Sometimes there are days when keeping a public movie diary feels like I’ve just managed to expose how middling my tastes have gotten but then other times I remind myself why I’m really doing this:
1) build up a likable personal brand so that when I have to crowdfund for medical expenses I can get people to give me five dollars.
2) talking about movies is fun!
3) maybe con some movie studio into sending me screeners?
Anyway, my pal and Shia stan Caitie Delaney is my special guest this week!
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER: CAITIE DELANEY
Or, “The Continual And Disappointing Failure Of All Adults.” I had the pleasure of rewatching this Shia vehicle last week. Truth be told, I had the pleasure a number of times. From these rewatches emerged a new through-line for me. The grown-ups in this movie are terrible! Allow me to recount the ways.
I was just about to say “buckle up,” but it may be in poor taste, as this film opens on a gruesome car wreck wherein our hero Kale Brecht (I’ll say that again in caps: KALE BRECHT, played by SHIA LABEOUF) loses his father. A year after the accident, Kale is struggling to give a shit about school and is attempting to get one peaceful moment of shut-eye in Spanish class. Just a couple mintues free of the terror of reliving his father’s last moments. His teacher, Mr. Gutierrez, starts giving Kale some gruff about it. After Mr. Gutierrez has the GALL to utter the sentence “I don’t know who you think you are, or who you think you’re dealing with,” because that’s something your average high school Spanish teacher says, he whispers to Kale: “What would your father think.” Why does he say this? I dunno. The movie never explains to us why a grown man would harbor so much chagrin for a clearly grieving CHILD. But, naturally, Kale immediately knocks Guti out with that potent Shia punch. Anyone would. After a Judge (perhaps the only acceptable adult in this film) sentences Kale to house arrest rather than jail, Kale meets his dedicated house arrest cop (a thing, I guess?) and, guess what? It’s the Spanish teacher’s cousin, because life is horrible to Kale. Mr. Cousin Cop sidles up to Kale and lets him know he’ll be disregarding the oath he made to be fair and impartial as soon as humanly possible. Score another point for just absolutely piss-poor behavior from adults! And we’re not even to the part where a guy TRIES TO MURDER KALE yet!
Mere days into his house arrest, Mom gets mad Kale isn’t cleaning his room and dramatically cuts the power cord off his television and “cancels his iTunes.” Mom, I get it, he should clean his room, but can this kid get one single break? He has to stay home all day. Let the teen jerk off and eat twinkies in his own filth for a few days and even he’ll get sick of it and clean up. Not great choices from Mom, but let’s move on.
Because Kale is living in this monastic hell of no video games or music, he starts spying on his neighbors. He immediately discovers the man across the street is cheating on his wife with the maid and doing no work to keep it a secret, and right after, witnesses a child just RIPPING down the street on a big wheel with no parent in sight. Kale’s entire neighborhood is filled with soulless olds. He soon finds his new crush, Blasé Teen Dream & Abercrombie Muse “Ashley.” Ashley’s parents are also, you guessed it! Aaaawful! They moved to the ‘burbs from “the city” to avoid a divorce. Logical, I guess. While spying, Kale witnesses Ashley’s dad yell at her “you’ve let me down, Ashley” and then storm out with his work tie still on. Uuugghhh. You’re just pushing her away, Dad! Bad Dad!
The lack of supervision from these awful grown-ups leads Kale & Da Crew to investigate the obvious serial killer living next door. First off, dude mows his lawn TWICE A DAY, which should be enough, but this means nothing to adults too concerned with the 9 to 5 grind or 401K’s or whatever. After Kale sees the dude driving the same Mustang the news said the killer drove, as well as him DRAGGING a BLOODY TRASH BAG into his GARAGE, Kale tells the police like a good boy. Awesome! Adults on the way, right? But the news says there was a dent on that car and this car isn’t dented! And like all great and hard-working detectives, they don’t consider that a dent might be able to be repaired, and decide this isn’t the guy they’re looking for. And that trash bag? It’s a DEAD DEER, dummy! Now, Kale’s suspicion of the neighbor is out in the open and the police leave him confined to his home mere feet away from a serial killer to go eat donuts.
The more Kale sees, the more he tries to tell adults, and the more they ignore him. This continues until (spoiler) Kale’s Mom gets taken by the killer and Kale literally falls into a pool of rotting bodies trying to save her. And after all is said and done, there’s no scene of any adult falling over themselves apologizing to Kale for not listening to him before he got tied up in his office chair by the psycho, then rescued by “Ashley,” (embarrassing), then jumped off a roof into a pool (sick), then broke into the mad man’s house to find his kidnapped mom, then GUTTED the bad guy like a fish with an enormous pair of garden shears. Nope. A pat on the head and a “time off for good behavior” is how we end our journey. Sorry, buddy! Not only are you now saddled with flashbacks of multiple corpses and skeletons falling on top of you — your dad is still dead and you’ve also now killed another human being. But as long as you get your iTunes back! We can talk about therapy later. Just enjoy the rest of the summer. You earned it.
Adults fuckin’ suck.
Caitie Delaney is a TV writer living in Los Angeles. Ugh, typical!
Buffalo ’66 (1998)
Have you guys heard about this Vincent Gallo guy? Seems like a real piece of work! Anyway, I ended up liking this movie, but I did feel like I was keeping this movie at arm’s distance the entire time I was watching. It just looks like such a “cool indie film” from 1998, you know? It’s got that grainy texture, clever cinematography, everything looks like it was done on the cheap (but like not in a cheap way), there are incongruous song and dance numbers thrown in as these surreal small moments that are there to disarm you — I don’t know, the movie looks very cool in a working class garage band kind of way, but you can tell that it wants you to think that it’s cool in a working class garage band kind of way, does that make sense? Absolutely not, but we’re talking about my feelings here on my blog, we’re not solving a fucking math problem.
I liked Christina Ricci in this, but Gallo didn’t really give her a whole lot to work with here, did he? (*skims Vincent Gallo’s wiki* Oh right.) She doesn’t have a whole lot to work with, but she does kind of end up being an interesting character in spite of all that. All we know about her Layla is that she has sympathy for Gallo’s Billy and she wants to help him, despite literally everything. The movie tries to justify this with a single cut to her tearfully overhearing Billy call his mom near the beginning of the movie, but there is no way that she wouldn’t have tried to run away the first chance she got after he kidnaps her. And she has quite a few opportunities to leave! That she doesn’t run and that she ends up falling in love with Billy is, I suppose, part of the unreality of the movie, something that we just need to accept for all of this to work. This movie is a fantasy for young men who self-assess as “an asshole, I know” but are not interested in doing anything to, you know, not be assholes. Billy is a down on his luck asshole who lucks into meeting a girl who will respond to his misdirected rage by falling in love with him even more. “Wow you’re an asshole and you hate your parents and you’re mean to me all the time? I love that.” I guess I just wish we had more to go on with Layla besides “she loves him somehow!” Maybe the movie should have been about her instead of the sad softboy who kidnaps her, but I guess that would be a different movie entirely so whatever.
But I don’t know, I said I ended up liking this movie, so let’s get back to that. It’s a movie about a hard luck misunderstood loser exploring what made him into this fucked up person by visiting his piece of shit hometown and confronting his piece of shit parents, which, sure, I’ve consumed media by white men before, I know the score. But the ending was what really turned it around for me. The whole movie sets you up to expect a downer ending. Billy’s falling back into the pattern of fucking up that got him in jail in the first place and they give you that worst case scenario downer ending, but then it’s not real! It’s just him having a vision about fucking up his life even further if he continues down this path and it c h a n g e s him. He’s happy to be alive! He realizes he lucked into a girl who’s fallen in love with him and is not pressing kidnapping charges for some reason! Life is great and he’s going to buy a hot chocolate and a heart shaped donut for his new girlfriend! That’ll make up for kidnapping her, surely! The complete 180 turn was totally unexpected and I thought it was hilarious. His sudden positivity was so infectious and so charming it made it feel like a big sigh of relief. Like the idea of realizing that he has someone who loves him (somehow, for some reason) is so pure and cathartic that all of the awful things that have happened to this point don’t even matter anymore. I mean, they’ll matter at some point later, but this isn’t a movie about what happens later! For now who cares! What a feeling! It’s so incredible to see that feeling so perfectly captured on screen! Too bad about Vincent Gallo being awful though.
This one is known for the very long shots, and it’s definitely an interesting thing to think about — all the camera work and silent choreography that’s involved in getting those long takes, prop guys silently moving entire pieces of the set out of the way, that one guy who was gagged and dragged out of the studio after his foot was crushed by a heavy dolly — it’s a lot of work! There’s a lot going on here besides the deft camera work. This movie is filled with these incredible upper crust New York elite types blabbing about their meaningless drama with other rich people, then Jimmy Stewart comes into the party and he’s just suuuuch a prick and he didn’t even kill anybody, it’s great. He’s not even outwardly awful to anybody, he’s polite and charming but his contempt for these people just drips off of every line he has, he’s so fun to watch.
The two killers, Brandon and Phillip, are also such compelling characters. There’s definitely some gay subtext going on between them, and I wish Hitchcock had unpacked that a little bit more, but whatever, what we get is very fun anyway, and maybe it’s more fun to read into things than to be hit over the head with them, I don’t know I just blog about these things. Brandon is so self absorbed and arrogant in such an entertaining way, he’s like if Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass had been allowed to be taken to his logical conclusion — a WASPy, scheming, elitist murderer. Phillip’s constant worrying is an effective counter to Brandon’s staggering confidence, and it’s so satisfying watching Phillip come undone over the course of the movie. Hitchcock knows that sharing a secret can be equal parts thrilling and nauseating, so the entire movie Brandon is walking around with a boner for telling people he’s so smart for committing a murder that no one can figure out, while Phillip seems to get sick at the mere hint of Brandon being too clever and cute for their own good. They’re two sides of the same coin, they represent our own internal conflict, etc. etc., I swear it’s not as ham-fisted as I’m making it out to be here, sorry.
When they get to the real crux of the movie — a discussion on whether it should be allowed for a handful of elites to murder people whose lives they deem to be of little consequence (it shouldn’t) — it’s fun to see Jimmy Stewart basically argue for the premise of The Purge movies, and it’s even more fun to watch Brandon get visibly excited about the idea of hinting that they’ve taken their former headmaster’s words and turned it into a real deal murder. He’s such an A student! He just wants validation from the one person he sees as an authority! Jimmy Stewart’s sweaty backpedaling after he puts two and two together allows us to see Rope as a treatise against the way privileged elites like to propose devil’s advocate-ass thought experiments that lead to them playing with the lives of those they see as beneath them. It’s all academic theorizing until your former students actually listen to you and murder one of their friends.
Power Rangers (2017)
I made this to explain what the movie is about, hope this helps!
I loved this stupid movie, I loved it! I loved Bryan Cranston trying to bring some gravitas to Zordon the floating head that’s trapped in the wall of a spaceship, I loved Elizabeth Banks getting gross and dripping slime everywhere and ripping the teeth out of homeless men, I loved Bill Hader’s dumb robot voice, I loved every single one of the teens’ maudlin hard luck back stories, I was pumping my fist when Jason overcomes his awful awful haircut and stands up to Zordon and he tells him “this is MY team” (I was jacked up, man, I was like “FUCK YEAH THIS IS JASON’S TEAM YOU TRAPPED IN A WALL FLOATING HEAD-ASS OLD BITCH”), it also has the best ending for these kinds of movies –– dropping hints for a sequel that will probably never happen –– YOU GOTTA LOVE IT!
Friends–– A confession: I legitimately and loudly cheered when Jason said “It’s morphin’ time.” Immediately after that sound left my mouth I was embarrassed but then I also realized I didn’t care! It felt right!