Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner

Now that the holiday season is upon us, I wanted to take some time to reflect before chaos ensues and we all end up going ape shit at Target after hearing WHAM’s “Last Christmas” for the 10,000th time. I have a very small immediate family that I can count on one hand so our holidays were always really low key for us. There are never any cousins, crazy aunts, or rowdy grandchildren running amok (there are always dogs running amok). Sometimes I miss that experience, but for the most part I’m perfectly happy with our close little family. There are less people to offend.

I got to thinking about my ideal situation for a formal Thanksgiving dinner. What would it be like if I could invite anyone I wanted? I thought of ten people I would love to have over for my Thanksgiving dinner party. My guests are listed in no particular order and are narrowed down to real people living or dead. I left off fictional characters otherwise this would be the Whedonverse edition of Thanksgiving (that’s for another post). I left off Tarantino as I feel like he would dominate the dinner conversation. I also excluded Gary Oldman as I feel his staunch Republican ideas would be much too taboo for this crowd. It was really hard to narrow down my list to just ten people. I could name ten directors and actors alone. Anyhow here goes:

Gullermo del Toro
Del Toro is one of my favorite film directors hands down. He brings a beauty and awe to the fantasy genre that others only dream about. He also brought to life one of my favorite comic book characters, Hellboy. I’ve watched countless interviews with del Toro and he is so affable. His projects are made with such love and care because he is a fan first and foremost. His passion really shows through in his work. He would be the perfect person to carve the Tofurkey.

Elvira is such an icon. Her beauty goes beyond her signature black dress and wig. I read a book by Pamela De Barres with a chapter by Elvira. She speaks candidly about her experiences with musicians including Elvis. After this short read, I was even more fascinated by the Mistress of the Dark. As a big animal lover, she is also a strict vegan. She would be responsible for bringing some vegan sides.

Joe Strummer
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than ten years since Joe Strummer left this Earth. I remember that sad day like it was yesterday. A little bit of the light in the world ceased when Joe Strummer died, but fortunately his amazing words and music live on. Growing up in the 80s I was well aware of The Clash, but I had yet to figure out what punk rock was. Once I made the correlation, it was like a spark went off in my head. I can never put into words how much The Clash affected my life. Even now, when I feel like a boring ass sell out, I just listen to London Calling and I still feel that same spark.

Patty Hearst
I have a strange fascination with Patty Hearst, much like John Waters. When I first heard the story of Patty Hearst, I couldn’t believe it. Imagine if someone like Paris Hilton (not to diss Patty like that) was kidnapped today and subsequently robbed a bunch of banks before the public realized she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. That’s pretty much what happened to Hearst. She was born into more money than 99% of us will ever know. My fascination also lies within the afterthought. Hearst dabbled a bit in acting, but mostly led a relatively quiet life after her short prison term. I recently came across her Instagram page and it’s mostly pictures of her grandchild & dogs, such normal things for an extraordinary life.

Bruce Springsteen
You either love The Boss or you hate him. I choose to love him. I indeed enjoy his music as I have a soft spot for almost any 80s music. However, The Boss is a rock icon. For all his success, he seems like such a down to Earth man. The kind of guy you can grab a beer with and just shoot the shit as evident with his cameo in HIGH FIDELITY. He’s also a great philanthropist who always contributes to charity. He’s a true working class hero who believes in power for the people.

Clive Barker
Barker has been one of my favorite writers as long as I can remember. When kids my age were reading Goosebumps, I was reading The Books of Blood. He’s created some of the most frightening yet intriguing characters in the horror genre. Where I feel like greats like Wes Craven have fallen from grace, Barker has been consistent with his films and books. He is still very active in the art world; his Tumblr page is filled with racy art photos. Sometimes it catches me off guard as I;m scrolling through pics of dogs then, BAM pics of dicks. Barker is still very involved with the Hellraiser comic book and writes another storyline (which I read regularly).

Bill Murray
Murray is hands down the funniest man alive. From stories I have heard, he also loves to party. Murray got pulled over in Switzerland a few years ago for driving a golf cart drunk. He just seems like a really fun guy to hang out with. Even after all these years of success, Murray doesn’t even have a publicist or a cell phone which makes him sort of an enigma. He would be on bartending duties at my dinner party. If anyone is keeping it real, it’s Bill Murray.

Robert Smith
Robert Smith has got to be the most wonderful person in the world and he’s written some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I would love nothing more than just to sit & talk and maybe hug Robert Smith. Robert and I could eat cranberry sauce and trade pie recipes. He just seems so happy and pleasant to be around. In middle school, I had, “I heart Robert Smith” written on my shoes in permanent marker. I also had the lyrics to “Lovesong” scribbled on my binder. Seriously, he’s perfect and after all, he did save the world from Barbara Streisand.

Joss Whedon
You’ve heard me go on endless rants about how much of a genius Whedon is. It’s true; he’s brilliant and he has brought so much joy to my life. His charming sense of humor really shines through in his writing. However, since catching a glimpse of his interworkings via twitter, I’ve come to realize he’s as dorky as I am. I feel like we would be best friends. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I know Joss Whedon would be awesome to hang out with and have over for Thanksgiving dinner.

My Dad
My dad died when I was 16 years old and I still think about him almost everyday. In some ways, I’ve never gotten over that. I would just love to see what he thought about me now and the person I’ve become. I’d love for him to meet my dogs. I just wish I knew what he thought about everything. I still miss him very much.

There you have it folks, my ideal guest list for Thanksgiving dinner. My family isn’t as crazy as a lot of others so my actual guest list will be almost comparable to this one. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. No matter how you celebrate or where you go, remember to be grateful for your loved ones and the time you share together.

Happy Holidays

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Counselor

So I want to talk about THE COUNSELOR. I have heard nothing but bad reviews and negative remarks regarding this film. Even the Austin Chronicle gave it the same rating as the nĂ¼ CARRIE remake which baffles me. I saw it and I enjoyed it! Before you call me biased, I will admit I am a Fassbender superfan. I can still offer a nonpartisan review without being clouded by his devastating good looks. For the record, I still have not seen X-MEN ORIGINS which starred Fassy as a young Magneto. Not even he can sell me on that shit.

I was excited to see THE COUNSELOR because I love Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant writing and with him behind the screenplay how could you go wrong? I generally despise Ridley Scott films (with the exception of ALIEN which is flawless), but for once he actually got it right. I’ll go ahead and accept this as an apology for PROMETHEUS. The cast of THE COUNSELOR is fantastic. I was a little unsure of Cameron Diaz, but she really put it all on the table (to say the least).

The film mirrors many of the same themes of NO COUNTY FOR OLD MEN (also written by McCarthy). It even takes place in Hell Paso, Texas. The film highlights a botched crime/foiled plan. In this picture, Fassy exists as the man with no name a la Javier Bardem in NO COUNTRY.

Many complaints I’ve come across claim the film is too dialog heavy which confuses the hell out of me. Do these people realize it’s based on a book filled with dialog? These are the same people who complain when there’s not enough dialog like with ONLY GOD FORGIVES (which I also enjoyed immensely). There are several scenes featuring various soliloquies which I think adds to the mystery of each character. Some questions are answered, but many more questions are raised. I really loved the whole perplexity of this film.

I’ve also heard people criticize the character development in THE COUNSELOR. I feel like this was intentional. This film centers on Fassy’s character; all other characters are secondary. The film presents the total descent of one man. We virtually see Fassy’s character go from a confident, charming, cunning man to a scared, broken, shell of a man in less than two hours. Watching Fassy take on this transition was really fascinating and I could not picture a better actor taking on this role. Again, I am biased as I would watch him act in a Wheaties commercial but that’s neither here nor there.

Diaz has been accused of overacting; again something I believe was intentional. Her character was meant to be over the top and extremely exaggerated. Her pronounced movements and monologues were intended to be hyperboles. I also like the parallel metaphors with the cheetahs. The symbolism of the hunt & chase was really beautiful. Similarly, Penelope Diaz’s character was very one dimensional, another calculated move by the filmmaker. Cruz’s character exists as a symbol for purity and the utter corruption that destroys that purity as a direct result of Fassy’s greed. As much as I detest Ridley Scott, nothing he does is unfixed (even if it does not make sense) and I really admire the way he unraveled this mesmerizing story.

One of my favorite writers, Bret Easton Ellis also enjoyed THE COUNSELOR. He said,
“I liked the bloody feel-bad nihilism of Ridley Scott's THE COUNSELOR, a much-needed rejoinder to "noble" and "humanistic" movies everywhere. There's so much self-righteous hatred aimed at THE COUNSELOR because it dares to laugh darkly at the "Victims Are Our New Heroes" culture...”

If anything, go see this film for the car fucking scene alone.

12 Years A Slave

Let me begin by saying that 12 YEARS A SLAVE was by far one of the hardest films to sit through. From beginning to end, it is completely horrifying. I watch a lot of films that would easily make others uncomfortable. We’re talking everything from IRREVERSIBLE, THE BRIGDE, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, DANCER IN THE DARK, and A SERBIAN FILM. None of those compared to the utter heartbreak I felt watching 12 YEARS. Having said this, I feel like this is the most important & powerful films of the year if not the last ten years.

12 YEARS A SLAVE tells the unbelievable, true tale of a free man (Solomon Northup) kidnapped and sold into slavery. I feel like this is far more appalling than being born a slave. For example, some would rather never know what it feels like to be rich than to have been rich then become poor. It’s the whole “ignorance is bliss” theory.

The film is based on the book written by Solomon just a year after his harrowing experience. It eloquently describes the life of a true slave in the Deep South. As you can imagine, there are not many accounts of day to day life as a slave. Sadly, many people did not live to tell their story or did not have the skills to translate into text. However, Solomon was not born a slave. He was a well educated, sophisticated family man who moonlighted as a talented musician. Yet, none of this matters when you are born with the wrong skin color at the wrong time.

The acting in the film is phenomenal as well as a beautifully written script. I’ve been closely watching director, Steve McQueen because I believe he is poised to become a force to be reckoned with. He was unfairly snubbed a few Oscar seasons ago with his controversial film, SHAME (also starring Fassy). I think 12 YEARS is a big “fuck you” to the Hollywood blowhards who run the film industry. I only pray this film receives the accolades it deserves.

Chiwetel Ejiofor who portrays Solomon Northup deserves an Academy Award, not just a nomination. He captures the pain and suffering of Solomon so vividly it’s scary. The most gut wrenching part of the entire movie was that Solomon never gave up hope. In a position when most people would beg for death, he continued to look for an escape. Although, we see a bittersweet ending, I was more disturbed by the afterthought. What became of Solomon? Can one really just go back to their old life? How does this mentally affect a person? Did his family search for him? How did they adjust and cope? None of these questions may ever be answered as the whereabouts and/or death of Solomon are still unknown. I think this is far more haunting as it leaves another story untold. This film will no doubt become the SCHINDLER'S LIST of our generation.

For once in my life, I am at a loss for words. The last time I felt really emotional watching a film like this was when I saw MILK in the theater. Without getting into a longwinded social commentary, I think this film comes at a time when it is the most relevant. Slavery may not exist anymore, but prejudice and inhuman conditions continue to thrive. Everyday I wake up with the intent to be the best person I can possibly be without coming off as a total asshole. I’m often discouraged reading or hearing about the pitfalls of humanity that constantly occur around the world. I hope that people watch 12 YEARS A SLAVE and realize this disregard for humanity is still prevalent. I hope it will make people think about the choices they make. We need to stop treating others like disposable property.