The Glass Castle: A Review and Reflection

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Before the film adaptation’s release, here’s some insight into Jeannette Walls’ modern classic The Glass Castle.

Spending another week on The New York Times’ Bestseller List and on it’s way to theatres, The Glass Castle continues to be a memoir that holds the public’s attention.  If for some reason you managed to escape the media storm surrounding the movie, Glass Castle is the memoir of Jeannette Walls, currently a successful writer and journalist in New York, but once a girl living a rootless lifestyle with two erratic parents.  Glass Castle has been out since 2005, but I find when a book holds the public’s attention for this long without fanfare and merchandise of midnight releases and chest tattoos, it’s important to ask why. Continue reading

The Little Hours (dir. Jeff Baena)

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A loose parody of 14th century novel The Decameron, The Little Hours (dir. Jeff
Baena) features Dave Franco as a runaway who, pretending to be a deaf-mute, starts
hooking up with nuns at a convent. The concept, on paper, could be a dramatic
period piece, but it’s a lighthearted 90-minute comedy. Basically the entire cast is a
comedy powerhouse- Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Fred
Armisen, and John C. Reilly. Clearly, some effort was made to cast people with excellent
comic timing. Continue reading

Brigsby Bear, and Why it’s “Dope as Shit”

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As evidenced by his work with SNL and sketch group Good Neighbor, Kyle Mooney has been building a career out of playing a similar type of character over and over again, but I think he does it with enough genuine empathy and admiration that I can’t complain. Mooney excels at cringe comedy, and he does this especially well in Brigsby Bear (dir. Dave McCary), in which he portrays a young man who essentially has never seen or heard of anything. Continue reading

Casting JonBenet: The Advantages of Bias

Casting JonBenet (Dir. Kitty Green), the highly anticipated meta-documentary released as a Netflix-exclusive film about the 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was met with mixed reactions- mostly because the idea of making a film about the actual brutal murder of an actual child didn’t sit well with many people. 1996 wasn’t that long ago. Is it exploitative? Probably. But by that logic, every film about or based on a real-life tragedy is exploitative. I am willing to defend this film’s existence despite its tendency to insert some black humor, as it doesn’t set out to minimize the seriousness of the crime. Unlike other crime documentaries, it is less focused on solving the mystery at hand and more focused on reactions to what we know about the murder and the inevitable biases that come with it. Continue reading

My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea (Dir. Dash Shaw, 2017)

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While I have never subscribed to the notion that the narrative of a film is always more important than its visuals, My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea lacks in depth both narratively and visually. But when I say it lacks in depth visually, I thoroughly mean it as a compliment- everything is very flat and two-dimensional because it’s meant to look like a graphic novel, which is what writer/director Dash Shaw is best known for. The animation style is colorful and trippy- it’s also choppy and unpolished but that is what works in its favor. As this film is centered on a group of teenagers and is narrated by its 16-year-old main character, it makes sense that it looks like something sketched by a teen.

The concept of a sudden epic disaster being inflicted upon a high school in which the heroes are mostly social outcasts literally sounds like something a 16-year-old would daydream about in class as he draws the popular kids drowning in the margins of his notebook paper. There is literally a scene in which one of the popular girls begs to be rescued by the nerdy main characters by offering to invite them to her next party, before slipping into shark-infested waters. For misanthropic teens, this is unapologetic wish fulfillment. But Dash Shaw seems to be aware of this because he named the pretentious main character after himself. Dash (Jason Schwartzman) is a kid who exists in real life and you probably hung out with him in high school. Everything is pointless, the nerds and the artists are the only people who really understand the world, don’t be a sheep, etc. Not following the crowd and staying true to yourself isn’t a lesson without merit but Dash is mean and petty. And this is pointed out to him early on in the film- that he thinks people don’t like him because of his acne but it’s really because of his personality. He does eventually learn his lesson but the moral is still lacking because it is so clearly written to be flattering and easily palatable to 15-year-old nerds. Not only is he the only one with the bright idea to not stay on the bottom floor when the building is literally sinking, but he was the only one who knew the disaster was coming. Of course he warned them and nobody listened until it was too late.

The very simple messages of this story aren’t particularly new – ‘remember who your true friends are’, ‘don’t sacrifice your individuality to fit in’, ‘high school doesn’t matter in the grand scheme when you’re literally faced with a life-or-death situation’ etc. But there’s also something in here that is very specific to millennials.  There is a throwaway line or two about the recession and the increasingly narrow job market, which is interesting within the context of an apocalyptic disaster- that young people are under constant pressure by adults to be successful but are simultaneously trying to survive in a drastically changing world that those same adults are responsible for (ex. Baby Boomers voted for Trump and tanked the economy). In this case, it was the adult with the most authority (the principal), who knew but chose to ignore the fact that the building was at risk of collapsing.  This movie could apply to the young-adult anxiety felt by any generation, but feels particularly apt in representing the current one. But I might just be reading too much into a film that will inevitably gain a cult following of young stoners.

 

Marisa Winckowski

The Return of Lasagna Cat

“Sex Survey Results, the Pipe Strip and the Return of Lasagna Cat”

Jon Arbuckle, Zero

via KnowYourMeme

Despite his status as a cultural icon for the past forty years, Garfield hasn’t contributed much to the artistic world at large- save for some “I hate Mondays” coffee mugs and the memes your aunt shares on Facebook. And while this orange cat has never truly gone away, he isn’t often discussed. Garfield has existed as background noise for the past several decades as a three-panel comic strip, the occasional cartoon, and a handful of kids’ movies that nobody saw. Everybody knows who Garfield is but few have dedicated as much time analyzing his oeuvre as Fatal Farm’s Zach Johnson and Jeffrey Max. Continue reading

Dave Chappelle-The Age of Spin & Deep In the Heart of Texas

Dave Chappelle At The Hollywood Palladium

It is somewhat unclear who Dave Chappelle’s new comedy specials are for.  There’s definitely a point to direct it to old fans of Chappelle’s Show: not only was Chappelle a game-changer of a comic, but there’s also nostalgic value in aiming it at this audience.  There’s also an aim for fans who weren’t around when Chappelle was in his prime.  As cliché as it is, Chappelle pokes fun at a 24 year-old in the audience.  The content of Chappelle’s jokes vary from the self-aware, topical humor, and material about people that would seem irrelevant had it not been for recent events bringing them into prominence (i.e. O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby).  Both of Chappelle’s new specials find a pleasing middle ground that sets him both as an older comic trying to reach a new audience and someone acting as if he never left. Continue reading

The Belko Experiment (Dir. Greg McLean)

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via Wikipedia.

What is the point of setting Battle Royale in an office building if you’re not going to utilize office supplies as murder weapons?

The Belko Experiment is very short-barely 90 minutes long. That’s because it is exactly what you saw in the trailer and nothing more is added. Everything you think is going to happen does. There is no attempt to add a plot twist or alteration to set this film apart from Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, Exam, Cube, Circle, Lord of the Flies, The Killing Room or the dozens of other films with similar ideas and better execution. This is not to say The Belko Experiment is a particularly bad film. It’s passable. But I take issue with this because “let’s put people in a life or death situation and see how they deal with it for the sake of social commentary or entertainment or whatever” has become a genre unto itself because it’s so watchable and easy to write. Even if the film isn’t particularly memorable, a premise like this one will always be attractive to audiences. There are two main reasons for this: the self-insert ‘murder without consequences’ prospect (e.g. “which of my coworkers would I kill in this type of situation?”), and the easily palatable social commentary that essentially writes itself. This is why we, as a culture, love post-apocalyptic stories. They are simple and straightforward and easy to analyze by considering it within the context of the world we live in currently. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love movies like Battle Royale and Circle for the very reasons I just listed. But The Belko Experiment did not do it for me.

Continue reading

Amy Schumer-The Leather Special

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I love Amy Schumer, almost as much as I hate Amy Schumer.  Actually, what I should say is: I love Amy Schumer, almost as much as I hate the idea of Amy Schumer.  Despite being an immensely talented comic, Schumer has become everyone and their mother’s favorite comic.  Schumer is no longer a club or theatre comic.  She’s the type of comic that can probably sell out Madison Square Garden for the rest of her career.  She’s entered the lexicon of Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Eddie Murphy, but she’s also entering into the realm of Dane Cook.  She’s still incredibly funny, but it appears her material has suffered a bit.  She’s not as witty or clever as she was during Live at the Apollo or Cutting.  Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s not funny. Continue reading