Leave No Trace [2018)

What a horrible day.

Valentine’s Day.

My favorite holiday.

To understand young men whom the economy has left behind.

Young men turning to violence and mischief.

Hating the state.

No more funicular.

Reach out to someone with PTSD today.

Even if you don’t have the right thing to say.

Just make an effort.

I did.

Sure, I want someone to give a fuck about me.

It sucks to be thoroughly disrespected.

This film is better than Jojo Rabbit.

But it has no sense of humor.

Living hand-to-mouth is not funny.

Homeschooling is the best.

But our society has been ruined.

Our societies have been ruined.

Hearing helicopters is too much.

Bringing you back to a mind frame where no moment is safe.

This film is no Hanna.

But this is still a poignant story.

Saoirse has lost her touch.

It was all too much for Thora and Dennings.

Thomasin is the hope for acting.

The best actress working today.

But she has only made one film that is good.

And that film is perfect.

And that film is Last Night in Soho.

Living off the grid.

War is hard on kids.

Kids want to play.

We need fun.

All work and no play makes us fucking crazy.

God bless the truckers who are reclaiming our freedoms.

KEEP GOING!!!

Sitting on a velvet couch in a cabin.

Velour.

The luxury.

Well-worn.

For years living on the forrest floor.

Now to curl your feet up sideways.

Instant karma.

It means something.

It all means something.

And we are back to hellish life.

American flags.

Get to know your neighbors.

My life has been stolen.

But I have successfully stopped drinking.

Haven’t touched the stuff for well over a year.

And I have successfully quit tobacco.

Haven’t touched the stuff for well over a year.

No nicotine up in here.

The challenge is living with something like GAD.

Sounds so easy.

Anxiety.

But tack onto that tachycardia.

A level serious enough to require medication.

And tack onto that high blood pressure.

A level serious enough to require medication.

Good luck relaxing.

You can’t.

Good luck being independent of medications.

My daily struggle and challenge is to become less dependent on my medications.

It is like building a fucking pyramid.

The progress is infinitesimally-small.

Each day.

Some days are a step backwards.

Every day.

Marking.

Tallying it up.

Am I making progress?

Yes.

SLOW.

S L O W.

Very disheartening to be alone again.

Grand gestures.

Wasted.

All for naught.

Bad match.

She needed to be the fucked-up one.

But I got problems too.

And vice-versa.

I’m trying not to judge.

I’m still trying to reach out.

On my favorite holiday.

With a hole in my heart.

War zone.

What’s your joy?

No joy.

I just dream of an actress from New Zealand.

Because her story speaks to me.

It is the hope that someone out there will love me in spite of all my flaws.

I look really bad on paper.

Because I am really bad in reality.

But I am still a person.

And I am not dead yet.

I hope the cats do their job.

Be nice.

Keep company.

My family.

Till the end.

I’m not blocking any energies.

I’m not blocking anything.

Except a couple of dickheads on TikTok.

Starting over.

I can’t breathe.

Everyone is gay.

Or lesbian.

Or whatever.

The whole world is fucking crazy.

And I need the crazy that fits with my crazy.

The crazy that matches me.

Reach out to someone with PTSD.

Don’t judge.

Don’t worry if you don’t say quite the right thing.

Don’t worry if you don’t get a response.

I’m lonely as fuck.

Instant karma.

It means something.

It all means something.

Thank you, God, for giving me a friend for awhile.

Please be merciful and let me not die of loneliness.

This is the loneliest life I have ever known.

45 years.

-PD

Last Night in Soho [2021)

First off.

I am in love with Thomasin McKenzie.

I think Saoirse Ronan has lost her touch.

Kat Dennings doesn’t even bother with films anymore.

And Thora Birch is too much of a liberal moron.

But then all actors are liberal morons, aren’t they?

Except for a precious few.

Jon Voight.

James Woods.

Rob Schneider.

Kirstie Alley.

Robert Davi.

Jim Caviezel.

Secondly.

This film is a masterpiece.

Edgar Wright is the best filmmaker in the world right now.

Is he better than Jean-Luc Godard?

No.

But Godard is not making films for mass consumption.

Is he better than Wes Anderson?

BY A MILLION FUCKING MILES!!!

Don’t get me wrong.

Wes Anderson made one perfect film.

And that film was The Grand Budapest Hotel.

And that film wouldn’t have been perfect without Saoirse Ronan.

That’s how important her presence in that film was.

Saoirse has made another perfect film.

Hanna.

But her others are mediocre.

Brooklyn.

Meh.

Lady Bird.

Even more meh (not a good thing).

Saoirse has gone astray.

Just as Thora Birch went astray.

Ghost World is a perfect film.

And American Beauty is close to perfect.

For my money, Homeless to Harvard is her other perfect film.

Kat Dennings films kinda suck.

Her masterpiece is actually 2 Broke Girls.

I’m serious.

But that’s not cinema.

Twin Peaks is cinema.

Even though it’s a TV show.

Histoire(s) du cinéma is the best film ever made.

And it was made for TV.

Homeless to Harvard is a Lifetime movie.

Made for TV.

It is not cinema.

Not exactly.

But it may be a perfect film.

Wes Anderson made his perfect film with Saoirse Ronan.

And he made a good film (Tenenbaums).

The rest are shite.

I did not understand Edgar Wright’s film language when I first saw Shaun of the Dead.

I thought it was crap.

How wrong I was!

Here is my contention.

Every Edgar Wright film is perfect.

Shaun of the Dead?

Yes.

Hot Fuzz?

Yes.

The World’s End?

Yes.

Baby Driver?

Yes.

Scott Pilgrim?

Yes.

And this film is perfect too.

But this is not quite the Wright you are used to.

This is a genuinely scary film.

But it stands up with Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Shining as one of the four best horror films ever made.

Edgar Wright films are all about detail.

But not the twee obsession with detail that Wes Anderson has.

Edgar Wright is overflowing with talent.

Wes Anderson is not.

Anderson needed Saoirse Ronan to make his perfect film.

And there was a bit (just a bit!) of grit in Grand Budapest.

Saoirse is missing from his other films.

And there is no real grit in any of the others.

Tenenbaums is good.

But the Wes Anderson players are tiresome.

Is Bill Murray amazing?

Yes.

But are his performances in Wes Anderson films his best work?

Absolutely not.

No more Jason Schwatzman (for fuck’s sake!).

Is Luke Wilson a great actor?

Yes.

What’s his best film?

Masked and Anonymous.

Maybe it’s Paltrow and Hackman which make Tenenbaums good.

For my money, Luke Wilson is the one who makes that film go.

But it is not on the same level as Grand Budapest.

Last Night in Soho is the Grand Budapest of the ’20s.

We’re in the ’20s now.

Are they roaring?

Like a fucking mouse.

Last Night in Soho is a gazillion times better than No Time to Die.

This film has everything the Bond film didn’t.

Substance.

Competent directing.

A story worth sticking with.

And so it is fitting that Diana Rigg’s last role should absolutely trump the death of James Bond.

The one George Lazenby film was WAY better than No Time to Die.

The death of love is more sad than the death of the hero.

Diana Rigg is the linchpin in the Bond franchise.

Pull that thread, and the sweater unravels.

Léa Seydoux is boring as fuck in the Bond films.

She was great in Blue.

But she was nothing compared to the one who carried that film (Adele Exarchopoulos).

Exarchopoulos made one perfect film.

Blue is the Warmest Color.

None of her other films are even good.

Wright makes what Youth in Revolt might have been.

He is not glib.

This is not a hipster film.

Michael Cera (who has made one perfect film [Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist]) is, mercifully, NOT in Last Night in Soho.

[correction…Kat Dennings DID make one perfect film]

Thomasin McKenzie’s obsession with ’60s London music is real.

It’s not a fucking Austin Powers joke.

Rita Tushingham is wonderful as Gram.

Excellent casting.

[take note, Bond franchise]

Thomasin hooks up with a black dude.

No big deal.

Take note, Bond franchise.

NOT EVERY FUCKING PERSON HAS TO BE BLACK IN ORDER FOR A FILM TO BE VIABLE!!!

Thomasin’s love interest is a black fellow.

I have no problem with that.

He does a good job.

For fuck’s sake…he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page!

Michael Ajao.

Fine acting!

There can be important black characters WITHOUT A FILM BEING A WOKE FUCKING JOKE (like the recent Bond film).

No big deal.

Don’t make it a big deal.

It has to fit with the story.

The story is the most important thing.

The writers of the Bond film (Purvis and Wade) have allowed their name to be attached to the fucking pathetic shit of No Time to Die.

So you get a kiwi to speak in a Cornish accent.

GREAT ACTRESS!

Thomasin McKenzie.

Say that name with me.

Jacinda Ardern’s father (or mother?) was a horse.

Ugly bitch.

Ugly soul.

Thomasin McKenzie is the best thing to ever come out of New Zealand.

However, there has been one perfect kiwi movie:  Eagle vs Shark.

Synnøve Karlsen is so fucking annoying in Soho.

And she was supposed to be.

So, good job (I guess).

Every film needs a villain.

And Jocasta (Karlsen’s character) is the real villain of this film.

Thomasin is different.

Jocasta beats her down.

Mentally.

A stingy spirit.

Can never share in any of her joys.

Do you know anyone like that?

But Thomasin is troubled.

Hallucinations?

Maybe.

Seeing ghosts?

Maybe.

We’re trying to solve a case here.

Cold case.

Maybe a lot of cold cases.

Maybe a serial killer.

To the Belle and Sebastian bedsit.

Salad days are short-lived.

Don’t underestimate Sandie Shaw.

Always something there to remind me.

1964.

Puppet on a string.

Gotta pay your dues.

As a wind-up bird girl.

Brian Epstein.

Giorgio Gomelsky.

Andrew Loog Oldham.

ABKCO.

The influence of Vertigo upon Last Night in Soho cannot be understated.

The red of the Café de Paris.

The blonde of Anya Taylor-Joy’s hair.

And Thomasin’s hair.

[also, don’t underestimate Bergman’s Persona]

The glance to the side.

It’s not Jimmy Stewart.

It’s Thomasin.

Allusions to The Way of the Dragon and The Lady from Shanghai in the mirrors.

Sure, a bit of Pulp Fiction.

But that’s just for the kids.

Edgar Wright’s grasp of cinema history is way deeper than some Tarantino bullshit.

And yet, he likes zombies.

And shitty horror films from the ’80s.

I mean REALLY shitty, camp ones.

Slasher films.

Back to Vertigo.

Kim Novak’s apartment is bathed in green neon.

But Thomasin’s bedsit is a red, white, and blue homage to Godard.

An homage to Une Femme est une femme.

Dancing.

Dancing girls.

Prostitutes.

Vivre sa vie.

Pink dress fembot.

Pew pew.

Thomasin is way sexier than Anya Taylor-Joy.

Thomasin is the girl next door.

The frumpy hair of Homeless to Harvard.

I love it.

It must be this way.

To juxtapose the transition to Swinging Sixties glamour.

Is Trump just culture jamming with his vaccine tack?

Either that, or the hero has become the villain.

Did the D.C. swamp make Trump into a swamp zombie?

Maybe no one comes out clean.

International law was broken.

War crimes.

All these Wright films have zombies.

Or robots.

Faceless automatons.

A bit of Dragon Tattoo.

We all like a good microfiche scene!

Is Terence Stamp her father?

If Sandie is her mother?

Could be.

Otherwise, she would be the daughter of a prick.

But Stamp tried to save Sandie.

Arsenic and old lace.

The ones you never suspect.

Sicario.

“Buried” in the walls.

Decomposing.

Poe.

Gacy.

Wright’s “sympathy for the serial killer”.

What happened to these people that made them monsters?

Don’t underestimate Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (his only English-language film…and a flat-out masterpiece).

In the world of Edgar Wright, it is records.

Vinyl.

Not books.

And sometimes the elderly want to die with their memories.

They are not going anywhere.

They are not fleeing.

It’s been a good life.

Going down with the ship.

Up in flames.

The shitbags want their deaths avenged.

After all, they were just horny, well-to-do dads who needed a little excitement.

Prostitution.

It’s the law, after all.

Murder is murder.

Crimes of passion.

By reason of insanity.

Not guilty.

Not insane.

But traumatized.

But Thomasin has been on the adventure.

She knows what Sandie has been through.

Trump was abused for four years.

That is true.

And he fought like a champ.

Is there no justice?

Is it culture jamming (I ask again)?

Confusion.

Keeping his enemies off balance.

Getting a foot in the door.

Truth Social will censor “hate speech” with a Silicon Valley AI bot.

In order to get on Apple App Store and Google Play.

But the roll out is delayed?

Lie about the vaccines.

“Safe and effective”.

Move in for the kill shot.

Against whom?

Big Pharma and the New World Order.

But we have to call out serial killers for who they are.

If you are saying the COVID vaccines are “safe and effective”, you are spreading misinformation that is endangering the lives of those who hear and trust you.

CDC:  11,879

  IMG_6975

Open VAERS:  23,149

IMG_6976

IMG_6977

Neither safe,

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/adverse-events.html

https://openvaers.com/covid-data/mortality

nor effective.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-covid-deaths-2021-vaccines-b1963790.html

IMG_5785

10,000-20,000 vaccine deaths should be read as 100,000-200,000 vaccine deaths because of this:

https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/02/underreporting-vaccine-adverse-events

IMG_6468

IMG_6469

And correlation does not necessarily equal causation…unless this (peep the myocarditis…you think that’s all JnJ? [nigga please!]):

https://openvaers.com/covid-data

IMG_6981

But the election was stolen.

Or was it allowed to be stolen?

When will the other shoe drop?

Or does the other shoe even exist?

This charade is going to go on until 2024?

Maybe Sandie is not her mother.

-PD

Lost River [2014)

There’s something very weird going on in Hollywood.

And it has been going on for a long time.

You can look for yourself in Kenneth Anger’s books.

Strange stories about Clara Bow.

The first “It” girl.

From the film of the same name.

And how she kept her skin so soft (ostensibly).

But the range of weirdness in Hollywood seems to move along a continuum.

There are levels.

Not unlike Freemasonry.

Or Scientology.

The hedonism of Henry Miller would be a very low level.

But what we are dealing with here, in this film, is an allusion to a higher level.

Really, the highest level.

There really isn’t a more mot juste for this phenomenon than Satanism.

And, perhaps, even that word does not fully describe what is at issue.

If one was hard-pressed to boil it down–to refine it further, perhaps “evil” would be the essential element.

Recently, the internet collective known only as QAnon “dropped” a crumb of information regarding an establishment in Los Angeles known as the Cannibal Club.

You can find all Q drops here.

The drop in question is #3917 from April 8th of this month.

Here is the website to which Q linked.

It indeed follows the train of thought I delineated above.

You will see the Henry Miller quote (an author I deeply admire).

But then you will see a perversion far beyond (to my knowledge) anything Henry Miller ever wrote about.

What you see on the Cannibal Club website appears to be a restaurant which serves human flesh.

However, with a bit of research, I came to the conclusion that this particular institution (as it is presented) is likely fake.

Why?

The names of the principals all come back empty.  None of them have a digital footprint that I can find.  Sophie Lafitte.  Elspeth Blake.  Hero Conners.  Raven Chan.

The photo of Cannibal Club’s proprietress, Elspeth Blake, was first cached as a stock photo in 2012.

The photo of Raven Chan also was first cached (before it was used on the Cannibal Club website) as a stock photo.  Both photos appear to have originated on the website istockphoto.com .  They are generic pictures.

The Cannibal Club website went live with content in 2009.  Neither the menu, nor the “events” have changed.

My conclusion was that this was a joke made by demented, artsy liberals in order to seed panic in America’s conservative population.

That was my hypothesis:  it is almost certainly a sick joke.

But here’s the rub…

Things like this very well may exist.

Indeed, they probably do.

And thereby we come to the film Lost River.

It came out a mere two years before Trump was elected.

Before Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sex crimes and sent to prison (where, last I heard, he had coronavirus).

Before jet-setter Jeffrey Epstein “hung himself” in a Manhattan jail cell.

You know, Epstein…the guy who flew Bill Clinton and Kevin Spacey to Africa.

All this was before Kevin Spacey had numerous sex crime charges brought against him.

And two of his accusers recently dropped dead (over the past year) bringing both cases to a halt.

Lost River.

I appreciate the style.

Very heavy on the David Lynch (with a modicum of Harmony Korine thrown in).

The focus on “place” is very similar to the technique David Lynch and Mark Frost used to ground the town of Twin Peaks in the TV series of the same name.

Evil.

In the woods.

Underwater.

Underground.

And in secret clubs.

Director Ryan Gosling did a pretty good job with this film.

We will forgive him for lifting the ambiance of that Orbison scene from Mulholland Dr. to repurpose it in his Lost River blood-and-guts cabaret.

Because the reason I watched this film at all was for Christina Hendricks.

She has the potential to join a modern pantheon which, at this time, includes only Thora Birch and Kat Dennings.

Though we are never told this in the film, it is set in Detroit.

And that makes sense.

Deserted neighborhoods with crumbling houses.

But it could be anywhere in America if China’s economic warfare (COVID-19) is not soon countered.

Matt Smith does a good job as Bully:  the embodiment of serial-killer animalism.

The thug.

The gangster.

The cartel head.

Extreme cruelty.

Sadistic.

Gosling did a great job location scouting for the zoo scene.

The abandoned zoo.

Very much like the film Hanna and its scenes in the abandoned Spreepark of East Berlin.

Ben Mendelsohn is a fucker.

Such a prick.

But smart.

He’s not an animal like Bully, though he has rage inside him.

He is more of a predator.

And he is much more powerful.

His character, Dave, is a banker.

And Dave tells us, during the course of the film, that he sets up a little “club” in each of the towns he goes to.

Seems Dave gets moved around a lot.

Comes in.

Fires people.

Gets the books on a firmer footing.

And moves on to the next town where he can oblige the poor and demented with a bit of blood lust with his clubs.

Lots of blood.

Lots of lust.

Dave overlaps nicely onto the persona of Harvey Weinstein.

Christina Hendricks is immediately propositioned by the bank manager.

Dave is a thoroughly-unscrupulous scumbag.

Hendricks just wants to hang on to her home…dilapidated though it may be.

Saoirse Ronan does a nice job in a relatively-minor role here.

She glitters occasionally…as she plays her Casio on her bed with sparkly finger polish.

Whispering out a little song.

Or as she tucks in her pet rat for the night.

But it is not the ginger Ronan we are used to.

Her hair is black.

To fit with the landscape.

And to let Hendricks (also a redhead) stand out as the star.

Saoirse is the “girl next door”…literally.

In the tradition of American Beauty.

By this method we can trace Gosling’s influences.

The overarching one is David Lynch.

This film is creepy.

Plenty creepy.

Much of the creepiness comes from the casting.

It really is an amalgam of Lynch’s freaks with Harmony Korine’s amateurs.

There is the grief of the mute grandmother.

Caught in a loop of family films.

Mourning her late-husband who died tragically.

It is sad.

It happens.

The inability to talk for some time after a shock.

Extreme PTSD.

The family films are sad.

Watching how they used to be.

The way they were.

And the grandmother still a widow…with a fishnet veil for mourning.

There is some rubbish in this movie.

Kind of how the second season of Twin Peaks went off the rails.

Eva Mendes is good here.

And scary.

In the basement is something very Ex Machina (also 2014).

And even more so John Cale’s Vintage Violence.

Shells.

Mortal coils.

Simulation.

Apparently, customers can come down and “murder” real people in these shells.

The shells are of a hard, clear plastic.

And formfitting.

The shells supposedly prevent any real bodily harm.

But we never really see them in action.

Iain De Caestecker is pretty good here.

There is a realness in the urgency of his running.

Gosling’s editing crystalizes this.

Running for love.

Panic.

Running to save.

To set off running.

Unprepared for how long the journey really is.

Something special here.

Good vs. evil.

To give.

Charity.

To be selfish.

To ignore the needs of others.

To follow the voice of God.

To follow the instruction of the Holy Spirit.

To be humble before God.

To fear God.

To feel evil all around.

When it comes, and when it goes.

But the most quizzical scene is when Christina Hendricks cuts her own face off (in simulation, of course) in exactly the way we have heard about in the infamous, rumored Frazzledrip video.

In 2014.

Two years before such a thing came to light.

What a strange coincidence.

Let us synthesize more.

Could there be clubs (in L.A., for instance) where children have their faces cut off (for real) in front of an audience of sickos?

Further question, how does Hollywood (in L.A.) have the “imagination” to write these sorts of scenes?

Sure, there’s the old French film Eyes Without a Face.

But that was cosmetic.

It wasn’t for the thrill of spectators.

It was a medical procedure gone wrong.

Gory as it was, it was to SAVE the face of his daughter that the misguided doctor went on a hunt for faces.

Here, the faces are potlatched (apparently).

Or eaten.

But again, this is just a “cabaret”, we are told.

We see behind the scenes.

“Fake blood”.

So where is the truth in these “jokes”?

What kinds of personalities find humor in this?

John Podesta famously jokes about cannibalism in Time magazine and elsewhere.

He jokes about the cannibalistic Donner party.

He had cannibal art hanging on his office wall (a loan from his art-collector-brother Tony Podesta).

Strange fixation, that.

Very creepy.

Verging on Silence of the Lambs.

Ed Gein.

Dahmer.

Really vile stuff.

This is an interesting movie.

Gosling has talent as a director.

He should make more films.

This was his debut.

He has directed nothing sense.

My only quibble is this:  Christina Hendricks was so misused here.

Saoirse Ronan was almost equally misused.

Gosling needs to watch more Godard.

More Hitchcock.

You don’t cast Grace Kelly only to have her wear the same sweater for the whole film.

But it’s also Hendricks’ fault.

She has talent.

But she must embrace who she is.

She is not a good enough actor to be a puritan.

 

-PD

Djam [2017)

What a deeply-moving film.

I would like to talk about Tony Gatlif, the director.

You might know him from Latcho Drom.

Or from the Asia Argento film Transylvania.

Let me assure you of one thing.

Djam (known as Journey from Greece in English) is MUCH BETTER than Transylvania.

Which brings me to the crux.

The star, Daphné Patakia (truly a star!), is MUCH MORE TALENTED AND BEAUTIFUL than Asia Argento.

Mark my words.

This young lady is amazing!!!

Which is not to denigrate Asia Argento.

She’s a very good looking lady.

Her film Incompresa (which she directed) is amazing.

But Daphné Patakia is in another league altogether.

Simon Abkarian does a wonderful job here.

Maryne Cayon is indispensable.

But Daphné Patakia sends this film into orbit!

How can I describe it?

Rebetika.  Rebetiko.

Like “the blues”.

Daphné’s eyes.

Very much like:

djam1

Do you remember?

1984?

National Geographic?

Which brings us back to Greek-French.

Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Another fantastic actress.

Yes, Djam approaches the artistry of La Vie d’Adèle–Chapitres 1 & 2, but Djam is more special somehow to me.

Sure, there’s some nudity, but not much.

And we feel that this film might go the lesbian route, but instead it goes Lesbos.

It’s hard for me to overstate how important Daphné Patakia is to this film…and to film in general.

Very few actresses have done what she’s done.

It is, in truth, BEYOND our favorites in Hollywood:

-Thora Birch

-Saoirse Ronan

-Kat Dennings

Because it is done from left field.

And most related to these brilliant actresses:

-Anamaria Marinca

-Dorotheea Petre

and

-Julianne Côté

And less-so to:

-Adèle Exarchopoulos

-Pauline Étienne

One might even make a comparison to Moran Rosenblatt.

But I think the comparisons to Marinca and Petre are most apt.

Patakia is plumbing some serious depths in Djam.

And doing it with the joie de vivre of Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie.

One senses even a bit of Audrey Hepburn here.

That Funny Face bohemian dance routine.

But mixed with Anna Karina’s famous jukebox strut:

djam2.gif

New era.

Film clips.

Keep up.

Text can be extracted (if there’s anything worthwhile).

But images moving make it flow.

People want everything all at once.

But sadness can be healed.

When we care for the crazy.

God does not ignore our efforts.

And the world knows and recognizes mental illness.

Reach out a hand and console.

An essential film.

 

-PD

Sixteen Candles [1984)

If you don’t believe John Hughes was a genius, see this film.

Seriously.

Because I didn’t believe.

Though Hughes made one of my favorite 1980s comedies (Planes, Trains and Automobiles), I didn’t really get it.

It being the John Hughes phenomenon.

While the cool kids had it figured out long ago, I was too contrarian to listen.

Now I get it.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is truly a special film, but Sixteen Candles is transcendent art.

Don’t laugh.

What would André Bazin make of this film?  Or Gilles Deleuze?  Or Christian Metz?

Who cares???

Well, I care…

But what’s important is what YOU make of it.

And in this case, what I make of it.

But let’s get one thing straight:  Molly Ringwald invented the archetype which Thora Birch and Kat Dennings would later appropriate in doubtless homage.

Which is to say, Molly Ringwald is otherworldly as an actress in this film.

It’s no wonder Jean-Luc Godard cast her in his wonderful, underrated, masterful version of King Lear (1987).

Quentin Tarantino famously claimed (à la Bob Dylan’s conflated biography circa-1962) that he was in King Lear, but Molly Ringwald was ACTUALLY in it.

But enough about QT and nix on the digressions.

So no, I am no Henri Langlois to claim that Sixteen Candles should be in MoMA’s permanent collection, but there is good reason to compare this film favorably to Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings of 1939.

But none of this shit really matters.

What matters is the part in Gedde Watanabe’s hair at the dinner table.

And even more so (big time)–> is the indescribable Anthony Michael Hall.

AT&T gets it.  Which means the seemingly wonderful Milana Vayntrub ostensibly gets it.

But I’m not sure the understanding flows both ways.

Because America has changed.

We are much closer to the year 1984 (as opposed to Orwell’s 1984) here in late-2016 than to any other period of American experience.

Yeah, Michael Schoeffling could only come from the Reagan era.

But he’s a great guy.  And a fine actor.

And Sixteen Candles teaches us a lot of stuff.

John Hughes, as a film philosopher, is precocious in his grasp of American society in the 1980s.

The outcast wins.

But the conservative wins too.

Really, everybody wins.

That’s what value-creation will do.

But let’s back to A.M. Hall.  This bloke…

What a performance!

And the real chemistry in this film is between Ringwald and Hall.

In the auto body shop.

And so what do we get?

Romance.  Misery.  And tons of fucking jokes.

We must congratulate John Hughes as much for his writing as his direction.

The previous year he had written National Lampoon’s Vacation starring Chevy Chase.

Years later he’d write a stellar reboot for the series in Christmas Vacation (also starring Chase).

You want more movies Hughes wrote but didn’t direct?  How about Home Alone? [check] Or Pretty in Pink (starring Ringwald)?  [check]

But let’s get another thing straight:  this was John Hughes’ fucking DIRECTORIAL DEBUT!!!

But none of this shit matters.

What matters is Molly Ringwald crying in the hallway.

What matters is Molly practicing her potential lines before reentering the dance.

Molly talking on the phone with the Squeeze poster on the wall.

Molly freaking out and taking flight over fight.

And immediate regret.

What films do this?

Perhaps in 1955 we would have looked at Rebel Without a Cause in a similar way.

And rightly so.

Sixteen Candles is its progeny of uncertain admixture.

Looking through the yearbook.

And seeing the one.

The one who burns in your heart.

In America, this is realism (couched in slapstick and screwball).

Molly Ringwald is the loser who wins.

And Anthony Michael Hall is the hopeless dweeb who also wins…by sheer force of will.

There are genuine moments of panic in this film (as soft as they might be) regarding missed communication.  Telephone calls.  House calls.

And it adds just the right touch of anxiety to keep this film catalyzed and moving along.

But what makes all this believable?  The supporting cast.

John and Joan Cusack (especially Joan, whose life make’s Ringwald’s look like a bed of roses).  And John’s future MIT roommate (it would seem) Darren Harris.

But there’s one of the crew which deserves a little extra credit…and that is music supervisor Jimmy Iovine.

The tunes are right.  The attention to detail is solid.

Sound and image merge (as Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller had impressed upon Godard that they should) into sonimage (a word Godard would use for his production company Sonimage).

Even the cassette spitting unspooling tape onto the pizza turntable is perfect.

The cassette?  Fear of Music by Talking Heads.

Yes, Brian Eno.

And yes, “Young Americans” as they leave the driveway on the way to the wedding before the famous “au-to-mo-bile” scene.

David Bowie.

Even The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra doing Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G minor…briefly. [which lets our minds drift to Chaplin’s The Great Dictator]

Everything is right sonically.

The band instruments on the school bus.

The Dragnet quotes.

The gongs for Long Duk Dong.

“Lenny” by SRV in the car.  Half a car.

It’s so very sweet.  And sotto voce.  And real.

It’s a mix.  It doesn’t intrude.  You gotta unlock the passenger door to your heart to let this film in.

And a little Billy Idol as Anthony Michael Hall negotiates a Rolls Royce and a prom queen.

So rest in peace, John Hughes.  And thank you for this film.

Et je vous salue, Molly!  Merci for the film.

And thank you Anthony Michael Hall for capturing my youth and bottling it up.

Thank you Molly for capturing the one I loved and bottling up all the quirky, quixotic things which I cannot see anymore.

It is the immortality principle of film.

John, Molly, and Anthony…three geniuses of film.

I am profoundly grateful.

-PD

Brooklyn [2015)

I do believe my tear ducts are sore on account of this film.

Some writing will be meaningful, and some meaningless (depending on the audience).

Don’t you keep anything for yourself?

Very little…

Because I believe in the beauty of people…out there…in the vast world…the goodness of people…in heart and in soul.

It’s like Titanic without the shipwreck.

((lachrymal vases))

Ireland should be very proud of Saoirse Ronan.

And so should The Bronx.

From Howth and environs to Jerzy Kosiński’s 1982 masterpiece novel Pinball.

I have written a great deal about Saoirse in the past.

She is my favorite actress working in film.

[Thora Birch needs some gigs.  Kat Dennings needs to ditch 2 Broke Girls or CBS needs to enter the Hulu joint venture.  Anamaria Marinca and Dorotheea Petre need gigs.  Myriem Roussel:  where are you?  And finally Adèle Exarchopoulos:  you are on the right track!]

But Saoirse Ronan is unique among my favorite actresses for a variety of reasons.

Brooklyn gives her a chance to employ her Irish accent–to accentuate rather than mask it.

Quite frankly, this is a brilliant film!

John Crowley did a masterful job as director.

Emory Cohen is really good herein.

Julie Walters is hilarious!

Fiona Glascott is darn-near perfect.

But this whole thing is really about Saoirse Ronan.

John Crowley surrounded her with an older style of filmmaking.

It fits the story snugly.

Saoirse shines through like no other actress.

She is a ruby with the hardness of a diamond.

Etching her name into film history at the young age of 22.

Hollywood is not dead as long as she continues to get the starring roles she deserves.

 

-PD

Suburban Gothic [2014)

Dear devoted fans [chuckles heard offstage],

I am still alive.  Battling a serious case of MBA.  And, as such, I was duped into watching what turned out to be one of the finest films I have seen in awhile.

But how did I stumble across this little gem in the first place?  For that I must thank the inimitable Kat Dennings.  [More about her as we go on.]

Let us first, however, start with Matthew Gray Gubler.  As someone who watches very little TV, I was unaware of this rising star in the acting world.  Gubler plays Raymond:  a newly-minted MBA who can’t even lock down an entry-level job.  His character grew on me…from, at first, an American Apparel model come to life…to a lovable outcast with impeccable comic timing.

Circling back, I was curious how Gubler’s 21st-century archetype (the unemployable MBA) would fare in this comedy.  As I found out, Suburban Gothic is actually a film of great depth masquerading as a campy horror send-up.

It’s really remarkable, but this film actually does speak for me in some strange way.  Perhaps it was because I was listening to The Dead Milkmen this morning. [Watch the film and you’ll understand why.]

Yes, Raymond’s town is a “depressing shithole” to borrow Enid Coleslaw’s pithy diction from Zwigoff’s Ghost World.  And the ghosts here are real–literal.  But what most impresses me about Richard Bates Jr. (who needs a Wikipedia page) as a director is that he manages to evoke the crappiest reaches of America…from the bombed-out city center of Albany, New York to the harrowing motel highwayside of Roanoke, Virginia…from the strip malls of San Antonio to…well, you get the picture.

It’s one of those films…like Ghost World.  It’s Anywhere, U.S.A.  [Well, almost anywhere.]  It’s the fake vomit-inducing magic of Orlando.  It’s the sprawl of Los Angeles.  It’s that suicidal ennui which Arcade Fire so deftly encapsulated on their album The Suburbs.

Pariahs of the American south will especially appreciate the wonderful redneck evocation of Raymond’s high-school-football-coaching father (played magnificently by Ray Wise).  Yeah…

This film hits a lot of themes.  People change.  Fat kids get thin.  Sensitive souls can’t shake the wimp label.  Some places are especially difficult for creative types to endure.

And so if your life consists of frequenting your local Starbucks on the edge of a super-freeway (I certainly don’t know anyone like that…wait?  Nope, no one like that around here.  This very minute.  Right here.), then you just might find Kat Dennings to be especially on-point as the salty crowbar-toting Becca.  This film is more about Gubler’s character, but Dennings is indispensable to this moral play.

And what’s the moral?  The moral is this:  no matter how much you know about demand and supply curves (supply and demand to us lowly folk) there is always a more important line to shift outwards.  It’s more micro than microeconomics.  It is, in a word, empathy.  Respect for the dead.  Paranormal.  And, most of all, conscience.  It is that latter word which sticks in my head…falling from the lips of Godard (forever in my mind) in his whispered Swiss French.

Conscience.

Sure, this film makes Poltergeist look like Citizen Kane, but one senses from the opening credits that such is largely intentional.  No big budget here, and yet…this film is frightening and laugh-out-loud.  And like a good Simpsons episode, it is more touching than anything Hallmark rolls out of their platitude factory.

John Waters makes quite a fine cameo, but the lion’s share of credit goes to Gubler and Dennings and their auteur-in-the-making Richard Bates Jr.  Really a worthwhile flick!  Thank you.

-PD

To Write Love on Her Arms [2012)

This film goes beyond film.  Which is not to say it doesn’t have its problems.  Like the protagonist, it does.  But let me tell you why this film is worth it.  No…you know what?  This is fucking bullshit!  That’s not the way to review a film.  This is.

It’s gotta come from the heart and mind.  Depend too much on the mind and you miss the beauty.  Secrets make you sick.  Must be a whole lot of sick people in Langley, Virginia and Fort Meade, Maryland.  Go on, look it up.  It’ll do you good.  But for you lazy bums, that’s the CIA and NSA.

I read about the CIA all the time.  Why?  I’m only answering limited questions today.  But suffice it to say that both of these spy agencies are pretty interesting.  Don’t you think?

Well, so that’s one of my secrets.  It’s not really a secret.  It’s pretty transparent.  But maybe not.  So, there.  Like Robert Creeley said.  There you have it.

It’s very hard to not drop into John Berryman testimonial mode when talking about this film (oh yeah, this is a film review…duh!).

First things first:  you gotta love a film that premieres at the Omaha Film Festival (!)  Just knowing that Omaha has a film festival makes me feel a little less depressed about my life and the shitty town I live in (San Antonio).

And so…our setting:  Orlando.  It’s like an outtake from Mister Lonely–Cinderella smoking a cigarette at the bus stop.  Headed to the theme park presumably…  It’s certainly begging for a Harmony Korine touch, though director Nathan Frankowski does a nice job handling this priceless aside in more of a Terry Zwigoff way.

Wow.  Somebody needs to give the Wikipedia page for TWLOHA (the movie) some love.  I mean, Jesus!  A three-sentence plot summary???  There’s lost silent films which have more detailed synopses on Wiki than this!

So I guess my first inclination was correct:  speak from the heart.

Well God damnit!  There are some priceless moments in this film.  The secret weapon is Rupert Friend.  I’ll be damned if he doesn’t strike a stake right to my heart…fondling that pocket watch…  It’s no jive-ass MC5 John Sinclair rave-up testifyin’ going on.  This is some real shit.

For all of the snobs (like me) in the audience:  you gotta give this film time.  Clear from your mind the unpleasant parallels to the CGI of What Dreams May Come and The Lovely Bones.  IT GETS BETTER.

That said.  How?  Well, once again Ms. Kat Dennings hits a home run. This is no easy role.  It’s a tough, tough, TAXING role to embody with anything even approaching Method Acting.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that Dennings felt this role naturally (to a certain extent).

How does this film go beyond film?  Because.  Ghost World was a masterpiece.  Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was perfection for its genre (young adult comedy romance).  Charlie Bartlett was a mini-masterpiece…a damn good film.  Hell!  Daydream Nation was pretty fucking good too.  But TWLOHA moves into the social realm…because it touches on depression and substance abuse (not to mention the cutting words of the haiku title) in a real, sobering way.  No pun intended.  At least not the sober one.

Yeah.  What does this mean for you, dear WordPress blogger…or for someone who stumbled across this article?  It means you are powerful beyond your wildest belief.

Every time you commit your precious thoughts to the page and share them with people (comma) you are saying the only stuff that people believe anymore.

It doesn’t mean you can talk about reptilians and be taken seriously (no offence to my reptilian theorist brothers…and sisters).  No, it means that the only people who have CAPITAL in SINCERITY are everyday people like me…and YOU.

We don’t believe the lies anymore.  We’ve swallowed so many damned secrets that we’re sick to death.  We can’t sleep.  But we are fucking powerful!  Hillary Clinton knows it.  Zbigniew Brzezinski knows it.  I’m not sure if David Rockefeller knows it.  Nor George H.W. Bush.

That’s ok.  They came from a different generation.  Hell…I’m not even a “digital native”…  Not a Millennial.  I guess I am part of that lamentable flannel fuzzed Generation X.  I hyphenate when I damn well please.

I make inside jokes that only I get.  I don’t have any friends.  Not anymore.  But I have family.  I have cats.  Some days I think my best friend is an extraterrestrial in Turkey.  Or a classmate from Iran.  But most days my best friend is an actor or an actress.

So to Kat Dennings (and Renee Yohe)…wherever you are.  Thank you.  It makes a big fucking difference.  That you exist.  My sentence fragments and idiosyncratic punctuation are yours.  Mi casa es su casa.

-PD

Charlie Bartlett [2007)

There is a battle on between history and life.  And one of those battlegrounds is at the movies.  It is a storied fight between the little punk shit Bob Dylan and bearded, august Johannes Brahms.  1955 brought us Rebel Without a Cause which displayed what is truly at issue.  Can a piece of art (an artifact) speak to teenagers and still be timeless?  The history of cinema has proven the answer to be a resounding “yes.”

Nicholas Ray was one of the directors most admired by the French New Wave…particularly by Jean-Luc Godard.  Wim Wenders would celebrate the brave auteur as he passed from one world to the next in Lightening Over Water (1980).  But what is most enduring is the spirit Ray and other prescient filmmakers evinced–that spirit which lived on in John Hughes’ cult film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).

That brings me to the film in question.  When I first saw Charlie Bartlett I had a pretty unspectacular life.  I had just seen Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and fallen in love with Kat Dennings.  I had to see more.  I even went so far as to buy The House Bunny as a new release…just to get a few more minutes of this enigmatic actress.  Now that I have blown whatever street cred I had remaining as a film critic, I might as well fess up to having done a similar thing when I fell in love with Thora Birch after seeing Ghost World.  Yes, I forked out to buy Dungeons & Dragons (2000) on VHS.  Yikes!

When I first saw Charlie Bartlett, the teenage drama-comedy genre conventions struck me as mostly trite and hackneyed.  In a word:  hollow.  But my reappraisal of this film couldn’t be more different from my first impression.

The world of art films tends to speak its own cinematic language on screen.  At times, the overly-precious, self-conscious products come off as caricatures of better films.  In Ghost World, a classic awaiting its proper place in film history, Terry Zwigoff perfectly frames this empty art film posturing by referring to a nonexistent picture called The Flower That Drank the Moon.  It sums up the disconnect between the world of Cannes and the world at large.  Want to see Godard’s new film Adieu au langage at your local movie theater?  Good luck!

And so my assertion is this:  Charlie Bartlett is a masterpiece.  Is it as good as Ghost World?  No.  Is it as good as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist?  Not to these eyes.  But is it a classic which got swept unjustly into DVD cut-out bins?  Yes.  And here’s why.

Jon Poll kept a million pieces in balance.  His direction, while not perfect, should be commended with the highest accolades.  The screenplay by Gustin Nash goes a long way towards giving this film in a daunting genre a chance at being timeless.  The fact that the movie grossed just under half of its budget (a $6 million loss) should be welcomed by MGM as a blessing.  This film will be reborn in the history yet to be written.

Hope Davis gives a nuanced, touching performance as Charlie’s mother.  Anton Yelchin, as Charlie, is beyond fantastic.  It is a performance which requires multiple viewings to appreciate.  Robert Downey, Jr. gives a real piece of his soul to this film which was unjustly overlooked by the world.  Tyler Hilton manages to channel Adam Baldwin from another criminally underrated flick My Bodyguard (which just happened to feature Joan Cusack’s first substantive role).

Kat Dennings is remarkably good at such a young age.  She manages to cheer the hearts of all of us who perhaps identify a little too much with Kip Crombwell (Mark Rendall).  Rendall is shockingly adept in his miniscule role.

Perhaps the funniest aspect of this review is that I am clinging lustily to a piece of nicotine gum as I write this.  That’s just how life works.  Though it only figures into Charlie Bartlett as a mini-MacGuffin, it sets up a pivotal scene.  But nothing measures up to Downey and Yelchin by the poolside.  What to do when life has gone to shit…  A single father losing his teenage daughter…  The overtones are almost right out of Knut Hamsun (though the subject matter be unrecognizably morphed).

Substance abuse is at the forefront of this film, yet it is alcohol which finally precipitates a climax.  The emotional lift is brought via Dennings singing a song in the school play.  It is delicate and honest.  We have been made to relate to Downey’s struggle to find himself.  He just wasn’t cut out to play “bad cop.”  And that is the overarching crux:  the bad cop (Downey) jealous of the good cop (Charlie).  The wrong career can destroy you…and it does so from the inside out.  It’s not worth the extra money.

But the most important role (and element) of this entire film?  Dylan Taylor as Len Arbuckle.  You see, Charlie rides the short bus to school.  Bartlett is seemingly oblivious to the differences between the mentally and physically challenged and himself.  Peas and carrots.  Charlie Bartlett has a good heart…and an angel notices.

-PD