We had a True/False Makeup Weekend to celebrate One Child Nation‘s release in local theaters on the same day Amazing Johnathan premiered on streaming. As with this year’s fest itself, our programming was about half successful. We followed this one for a while, but as the filmmaker lost exclusive access to his subject, who also refused to quit or die, the director turned the movie towards himself (and itself) and tried to manufacture drama and stunts. Given how it ends up being about his competition with other Amazing Johnathan documentaries, and this one’s “twist ending” is its own executive producer credit, I’m surprised they didn’t film an addendum with our dude filming himself signing the Hulu deal. The other finished doc, Always Amazing, apparently scored a David Copperfield interview. In interviews, AJ says he likes the other movie just as much, which Berman says is impossible.
I keep thinking I haven’t watched a Gaspar Noé film since I Stand Alone, but that’s because I forget about Love, which if I’d remembered, I might not have gone out to let this movie mess up my mind on an especially heavy weekend. But Love is forgiven, because this totally worked for me, as horror and a filmmaking exercise and an ensemble dance piece and an extended collective freakout. Every player gets their own solos (in interview, dance and neurosis), and their interactions after the spread of the drug punch (and/or the collective paranoia) prove horrible, sometimes fatal. It’s all shot with a confident, formalist flair, unafraid to get ugly.
Blake Williams in Filmmaker:
The film ends up reaching, or at least approaching a state where it can’t even decide itself who is fucking and who is dying — the camera, now upside down, even loses its own bearings on gravity and horizons. It’s a monumentally liberating film, and so what if it offers us nothing other than the pleasure of being entirely there with it for the time it’s in front of us.
Lightweight absurd comedy about a group of not-good cops. It’s self-consciously weird about the Mr. Oizo songs this time – one cop (eyepatched Eric Judor, a main guy in Steak) is a bedroom dance-pop producer, and other characters are playing similar instrumental grooves in headphones and car stereos. I can’t tell if I like it more or less than the other Dupieux movie I’ve seen because it’s been too long, but this one has more actors I recognize: Eric Wareheim (using his uniform to harass yoga women in the park) and Steve Little (a drug dealer trying to hide his gay-porn history from his family). Best of all, and I never thought I’d say this, playing a teenager (?) with the absolute most hilarious line deliveries: Marilyn Manson.
Yoga woman strikes back:
Little delivers drug packages duct taped inside a dead rat. Eric’s partner is MADtv regular Arden Myrin, and the main cop harassing Manson is Mark Burnham. I think he shoots a guy watering the lawn (Daniel Quinn), who ends up riding around in Little’s trunk for half the movie before making a valuable contribution to Eric Judor’s music composition. Both of Laura Palmer’s parents appear (separately). At least one person dies at the end (Little stabs himself in the neck with a gardening tool). It’s a silly bit of fun which would be forgotten tomorrow if not for the fact that it features Marilyn Manson, and – I cannot stress this enough – he is great.
Cute mouse Dinki runs away from her fake family (her “dad” is a guy wearing mouse ears and her “brother” is a dog) with a boy and her creepy girlfriend who hears murder-voices. Birdboy himself spends most of the movie a useless junkie, having nightmares and reminiscing about life with his late father in a lighthouse, but briefly he turns into a giant enraged bird-beast and kills all the dump rats who threaten his friends.
It doesn’t feel like an adult animation so much as a kids’ animation that has been isolated and deprived of light or hope for decades until all the happy furry creatures have turned to despair. Also featuring a living piggybank and living alarm clock, the opposite of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast trinkets, showing the cruel horrors we inflict on the objects that are just doing their jobs for us. Played with a short…
Decorado (2016, Alberto Vásquez)
From one of Birdboy‘s directors, a handful of truly awful animal-characters interact in short sketches, while one of them (the guy whose best friend is a ghost and is married to a robot-voiced woman whose secret admirer is a horrible monster) starts to realize that he’s in a Truman Show situation with artificial scenery. Some crude gags striving towards profundity, not quite making it.
I was ambivalent about Zalman King in Sleeping Beauty, but his particular intensity was perfect for this one – he’s sort of a late Jean-Pierre Leaud mixed with early Sean Penn. Zalman’s at a swinging party with some friends, when Dr. Richard Crystal has his wig torn off and sorely overreacts, beating up the party girls and burning them in the fireplace. Zalman follows and fights his buddy, throws him in front of a truck, and ends up being blamed for all the deaths so he spends the rest of the movie in hiding. Zal’s girlfriend Alicia (Deborah Winters of some forgotten 60’s and 70’s movies) helps him investigate, finding other balding psychotics who participated in a psychedelic experiment in college, including babysitter Ann Cooper (of the similarly titled Blue Thunder and The Sunshine Boys) who chases a child with a knife, and the bodyguard Wayne (Ray Young, best known for playing Bigfoot on TV) of politician Mark Goddard (TV’s Lost In Space and The Detectives).
The parrot survives the massacre:
Zalman and Deborah:
Politician Ed’s slogan:
Maybe a weird choice when my parents were visiting, but everyone loves sexy dancing. I guess it’s about friendship and forgiveness, following your dreams, and sexy, sexy dancing. Good movie, unusual looking in the usual Soderbergh style, all muted colors except inside the club.
Mike (Tater Channing) works at McConaughey’s strip club while saving up to open his own furniture business. He picks up a protege (Alex Pettyfer, star of spy-kid flick Alex Rider) at his construction day-job, who turns out to be a fuckup, and Mike loses his savings bailing the dummy out of trouble. Mike gets a semi-happy ending with the fuckup’s sister (Cody Horn) and the rest of the gang is moving to a new club in another city – despite this, it looks like Tater and all the dancers, but not the fuckup or his sister or McConaughey, appear in the sequel.
I didn’t enjoy Heaven Knows What, but this Safdie follow-up is splashed across the covers of all three film magazines I subscribe to, so I went out all by myself (does nobody else in this town read the magazines?) to sit too close to the screen and watch a movie where everything is shot too close-up. Felt like maybe a bad idea, and I’m not always a fan of electro music scores, and I was already aware of certain accusations against the movie, but against all odds, it’s… extremely good. The nervous energy from the close camerawork and pulsing electro plus all the lurid colors and frantic performances add up to a… not a good time exactly, but a hell of a ride.
The only time the title is spoken in the movie is by Nick’s psychiatrist. The doctor is a white-haired nemesis to Connie, conspiring to restrict his brother’s freedom, appearing early in the movie’s trailer as Connie talks about “the program [Nick] is forced to attend and how he shouldn’t be there.” We see Nick going to prison in the trailer, getting beaten as his brother races against time to rescue him, then as images of violence flicker across the screen faster and faster the psychiatrist reappears: “This place where we are now can be a lot of fun if you let it. You’re gonna have a good time,” then the title sears across the screen. It feels like this wicked psychiatrist is taking advantage of helpless Nick, the title a bitterly ironic reference to the bad time Nick is gonna have in his evil institution. In the movie itself, it took me a couple scenes to shake this idea, since the psychiatrist seems harmless and Nick is the one getting his brother into trouble then trying to get him back out, in a rapidly escalating series of near-successes. Connie is (argh) a con-man, an expert manipulator, and we follow him as our would-be protagonist, the movie barely giving us time to contemplate the havoc he’s leaving behind him, until the deep-breath relief of the ending. In fact, the title is supposed to be a reference to getting reduced prison sentence for good behavior (Connie and Nick are both fresh out of prison) and the end of the film shows the psychiatrist actually helping Nick after his villain brother is sent away.
The first thing we see after Connie “rescues” his brother from the institute is a bank robbery, wearing dark-skin masks and getting hilariously foiled by a dye pack. In the ensuing chase, Nick smashes through a window and gets busted, and Connie fails to bail him out with Jennifer Jason Leigh’s cancelled credit card. Connie then breaks the wrong guy out of the hospital – a plot twist I saw coming but dismissed as too ludicrous-obvious – then teams up with him (Ray: Buddy Duress, Holmes’s buddy in Heaven Knows What) to make quick cash for bail money. Ray was busted at an amusement park, and stashed a sprite bottle full of pure liquid LSD and possibly some money, so they trick underage Crystal into giving them a ride there, fuck with the security guard, and everyone gets arrested except Connie and Ray, who escape with the LSD-soda to the guard’s apartment, where Ray calls his dealer and finally things go wrong.
J. Safdie on the controvery:
I don’t think Connie is a racist. I think that he just knows how society functions. He knows that society is racist.
Connie makes choices instantly, and one gets the impression that it’s an instinctual ability that has helped him at times but will only prove his downfall on this particular night … Pattinson perfectly conveys the nervous energy of being essentially hunted by your own bad decisions without ever feeling like he’s chewing scenery.
Harley (writer/subject Arielle Holmes) is sorry, and Ilya (Antiviral star Caleb Jones) is mad at her for cheating, so she attempts suicide, cut to title.
Harley and Mike:
Caleb must have a pretty bad cold:
The movie doesn’t get any more cheerful after that. They curse a lot, and take drugs, and seem to be excessively focused on obtaining and taking more drugs (what’s that all about?). She gets consolation sex from mutual friend Mike (Buddy Duress: what a name). They’re all terrible, it’s no fun to watch, and the camera keeps getting horribly close to the actors, so you can feel their pain, man. But we finally know they’ve hit rock bottom when we see them watching Hellraiser – but it’s in 4:3, and it’s the garbage sequel Revelations instead of the original.
Lovestruck kids Harley and Ilya finally get back together, do some petty crimes, then he ditches her on a bus, goes home and immediately catches fire and dies. I did enjoy some aspects of the movie, like the outer space keyboard music, and a scene I loved but cannot explain why where she tries to thread a needle. Watched this because it’s Cannes Month and the directors have a new one premiering, which I guess I can safely skip (edit: lol).
“Vote – this is something I cannot do … because I am a felon”
Opens with camouflaged forest war games, then cut to scraggly Mark and girlfriend Lisa, who are often naked and taking drugs. Such shockingly good photography and uncensored access to the subjects that I had to stop the movie and make sure it’s a documentary. And it’s… complicated. Minervini: “There is no screenplay, there are no fake characters. People aren’t playing themselves, they are themselves. Re-enactment or direction I still consider a necessary tool to successfully to complete a project with such a high degree of difficulty.”
Family visits, political talk, daily life, drug making and taking, a funeral, work and sex and so on… it’s a portrait of ordinary lives, but not the kind we see in movies.
Working at the junkyard with Jim for $20 per day:
Then the last twenty minutes is something new: a fourth of july weekend training camp and/or drunken party for an alarmingly large white militia group united in their hatred of “Obama” and love of “freedom”.
“Some of the people in the militia are related to the people in the first part. I won’t go any deeper, because there is a certain anonymity that has to be granted there, but there are family ties between the two worlds.”
Celluloid Liberation Front:
Minervini has been observing these communities throughout his filmography with neither ethnographic pretensions nor sentimental bias, counting on that rarest of all aesthetic devices: human empathy. In The Other Side the spectator enters a world alien from his own with a subjective purity … it is that basic formal honesty that makes The Other Side a film to be felt and experienced for what it does to you rather than for what it is supposed to mean.
Minervini in Filmmaker:
I’ve already approached the topics of pain and fear, and I needed to dig into the sociopolitical causes of it. I think my intentions are very clear with The Other Side … This time, it is the angry me that takes over while filming, who wants to look for who’s responsible for this self-destructive, violent social behavior. It was time for me as an American filmmaker, living and working in America, to look for the responsibility at an institutional level.
Minervini in Cinema Scope:
Instead of a revolution, Southerners want devolution. They think that they would be better off with a more powerful local government than with an allegedly intrusive central one. This false belief is partly due to the chronically low level of political knowledge in the US … it remains a largely economically divided, pathologically anxious, and inherently racist country, brainwashed by fallacious information on crime rates, national security threats, and, last but not least, the ever-incumbent fear of the loss of individual freedoms.