Monday, October 16, 2017

Seen in… September 

Has there ever been a more perfect promotional photo in the history of cinema than Gregory Peck manning a two-stroke scooter with Aubrey Hepburn clinging to his sport coat? I doubt it.

In an effort to improve my viewing habits and to make up for not having seen a single film at the Toronto International Film Festival I thought I would embark on a film festival in my very own living room. I got exactly as far as I did with the film festival IRL (In Real Life for those not acquainted with the crude brevity of the world wide web). In my defence, September was unusually hot thus my living room was even hotter and so I spent more time than normal swimming, paddling and sitting in large vats of ice cream rather than watching much of anything. It should be noted that every episode of “television” was seen on my laptop while slurping on the season’s last mojitos in the comfort of my cold basement bunker kitchen.

Two young lovers, well, one young lover and one, maybe slightly too old for her lover, in Roman Holiday, image via the Movie DB

Roman Holiday
Aubrey Hepburn. Gregory Peck. Rome on less than $50/day. What’s not to love? Well - the naivety of it all is a little galling but hey, no, you know what? Just give in to the romance of it all. The turn happens with what seems like the most passionless mashing of flesh since… nope, I said I wasn’t going to do that… the moment when two icons look into each others eyes and become human, that’s what did it for me. Then the bittersweet awareness that all good stories come to an end, with an ending that Hollywood would never accept today (see Notting Hill). Though I’d love to see a remake set in the debauchery of Fellini’s Rome with an entirely spoiled brat let loose - sort of a film version of Pulp’s anthemic Common People, with a guileless but witless rich girl slumming with a “commoner”.

Archer: Dreamland
Archer returns entirely in a coma from the previous season and fantasizes that he is a 1950s era private dick on an adventure to prove he isn’t really a private dick at all. It’s all the usual ribald and juvenile humour that you’ve come to love or hate depending on how you feel about this show that continues to competently tread water.

Bojack Horseman Season 3
This animated series of an anthropomorphized horse who once hade a hit sitcom in the 90s can sometimes surprise you with abnormally highbrow concepts couched in lowbrow humour. Several episodes hit the satire and social commentary out of the park, but overall this season was a bit of a fly ball to right centre field; threatened to be a winner but came up short. The episode about Hollywood’s version of “female empowerment” was a crusher as were some moments about Bojack’s misunderstood, aloof and spiteful mother now suffering dementia. Other subplots about California populist politics were more predictable and in the end the season withered rather than reaching its full potential as a weird and wonderful satire of Hollywood (or should I say, "Hollywoo" after the famous sign lost its "d" in season one).

Just look at these young punks. Don't you just want to ruffle their very greasy, egg-white laden hair? Image via the Movie DB

We are the Best
Two Swedish teen girls in 1980s Stockholm need to rebel with angry energy against everything the polite and providing Swedish socialist society stands for. In a sense, the girls and their frenetic rebellion for the sake of rebelling is almost everything Punk music stands for. They eventually coerce and even convince another outsider (who is an outsider for being a well-behaved Christian) to join them - and teach them how to play their instruments - in their quest to show everyone that Punk isn’t dead. It’s not a simple walk to the microphone for these girls though. Even these “empowered” feminist teens wind up fighting over a boy until they unite over a shared dislike of conformity and complacent mediocrity and the realization their friendship was what it's really all about. This film is uneven and quirkily edited and paced and maybe a little formulaic at times but the performances of the amateur actors riffing and improvising their way through most of the movie is all the infectious charm it needs to keep you cheering for a Punk band with no name, no experience and most importantly, no boys.

The Good Place Season 1
I thought this was a goody-goody American take on the heavenly afterlife until I realized it was by Michael Schur of Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-nine success. Spark plug Kristen Bell is Eleanor Shellstrop, a white trash dumpster fire who has died and been sent, in her estimation to the wrong place. She can’t figure out why she’s in Paradise but is determined to stay. What follows is a series of events and mysteries and milestones that bring her closer to figuring out where she is and how she got there. The show is a surprising collection of ethical and philosophical discussions and set pieces wrapped up in a high-concept comedy. One of the cute ongoing jokes is that in Paradise you can’t curse despite Eleanor’s repeated attempts leading to such lines as “Holy motherforking shirt balls!” which is decidedly less high-concept. There are tests of true moral bearing such as questions like, “Have you ever been a contestant on any of the following reality shows?” and realizations that moral and philosophical quandaries are called “quandaries” for a reason. The twist at the end of the season is the set-up that would allow the show to continue through multiple seasons which may be one of its greatest quandaries: Should it?

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