Category Archives: Rants, Raves and Righteousness

The best films inspire discussion, but sometimes we’re inspired by a bunch of movies at once, and sometimes we’re inspired by something else altogether.

Ode To Ripley

Ridley Scott intended to kill off beloved butt-kicking hero Ellen Ripley in the very first of the Alien franchise. His script saw her harpooning the alien in her escape pod but it making no bloody difference, so the thing tears through her mask and rips her face off. Then the alien takes over the controls and sets his course – well, you can imagine the rest. The studio wouldn’t hear of it. “The first executive from Fox arrived on set within 14 hours, threatening to fire me on the spot,” Scott has said. “So we didn’t do that [ending].”

tumblr_nbwng6xMfu1rp0vkjo1_500.gifAnd this might be the first ever case of me agreeing with studio interference, purely because the world needs more Ripleys. We admire her because she was tough and she was smart. I admire her, and Scott, because Ripley cried at work and it didn’t weaken her, didn’t sap her power.

As recently as last year, the New York Post ran an article literally entitled ‘Cry At Work If You Never Want To Succeed.’ It contains helpful nuggets such as “Sure, ladies, it’s OK to cry at work. If you want every male (and female) boss to think you’re a useless little Nancy who can’t and shouldn’t be trusted with a challenging assignment again.” And evidence that writer Kyle Smith has confused women with toddlers: “Crying is an absolutely spiffing way to get what you want — in the short term. But once you’ve hosted a one-person snivel party, people tend to remember it.” Crying at work is not the same as throwing a temper tantrum. Sometimes tears are a natural (and unavoidable) reaction to anger or frustration. Some men (and frankly, some women) might take those same feelings to a bathroom stall where they’ve made an indent in the plaster punching the wall. Others might take those feelings out an on unsuspecting trash can which gets kicked and spilled all over the office floor. Doors and drawers and phones slam. Assistants get verbally abused. Half a dozen donuts get guilty devoured. Most of those are much worse than crying, but only crying gets a bad rep. “Women will be set back 100 years if they start believing it’s OK to cry on the job” Smith tells us. “But hey, OK, fine, if you just want to remain on the Girl Track for the rest of your life, by all means interrupt the weekly departmental meeting to fill your empty venti cup with your hot, salty tears.” Um, Girl Track? Fuck you, buddy.

When Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg wrote her best-seller Lean In, she wrote that it was okay to cry at work. Crying just happens, it’s part of our biology, part of our survival tumblr_nx8ebcJVP91uk3oooo1_500.gifmechanisms. For many women, and many men, it’s just part of being human, part of having emotions, and most of us do not shut those emotions off at the start of our shift.  41% of women and 9% of men said they’d cried at work during the previous year and that it had made no difference in terms of their success (note: women have six times more prolactin – a hormone related to crying – than men).

All that to say: Ellen Ripley was a force to be reckoned with. She cried at work, not to manipulate her coworkers, not because she was helpless and sad, but because she was in a tough situation and it just damn well called for it. All her male colleagues perished while she survived. She kicked alien ass so hard they brought her back for a sequel.

Trump’s Muslim Ban & the Oscars

This past weekend, Donald Trump signed a deliberately hateful and ignorant document into law, making racism and Islamophobia national policy. Critics derided it as giphy (1).gifUnAmerican, and yet it was America who voted this buffoon into presidency just a few short months ago. In the face of one man’s cowardly discrimination, however, were many more acts of love and fraternity. American citizens stormed airports with signs of welcome and solidarity. Lawyers littered the floors working pro-bono around the clock. And a group of actors at the SAG-ACTRA awards used their acceptance speeches to give voice to millions of people who say: Not my America.

Over the next 90 days, visas will not be issued to nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Existing visas will not be honoured. People who boarded planes intending to legally enter the country, even those with green cards, were detained for hours, questioned, and deported.

In the face of this injustice, it seems almost petty to talk about the Oscars, but since this is a movie review site, this is what we will do.

Asghar Farhadi is the Oscar-winning director of A Separation; it made awards history in giphy (3).gif2012 when it was the first Iranian film to win an Oscar. This year he has toured the festivals with The Salesman, and won Best Screenplay at Cannes. Iran submitted it to be considered in the foreign film category at the Academy Awards and it won a nomination. Asghar Farhadi will not be allowed to attend the ceremony because of Trump’s “Muslim ban.” This is who his ban keeps out – not terrorists, but people who come here to work, to study, to visit friends and family.

The star of The Salesman, Taraneh Alidoosti, one of the most acclaimed actresses in her country, will boycott the Oscars in order to protest Trump’s racist ban. “I decided not to go even if I could, because it hurts me deeply to see ordinary people of my country being rejected for what might be their legal right to have access to their children abroad or to their school classes as students,” Ms. Alidoosti told The New York Times in an interview.

In a statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it was “extremely troubling” that Mr. Farhadi and the cast and crew of “The Salesman,” could be “barred from entering the country because of their religion or country of origin.” I’d say that’s a bit of an understatement.

Meanwhile, Asghar Farhadi had this to say on the subject: “I hereby express my condemnation of the unjust conditions forced upon some of my compatriots and the giphy (5).gifcitizens of the other six countries trying to legally enter the United States of America and hope that the current situation will not give rise to further divide between nations,” Farhadi said. He’s not the only one with this fear on his mind: “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security” [italics are mine]. It wasn’t Bernie Sanders or Obama who said that, it was a joint statement from two Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

It isn’t just Farhadi who will be affected by this ban come February 26th  (Oscar broadcast).

The filmmakers behind The White Helmets, a film about Syrian volunteer first responders in that country’s bloody civil war, had planned on bringing two representatives of that group to the ceremony, but Trump’s travel ban – which impacts Syria – will prevent that from happening. The White Helmets, mind you, have been nominated for a goddamned Nobel Peace Prize, and yet Trump sees fit to keep these heroes out. Producer Johanna Natasegara said in a statement “These people are the bravest humanitarians on the planet, and the idea that they could not be able to come with us and enjoy that success is just abhorrent.”

giphy-4The Syrian family at the heart of Watani: My Homeland, another short documentary up for an Academy Award, is also unable to attend the Oscars due to the travel ban, even though they are now German citizens. But movies and stories like this, and Fire At Sea, which tell the human story of refugees are even more vital at a time like this. Watani director Marcel Mettelsiefen said “We must reconnect with the common humanity of the refugee experience and we must all remember that the founding story of America is dependent upon people who have fled war, hunger and poverty in search of a better life.”

I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in. I mean, religious freedom has been a very important part of our history and where we came from.” These words were not spoken by “overrated” actress Meryl Streep but by Dick Cheney, who was vice president at the time of the 9-11 attacks.

Muslims are our friends, neighbours, and colleagues. They may serve you street food from a food truck or treat you in your local emergency room. They’re also in movies, sometimesgiphy (2).gif entertaining us, sometimes helping to tell urgently important stories. Oscar-nominated (and best supporting actor heir presumptive) Mahershala Ali is Muslim (Moonlight, Hidden Figures). Rogue One’s Riz Ahmed is Muslim. So are Dave Chapelle, Ice Cube,  Mos Def, Amal Clooney, Omar Epps, Janet Jackson, Aziz Ansari, Ellen Burstyn, Muhammad Ali, Shaq, Kareem, and some of my favourite members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Muslims are not terrorists. Muslims are terrorized by terrorists, who use any reason, including religion (including Christianity) to do evil.

giphyTaraneh Alidoosti, an actress known to very few over here in the west, is boycotting the Oscars. Wouldn’t it really mean something if others did as well? If the Oscars had to broadcast hundreds of empty seats, each tagged with the name of a celebrity who didn’t come because the thought of Trump’s America was so unpalatable that it’s better to stay home than to schmooze and be lauded by one’s colleagues? If they stood in solidarity with fellow film makers who are just as deserving but are prohibited from celebrating just because of their religion? Now that’s a story worth telling; let’s continue to take part in it.

 

 

 

 

Bringing Movies to Life in a Whole New Way

vrAs you will have seen on Twitter (@assholemovies), I got a PlayStation Pro and Virtual Reality headset for Christmas.  Jay picked it up after I said it sounded neat but I wasn’t sure I wanted to wear a helmet to play games.  As usual, she made the right choice.  It is the greatest thing ever!  Being able to look around inside the game is amazingly immersive and I can’t get enough of it.

Currently, my gaming options include a couple of movie-themed options, namely Batman: Arkham VR and Star Wars Battlefront’s Rogue One: X-Wing VR mission.  As well, I have a few unofficial options that feel like movies you’ve already seen, like London Heist (reminiscent of every Bbatman-arkham-vrritish gangster movie) and Ocean Descent (reminiscent of every shark attack movie), both of which are included on the PlayStation VR Worlds disc.

So far, Batman: Arkham VR is the one that sucked me in the most, to the point that I punched the ceiling trying to fire my grappling hook at the Batwing.  It felt like I was right in the middle of everything, and I am amazed at how well everything links together, so that when I move, the game responds accordingly.  The motion controllers make a huge difference in that regard, as then my hand movements are displayed right in the game.  Bonus points for letting me put on Batman’s mask myself and then look in a mirror.  That was amazing, and the overall VR experience was so fun that even the inclusion of Batman’s alley origin felt fresh.xwing-vr2

There’s no shame in placing second to a game that lets you step into Batman’s shoes, and flying an X-Wing was a ton of fun.  It was especially great to be able to look left and right and see the laser cannons right there on the wings, and then to move them into attack position with the press of a button so I could take out a few cannons on a nearby Star Destroyer.

Even smoking a virtual cigar in a seedy pub was a memorable experience, especially because the game seems to know when you’re exhaling.  VR is finally here and it’s wonderful.  I’m super excited for Star Trek: Bridge Crew and can’t wait to see what other movie scenes I’ll get to experience from a first-person view in 2017 .

What movies would you like to be able to play through virtually?

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is dead at the age of 60. She drowned in moonlight, strangled in her own bra. That’s not remotely true, but it’s what she would have wanted me to say.

To most, she was their Princess, having played Leia in the Star Wars universe. To me, 978319-carrie-fisherunfamiliar with the Star Wars franchise for most of my life, she was a writer and a funny lady. She penned the semi-autobiographic Postcards From The Edge (and later, its screenplay) about her drug addiction and her relationship with her mother, Debbie Reynolds. She was also a notorious script doctor, doing uncredited polishes on other people’s scripts, including the Star Wars prequels, Hook, Sister Act, Outbreak, The Wedding Singer, Coyote Ugly, and Mr & Mrs Smith.

Then she did a one-woman show called Wishful Drinking, which has been one of my favourites, ever. She had such a great sense of humour about herself, above all else, and a keen eye for the ridiculous. Check it out:

She actually has a new book, The Princess Diarist, out just last month, based on journals she kept while she filmed the original Star Wars trilogy. You may have heard the bomb she dropped: she and Harrison Ford had an affair back in the day.

Of course you know she’d recently returned to her Star Wars roots, playing General Leia (badass warrior princess that she was) for a whole new generation. She could poke fun at screen-shot-2015-11-13-at-10-13-52-am-pngher character and her “cinnamon bun” hair style, but she clearly also has respect for the films and their fans. She recently completed work on Episode 8 and was slated to begin filming for Episode 9 this spring. No telling how they’ll treat her death in the films but safe to say it’s a blow for them as it is for us.

You may have heard that George Lucas told her on the set of the first (fourth) film that she couldn’t wear a bra under her iconic white dress. When she demanded to know why not, he famous replied “Because there’s no underwear in space.” When pressed for details, he explained “What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands. But your bra doesn’t—so you get strangled by your own bra.” Fisher thought it had the makings of a “fanastic obit – so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

TIFF 2016: The Best

 

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Graduation

From time to time, we all have to compromise our own values. It’s part of growing up. But do you remember the first time that you betrayed your own moral code?

According to Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu, director of the brilliant and beautiful 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (which I have not seen), Graduation is about a lot of things. “It’s about family. It’s about aging. It’s about you. It’s about me”. But mostly, as the Cannes Best Director winner articulated at the North American premiere, it’s about that pivotal moment in one’s life where they make a conscious decision for the first time to do what they know in their heart to be wrong.

Romeo (Adrien Titieni) couldn’t be more proud of his daughter Eliza (Maria-Victoria Dragus) when she gets accepted into a fancy British school but he still can’t relax. Despite her stellar grades, she still needs to pass her finals to get out their Romanian town. When a vicious random assault threatens to shake Eliza’s confidence just days before her exams, Romeo can’t help feeling tempted to use his position as a well-respected surgeon to bargain with her educators in exchange for some leniency.

Graduation takes its time. It takes time to establish the relationships, set up the scenario, and let the story play out. Mungiu doesn’t resort to melodrama or even a musical score to beg for our attention. Almost every scene plays out in just one meticulously framed take. It’s an approach that gives his actors plenty of room to shine and his story the time to come alive. If you don’t mind the slow pace, Graduation asks big questions and will get you talking. It’s a very rewarding experience.

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My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea

Dash Shaw was in high school when James Cameron’s Titanic was in theaters and couldn’t help imaging what it would be like if his school sank like the famous ship with all of his classmates inside. When you think about it, to avoid drowning to death in a sinking building, the smartest would head for the top floor and try to get to the roof. Once Shaw, director of My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea and apparently quite an accomplished comic book writer,  started imaging each floor being occupied by a different grade level, he knew he had a story worth telling.

To see a film called My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea without feeling like you’re seeing something completely unique would be a letdown. So I’m pleased to announce that, whether you love it or hate it, Shaw’s debut feature will not let you down. The unusual animation style takes a little getting used to at first and, even once you get comfortable, there is so much to look at that many of the movie’s jokes- and the jokes are almost constant- can be easy to miss. My Entire High School may eventually be best remember for its carnage (those who are spared from drowning are mostly impaled, electrocuted, or eaten by sharks) but it’s made all the more special by the hilarious and sometimes touching dynamic between three adolescent friends whose bond is in crisis just as their lives are in imminent danger. And it’s all brought to life by some of the best voice acting you’ll hear this year from Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Reggie Watts, and Susan Sarandon.

its-only-the-end-of-the-world

It’s Only the End of the World

I was one proud Asshole walking out of the Toronto premiere of Quebec director Xavier Dolan’s latest family drama. I was genuinely moved by a Xavier Dolan film. I admired Mommy, his last movie, I really did. It was just too self-indulgent for me to really relate to it in any real way.

So I was pleased to find myself loving this movie, more than almost anything else I saw at the Festival this year. I was finally starting to get it. I was quite disappointed to see that not everyone was as impressed as I was. It’s Only the End of the World currently has a score of 48 on Metacritic. If you’re not familiar with that site, let me put that in perspective. That’s only four points higher than Batman v. Superman’s score. Ouch.

I stand by my recommendation though. Based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, It’s Only the End of the World tells the story of a family who are easier to relate to than to understand. After a 12-year absence, Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) is finally coming home but he is bringing sad news with him. He is very sick and doesn’t have much time left. He’s not quite sure how to bring it up but it wouldn’t matter anyway because his mother, brother, and sister can’t stop alternating between picking fights with him and each other and awkwardly trying to force reconciliation. They try to bond over trivial things and fight over tiny details but can’t seem to bring themselves to talk about anything important.

The claustrophobic family reunion atmosphere seems to rein Dolan in a bit. He still manages to make Lagarce’s play his own though. For such a talky film, it’s surprisingly cinematic with its unnerving score and great performances from Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotilliard, Lea Seydoux, and Vincent Cassell. Using his signature tight close-ups, Dolan works with the actors to find subtext amid all the shouting. No easy task. Hard to act like you’re holding back when you’re screaming at each other.

I’m still not entirely sure what they were fighting about. But the story feels real and profoundly sad.

nocturnal-animals-2

Nocturnal Animals

Careful with this one. The people around me at the TIFF encore screening of Nocturnal Animals were basket cases watching it.

It’s easy to imagine yourself in the same position as Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), a husband and father whose family finds themselves terrorized while driving a lonely Texas highway in the middle of the night. The tension is nearly unbearable as this story unfolds. Those around me could barely sit still watching it and Susan (Amy Adams) is getting even more stressed reading about it. See, the scary part of Nocturnal Animals is but a story within a story. It’s the plot of a manuscript that Susan’s ex-husband (also Gyllenhaal) has sent her of his latest novel. As unnerving as the novel is to watch, it’s even worse for Susan. She’s quite sure the novel is about her.

The three narratives (there are also a lot of flashbacks of Susan’s marriage) are balanced beautifully in the second film from director Tom Ford (A Single Man). Susan is a successful art dealer and everything around her is beautiful and fake. In the story within the story, Tony’s world is harsh and all too real. Nocturnal Animals is sure to be divisive. Ford lays out his themes very clearly and I’m sure I feel comfortable with all of his implications. But there’s so much to look at and so much to feel, think,about, and talk about that you kind of just have to see it.

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Oh, and if you’re not sold yet, Michael Shannon plays a crazy cop in it.

TIFF: The Rest

carrie-pilby

Carrie Pilby

Awkward, isolated and disapproving of most of the people around her, a precocious 19 year-old genius is challenged to put her convictions to the test by venturing out on to the NYC dating scene, in this adaptation of Caren Lissner’s best-selling 2003  novel.

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I was especially excited about the world premiere of director Susan Johnson’s debut feature because I knew I would get to share the experience with my parents. I also liked the sound of Carrie as described by the TIFF website. I’ve always enjoyed unlikeable characters who become easier to empathize with once we get to know them.

As it turns out, Carrie Pilby isn’t nearly as misanthropic or as unsympathetic as the website would have you believe. In fact, when played by Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Bel Powley, she’s actually quite charming. She may be a little too sarcastic for her own good but she’s never mean and her posture suggests such obvious vulnerability that you may just want to give her a hug.

You may find Carrie’s exasperation with those around her easy to relate to considering the unforgivably forgettable supporting cast. Nathan Lane and Gabriel Byrne phone in their performances as her therapist and father and potential love interest Jason Ritter finds a way to make sleazy seem boring. Only Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer, who I was pleasantly surprised to see at the premiere, holds her own against Powley as Carrie’s co-worker and new friend.

In the end, the script is nowhere near as smart as Carrie is. Though it offers a number of big laughs and some seriously sweet moments, the dialogue is way too obvious most of the time. I found I was able to anticipate line after line almost as if I was dreaming the film into existence myself.

 

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Headshot

The indomitable Iko Uwais (The Raid) stars in this fast and furious actioner as an amnesiac whose mysterious past as a killing machine comes to the fore when he takes on the henchmen of a vengeful drug lord.

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I ended my first night at TIFF 2016 the best way I know how- with my annual Midnight Madness screening. You never know what you’re in for with the Midnight Madness program but this year I felt like I was in good hands. Back in 2011, I caught a midnight screening of The Raid at the festival and I was so exhilarated by the experienced that I’ve made sure to catch at least one midnight film each year. No matter how many bad movies I have to sit through.

The Raid isn’t just a bloody good time. It’s actually an impressive film. There isn’t a wasted moment in the whole movie and every shot serves to build suspense. This combined with outstanding fight choreography and a less-is-more approach to dialogue make The Raid one of the best action films so far this century.

The Raid works in large part because of director Gareth Evans who I really wish was directing Headshot. The latest vehicle for Indonesian martial arts superstar Iko Uwais is nowhere near as tense or as tightly edited. Not that directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto do badly. They do an admirable job of capturing every chase and fight so that we always know who’s kicking who. But there’s something missing. Maybe it’s that The Raid managed to avoid the kind of silliness that Headshot has so much of (amnesia, for example, not to mention a sometimes corny love story).

That being said, Uwais’ hands, feet, elbows, and whatever else he can find always connect like they’re supposed to and Headshot manages to outgore The Raid. Friday’s Midnight Madness crowd seemed to have a good time and if you don’t mind a few heads being split open I’m sure you will too.

 

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A Monster Calls

Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones star in this adaptation of the award-winning children’s book by Patrick Ness, about a lonely young boy struggling with the imminent death of his terminally ill mother who is befriended by a friendly, shambling monster that arrives in his room nightly to tell him stories.

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I read on Wikipedia that Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall holds over 2,300 people. I am quite sure that on Saturday afternoon I heard 2,000 cry. I could hardly stop myself from crying through the final moments of the latest film from director J. A. Bayona (The Impossible) and didn’t do much better through the closing credits or walking down King Street after.

I was surprised by my emotional reaction given that I was finding most of the film disappointingly uninspired. As much as I loved the design of the monster and the outstanding voice work of the great Liam Neeson, I expected more wisdom from his stories (which are brought to life in lovely animation).

Only in the end do the monster’s lessons really become clear. As frustrated as the young boy is by the seemingly pointless stories at first, it becomes clear that he is being taught lessons unusually mature for a children’s story. I can think of several family films where a child has to learn to cope with the loss of a parent but I can hardly think of any that are less condescending and more painfully honest.

 

hello-destroyer

Hello Destroyer

Jared Abrahamson (Fear the Walking Dead) plays a painfully shy but ruggedly capable enforcer on a minor-league hockey team who discovers the cutthroat nature of his locker-room “family” in the forceful first feature from Canadian director Kevan Funk.

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Tyson Burr (Abrahamson) may not be the star player of the Prince George Warriors but he’s an enforcer – the guy you can count on when the game gets rough. In one particularly rough game, Tyson puts someone in the hospital and soon sees how quickly his team, his coach, and the community at large can distance themselves in hopes of avoiding responsibility for the culture of violence that they helped to create.

When introducing the film on Saturday, Funk was quick to insist that Hello Destroyer is not intended as a commentary on Canada’s infamously violent national sport. He’s more concerned with violence in general and the social context around aggressive behavior. There’s very little hockey played onscreen and some fans of the sport may be disappointed by the slow pace of the film. I’ll admit to being frustrated as it slows down even more in the second half. (It was my third film of the day and I was starving). It’s only after the fantastic Q and A with Funk and the cast that I let it all sink in.

This is one tragic, hard-hitting, and beautifully acted film. It’s the kind of movie that gets better and better the more you think about it.

 

Scared Shitless: Alone or with a Group of Strangers?

So I finally saw the rest of Hardcore Henry. I completely stand by my review of the first 45 minutes and am only disappointed in myself that I gave this inexcusably boring failed experiment of an action movie a second chance.

Despite receiving some very generous reviews from some of our Honourary Assholes, Hardcore Henry didn’t quite draw the crowd that I was expecting. In fact, for the first time in my life, I found myself alone in a movie theater for a full 96 minutes.

Having the room to myself had its advantages. I didn’t have to glare at anyone for eating noisy nachos or checking their phone and could even feel comfortable to check my own phone whenever I wanted. I also got up and changed seats twice. I didn’t enjoy the Coming Attractions though.

Have you seen the preview for Lights Out?

It’s fucking scary!!!! Now imagine watching it in a big dark room all by yourself where the speakers are so loud that nobody outside would be able to hear you scream. I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder throughout the previews. They actually make these previews way too scary if you ask me. Here I am sitting down to watch a guilty pleasure action movie and am stuck watching terrifying clips of scary movies that I never would have consented to see.

This trailer didn’t have the same effect when I was forced to sit through it again, this time with twenty or so other people who came to see Green Room. There seems to be a feeling of strength in numbers when dealing with the paranormal. I didn’t know anyone else in the theater but I felt safer knowing that they were there.

That feeling of security didn’t last once Green Room started. If you haven’t heard of this (by my count) third feature from writer-director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin), it features a young punk band who barricade themselves in their dressing room after a controversial set to protect themselves against neo-Nazis. It’s the kind of movie that makes you fear your fellow man and wondering what the guy sitting behind you is capable of.

Saulnier takes his time at first to give us a chance to start to like this struggling touring band. As the story unfolds and the sense of danger continues to intensify, it becomes harder and harder to guess what’s coming next. Which isn’t to say that there is any real mystery or even any major twists. Saulnier isn’t nearly lazy enough for that. He just presents believable characters in a credible (at least credible for this genre) situation and dares to ask “Now what?”. It’s a violent film with terribly violent things happening to its characters on both sides of the door. Somehow, however, it never feels sadistic or exploitative. Every act of violence in Green Room is presented as a terrible thing and, for once, there isn’t a single character that seemed to want this situation to turn this bloody.

So, to sum up, see Green Room if you don’t mind a tense and occasionally punishing 95 minutes, don’t see Hardcore Henry, and don’t watch the trailer for Lights Out alone.

Tom Hanks & John Oliver at Tribeca

The line to see Tom Hanks and John Oliver in conversation together wrapped well around the venue on Friday night. Sean and I had just seen High-Rise over in Chelsea and had 3374991A00000578-3555220-image-a-136_1461420263964braved a crowded rush-hour subway to get back down to Tribeca and run right past the Ghostbusters building to arrive breathless at the Borough of Manhattan Community College only to be redirected to another entrance that meant dragging my swollen, sprained ankle several more blocks with the remnants of my back surgery burst open and freely bleeding just so that we could stand in line for 40 minutes and then be denied a seat. Denied a seat? But we had tickets in hand – tickets we’d paid for three weeks prior! But us, and the two people in front of us, and the hundred or hundreds behind us (hard to tell) were denied entrance because they’d way, way, way oversold the event and we were shit out of luck. We were also really, really pissed.

We weren’t yet yelling at the security guys because lots of other people were beating us to it. But when someone came out to the velvet ropes to say that one single seat had been found and was there a single person in the crowd, most of us just looked at our partners and shrugged. Except Sean. What Sean did was slap a ticket in my hand and shove me large_large_tom-hanks-2toward the guy with the clipboard. He unclipped the rope and I was being ushered alone up a sad, empty red carpet, the very one we’d just watched John Oliver and Tom Hanks ascend, me still lumping my sore and swollen ankle along. I wasn’t happy to be going in alone and it was only the element of surprise that made me do it. I felt awful that Sean would sit outside with his $50 ticket to nothing, after having driven all the way from another bloody country, while I would be tickled fairly pink. Maybe even almost red. But the guy with the clipboard was so impressed with Sean’s self-sacrifice he basically invented another seat for him and got him in, even though he had to stand. I felt a little guilty because the couple in front of us rightly deserved those seats but hadn’t thought to split up (and actually, we’d already seen a few other singles be plucked from the line behind us) and a little guilty about the dozens and dozens behind us who hadn’t gotten in either, and super mad at the fuckfaces at Tribeca who oversold the event and didn’t tell anyone. But mostly I just felt elation the minute those two men took the stage, and fuck everyone else.

Some highlights of the evening:

-Tom said that without Oliver, our lives would be “void of outrage”

-He then made a reference to the Merv Griffin show so random and outdated that Oliver claimed that the lady holding the “Kiss Me” sign had slowly lowered it.

-Hanks cautioned us against asking “lazy journalistic questions”, basically anything starting with “What was it like…” and claimed that he was often accosted on red carpets

Tribeca Talks Storytellers: Tom Hanks With John Oliver

with “Just one question from Argentina!” and that one question invariably being something incredibly insipid. Oliver agreed that really Argentina should be asking for advice on their desperate economic situation.

-Hanks said that his distaste for social media was because he’d “peaked in the 90s” and Oliver ribbed him about using Twitter as a lost and found (you can Google it- Tom often posts pictures of wallets or lost gloves and tries to reunite them with their owners).

-Hanks and Oliver spar over the American Revolution, and we all find out that Hanks does an atrocious British accent.

-Hanks discusses the first movie he remembers going to the theatre to see – 101 Dalmations – and how it scarred him ever so deeply. Oliver then asks “So how the fuck did you become an actor?”

-Oliver claims E.T. as the first movie he saw in theatres, and his ensuing heartache over Elliott not joining E.T. in the end, which prompts Hanks to ask “How old are you???” (he’s 38).

-Oliver asked what kind of people Hanks prefers to work with, other than them “not being a giant asshole” to which Hanks replied “Sometimes that works.”

-Hanks did an awesome impression of Ron Howard, and confessed to learning about camera angles from Kevin Bacon on the set of Apollo 13. Bacon would suggest Howard use a “BFCU” of KB, which, for those of you not in the know, is a big fucking close up of Kevin Bacon. “God bless Kevin Bacon,” said Hanks.

-To see him do an impression of Robert Zemeckis (director of Forrest Gump, who he calls “Bob”), listen to what he learns from his failures.

-The work Tom’s most proud of? That Thing You Do, which featured his whole family, and was basically one giant love-in to make. He is particularly proud of the scene where the band hears their single on the radio for the first time because – name drop! – Bruce Springstein once told him that he’d experienced it himself exactly like that.

-Hanks told us that the genius of Invictus was that Clint Eastwood never taught us a single thing about rugby.

-The most obscure thing a fan ever yelled at him? “Little boat!” –  a line from the movie Splash which Tom himself had a very hard time placing, and almost had to IMDB himself just to scratch the itch.

-Which of his characters would he most like to have a beer with? Charlie Wilson, hands down.

-On the Disneyfication of characters:

-Hanks said “Movies that celebrate their own nostalgia are a waste of time” and I hope to god he meant Everybody Wants Some!!

-His most exhausting role? Woody, from Toy Story.  “It’s hideous making those movies” he claimed.

Anecdote after anecdote, Tom Hanks proved himself worthy of storyteller status. To those of you who didn’t make it in, I wish I could tell you you didn’t miss much, but the truth is, it was an unforgettable evening.

Tribeca Gets it Right by Axing Vaxxed

In 1998, then-doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study that suggested a link between autism and the mumps-measles-rubella vaccine.  Conspiracy theorists have been losing their shit ever since.   Wakefield is no longer a doctor because in conducting and publishing that study, he acted in a dishonest, misleading and irresponsible manner, as determined by the General Medical Council (the UK’s licencing body for doctors).

Despite, or maybe because of, that determination Wakefield has doubled down on his study, and by all rational accounts is now using film to advance his anti-vaccine agenda.  The end result is a “documentary” written, directed and produced by Wakefield alleging that in 2004 the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention had covered up and/or destroyed evidence of a link between autism and vaccinations.

Wakefield’s film was originally on the Tribeca Film Festival’s 2016 schedule.  It was subsequently pulled, raising a whole new set of conspiracy theories.  But there is a far simpler explanation for why the film was pulled: it is not art,  it is propaganda.  Wakefield has a demonstrated bias and a vested interest in advancing one viewpoint, his viewpoint, to the exclusion of all others.  He is using his film for that purpose.  Even worse, his viewpoint is not only demonstrably wrong, it is dangerous.  Death is the inevitable result of its acceptance.

One and a half million children died in 2008 from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination.   ONE AND A HALF MILLION.  On a brighter note, two to three million deaths are averted each year by vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles.  Wakefield, for the sake of furthering his personal agenda, is advocating for a course of action that if followed to its logical conclusion will cause two to three million more deaths each year.

At least Wakefield was not allowed to use the Tribeca Film Festival as a vehicle to disseminate his dangerous message. One can only hope that the Festival’s rejection of Wakefield’s movie will inspire some critical thought about Wakefield’s dubious motivations and clear conflict of interest.  Because any “trust no one” mantra should apply not just to the government, but also to the disgraced scientist who has a history of dishonest and misleading conduct.

Yes, #OscarsSoWhite, but can we really blame the Academy?

The truth is, the Academy’s demographics are a problem. They’re too damned white. But this year’s white-washed ballots are only a symptom of a much larger problem: the fact that talented black actors just aren’t getting cast.

A lot was made earlier this year when a role that was originally meant to be male (and in fact was based on a real-life man) was rewritten for Sandra Bullock (in Our Brand is Crisis). That movie aside, it turned out to be a banner year for women in film. So why can’t we do the same for people of colour? White has been the de facto race for far too long, the product of unimaginative directors and casting agents who refuse to acknowledge that most parts could and should be colour-blind.

The race for best actor and best actress Oscars this year lacks diversity. It’s a fucking vacuum where only white people may enter. But what choice did the voters really have? Last year we could easily feel that Selma had been grossly ignored, but can you think of a black actor, or any non-white actor, who was unfairly overlooked this year?

Don’t say Will Smith. Sure the Globes love him, he’s the freaking Fresh Prince, but he didn’t deserve an Oscar nomination for his work in Concussion. You could maybe argue Idris Elba, for Beasts of No Nation, but you’d have to argue. It’s a tight race this year, and only 5 roles can be acknowledged. Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Sylvester Stallone are likely locking up most votes for best supporting actor. Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo are more interchangeable, but it’s not clear cut. I do wonder, though, if perhaps the roles those two played could have been fulfilled by a non-white actor? I realize they’re both based on real-life people, but don’t we have a moral obligation to represent all people a little more fairly in the mainstream media? Movies are supposed to represent and reflect the audiences watching them, but they’re failing to do that over and over and over. And relying on “black movies” like Selma or 12 Years A Slave to provide the only colour at an awards ceremony is egregious and embarrassing. It’s also a little embarrassing that the only nominations for Creed and Straight Outta Compton, movies that actually did feature black talent, still somehow went to white people.

We can do better.