The End Of An Era

I have, complicated, opinions on Quentin Tarantino. The man is a certified piece of crap, racist and sexist in the most insidious, “did that really happen?” ways. Not to mention the way he’s got that successful young white dude thing where his personality and work kind of atrophied after his biggest success.

I haven’t loved a Tarantino movie since Inglorious Basterds (which is still my favorite of his) at least until this one came along.  Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is a melancholy love letter to the kind of movies that Tarantino loves, the sordid blood soaked B-list flicks of yesteryear.

It’s also his way of saying goodbye. He’s mentioned he was thinking of retiring after this, so we’ll see.

Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood weaves the fictional story of TV Cowboy Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend/stuntman Cliff (Brad Pitt) together with the creepy and tragic tale of real life starlet Sharon Tate and The Manson Family.

Tarantino uses the ticking clock of the Tate’s murder beautifully, and the ending is cathartic and elegiac and stunningly Tarantino.

*Spoilers From Here On Out*

 

 

 

As four of Manson’s followers park in front of Tate and Polanski’s mansion (Rick lives next door and one of the kids played by Maya Hawke in a bit of generational symmetry) Rick comes out drunk and furious to berate them, telling them to go loiter elsewhere. Furious, the three remaining change their mind and go to attack Rick instead of Sharon. They’re met by Cliff, who then beats them to death.

There’s so much blood in this scene, if it were any other director. But this is Tarantino and the finale is downright restrained by his standards and all the more glorious because of it.

We need to talk about Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate though. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood casts Tate as a kind of bright light, a flip side flower child to the glassy eyed and shadowy Manson kids, who are presented from jump as feral and creepy and off. (Margaret Qualley plays Pussycat, the one we get to know best and she’s great.) Robbie is a star. I’ve never not enjoyed her presence in a movie and she imbues Sharon with a sort of gorgeous unbound joy. She’s dancing in every frame. She’s smiling and laughing and exuding sunshine. Some hay has been made of her lack of lines, but her silence speaks here. It’s warmth and light and an incredible performance.

I mentioned Tarantino’s use of dramatic irony here. Anyone who knows their Hollywood history knows about Tate’s fate. It’s tragic and awful and pointless. Tarantino, who rewrote World War II to have a bunch of Jewish-Americans burn Hitler to death, here saves some people from pointless violent death at the hands of monsters. This is being dissected, but it’s also part of what gives the movie it’s melancholy. “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if things could have gone this way? If this young woman and her child could have lived and fulfilled their potential? If her friends could have had theirs?”

The movie isn’t perfect but it’s wonderful.

Rankings:

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Rocketman
  5. Detective Pikachu
  6. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

 

Trailers: 

JoJo Rabbit: I think I need to read this book to get a sense of what I’m getting into. I trust Taika Waititi but this seems like pretty blunt satire, even for me.

Good Boys: I had high hopes for this, because I thinking letting a movie about middle schoolers have an R rating would allow for conversation that actually matched middle schooolers, but this looks like it’s leaning into an adult view of “haha the kids say swears and don’t understand sex talk, isn’t that weird?” which is not what I wanted.

 

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60 Books in 2019 #18: Fosse By Sam Wassan

I love Broadway musicals.

Of all the things I love, I count it as my first love. One of my earliest memories is being allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch West Side Story on TV and being completely enraptured. A few months later, my mother took me to see one of my babysitters in a high school production of Bye Bye Birdie, and that’s when I realized could sing and dance in front of people.

Like almost all theater people, I have my Fosse memories. Theater Camp versions of “All That Jazz” and “Cell Block Tango.” A high school version Sweet Charity, and rehearsing “I’m A Brass Band,” ad nauseum. (Katie was Charity, she was very good.) Playing Berthe in Pippin opposite my oldest friend. Insisting on “Magic To Do,” opening a revue I was masterminding for Tom Foolery.

There’s no one in the history of theater like Bob Fosse, really no one in the history of entertainment. A director, performer, writer and of course choreographer, anyone even marginally familiar with his work has immediate associations.

I picked up Fosse to feed my obsession after watching Fosse/Verdon (Finale tonight! Then onto the movies…I haven’t watched Charity, Cabaret or All That Jazz in ages, and I’ve never watched Lenny or Star 80.) knowing that this was it’s main source. Learning that it was written by Sam Wassan who wrote 5th Avenue At 5 AM probably my favorite show business book, made it that much sweeter to pick up.

Reading a good biography is like falling into another world for me. And Wassan is a great biographer, he makes you a part of Fosse whirling show biz world and his twisted hurting psyche. Using the ingenious device of counting down from his birth to the day of his death, Wassan provides the kind of ticking clock and rhythm that the man himself likely would have approved of.

And while there’s glitter, there’s also sleaze. Bob Fosse wasn’t really a great guy. He was mercurial, a perfectionist, an alcoholic and a womanizer. But oh God, the work. Excusing bad men who make good art is an age old conundrum, but seriously, there’s not much in this world I’d trade Chicago for, would you?

That seems to be Wassan’s point, by the way. Everyone who knew the man seemed to think that what he created was worth the hassle. And that’s something worth examining. Gwen Verdon. Anne Reinking. Nicole Fosse. Steven Schwartz. Fred Kander. Joe Ebb. Liza Minelli. All of them.

You can hear the drums and the band’s all throughout Fosse and that’s what makes it matter to me.

Up next is To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. It’s to be a summer of fluff and love for me, reading wise, I think. And this is how we’re starting it.

Things I’m Obsessed With Right Now: Strong Ladies Edition

Hey Everyone! I’m going through a couple of obsessions lately, and most of them are lady type people and feminism related, and thus let’s begin.

  • The new season of Veep. God, could this show get any better? Amy’s freak out at Selina was incredible last week and the fact that Selina is the most ineffective president ever is particularly awesome. If you haven’t watched Veep, I recommend it. It’s funny, smart and altogether brilliant. (Not to mention Bechdel-busting, and great at the numbers game.)
  • Agent Carter got renewed! Hooray! Let’s all happy dance.
  • NYCC tickets and acquiring them. (Not feminism related exactly, but still annoying) Look, I’m not the only one of my friends to get shut out. It’s a decent mix of people who got some and who didn’t. Hoping to hit the jackpot at Special Edition and if not, it’s Stub Hub for me!
  • The ACLU inquiry into hiring practices in Hollywood at as related to sexism. Can we get a Boo-Ya!
  • Sailor Moon…going over six months strong on the obsessions list. You’re about to hit the Batman mark my friend. Congratulations.
  • Jen Lancaster, I reflected on her work and what it meant to me last week, but now I’ve been making my way through her books again. This happens pretty much every year. But I felt it was worth noting.
  • The Indoor Kids podcast. Oh my God. I love this podcast. I’m behind on everything because I’ve been listening through old episodes but it’s so worth it. It’s hosted by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, and they’re adorable. Emily is everything I love about the women I’ve encountered as I’ve traveled through the oceans of nerd culture. She’s feminist, she’s sex positive, she’s intelligent, she’s passionate about games. I’m completely obsessed with it. You should listen to it.
  • The adding of more female characters to Silicon Valley.
  • Hey! Pitch Perfect 2 tonight. I’m not like, super psyched about it. I think it’s a wholey unnecessary bit of movie, but I’m just excited that another Bechdel Buster is getting an ridiculous unnecessary sequel.
  • Ava Duvernay is in talks to direct either Black Panther or Captain Marvel. I will take either, but I’d rather see Black Panther, not because I want her pigeon holed, but because she directed Selma and thus has strong working relationships with most of the best black actors in Hollywood, and that will be a useful network for Black Panther.
  • Oh right, and the Supergirl sneak peak? How AMAZING IS THAT? This show looks perfect. I’ve always wanted The Devil Wears Prada but with powers. If it sounds like I’m being sarcastic, I absolutely am not. Seriously, I’m all packed for this weekend and seriously considering changing up and doing Supergirl instead of Black Canary, it’s that good.

So that’s what’s going on with me. How are you guys?

Roads Go Ever On and On

Hobbit

It’s funny the way certain things take on big meanings.

Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson’s adaptation are such things for me. I was eleven when my father handed me a paperback copy of The Hobbit, not long after I finished the Narnia books and promised that I would love it.

I did.

Then (as were the rules) I read the original trilogy in a rush before The Fellowship Of The Ring came out. My world and imagination came to life.

Eleven years ago, the day my Uncle Billy died, my sister and I hid from our grief in a dark movie theater and watched The Return of The King. For three hours we were somewhere else, feeling something else, safe.

The weekend after my first college finals, I marathoned the movies with my new friends, learning to be OK with loving genre.

Last year, out of work and depressed my father insisted that I come out with him and see The Desolation of Smaug. “If you don’t come with me, I won’t go, and we’ll always regret it.” He said, he pushed to go to the IMAX instead of basic and I’ve never been more grateful

When my Uncle Mark and Uncle Richard got married I read, “Roads Go Ever On and On,” at their reception.

These stories are important to me, I guess is my point. So, I really can’t objectively review The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies. I loved it. I love this world. I will always love this world. It can’t touch the Lord of The Rings movies, it can’t touch it’s source material. It can’t even touch it’s first chapter, which I really adored. But for two and a half hours tonight, I was in Middle Earth again, and happy to be there.

So, there’s that. Sorry this wasn’t really a review. The movie still gets ranked. There was an Orlando Bloom swordfight. Which was awesome. I also didn’t cry, not even once, so it wasn’t that good.

There’s that.

  1. Top Five
  2. Guardians of The Galaxy
  3. Big Hero 6
  4. Mockingjay: Part 1
  5. Interstellar
  6. Godzilla
  7. Birdman
  8. Chef
  9. The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies
  10. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  11. The 100 Foot Journey
  12. The Judge
  13. How To Train Your Dragon 2
  14. Lucy
  15. The Boxtrolls
  16. Jersey Boys
  17. Maleficent
  18. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Trailers:

Ohhh, the trailers. The wonderful, wonderful trailer.

Kingsman: Yes please. Please more Colin Firth as a stone cold badass. All of that.

Jupiter Ascending! Remember at the beginning of movie season when I talked about this movie ALL THE TIME? And then it got pushed back and my heart broke? Yeah, so there’s that. It still looks awesome, and hey, we got more plot now! There’s weird mystical reincarnation happening. (Please be hit. If only because then I’ll PROBABLY have an easier time selling my manuscript if reincarnated intergalactic royalty becomes a thing people want to you know, consume or whatever…)

Ummm…were there others?

HAHAH! JOKES!

See The Force Awakens trailer in IMAX, if you can swing it, do it. It’s amazing and stunning and I can’t wait for this movie. We’ll talk about it this time next year.

Terminator: Genysys, despite it’s truly dumb title, had an awesome trailer. It looks like Arnold is in it organically, which is kind of cool.

Jurassic World also very cool in IMAX.

I will not see The Walk. I am deathly afraid of heights, and just the trailer made me want to throw up. It’ll probably be a good movie though, because Robert Zemeckis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. (I’m now picturing an awesome alternate universe where JGL was Marty McFly…head canon accepted.)

What’s your Top Five?

Top Five

I’m really not sure where to begin when it comes to Top Five which might be my favorite movie of the year so far. (But unless it’s Sweeney Todd level of disappointment, everything comes down to Into The Woods.) I mentioned in last week’s “Things I’m Obsessed With,” that Chris Rock has been capturing my attention in a big way lately, so I was really looking forward to this movie.

The plot (such as it is) concerns comedian Andre Allen (Rock) on the day that the movie meant to legitimize him (Uprize, which tells the story of the Haitian slave rebellion) is opening and a journalist, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) who is shadowing him to do a piece in The New York Times. Allen is also three days from marriage with his reality star girlfriend Erica (Gabrielle Union, who I forgot how much I LOVE).

There were a lot of things about this movie that I loved, it’s full of hilarious actors and comedians that I really adore, Jerry Seinfeld’s cameo is a particular treat, a sweet romantic comedy plot that feels instantly classic without being dumbed down, and a vision of New York that feels actually familiar. When in cafes and restaurants, it’s crowded and loud, it’s multicultural and clean, hotel lobbies look otherworldly and beautiful, there are food trucks, all that stuff.

Chris Rock wrote and directed this movie, which is probably why it feels like his stand up expanded out into a world. (As did Everybody Hates Chris a criminally underrated show.) It deals with Andre’s anxieties about staying relevant as a sober, rich, famous, black man, instead of a drunk, broke, anonymous, black boy. Chelsea is whip smart, independent and grounded. Erica is shown as a little bit desperate and shallow, but never stupid or shrewish. Andre’s life long best friend is his bodyguard and provides some of the biggest laughs.

If you’re not into largely shapeless character comedy, then you’re not going to be into this. But if you are, then it’s going to be the best thing you saw all year. (Seriously)

  1. Top Five
  2. Guardians of The Galaxy (You had a good run at the top there)
  3. Big Hero 6
  4. Mockingjay: Part 1
  5. Interstellar
  6. Godzilla
  7. Birdman
  8. Chef
  9. X-Men: Days of Future Past
  10. The 100 Foot Journey
  11. The Judge
  12. How To Train Your Dragon 2
  13. Lucy
  14. The Boxtrolls
  15. Jersey Boys
  16. Maleficent
  17. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Trailers:

Into The Woods: I actually cried. Real tears, not just choked up.

Get Hard: Why did no one pair up Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell before? I’m not sure I’ll like this movie but GOOD LORD is that a good move.

The Wedding Ringer: Also, probably not my thing. But probably sorta cute. Also, is Kevin Hart in everything? I don’t object, but wow.

Annie: I GET IT! You’re going to be wonderful and I can’t wait to see you.

Selma: I’m a sucker for Civil Rights era historical movies. I love ’em.

New York Comic Con 2014 Day 1

So it was a mellow day at comic con. Which means that I wandered around a lot was only wearing like half a costume, only went to one panel (but it was a doozy) and then met Arthur Darvill.

P-86F-5G6-TVF

Not a great picture of me, but YAY!

I also got really drunk afterwards, and I’m super duper hung over, but I’m going do my best to tell you fine people things anyway. I met Babs Tarr, which was pretty great. And Ashley Eckstein who founded Her Universe and is THE NICEST PERSON. Seriously, she was super cool. It probably didn’t hurt that I was wearing one of her dresses.

Me and Ashley and another girl we were talking to!

Me and Ashley and another girl we were talking to!

I don’t have a lot of pictures because Aless didn’t meet me until around 6 so it was hard to get pics so let’s talk about that one panel.

I was really excited to go to The Disney Panel yesterday at 1. I was looking forward to finding out more about Big Hero 6 and of course finding out anything about Tomorrowland. 

And it didn’t hurt that Chris Hardwick was hosting the thing.

We all know how I feel about Chris Hardwick.

The The Big Hero 6 stuff was really cool. They brought out the cast. (TJ Miller! YEAH!) and as a listener to The Nerdist Network and Doug Loves Movies, I fully expected TJ to put his foot in his mouth in some way and would have to go on You Made It Weird to apologize. That happens with alarming frequency. But he didn’t. But he and Chris did make a Yogi Bear 3-D joke, which was great. We saw a couple of clips, which introduced us to the Big Hero 6 team, showed us drunk Bay Max (Hairy baby!), we saw the amazing chase scene with the villain, and the scene where Hiro first builds Bay Max’s armor. (“Would apprehending this masked man improve your emotional state?” Sweetest line ever.)

But the highlight of this segment was the truly sincere nerd love from Scott Adsit. Obviously, anyone who was involved with 30 Rock gets my eternal love, but Adsit was so kind and funny and great about appreciating being at Comic Con on a panel. He and Chris were ribbing each other and it was lovely.

Then they showed a new trailer and it was pretty great. We also all got scanned by Bay Max. I really can’t wait to see this movie. Just a few more weeks.

Then the Tomorrowland segment.

Among other things, this is a movie I’ve been waiting for pretty much since I saw Pirates of The Caribbean. I always thought that a Space Mountain movie would be pretty cool. When it was announced that Brad Bird and Damon Lindeloff were in charge, I knew it was going to be special. I hadn’t really been keeping up with it news wise, mostly because there wasn’t a lot of news.

But we got a lot of news yesterday. And I’m here to tell you about it.

It’s based around the ideas that Walt Disney had as a futurist and classic adventure movie ideas which is cool.

We saw the teaser which made me both cry and gave me chills. I can’t even begin to describe it and I’m sure it’s been leaked by now but it was so cool.

Then we talked to the cast, including Hugh Laurie, who is obviously playing  villain, but also was super charming and sexy, and british and all that good stuff.

Wait? Did someone say charming and sexy? Did the actual physical embodiment of those traits show up at that panel.

Was I in the same room as GEORGE CLOONEY  or was it some kind of weird dream? No I was actually in that room. and it was pretty amazing. He was adorable, making jokes about being on his honeymoon, and how he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to be allowed at Comic Con anymore, and how he apologized to Adam West, and I’m sorry I have to share my actual notes from this aspect of the panel, it pretty much sums up how I felt the whole time.

Please forgive my serial killer handwriting!

Please forgive my serial killer handwriting!

It’s hard to explain how it feels to have one of your favorite movie stars about 100 feet away from you, smiling and joking and being perfect. There was lots of giggling involved and since I was by myself, a lot of trying to engage strangers on my abundant love for Dr. Doug Ross and Danny Ocean.

Then Aless and I came back to hotel, drank a lot of wine and cider and then we went to Dave and Busters and drank many margaritas, and now I have a lot of hangover. BUT we go back to Comic Con now! Again, go to twitter and facebook for real time updates and if you want to say hey!

In darkest night, you’ll smell what he’s cooking

Guess, what? It’s February, which means I’m not even violating my own arbitrary “only write about Man of Steel: Superhero Yahtzee once a month” by commenting on the latest rumor.

That rumor being that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, will be playing John Stewart in Man of Steel: Huh What?

The Rock

Aside from this just reaffirming my belief that this movie is going to be a little bit crowded, this is one that I can’t quite wrap my head around.

It’s not that I don’t love The Rock. Mr. Johnson is a staple around our home, as he was the champ around the time that my brother was very into wrestling. Also, my parents and brother saw his classic first SNL appearance and it was all over. What I’m saying is, I’m a big fan.

But I don’t understand. I have no concept of how he’ll work as John Stewart, mostly because of his size. He’s so much bigger than Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck and he’ll dwarf poor Gal Gadot and it’s not going to make any sense. It’s one thing to cast 6’2″ Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, because, well, I mean, it’s not like he was towering over James Marsden’s Cyclops. John Stewart can’t be that much more of a physical presence than Superman and Batman. It doesn’t make any sense!

But fine, I mean, fine, whatever, I give up. I don’t think I understand this movie. I NO LONGER SMELL WHAT YOU ARE COOKING ZACH SNYDER!

Also, there is a chance that this is all just a rumor. I kind of hope that it’s just a rumor.