Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Seen in March 

David Bowie as the most believable alien ever.

In like a lion, out like a lamb, past the Ides of March and beyond. My time was stolen by work, podcasts and Wordle, but I did find the time to watch some classics, a cult classic, maybe a new classic and a few duds.

Amazon Prime
Semi-entertaining is more like it. This movie about a struggling American Basketball team fighting for a chance to be one of the four teams to join the NBA feels like a string of seven-minute sketches strung together on the off chance it may make a story, but it does not. It's also a Will Ferrell vehicle where he plays the team owner, player-coach who is sensational promoter of a sub-par on-court product. I suppose there are some chuckles seeing Ferrell flail between being a nightclub impresario in platform shoes to an out of shape 1970s basketball player but not enough. Woody Harrelson is brought into the story as a secondary narrative of redemption or something but there's not much here to redeem.

The Righteous Gemstones S02
The second season of Danny McBride's HBO comedy about a roguish family who operate a successful evangelist church does not disappoint.

Tiffany Hadish crosses the line to catch a killer.

The Afterparty
Apple TV+
This eight episode mini-series murder-mystery-comedy is packed to the rafters with comedic talent and is a lot of fun as a sort of "Rashomon-like" take on those Agatha Christie murder mysteries. In each episode the lead detective, played by Tiffany Hadish, listens to a suspect tell their version of the events that led to the death of the party's host, Xavier, a Beiber-esque pop star played by Dave Franco. As Hadish's character says, everybody is the star of their own movie.

Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster the classic, Sweet Smell of Success

Sweet Smell of Success
A classic film of American greed and power from 1957, as Burt Lancaster plays a Walter Winchell inspired Broadway columnist who attempts to wield his influence to control his younger sister's love life. Tony Curtis plays a conflicted and struggling publicist who knows all the dirty tricks in the book but hates himself for using them. Expect classic dialogue such as, "The cat's in the bag, and the bag's in the river."

Your titular designer, Dieter Rams.

A profile by design documentarian Gary Hustwit, of the incredibly influential German industrial Designer, Dieter Rams who, for decades, was the design director of electronics manufacturer Braun. His influence is most obviously seen today in the design of Apple products such as the iMac, Apple watch, iPods and of course, the iPhone.

This fungi really is fantastic.

Fantastic Fungi
This Netflix documentary expounds on the incredible connective tissue of the world of mycelium and the role mushrooms and fungi could have in our environment, our health and our spirituality. It's fascinating stuff even if there is a bit of a psychedelic side trip in the middle of the film on the topic of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms. It's also full of spectacular time-lapse photography.

Being the Ricardos
Amazon Prime
Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman play Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball at a time when 60 million Americans watched their sit-com, I Love Lucy. In 1952 that was almost 72% of the viewing audience. No other program has ever come close to that. To be honest, I'm not sure what else there was to watch. It was a different time. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the film depicts a week in which the House Committee on Un-American Activities was investigating Lucille Ball for having registered as a Communist back in 1936 (at the request of and to honour her socialist grandfather), an accusation that could end the show and ruin her career. This crisis is used to lead us through many highlights of Lucy's and Desi's lives including how they met and created the show. This one crucial week is the starting point for conversations about political freedom, freedom of speech, Arnaz's infidelity and business acumen, Lucille's relationships with her writers and co-stars, and the sheer impact of a television show being seen on 7 out 10 television sets. I always wondered how Americans allowed themselves to bow before McCarthyism but in recent years, the behaviour of mostly conservative politicians to obstruct any and all policies they didn't create has not only given more insight into this era of America's past, but speaks to the bipartisanship of today.

The Book of Boba Fett S01
The Book of Boredom is more like it. This season is only seven episodes and the best ones were essentially extensions of another Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. In that way, the show reminded me of the listless pace of Iron Fist, which seemed to slow down every scene as if it didn't have enough story to fill the time. It's a surprising blunder by a team so wedded to story and what is often referred to as "fan service". The fact that Star Wars super-fan and comedian, Patton Oswalt, foretold the show opening scene of how this galactic bounty hunter from the Star Wars film survived his fate, should be enough to tell you this is nothing more than self indulgent infill of a fan favourite. I don't use the term "self indulgent" very often but I don't know how else to describe this series from Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau that used the resources at their disposal to create a story only a few people were interested in. If this is what Star Wars fans want, fine, I'll pass and move on to something else.

Toronto teen-ager Mei in Pixar's Turning Red.

Turning Red
Toronto gets the spotlight in yet another Pixar charmer. This film has gotten a tepid response from some critics and you have to wonder if they've become so accustomed to the quality of Pixar stories that now they find that success boring. Torontonian director Domee Shi throws a beautiful light over even the greyest details of her home town giving it that Disney sheen. In the movie, Mei is a young, ambitious, outgoing nerd who is trying to be herself while still meeting her mother's expectations. The conflict between being her mother's perfect daughter and just being herself boils over when she discovers her excitability turns her into a giant red panda. Mei's mother, voiced by Sandra Oh, at first fears her daughter's behaviour is due to the beginning of puberty but when she discovers Mei's transformation she explains it is an inherited family curse. Yet, Mei as a red panda, is a hit with her friends and schoolmates and as she learns to control her red panda-ness she has doubts about "curing" it. Whether you take this movie as the inherent conflict between mother and daughter, a coming of age story, an overt fable of a girl struggling with pubescent horniness and first period (as apparently, some critics did), a culture clash between traditions and modernity or a journey of self-discovery you won't deny its funny, sweet and moving. Also, seeing Toronto as Toronto, is a lot of fun. It's a shame that this movie became a bit of a victim of a "content building strategy" and was moved to the Disney+ streaming platform without a theatrical release but on the other hand it makes it a lot easier to see.

I Think You Should Leave S01 & S02
A sketch comedy show from Tim Robinson, one of the creators of The Detroiters, so absurdly funny and weird that I cannot possibly recommend anyone watch it.

David Bowie contemplating his future.

The Man Who Fell to Earth
A classic sci-fi film from Nicolas Roeg so absurd and weird I cannot possibly recommend anyone watch it. As far as cult classics go, it's better than most and it's not such a stretch for David Bowie to play an alien at the height of his Thin White Duke phase. Made in 1974 this film is usually talked about for its graphic sexual content. I'm sure I saw an edited version that left some nudie bits while anything more graphic was removed. Bowie's alien is a stylish Englishman named Thomas Newton who comes to Earth from a planet suffering a terrible drought, with a plan to transport water back to his home world. While in disguise as an Earthman, Newton becomes fabulously wealthy through patenting the advanced technology he creates. He uses his wealth to build his transport back to his own planet but unexpectedly falls in love with a woman he met at a hotel. Before he can use his spacecraft he's taken into custody to spend the rest of his days studied by human doctors. The film feels a bit like a Tartovsky film with lingering shots, handheld zooms, jarring editing and a disharmonious score. If that sounds like fun, this is the film for you.

A documentary from Gary Hustwit ostensibly about the office and it's place in society and our lives, but feels a little like a promotional piece commissioned by RG/A, Robert Greenberg Associates, a large international design firm. In truth, the film was created for the Venice Biennale and focusses on RG/A's move from a mix of unconnected properties in New York to a Norman Foster designed space. The interviews discuss the history, societal implications, cultural significance and future of the office. Of course, now, two years into a pandemic, it feels oddly out of step with the way most people feel about ever going back into the office again. I can also say from personal experience, I've worked in an office with a ping pong table, an xBox and generally good lighting and environmental controls but over the years, one move after the other, the space returned to a typical farm of row upon row of small, awkward and uncomfortable desks. I'm not sure I'll ever go back. I wonder what it's like at that RG/A office now?

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home