Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy [2004)

The world is fucked up.

This is probably the craziest year most of us have ever lived through.

When has the world, in its entirety, faced such chaos in recent memory?

9/11 brought us terror on a horrific, spectacular* level.

Guy Debord predicted this in 1967 with his seminal book La société du spectacle.

No, he did not pull a Nostradamus (who happens to share my birthday).

He did not predict the three towers (including the 47-story WTC7) falling into their own footprints.

But he predicted something much more useful, or at least applicable, to our present times.

The “locus of illusion” that Debord talked about remains (though it be besieged on all sides) television.

For our purposes, we shall call it “video”.

Moving pictures.

Debord also predicted our current age of social-media dominance.

Though he could not name it then, he described it perfectly as, “a social relationship between people…mediated by images.”

What does the word “Facebook” evoke when you hear it?

Does it sound a bit like a dating site?

What role do memes (manipulated images) play in our social discourse?

“The spectacle”, Debord told us, “…turns reality on its head.”

How much of what you hear “on the news” (whether that be television, radio, Internet, social media) do you trust?

Because you are smart, dear reader, you consider the source.

And so do I.

Debord wanted to say something about fakes.

The epigrammatic beginning to the first chapter of The Society of the Spectacle gets right to this point.

It was the philosopher Feuerbach who said that in, “…the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to essence…illusion only is sacred, truth profane.”

Ludwig Feuerbach wrote those words in the 1800s.

But the Irish rock band U2 would come to a similar epiphany in their song “Even Better Than the Real Thing”.

Debord wanted to talk about fake-ness.

But he also wanted to qualify his description of “the spectacle”.

For Debord, “reality erupts within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real”.

To translate (from French to English to philosophy to layman’s terms), there are some aspects of our image-driven information culture that are real (though a good deal of fake news exists).  But owing to the lack of a competing narrative to the overwhelming chorus of voices in agreement (corporate news), “the spectacle” (whatever the talking heads tell you) is, de facto, real.  Never mind that it might all be rubbish.  The sheer repetition of certain truths–day after day, hour after hour (from all the many “options” [ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post])–renders those “truths” the currency of “factual” discourse.  Without an independent, competing narrative from alternative news sources (which currently lack the scale and reach to pose a symmetric threat to “legacy media”), whatever the aforementioned “usual suspects” (ABCBSNBC…) tell you is TRUE becomes “truth” the moment they report it.  The national news coverage of American current events is indistinguishable whether one has ABC, CBS, or NBC dialed up on the tele.

But the times, they are a-changin’.

Donald Trump’s 3+ years in office have been “a moment of falsehood”, which is to say, truth.

As Debord wrote, “In a world that really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.”

Debord seemed to be describing the “legacy media” when he wrote of an entity “out of reach and beyond all dispute”.

Of particular concern in this current situation (which already existed in Debord’s day) is the role that vision plays in our mediated understanding of the world.

As Debord wrote, “…it is inevitable that it should elevate the human sense of sight to the special place once occupied by touch…”.

He goes on to describe “sight” as, “…the most abstract of the senses, and the most easily deceived…”.

Think about a painting by Monet.

Waterlilies.

What are you seeing?

You are seeing the work of someone [Monet] whose eyesight was impaired.  Literally.  But though it be impaired, he still painted wonderful, huge canvases which EVOKED the atmosphere of a pond with waterlilies.

You are seeing blurry images.

Your brain has to fill in the details.

You are not seeing a high-definition photograph.

Furthermore, you are seeing oil paints which have been applied to a cloth canvas.

You are seeing a depiction.

This takes us all the way back to Plato’s “cave”, but I digress…

What happens when the big three TV networks in the U.S. get something wrong?

What about the New York Times and Washington Post (to just name the two most widely-distributed offenders)?

Do any of these entities make a concerted, SINCERE effort arising from true integrity to correct their previous, faulty coverage on events?

Debord could answer before the question was asked…because he knew the nature of these organizations (even in his native France).

He wrote, “The spectacle is by definition immune from human activity, inaccessible to any projected review or correction.  It is the opposite of dialogue.”

Social media changed this briefly.

But now, Twitter is acting like the generalissimo of a banana republic by banning accounts which “promote” the “conspiracy theory” known as QAnon.

This is just one example–from one social media platform–where the fleeting dialogue which threatened (?) “the spectacle” has been shut down.

Google, working closely with the communist Chinese government, is all too happy to facilitate similar totalitarian censorship in China…all for a buck (or yuan).

So let’s talk about vision/sight for a moment.

Did George Floyd die under the knee of Derek Chauvin?

All of the “usual suspects” (ABCBSNBC) tell me he did.

And there’s video!

Video never lies, does it?

I mean…movies are all true, right?

Is the video that Darnella Frazier ostensibly shot on her cell phone “documentary” footage?

It may be more than one thing.

It is possible to honestly document fake-ness (without knowing you are filming a pageant).

Have you ever seen an actress cry on command?

I have.

It is quite an astounding thing.

I have a friend who is a major motion-picture actress.

She once burst out in tears…right next to me.

I started to offer my condolences.

I was generally concerned.

I almost started crying.

Then she abruptly jumped out of character with a smile…to let me know she was just pranking me.

It was VERY convincing.

She had never done that to me before.

It was novel.

I had no experience against which to measure her crying fit.

I thought of her as a friend first and as an actress second.

I forgot, temporarily, that she was unequivocally a professional faker.

But Guy Debord saw more to “the spectacle” than just a stream of fake-ness.

Debord seemed to also sense an approaching hour when human relations would become totally stifled.

To hear Debord tell it, “Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle.”

Both its goal and its essence.

While mass media seems to bring us together (shared touchstones, talismans…), in actuality, it separates us more from one another.

We are always obliged to mention what “the news” says about a certain topic.

It is rare (almost impossible) that two people have a conversation where they each give their opinion of a recent event and “the spectacle” (a mass, homogenized media) is not invoked (in deferential terms) at some stage as a reference point.

Debord describes the “weapons of that system” as ranging “from cars to television”:  all meant to “reinforce the isolation of ‘the lonely crowd'”.

But Guy Debord was not merely taking aim at television and mass media.  He saw further.  He seems to have, though writing in 1967, seen the inevitably of the Internet.

As he describes it, “The spectacle is a map of this new world–a map drawn to the scale of the territory itself.”

While this is indeed a reference to a story by Borges (the world=the map), Debord’s insight in applying this to mass communication and information dissemination is extraordinarily prescient.

Guy Debord, it must be said, was not without fault.

Most importantly, he was an avowed Marxist.

So his perspicacity ended where mass media stops and economics begins.

Which brings us to the film Anchorman…

Will Ferrell is awkward here.

And gloriously so!

We get gender division.

1970s.

As today we continue to get race divisions.

Who is driving this?

Cui bono?

The British were quite good at “divide and conquer”.

In the Indian subcontinent, Hindus and Muslims had lived relatively peaceably together…until the British decided to stoke this latent division for cynical ends.

“If the Hindus and Muslims are fighting each other, they can’t pose a unitary threat to us.”

That is what I can imagine British military strategists saying at the time when India was under their occupation.

And it worked.

It was brilliant.

Evil, but brilliant.

Ask yourself a question:  who benefits (cui bono) from blacks and whites and Hispanics and Asians and police and civilians in America being divided and at each other’s throats?

What series of events led to the isolation (frustration) needed to create the current powder keg that went up in smoke with the George Floyd event?

Ron Burgundy will read anything that is put in front of him on a Tele-Promp-Ter.

…as evidenced by his most unfortunate sign-off, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego!”

Which brings us to Joe Biden.

FDR managed to keep it a secret that he was stricken with polio.

He was carted around in a wheelchair during his Presidency.

He had the Resolute desk in the Oval Office modified so that a panel on the front obscured the prying eyes of news cameras.

You could not see his legs fastened to his wheelchair.

And the press obliged.

They loved FDR.

Good old liberal, Democrat FDR.

Elected to the Presidency FOUR times (an American record).

In the White House for over 12 (!) years.

Our Constitution was amended to make this impossible from there on out.

Now the limit is eight years (two terms).

All that notwithstanding, FDR never lost his mental faculties to any significant degree.

He had a physical disability which prevented him from ambulating fully.

Joe Biden can walk fairly well.

Sadly, there is no desk panel that can hide his mental deterioration.

It is there.  It will be there.  And it will get worse.

Which makes Joe Biden a FAR MORE RIDICULOUS candidate than Donald Trump.

And again, “the spectacle” is running defense for Biden.

Making excuses.

Tossing softball questions (if any at all).

The best thing that vicious, Marxist Democrats in the United States can come up with is a dud missile named Joe Biden.

He is harmless (to extend the missile metaphor), and in that he is very harmful.

He is, as regards the responsibilities of the Chief of the Executive Branch, useless.

Which gives us just one more example of how fakes are being foisted upon us.

Never has there been such a poor candidate for the American Presidency as Joe Biden.

It is becoming apparent to all that, if elected, he would not run his own government.

What a sham!

Why didn’t the Democrats have the foresight to nominate Cory Booker or Kamala Harris?

It couldn’t be because they are RACIST, could it?

Remember, Donald Trump is such a horrible misogynist.

How was it that the Democrats failed to nominate Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar?

Democrats REALLY care about Latinos in the U.S.

That’s why they failed to nominate a guy named Castro.

Democrats are so diverse!

That’s why they passed on nominating a guy named Yang.

And what did the Democrats end up with?

A halfwit, old, white man named Joe Biden.

Halfwit is really too kind a descriptor here.

The mobs wanted Ron Burgundy’s head.

Because he told them to “go fuck themselves”.

But it was a false-flag.

Did Ron Burgundy write the line, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego!” on the Tele-Promp-Ter?

No.

Veronica Corningstone did.

Did the truth about who REALLY wrote it come out?

No.

Not even from a news organization.

Burgundy was summarily fired and his life went to shit.

He ended up wandering the streets like a cross between fat Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer-influenced) and Brian Wilson.

Bathrobe and cheeseburgers.

Nilsson Schmilsson.

Drinking milk in the…hot sun!

But what goes around comes around.

Ms. Corningstone is pushed into a bear pit at the zoo.

An unenviable position, that.

And it takes a little dog to diffuse the situation.

A mob of bears.

A proud species.

Wronged by this intrusion into their hibernation.

But Baxter, the little dog, has a message.

“These are not the droids you are looking for.”

The bears consider the source.

They will not take Ron Burgundy’s word for it.

They will not take Veronica Corningstone’s word for it.

But they will listen to a fellow creature from the animal kingdom.

“I know your cousin,” Baxter says (and I paraphrase).

Baxter’s message rings true.

The bears reconsider.

They are able to retreat gracefully.

Baxter has just acted as crisis negotiator.

A feel-good movie ends with former enemies expressing respect for one another.

Respect.

Not total reconciliation.

But a cessation of the mad chaos.

Brick Tamland (played brilliantly by Steve Carell) ends up (we are told) becoming a “top political advisor” to the Bush administration.

Mass media.

The spectacle.

Hollywood could not help taking a pot shot at a Republican President (even in a light-hearted comedy [and even though the bastard Bush deserved it]).

Why?

Because Bush was a (shitty) Republican (and a war criminal).

But for the eight years of Obama’s Presidency (and the eight years of Bill Clinton’s Presidency), you never saw Hollywood comment (on film) about the merits of these two Democrats.

Why?

Because the Democrat Party is inseparable from the mass media in the United States.

So let me ask you one final question:

do you think you are getting the truth about President Trump, coronavirus, George Floyd, or anything else from this tight-knit cabal of fakers?

Stay classy!

 

-PD

UHF [1989)

Here’s a masterpiece of a movie.

I didn’t think so the first time I watched it.

I was a little preoccupied.

But this time I had a reason to be more emotionally invested.

Mops!

That’s right, mops.

Mops play a big role in this movie.

Spatulas also make a sort of cameo.

But mops predominate.

In particular, there is a special mop which is almost like a character in this film.

It doesn’t talk.

It doesn’t have a name.

But it is more than a MacGuffin.

Stanley Spadowski (the true star of this movie) received the mop in question for his 8th birthday.

And, apparently, he used that mop well into adulthood.

He decorated it with various bits of colored electrical tape.

And it was with this mop that he dutifully fulfilled his role as janitor at a major local TV news station:  Channel 8.

But one day, Spadowski (played brilliantly by Michael Richards) found himself to be, in the tradition of Hitchcock, “the wrong man”.

Spadowski did nothing wrong.

He was not careless.

Even though he didn’t possess a notable intellect per se, he gave his all to his janitorial profession.

…and he actually enjoyed it.

Mopping.

Scrubbing.

Stanley Spadowski took pride in his work at Channel 8.

But, as “the wrong man”, he suddenly found himself blamed and scapegoated.

Though his unscrupulous employer made no effort to prove Spadowski’s guilt, Spadowski could not PROVE his innocence.

It was a quick exchange…

Q:  Did you do this?

A:  No.

Q:  I don’t believe you.  You’re fired.

Something like that.

Very capricious.

And, thus, Spadowski was crushed.

But the most crushing blow for Stanley was when the station owner’s son (also an employee [l’il bit ‘o nepotism]) confiscated Stanley’s mop as “station property”.

It was not.

But Stanley was helpless.

Thunderstruck.

Aghast.

Stanley had no one to stand up for him.

Yet, though he didn’t get what the wanted (to retain his job at Channel 8), he got what he needed:  a new job as janitor of the UHF station 62.

And all of this because one man observed the pitiable scene of Stanley being deprived of his tool of the trade (which he had used since childhood).

That man was “Weird Al” Yankovic.

As in the movie (where “Weird Al” is the station manager of “U62”), Yankovic was also the brains behind this movie itself.

He wrote it.

With someone named Jay Levey.

Mr. Levey directed this “cult classic”.

If it tells you anything, Levey still does not have a Wikipedia page in English…41 years after this movie came out.

So I am going to assume that Levey did not go on to bigger and brighter things in the film industry.

That being said, it appears this film actually realized a 20% profit (box office – budget = x [x/budget = profit as a %]).

But let’s get back into Stanley Spadowski (a character “Weird Al” or Levey must have invented).

I’d bet money that Yankovic came up with this character.

But this character could not have come to life without the talents of Michael Richards.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, could have pulled it off.

Michael Richards is a very underrated actor.

If you look on iTunes, you are apt to see a mere two films in which Richards plays anything approximating a significant role.

One is this:  UHF.

The other is another sort of “diamond in the rough”:  Transylvania 6-5000.

The latter would be a mostly-unwatchable, tedious comedy were it not for Richards’ breakout performance.

Richards distinguished himself as Fejos in that film four years prior to UHF.

Indeed, just a fortnight before UHF was released in 1989, Seinfeld premiered as The Seinfeld Chronicles.

Richards played the role of Kessler.

As The Seinfeld Chronicles became Seinfeld, Kessler became Kramer.

The world, in general, knows Michael Richards as [Cosmo] Kramer.

The show ran for nine years.

But let’s adjust our tack a bit here.

Who is Stanley Spadowski?

I would argue that he is the “cousin” (so to speak) of Carl Spackler:  the groundskeeper in 1980’s Caddyshack.

Where Spackler is laconic, Spadowski is prone to frenzy.

And yet, these two characters are cut from a similar cloth.

Spackler (Bill Murray) always has his impermeable camouflage bucket hat.

And usually a dirt-and-sweat-stained T-shirt.

Baggy cargo shorts.

And combat boots.

Appearing in 1980, Carl Spackler would have probably been seen as a nutty Vietnam vet.

Indeed, Spackler is tasked by his boss (the HEAD groundskeeper) to take care of the golf course’s gopher problem.

In hilarious fashion, Spackler goes after the gophers…even employing plastic explosives.

Spadowski is also a T-shirt guy.

With suspenders.

Always suspenders.

And whether they are real or fake (I think fake), Spadowski has noticeable (and endearing) bucked teeth.

He can hardly keep them in his mouth.

He is awkward.

He usually speaks slowly.

But when he gets excited, he is like a fire hydrant that’s just been opened.

What’s important about Spadowski and Spackler is that they are everymen.

They are most certainly underdogs.

And UHF, at its heart, is an underdog story.

U62, the channel, is an underdog.

It is not a network affiliate.

UHF (as opposed to VHF) was the television equivalent of AM radio (as opposed to FM).

Local stations.

Questionable programming.

Shoestring budgets.

You could find ANYTHING on UHF television or AM radio.

Anything was possible.

There was less control.

Today, in my town, my favorite radio station is run by a Methodist church.

Their format (vaguely) is “oldies”.

But their programming swings a bit wildly…and usually I love them for it.

They play songs I’ve never heard.

Occasionally a similar station will pop up in the same range of the dial using this “none of the hits–all of the time” approach (only to disappear back into the ocean of static which separates one clear-signal island from another).

U61 is this sort of beast.

Which makes sense.

Because it is run by a dreamer:  George Newman (“Weird Al”).

George starts off this film flipping burgers.

This may be a reference to the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

“Weird Al” gets fired.

The tone of the scene is very similar to Fast Times…

Which brings up an important point.

UHF is a pastiche.

It is stream-of-consciousness.

The narrative shifts wildly with non sequitur episodes interpolated here and there.

UHF makes continuous reference to the pop culture of its day:  the 1980s.

And this makes sense because the creator of this film was “Weird Al”:  best known as a musician specializing in parodies (usually of contemporary hits).

I hate to get all artsy-fartsy here, but I would dare say there is a modicum of post-modernism in “Weird Al”‘s filmic approach.

And, perhaps more importantly, a noticeable measure of Thelonious Monk (autism?) in Stanley Spadowski.

Idiot-savant.

And so UHF is a work of art which captures awkwardness in some of the same ways that Napoleon Dynamite and Poto and Cabengo do (respectively).

The message is:  be yourself.

You have value.

There is a person out there for you.

There is a job that is right for you.

There are no guarantees.

But you won’t be happy anyway if you’re not being yourself.

 

-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

Miranda [2009-2015)

Here is a lovely TV show called Miranda starring the inimitable Miranda Hart.

A big, goofy, awkward, and endearing woman.

I share a birthday with her.

Tom Ellis is quite good as Gary.

I hear he’s gone on to play Lucifer.

Yikes!

Sarah Hadland is good as Stevie (the titular Miranda’s best friend).

Tit-ular.

Patricia Hodge plays Miranda’s mum.

Such fun!

Sally Phillips’ character Tilly punctures the romance of this sitcom with her ridiculous, Joycean patois.

Bear with.  Bear with…

James Holmes (not the Colorado movie theater shooter) has a few good bits as Clive.

Adrian Scarborough is strangely essential.

He bloody loves crisps!

I was so glad to see Mark Heap here as the therapist.

I had missed him since binging Spaced.

I must admit:  I had many laugh-out-loud moments while watching this series.

There is quite a bit of physical comedy.

Miranda Hart really is a special comedienne.

And while Belinda Stewart-Wilson’s small role as Stinky might cause you to pine away,

Miranda is really the winner here.

Beauty is, indeed, deeper.

 

-PD

Cinderfella [1960)

Here is a masterpiece.

I was wrong to dismiss it so suddenly.

On first viewing.

The fairy godfather and the schmaltzy song by the pool I couldn’t stomach.

But I tried again.

Because the juicer is so good!

AND THE KITCHEN DANCE (!)

So it’s true.

Jerry Lewis made AT LEAST TWO perfect films.

This one and The Nutty Professor.

And it gives me hope with which to plumb the depths of his full oeuvre.

The little mattress on the big set of springs.

The one cheap sheet hiding this dismal arrangement.

AND THE DINNER!

Holy crap!!

That is my life!!!

Forever catering to the whims of dickheads.

Forever going back and forth…for sugar cubes.

And to pour the wine.

And to light a cigarette.

[but mainly to sugar caffeinated beverages]

Out of breath…

Jerry Lewis.

Overworked.

Mucho trabajo, poco dinero.

Pablito!

This film celebrates us nerds!!!

Revenge.

Sure…

But really it’s a much sweeter, more pure vindication.

Nothing nasty about it.

Jerry combing his hair in the toaster’s reflection.

And a little touch-up in the reflection of the Rolls’s front grill.

And that haircut!

Buzz cut.

Except for the little shock of normality above the forehead.

Anna Maria Alberghetti is fantastic as Princess Charming!

So light.

So airy.

So sweet.

But it all goes back to the kitchen dance.

Post- puffs on a ciggy.

Dropped in the sink.

To mimic the entire Basie band.

Rahsaan would have been proud.

To feel it.

The touch notes on the piano.

The little Basie accents.

So lazy.

So classy.

And the air drums.

Brushes.

Buh-da-loop da loop.

Buh-ruh-rump!!!

And that sax, man!

Bari!!!

Blowin’ out the cheeks like Dizzy ( )

Duck walking.

Chuck Berry kicks.

A whole sax section in one mouth.

Fucking genius!

In truth, there are a lot of plot parallels between Cinderfella and The Nutty Professor.

We almost sense Buddy Love in the staircase scene.

But Jerry comes out verbally bumbling.

And humble.

AND HE DANCES LIKE JULIUS KELP IN THE PROM WHITE SUIT!!!

Manic, man…

Bloody jaw-dropping.

 

-PD

Dumb and Dumber [1994)

Here is a truly great movie.

I walked out of the theater the first time I encountered this film.

In 1994.

I only made it about 10 minutes.

It was godawful.

But then years later I found the key to unlock this masterpiece.

Aw-kward.

-ness.

The way Lloyd Christmas’s front tooth is chipped.

His ludicrous bowl cut.

And Harry’s mess of blonde, frizzy locks.

Jim Carrey is excellent in this film.

I may not agree with his hysterical (not funny) politics these days (and I don’t), but there’s no denying his talent as Lloyd Christmas.

He was born for this role.

But what makes this really a masterpiece is that Jeff Daniels is equally good as his sidekick.

Daniels is a hell of an actor.

A very accomplished thespian.

Carey is more the Jerry Lewis type, but that’s neither here nor there.

But let’s give credit where credit is due.

The Farrelly brothers (Peter and Bobby) wrote an excellent vehicle for these two actors.

And Peter did a magnificent job as director of this picture.

But let’s not leave out Lauren Holly.

Her performance here is indispensable.

Mike Starr is also great as the mobster on the tail of Lloyd and Harry.

So while this might seem like a throwaway, disposable flick, it is, in reality, a well-thought-out, genius piece of cinema…if one can merely manage to get inside its eccentricity.

 

-PD

Borat [2006)

This may be the funniest film ever made.

🙂

Really!

An erudite film critic shouldn’t admit such, should they?

But I learned long ago that I must have my own voice.

I can scour the Earth for every film to which Jean-Luc Godard made reference in Histories(s) du cinéma, but I still must contend with my own personal predilections.

We like stuff because it resonates with us.

For me, the realization was with the Romanian New Wave…and ’80s American comedies 🙂

The serious, austere, heartrending, bleak works of the Romanian New Wave have not been canonized by Godard.

Godard, the man, will (sadly) pass away.

Which is a terrible thought to me.

Because he has made his best films [sic] in his “later” years.

But the Romanian New Wave was “mine”.

I discovered it by accident.

And I dug a little deeper.

I would say about 90% of Romanian film resonates with me in a powerful way.

Almost as much as French film resonates with me.

But then I had to come to term with ’80s American comedies.

These were the things on which I grew up 🙂

And there is no greater joy in my film-viewing experience than to see a film which elicits hyperventilating belly laughs 🙂

And so, Borat [directed brilliantly by Larry Charles].

If Sacha Baron Cohen never again makes a good film, he’s still a genius in my book…based solely on this one masterpiece.

No, it is not Citizen Kane.

But it is something.

Something closer to Cohen’s hero Peter Sellers.

And to the bent mind of Andy Kaufman.

Borat Sagdiyev is the epitome of awkward…once he is placed within American society.

He is from the “backwards” land of Kazakhstan.

[of course, there is a great deal of exaggeration in this film…because such caricature can be quite funny]

The special thing about Borat (and Cohen, working through Borat) is that HE INSULTS EVERYBODY 🙂

Borat very much prefigures the Trump Presidency.

Not to mention the young Trump supporters fond of Pepe the Frog 😉

The idea is, “Lighten the fuck up!”

Laugh a little.

Laugh at yourself.

And, naughty naughty, laugh at what you’re not SUPPOSED to laugh at.

The forbidden subjects of laughter make us laugh the heartiest.

Our conscience kicks in.

We feel BAD about making light of such and such.

But it is a reflex:  it just simply is fucking funny 🙂

Nothing is going to take the fun out of this world quicker than those who scrub history, those who censor films, those who impose sensitivity training liberally…

Let’s get nitty-gritty.

Ken Davitian is excellent as Borat’s assistant Azamat Bagatov.

Nothing like having to hairdry the balls of your boss 🙂

[not to mention “back pussy”]

Yes, the humor is SO WRONG.

So bad!

But, as I overheard two days ago at the video story, white guys still reminisce fondly about Eddie Murphy standup routines.

Not exactly my bag, but I get it.

[and black guys, hispanic guys…Eddie Murphy was very much a “taboo” comedian]

Which brings us to Lenny Bruce.

I love Lenny Bruce.

Guy was messed up.

But he was brave.

So the point is, crude humor is maybe not the smartest…maybe not the best influence on society…but we need a little of it, it seems.

Maybe it’s because we’re all sinners?

I don’t know.

I don’t want to get too theological.

If I was a better Christian, perhaps I would repudiate Borat.

But I simply cannot do that.

And so I’ll keep it brief:

God works in mysterious ways.

I may be wrong.

But this film helps my heart with a laughter unlike any other.

 

-PD

Tokyo Fiancée [2014)

I have been absent.

Because work.

Not working, but looking.

Labor.

Jobs.

Money.

Healthcare.

I have been absent because anxiety.

Always.

But better.

Walking.

Stretching.

Exercise.

Rest.

Time.

And now the cosmos brings me a perfect film.

Because Pauline Étienne.

Actress full of joy.

But the grand auteur is Stefan Liberski.

Every color.

Every gesture.

You must pinstripe, tuck up your hair you haven’t.

You must primary color.

Yellow and red.  Made in U.S.A.

“You must fall in love with me,” says Pauline Étienne.

“I command you.”

[she continues]

And of all the girls in the world, the Belgians and Finnish are the most diabolically beautiful on film.

Godard said the Swiss.

Clear bias.

And so we have a Belgian film set in Japan.

If we try hard, we can hear Debussy.  Estampes…

Pagodes…

Sado Island… […]

To dream in the rain.

Cross the bridge.

And the river steams.

You seek a nectarine.

A noisy kiss.

Pauline Étienne.

Buttermilk legs joy rollerskate skinny.

Was taken from Salinger.

Joyce said spittoon.

As cuspidor.

The most beautiful word.

Girl.

Some films, books so good…too much to handle.

My wish.

To marry.

To have that happiness.

A mere handful of fives away from Valentine’s.

When Colombia and Ecuador will be pumping out roses for Starbuckers.

All along.

They said that sex was uncouth.

Or resorted to farm metaphors of propagating species.

But.

They couldn’t talk about love.

Excitement.

When your breath is stolen by a cold kiss.

In the autumn.

Winter.

And yet warmth from optimism.

But we must get on to the little back alleys of Tokyo.

And for a moment stop this dream.

To be born.

In Japan.

Of Belgian parents.

Does not a Japanese make.

I can suck the life out of Auden.

Elliptical.

Though I thought I was aping Céline.

But director Stefan Liberski is aping no one.

personne

We must mention the author and not the auteur, though in French there is no difference (save for the milieu of cinema).

And she gives us a fantastic story.

Amélie Nothomb.

No thumb.

Better than “all thumbs”.

Rhombus.

Can you suck on a diamond lozenge from a ring?

Lots of sucking.

But that’s the aw-kward + loneliness which makes a great film.

This one just happens to pull in Belgique and Nippon to boot.

It depends.

On her yellow socks.

On her haircut.

Pauline Étienne.

On sweater with blue stripes.

Like Edward Hopper did the cinematography.

But the Francophones have it figured out.

Every trick.

Which is to say.

No tricks.

Just emotion.

Realism.

No bullshit.

Embrace the history of film.

Compare and contrast.

What works?  What doesn’t?

What speaks to you?  How does a culture (French, par exemple) see a film?

Answer:  it doesn’t fucking matter.

What matters is the overflowing love and romance which infuses Tokyo Fiancée.

Only thing Lars von Trier ever did well was film Kirsten Dunst in the nude.

Stefan Liberski surpasses von Trier’s entire oeuvre with this one film.

Yes, I’m polemic as fuck!

I’ll take François Truffaut (the film critic) and a bottle of white wine for my friend.

I like red.

And Guy Debord.

I’ll take chances.

Damn.

I have taken so many fucking chances.

But we get scared.

Worn out.

Frightened by inexperience.

All of that is in the film.

Taichi Inoue is really sweet as Rinri.

But I keep coming back to Pauline Étienne.

She has cast a spell over me.

And I must ask:  who does she signify?

Forget the character name.

For each sad soul who dreams their way to the end.

She represents someone.

Fondue.

Teeth which nave never left the village.

New born yellow as unripe baby corn.

On the farm.

Maybe.

A different register (accent?) of French in Belgium.

Immediately recognizable to a Parisian.

And with little modesty lambasted as yokel French.

But perhaps the Belgians and Quebecois have this in common.

A cause for solidarity.

And add in the Swiss…with their weird counting and smoky lisp.

Is it?

Tokyo Fiancée hits harder than La Religieuse (2013) because it is not stilted nor steeped in period costumes.

Just tell a fucking story, we say.

Pauline Étienne.  Born in Ixelles.

How could anyone from such a place be any less than ravishing?

When we think in microcosm.

If we only know one Indian person.

They become India.

For us.

And complicate this with a multicultural relationship.

That is the gasoline of Tokyo Fiancée.

It is clean.  And genius.  Like Magritte.

A bowler hat.  An apple.  And MoMA depth.

We want to be in this Japan.

Because the eyes have captured the essence of magic.

Ingenuity.

Frivolity.

Fun.

Tokyo Fiancée succeeds at every point where Lost in Translation failed (which was at every point).

This is the real deal.

Real acting.

Real art.

Not a dilettante piece.

Sofia Coppola should send her usage permissions for My Bloody Valentine and Kevin Shields tracks to Stefan Liberski posthaste.

Such music is the only thing which could make Tokyo Fiancée any better.

And yet, it is a perfect film.

Don’t fuck with perfection.

Maybe again MBV and Liberski can have a meeting of minds.

But make sure to include the Anna Karina of our age.

Pauline Étienne.

An actress for which Francophonie has been searching for 60 years.

Well, here she is.

And this is the model:  Tokyo Fiancée.

Let the joy in her heart hit the screen (splat!).

Jump on the bed.  Ahhh!!!

In the mountains.  Wooh!  The rush.

An actress with all 21 petals on her Fibonacci daisy.

Which is to say, fully capable of cinema immortality.

I believe it was Mallarmé who wrote of “bursting pomegranates” (!)

Very few films have ever had this effect on me.

And I needed this one very bad.

To confirm that there are quirky, special people in the world.

That there are eyes who see beauty in the details I notice.

And that genius in the cinema is not dead.

Thank you Mr. Liberski.

And thank you Pauline Étienne for your performance which has brought hope to a very sad person in Texas.

Je veux exprimer ma plus profonde gratitude.

C’est infini.

-PD

Hateship, Loveship [2014)

This one is a mind-bender.

I must admit…I thought I was watching a Weinstein brothers production.

I know, I know.

But the truth is, I went through several mediocre films to find this gem.

Truly Strange:  The Secret Life of Breasts.  Nope.

3rd World Cops.  ¡Ay, carambas!

The Girl in the Book.  Non.

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq. Extrême ennui.

Zoom.  Ugh…

Say It Isn’t So.  No thanks.

Lovelace.  Not quite.

And finally the film under consideration:  Hateship, Loveship.

At some point I saw the Weinstein brothers’ names.

I can’t seem to pin it down.

But suffice it to say that it certainly wasn’t in relation to the film under review.

Which is to say, finding a good film can be a lot of work.

And reading this review is probably a lot of work as well.

But I hope I save you some small measure of time.

And perhaps guide you to a cinematic treasure which you might have otherwise overlooked.

I have nothing against the Weinstein brothers.

I know hardly anything about them.

But somehow it stuck.

“I’m watching a Weinstein brothers film,” I thought.

But as this minor masterpiece progressed, I further mused, “My goodness, these guys don’t just make crap with explosions.”

Let’s take a short look.

Inglorious Basterds.  One of the worst films ever made.

The Imitation Game.  Good one.

St. Vincent.  Not good.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno.  Meh.

So I would have been right to be incredulous.

Upon further review.

Considering that the Weinstein brothers have largely saturated the world with unwatchable crap.

But Hateship, Loveship is a different story.

To reiterate, this film has nothing to do with the esteemed Weinsteins.

I’m sure they are honorable fellows.

It was just my tired brain which mistook a very fine film (something which they are unaccustomed to making) for one of theirs.

Indeed, it appears the big cheese responsible for this quite stellar film (which grossed a whopping $80,588 [sic] at the box office) was a chap by the name of Michael Benaroya.

And I can honestly say, whatever he sunk into the project was money well-spent.

The direction, by Liza Johnson, is really remarkable.

A lesser film critic would make some comparison to The Truman Show and call it a day.

But I aspire to more.

The connection is simple.

Jim Carrey (once upon a time) tried to do dramatic acting.

The result was The Truman Show.

A good-to-mediocre film.

He’s probably done other “dramatic” stuff, but I could really give a fuck.

In OUR film, a funny lady tells no jokes.

Yes, not to be too murderously-cryptic…but Kristen Wiig plays it straight here.

And she is fucking fantastic!!!

I don’t know where this side of her acting prowess came from (though I did notice her range in, strangely, a film called Paul [2011]), but I must assume that some of the credit for this performance goes to director Johnson.

But still…Kristen Wiig really nails it here!

It’s one of those strange things…

I kept waiting for her to burst out with some goofy impersonation, but no.

And so this film has a sort of tension to it if you know Ms. Wiig as the brilliant comedienne she is.

The story is hard to sum up.

Scrubbing floors…

Scrub scrub scrub.

Little House on the Prairie.  [d’accord]

Yes.

Wiig’s character is a plain Jane.

She’s a maid.  A housekeeper.

In the beginning, she’s a sort of live-in hospice caretaker.

But I think the best summation for her spirit might be “Protestant work ethic”.

Ahh, that Max Weber chestnut…

It’s a funny thing, though…

Elbow grease so often wins the day.

Indispensable to this tale (back to the movie) is Nick Nolte.

Here is an actor who has aged gracefully.

Like Bob Dylan.

That raspy voice…

He was perfectly cast as a man in need of some housekeeping.

But the really fascinating thing about this movie is the story.

And for that we must thank Alice Munro.

There’s a little bit of stolen identity here.

Internet-age fuckery.

Social engineering (in the sense familiar to “penetration testers”).

Put simply, this film goes because of a scam.

I won’t tell you how.  Or whom.

But it is even more tense and eggshell than waiting for Kristen Wiig to tell a joke.

But none of this would matter were it not for love.

Love is the cocoon which holds everything in.

Here.

That kind of love that makes you pack up all your things and head for the unknown.

That kind of love that makes you break the law.

That kind of love that has you end up in an abandoned motel in Chicago.

Yes, Chicago.

We get some Chicago here.

[Even if the film was shot in New Orleans.  Of which I’m only part certain.]

Our minds are in Chicago.

Because the story tells us we’re there.

And so we fear.

Busstops.

Trips to an unseen corner store.

Under a highway (for God’s sake!).

Love.

And trickery.

It is no innovation to point out that films are trickery.

Most films.

Fiction films.

With actors.

The kind you like.

But the best films make us suspend disbelief.

And this is one of those films.

We believe Kristen Wiig.  We believe Nick Nolte.

We believe the scumbag (played admirably by Guy Pearce).

We believe the cough.

We believe the cocaine on the toilet seat.

Sometimes it’s almost too precious–too perfect.

Too strained to be real.

But Liza Johnson is in firm control of her mise-en-scène.

So while the Weinstein brothers prepare for their “untitled Furby film [in association with Hasbro]”, the damage has already been done.

A little missile of truth has sunk the Hollywood battleship.

If, like me, you want to see something to which you can relate, then try this little slice of awkward loneliness.

Sometimes we just need a goddamned mirror to know we still exist.

-PD

Heavy [1995)

Holidays are hard for many people.

Perhaps we think of who we’ve lost.

But also there’s the pressure of the days themselves.

Christmas.  New Year’s Eve.

Even times like the 4th of July.

I didn’t set out to write a heartrending post, but I don’t always know what it is I’m about to watch.

In general, Heavy is not a sad film.

It’s a masterpiece of minimalism.

Every shot…every movement in this movie is lovingly made.

James Mangold created a world which corresponds to the understated expressions of silent films as much as it does to the desperation of everyday life.

I’m sure some people have very happy lives.

But what Mr. Mangold has given us is a look at extreme awkwardness.

Loneliness.

Do you ever feel awkward buying something?

I do.

Every time.

It’s the interaction with people.

It comes and it goes.

But for our protagonist Victor, it mostly comes and stays.

I can’t recall an actor (Pruitt Taylor Vince) getting so much depth out of so few words.

No film I’ve ever seen handles shyness quite like this one.

Victor is a cook at his mom’s little tavern.

It’s the kind of place you’d find in Woodstock.

Kingston.  Poughkeepsie.  West Saugerties.

Though the setting is never named, these are what came to my imagination.

Those places that inspired Mercury Rev to create their masterpiece Deserter’s Songs and, before them, The Band.

But whatever this fictional town, it is positively not cool.

It is in the middle of nowhere.

And so a feeling of desolation pervades this picture.

Victor cares for his mother (played brilliantly by the late Shelley Winters).

They live together…just the two of them.

There’s a little dog.

It’s a quiet life.

Sure, it’s sad.

But it’s life.

Life goes on.

Every day.

Open the tavern.

Pay the delivery man.

Cook the pizzas.

Clean up the broken beer mugs.

It just so happens that the place has a waitress/bartender.

And the actress playing this role indeed had experience.

Max’s Kansas City.

That’s right, Debbie Harry.

Debbie plays Delores.

She’s just as feisty as you’d expect.

She doesn’t put up with any shit.

And so the world goes on.

Day after day.

Status quo.

But one day, a ray of light enters lonely Victor’s world.

Liv Tyler.

You can imagine.

Liv was 18 when this film was made.

Which brings us back to Woodstock proper.

Liv Tyler was born Liv Rundgren.

As in Todd.

It’s a complicated story, but this future actress/model knew Todd Rundgren (producer of The Band’s Stage Fright which was recorded at the Woodstock Playhouse in 1970) as father until well into her life.

Todd, of course, was also a resident of the area.  This was back in the days of Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Records.

Which brings us to another fascinating little town:  Bearsville, New York.

But Liv was obviously the daughter of Steven Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith).

Liv didn’t find this out till age eight.

Back to our movie…

Into lonely Victor’s life walks a new waitress whose real life genes were those of lippy Steven Tyler and Playboy Playmate Bebe Buell.

That’s no ordinary gene pool.

But this is no ordinary romantic comedy.

In fact, it’s not a romantic comedy.

It’s not funny.

It’s deep.

[He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother]

Because Victor is a portly fellow.

And this bothers him.

It’s something he tries to ignore, but living at home with mom…and being fat…and being shy…

It’s enough to give a guy a complex.

And this is not a rich family.

No psychiatrists here.

Just get up and go to work every day.

Cook breakfast for mom.

Feed the dog.

Go to the little grocery store.

Get some eggs and orange juice.

So I wasn’t sure what I was getting with this movie.

But I’m so glad I watched it.

I wouldn’t really call it an uplifting story, but that’s not the point.

It is cinéma vérité in the truest sense.

And the world needs these kinds of films.

There are no explosions.

Maybe there’s not even a happy ending.

I will leave that for you to discover.

But there are certainly very few cliches.

And so this picture spoke to me in a very deep way.

To reach out to anyone on the Internet who might be reading this.

This is a film about problems.

Not crippling problems which require literal crutches, but crippling all the same.

Pink Floyd summed it up as well as anyone when they sang about “quiet desperation”.

It may be “the English way”, but it’s not a uniquely British phenomenon.

I hate to talk about the “human condition”…because I fear I will sound like one of the putzes who pens the elevator pitches which adorn every film on Netflix [who writes those things?!?], but James Mangold did something very significant with this film.

Even the music is subtly artful.

We can thank Thurston Moore for that.

And so little harmonics and behind-the-bridge pings give depth to Victor’s struggles.

It’s quietness.

Standing by the staircase.

Staring up.

Is mom coming down?

Will the dog come eat his food?

There are heroes in this world.

And sometimes they are right under our noses.

Victor is one of those.

 

-PD