[film]xx


Anthology horror movies are a mixed bag in more ways than one. Often times they have flashes of brilliance in one short and everything else falls flat. XX (2017) is a collection of four short films written and directed by women. It is an excellent example of an anthology done exactly right. It captures a consistent tone with distinct style differences between all the shorts.

First off there’s an amazing stop animation frame story directed by Sofia Carrillo. It’s creepy and is about dolls. That’s absolutely all I need in something ever. It is a full enough tale unto itself that it almost counts as fifth short. It sets the tone from the get go that you’re in for a quirky and slightly unsettling ride, but ends on a sweet note.

Which leads us to the shorts themselves:

The Box
(Jovanka Vuckovic)


Based on a short story by Jack Ketchum, a boy asks “what’s in the box?” to a stranger on the train. The stranger shows him and proceeds to lose his appetite and stops eating altogether.

Let me just take a second to say that the answer to “what’s in the box?” is never ever something good. It just isn’t. So don’t ever ask it in real life. Did se7en teach us nothing? Now that we’ve established that, the Box feels like a psychological mind fuck about how mothers can feel alone and isolated even amongst the people who love them most.

The Birthday Party
(Annie Clark/Roxanne Benjamin)


Annie Clark is better known to the world as St Vincent and she makes some of the most amazing music ever. Here she delivers a psychedelic and delicious black comedy about the lengths we’ll go to for our kids. It is my favorite in the four films. It walks a perfect tightrope between dark, weird, funny and still making sense.

Don’t Fall
(Roxanne Benjamin)


Don’t Fall is a pretty quick and straightforward possession tale about four campers who camp on cursed land. There’s excellent monster makeup and a well done transformation scene. Super enjoyable, but it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel.

Her Only Living Son
(Karyn Kusama)

Eighteen years after living on the run, a woman must confront who (or what) her son really is or if he is even really her son. Another one that is pretty straightforward, but speaks so much to the strength of women even with things they have very little actual control over.

What XX offers us is a unique take on women in the horror genre. It is the rare film that doesn’t depend on over sexualisation or damsel in distress cliches. This is one of best shot and well crafted collections to come along in awhile. Every single one of these women has a unique and much needed voice. These stories are just good stories. XX is completely worth a watch.

Advertisements

[film]star crossed

True story: I am not an overly romantic person. Or, if you ask my husband, a romantic person at all in any traditional sense. It took him a long time to fully get used to the idea that, no, I don’t actually want flowers and, really, I’m okay skipping all the traditional trappings of Valentine’s Day.

I don’t harbor the amount of bitterness that some people do to the holiday though. I’m not specifically anti romance. I am anti cookie cutter get a girl flowers, jewelry and candy romance. (Off topic: My husband does have my version of romance down. One example: I was obsessed with Popples at one point and he put a ton of work into tracking one down for me as a gift. It was back when we were first dating and it was the sweetest thing anyone had done for me ever at that point.) I’m also pretty anti cookie cutter romantic movies that tend to feel like they’re just the film version of hearts and candy romance. I do however enjoy a well done story about star crossed lovers across genre lines.

Presented here however is five of my go to romantic movies, some more traditonal than others.

Natural Born Killers (1994)

This is my husband and I’s movie so putting on this is list is almost obligatory. It’s also the tale of star crossed lovers who overcome all odds to be together forever. There’s also a good old fashioned killing spree, a ton of social commentary and an insanely good soundtrack.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)


Worth noting, I actually love Shakespeare, but in general struggle to ever connect with productions of Romeo and Juliet. Aside from the story being a little silly, it just doesn’t resonate with me like other Shakespeare plays. This is the only version that I genuinely love. Claire Danes’ acting aside, there isn’t much fault in it. It’s visually stunning and (again) has a fantastic soundtrack.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)


Yes, the second Baz Luhrmann movie on this list. Again, visually astounding, incredible soundtrack, etc, etc. I actually went through a phase where I was obsessed with this movie so it may actually be a case of the less said the better, but sex and absinthe fairies, oh my.

Stardust (2007)


In my world there is very little that Neil Gaiman can do wrong, and though the film adaption is quite a bit different from the book, this is Gaiman perfection. It’s snarky and romantic, smart and sexy, adventurous and funny. It puts the literal star in star crossed. (Also Claire Danes is delightful in this to balance out how not delightful she is in Romeo + Juliet.)

Princess Bride (1987)


I mean, you didn’t think any list about star crossed lovers wouldn’t have the greatest romance of all time, did you?

[film]he never died

In my experience people either love or hate Henry Rollins. Honestly, I get both sides of that argument. I personally have no issues with the man. Yes, Black Flag was a better band with Keith Morris, but Rollins has never embittered me like he has others I know.

All of which brings us to the film of the day, He Never Died (2015). Jack (played by Rollins) is a mysterious man who lives alone and just wants to be left that way. He had a mysterious and dark past alluded to in dreams. He goes out to play bingo and to the same restaurant to eat and that’s about it. One day the past comes knocking on his door in the form of a daughter he didn’t know about and his comfortable day to day existence is thrown into chaos. We find out that Jack has lived a very long time and cannot to all appearances be killed despite occasionally seeing actual literal Death hanging around from time to time.

Henry Rollins is basically playing Henry Rollins (albeit the immortal variety) here. Enjoyment of this movie hinges very much on which side of the Rollins fence you reside on. He does turn in a solid performance however. Kate Greenhouse also turns in a fantastic performance as Cara, someone who goes from having a crush on Jack to wanting nothing to do with him whose drug along for the ride.

If He Never Died suffers from anything, it’s a sense of meandering through the plot at times. As much as this may have been intentional from the stance of here’s a man whose lived a very long time and ennui is bound to set in, it does make it difficult to drive a story at times.

He Never Died is dark, funny and unexpected storywise. Underneath everything there’s a vein of hopefulness. None of us wander so far that we are completely lost and undeserving of some form of love. More than anything, that heart is what sells this movie. (Even though some rad gore scenes don’t hurt either.) It’s pretty much destined to be a cult film, but in the best possible way.

[film]the craft or how i learned to stop worrying and love being a feminist


Teenage me was one of those girls who used to think feminism was a bad word. I didn’t like other girls, because I bought into the idea that they were all catty, mean and probably talking shit behind your back. It didn’t help that I had dealt with some intense bullying and slut shaming by girls I considered close friends after being raped. In my head, if women were getting the short end of the stick in society, it wasn’t society. It was the fact that women were petty and spiteful.

Junior year of high school two things happened to make me step back and reevaluate my life. One of these was an amazing history teacher named Mr. Berry who forced us to critically think and not just take what we were told by books and adults at face value. In introducing me to the extensive history of the Women’s Rights Movement, he made me realize that women are, yes, sometimes spiteful and mean. They are also bad ass and amazing. I was still convinced that I was a girl who wasn’t like other girls though.

The second thing that happened that year was the release of the Craft.


The Craft, for those that are somehow unaware, is a movie about four girls who come together to create a powerful coven of witches. There are lessons about forcing what you want and ultimate power ultimately corrupts. It was the rare horror movie that put women front and center, with men serving little more purpose than a supporting cast.

More than anything, for me, it’s a movie about sisterhood and how much stronger we are when we work together. It’s also a movie about owning your personal feminine power unapologetically. As someone who had been distancing myself from all I saw as feminine in myself it was a revelation. When they do end up fighting, it’s not over anything as paltry as a boy. It’s over the power to control the world around them.


As I’ve gotten older, I realize that in some ways it’s a flawed example of feminism in pop culture. What starts as a sisterhood degenerates into a mindset of uniformity of thought being necessary (to the point of attempting to kill the one that doesn’t go along). I now see that Nancy was always only interested in personal gain with Rochelle and Bonnie sycophantically following along. I can excuse this even now though. If their coven had survived the growing pains of being granted ultimate power, I can’t help but feel like they would have grown up to be their own Witches of Eastwick (probably without the babies though).

For all its flaws, the Craft made me open my eyes and start looking for the supportiveness in other girls. It made me start to build other women up instead of tearing them down by assuming they were catty at first meeting. It made me examine the idea of Girl Power and what it means. Pop culture has always been a lens of self discovery for me and the Craft is perhaps one of the biggest cornerstones of that.


Thanks, girls, for all the inspiration.

(February is Women in Horror Month. I wanted to write this piece as the perfect example of where women and horror intersect and create awesome moments. Please check out #WiHM8 for more amazing women in the horror community.)

[film]bad kids go to hell

Bad Kids Go to Hell (2012)
Genre: Horror Comedy


Have you ever found yourself wondering what would happen if Bret Easton Ellis had written the Breakfast Club? Probably not, but if you had Bad Kids Go to Hell is there to assuage your curiosity.

Six kids that attend prestigious Crestview Academy show up for Saturday detention where they learn something about themselves and that they’re not so different after all. Things like they all could die before the day is out. Will Mommy or Daddy even care if what may or may not be a Native American curse kills them? Can you fit in having meaningless sex while being scared for your life? What is that awful, terrible thing they did last summer? And will Judd  Nelson ever actually show up in this movie since he has main billing?

There’s the Princess (daughter of a sociopathic politician), the Athlete (token black dude), the Brains (hot redhead with big boobs and immigrant from some unspecified country), the Criminal (scholarship student) and the Basket Case (Pagan who claims to talk to her dead parents through seances). Judd Nelson plays the headmaster. There’s a big statue in the middle of the library where they’re to serve their detention. There’s a kind of creepy janitor that always seems to be around.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Bad Kids Goes to Hell owes a lot of its good moments to these homages to the Breakfast Club. It’s the Breakfast Club through the lens of a Bret Easton Ellis novel though. Murder, mayhem and a lot of stylistic sex and violence instead of a heartwarming tale about disaffection with authority and temporarily putting aside differences. There’s still plenty of disaffection, but no one has time to put aside differences once bodies start hitting the floor.

After watching, I found out that Bad Kids Go to Hell is based off a graphic novel. One can’t help being left with the feeling that perhaps some scenes worked far better in that medium. Fast paced cut scenes and flashbacks with out of this world physics especially.

Bad Kids Go to Hell is a fun enough film and horror comedy is notoriously difficult to pull of well. It suffers from style over substance as it strings together cliches in an attempt to be more clever than it really is. (Again, much like the majority of Bret Easton Ellis’ work is.) There’s a half way decent unexpected ending, but it also feels a little hollow motivation wise. By then though it’s clear no one really has any motivation for anything they do so it doesn’t even really matter.

Rating: 6/10

(Fun extra fact: Upon investigating IMDb, it turns out there’s a sequel called Bad Kids of Crestview Academy that recently came out. The headmaster is played by Sean Astin.)

[television]you’ve been gilmored~a year in the life

(Here there be spoilers for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Lots and lots of spoilers.)

I first discovered Gilmore Girls probably about halfway through it’s run. I had no initial interest, because as a rule CW/Freeform style teen dramas aren’t my jam. From the outside looking in, it appeared to be your typical mother/daughter overwrought emotion fest. On a whim I had Netflix send me a disc though to see what all the hype was about. I was a single mom with a two year old son. Within two episodes I was completely hooked. I over identify with the shows I love, so I saw myself as Lorelai. I was a Lorelai with Rory’s reading habits, a better relationship with my mother and eventually an ability to cook, but I was Lorelai. I love coffee. I talk too much. I’m terrified of emotional commitment while one hundred percent craving one. I wanted to live in a kooky little town like Star’s Hollow and have my own Luke’s Diner to go to. I wanted to know people like Kirk, Babette and even Taylor Doose.

Suffice it to say that was amongst the people who were very excited when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was announced. We’d get to go back and see what everyone was up to and relive a little bit of that Gilmore magic. And for the most part it was delivered. There were some awfully awkward moments. There were some tear jerking moments. What follows is my feelings on some of them.


First off, the biggest presence was felt by the man who tragically was not there. Edward Hermann played Richard Gilmore with a quiet balance of humor and panache that made him one of the few standout male characters on what is a very female centric show. Since his passing, the world waited to see how it would be handled. It was probably the best done thing about the revival. Richard has died of a heart attack shortly before the start of “Winter”. Emily is coming to terms with being on her own. Lorelai is coming to terms with herself and her relationship with her father and the man he was. Every single scene centered around anything to do with the man I teared up. It was an incredible tribute to the man and the actor.


Emily, oh Emily. Here’s the thing with Emily: If I knew her in real life I’d think she was terrible. She’s manipulative and derisive and actually pretty terrible. As a show character though she is fantastic and acerbic and witty (in addition to the rest). Emily spends a good chunk of the revival trying to find her footing after losing her husband of 50 years (minus that brief separation). You see her in jeans. She is fragile. She is angry. She finds how to live for herself instead of the opinions of everyone around her and ends up in the most unlikely of places talking about whaling for a job.

She also has the second best scene in the entire movie when she tells the DAR in no uncertain terms how much bullshit she is tired of, from them and everyone else.)


Lorelai was always the star of the show for me (in case you didn’t pick up on that on your own from my intro there). She shines here. She spent the whole series trying to find her happy and outside of a few individual moments, it never really felt like she found it. Now it’s been 9 years and she’s been with Luke the whole time, not married and with no more kids. Her whole arc can come down to she finds her happy. I was always Team Christopher, but I love the way she and Luke came together in the end. He is her forever person and it was handled perfectly.

Best Lorelai moment: The whole going to do Wild (the book, not the movie) to figure things out. It goes as predicted for her in that the hike never happens, but she finds her clarity. And another one of those sob worthy Richard moments.


And then there’s the final Gilmore Girl. Last we saw Rory she was jumping on a bus to go campaign for Senator Barack Obama (maybe you’ve heard of him). Now, sadly, this gif sums up who Rory Gilmore has become. She’s whiny. She’s indecisive. She has no passion. She’s………..kind of fucking awful. From still sleeping with Logan even though she had a boyfriend and he has a fiancĂ© to selfishly pursuing writing a book about someone who doesn’t want her to write about them, she not only has stunted maturity wise, but seems to have fallen backward. There’s pretty much not a thing that I enjoyed about her storyline. So there’s that.


Then there’s Paris. Paris is still lovable, overbearing Paris. Time has softened a few of her edges, but not many. Thoroughly enjoyed every moment she was on screen. I do still find it not entirely believable that she would have had kids though. Especially more than one. Unfortunately Rory’s other best friend (and more consistently supportive one at that), Lane, pretty much got shafted. She had a lot of screen time relatively, but it doesn’t add up to much more than her being exactly where we left her at the end of the series. It says something when the thing that stands out the most is the fact that we finally got to see her father after all this time.


All I’m going to even say about the boys in Rory’s life is that if you weren’t somehow already Team Jess, there is no conceivable way you aren’t now. I mean, just look at him. And he grew up and got his shit together unlike Logan and didn’t have eight million kids like Dean.


Final Thoughts

So here’s the thing with revivals. They rarely live up to the hype. You have moments like Lorelai and Sookie meeting up in the kitchen and having no chemistry. It happens. These are people who once worked together constantly and now probably haven’t even really talked to each other in years. I can forgive that and overlook it. As a whole, a Year in a Life was as successful as we can expect a revival to be. There are moments that just feel like filler and don’t feel organic in any way. (Examples are my two least favorite moments of the endless musical and the Life and Death Brigade scene. It’s extra unfortunate on the second, because all and all the only thing I liked about Logan for the most part was his crew.)

Now, I guess we can’t finish up without discussing the last four words. A lot of people felt like it was left on a cliffhanger, but in so many ways it wasn’t. We don’t need to see Rory’s story, because in so many ways we already have. Logan is her Christopher. Jess is her Luke. Outside of small details, it’s easy to see how this plays out. My only real issue with it is that it would have made a lot more sense nine years ago when Amy Sherman-Palladino had intended it to be said.

In closing, the only thing I’d really want anyone to take away is this:


Kirk is the MVP of a Year in the Life.

C’mon, he has a pig. He makes that second movie. He even gets something right finally. This is an indisputable fact.

[poetry]we the people

we the people
we the children of the revolution
we betrayed ourselves
no evolution/revolution
when we refuse to recognize
some things don’t revolve around us
we hide our faces/names
fight with memes/intolerance
not our hearts/souls/minds
if we are quiet
we’re only waiting to speak
not to listen/communicate
we the people
keyboard warriors all
screaming into the void
not caring if anyone hears
discommunication in miscommunication
masked as mass communication
a cacophony of voices
drowning each other out
even our own
we the children of the universe
afraid of silence
afraid of words not parroting our own
afraid of everything

children
step back
step up
face the fear
embrace freedom
from what we’ve let ourself become
we the people