Sorry To Bother You

Sorry-to-Bother-You-poster

The movie strikes one of my favorite balances: it’s weird and stylish without being avant-garde or impenetrable. It’s obviously a movie telling a story, there’s no question of “wait, did that happen ,” or “did I misunderstand the purpose of that scene,” there are little splashes of excitement and whimsy that separate it from a movie made by anyone other than Boots Riley. Scott Pilgrim and Dazed and Confused fill that same role for me, and they’re some of my all-time faves. A movie can score so many extra points from me just for trying. It can be a “bad movie” and still wedge itself into my heart (I’m lookin’ at you, Smokin’ Aces).

It draws a lot from Idiocracy, which is a hard comparison to avoid given Terry Crews’s similarly small role in both and the popularity of self-abuse game shows (though the timbre of this flick’s 150-million-viewer strong I Got The Shit Kicked Out of Me is a measure darker). I felt StBY was less cynical, though. Even with the folks happy to be slaves under Silicon-Valley endgame company Worryfree, Idiocracy opens with humanity already totally done for. And I always appreciate cynicism in the service of utopia rather than a bitter stew.

The bloody head-wound worsening until his third act redemption was on-the-nose, but Lakeith’s stagger throughout made him look weighed down. The world is always crushing him. And now I’m embarrassed that I didn’t register whether or not it persisted after that same redemption moment.

Armie Hammer did a pitch-perfect sneering Winklevii, so it stands to reason that he’d be the best fit for the sort of dictator tech-bro we see ascending to power around us every day. He’s won me over, big time, and I love comparing his maxed-out persona here with the snuggly big-brother-lover he played in Call Me By Your Name.

So simple that maybe you missed it but the popular soft drink is named Soda Cola. Made better for not rubbing it in the audience’s face (though it certainly rubs Cassius’s face). And along those lines, I am so embarrassed that it took me until the actual last reading of his name that “Cassius Green” = “Cash Is Green,” but there’s no WAY anyone else missed that.

And there was even more! Loved the costuming; psychedelic suits, bold ties, one-of-a-kind earrings. Extra flair like Mr. ____’s eyepatch seems a little try-hard when you focus on it, but who gives a shit? David Cross and Patton Oswalt were truly the best selections for white voice; I’ll follow Lily James into the dark after Baby Driver. So cool to see fellow NYU-er and inspired comedienne Kate Berlant show up (… Though now that I think about it, she vanishes halfway through, hm), along with cameos by Bay Area comics Kamau W. Bell and Nato Green. The Coup and tUnE-yArDs synthesize their boisterous joy for a soundtrack that had me swaying and tapping my toes every time a beat dropped. I’m going to be listening to “Level It Up” and “Hey Saturday Night” for the rest of the month, guaranteed. And let’s not forget, Patton starred in The Coup’s video for “The Magic Clap” back in 2012, which was, of course, from an album titled Sorry To Bother You.

Finally: I’ve spent some time lingering in Layover, the Oakland bar hosting several scenes. Just need to cap this on my cool, y’know?

  • “We Can’t Stop” is the best song on the album, followed by “Wrecking Ball.”
  • Though honorable mention goes to “Do My Thang” for its weird Gregorian chant chorus drop.
  • The attempt to appeal to everyone is what cuts it down. Notice that none of the song titles include the word “sex” or hint at the act even though thematically it’s all over the album. Then look at the screaming children still filling arenas for her.
  • In that same vein: pop albums can’t keep getting away with one overdubbed track that read as obvious grabs at the EDM crowd. I’m sick of that shit, because the songs are never good, because producers keep trying to hop on the boxcars of a train that long ago left the station and also derailed and only Pretty Lights and Bassnectar survived the fiery wreckage.
  • Miley can’t rap but it’s endearing as fuck to hear her swear.
  • She does have the sort of croon that could be really startling in some dark R&B production.
  • That thought, combined with the honest nigh-grossness of some of her lyrics (“drivin’ so fast I pissed on myself” in “4×4” and something about feeling like she’s going commando in “Love Money Party,” for example) makes me think that she could end up being our generation’s Mariah Carey.
  • (Not necessarily in vocal range or talent— I’m not good at gauging that— but in terms of filling a cultural void.)
  • Miley needs to collab with The Weeknd and actually try singing about sex rather than pretending at it.
  • Pretty sucky album tho

BACK-TO-BACK REVIEWS: Mike Piel tackles “Skyfall”

Here’s a guest post from my roommate and punch-provider, Mike Piel. He was really excited about Skyfall.

Audiences were spoiled by the humanity and accessibility of CASINO ROYALE, both of which are heartbreakingly absent in Sam Mendes’s muddled, overly-processed 23rd installment to the franchise.

SKYFALL’s opening benefits from Bond having a clear mission, and allows for one of the most effective moments of the film: Bond must get the missing hard drive from the bad guy. M orders Bond to leave a dying agent in order to continue the chase. Bond hesitates, and the audience thinks, does he, under that GQ scruff, have a heart after all? This could have been the film’s central dilemma, but the moment is forgotten, like many of the intriguing threads of the film.

The action sequences are unfocused, and jump spastically from set piece to set piece. Bond destroys half a city market and a train chasing down the bad guy. His quickest-time-between-two-points-is-a-straight-line efficiency has vanished. Remember CASINO’s simple open, Bond fist fighting a guy in a bathroom? The film moves between the hyper realistic and the absurd, hoping that somewhere in between a tone of believability is created. Instead, like the action sequences, it perpetually frustrates itself.

The main plot, that every undercover MI6 agent’s identity has leaked, is forgotten halfway through the film, and replaced with Javier Bardem’s monomaniacal plot to kill M. Bardem is convincing and terrifying, but overburdened with super villain eccentricities. A bizarre moment of tension occurs when Bardem attempts to seduce Bond, which is great, but never comes back. He removes a jaw plate, revealing his horrible deformities due to a cold decision made by M years earlier, which is great. But doesn’t come back.

Major plot points become reliant on CG techno babble. During a confusing scene in London’s underground, Q pleads with the audience: “This was his plan the whole time!”

The filmmakers are terrified they will lose their audience’s attention, and instead of building off earlier plot points, drag us along on an up and down, achingly linear path to… rural Scotland? Bardem and Craig have a good ol’ fashioned shoot out in Bond’s childhood home, allowing Craig to change into his Fall 2012 woodsman outfit. But whatever personal problems Craig and Bardem are working out up there, it seems inconsequential to the leaked identities of all those MI6 agents.

The film’s main theme is: Can Bond survive in the digital age? The answer is unfortunately, no, he can’t. While Bond is running, motorcycling, and getting older, people are dying.

BACK-TO-BACK REVIEWS: Brian JK Regan farts on “Skyfall”

I write this tumblr and I hate most things. Also image sizing is fucking up but whatever I’m in a hurry.

James Bond does a lot of running in Skyfall, but what is he really running from? Probably good running form. He’s all pumping arms and angles with his back straight. He’s a bobbing popsicle stick with a suit glued on. Now you will think this when you see the movie, and maybe you’ll giggle.

There’s a seductive shaving scene, and as Naomi Harris (as classic Bond-shaver Moneypenny) finishes up and gets kissy, there’s a big blob of cream on Bond’s chin. I don’t have a photo, but take my word for it. She just straight up misses a chunk of his beard. More giggles.

At one point Bond tells a victim of the child sex-trade (now a victim in the adult sex-trade) “I can tell when a woman is afraid of something and trying to hide it.” Can you, Bond? Lots of practice with that? Then he has sex with her.

This is Berenice Marlohe and she is so pretty that she made the SKY FALL (spoiler alert)

THE END

M.I.A., “Born Free” music video

I don’t really want to write about the song itself because it isn’t very interesting, but this video is obnoxious.

We all understand that people are persecuted for being different and that situations just like this have happened, will happen, and are happening world-wide. The problem is that people who don’t know that will probably never watch this video, or if they do, they’ll say to themselves “that was disturbing” and never think of it again. That said, when you use redheads as your analog, it cheapens the already weak message. Since redheads are already the butt of so many jokes, I can’t tell if this is supposed to be deathly serious or an incredibly black comedy. If you want to make a point, use the people actually living through this. If you want to be hilarious, don’t show a little kid getting shot in the head. This and Kick-Ass both, damn.

Also, why the hell wouldn’t the riot cops arrest the kids throwing rocks at the buses? They obviously have the capabilities and the lack of care toward the repressed.

In all, I guess I’m just disappointed it was so boring. Within two minutes the point was thrown in our face and then nothing changed in the remaining seven. The execution is for the most part, professional— but the concept should have been retooled from square one. If there’s one thing I take away from this video, it’s the very last shot of the riot cop showing faint confusion in the world around him. Maybe that’s supposed to be the payoff, but it is far from evident.

Kick-Ass

God, I wanted to like this movie so hard. At the outset, it had such a great take on the superhero genre, sort of an anti-Invincible story. It even offers a reasonable explanation for why a kid wouldn’t get beat to shit every time he tackled thugs! So, why, god why, did it collapse into a violent mishmash of cliches and spectacle?

It had so many chances for a resolution of “violence is never a hero’s answer” or “violence is okay in certain situations” or even “we don’t have a clear answer for violence,” but instead the resolution(?) was “this is how to kill people in boner-inspiring ways.” By the final scenes, several people had walked out of the theater.

I guess it was most bothersome that the film couldn’t decide whether it was a witty comedy/action movie or just a silly comedy to be taken at face value— Probably one of the best lines in the movie was incredibly self-referential (“man, that was one strange sounding bazooka!”) but I can’t possibly like it when it completely threw off the tone of the film.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Maybe I’m just a crotchety old man.

Avatar

As soon as the credits rolled on Avatar, I exhaled deeply, turned to my roommate sitting next to me, and buried my head in his chest. The simple reason for this is that the film filled me with such love for the world; so I somehow found love for Ellery, where many once thought it an impossible dream.

Ebert, in his review, wrote that walking out of Avatar he felt similar to when he first saw Star Wars, and I think I understand part of the comparison: In both films, the writer/director created a universe from nothing. A mythology, a history, an ecology- all of these things are fully fleshed out and examined through the course of the movie. We understand that the planet of Pandora is home to a humanoid race, the Na’vi, with extensive connections to nature and rituals that show those connections. They have knowledge of the animals, the plants, their own history and more… And all of these were formed from the thoughts of James Cameron. That sort of foresight and creativity is inspiring.

Also worth noting is the remarkable job done by the animators. Never once did I think to myself that the computer-generated characters seemed fake or awkward. I cared just as much about them as I did the human characters, and that says something about the power of the medium and the capabilities of the animation.

As someone who felt sick at the violence-heavy Ninja Assassin, (and even was a little disturbed by the robot vs. robot violence of Transformers 2,) Avatar has an epic war scene at the end of the film that kept me completely invested in the good side winning, regardless of what sort of acts of violence needed to be committed. That said, Cameron does an excellent job of making sure it is never gratuitous and is completely justified- and as minimized as possible.

While the advertisements are pumping this as a movie entirely about war, the true (and rather simple messages) of the film are those of love and environmentalism: a Romeo and Juliet story wrapped up in a Princess Mononoke fight for existence. While it may seem trivial to have such aims, I’d rather see a general take on the ideas than be beaten over the head with any message. It would have been horrible if the environmentalist angle was first and foremost at all times, no matter how much I appreciate and believe in the cause. Cameron knows this is a blockbuster, and so we are coming to see a blockbuster.

It’s a shame that a lot of the dialogue is so forgettable, and some have postulated that this was done to keep the general public invested in the movie. I think that’s a weak reason, and if it is the case, shouldn’t we be actively trying to force the everyone away from the Transformers 2 style of writing instead of slightly pandering to it? The acting does completely overshadow the writing though, and saves the connections and relationships between the characters. Besides, it’s really hard to focus on the dialogue when you’re being assaulted by such beauty at every turn.

Avatar is a fantastic film; the first blockbuster in memory I have spent full price on and not walked out feeling like I got ripped off. Or that I subjected myself to my soul being shattered. (Again, we can thank Transformers 2 for that one.) My one pervading sad feeling about this experience is that sequels are in the talks. This is a complete story. Let it stand alone as a testament to the art.