“Halloweed”: comedy horror about the pothead kids of a serial killer still follows an old formula

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Name: Halloweed
Director, writer:  LizReal Leason, Michael Bussan
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed: private Screener Vimeo free from distributor; available Nov. 8
Length 101
Rating R
Companies: Screen Media
Link: official


Halloweed” (directed by LizReal Leason, based on a story by Michael Bussan)  is a comedy horror film, taking off on a legacy of many others (ranging from the “Halloween” franchises, to “Pieces” (1981), which means exactly what you think it does).

The film has an extended and handsomely drawn animated prologue with the credits, before it switches to an electric chair execution scene, where the victims have shown up in costumes for a Halloween party. The chair is no longer used in California, but dear old Dad (Tim Sizemore), a serial killer, fries on camera as the audience cheers.

His son Trent (Shannon Brown) and mildly charismatic gay stepbrother Joey (Simon Rex) decide to move to a small town, Moosehead, in the California valley to disappear and start over.  Cell phones abound in the film, so it’s not so clear how they escape the Internet.  They have plenty of street smarts, hitchhiking on a rig (I never pick them up), and hooking up with an elderly man eager to take in roommates sight unseen. Did he use Craigslist (and could he use Airbnb?) Is that how asylum seekers are to be housed?

Enter a judge running for mayor, with an agenda, while Joey makes a living hocking semi-legal pot.  Pretty soon bodies start piling up, brutally stabbed and sliced to death by a “mutant” – so his costume makes him look like a star child.  The two bro’s have to clear their reputation again, but it isn’t hard to guess the perp (as in “Pieces”).

The script and photography has some minor references to physical shame; there’s one reference to what my Army buddies used to call “thmooth”, and the old landlord guy isn’t afraid to run around in skivvies showing his balding legs. Holden Caulfield (“The Catcher in the Rye”) would not be impressed.

Picture: from The Lodge, Halloween party, near Hagerstown MD

(Posted: Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 at 6 PM EDT)

See also “Augustine: Killer Toy Robots” (index).

“Moonlight”: a tough coming-of-age drama, spanning decades, of a black gay man in Miami

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Name: “Moonlight”
Director, writer:  Barry Jenkins (written, directed)
Released:  2016/10 (after Telluride)
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2016/10/30, late PM, small audience
Length 111
Rating R
Companies: A24
Link: official

Moonlight” is a tough coming-of-age story of a young black man in the ramshackle tenements of suburban Miami.

It’s in three parts (“Little”, “Chiron”, “Black”) with a different actor playing the boy (Alex Hilbert), teen (Ashton Sanders) and grown man (Trevante Rhodes).

In the opening, a crack dealer (Mahershala Ali) rescues the boy and becomes a father figure, as the film then explores the boy’s relationship with the drug-addicted mother.

As a teen, Chiron is bullied, and in one scene he asks his de facto parents what a “faggot” is.  Eventually, he becomes intimate “On the Beach” and “In the Moonlight” with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome).  The film has a couple classroom scenes, one where the biology teacher is trying to educate the kids about AIDS, and another where the teacher has to control a fight started by Chiron getting back at the bullies.

In the final part, Chiron is a hardened adult in the “Scarface” world of south Florida.  He wears an artificial denture resembling “Jaws” in the Bond movies.  But he reunites, at least in deep friendship, with Kevin.

The film confronts the gentrified viewer with the harsh reality of growing up in the drug-infested housing projects, where drug dealing is almost the entire economy.  Chiron tries to become as good a person as possible given the circumstances of his rearing.

The plot structure, of resuming a relationship that had started earlier, resembles that of “Lazy Eye” (Oct. 27) and even occurs in Dan Blatt’s novel “Calypso’s Cave” which I read a draft of in 1997 (discussion) — would make a nice indie film if it got made.

African American migratory workers by a "juke joint". Belle Glade, Florida, February 1941. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
African American migratory workers by a “juke joint”. Belle Glade, Florida, February 1941. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In August 1986, when on vacation in a rent car, I visited Belle Glade, FL a migrant labor town on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, which had become a small epicenter for AIDS.  A car followed me out of town back to West Palm Beach.  It was bizarre.

I have to say that the “Moonlight” metaphor title hooks up with Reid Ewing’s song “In the Moonlight (Do Me)” from Modern Family. No, it’s not used but it could have been.  There is a lot of interesting African string music, but also a Mozart excerpt.

Picture: FL Everglades, my trip, 2004. Wikipedia attribution link for Belle Glade picture, LOC, p.d.

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 at 10 PM EDT)

“Unlocking the Truth”: Ryan Ferguson, wrongfully convicted himself, leads an MTV series on the issue

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I’m usually not as interested in whole (television) series for important content as films, because a viewer has to commit so much time to one topic.

Nevertheless, I see that Andrew Jenks, who has directed at least three of his own documentary films, including “Dream / Killer” about the wrongful conviction of Ryan Ferguson  , has worked as executive producer  for the new Amazon series on the issue, “Unlocking the Truth”, with episodes directed by Adam Kassen.

In fact, the series stars Ryan Ferguson and Eva Nagao as journalists investigating other wrongful conviction cases.

I watched the first two episodes yesterday ($2.99 each on Amazon).

The pilot, “Gates of Hell”, starts with Ryan’s account of his own sudden arrest while driving from college in Kansas City in March 2004.  A high school companion had “dreamed” that he and Ryan had committed a murder while drunk in Columbia, MO.  The episode shows Ryan being interrogated by police, who have a political motivation to get a conviction even with no physical evidence.   The episode then breaking recounts his father’s and family’s efforts to get the conviction overturned.

Ferguson says, this can happen to anybody.  I recall that about 15 years ago ABC 20/20 presented another case in Illinois about murder during sleepwalking recalled by a dream.

The episode then moves to another case in Missouri, that of Michael Politte, convicted for murdering his mother when he was 14 in December 1998.

In reviewing a series like this, I probably don’t want to get into “speculation” as to other suspects myself (as no one else has been convicted), but MTV goes into an alternate theory here   which is covered in the video.

The second episode “Ain’t No Change in the House of Pain” continues the Politte case and introduces the 1995 beating of Jill Marker in Winston-Salem NC, leaving her in a coma, and severely disabled even today, with defendant Kalvin Michael Smith, as explained on MTV here.

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Many of the scenes show Ryan and Eva interviewing other witnesses.  It’s odd to see a “television’ series shot in 2.35:1.

It’s great to see Ryan (his fitness site, which should please “Blogtyrant”) become a journalist (like Clark Kent) after ten years in prison, years taken away from him by force.

Ryan’s story has also been covered on NBC Dateline.  The “Innocence Project” has produced some important films through CourtTV, such as “The Exonerated“.

Picture: Not on the Missouri side, but Lawrence Kansas and KU, where I went to graduate school in the 1960s. Second picture: Linville, NC.

(Posted: Oct. 29, 2016, 11:15 AM EDT)

“Lazy Eye”: two middle aged gay men reunite in CA 15 years after their pre-9/11 relationship in NYC

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Name: Lazy Eye
Director, writer:  Tim Kirkman  (art direction: Frances Lynn-Hernandez)
Released:  2016
Format:  2.39:1
When and how viewed:  Screener from distributor; available 2016/11/15 with Director’s Cut; Theatrical release is 11/11/2016
Length 88
Rating NA
Companies: Breaking Glass Pictures (distr.), T42 (production); at Outfest, Out Here Now KCMO, qPflix (Philadelphia), CinemaQ (Denver); world premier was at Provincetown 2016/6/17
Link: official


Lazy Eye” (2016), directed and written by Tim Kirkman,  and produced by Todd Shotz (“Timber Falls”), starts out with its protagonist, Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) hidden by an ophthalmologist’s machine.  Soon the doctor explains his amblyopia.  Dean sees this as a threat to his career as a successful Hollywood graphic designer.

Then, at home Los Angeles, alone because his husband is out in the field working, he gets an email from a long lost “ghost” boyfriend from New York fifteen years earlier, Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis).  Alex drives out alone to a second home in a spectacular desert area near Joshua Tree in the Mojave.  Soon Alex shows up, and they spend the weekend together, catching up, and sometimes fighting.

The analyze one of their favorite films from the past, “Harold and Maude” (1971, Hal Ashby), which I remember seeing in a dollar house near Baily’s Crossroads then. They they get into why Alex went dark on the Internet, without much explanation.

Actually, that might have happened to me around 2005 or so had I become a regular teacher (I took a stab at this whole conflict of interest problem on my legacy blog back around 2000, here  or here )   In fact, I have another friend now who prefers to remain dark, so I just wait.

Dean had moved to California just before 9/11, but after they broke up.  But Alex had also been concerned that Alex could have been in one of the WTC towers on 9/11.

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The film has some flashbacks of how the met in New York, and at one time Alex thought he would “support” Dean working on Wall Street so Dean could focus on becoming an artist. I’ve been challenged as to whether I would be game for that (one particular time at the Ninth Street Center in the 70s).

They also have a conversation, about the idea that the only way to prove you’re a grown-up is to have and raise kids, and be ready to “step up” for someone else’s needs.  I use the word “Step Up” in my own DADT-III book epilogue.  Of course, some people feel they step up to meet a pet’s needs.

The idea of meeting someone after moderate aging is interesting.  Both men would be about 40 now, starting middle age, and just barely show it.  But the wonders of the past may have settled into reality.

The tone of the film reminds me of Louis Malle’s “My Dinner with Andre” (1981).  The tone of the film, with the reaching into the mysteries of the past, reminds one a bit of the work of Jorge Ameer.

(Posted: Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT)

“The Witness”: a Vietnam war amputee examines the NYC murder of his sister in 1964, and the supposed public apathy of witnesses

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Name: The Witness
Director, writer:  James D. Solomon
Released:  2015
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant
Length 88
Rating NA
Companies: Film Rise
Link: url


I remember the newspaper coverage of the murder of Kitty Genovese outside her Queens apartment building at night on March 13, 1964.  I was working at the National Bureau of Standards at the time, on my first job, in what was a somewhat depressing period of my own coming of age. But I would later go to the New York World’s Fair in August, 1964 on the train and meet college friends in the city there.  It was an adventure then, in those pre-Vietmam war LBJ days (about the time of Tonkin).

The film “The Witness” (2015, directed by James D. Solomon) starts out with barebones coverage with black and white stills of the murder, before the narrator, her brother William, gets into his quest to get behind the New York Times account  of the supposed apathy of other apartment residents who heard the screams and witnessed the murder but didn’t even call police.  Bill Clinton would later say that shows we are too much “alone.”

Actually, her attacker returned and attacked her a second time, which is what led to her final death. But William’s gumshoeing reveals complications that question whether the New York Times presentation of personal apathy was itself a fabrication.

At this point, it’s worth noting the main excuse reported from residents, “it’s better not to get involved.”  Indeed, when to get involved when someone comes knocking (and sharing that person’s risks and shoes) is a tremendous moral issue in a free society. In 2015, my car was struck in a three-way accident caused by another driver.  I was asked by the policewoman if I had tried to attend to one of the drivers.  I hadn’t, since I dialed 9-1-1 and police showed up in two minutes. But you get the drift of the question, even if nothing came of it later.

But William Genovese’s investigation leads to other fascinating leads, giving the film momentum.  He gradually discovers that Kitty bad been both charismatic in her own social circles, and a lesbian, with a girl friend.

In time, the documentary shifts to the narrative of the killer, Winston Moseley, serving life in prison.  He had been sentenced to death, but the capital punishment was overturned. He seems to have been a gifted man intellectually with a crazy streak, to go psychopathic.  There was the idea of racial anger, but his other murder victim had been black.  And he would be apprehended after an alert neighbor did notice a burglary.  He would escape from prison in Buffalo and start a brief reign of terror.  But in prison he would “reform” and try to claim he was going to be good by 1977, earning a degree.

William tries to contact Moseley for an interview, but through Moseley’s son (who does talk to him) he learns of the declination.  The son expresses the bizarre rumor that there is a connection to the Genovese crime family.

Throughout the film, we see William Genovese as a double amputee, without prosthesis, in a wheel chair.  In a flashback near the end, Genovese shows a black-and-white reenactment of the Marine battle in the Mekong Delta where he lost both legs in a blast in 1967.  His buddies came to his rescue, but observers left his sister alone. Nevertheless, he would marry and have children.

Background music included a Grieg nocturne for piano, and the slow movement of a late Beethoven quartet.

The profile of the killer reminds me of the psychology of convicted Maryland killer Jason Thomas Scott  whom I believe could have a connection to the Kanika Powell case in Laurel MD, and possibly Sean Green later in 2008 (story) .    These cases, while still unsolved, deserve full re-investigation, and maybe a documentary filmmaker could help (or maybe NBC Dateline or ABC 20-20).   There’s a Crime Watch Daily short film of the case here. The NBC Dateline show on Scott was called “The Unusual Suspect” (see index).  The obvious concern about “smart” psychopaths, especially “intermittent” in their crime, is that they could be recruited by foreign terrorists.

(Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT)

“Thank You for Playing”: a dad honors his son’s cancer fight with a video game

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Name: Thank You for Playing
Director, writer:  David Osit, Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Released:  2015
Format:  HD
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2016/10/24
Length 80
Rating (PG?)
Companies: PBS POV
Link: PBS

Thank You for Playing” (and not just spectating – my addition to the title) is an engrossing film about the world of video gaming – as engineered by a gentle an husband and father (Ryan Green) whose youngest son has a terminal brain terminal.  The game is called “The Dragon, Cancer”.

Close to half of the 80 minute film presents an alternative universe of animation, for his little boy to live in.

Ryan and his family live in Colorado, and the real world surroundings are beautiful enough. They travel to Seattle to a gamer’s conference, and then to San Francisco for one last attempt at radical radiation therapy to save the boy, who passes away at three but has outlived his original prognosis by over a year.

Green has other young programmers helping him build the game, and there are plenty of screenshots of java code.

The film shows the intimacy of the family, which seems to embrace the family bed, way beyond what I would be capable of.

Along these lines are studies which show that testosterone levels of men drop off after they become fathers in marriages and care for their children; Pam Belluck wrote in 2011 for the NYTimes that this is not news fathers want to hear.   How does the body know that the partner has had a child?  Telepathy? Pheromones?  Science Magazine reports  that the drop in male hormones is the lowest in men who spend time caring for their children.  (I can remember an office joke back in 1971 or so from a finicky heterosexual coworker who thought “male sex hormones in the bloodstream” are a bad thing.)  Fatherhood sometimes changes men radically, from the viewpoint of the outside world. But not always.

School’s Out from Julie Zammarchi on Vimeo.

PBS POV followed this feature (Monday, Oct. 24, 2016) with the short film “Schools’ Out” by Julie Zammarchi, about the legacy of segregated schools.  A possible comparison would be “Boyds Negro School” (index).

Wikipedia attribution link for Independence Pass picture , by Nan Palermo, CCSA 2.0.    I drove it in 1984.

(Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 at 1 PM EDT)

Jonathan Last’s “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting”: demographic winter (or maybe just the “wrong” babies)

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Author: Jonathan Last
Title, Subtitle: What to Expect When No One’s Expecting
publication date 2013 (new preface in 2014)
ISBN 978-1-59403-641-5
Publication: 2013
Link: link

In late 2006, I saw, on a very big screen, Alfonso Curaon’s dour epic for Universal, “Children of Men”, with Clive Owen and Michael Caine, where the world has only one pregnant woman (Claire Hope-Ashotey) who has surfaced in a hidden location on the English coast after years of anti-immigrant dystopia.  In fact, I’ve wondered if some bizarre retrovirus could evolve somewhere whose only ill effect is sterility – and it spreads surreptitiously until it is too late.  How about that for a sci-fi scenario about “state interest”?

The 2013 book by Jonathan V. Last (an ironic name), “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster” does replay the right-wing demographic winter argument, and the author, while admitting his own social conservatism (and guilt feelings about his luxury lifestyle with his wife in Old Town Alexandria, VA) insists he has no intention on turning back the clock on all the various liberations of self-actualizations in the past decades.  The book seems to invoke much of the same arguments made by Phillip Longman in his 2004 book “The Empty Cradle”.

And there have been plenty of criticisms that claim this “old argument” is really about having “the right babies” or “more white babies.”  Last defuses that idea quickly, noting that immigrant populations, when moving into wealthier countries, gradually reduce their own fertility.

First, is there a world population problem, as we thought in the 60s? Look at Wikipedia’s article,  which shows that World population is increasing.  But wealthier populations in western countries are experiencing much lower fertility than in the past and are not replacing their own populations.  In the United States, immigration (mostly Latino) has kept population increasing and total fertility close to replacement, but in time even Latino immigrant fertility will drop. In Europe, original populations may not sustain themselves against immigrant, often Muslim populations(as in Bruce Bawer’s “While Europe Slept”).

So the problems could involve security (as in Europe) or, more likely, the economic effects of an aging population.  There are fewer workers to support more retirees, who live longer.

Before returning to this, let’s put the whole “world” into perspective.  In Camelot, or the best of all possible outcomes, western technology makes the developing world peaceful, stable, and prosperous, with a climate-change-friendly infrastructure and raising living standards for all the world’s poor.  Young adults today admirably often want to go overseas and help developing nations with health care, clean water, and other infrastructure.   The end result would be a lower fertility rate in today’s developing countries.  So world population would stabilize, and that could be a good thing.  There’s probably a maximum population the planet can support, and that goes down with life expectancy.  It might be like 9 billion or so.  Someday, our future descendants have to learn to move to other worlds and live there.  Imagine the social issues that will come up (as science fiction writers selling self-published novels on Amazon do all the time).

But for the next few decades or so, at least, declining fertility is a rea problem for relatively “richer” populations.   Look at this chart on Wikipedia and it’s apparent that the “poor” countries have much higher fertility rates.

Let’s talk about Social Security and Medicare specifically. In my case, my own benefit (which I took at 62 for life-narrative reasons) is approximately right actuarially for what I (and my employers) paid into the system with FICA taxes, so I don’t feel I have a karma problem.  (I add, that as a childless person who inherited a house with land, I don’t object “morally” to paying high school taxes because I am paying back for my own free public school education, and I did inherit something I didn’t completely earn.)

But Last points out, my benefits are really paid for by today’s workers, of whom there are fewer, so they pay proportionally more to support me than I did to support my elders when I was “working.”  He calls that a Ponzi scheme (aka Bernie Madoff) because at some point the chain breaks (which is why chain letters are illegal – I got one with in 1964 and actually received two quarters). So you can ask, well, what if we gradually privatize Social Security, which is what George W. Bush wanted to do (and what Cato wants to do). In theory, you could replace Social Security with savings vehicles set up as annuities managed by life insurance companies (and create some more mainframe computer programming jobs at companies like Voya and Prudential, or, of course, Vantage, which rules the world).  But could a private system eventually break, too, like a private Madoff-scheme?

Last seems to think that the idea of letting the government provide old-age security (I even remember an “old age” meal tax in Massachusetts from 1972 on a weekend trip) was the kickoff to decline in fertility (and in the psychological importance of family) – people no longer needed to count on their kids to support them,  But his argument becomes a mirage.  States do have filial responsibility laws today, although (outside of one case in Pennsylvania in 2012) they rarely enforce them – to cover custodial care (as in nursing homes), which Medicare does not cover.  I was caught on the eldercare magnet, although we had the money to pay for everything in my mother’s estate (her last year of care in 2010 cost about $80,000).  (There’s also the Medicaid look-back rule mess.)

Last does “blame” the social changes that came with modern life: women in the workplace, sex as no longer “belonging” to marriage and procreation  (controllable by “the pill”) – as contributing to an economy where people can no longer, out of self-interest, afford to bear and raise children, something that worked to the advantage of people like me, who could lowball co-workers with families.   Yet, he makes no pretense that he can reverse the sexual revolution.  He makes a good point in that modernity provides the individual the idea of “self-actualization” (out of Maslow) makes having children seem less important as a personal priority to many people (almost like a private afterthought, trailing more obvious success through published accomplishments).

He does discuss what works (against America’s de facto “one child policy” following China’s which was real), and what doesn’t.  Generous benefits and paid family leave and various child allowances haven’t worked that well generally, partly because of the knee-jerk way things were done (especially in Japan and Singapore).

Last thinks that education needs to be streamlined and more job-oriented, so people can start working earlier and afford kids sooner.  He also supports telecommuting, and supports the idea of highways over public transit to allow people to live in smaller towns and work well (does he support the electric car, and the infrastructure to support it?)  He mentions Longman’s idea of allowing people with more kids to have more votes.

Early on, he mentions Eleanor Burkett’s 2000 book “The Baby Boon” and considers her reporting of complaints from the “childless” as “strident”.   Put bluntly, as a childless person, I can be compelled for someone else’s “moral hazard” created by their sexual intercourse (although as a gay man, I can see how this argument could have been turned around in the 1980s with respect to HIV).  Burkett even admits at one point that this may be more about “living in a community” than about “justice”, and the self-actualizing childless “accomplished” adults are “cheating the system” (subjunctive mood).  It’s possible to imagine the economy indeed as punitive to those who don’t participate in family formation and raising.  Last mentions gay rights once, and it’s apparent that anti-gay attitudes in Russia, particularly, are related to its own demographic Siberian winter.   It’s then fair to ask, whether caring for the elderly (which can be practically legally required) or adopting children should be rewarded the same way that actually having children would be.  People who have less biological passion facilitating procreation are likely to wind up paying for OPC (“other people’s children”) unless there is clear social support for alternatives.

It’s also reasonable to ask if societies can handle aging populations if their economies can keep them employed longer (and not needing benefits).  It’s the idea that someone can live much longer than before with profound disability (like Alzheimer’s disease) that greatly exacerbates the problem of supporting retirees in a lower birth rate world. It’s also true, though, that older people tend to be more “risk averse” and the lack of younger workers could stifle innovation.  But the greatest inventions seem to be thought up by relatively few, the most gifted, anyway, a some of the most talented don’t always seem to be “reproductively inclined”.

This is a good place to mention the book “The Natural Family” (see Index for my review) by Carlson and Mero; here’s a 2009 essay by Derek Brownl on their theories, similar to Last’s, however faith-based. Note the comment on “burdens” vs. “blessings.”

(Posted: Monday, Oct. 24, 2016 at 4 PM EDT)

“American Pastoral”: Philip Roth novel adaptation provides a look at radical left-wing radicalism in the Vietnam era

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Name: “American Pastoral”
Director, writer:  Ewan McGregor, John Romano, Philip Roth
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  2016/10/22  Angelika Mosaic, late, small audience
Length 126
Rating R
Companies: Lionsgate, Lakeshore
Link: official 

American Pastoral”, directed by Ewan McGregor (who plays Seymour “Svede” Levov), based on Philip Roth’s 1997 novel, adapted to screen by John Romano

Seymour has taken over the family glove factory in Newark, NJ in the early 1950s and gotten past the family patriarch in marrying a Catholic woman Dawn (Jennifer Connely), and build an estate and farm away from the City in exurban New Jersey. The daughter Merry grows up with a stutter and hypersenstivie personality.

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During the escalation of the Vietnam war, played out on television with LBJ, Merry (Dakota Fanning) becomes unhinged and gradually becomes radicalized to the far Left.  At the same time, the 1967 Newark riots happen around the factory.

Soon, a rural post office is bombed, a man is killed, and police suspect Merry.  She flees to New York, and in coming years is suspected of more bombings (as with the Weathermen).  Seymour goes though contortions (dealing with another radical young woman who taunts his masculinity) to find her, where she is homeless and living in the streets to do her penance, but has lost her stutter as long as she wears a mask.

One could say she has become a terrorist, and the film, for me at least, could be compared with “Marathon” a few days ago.

I remember spying on a meeting of the People’s Party of New Jersey on a cold Saturday night in Newark in December 1972.  The platform committee was very radical, especially the women, who resented being called “girls”.  Part of the plaform was to eliminate capitalism and inherited wealth. Everyone was supposed to be in the same boat.

Yet, I don’t see that the movie explains what drove the girl to radlcalism.

The movie narrative is told through a college reunion with a character Nathan (David Strathairn).

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at 8:45 PM EDT)

 

“Aquarius”: a woman in Brazil holds of greedy real estate developers, while her recovery from breast cancer provides another metaphor

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Name: Aquarius
Director, writer:  Kleber Mendonca Filho
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1 (Cinemascope)
When and how viewed:  2016/10/21 Angelika Mosaic, QA, festival, nearly sold out, large auditorium
Length 142
Rating Not available (would be NC-17, necessarily [because of cancer issues] very explicit in some scenes; this film provides a good argument for why NC-17 should be regarded as legitimate for some content intended for “grown ups”, as did the film yesterday)
Companies: Vitagraph
Link: official

Angelika theaters provided QA with actress Sonia Braga before or after shows of “Aquarius”, by Kleber Mendonca Filho, the new Brazilian drama about an elderly widow fighting off real estate developers who want her to sell her unit in a condo.  She is the last holdout.

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The film is largely “interior” (remarkable when it seems to be shot in true “Cinemascope”) and it’s not clear from the exteriors (in Recife), which building t is – although the script says that it is the two-story building “Aquarius” built in the 1940s as an old-fashioned family resort..  The developer apparently wants to raze the building and replace it with a 60-story luxury high-rise (resembling Miami Beach), an event that would exacerbate the issue of affordable housing in the city.  The film occasionally opens up, to show the coastal city with the divisions of rich and poor, and opens with some black and white historical stills.

But it is metaphor behind the story of the widow Clara (Sonia) that sets up the tricky ending – which may send any homeowner to look at his pest control situation. The film (142 minutes) comprises three parts. “Clara’s Hair”, “Clara’s Love”, and “Clara’s Cancer”, the last of which transfers as a metaphor.

The first part takes place in 1980, at a party, when Clara is a young woman who has undergone one breast removal and chemotherapy for cancer occurring unusually young.  At the time, the use of combination chemotherapy was still relatively new and grueling.  The film, while in still in part one, jumps forward three decades to show Clara fully recovered, able to unwind her hair.

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The middle section sets up some intimate situations, at least two where men come on to Clara and have to deal with discovering one breast gone.  The film obviously makes a statement about sexual attractiveness (of women) after cancer, or after any personal catastrophe (like in the film “Marathon” Oct. 18).  In the meantime, the pressure on her to move increases as the developers encourage loud parties and sex orgies in the unit above.  The film moves into NC-17 territory here. The film also brings in other families, especially several younger men, as well as a character, Diego (Humberto Currao) who has learned how to sell ruthlessness (Donald Trump style) in business school.  (Is this about Making Brazil Great?)

The third part sets up the nauseating (for the developers) conclusion, with the help of Cleide (Calra Ribas).

QA Clips:

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2

3

 

Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM EDT

“King Cobra”: James Franco acts creepy in a gay murder mystery involving a porn business dispute

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Name: King Cobra
Director, writer:  Justin Kelly, book by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway; James Franco produced
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Prime instant video ($6.99 HD rent) was at Reel Affirmations closing night in DC; may have limited theatrical release
Length 92
Rating Not given, but would probably be NC-17; a legitimate art film and dramatic issue-oriented narrative for grown ups.
Companies: IFC
Link: official site


King Cobra”, directed and written by Justin Kelly, is a true story based on the book “Cobra Killer: Gay Porn Murder and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice” by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway.

The true story is controversial because it eventually provides a biography of actor Sean Paul Lockhart, who played the rule “Chris” in “Judas Kiss” (2011), and Sean’s tangential or accidental involvement in a bizarre murder over a rivalry in the gay porn business.

Partly because I am probably just two degrees of separation from the actor personally, I have to stick to facts, which are well summarized on imdb here.   Harlow (played by Keegan Allen) and Joe (played by James Franco, in probably his creepiest role ever) are serving life terms in Pennsylvania for the murder of rival producer Stephen (Christian Slater), which the film shows near the end, as happening when Harlow visits Stephen and feints seducing Stephen.  That’s the way to die, when your last memory is erotic.  The murder scene actually seems a little bit motivated by Hitchcock, especially “Psycho”.  Lockhart, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, had no prior knowledge of the murder plot and, although held by police briefly, was never charged and helped convict the other two men (as in imdb story).  The movie ends happily for Sean as his adult film career resumes.

The story involves a couple of interesting legal points.  When Stephen grooms Sean into the porn industry, he gives Sean the stage name of Brent Corrigan, and then trademarks the name. When Sean wants to go out and work on his own, Stephen litigates for trademark infringement.  Yes, in some industries “stage name” of a performer is very important for the business model to work, and performers and artists need to know this.  Sean, however, threatens to tell everyone that Stephen had filmed him slightly before Seann turned 18.  In addition, there’s already a nosey neighbor suspicious of the speculative possibility of child pornography next door.

Sean and Stephen seem about to reconcile, when two other producers (whose story is shown in parallel in the early part of the movie), Joe and Harlow, want to hire Sean as “Brent Corrigan”, setting up the rivalry that provides a motive for murder.

The film is now available on Amazon Instant video.  I missed it at the Reel Affirmations film festival last weekend because of a schedule conflict with a piano concert.

Sean does not play himself; rather Garrett Clayton takes the lead rule with a lot of charisma (but he is just too smooth, even his legs, in the opening scene, hinting at one of the plot twists).

The film should not be confused with a 1999 horror film of the same name about a real snake from Lionsgate/Trademark (which I saw in Minnesota).