The Addams Family [1991)

Hello, dear friends ūüôā

I was in the hospital last weekend for an appendectomy.

And I am trying to make the final push for my master’s degree.

Seventeen more days.

But the big story, nationally, internationally, is that Donald Trump won the U.S. Presidency.

I made no secrets about my desire for him to achieve this goal.

Which brings us to The Addams Family.

Released during the latter half of the George H.W. Bush administration.

Not quite an “80s comedy”, but close.

And a premonition of sorts for that crime family that would rule the majority of the 1990s:  the Clinton family.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld turns in a fairly decent picture here.

It’s no masterpiece, but it’s certainly watchable.

But at the center of this tale is Uncle Fester.

Christopher Lloyd’s depiction of Fester (pre-shave…Gordon Craven) is a spitting image of the Tony Podesta to whom we were introduced by way of WikiLeaks.

The less-hirsute Fester (still craven) could well be brother John Podesta.

But Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman could also well be the Gomez Addams of this story.

Ms. Clinton, then, would be the diabolical (though far less camera-friendly) Morticia Addams.

Dan Hedaya does an excellent job as the Addams’ lawyer.

There’s plenty to pass for “spirit cooking” in this family film.

Indeed, The Addams Family is a bit racy for young minds (in my opinion).

The “family” operates on fairly simple principles:¬† good is bad.¬† And bad is good.

Happiness is sadness.

A bit like Tim Buckley’s album Happy Sad (1969).

The Addams family abides by a code of vengeance against all who betray them.

Vince Foster.

Christina Ricci is cute as she is chilling in this early performance as daughter Wednesday Addams.

The most charming aspect of this film may well be Thing:  the disembodied hand/family pet.

We learn a few things.

You can’t successfully torture a masochist (Morticia).

Which begs the question…who is the real ghoul behind Hillary?

The most prominent of the “deep state” (not deep enough) is George Soros.

And so even stars like Hillary have craven masters.

Puerto Rican actor Ra√ļl Juli√° is excellent as Gomez.

Carel Struycken (Twin Peaks) is very strong as Lurch.

This film would have been better with more Cousin Itt and less MC Hammer.

Unfortunately, Cousin Itt was staged in a particularly Jar Jar Binks sort of way.

Most importantly, there will be no Bill Clinton sequel anytime soon.

 

-PD

Spectre [2015)

There’s a moment in this film when a character says “shoot” instead of “shit”.¬† It is the linchpin of the film.¬† What follows is the strangest cut in James Bond history since Roger Moore abruptly went gaucho in Moonraker.¬† But what we cut to is perhaps the first truly vicious, self-inflicted attack of self-parody the James Bond franchise has ever experienced.¬† Yes, self-parody.¬† Vicious.¬† Like a postmodern vomit of confetti.¬† This whole film.¬† But mainly starting at the amorous activities which follow the word “shoot”.

Derrida would find his hinge for deconstruction at “shoot”.¬† As if the film could not bear one more mild expletive and still retain its PG-13 rating.

But let’s dig a little deeper.

A series notorious for running low on creativity must have been thrilled to have the intellectual property rights to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. following the death of Kevin¬†McClory.¬† It was not just the¬†death of McClory which allowed the franchise to resurrect its proto-NWO, but also the acquisition by MGM and Danjac LLC of McClory’s estate in late 2013.

And so things must have looked rosy for Eon Productions.

Sadly, they made a few blunders.

Those blunders became the ramshackle, mutilated would-be masterpiece Spectre.

And so just what were these mistakes?

My guess is that many of them occurred behind closed doors.

There are moments in this film at which a film school freshman could have done a better job reeling in the mise-en-sc√®ne than did Sam Mendes.¬† But there’s a problem with that equation.¬† Sam Mendes is not that bad a director.¬† NO ONE wielding a nine-figure budget is that bad a director.¬† And so chalk another crappy movie up to the real villains:¬† MGM and Colombia Pictures.¬† Credit Eon Productions likewise with rubberstamping this high-school-science-fair of a picture.

But we can’t let Mendes off that easily.¬† I hope it was a good payday (again) Sam, because this film is generally a piece of shit.

HOWEVER…there are moments of what could have been.¬† If the executives had kept their noses (and asses) out of the production process, this could have been a homerun.

Christopher Waltz is good when approached with Hitchcockean framing.  As a silhouette.  You can feel Mendes reaching for Mulholland Dr.  But as per the Sony hacks, eventually you have to show the guy (or do you?).  Suffice it to say that Mr. Waltz is the least-scary Bond villain ever and barely more creepy than Jar Jar Binks.

And so it becomes obvious that cost cutting has its downside.  Who was the other bloke they were going to get for the villain?  Who cares.  Waltz sucks royally.  And yet, he is more competent as an actor than the film is solid in structural integrity.

As a whole, Spectre is a disaster which should never have made it out the door of the dream factory.¬† Anyone with an artistic bone in their body could have “fixed” this film.¬† Mendes was apparently not allowed to actually direct.

Fix number one would have been cutting an hour’s worth of superfluous meh.¬† I mean, really godawful, expensive, explosive meh.¬† Jesus…this film didn’t need to try and compete with Spiderman or whatever the superhero flavor of the week is.

The writers (God, the writers…) of this film are not worth their weight in rancid butter.¬† I heard rumors that the dialogue was bad.¬† Truth is, it is dry-heave bad…but mainly near the end of the film (the last quarter).

Next time, spend $200 mil. on a single, competent writer (Pynchon perhaps) and <$1 mil. on stunts and CGI.¬† This film experiences a leveraged shite effect throughout.¬† Oh, by the way…the opening scene in Mexico City is probably the weakest part of the film.¬† I would rather see Daniel Craig take a moist crap on a silver platter.

But let’s be fair…

This film tried.¬† It had grand aspirations.¬† SPECTRE…yes, bringing it all back home.¬† Establishing credibility from New World Order to Snowden.¬† Awesome.¬† Well-done in that regard.

As for the execution…for fuck’s sake.

I’d rather have a clumsily-performed lobotomy than watch this film again any time soon.

The biggest upside of the film is L√©a Seydoux.¬† Ok, so casting got one thing right.¬† It almost makes up for Christopher “The Last” Waltz.

There are very important themes addressed in this film.  This could have been a light for liberty.  Someone sabotaged it.  Find that corporate person and you have found the real head of the real SPECTRE.

-PD

The Lovely Bones [2009)

Somehow, at some point…people forgot how to make films.¬† This would be considered cinema in today’s Hollywood (which is to say, a great film).¬† Sadly, this is barely a good film.

Once upon a time there were masters like Murnau and Lang and Dreyer. They worked in an age before sound.  They had less variables to ponder.  And yet, they managed to tell stories in elegant, sophisticated ways.  There was no CGI.

Cut to the present film.  Saoirse Ronan is truly lovely, yet not even she can salvage this schmaltz.  To be sure, this is not a happy story.  I would like to congratulate director Peter Jackson, but I cannot do so without a plethora of caveats.

Let me start by saying that Mark Wahlberg, at least, does an excellent acting job.¬† I can’t help thinking of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch every time I see his name.¬† That was the age I was raised in:¬† ridiculous, posturing hip-hop.¬† Don’t get me wrong…some of it was good.¬† I even remember having a fondness for Wahlberg’s group, but suffice it to say that their oeuvre has not aged particularly well.¬† I fear the same might be the case with this film.

Stanley Tucci is excellent and creepy as hell as the serial killer George Harvey.¬† Susan Sarandon, on the other hand, is a caricature of herself…completely ridiculous and superfluous to any of the aims which this film should have had.¬† Rose McIver is actually quite good as Susie’s younger sister (though the film seems to suggest she is the older sister in the beginning…just one loose end among many, many others).

There are moments when this film touches on the sublime, but they may not be the ones of which you’re thinking.¬† When director Jackson approaches the realm of Hitchcock, he does so quite capably.¬† One even gets the sense that a Silence of the Lambs might be developing on screen.¬† Sadly, we seem to slip into What Dreams May Come.¬† Much better to emulate Alfred than Vincent Ward.¬† Yikes!

About these dream sequences–this “In-Between”…it is as if Salvador Dal√≠’s superb imagination was being hijacked by a third-rate M.C. Escher reproductionist.¬† It is as if we were watching the music video to Seal’s “Crazy.”¬† It is horrible.

Nikki SooHoo’s acting is really, really bad. ¬†Poor girl. ¬†She is the Jar Jar Binks of this ill-fated venture.

After all this CGI tomfoolery we finally have another shard of cinema when McIver find’s the murderer’s sketchbook.¬† The close-ups of her fingernails trying to silently lower the loose floorboard back into place have a gripping suspense worthy of Hitch.¬† Jackson at least does a good job of making fingernails (you heard me) a significant motif throughout the picture.¬† Tucci’s neatly manicured nails are pictured in close-up as he disgustingly fondles the dead Susie’s house charm which he ripped off her bracelet.

The story is not bad, but Jackson has not inspired me to read the book any time soon.  The motif of the kiss is a sweet sentiment and it is just one of many touching moments in this train-wreck of a film.  Susie is supposed to be the amateur photographer.  Jackson directs like a 14-year-old.  The film would doubtless have been better had he 1/100th the budget.

The overall narrative (with voiceover by Ronan) is a formulaic, staid, pale imitation of American Beauty.

One last thought:¬† I can’t believe Brian Eno did the music.¬† Sadly, the only musical moments which are transcendent come at the hands of Dave Edmunds and The Hollies (though the latter’s is ruined by a Sarandon montage).¬† Nay, I shan’t be running out to see any Lord of the Rings movies anytime soon.¬† This is a stinker which won’t soon enough evaporate from my memory.¬† Jackson could really use a good night in with TCM for starters (and then, perhaps, God forbid…an Ingmar Bergman movie).¬† Harmony Korine’s Julien Donkey-Boy obliterates The Lovely Bones in every aspect.¬† Google Dogme 95, Mr. Jackson.¬† Learning is fun.

 

-PD