Permanent Midnight

I have had a netflix queue since I was a freshman in college. Since that time, I have utilized several different venues to get my film fix, but netflix remains my main go to. This has produced some side effects to my viewing habits. I usually wait an absurdly long time to a watch a newer film that I am really excited about because I feel the guilt of having to watch everything that is before it. I have a bottomless pit that is the middle of my queue where films have been stuck since I first started my subscription. I don’t want to get rid of these films because they still sound interesting or are important in some way, but I also don’t really feel the need to watch them. Every once in a while I give in and watch one of these bottomless pit films. This was a bottomless pit film. I should have deleted it from my queue a long time ago…

The exploration of drug addiction is usually a fascinating subject for me to watch. This time however I just wanted him to die and get it over with. The main guy, played by Ben Stiller, is a Hollywood writer who develops a serious habit. IN order to get off of it, he goes through a detox program that involves him working at a fast food restaurant. While at the restaurant he meets a girl and they spend the night together in a dirty hotel room. There he tells his story. It all seems fine, right? Wrong. His story is boring, selfish, and frustrating to watch. I never once felt for this character or thought that he was deep down a good person. Instead I thought he was a soulless asshole that didn’t seem to care at all about the girl he is fucking story, because he keeps insisting on telling his. Her story seemed way more interesting than his. But the egotistical director decided that his story was the only story that mattered because he was in Hollywood or some shit. Ugh.

I am struggling for anything to say about this film because it is so incredibly boring. The story is flat, the cinematography is non-existent, the acting was good but not great and I just didn’t care about this film. So I guess I will end this review here.

 

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Tiny Furniture

After I finished college in 2010, I was insanely depressed. I was faced with the reality of being in a world that didn’t care about my ideas, my thoughts or my art and I didn’t know what to do. It was devastating. All I wanted to do was crawl up in my undergraduate cocoon and go back to school which was financially impossible at the time. To top it off I had my parents calling me every week and telling me that I should move back home and apply for jobs around my hometown. I felt a lot like Aura did in this film. That is probably why I identified with it  so much.

I have heard the complaint that this film is very elitist and on some levels it is, but at the core of this film there are ideas that seem to be universal. Doubt about what you are supposed to do next is something that I feel like everyone goes through once they have accomplished something big like graduating college. There just seems to be so many ways that your life to go, but you are scared of maybe choosing the wrong path. Instead you choose the path of inaction, of lying in bed all day, of getting a shitty job because you don’t have anything else better to do. This is what Aura chooses to do. She chooses to make every wrong decision because she is so scared of making the right ones. And there is nothing her mother or her sister can do about it. All they can do is listen to her and hope that she can pull herself out of this rut she is stuck in. Of course all this looks like to her is that her family doesn’t care and that frustrates her even more. She yells and screams at them, tells them they just don’t understand what it is like and continues to make bad decisions. It isn’t until she seems to hit rock bottom does she wake up and realize that she isn’t alone, that her mother went through the same things, that she will be okay.

I really liked this film. I felt it spoke to me as a struggling “artist” and as a woman. This seems to be my generation’s Graduate. At least that is the way it felt to me.

A Double Tour

Claude Chabrol and Alfred Hitchcock had a lot in common. They were both worried about the morality of their characters, obsessed by murder and the many different ways it could be executed and cared mostly about the audience being rapt with attention to their feats on screen. Plus they look like they could be brothers…

A Double Tour is a great example of the immense influence Hitchcock had on Chabrol as an auteur. About a family torn apart by the father’s affair with the woman in the next yard, the film twists and turns until you wonder why Hitchcock made a film in French. When the final reveal comes to light, the film feels let down by the inevitable outcome.

This film is a little uneven in it’s performances and in its plot points. The first mistake that Chabrol made when casting the film was to cast Jean-Paul Belmondo. He acts circles around everyone else and the action seems to stop once he enters the room so the camera can stare longingly at him for a few moments. He being in love with the daughter was completely unbelievable, but I think that was probably the point. He is a suave man who loves to talk about ladies and his inevitable downfall. But he is not one to fall in love. Probably the second mistake Chabrol committed was the son. He never really seemed to love his mother very much at all, until about half way through the film and he seemed to have turned on a dime. There was a scene early on in the film where he is making fun of her mother’s need to keep up appearances at church. A mama’s boy like he is painted in the latter half would never have said that, but instead would have been at her side during the mass.

This film is pretty enjoyable if you are looking for a cheap version of Hitchcock. Wow that was harsh, but that is some what how it feels. Hopefully I will like his next film more.

 

The Baadar Meinhof Complex

The RAF was a radical group that emerged in Germany in the late sixties around the same time the many other radical groups emerged around the world. In reaction against the Vietnam War and seeing the tightening of German government into a fascist like state, these young women and men decided to tell their government they were not going to take it anymore. They robbed banks, bombed stores, staged sit ins, and spoke to a rapt youth audience. Every action threatened the precarious peace that Germany tried so desperately to hold onto. The Baadar Meinhof Complex is the story of the three main members of the RAF.

This film is definitely a journey. Around two and half hours long, this film is jammed with information that is needed in order for the ending to make sense. Filled to the brim with people who drift in and out, actions that have no context for someone who did not live in the seventies and just general chaos, the film takes a while to completely unwrap. However confusing the events, the people and the chaos is, at the center of the film is one idea: the killing of fascism. This is again something that I could never completely wrap my head around because I have never lived in a time where complete take over of every aspect of life was inevitable. Although many people would argue that America is on its way to becoming a fascist state, I would have to disagree with that argument. But that threat was more than just a threat when these radicals were just kids, it was a reality. Their parents fought against Hitler and his horrible regime and the second generation swore that it would never happen again. The late sixties in Germany threatened a return to the fascist regime. The government let Iran sympathisers attack protesters, they sympathized with the American side of the Vietnam War and were pro-Americanization of every facet of life. (I guess I should say West Germany since it was still a divided state) This did not sit well with the young radicals.

The character I sympathized most with was Ulrike Meinhof. She was a radical journalist that decided to stop just observing and writing her political theories, and live them. She was scared but also understood the point of the actions so thoroughly that she felt she needed to help out. She wrote most of the propaganda that was disseminated within the RAF and became the most famous member of the group. Her story was touching and the most human of the three stories. The other two main characters were pure radicals. They thought only of their ideals and would stop at nothing to execute them in the right manner. Ms. Meinhof would argue with them and try to get them to think rationally, but it was no use. Ms. Meinhof was the most tragic figure in this story, but even her death was twisted into propaganda for the radical movement.

I have seen many films like this before and I would not say that this is the best one I have ever seen. There is just too much information, too much scope covered for it to be a completely even film. I would have suggested on maybe focusing more on the trial at the end then having them jam pack three origin stories into the film. But I still feel like if you are interested in how someone becomes a radical person, how violent actions can seem like a good idea at the beginning, then you will find plenty of that explanation in this film.

Favorite Comedy Podcasts (The Cool People Version)

Now I know my main focus on this blog is film, but I want to share with you guys my other passions in life. I love media of all kinds and one kind that I am particularly fond of is podcasts, especially comedy podcasts. If you don’t know what a podcast is, then you are just not a cool person plain and simple. In order to be cool you must listen to at least one of the podcasts highlighted below. But to be the coolest of the cool you should probably listen to all five.

5. How Did This Get Made?

(featuring Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael)

This podcast takes one particularly awful film and wonder why the hell was this film ever committed to celluloid. Whether it is the studio becoming too involved, the director had too much reign, the main actor is certifiable crazy or the film was just doomed from the start, each comedian and the comedian guest delight in tearing these shitty gems a new one. Recent great episodes include Speed 2: Cruise Control, On the Line and The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

4. Mike and Tom Eat Snacks

(featuring Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh)

You might know both of these men from a television show called Ed. Known to be snack connoisseurs while on set, once the show was cancelled they decided to further their snack critic careers together. Each week they take one snack, eat it and then tell us why they hate or love it. Although they get some comedy gold from riffing on the snack itself, the real comedy comes from them just talking to each other. Try to find the episode where a viewer (I mean listener) makes them guacamole. It is a pretty early one, but it is by far my favorite.

3. The Smartest Guy In the World

(featuring Greg Proops)

Known for being the geeky square on Whose’s Line is it Anyway, Mr. Proops is actually a pretty hip kitten. He riffs on everything from baseball to ancient Roman politics all while making it enjoyable for me to listen to for hours and hours. If you are scared off by hyper liberal agendas, copious references to weed and alcohol, then you are just not cool enough to listen to this great masterpiece of a show. There are too many great episodes to name just a few so I would start with the most recent one and work your way backwards.

2. Walking the Room

(featuring Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony)

Greg and Dave are fucked up individuals. They love really intricate poop jokes, wallowing in their misery,being trolls on Twitter and that is just the start. Their long-standing friendship keeps them together and keeps them funny through all of the bad times (and trust me there are a lot of bad times for these two men!). If you get grossed out easily, you need not subscribe. I would recommend episode 118 (Pistol Dick and Dirty Santa) as a good place to start.

1. WTF
(featuring Marc Maron)

Although this podcast has been getting too big for its own good lately, Marc Maron will always have a place in my heart. He is my favorite comedian for a reason. He is raw, interesting, and morbidly funny all of the time. Although each podcast seeming focus is on the celebrity guest that he interviews, the real focus is always him. That however does not stop him from getting some really interesting things out of celebrities that you thought you knew. I prefer the episodes where he interviews a comedian but every episode is worth listening if only to see if what his cats are up to lately.

Les Bonnes Femmes

While recovering from a recent move, an upswing in my shitty job, and getting a new friend (his name is Raj and he is such a pretty puppy!), I have let my blog and especially my series about French New Wave directors fall by the wayside. Well no longer, sir! I will hopefully return to posting on a regular basis (I got internet again! a poor movie watcher’s best friend…) and I will pick up my series where I left off. The next director that I want to profile is Claude Chabrol. Now I know next to nothing about him (except that he has a scary alien head) but he is one of the masters and founders of the French New Wave, so I am determined to find out everything I can. If you have any suggestions on good articles to read about him, films I absolutely must watch or general comments  about him, just let me know. Now to get started with his earliest film that I could get my grubby little hands on.

This film follows a couple of girls who work together in a shop in Paris. Lorded over by a creepy boss that touches them inappropriately, the girls fantasize about love and fulfillment in their lives. One woman is living the “ideal life” because she has a fellow, but his constant nagging and wanting her to be more intelligent makes seem trapped. Another woman just wants to have a good time and as a result gets gang raped. The third woman has a stalker who she is in love with and when they meet it seems to be a match made in heaven. But he seems kind of odd. The last woman has ambitions beyond wanting a guy but she is embarrassed by them and when her friends go to see a variety show that she happens to be singing at she refuses to go on. These stories are harsh with no happy ending or meaning behind it all. It is really quite depressing.

I predict as I watch more and more of Chabrol’s films, I will be talking about how much he tortures his main characters. He takes good girls who haven’t done anything to anybody and just want a good life and kill all of the naiveté in them slowly and systematically. And yet it was so interesting to watch. You want to reach inside the screen and tell the woman who fell in love with her stalker that is not a good idea to be alone with him in the woods or you want to tell the woman who gets raped that she should get out with her friend. And yet you can’t.

I feel like this is a good start to my Chabrol odyssey. I didn’t get my hands on his first two films (damn Criterion and their refusal to sell their dvds to Netflix… what the shit? Are you trying to make money or something?) but this seems to be where he came into his own. Next week I will journey onward towards the inevitable ending where I will become disillusioned with lives of other people.

Murder, My Sweet

Philip Marlowe is an iconic character. Mr. Marlowe is a figment of novelist Raymond Chandler’s imagination, but he is made alive by many different actors over the decades. The most famous iteration is hands down Bogart’s portrayal in the Big Sleep. Hard-boiled, ill-mannered, and a womanizer, Mr. Marlowe seemed to fit Bogart’s persona more than any other character in fiction. But Humphrey Bogart was not the only person to play this character. In fact he wasn’t even the first person to play him. That honor seems to have gone to Mr. Dick Powell. Really a song and dance man, Mr. Powell wanted the chance to prove that he could be a strong leading man in a serious drama. So in order to get him to do more musicals, RKO threw him into a B movie adaptation of Mr. Chandler’s famous detective novels. The director, Mr. Edward Dmytryk, was furious because he was convinced that Mr. Powell could never do dramatic work. He was both right and wrong.

Dick Powell is not very convincing as a hard-boiled detective, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how he delivers his one liners and how he downs his drink. He does both exceedingly well. Such gems as “He died in 1940 in the middle of a beer. His wife Jessie finished it for him.” or “She had a face like a Sunday school picnic.” had a way of rolling off of Mr. Powell’s tongue as if he was born to say such noirish things. However, as the film went on, I became worried when Mr. Powell did not convince me that he was ever in control of anything. Events just seemed to happen around him and he got stuck at the wrong time and the wrong place, he never seemed to detect anything. He was most definitely not good at his job. The supporting characters also didn’t help him out at all. The femme fatale was interesting to watch, but the love interest never once held my attention for more than the moment it took me to look at her dress or her hair and admire the costume design. If I am paying more attention to the costume design than to the person reciting her lines, then there is some trouble with the actor wearing the beautiful clothing. Also I was never convinced that Dr. Amthor was really anything of a threat to Mr. Marlowe or his femme fatale.

The cinematography is something really worth talking about. Several shots throughout this film reminded me how great film noirs really are. One shot in particular, which involved an Asian woman dancing in dramatic light, blew me away.

Murder, My Sweet is a film noir that shies away from the grittier more interesting parts of the genre. Content with swirling smoke in the dark, tight tailored suits, razor-sharp tongues and a macguffin, it is a film easily enjoyed and easily forgotten.