Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Oh, Baby

Films: Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Format: DVD from Cherry Valley Public Library through interlibrary loan on basement television.

Dell over at Dell on Movies is doing his yearly Girl Week blogathon, and I've decided to participate. I'm hoping to participate several times, but I wanted to make sure I got in at least one review during the week.

Of the new movies added to the 1001 Movies list, Never Rarely Sometimes Always was the one that I looked forward to the least. This has nothing to do with this being a “woman’s” movie, but simply that it’s a difficult subject. Any relatively regular reader of this blog is going to be roughly sure of my politics in general, so it’s not going to be surprising that I am, for instance, pro-choice when it comes to the abortion question. That said, it’s not a topic that I love talking about. For me, it’s a bodily autonomy issue and a conversation where I don’t generally belong. So, a movie that is essentially “the abortion question” in the person of one young woman is a film I feel only vaguely qualified to discuss.

But that’s what we’ve got when it comes to Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan), in rural Pennsylvania, discovers that she is about 10 weeks pregnant. Rather than being given any real counselling, she’s shown an anti-abortion video and talked to briefly about the wonders of parenthood and of adoption. She learns that she is unable to get an abortion in Pennsylvania without parental notification or approval, and her juvenile attempts at causing a miscarriage don’t work. Her third option is to go elsewhere. Eventually, her Skylar (Talia Ryder) susses out the truth. She steals cash from the grocery store where the two of them work and they buy bus tickets to New York city so that Autumn can have an abortion.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Help Wanted?

Films: The Assistant
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on Fire!

I think almost everyone has had a job that has sucked to the point of feeling like life is no longer worth living. Most of us have cried over a job or stormed out, rage quit, or otherwise wondered what the hell we were doing with our lives. When the job in question is connected to what you want to do with your life, it’s a rude and terrible wake-up call. That’s what The Assistant is. A young woman working at a low-level job in the film industry gets a very hard lesson in exactly how terrible pursuing a dream can be.

Jane (Julia Garner) wants to produce, and pursuant to that goal has taken a job as a minor assistant of a New York film producer of some stature. While the initial thought is one of glamor and fame, Jane’s life is anything but. She shows up before dawn, handles countless menial tasks, and works well into the night. Her interaction with her boss (Tony Torn, who only appears as a voice on her phone) is generally abusive—she’s not noticed when things are perfect and is blamed for everything that might go wrong whether or not she was involved.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Shear Insanity

Films: The Burning
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

In the massive career of disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, there had to be a beginning point. Well, here it is: The Burning, a 1981 slasher based loosely on the legend of the Cropsey legend from upstate New York. And yes, according to the Wikipedia page on this movie, Weinstein’s sexually harassing ways were in full force even at this early point in his career. Can’t keep a pervert down, I suppose.

Anyway, The Burning is very much a slasher in the vein of Friday the 13th. It’s worth noting that for all of the similarities—and there are a lot of them—this project was started before Friday the 13th became a thing. The parallels are surprising, though. We start in the past, where a collection of teens at a summer camp attempt to pull a prank on Cropsy (Lou David), the camp caretaker. Things go wrong and Cropsy is lit on fire. He survives his horrible injuries, and years later is released from the hospital. Naturally, he’s going to go on a killing spree. I don’t even know why I have to tell you this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Getting a Head

Films: The Green Knight
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I knew from the moment that the reviews started coming in that I would be watching The Green Knight eventually. On the surface, this is the definition of an Oscar film. The Green Knight has 89% approval on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and a mere 50% from audiences. It’s artsy, based on a classic story, and has a solid cast. This blog looks at seven different Oscar categories. I could see this nominated in four of them at the upcoming Oscars—Picture, Director, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. I have no idea if it will be a contender, but I think it should be.

The Green Knight is a fairly straightforward version of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Rather than spoil what the story is, I’m going to give the basics of the legend, since the film does a good job of sticking to the broad strokes of the story. At Christmas, Arthur and his knights are visited by The Green Knight, who offers a unique challenge. He puts it to the knights that he will suffer a blow from any one of them, if they agree to track him down and find him in a year (in the story, it was on New Year’s Day) and receive the same blow in return.

Monday, November 8, 2021


Films: Spiral: From the Book of Saw
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on The New Portable.

I liked the first Saw movie, I found the second one passable, and I disliked the third one. I didn’t bother with the rest of them. So why the hell did I bother with Spiral, you may ask. That’s a fair question. I saw the DVD on the new acquisitions shelf of a local library, saw that it starred Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, and didn’t notice until I got home that it was also called Saw: From the Book of Saw. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, so here we go.

Spiral is going to be a movie of two halves, or rather two sides. There are things here that I like and things that I do not. I’m not entirely sure where this leaves me on the movie in general; I’m still working that out, and perhaps by the time I get to the end, I’ll have an answer as far as that goes. Bluntly, there are plot elements here that work really well. What doesn’t work as well is the reliance on gore. The Saw movies have always been at least a little bloody, but this one dives in to that end of the pool with gusto and without real necessity.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

What I've Caught Up With, October 2021

October was surprisingly productive on the “catching up on movies” front. In addition to the five that are listed here, I got through three that I posted full reviews of during my Ten Days of Terror marathon. Bulbbul, Bad Hair, and #Alive were all films recommended to me that I felt worked really well in the context of that yearly event. So, eight movies total, which is a pretty solid effort.

I’m behind on total films watched for the year. I might make it up to an average of 1/day, but right now, even that is looking pretty suspect.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Confirmation Bias

Films: Saint Maud
Format: Streaming video from Hulu Plus on Fire!

My position when it comes to religion is not a secret, although I haven’t really gone into a great deal of detail on this blog. I am a formerly religious person, believe it or not, but that’s very much in my past. These days, I’m not merely someone who is areligious, but someone who is specifically antireligious. Gun to my head, I will tell you that I think that religion either causes or exacerbates every societal ill we experience, and I can argue that if necessary, although this is not the place for it. Knowing that, Saint Maud was a film that was both difficult and also an encapsulation of exactly why I find religion to be so terrible. It’s also a reminder that “passion” in the religious sense is not necessarily indicative of pleasure, but is synonymous with agony, suffering, and pain.

Saint Maud is a film that explores in very real ways that sort of religious ecstasy, the sort of intensity of feeling where pleasure and pain can no longer be separated. We will be coming at this in the person of Maud (Morfydd Clark), formerly known as Katie. Maud is a nurse who lost a patient despite her attempting CPR. She converted to Catholicism and renamed herself Maud, and takes a job as the equivalent of a hospice nurse. She’s assigned to Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a former dancer and choreographer who has stage four terminal cancer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Presumably, Right by the Cow

Films: Over the Moon
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!

Once upon a time, there was a group of animators who really, really wanted to work for Disney. They tried as hard as they could, and they learned how to make characters that looked like they belonged in Disney movies. They studied all of the Disney tropes, trying to incorporate all of them into their movie. We’ve got a full musical complete with upbeat and downbeat tunes and a reprisal. We’ve got a plucky lead who is misunderstood and has a particular knowledge set that dwarfs that of adults. We have an animal sidekick, comic relief that shows up half-way through the film, and even an annoying sibling. Hell, there’s even a dead mom! And yet, Over the Moon is not a Disney film, but one from NetFlix animation.

Over the Moon is the latest animated film in NetFlix’s desire to be the streaming service that is all things to all people. I think it’s a smart movie. There are a lot more foreign language films on NetFlix right now, and I think that’s a good thing. Over the Moon is a film based in a Chinese culture—I can’t say for sure which specific region of China this is, but it’s clearly China. I think that’s good, since there are stories from everywhere worth hearing, and representation of other people is important, too. I just wish that this one had been better.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Spice World?

Films: Dune (2021)
Format: AMC Theater, DeKalb.

I feel like I need to talk about my connection and relationship with the world and empire building of the various iterations of Frank Herbert’s Dune before I talk about the Denis Villeneuve Dune that is current in theaters. I have what I think is a unique history with this property. Back in 1998, I was working freelance for Prima Publishing, writing computer and video game strategy guides. One of the first ones I did was for Dune 2000, a reboot of Westwood Studios’ Dune 2. I worked with Westwood a lot, and also did the book for Emperor: Battle for Dune a few years later. When the estate of Frank Herbert started to run out of money (clearly no longer a problem), they started suing people—including Westwood—for changes to the Dune universe that they had previously approved. I was deposed for that case, which never went anywhere.

Those games were connected visually to the David Lynch version of Dune, and because of that, I have particular notions of what Dune should look like. I spent a lot of time running around Arrakis, after all, so my idea of what an ornithopter or a spice harvester looks like is fairly set.