Thursday, May 26, 2016
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
It's always awesome to appear on a podcast that you listen to on a regular basis. I'm honored that I got the chance to appear on the flixwise podcast to try and defend what I consider to be one of the greatest comedies EVER - The Cable Guy (no...seriously).
Click the image below to listen to our conversation and be sure to listen to their back catalog.
also stay tuned as I will be making another appearance on a future flixwise episode...
Sunday, May 15, 2016
Half Nelson is the story of an unlikely friendship between high school freshman “Drey” (Shareeka Epps) & her drug addicted teacher/basketball coach “Dan” (Ryan Gosling). One of the many monkeywrenches in their relationship comes in the form of “Frank” (Anthony Mackie) – a shady friend of Drey’s older brother. I still hold this film in high regards because it not only showcased three incredible performances, but a story concerning the friendship between a teenage girl and her older male teacher could have easily veered off to an obvious path (especially within independent film) and director Ryan Fleck chose not to. Gosling would go on to earn an Oscar nomination for his performance in this film while Epps won an independent spirit award for hers. Some might say Half Nelson was the movie/performance that truly put Gosling “over” with audiences (I know The Notebook was a huge for him but this sleeper Oscar-nominated performance got him recognition beyond swooning young women, which, strangely enough, continues to be his primary fanbase).
If you don’t pay close enough attention to Anthony Mackie’s performance in Half Nelson you might forget that the character of “Frank” is kind of a scumbag. I know some of you who are familiar with this movie would argue that it’s not that simple and his intentions are a bit more complex & complicated (he does have a warped sense of care and/or brotherly protection towards Drey), but at the end of the day he’s not only a scumbag but he’s also a predator. Those two characteristics equate “villain” to me. And not only is he a predator & a scumbag, but he’s also spineless. In the film his character is responsible for Andrea’s brother going to prison because he couldn’t own up to the ambiguous/unspoken crime that he committed. Mackie’s performance in the film takes on an additional dimension because he not only tricks Drey in to thinking he’s a good guy, but he also has some of us, the audience, fooled in to thinking that as well. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve expressed my disdain towards Frank to my friends who have seen Half Nelson only for them to go; “huh? He wasn’t that bad.” Then I have to remind them that he’s a drug dealer that tries to recruit Drey to sell drugs (and at one point he puts her life in potential danger). But that’s the beauty of the performance. Frank/Mackie is charming, playful and kind of childlike. We never see him act violent or use a weapon. He doesn’t really raise his voice in anger (with the exception of one scene). The only time we see him use his presence for intimidation is to help Drey get her bike back that was stolen by a bigger kid (a typical/acceptable big brother move). Throughout most of the film he flashes this seemingly genuine smile and up until the final act of the movie you really feel like he’s concerned for Drey’s well-being. I mean, if you put aside the fact that Frank is a piece of shit, anyone would question and even try to intervene in the relationship between a young latchkey kid and her unstable older male teacher. But when Frank finally succeeds in (temporarily) dividing them, we see he really just wanted to use her (in the climax of Half Nelson we see Frank initiate Drey in to the world of drug dealing which immediately turns her off as her first client turns out to be Dan).
This is one of the more complex/strangely-acted (strangely in a good way) villainous performances since Craig Berko in Long Kiss Goodnight (one of the most smiley/nicely spoken villains in modern film) or Paddy Considine in a Room For Romeo Brass (at the end of the day Considine’s “Morel” is a “bad guy” but given he is a developmentally disabled on some level, it isn’t all his fault which makes his character complicated). Given the hype surrounding the two lead performances (Gosling & Epps), it’s understandable that Mackie would go somewhat unnoticed. But now that it’s the 10th anniversary of Half Nelson maybe it’s time to go back and give his performance a reexamination.
don't forget to check out all the other entries in the Great Villain Blog-O-Thon over at Speakeasy (click on the image below)
Friday, May 13, 2016
And if you're looking for a strong/memorable (and slightly unhinged) female character (something that's suddenly in high demand these days), then look no further than Ellen Page's "Boltie" (Crimson's sidekick). With projects like Mad Max: Fury Road (Princess Furiosa), The Fast & Furious Franchise, Haywire, Spy and the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, it's almost like Super just missed its target audience as it was released about a year or two before the surge of prominent/ass-kicking female characters. Boltie would have fit right in with the characters from the aforementioned films had Super been released in 2013 or 2014. But at the end of the day I guess everything worked for James Gunn. His 2014 superhero film Guardians of The Galaxy pushed what he tried to do with Super even further. The difference between then and now is Gunn has a much larger platform with Guardians being in the Marvel Comic Universe (it should be noted that Gunn is one of the only directors in the MCU with previous superhero/comic book movie experience).
Open-minded fans of Kickass and/or Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America would also appreciate this (Super is kind of like a guilt free version of Kickass). If you look below you'll see the color scheme of the outfits in both movies even match...
He also seemed to draw some serious subconscious inspiration from Daniel Johnston's artwork to more serious films like Hannibal...
In Super Rainn Wilson plays an average citizen ("Frank") who's pushed over the edge after his drug addicted wife leaves him for local drug kingpin: "Jacques" (played masterfully by Kevin Bacon). After a sign, from who he believes is god, Franks takes on the superhero alter ego of "The Crimson Bolt" (equip with an outfit that looks like a bastardized Daredevil costume). With the help of his sidekick "Boltie" (Page), Frank/Crimson Bolt works to not only rescue his wife, but to put an end to crime in their town. And the greatest thing about Crimson Bolt's brand of justice is that he treats everyone equally. From drug dealers & child molesters to people who cut in line at the movies - they all get their faces beat in with the same monkey wrench (Crimson Bolt's weapon of choice).
Take Boltie/Ellen Paige's death scene for example. I honestly didn't see that coming. Not only had I grown attached to her character but I also didn't think James Gunn had the guts to kill off a young/"cute" character in such a gruesome way (this is probably Gunn's best crafted standalone scene to date).
Super is still streaming on Netflix so there's really no excuse to not give this is a shot if you haven't already). And if comics, violence & indie films aren't your thing, at least give Super a chance for Kevin Bacon's underrated/under appreciated performance as the film's villain.
Saturday, May 7, 2016
Monday, May 2, 2016
It's difficult for me to not be a little bitter towards certain circumstances surrounding her death. My love of Akerman's work is documented on this site going back to almost day one. That's something a lot of these bandwagon film sites & publications can't say. I find it funny reading all these pieces dedicated to Akerman after her death yet when she was alive her worked had been trashed and bad-mouthed by some of the very same publications in recent years (obviously not all, but still...). And what's even more frustrating is that her career spans over 40 years yet the main/only film people focus on is Jeanne Dielman... when, in my opinion, isn't even her best work. It's certainly iconic and worthy of all the praise it's gotten (and as you'll see in a few moments I use quite a few images from the film) but there's so much more to discuss (her semi-autobiographical Rendezvous D'Anna is a film worthy of the same over-analysis & dissection in my opinion).
Putting aside all the obvious influences that Jeanne Dielman... has had on art house cinema throughout the years...
|Jeanne Dielman.../Safe (Todd Haynes)|
|Jeanne Dielman... / Safe|
|Jeanne Dielman... / Silent Light (Todd Haynes)|
|Tout Une Nuit / U.S. Go Home|
|Je Tu Il Elle / Blue Is The Warmest Color|
|Jeanne Dielman / Clean, Shaven|
|News From Home / Permanent Vacation|
No Home Movie has an additional layer as it's kind of an unofficial sequel to her 2002 film La Bas (like No Home Movie, La Bas takes place primarily in an apartment, we hear Akerman's voice off camera a lot, they have the same up close & personal/claustrophobic vibe, and both films reference Judaism and the same family members).
Not to make this too much about myself but No Home Movie made me contemplate the lives of the loved ones around me. My Grandmother passed away a few months ago (not that much soon after Chantal Akerman passed away). Actually, Akerman's mother reminded me of my late grandmother. They have some of the same mannerisms, they're around the same age, and they have plenty of stories to tell (who wouldn't have stories to tell when you reach your late 80's/early 90's). As I watched the elder Akerman tell stories of World War 2, escaping Poland, and overcoming anti-semitism, I was reminded of my Grandmother's stories concerning civil rights, "colored's only" sections and tales about my dad as a kid.
No Home Movie also doubles as a comment on how we sometimes treat the elderly. Not to ruffle any feathers but the way Akerman's sister speaks to their mother in certain scenes is a little bossy & lightly patronizing. But she's certainly not the only adult to speak to their elderly parent that way. A lot of folks are guilty of it which is why this film is so important & relevant.
I know this all sounds harsh and a little pretentious but Akerman's work meant a lot to me so it's hard to not take things personally. She not only influenced some of my favorite filmmakers (both directly & indirectly) but she had the kind of guts that you don't see in too many filmmakers (male or female). (Two-face) Publications like indiewire are always clamoring for strong female voices in film as if Akerman hadn't been around since the late 60's (maybe stop writing so many articles on Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey & Cate Blanchett and shine a spotlight on Akerman's work).