Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne) [2015)

This is not a good film.

It starts well enough.

Director Eva Husson even had me thinking to myself that “the French truly know how to make films”.

And they do.

But only the first few minutes of this one live up to that maxim.

And yet, this film is addicting.

I kept wanting it to get better.

It had its moments.

Millennials partying.

Parties.

Drugs.

Sex.

Lots of sex.

And yet, this film is not a turn on.

It has no mystery to it.

No true romance.

Just a saccharine silver lining.

The characters are boring.

Two-dimensional.

Daisy Broom had potential.

She has real acting talents.

But they are wasted here (as she becomes a sort of villain).

She becomes ever more two-dimensional throughout the course of this film.

Marilyn Lima does a decent job here.

Her acting is subtle.

Sadly, she is surrounded by a shitstorm of bad filmmaking.

There are some poignant moments.

Sometimes the true rebels are cast out.

Their contributions are forgotten.

And they become conservatives.

They see the stupidity they have spawned.

And they watch from afar.

Covered with tattoos, perhaps.

They only want love.

Lorenzo Lefebvre’s character actually does have a more developed personality.

But just barely.

There are extraneous bits and pieces of meaning here and there.

And none of them are developed for the betterment of this film.

Which is to say, it’s hard to believe that a film chockfull of sex could be boring, but it can.

This one is.

So my recommendation is this.

Don’t waste an hour and a half of your life (like I did) watching this.

It’s not worth it.

It is vapid, pseudo-art-film rubbish.

 

-PD

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation [1989)

It’s been awhile since I’ve written.

Got dumped by my fiancée.

Offered to be engaged again.

Got rejected again.

Worked my ass off at Starbucks.

Had one day off (Christmas).

And another today (New Year’s Eve).

Haven’t been feeling too well.

Failed experiments with getting off of anti-anxiety medication.

It’s tough.

People coming in the drive-thru in the wrong direction.

Getting stuck.

Taking twenty minutes to back out like Austin Powers in that infamous utility truck scene.

Work is stressful.

Christmas is stressful.

It puts a strain on many people.

Some go home and drink themselves to sleep.

While capitalism creates the most value, it is not without a price for the worker.

Getting a nice, cushy job can be easier than it sounds.

Perhaps I am dumb.

I’m not lazy, but I might be dumb.

I am smart in certain things.

But finding a place where my talents fit?

Well, I have done that a few times in my life.

But those were rare occasions.

It may be trite to say so, but life can come down to a roll of the dice here and there.

Is it chaos?

Is it God?

Did God invent chaos?

It’s true.

Some things which were formerly unexplained have become clearer as man has gained more knowledge of his world through science.

And here we come into the year 2020.

Where’s I’m at, there is a little less than two hours left.

I am glad to have my parents with me.

My dear, sweet mom.

My dear, sweet dad.

I am glad to have a roof over my head.

I’m glad to have heat.

Warmth.

Love.

And it is a joy to revisit this modern classic.

This was a film that my extended family (and my nuclear family) loved.

It is truly a city/country dichotomy.

From the very start.

Rednecks tailgate Clark Griswold as the family goes to the boonies in search of a Christmas tree.

But John Hughes does not paint a strictly disparaging portrait of rural folk.

Far from it.

For me, Randy Quaid is far-and-away the star of this film.

It is his best role.

Cousin Eddie.

It makes sense.

Quaid is from Houston.

And he has become quite a colorful character in real life on Twitter these recent years.

Scanning his bio, one can see that he attempted to migrate to Canada…with stops in Vancouver and Montreal.

But all that is secondary.

Quaid’s performance here is legendary.

And so he represents the country/rural pole.

But John Hughes, the film’s writer, did this lovingly.

Quaid is a lovable character here.

Not without faults.

Very three-dimensional.

This is where ’80s comedy approaches Dostoyevsky (in some weird sort of way).

At the other city/urban pole are the Griswold’s yuppie neighbors (notably including Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Hughes takes as least as many pokes at the urban affluent as he does at the rural poor.

And there is nothing loving in his portrayal of the neighbors Todd and Margo.

But all of this is still secondary.

Because this film reminds me of my youth.

Times when things were a little more normal.

A big roaring fireplace out in the country.

And times when my dear cousin was still alive.

In rural areas, there is not much to do but watch movies.

And these were the days of VHS.

And video rental stores.

And so this film comes highly recommended by me.

It may not be one to watch year-round, but for my money it is more important and essential to my being than It’s a Wonderful Life.

One last thing.

Happy New Year to all!

May we not chain-smoke ourselves into early graves.

May we find peace and happiness and be able to handle the stresses of work and life.

I wish this for everyone.

 

-PD

Hector and the Search for Happiness [2014)

The thought occurred to me to give up.

On this website.

And on just about everything.

About a month ago I thought my fiancée dumped me.

And she probably did (in a way).

But it doesn’t matter.

She was sick.

And, thanks be to God, she is getting well again.

And though she couldn’t jump right back in to being my fiancée (after 18 days of darkness), I am learning to live with that.

I am learning to truly love.

Facing my own shortcomings.

Trying to own up (in my own way) to my role in our relationship’s failure.

It was certainly sickness.

Malady.

And act of God.

And then another act of God to stem the tide of her misery.

As she has emerged, I have been very confused.

Confused on where I stand.

I was hurt.

But I am getting over that.

I was hurt that she didn’t seem to want me anymore.

But that wasn’t entirely true.

I am beginning to see now just how far she was pushed.

Just how much her spirit was crushed by her three losses.

  1.  of her child
  2. of her husband
  3. of her mother

And so I happened again upon this wonderful site called Tubi.

Sounds like porn.

It’s not.

It’s free movies (with a minimum of advertisements).

Kicked in the head by a mule (so the saying goes)…and kicked in the head again (and everything’s alright).

Randy Quaid said that.

But there’s more before we get there.

I have had to learn a powerful lesson of love.

I have had to dispense with labels.

I’m pretty sure I’m not engaged anymore (though not entirely sure).

I’m not even sure if I’m in a relationship.

Not even sure if I have a girlfriend.

But that’s the crux of this epiphany.

To her credit, in my frustration and confusion, she reached out and told me she loved me.

This was, granted, even more confusing.

“I don’t want to (can’t?) be engaged to you right now, but I love you.”

To paraphrase.

And I had to dig deep.

I had to trust that I was not being taken.

Not being taken advantage of.

Not being tricked.

And so the prompt appears:

you must love to your fullest ability…without any guarantees.

You must love simply because you DO love.

Either you do, or you don’t.

Either you love someone, or you don’t.

Clarity is good.

Clarity is great.

But not everyone can give us a clear answer.

At the particular time we want them to give such answer.

And that, FINALLY, brings us to this Simon Pegg film.

How’s that for a preamble?!?

Midlife crisis.

Goes chasing his doctor.

His flame.

Love is patient.

Patience.

Letting your other take their journey.

Jesus HAD to be tempted.

Beethoven said it must be.

You gotta see dark and dirty.

What people do for a dollar.

How commerce is impersonal and disrespectful.

A bit like Carl Spackler’s loopering for the Dalai Lama.

Meet friends.

Slave trade seething in urban ruins.

Made new.

Starbucking.

Family.

Happiness.

And unhappiness.

Duty.

Obligation.

Sorrow.

Weighs heavy.

Pushed to Schnabel brink.

Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Extreme sickness.

Hallucination.

Separated from loved ones by the veil between life and death.

Creaky amusement park.

Rusted rides.

Bad call.

Good call.

Sad to deny love.

Sad to even deny sadness.

Sure, this film is not perfect.

A bit hokey.

Often trite.

But not painfully so.

While it is low on eccentricity and originality, it makes up in sincerity.

Pegg is good.

Rosamund Pike is really stunning.

Both of them excel most at then end…on a phone call separated by an ocean.

Stellan Skarsgård is excellent as the jaded international banker.

Jean Reno is powerful in his small role.

Director Peter Chelsom needs to find his own personal voice a bit more.

This film could have been great.

Instead, it is mediocre-to-good.

This whole affair was a bit too vanilla for me, but I’m glad it exists.

 

-PD

This Beautiful Fantastic [2016)

I must admit, I didn’t expect this film to be good.

At all.

Indeed, the thumbnail seemed to indicate that Elizabeth Hurley was the star.

And so this makes two recent movies for which the adverts capitalized on the similarity of their leading ladies to actresses more famous than themselves.

But I am thankful.

Because Elizabeth Hurley could never have pulled this off (though she be a completely competent actress).

No.

This Beautiful Fantastic needed a magic beyond its worldly resources.

And Jessica Brown Findlay brought that magic.

Which is not to say that Simon Aboud did not do a fine job directing our film.

He most certainly did.

One might say this film is about gardens and gardening.

And in a way, it is.

But it is much more about love.

Loss.

Awkwardness.

Work.

Bad luck.

Innocence.

Purity.

Friendship.

OCD.

Introversion.

Jerks.

Coping.

So many strands.

Tom Wilkinson is fantastic here.

But Andrew Scott is equally good.

Wilkinson grounds this production.

Scott is perhaps the prodigy.

Brown Findlay is some pure substance which elevates everything.

She needs these two actors.

But they need her as much if not more.

Jeremy Irvine also has flashes of brilliance here.

I quite enjoyed this movie.

I’m thankful it exists.

So we must delve deeper.

We must admit that Brown Findlay’s lips are to this film as J. Lo’s ass is to Ali G.

Which is to say, Brown Findlay’s lips are almost an additional actor here.

They have a life of their own.

You might call this poor fetishism, but it needs must be said.

These are on par with those of Angelina Jolie.

But there’s a difference.

Brown Findlay’s lips are not freakishly large.

And yet, they draw the eyes.

One cannot look away.

They are always the quivering point of focus in this gossamer production.

Which is also to say, Brown Findlay is really really beautiful.

That is a factor in and of itself.

I seldom say this about any actress.

But it almost goes without saying here.

She is freakishly beautiful.

By which, we mean, breathtaking.

Natural.

Astounding.

And a damn fine actress!

 

-PD

Loving Vincent [2017)

I’m so scared.

My fiancée is very sick.

It has been this way for months.

But her recent decline is awful.

And I don’t know what to do.

I pray.

I try to offer advice.

I try to help.

Bring food that she cannot eat.

Bring water that she cannot drink.

I write.

I call.

But now she cannot even talk on the phone.

She cannot even watch a movie.

I urge her to go to the hospital again.

But I cannot force her.

She does not live with me.

She is staying with her dad right now.

Which brings me to this.

I have a job.

An employer.

But I have no hours.

I am just waiting.

My training is done and I had one shift.

But there was some kind of glitch.

So I am just waiting.

We have argued many times.

Me and my fiancée.

We have broken up several times.

Me with her.

And she with me.

But I love her.

And I don’t want to lose her.

But there’s nothing much I can do.

She had to stop working a week ago.

Ten days.

And now we wait.

But I am nervous.

We have a special bond.

We have endured many hard times, but there is a special bond.

We are both stubborn.

Both outcasts.

Used to standing up for ourselves.

Like two feral cats.

Used to extricating ourselves from unpropitious circumstances.

We have mourned.

And she has borne more sorrow than any one person ought.

And yet I do not want her to go.

In this sad city.

She is my only link to the artistic life.

The only one with whom I share my most precious thoughts.

I don’t know how to approach the present.

Or the coming future.

What will the future hold?

We pray.

Both of us.

We share this.

I have done everything I can.

The only thing I could have done better was everything.

I could have been perfect.

But I’m not.

And I never will be.

I acknowledge my shortcomings.

They are many.

This is not a perfect film.

But it is worth watching.

Ably directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welshman.

Perhaps not the greatest vehicle for my favorite working actress Saoirse Ronan.

More suited to show off the talents of Douglas Booth.

So it goes.

 

-PD

Medianeras [2011)

Here is as close to perfect as I can imagine.

When I clicked on this film on Hulu (translated as Sidewalls), I just expected it to be another film that I would stop watching after 30 seconds.

It vaguely looked like it had Eva Green in it.

Or Natalie Portman.

Thank God it doesn’t.

Instead, it stars Pilar López de Ayala as Mariana and Javier Drolas as Martin.

Indeed, this is the second Argentine film I’ve found which borders on sheer perfection.

The other is El Crítico (which followed two years later in 2013).

It’s true.

Both these films are introspective and self-reflective.

In Medianeras, this is more subtle.

Martin carries around three Tati films in his backpack (the topmost [visible] one being Playtime).

But all of this is academic.

What is important to say is that Medianeras is a cosmic, transcendent romance for the 21st century.

The composition is taut.

The cinematography is deft.

The montage is formidable.

But equally, the writing by director Gustavo Taretto is pristine.

You can look him up.

He’s a big, bushy-bearded 53-year-old.

But I highly admire the mind which came up with this film.

And the eye which brought it to life.

Pilar López de Ayala is magical here.

So many beautiful touches of storytelling.

Sure.

Taretto owes a small debt to Jeunet’s Amélie, but it is ever so small.

Indeed, it is mostly the music (the precious, tick-tock minimalism of the harp) and a pair of sequences involving humorous litanies.

The latter is achieved through copious edits of visual images to match the speaker’s rather cumbersome list(s).

It makes sense.

Amélie was a huge hit on the international stage just ten years prior to Medianeras.

And it too was an excellent film.

So Taretto has borrowed from a source which also indicates his good taste.

But our director has gone much further than merely borrowing.

He has created his own coherent language.

There are amazing sequences with Pilar López de Ayala in her apartment as her next-door neighbor wades through Beethoven and Chopin on a hoisted piano.

It is such that Mariana’s isolated life becomes a sort of postmodern ballet.

Sans dancing.

More brooding than anything.

Playing.

But, above all, being lonely.

And that is what drives this home.

We have a lonely man.

And a lonely woman (Ornette).

And paths which cross.

It’s not just sexual tension, but philosophical tension.

We really don’t know if these two perfect lovers will ever meet.

They are so dangerously close to colliding.

Like electrons.

We want these characters to live forever.

And they do.

In that they are composed of real life foibles.

As both watch Woody Allen in the dark.

And cry.

[as I cry watching them]

And both turn up Daniel Johnston singing “True Love Will Find You in the End”.

As I live with my parents.

[as the late-Daniel Johnston lived with his]

I think.

But I do know this.

That the sidewall in Austin has said, “Hi, how are you?” for so long.

And I am stuck in San Antonio.

Probably a much shittier city than Buenos Aires.

No doubt.

But so achingly-close to my old haunts in Austin.

And I don’t know if I will ever see them again.

Because life is hard.

And my life is generally shit.

“Working” at Starbucks.

Soon enough.

Again.

Not sure.

If my fiancée is dying.

And I am weeping.

Because I can relate to Martin and Mariana.

I can’t sleep.

It is 5 a.m. and I am writing a movie review which probably no one will read.

But I am happy in a strange way.

Because I found a film that reflects my life and makes me feel like all of my romantic longings and eccentricities are not for nothing.

So thank you, Gustavo.

Amazing film!!!

 

-PD

High Noon [1952)

What’s the point?

Says the old lawman who refuses.

Disillusioned.

I hear you, old lawman.

What is the point?

No one here but me.

What did I do wrong?

I could have been perfect, but I wasn’t.

But we all have little High Noons.

Where we can run, or do the right thing.

There’s a lot more left to the night.

And though my heart is hurting, I have stood fast.

In my own little way.

Sure, I feel pathetic.

But in my own way, a hero.

There was an easier path for me tonight.

And last night too.

But tonight was so seductive.

Mind games.

Of right and wrong.

Here I sit.

With no one to talk to.

I’m really not sure what’s happening.

I feel like Gary Cooper at the table with the bullets.

Just me and the bullets.

I have tried really hard.

Maybe not hard enough.

But I can look back and have pride in some of what I’ve done.

When I mess up, I try to rectify the situation.

And so on and so forth…into infinity.

Dimitri Tiomkin’s strings outline the ticking clock.

What’s the point?

Sure, Grace Kelly looks nice…but a little young.

She doesn’t have that same allure she would have later.

But she does the right thing too.

In the end.

We can despise her, but when the guns start firing, she makes up for it all.

Gary Cooper.

On his wedding day.

Kind of an MS-13 trip.

When we see Lee Van Cleef at the very beginning.

And we realize he’s way down the credits.

It’s then that we know this is gonna be good.

Do the right thing.

You might sense Trump here.

Good.

Gets really complex.

At “high noon”, Kane (Cooper) will be either dead or single.

Which is why he has to dig deep.

What is it that makes him stay?

Perhaps the same thing which makes Kelly eventually turn back?

Katy Jurado is good here.

Married to Ernest Borgnine for four years.

This film is a big metaphor.

No one does a damn thing.

Because it’s too hard.

Lloyd Bridges definitely picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.

Bridges plays the quid pro quo sack of shit that tries to unnerve Gary Cooper.

Hell, Harry Morgan is even in this!

You know, Colonel Potter from MASH!

But it’s pretty much just up to Gary Cooper.

Cooper’s mannerisms would later be carried on by Kevin Costner (to name just one).

But here Cooper was all alone.

Sweating.

Sweat as a motif.

Supposed to be in New Mexico.

Would you have the courage to write a will just before your judgement hour?

That’s a lot of temerity.

Maybe this film really revolves around the uncredited role by Jack Elam.

I don’t know.

But this is a film not to be missed!!!

 

-PD

Idiocracy [2006)

Here is a must-see film.

Hear me out.

A movie that didn’t even make a million dollars at the box office.

13 years ago.

A very prescient take on America.

From the dude who gave us Beavis and Butt-Head.

I was lucky enough to meet Luke Wilson years ago.

If I had to choose a favorite contemporary male actor, it would probably be him.

I am not a big fan of Maya Rudolph (at all), but she does well here.

Dax Shepard does a really good job here.

Jetskis in the reflecting pool of the Washington Monument.

President with Mountain Dew for a middle name.

A La-Z-Boy with a toilet in it.

Doctor Lexus.

Pictographs for sub-literate emergency room receptionist.

Gatorade coming out of water fountains.

Water has been phased out.

Not enough electrolytes.

Big box store gone badder.

Costco.

Starbucks is where you get hand jobs.

Showdown with Beef Supreme.

Welcome to Costco.  I love you.

Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

Really, this film is very, very intelligent.

There are some priceless moments.

The automated Carl’s Jr. kiosk is one of the highlights.

So many amazing little details here and there.

I suppose it is a cult film.

And with good reason.

It is strange, but it is an essential film.

Kudos to Mike Judge.

 

-PD

Das Boot [1981)

Here we sit at the bottom of the ocean.

280 meters below Gibraltar.

On a high place.

In a film which (throughout) performs the strange trick of forcing us through cinematic language to sympathize with a boat full of Nazis.

Funny trick, that.

I challenge you to watch this film and see if you don’t also end up pulling for the Nazi U-boat crew.

There is no shame in it.

For Das Boot is itself a propaganda film.

But to what end?

It seems, more than anything, like an intellectual exercise.

And it is precisely because it eschews convention that it is an enjoyable and riveting film.

Indeed, it comes close to being a masterpiece.

It is also a case study in personalities.

Nothing magnifies personality clashes like a claustrophobic metal tube.

I guess we all have to pay our dues.

And sometimes we have to pay them again.

Perhaps we are always paying dues.

Until we are dead.

The stress can drive you crazy.

And there are always people floating in the water.

Which is to say, life is war.

A war to feed ourselves.

To retain shelter.

To ward off the tax man.

To warm our bones.

To stay dry and clothed against the elements.

Urgent need to let some rest.

In need of medical attention.

Eating an orange like a scurvied maniac.

In which you root for the Nazis.

Like Godard as a boy in Switzerland.

In this strange, strange film.

And then the Allied hammer comes down.

And you are shown your sins.

You realize you have been rooting for the Nazis.

And as you watch them die, you are sad.

Because they were the stars of a good story.

And you became emotionally invested in them.

Even though they were (in reality) scumbags.

Or maybe they were just doing their jobs.

This isn’t sympathy for concentration camp guards.

This is a portrait of the poor schmucks who were floating on (and beneath) the sea.

And if I remember correctly, 75% of the 40,000 U-boat submariners in WWII died.

These guys had a very slim chance of surviving this ordeal.

Hard to tell if this is a great film (elegant simplicity) or a shit film (clunky ending).

It’s worth watching, though.

 

-PD

Saturday Night Fever [1977)

Shitty night.

Sickness.

Hard.

Lonely.

Engaged.

Up all night.

No one.

Misery.

Travolta is magnificent here.

Great direction by John Badham.

With very few caveats.

Badham went on to direct another great film:  WarGames.

Donna Pescow was way hotter than Karen Lynn Gorney.

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

Stephanie says.

Good acting by Martin Shakar as Frank Jr.

His odd blandness inside the 2001 Odyssey discotheque.

Weird dichotomy of the religious life and the nightclub scene.

And of course West Side Story.

Robert Stigwood and rock music.

Here disco.

Fantastic Bee Gees!

Real shit.

Weak ending.

But this is an excellent film.

It is, in its own way, of a fabric that includes grit like Dirty Harry and Death Wish.

This is an essential film.

 

-PD