Category Archives: Movies

The Bling Ring and the American Dream

A few months before its release date, I became thoroughly obsessed with The Bling Ring. You already know about this movie, right? It’s Sofia Coppola’s latest film, based on an actual story about a group of teens living in Calabasas, Calif. who decided to rob the houses of nearby celebrities. It turned out this was incredibly easy, since for some reason famous people NEVER lock their doors or turn on an alarm.

I remember hearing about the story when it happened a few years ago, but at the time I didn’t really look into it any further than any of the other celebrity gossip I read about on a daily basis. It wasn’t until I saw this video a few months ago that I realized I needed to know literally everything about the bling ring or the burglar bunch or whatever you want to call this “gang.”

That, my friends, is Alexis Neiers. When I saw this perfect, perfect video, I needed more. So I watched her short-lived 2010 reality television show, Pretty Wild in its entirety (it’s only nine episodes, so this took me a total of one evening). The show is Pretty Terrible. It’s about wannabe model Alexis, her younger sister Gabby, and Alexis’s friend/fake adopted sister/also aspiring model Tess Taylor. They’re all living with mother/former model/generally insane person Andrea Arlington-Dunne, who is ACTUALLY Amy Poehler’s character from Mean Girls (she’s not like a regular mom, she’s a cool mom) and she home schools the girls using the teachings of The Secret. Seriously.

Just a totally normal family.

Just a totally normal family (Alexis, Gabby, Tess and Andrea).

The absolute only reason why Pretty Wild is interesting is because, in the very first episode, Alexis is arrested for her involvement with the bling ring. She was preeeetty much caught on a security camera robbing Orlando Bloom’s house along with a few of the main bling ring kids. Alexis says she was black out drunk and didn’t know what was happening; the guy who told on her, Nick Prugo, says she knew exactly what was up.

After I finished watching Pretty Wild, I of course had to read the article that spurred the insane series of phone messages in the above clip. Written by Nancy Jo Sales, it’s called The Suspects Wore Louboutins, and while I already knew that Alexis speaks like an entitled valley girl, some of her quotes in the article are FASCINATING in their lack of self-awareness. My personal favourite is this gem:

“I’m a firm believer in Karma,” she said, “and I think this situation was attracted into my life because it was supposed to be a huge learning lesson for me to grow and expand as a spiritual human being. I see myself being like an Angelina Jolie,” she said, “but even stronger, pushing even harder for the universe and for peace and for the health of our planet.” She was sounding almost like a real celebrity. “God didn’t give me these talents and looks to just sit around being a model or being famous. I want to lead a huge charity organization. I want to lead a country, for all I know.”

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I STILL felt like I needed to know more, and the movie wasn’t coming out for another month. Fortunately, Sales recently expanded on her original article and turned it into a book, which I devoured in a couple of days. Most of it is based on interviews with Nick and Alexis, and those conversations are used to expand on the backgrounds of all the kids involved, including supposed ring leader Rachel Lee.

When Nick and Rachel first met, they bonded over a shared love of fashion and celebrities. They started out committing petty crimes – stealing things from unlocked cars, shoplifting, doing drugs. Stupid things that stupid teenagers do because – have you met teenagers? They’re pretty stupid. Then things escalated. Nick and Rachel used gossip sites to find out when celebs like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Audrina Patridge were out of town. They looked up their addresses, showed up at their homes and, for the most part, walked right in through unlocked doors. They brought their friends with them, including Diana Tamayo and Courtney Ames. In addition to stealing millions of dollars worth of clothes, shoes, purses, jewelry, drugs and straight up cash, they spent time hanging out in these houses, rifling through the possessions of these famous people, experiencing all the beautiful things they owned.

Rachel Lee and Nick Prugo, looking like super regular teens.

Rachel Lee and Nick Prugo, looking like super regular teens.

Obviously these crimes were completely wrong and inexcusable and, again, really, really stupid. But I think part of the reason the story is so captivating to me is because of how stupid the celebrities were, too. The bling ring members went back to Paris Hilton’s place close to 10 times – Paris had a key under her door mat, and at one point the kids took it with them; Paris had replaced it the next time they returned. She had no idea she had been robbed. Again, I realize that you cannot steal things from people, even when they have many, many things. But at the same time, there’s something absolutely fascinating about a theft where the victim has SO MUCH STUFF she doesn’t notice she’s been robbed multiple times.

This crime spree was about more than stealing things. If these kids just wanted to steal nice things, they could have committed much less high profile crimes. They were surrounded by rich people, but they didn’t target people who were rich; they targeted people who were rich and famous. And I can understand that, to some degree. For the most part, these kids were pretty well off, from reasonably affluent families, with parents who probably weren’t involved enough. Some of them had behavioural problems, or struggled at school. But there was this completely different lifestyle, a glamorous, beautiful world, and it wasn’t just in magazines or on TV, like it is for most of us. It was literally right around the corner.

There are probably still people who believe in the American Dream, or in some concept of it; the idea that you can be a good person who works hard your whole life, and you’ll be successful, you’ll be able to provide for yourself and your family. But mostly, that seems naive. Now, we’re cynical. Now we know that the economy can crash, maybe without warning, and maybe you’ll lose the things you worked for your whole life, even if you did the right things, even if you made the best choices you could.

And anyway, who wants to work hard their whole lives when there’s an easier option? Get on a reality show! Release a sex tape! Get plastic surgery! Have a baby! Marry someone famous! Get a divorce! Rinse and repeat! I’m not saying it’s actually easy to turn your entire life into some sort of brand; honestly it sounds horrendously unappealing to an introvert like me, but doesn’t it LOOK easy? If you look at someone like Paris Hilton or Audrina Patridge, it’s like, what are they actually famous for? Being rich? Being in the right place at the right time? If the kids in the bling ring had all the same stuff, if they hung out in all the same places, if they met all the same people, what was the difference between them and the celebrities they were obsessed with?

Oh, and I’m not saying the kids thought about all these things while they were committing the crimes. I’m just saying there’s a culture that created a kind of perfect storm. There’s a sense of blase entitlement that brought them together, that made them think it was OK to do the things that they did.

Emma Watson's California accent is EVERYTHING.

Emma Watson’s California accent is EVERYTHING.

The movie The Bling Ring finally came out on Friday, and I went to see it on opening night. I loved it just about as much as I thought I would. It’s a pretty accurate portrayal of the story as described in Sales’ article. Diana isn’t portrayed in it, and the characters based on Alexis and Tess play a bigger role than they likely did in real life. This is a good thing, because Emma Watson plays the Alexis character, and she was completely perfect. What I really liked about it was that Coppola uses a really detached style, not really casting judgment on the kids, but portrayed them using their own language and their own actions. I thought the film did a really good job of showing how nothing’s real for them until it’s been documented, until it’s been photographed and posted to Facebook, and how those photographs are taken repeatedly, from different angles even when nothing is really happening, and curated to create an idea of a life and a person who might not even really exist.

People who see the film without knowing the story might find it too far fetched, too ridiculous to be believed. It would be easy to dismiss the whole thing as vapid and pointless, but I think the point of the film IS that it’s vapid and pointless. That’s our culture, these are the people kids look up to, the internal lives they lead, the way they interact online, the way they’re tantalized by an unattainable lifestyle that seems so incredibly attainable.

It's actually kind of weird that EVERYONE doesn't have self-portrait pillows.

It’s actually kind of weird that EVERYONE doesn’t have self-portrait pillows.

There were also a lot of weird elements going on behind the scenes of the film. For example, one of the detectives in the bling ring case, Brett Goodkin, was involved as a technical advisor and even had a brief cameo. The problem is that he didn’t have permission from his superiors, and the court cases against most of the bling ring members were still ongoing at the time. Another weird thing is that Paris Hilton, who’s said she thinks “it’s absolutely disgusting what they did,” allowed filming for the movie to take place inside her actual house! Yep, those are her actual pillows with her face on them.

I guess my thesis is that I think the entire story of the bling ring, along with the subsequent article, book and film say a lot about this current moment and our celebrity and youth culture. These are concepts that might seem silly and unimportant, but I think they are things that are worth paying attention to. And if you look at other films released this year, trends start to appear. Actually you should just read A.O. Scott’s article on the topic, because he says it much better than I can.

And don’t forget Alexis Neiers’ chilling words – she really might lead a country some day, for all we know.

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STELLLAAAAAAAAA!

Honestly, Marlon Brando screaming “Stellllaaaaaaa!” in A Streetcar Named Desire was basically the highlight of my life. I vaguely knew it was coming, but it was still awesome. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” on the other hand? Wow! Kind of a super crazy dark moment! Was not entirely expecting that. Anyway. Here are the movies I watched this month for my AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies project this month.

apocalypsenow

Apocalypse Now (1979). I mean…can I just say, this was kind of a bummer? It was all so dark and long, which I guess is appropriate since it’s about the Vietnam War, but ugh. Basically Martin Sheen is some U.S. army guy who has to go find this other army guy who went insane and has created his own army in the jungle or something. I don’t know, I kind of completely lost interest and did I mention this was really long? So much war, war takes a long time, the Vietnam War was extra crappy and stupid, the end.

ragingbull

Raging Bull (1980). I was pleasantly surprised that this was not totally about boxing. I mean, it was about boxing, I just thought there would be MORE boxing. I hate war and sports, how female of me. Anyway. Robert De Niro is basically this rageaholic boxer and his brother/manager is Joe Pesci, and you’d better not ever talk to Robert De Niro’s wife, because he will probably murder you and also his wife. He’s this aggressive boxer who’s completely held back by his own jealousy and insecurity. It’s violent and depressing and makes for a great and powerful movie.

 It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night (1934). OK, time for something a bit more positive. It turns out in ’30s you could kidnap your daughter and trap her on a boat if you don’t like her new husband! That happens to a socialite played by Claudette Colbert, but then she escapes from her super rich father and meets up with journalist Clark Gable, who agrees to take her across the country to her husband in exchange for a story. OBVIOUSLY they fall in love and get into some shenanigans. It was all very fun and cute, although I didn’t super love how Clark kept calling her a brat before he even knew her? Rude!

vertigo

Vertigo (1958). WOW! It’s so ridiculous that I had not seen this before, Vertigo is the best! Jimmy Stewart plays a retired detective who had to leave his job after his vertigo prevents him from saving the life of another officer. He’s hired by Kim Novak’s husband to tail her…she’s been acting strangely and her husband is convinced she’s possessed. What follows is for sure the best psychological thriller I’ve ever seen. It was so weird and good and awesome, you should probably just watch it if you are a dummy like me and have not seen it yet. Man, Hitchcock was so excellent at what he did, good for him!

raiders

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Ehh. I thought this was pretty overrated. I mean, it was FINE, but I didn’t think it was super awesome or interesting or anything. Basically Indiana Jones takes on a bunch of Nazis in a race to uncover this biblical artifact that they believe is buried in Egypt. I don’t know, I didn’t love it. There was this one part where everyone’s faces melt, that was fun. Also, Indy’s main weapon is a whip, so that seems practical!

streetcar

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). This was another really great, captivating movie that I very much enjoyed. Man, Marlon Brando was sooooo attractive! He plays a total asshole monster person named Stanley, who’s married to Stella (Kim Hunter). Stella’s sister, fading Southern belle Blanche (Vivien Leigh) comes to stay with them. She’s pretty desperate, and terrified about aging; she depends on male attention and needs someone to take care of her. She and Stan DO NOT GET ALONG SO WELL and it does not turn out very well, but still, great movie. Remember? STELLLLLAAAAAA!

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Some important art I made

So, right after I posted about Roger Ebert’s death, one of my other favourite “celebrities” died. The man they called Reveen! I don’t know if people who aren’t from the Maritimes know who Reveen was. He was basically this cheesy, over-the-top hypnotist guy who toured through this area, like, alllll the time and made commercials like this:

So I mean, obviously he’s amazing, and I even saw him with my whole family back in 2008! My dad and my sister and I loved him – the whole thing was ridiculous, obviously, but in a hilarious and entertaining sort of way. My mom hated it for some reason. She insisted it was all fake, which, I don’t know, maybe it was! That’s beside the point. Reveen was a total professional showman, and he was a blast to watch.

Me and Reveen

Me and Reveen

Anyway, when he died last week I was kind of really bummed. I have this thing where I get attached to obscure celebrities and become kind of invested in them and I feel like that’s pretty normal and not weird at all. I’ll never forget Reveen.

But in happier news, I’ve been making “art!” I’m not really, like, artistic and I can’t really draw or whatever, but I’ve been drawing anyway! I’ve been drawing pictures of female characters from movies I like. I’ve only been drawing women because, while I can’t really draw anything, I REALLY can’t draw men. Now I’m going to show you my crappy drawings. I’m not sure if it’s apparent, but there isn’t a whole lot going on with me right now. Enjoy…?

Margot from The Royal Tenenbaums.

Margot from The Royal Tenenbaums.

Becky and Enid from Ghost World.

Becky and Enid from Ghost World.

Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Basically this is a list of my past and future Halloween costumes. Who knows what film I’ll apply my immeasurable talents to next! I’m thinking…Mean Girls.

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Missing Roger Ebert

By now it’s been a few days since Roger Ebert’s death, and everyone has written everything there is to write about him, but I still have to talk a bit about how genuinely sad I was when I heard he had died.

ebert1

I’m not a person who’s usually affected by the deaths of famous people, but Ebert has influenced me as a writer, a film reviewer/lover and just in general as a human being. As a kid I sometimes watched Siskel and Ebert at the Movies; later, I regularly watched Ebert and Roeper at the Movies. But it was after Ebert lost his ability to speak due to cancer that I really started paying attention to what he was saying. I checked his film reviews online every week, because I cared about his opinion more than any other reviewer. I didn’t always agree with him, but even when Ebert hated a movie, he discussed it as objectively as possible, weighing its pros and cons carefully, and considering the intended audience before determining whether a film was a failure or a success. That’s something I at least try to do in my own reviews (although obviously I’m not even within the same stratosphere of talent as Roger Ebert).

The man’s passion for film came through in every review, no matter how small and forgettable, or how grand and influential. And reading Ebert’s words on Twitter or on his blog, it was clear he had a passion for life, too. Despite his deteriorating health, Ebert continued to think and write positively, using the internet as a form of expression, and sharing his opinions with thousands of people. He often wrote about his personal struggles – the changes to his own appearance, his loss of speech – were always so honest, sad and compelling.

I always liked and admired him, but it was when he championed my favourite film ever, Synecdoche, New York, that I really felt a sense of kinship with Ebert. Most people haven’t seen it, and most people who I know who did see it didn’t like it, so when I find someone who likes it as much as I do, it feels special. He was special, and just last week, when I read his blog post about taking a leave of presence, I felt genuinely concerned. I was saddened, and felt a genuine sense of loss a couple of days later when I learned he had died at the age of 70.

ShoWest 2009 - Day 4

The outpouring that has occurred since he died demonstrates just how much Ebert meant to so many people. I know I’m going to miss reading his reviews every week, seeing his tweets and even just checking out links he recommended. He was a great reviewer and a great man, and I’m unlikely to encounter another film reviewer I respect and admire quite so much.

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Blade and Blade Runner are NOT the same movie

Yeah, I really thought Wesley Snipes was in Blade Runner until, oh, a few weeks ago. So that’s embarrassing. Anyway…I finished watching the six films for my AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies project early this month. This is convenient, because I’m going away today to go skiing for the long weekend. I know, two ski trips in one year! This time my dad and I are going to Quebec City to ski at Mont-Sainte-Anne and Le Massif. So that should be fun. But for now, let’s get on to the movies.

BladeRunner3

Blade Runner (1982). Clearly I didn’t know much about this one going into it. Well, there aren’t any vampires in it, but it does take place in a dystopian future. Harrison Ford is this retired police officer who’s called back to work to hunt down a bunch of replicants, these androids that look exactly like humans, but are banned from Earth, and are only allowed to live on colonies. They came back to Earth because replicants only live for four years, and they want to live longer. Oh, and Harrison Ford falls in love with a replicant. I don’t know, I like sci-fi and dystopian futures, but I did not love this movie. I got kind of bored with it and I found it all moved really slow and really, there isn’t even that much that happens. It definitely looked good for 1982, but yeah, definitely not my favourite.

chinatown

Chinatown (1974). Man, Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway are the actual best ever! So this is an awesome mystery/film noir kind of thing, where Jack plays a private eye. He starts out investigating the chief engineer for L.A.’s Department of Water and Power to see if he’s having an affair. But then he turns up dead, and Jack finds himself embroiled in this whole crazy conspiracy, along with the engineer’s wife, Faye. This is such a great movie because it has so many intricate layers that slowly unfold, and everyone in it is just so excellent.

MCDNOBY EC002

North by Northwest (1959). This started out promising, but then it kind of took a turn and went off in a direction that I was not so very interested in. It starts when Cary Grant is mistaken for some guy named George Kaplan, and he’s pursued by these mysterious dudes and has no idea what it is they want. That part was good! But then he meets Eva Marie Saint and starts to figure stuff out, and then it just kind of got stupid, or maybe I just lost interest, but in any case I felt like it was not as good as it could have been.

somelikeithot

Some Like it Hot (1959). I had never seen a Marilyn Monroe movie before, and this one sure was wacky. I did see that fairly terrible movie Connie and Carla a few years ago, though, and it turns out this is exactly the same plot except, you know, better. Anyway, these two musicians, Joe and Jerry, witness a murder by a bunch of Chicago gangsters. Clearly the only way to protect themselves is to crossdress, join an all-ladies band, and run off to Florida. They both fall for one of the band members (Marilyn, duh) and one of them poses as a millionaire to trick her into falling in love with her. Then an actual millionaire falls in love with the other one (who’s dressed like a lady, of course). Um. This is a very silly screwball comedy, but it was enjoyable too.

grapes-of-wrath

The Grapes of Wrath (1940). It turns out you should never be an Oklahoma farmer during the Great Depression. Who knew!? Basically, the Joad family is kicked off their land when the bank forecloses on them. They head to California in search of work, but the road trip there is super not fun, and it turns out California kind of sucks too. I read the book a long time ago, and I remember that it ends on a much more depressing note than the movie. It’s probably a good thing that the film went for that glimmer of hope, because damn, this is not a happy film. It’s a pretty great movie, but it definitely won’t restore your faith in the American Dream.

easyrider

Easy Rider (1969). I can’t get over how much I loved this movie! Like, I was not alive in the ’60s, and I have never lived in the States, but I feel like this film perfectly captured the atmosphere of 1960s America. So, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper are these two hippies who sell a bunch of coke to make a bunch of money, then head from L.A. to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Along the way, they meet a rancher, hang out in a commune, befriend an alcoholic lawyer played by Jack Nicholson and have a bad trip when they take LSD in a graveyard with some prostitutes. It also turns out that southern rednecks totally hate hippies. It’s filled with all these great landscape shots and lots of weird, distinct editing, plus a soundtrack that feels very emblematic of the era. What a weird, great film!

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Save Amanda!

The greatest thing about our culture is that we’re totally obsessed with celebrities! I’m only sort of kidding. If we didn’t have rich, famous, beautiful people to obsess over, we might have to focus on our actual lives, which, let’s be honest, are totally boring most of the time. Regular people are all like, blah blah I got a promotion! Oh look, I gave birth to a human and now I will dedicate my life toward posting Facebook pictures of it! Help me, I’m trapped under my hoard of old newspapers and Beanie Babies! So boring, right? Not like celebrities, who are always DRUNK and having affairs with their COSTARS and wearing DESIGNER LABELS while DRINKING and then going to REHAB. Ugh, so glamorous.

Clearly celebrities are way better than us, but thanks to social media and gossip blogs, we also get to see them at their lowest lows. It’s important that we put them on a pedestal only to knock them down when they mess up. Again, this makes us feel better about ourselves. If someone better than us can fail, how bad can our stupid problems possibly be? Usually it’s a great system, but there are a few rare celebrities who actually seem kind of likeable in addition to being fabulous, and in those rare cases, their inevitable breakdown is actually pretty sad. Anyway, this is all just a really long way of saying I’m concerned about Amanda Bynes.

amanda1

Amanda, back in the good old days.

You remember Amanda Bynes! She was the star of the Nickelodeon series The Amanda Show, and then she was in a series of teen movies – What a Girl Wants, She’s the Man, Sydney White. I’m the same age as her, and I was inexplicably into her movies, even though I was in university when they came out, and was probably way too old to be excited about a film that’s loosely based on the plot of Snow White for some reason. I don’t know, Amanda Bynes was always funny and kind of offbeat but weirdly relatable.

And then things got weird. A couple years ago she started deleting and undeleting her Twitter, announcing her retirement and return to acting. So that was weird, but around that time she appeared in Easy A, which was actually pretty great, and Amanda plays the Mandy Moore to Emma Stone’s Jenna Malone. Bet you didn’t expect a Saved reference, did you!? Basically she plays a bitchy religious girl and it’s awesome.

But then things got REALLY weird, because last year Amanda dyed her hair lilac, got some DUIs, had a series of car accidents, lost her licence, drove without her licence  and…tweeted at Barack Obama to fire a cop who arrested her? Oh, and then there were the times she locked herself in a changing room for two hours, locked herself in a cupcake store bathroom and maybe walked around a tanning salon naked. Also, she got kicked out of her apartment building for smoking weed or something.

OK, so none of these things are good, but it’s her recent tweets combined with her recent Instagram pictures that are troubling. Yes, I follow Amanda Bynes on Twitter and Instagram, OBVIOUSLY. Check this out:

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She is posting vague sentiments about love, and if my Facebook friends have taught me anything, that is ALWAYS a sign of impending disaster. And then there’s this:

But whyyyy?

But whyyyy?

Yep. That is Amanda Bynes! That is what she looks like now. Clearly things have gone too far. Girl is wearing a dehydrated wig and some kind of plastic nails. I’m not even going to address her pierced cheeks. I’ve made it clear that I’m all for a good celebrity breakdown, but not like this! Amanda never did anything to make me hate her, so I just want to help! So far I’ve just been replying to a lot of her tweets. I don’t think it’s helping. I think I’m going to plan an intervention, or at least an awareness campaign. Everyone loves a good awareness campaign! Remember that time when we failed to Free Katie back in 2006? Don’t you want to make up for it? Yeah, that’s right. I’m working on Save Amanda t-shirts right now. It’s the right thing to do.

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I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse

It’s the chance to learn about my progress with my AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies project, which is also the perfect opportunity for me to bastardize quotes from The Godfather. We all lose win! February was a pretty intense month, because I had to watch seven films on the list in addition to all the other movies I watched for work or just because. PLUS I watched House of Cards in its entirety over the last week. Someday, someone’s going to make a terrible movie about me called I Don’t Know How She Does It. Oh. Wait. Anyway, let’s get on with it!

DoubleIndemnity

Double Indemnity (1944). This one was pretty great! Basically this insurance agent guy played by Fred MacMurray falls for Barbara Stanwyk and they plot to kill off her husband and make off with the insurance money. It seems like a foolproof plan since buddy knows how the biz works, but obviously there are a variety of pitfalls along the way. I love the way people talk in old movies. I don’t know if people in real life were just more eloquent in the ’40s, but I’m going to choose to believe they were.

rearwindow

Rear Window (1954). I mean, obviously Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense for a reason; what impressed me about Rear Window is how incredibly captivating it was, despite being so confined. Jimmy Stewart is a photographer who’s in a wheelchair following an accident, and is stuck staring out the window at other people’s lives the whole time. He has some visitors, like his girlfriend, Grace Kelly, his nurse and his police friend, but really it’s all about him staring out a window and possibly witnessing a murder. The film manages to be really tense, especially when we’re not sure if Jimmy’s gone crazy, but it’s also funny at times, and all around entertaining. The way that it all takes place in one setting makes it feel kind of like a really brilliant play or something.

network

Network (1976). I feel like it’s kind of weird I had never seen the film that spawned the line “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” This is the blackest of black comedy. Peter Finch plays a news anchor whose ratings are down and is about to be fired. With nothing to lose, he unleashes an angry tirade on air and, surprisingly, both the network and his audience adore him for it, and it leads to an incredibly scathing film about media, corporations and the public. I’m not sure I’ve completely wrapped my mind around this movie yet. Like, I got it, but it was just such cutting, intelligent satire that I almost couldn’t believe it was allowed to exist. I’m trying to think of a way to explain how mind-blowingly excellent Network is, but I think it’s something you just have to see for yourself.

butchcassidy

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). With the law chasing after them, medium successful train robbers Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) are on the run, eventually heading to Bolivia to hide out. I’m not a huge fan of westerns in general I guess, but what made this one so enjoyable was the relationship between the two leads. Butch has a lot of ideas – they’re not all good ideas, but he has a lot of them – while Sundance has the shooting skills to get them out of a lot of the situations they find themselves in. They complement each other well, and I feel like their friendship really sets it apart.

pictureshow

The Last Picture Show (1971). This film is sort of a coming of age film, but more importantly it’s about a tiny, dying Texas town. It’s a quiet movie about teenagers discovering themselves and their sexuality, and also trying to find something bigger, outside of their small, suffocating world. Don’t get me wrong, this was a very good film, and I really enjoyed watching it, but I don’t think it’s one that’s really going to stick with me for whatever reason. It’s well-crafted and well-acted, but it’s also bleak as hell, and a bit too lacking in entertainment value for my liking.

the-godfather

The Godfather (1972). Am I allowed to say I didn’t love The Godfather? Is that OK? Will someone put a hit out on me?  I mean, I can see why so many people love it, and I recognize that it’s a good movie, but it’s just not the kind of movie I personally enjoy. Maybe I’m just too stupid to like it, because honestly I didn’t entirely know what was going on half the time. I was sort of interested in Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) arc from war hero to mafia boss, as he gets entangled in his father, Vito Corleone’s (Marlon Brando) whole criminal business, but I kind of just lost patience with it after a while, and didn’t really care about who died or why. I feel like I need to apologize to someone for not liking this movie. Maybe my dad, who loves the shit out of it. SORRY DAD!

The-Godfather-Part-II

The Godfather: Part II (1974). Actually, I enjoyed the sequel more. I thought it was much more interesting structurally, acting as both a prequel by showing Vito’s rise to power (played by Robert De Niro) and as a sequel, following Michael’s trajectory as he becomes more of a ruthless bastard, who fears he’s moving too far away from his father’s vision. It was definitely more appealing to me than the original, but like, do I ever want to watch it again? No, not really. Maybe Goodfellas will be more my scene. I’ll find out soon enough, because it’s totally on the list!

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Super accurate Oscar prediction time

I have some important information, everyone. I don’t think the Oscars are necessarily an accurate prediction of which movies are actually, like, the best. I mean, now that they’re nominating up to 10 films for Best Picture, basically anything that is a movie can be nominated. Last year two of the nominees were The Help and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which…well, I know The Help solved racism or something (no) but I think we can all admit that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was awful. Right!? It was sentimental schlock that capitalized on 9-11, just like all the worst movies do. See also: that one with Robert Pattinson. Oh wait, that’s a surprise 9-11 movie, so if you haven’t seen it, I just ruined an unnamed Robert Pattinson film. OH WAIT AGAIN it was called Remember Me. Haha, I forgot the name of a movie called Remember Me and then I spoiled it. I’m the worst. Sorry I’m not sorry!

So, the Oscars are pretty dumb and this year they’re being hosted by the perpetually smug Seth MacFarlane, which means they’re going to be smug AND irrelevant. I mean, I don’t really think any of these awards shows mean much of anything, but at least at the Golden Globes everyone is drunk. Basically no one is visibly drunk at the Oscars, and it’s a total bummer. Despite all of that junk, I will obviously be watching the 85th annual Academy Awards from start to finish when they air on Sunday. Why? I don’t know. I watch it every year, and there’s always the very tiny chance Anne Hathaway will lose and she will rip off her skin and it will turn out she was Rachel Berry from Glee all along (not Lea Michele – Rachel Berry) and no one will be very surprised.

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Anyway, the point of this pointless preamble about this pointless awards show is that I’ve decided to make some pointless predictions based on poor information! I have seen all the Best Picture nominees besides Amour, but I don’t actually, like, know what I’m talking about. On the bright side, I think I can find a way to use these guesses to create a solo drinking game! Alex of the Future is going to be so relieved I did this.

Cinematography. Cinematography is such a weird award. It’s literally just about which film looks the best. I am definitely picking Life of Pi. Did you see Life of Pi? It looked amazing. I even liked the 3D and I really hate 3D.

Costume Design. I have a bad feeling that they could throw this one to one of those terrible Snow White movies, but I can’t decide which one, so I’m just going to guess Anna Karenina (which I didn’t see, but the costumes looked nice in the previews) instead.

Documentary Feature. I haven’t seen any of these, but I have HEARD of Searching for Sugar Man, so I will pick that one. What informed decisions I’m making!

Documentary Short. Damn, I haven’t even heard of one of these, so I will guess Mondays at Racine for literally no reason.

Film Editing. You know, I thought Argo was edited well in that it had basically no boring scenes, which…is that what good editing is? I think so, maybe!

Foreign Language Film. I don’t really think Amour is going to win Best Picture (again, keep in mind I have not seen it) so I think it’s going to win this award instead.

Makeup and Hairstyling. I mean, The Hobbit had to make humans look like mythical creatures, so shouldn’t it automatically win this one? It certainly shouldn’t win anything else, but let’s give it Makeup and Hairstyling at least.

Music – Original Score. Well, I still remember the music from Life of Pi, so  therefore it must have been pretty good, probably.

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Music – Original Song. Adele had better win for Skyfall because she will give a super cute acceptance speech, and also I actually like that song!

Production Design. Is this like, how the sets look and junk? I don’t know. I’m just going to guess Life of Pi.

Short Film – Animated. I mean, I saw that Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare” thing, but I thought it was just OK, so I will guess Paperman, which sounds intriguing! 

Short Film – Live Action. Never heard of these. Buzkashi Boys? Sounds…sexy.

Sound Editing. I assumed Les Mis would be nominated for all sound-related awards, and I was going to guess that even though I hated that movie, but apparently I was wrong. Um…Skyfall? I felt like the sounds in that film sounded like sounds or whatever.

Sound Mixing. I literally don’t understand what this is at all. What is sound mixing? How do you judge which film mixed sounds the best? I’ll just pick Les Mis. I really hated Les Mis, by the way, have I mentioned that?

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Visual Effects. I’m once again guessing Life of Pi. Can you tell I liked how that movie looked? I really, really did.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay. Silver Linings Playbook, I hope! I feel like this might also go to Argo though, I’m just not sure.

Writing – Original Screenplay. I personally think Moonrise Kingdom should win, but I don’t think that will happen. So my prediction is…Zero Dark Thirty.

Directing. David O. Russell should win for Silver Linings Playbook. I don’t know if he will, but he should.

Animated Feature Film. I think Pirates! Band of Misfits should definitely win this one, because it had the greatest animation and plot of them all. It just did. Brave was OK, but not even close to Pixar’s best, I found Frankenweenie and ParaNorman disappointing (although most people seemed to love ParaNorman) and Wreck-It Ralph was great, but not as great as Pirates.

Actor in a Supporting Role. I didn’t especially love or even really like The Master, but I have to admit that Philip Seymour Hoffman was absolutely amazing in it, so I have to guess him.

Actress in a Supporting Role. I mean, Anne Hathaway is going to win this. She just is. It’s going to be super duper annoying.

Actor in a Leading Role. I don’t see how Daniel Day Lewis could not win this. I was totally bored by Lincoln, but I did think Lewis was excellent in it, so he probably deserves it.

Actress in a Leading Role. I think Jennifer Lawrence totally deserves it, but I don’t know…I feel like Jessica Chastain might win it. Which would be fine I guess, she was good…but Jennifer Lawrence was better.

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Best Picture. My personal vote is absolutely for Silver Linings Playbook, which I think was by far the best film of the whole year. It was definitely my favourite, in any case. I just don’t know, though. I have a feeling it could go to Argo. Honestly, as long as Les Mis doesn’t win, I’ll immediately get over it and move on. I really just can’t wait until a few months from now when we can all forget Les Mis ever existed. Yep. The not-so-distant future is gonna be the best.

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AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies

As I briefly mentioned in an earlier post, I plan to watch AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies this year. I love movies, and I actually review films for the publication I work for, but I still haven’t seen a lot of the classics, and I feel like this must be rectified. I decided to go with the 10th anniversary list for no particular reason other than it was the first one I came across, and it seemed to have a lot of older movies on it (by older movies, I mean anything that was released before 1990). I’ll probably end up watching the films that were on AFI’s original list but didn’t make the cut the second time around at some point, anyway.

Also, I have a head start, because I’ve already watched 26 movies on the list, which means I only have to watch 74. This works out to around six a month, which is very manageable. Admittedly I’m already a little behind schedule…I only watched five this month. It’s fine, I will watch seven in February. Yes, I know it’s a short month, I can still do it! I’m not going to do elaborate reviews – those are already on the Internet, duh – I’ll just stick to short recaps. So, here’s what I watched in January.

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Tootsie (1982). Well this sure was wacky! Dustin Hoffman plays an actor who struggles to get good jobs, so he does what any man would do and dresses up like a woman to get a job on a soap opera, where he befriends his costar but also he falls in love with her. It was funny, although I have to say I got kind of a no feeling from the increasingly awkward situations he got into while lying to the person he was supposedly in love with all along.

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Bonnie and Clyde (1967). The thing that struck me about this one was how much it influenced every heist/bank robber film that came after. There were moments where I was like, this seems cliche! But then I remembered that it was kind of the first movie ever like this, so it wasn’t actually cliche at all. Another important observation: Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were both insanely attractive.

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Midnight Cowboy (1969). In this movie, Jon Voight moves to New York City and learns that it’s actually totally hard to be a male prostitute who only sleeps with women. But, he also befriends Dustin Hoffman, who is kind of a rat-faced creep, but then it turns out that he has a good heart sometimes and they form a pretty beautiful and also sad friendship. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but I ended up really enjoying it.

Dr-Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove or:  How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). This was ALSO not at all what I expected. At first I was kind of losing interest, but then I realized this film, about the arms race and nuclear weapons, was actually really darkly funny. There are so many scenes with great dialogue satirizing the whole situation, and once I realized what was happening, I got really into it.

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Taxi Driver (1976). This was my favourite of all my January movies. First of all, young Robert De Niro is pretty hot! Especially with a mohawk. Anyway, he plays a restless former marine who takes a job as a cab driver because he can’t sleep at night anyway. After witnessing a bunch of terrible things and terrible people, he kind of goes all vigilante and decides to clean up the city himself. I really liked the weird note it ends on…it was sort of a positive note, but I highly doubt things ended happily for that character.

Just in case you’re dying to know, the movies on AFI’s list that I’ve already watched are after the cut.

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The Golden Globes

So, the Golden Globes aired on Sunday, and even though they don’t really, like, mean anything, they’re always pretty entertaining and there was a lot going on this year. This is really the only awards show I ever watch besides the Oscars, but the Golden Globes are infinitely funnier and weirder because it’s basically a bunch of celebrities hanging out and getting drunk and looking really coked up during acceptance speeches. What’s not to love about that? Maybe it’s just me, but the thing that stood out for me this year was that there were a lot of women doing awesome things. HEAR THEM ROAR!

First of all, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were as amazing as everyone expected to be. They dissed James Cameron, they were resentful toward Lena Dunham and they had super great advice for Taylor Swift re: staying away from Michael J. Fox’s son. My only complaint is that I wish there had been more of them! Here is their monologue. If funny ladies aren’t a thing you’re interested in (for some strange reason) watch it for Tina’s ass. I feel weird about noticing Tina Fey’s ass, but it happened, I did that.

I was SO excited that Lena Dunham won for Best Actress in a Comedy AND her show, Girls won Best Comedy Series. I was glad because people hate her and her show so much, and I feel like this was at least some small validation, even if it is just from the Golden Globes and she’s awesome and her show is awesome. I’m not going on a whole spiel about what I love about Girls right now (though, btw, the second season premiered on Sunday too, and it was great). Lena winning just felt like a fuck you to all the idiotic criticisms against her for being a woman and looking like a regular person and being privileged, etc., etc., etc. She was also really gracious and cute and gave a shout out to Chad Lowe . Obviously I’m biased in that I love her, but I was very excited.

"Girls" creator and actress Lena Dunham poses with the award "Girls" won for Best Televison Series, Comedy or Musical at the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills

I was ALSO very excited Jennifer Lawrence won, because – have you seen Silver Linings Playbook? I just saw it on the weekend and I immediately fell in love with it. I mean, it’s basically a romantic comedy, really, except that it’s so good and so funny and so sad and so…inspiring? It really was! I have to say, Bradley Cooper really stole that film for me, because I had no idea he was capable of anything in the realm of that performance, but Jennifer Lawrence was phenomenal too. And she was pretty great at the Golden Globes, too, kind of awkward and super funny and I felt a pang of sadness that I’ll never be her best friend (probably). Oh, and she made a reference to First Wives Club in her acceptance speech, what a weird but entirely appropriate reference!

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Other things…most of the presenters were boring or fine, but Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell’s fake and completely inaccurate summaries of the nominated films were hilarious, and made me hope they go on to host something together at some point. Adele seemed really charming and Taylor Swift seemed like she is currently writing a revenge ballad about her. Glenn Close looked like a fun (fake?) drunk! Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speech and faux humble thing was very annoying, and reinforced my opinion that Anne Hathaway is kind of insufferable.

OH YEAH AND THEN JODIE FOSTER CAME OUT!

I mean, I think she did. I felt like her long and somewhat rambling speech was nice, but also…weird. It was basically an extensive diatribe about how she wants privacy, but also everyone she knows in real life knows who she is, and she’s not Honey Boo Boo, and she’s lonely and she’s friends with Mel Gibson for some insane reason. There is something about multi-millionare actors demanding privacy that bugs me. I don’t think Jodie Foster should be forced to come out, I think she should just live her life and talk about it or not talk about it or whatever it is that she wants to do. This just seemed like she felt obligated to say something, but she didn’t want to completely give in to whatever pressure she felt she was under or something. I don’t know! It was weird. Here’s the speech:

Overall, it was a pretty eventful show! I just hope this isn’t in any way a sign that Les Miserables will win an Oscar. I mean, Anne Hathaway will win an Oscar, probably, but that movie does not deserve an Academy Award, I don’t care what you musical fanatics think.

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