"Christine" is the Unforgettable True Story of Christine Chubbuck


8/7/2020

“Christine”, not to be confused with the Stephen King story and subsequent movie, is the shocking and heartbreaking true story of Christine Chubbuck, a woman fighting her internal and external demons in the broadcast news business of the 1970s.  This film was directed by Antonio Campos, who previously directed the amazing 2008 film “Afterschool”.


Rebecca Hall plays the title role of Christine a news reporter for a small station in Sarasota Florida.  Christine lives with her mother after an incident at her previous job in Boston sent her packing.  She obviously has some mental health issues, but in the 70s this was extremely hidden and taboo to talk about openly, and still is to some extent.  On her time off Christine performs puppet shows at the local children’s hospital.  These shows look to be an emotional outlet for her as she uses these characters to express her deepest feelings to the only people that actually pay any attention and listen to her.

Working in a white male-dominated industry Christine is a tough as nails workaholic.  Always itching to do more important she is constantly given demeaning cream puff stories.  That station on the other hand is struggling to find and keep its viewers.  They must start to subscribe to the new “if it bleeds it leads” concept of journalism if they plan to stay in business.  Christine also begins to have severe abdominal pains which she tries to brush off as stress, but this eventually leads her to a doctor's office.  She will need an operation to remove a cyst along with one of her ovaries, making it difficult to get pregnant in the future.  The overarching theme of loneliness is present in every scene she is in.  Christine is not an easy person to get to know and comes off quite cold and standoffish.  She has a crush on the lead anchor George, played by Michael C. Hall of Dexter Fame.  George is a nice guy, but kind of dumb.  He is obviously not as outlandish as Will Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy, but you can see a sliver of it now and again.


Christine buys a police scanner in hopes of tracking down juicier stories and runs out to a fire in the middle of the night and captures this emotional and ironic story of an older man who won’t stop smoking even though his house has burned down more than a few times.  She is proud and excited about this new work and upon bringing it to her boss is shot down for not shooting the fire itself.  Christine starts to spiral down a familiar path as she argues with her mother, who has found a new boyfriend.


Bob Anderson the station owner is looking for two people to work at a much bigger station in Baltimore and this looks to be the big break Christine has been looking for.  She has also started to become friendlier with George, first at a drunken Fourth of July party, then a bit later he asks her out to dinner.  At the end of this dinner, he brings her to this new age support group for people to work through their problems, which was a little strange.  To boost her profile for the possible promotion Christine fakes a flat tire in order to talk to Bob at his home.  She also requests to be a co-anchor for a trial run from the station director in which she is constantly feuding with and surprisingly he agrees.  Although Christine hears that George has been selected for the promotion and he doesn’t choose her to go with him.  This is the last straw and something breaks in Christine’s psyche.  She’s thinking that everyone is against her and is bound for a lonely barren existence for the rest of her sad pitiful life.  So she buys a gun she was looking at earlier on, a .38 snub nose.  The day comes for her big on-air time and there is a technical problem leaving her on air with nothing to say, so she reads a prepared statement of her own, takes the gun out of her bag, and shoots herself in the head on live television.  She briefly makes the news herself and the sad tragic story of Christine Chubbuck comes to an end.  


“Christine” is a powerful character study of a woman who was chewed up and spit out by a society that refused to change.  It's also an early indication of how important a person's mental health is and how we treat each other.  Christine was by no means a bad person, she worked tirelessly in the hopes of making a difference.  In hopes of being listened too and recognized as a valuable and worthwhile person.  The story of Christine Chubbuck cannot be easily forgotten after watching this film.  


Willam H. Macy is "Edmond"

7/30/2020

Director Stuart Gordon’s 2005 film “Edmond” was adapted from a play by David Mamet who also wrote the screenplay.  It’s a short little film, 82 minutes, about a middle-aged man going through a mid-life existential crisis in the same vein as Michael Douglas’s character in the movie “Falling Down”, except with Mamet’s keen use of dialogue.


Willam H. Macy has made a career out of playing the down on his luck everyman and the role of Edmond is the perfect fit for him.  He is a bland suit and tie businessman past his prime who on a whim visits a psychic and gets a tarot card reading.  The old lady tells him “You are not where you belong”.  This seems to flip a switch in his brain and he goes home to his wife and calmly and quietly tells her “I can’t live this life anymore” and leaves her.  Edmond then sets off on a journey through the streets of New York.  He talks to a man in a bar (Joe Mantegna) who spouts off this racist allegory and tells him to go to this strip club.  Edmond is kicked out of the club for being a repressed cheap bastard and his journey continues to a peepshow.  All the while he is looking for an authentic human connection with each of the sex workers he encounters.  His desperate loneliness is palpable.  He tries to bargain on price with each of them, even to the point of trying to use a credit card with a woman at a brothel.  Back on the streets he is approached by a pimp and they come to an agreement for one of his girls but Edmond is not surprisingly robbed.  What is surprising though is that he fights back and stabs the pimp all while berating him with racial slurs.  Feeling invigorated and alive he goes to a bar for a drink and strikes up a conversation with the young waitress Glenna (Julia Stiles).  He actually persuades her to go back to her place where they have sex.  Edmond then flies into a sort of manic rage eventually killing a terrified Glenna with his knife.


Edmond is consumed with a racist, misogynistic rage that has been long buried.  He has another such encounter with an older African-American lady on the subway but she is able to escape.  Further wondering the streets he is drawn to an all-black church and seems entranced until he is approached by a policeman and the women he harassed on the train.  He tries to talk his way out of it using his white privilege but is arrested and taken to the station for questioning.  Upon interrogation, he is blindsided when they ask him about the murder of Glenna.  He confesses with the twisted rationale of a mad man.  The third act has Edmond in prison with a cellmate who quickly makes him his bitch.  He makes a full stereotypical prison transformation as he shaves his head and gets a teardrop tat. The film ends with him and his cellmate having a long existential talk about hell and the afterlife.


Writer David Mamet is known for his talent for writing strong dialogue that my review here can’t accurately express.  It’s very raw and biting and not for everyone.  “Edmond” is a character study of a vile man who could be your next-door neighbor.  Since he is such a bland everyman he could literally represent a vast number of people who are also hiding a deepening rage against society as a whole and when the wolf decides to shed its sheep’s clothing this can be utterly terrifying.


Stuart Gordon's Final Film "Stuck"

7/27/2020

*Spoilers Ahead*
Director Stuart Gordon passed away in March of this year.  He left his mark by being one of the great contributors to the 80s horror scene.  The iconic Dr. Herbert West, played by Jeffrey Combs, in “Re-Animator” put Gordon on the map.  His next feature “From Beyond” which also starred Combs also drew wide acclaim from fans and critics alike.  To round up his amazing trio of films was “Dolls” in 1987.  He made a number of poorly received films in the 90s but his last two in the mid-2000s “Edmond” and “Stuck” were a return to his earlier form.  Here we will take a look at his last feature the “based on a true story” film “Stuck”.

Famed Irish actor Stephen Rea adopts an American accent to play Thomas Bardo, a down on his luck schlub who is being evicted from his scummy apartment.  With nowhere to go, he is cast out onto the streets to fend for himself.  When trying to find a job at the state unemployment agency he runs into nothing but bureaucracy.  With an armload of clothes and nighttime upon him, he makes his way to a park bench to mull over his future.  Meanwhile, we meet Brandi Boski, played by Mena Suvari.  She works in a nursing home and is the favorite nurse of Mr. Binkley and has literally shit the bed again.  After work, Brandi and Tanya (a friend from work) go to a club and meet up with Brandi’s boyfriend Rashid.  They all take some ecstasy and party the night away.  Drunk and high Brandi decides to drive home, obviously, this is not going to go well for her.  While chatting on the phone with Rashid (another nasty no-no) she hits a homeless man pushing a shopping cart.  This is, of course, Thomas who was kicked out of the park by the police, then was gifted the cart by another fellow homeless man.  Thomas’ leg is broken and his body becomes lodged in the windshield, hence the title Stuck, but the title is sort of a double meaning as we’ll find out.  In a moment of panic and darkly comedic drama Brandi makes her way home with the man on her hood.  She even passes by a policeman who fails to notice her.  Then makes a feeble attempt to drop him off at a hospital but drives away.

Amazingly she arrives home undetected and a moment of truth is upon her, what should she do next?   She doesn’t seem to be an inherently bad person, but her refusal to accept what is happening and take responsibility is her downfall.  Thomas then wakes up and pleads for help, obviously in agonizing pain, blood streaking down his face and a bone protruding ever so slightly from his broken leg.  Brandi is frozen in terror and disbelief and leaves him as Rashid arrives at her front door.  Brandi tells him about the accident, but not the fact that he is currently in the garage.  Rashid laughs it off and tells her to forget about it.  We then cut between a sex scene and Thomas writhing in the windshield.

The next day Brandi goes to work but is late, she tries to act like things are normal but is wracked with guilt.  Her guilt is more about what will happen to her if she is found out that what is happening to poor ole Thomas.  Before leaving for work she whacks him over the head with a 2x4 to stop him from screaming.  Later on, Thomas awakens still alive and kicking and gets the attention of a neighbor boy by screaming for help.  The boy runs home to tell his mother and when the father gets home he decides not to intervene since they are illegals and could be deported.  Thomas’s situation becomes so ridiculous that the film could be seen as a dark comedy.  He is eventually able to wedge himself free and splinter his leg.  When Rashid goes to finish him off he is ambushed and killed.  Thomas almost escapes but Brandi knocks him out and drags him back.  She then decides to douce everything is gasoline and set it ablaze.  Once again Thomas is awakened and gets the drop on Brandi.  He is able to start the car and pin her to the wall.  Brandi’s attempt to shot him backfires as the shot ignites the gas and burns her alive.  Thomas emerges from the flames a broken but free man.

“Stuck” is a low budget, well-acted B-movie that really brings the goods.  It has gore, sex, dark humor, and people making stupid decisions.  All based on the true story of Chante Jawan Mallard, a Texas woman who received 50 years in prison for the murder of a homeless man, Gregory Biggs.  Yes, the movie does take a bunch of artistic liberties, I mean Thomas surviving and getting his vengeance makes the movie.  Stuart Gordon’s last film while not earth shattering brought back the feeling of those mid-80s classics he is so famous for.

A Loud Disapproval of "A Quiet Place"

“A Quiet Place” is a horror film that takes things in a bit of a different direction than your average scare-fest.  Director and actor John Krasinski is primarily known for his comedic role on the TV show “The Office”.  He is playing against type in both respects as actor and director.  His journey into the horror/thriller genre is a welcome surprise as he brings a new voice and energy into an often tired and overworked genre. 

Although names were not mentioned during the film (except for one), John plays a father and a husband named Lee Abbott.  His on-screen as well as off wife, Evelyn Abbott, is played by Emily Blount.  They have three children among them, two boys and a girl.  The oldest girl, Regan, is played by Millicent Simmonds who in real life is hearing impaired, this makes for an interesting pairing with the plot of the film which I will mention later on.  Her two brothers, Marcus and Beau, are played by Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward respectively.  The overall cast is kept to a minimum and reinforces the feeling of isolation the family feels.

The film starts out with a title card stating “Day 89” and we see the family scrounging around a desolate drug store in a post-apocalyptic landscape.  They tiptoe around with the utmost silence.  Beau the youngest boy eyes a toy space shuttle, but it’s quickly taken awake because of its potential to make noise, however upon leaving Regan lets him keep it, this a very bad thing.  We find the family walking along a path of ashes and crossing a bridge when the toy starts blaring, everyone turns around in horror as Beau is swept away by a big insect looking, creature.  We then flash forward about a year with another title card.  We see that Evelyn is pregnant which is foreshadowing a pretty obvious plot point to come.  Their lives are lived in silence as any noise will bring the creatures to their door.  They have efficiently adapted everything they do to reduce sounds.  They use sign language to communicate and even roll dice on a mat when playing games to eliminate any sound.  Only when Lee brings Marcus to a fast-moving stream or waterfall are they able to talk in their normal voices.  To further eliminate noise when inside or out everyone is barefoot.  Their clothing is minimal and reflects that of your average middle-class family, laundry is still being done as we see so things are not terribly desperate as of yet. They are still up on their cleanliness and appearance.

In a film with little to no verbal dialogue, it turns into a modern-day silent film.  This means the acting has to be good and contrary to your typical horror movie acting this film is definitely a step above.   The acting came through in the facial expressions of the actors.  When Evelyn was trapped in the house having to keep silent while also going into labor was pretty amazing.  Relaying all of the complex emotions she was going through was quite a feat.  The fact that Regan is deaf in real life and in the film looked to make her job all the more difficult.  She crafts a great character communicating all her emotions from angry and annoyed to anxious and terrified.  Her dad tirelessly works on new hearing aids for her without having much success, but his latest configuration is in the end a key to repelling the creatures.  Also contrary to most horror films we really care about these characters and want them to survive.  They are not just generic bodies to be gruesomely murdered by the hero monsters.

The post-apocalyptic scenery is something that has been used to death in modern films and TV.  “The Walking Dead” for example has cornered the market on this.  The most effective use of this in my opinion was the 2009 film “The Road” starring Viggo Mortensen.   Although not a horror film in the traditional sense, the film (and the book it is based on) looks to transcend the genre and make it something more.  I think that is what “A Quiet Place” is aiming for and in a way does that.  The family has to adapt to their new way of life and we stay pretty much within their little area of the world the whole time.  They make use of their natural surroundings and anything they can find to make themselves invisible from the creatures.  

This film relies entirely on sound and the manipulation of it.  While the characters themselves are silent for a good majority of the film, the score by Marco Beltrami plays a huge part.  The score emphasizes the scary points and increases the levels of suspense.  Although when it is silent every little noise becomes magnified and of utmost importance.  When Evelyn or the kids and walking on the wood plank stairs or opening a door, you cringe hoping that the creatures won’t hear them.  While the filmmakers manipulate the audience with sound the same is true of the characters who use it to draw the creatures away.  When Evelyn is under attack, the boys light off a bunch of fireworks as a last resort to draw them away.  As is typical of a lot of horror films the lighting is minimally and there are a bunch of scenes that take place at night.  The family has rigged a lighting system around the perimeter of their living area to warn of danger.  If the lights are white all is good, if they are red then danger is amongst them.  Fires on top of their silo are also used to signal other encampments in the area.  The kids' use of flashlights also comes into play when they are in the cornfields. 

While this film was better than your average horror film I don’t think it’s as great as the extensive praise it has received.  Some of my issues with the film might be a little picky, but it did interfere with the story in my mind.  Where exactly were they getting their electricity?  Normal human activities ended over a year ago and they seem to use a lot of power, if they had a generator I’m sure the excessive noise would attract trouble. Secondly, the fact that Evelyn is pregnant is purely to serve the plot, but seriously can’t you wait to have a baby until after you figure out how to kill these things.  After the baby is born they due have plans to minimize the crying fits but come on a baby will cry at the most inopportune times (and does).  Next on my list is that stupid nail on the steps, Evelyn steps on it originally, ouch! But then it seems to be a non-issue when everybody else goes down them.  At least try to mention it or point in out when your kids go running down them.  Finally, the creatures themselves, what are they and where did they come from? I’m sure this will be dealt with in the many sequels and prequels to come.


"Quarantine" with This High Octane Horror Film

7/8/2020

The 2007 Spanish film “Rec” created such a stir in the horror movie business that it only took about a year for the American remake “Quarantine” to hit theaters.  The films are an excellent and effective use of the found-footage horror sub-genre made popular by “The Blair Witch Project” in 1999.  Although with bigger budgets and more refined production.

“Quarantine” stars Jennifer Carpenter, who at the time also starred in the horror series “Dexter”  on Showtime.  She plays Angela a reporter who is spending the night shadowing a Los Angeles fire station.  Everything we see is from her cameraman’s point of view and like most found footage movies, you get a lot of shaky camera moments.  Angela gets to know some of the firefighters at the station but we primarily follow Jake, played by Jay Hernandez.  After a number of jokes and lightheartedness a call comes in and we jump on an engine and head to an old apartment building.  There is no fire but its a medical call for a sick old lady.  As we quietly enter the apartment of Ms. Espinoza we see her and there is definitely something wrong with her.  After a quick interaction, she jumps on one of the officers and takes a bite out of his neck.  From here on out the action, suspense and tension never let up.  The frenetic movement of the camera adds to the insane panic that is felt by all.  As people try to leave the building they find that they have been locked inside by the CDC and have been quarantined inside, hence the title of the movie.  Armed guards surround the place and cover the windows with plastic sheeting.  As we will see later they mean business.

The apartment residents are pretty stereotypical and just serve the purpose of a higher body count but it works in a movie like this since the only quiet character moments were in the first ten minutes.  We have the mother and young daughter, the immigrant couple, the drunken asshole businessman, the young single girl, and a single guy who happens to be a veterinarian.  After witnessing some sick people they find out that the virus is some form of rabies, that spreads quickly and turns people into hyper-aggressive fresh eating maniacs, naturally.  At one point one of the infected is bludgeoned to death by the camera, very cool.  The resident all end up turning one by one.  The little girl, played by now horror veteran, Joey King has a great little scene as well.  As I mentioned before the action and suspense are non-stop and your at the edge of your chair for every minute of it.  Eventually, Angela and her cameraman are alone and make their way up to the attic to find several animal cages and information on bio-warfare.  Then in the green night-vision, we see a tall skeletal like being moving around.  The tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife, Angela then finds herself alone with the final scene of her being dragged off into the darkness.  “Quarantine” was one of my favorite horror films of the last decade and the best example of how you do a found footage film right.


"I Think Were Alone Now" with Peter Dinklage

7/4/2020

Reed Morano’s 2018 film “I Think Were Alone Now” is not a biopic about 80s pop singer Tiffany, but a story of a man making a life for himself after a world-altering event that has left him completely alone, or so he thinks.  There have been numerous movies that deal with the apocalypse or the last man alive scenario.  From drama, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, just about every genre has gone after the story in a different angle. 

The magnificent Peter Dinklage plays Del, a man who has made the public library his new home.  He spends his days going from house to house in his suburban neighborhood cleaning.  He wraps up and removes bodies when needed and takes supplies such as food and batteries.  He also takes family photos out of their frames which he keeps in file folders back at the library.  Del is a quiet mannered man who goes about his business keeping a routine in a world that no longer exists.  What motivates a person to move forward when everything seems so unnecessary?  Humans are such social beings, living a life of solitude takes a certain type of person.  Del seems to have found a new purpose that drives him forward, but the loss of human connection is always with him.  Until he hears the blaring of a car alarm, he approaches with extreme caution, gun drawn, and finds a passed out teen girl, this is Grace (Elle Fanning).  In this new world, there is a risk in helping anyone, but Del cautiously helps her out anyway.  He locks her in a room until she awakens and then they form an understanding.

While Del still very much keeps to himself he does show Grace how to clean and clear houses.  Grace even finds a dog and brings him to back live in the library.  There are a number of questions that linger around.  Where did grace come from and why does she have a bandaged scar on the back of her neck?  We keep coming back to house number 13, is this Del’s old house? Also the biggest question as to what happened to all the people?  We get some answers but the seconds half of the film is considerably weaker than the first.  Del is such a fascinating character as Dinklage gives him such humanity and feeling.  Del is one of the few people who actually sees his situation as a sort of blessing in disguise.  He has not actively sought out any other survivors until Grace literally crashes into his life.

The second half of the film takes a more sci-fi route as one day Grace’s “parents” find her and want to bring her home.  It’s obvious that these are not her biological parents and it starts to explain the scar on her neck.  Grace is taken away and Del is powerless to stop them leaving him alone, again.  But this time he is prompted to take action and leaves his little neighborhood to find that there is actually a populated city going on like normal.  He finds Grace in a house hooked up to some medical equipment with an electrode cap that is playing around with her thoughts.  The Dad appears and we find out he is working on a machine that will eliminate grief, sadness, anger, and bad memories.  No deal Dr. Frankenstein, Del shoots him dead and like a freed prisoner the Mom runs out the front door.  Del rescues Grace and we get a tired and cliche ending of them driving into the horizon.  The way the movie was shot and the lens used to give everything this dreamy quality especially if you pay attention to the edges of the frame that are always slightly out of focus.  This is a decent movie that definitely could have been better, but if anything see it for Peter Dinklage’s performance.  If you looking for more Dinklage other than “Game of Thrones” of course, take a look at his break out role in “The Station Agent” which I have previously reviewed.


Sean Penn is "Milk"

7/1/2020

“My name is Harvey Milk and I am here to recruit you”.  This was the rallying cry of San Francisco Gay rights activist Harvey Milk.  His impassioned speeches to crowds and protesters demanded equal treatment for not only gays and lesbians but for all marginalized people.  Sadly, like many civil rights leaders before him, he was gunned down by an angry bigot with a gun.  Gus Van Sant’s 2008 film “Milk” was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winning for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor for Sean Penn and his spot-on portrayal of Harvey.

The film starts out with Harvey talking into a tape recorder with the purpose of leaving a record of his thoughts in case he is assassinated.  This acts as a sort of narration throughout the film as we keep coming back to it.  Right away we are then told of the death of Harvey and San Francisco Mayor Moscone at the hands of an unlikely assassin.  That was in 1978, we are then brought back to 1970 to show us how we got there.  Milk has just turned 40 and feels like he has not accomplished anything (join the club pal).  Living in New York he meets Scott Smith (James Franco) in the Subway and falls in love and things start to take off from there.  Together they move to San Francisco and open up a small camera shop called Castro Camera.  Harvey becomes an active social leader within the community and makes the shop a safe hangout spot for gays and lesbians.  Milk then takes it a step further in protesting the unfair treatment of the gay community by the police.  Eventually deciding to run for City Supervisor, but loses not once or twice but three times.  Although gaining more support and votes after each run.  

The outright fear, paranoia, and bigotry of gays ran from coast to coast as Harvey faced off with Anti-gay activist Anita Bryant and Senator John Briggs.  The film also chronicles Harvey’s relationship with Dan White another up and coming politician but one much more conservative than Harvey.  In 1977 things changed in how San Francisco was divided up and Harvey finally won a seat as City Supervisor.  The first openly gay man to be elected to any office in the whole country.  Dan White was also elected City Supervisor in a neighboring district and the two were at odds with each other.  Harvey didn’t play “the game” of politics and this angered White who eventually resigned his seat.  Ten months later white wanted his seat back but was denied by May Moscone.  White then coldly and callously brought a gun and extra ammunition to city hall and gun down both Moscone and Milk.  He was found, arrested, and booked for murder.  His trial was a complete failure of the justice system as he only served five years in prison.  Two years after is released he committed suicide.

The filmmakers of “Milk” gave credit to the 1984 Academy Award-winning Documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk” in which several scenes are re-enacted.  “Milk” is an engaging and emotional story of a man who fought like so many others before him demanding equal rights only to be killed for them.  This is simply an amazing film with Sean Penn giving a career-defining performance but still for some people the subject matter will be an issue which is a shame.  If you watch this film you will no doubt be touched by the life of Harvey Milk.


"The Crying Game" is an Early 90s Shocker by Neil Jordan

6/24/2020

*Spoiler Alert!  Consider Yourself Warned*

At the end of 1992 Irish writer/director, Neil Jordan debuted his audacious and critically acclaimed film “The Crying Game”.  It has achieved a sort of cult status because of its mind-blowing second-act twist.  Although watching it now it has lost a little something, but the overall themes of the film are as strong as ever.

This is Northern Ireland during “The Troubles” and Stephen Rea plays Fergus, a sensitive if not a reluctant volunteer of the IRA.  They have kidnapped a British Soldier, Jody (played by Forest Whitaker), in an effort to secure the release of some of their own political prisoners.  Fergus has been assigned to watch over him and they soon bond and develop a sort of friendship.  In their conversations, Jody mentions a girl back home named Dil (Jaye Davidson).  When shown a picture of her Fergus is taken aback by how beautiful she is.  Meanwhile, Jude (Miranda Richardson) and Maguire (Adrian Dunbar) who are pretty hardcore in their IRA allegiance, scold Fergus for being so soft-hearted.  When their hostage negotiations go nowhere Fergus volunteers to kill Jody.  He takes him into the woods at gunpoint but his conscious won’t let him pull the trigger.  Jody escapes momentarily until he hits the road and is run over by a military vehicle.  Fergus bolts in the opposite direction and escapes to London to search out Dil.

Fergus, who now goes by Jimmy, works various construction jobs while tracking down Dil who he finds working as a hairdresser.  He goes into the salon and gets a haircut to check her out.  Later on, he follows her to The Metro Bar and talks to her through the bartender.  Dil then meets her abusive jerk of a boyfriend.  Then after following them home watches them undress in silhouette in a second-story apartment.  Fergus is entranced and caught up with the enigma that is Dil.  He returns to the bar the next night to see her on stage singing “The Crying Game”.  That night Dil’s boyfriend is once again roughing her up but this time Jimmy kicks his ass and he is the one heading home with Dil.  Over the next few days, their relationship quickly builds and Jimmy finds himself being the only man in Dil’s life.  This is where things start to change, just as they are about to have sex Dil reveals very graphically that he is actually a man, WHAT!  Jimmy then proceeds to hit the bathroom and puke for about five minutes.  This scene has been parodied numerous times over the years, but when you look at it now Dil is quite obviously a man from the get-go.  However back in the early 90s maybe people had a harder time figuring this out.  Even Dil is like “come on I thought you knew”. 

Days pass and when the ashes clear they eventually come back to each other to talk and form a new relationship.  But not so fast Jimmy or Fergus as his past starts to catch up with him.  Jude has survived the attack back home and she is stalking him and Dil.  He is in a heap of trouble for abandoning the IRA and now being forced to make hit on a British target or face the consequences.  The ending is emotional and bittersweet but also optimistic for both Fergus and Dil.

“The Crying Game” is one of the most uniquely original films of its time.  It won Neil Jordan the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, while also being nominated for 5 others.  Intertwining an IRA terrorist drama within a transgender love story is quite an amazing feat.  Both Jaye Davidson and Stephen Rea received Oscar nominations for their incredible roles.  Even more amazing is the fact that Davidson was not a professional actor and has had only one other role after this one.  At the time I am typing this the movie is available on Netflix and I consider it a must see!


"Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street"

6/20/2020

Anyone who calls themselves a horror fan has seen all of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, usually more than once.  When the original came out in 1984 it was a revelation in the world of horror and the birth of Freddy Krueger, the fire-scarred child murdered with the razor finger glove.  A year later the sequel “Freddy’s Revenge” left people stunned, confused, and a bit angered by its homoerotic undertones.  It is now widely regarded as the gayest horror movie ever made, but it also destroyed the career of its star Mark Patton, a young closeted gay actor trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood.  The 2019 documentary “Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street” explores the life of Mark Patton and his experiences.

In the early 1980s horror was entering a golden age with Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees leading the way.  Young actors like Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon, and others were launched their careers in these new slasher films, Mark Patton was no different.  The filmmakers take us through his childhood where Mark reminisces that he knew he was gay when he was 4 years old.  How he didn’t have the best of childhoods (seriously who doesn’t) and leaves home at 17 for New York City where he finds his people and starts to make a life for himself.  After finding success in a Broadway show Patton moves to Los Angeles and quickly finds work in commercials and Television.  He then got his break in the Elm Street sequel as Jesse Walsh, a typical teenage boy who also happens to be possessed by the spirit of Freddy Krueger.  This film was directed by Jack Sholder and written by David Chaskin who still claims that he didn’t write a “gay” movie.  Some movies will have a hidden gay subtext, but in “Freddy’s Revenge” nothing is hidden.  Jessie’s bedroom dance is something that is extremely 80s and extremely funny.  There is a scene in a Leather Bar, and a sort of S&M scene in the boys' locker room just to name a few.  Mark also became the first male scream queen who could give Jamie Lee Curtis a run for her money.

Upon the release of the film, the country was also being griped by the burgeoning AIDS epidemic.  Anger, fear, anxiety, and hate were being thrust upon the gay community, and Mark’s boyfriend at the time, Tim, tested positive and eventually died from the disease.  The pain of living a lie and not being able to come out of the closet tormented Mark and many others, who feared losing work if they were outed.  Mark mentions that he also contracted HIV and had other medical issues but miraculously survived after being hospitalized for over a year.  He chose to walk away from Hollywood and disappeared into Mexico and now lives with his husband Hector.  When the filmmakers of another documentary on the Elm Street films called “Never Sleep Again” sought out Mark he was completely off the grid and unavailable.  Eventually, he was found and was completely unaware of the cult phenomenon “Freddy’s Revenge” had become.  Like many other aging horror actors, he hooked up with the festival circuit and toured the country meeting the fans and signing autographs at Horror Conventions.

This climax to the documentary was a sit-down meeting between Mark and screenwriter David Chaskin who in the past has not been too kind to Mark when discussing the homoerotic vibes that permeate the script.  Chaskin has denied writing a gay film and instead says that the way Mark interpreted and acted in the film is what made it gay.  This is complete bullshit to anyone who has actually seen the film.  Chaskin does apologize to Mark and they seem to have buried the hatchet.  This is a great doc not only for horror fans but for anyone who likes life-affirming stories of people who hold true to who they are.  For Mark and thousands of others in the LGBTQ community its not a choice but the only way to survive.


"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World"

6/10/2020

A dark romantic comedy that takes place during the end of the world would be a good description of the 2012 film with the long title.  With an asteroid careening towards Earth and our last chance of survival gone people have 3 weeks to live their lives before he end.  What would you do?  

Sad sack life insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell) sits in his car with his wife listening to a radio announcement that the space shuttle mission to save Earth has failed.  She then opens the car door and runs.  The ridiculously funny apocalypse jokes are jam packed in the first act.  Civil unrest and riots fill the streets of the major cities as civilization starts to come apart at the seams.  Dodge is very similar to other characters that Steve Carell has played.  The lonely down on his luck everyman who is stuck in a monotonous going nowhere life.  In a final insult, while sitting in his car outside his office building, a body falls on his windshield.  In a running gag, he has numerous encounters with his cleaning lady who insists on coming back to clean every week even when Dodge tries to let her go.  How people react to impending doom changes from person to person.  He is invited to a party thrown by a couple of friends and everybody has freed themselves of any inhibitions they might have had.  When people just don’t give a fuck anymore, things get a little awkward and weird.  Back at his place, Dodge is once again alone until he finds Penny (Kiera Knightly) crying outside his window.  When he opens the window Penny says “I won’t steal anything if you won’t rape me” and so their relationship begins.  When Dodge becomes suicidal and passes out in the park somebody leaves him a dog with a note saying “sorry”, which becomes the dog's name.   With the riots now starting to consume the neighborhood Dodge finds Penny, who grabs an armload of records, and they hit the road.

For years Dodge has been longing for the girl that got away, his high school sweetheart Olivia.  After finding a long lost letter from her he must now go out a find her while making a few stops along the way.  They stop off a chain restaurant called Friendly’s which has turned into a rave with all the waiters wearing glow sticks and on ecstasy.  We get some really good character moments between Dodge and Penny before they run off when the place starts to get out of control.  Like most road movies we end up going from one place to another and our next adventure is to one of Penny’s ex-boyfriends Speck (Derek Luke) who is hunkered down with a group of guys in an underground survivalist shelter.  Penny is able to use the guys' satellite phone to call home to England and talk to her parents.  The next morning Dodge and Penny are given a tiny blue Smart Car that will take then to the end of their journey.  The plot is very simplistic, but the writing and acting come across as very genuine and touched with feeling.  Dodge and Penny are a good match because even though they are very different people they seem to connect in a number of ways.  It seems the only way they would have gotten together would be through the apocalypse.  When you only have 3 weeks to live you tend to make decisions a little more quickly.  Hesitation and prejudices just don’t seem to apply anymore.

When we arrive at the third act it is pretty similar to other romantic comedies.  Dodge makes a big decision that will separate the two of them but thinks it’s for the best.  Only to have a big revelation just before the screen fades to white and the world has been destroyed.  Ooh, I just got chills.  “Seeking a Friend for the end of the world” is good fun and a refreshing joy to watch.


A Love Story During an Epidemic Makes "Perfect Sense"

6/9/2020

A love story in the midst of an epidemic is the premise of David Mackenzie’s 2011 film “Perfect Sense”.  When people around the world start losing their senses one by one we must find a way to carry on.  Chef Michael (Ewan McGregor) and Epidemiologist Susan (Eva Green) have just met, is they're love doomed before it begins?

“Perfect Sense” is a structured art-house style film that takes a different approach to the whole apocalyptic virus genre.  The story is more about loving and appreciating life, you never know what you had until it's gone.   This mysterious illness starts will a profound sadness and uncontrollable grief followed by a loss of smell.   Michael and Susan’s relationship quickly develops, each finding something in each other.  People eventually find a way to adapt and life goes on.

Susan and her colleagues continue to research the cause of this illness but come up with nothing.  Is it environmental, terrorism, no answers can be found.  Then people start having panic attacks and develop an uncontrollable hunger until their sense of taste is gone.  Michael’s job as a chef essentially has been rendered useless.  Again people learn to adapt, their remaining sense becomes more acute.  Even as people are now becoming quarantined in their homes, Michael and Susan’s relationship grows stronger.  The next phase of the disease will put it to the ultimate test as people develop a searing rage and anger.  Michael verbally assaults Susan with some of the cruelest language possible as he flies into an uncontrollable rage.  After this people go deaf.  The movie itself goes quiet.  Periodically through the film, Susan has a voice-over that describes what people are feeling.  

The painful inevitability of this disease is heartbreaking, it makes you think about what it means to be human.  Michael and Susan are now separated and miserable until the last phase comes around.  A feeling of intense love, kindness, and acceptance just before you go blind.  In a mad dash to beat the inevitable, they find each just before everything goes dark.  “Perfect Sense”  is actually quite entertaining given its strange premise.  In the end, the only sense people have left is touch.  Yes, it does sound a little cheesy, but it does resonate at some level.  The acting and commitment by everyone involved make this a movie worth watching.