Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman. USA, 1984): I can tell it’s an excellent movie, but it didn’t smack me in the face the way it does most people. After thinking about it, I really believe this is something you should see when you’re young. Notes on the cast: Sigourney Weaver is talented, cool and attractive; I get tired of watching Bill Murray just Bill-Murraying around, but he’s gotta be the best Bill Murray in Hollywood; Rick Moranis is hilarious; I’m sad that Harold Ramis died, because his performance is my favourite out of all the players; What the fuck is Ernie Hudson even doing there? He’s a Ghostbuster but he doesn’t ever get to do anything interesting. At least Ringo Starr got to appear on the Beatles’ album art, but I don’t think Ernie Hudson is on the poster. Read up on it; Hudson was really bummed about getting the shaft. Ha, bum shaft.

American History X (Tony Kaye. USA, 1998): Pretty great. There were some moments I found so corny and overly sentimental that I had to laugh. The bit where Derek and Danny (Edwards Norton and Furlong) take the Neo-Nazi paraphernalia off the walls should be powerful. However, the music and seemingly choreographed performances are so uncomfortable and inorganic. Those moments were balanced by scenes that came together as a near perfect combination of photography, editing, acting and a challenging narrative. I hear the post-production of this movie was a mess because Kaye might be crazy, so New Line Cinema and Norton took over the editing process. It was deeply disturbing that I found Norton sexy, even with the huge swastika on his chest.

Eraserhead (David Lynch. USA, 1977): I tried to watch this movie when I was about 13 years old. I got it through Zip.ca, a now defunct mail delivery rental service. I didn’t know what was coming and sent it back after 20 minutes. Last year I obtained a DVD of the film from Kim’s Video and Music in New York’s East Village, another business that has closed down. My copy has, like, Korean language packaging or something and I took it home not knowing if I even bought a watchable English version. I think I can appreciate the beauty of this film, but 8 years later I still felt ill-prepared, like Eraserhead is meant to reach a part of my consciousness that I can’t reach. Maybe if I had an accidental pregnancy or lived in a creepy industrial apartment and my life had a bizarre soundscape, I would be more in step with the film.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (John McNaughton. USA, 1986): Wow. I felt all grimy after this one. Henry and Otis (Michael Rooker and Tom Towles) watching their video taped killing of a family is an amazing scene. The movie is wonderful and I never want to see it again.

Primal Fear (Gregory Hoblit. USA, 1996): This is so ’90s. It seemed cobbled together out of tropes and stylistic choices so many courtroom dramas had at the time. The look of the costumes and sets, the unsexy sexual tension between the lawyers who are unrealistically theatrical in the courtroom (I’d be uncomfortable if the prosecution or defense acted like that and my freedom was on the line), the repartee that makes you wants to slap the smirks right off of the characters’ faces. It reminded me of Reversal of Fortune (1990), but inferior and with some discount Billy Bibbit thrown in. This film is enjoyable because you’ve already seen it in the form of another film. Roy was hot (I’m having an Edward Norton problem right now, but only in a certain type of role).

Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick. UK/ USA, 1987): I honestly don’t know what to say. I can’t articulate how much of an impact this movie is having on me. I’ve thought about it every day since I saw it. That can’t be normal. The weirdest part of watching this film was that I’d only ever seen Matthew Modine in Vision Quest (1985), which I thought kinda sucked. I checked out the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto last week and I’m so glad I saw this before I went. I should have watched the other films I hadn’t previously seen, but I’m afraid of having to sit through Barry Lyndon (1975) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), so I’ll give myself some time and go to the exhibit again.

The Den (Zachary Donohue. USA, 2013): Whatever. The atmosphere is established and escalated very well, and the screenwriters found yet another variation on the found footage film that actually works. The performance of lead actress Melanie Papalia was good. I’m already forgetting this movie, which is why I’m writing brief thoughts now.

Death to Smoochy (Danny DeVito. USA/ UK/ Germany, 2002): This movie made me so sad. There are awesome things one could say about it: DeVito has always been fun to watch and his directorial style is distinctive, Catherine Keener is in it, I like dark humour, and it successfully ended my crush on Edward Norton. Mostly the movie disappointed me and is a waste of a terrific premise. Why does it feel so lifeless? Even Robin Williams couldn’t pep it up. Also, I don’t like movies that end with a cheesy fuck-up of great songs of the 1960s.

Fall (Terrence Odette. Canada, 2014): I enjoyed this. Enjoyed isn’t quite the right word because it made me uncomfortable. It invites the viewer to ask questions about some important binary oppositions we try to apply to everything in life, even though there are clearly middle grounds. The main character is a mess of contradictions, but many people are like him (aside from the accusations of pedophilia). Well made in pretty much every way.

Robocop (Paul Verhoeven. USA, 1987): This was awesome! I don’t watch many action films, so maybe if I did I wouldn’t be so impressed. I think Verhoeven just wanted his American films to entertain, not echo through the ages as examples of masterful cinema, and Robocop was very entertaining.

Juice (Ernest R. Dickerson. USA, 1992): Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur and Dickerson were all kind of new to their jobs, but they showed so much promise. The dark turn of the plot is almost too sudden for me. When Tupac’s character becomes all bloodthirsty and manipulative it feels like a different character all together. Maybe that was the point, because there are early indicators of how emotionally damaged he is. I most enjoyed the opening credits due to my love of “Juice” by Eric B. and Rakim.

Wayne’s World (Penelope Spheeris. USA, 1992): Really should have watched this sooner. Excellent.

Monster [short film] (Jennifer Kent. Australia, 2005): I watched this because I’m itching to see The Babadook (2014). This is a good, simple story well told. I keep thinking it’s harder to fuck up a short film, but then I remember all the short films I’ve seen that made me angry about losing 12 minutes of my life. An effective but concise film must be harder to create than I assumed, much like short stories.

Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese. USA, 1976): I haven’t seen many of Scorsese’s films because he’s been working with Leonardo DiCaprio, whose face I can’t stand. Even Raging Bull (1980) couldn’t sway me. I will remedy this situation asap. This is another movie I can’t write about in a few words. Travis Bickle might become one of my favourite characters in anything ever. I’ve spent a lot of time visiting family in New York over holidays, but unfortunately I only saw the city after it was cleaned up, not the colourful and dangerous city where “scum” didn’t have to be carefully hidden. I think my body was tingling in an odd way while the end credits rolled.

Afflicted (Derek Lee, Clif Prowse. Canada/ USA, 2013): I’m ashamed of this the way I’m ashamed of Justin Bieber and Drake. Canada does so much better than Afflicted. I didn’t like this movie from the beginning because the characters are so annoying and unlikeable. The whole opening with those assholes introducing their video diary in the most annoying asshole way made me want to keep watching just so I could see them suffer. I love horror, and I like to go into horror movies not knowing much, so when the characters come up with a theory as to why Derek is falling victim to a strange illness, I thought it was a joke. But then that’s the real explanation. Many people enjoyed the movie, and it’s really not bad, but it’s not at all a movie for my tastes.

Scrooged (Richard Donner. USA, 1988): Cool movie. Again, Bill Murray is the best at being Bill Murray. The de-Scrooging of his character is unconvincing and cheesy in a bad way. At least this time the end credits’ traditional corny fuck-up of a ’60s song used an ’80s cover version.

Barbara (Christian Petzold. Germany, 2012): This is a beautiful story set in the context of East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The cold shell with which the main character protects herself can be sympathised with, because everyone probably had to be detached and ready to snitch on people to the Stasi. Plus, her lover is in the “good” side of the country and she has to work in a hospital with substandard equipment. Of course she’s miserable. The erosion of her emotional shell was subtle enough to feel genuine, in part because she can’t become a completely open and trustful person in East Germany, and in part due to Nina Hoss’ incredible performance. The look of the movie, in terms of colour, composition and static shots, contributed to a tone that made me feel tired and trapped in a way the characters must feel. I loved the movie but it was a bad move to watch it on an overcast day when I was already drowsy and sad.

So I watched a good number of movies recently. I’m so prone to irritation and lack of focus that I can’t really keep up this pace. Better ways to spend my time are probably enjoying nature, volunteering to help the poor, improving my health and generally bringing meaning to my life. But watching movies is so much more passive. Why live when I can just watch other people live?

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Fan Expo Canada 2014

Warning: this post is kinda long.

Despite having social phobia and not much money, I really wanted to go to a convention sometime this year. I thought I could approach it like exposure therapy and the rewards would include cool junk, photos, autographs, and the assurance that I could even enter the convention centre without having a heart attack. I almost went to Niagara Falls Comic Con in June because I wanted to meet Tracey Gold, with whom I am bizarrely obsessed. I chickened out, but Fan Expo Canada in Toronto (28-31 August) seemed less daunting because there was a much shorter commute back home if I had a meltdown. After some hemming and hawing I bought the four day pass that came with an ugly t-shirt and a wristband you’re not supposed to take off all weekend. I went alone.

Day One, Thursday

I didn’t even make it to day one, because I’m a loser. I had an episode and spent the day on the couch eating cookies and crying. It wasn’t so bad though; there wasn’t anything I really wanted to see and I love cookies.

Day Two, Friday

I got my shit together and actually left the house on Friday because I had already paid for a photo-op with Ted Raimi, and only Satan himself could stop me from getting close to Ted Motherfucking Raimi. I got to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre around 11 am, with the intention of seeing a panel with the women who played the Grady twins in the Shining. It’s my most watched movie of all time, so seeing Lisa and Louise Burns would be kind of like seeing a holy relic. There was quite a bit of time to kill before then (even with the amount of time it takes to get from one MTCC building to the other), so I wandered for a bit. Upon seeing almost no lines in front of some celebrities I wanted to meet, I decided Ray Wise would take my convention celebrity virginity.

I asked some dudes standing around the area if they were waiting for Mr. Wise, hoping that they were so I’d have a chance to observe him from afar and gather some courage. Of course they weren’t waiting and before I had the chance to pretend I was taking a phone call or some shit, Wise and his celebrity-handler-person-who-takes-the-money saw me and waved me over. He looked very Hollywood, with piercing blue eyes, tanned skin and big white teeth. As intimidating as he might be to Twin Peaks fans like myself, he was so warm and friendly that within seconds I was calm. Unfortunately I can’t really remember what was said other than “You’re my first celebrity” and “I loved you on Twin Peaks.” Wasn’t that clever? He’ll never forget my wit and charm.

 

"Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey..."

“Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey…”

Ray Wise gave me the testicles I needed to approach the Burns twins, aka the Grady Twins. I sauntered up to their table all confident-like, but then felt my butthole clench in terror when some journalist and his camera person started setting up to interview them. I tried to stay calm while paying for the autographs, but anxiety tends to be about waiting for catastrophe and before long my hands started to shake. That’s when I took this blurry photo of them.

IMAG0160

“Come and interview us. Forever, and ever…”

Once again, there was no reason for me to be so frightened. They seemed like average petite British women, not two of the former creepiest children in cinematic history. They asked about the origin of my name, and told me that the guy in the following photo taught them how to play chess. I’ll probably think of how adorable their giggles were every time I watch the film.

That's Kubrick's jacket .

That’s Kubrick’s jacket draped over the camera.

I attended the Shining panel then sat down to eat an overpriced bagel [Pro tip: pack a lunch if you go to this sort of thing]. I went to another panel, a preview of a documentary called Why Horror? It was cool and piqued my interest, but the Expo organizers didn’t think to have a volunteer to turn the lights down at the back of the room when they were screening clips, so some guy in the audience had to get up and do it. God, I don’t understand why Canadian things always have to be so damn shoddy.

Anyway, I had more time to kill so I looked at what the vendors have to offer, bought some stuff, and then decided to embarrass myself and get even more autographs. While I was waiting for Sherilyn Fenn, Ray Wise spotted me again and winked. That wink simultaneously vaporized my panties and made me want to run away screaming. Such is the awesome power of an electrifying actor. Fenn greeted me with “Hey big lady” (I’m only 5 ft. tall). For the first time, I was actually star struck. After just staring at her for what felt like an eternity, all I could think to say was “Oh my God, you’re so pretty!” Can you believe that shit? Security should have dragged my creepy ass out onto the street, but there was hardly any visible security because Fan Expo is either super sneaky or super cheap. Thankfully, Fenn reciprocated with “You’re so pretty!” She asked how I was and I asked how she was, and she told me about her back injury. I said “Well, at least you’re sitting,” which prompted her to playfully bitch about some TV crew that made her stand for an interview. I spat out the usual “loved you in Twin Peaks” and she said “Bless your heart” with a sincerity you’d only expect from someone who’s not used to compliments. I wish I could sit around and kiki with her.

lovely toques

lovely toques

I wanted Sheryl Lee’s autograph next, but she was chatting with her celebrity-handler so I waited for a break in the convo to approach them politely. To my horror (and delight), Fenn yelled at her “Sheryl! Someone is waiting for you!” Ms. Lee is gorgeous, but it’s weird to have the face of Laura Palmer right in front of you. Gushing ensued with “I was just telling Sherilyn how beautiful she still is…” “Isn’t she?” “…And you are too!” Lee seemed genuinely flattered, and asked me about the origin of my name. I noticed she had a cast on her hand and asked about it. I think she said she’d broken some of her fingers. Man, the Twin Peaks cast doesn’t fuck around when it comes to calling in sick. I wonder if all of Lynch and Frost’s actors are so cool.

To end the day I lined up to wait for a Ted Raimi photo-op. I waited 30-40 minutes. Someone in front of me had a bitchin Seaquest costume and I spotted at least one Joxer. Finally, the moment arrived.

“Hi, what’s your name?” [I tell him]

“That’s a beautiful name.”

“Thanks! I like your suit.”

“Thanks!” He poses with his hand on my shoulder and it feels like cherubs gently resting their nutsacks there. We are soul mates.

I'll try to look better on our wedding day.

I’ll try to look better on our wedding day.

I float home on a cloud.

Day Three, Saturday

Saturday is the busiest day, so I wasn’t there long. I got to the Centre about an hour before the Twin Peaks panel and the line in the hallway was crazy long. One girl was wearing a log lady costume, but I was too chicken to ask for a photo. When they let us in the room, it wasn’t even full! If you frequently volunteer at conventions, can you explain to me why the audience can’t be slowly permitted to enter a room well before the panel starts? It’s still first come – first served if you don’t let people leave after early entrance and you don’t have the borderline fire hazard issue of people crowding up the hallways. Whatevs. The panel was cool.

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Cool people saying cool things.

I went to another (much smaller) panel with renowned horror movie poster artists including Ghoulish Gary Pullin, whose work I didn’t realize I already had at home. I planned to stay for longer, but the body odor stench was overwhelming. I’ve battled my own B.O., but have you noticed some people smell like smoked meat when they sweat?

Day Four, Sunday

By this day, a normal person might have felt like a seasoned veteran, but the crowds were still making me nervous. My mission was to get to Sir Patrick Stewart and have him sign an autograph for my sister, a belated birthday present. I’d been on the fence about it because he was one of the most expensive people and I knew the queue would be like people waiting for the second coming of Jesus. Ultimately, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to wait for Jean Luc Picard.

I headed to Bruce Campbell’s signing area, where a long line of deadites was already forming. I’d paid for a photo-op with him later, so I asked a volunteer where Ted Raimi’s line was. He led me to a line consisting of two people. That was so depressing. Another gal joined the line behind me and it looked like she was into Xena. I asked her, and we had a nice little conversation about it. Ted (“light of my life, fire of my loins”) was very kind. I handed over a Xena DVD and he asked if I was a fan. I admitted I wanted to bring a Skinner DVD but couldn’t find one. He chuckled and told me it’s probably out of print, but the transfer was awful anyway. I honestly can’t remember much of what he said because I was trying not to jump him.

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The Campbell photo-op started at noon, and I joined the line around 11:30. He and Ray Wise must have had the same acting teacher, because he called me “darling” and I lost another pair of panties. It was very quick, but I got to enjoy a warm, meaty handshake. It was exactly how I always thought Elvis would feel. I got out around 12:45 and went straight to his signing area.

His turtleneck was pretty great.

His turtleneck was pretty great.

Bruce Campbell’s milkshake brought so many people to the yard that the organizers handed out numbered tickets and we would have to wait until our number was called to get in the actual line. You could write your name on the ticket if you wanted a dedicated autograph. This was one of few sensible crowd control methods I saw that weekend. I bought my ticket, went and did some other shit, then came back to the pre-waiting area, where I stayed for about 2.5 hours (one of those hours he went to lunch or something). I read a Rue Morgue and watched people be jerks. Campbell’s assistant, Mike Estes was helping with organization and asking people what they were having signed. I guess he’s sort of a hype man like Flavor Flav. It was then that I realized I was the only dork with a book, 2005’s “Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way.” I met a girl wearing a homemade Evil Dead chainsaw.

When my time came, I handed over the ticket with my name on it. He said “You’re gonna have to tell me how to pronounce this one.” He joked that I’d made a good choice of reading material. Then I unleashed some real talk on him; “Make Love” was one of the books I kept in my high school backpack to bring some laughter to my awkward, depressed state. I told him the book helped me through a rough time and I wanted to say thanks. He’s a quick wit, so I thought he’d poke fun at me, but he got kind of serious and said he was glad it helped. He humbly said it’s an entertainer’s job to distract people when life gets tough. I said he should write another novel and he said there would be a sequel to his memoir because it’s been more than 10 years since the first one. All along I had treated the wait like a horror fan pilgrimage, but it turned out to be a much more emotionally satisfying moment than I ever anticipated.

Never thought I'd get this signed.

Never thought I’d get this signed.

If you’re socially anxious and wondering if this kind of convention thing is worth attending, seriously consider it. You’ll need to prepare yourself of course; don’t go from being housebound to being in a room with tens of thousands of people. And there will be assholes, like the myriad people I heard negatively judging other people’s costumes and fandoms as if they themselves hadn’t been waiting an hour for the guy who played fucking Brisco County Jr. The key is probably that there’s a lot of stuff to distract you and take you out of your own head. If you have the money (admittedly a lot of money) and you’re passionate about whatever entertainment genre is being highlighted, the whole thing might push you to do things you didn’t believe were possible. I wasn’t making friends and shit, and I still couldn’t bring myself to eat in the food court, but I spoke to people, including people I idolize. I ventured out as a lone po-faced black girl in a sea of tall confident white folks and actually had a good time. I’m not sure I’d go to something as big and costly as Fan Expo again, but almost a month later I still feel lucky, and I feel proud of myself.

Confession: I’m Afraid of Wendie Malick

It’s approaching 3:00 am and I can’t sleep. Tonight, it’s not because I’m reflecting on all my regrets in life. It’s not because I’m bothered by my social awkwardness, or by my appearance (I think of myself as a short Steve Buscemi-Whoopi Goldberg hybrid, and that’s weird because I’ve always been really attracted to Mr. Buscemi). Tonight I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about the abomination we call Wendie Malick.

AAAHHHHH!!!!!!! [taken from here]

AAAHHHHH!!!!!!! [taken from here]

I’m not trying to make some horrible criticism of her looks or personality. I know many people consider her exceptionally attractive, both now and in her early days as a model. For decades she’s been appreciated by critics and audiences alike as a unique comedic talent. Glancing at her imdb page, I see she’s involved in many charitable projects. She worked with David Spade for, like, almost a decade and didn’t karate chop him in the throat. She’s got nice hair. Wendie Malick probably isn’t a bad person, but she scares the crap out of me. She frightens me to the point where I have to stay awake, no matter how tired I am, and write about her in a desperate attempt to wipe her from the darkest corners of my psyche, where she has resided since I was a child.

I watched a lot of TV as a kid. Too much TV, really. Many of my foggy memories from childhood involve falling into a Dunkaroos-induced coma while watching syndicated reruns of Xena and waking up to Star Trek:Voyager (and fucking Neelix, who I can’t stand) or Just Shoot Me. To me, nothing on Voyager could be as other-worldly or disturbing as Wendie Malick.

Maybe it’s her skinniness? That doesn’t make sense because I’m into fashion and the dangerously thin European models don’t give me night terrors. There’s just something about her upper arms/ shoulders, neck, eyes, the cadence of her voice. She makes me want to build a bomb shelter and use it to try to hide from Mr. Death. I don’t even have to see her; just a mention of Hot in Cleveland sends a chill up my spine.

If anything it should be Betty White who makes me ponder my mortality.

If anything it should be Betty White who makes me ponder my mortality. [taken from here]

My sister once admitted she’s afraid of Meryl Streep, and I hear people say they have a fear of little people. Maybe this is the same. There’s not really anything wrong with Malick, but I can’t shake this feeling. If anyone ever reads this post, can you please tell me about your irrational fear of a celebrity or group of people. Maybe it will improve my emotional well-being. Or maybe I’m right and someone needs to set her on fire, then salt the earth around her. I dunno. It’s late; I can’t think clearly.

Thanks for reading and have a nice day.

Thanks, Rik Mayall, For Everything.

YOUNGONES

I’m so sad to hear that comedian Rik Mayall has passed away. When I first read it, I wanted to believe it was some kind of horrible joke. I, as well as countless others enjoyed his work (my favourite was always Bottom), but I can’t imagine how terrible this must be for his family. it’s especially tragic considering his near death experience in the late ’90s, and how happy he seemed just to have escaped with his life. And 56 is far too young for anyone to die.

In high school I wore a jacket covered in social activism buttons and badges, just like Rick from the Young Ones. I irritated everyone in my house by acting like Richie from Bottom. I even enjoyed Drop Dead Fred, and that was a hideous film. I was a deeply depressed and anxious kid, but brilliant people like Mr. Mayall helped me remember that life is hilarious. No matter how crappy your life is getting, just step back and laugh at the gruesome, ridiculous episode as just that; an episode. Thanks for getting me through the bad times, Rik.

Here’s one of my favourite Bottom moments, from the Christmas episode. Watching it today made me rather emotional, but it’s still funny, even after watching it at least a hundred times.