Movies, movies, movies, movies
On March 2, 2010, an indie film called Gentlemen Broncos was released on DVD.
The weekend before this release, I obtained a copy and watched it. Not through illegal means – I was actually working at a video store at the time, and we were supposed to watch the movies previous to release to enable us to make recommendations. Yet the majority of the income from rental of this DVD, once it was available to rent, likely came from me. I was obsessed.
For those who don’t know what this movie is about, it follows a boy in a small town in Utah who likes to write stories. He lives with his mom, and they don’t have a lot of money, but they love each other and have each other’s best interests at heart. His mother agrees that they should spend some of their meager income to enable him to attend a writing conference, at which one of his favorite authors teaches some of the classes. He submits his recently finished novella to a writing competition that is part of the conference, and the favorite author ends up plagiarizing his work.
I turned this movie on recently upon seeing it available on HBO (I reluctantly agreed to a cable package to save costs on internet, because I live in the Bay Area, where you would think everyone would collectively agree regular internet access should go for about $20 per month, but instead, we pay too much for internet that’s shittier than the lower-cost internet I was able to receive in hick towns in the midwest). I was feeling nostalgic, and remembered that I had really liked it a lifetime ago (because holy shit, how was 2010 seven years ago, already).
Now, I might like it even more.
One thing I have been dealing with lately is the realization that life is probably never going to feel easy. I was never good-looking enough, and am now too old, to be a trophy wife, which means I’m probably always going to struggle with money. And even trophy wives have to deal with bad sex and pay therapists to help them deal with feeling like a necrophiliac. Life is hard, and other people take advantage of you, and sometimes it feels like you’re never going to get ahead. This struggle is something that this movie acknowledges – freely, and in a way that helps you laugh. And then, it also reminds you that sometimes, life’s not so bad.
The movie also includes Jemaine,
the kid from Sky High & the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge,
and a plethora of other talented actors. If you haven’t seen it, I highly, highly, highly recommend it.
Plagiarism comic: Nina Paley [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I have watched Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon two times now, and the movie still mesmerizes me.
For those who haven’t yet seen it, here is the synopsis:
When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
The movie is a smorgasbord of images, juxtaposed with haunting music to create a thriller/horror film, in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby and The Ring. It is frightening by virtue of the creation of atmosphere; you feel that something is wrong, even during a seemingly innocent discussion at a party.
This horror movie is not purely meant to scare; the idea of beauty interweaves throughout the film. What is beauty? How important is it? Can it be manufactured? It’s not exactly rocket science to use models in an analysis of the concept of beauty, but I would argue that this discussion is done well.
There are just enough ideas presented; Refn is not going to spoon feed you this movie. The viewer cannot just sit idly and watch this movie, but is forced to think about what is being presented, to actively participate. Refn’s refusal to dumb down his movie by forcing words into a character’s mouths to tell you exactly what he thinks and exactly why he created this film probably explains the divided opinions about this movie. A little more than half of critics and viewers seem to like this movie, with a myriad of others writing that it is “vapid” and “empty.” I would argue that it is not the film that is vapid and empty, although the movie may appear to be so if you do not actually watch it (which includes thinking about what you are seeing, not just gluing your eyeballs to the screen).
The choice of Elle Fanning to play the naivete, Jesse, at first perplexed me. Elle is, undeniably, pretty. But a supermodel? I’m still not entirely convinced.
I do, however, see that she presents herself almost as a blank slate, very well. I am sure that Elle is a wonderful person, but she generally comes across as… not very intelligent, in the roles I have seen her in lately. In Maleficent, she seems like a beautiful, happy little idiot. It’s hardly surprising that she falls into an eternal slumber by voluntarily stabbing herself with a needle that’s not even proffering a fun experience, like heroine.
In The Neon Demon, it’s not quite clear if Jesse is a “doe in the headlights” or simply a “blank slate.” Is she keeping her thoughts to herself, or does she really not have any? And what does it mean that photographers and fashion designers cannot get enough of her?
I find this movie absolutely fascinating, and keep turning it over in my mind. Have you seen it? What were your thoughts?
*Images and synopsis were obtained at imdb.com.
Oh, Hollywood. Must thou continually disappoint me? Based on the movie Jem and the Holograms, apparently so. Here are the many, many ways in which the movie Jem and the Holograms is terrible, because the producers didn’t hire me to write the screenplay.
#1 Just because the cameraman needed to be coked up to film this movie, doesn’t mean the viewers should have to experience the shaky camerawork resulting from his withdrawal
Seriously, is this movie about “rock stars” a sequel to the Blair Witch Project? Stop trying to give your viewers seizures in lieu of providing a compelling story.
#2 Don’t make it modern
One of the best things about Jem is how very ’80s it is. With the glamorous outfits, makeup, rockstars who save the world storylines, those of us who enjoy the show Jem enjoy how very emblematic it is for a decade now gone.
Who do you think your audience is, Hollywood? The teenagers who have never seen a John Hughes’ movie?
How did you fail to realize that you were making a nostalgia film, and fail to treat it accordingly?
#3 Don’t start your attempt at a movie series based on a TV series at the beginning
As I just mentioned (see point #2 if you have amnesia), this movie should be made with the intent to pander to fans of the naive, ridiculous ’80s television show. As such, why would you give us the band creation story? It’s like saying you’re going to make a pornographic movie, but leaving out nearly all the sex. Giving us all of the exposition, the lousy dialogue, and ending it with some softly lit scene between a woman who has taken her shoes off and her partner writhing beneath some sheets, safe to be shown on any cable network.
Take a cue from Homer – start in media rei; exposition is boring, and neither new nor old fans of anything are likely to appreciate it.
#4 Don’t cheapen your movie with pedophilia
Jem is pretty obviously in her twenties in the television series (I… might take my cartoons seriously). So why is she a teenager in the movie? Why make rich, successful, confident Jerrica a mewling, self-conscious teenager who becomes famous via social media with a song so terrible someone not watching the movie might think I was YouTubing weird cat videos?
Also, by making Jerrica younger, it makes her love story with college-age Rio inappropriate and creepy. There’s a reason that statutory rape is against the law; let’s not glorify sex with minors, please.
#5 Having Juliette Lewis Acting Like Parker Posey is not the same thing as having Parker Posey
I like Juliette Lewis, but it feels like she’s feigning the biting edge that Posey has in spades. If you need Parker Posey, just get Parker Posey.
Do you disagree? Do you think that I missed an important problem with this film? Please share your thoughts in the comments below! (Or send an e-mail to whoever produced Jem and the Holograms, and explain to them that it was awful and that they would have had a better chance of creating a movie franchise deserving of a sequel if they had hired me instead.)
I find it slightly hilarious that Disney did such a great job with Star Wars, but cannot seem to get adaptations of their own fairy tale cartoons right. I recently watched the live-action Cinderella, and even though I was only half-watching it, it still nearly put me to sleep.
There is so much to ask about this movie, but I think the most pressing question is why bother to make a live-action Cinderella based off of your Company’s well-known, cartoon version if you’re not even going to try?
This movie could have been amazing. Instead, I was bored.
While the actress who played Cinderella herself is beautiful, and physically looks the part, after having watched this Cinderella movie, I have to wonder if she can act. The cartoon version of her character seemed to possess more intelligence, somehow. Live-action Cinderella comes across as a kind little idiot.
And while it was cute that cartoon-Cinderella can talk to animals, the live-action movie keeps the animals, but doesn’t allow them to talk back. I guess it’s more realistic, but it also makes your heroine seem like a schizophrenic. When she goes on her rant to the prince about hunting the stag, you truly have to wonder what he sees in her. My personal verdict is that he was extremely horny – which, considering how quickly a marriage is generally consummated, doesn’t bode well for that union.
In addition, talking about being realistic here for a moment, if Cinderella is an environmentalist who can’t even stand for animals to be hunted, I am presuming she also can’t bear to eat them. I am not certain of the exact time period in which this movie takes place, but I find it hard to believe she’s going to be able to eat a well-balanced diet without eating meat. Maybe that’s one bonus for the prince: by the time he gets sick of having sex with her, she’ll probably have made herself mortally ill via malnutrition.
The message that kindness is the most important trait really seems more like – kindness is the only trait that matters. This message, while kindly met, I’m sure, is also kind of odd. You sort of feel like, if Cinderella’s mother had not stressed kindness quite so much, maybe she wouldn’t have been afraid to grow a backbone and tell her stepmother “no.” Kindness can be a great trait, but allowing other people to walk all over you is not kindness, it is cowardice.
And speaking of her stepmother – what a waste of Cate Blanchett, who looks gorgeous, but isn’t mean enough or smart enough to make this character sizzle. Cate deserved a better role, and you have to wonder if she had a larger part that got edited out for butterflies and ugly renditions of the signature Cinderella dress.
They took this iconic dress:
… and turned it into this:
Essentially, they took a sparkling, sophisticated vision, and turned it into a cheap-looking tart. Why is the dress such a dark blue? Why is her hair down? Why are there fucking butterflies all over it? I don’t know, but I hate it.
And finally, and perhaps most unforgivably, why have Lucifer in the movie, if you’re going to completely water him down?