Monday, April 04, 2016

Seen in March 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Another month where I probably watched more PVR recordings of Brooklyn Nine-nine, Modern Family, @Midnight, and most importantly Broad City than movies or Netflix series. While this little chart illustrates that I logged 19 workouts, but only logged 6 movies or show titles it doesn’t really show the reality that I’ve been at a bunch of advocacy meetings, exhibitions, sketching a whole lot more and reading a tiny bit more. Regardless, here’s what I did manage to see.

Christian Bale gets all killy in American Pyscho

American Psycho
I could see why this movie wouldn’t be a huge box office smash but why it’s lasting legacy has a hold on us. Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, a successful financial professional (though we never see him actually do any work) who, between waxing lyrical about terrible pop music and all the consumer fixings that come with his affluent life style, is a deranged serial killer. Or is he? I’m never really sure if the ending indicates a) as a white male professional you can get away with anything or b) he’s so delusional he only thinks he’s killed dozens of people, or c) those he has killed are so blandly interchangeable as humans that their absence goes unnoticed. The film has a great cast with a lot of recognizable faces including Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Chloë Sevigny and Justin Theroux. It also feels strangely prescient in the way Bateman casually mixes consumerism, violence, pornography and the narcissism and vanity of a strict workout or filming himself in flagrante. Or maybe that’s just because it was set in the 80s but filmed in 2000. That kind of attention to detail is also part of the dark humour of the movie, like that anxiety Bateman feels as each colleague shows off the nuance of their new indistinguishable business cards or how office superiors often confuse their interchangeable counterparts without anyone correcting them. If it seems a little shocking to mix such high octane violence with wit and wry commentary then I’m guessing you weren’t a big Die Hard fan.

Rock Hudson in Seconds

Rock Hudson plays a bank manager in mid-life crisis in this unusual thriller from 1966. Well, Hudson really plays the bank manager, Arthur, only after he’s faked his death and had extensive cosmetic surgery so that he might have a second chance at happiness. The movie has an almost Eyes Wide Shut weirdness about it as Arthur has thrown away his previous life for this new second chance which feels like a completely flawed plan from the very beginning. I think of it as a story about identity and the roles we play in our everyday lives. It reminded me a little bit of other films where identity is obscured by cosmetic surgery so a hidden truth can be discovered like Suture, Vertigo and most recently Phoenix.

A brief touching moment before all hell breaks loose in Daredevil

Marvel’s Daredevil, Season 2
I would never describe myself as a “fan-boy” but I think I come pretty close with this show. To be clear, I never collected Daredevil comics but I grew up reading them in the 70s when NYC seemed like a kind of broken dream of high rises, crime and Marvel super-heroes. I loved the Frank Miller redux that this series clearly takes both tone and storyline from so what’s not to like? Though they are obviously influenced by Miller’s version of Daredevil, it’s clear that this series lives in a very street level version of the Marvel universe. It is unique in plotting, language and visuals. It’s violent and cusses, and spits and makes what could be ridiculous into something visceral, real and sometimes outright beautiful. The look of this show fascinates me. They have clearly an affinity with dark interiors and artificial light that creates the neon blues, blazing reds and acidic yellows and greens. I want to say there’s a pattern to when the colour palette shifts but the only recognizable one is from day to night. Some people have written that to make up for the loss of the Kingpin character in season 1, they had to add two others, the Punisher and Electra but that’s nonsense. To me this season they wanted to amp up the action, emotion and intensity after an initial season that began with a slower more intriguing build but now it is difficult to know how they could match it in the future (I could speculate but that would be such a fan-boy move).

Ilana and Abbi, always on the outside looking in, Broad City

Broad City, Season 3
Two gal pals Abbi and Ilana continue to find hilarity and adventure in being modern ladies in New York City. Billed as either a lighter, stoner antidote to HBO’s Girls or simply a female version of Workaholics this show has grown from a Web series to a serious pop cultural phenomenon (if you’ve ever heard anyone say “Yaz, my queen” instead of just “yes” then you have experienced it first hand). You don’t get Hillary Rodham Clinton making a cameo on your show if you aren’t somehow mainlining into some hitherto untapped zeitgeist. Previous seasons were full of “call backs” to earlier episodes and season long inside jokes but this season feels like it has much more of an ongoing narrative arc. Whatever. It’s still frigging funny.

Paper Planes
Rocky/Karate Kid story of a young boy connecting to his aloof father but set in Australia and with a paper plane competition as the backdrop.

Said girl, walking home, alone at night in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Ok. This one is a little hard to explain but this is a very atmospheric and beguiling black and white Iranian feature about a handful of people in a hardscrabble city encountering a young woman who is actually a vampire. There are some visual puns/jokes/metaphors here that are a little bit touchy to unpack. The young woman/vampire in question walks about wearing a black hijab/head scarf and robe looking like a typical respectful young Muslim woman … but also a lot like a Hollywood vampire in a flowing robe. Essentially this young woman, who shouldn’t be walking alone at night unchaperoned, does walk alone at night. God help you if you are the type of man who mistreats a woman, because you will quickly become nothing more than a walking blood bag. Instead of flying or floating (again like a typical Hollywood vampire) she gracefully skateboards the abandoned city streets at night. There are definitely a lot of visual moments in this movie that seem to appear just because, damn, they look cool, so why not? The director herself is this kind of hip, cool, stylish young Iranian-American woman who is a bit like a cooler, more confident Sofia Coppola. I think the only way to really describe this film is by asking, “Do you like Jim Jarmusch films?” If the answer is yes, then you’ll love this. If the answer is no, then you should avoid it. If the answer if “Who is Jim Jarmusch” then we have nothing more to talk about.

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker in Born to be Blue

Born To Be Blue
Ethan Hawke portrays jazz trumpeter and balladeer Chet Baker as he struggles to come back from both a heroin addiction and a devastating injury from a beating that results in losing not only his teeth but his embouchure. Baker has to re-learn his instrument and figure out if he can exist without music or his drug of choice. As a fictionalized version of that time of Baker’s life the film makes the story about Baker choosing between his love of a good woman or his love of jazz and heroin but was there really any choice for an addict like Baker. It’s a good film but of course it is full of all the same tropes we’ve already seen in the story of musicians, drugs and their lovers.

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