Tag Archives: Streaming on Netflix

Who Would YOU Take To A Deserted Island?

Four friends have shared a flat in Madrid for 8 freaking years and have managed not to go insane or kill each other. Now, near the end of the summer, they are celebrating their last day together in the home they’ve shared since they were kids. Life is about to change.

Celeste and Eze are friends who share a passion: Eze’s about to go off to London on a scholarship to study film while Celeste grapples with the fact that nothing is really happening with her life; she’s an actress considering working fast food to get by.

Marta and Marcos seem more solid, relationship-wise if not sex-wise. Marcos is off to med school, and Marta’s planning on following him, to teach ballet rather than dance herself.

Their aim for the night is to get drunk and act out their old tradition of singing loudly from their rooftop.

This is a Spanish movie, and Netflix offers a dubbed version, which has all the pitfalls of a dubbed version. The dialogue often feels a bit stilted and forced. Maybe that’s why the characters never felt accessible to me. I had trouble connecting to any of them.

Anyway, the movie is fully half way over before it gets to the point, ie, the title. Drunk, the 4 friends play a dicey game of Who Would You Take To A Deserted Island? Each of them gets to pick 2 friends, which is just another way of saying NOT choosing one, so the friend who gets left out feels like a piece of shit. Which sounds like a fun party game, no?

Not content to have things just be unbearably tense, they up the ante by making the game even funner. Now you can only choose one friend to take to the deserted island.

I think the premise is kind of interesting but the characters were just too annoying for anything to matter. Secrets are spilled, resentments become painfully clear, sure. Sure. But I just didn’t give a shit. I would 110% rather die alone on a deserted island than spend 10 minutes in the company of any of these people.

 

 

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Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce

Another sleepless night, Sean snoring beside me. Suddenly, around 5:30am, all the usual racing thoughts preventing sleep start to congeal into just the once: today is Beyonce day.

Beyonce has been Queen for a long damn time. She’s more Queen than the Queen of England, because that lady is a figure head and Beyonce is for real. Beyonce is not just a pop star, she is a cultural icon, more than her voice, more than her marriage, more than MV5BNWYwMTExOTAtNjVmYi00MWVjLTgzZWUtZTI0OTE3YTgwMjM3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_her style and her fame and her talent. She was a successful, powerful black woman, her success and power being so seemingly limitless that they transcended gender and race. And at the height of that power, Beyonce claimed both her blackness and her womanhood in a way that was political, artistic, and impossible to ignore. Now we need a word that is somehow more than Queen, and maybe the only name worthy is Beyonce itself.

Homecoming is a documentary detailing Beyonce’s brilliant performance at last year’s (2018) Coachella. But just as that show was more than a concert, the documentary ends up being much more than a recording. It’s a testament. This is Beyonce clearly comfortable in her strength, and the evidence is written in her lyrics, in her stage presence, and all over the damn screen. We witness Beyonce the businesswoman, Beyonce the workhorse, Beyonce the mother and wife, the artist and creator.

After a 22 year career, Beyonce has a whole lotta laurels upon which to rest her world-famous booty. Her name alone is enough to have Coachella gagging. Which is to say: she does not have to work this hard. She’s working like she’s NOT the most famous woman in the world. But Beyonce wasn’t going to just bring her music to the festival – she brought her culture, and she gave it to the people. She worked for 8 months to deliver a powerhouse 2 hour performance.

Fan or not, it’s completely impossibly to tear your eyes away from this woman so fully owning her power. A woman who – dare I say it? – is feeling herself, and not apologizing for it. Not one bit.

The Oath

A fear-mongering, power-hungry president has decided to asked his fellow Americans to sign a loyalty oath to prove their patriotism. There are incentives to signing – tax breaks, of course – but signing will be totally optional. Americans have nearly a year – until Black Friday – to opt in or out. No pressure. But during that year, things are not as easy-peasy as first promised. ‘Patriots’ turn vitriolic. Hate crimes increase. Protests often get violent. Protestors start to mysteriously disappear. ‘Concerned’ citizens start turning each other in.

Sound disturbingly plausible?

But of course holidays must still be observed, so we join Chris and Kai as they host is family for Thanksgiving.

MV5BNDM3ODAwMTc1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM1NDQxNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Chris (Ike Barinholtz) is staunchly against signing the oath; he and Kai (Tiffany Haddish) agree on that. But while Kai just wants to survive the family and survive her in-laws, Chris is glued to the television and obsessed with minute-to-minute reports from across the country. It’s hard to blame him: these are indeed crazy times.

Chris’s mother (Nora Dunn) insists on “no politics” at the table, but Chris can’t help but clash with his right-wing, oath-signing brother Pat and Pat’s alt-right, fake news spouting girlfriend. Even Chris’s “more reasonable” sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein) can’t get a word in. The first half of the movie plays out exactly like many of our own family gatherings would under similar circumstances. Ike Barinholtz, who also writes and directs, gets right to the heart of things, satirizing and underlining America’s troubling and polarizing partisanship. He keeps things interesting by casting Chris as equally culpable. He’s on the opposite side of the spectrum, but he’s every bit the blowhard, intolerant of every opinion but his own.

And then John Cho shows up. He and Billy Magnussen play CPU agents – that’s Citizens Protection Unit to you. It seems someone has reported Chris for his unAmerican activities. Cho plays a relatively reasonable guy, but Magnussen plays exactly the kind of guy who would be attracted to the position. Never mind that this oath was supposedly voluntary, he believes Chris is the worst kind of traitor, and he’ll stop at nothing (and I do mean nothing) to serve his country in the manner he’s deemed necessary. Shit goes south FAST. The film takes a detour toward the increasingly absurd, and yet Barinholtz never loses us because it never quite feels unrealistic. And maybe that’s the scariest part.

What I’ve failed to mention is that although this is technically a political comedy, it’s also a horror movie. It’s not gory or graphic or particularly scary to watch, but it is deeply frightening to feel how close we are to this very situation.

I may have enjoyed the concept more than I enjoyed the execution of this film, but damn if it didn’t keep me 100% mentally engaged and 110% emotionally enraged.

Every single character is acting out of love of family and love of country – every single one. But they’re coming at it from such different directions it feels impossible that they should all want the same thing. This is exactly American’s biggest problem right now, and the gap between the sides widens every day. No matter which side of the problem you think you’d come down on yourself, you must admit that in 2019, the most revolutionary act we can commit is one of compassion.

The Oath is a smart, thoughtful movie that I wanted to end only because I couldn’t wait to start talking about it.

The Dirt

You may not even believe that the dudes of Motley Crue are literate, but in fact, they released their Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band in 2001. The chapters (because yes, of course I’ve read it, I’VE READ EVERYTHING) alternate between the guys, and everyone’s got a version of the story they’re selling. Lots of the details conflict. In fact, lots of the big stuff conflicts too, but that’s part of the book’s charm. The guys sort of interact within its pages, rebutting each other’s alternate versions and extolling their own. The Dirt is even dirtier than you’d imagine.

So it’s kind of surprising that it took someone this long to make a movie out of it, but Netflix has, and it’s ripe for the streaming. 

The film alternates its point of view between the band members but the story is a little more cleanly told than it is in the book. And while almost by definition the antics are somewhat toned down, you’ll still get plenty of the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll that Motley Crue was known for. In fact, you won’t have to wait more than 3 minutes to see a woman squirting. Stay tuned for the heroin overdoses, vehicular manslaughter, and anonymous head.

Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly), Vince Neil (Daniel Webber), and Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) have some stories to tell. Tommy’s wholesome upbringing contrasts sadly with Nikki’s, while the other two get lost in the dust. The truth is, the 107 minute run time is brisk, and gives more screen time to trashing hotel rooms than it does to insightful backstory, because this is what draws the audience to any Motley Crue show: not the lessons learned or the underdog story, but the fights fought loud and proud and bloody. You come for the famous girlfriends and the venereal disease and the mountains of dope and the increasingly inventive use of leather. And fear not: director Jeff Tremaine delivers. He does best with those scenes of complete debauchery than he does with stitching them together into some cohesive story. And weirdly, the music is very nearly an afterthought. But if you’ve come for The Dirt, I promise you, you’ve found it.

Operator

Is this a poor man’s Her?

Sort of. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

MV5BMjExMTMyOTk3OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTU4NzEzMDI@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_Joe (Martin Starr) is a programmer who’s probably on the spectrum and self-soothes with obsessively quantifying his every thought and feeling. His wife, Emily (Mae Whitman), is a hotel concierge with theatrical ambitions. They are a loving couple; she supports him, literally lays atop him light a human weighted blanket, and he applauds her every written word.

And then it all goes to hell.

Basically, he’s working on one of those phone operating systems where a customer calls in wanting to talk to a human but instead gets lost in a sea of options. His operating system is very sophisticated and intelligent, and like Alexa and Siri, she’ll need a voice, a calming but confident presence, and Joe figures: who better than his own wife and empathic helpmate, Emily?

Meanwhile, Emily has just joined a troupe of actors who put on teeny tiny plays that are achingly revelatory and personal. She has promised Joe not to use him as material, but he proves too tantalizing a subject.

So when their marriage hits the rocks, Joe starts dialing in to hear the operating system that sounds like his wife but never says no, and Emily starts flinging Joe’s most innermost personal shit across the stage just to see what sticks. It’s ugly, but it’s also fascinating.

Operator is funny, actually funny, and it’s anchored by two very bright performances by Starr and Whitman. But it’s also analytical and thoughtful and satirical. In short, it’s well-balanced and interesting, and if it doesn’t 100% work out in the end, it gets close enough. It will inevitably be compared to Her, but even if it’s a less attractive cousin, it’s still pretty good company to keep.

 

 

Behind The Curve

I have a friend, Luc, who listens to talk radio. There are only two kinds of people who listen to talk radio: conservatives and masochists. And Luc isn’t conservative. Somehow giphy (2)he can listen to crackpots blowing steam out of their ears without losing his mind. Oh, he gets riled up – that’s kind of the point – but it doesn’t make him lose his faith in humanity. I cannot say the same for myself, which is why I avoid indulging in or even acknowledging this stuff in the least. People who are willfully ignorant really get my goat. Sean knows this, and it was not without a gleeful glint in his eye that he proposed watching Behind The Curve, a documentary on Netflix about the flat earth conspiracy.

Flat Earthers are…ugh. There’s no excuse and there’s no understanding them, not from a rational perspective. Although I did get the feeling that they, and conspiracy theorists in wp-contentuploads201306Brave1.giffit-in__1200x9600general, share a common mistrust for authority. They’re a group of outsiders who find a brotherhood in “believing” this stuff. And I’m still not 100% certain they’re not just having us on. I mean, can they truly believe that the Earth is not a sphere? That Big Globe has been the sinister force behind science and reality for hundreds of years?

Thankfully, this documentary doesn’t try to give credence to their impossible theories. But we do get a brief look into their psyches, into what might attract an otherwise 978672a0-cf17-0131-693e-423d576c0d42reasonable human being to the murky world of hating science and believing in baloney. And what we uncover are basically just some sad and lonely people looking for connection, and maybe a moment or two in the spotlight. On the fringes of society, there aren’t a lot of options for these people. How fantastic that all it takes is inventing an inflammatory piece of fake news, and building a community around it. That’s all it is – that, and making a few coins from the merch, which seems to double as evidence as far as these people are concerned.

The interesting thing about this documentary is that it doesn’t just give a soapbox to giphy (1)crackerjacks who put a little too much value into Youtube and not enough into critical thought. It tells us how we contribute to the problem – and I think the message transcends beyond just the conspiracy nutters. I think it’s also a reminder on how to speak to anyone whose views are polarizing to your own. It gives us all something to aim for as we hurtle through space on our beautiful, round planet.

Whitney

The tape deck in my mom’s forest green Ford Aerostar minivan ate a tape and never spit it out, so I spent my childhood listening to one album and one album only in the car: The Bodyguard soundtrack. Whitney Houston was no stranger to us at home either. I think my Mom had all her CDs, and our home was almost never without music, and therefore, rarely without an impromptu dance and singalong. It was very exciting when the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack came out but much less exciting when the movie did; my mother and I rented it from the local Blockbuster, not understanding what we were getting ourselves into. Sex scenes go on forever when you’re a kid watching them with your mom. FOREVER. Some part of me is still on that sectional sofa in our basement, stiffly watching, rapt, but trying to seem uninterested, and maybe a touch confused, for my mother’s benefit. And some part of her is still there too, trying to breathe normally and appear blase while secretly inching her hand toward the fast forward button on the remote.

Anyway. Whitney Houston. A luminescent talent that captured the whole world’s attention. She was a model, a singer, an actress, and an undeniably massive talent. But despite her fresh and innocent image, her success was often eclipsed by damaging headlines. Her marriage to Bobby Brown being a big one. And her drug use an unfortunate other.

mv5bodbiztq2nzctmte4ns00yje3ltk5mwmtywe0nde0zde0ytjjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodazodu1ndq40._v1_sy999_sx648_al_This documentary explores the highest highs and lowest lows of her life and career. Featuring archival footage of Houston herself and lots of interviews with friends and family and those who knew her best, the message is often complicated and conflicting. Did she have a hard childhood? Yes and no. Her mother was also a professional singer who groomed her for a career in the industry. She proudly sang in the choir of her church – where her mother had an affair with the pastor, ultimately causing the collapse of her marriage and Whitney’s parents divorced, leaving her devastated. Whitney director Kevin Macdonald manages to find new ground, and to probe beyond the headlines.

There’s rare concert footage and resurrected recordings and plenty of joy, but the whole thing still feels a bit macabre. In life, her increasingly erratic behaviour tainted her image and her downfall felt, if not inevitable, then at least unsurprising. It’s a painful reminder of how little it takes to extinguish even the brightest of lights.