New York Doll- Arthur “Killer” Kane is featured in this short documentary about seminal 1970s rock group the New York Dolls. Kane, a recovering alcoholic and recently converted Mormon, reenters the fray of his former life to play a reunion gig. Kane has a very unique way of speaking and all the rock and roll antics aside he’s kind of fun to watch and listen to where aging rockers typically aren’t. Lead singer Johansen illustrates this perfectly before the show as he moves around chaotically, talking smack and lighting cigarettes while Arthur stays still, listening, and composed.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
The Big Sick- After Kingsman: The Giant Golden Disappointment I needed a movie in the win column. I knew this had gotten some buzz last year so I had high hopes and was not disappointed. Everything about this felt fresh and clever despite having tones similar to Punchline and Terms of Endearment. Ray Romano’s deadpan delivery mixed with his mounting frustrations makes for great conversations with Nanjani and Hunter who is also remarkable. I flat out love this movie especially the middle finger it unintentionally aims at other rom-coms and says you don’t have to follow the rules. You don’t have to accept tradition and models in film because breaking those two molds allows you to create something innovative and hilarious.
The Hippopotamus- I don’t know if it was what Stephen Fry’s novel intended or actor Roger Allam was going for, but the main character reminded me of Christopher Hitchens throughout. From the drinking to the sharp and cutting one-liners it was hard not to see the resemblance and that was about the only thing worth seeing. The remaining narrative is a mixture of detective story, flashbacks and possible miracles. It’s worth watching to see a destructive man trying to verbally destroy others but the story doesn’t give as much as it promises.
Jimi: All is by My Side- While focusing on Hendrix’s time in London during the 1960s, Jimi wavers back and forth from soul searching existentialism of the mythic guitar player to Ike Turner level abuse he could dole out. Despite the age gap, Andre Benjamin is spot on as Hendrix and his normal cadence with an underpinning anger has his voice hitting all the right conversational notes. The problem with biopics is there is formula of information that works well so movies like Ray or Shine leave you with little to wonder about. Jimi, like last year’s underrated Miles Ahead focuses on a moment in time for an artist and tries to parse out how they will escape even though we know the outcome. There will one day be a fully fleshed Hendrix biopic. It will be glossy and inaccurate but you will feel you know him as opposed to this movie. Worth watching if you’d like to know more about Hendrix’s transition from unknown to world renown.
Greenberg- One of my favorite movies, The Life Aquatic, has a sister film to it called The Squid and the Whale. The tone also has hints of The Royal Tenenbaums so one can see where the writer/director of Greenberg, Noah Baumbach, gets his inspiration. Though they collaborate often, Baumbach follows a more traditional style of directing opting less for style than dialogical content. While most his stories are rooted in east coast city life, in Greenberg he opts for California and the transition feels uncomfortable. This may not be entirely on accident though as the titular character is recent transplant from New York and most things LA seem strange or awkward to him. This is not a favorite Baumbach movie of mine, but Greta Gerwig is in it and that will usually make something average into excellent. A strong supporting cast also helps but it meanders as it follows a main character no one can (or should) sympathize with.
Bottom of the World- Sometimes when you encounter an actor in a movie you love or hold dear, they might always have that special place in your heart. I saw a young Jena Malone in Donnie Darko and she has stuck with me based largely on the impact that movie had rather than her performance. I gave Bottom a shot based on her presence and it’s mystique but it just failed. Here too there are time travels and paradoxes and Lynchian identity swaps and it all adds up to an unsatisfying desert mystery that can’t convince you to give a shit.
One Good Thing: Ted Levine, doing his best.
Watch Instead: Donnie Darko. Lost Highway because it’s Lynch but I can’t guarantee you’ll be any happier.
Meadowland- When I was in the Middle East we used to buy DVDs from the market for cheap and because they were knock offs the cover was always something different than the official. Say it was Spiderman and the cover might be Tobey McGuire but from Seabiscuit. Netflix tiles remind me of that sometimes. They want you to see the movie so they’re going to put what’s most attractive to you out there. This movie is about parents Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson coping in somewhat positive but mostly destructive ways after the disappearance of their young son. But Netflix would have you believe it stars Elizabeth Moss who is in it for 5 minutes maybe. The movie is fine and well done so I’ll get that out of the way but before Handmaiden’s Tale came out this had a different tile with Wilson. Don’t lie to me about Moss, Netflix, I take her very seriously.
Bullitt- There’s something just not right about Steve McQueen. He’s cool but not in a swagger way. He’s tough but not in a macho way, smart but not in a nerdy way. He seems to be all things without being any of those things. Bullit is a great off-beat sort of detective story that is a little unwieldy with the plot and casting (why do so many characters look the same?) but it’s fun. There’s a classic car chase through San Francisco that I was initially impressed by but I recently watched Smokey and the Bandit so I am now less so. Good, but not Trans-Am Fire Bird good. Some car guy is probably screaming at me right now.
The 13th – In case you’ve been living under a rock or are just delusional, African-Americans are disproportionately arrested and imprisoned in American and this documentary is for you. You can learn all about how the freeing of the slaves was slightly less than symbolic as powers that be tend to not relinquish said powers often. You can learn about the systemic racial bias, arresting, and targeting of a single race that’s been going on ever since the day they were “freed”. If you do already know these things, then the 13th is a solid refresher course thoroughly researched with excellent interviews and visual aids. ‘Visual aids’ sounds trite but as a media artist I notice these things and especially notice when they are bad. Whether you’re black or white we can all agree that you will feel horrible at the end of this but hopefully the folks who were unaware learn something. My guess is no.