Medianeras [2011)

Here is as close to perfect as I can imagine.

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

It vaguely looked like it had Eva Green in it.

Or Natalie Portman.

Thank God it doesn’t.

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

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

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

It’s true.

Both these films are introspective and self-reflective.

In Medianeras, this is more subtle.

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

But all of this is academic.

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

The composition is taut.

The cinematography is deft.

The montage is formidable.

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

You can look him up.

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

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

And the eye which brought it to life.

Pilar López de Ayala is magical here.

So many beautiful touches of storytelling.

Sure.

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

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

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

It makes sense.

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

And it too was an excellent film.

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

But our director has gone much further than merely borrowing.

He has created his own coherent language.

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

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

Sans dancing.

More brooding than anything.

Playing.

But, above all, being lonely.

And that is what drives this home.

We have a lonely man.

And a lonely woman (Ornette).

And paths which cross.

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

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

They are so dangerously close to colliding.

Like electrons.

We want these characters to live forever.

And they do.

In that they are composed of real life foibles.

As both watch Woody Allen in the dark.

And cry.

[as I cry watching them]

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

As I live with my parents.

[as the late-Daniel Johnston lived with his]

I think.

But I do know this.

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

And I am stuck in San Antonio.

Probably a much shittier city than Buenos Aires.

No doubt.

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

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

Because life is hard.

And my life is generally shit.

“Working” at Starbucks.

Soon enough.

Again.

Not sure.

If my fiancée is dying.

And I am weeping.

Because I can relate to Martin and Mariana.

I can’t sleep.

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

But I am happy in a strange way.

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

So thank you, Gustavo.

Amazing film!!!

 

-PD

Idiocracy [2006)

Here is a must-see film.

Hear me out.

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

13 years ago.

A very prescient take on America.

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

I was lucky enough to meet Luke Wilson years ago.

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

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

Dax Shepard does a really good job here.

Jetskis in the reflecting pool of the Washington Monument.

President with Mountain Dew for a middle name.

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

Doctor Lexus.

Pictographs for sub-literate emergency room receptionist.

Gatorade coming out of water fountains.

Water has been phased out.

Not enough electrolytes.

Big box store gone badder.

Costco.

Starbucks is where you get hand jobs.

Showdown with Beef Supreme.

Welcome to Costco.  I love you.

Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

Really, this film is very, very intelligent.

There are some priceless moments.

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

So many amazing little details here and there.

I suppose it is a cult film.

And with good reason.

It is strange, but it is an essential film.

Kudos to Mike Judge.

 

-PD

Eagle vs Shark [2007)

One of the finest films ever made.

Loren Horsley is so cute working at Meaty Boy.

Like me at Starbucks.

So endearingly pathetic.

I hope.

Jemaine Clement is fucking genius here.

Those sideburns!!!

Let’s be frank.

This is quite fucking obviously the New Zealand version of Napoleon Dynamite, BUT IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER…BECAUSE IT’S STILL BLOODY AMAZING!!!

Eagle vs Shark is about pathetic life.

In pathetic places.

Pushing wheelchairs around.

Places where everything sucks.

But it’s also about complicated love.

And how that might look in an environment where everything sucks.

Such as a town where no one has hope.

Provincial nightmares.

One further qualification…

Eagle vs Shark is JUST AS GOOD as Napoleon Dynamite in its own way.

It is a must-see.

It is that good.

Excellent job by director Taika Waititi.

 

-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

#9 Do-It-Yourself Mr. Bean [1994)

When you’re having a crappy night.

One thing after another.

Life is beating you with a one-two combination punch.

And a couple of jabs.

You must go to your contingencies.

When the situation is not good, you must move forward.

No laissez faire nor wu wei at this point.

So you push on.

And everywhere you go you get lame.  Rudeness.  Snobby.  Ageist.

Walking on hot coals for capitalism.

Which is to say that the two Starbucks I visited tonight were worse than lackluster.

Starbucks chokes the American market.

But there is variance from store to store.

There are a lot of problems to be witnessed.

As a daily customer.

With no better options.

But Starbucks isn’t improving.  They are happy where they’re at.

And so they are ripe to be made obsolete.

How would that happen?

Who?

What ideas?

Most importantly would be to hire Mr. Bean.

Not the actor.  But the real guy.  The character.

The inspiration.  The gaggle which became one.

And please test in San Antonio.

Because our fair city is lethargic and uninspiring.

We never have what we need.

How can we remain happy?

Mr. Bean.

I remember a time in my life that was so fair.

Humorous.  Laughful.  Lifefilled.

A time when a girl’s laugh meant ANYTHING IN THE WORLD’S POSSIBLE.

She’s married now for a second time.  Was never my wife.

But something much more.  A love.  A love for which Rembrandt or Van Gogh would have fought.

And so I must tell myself that maybe someone in this world will find me charming.

It’s a sad clown to be used up.

Limelight.

This is, of course, a great episode of Mr. Bean.

They’re all pretty damn good!

Nobody’s like him.

And nobody’s like me.

But I’ve been beaten.

You know the law enforcement dealing with the burkinis?

They are fashion police.  Not completely unprecedented.

But never nearly as absurd.

I’ve been beaten up.  And so I have a little pile of clothes.

The machinery has ripped into my forearms and tendons and screwed up my hands.

I already needed something happy.

And then it got bad.

And bad progressed to worse.

But I fought the good fight.

Reading in the dark.

Prussian blue.  Watteau.  Niantic.

Keyhole.  In-Q-Tel.  NGA.  KH recon.  Corona.

Pokémon Go.  And Google at every stage.

John Hanke.  “Foreign Service”.

School of hard NOCs.

Twigs dipped in Marmite.

 

-PD

Žert [1969)

It would be, perhaps, best to list this as a Slovak film.

Slovakia.

We always talk about Prague.

But not enough about Bratislava.

Yet all of this would make little difference were this film not notable.

And it is quite notable.

The direction by Jaromil Jireš is admirable.

He plays with time.  A very unusual montage of flashbacks.

Haunted.  Haunting.  Hunted by communism.

This, then, would be a subversive film.

To show the corruption within Czechoslovakia.

To show the nightmare of reeducation.

The term is never named as such, but that’s what it is.

Punitive military service.

The soldiers with no weapons.

Because their country doesn’t trust them with such.

In the mines.

On the ground.

Relay.

Hup hup hup.

Power trip of professional army in service to socialism.

Trotsky is forbidden.

And so is humor.

Don’t make your jokes too pointed.

There’s no squirming out of the fact that you stand in opposition to the ethos of your government.

I.

It may not be a momentous occasion to realize that literature is being made.

For it skips under your nose as mere nonsensical rubbish.

Poppycock.  Hogwash.  Eyewash.

Tropes and memes and drupelets hanging low.  Evolving necks.  Giraffes.

I am of two Yiddish species:

schlub and schmuck.

Unattractive.  Fool.

Me and Josef Somr.  Who lives!  Age 82.

A masterful performance.  As real as my daily routine.

Shirt coming untucked.

I have kept my hair, but his combover parallels my gut (his too).  Sucked in.

Beware of jokes.

You are being watched.

Your letters are being intercepted.

And you will have to answer for your words.

Just what exactly did you mean by, “…” ???

Well, this is Milan Kundera with the story.

And I rebelled all the way.

I drew Baudelaire with lightening bolts.  And chartreuse dreams.

Kundera lives!  Age 87.

Born in Brno. (!)

But let’s back to this love-hate.

Not Mintzberg.

At the same time.

Alternating.  A constant election.

Affinities.

I will achieve 17,000-word vocabulary.  Just you watch.

I almost hate my town too.  I know.

Was I imprisoned?

No.

But I lost music.

Like Ludvík.

The name is significant.

Like lost hearing.

And so the clarinet is indispensable.

I mention Jana Dítětová because she was from Plzeň.

Pilsen.  Pillsbury.

The selfish gene.

Tricked.  Objectified.  MILF revenge reified.

Pithy memetics.

MIKE MILF.

Markéta is significant.

LazarováTwo years previous.

A permanent opium war of mankind.

Opiate of the masses.  Asses.  Snippets of military abuse.

You’ve never seen…like this.

We can still insult liberalism.  And neoliberalism.  And neoconservatism.

We can still find Starbucks artless.  And Subway.

But Wal-Mart passes over to kitsch.  Of which Kundera would understand.

Like Warhol meets Flavin.

All that fluorescence.

Non-stop.

Europe endless.

Schubert.

Dip the waves.

Coyoacán borough of Mexico City.  D.F.  Day effay.

Trotsky died the same year Conlon Nancarrow moved to Mexico.

1940.

And Nancarrow would make Mexico City his home.

Las Águilas.  With his Ampico player pianos.

Ludvík is expelled from his teaching position like Dr. James Tracy.

History is always with us.

We see the corruption of good intentions.

Communism.  Socialism.

Teachers of Marxism.

How the country had slid.

And Věra Křesadlová eats her cotton candy.  Stunning.

We wonder why the movie couldn’t have been about her.

But we needed the schlub/schmuck.

And the attempted suicide with laxatives.

Which is to say, there are far more than six stories in narrative history.

Bollocks Schenkerian analysis.

 

-PD

Riso Amaro [1949)

Robert Bresson said, “I believe in cinema.”

In English?  Like that?  I don’t know.

But it is truly the thought which counts here.

Because I believe in cinema.

Cinema.

Maybe it’s my favorite word.

My religion.

The great omnist hymn of all lands.

Of all the hands which have pitched in to turn the wheels of the mind.

And so this film, Bitter Rice, is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Not because it is flowery and seductive. [It’s not flowery.]

Not because there are perfumed stars in diamonds. [There’s no perfume.]

But because it is real.

As real as cinema gets.

Not the hyperreal of Harmony Korine’s Gummo.

Not even the transparent real of documentary footage.

But a real which is uniquely Italian.

To say neorealism is to cheapen the whole creation.

This is a masterpiece by director Giuseppe De Santis.

You must live through the rain to understand it.

You must have had no hope to fathom the slop.

You must wade in de water.

Because you are seeing Italian opera.

There’s no speech in the field.

No talking.

Workers are in the prison of labor.

Same kinds of rules.

But if you sing, that’s tolerated.

And so it all must be sung.  In the fields.

Puccini famously bragged about his facility.

Give him a grocery list, he said.

And Willie Sutton had his hygiene and motivators covered.

Even if he never uttered the famous phrase.

He ENJOYED robbing banks.

And, yes, that was where the money was.

And so the field workers not only display humanism.

Not only embody feminism.

But engage in a little triage worthy of Sutton’s law.

Taking the poor girl to the embankment.

[They’re all poor.  This is 1949 Italy.]

It’s not psychotic fugue, but psychogenic fugue.

Fugue state.

Thuringia.

The Axis Powers played a very bad game of chess.

Stretto was the shit hitting the fan.

“Ride of the Valkyries” mixed with heavy artillery mixed with vocalizations of agony.

Ristretto is what you get at Starbucks.

But, dear friends, don’t stop after the first half.

Let it finish.

Let it bleed.

Shine a light.

For Silvana Mangano.

Sylvania.  Someone has etched the word “hope” into the light bulb’s socket.

In the Schwarzwald.

The deep eerie mystery of the woods.  And Hitler’s aerie.

[Godwin golden mean]

34 21 13 8

almost Fibonacci but ending

aND nothing more Italian that an actress named Doris Dowling.

But that’s the way it went.

Direct descendent of opera verismo.

Our old favorites Mascagni and Leoncavallo.

But Netflix hasn’t gotten at the heart of what this means.

“Strong female lead” or some such rubbish.

Nice try…

But Riso Amaro blows all those venal pigeonholing strategies out of the water.

Cinema is not my God.

Cinema is my religion.

 

-PD

L’Avventura [1960)

Was Monica Vitti the most beautiful woman ever?

Probably.

Is Monica Vitti the most beautiful woman ever?

Yes.

That sounds better.

This.

This is the most disorienting film I have ever seen.

Mulholland Dr. is child’s play in this regard.

A sort of sweet, pleasant nausea.

A feeling I didn’t know existed.

Maybe.

Maybe John Hughes was right in this regard.

[Vingt regards]

uno

hair, always hair…blowing in the wind…like tall grass

good lord…

due

the birds are men…flocking on the jungle gym bars…as she silently tries to sneak from the schoolhouse

Noto…UNESCO World Heritage Site…Samba de Uma Nota Só

tre

a purring in my headphones…a Foley artist diabolico-subliminal…and yes she curls up like a cat…

Quattro

she seems to be bathing in money…but it’s just the floor pattern…sometimes…the floor looks best in red…

and there is always a woman…or a man…and you hate to admit it

cinque

dreadful…dreary…making love above the cemetery…a gazelle with blond hair…thank you Google…5’7″…an essential function for the, functioning of humanity

sei

Uh!  They’re all nudes.  No nudity here.  A goddess is clothed.  Not an alabaster ornament by the fountain.

sette

I wanted to like it.  Or I wanted to not like it.  Camus.  I said that.

otto

no man is an island…and no island a man…and no man a nomad…

nove

it all hinges (henges) on a funny face in the mirror…the genius…we create together…Vitti…Antonioni…Ferzetti

a bad habit I never caught…

dieci

andiamo…lots of andiamo…remarkable for a film with so little movement in such a big slab of its meat…

like formidable in French…Anna Karina…everything formidable…but that’s because she was Danish…speaking French…and her cute little accent…but before there was Godard Breathless there was Antonioni Adventure…like the second Television album…but moreover on Karina…before Vivre sa vie (I know…) there was L’Avventura…a little scene with a wig…and before that Louise Brooks…

undici

you think they will turn around nude

dodici

Nono, Luigi…it is the most intoxicating kiss…out of nowhere…WTF in excelsis…mamma mia!

tredici

David, del…frolicking…who says summer is over?!?  bangs…Fiat…leaping off the pavement (!)

quattordici

they told me to learn…sotto voce…or sotto nightgown…les cloches…loaves…and fishes…twenty, or vingt-et-un…Van Johnson…I really blew it…the architecture…and a dog with lunar metabolism…

quindici

you fuck…and then get fucked…that is, the circle of life…like a lion…and an impala…gazelle…przygoda…

sedici

he collects dolls…a man…faints [Truffaut]

diciassette

the first girl…is not Vitti…wait a while…count the seconds

diciotto

oops…now comes the swimming in money…my house in Rome…and the other in Milan

diciannove

Michelangelo…Sandro…I threw it all away…and no one is listening

venti

another day, another dollar…pardon me ma’am, but do you have natural nails?  I use a lighter.  Better still, until they go wrong.

it’s too packed full of dolphins

too many Bibles and Catholic eeriness

spring breakers…island hoppers

if it had ended

no

just give me macaroons and sports cars

il mio amore

-PD

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me [1999)

This one is painful.  No getting around it.

Mike Myers is a very talented guy, but this film is seriously lacking in creativity.

I get it…  The James Bond series is very formulaic, but a spoof franchise can’t afford to be so predictable.

And thus it is little wonder that Austin Powers only lasted three installments.

But to be fair, let’s give this film a chance.

Austin starts out learning that his luck was too good to be true.

Elizabeth Hurley.  Not a professional model until age 29.

Speaks of a certain beauty.  Timeless.

Perhaps.

Daughter of Angela Mary Titt (!)…you can’t make this stuff up.

Bruce Beresford cast Hurley in Aria (1987) [a compilation film which happened to feature a vignette by my idol Jean-Luc Godard].

Aria was her debut.

Ok, enough about Hurley. She’s not in much of this film, but I really did her a disservice by completely failing to mention her performance in the first Austin Powers movie.  Really, she is a fine actress and her contribution to that movie was significant and impressive.

By now you may be noticing that the current film under consideration (installment two) must be quite a clunker for me to be going on about an actress who appears in about ten minutes of this feature.

If you have surmised thusly, you have surmised correctly.

Moving on…

There are moments in this movie when things briefly coalesce.  Dr. Evil’s headquarters atop The Space Needle hosts one such moment.  The schadenfreude I felt as a patron of a particularly lackluster Starbucks (watch the movie) was, in this scene, among the highlights of a rather limp film.

There is, of course, the addition of the 2′ 8″ Verne Troyer in this installment.  Troyer does a fine job as Mini-Me.

Even the Fat Bastard character is entertaining (up to a point).

I suppose that is the M.O. of the Austin Powers franchise: to go beyond the limits of ridiculousness and good taste.

When it works, it’s quite special.  When it doesn’t (as in most of this film), it’s a rather tragic affair.

Unfortunately, Rob Lowe is not really allowed to shine in this film.  His comedic gifts deserved better.

One player who makes the most of her small role is Kristen Johnston.  Kudos to her for making the sport of chess as exciting and bizarre as Marcel Duchamp and Henry Miller would have done had they wound up in this shambles of a film.

And now on to the bright spot of the film:  Heather Graham.

Yes, I know…I know.

Though it’s not as powerful as her breathtaking performance in Boogie Nights, it’s not a bad performance.

No…far from it.

Graham takes the charm of Elizabeth Hurley and ratchets it up a few notches.

But the story…oy vey, the story.  Really, there is no story.  The same story.

It’s pretty sad when a spy spoof is less entertaining than a Bond clunker such as Moonraker.

Back to Graham…anyone who’s dated Adam Ant is alright in my book.

Pushing onwards…

Dr. Evil at least happens upon the perfect name for his doomsday laser:  The Alan Parsons Project.

Like the evil Starbucks Space Needle, it is one of few highlights.

One of the few storyline threads to come through intact is the one involving Powers’ mojo.

Unfortunately, the naïvete of enlightenment which somehow alighted upon the first Austin Powers film is not present here to sustain the promising premise of mojo lost and found.

Strangely, the series itself seemingly lost its mojo in this its sophomore slump.

There’s one final twist at the end involving Fat Bastard.  For a moment the film threatens to redeem itself.

But alas, as they say…

-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