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When it comes to being a 'gangsta' (or um 'gangster' is the way to say
it but I usually see it spelled the former way), people tend to come in
that lingo of "H.A.M" (Hard as a Moter-effer). If you want to be part
of a crew doing things like slinging drugs or hanging in the back of a
strip club, you got to have a walk, you got to have the right talk, you
got to know that guns will be part of it and probably doing drugs from
time to time as well (and if you got to plug a few people along the
way, well, all the better for street cred). But this is also something
we see a lot in movies and television (even, of course, The Wire had
its gangster elements in a strip club/drug slinging world), and it's
very much in both a real world context and the movies in tandem that
Key and Peele come in with their characters in the extremely,
surprisingly funny Keanu.
The trailer promises some fish-out-of-water fun, where the comedy duo (coming to movies for the first time following a successful Comedy Central series also skewering race and pop culture in expert ways), playing basically middle-class dorks, have to descend into the criminal underworld of the 17th Street Blips (you can find them on 17th Street, naturally) in order to retrieve Peele's character's cat dubbed the title character (posters for other Warner brothers HAM classics like Heat and New Jack City, the latter being ironic for a couple of reasons, don his walls). There were a couple of things I knew I could expect - George Michael jokes to be sure, though not quite to the extent where Key gets the others in the gangster crew, well, into that s*** - but I didn't expect that they could keep up the humor throughout. They can, and they do.
I think what helps is that you believe this action-thriller movie world. It has an authenticity not unlike Hot Fuzz; this is made by people who, I suspect, really love these scuzzy, ultra-violent action flicks (and the whole angle of the cat comes from John Wick, albeit it's not quite *that* violent, few things are). There's an affection that seeps through, and it's also telling a story that makes it so that Key and Peele aren't just one ting throughout. They can both be comic relief or they can be the straight guy; something in a scene or happening just before it will trigger one of them to get even 'more' into character. That last part is a lot of what drives the humor, and it helps that a) they commit to these 'characters' within their characters, and b) there are other "roles" being played by others. With the exception of Method Man's Cheddar, almost none of the major or supporting characters is quite who they seem to be.
This is also a joy when you watch Tarantino flicks, though here the tone's more like a Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle: the tone is constantly irreverent, and often the laughs - massive ones, from the guts many times over - come from these guys being funny together, having perfect timing, and that they keep on coming up against greater and more dangerous obstacles (i.e. those two silent creepy killers that set the chain of events in the film at the start). But the strain of satire on class and culture is the other thing keeping the comedy and even the action fresh and alive.
The attention to how ridiculous these movies can get is one thing (again, Hot Fuzz), and some of the casting helps a great deal with that (two words: Anna Faris, good God she nearly steals the show, but just nearly). But I can't help but keep thinking about how it's so fresh to see what it means to be "black" (in quotes, certainly) in culture and in the movies and then reflected back in life again. Showing just a smidgen of being a dork is a no-no, but what's refreshing is how the others in the van start bopping their heads to George Michael and one of them gets a tattoo with his name (!) It commits to everything it's going for.
In other words, in Keanu being a H.A.M. drug-slinging killer may be one thing, and acting like it is another, and to be both is worth a lot of comedy (especially when it comes to these guys when they, you know, get to having to deal with things like guns that they're clearly over their head with). How does one get into that mind-set? Watch a lot of movies and try to make sure one curbs the Richard-Pryor-imitating a-white-guy-voice. And if there's a cuter thing than Keanu in movies this year then I'll have to resign as a film critic and get one myself!
According to someone else on here this was made without a camera -
Brakhage took pieces of moths, their wings, parts, and through how the
light of the projector itself casts it we see all of the movements
going by (albeit the editing is all Brakhage and how he chooses the
"shots", however that went). In that sense it's simply a unique piece
of cinema that literally, not as a figure of speech, changes the form
of the medium. Of course there's no story, and how could there be, but
as a collage of images it's extraordinary.
Perhaps there could be a way to make these four minutes into something that wouldn't be compelling (maybe if there was too much white space on the film-strips, again the film strips are still cut together so there's a process there in the fully artistic sense not unlike Jackson Pollock sprinkling paint around to make an effect). I can't think of it off the top of my head; the fact that it's using nature itself seems like some sort of subliminal comment about how to really appreciate things we need to look at them, ALL of them, and digest the images later.
If there's any theme to this final part of the Dog Star Man saga or
epic or Tone Poem to the Nature and Human Body itself, it's birth and
rebirth. We see a baby being born in very quick fragments - it's clear
it is a baby, the amniotic fluid can't be obscured no matter how many
super-impositions there are - and then the man on the mountain needs to
be reborn as well into... something more, I suppose(?) Whatever it is,
this is a fine culmination of what Brakhage had on his mind at the
time. According to other people online, at the time the filmmaker was
in trouble as he was out of work and had kids before and another on the
way. Sometimes if you're living in that part of the country of Colorado
and the mountains it's more than likely to have that Sysyphus feeling
of continually rolling the rock up the hill with little result except
the continuation of that.
It may be hard to discern any 'theme' from this for some who are only in it for the visual pleasures and mind-f***ery. For the latter part that's certainly still here and in a fairly awesome way that's consistent through the other parts (and clearly if you made it this far you've at least been able to tolerate the other four parts, I include the prelude with that).
But I could see it as being about what it means to be a... human being, in essence: to create life, to witness life, to grow, to copulate, to climb a goddamn mountain and chop some wood. Oh, and to have Man's Best Friend at your side guiding you (or trying to lick your face until you get up again) certainly helps.
If one pictures the act of sex happening, one may think about a
person's face during the act or their breasts or their hair. And of
course when it comes to pornography in cinema you get many close-up
shots of genitalia connecting and going in-out and so on, and other
times if it's only one genitalia or another then it's simply seeing the
man's or the woman's.
For Dog Star Man Part III, which is supposed to be from what Brakhage said in some interview somewhere the part of the protagonist's (mountain climber?) sexuality flourishing, this can mean different things to different people. But what that means for Brakhage is that his own "porno" is most graphic in the interior-biological sense and, as one may happen when sex occurs, things fly by so quick as to barely be able to think straight.
This is my favorite part of the series, I think in large part because the focus is around a key subject - human sexuality and the process of copulation - but the abstractness of the images, how fast everything goes by and yet how I can discern and recognize so many things makes it intimate in ways that are hard to describe. This is where I can *feel* the imagery, more than just an intellectual escapade like some of the other parts or where things simply flow over me. And in its own way it's paradoxically extremely sensual and coarse in how its produced.
Here I felt engaged with the art that speaks to something that is essential and primordial. Human beings need to have sex in order to procreate, but the key thing is that sex is... messy, for lack of a better word. This is a messy movie that moves fast and feels rough and raw and the scratches on the film obscure just enough so that we know what's going on and yet it all culminates in... a heart-beat, whether it's the man's or the woman's or, maybe, the life that's just created, who knows? I loved every second.
Somehow the 2nd part of the Dog Star Man film "epic" is about a 6th of
the length of the first part (5 minutes instead of 30), and yet it's a
lot more powerful because of what Brakhage does in the condensed time.
There's a little of the mountain climber at the start, and while he's
down or not climbing we see a baby.
At first it's not opening its eyes, and then it is. Then there's a whole s***load of images the flash by with a quickness that is staggering. There's a snowflake. There's the red-membrane color that comes by again, and of course a lot of scratched film, and even times where the film comes apart with jagged edges separating the frames into three parts.
I don't know what to tell you if you came this far watching it, you either dig this kind of experimental filmmaking or you don't. I find it hypnotic and unlike anything else out there, but there's also an aspect that I have to be in a certain mood for it too. It's sitting down to engage your senses, not really your emotions exactly (though perhaps you'll feel for the baby in some abstract way that is just down to whether or not it'll open its eyes, which is perhaps conflict enough).
It may be pretentious to use this term but it really functions as a tone poem, giving you a series of things to look at that take you to a steady flow from one thing to the next (and in this case one is more like a hundred).
With this 'first' part of Dog Star Man (I'd say you should watch the
Prelude before this, but I don't buy that there's exactly a strong
'continuity' here, this isn't the Marvel universe or something), we get
more of a narrative this time. By 'more' I mean that there is at least
a character of a sort - a rugged man (Brakhage himself) climbing up a
mountain. Ala that song by Chumbawumba (remember that one, yes I went
there), he gets knocked down and then he gets back up again, and his
visions won't keep him down. That is, if they are visions.
This time there are more steady shots that last longer than the half a second or less that we got in the Prelude section, and yet in a strange way I wish it was *more* abstract. Because of there being "character" or a person or whatever, there's some expectation set up, at least for me, for more to go on. What we get is the furious, rapid-fire and stream of consciousness approach to imagery, where things go by so far I visage about 100 images in 20 seconds, and then it goes back briefly to slow-motion shots of the man climbing ever so slowly up the mountainside. Sometimes the dog is there and sometimes not.
Maybe it makes the most sense as this section being like some abstract documentary of what it takes to climb up a mountain, and if you're in a mood that is rather infuriating your mind will go at a very fast clip across images and sights and things that may be unspeakable. That's what this series is strongest as it approaching things like red membranes where cells and tiny organs pulsate, and the sun, shot with a lens that makes it look up close and personal, is imposing in some way that is far off but close at the same time.
And yet for all of the strong passages, I think having the man going up the hill, for as long as this movie is (30 minutes), makes it more monotonous. At least with the Prelude you didn't know what to expect, and it's more of a journey through someone's subconscious or unconscious. Here it's a mix of both this less-than-bare-bones scenario of a man on the mountain (albeit personal to Brakhage, who was out of work at the time with kids and one on the way, and this feels like a battle to persevere), and the abstract stream. It works, but not to where it's as outstanding as the Prelude.
I should note right at the top that it seems unfair to give this a
rating or a vote based on anything to do with story. My praise for this
piece of art film - and that is what it is, no ifs ands or buts about
that - comes from the cinematography, the special lighting effects, and
naturally the editing. This is so far beyond the scope of what many in
the world seek out to watch as this is the definition of 'experimental'
in cinema, and yet for those who find it or somehow it comes to them
(via a small revival house or from the Criterion collection set) it's a
wonder to behold.
Funny though to think that, not intentionally I assume, when the "MTV Generation" of directors would make their videos (and still do, but I mean when they were regularly shown on TV) they were decried by critics for being cut too fast. This really goes back to Brakhage here, though of course his intentions were not to promote some band with the rapid-fire cuts and the stream-of-consciousness flow of images and colors and warped contours folding into one another. That's why it's kind of hard to write any kind of appraisal of this aside from 'well, watch it for yourself, and if you make it past the first few minutes there's... more of these wonders to behold!'
I think because of the way my mind works I watch something like the Prelude to Dog Star Man (the whole "film" is in four parts), and I do try to find some semblance of a story. My mind is still on the experimental, transgression and consciousness-expanding wavelength, but I think that if you look for at least some kind of scenario there's the slightest, most subtle touches going on. You can see the shots of the sun, which are shot via help from an observatory, and also a naked woman (her breasts and public hair are there to see), but unlike Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving you don't get a clear sense of a woman giving birth.
There IS a sexual component, however, something to do with the flesh and lots of moving parts with it and blood that flows underneath - red is always a potent color, the kind that vibrates and you (or I at least) can feel something that has to do with blood, life force, something that goes back to a time before we can remember. Or... maybe it's all simply a bunch of images meant to conjure in the viewer anything he or she is looking for or identifies with. It's an adventure in... stuff, in colors, in mountains, in driving on a road, in a bearded guy playing with a kid, with things that are happening and in motion (and, at times, kind of akin to what we see if we close our eyes in dreams).
No other filmmaker has made or will make a work quite like this, and even at 25 minutes it feels like an epic and so 'out there' in a pre-psychedelic sense that it makes the Jupiter & the Beyond the Infinite in 2001 look like a conventional effects trail.
Maron has it down by now. What makes his comedy awesome is the fact
that it looks like nothing is planned. Of course a part of you watching
it knows that it's a taped comedy special so that by this point as he
has all the cameras around him he's set to go (and Goldthwait directing
so it's professional and knowing of how Maron will go into one beat
into another and how to cut to him motioning forward just a little).
But he has a stream of consciousness approach - Richard Lewis is a giant influence as he's said on his podcast - where he'll dip into other topics when he's supposedly about to start talking about the main subject, and often the diversions are just as funny if not funnier than the main subject at hand (i.e. his Captain Billy story with a digression about cereal and the "psychopaths" who ate Captain Crunch).
It's a great set, though it's not perfect. There's a whole wrap-around part of the title, where he has a meta run-through for the special as a "blogger" character writing about the moments where Marc feels that he might be screwing up (i.e. just as he's about to talk about religion, one of the better set pieces on the show, his blogger character goes into a digression about how the audience won't be prepared for it or think it's too heavy or other, "More later," as he continues to wait to see what's next to blog). It reaches a point where it hits a high mark, where the running gag is funniest, but he keeps going with it and it's the law of diminishing returns. It's not by too much but enough to think 'enough already.'
If you've seen Thinky Pain, which is on Netflix (this is on Hulu, previously an Epix event only), you'll know what to expect: he's a comic who talks about himself but also stretches it out so that we can relate and understand things going on in his life. Topics range from cats to anger issues to what Jesus went through ("I'm getting killed cause of a s***ty crowd? I can relate to that, and then I'm resurrected on stage here" something to that effect), and relationships. He's the sort of comic who, sitting 85% of the time on his stool (he only gets up when he has to, and being tightly wound is part of who he is), will talk about how he gets talked to by a miserable married guy - the kind that made him realize not having a "normal" married life with kids isn't so bad - and how "you're the only guy I can talk to about this, thanks for being a friend" turns into when the guy gets home "Yeah, Marc's such a sad guy all by himself" - and you know exactly what he's talking about.
In short, it's personal, it's fiery, and if you like his style you'll like him. It's therapy as brilliant stand-up, for the most part. 8.5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A profile of what could be called the Most Scathing-Best Comic You've
Never Heard Of (or maybe heard the name but never really saw), this is
actually a powerful story of transformation and the triumph of the
human spirit. That sounds like a bunch of s***, as Barry Crimmins might
even put it, but it's true, and what's powerful also is how Goldthwait
frames the story: the first half is showing us about this guy with
shaggy hair and a crazy mustache that hangs down to his chin who would
get up on stage with cigarettes and a beer (seemingly the forerunner,
if this could be possible, of Bill Hicks, to me anyway) and rail
against politicians - Reagan especially - and the government and
institutions in general. He wasn't a "relationship" type of comic or a
guy who talked about life's "little" moments like a Seinfeld. He went
on stage to exorcise his thoughts and feelings, which were usually
filled with bile.
The moments that are shown of him on stage are quite funny, if you can key yourself into his humor (I could, very quickly), and these clips are surrounded by interviews with people who knew him and worked with him at a club he started in Boston out of a Chinese food restaurant. But it's one thing if the movie was just that - Goldthwait, who knew Crimmins well in years past (he helped Goldthwait, with one seemingly small gesture after a night of hard partying, get him to sober up which is a touching detail that makes this an extremely personal movie) - but it's more, a lot more. It's about how a body can be violated and broken, and how it's next to impossible to get that back, and yet there's always other people who can be helped and saved.
Without spoiling too much about the details the second half gets into Crimmins' revelation, which he first did on stage in 1990 during an intense set, and then to the camera in this doc, about his sexual abuse as a kid. "I'm not a f***ing victim, but I am a witness," he says much later when the director takes him back to the house and basement where it took place. This moment by the way could be in other hands rather forced, like this is something that feels like it should be in here so we as the audience with the subject can get to some kind of catharsis by revealing and confronting further the horror and nightmare of the past... but how Crimmins sees it and puts it, it strips away that and he just knows what happened happened, and "it's just a basement," as he puts it. Perfectly put.
The documentary is as much about Crimmins' efforts in the 90's to show how AOL in its early days basically allowed child sex rings to go unabated online. One of the highlights of the film, and of any film in 2015, is seeing him at the hearing he attended in front of some politicians with an AOL stooge next to him. How this unfolds you have to see for yourself, but suffice it to say you can see how all of the anger and vitriol and pain that Crimmins dealt with over time kind of culminates in this moment. This isn't to say he stopped being an activist or fought for human rights elsewhere (naturally anti-war he's on camera fighting the good fight in 2004/2005 against Bush), and all of this is shown to come from an honest place, and the film reflects that.
Does it go on a little too long? Maybe, like near just the last five-ten minutes it starts to feel like it's run its course and told its story (not that the end credits don't bring some pep back in). What I got to see in Call Me Lucky is a life in full in both the world of comedy (which he had a love-hate relationship with, sometimes hate more than love depending on the night or who was performing, a true outsider) and in taking pain to try and do some sort of good. It's difficult to present someone's life when they're a victim of abuse, but the only thing to do is to not step around the subjects while also not making it *only* about that.
If Crimmins was only about illegal sex in chatrooms or only about p***ing off the government or something that'd be one thing, but it's more about seeing what goes on inside the mind of a crusader against all injustices, but especially those that hurt the innocents - the Catholic Church being the biggest target of all. You want to follow up on Spotlight as far as that goes this is a good movie to go to. But as far as taking a subject, showing him warts and all (not always a likable guy, some of the interviewees admit), this is about as strong as it gets in 2015 docs in seeing a man of principles and (dark) humor in full.
Or as Marc Maron puts it, "when I first saw him I thought, 'who does he think he us, he should be taken down a notch', and now I think 'he should be taken up a notch.'"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If I were to look really deep at The Overnight I think I would both
find not a whole lot there and yet a lot there at the same time. This
might not make much sense, but Patrick Brice has a fairly thin
narrative at heart - a couple gets invited over for dinner and drinks
and to uh hang out at a new friendly couple's place (they've just moved
to California so there's some culture clash at the least) and hi-jinks
ensue of course but in the 'lewd' sense) - and yet it's also a movie
about masculinity and what it means to have power over someone in
sexual situations and in bed in general.
The Adam Scott character Alex, as the prime example, is a little concerned about the size of his you-know-what, and it's not in a way of making a running joke about it (Howard Stern used to do that a lot), but in a terrified/petrified sort of way that gets emphasized, so to speak, when Schwartzman's character Kurt shows his as there's a skinny dipping scene (it's basically like a Dirk Diggler moment). How does he get the courage to show it? Well, somehow, through some uh male encouragement he does, and then that becomes a thing not so much for Alex but for Emily (Taylor Schilling), like, what is he trying to prove here? What's going to happen from here, such as a swinging thing?
There's some explicit territory here, but the key thing is that it's a sex comedy and that a lot of the sex is messy and awkward and because of that it's funnier. Kurt's wife (a French actress I'm not familiar with but is quite good here, Godreche) does the 'dabbling' in massages, and of course when she finally shows what she does to Emily it's the naughty kind. This is somewhat predictable, but it's still revealed and shot in a way that is meant to be genuinely shocking for Emily, and for us as well. By this point in the movie it feels like there shouldn't be much else to shock us but there is more, and I wouldn't want to reveal it even in a spoilery-review.
Suffice it to say the movie is funny, and at times it's very funny. It may be sort of soft targets - the hipster elite in California where the guy is an 'artist' who draws, yes, assholes, literally, and there's the way that Schwartzman plays this guy that is kind of like what might've happened to one of his Wes Anderson characters (i.e. Max in Rushmore) if he somehow got to California and specialty internet porn and married a French woman. So it's both awkward and in its way quirky, but also dark, which is what I might've responded to the most. The fact that the movie isn't afraid to go 'there' or wherever the hell the next 'there' might be is exciting and unpredictable. If nothing else he's the reason to see the movie, but across the board the four main actors are excellent (Scott is filling a role it feels like he's played before in stuff like Friends with Kids, the nice guy with issues, but he can pull it off, and Schilling is... Schilling, Piper from OitNB).
It functions more like an expanded short film, it has a closer scope and feel to that, but the characters were well drawn out, it knows how to pace itself so there's some space in-between the comedy to get to know these people and develop relationships over one night, and the climax is just about the uproariously funny thing you'll see in any movie, spot-perfect-awesome timing that is also a callback to something earlier in the film. It's an engaging, funny movie about sexual politics, and though it seems a little thin on the surface (the Duplass brothers produced and it's really a film they'd make, though it's directed by someone else), it's got a lot to say while seeming like it's not saying much, if that makes sense.
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