Film Review http://www.culturecatch.com/film en What If God Were Made Out of Macaroni? http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3954 <span>What If God Were Made Out of Macaroni?</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>July 8, 2020 - 21:10</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lrctO2NLWCo?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>When Sophia Loren insisted, "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti," she knew of what she spoke, possibly more than she might have imagined. You'll understand after seeing <i>Pastafari: A Flying Spaghetti Monster Story,</i> one of the more delicious, amusing, and relevant documentaries of the year.</p> <p>First, before we go on, we must ask, "What is religion?"</p> <p>According to the Supreme Court, religion is "a sincere and meaningful belief that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to the place held by God in the lives of other persons." Hmmm. The First Amendment adds that Congress "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."</p> <p>Now let's jump to 2005 right after the Kansas Board of Education voted that the creationist theory of intelligent design must be taught side by side with evolution. You know that theory arguing a supernatural force had a hand in creating all life. Well, what if you had a divine revelation right then like Bobby Henderson, a young scientist, did? At 24, he suddenly became aware that a spiritual being, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), created the world and that somehow pirates were involved. And that when you were not dressed up in pirate gear, this god wanted you to wear a colander on your head. Was this by definition the beginning of a new tax-exempt institution? If you yelled, "No way!" how can you tell a fake religion from a real one? And who would jump on this macaroni-based spiritual journey?</p> <p>Well, due to the power of the Internet and media coverage, there are now untold multitudes of Pastafarians spreading the gospel of "He who boiled for our sins." From Germany to New Zealand, there are even millions, some FSM-ers avow, possibly utilizing the Trumpian method of counting. And surprisingly, some foreign courts have even ruled that by their laws' requirements, here is a bona-fide religion.</p> <p>Thanks to Mike Arthur's deft direction, what at first seems just a Monty-Python-like fun fest actually becomes an in-depth take on religious institutions, their hold on governments, plus some of their worst offenses. By the end credits, you might even ask, "Why do we believe what we believe? And when we point out the inanities of others’ religious beliefs, shouldn’t we admit to the looniness within our own?"</p> <p>But back to Pastafarianism and <i>The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. </i>A quote from way up high: "I'd really rather you didn't go around telling people I talk to you. You're not that interesting. Get over yourself, and I told you to love your fellow man. Can you take a hint?" I'm sure Job would have preferred that putdown from his Lord as to getting boils and having his family decimated.</p> <p>Anyway, this newish church also has weekly gatherings, where one devotee notes: "We celebrate noodle masses and we baptize our children with noodle water." Then there's the wedding ceremonies where a couple sucks on opposite sides of a strand of spaghetti until their lips meet in a kiss.</p> <p>Kathy Gilsinan in a major feature in <i>The Atlantic</i> a few years back wrote: "Along the way, something funny happened to a movement founded in large part to critique organized religion: It’s gotten organized, and has taken on both the trappings and some of the social functions of a real religion."</p> <p>Dirk Jan, a legal consultant who was raised a Christian and now is a leading advocate of this faith, wants to know how believing in the parting of the Red Sea is any crazier than praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. His brethren note that this theology is a nonviolent one with no rules. You don't have to pray. You don't have to attend services, but you can. You also don't have to worry about going to Hell or being punished for spiritual lapses. There are guidelines, though, that supply you with a moral compass. Please note:</p> <blockquote> <p>"When you are good in society, you are a good Pastafarian."</p> </blockquote> <p>And when you inspire a great film, who's going to doubt you?</p> <p><b>[Available digitally starting this week on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, </b><b>Frontier, Suddenlink, Mediacom, WOW! </b><b>and Vimeo.]</b></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3954&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="ca7XtiZBmw6oTsONSfjROgka9XCswzguujjwY4eWFBI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 09 Jul 2020 01:10:35 +0000 Brandon Judell 3954 at http://www.culturecatch.com The Transformative Powers of Chemo-Girl http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3952 <span>The Transformative Powers of Chemo-Girl</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>June 25, 2020 - 10:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/797" hreflang="en">drama</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/M6E8gPmz7n4?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><i>Babyteeth</i>, a highly quirky, Australian disease-of-the-week dramedy, surprisingly delivers the goods by its finale. About ten minutes before the end credits roll, you might actually experience a really major lump in your throat and a sizeable eye-watering. Not bad at all for a play adaptation that, although unerringly cast, still comes off at times as a series of stage scenes stitched together.</p> <p>Which reminds me of when <i>The New Yorker</i>'s<i> </i>Pauline Kael, after viewing <i>Jaws,</i> had a drink with a weathered Hollywood director. Noting her amazement at how the then-young Steven Spielberg toyed with the film frame, her date responded, "He must never have seen a play; he's the first one of us who doesn’t think in terms of the proscenium arch."</p> <p>Here, helmer Shannon Murphy seldom lets you forget that playwright Rita Kalnejais's adaption of her own work was once proscenium-arch bound. Each scene is labeled. "Anna and Henry's Tuesday Appointment," "When Milla Brought Moses Home to Meet Her Parents," and "Relapse, Milla Starts Chemo" are a few examples. If you blink during the last listing, you might be thrown for a loop when the heroine shows up suddenly with a bald head.</p> <p>The storyline is rather simple. Milla (Eliza Scanlen), an uptight 15-year-old lass with violin case in hand, is awaiting a train with her schoolmates. As the engine huffs into the station, Moses (Toby Wallace), a 23-year-old drug addict with splotchy skin and worse tattoos, rushes past Milla, giving her a hefty shove as he seemingly wants to throw himself against the moving vehicle. He's seeking a rush, and by doing so, he inadvertently crashes through Milla's staidness. She's instantly infatuated, especially after her nose starts bleeding and the lad takes off his unlaundered shirt and gives it to her as a hanky.</p> <p>Meanwhile back on the home front, Anna (Essie Davis) and Henry (Ben Mendelsohn), Milla's mom and dad, are playing at patient and therapist, their foreplay leading to a bout of afternoon intercourse. Henry, who actually is a psychiatrist, thinks nothing of answering a phone mid-orgasm and conversing about his clientele, "Really! Can you get her last MRI scan ready for me?"  No wonder Anna is loaded up on Ativan, Zoloft, and several other anti-anxiety pills.</p> <p>What follows are a series of off-the-wall incidents that seem to be begging for a laugh track and an 8:30 time slot on a Tuesday night. Case in point, Henry meets his highly pregnant, sexy neighbor who's lost her dog whose name happens to be Henry, too.  Consequently, every time she shouts for her pet, guess who turns around? Bet you can't wait until the human Henry haphazardly changes her lightbulb. Or the scene where Anna makes breakfast for the unshowered Moses after he breaks into the family home to steal drugs and threatens her with a kitchen knife.</p> <p>But interspersed among these rather silly carryings-on are genuinely superb moments such as when in the school bathroom, a classmate asks to try on Milla's wig.  After at first demurring, Milla hands over her blonde locks, revealing her vulnerable scalp. Then quietly she edges into a wall so as not to appear exposed in the selfie her posing pal is taking.</p> <p>Throughout, even in the tonally outlandish moments, the acting is first rate, which is not surprising if you've seen Scalen in <i>Little Women</i>, Davis in <i>The Babadook</i>, and Mendelsohn in everything he's done. Newcomer Wallace has also been garnering acclaim for his performance.</p> <p>What's odd, though, yet intriguing is that there are several moments where Milla brazenly breaks the fourth wall and looks at us directly. She seems to be stating she has everything and everyone under control no matter how much it might seem otherwise. This Milla is going to live life to the fullest and bend it to her demands. She simply doesn't know how to lose.</p> <p><b>(On Amazon Prime and On Demand.)</b></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3952&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="YrZEbNGJU0bK2AFemYJfrqOCXDEwQ20N6lElEEFdtI8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 25 Jun 2020 14:57:26 +0000 Brandon Judell 3952 at http://www.culturecatch.com Life Through a Puppy’s Eyes Ain’t Something to Bark About http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3950 <span>Life Through a Puppy’s Eyes Ain’t Something to Bark About</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/webmaster" lang="" about="/users/webmaster" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Webmaster</a></span> <span>June 16, 2020 - 20:38</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/187" hreflang="en">animation</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DweZRx-h588?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>As Mr. Bob Dylan noted last week in a rare interview: "Good news in today's world is like a fugitive treated like a hoodlum and put on the run." Substitute "a French puppy" for "good news" and you basically have the plot of <i>Marona's Fantastic Tale</i>, a tale of urban life with all the ups and downs of canine/human romance.</p> <p>Yes, here, in one of the more beautifully animated features released in many a year, director/ writer Anca Damian chronicles the life of Nine. Nine, as you might have guessed, earns her moniker by being the ninth and final puppy born to a rather sexy mixed-breed mom and a racist pure-bred dad.  But that isn’t how the story starts.</p> <p>Sadly -- but not for us -- we meet Nine with her heart-shaped nose right after she is hit by an auto, winding up as "a mere smudge on the asphalt." As her final owner, a self-centered teen, Solange, kneels by her side, the injured mutt decides to "take a moment to rewind the film of [her] life."</p> <p>And what a varied life it has been, as varied as the names she's been given: Ana, Sara, Morona. Then there are her "owners": Manole, the acrobat; Istvan, the oversized construction manager and his mean-spirited gal pal; Istvan's deranged, heavily medicated mother; and finally the aforementioned Solange and family, which includes a disagreeable feline and a worse grandpapa. There are also run-ins with dogcatchers, catnaps in garbage cans, and days of hunger. "I sank into an endless night."</p> <p>Without having read Sartre's <i>No Exit</i>, Nine discovers on her own that hell can be other people, except for those who love her, and they are problematic, too. She notes that "happiness is different for dogs and humans. We want things to remain exactly the same. As for humans, they always want something new."</p> <p>What might sound like a familiar trope is brought to several other dimensions by the surreal, undulating artistry of Brecht Evens and his character designs plus by Gina Thortensen and Sarah Mazzetti's vibrantly detailed sets. Under Damian's astute direction, the nine planets frequently swirl overhead throughout Nine's journey as she traipses by a passerby who might have the head of a fish or who just be a be a bunch of walking uninhabited clothing. Throughout, limbs stretch and contort, flying this way and that, faces crumble and reassemble, and every artistic phase from early Picasso onwards seems to be reflected here with quantum fluctuations of line.</p> <p>As a mere dot in this frequently uncharitable landscape, our heroine seeks to restore a lost sense of wholeness to her world that can only be found with another caring soul. Her credo are the words her mother shared with Nine shortly before she began to woof: "Everyone has a right to love and a bone." Has any film ever had a more noble message?</p> <p>[Starting this week, the film, which played in competition at the Annecy International Film Festival, and won the Animation is Film Special Jury Prize last year, has been made available at <a href="http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001ycdLCBJhWjTGAtf97cjmHYV_jGk9s7tatNn_Nqq3jML8R810OASKXIYY50fqN-sUSBRZWabQLU_DqQ_KTCPlrNs-pvf1d4PIRol9i1Eb4LRD7_wntYb9cSzWir4-GeVT9eO6iCFCo5a1AJn93w6l_A==&amp;c=mOyMyUSr8nBKmGGH7yPs_h8Oz4hakz0zzJtXLqmGqShnxynw9HSw5g==&amp;ch=TM1NQPiZ66dnn9wnZxnG7Mrp0Y4O5jjodtCuemCbkt5WyLAr_UywHQ==" target="_blank"><b>MaronaMovie.com</b></a> through virtual cinema partner links. In addition to the film, exclusive to the virtual release includes additional interview content with director Anca Damian.]</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3950&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="bPjm2tt8HrSI_52zNhzVxIhsDb_e4aRRHjesbx4mBP0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 17 Jun 2020 00:38:07 +0000 Webmaster 3950 at http://www.culturecatch.com Getting to “Nomi” http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3948 <span>Getting to “Nomi”</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>June 10, 2020 - 14:44</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0bWk5yN3TW4?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>After binging on three overseas "slow-burns" from Netflix—<i>Broadchurch, Hinterland, </i>and <i>Bordertown -- </i>addictive, complex looks into child abuse, corporate corruption, fried corpses, more child abuse, troubled priests, and a woman held underwater for three days until her skin started dissolving, it’s certainly nice to be confronted again by American-made sleaziness.</p> <p>Jeffrey McHale's supremely entertaining documentary, <i>You Don't Nomi</i>, is a no-holds-barred celebration and vivisection of the seamy underbelly of what's been enshrined as the worst film of the '90s, <i>Showgirls. </i>That flop of flops was<i> </i>a $40-million follow-up of sorts for director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas who had paired up previously for the lesbian icepick-killer thriller <i>Basic Instinct </i>(1992)<i>. </i>The duo thought they could do no wrong after their history of separate and paired successes (e.g. <i>RoboCop </i>(1987);<i> Flashdance </i>(1983)). Ah, well.</p> <p>"It's <i>All About Eve </i>in a G-string," noted one critic on <i>Showgirls</i>.</p> <p>This is "a story about a hyperactive eyeliner junkie out to rule the world," summarized another.</p> <p>"Valley of the Dulls" screamed a review, while <i>The New York Times</i>' Janet Maslin added "that when a group of chimps get loose in the showgirls' dressing room and all they do is defecate, the film enjoys a rare moment of good taste."</p> <article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-06/janet_maslins_review.png?itok=FM8TyXpt" width="1200" height="675" alt="Thumbnail" title="janet_maslins_review.png" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Before I go on, please note that no prior knowledge of <i>Showgirls </i>is necessary to have a blast viewing <i>Nomi</i>. I've already gleefully watched this doc two-and-a-half times while I only could bear the original once.  It was at a 10:00AM critics' screening in 1995, and all I clearly remember is the infamous ice-cube nipple scene. The rest is a blur except that upon leaving the theater and walking along Sixth Avenue in extremely bright sunlight, I realized I could do without simulated swimming-pool copulations, lap dances, gang rapes, and hyperactive acting before noon. That's been my credo ever since.</p> <p>A quick synopsis of the original's plot: Nomi Malone (<i>Saved by the Bell</i>'s Elizabeth Berkley in a career-killing performance) arrives in Las Vegas with a very big chip on her shoulder. You see, her father had killed her mother and then shot himself or vice versa. This easily angered lass dreams of being the lead of a show on the Strip just like Cristal Connors (a scintillating Gina Gershon), the reigning sequined queen. Nomi's first stop on her way to the top is an audition where she has to bare her bosom.</p> <p>Tony (a sleazy Alan Rachins): Ya got something wrong with your nipples?</p> <p>Nomi: No.</p> <p>Tony: They’re not sticking up. Stick them up.</p> <p>Nomi: What?</p> <p>Tony: Play with them.</p> <p>Nomi gets the part. Dozens of people of both sexes then fall either in love or lust with her. Her talent with nail polish gets some praise. She admits she used to love eating dog food, and eventually she becomes a star. I'll let the finale remain a surprise.</p> <p>What <i>You Don't</i> <i>Nomi</i>'s writer/director/editor/co-producer McHale gets right here, and he gets little wrong, is the incorporation of the films of Verhoeven into the tale of how <i>Showgirls </i>gained a<i> </i>cult status. There are scenes from <i>Elle </i>(2016), <i>The Fourth Man </i>(1983), and <i>Total Recall </i>(1990) cleverly edited into the action along with clips from <i>The Rocky Horror Show </i>(1975), <i>Striptease </i>(1996) with Demi Moore, <i>Forrest Gump </i>(1994), and dozens more.</p> <p>There is a wit here that the original lacks, along with illuminating looks at film criticism, male egos in Hollywood, America's attitude toward sex in the cinema, Susan Sontag's definition of <i>camp</i>, plus a collage of vomit scenes.</p> <p>"For those who get it, it's kind of a religion," insists Peaches Christ, a drag-queen impresario, who puts on a <i>Showgirls </i>spoof in San Francisco that includes lap-dancing.</p> <p>The film only falters in its section featuring April Kidwell, who has starred in the rather successful <i>Showgirls! The Musical!</i> after appearing in the <i>Saved by the Bell spoof</i>, <i>Bayside! The Musical! </i>Apparently, after suffering both emotional and physical abuse in her own life, the young actress recovered by playing Elizabeth Berkley's past roles. Kidwell insists that being the only person in a theatre dancing topless and then singing a terrible song about rape have decimated her past agonies. This segment is discomforting for many reasons and belongs possibly in another film.</p> <p>Yet <i>You Don't Nomi </i>otherwise never hits a false note. What you have in the end here is a <i>Tiger King </i>for cinephiles.</p> <p>(RLJE Films has released the documentary <em><b>YOU DON'T NOMI</b></em> this week On Demand and Digital.)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3948&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="MkwDlxlGoEglMOdcSRZ8XWkMxv4BjVd6dHWE0U_1w44"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 10 Jun 2020 18:44:21 +0000 Brandon Judell 3948 at http://www.culturecatch.com Christ Like Me http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3938 <span>Christ Like Me</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>April 18, 2020 - 13:26</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/797" hreflang="en">drama</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-04/the-quarry-movie-still.jpg?itok=wVy2aD10" width="1200" height="800" alt="Thumbnail" title="the-quarry-movie-still.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><em><strong>The Quarry </strong></em><strong>(Lionsgate)</strong></p> <p>Who doesn't enjoy a troubled priest film (e.g. <i>First Reformed </i>(2017);<i> The Exorcist </i>(1973))? Wikipedia lists 105 entries in the genre. But what about a movie with a tormented priest who’s not really a clergyman, but a Man-of-God murderer who's just posing as a saintly soul? And can such a sinner, reading from his victim’s Bible daily, not become devout, especially when his newly acquired flock believes he's the genuine article?</p> <p>After all, Pope Saint John Paul II insisted that "a priest is a man who offers his whole humanity to God so that God might use him as an instrument of salvation." Clearly, The Man (Shea Whigham), as he is acknowledged to in the credits, is saving souls under the moniker "David Martin," the moniker he lifted from the Minister of Christ he just half-buried in the titular quarry.</p> <p>Is that confusing? Let's just say the real David Martin, an alcoholic, while driving to his next posting in a small Texan border town, picks up The Man, who's lying on the side of the road inert. Martin takes this lifeless gent to a restaurant, where The Man drinks a whole lot of water and eats pancakes with his hands.  (The film, by the way, is based on the Damon Galgut's post-apartheid South African novel. In this adaptation, put-upon blacks have been replaced by put-upon Hispanics.)</p> <p>Well, after displaying his faulty flapjack etiquette, "Martin" hits Martin over the head with a wine bottle, and the impostor now takes his victim’s van to the border town to begin the latter’s holy duties, but not with an assured hand.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2sgghEuYESQ?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Luckily, when "Martin" opens his poached Bible, the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy is what shows up. Here's a very "hopeful" section of the Good Book:</p> <blockquote> <p>"But we know that the law is good, if a man uses it lawfully: knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind . . . ." </p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently, this indicates there's a possible redemption for sinners if they switch pathways, at least according to my Bible-touting sister-in-law's informed interpretation.</p> <p>So can "Martin" gain a halo in a film with a 100-minutes running time? Imagine a sort of transplanted film-noir plot with loads of sun and sand but no Coppertone, and you might guess the finale . . . or not. But believe me, it's rather worth hanging around for, and what else do you have to do nowadays?</p> <p>Having caused a stir opposite Julia Roberts in Amazon Prime's <i>Homecoming</i> and in 56 episodes of <i>Empire Boardwalk</i>,<i> </i>Whigham here, in one of his first starring roles, embraces the finessed inexpressiveness of Clint Eastwood. He's a man with a secret on the run from the police towards God. As an actor, he has to keep us guessing whether he’s scamming all of those around him with his prayers, his stigmata-like wound, and his nerve-fraying dreams about coffins. His is a solid, ultra-interior performance.</p> <p>But Michael Shannon is the life of the party here in a rather showy role as the widowed local sheriff, Chief John Moore. He's a bigot with a heart of gold with the best lines:</p> <blockquote> <p>"How do you give a redneck a circumcision? Hit his sister in the jaw." </p> </blockquote> <p>Shannon has been constantly lauded over the years (<i>The Shape of Water </i>(2017); <i>Revolutionary Road </i>(2008)), but when you see him in a really small indie, you just feel his life force flowing forth even more. His glare. His smile. You probably wouldn't even mind if he were the one who ordered you to be beaten up in a jail cell.  There's little doubt that if Shannon had started acting in the '70s, he'd have DeNiro's status by now.</p> <p>Also, quite fine is Bobby Soto as a rather volatile thief and Catalina Sandino Moreno (an Oscar nominee for <i>Maria Full of Grace </i>(2004)) as Moore's girlfriend and The Man's landlord who convincingly wears a pink housecoat in most scenes.</p> <p>Writer/Director Scott Teems' sophomore narrative feature shows great promise. No doubt with a bigger budget, a script with a few more narrative twists, a lead character who is a bit more vocal, and a few viewings of a Hitchcock offering such as <i>Strangers on a Train</i>, he will no doubt salvage all of our cinematic souls in the years to come.</p> <p>(<i>The Quarry </i>has gone On Demand as of April 17, 2020.)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3938&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="SB-kL1GbleQCpMIgqU1XPoYFt7MC3P_stslePVtZ498"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 18 Apr 2020 17:26:07 +0000 Brandon Judell 3938 at http://www.culturecatch.com Bloody Good Time http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3933 <span>Bloody Good Time</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/leah-richards" lang="" about="/users/leah-richards" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Leah Richards</a></span> <span>April 5, 2020 - 15:13</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/789" hreflang="en">televison</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Kc4dbxQ-mEM?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><i>Bloodride</i></p> <p>Netflix, 2020</p> <p>6 episodes</p> <p>Of note to fans of compact bursts of un-self-serious horror, the Norwegian series <i>Bloodride </i>(2020; original title <i>Blodtur</i>) has recently been added to Netflix's streaming catalog, joining such series as <i>Two Sentence Horror Stories </i>(2019- ), also on Netflix; Shudder's <i>Creepshow</i> (2019- ) series, renewed for an upcoming second season; and, to a lesser extent, Amazon Prime Video's <i>Lore</i> (2017-2018) in the resurgence of the tv horror anthology. While it may not contain any masterpieces of the form, it is certainly on par with current comparable series, offering up enough occasionally gory fun to recommend it.</p> <p>The stories in <i>Bloodri</i>de, created by Kjetil Indregard and Atle Knudsen, have no connection to one another beyond the opening credits sequence, so its six episodes, all clocking in at just a few minutes on either side of half an hour, can be watched in any order. The title connects to the opening frame, such as it is, in which a seemingly empty bus with an unpleasant-looking driver is revealed to carry the souls or spirits of characters from the various episodes (each opening sequence gives slightly expanded focus to the character or characters from that particular episode). Beyond its effectively creepy aesthetic, this frame doesn't bear too much thinking about: for example, some of the spectral rider are murderers and some are victims, so it would seem to be a stretch to see this as, say, a bus to hell (which was a tempting reading after the first episode), leaving the "bloodride" to operate more as a metaphor for the viewer experience than for anything specific in the series itself. The tone of the episodes has a lot of affinity with the HBO <i>Tales from the Crypt</i> (1989-1996) series, minus the bad puns, as well as with the first <i>Creepshow</i> film (1982). While <i>Bloodride</i> isn't quite horror comedy, it is assertively entertaining rather than unsettling, with some of the installments even including that EC comics-style moral message found in <i>Crypt</i> and <i>Creepshow</i>, and it isn't generally bloody or graphic enough to put off the average horror viewer (though the first episode might cause animal lovers some discomfort).</p> <p>Like most horror anthologies, <i>Bloodride </i>is uneven. Two of its best episodes bookend the series. The first, "Ultimate Sacrifice," finds Molly (Ine Marie Wilmann), her husband Leon (Bjørnar Teigen), and her daughter Katja (Emma Spetalen Magnusson) relocating, with extreme reluctance in Molly's case, from the city to one of those small towns with a dark secret that are ubiquitous in the horror genre. The mechanics of that secret drive a simple but well executed parable about greed, and the episode falls into that category of horror that engages with financial anxieties by way of the supernatural (think of the tradition of films in which the protagonists can't leave the haunted house that they purchased because they would take too much of a loss). The sixth episode, "The Elephant in the Room," takes place at an office party, the off-kilter atmosphere of which is helped by everyone wearing full-body animal costumes (it's a theme party). Paul (Karl Vidar Lende) and Kristin (Rebekka Jynge), the company's newest employees, hear about a coworker's coma-inducing accident on the job and, deciding that something untoward is going on, embark on some amateur sleuthing. "Elephant" succeeds on the strength of its leads and their tentative bonding, a little gleefully deployed gore mixed with some comedy, and some aggressively odd and off-putting moments of behavior by one of the characters, conduct of which HR would most definitely not approve. "Bad Writer," in which Olivia (Dagny Backer Johnsen) takes a writing class and is subjected to much worse than peer feedback, is not quite as strong as the first and last entries, but it overall belongs in the top rather than the bottom half of the season. Its central trope is by no means a new one, and viewers would be best served not to think too hard about the plot holes created by the narrative, but Johnsen gives a strong, appealing lead performance, Henrik Rafaelsen is effective as Olivia's ambiguously strange classmate Alex, and the story pulls off a few legitimately good twists by the end.</p> <p>"Three Sick Brothers" and "The Old School" are significantly more middling offerings. The first, involving dysfunctional brothers, a hitchhiker, and a trip to the family cabin, suffers from its own reliance on a long-established plot trope (including that it is easy for the reveal in such a plot to feel like a cheat), and although it is sufficiently enjoyable in the moment, it's hard to remember specifics a week or so after watching it. While "The Old School" also treads very familiar ground—a woman named Sanna (Ellen Bendu) takes a job at a newly reopened school in the countryside and finds herself investigating an ominous mystery from decades in its past—it does so efficiently and with solid performances. It also benefits from some impressive and well shot scenery, and its ending deviates at least slightly from those of many similar tales. "Lab Rats," about ruthless CEO Edmund's (Stig R. Amdam) unsavory efforts to figure out who stole his company's new drug prototype, is the weakest of the series, and the only one that was a bit tedious to sit through. The stereotypes of the megalomaniacal, amoral businessman and the group of people trapped in a confined space so that they might begin to turn on one another don't do enough to dispel the feeling that you've seen this story too many times before. Perhaps this is in part because the story itself strains one's suspension of disbelief even for horror. The inciting incident, for example, raises the questions of (spoilers?) why exactly a seemingly successful company would possess only a single small vial of its supposedly very important new product and, more bafflingly, why Edmund offers to <i>show</i> it to his assembled dinner guests. What, precisely, is anyone supposed to glean from <i>looking</i> at an antidepressant? After this object is discovered to be missing, it's lucky for Edmund that his company has a very large, lockable glass room that seems to be used to sedate or kill rats for experiments by filling the entire thing with gas.</p> <p>On the whole, <i>Bloodride </i>doesn't ask too much of viewers, and it doesn't achieve, except maybe  in "The Elephant in the Room," memorable atmosphere at the level of <i>Creepshow</i>'s "The House of the Head" (adapted by Josh Malerman from his short story of the same name). However, even the less successful episodes are entertaining enough, and their short length means a brisk pace that suits the types of stories that it tells. There are worse ways to help ride out a pandemic lockdown. - <i>Leah Richards &amp; John R. Ziegler</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3933&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="g8kjvixcDaDO8bjCSBNlow0W21B-I1lxFbyC0tKncro"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 05 Apr 2020 19:13:53 +0000 Leah Richards 3933 at http://www.culturecatch.com Observations By A Gamer http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3929 <span>Observations By A Gamer</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/6872" lang="" about="/user/6872" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Luca Petracca</a></span> <span>March 12, 2020 - 20:05</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/870" hreflang="en">video games</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WLu7e8RZoYc?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Video games are arguably the West's fastest growing pastime over the last 30 years, from the humble beginnings of <i>Pong</i> and <i>Pacman</i>, to the early days of hyper violent sickeningly beautiful carnage with <i>Mortal Kombat</i> and <i>Doom</i>. All the while Nintendo appealed to the family audience seeing massive success with <em>Mario</em> and <em>Zelda</em> games. Then in the early 2000s games like <i>Halo</i>, <i>Call of Duty</i>, and <i>Grand Theft Auto</i> dominated the markets and still do to this day.</p> <p>The video game industry has been growing nonstop since it started in the 1970s and based on the evidence it has no signs of slowing down. Kids and adults in all aspects of Western culture can't get enough of video games. We're always searching for the next game to latch onto and play until our eyes burn out. I should know because in 2019 I spent roughly 1000 hours playing video games on my PS4 alone.</p> <p>In total I own 4 video game consoles -- a PS4, Nintendo Switch, Apple laptop, and iPhone. Each piece of hardware offers me a different gaming experience. My iPhone keeps me company on train rides and loathsome family get togethers. My laptop "focuses" my brain on strategic games in the middle of classes while I pretend to take notes. My PS4 allows for the larger-than-life epics I so desperately crave. Epic gun fights and mighty heroes conquering evil in bloody duels so graphic my sweet grandma would recoil at the sight. My Nintendo Switch fulfills the more family friendly games I remember from my childhood days of playing on my Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS. Games like <i>Pokémon</i>, <i>Super Smash Bros</i>, and <i>Zelda. </i>All of which are supposedly "kids" games yet <em>Pokémon</em> is a dog fighting simulator. <em>Smash Bros.</em> pits Luigi against Peach to see who can send the other flying into the stratosphere first. And Zelda tasks Link with murdering goblin tribes attempting to survive the harsh landscapes of Hyrule. While those are all relatively accurate depictions of the games, they still are over the top. Still amongst all games, none appeal to me more than looter shooters.</p> <p>A "looter shooter" is a game in which you shoot things and then loot their corpses. Sounds simple and violent enough for any 13-year-old boy to get behind. However, there's a much deeper level than that. In most looter shooters, the goal is to acquire the best items in the game. You start off as powerful heroes and grow stronger as the game progresses. Usually through leveling and ability upgrades. As your level grows, so do the enemies. With each new power you gain the bad guys seem to grow twice as strong. To someone new to these games, this may seem daunting. Have no fear because the stronger the villains the better the loot. And the better the loot the closer you are to winning the game. Although it seems you can never truly win.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6kqe2ICmTxc?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Looter shooters are designed so that the next item you desire is always just out of reach. The feeling that you’re so close to getting it but then the boss doesn’t drop it. In these games bosses and enemies have dedicated "loot pools." A "loot pool" is all the items that have the potential to drop from said enemy. Each item is then given a percentage to drop from that specific enemy. For example, there’s a dragon who can drop a sword, a bow, a halberd, a helmet, and a magic staff. The sword has a 50% chance, the bow 20%, the halberd 15%, the helmet 12%, and the magic staff 3%. Usually, the rarer the item the stronger. Side note, looter shooters are so addictive they get a math hating moron to excitedly figure out percent’s in his head for 3 minutes. Now back to the main topic. Let’s say you’ve fought this dragon 10 times and each time it takes you 15 minutes because he’s such a deadly beast. Most players will have gotten the sword, bow, halberd, and helmet by now. In fact, you’ve probably got each of them twice and the sword 9 times. What do you do with all this loot? You pick it up and toss it in storage. And that’s where our problem truly begins.</p> <p>Looter shooter players are constantly desiring more storage for their endless supply of stuff. Just like their real-life counterparts. Over my short 21 years I've had so much useless shit that selling half of it on eBay and buying a storage locker still isn't enough. My childhood bedroom is packed full of shit I haven't touched in 4 years. Old toys and books that I'll never play with or read again. Holding onto them thinking someday my kids will get the same enjoyment I did. Clothes I never wear but refuse to get rid of because it'd make me feel guilty for just tossing away money. Looter shooters capitalize on these feelings so expertly. Players will spend hours "farming" bosses for loot. "Farming" is when a player performs a repetitive action to gain experience, in game currency, or items. I've spent upwards of 200 hours farming in my lifetime and for what? To repeatedly be let down when the dragon doesn't drop that stupid fucking magic staff which I need to be considered "cool" in the context of this game. I've wasted so much time when I could've learned a new language or become a better guitar player. Oh, but the gameplay, it's so smooth and satisfying I just want more.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/d9Gu1PspA3Y?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>These games know how to make combat feel exciting even though you've experienced nearly all it has to offer about halfway through. Your actions carry a weight and you see it play out in front of your eyes. Equipping the sword and hacking off ghoul limbs. Then switching to your bow and sneaking around a snowy fortress dropping clueless guards one by one. Finally, you get the magic staff and you charge headfirst into the enemy barracks. With two clicks of a button everyone in the room is burnt to dust. But you can't get enough from one use. You travel to fortresses all over the map leaving a trail of death everywhere you go. You can let out all that frustration from farming on the soldiers and monsters who dare oppose you. Looter shooters know how to make junk feel useful.</p> <p>The players are the biggest reason for these games' success. Youtubers and streamers that design "builds" for characters and weapons. A build is a specific skill set up of a character that maximizes the damage potential of weapons in the game. Players will spend just as many hours working on the builds as they did farming the weapons. Testing out each skill and its effect on combat and survivability. Streaming their tests on Twitch for some reason. Attempting to make funny comments while running around in game for 5 hours. They upload their findings to YouTube for all the lazier gamers to use. Now the process is almost complete. You have the items you want and the perfect build to complement the items. What’s next? Well, that's pretty much it. The game is essentially over. You can use your build to farm for more items. Or you can wait around until the next expansion pack drops in 3 months. Then you can finally use the build killing an array of new enemies. Only to find out that new items have dropped along with skill changes made by the developers. Now the build you spent two weeks attaining is rendered useless. But the desire to return to that level of power brings players back again and again.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/M9FGaan35s0?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>I've played countless looter shooters in my day; <i>Borderlands, Destiny, The Division, etc</i>. But those are just games classified as such. There's a plethora of other games that utilize ideas of looter shooters while being a different game altogether. The <i>Fallout</i> games are a perfect example. Those games focus more on story and character building so it feels like the items you acquire will have an effect on outcome of the story. Instead of hours spent farming you walk aimlessly bringing life back to a desolate wasteland. Both types of games heavily exploit a player's desire for more shit. You want more, more, more until your storage is full. Then you complain that the developers didn't give you enough storage options even though you have 200 spaces in your storage. That's 200 individual items. Most of the time a player will have multiple copies of the same item with slight variations. This magic staff shoots a fireball, but this one shoots lightning bolts. They have the same name and identical stats but that slight difference will cause players to have more than one.</p> <p>Many items also share the same feature so players will fill up their storage but only have 125 unique weapons, which is still too many. Think of it like having 5 striped shirts all with identical stripe layouts. Instead of going for different sized stripes or vertical instead of horizontal stripes, players are opting for different colors of the same shirt. Something I still am all too guilty of. Thankfully I've learned to part ways with a lot of my shit. Now I'm learning to not acquire all this shit in the first place and instead pick my items wisely and with purpose. </p> <p><em>Mr. Petracca is a graduating senior at Ithaca College. He's a gamer, writer, actor, and comedian from New York City.</em></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3929&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="Zw36FXgr9D-7rF3RZcyfVTmdS8URsNhVigDsbZxlsFg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 13 Mar 2020 00:05:34 +0000 Luca Petracca 3929 at http://www.culturecatch.com Stanley! http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3926 <span>Stanley!</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/mark-weston" lang="" about="/users/mark-weston" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Mark Weston</a></span> <span>February 29, 2020 - 22:09</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/774" hreflang="en">dramatic comedy</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/D2zdFwgUYBg?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Sometimes one gets away from you. When <i>Stan and Ollie</i> was first was released I knew I wanted to see it, but for some reason didn't. Maybe it was my impression that the reviews were lackluster.  And, in reading back through them, they feel that way.  In the Times, Jason Zinoman (who for my money often misses the mark), was assigned to review, though he rarely if ever reviews films.  For some reason they have designated him their "comedy" critic, and I guess that's why they threw this film his way. It's not that his review is a pan, it's that he writes about it with utter disinterest and any praise is grudging. His review is disdainful.</p> <p>I was flying back from Europe recently and looking for a film or two to while away the hours when I came across Stan and Ollie. It is wonderful, from start to finish, wonderful. That it gained no traction in awards season, that both Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly weren't nominated, that the film was not a Best Picture nominee (in an era where it seems that anything released in a movie theater garners a Best Picture nod), is a terrible shame.  </p> <p>When I say that this is a gentle comedy about two gentle comedians I mean it as the highest praise.  Here we get a glimpse into the chemistry and grace that made Laurel and Hardy the most beloved and revered comedic duo in the world.  More than that we get a beautiful rendering of a relationship and friendship between two men who are bound together, who love each other and how complicated that can be.  </p> <p>But what really sets this film several cuts above virtually any of the over-hyped juggernauts of 2019 (I do not include <em>Parasite</em> or <em>Pain &amp; Glory</em> in the foregoing) are the brilliantly and deceptively off-hand performances of Coogan and Reilly. Virtually any other actor would have flirted with if not succumbed to caricature. That these performances succeed so completely -- that they embody Stan and Ollie from the inside and on the outside without a shred of "acting" -- is almost a virtual impossibility and even now, reflecting back on these performances, I am in awe of what Coogan and Reilly achieved. And they just make it look so easy.</p> <p>The result is that we get to see Stan and Ollie doing their most famous comedy routines with perfect timing and effortless charm. I found myself laughing out loud on the airplane -- the comedy was so fresh and true. And we get to see the strains on their personal friendship, portrayed without histrionics or  melodrama. I found myself crying on the plane -- the emotional moments were so poignant and subtle.</p> <p>Load this one up, folks, and watch it. I fear for too many of us, this is one that got away.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3926&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="soeL-NzmDVdaJpQggo_5wN4C_-xP-W6Gaw0KcUPmd3Q"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 01 Mar 2020 03:09:05 +0000 Mark Weston 3926 at http://www.culturecatch.com The Misery of Life http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3912 <span>The Misery of Life</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/mark-weston" lang="" about="/users/mark-weston" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Mark Weston</a></span> <span>January 21, 2020 - 10:57</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/797" hreflang="en">drama</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YFfdlLW9Rwg?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p><em>Les Miserables</em> -- not to be confused with the musical nicknamed <em>Les Miz</em> or truth be told the Victor Hugo novel from which it takes inspiration -- is incendiary.  Literally. It takes place in a neighborhood outside Paris. There the detritus of French society live in housing projects that look like prisons or human warehouses. The film focuses on three mis-matched plain-clothes homeland security cops -- one a foul-mouthed white bigot who looks a bit like Putin, one a black cop who grew up in the hood (he bears a physical resemblance to Jesse Green from <em>Law &amp; Order</em>) and the newbie, a recently transferred cop who has both a moral conscience and a Gallic nose. On the other side of the law are the immigrant kids who over-run the 'hood, and the competing corrupt interests of the "mayor," a drug lord and a Muslim Imam.  </p> <p><em>Les Miserables</em> resembles the first act of <em>Slumdog Millionaire</em> or the recent indy film <em>The Florida Project</em>. It is hard-hitting, relentless and dystopic. It's a documentary-style portrait of a teeming underclass of kids without hope. One of the film's episodes concerns a lion cub stolen from a circus -- the cub is treated with more humanity than the kids. But in the end, the kids get their revenge.</p> <p>There's nothing more unsettling than seeing the faces of these children. They have fun, they laugh, they bluster, they cower, they act out -- like children everywhere.  Like our children here on the Upper West Side experimenting with skateboards and cigarettes and sex in the park. Except our children have a future. The children in <em>Les Miserables</em> do not.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3912&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="j02WiwAQdgQITNkValvpaCIbxb1rmcHvTeptKObckUE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 21 Jan 2020 15:57:19 +0000 Mark Weston 3912 at http://www.culturecatch.com Trans Teens, American Muslims, and Harriet Tubman Get Their Due at Cinematters http://www.culturecatch.com/node/3910 <span>Trans Teens, American Muslims, and Harriet Tubman Get Their Due at Cinematters</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>January 16, 2020 - 13:11</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/832" hreflang="en">LGQBT</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="515" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-01/allrise_photo_primary.jpg?itok=8Nrmb1cR" title="allrise_photo_primary.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Frame from Anthony Mandler's All Rise</figcaption></figure><p>Before "Jokering" around, Joaquin Phoenix noted in the 2005 documentary <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk9Hac7cnL8"><i>Earthlings</i></a>:<i> </i><i>"</i>Since we all inhabit the earth, we are all considered earthlings. There is no sexism, racism, or speciesism in the term 'earthling.' It encompasses each and every one of us: warm- or cold-blooded, mammal, vertebrate or invertebrate, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish and human alike."</p> <p>In a far better world or, more realistically, only in a sci-fi novel, such a state of congenial existence with no negative "isms" might be achieved. We're not there though, and consequently salamanders, sardines, and koalas don’t have it easy. However, <a href="https://jccmanhattan.org/arts-film/film/cinematters?utm_source=Film&amp;utm_medium=CFF-email-1-8&amp;utm_campaign=CFF2020">Cinematters: NY Social Justice Film Festival</a>, which runs from January 16–20, is a new annual event that limits its focus to just humans and their plight. Even with that narrow focus, the event has its hands full.</p> <p>Opening night showcases Anthony Mandler's <i>All Rise</i>, a true tale of a black honors student charged with felony murder. Jennifer Hudson and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (<i>Waves</i>) star.</p> <p>Leana Hosea's doc, <i>Thirst for Justice, </i>dives into America’s contaminated water crisis, focusing on communities in Flint, Michigan, and Sanders, Arizona, and the accompanying health effects such as ovarian cancer and lead poisoning. (One in four of your fellow U.S. citizens are currently sipping and bathing in possibly pestilent H2O, but you already knew that, right?)</p> <p>Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance's <i>Slay the Dragon </i>takes on gerrymandering; Linda Goldstein's <i>We Are the Radical Monarchs </i>follows a group of moms and their daughters as they create an alternative to the Girl Scouts where minorities do not feel left out, and so forth and so on.</p> <p>As for Adam Zucker's vibrant <i>American Muslim</i>, this hard-hitting doc<i> </i>bristles forth with facts such as "nearly 60% of Muslims living in in the United States are first-generation immigrants," most of whom have become American citizens, with the majority living in New York City. The film, shot in the time immediately after Donald Trump passed his travel ban affecting seven Muslim countries, captures the plight of those affected and those trying to help the same in communities such as Ozone Park, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.</p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="679" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2020/2020-01/american_muslim_photo_2.png?itok=vsfb7yLz" title="american_muslim_photo_2.png" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>Frame from American Muslim</figcaption></figure><p>Amidst footage of 5,000 men praying in a parking lot, interviews about being female and Muslim, fundraising for indigent families, speeches in a synagogue, plus a marshmallow-in-the-mouth stuffing contest, there are chats about the Koran and belief systems: "Religion is personal. It's how you connect with your inner self. Your creator."</p> <p>There are also community dances to protest Trumpian policies plus tales such as that of a father picked up by the authorities while his daughter, a 7th grader, was in school. What grief did she come home to? Yet the film’s message is: "Do not despair. Have hope." Luckily, there are signs of progress as one man observes: "Our neighbors don’t think we’re as strange as they used to."</p> <p>This is a timely doc that addresses an ignorance-fueled hatred embraced by so many FOX-aholics. Yet if any of these MAGA-capped folks would ever watch Zucker's applaud-worthy offering, their bigotry might be decimated. The chances of them purchasing tickets for this screening? Nil. I know. I’m related to a bunch.</p> <p>Michael Barnett's <i>Changing the Game</i>, a moving documentary on three trans-teens competing in the sports arena, also incorporates a reaction or two to Trump, here though to his vilification of the non-cisgendered.</p> <p>Mack Beggs is a Texas high-school wrestler forced to wrestle girls while he considers himself a boy. Does being on testosterone give him an unfair advantage? Some of the media, a few of Mack's opponents, and many of their parents certainly feel so. And what happens when he wins the state championship?</p> <p>Intercut with his journey is Sarah Rose Huckman's. She's a transgender female skier, who sometimes holds back from winning her events to avoid criticism that it's inequitable for her to compete against cisgender girls her age because of her biology.</p> <p>Andraya Yearwood is a runner, who also faces similar hostility. An old-school feminist, attending one of Yearwood's runs, rants that this teen has "made a mockery of women's sports."</p> <p>Thankfully, these determined athletes all have support from their parents, guardians, friends, and coaches. Yet in a world when coming out as just gay or lesbian is still not a walk in the park, to be trans seems that much harder. According to a 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics and as reported by the Human Rights Campaign, "more than half of transgender male teens who participated in the survey reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, while 29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide. Among non-binary youth, 41.8 percent of respondents stated that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives." As Beggs' grandfather notes, "There's always some redneck against [them]."</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GdSKR1nPwz4?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Yearwood's mom agrees and explains why athletics must be open to her daughter and other trans teens:</p> <blockquote> <p>"This is important. We’re talking about life or death. It scares me the numbers what she's up against. What my child won't be is suicidal. What my child won't be is on drugs. If track gives these young kids an opportunity to be living their truth, how dare we take that away from them. So for me that's being unfair. That's more than being unfair. That's cruel."</p> </blockquote> <p><i>Tales of the </i>City's author, Armistead Maupin, once noted, "The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives." This is what <i>Changing the Game </i>is about . . . as is Cinematters.</p> <p>The fest's closing night feature is the highly successful Harriet Tubman bio that has just earned its star Cynthia Erivo a Best Actress Oscar nom. With the emotional restraints of a Lifetime movie, <i>Harriet,</i> though no doubt thoroughly researched, has a way of making the truth seem counterfeit. Did Tubman really get on her knees every ten minutes and ask God whether to go left or right with the slaves she was trying to free? As filmed and as directed, you’ll have to take a leap of faith to accept Harriet’s own faith as depicted.</p> <p>For example, here's a scene taken directly from the screenplay, in which William Still, known as the "Father of the Underground Railroad," is attempting to convince Tubman to give up endangering herself.</p> <p><b>Still: I won't have you captured and killed. I'm removing you from the network.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: I got my own network. I'll team up with John Brown. He’s . . .</b></p> <p><b>Still: I can't lose you.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: You tol' your wife that?</b></p> <p><b>Still: Don't be cruel.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: You de cruel one.</b></p> <p><b>Still: If I had met you first . . .</b></p> <p><b>Harriet: I'm not your type.</b></p> <p><b>Still: How could you be? I never dreamt God made such creatures.</b></p> <p><b>Harriet is moved. They stand close to each other, the air electric between them, dwelling for a moment in intoxicating possibility . . . before reality sobers them up.</b></p> <p>Yet, if you can overlook the awkward moments as written by Gregory Allen Howard (<i>Remember the Titans</i>) and Kasi Lemmons (<i>Eve's Bayou</i>), and Lemmons' often embarrassing direction (e.g. cardboard villains), <i>Harriet </i>can still serve as a powerful introduction to the topic for young folk.</p> <p>And with an impressive list of events and a noteworthy slate of films, the much-needed Cinematters, launched by the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, is clearly making an equally powerful debut on the fest circuit. (Tickets can be purchased online.)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3910&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="gJzG2Iw02bfOdm8HwKGTbWwhx5F2a0kk2QRbybgAdBg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 16 Jan 2020 18:11:43 +0000 Brandon Judell 3910 at http://www.culturecatch.com