Tag Archives: Paul Walter Hauser

Songbird

It’s 2024 and the pandemic has continued to rage, ravage, and mutate around the world. We’re on COVID-23 now, and everyone is living under martial law. Only the immune identified by a bright yellow bracelet can leave their homes; the bracelets are highly coveted but maybe not so great to get, because if you choose to live on the outside (probably for work), you have to live completely alone, isolated, in designated areas. It’s much worse to be sick, though, or to have lived with someone who became infected – those people are taken forcibly to the “Q-zone” which sounds pretty terrible. And while that would certainly be an interesting movie, this movie is focusing on just a handful of people as they try to avoid it.

Nico (KJ Apa) is a courier, one of those essential services we learned were pretty priceless while we locked down last winter. In 2024, couriers like him are basically the ones keeping the world turning. He’s deeply in love with Sara (Sofia Carson), who is not immune, hence the fact that they’ve never been in the same room. Their relationship is conducted through closed doors and over video chat, with no end in sight. She lives with her grandmother, and every day their phone beeps, giving them five minutes to complete mandatory virus checks.

William (Bradley Whitford) and Piper (Demi Moore) try to conduct their business from home while protecting their immuno-suppressed daughter from outside threats. Plus, you know, if a non-immune person tries to leave their home, they’ll be shot on sight. There’s also that. William has a yellow bracelet (though not necessarily the immunity that goes with it), and risks the outside to visit sex worker May (Alexandra Daddario) who struts in her stuff in lingerie and bedazzled face shield.

Lester (Craig Robinson) sits in he safety of his lair, conducting Nico and other couriers around the city as Dozer (Paul Walter Hauser) provides support via drone.

And Emmett Harland (Peter Stormare) is the dirt bag Department of Sanitation head who seems to enjoy hunting people down for government-sanctioned murder. An unlikely appointee, Emmett got to his position by watching everyone above him die of the virus, and now he’s enjoying every privilege his immunity can steal for him.

These are the people meeting their destinies in Songbird, which as you can imagine, was conceived, written, and filmed during our own (ongoing – stay home, be safe) pandemic.

I understand the temptation to be among the first to be telling stories about our global crisis, but you can kind of tell this movie was thrown together quickly, and worse still, that it doesn’t have much to say about it, or know what the take-away should be. If you remove the COVID gimmick, it’s a pretty half-baked movie. It relies on dangerous, ugly fear-mongering, pushing conspiracy theorists’ buttons and fueling the fire of anxiety in an already uneasy time.

Richard Jewell

Richard Jewell seems somewhat problematic. He’s power hungry, he’s got no regard for jurisdictional limits, and he thinks he’s a cop when he’s really just campus security. So when he finds a suspicious package under a park bench during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, you can see why the FBI might consider him a suspect. But that only goes so far, and doesn’t explain why the FBI viewed him as the ONLY suspect, or why they leaked his name to the press, or why they tried to coerce a confession from him through a fake training video.¬† It’s malicious prosecution at its finest, aimed at a guy who was only guilty of being in the right place at the right time.

Richard Jewell also seems like he deserved to be a hero for a little bit longer. He saved lives by finding that suspicious package and getting the bomb squad involved. At first, he got the hero treatment, but within days, he was named as the prime suspect, and then his hero days were done. All he was after that point was the creepy guy who might have done it. The FBI wouldn’t be investigating him otherwise, would they? Turns out that yes, actually, they would, because they had no one else to pin this on.MV5BZmMzMTBiYzktNGIwOS00ZTQ5LWE0MjgtZWJhOGE1ZmU1NmEwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_

Richard Jewell is profiling gone wrong. Clearly, the American justice system is really shitty to anyone who fits a profile. This case was one where a white man was being profiled, so it became a movie. Just imagine how many minorities have been, and are currently being, similarly pursued because they fit a profile, or were “close enough” to the profile for the FBI to squeeze them into that box.

Clint Eastwood is still looking for American heroes, and Richard Jewell clearly fits Eastwood’s profile. It’s a less dangerous profile than any in use by the FBI as long Eastwood doesn’t ask the heroes to play themselves. Eastwood’s retelling of Jewell’s story ignores any shades of grey, preferring to cast the FBI agents (played by Jon Hamm and Ian Gomez) and the media (led by Olivia Wilde) as corrupt and callous, and Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), his mom (Kathy Bates) and his lawyer (Sam Rockwell) as decent and caring.

As a film, Richard Jewell works well enough (Bates and Rockwell are great as always, and the rest of the cast is solid) but it feels like a missed opportunity. The story isn’t that one poor guy got targeted one time. It’s that the system encourages and rewards this type of police work and this type of media coverage, where getting it right doesn’t matter half as much as finding someone, anyone, to blame.

I, Tonya

Margot Robbie is convinced this film will change your mind about Tonya Harding. Is she a villain or a victim? Abused or abuser? The truth is, your opinion doesn’t really matter and truth doesn’t really exist. What does exist: a wholly funny film that never fails to entertain.

{In the unlikely event you’re in need of a refresher: Tonya Harding was an American figure skater in the 1990s, and competed twice in the Olympics. She was known for two things: for being the first American female to land a triple axel in competition, and for bashing in her Nancy Kerrigan’s knee.}

Margot Robbie is well-cast as Tonya Harding. She’s still just a little too pretty to play elm120117intelmovies-007-1512400299white trash, even with the poofy 90s bangs, but she comes down low and it’s pretty glorious. Sebastian Stan plays Harding’s good for nothing husband, Jeff Gillooly, and he disappears into the role of dumb fuck. Jeff’s dumb ass best friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) pretends to be an international spy even though he’s a grownup who lives with his parents. Not exactly criminal masterminds, but this is the trio that brought us the most delicious scandal of 1994 (until OJ Simpson that is – if you thought Lillehammer was competitive, try being a celebrity fuck up). But for my money, I’d have to say that the real cast stand-out was Ms. Allison Janney, who plays Tonya’s mother LaVonam who, by sheer comparison, makes bathtub scum look appealing. She’s the dirtiest of dirts with not a kind word or intention in the world. If being a crummy mother was an Olympic sport, she wouldn’t have to resort to breaking any kneecaps.

The first thing that may surprise you about this film is that it’s funny. Actually funny, though pretty dark – the kind of laughs you feel slightly guilty about succumbing to, but you’ll need to just embrace the absurdity. It is¬†farcical, in the way only a true story can be when it’s populated with idiots.

The second thing that surprised me anyway, was that it actually does dredge up sympathy for our poor Tonya. Her guilt (or innocence) is not really the point. This is Tonya’s story, hers alone from beginning to end. No one’s trying to excuse what happened, but putting “the incident” within context is actually very interesting.

I, Tonya is funny, dramatic, pumped full of energy, and even the sports angle is well-done. Certainly Margot Robbie can be commended for all the hard work she put in getting skate-ready, but she gets a lot of help from choreographers, stunt people, and CGI – effects that are pulled off almost seemlessly. But it’s the camera work that makes the figure skating extra exciting – you really get a sense of the speed and athleticism, two hallmarks of Harding’s style in particular. No matter your experience of “the incident” at the time, I, Tonya turns tragedy into triumph.