Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there. Especially to you, Bob. I know you’ll never read this, but the universe knows I said it here.

Don’t worry. I called him.

Welcome to Day 11, over one-third into the 30 days. If you’ve made it this far, hopefully you’ll stick with it. Hopefully I will, too.

So, I’m stalling because this one is kind of hard. A film I like from my least favorite genre is hard because, of course, my least favorite genre is torture porn, or snuff films, or something like that, but that doesn’t really work, because I’ve never actually seen anything from those genres, so I wouldn’t have anything to write about. I could Google one and call it a day, but that would be cheating. So, I will pick a real movie from a real genre. And I hope this won’t offend anyone, but my least favorite genre?

Musicals.

I know they’re popular, and sometimes fun, and creative, and La-La Land was an Oscar winner, but on the whole, I just can’t get into them. I know I’m not the first person to say this, but the whole people just inexplicably singing just doesn’t work for me. And I’m not saying this out of turn, because years ago I dated a self-proclaimed “Rent-Rat,” which was a cutesy name for fans of the musical Rent, a movie/show that I may have a chance to work in before this challenge is over, because I have some feelings on that one, by God.

Anyway, throughout that relationship, I took some for the team and saw more musicals than I can remember, and I would usually justify it to my friends by telling them that I made her see Attack of the Clones, even though it was a seriously one-sided argument. The horrible ending of that relationship is not why I dislike musicals, though. I just don’t like them. But, I must like at least one movie from that genre, right?

Well, it kind of depends on what you consider a musical. Weird, I know, but when I Googled it to make sure I do like at least one musical movie, and looked at lists of the greatest musicals of all-time, I saw things like The Muppet Movie, or Yesterday, or Blinded by the Light, which are movies I really liked, but I’m not sure I would consider them musicals ( Am I wrong about this? Is it even up to interpretation?) If any movie with a few songs in it is a musical, maybe this isn’t as hard as I thought. Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about what a musical is:

Musical film is a film genre in which songs by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing. The songs usually advance the plot or develop the film’s characters, but in some cases, they serve merely as breaks in the storyline, often as elaborate “production numbers.”

That’s pretty open-ended, and I could just throw The Blues Brothers, or Little Shop of Horrors out there and call it a day, but instead I’m going to pick a movie that I really love and call it a musical.

Head

I love this movie. I have seen it many, many times. I even once interviewed Mickey Dolenz about it to help celebrate the 50th anniversary a few years ago. I still don’t understand a lot of it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the creativity, the story-telling, and the balls that went into the making of it. Think about it, the Monkees had a TV show about a band who got into zany adventures. They had a successful formula, and the girls loved them. There was the criticism that they weren’t a real band, which they weren’t and never said they were, but they could have ignored all that and made a movie that was basically a longer version of an episode of the show, and cashed the checks.

These guys decided to take the criticisms and make a movie that was basically a satire of all that. It’s still the band-members getting into somewhat zany adventures, but it’s definitely not as accessible as an episode of the show, and the audience expressed their disappointment (and bewilderment, maybe) with their wallet, as the film bombed at the box office. But it’s still an excellent movie, made well, with a great soundtrack, and one that makes you think. And I’m going to quote the great Jim Starlin in a recent interview conducted by my pal Claynferno, “If you’re not trying to get your audience to think, you might as well be writing Tom and Jerry.”

So, if you’re bored one night and want to do a little thinking, check out Head, and prepare to be wowed. Maybe have some weed first. Before you do that, check out my linktree and then come back tomorrow.

The second weekend of the challenge. Man, these are tough,

The good thing is this one will be easy. Well, not easy because I have a lot to choose from. My favorite superhero film. First of all, I’m really glad that this is a movie genre where we can discuss someone’s favorite. Of course, when I was a kid, there was the Christopher Reeves Superman, and then a couple years later there were the Michael Keaton Batman movies, but it took a few more years before there were enough to consider it a genre. Now, not only is it a genre, but it’s the biggest one there is these days. It’s really an embarrassment of riches, because if you had told me when I was a kid seeing those Superman and Batman movies there would one day be Avengers movies, and that they would be insanely popular, and also really good, I would have thought you were crazy, but it would have been exciting news. 

Let’s face it, previous superhero movie franchises (Superman, Batman, X-Men, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man) started off cool and then fizzled out. The MCU, which you basically have to consider a franchise in itself, has been going on for over ten years and boasts over twenty films, not to mention all the TV series that go along with it, and they’re mostly really good, and they all make boatloads of money. I know I said something in a previous post about how we as audience-members need to speak with their wallets, and this is a case where we did. We saw these movies, and liked them, and they kept making more, and we kept seeing them and liking them, so they kept making more. And I am happy about that.

But which one is my favorite? Out of all those Marvel movies, which one can I call my favorite? 

Maybe next week, I would say something different, but probably not. I really found Infinity War to be a really well-structured, entertaining movie that had to juggle a lot of characters and a massive storyline, and managed to do it very well. Think about it; a lot of movies might be a sequel to one or two movies. Infinity War was a sequel to 17 movies, and had the chutzpah to kill off half of the major characters of all their franchises at the end. I actually know people who didn’t even want to see Endgame because of how Infinity War ended. I mean, it kind of had to end that way, since I knew that they had already filmed the sequel, but even me, the comic-lover, who read Infinity Gauntlet, the book it was based on, many, many times, thought for a moment that Thor had Thanos at the end, and figured, “Ok, they’re going that way.” But Thanos is no ordinary villain, which is another reason why I like this movie so much. Yeah, Thanos is crazy, but the best villains are the ones who see themselves as the hero, and that’s Thanos all the way.

I could go on, but we all know this movie is awesome, so I don’t think I need to. But you need to check out my linktree and come back tomorrow for Day 11. 

Keep on keepin’ on!

I’m going to make this one quick because, for the first time since February 2020, pre-pandemic, I am going to the movies tonight. I’m going to eat popcorn, and drink a beer, and possibly get annoyed by my fellow patrons who are talking. It’s going to be great.

Onward…

I actually thought this one would be more fun. A movie that I hated that everyone else liked. I used to be kind of known for that. I would sometimes attribute it to working in a movie theater, and then a video store, but it probably started before that. My brother, the same one who ridiculed me for renting the same movies over and over, used to think I was some kind of freak for not liking Forrest Gump, thinking that I was literally the only person in the world who didn’t like that movie. And yeah, it does have a 95% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, but who listens to that? And for the record, I still hate that movie. I just don’t feel like writing about it.

I had a lot to choose form here. I remember after I saw The Hunger Games going into work and discussing it with some of my subordinates, who were mostly young women, since I was working at a University at the time. They all liked it, but when I started to point out its flaws, they said that I should read the book. I countered that the movie should stand on its own, and continued to point out its foibles (for example, why was any of that happening? Why didn’t everyone simply not send their kids to die in these games?) Finally, one of the students just told me to shut up, because she liked it and wanted to like it and she didn’t want me changing her mind. I respected that, and promptly shut up. Obviously, I wasn’t trying to make her not like it. I just had questions.

The truth is, I want to like movies, too. I want to enjoy every movie I see. I just want to be impressed. For me, it’s not enough to be entertained for a couple hours. I want to be blown away. For what these things cost, and the time and energy that go into making them, I want to have my socks blown off, not just kill some time. I think we should all want that. The problem is too many really terrible movies make a ton of money, so studios think we like them. I’m talking about something like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, which has a very low 15% on the Tomatomater, but a 69% audience score, and $119 million at the box office. I honestly never saw it, because that would have been a lot more than killing time. That would have probably made me want to kill myself.

A lot of movies fall into that category, so I actually don’t waste my time on them very often. I actually haven’t seen as many bad movies as I used to in my movie theater/video store days, because I have a very discerning eye. But when I go to see a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road, which is getting a lot of positive reviews, and “buzz,” as they say in the business, I feel like it’s a safe bet I will like it. I would have lost that bet.

But, going again by good ol’ Rotten Tomatoes, a Certified Fresh Tomato at 97%, with an 86% audience score.

What did I miss?

I don’t know, but I’m not seeing it again to see if I’ll change my mind.

Once again, here’s my take on it, from back in the days when this blog was called Fidgeting & Sighing, a term my friends came up with for my reactions as I sit in a movie theater and can’t keep my opinions of the movie I’m watching to myself. Come back tomorrow for more fun and excrement… I mean, excitement! And check out my linktree here.

And now, Fidgeting and Sighing presents, Mad Max: Fury Road

I should begin by saying I never saw any of the previous Mad Max films, so maybe my opinion is uninformed, at best. However, I feel that every movie should stand on its own and not have to rely on its predecessors to be good. Or at least make sense. In this age of re-boots, re-imaginings, adaptations, prequels, sequels, and generally no original ideas at all, I feel like the pat answer to the statement, “That movie sucked,” is almost always, “Well, you should (see the first one, read the book/comic, watch the TV show, see the original, etc.) The only thing I remember hearing about the original Mad Max franchise was from my beloved grandmother, who saw it, oddly enough, and told me that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was “all about pig-shit.” I was 9 at the time.

Thirty years later, I saw my first Mad Max movie, the much-bally-hooed Mad Max: Fury Road, and it left me with many, many questions. Perhaps the most important one was “What the Hell was up with this guy?”

It’s Still Rock n’ Roll To Me!

I went in to this movie hearing a lot about what a giant leap it is for feminism or whatever, because Charlize Theron’s character is basically gender-less (or something. That may not be the real reason people were lauding it, but a movie that features a crazy, masked warlord taking several brides and keeping them in chains doesn’t seem to have many other good things to say on the subject of feminism.), so maybe I was expecting something a tad more cerebral. Basically, it is one long, pointless car chase. And I mean “pointless” in the most literal, direct sense. No point at all. And yet, I can’t in all honesty say that I disliked it because I found myself constantly laughing at the sheer absurdity that was taking place before me. This movie is almost literally a live-action version of a child playing with his toys in his backyard. If the child had a weird thing for suspended guitarists.

I have no problem with action movies that are light on story and heavy on destruction. I love Die Hard. I really like Predator. I even have a soft spot in my heart for the John Travolta/Nicholas Cage blow-’em-up-fest Face/Off. But as silly as it was, even Face/Off had a premise: Cop steals criminal’s face to infiltrate his empire. Needing a face, the criminal then steals the cop’s face and infiltrates his wife. Silly as it is, it is at least something to wrap your head around.

Here’s what IMDB wrote for the premise of Fury Road:

“A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post apocalyptic Australia in search for her homeland with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.” 

Wow. That actually makes it sound a lot better. I didn’t get most of that out of watching it. I really and truly just got that they drove a long way and then decided to turn around and drive back. And then dumped water on everybody. Spoiler warning.

Of course, the premise is just the premise, and it doesn’t get into the details, like why they spray-painted each other’s mouths silver, or why Max was even there and imprisoned. or who any of these people were there, and why we should care. But hey, it had some cool-looking cars.

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I saw Fury Road with my friend and his girlfriend, and being a fan of Mad Max movies, she told me that’s just what they are about. When I said that movie was essentially about nothing, she agreed, and said that’s what they are all like. Bless her heart, she loved it And I envy that. Part of me wishes I could simply immerse myself in a movie for a couple hours and enjoy it. But there’s another part of me. There’s the part that enjoys movies so much that it hurts to see ones that are as bad as this. A cynical part that would find Fury Road appalling if it weren’t so unintentionally hilarious.

But the question that really will keep me up at night: was it “unintentional,” after all?

And what the Hell was up with this guy?

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The world may never know.

This one could be a challenge.

I thought this would be an easy one. The 90’s was filled with movies that were seemingly made just to put out a “hot, alternative soundtrack.” Movies like Can’t Hardly Wait, or Cruel Intentions, or the just awful William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. To be fair, I definitely could have picked that one, but I never actually owned the soundtrack, and only discovered a lot of those bands later, so I can’t in good conscience say I liked it better, even though it would be difficult to say I like something less than that movie.

I also have to credit my wife for pointing out that the Batman Forever soundtrack should be in the running, because I had forgotten how good that was, especially when compared to the cheesiness of Val Kilmer’s only appearance at the Dark Knight. The soundtrack features great stuff by U2, Brandy, Nick Cave, and is perhaps most notable for that Seal song that I originally hated, but I heard it so often that it eventually wore me down.

There are also movies that I liked that have great soundtracks, that actually do their job and prop the movie up, and it’s not just a lame marketing tool. Movies like Magnolia, which may be one of my favorite all-time soundtracks, but to say that it’s a soundtrack I like better than the movie is doing the movie a disservice. It may be true, but that’s only because the soundtrack itself is so good. The same could be said for Grosse Point Blank, a great soundtrack (two volumes of it!), and a pretty good movie, but I don’t want to pick it for that reason. I also thought about picking the I Am Sam soundtrack, which is composed entirely of amazing Beatles covers, but I don’t actually remember much about that movie, so I’m not real sure what I would write about. Which really is the “challenge” of the 30 Day Film Challenge. I mean, I can pick 30 movies based on these prompts. But that would be too easy.

So, for the soundtrack that I liked better than the movie, that doesn’t do a disservice to the movie , I choose the Zach Braff-directed schlockfest Garden State, a movie that everyone loved in the mid-2000’s, and now won’t admit to that fact. I actually wonder if even Zach Braff can believe he made such a movie.

But the soundtrack, which I’m listening to as I type this, still holds up. Yes, it’s a little hipster-y, but the songs have actual heart, and blood, and make you think and feel, while the movie… doesn’t. It’s just fluff trying to be something substantial, which is worse than fluff just being fluff. Even Can’t Hardly Wait knew what it was.

On a personal note, this soundtrack is the first and only album I bought on iTunes when I had my first and only iPod (Those who know me know how much I despite Apple products, and that iPod is one of the reasons why. What a piece of junk.) I actually don’t remember if it was the proper album or a playlist that someone made of songs from the movie, including a couple that weren’t included on the official soundtrack. Which was a cool feature of iTunes in 2004. It’s too bad all the other features were terrible (Stupid proprietary software).

That’s the cool thing really about this soundtrack. It’s not just a collection of songs that were from the movie, or bands that they could get to record songs for the movie, although that may have been true. It really seems like a mix-tape that a love-struck teenager would have made to impress a girl that he liked. Obviously, other than Simon and Garfunkel, none of these bands were around when I was a teenager, but that’s what you did back in the day. You curated 60-90 minutes of music that expressed how you felt and the kind of person you were, and you gave it to someone you had a crush on to let them know you were smart, cool, funny, thoughtful or whatever. I have no idea if it ever worked for anyone else, because it never helped me score. But making the tapes was still fun.

So, that’s what separates the Garden State soundtrack from tons of other crappy soundtracks that were just a bunch of songs that the director was a fan of. This seems like these songs actually belong on the same album. The hipster-ness was just the vibe they were going for, and it worked.

If you are interested in my take on the movie itself, feel free to keep reading for a post I wrote a few years ago when i was doing my “Movies That Settle” thing. I was pretty harsh on it back then, so it might actually be a good way to see that I’ve actually mellowed, believe it or not. If you don’t feel like reading any more, hopefully you’ll check out my podcast and comic and stuff by clicking on my linktree, and come back tomorrow for a post that is right up my alley.

Movies That Settle: Garden State

It’s possible I may picking on someone’s favorite movie with this one. Or maybe not. I really don’t have a very good gauge for contemporary pop culture. That’s why I write about movies from many years ago and whether they’re still good or not. It’s sort of my thing. Although I’m definitely not alone, because I did find this article during my research.

The other reason I write about these movies is because my opinion on them has usually changed greatly over time. This change may be due to circumstances in my own life, or the changes may be more societal, but something has brought it on. Obviously, since the movies haven’t changed much, unless it’s Star Wars and George Lucas has been dicking with it. But I am aware that some people’s opinions don’t waver like mine, because they probably saw a movie when it came out, liked it, and if they happen to see it again, they remember that experience and it brings a smile to their face, and it colors their opinion of that movie forever. Which is totally fine. I have had that moment many times in my life, and it’s great. However, I have too often had the opposite reaction, as well. I very often see a movie again and think, “Whoa. I used to like this movie. What happened?” Most of the time, though, it’s just a matter of perspective. As one gets older, things you used to think were important turn out to be kind of silly.

Recently, Garden State was on one of the many movie channels I get, and even though I only watched a few minutes of it, I cringed almost every second. At least every second when Natalie Portman was talking. Now, before anyone reading this (anyone?) chastises me because this is a wonderful romantic film made a by a young auteur and with an amazing soundtrack to boot, hear me out. I know it may not sound like it, but I am not saying this is necessarily a bad movie. This is simply a movie that I saw in 2004, when I was 28 and wide-eyed, and enjoyed a great deal. And saw again recently as a completely different man of 39 and realized that it was absolute hokum. Believe me, hokum has it’s place in the world. Just not quite this much.

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So, let’s get to it: the film revolves around Zach Braff, probably playing some version of himself since he also wrote and directed it, returning to his childhood hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. Zach’s character, as Zach did himself, has gone to Hollywood to become an actor and left all the glory of whatever podunk town he grew up in behind. Well, sort of. As the movie progresses we discover that poor, famous, movie-star Zach is tortured because when he was a little kid, he pushed his mother over and she fell and hit her neck on the open dishwasher and she became paraplegic. His psychiatrist/dickhead father then sent him away to some boarding school for his trouble, and he was on horse-paralyzing amounts of medication for all of the ensuing years. According to the movie, he was always on them so he never really thought about getting off them, but, Jesus, you’d think at some point in the last decade the kid would nut-up and realize he didn’t need all those drugs. I’m sure some pot would have loosened him right up.

While home, he goes to a party at the home of his “unimpressive” friend, played by Stellan Skaarsgard (Whoops. I mean, Peter Sarsgaard), where he proceeds to get drunk, play Spin the Bottle(!), and wake up with the word BALLS written across his forehead. This prompts one of the only funny lines in a movie with thousands of supposedly funny lines, uttered matter-of-factly by Jim Parsons, a.k.a. the guy who now plays Sheldon the Butch on Big Bang Theory: “By the way, it says balls on your face.” I guess what the movie was trying to illustrate with this scene was that Zach (who plays a character with the rather on-the-nose name Andrew Largeman) has evolved past all these things, since he’s a big Hollywood actor now, but come on, he did get drunk and stoned and play Spin The Bottle and make out with Amy Furgeson (who does, like, real movies now), so he really doesn’t have a leg to stand on. But good on him. She was cute.

The pretension is totally unleashed when Andrew goes to a doctor to literally have his head examined and runs afoul of Natalie Portman’s Sam, who is at the doctor because she’s whacked. Okay, okay. It was for epilepsy. But she is whacked. They begin talking in the waiting room, and she introduces him to the Shins song that will “change his life,” New Slang, which is a great song that was kind of ruined by this movie. Then he drives her home, and to his friend’s house, and then they bury her dead hamster together. You know, typical first date stuff. The whole time they are together, she keeps telling him that it’s not a date and there’s nothing happening here, but, come on. We all know they’re going to do it eventually. Thinking on it now, it might have made for a better movie if they were just buddies, and we didn’t have to put up with this ham-fisted love story and her stupid platitudes.

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For anyone unfamiliar with the term “Manic-Pixie Dream Girl,” it was a phrase coined by Nathan Rabin to describe trope characters like Sam. I think he was originally referring to Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown when he came up with it, but since Garden State came out first, I’m going to say that Sam was the catalyst. Either way, it is defined as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” It’s kind of sad when you realize that this is a thing, and it is a thing that brings this entire movie down, unfortunately.

I once wrote a really long rant called “Llyod Dobler is a Made-Up Person.” The crux of the rant being that Lloyd Dobbler, the romantic, boom box-wielding idiot who swept Ione Skye off her feet by playing “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything, ruined romance for a generation of girls who thought that all guys should be that dreamy, but in fact none of them are. He’s completely made-up, and completely ridiculous. This is also true of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. No one talks or acts like Sam in Garden State, and if such a person did exist, wouldn’t you just find her so annoying that you’d want to slap her?  I mean, this is just one of the annoying exchanges between the two lovebirds:

Andrew Largeman: Fuck, this hurts so much.

Sam: I know it hurts. That’s life. If nothing else, It’s life. It’s real, and sometimes it fuckin’ hurts, but it’s sort of all we have.

You know what else hurts? Movie dialogue that’s supposed to be deep and meaningful. But maybe I’m just being cynical. Obviously, some people like it:

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(Hah! You two idiots got the same tattoo!)

I wish I could say that Sam says that line in a laid-back, “what-can-ya-do?” kind of way. But she doesn’t. She’s being completely serious. And that is the problem for the entire movie. It just takes itself so seriously and tries so hard to be poignant that it blasts right past “poignant” and goes straight to “dippy.” Take the scene where they are all swimming in the pool, except Andrew because he never learned how to swim at the school for mom-cripplers he was sent to, and he gets all philosophical on Sam, realizing that he was homesick for a place that doesn’t exist, and waxing, “Just because it’s a house doesn’t mean it’s a home.” Yeah, douchebag. You got sent away and wished you could go home, only to realize that home was not that cool. Ever hear that the grass is always greener? It’s called adulthood. I’d say jump in, but you can’t swim.

Despite all of this ridiculousness, Garden State has some high points. If I had the time, I would do my own “Phantom-Edit” and simply cut out Natalie Portman entirely, and have it be a cool buddy comedy about Peter Saarsgard taking Braff on an emotional (but weird) journey to get his mom’s jewelry back. Those, to me, are the best scenes of the whole movie. Like when they go to the hardware store to steal something only to return it for the cash, and encounter their deranged classmate who is embroiled in a pyramid scheme. Or at the hotel when they have to deal with the sex-crazed bell-hop played by Method Man who reveals that he regularly spies on the guests. Or the weird family who live at the bottom of the quarry… Ok, never mind. I would probably still edit that out.

The best part about that whole storyline was that there was no over-blown “come-to-Jesus” moment. Braff got the jewelry back, was kind of astonished that they had traveled around Jersey all day just for that, and Saarsgard, as most men would do in that situation, says, “See ya,” and is basically never heard from again. Had that been the whole movie, I could look back on it and say, “Now that was a quirky, little indie flick.” Instead, I look back and think, “He knew Natalie Portman for, what, a weekend? And he’s giving it all up for her?”

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Like I said above, I do realize that this is mostly a matter of perspective, and there was a time when I thought this movie was really good. And there is the possibility that the countless indie copycats have made this one retroactively annoying. However, one thing I learned in all my screenwriting classes was that you have to write for the future. Unless you’re making The Wedding Singer, you really don’t want your movie to become dated in this way. And not by the clothes or music (because that soundtrack still holds up), but in the characters and their beliefs. If Zach Braff wanted to make a statement through Andrew Largeman, he shouldn’t have made one that would seem frivolous to anyone in their thirties.

One week down! I think I can do it!

Ah, here we are on the doorstep of summer, and today’s topic for the 30 Day Film Challenge is a positive one: A Film you never get tired of. Despite the dangling preposition, it’s a very uplifting prompt. The funny thing is, I’m a movie guy. In spite of my reputation as a person who hates movies, I could literally choose from… ten?

Joking aside, I’m from the video store generation, so the family trip to Video Showplace (we didn’t have a Blockbuster in my town until I was in my twenties) to acquire some entertainment for the night was a frequent occurrence. And on the trip, I would often rent the same movies over and over. Eventually my parents purchased a second VCR so I could illegally record the movies I rented all the time. And man, did I make use of that thing. And even then, I still had a selection of movies that maybe weren’t worthy of being recorded, but I still would be in the mood for once in a while. So I would rent them whenever that mood struck. I remember this bothered my brother a lot, for some reason. On days when he would take me to the video store, around when he was probably 18 and I was 12, he would encourage  me to rent new and different movies, most likely ones that he liked, and I would want to rent Young Guns again. I think we even tussled in the video store more than once while he tried to pull some oft-rented tape from my hands.I get that he was trying to broaden my horizons, but come on, just let a 12 year-old experience the extreme violence of an R-Rated action movie, will ya?

Even though Young Guns was on my list of movies to rent “all the time,” as my brother would put it, I wouldn’t call it a film I never get tired of. In fact, I think a lot of the movies I used to rent all the time I would look back on now and think, “Eh, it’s ok, I guess.” a lot of movies change their meaning over time. Nostalgia can play an important role, or the memories of where and when we saw them, but as those memories fade, we can, in fact, sometimes grow tired of these movies. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was one of the first movies I recorded with my dual-VCR trick, but I haven’t seen it in quite a long time and I can’t say I really feel like popping in the DVD whenever I’m stuck for something to watch. I wouldn’t say I’m tired of it, but I don’t know if it qualifies it as a film I never get tired of. So, what is a movie that I never tire of and never will? 

Jaws

The first summer blockbuster, and still the best. It covers so many story tropes in one movie; man vs.  nature, man vs. beast, fish out of water (almost literally), and the characters are so rich, you feel like you know them (Chief Brody actually reminds me a lot of my Dad.) And when you throw in the fact that it was almost a miracle that the damn thing got made – that stupid mechanical shark almost never worked, and it made for a much better movie! – how can you not marvel at this film? When Robert Shaw’s monologue about being aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis was written and  given to him the night before they filmed it, and he knocked it out of the park. When Brody, the one who knew nothing about sharks or boats, is left alone at the end to defeat this monster, and he does it. And he bellows with joy as shark pieces rain down on him, and you feel his elation, even if you have seen it a million times and you know it’s coming. As a little kid, I loved seeing the people of Amity get eaten by this giant shark. As an adult, I love watching Martin Brody scolding the Mayor of Amity for his inaction, as the Mayor refuses to believe that this is a problem even after several incidents, until Mayor Vaughn turns to him and says, “Martin, my kids were on that beach, too” and you realize he’s a real person with feelings. He then signs the document giving Brody permission to hire Quint, and the chase is on. Man + Crazy Man + Science Guy vs. Beast.

But there’s another reason why I will never grow tired of Jaws. Yes, I saw it a million times growing up, and I was never even afraid to go back in the water. Then, as an adult, I was living in Brookline, close to the famed Coolidge Corner Theater, which played it every year on Labor Day as a wink and nod to summer ending. I had only been on a couple dates with my now-wife, but I asked her if she would like to go see Jaws with me at the Coolidge. She agreed, and it became a tradition that we carried on every year after that, until 2020 and the pandemic cancelled the Labor Day screening of Jaws and pretty much every other movie and fun thing in the world. We did, however, find a drive-in that was playing Jaws in the summer of 2020 and went to see it, and even though it wasn’t quite the same as seeing with in a crowded theater, there was something cool about seeing it a drive-in, as I’m sure many people did upon its initial release in 1975, when it became the first movie to gross over $100 million at the box office.

Sure, I watch the same movies every Christmas. Yes, I’ve seen most of the Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and most of the MCU movies more times than I can count, but I don’t know if I would go out of my way to see them at a theater every year. But Jaws, at the Coolidge with the person I love, that will never get old.

And something else that will never get old is the Coolidge audience’s screams when Ben Gardner’s mangled face come out of the underside of that boat! So good!

Another cheat, but with good reason this time.

So, for my “favourite” animated movie, I had a lot to choose from. Most Pixar movies would work. When I was a kid, I loved the Disney animated Robin Hood and Lady and the Tramp. I also love (and watch every year, either at Christmas or Halloween) The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I was very close to choosing that one.

But no. My heart truly only belongs to one animated movie. The only problem is I very recently wrote about it on this very website. Can I write a whole new column on it? Do I have anything new to say?

The truth is, I have nothing new to say, but I could also not in good conscious pick another movie to write about. So, check out what I had to say about one of my favorite movies, animated or otherwise, from childhood or adulthood, and then check out the podcast we recorded about it and then the interview with one of the creators we conducted on the podcast, and then my link tree for all my other dumb crap.

And now, my post from December 2020 on my “favourite” animated “mouvie.”

Transformers The Movie (1986)

I would like to say that this selection is pandemic-related, that rediscovering passions I had in my youth is an attempt to find some joy during these sad and troubling times. And there might be a little truth to that, but I can’t necessarily blame the pandemic. Not only have I been doing a pretty childish and nerdy podcast for over ten years, but this movie has been one of my favorites my whole life, and my friend John and I saw a big screen re-release a few years ago and enjoyed it just as much as we did as kids. I’m not even going to say that the pre-movie drinking had anything to do with it. Ok, maybe a little bit.

However, recently on the afore-mentioned podcast, my friends and I (including the afore-mentioned John) interviewed one of the writers of Transformers: The Movie, as well as several episodes of the cartoon it was based on, Flint Dille, and that definitely reignited my interest on this film. You can listen to the interview with Flint here, as well as our previous episode where we did a deep dive into the movie here. But for a more personal take, read on:

First, a little background: The Transformers has been through a lot of changes (or should I say “transforma… nah, I won’t) over the decades, but for my money, and probably a lot of other fans agree, it doesn’t get any better than what we like to call “Generation 1.” I’m talking mid-80’s, benevolent Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, battling evil Decepticons, led by Megatron. Prime turned into a big red semi, and Megatron turned into a gun. The gun part was only changed because it became controversial, not because a toy company was trying to make a buck, but overall, in its purest form, that was Transformers in the early-to-mid-80’s. I was 9-10 years old, and getting both the Prime and Megatron toys on one Christmas might have been (say it with me) “the best Christmas ever.”

While the cartoon that was inspired by the toys was still popular, Hasbro figured those toys weren’t selling anymore, so the bigwigs got together with the creative folks and decided to make a movie to introduce a bunch of new toys. And since they weren’t going to make those old toys anymore, the mandate was to kill off all those old characters. Hey, it’s just business, right?

However, the commercial did have a little bit of a spoiler in it, saying, “Does Prime die?” The accompanying visual was Optimus Prime getting shot a bunch of times. Of course, as a small child who didn’t understand how the world works, I thought there was no way that Optimus Prime would die, because no one ever died on Transformers or any of my cartoons. The good guys always won and they moved on to the next episode, and rarely did any episode impact the others, unless there was a new toy that was introduced. I had no reason to believe this movie would be anything other than a longer episode of my favorite cartoon.

Well, I hope you haven’t seen it, because I’m dropping the spoiler here; not only does Optimus Prime die, but a whole bunch of Transformers die. In fact, most of my favorite characters died (or if they were Decepticons, their dying bodies were made into newer Decepticons, Megatron included, which was a pretty cool way to introduce new characters, in retrospect.) Looking back now, I realize that this is high on the list of influential things that happened to me. I mean, finding out Darth Vader was Luke’s father or finding out there was no Santa Claus were rites of passage for me, but watching Optimus Prime literally turn grey and die? That was heavy stuff for a ten year-old. And it happens in the first 30 minutes of the movie. How do they do the rest of the movie without the main character? This was unprecedented, to say the least.

Another spoiler, they do finish the movie, the good guys do win and a new Autobot leader arises, Rodimus Prime. And the new characters weren’t that bad. And then the TV show picked up where the movie left off (in the year 2005) and basically my whole world changed. Even when they brought back Optimus Prime, things were different. And it all started with this movie. That’s why I’m still talking about it, nearly 35 years later. But this movie wasn’t a cultural touchstone, like Star Wars, so what gives? Well, I’ll try to put it into words.

I was at a party once and had a conversation with a friend about why our generation wasn’t able to “let go” of our childhood, as we phrased it (as if it was something to be ashamed of.) He theorized that our generation had no Vietnam War-type event that thrust us into adulthood, and basically we just liked this stuff, so we never felt the need to move on. I think about Bruce Springsteen’s line in “Thunder Road,” when he says “Maybe we ain’t that young anymore,” and how he was 24 years old when he wrote that, but his theory on that was the Vietnam War had just ended, and nobody was that young anymore. The theory posited by my friend made sense then, but I’m not sure if it still holds true (maybe because we were drunk). I often quote John Hodgman when it comes to this stuff, who believes that “Nostalgia is our most toxic impulse,” but I don’t always know when it applies and when it doesn’t. See, like cholesterol, there’s good nostalgia and bad nostalgia. Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake is just living in the past and hoping things can be that good again, and that’s bad. Good nostalgia is just appreciating things that were, and still are, great, like Transformers: the Movie. Does it bring back feelings of joy from my youth? Of course, but do I long to be ten again? Not really.

Unfortunately, for many years I hid my nerdiness from the world as best I could, because I wanted to be cool. Needless to say, I failed at this miserably, because there’s nothing more uncool than not being who you are.

More Nostalgia for you…

I remember many years ago, when I was in high school, getting together with some friends to play baseball or whatever, and one of our friends drove to the neighborhood with the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack blasting through his tape deck with the windows down, and we all made fun of him a little, because it was the early90’s, and Transfomers: The Movie wasn’t really the cool thing for a high schooler to like or listen to. Looking back now, I definitely regret it. I wish I had come to the realization earlier that Transformers: The Movie was really cool no matter what decade you are in. Not that it would have been some kind of Back-to-the-Future-style life-altering moment, but I think I would have been happier if I just embraced these things instead of trying to pretend I didn’t like them. Not only like them, but in the case of this movie, really liked them. And having a conversation with the writer of the movie, and reading his book, and realizing that he had the same passion that I did, that it wasn’t just some gig he got all those years ago, that was pretty cool. They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, and I can’t even say Flint Dille was a hero of mine, just a name I saw in the credits of my favorite movie and some of my favorite shows. And yeah, in 1986, there was a part of him that thought writing Transformers: The Movie was a gig, because he had other writing gigs, and still does (The guy had his hands in Pokemon Go, for God’s sake!) But knowing that he looks back at that time in the mid-80’s, when he wrote for Transformers and G.I. Joe and Visionaries and Inhumanoids, with fondness, like I do, that makes even my angry years worth it.

Of course, 2020 has been rough for a lot of people, but I will leave you with this; we should be at least happy that we live in a time when, after a hard day at work, you can get in your car and go to your chosen music-streaming service, punch up the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack, and blast it through the speakers while driving home, and all will be right with the world for that brief time. I know because I did that the other day, and all was right with the world. Even after the death of Optimus Prime.

I have reached Day 5, so I made it through the first weekend. That’s a good start.

This “challenge” is kind of weird, because some of the prompts make you think, and some of them are just “Name That Movie,” and it’s not like there’s a time limit or anything, and you can always Google it if you need a memory jog, because no one is watching (I mean, it’s better if you use your actual brain, but…)

Today’s prompt, however, actually gave me pause: A film where a character has a job you want. There’s a not of choices here. First of all, it doesn’t have to be the main character, but any character. And it could be any job, right. Could I technically say Star Wars because I always wanted to be a Jedi? Or Captain of the Enterprise?

That’s all silly, of course. but to limit it to Earth-bound jobs that you get paid for that I actually would want to work, that narrows it down. The funny thing is a lot of screenwriters and Hollywood types have never worked real jobs, so they don’t always know what they’re talking about when it comes to careers, so they sometimes just make stuff up, or just have them working in an office, so I don’t know what to make of that. And you can cut out any cop or lawyer or doctor movies, because I have no desire to be any of those. I did want to be a screenwriter myself in my younger days, so I could have picked Adaptation, which is an awesome movie that I really need to watch again, or Chasing Amy, where Ben Affleck and Jason Lee were comic book writers. But no, I decided to reach beyond reality and think about the real dream job: stand-up comedian. But not just any comedian. No, the comedian who didn’t even think of himself as a comedian.

Man on the Moon

I picked this movie, among all the movies about stand-up comedians, for a few reasons. One is, I actually like it, which I know a lot of people do not. I also was a huge fan of Andy Kauffman, but not really when he was alive, since he died when i was still pretty young (And he did die. Those sightings of Tony Clifton after he was dead were just crap.) I also picked it because the story behind the movie is very interesting, possibly more so than the movie itself.

The background there is that Jim Carrey wanted to play Andy Kauffman, so he did. But he didn’t just act like him when the cameras were rolling, he basically pretended to be Andy Kauffman during the entire production. But he played the Andy that that Andy portrayed to others, which was itself kind of a performance. For example, during his widely popular run as the lovable Latke on Taxi (which Andy apparently hated doing but knew it afforded him the luxury to do other things he wanted to do), Andy decided he wanted to play bad-guy wrestler, knowing the performance art that was involved there. One of his stage gimmicks was to wrestle women from the crowd, calling himself the Inter-Gender Champion. The women were usually plants, but it certainly got people talking. He then offered his services around to a few of the territories at the time., eventually ending up in the Memphis-based territory co-owned by Jerry “The King” Lawler, who was also the top star there. The storyline was set up beautifully. Andy was in the ring with a popular female star of the company, and after his match he was kicking her while she was down, and Lawler came to her aid. Andy acted furious, saying that he didn’t wrestle men. He then would send tapes to the studio that broadcasted Memphis wrestling of himself degrading the Tennesseans who watched the show, telling then what soap and toilet paper were for. It was comic gold. Eventually this lead to a match with Lawler, who gave him a piledriver and supposedly injured his neck. Not long after that Andy used his Hollywood contacts to get on David Lettermen, where he and Lawler we supposed to bury that hatchet. Instead, Andy berated him some more, and Lawler hauled off and slapped him so hard that he was knocked off his chair. Andy then went on an obscenity-laced tirade, and threw Letterman’s coffee at Lawler. It is still, to this day, one of the greatest wrestling angles of all time.

The thing is, that’s all it was, because Kauffman and Lawler were actually good friends, and had cooked the whole storyline up. Lawler maintained that it was real for years after, and I guess Jim Carrey believed him, because on-set Carrey would apparently antagonize Lawler (who was brought in to play himself) similar to how Andy did when he was playing bad-guy wrestler, not realizing that Andy was actually a nice guy in real life. It got so bad, apparently, that Jerry Lawler had to get rough with Jim Carrey when Carrey was making remarks about Lawler’s wife one day on-set. If any of this sounds interesting to you, check out  Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond  on Netflix.

I have no idea if any of that behind-the-scenes drama had anything to do with the movie not doing well, but it didn’t. It’s still an interesting look at an interesting man. A guy who always wanted to play a part, so much that people thought he was crazy, which is really funny to me. For years, Steven Colbert played the wacky, arrogant host of The Colbert Report, which was a character he created and became immensely popular, and he rarely broke character on the show. That’s not who he really is, but no one called him crazy for it. But I guess back in Andy Kauffman’s era, he did seem like a crazy person, when in reality he just wanted to keep them guessing. Of course, there were also rumors that he started wearing his wrestling tights under his clothes, so who knows?

Really, though, back to why I picked this movie in the challenge; Yes, it would be really cool to play a comedian on the level or Andy Kauffman as a dream job. Of course, it probably wouldn’t happen today, anyway, and I’m obviously not that funny. But I do love to watch interviews with and shows about comedians, because that process intrigues me so much. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a favorite of mine, as is Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. In fact, that’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I highly recommend listening to the audio book read by Martin himself.

Granted, some comedians’ stories end in tragedy, like Robin Williams, and some end in, well, a different kind of tragedy, like Louis C.K. It’s enough to believe those theories about comedians who are actually really disturbed and use the stage performances to work through their inner demons. But really, some of them are just funny people who don’t want to get real jobs. Hopefully that’s the kind I would have been, had I gone down that road.

Man on the Moon does have some flaws, as they really have to run through his life and career at ludicrous speed, but overall it’s fun and, who knows, maybe Andy would have appreciated Carrey’s take on his life. All I know is I’m glad it exists, and it still makes me wonder about the life that could have been. As far as the life that is, don’t forget to check out the podcast here, the comic here, and the t-shirts and stuff here. And come back tomorrow for more fun and excitement.

A little bit of a cheat here, but it’s Sunday afternoon/evening, so will anyone care of I steal a post from my old Brie Larson Project phase?

A few years ago, I decided to cover Brie Larson’s career a little, leading up to her turn as Captain Marvel. So, to kill two birds, in a way, I’m re-posting my take on Short Term 12, the indie darling that got her a lot of notice back in the day and eventually led to her starring in Room, which eventually led to an Oscar and a lot of attention, good and bad. So, there might be a few out of place phrases in here, but it’s not too old, so it’s pretty fine. Also, if you want to read more about my Brie Larson stuff, just go back through the archives here on mattdursin.com, and don’t forget to check out the podcast here, the comic here, and the t-shirts and stuff here. And come back tomorrow for more fun and excitement.

The Brie Larson Project Part V – Short Term Memory

I hope I don’t run out of clever puns for every one of Brie Larson’s movies. If anyone has one for Kong: Skull Island, I’m all ears. (Bong? How about Numbskull Island?)

For anyone still reading these, so far, I have covered two movies where she was the hot ex-girlfriend, one where she was pseudo-desired by the male lead, and one where she was practically mute. So I wanted to advance the story a little bit and cover a movie where she was actually the lead. And not just a co-star where she was sharing screen time with a man and playing off of him, like most would expect. Nope. Brie gets top billing here, and it was the first time that a lot of people stood up and took notice. I am, of course, talking about the 2013 indy-drama Short Term 12.

ST12-25

I say “of course,” but don’t fret none if you haven’t heard of it, because I had never heard of it before I started my movie quest last year. It only made just over a million bucks in limited release in 2013. But actors don’t do these for money, right? No, of course not. They do it for love, and to get noticed so that you can go on to star in bigger and better things. (I mean, you don’t get to be Captain Marvel without paying some dues.)

Cynicism aside, this was a big deal for Brie Larson, and it was a big deal at SXSW that year, as well, winning the Grand Jury and Audience Award for Narrative Feature. Larson herself was nominated and won a bunch of festival awards, as well. And if you believe that Rotten Tomatoes isn’t just a BS site, Short Term 12 is only one of ten films to earn a 99% or 100% rating on there. Which sounds impressive, but when you consider how much online trolls mess with Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings system, it’s a little less so.

Presentation1

But what’s the actual deal with this movie? Well, according to the IMDB logline, it’s about this: “a 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend.” Now, I’ll admit right off the bat that this movie sounds pretty awful from that description. Like a Lifetime movie that is even too lame for Lifetime. But you can’t really go by two measly lines. Plus, the term “residential treatment facility” is so sanitized that it doesn’t begin to describe the kinds of things that happen in places like that. Basically, it’s a home for troubled teens, and Larson’s character, Grace, is pretty much the only one smart and caring enough to really do what she has to do to help these kids. And to pile on top of that stress, she’s pregnant! I know that some people say that there’s never a good time to be pregnant, but working in a place like that, it’s gotta be rough.

But what is this facility really all about. Well, Short Term 12 (The name of the movie and the facility) has tons of teens living there, but the movie mostly focuses on two, Marcus, who is turning 18 soon and finding the prospect of living in the world rather daunting, and Jayden, a recent arrival with a sordid history. Grace and Jayden feel a kinship, and after Jayden’s father doesn’t pick her up on her birthday and Jayden has an episode, Grace reveals some her own personal scars, physical and mental, as Grace used to cut herself. As an aside, I don’t think the movie delves into this too much, but in my experience (more on that later), revealing personal details like that to troubled teens should be a huge violation of the rules of the place, not to mention a ginormous error in judgement.

Jayden ends up leaving the facility, at night, forcing Grace to follow her (another big no-no is touching when you are alone with a kid in those situations, because it’s their word against yours.) They end up at Jayden’s Dad’s house, only to find it empty. Jayden returns to the facility and reads Grace a story that she wrote, and this all leads Grace to believe that Jayden was abused by her father.

Meanwhile, Grace herself is dealing with this whole pregnancy thing, and not really feeling it. In fact, she has made an appointment to get an abortion without telling her boyfriend, Mason, who also works at the facility. Mason is a nice guy, and trying to do all the right things, even proposing to Grace, because who wants a bastard? Grace accepts, but is again thrown for a loop when she receives a phone call the next morning informing her that her father is being released from prison. She then goes to work and finds out that Jayden has been picked up by her Dad, and is enraged, even though there was nothing anyone could do, since Jayden denied being abused, and that’s how the system works. Just to throw some more crap on the pile, poor Marcus, in an attempt to stay at the facility, or just because he’s psychologically damaged, attempts suicide after the death of his fish. What a world.

Grace then has a break down, tells Mason that she doesn’t want to marry him and that she’s getting an abortion. In her rage, she goes to Jayden’s house and breaks in, either to beat her father up, or at least find evidence of abuse (probably the first one.) Jayden thankfully stops her, and they decide that instead of smashing her father, they smash his car instead. I know that this was based on director Destin Daniel Cretton’s personal experiences, but I couldn’t find any evidence if this car-smashing was real or not, but if so, it sounds cathartic. Afterwards, Grace opens up about how she was abused by her father, and Jayden finally reveals the truth about how her father also abused her. They return to Short Term 12 and Jayden spills the beans.

ST12-29A1

To tie everything up in a bow, Grace gets back with Mason, and they are seen getting an ultrasound, and even Marcus is going to be ok. Yay! Good triumphs over evil!

Sorry. I’m not making light of the circumstances, of course, but I think we know that these stories don’t end like this. Or end at all, really, unless the principles just get another job somewhere happier and the teens all move on at the same time. There are always going to be teens coming in to Short Term 12 with new problems. And let’s face it, Grace will always have to carry the burden of her own past. This isn’t one of those movies, though. This is just a capsule look inside the lives of these people, and it’s probably a look that most people need to take.

Many years ago, I worked a couple summers in a place similar to Short Term 12. Not exactly “troubled teens,” but certainly developmentally disabled. The girl I was dating at the time was similar to Grace, but unfortunately for her, I was no Mason. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here: I hated that job. Obviously, there was no money in it, but of course I didn’t take it for money, so that’s not the reason it wasn’t for me. I just didn’t have the temperament for it, and I admire the Hell out of anyone who does. The alarms going off when a kid decides to bolt. The special staff that are called when a kid has to be restrained. The day I got sprayed with a fire extinguisher was particularly rough. My only saving grace was that I knew it was only for a few months. I really do respect people who do this all day, every day. And then it goes a step farther for people like Grace, who want to help, and go that extra mile every day to make these kids’ lives just a little bit better.

However, Grace has her own issues, as my girlfriend did back then. I often wondered if that was why she did it, that if she could help these kids, it would ease her own suffering somehow. Spoiler warning: it didn’t. She spiraled and spiraled and drank and spiraled and, as far as I can tell, is still spiraling down all these years later, to the point where I believe that her mental anguish has manifested itself physically and is now breaking down her body (any smart people out there can feel free to dispute this, but until I see some proof that I’m wrong, I’m a believer). It makes me a little sad, obviously, but this is the tragedy of mental illness, especially when brought on by childhood abuse. Honestly, smashing the car was giving the guy a pass.

As I watched this movie, I wondered if the same fate would befall Grace, or if it did befall whoever Grace may have been based on in real life. Hopefully not. People do overcome these things. And I think that is the take-away here. The point was not to tie all the storylines up at the end like a sitcom. I think it was to open up some eyes, lift up some hearts, and maybe give some people a little hope.

Whew. That was a deep one. Next time, I’ll try to keep things a little lighter. Not sure what movie I’ll feel like covering, but just to put this one to bed: As mentioned above, this was Brie Larson’s first starring role, and the one that really got everyone’s attention. After a lot of filming in 2014, 2015 would be her breakout year, and we’ll get to that soon.

Ha! I wrote this yesterday!

If you’re following along, today’s “challenge” is to pick a film that has more than 5 words. Presumably, they mean in the title, because most movies, except silent ones, have more than five words of dialogue. So, let’s go with title. Also, when you look this prompt up on IMDB, you get a long list of movies like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues… or Three Men and a Baby. So, let’s throw out most of those because I’m not counting numbers or words like “a” that aren’t real words. Thankfully, while this eliminates a lot of possibilities, it still leaves a lot and actually opens up others (although I seriously considered Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That was an amazing movie that I could talk about for awhile.)

If you allow me to not count the indefinite article as a word (and this is my post, so I’ll do what I want anyway), I’m going to pick Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood as my Day 3 movie.

Quentin Tarantino once said he would only direct ten movies and then call it a career. I really hope he’s counting the Kill Bills as one film, because otherwise, I believe this one was his tenth, and it’s a really crappy way to go out. Tarantino is one of my all-time favorite directors/writers, and someone who influenced me greatly as a film student many years ago. He is a man who became incredibly successful both with audiences and critics, has a distinct style no one can match, and he truly has done it his way, with his incredible dialogue and memorable characters, and his ability to draw amazing performances out of his actors. But this movie was just really boring.

So back to IMDB we go for the logline: “A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the final years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.” I’ll actually give them that one. That’s pretty much what happens in this movie. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the faded actor (fancy that) and Brad Pitt plays his stunt double. Their performances are actually fine, and Pitt actually won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role (He also took home the same honor at the SAG awards), but let’s face it, usually the worst actor in any Tarantino movie is Tarantino himself. So, assuming that anyone acting in a Tarantino movie is going to be good, and the direction will be top-notch, why is it that I find this movie to be so unenjoyable?

before I go on, if you do like this movie, I’m happy for you. Like I said, it’s well-made, has some great acting, and the climax is actually quite fun. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Go ahead and like the Hell out of it. I think the reason I don’t like it, and in fact, kind of hate it, is because I am such a Tarantino fan, and because it was so well-liked by everyone when it came out (Certified Fresh, 85%, with a 70% Audience Score. What am I missing?) His movies are in a genre all by themselves, and I have very high expectations for every Tarantino movie that comes out. I saw Hateful Eight in glorious 70mm at my local art house cinema, and it also had an intermission and an overture before the movie started. And going back to my younger days, I had already decided to major in Film when I saw Pulp Fiction in 1993, but it’s probably not a stretch to say that movie changed my life, and it’s no coincidence that every script I wrote back then was a bad Reservoir Dogs or Natural Born Killers rip-off (Quentin wrote the original script for NBK before selling it to Oliver Stone and taking his name off it when Stone’s version was so different. He retains “story by” credit.) He even worked in a video store like I did. I wanted to be this guy. And he rarely has disappointed me. I can even go back and watch and appreciate Jackie Brown now.

But this one… I just can’t with this one.

So, the question is why. Is it my high expectations, or is it because Tarantino himself is so established and can do what he wants at this point? Is it both? Is it neither? Everyone else seems to like it? is it because, like I said earlier, the ending is really cool, and people were convinced they saw a cool movie because “all’s well that ends well?” Have I gotten to old to appreciate the coolness factor of a Tarantino movie? Or is it the Trainspotting Theory applying to Tarantino? Is he too old now (“We all get old, we canna hack it anymore, and that’s it.”) I do believe that some artists get to a point where they have said everything they have to say, but I’m not sure Quentin has reached that stage yet, at 58.

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. All I know is that the first 2.5 hours of that 2:41 felt like it went on forever, and that Quentin Tarantino was making a movie purely for his own enjoyment, and that’s what made me worry. Maybe Trainspotting was right, and maybe it is time for Quentin to hang it up.

Anyway, come back tomorrow for Day 4, and see if I have anything to say about a film with a number in the title.

Well, I made it to Day 2, at least. It’s not nothing.

A film that you like that starts with the first letter of your name. I said yesterday that I might pick my first name or my last name, since many people refer to me by my last name. I often do this myself, if the moment calls for it. Like Jimmy on Seinfeld, which then spread to George, which birthed one of my favorite lines, often repeated by me, “George is gettin’ upset!”

Anyway, I went the boring route and picked my first name, because the first film that spring to mind was Christopher Nolan’s quirky masterpiece Memento. It’s a movie a thoroughly enjoy, and was pretty popular when it was released in 2000, so much so that everyone was talking about it and I remember thinking, “Pffft, it can’t be that good,” and so waited to watch it on DVD. Like a dope. Because it is very, very good.

If you look it up on IMDB, the tagline says, “A man with short-term memory loss attempts to track down his wife’s murderer.” While that is the plot, of course, that tells you absolutely nothing about why you should watch this movie. Especially if you are interested in film or analyzing film, or how stories are told, or cool things in general. This movie is covered in a lot of screenwriting classes, and I believe Philosophy courses, but since I never took one of those, let’s go with the screenwriting stuff.

To go along with the short-term memory loss theme, Nolan tells the main story in reverse, as we follow Leonard (Guy Pearce) trying to find his wife’s murderer and kill them. This proves difficult for a guy who can’t make new memories, so he drives around taking polaroids of everyone and writing pertinent information on them, and if he finds out something really big, he tattoos that info on himself with ink from a Bic pen. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but it’s pretty cool, anyway. Remember, while it seems mundane for a movie plot (“Guy hunting wife’s killer.” Every Segal movie, right?), remember that this story is told in reverse.

A quick note on movies that are structurally out of order, like this one, or something like Pulp Fiction, as far as basic screenplay structure goes, they almost always still follow the basic, 3-act structure that is taught in every screenwriting class in the world. It’s actually quite a feat of writing to tell a story this way, not reveal or spoil or mess up any major plot points, and still do what your screenwriting teacher is telling you to do. If you never covered this in high school English, talking about Shakespeare, the breakdown is like this; in a 90-page screenplay, which is pretty much a 90-minute movie, the first act should last around 30 pages, and right around page thirty should be your big turn or big moment (In Die Hard, the terrorists take over Nakatomi Plaza and John McLane is left alone to stop them at the end of the first act.) The second act, or the middle 60 pages or so of the script, is where a good chunk of action takes place. In Avengers; Endgame, it’s where the good guys begin their time heist and go to get the Infinity Stones. Of course, Endgame is a three-hour epic, so the page numbering is different, but it’s still following the structure. (For my money, this is where most movies fall apart and get kind of boring. But that’s a different post) The third act is the finale and falling action. To use Endgame again… “On your left.”

Crazily enough, Memento also follows this structure. The “end,” is shown at the beginning and we work our way backwards, but it is where you enter the story as an audience member. When you finally see the inciting event, at the actual end of the movie, it changes how you have viewed everything else (and let’s face it, it’s incredibly sad), and so that is the climax. But for Leonard, the story does not end.

The other part of the movie, told in proper chronological order, thankfully, is the flashbacks of Leonard, pre-short-term memory loss and pre-murdered wife, where we recalls his life as an insurance claims investigator. He investigated someone who had short-term memory loss, and apparently denied his claim because he thought he was faking. This drove the guy’s wife crazy and, we are told, eventually to suicide. But it gets slightly convoluted at times. Is this person actually Leonard? Is his memory loss worse than we are told. He’s basically the world’s most unreliable narrator.

I’m not going to spoil this one anymore because it’s just too good. For most movies that are over twenty years old, I say go ahead and sing the major plot points form the heavens. Darth Vader was Luke’s father! Bruce Willis was dead all along! Who cares? But, for Memento, you really just need to watch it, all the way through, beginning to end. Whatever that means. Not only is it an excellently-made movie, perfectly paced and well-acted, but you see the beginnings of the career of one of the great filmmakers of our time. A man who would go on to re-invent a tired Batman franchise, and make them into not just great comic book movies but great movies, and in between those three movies, squeeze in two other amazing movies, including Inception, which basically changed how a lot of movies were filmed. He then played with structure again with Dunkirk, telling three stories of one battle of World War II. Now, shame on me for not seeing Tenet yet, but I’m betting it’s amazing.

I know I haven’t written a lot about the actual movie, but that’s because you should really just watch it. Even if you’ve seen it already. Watch it over and over. And if you can find the Region 2 DVD, or the limited edition, there’s a version hidden on there where you can watch the movie in chronological order, but you have to get a series of questions right in order to get to it. Who but Christopher Nolan would do that?

Thanks for checking out Day 2. Remember, check out my linktree to find out what else I’m up to. And there’s podcasts I’m on here, a comic I created here, and t-shirts and stuff I “created” here. Come back tomorrow for a movie with more than five words (presumably in the title.) Huh.