“Case 39”, directed by Christian Alvart and written by Ray Wright (apparently submitted by) turns out to be rather exploitive horror built on mental illness.
In Portland OR, social worker Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) visits the home of misbehaving Lilith (Jodelle ferland) for Child Protective Services, and believes she is abused. In the follow-up, the parents try to lock her into an oven (there is feint scene like that in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit” (2015). Lilith is taken into protective custody and the parents are sent to mental institutions. They used to sau “nothing to be ashamed of” in my own NIH days in 1962.
Emily takes care for Lilith and offers to raise her in her own home. That soon turns catastrophic. It seems that everyone with anything to do with Lilith develops schizophrenia and winds up fighting phantoms. There is a scene were therapist Doug (Bradley Cooper) believes he is chased by hornets and commits suicide, but not until we see Bradley’s manly chest.
I’m reminded of some other films, like the classic “Lilith” (1964) where a young Warren Beatty is gradually disrobed by an underage mental patient, as well as “The Bad Seed” (1956). I also recall Michaelangelo Antonioni’s “Zabriske Point”, where Daria Halprin gradually disrobes Mark Frechette. I saw that film twice, one of the few that I have.
The DVD has extras on the makeup for the horror film, which involved putting gel on the arms of an actress and setting her on fire. (“Turn up the Heat on the Chill Factor”). Other extras include “Inside the Hornet’s Nest” and “File Under Evil, Inside the 39”.
The film was distributed by Paramount Vantage. Paramount (like Warner Brothers) abandoned separately branding most of its independent films a few years ago.
Portland OR skyline (Wiki). Indoor scenes were shot in British Columbia.
“Audrie and Daisy”, directed by Benni Cohen and Jon Shenk, hits the subject of cyberbullying hard, especially for female victims of sexual assault, and especially underage, largely by presenting two tragic biographical narratives.
In all cases the assailants are aggressive white teenage boys, some of them football players, all carrying out what seem like primal biological instincts that I don’t personally feel.
Audrie, apparently when drunk, endures body desecration at a party, the details of which need not be repeated here. Cyberbullying in chat rooms will follow her for being a victim. Later she will commit suicide at home, hanging herself behind a closed bedroom door when her mother is in the house. At the end of the film, the juvenile offenders are processed by the criminal justice system but given light sentences.
One of her friends, Delaney Henderson, a surfing enthusiast, will talk on the beach about a similar experience, and say her family had decided to switch coasts and move to Florida to get away from the meanness.
Daisy’s family had moved to Maryville (north of KCMO, a city I know too well) after dad was killed in an auto accident in Albany, MO. One night, some boys got her, at 14, and another 13 year old girl drunk, and then had sex with the girls (legally way underage). She may have been on the verge of alcohol poisoning. Detectives detained and questioned the boys, but eventually were charged only with misdemeanor offences. The prosecutor said that the sex was consensual, which does not make sense if she was underage (does Missouri have a Romeo and Juliet law?)
Some interesting sidebars come across. In Missouri, police say that Apple had deleted all footage of the incident, and that it was not recoverable.. Apple president Tim Cook is very serious about privacy; delete means delete. Not so, the police said, with Android. Later Anonymous gets involved, blasting police allowing the “blaming the victim” result. Daisy’s brother comes to her defense, and is shown working out in his bedroom at home with a sign “Endure” on the wall.
Finally, after the dust settles, a baseball coach, providing Army-style character guidance, counsels his team on how they should behave around young women and especially with victims of sexual assault. Could MLB use the footage?
Countering cyberbullying was supposed to be one of Melania Trump’s initiatives. It’s disturbing that the permissive atmosphere of ungated user generated content may depend so much on this kind of activity for “support”. Bad karma.
David Muchod’s political drama “War Machine”, based on the book by Michael Hastings, looks at the ethics of U.S. military policy and of career military officers. Most of it takes place indoors on base in Afghanistan (filmed in Abu Dhabi), or on international “will raising” trips to Berlin and Paris. Toward the end, it explodes into a brutal, personal battlefield scene in a village, worthy of being in “American Sniper”. Otherwise, it’s pure art.
Brad Pitt plays the lifer officer Gen. Glen McMahon, who has been tasked, around 2009, by “Obama’s War” (as Bob Woodward had called it on an NBC documentary) into pacifying and winning back some villages from the Taliban. Unlike his other movies (like “Babel”), this time he does not look or act like Brad Pitt, the role model. Pretty soon, the movie lunges into long discussions where show that a military career like McMahon’s, starting at West Point, needs to justify its own continuation by making up objectives. My summer in the Pentagon in 1968 after Army Basic at Fort Jackson, I used to hear this said; and the Pentagon brass probably didn’t like to hear this from the more privileged, sheltered and well-educated draftees (the “01E20” crowd). Maybe (besides security clearances for a latent homosexual, in the language of the time) that contributed to my own transfer to Fort Eustis.
McMahon spends a lot of time explaining “insurgency”. In one speech, he explains the math or the “group theory” where if you kill two of ten insurgents you suddenly have twenty. In one scene, a reporter in Germany quizzes him about all of this, whether it is indeed self-serving for his own career, Of course, “insurgency” had been a concept in Vietnam, during the time of my own service. There is also some discussion about how 9/11 probably changed military careers a lot more than it did normal life of Americans (although I could contest that idea). The film presents the idea that American occupation on its own may aggravate religious tensions.
McMahon also courts Hamid Karzai (Ben Kingsley), unconvincingly, about “nation building.” How self-serving. But think about what the same idea meant in Vietnam,
With Iraq, of course, it was Obama’s exist that left the power vacuum that allowed ISIS to overrun it, so it gets complicated.
The film comes to a head with the daylight patrol in the Afghan Village. I know someone (NG) deployed there now (really by Obama, not Trump) and I wondered if this is what he could face. It gets brutal. One soldier gets shot in the eye and is blinded. Another (Pico Alexander or Will Poulter) is saved by his steel pot. Then one more goes it alone.
I’ve covered some of the argumentation about gay marriage in a review of a film about it here July 5. But an encyclopedia-like book like Nathaniel Frank’s “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America” (2017) can cover a lot more detail than a documentary film or video. Still, this particular issue seems to have both sides talking at or past one another, playing with the subtleties of language itself, like in “Paul’s” Youtube videos.
I have to admit some distraction. I had to finish reading the last chapter on Obergefell and then the philosophical Epilogue (Arnold Bax-like) just as the news exploded this morning with Donald Trump’s edict by twitter banning transgender troops from the military. Different topic (I’ll come back to the military thing soon with another post) – and indeed a marriage with a transgender person can turn into a straight marriage but without the possibility of procreation, exactly like a heterosexual marriage when the woman is past menopause. I guess that shows partly why tying marriage to procreation gets so problematic.
At the very beginning, Frank says that marriage law is important by indirection: logically, those who are not married or do not have the benefits of marriage can be excluded from some of society’s benefits as a consequence of mere logic. In fact, that generally describes how things were in my own life in a world that (until very recently) where being married usually meant having minor dependents that one had sired – but it didn’t always mean that. And single people and same-sex couples have always had dependents. But someone without dependents can find his life disrupted by the needs of others anyway – as I found out with my own eldercare situation. There is a “dynamic imbalance” in life (like in a chess position, say a Sicilian) between having fewer responsibilities and more disposable income, and at the same time being less welcome in some situations,
The debate over “gay marriage” has become sometimes interchangeable with “gay rights” or “equality”. Or let’s say “the right to marry” is a tricky idea. As a logical matter, anyone has the same “right” to marry a consenting adult member of the opposite gender (when gender is binary), but not the same capability to procreate or even enjoy penetrative heterosexual activity in a relationship. Frank talks about discussions about marriage as early as 1963, and then about the Baker case in Minnesota in the early 1970s. Frank also explains how marriage became a focus (among gay “activists”) as to whether gay people should assimilate (and share risks and responsibilities, including serving in the military) or resist. Did liberation mean walling off the outside world and creating your own (like in the East Village and the Ninth Street Center, with its polarity theory, in the 1970s)?
Indeed, overseas, “gay marriage” as been illogically comingled with gay rights in general, as in Nigeria with its draconian law in 2013.
Frank indeed covers the history of gay rights in general, including Stonewall, Anita Bryant, the Moscone-Milk assassination in San Francisco in 1978, the Briggs Initiative in California that could have banned gay teachers (1978), the AIDS crisis and Reagan’s indifference, the sodomy law litigation (Hardwick v. Bowers in 1986 and Lawrence v. Texas in 2003), and the history of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military. In the 1990s, particularly in Hawaii, debate on gay marriage for its own sake as a marker for personal equality in general, started to develop, even as cases like Romer v. Evans (Colorado Amendment 2) grew. Then, of course, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, under political pressure. Frank presents the 90s as more negative for gay people than it really was for me. Frank gives many side anecdotes that are important for other issues: Dan Choi and don’t ask don’t tell as a valued Arabic translator needed for intelligence purposes; the fact that one of the important marriage cases involved a person who died of ALS; the male couple in Florida who took care of foster kids with HIV.
Then , in the 2000s, the cascade of litigation started, with Massachusetts in 2004, leading eventually to Obergefell, with many steps along the way. These included the idea that you could encourage the states to go their own way and experiment first, before solving it federally, although then you had the Full Faith and Credit issue (to be resolved in Obergefell). Along the way came Gavin Newsome’s marriage day, and then the whole Proposition 8 saga in California.
Frank has a few juicy quotes that show how gay marriage became a cover for a bigger question about hyperindividualism and sexuality. On p. 236 he refers to the risk that the “gradual transformation of marriage from a pro-child societal institution into a private relationship designed simply to provide adult couples with what plaintiffs say is personal fulfillment. It was a sinister echo of the old canard that homosexuality was primarily about indulging individual selfishness, while somehow heterosexual pairing was about contributing to the greater good.” When was this canard actually stated? Is the greater good to be found in protective courtship and doting? It strikes me that this is like a three-lane highway in Virginia (indeed, Marshall-Newman, 2006): it can be more challenging to raise adopted kids in a same-sex relationship that survives a few decades of aging than a conventionally heterosexual one with biological children. If marriage is expanded to include relationships with no penetrative complementarity, will heterosexuals decide that it isn’t important to marry before having kids? Indeed, the record so far is that gay marriage does not encourage heterosexual divorce or discourage heterosexual marriage. (Baseball player Bryce Harper beamed his Mormon heterosexual wedding celebration on Superbowl Sunday on Facebook.) Later, on p. 349 (in a chapter on Obergefel there appears, “While defenders of gay marriage bans in 2015 did all they could to avoid appearing anti-gay, the notion that letting gays marry would transform the institution from being ‘child-centric’ to ‘adult-centric’ fit squarely in the tradition of demonizing gay people as selfish and indulgent, and gay rights as the triumph of a narcissistic culture over a responsible and temperate one committed to the common good.”
In 2010, Nathaniel Frank had published “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America” through St. Martins, about nine months before Congress approved the gradual dismantling of “don’t ask don’t tell”, the certification of which was completed in September 2011.
Christopher Nolan loves to put moviegoers into alternate worlds and make them real, and indeed he makes the chilly blue-gray war seascape of “Dunkirk” become alien.
The movie is certainly a departure from the usual focus on D-Day, showing the Dunkirk Evacuation as it unfolded in the late spring of 1940, 18 months before the US would enter WWII. The Battle of Britain would soon follow, with the air raids on London civilians.
But the film is also a morality play, about using a flotilla of volunteers and civilians who stepped up to the challenge of rescuing British, French, Belgian, and Canadian soldiers trapped on the beach in the frar north of France. Call this more than radical hospitality, call it radical courage, but necessary. The volunteers were needed because some of the waters were too shallow to accept regular British Navy ships. We’ve seen the same spirit more recently after Hurricane Harvey with the “Cajun Navy”.
Nolan keeps the dialogue sparse and utilitarian. There is a particularly disturbing sequence where one soldier (Cillian Murphy) refuses to let the private boat that seems to have rescued him back into harms way to rescue more people, leading to complications leading to death of another soldier. A able civilian seaman (Bobby Lockwood) saves all. The boat’s older skipper (is that Tom Hardy?) says about the soldier, “He may never be himself again.” Later he says the only thing that matters is “Hope”. (In Corinthians it is “Charity”).
The incident is notable for savage Nazi air raids on safe harbors, including a Red Cross ship which sinks.. The movie has many impressive water scenes of men escaping drowning.
The music score by Hans Zimmer makes effective use of some of the material from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
I saw this in an Imax presentation at AMC Tysons, with a presentation aspect ratio of about 2:1, it seemed.
“Kept Boy” (2017), directed by George Bamber and written by David Ozanich, starts out as if it could be just a silly, facetious comedy about younger gay men living off of rich but aging sugar daddies in Tinseltown. Indeed, there are prior example-setters, like “The Houseboy” (2011) and “The Mudge Boy” (2007). But the film, however compact at 89 minutes, gets into other areas, international and scope, and turns serious and pertinent as it progresses.
Dennis Racine, played by British actor Jon Paul Phillips, dropped out of college in LA a decade ago and essentially became a houseboy of now 50-something TV producer Farleigh Nock (German actor Thure Reifenstein). Thure produces a reality TV show about fashion and interior decoration, and probably hasn’t taken “Blogtyrant’s” advice to heart on how he could increase his fan base and ratings by nice blogging. Having undergone angioplasty, he denies his health problems. He faces being cut off by investors, who like Nate Berkus better. (Nate’s show, which I liked, is no longer on, and Nate lost his male partner Fernando to the 2004 tsunami that hit Sri Lanka – a catastrophe depicted in the 2012 film “The Impossible”.) Complicating the question as to whether Thure can “afford” Dennis any more is the fact that Dennis approaches his 30th birthday. And another boyfriend Jasper (Greg Audino, who becomes the most likable character in the story) could take Dennis’s place.
Dennis may, in fact, be showing his age and preparing to go downhill fast. He smokes electronic cigarettes, which probably have nicotine. His body is just too smooth, especially in the legs.
The movie takes an interesting plot turn at midpoint (again, interesting from Hauge’s theories on how all good screenplays are structured) as the characters visit the coastal resort city of Cartagena, Colombia. They run into a closeted gay drug lord who creates some complications in protecting his own empire. If you look at a map, you see that Cartagena is not too far from Venezuela, and is facing bigtime refugee and asylum issues, brought on by Communism. Maybe another movie? A friend of mine visited Cartagena last year, before his very recent passing as I learned about from Facebook. I’m also reminded of the 2001 film “Collateral Damage” whose release was held up by 9/11.
The DVD will be available August 8, 2017 from Breaking Glass Pictures (theatrical was TLA). Expect more than just the usual happy ending; tragedy happens. There’s a lot more material under the covers that one could explore. I can remember once being counseled (at the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s) that I ought to be open to being sponged off of.
“I, Olga Hepnarova”, directed by Tomas Weinrab and Petr Kazda, is brutal-to-watch account of a terror incident in Prague on July 10, 1973, which happens to be my 30th birthday.
Olga (Michalina Olszanska) is a 20-something woman who grew up in a “good home” in Communist Czechoslovakia, but was repeatedly bullied for non-conformity (not available to men). She wanders through psychiatric facilities and a dorm-based job before dropping out and plotting her revenge. The black-and-white film has two explicit lesbian scenes early and middle.
She writes a brief paper “manifesto” where she plans revenge. A little more than an hour into the film, she drives a truck onto a sidewalk, as the camera shows the people falling to the side. This anticipates several terror attacks that have happened in the past two years, not all of them Islamist (the one in Times Square was not). She asks for the death penalty and her hanging body, viewed, is shown at the end. She uses the German word Prugelknabs, for victims of bullying.
Her rhetoric hits on an existential point, that when a “random” civilian gets in the crosshairs of a terrorist, that person pays personally as there is no way to undo this. Imagine that idea in conjunction with Pulse in Orlando. Terrorists view all civilians as conscripted combatants, if as a result of karma.
This is an unpleasant film to watch. But some audiences will want to see documentary accounts of wha made someone like James Holmes go mad.
There is some discussion of mental illness and schizophrenia. In some ways, Olga reminds me of a couple of female patients at NIH during my stay there in the fall of 1962. There is an early scene where she tells a therapist that she doesn’t like people or find much value in ordinary interpersonal relations.
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, directed by Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”) tells us what we have to look forward to as a species if we survive Donald Trump, North Korea, and Putin, and take civilization to the stars. The movies is based on graphic novels and comic books by Pierre Christin and Jean Claude Mezieres.
Unfortunately for the 3-dimensional space city of Alpha, it has a leader who is like a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, played by Clive Owen. “Foreigners” whose desert planet (“Dube”) he had once destroyed, played by “Pearls” (like the beings in “Avatar” (2009))have infiltrated. They seem to have placed a radioactive core “tumor” in the heart of the city. It’s up to special operatives Major Valerian (Dane De Haan) and girl friend Lauraline (Cara Delevingne) to find and destroy.
De Haan, with his boyish skin and looks (he is 31) plays the role with great charisma, a real hero.
Alpha has many physical spaces, inhabited by all kinds of creatures. AI bots looking like flies make up the computers. The humans live in a vertical city sort of like a Hong Kong. Toward the core there is a red district where no foreigners are allowed (hint: Trump) but drag queens are, that looks like an open air gay bar running for blocks, embedded into a Disney theme park. You expect to run into Sean Spicer in leather at any moment.
The desert planet was also interesting before it got blown up, with its own lego-city underground and rather bizarre lake beaches.
The film was shot in studios in France (Toulouse) and Quebec.
The title of the film makes me think of the “Valley of 1000 Smokes” in Alaska.
If you’re 74 years old, it’s generally not too appropriate to expect an intimate relationship with a 21 year old, however legal. My own mother used to say (back in 2000, when I was 57) that even 30 was too young for me, even for “friendship”. So what’s the next best thing? To play match maker, as “Uncle Bill”, on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, I’ve done that. I know of much younger men who should meet each other. Sorry, I don’t use Snapchat, although there is a lot of snappy smartphone chat in this film.
This is, “The Matchbreaker”, directed by Caleb Vetter. Wesley Elder (sounds LDS-like) plays the energetic, articulate, socially charismatic Ethan Cooper (Wesley also helped write the script and story). He’s skinny, cis-male, and hairy chested. I could say that this comedy is “Milo” for straight people. He gets fired by giving too much away to customers as a computer tech in a store that looks like Best Buy (I think of the Nerd Herd in the store Buy More in the old NBC series “Chuck” where Zachary Levi plays a spy disguised as a repair techie).
So Ethan goes into business for himself, somewhat by accident, as a matchbreaker. Parents hire him to break up relationships of their teen kids (first daughters and then sons too) by double-dating them and causing his clients to make faux pas. Like in one case, a gawky male (Olan Rogers) isn’t able to jump off a river boat to save a girl who jumped in. It’s all sexist and chauvinistic. Ethan has a best friend and roomie played by Osric Chau as part of a tag team.
The film doesn’t have the outrageous social setups that made sitcoms in the 1950s funny, but that may be what it needed, rather than playing itself as a Shakespeare-inspired comedy. Eventually, he’ll be exposed in a comic near-finale (rather like “All’s Well that Ends Well”) and face the idea he could lose his own girl friend (Christina Grimmie), an only half-willing accomplice.
The film is shot in “KCMO” – Kansas City, Missouri, with many spectacular shots of downtown, all the way out to the famous shopping malls (the Country Club Plaza, south of downtown, near most of the bars), with some scenes on the Kansas site, and some scenes in Leavenworth, KS. I was last in the area in the summer of 2006 but I know the area well because I earned my MA in Mathematics in 1968 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Army service followed. I would have liked to have a scene a Royals Kauffman Stadium (been there once).
“Presenting Princess Shaw”, directed by Ido Haar, starts with a text tagline to the effect that user-generated content on the Internet gives potential voices to all so that ordinary people don’t have to bow down to the powerful.
Yet, we are left to wonder, what makes some artists popular and viral and eventually powerful.
The film presents a nurse, Samantha Montgomery, who built her art entertaining residents at assisted living centers in New Orleans where she works. She writes her own songs and does a reasonable job of recording them and putting them up on her YouTube channel. The film shows us plenty of everyday life in the Ninth Ward, years after Hurricane Katrina.
In the Negev region of Israel, Ophir Kutiel builds mixages and mashups of the works of many artists, often unbeknownst to them. This practice, creating what is called derivative works in copyright law, is sometimes legally controversial and unclear, but very much supported by groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The end result is that “Princecess Shaw” very much earns her “right of publicity”.
The film shows a lot of the tech work behind mixing, which I ought to learn in order to edit my own YouTube videos on my own autobiographical material (with Final Cut Pro). So I guess this documentary gives me a kick in the pants. Music is recorded and mixed in different ways, including being entered directly onto a tablet rather than through a Midi.
There is an interesting soliloquy (vertical cell phone video) where Samantha talks about being alone after a visit to distant family. It sounds like personal growth, Rosenfels community stuff.
There’s a video with a telltale title, “Give It Up”. Lose it.
Finally, Samantha goes to Tel Aviv and meets Ophir to put on a major show. She sings while Ophir does keyboard.
PBS did a brief director interview after the film. The director talked about passive self-promotion on the web and being found.
The POV short film was “Driven” from “Story Corps”, by Wendell Scott, in animation, about an African-American amateur race driver in the segregated South.