Monthly Archives: June 2015

Forgive Me Father, For I Have Sinned

I have a little ritual. Once a week, movie in, manicure kit out. Last week I wore 4-alarm blaze, this week I’m changing it up for Bahama Mama. It’s nice to know that in the crayon off-season, colour namers still have somewhere to go. A movie is a perfect length of time to do your nails, and wet nails are the perfect way to stop yourself from eating a whole bag of chips while watching the movie: win-win!

And truth be told, some movies require a modicum of distraction. I mean, this movie in particular is a little intense, and it’s nice to have somewhere else to focus when your senses start overloading. But for me, being a little deficient in attention, I tend to actually focus better if I’m doing 2 or 3 other things in addition to the movie watching, which is why I’m writing to you, while watching a movie, while painting my nails. At work.

calvaryI’m watching Calvary, which is a brilliant character study of a priest going through a rough patch. Father James (Brendan Gleeson, wonderfully) sits in confession one Sunday and a parishioner confesses that he was molested as a child, by a priest. His abuser is long dead; instead, he plans on making a good priest pay. That good priest, it would seem, is to be Father James. The date is set for a week hence – Father James will die for the sins of the church.

Father James goes about helping the people of his parish – a butcher (Chris O’Dowd) being cuckholded, his own daughter fresh from a suicide attempt, a cynical and atheistic doctor, and a young man in prison for killing and eating beautiful women, this last played by Gleeson’s son Brendan Gleeson and Chris O'Dowd in John Michael McDonagh's Calvary.Domhnall (of Ex Machina, you may remember). Their scene together is pretty disturbing, and pretty great. Actually, the whole thing’s pretty great.

All the while, we’re wondering if it’s one of these parishioners (we’re introduced to a nice, round, biblical 12) who has threatened his life, so the interactions are tainted with underlying hostility and suspicion. We may not yet know who the would-be killer is, but Father James knows him. He knows his fate but keeps walking toward it. The movie’s cleverly put together, with plenty of hints in retrospect, sometimes uneven in tone as the humour and the violence circle around each other. The film deals with a difficult subject – sexual abuse in the church – in a calvary_2circumspect manner; not so much head-on as from a spiritual angle looking into the black hole left by years of abuse and maybe worse still, its cover up.

I always like Gleeson but he’s top-notch in this. His weathered face fills the frame with truth and regret. Forgiveness, redemption, compassion, sacrifice: by the time you’ve done your penance, your nails will be dry and you’ll be free to sin again.




Movie Masturbation Scenes to Get You Going Every Time

The truth is, most masturbation in movies isn’t sexy at all. Awkward for sure. Embarrassing at times. Shameful. Painful. Or just downright scary. And that’s why I’ve decided to celebrate them with this post!

The Squid and The Whale – Owen Kline plays the younger of two kids belonging to Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, who go through a rather stuffy and bitter divorce. Owen finds lots of ways to cope, but none creepier than whensquid he uses a crinkled piece of porn to rub himself off against a book case in his school library, defiling some nearby books with his teenaged cum. You can’t help but see the symbolism as his parents are both bookish (a professor and a writer), a rejection of them and an assertion of himself. Oh Noah Baumach, there are some things we just can’t unsee you know.

American Beauty – There are many great components to this movie, and we’ve talked many of them to death, but I think that until now beautywe’ve avoided the most telling and depressing scene of the movie. Our introduction to Kevin Spacey is when he’s alone in the shower, jerking himself off rather sadly and routinely, though describing these few moments as “the high point” of his day. Later we catch him masturbating yet again, fantasizing about his daughter’s teenage girlfriend, and unashamedly waking his wife in the process. They fight, of course, and the act feels really hostile, contemptuous of her, but at least he’s not hiding in the shower anymore. Spacey says “It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.”

badBad Lieutenant – There are many reasons why I’ll never really recover from watching this movie, but Harvey Keitel’s masturbation scene is still ranked really high on that list. A corrupt cop pulls over two teenage girls who are using their father’s car without his permission. Keitel forces one of the girls to strip while the other must simulate fellation while he masturbates. There is nothing arousing or hot about this scene. He’s not getting off on the girls, he’s getting off on his power. It’s repulsive, and on some level, even he knows it.

Little Children – In a nice side story to the prominent Kate Winslet one, a pedophile’s just been childrenreleased from prison and his mama thinks he can turn his life around if only he could just meet the right woman. Cue the blind date, which seems to be going surprisingly well until he wordlessly pulls the car over at the end of the night, and starts masturbating while she’s trapped in the front seat with him…and they just happen to be parked right outside a playground. No word yet on date number two.

So what’s your favourite movie masturbation?

Odds & Ends – Netflix Edition

longestweekThe Longest Week – Jason Bateman plays a dependently wealthy man-child chronically working on (or at least thinking about) the great American novel until one day his parents cut him off, he gets evicted, and he shows up on his best friend’s (Billy Crudup) doorstep, begging for a place to stay. And this might have gone well if he didn’t immediately start crushing on and sleeping with his best friend’s girl (Olivia Wilde). Likeable leads. Aiming for quirky but falls into been there, done that.

Touchy Feely – Rosemarie DeWitt plays a massage therapist suddenlyTouchy-Feely-Poster1 stricken with a complete aversion to touch. She can’t do her job anymore but that’s the least of it: all of her personal relationships start to suffer too. Luckily her brother the dentist starts to do really well healing his patients thanks to his daughter (Ellen Page) breeching protocol. The uptight family does some X and wander around and just like this movie, they never really go anywhere.

Life of Crime – Tim Robbins is a rich old white guy with a young, hot wife (Jennifer Aniston) but leaves his wife for a younger, hottlife-of-crimeer mistress (Isla Fisher). Too bad some dumb criminals pick this exact moment to kidnap the wife and demand a hefty ransom. Sure he has the money, but now that he thinks about, he wouldn’t mind if his wife just disappeared – in fact, it would save him on alimony. Not the best Elmore Leonard adaptation but solid, and sometimes charming.

The Giant Mechanical Man – Jenna Fischer plays a woman who’s a little too old to still not know what she wants to be when she grows up. Temping isn’t paying what it used to andmechanicalman she has to move in with her uppity little sister. She feels comforted by the giant mechanical man (Chris Messina) when she spots him around the city – one of those street performers who dress up like a metal statue and never move. Turns out the mechanical man is going through a transition period himself. His girlfriend’s left him because he spends his day wearing silver paint rather than being gainfully employed. The two finally meet when they both take jobs far below their stations, and bond over their common loserdom. It’s quietly sweet, but it’s hard not to think that Pam belongs with Jim, and Danny with Mindy. Call me crazy.


Citizen Kane: The Citizen Kane of American Cinema?

Citizen kane 3First of all, I like Citizen Kane. It is on my short list of movies that I try to make a point of checking in with at least once a year. “Keeping your film nerd cred up to date,” my friend called it yesterday. Because nothing keeps you current like rewatching a 1941 movie.

Of course, I’m not the only one who watches it regularly. Nearly 75 years later, it is still typically referred to as the prototypical example of a great movie. For example, if you wanted to recommend the latest Oscar bait with qualifications, you might say “It’s not Citizen Kane but I liked it”. I do it too. Back in April, I referred to The Dark Knight as the Citizen Kane of superhero movies. In May, I quoted Entertainment Weekly in calling The Room “the Citizen Kane of bad Citizen Kanemovies”. But is Citizen Kane really the Citizen Kane of American movies?

It’s not my favourite movie. How can it be? My own grandfather was just a kid when it was originally released. By the time I finally watched Citizen Kane for the first time when I was maybe 17, its visual style and narrative structure had been inspiring writers and directors for nearly 60 years, making it easy to take so much of what made the film unique in 1941 for granted. As a 21st century viewer, I’m far more likely to marvel at the style of, say, American Beauty even though that film would not have been possible without Citizen Kane.

Citizen Kane 4So why do I find my annual visits with this movie so essential to my film nerd cred? First of all, I admire the non-linear structure. Even today, where movies like Pulp Fiction and Memento have taken this idea even further, Citizen Kane is still impressive. It remains one of my favourite character studies of a ruthless protagonist. And Rosebud! How often do we sit through an entire movie waiting for an answer that actually satisfies and feels right?

I can’t pretend to feel that Citizen Kane is necessarily the greatest movie ever made but it has a lot to offer even to modern film nerds. It rewards multiple viewings and I’m always looking forward to my next one.

The Drop

‘Cousin Marv’s’ is a Brooklyn bar run and formerly owned by Marv (James Gandolfini) and his cousin Bob (Tom Hardy). The Chechen mob has taken it over for their own devices, often using thedropit as a drop – the designated spot where the city’s dirty money will be stored over the course of an evening.

One night the bar is robbed, and now we’re in trouble. Well, they’re in trouble and we’re vicariously in trouble. In a way, this is just another mob movie. Not nice people doing not nice things to other not so nice people. No heroes, no sympathy. But this one kind of rose above for me because Gandolfini and Hardy are both so damned good in it. It’s slow, moody, dark. And to be honest, they probably had me at ‘Tom Hardy with a puppy.”

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

tale-of-princess-kaguya-1Apparently I’m a bit of a masochist this week – after watching a bunch of foreign movies, I’m watching a few more, including the last Oscar-nominated animated movie on my list, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, because why watch any old cartoon when you can watch one that’ll make you work hard reading subtitles?

And if you’re thinking that a subtitled cartoon doesn’t sound like much fun, then let tell you about the animation, which is very minimalistic and quite drab, and the story, which is goddamned depressing.

Okay, the truth is, it is quite beautiful. Yes, the lines are simple, hand-drawn, but it is quite lovely. And the colours might more optimistic be described as soft, like water colours. It certainly makes for a stark contrast from the Pixar fare we’re more accustomed to, which doesn’t make it bad, just different – and for me, less engrossing.

The tale is this: an old man, a bamboo cutter, finds a tiny person in a bamboo shoot. He brings her home and when he and his wife decide to raise her, she changes into a baby, but one who grows rapidly. The old man is convinced she is a beautiful princess, so when he finds gold in the bamboo patch, he moves his family into the city and buys her a title, along with everything else that money can buy. The princess is unhappy. She preferred her simple life back home. She’s saddled with a tutor who teaches strict lessons in civility and the etiquette of nobility, while the princess just wants to laugh and play.

The most interesting scene for me was when the princess decides to run away from a fancy imagesparty where she’s meeting suitors – the animation goes to black and white, with a shot of red that really speaks to her fleeing. It was so much stronger a visual than anything that had come before it that it was arresting, and kind of woke me up out of the stupor that I’d been in.

I was watching, as I said, the original Japanese version, with English subtitles, but there does exist a dubbed version James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Chloe Grace Moretz, Lucy Liu and Darren Criss provide the voice work, and I wondered if maybe that would make it more approachable and help me to get lost in the story. I normally find dubbing to be unforgivably distracting but about half way through the movie I switched over and, well, yeah – lots of white voices behind traditional Japanese characters? Not working. Either way, it felt very abrupt and cold. And if there were times I felt I was picking up on some social satire despite the fact that this is a retelling of a Japanese piece of folklore many centuries old, I still failed to connect with a message in any meaningful way.  The translation is so stiff and awkward it earned chuckles from me it never asked for.

untitledThe Tale of the Princess Kaguya has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Those are some FRESH tomatoes, but me? I thought it was ketchup. Generic ketchup. Sundried, generic ketchup. I promised myself on a previous review not to feel guilty anymore when I disagree with the critics’ consensus. Where others saw beauty, I felt mostly boredom. And with the exception of a beautiful scene under cherry blossoms, I never felt done right by this movie.



Sibling Relationships (Biologically Related)

Time again for Thursday Movie Picks. Sibling week hits just two weeks away from when we leave for sunny California where we will see my own brother who I haven’t seen since Christmas. Let’s hope our reunion goes smoother than they did in these three amazing films.

Rain man

Rain Man (1988)- Tom Cruise has some serious daddy issues to work out finally gets his chance when he discovers that he has an autistic brother (Dustin Hoffman). Their road trip may start out as Charlie’s selfish scheme to get his inheritance back but spending time with his brother soon becomes its own reward in one of Hollywood’s all-time great feel-good movies.

The Savages (2007)- Neither Wendy (Laura Linney) or Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are in great shape when their estranged father’s dementia progresses to the point that he needs to be placed in a nursing home. The always-amazing Linney and Hoffman are completely believable as brother and sister both at first when spending time together dealing with this family crisis is completely uncomfortable and finally when they start actually enjoying each other’s company.

Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married (2008)– Before this movie came out, I never would have thought that I’d like Anne Hathaway in anything. She reinvents herself completely for this though as a tactless drug addict on temporary leave from rehab to attend her sister’s bizarre wedding. I could have easily picked this for father-daughter or mother-daughter relationships but it fits this category better. The sisters have the only relationship in this family that actually may see some healing.