Author Archives: Jay

The Little Mermaid (2018)

A young reporter, Cam, and his sickly niece Elle take a night off from closely monitoring her health (a persistent cough that causes her to fall to the floor ahem), to take in the circus that’s just come to town. Among the elephant and fortuneteller lurks an even greater mysery: a real live mermaid, Elizabeth.

She’s kept in a tank and it looks pretty real, but it must be some trick, right? Wrong. This mermaid is being kept in slavery by the evil carnival barker, and it’s up to Elle, who idolizes her, and Cam, who’d like to, um, romance her, to save her.

You might have been excited to know that a live-action version of The Little MermaidMV5BYzA5ODc3MTctNmQwNC00YjdhLTgxNTEtZTczYTQyMTQ4N2RlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ3NTcyNzQ@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,745_AL_ was hitting Netflix, but that would make you a fool. It’s an abomination. The plot is as poor as the production values. Seriously, the special effects were short-bus special, and the effect was that I hated it, and felt embarrassed on its behalf.

Pointless, absolutely, but also completely boring. Kids won’t have the patience for it, and parents won’t have the forgiveness. The rest of us are just chumps for watching. If I had a mermaid tail, I’d flip it dismissively as I swam decisively away. If I’d lost my voice in exchange for legs, I’d flip it the bird. If I suddenly used a fork as a comb, well, I’d get on the short bus because mermaids are the least of my trouble.

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Dumplin’

Willowdean, aka Dumplin (Danielle Macdonald), feels like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Her aunt Lucy always had a knack for making her feel at home and helping her to navigate life greasier spots, but aunt Lucy is gone now. Thank goodness for her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush), a fellow lover of all things Dolly Parton. Willowdean’s mother, Rosie (Jennifer Aniston), is practically a celebrity in their small Texan town. She was Miss Teen Bluebonnet 1991, and is the pageant’s current director. Their house looks like Miss America barfed all over it, except in aunt Lucy’s old room, still not empty of her belongings, but that won’t be true for long, if Rosie has her way.

MV5BNTIwODk1MjYzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQxMzU3NjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1301,1000_AL_Dumplin’ is based on a novel by Julie Murphy, and it’s kind of like a Love, Simon for fat girls (we deserve love too!). Willowdean doesn’t have the perfect figure, a fact all the more noticeable standing next to her mother, a literal beauty queen, and the town’s image of perfection. So it’s a mystery to her when Bo, the heartthrob that works with her in the local diner, seems to be interested in her. That can’t be right, can it?

Overweight women struggle to find acceptance in the world, and remain almost invisible, undepicted, in Hollywood. Weight will be the last taboo, clearly. So when Willowdean enters the pageant, it’s an act of rebellion. Her mother isn’t thrilled and the pageant institution wants to preserve its ‘sanctity’, but when Willowdean shows up, she’s like the Joan of Arc of fat girls, inspiriting several other ‘unsuitable’ girls to sign up.

It’s interesting to watch Willowdean struggle, to know in her head that people’s judgement about her weight is complete bullshit, but also to have internalized it, to use that bit of self-loathing as as a defense mechanism. It takes a lot of strength to confront these stereotypes, and to have Willowdean do it as a high school student, so young and vulnerable, keeps our compassion levels high – as well as our concern. It makes us watch with a critical eye. Who is complicit? Store that sell a minimum of (small) sizes? Magazines that wrongfully equate weight with health? Movies that would have you believe that a boy who likes a fat girl is a hero? The pageant system itself, which celebrates a very narrow definition of beauty and weighs intellect and swim suit wearing equally?

There’s nothing in the rules that says “big girls need not apply” but all too often, fat girls see barriers everywhere. Sometimes they’re just barriers we just mentally put there ourselves after being conditioned by society to feel somehow inferior or unworthy. Dumplin’ is asking us not to buy into that – not of each other, and not of ourselves. A number on a scale is incapable of determining beauty, and it’s not even close to measuring a person’s worth. The film doesn’t follow the book’s exact plot, and it wisely edits a lot of the romantic drama, because this story is most of all about self-acceptance, as every story should be.

Nona

Nona is a young mortician in Honduras. She lives alone: her father was gunned down on his way home from buying a bag of chips, her brother was stabbed to death during a home invasion, and her mother has fled to the U.S., too poor to pay for her daughter’s passage over to join her.

So you might say Nona is ripe for escape when she meets Hecho, a bad boy on a Vespa. He’s a traveler, a laid-back, rootless guy as evidenced by his ubiquitous nona2bowler hat. They have a fun, flirty road trip, ambling toward their destination, taking their time, getting to know each other. And we’re treated to these beautiful countrysides and colourful images that make us feel like we’re on vacation with them. Nona is fleeing a very hard and dangerous life, but once she’s on the road, it’s clear she feels free. She’s a different person.

Until they near the border, and it turns out that Hecho traffics in humans, and this whole transaction has not been what Nona thought. Yeah. It’s a bit of a blow. The last third of the film takes an abrupt turn, as I’m sure it feels to Nona, who clearly doesn’t see it coming. Is she that naive, and is Hecho that villainous?

The shift is harsh, I’m not gonna lie. But how can I complain when a woman goes from romance to brothel in about ten seconds flat? You’re going to have to watch this one for yourself, if only to commiserate.

Magical Christmas Ornaments

Marie is feeling sad and kind of Grinchy after a bad recent breakup. So her mother is sending her gifts in the mail – ornaments that were special to her in childhood. Yes, not coincidentally, these are Hallmark keepsake ornaments, visibly branded. This is an 87 minute commercial.

Marie is not your typical Hallmark heroine. They usually cast from a very narrow set of cookie-cutter qualities. They all look like the girl next door – attractive, but not glamourous, not intimidating. Approachable. Not high maintenance. Marie, however, looks like she might have some adult films under her belt. So it’s a littleMagical-Christmas-Ornaments-hallmark-movies-40840833-450-325 unbelievable when the wholesome, blandly hunky nurse next door Nate starts to fall for her. Of course, she tries to scare him off. Her reasons are sound, and many: if they got together and it didn’t work out, it would be awkward in elevators. And the mail room! Okay I lied, those were all the reasons. And keep in mind the fact that they lived next door to each other for 6 months before they “met” because she’s always so phone- and self-absorbed. The woman’s best acting is not falling down the stairs in heels.

Anyway, you guys are super smart, so you’ve noticed from the title that these aren’t any ordinary ornaments. They’re magic! Marie’s mother is sending ornaments that put ju-ju out into the universe. Are they predicting events or are they making them happen? No, it is not simply coincidence, god, I can’t believe you even brought that up, where the heck is your Christmas spirit?  How rude! Get your head out of the snowbank and pay attention! These are magical ornaments. They look like shitty, dusty Hallmark remnants from the 1980s, but trust me, they have special powers.

Do your ornaments pulse with magic? Probably not. They probably have little metal hooks, or else a ribbon, and some will have glitter. Are some of them special? Are all of them special? Tell me about them as a palette cleanser so I can pretend I never watched this movie.

Funny Tweets

So, Twitter.

This platform has changed the way we communicate. Originally you had only 140 characters to send out your thoughts, and today we’re up to 280, which is a boone to us long-winded folks. Something in the neighbourhood of 6000 tweets are sent every second. Nearly half of all Twitter users never send a single tweet, they’re just there to read. And man is there stuff to read. Read for days!

In Twitter’s early days, it was like the wild west: anything goes. And one of the things that really proliferated was comedy. There’s a special knack to writing jokes for Twitter, there’s a special pace, a special formula.

This documentary talks to a bunch of hella funny Twitter comedians, many of whom had their careers explode because of Twitter. Breaking into the writing world used to be hard, but now you can gain attention from your dead end job in Bumfuck, Nowhere. And it’s happened over and over! How cool is that?

Twitter also puts you in touch with tonnes of strangers who share the things you’re passionate about. Some of them hate you and what you’re saying, and they let you know, often more loudly than the people who love it.

And then there’s the celebrity content! You can follow whomever you please, including Ryan Reynolds, David Lynch, Patton Oswalt, and Conan O’Brien (all recommended).  And disturbingly, the current president of the United States is also a prolific tweeter. He likes creating evidence of his lack of intellect and filter, and posting it to the internet forever and ever. Because he’s an idiot. Danny Zuker, a writer for Family Guy, interacted with Trump frequently – his slams were popular and effective, but he likens it to “dunking on a toddler.”

This is an entertaining documentary and a great crash-course on the ins and outs of Twitter. Director Laurie McGuinness covers thinks like plagiarism on social media, how women are treated differently (meaning poorly), internet outrage, and the unintended consequences of thoughtlessly posting your basest instincts. Twitter can get you hired and it can get you fired. It’s a risk, it’s a connection, it’s a new way of thinking. It can open up your world, if you let it.

p.s. my super awesome Twitter can be found at @AssholeMovies – won’t you be my follower?

I Am Paul Walker

Can you believe it’s been 5 years already since Paul Walker died? This documentary is an homage to the man that was, and it may not be who you thought it was.

Described variously as “the 4th Paul Walker, in a line of badasses” and a “cute kid who stayed pretty his whole life,” Paul got into acting as a child because his mother encouraged him. The work came easily. It may not have been the career he dreamed of – he thought a lot about pursuing marine biology in college – but both the work and the money were hard to resist.

He grew up Mormon and maintained family values his whole life. He was always close to his 3 siblings, and was thrilled when his daughter, who he had young, came to live with paulwalkerhim full time. She made him conscious of time, and he wanted more of it with her. He contemplated quitting acting to have more family time. Notice I said quit acting and not quit Hollywood. He was never in Hollywood, never cared for the lifestyle. If he wasn’t working on a movie, he wasn’t in Hollywood, he was probably out on the water, out dare-deviling, living life to the fullest.

Childhood friends, family members, people he volunteered with, costars – I Am Paul Walker interviews everyone to get to the truth of a man who kept his private life private and his head out of the clouds. And by all accounts, it sounds like Walker was everyone’s best friend, a guy who had “real relationships with everybody.”

Tyrese Gibson, who turns out to have some pretty profound stuff to say about his friend and Fast and Furious costar, says “We’re actors in Paul Walker’s movie.” The directors who admired him and wrote roles for him remember him fondly, his mother aches over his loss, his little brother can’t help but tear up when he talks about the man he idolized.

It always sucks to lose someone so young, but the people who pay tribute to him here leave the impression of a man unlike any other. I wonder sometimes, how much documentaries like this eulogize and in fact lionize the dead, and I suppose it’s only natural that we do that to some extent. What would my documentary sound like? Not nearly as glowing, I’d wager. And yours?

Social Animals

Austin, Texas, where every hipster thinks they should be able to open and run their own business. They’re all failing of course. Zoe’s is failing. Apparently her big dream was to wax women’s pussies, but the pussies aren’t coming. Across the street from her, Paul’s video store is failing too. Only the food trucks that circle these going out of business sales seem to be proliferating, business owners that have fled their lease agreements and work on wheels instead.

Of course, business is not Zoe’s only concern. All her friends are getting married and having babies, but she’s chronically single and collecting polaroids and hopefully first names of all the men she brings home to her trailer; if it’s a-rockin, you know MV5BYTJjNjdhZWItY2U3ZC00YjVjLTlkN2ItMTE0OWEzOTA3ZWU5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjExODQwODM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_the rest. But her friends are getting tired of Zoe’s (Noel Wells) bullshit and she’s not much fun to be around now that her life is fully falling apart. The only person who seems to understand is Paul (Josh Radnor), the unhappily married man across the street. His wife has given him permission to have an affair, and Zoe is undeniably cute in a damaged way, but he’s still a bit shy to ask for what he wants.

Social Animals is a clever if inconsistent script. Watching Millennials attempt to “adult” is at turns entertaining and depressing. My sister was telling me recently about the very young, very new woman at her work who uses “adult” as a verb, as in “I was adulting this weekend; I made soup.” She was very proud at this stab at adulthood, but when my sister asked her what kind, she replied “Campbell’s.” Which, okay, makes sense, because I literally just heard on the radio this morning that the sale of canned tuna is way down because Millennials don’t know how to use a can opener. So perhaps successfully opening and microwaving a can of Campbell’s is something to celebrate if you’re young and dumb. Although I was once upon a time chronologically her age, I was never that young. At her age I was married, running my own household, and managing to cook impressive multi-course meals. Of course, I don’t really believe that Millennials are idiots. I believe their parents have ruined them by doing everything and teaching them nothing, and especially not independence. Millennials aren’t the problem. Their parents are.

Of course, Zoe’s parents are dead, so I probably shouldn’t speak ill of them. But even cold and in the ground she moans about getting a raw deal from them. Even the bank seems to imply that the reason her business is failing is because her parents aren’t giving her cash injections (so now we know why the American economy tanked). But I kind of enjoyed this movie about young people groping around, trying to figure shit out, and dramatically burning polaroids under a bridge. It didn’t make me feel superior, but it did make me feel secure. I may not always love getting older but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be that young again. Sometimes Sean and I still feel like a couple of kids, but we have non-Ikea furniture, and RRSPs, and a fairly casual relationship with avocados. We’ve got our shit together. And even when making roasted red pepper soup from scratch, I never use “adult” as a verb. I just am.