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The Lobster

In a world where people are defined by their relationships, we follow one man on his search for compatibility. David (Colin Farrell) is confined to the Hotel, where must find love in 45 days. If he fails to do so, he will be transformed into an animal of his choosing and banished to the forest.

Alas, there is another hope – a group of loveless rebels, “Loners,” also inhabit the forest in order to escape the tyranny of the Hotel, the tyranny of love. Falling in love as a Loner has some gnarly consequences. But of course, we all know that romance can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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Oh, and Hotel patrons hunt Loners for prizes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s surreal, dark, and clever – not to mention, social commentary galore. And it prominently features music from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so bonus points there.

lobster

Will you give me your loss and your sorrow?

When David flees the Hotel, he is stripped from society’s preconceptions, and like the surrounding fauna, is ruled by instinct. Though forbidden amongst Loners, David finds himself drawn to a nameless near-sighted Loner, who I’ll call “Lady” (Rachel Weisz). Of course, Lady is sweet on him, too.

The

As expected, things get pretty dark.

We as people have such strange views on relationships in our society. Decades of advertising have taught us that sex is something we preen for and deserve, lest we end up a sad, lonely loser. The Lobster takes parts of this concept and adds base commentary on objective matchmaking, as well as the addition of children to unhappy homes.

And yet, despite what he and Lady go through in order to pursue what we could deem a “normal” relationship, David is driven by societal standards to make everything worse. This decision in the end is bittersweet: he changes because that is what society has taught him to do, but also by doing so, he can wholly share a world with Lady. Though an abstract portrayal of the things we do for love, I think it’s fair to say that the metaphor is an apt one.

Twisted, strange and oddly beautiful, The Lobster offers all sorts of allegories between the lines. It’s a film that must be watched and discussed. Undoubtedly, it’s something you’ll either get or you don’t – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

 

Welcome to the Cortez

Holy guacamole. What. Did. I. Just. Watch.

Well, let me tell you – if you haven’t watched the latest season of American Horror Story, go away for now. I also wrote about the other seasons here. Meanwhile, I’ll be here jotting down my thoughts and musings on this last season.

Now, I find hotels as eerie as the next occasional traveler, so I thought the concept of AHS: Hotel was interesting on a very base level. Add some real-world creepy inspirations? Great! Old Hollywood? Even better! Vampires? Well…they hadn’t really tackled them yet, so okay…

I’ll be frank. This season’s a hot mess. It’s a Jackson Pollock of concepts and casting, marred with copious amounts of sex and bloodshed. Not all of it was terrible – for instance, we were given a new hero, Liz Taylor (Dennis O’Hare).

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In Liz we trust.

Pros
Liz is awesome. She’s an ideal role model for the modern audience – confident, intelligent, and fierce as hell. However, everything was fine until for some reason, they decided to throw in a completely asinine romance angle with the Countess’ (Gaga) flame, Tristan (Finn Wittrock).

Now, I’m not man-hating for the fun of it, but what I’m upset about is that this angle came from absolutely NOWHERE. The only time we get any idea that there was any sort of chemistry is after we see Liz and Tristan in bed together – no buildup, no conversation, not even any eye-contact, for all I know. I suppose the heart wants what the heart wants, I guess. I’m just glad she got the happy(ish) ending she deserved.

Another character I loved? James Patrick March.

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This guy.

Honestly I never gave Evan Peters a second glance until Hotel. Finally, after four seasons of moping, we get someone charismatic, cartoony, and impossible to ignore. Think of James P. March as Gomez Addams and H.H. Holmes on coke.

Hotel was an incredibly divisive season, an odd combination of cartoony and violent – in some cases cartoonishly violent. It seemed as if the creators didn’t know where to draw the line in terms of disturbing content – or which direction this show was going, for that matter. I think the idea was to bridge the gap with the “Ten Commandments” story…or maybe the vampires? Jeezus.

The Ten Commandments
Admittedly, this was a very cool, bold way to start the season. Granted, it is a total Se7en ripoff – that, and hearing the phrase “Ten Commandments” over and over again is clunky and exhausting.

matt-bomer-cheyenne-jackson-max-greenfield-wes-bentley-finn-wittrock

Almost as exhausting as trying to tell this cast apart.

And when we learn the truth about our protagonist, John (Wes Bentley), I’m not sure if it was more unexpected or annoying. Much like Liz/Tristan, we had no leads of any sort – it just seemed so poorly thrown together. On the other hand, when John accepted his identity, that was a nice change of pace.

There seems to be a string of shrugging off events when things get too weird – for instance, when we are introduced to Countess’ erm, child, it goes on a wacky’s “Baby’s Day Out”-style adventure. As if that wasn’t stupid/annoying enough, there is literally a scene where John’s daughter, Scarlett, is very upset and crying, and then less than a minute later we see her chilling on the couch with some popcorn. What kind of poorly written bullshit is going on here?

Okay okay, that’s a little nit-picky, especially considering some bigger problems…

The Addiction Demon and Hypodermic Sally

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…Who was this? Why was this? What purpose does this serve? Other than disturbing for disturbing’s sake.

Speaking of which, it was never really explained why Sally (Sarah Paulson) was sewing folks into mattresses. It made a nice eyecatch I suppose, but again, ultimately pointless. Like that Human Centipede-esque nonsense later.

On the topic of nonsense, last but not least –

The Vampires
To be fair, they never really call these creatures “vampires” – but for the sake of simplicity, that’s what I’m going with. I honestly enjoyed how this season played with this vampirism disease, especially when combined with other diseases. Though they did hit us over the head with the-ever-so-topical vaccination “debate.”

Upon the announcement that Lady Gaga was to be involved with this season of AHS, I honestly didn’t really care – I guess I was more looking forward to the sheer spectacle she would surely provide – and thusly delivered. I was more annoyed by the irrelevance of her vampire clan and their terrible hair-dos.

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I’m talking about you, Holden.

The Countess represented the glamour as well as the menace that LA has to offer (throughout time, so it seems) – an ideal seductress. Apart from that, we have a concept that’s terribly drawn out and ultimately uninteresting.

In A Nutshell
I’m sorry, I took some time writing this because I often found myself getting ranty and all over the place. Kind of like this season. Simply put, there were way too many ideas going on here at once; near the end, it was painfully obvious that they needed to tie these stories up. Yet, despite my complaints, I still enjoyed this season. It doesn’t hold a candle to Murder House, but at least it’s better than Coven.

 

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“I couldn’t pick my butthole out of a lineup.” – Academy Award-winner, Kathy Bates

 

 

 

WYSHW: Mary and Max

You know how I feel about stop-motion.

You know how I feel about stop-motion.

This is a film I came across some time ago. It stuck to the back of my memory and never left. Sadly, it is no longer streaming on Netflix, but you should see it if you get a chance; Adam Elliot’s Max and Mary– an animated tale of isolation, second-chances, and condensed milk. Among other things.

Mary Daisy Dinkle (Bethany Whitmore/Toni Collette) is a lonely Aussie girl who lives with her alcoholic mother and removed father. Max Jerrry Horovitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is an obese 40-something with Aspergers living in New York.

After a mishap with her mother at the post office, Mary reaches out to Max on a whim, with the hopes of gaining a pen pal. Max obliges, and the two strike a friendship which spans years, complete with misunderstandings and ups and downs – without ever meeting face-to-face.

What struck me most about Mary and Maxis it’s odd combination of charm and crudeness – the same sort of traits found in Elliot’s Oscar-winning short Harvie Krumpet. Additionally, there’s something wonderful, magical even, about the heaviness and intangibility of depression and anxiety crossed with such tangible media as clay figurines. Personally, I’m also a fan of more adult-themed stop-motion films (the more that disbands the thought that all animated features are for children, the better).

Perchance this film is not for everybody, but I think that Mary and Maxis at least worth a glance for the dry wit and dark humor.

Next time on What You Should Have Watched, let’s get some Julie Taymor in here.

Of Freaks and Monsters: American Horror Story

If you didn’t notice, I haven’t posted much in a while. Perhaps it’s due to distraction or laziness, but also because like any red-blooded American twenty-something, I’ve been mooching off of my parents’ various cable subscriptions and marathoning old HBO shows. (Seriously, I think Oz changed my life. I’ll have to write about that one sometime.) …That and I renewed my WOW subscription. Anywhoo, I’ve been fortunate enough to stay active with the newest installment of everyone’s favorite Freudian fanfare, American Horror Story: Freakshow.

I’ve been a fan of this series since the get-go, and yes, I accept it’s flaws as much as I bitch about them with friends and co-workers and anyone else who will listen. If anything, I always follow each season ’til the end, even Coven. So I decided to write a bit about each – the good, the bad, the freaky, and the just plain awful. Spoilers ahoy! (Mostly pertaining to Freak Show!) I’m not gonna give any real plot synopsis, but overall if you haven’t seen it, watch it dammit – all but the latest seasons are on Netflix.

Murder House

American Horror Story: making families shift uncomfortably in their seats since 2011. This was the beginning of something new and exciting, with an opening that dares you not to look away (not at all unlike that of Se7en‘s).

"Bring out the gimp."

“Bring out the gimp.”

Granted, I haven’t seen this since it’s airing (or any of the other seasons), but needless to say, some things just stick with you. Being that this was a season of firsts, Murder House took some serious balls – we’re talking rape, S&M nightmares, school shootings, and straight-up child abuse. And this is on cable.

Love you.

Love you.

Now, it’s one thing to have shock factor, but fortunately we have a pretty gripping story to go along with.

That, and a new generation has fallen for Our Lady of Perpetual Ferocity, Jessica Lange.

I believe it was Entertainment Weekly that described Lange’s portrayal of Constance Langdon as “Southern Comfort with a hint of venom.” Lange would later prove that she can keep this balance consistent throughout the seasons, weighing each outrage with vulnerability.

In retrospect, Murder House was probably the most solid of the seasons, and one of my favorites. Next to Asylum.

Asylum

Though Asylum polarized audiences, I believe this one is my favorite: it has a cohesive plot, exciting characters and just enough weirdness and camp. That, and I think that Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto) was probably, arguably, the scariest AHS villain to date (which I will happily defend).

I only have three gripes: lame zombie reveal (though Nazi experiments is a new angle), disappointing deaths of not one, but two amazing characters (granted, they were heavily linked), and the serial killer’s name was “Bloody Face.”

Yeah, I've got nothing.

Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

Some people hated the aliens, but I really didn’t mind them. I was just glad to see something different. Oh, and bravo James Cromwell – in only one scene, you destroyed my childhood memories of the kindly farmer who sang to a pig. Thank you.

MmmmmMcShane. (Insert obligatory naughty Santa pun here.)

MmmmmMcShane.
(Insert obligatory naughty Santa pun here.)

I also have some soft spots for asylums and Ed Gein types – that kind of horror feels, I dunno, nostalgic? Yeah, that’s the best way to describe it. So I guess that’s another perk of following AHS – if you don’t like one kind of scary, another’s just around the corner!

By Asylum, I caught on to some tropes, reoccuring cast members aside:

  • Horrible monster (key villain)
  • Murderous rape-baby
  • Holiday episode
  • Religion
  • Gratuitous sex
  • Butts (because why not?)
  • Mommy issues
  • Something horrible to watch (or potential triggers)
  • A historical figure

Now that I think of it, this series might as well have been called Mommy Issues: Seriously, Call Your Mom. When it came to Asylum, I’m not sure which was more scarring: watching Sarah Paulson’s DIY abortion, or the fact that Lana Winters’ exposé on Briarcliff was practically a recreation of one of the most abhorring and infamous scandals in the history of Staten Island.

Coven

I wanted Coven to be good, sincerely.

It had so many chances to do something well, but it went wrong at every turn:

  • Predominantly female cast?
    Better make them fight all the time about stupid things! At least they look good doing it, right?
  • Delightfully unnerving new monster?
    Better have an amazing actress awkwardly try to bang it and then never talk about it again.
  • Learn they have a certain type of power (like X-Men)?
    Let’s not show how they learn new magic – that’d be too much like Harry Potter.
  • Show how they can do really awesome magics stuff?
    Whoops, gotta kill them off – guess they forgot how to witch.
Make sure your leading character has the personality and mental acuity of a goldfish.

Also make sure your leading character has the personality and mental acuity of a goldfish.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I think Buzzfeed also made a nice list of everything wrong. (Also I stand corrected on one of my tropes – I think the murderous rape-baby stops here.)

Also is it weird that there was more racism in Coven (presumably modern day, mind you) than there was during the 1950s (i.e. Freak Show)? Speaking of which, moving on-

Freak Show

This is my favorite opening. Maybe I just like toy pianos.

Sideshows/freak shows have also always appealed to me. Again, just one of those weird things. Plus this season was filled with ’50’s kitsch and David Bowie – pretty much everything I love right there. Not to mention numerous references to Tod Browning’s Freaks, one of my favorites, but we’ll get to that later. Oh, and awesome job with that Elephant Man theme near the end!

Love it love it love it.

Love it love it love it.

On the whole, I enjoyed this season a lot. Even though there wasn’t really an overarching storyline, I felt that it worked well as a character study/spectacle piece. Though, honestly, I still find it troublesome that there was so much focus on the music videos (at least until it was realized that the show needed to progress).

At first, it made sense: it was Elsa’s show and she’s a singer. That’s obvious. Now the twins come in and they need to be special – they better sing too. And now we’ve got Jimmy all angsty so he’s headlining with Nirvana? I mean, I know they’re pushing for more Evan Peters (especially because he mostly just got drunk and sulked all the time halfway through), but that was really, really pointless.

You tease.

You tease.

Oh and speaking of pointless, what was the point of talking about Stanley’s big wiener if they’re never going to do anything with it? I’m sorry, but I was at least hoping it would be chopped off and put on display at that Morbidity Museum – which would be wonderfully ironic – of course, not that they’d show it, but it’s the principle of the damn thing.

Needless to say, I feel that Stanley’s demise (a là Freaks) was satisfying, but the end of the show was so rushed, they never brought him up again or did anything with him – kind of like how they never mentioned if the Lizard Girl’s dad even survived the tar-and-feathering (or if there were repercussions). I guess someone remembered that we couldn’t just be distracted by jingle keys any longer and the show actually had to be finished.

This brings me to Dandy.

Dandy-Mott

Oh Dandy. Dandy, Dandy, Dandy.

If ever there was a character you could love to hate, it was this kid. I could seriously not look away. This was the epitome of villainy: a spoiled, rich brat who makes Kanye West look humble. He also progressed the most throughout this show, which made his ending so…disappointing. Especially after seeing what they did to Stanley – why not make Dandy’s death ironic, at the very least? The water trap was too easy. Easy and boring. There, I said it.

I really wanted to see them doing more stuff, you know?

I really wanted to see them doing more stuff, you know?

There was still plenty to enjoy: Sarah Paulson does a fantastic job as Bette and Dot Tattler, and they brought back Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett – plus we now have TV debuts of the likes of Mat Fraser, Erika Ervin and Rose Siggins. Like I mentioned before, Freak Show mostly served as a spectacle of characters, which was still fun to watch.

For now, it is still up in the air as to whether or not this was  Jessica Lange’s last season. At first it was believed to be, but since that rumor, creator Ryan Murphy has been begging her to stay. Believing that Freak Show was her last, it makes the last episode, rather her last performance (more Bowie – yay!), to be particularly heartbreaking. Not as heartbreaking as “Orphans” though. That was like…jeeze.

Personally, I hope she stays.

Tusk

Okay, so remember last week or whenever I posted my podcast-ical fangasm about Tusk? Well, Crom was kind and this limitedly-released feature graced a small theater just a skip-hop-and-a-jump away from yours truly. It was my companion and I, and a handful of others – maybe at most ten patrons total on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Two people walked out during the third act. Clearly, this was not meant for them.

Me, on the other hand? Let’s just say I had a hell of a time.

Granted, my fandom of Smodcast and Kevin Smith films sent my little heart a-flutter, so am I biased? Absolutely. This doesn’t mean I still can’t remain totally objective about the thing.

Podcasting!

Podcasting!

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) are the obnoxious hosts of the infamous Not-See Party – a podcast in which Wallace travels and interviews strange folk and weirdos alike. Wallace’s latest expedition takes him to scenic Manitoba, but when his planned interview goes, well, awry, Wallace is desperate to make the most of his time.

He stumbles across an ad posted by the hermitic Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a retired adventurer looking for a lodger – a perfect interviewee for a podcast. However, Howe reveals a much more insidious plan. He ends up turning Wallace into a walrus. What, was that really a spoiler?

Fortunately for folks at home, the internet has been pretty hush-hush about slipping pictures of the monstrosity – that thing’s nightmare fuel, man.

So here's an adorable baby walrus in a tub instead. You're welcome.

So here’s an adorable baby walrus in a tub instead.
You’re welcome.

Browsing around, I’ve read some harsh remarks about the pointless, gratuitous nature of Tusk. Admittedly, the tone is kind of all over the place, and the ending is sad and empty, I don’t think that the film is necessarily unenjoyable. Again, I am a fan and knew what to expect: a satisfyingly effed-up adventure. Right, right gotta be objective  –

I need those schematics.

I need those schematics on my walls.

I did have a couple of gripes, after all, the devil’s in the details. Is it weird that I wanted to see more of the suit-making process? For instance, what was it filled with? How many other skins were needed (was that even the method)? How did he fabricate the flippers?Also some aging on the suit would have been glorious – maybe an infection here or there, maybe some signs of healing – something! It works for immediate shock value (I know I first cringed looking at it), but after a while the magic seemed to fade.

Justin Long was great. Despite the fact that his character was an annoying ass-hat, his tormented cries and pained post-walrus expressions were impressively disturbing, proving that no man deserved what this guy had just undergone.

Really, everyone gave an impressive performance (so glad to see crazy Michael Parks again). However, returning to the film’s tonal crisis, I feel as if our Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) teetered a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when Depp hides in a character, but there were times when this character was uncomfortably cartoony, like a drunk Clouseau wannabe (maybe less bumbling). Though in retrospect, I think he grows on you. I mean, I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of this character in Yoga Hosers.

In short, Tusk is a strange tale made on a whim – a labor of love purely for the fans. The story may be paper-thin and there isn’t a “point” per se, but you know what? It’s an enjoyable, messed up little ride, and I want more. Come for the weirdness, stay for the performances. Personally, I cannot wait for the rest of Kevin Smith’s True North Trilogy.

Final Grade: B

WYSHW: World’s Greatest Dad

Last Monday, August 11, the Internet exploded. Everyone all over social media began to scramble to answer one simple question – “is it true?” Sadly, yes. Robin Williams, beloved actor, comedian, and all around cool guy, took his life at the age of 63.

worlds-greatest-dadI don’t want to harp too much on this – after all, there’s not much left to say. In return, I’d rather celebrate this man’s legacy by talking about a lesser-known Williams film that’s all about, well, legacy: World’s Greatest Dad, directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite (which is also currently streaming).

I would like to start out saying that given the content of the film, I could see quite a few people getting upset about this one. So, take some time on this one.

Alright.

Why Juni, why!?

Why Juni, why!?

Lance Clayton (Williams) is a failed writer turned English teacher (aren’t they all), who is father to probably the worst teenage boy in existence, Kyle (Daryl Sabara). Okay, to be fair I say that sort of thing about a lot of teenagers, but we’re talking lord-god-king douchebag. One fateful day, Lance walks in to discover that Kyle accidentally killed himself in an act of autoerotic asphyxiation gone awry.

Crushed by his discovery and wishing to save his son (and more likely himself) from the embarrassment, Lance poses Kyle’s body as a suicide and writes a heartfelt note on his son’s behalf before calling the police. The note is later obtained and published in Lance’s/Kyle’s school newspaper, and Kyle soon becomes a posthumous icon for the students. Having finally been recognized for his writing, Lance decides to pen a journal under Kyle’s name, which soon becomes published as a national phenomenon.

Admittedly, this is a film about terrible people. Simultaneously, it’s a fantastic satire on the cult of celebrity. And again, I warn you (and as if you couldn’t tell by my little synopsis there), this movie is dark. Not to mention especially heartbreaking given the circumstances.

Though it’s been a couple years since I sat down and watched this movie, but one thing that stuck out in my head was how absurdly funny the whole thing was. That, and William’s incredible range on display. Despite being crass and about terrible people, World’s Greatest Dad is an unexpected gem worth checking out.

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Though he may be gone, his legacy of laughter will always remain in our hearts and minds. And with that, we will miss you.

Filth

Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is a misogynistic, alcoholic cokehead with a penchant for kinky sex and sick mind games. He’s also a police officer. Usually tormenting his friends and coworkers, he now focuses his energy on the chance at a promotion on the force, with only an unsolved murder standing in his way. Naturally, chaos ensues when the twisted web he weaves inevitably collapses on him, forcing Bruce to finally come to terms with himself.

Sort of.

Thank you.

Thank you.

This was probably one of the best McAvoy performances I’ve seen – he’s just this raw psychotic force, and you just love to hate this character. And then when those tender moments hit, they hit hard, but not in a way unbelievable for the character.

However regardless of the strong character study, Filth seems to be suffering from an identity crisis – most noticeably, throughout the film there are numerous references to A Clockwork Orange (with an explicit 2001: A Space Odyssey reference thrown in for good measure). What perplexes me about this choice is that though I appreciate a good reference, I really don’t understand why they chose to use them so continuously.

"Awake at last, yes?"

“Awake at last, yes?”

It’s neat for trivia and I suppose it helps frame Robertson’s mental frailty, but on the whole it feels like reference for the sake of reference – Alex DeLarge and Bruce Robertson are very different people, and both stories have very different commentaries (and it’s not like the film/book are on Robertson’s mind or in the background).

I mean, I guess some points could be argued, but I better stop myself from diving further into an infinite Kubrick loop. I bring this up because I feel by using these references so overtly, it draws away from the real originality (as if it already wasn’t fighting away from being another Trainspotting).

Overall, I felt that Filth was a raunchy good time, despite the identity crisis. Sure it gets really dark fairly quickly, but that’s what I expected, and wanted. After seeing this movie, I actually want to read the book. So I say come for the McAvoy and stay for the ride.

Final Grade: A-

Only Lovers Left Alive

Adam and Eve are a pair of vampire lovers. Though they have survived centuries together, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) has grown despondent, ever distraught by the state of the world and how it’s being ruined by “zombies” (aka, non-vampire folk). Once Eve (Tilda Swinton) re-enters his life, she convinces him to relish in the wonders and beauty the world has to offer. However, their content home-life is interrupted once Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) pays a visit.

Pictured: Detroit

Pictured: Detroit

Like all Jarmusch films, the crux of the story is in the characters themselves. By simply looking at our lovers, we can easily read their interests: Eve adores the exotic, as well as art an literature, whereas Adam dwells in a dilapidated home surrounded with musical instruments and all sorts of gadgetry. Furthermore, Eve resides in Tangiers while Adam prefers Detroit – no doubt a commentary on America’s fallen empire (especially when they visit the Michigan Theatre).

When together they make a perfect yin-yang (possibly represented by their hair-color), and as a couple they complete each other.

Essentially these two are the movie – which is why it’s so jarring when Ava comes into the picture.

It's a shame, I really like Mia.

I never thought I would want to slap Mia Wasikowska. Good job Jarmusch.

It’s clear by Adam’s, erm,  lack of enthusiasm, that Ava is not welcome in his house. Wasikowska plays this role to a tee, but sadly doesn’t offer much else. Ava is simply the most loathe-able, degenerate teenager in existence.  Of course, using the phrase “teenager” loosely. Granted I could just be an old curmudgeon like Adam, but damn is she annoying.

I would actually love to know her story, like when did she become a vampire and why? Why don’t we ever learn what she did to piss off Adam to begin with? Also why didn’t he take advantage of a certain spoilery plot-point? That would had made things a lot easier.

At the same time, I suppose focusing more on the vampire mythology would remove from the romantic narrative – though if I’ve learned anything while writing about Her, I tend to get distracted by origins (or lack thereof). I need to remind myself that this isn’t  a film about vampires, but of lovers, and what it means to only have each other. That’s sweet and all, but I feel as if the overall tale was lacking – Ava’s intrusion is really the only event that occurs, but as soon as she’s there you want her gone.

Overall, Jarmusch’s staple tonality and character focus is certainly there, but I feel as if the romance angle was a bit of a one-trick pony. Come for the characters and atmosphere, but stay for the music.

Final Grade: B

WYSHW: Synecdoche, New York

Poster

Japanese poster is best poster.

As you may have noticed in my last What You Should Have Watched that I posted forever ago, I had alluded to a Tom Hardy movie (which I’ll do next time)However, due to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden and tragic passing, I’ve decided to tell you about the enigmatic masterpiece that is Synecdoche, New York. Of course, assuming you have yet to see it.

Much like The Fountain or even Beyond the Black Rainbow, I could see why a film like Synecdoche would be a daunting experience. In fact, there are those who would argue that Synecdoche is just Charlie Kaufman’s pretentious self-absorbed opus. I, on the other hand, think that this is a treasure trove of metaphor and meaning, built by incredible talent and fantastic set design. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Synecdoche, New York is the story of Caden Cotard (PSH), a playwright who is caught between his work and personal life, while obsessing over his own mortality. His marriage to a micro-painter named Adele (Catherine Keener) soon crumbles under the stress, and she’s off to Germany with their only daughter, Olive. Despite these troubles, Caden soon receives a MacArthur Fellowship, and sets on creating a play which will be far more brutal and honest than his previous works – reality and fantasy spiral and entwine as we embark upon Caden’s über-meta oeuvre.

For instance, Hazel (Samantha Morton) lives in a house that is perpetually on fire.

For instance, Hazel (Samantha Morton) lives in a house that is perpetually on fire.

The unreliability of this world is not solely based on our protagonist – there are other characters who experience what we as viewers would see as lapses in reality. Thus Synecdoche presents for us a strange but entirely original environment, which compliments the storytelling in creating/portraying visual and contextual metaphor. More so, not only are we given a playfully surreal atmosphere, but we also deal with the heaviness of Caden’s isolation and obsession.

Okay, now I can see why people would start rolling their eyes – but really, this movie is worth checking out! Despite the heavy nature of Caden’s attempts to portray his meaning of life, the universe, and everything, his story is depicted with a fine balance of humor and sympathy. Not to mention the metaphors alone – personally, each time I watch this film I discover a new aspect or theme. Also there’s no shame in consulting wikipedia for some explanation.

Perhaps sometime I could give a better analysis of the many meanings weaved throughout this film, but for now I’m going to stick to a general WYSHW recommendation: Synecdoche, New York is a remarkable film. Charlie Kaufman has not only proved himself as a gifted writer, but as a substantial director as well (as if he needed to prove himself to anyone). Likewise, the cast is exceptional. Philip Seymour Hoffman breathed so much life into this performance – Caden is a broken man striving for excellence while discovering the purpose of his existence, and ultimately, well, I’m not going to spoil anything this time. His journey is sad, true, and beautiful – most importantly, it is something we all can relate to.

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I’ll miss you.

Excision

There will be blood.

Oh yes, there will be blood.

Ah yes, high school – a volatile time where adolescents believe they are at the cusp of adulthood, while simultaneously thinking only of the present with little regard to consequence. Unless you’re our protagonist, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) – she has everything worked out. Pauline doesn’t have many friends and she doesn’t seem to mind. She has better things to do and much to learn, considering all she wants in her life is to become a surgeon. What’s a better way to focus her hematolagniac fantasies?

Excision features a protagonist unlike any other, namely because she is neither male nor a vampire. This is a teenage girl who loves blood, but fortunately she wants to help people, if only her parents would understand. More so, she recognizes that she has some psychosexual delusions and she would like to work them out. Though she begs for psychiatric guidance, her disapproving mother (ex-porn star and John Waters collaborator Traci Lords) simply pushes religion and cotillion – both of which Pauline sadistically exploits.

For once, we have a weird girl protagonist that is legitimately weird. That’s a good thing: Pauline’s not evil by any means, nor is she incredibly annoying or promiscuous in that “geek girl” manner. Okay, so she has retaliation issues, so what? Not all of us can handle awkward situations as well as the next person. And in the end, she decides to put her well, bloodlust, to good use. In a twisted sort of way – but with good intent.

What makes Excision a cult hit in my mind is just what I’ve been going on about: an original character-based story with striking visuals, and that’s just weird enough to make you feel a little uncomfortable while throwing in some humor. And it’s also underrated. Of course, a story like this does not go without fault; considering high tensions are only built between Pauline and her mother, the father and younger sister characters are about as dynamic as a pancake (still thicker than a crepe) at best. Likewise, Excision also suffers from this ongoing fad of the anti-ending. Although this film leaves much to be desired, the ride’s still pretty intense.