An Ode to Chiron

Restless sleep, gnashing teeth
What-ifs grow into a kingdom of hope
But when tomorrow comes they'll still be there
And so will I, shield always up
Still unable to cope

Ten years gone by, never letting go
That look, that touch, only he only I
Seconds in after picking up the call
His voice, an overdue reward
For never saying goodbye

Small Doses

Denis Leary has this music video that played in moderate rotation on Much Music in the early to mid '90s called "Asshole." It was a complete gag, but it sounded and looked its vintage, which lent it a certain authenticity to a kid just entering his teens. To my young eyes it seemed just about the grittiest, most crass (and thusly interesting) thing I'd seen at that point in my life, and I remember it being one of those things that I'd watch with remote control queued up in case I heard the crack of footsteps in close proximity so no one would catch me watching such a thing. In 1997 Leary released his Lock 'n Load stand-up album, and it was somewhere between then and 1998 that I picked it up, along with No Cure for Cancer, which was the original vehicle for "Asshole." I would usually fast forward through the song to get to the comedy, which hasn't aged particularly well, though I still find myself thinking from time to time about one spot where—in between spurts of seizuristic cigarette huffing—Leary planted a seed that continues to sprout seasonally in my mind. "Happiness comes in small doses, folks. It's a cigarette butt, or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm. You come, you smoke the butt you eat the cookie you go to sleep wake up and go back to fucking work the next morning, that's it! End of fucking list!" It's a wonder I made it out of my teens alive... The concept's value ebbs and flows with me, but today it returned and it made sense. My brain is constantly on a hunt for The Answer, as if it's even possible for any answer to deliver the satisfaction of a long-lasting cookie or an endless drag from a smoke. And if a cookie or an orgasm won't do, the modus operandi has been to keep going until I feel something. Maybe it's in that space where feeling different becomes confused with feeling better. More is better has been a subconscious mission statement for so long that it struck me as epiphanic when a video I watched this week challenged the idea of binging on food by asking whether or not I'm even enjoying any of it. How much of it is for genuine "mouth pleasure" and how much of it is just mindless habitual self-soothing, seeking something "different" which has become a stand-in for something pleasurable? It's hardly a stretch from there to wondering which actions are in pursuit of what I'm lead to believe "happiness" is, and which actions are actually in pursuit of the things that make me happy? The small doses seem to matter most.

Somewhere in Paris

I don’t know much about other people’s trauma, or upper case Trauma, but I’m learning, and I’ve got my own life I’ve lived experiences… Traumas and traumas. I’m starting to learn about the difference between re-living and healing though.

Cracking open the chest plate for a deeper examination isn’t where the change seems to happen. Revealing that there is hurt isn’t how to stop the pain. Re-living those events—as warped, distorted, and amplified as they might have become after years of self-imposed chest cracking—only gets us so far. Eventually the pins need to set, the scabs need to form, heal, and the stitches removed. Sometimes this happens with the help of others, sometimes not.

There, acceptance is supposed to be the reward, even if what remains seems unacceptable. Sometimes this is healing. Sometimes this is peace.

Hope for Ghosts

In love with a ghost
Ideas mostly
Like, what could have been
If only everything was different
Including us.

To feel that close to you
To touch skin
To feel you pull away
To sense hesitation
To see careful restraint in your eyes
To hear the distance in your voice
Reminding myself it's only just a dream
Doesn't make it hurt any less.

There's no way to know
Who you really are now
Pictures are real
And a few moments together
Spread over years
But mostly nothing
Mostly my imagination
Mostly hope that ghosts exist
That they'll continue to haunt
Because some days it feels like
Without them there
Really might be nothing.

I Don't Believe You


The night was nearly over by the time she joined the band on stage, but something opened up within me as Tristen encouraged the audience's participation. With a gentle bob to her knees she stared into the crowd and crooned, "I don't believe you, I don't believe you." It's just a song, but it's hardly rare for music to embody something greater. Gratitude for being there, regret, maybe, and for the whole ride home frustration with myself that I hadn't been writing lyrics of my own for the past ten years. Maybe regret that I hadn't treated myself better, too. Where did this decade go?

Two or three songs in Paul tapped my elbow, and I turned around to be met with his eyes, which said everything. William is a genius. And to be part of what took place on stage tonight is to be in the presence something memorable. Yet I was continually back and forth between the present and the past, absorbed in the moment and awash with memories. Still in college I remember the exact table I was at in my school's library, sending predictable questions by email to one singer's publicist who forwarded them to her. When I published the interview using her middle name I was reprimanded and had to quickly edit it out. I don't remember what I thought it would add other than I saw it on Wikipedia and felt like it made the blog post seem more legitimate, so I rolled with it. Ten or eleven questions for another singer via email when I first moved to town. Herself a recent transplant, I thought deep-diving into facts about her and her music might seem endearing... Being a self-absorbed drunkard at the time, I thought maybe she would follow up the interview with a request to meet. I saw her waiting tables at The Stone Fox a couple years later. I've always wanted to tell her how beautiful I think she is, but that's an inappropriate thing for a stranger to tell someone, let alone someone who isn't single. A few questions for him via another email. I didn't know his music then, he was just someone who crossed my path via a solicitation for press from a record label. She—another of tonight's performers—I can recall tweeting with. About what? The Sandlot. Damn near a decade ago, and I remember that for some reason. I had dinner with her mom once, as part of a larger group I got wrapped into after a performance for Swedish TV at the Bluebird. My place within the party was uncertain—if anything I was probably just there to help make it appear as though another of the performers had people working for her even though we were paying our own way. This city's streets are paved in the allure of a payoff. And him, I feel guilt every time I see him because I publicly pirated a couple songs from his label eight or nine years ago. He politely asked me to take them down from my blog, which was incredibly kind considering I had never asked for permission to post the music in the first place. All of this being held onto as if it means something, anything. Awash... As the night wore on, however, there was relief. I closed my eyes to just listen. I never realized how just jealous I've been. How I've wanted to be a part of all this, but never allowed myself to feel like I was. Or that I could be. Drinking played its role, but so did blatant self-deception. "IIIII don't believe you."

As the show ended, the increasingly faint scent of incense wafted through the air. Earlier, someone said Alison Mosshart was standing next to us but I only ever caught the back of her head. I was there, too. For a change it felt like that was actually true.

Rejected

“I don’t quite understand where you’re going with all this, but I can tell you I don’t exactly have the patience for it right now,” she said, pushing the cocktail napkin back to him. “Maybe I’m getting the word wrong? I-idiom? It’s an idiom. W-what I’m trying to say is I think people like us think we’re special, but also like w-we’re not worthy of special attention.” Picking the napkin back up, the words smacked from his lips, “‘Y-you have to treat me special for me to feel average. A-and if you treat me average, I feel rejected.’ Get it?” She let out a deep sigh, trying to use the momentary pause to alert him that sitting in public with a drink at 3:34 in the afternoon is never as much of an invitation for random men to talk at her as they usually seem to think it is.

“What was your name again? Greg? Greg, I don’t think you’re listening to me when I tell you that I don’t want to talk right now. It’s not about you. It’s not about anything you’ve done. I just want to sit here and try to not think about the day I’ve just had without the constant babbling of another human being trying to insert themselves into a moment of my life that I haven’t welcomed them into. You sat down here—what—twenty, thirty minutes ago, and not once have I asked you a question. Greg, I don’t care who you think I am. I don’t think approaching a stranger with this bullshit is cute or heroic or whateverthehell you think it is. I don’t care about the message you’re trying to give me about the type of person you think I am; excuse me, the type of people you think we are.”

Gary sat quietly with his napkin, nervously working it into a tight ball in the middle of his palm. “And because you don't seem to understand that I’m not interested, you’re forcing to me to leave just so that I don’t have to be bothered by a stranger anymore.” Claire stood up, leaving her drink untouched as she walked to the bartender’s station to retrieve her credit card. “R-rejected again.”

The Rearview Mirror


While it's not something I've done much of the last few years, taking photos has been a big part of the past decade and a half for me. With 2020 fast approaching, I used the last 50 days to post 50 photos from the last 15 years on Instagram. I couldn't tell you what I hoped to gain from the process when I began—if anything, my mind was probably geared toward a little emotional molting—but completing the project has inspired some thoughts this morning about losing sight on what's directly in front of me that I'd like to share.

I don't quite have a handle on where I'm at with it all, but the deeper I went into the memories over the past several weeks, the more I got caught up in detours. In selecting the pictures I found myself judging their aesthetics, thinking about how they might be received by others, and curious about whether the stories that the photos represent to me genuinely tell the story of what my life has been like. In reflection, it feels like subconsciously weaponizing snapshots from the past to harvest social dividends in the here and now. This must be why they say 'If you have to go up into your own head, don't go alone,' as you can see what kind of mental webs I'm prone to getting caught in.

I hope 2020 will be a good year. It's got a lot of potential—the way I'm lookin' at it—though much of that contingent on letting go of what once was, and being present right here, right now. As easy as it is to look back and toy around with nostalgia, this little project has shown me how much of a trap doing so can be. It might be true that to know where you're going you've got to know where you've been, but it's also true that to keep moving forward the mind can't remain forever focused on the past lives that lurk in the rearview mirror.

The Lost Weekend [1945]

Toward the end, Don is fighting himself as much as his addiction; maybe more so. There is desire that had grown rigid with inertia to not allow himself the victory that comes with recognition of hope that there is—or merely could be—something for him beyond eternal misery. Helen leans into him with her words, the typewriter re-appears, Don lights his smoke and saunters to the half-filled glass that he had turned away moments before. Then, he seems not to extinguish his cigarette so much as bear host for an action that had long before put itself in motion. For the moment or for the rest of his life, it doesn't matter: That was the end. Half slumping on his bed in both victory and defeat, Don's mind quickly seems to reel from painting him as the lowest man on Earth to the most hopeful who might ever have ever existed. While allusion to the silent screams for help of countless others is how Don paints us out of his story, this is the same scene that is replayed every minute of every hour across the entire world. Despair defeated by hope, one action at a time.

Eaten Alive [1976]

Eaten Alive is a raw and violent romp in the swamp, but it fails to stick its landing the same way The Texas Chain Saw Massacre does. (While it's never been my favorite, Chain Saw did a lot of things right.) I showed up thinking it would be a gator flick and instead it's about a bunch of rapists in the bayou... Seeing as this is the fourth of his films I can remember watching, it might be time to conclude that I'm just not a Tobe Hooper guy.

Bride of Re-Animator [1989]

Every bit as playful, silly, and grotesque as the original. With another watch or two, the Re-Animator series will have probably ousted the Evil Dead movies from the space they've held in my heart since I was a teenager.

Carrie [1976]

This year there've been more than a few noteworthy additions to the list of "classic" horror films I've checked off my "to watch" list: Night of the Living Dead, Black Christmas, Rosemary's Baby, Phantasm, Suspiria... the list doesn't stop there. Despite my general lack of disinterest in Stephen King adaptations, Carrie contends for my favorite among the bunch.

American Mary [2012]

This is more of a body modification drama than anything, though it is certainly one which dabbles in horror along the way. That aside, I was a little turned off by the lack of plot of and suspense, which left it feeling like it dragged on a bit too long for its own good. American Mary peaks with its surgical scenes, which are really well done, though I still feel a stronger affinity toward Excision, in terms of similarly-themed movies I've watched in the last several months.

Maniac [1980]

Maniac straddles a line between slasher and exploitation for the entirety of its screen time. Set within the grimy cityscape of ‘70s New York, it bears thematic relation to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, though it also possesses a uniquely different space, serving less as a voyeuristic guide to psychopathic mayhem, instead twisting more into the absurd delusions of the killer’s mind as the movie progresses. Crudely shot and thoroughly raw throughout, there are still standout scenes including the shotgun murder (whoa!), but while the whole of the film is meant to find validation in its finale, the realistic element of misogyny that is woven throughout leaves the whole thing feeling repulsive.

Running with Scissors [2006]

Had to watch this for a group project for an ethics class I'm taking. A few weeks ago I was reprimanded by the professor of this course for using the phrase "had her ass kicked" in a sentence. She told me to watch my language, because "ass," I guess. This movie was one of the recommendations that same professor gave us to choose from. It repeatedly features the word "cunt." What an asshole. (Also, how much of a shit show is this script that Annette Bening acting her derriere off and Gwenyth in cornrows can't save it from vomiting all over itself?)

Hobgoblins [1988]

Appetizing as watching one of the lowest rated horror films on Letterboxd might be, it turns out I didn't have the stomach for Hobgoblins, after all, and chose to watch the MST3K version instead. That did nothing to help matters. I'm not one to gloss over how poorly executed something like Troll 2 is, but at least there was a vague sense of heart to that movie. Even watching this through a lens of irony, there was nothing here for me.

The Gingerdead Man [2005]

In service of landing the Gingerdead Man anything remotely resembling a proud legacy, the staff in charge of its production would have been well served to install absurd Gary Busey-inspired horse teeth in the cookie killer's mouth. Instead, the half-baked villain is barely recognizable as the character we see on the film's advertising, compounded further by an underwhelming cast (featuring actors such as "That one lady who looks kind of like Alyssa Milano when you're squinting" and "John Cena and Ryan Lochte's eye-brow pierced love child") in a movie that only registers as a feature film due to its incredibly drawn out opening credits.

Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust [2008]

I can overlook the gingerbread-inspired spoof of Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" used as the opening and closing theme for the movie. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't guffaw at some of Gingerdead Man 2's quippy one-liners ("You're making my loaf rise"). But I could do nothing but shake my head shame when the Gingerdead Man was adorned with a crown of thorns and crucified on a miniature cross by an animatronic dildo. Even the most dedicated horror fans have their breaking point.

Critters [1986]

I remember back to video stores, growing up. The VHS box: Insanity. A potential apex of all that is and ever could be "horror." Critters. There it stands. Stout, grimacing, terrifying... the Critter. Fast forward several decades and I come to find that the eponymously-named monsters are just rascally foul-mouthed tumbleweed fur balls. I can only imagine how much I would have loved this had I seen it as a teen.

Night of the Living Dead [1968]

The second time through with Night of the Living Dead and the gap between appreciation and enjoyment widens. In his write up for the Criterion Collection's release of the groundbreaking film, Stuart Klawans embraces it as a microcosm of its time, enhanced by the sociopolitical environment that surrounded its themes, creation, and release. In this, I can appreciate it. The chilling final stills are made that much more alarming by the realities of late-'60s America. But in stepping outside of the shadow of its cultural importance, Night of the Living Dead doesn't strike me in any particular way—neither dramatic, horrific, or entertaining.

The House of the Devil [2009]

Writing for The AV Club, Scott Tobias sums up the feel of The House of the Devil as well as any line I've read on the film: "[Director Ti] West evokes ’80s horror while making a movie that’s infinitely more skillful than the ones he’s referencing." Beyond aesthetics, the tug between human and supernatural is what sticks out most to me now compared to the first viewing. The start of the film acts as a primer, illuminating nationwide hysterics surrounding the threat of supernatural cults, while the closing scenes draw no conclusions surrounding the validity of threat. The Devil is only as real as we make him.

Kidnapped [2010]

"Rough but solid," is how this film was explained to me, and it turns out that's about the simplest way of summarizing Kidnapped. On the good side of things, the film is visually appealing and makes great use of split screens to tie co-occurring scenes together. Its darkness sets a tone from which the action follows, and from that standpoint, Kidnapped is an effective entry into the home invasion sub-genre.

The main issue I take with the film is also its key selling point. Kidnapped peaks with scenes of ultra-brutal violence which merit the "rough" comment (compared to maybe Them or the Last House on the Left remake—both of which I actually appreciated more). Surrounding the violence, however, is zero suspense and a dearth of character development, such that the pending danger that the characters do find themselves in fails to register as remotely emotional. Because of that, the whole thing feels unsatisfying and empty: It's just well shot shock.

The Alligator People [1959]

Where to start? The Alligator People is about as strange (and enjoyable) to watch as it is to explain. There’s this couple, and they’re in love, but then the dude runs away. Then, as one might expect, the lady begins to track him down. Unable to find him, she eventually follows a lead to this Louisiana plantation which, it turns out, is largely kept up by this drunken vengeful caretaker who has a hook, 'cause a damn alligator bit his hand off (this guy later tries to rape her in a real 1959-but-sadly-also-still-relevant-you owe me this as a man, kinda way). It turns out that this plantation bears a hidden laboratory where experiments involving man and beast alike are conducted under a veil of swampy secrecy. Radioactive gamma rays… fake rubber gator suits… and the whole thing portrayed within the context of a dramatic retelling while our heroine is in the depths of a psychiatrist's hypnotherapy session... this movie has it all.

Cat People [1942]

Particularly for its age, Cat People is a better film than I'm able to give it credit for. A noir-leaning drama (practically non-related to horror despite the genre tag), I take zero issue with the production, nor the acting... but it is just so damned boring. At barely over an hour it felt like a film twice its length.

Vamp [1986]

Grace Jones’ initial strip scene in <em>Vamp</em> is phenomenal, reminding me of Klaus Nomi (of all people). (Actually, any time she was on screen the movie was better for it.) Beyond Jones—and while I've never been much for the portrayal of strippers on film—Vamp might have actually peaked with its creative, dark, sexy costumes and dances. Beyond that, the humor was off the mark and the horror itself was tame.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror [2019]

I appreciated how Horror Noire relied on such a wide scope in its look back into cinema's history, skillfully pacing the gradual evolution of the subject matter to build its story. That said, it did feel like a hard sell to essentially conclude that the entire "history of black horror" was all leading up to Get Out... And now that it has been released, things will forever be changed. Not to downplay the film's importance, but I'd be much more interested in Horror Noire's point if it were produced a decade from now. At that time we might be able to look back on it with some distance and recognize what continued impact the film has had on the horror genre, or maybe even cinema as a whole.

The Fly [1986]

If it weren’t for the (unintentional?) humor of Jeff Goldblum’s descent into madness, The Fly might rest as my favorite Cronenberg (it really is hard to top Videodrome, isn't it?). Instead, I might rank The Fly alongside the likes of The Thing, which I also only ever watched for the first time this past year. Both hold a key place in horror’s history and both are heralded as classics (no argument here), yet both just seemed to be missing something for me. The body horror (Brundlefly’s fingernails ripping off or the broken bone arm wrestling match are both memorable examples) is entertaining, but as a whole this was more aligned with a classic monster movie than something truly gruesome (the ending felt lackluster in large part because of that). And Gina Davis was cool, but her character didn’t really appeal to me; nor did the ongoing sexual jealousy and weirdness with her boss. By the end, why was that creep still around, let alone so influential in the film’s finale? And—you know what—while I’m on the subject, why was the journalistic integrity of Davis’ character never brought into question, nor the objectivity of her work, nor her non-existent professional boundaries? And while I’m at it, seeing how successful Particle magazine was (really?... Particle magazine?!) left me feeling like it was only ever a matter of time before commercial media began to collapse under the weight of its own bloat. I'd better stop before this gets out of control. In a nutshell: The Fly was good.

Ladyworld [2018]

While neither a traditional horror film, nor categorized as such on this site, Ladyworld is without question given the horror treatment in its trailer... to its detriment. I don’t know whether or not this should be applauded, but Kate and I both agreed the best parts of the film were its opening and closing credits. (The opening credits, by the way, lean into the horror vibe about as well as any as I can remember seeing.) Beyond that, the film plays out as an overly self-important pseudo-Lord of the Flies end of days saga as performed by a community theater/improv troop. Throughout the entire film I kept thinking back to this one scene from UHF where Weird Al spoofs Close Encounters of the Third Kind by sculpting a plate of mashed potatoes, adding “This means something. This is important.” Only here Weird Al is the entire cast and there's no joke being made.

Better Watch Out [2016]

It took me a few minutes before I placed actor Ed Oxenbould. I knew I'd seem him somewhere, but I had a lingering sense that wherever that was... he'd annoyed the ever-loving piss out of me. Turns out, he's the little rapper from The Visit. (Interestingly enough, Olivia DeJonge—the "final girl" of Better Watch Out—is also in The Visit, but I didn't recognize her at all from it.) Worth noting: I hated Ed's character in that movie. Also worth noting: Once I recognized him, I couldn't help become the thing I hate most, rhyming my way through exposition during low points in the movie.

Scanning through some reviews here, the over-the-top (or tragically realistic?) male entitlement and white upper middle class good kid from a "good family" villainy obviously soured a lot of viewers, but I thought Levi Miller did well with the lunatic character of Luke. Lord knows I wanted to suffocate the little scamp by about four minutes into the flick, long before he even made his "turn." I liked the spin on the home invasion idea and the movie made no bones about its Home Alone influence, though I think Kate and I both preferred the idea of Luke getting away with everything in the end. Instead—even with the teaser following the final scene—it felt like, "Not this time, ya lil' scamp!" Moral of the story here, I suppose, is: Scamps gonna scamp.

Savageland [2017]

Rarely have I seen a found footage horror film as thematically interesting as Savageland. Maybe I just haven't been exposed to enough of these movies, but the pressing criticism of the film here on LB revolves around the plot's focus on anti-immigration as the basis for the handling of the conflict. I thought this was a refreshing way to approach the subject and utilizing still photography as a means of pushing the narrative along was also inventive (again, this could have all been done before... if it has, let me know because I'd like to check it out!). Speaking of those photos, they were genuinely creepy. I wish the film had stuck to its guns without a shaky cam reveal toward the end, but even the finale worked for me given how it was built up.

The Stuff [1985]

There's a scene near the end of the movie where Michael Moriarty shouts at this old dude, "Eat it!" I went back on that thing a few times, cracking up more and more with each rewind because of how focused he was on not moving his lips when barking the demand. Sure, the whole thing reeks of sociopolitical allusion, though it's rendered inconsequential because of how consistently fun (and funny) it is... And in the end it doesn't really add much to force meaning into what is otherwise just a wildly nonsensical story. One of the best terrible movies I can recall seeing in the past couple years.

25th Hour [2002]

There's a scene in this film where Edward Norton's character Monty Brogan rants and raves, clearing his conscious of racial and religious resentments he'd been harboring deep inside before decrying his father and Christ himself. It's been at least a decade since I've watched 25th Hour but I remember little to nothing of it, let alone how I felt watching scenes like this one. I'd be curious to know what I thought last time when Philip Seymour Hoffman's awkward professor character drunkenly kisses his underage student. What might have my reaction been to his friend scornfully shooting back at him, "Who are you trying to be, R. Kelly?" Is that line funny or tragic? There are plenty of moments in the film that don't directly impact the conclusion, though they certainly do thicken the roux. Now almost two decades removed from its release, how much of Spike Lee's 2001 New York City still exists? How much of this is still America? These moments, their weight. Then we close with Monty's face swollen as he rides to pay his due, only to be greeted by the warmth of onlookers and a moment of silent connection with a child in the vehicle next to him. What might Monty have been feeling there? Twenty years later, would he remember what he felt? Maybe how he might have grown since then? Or does any of that even matter?

Freddy Got Fingered [2001]

I'm thinking of the films of Luis Buñuel's I've seen this year. The satire is so thoroughly ripe in them that upon first inspection the execution appears an inversion of their intent. In Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie we see ludicrous individuals actively participating in absurd situations without even the slightest of winks to the camera throughout. Hold that thought...

Today I read this web comic which concluded, "When people talk about their 'unpopular opinions' about movies, they usually mean hating something everyone likes, but liking something everyone hates is much harder." True. Coincidentally, today I also watched Freddy Got Fingered with Tom Green's audio commentary track on. For the uninitiated, the majority of Letterboxd users rate this movie 1/2 star out of 5. The most popular 1/2 review calls the movie "the filmic equivalent of sucking on a tailpipe with the engine running." Watching this was a choice I made on purpose because I like this movie.

I'm not trying to compare Tom Green to Luis Buñuel. That would be ridiculous. But the reason I want to bring them up side by side is because of how similar an effect both continue to have on me.

I didn't "get" The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie when I watched it, and it was only after viewing Exterminating Angel and reading up on it from those far sharper than myself that the vision for the films began to coalesce. In a nutshell they're taking the piss out of the "elite" classes. I like that. And damned if I'm not interested in returning to both with slightly-more-informed eyes the second time around.

Tom Green is a little different. My experience with him began growing up in Canada, watching as he shifted his local Ottawa cable access show to a national late night spot on The Comedy Network, before that catapulted him to a position on MTV as one of the early forefathers of jackass television. Around that time I was in junior high, then high school, so my level of appreciation was that of a junior high or high schooler. But when Freddy Got Fingered was released I vaguely remember watching some of it before turning it off. It just wasn't funny anymore. Humping dead animals as a shtick had wore thin, but I never stopped to consider that there was anything more to Green's antics than a cheap stab at continued attention. In reality, at some point in time he shifted from using tasteless gross-out humor merely as shtick and transitioned into using it to satirize what he himself had come to represent.

And sure, that's debatable (how you distinguish one from the other is a great question), but Freddy Got Fingered is also a $14 million studio film named after a throw-away line about a child diddler that has nothing to do with its plot, which revolves around how an outwardly oblivious man-child hits commercial pay-dirtwith his art only to squander his financial opportunity via a series of absurd stunts. Maybe Tom Green was always just jerking off horses and swinging babies around a delivery room by their umbilical cords for "shock," or maybe he was taking things as far as he could feasibly get away with as a signal mocking how someone who found fame with a song about putting their bum on people's lips could even land themselves in a position to create such a thing on the back of a corporate investment? Commenting on the tired and predictable nature of played-out romantic tropes by crudely forcing a compulsory love story into an already thematically distended plot does much the same with its aim set on a slightly different target.

Again, interpretation might be debatable, until somewhere near the end of the commentary track where—between rambling about choking on a plastic straw during the recording and plodding on and on about unrelated non sequiturs—Green adds to the tail end of a rant about emotional issues that his doing so is (to paraphrase) "probably something I should sort out on my own rather than on a DVD that's going to be distributed internationally." "Am I an idiot," he adds, "don't I understand how it works?"

There are parts of the movie that are exhausting and there are parts of the movie that make me laugh out loud, but delivery aside I appreciate the intent behind it... even if the general consensus is that on the whole the movie is absolute dumpster juice. How's that for an unpopular opinion?

Horror Express [1972]

My hunch is that Telly Savalas was only on set for a brief period of time because his character's exposure is focused into a select few scene, with one in particular standing out above everything else in the movie. Amid the unfolding terror on the train, Savalas' Capt. Kazan comes out to the shaken mob, gargles his drink before downing the alcohol and needlessly condemning the passengers as peasants (it wouldn't surprise me one bit if this was all improvised). Then, following threat of a curse from Alberto de Mendoza's Rasputin-like character Father Pujardov, Kazan wryly kisses Pujardov's aggressively brandished cross and proceeds to whip the shit out of him in front of the crowd of stunned onlookers. It's not like this doesn't play into the plot at all, but also, it was so unlike just about everything else in the entire movie that the scene stands as something of an absurd oddity. A beautiful, magnificent, wonderful absurd oddity.

Salem’s Lot [1979]

At three hours long, this made-for-TV adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name doesn't do a single thing for me. In fact, we gave up watching it twice before I stubbornly turned it back on in an attempt to get to the bottom of what others seem to take away from it. I'd like to think I can at least understand where Tobe Hooper stans are coming from, but I can't make sense of the love for Salem's Lot.

Angst [1983]

In clumsier hands this could have been a forgettable Austrian lead-up to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but there is so much here that separates it from the cinematic glimpses into psychopathic behavior that followed. The camera work is wonderful, for example, using snorricam shots to complement moments of the main character (or victims) feeling claustrophobic with fear, or scenes taking in a view from high above with a crane shot to speak to the experience of freedom following a spree of violence. This film's visual fingerprints are all over Irreversible, though in that film Gaspar Noé failed to communicate violent impulse with the same sense of articulate intent as that which we see here with Angst.

Lake Mungo [2008]

I feel like I've seen Lake Mungo before, but my memories are only faint. They could also be false—just a feeling of having seen this, the film a mosaic of ideas that have worked their way through countless other films that maintain some connection to the realm of found footage. Having just recently watched Ghostwatch for the first time, its influence seems recognizable with misdirection often used to bait and redirect focus amid glimpses of what might or might not be paranormal activity. The story here is what plays out as most impressive though, as it plays with the expectation of horror by leaving its subjects and their circumstances extremely human, offering wrinkles that sometimes obscure what might have actually happened as much as they might reveal.

I Killed My Mother [2009]

This is so hard to view as its own piece, having seen Mommy first: The tone and tension of both films are so similar, as are the featured faces (Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément, at least). I appreciate each, but in watching this to see the genesis of Xavier Dolan's directorial prowess I can't help but feel a tug to return to Mommy yet again. I crave the intensity and long for how it spikes emotionally where I Killed My Mother seems to fade. That aside—fantastic performances and a remarkable debut, regardless of the comparison-laden opinion.

Poltergeist [1982]

To echo Daisoujou's thoughts, Poltergeist is more of a family film with supernatural and horror elements, than something of "pure" horror (whatever that might mean). Having seen many many clips of the film without watching it in whole until now, it's a bit off-putting to recognize the film's legacy, or at least my interpretation of it, to be something far more terrifying and sinister than anything that actually makes it onto the screen... Save for that damn clown near the end. So much of my reaction has to do with Jerry Goldsmith's score, which totally shapes the experience and is far more reminiscent of—and appropriate for—something like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (which bested Poltergeist for the 1983 Best Original Score Oscar). Though I haven't a clue of how heavy his hand was over director Tobe Hooper, Steven Spielberg's voice and vision are evident in the writing and production, which only serves to further distance Poltergeist's "scarier" moments from anything truly terrifying.

Climax [2018]

This one has me stumped. Aaron's marvelous summary captures influence and intent alike in painting this as something of a triumph, but the inherent endlessness of a bad trip felt emptier than Noé's past jaunts into the realm of the oblique. Ranking Climax as a visual epic isn't unjust, but after having seen both Irreversible and Enter the Void a few times over, the camera work here is less innovative or spectacular and more reminiscent of a style that the director has been honing, going on two decades now. This isn't a criticism, but it's the bittersweet reality of hearing one of your favorite bands release an album that sounds just like they did twenty years ago. The production is cleaner but the same beats play throughout. (Even the non-linear take on credits ache with a certain "we've been here before"-ness, which feels both fresh and self-aping at the same time.)

The must-see element of the film comes with the first proper dance sequence, which is truly stunning. Therein lies the payoff for the price of admission, but from that point on the film becomes an exercise in tedium. Character interviews follow that purposefully ache on and on only to eventually give way to an acid trip that reveals crude and devastating visuals (not to mention the audio) in line with a hellscape of epic proportions. No where is there a monster in sight, yet everywhere seemingly a human embodiment of one. Purposeful as the duration of the bad trip might be, it's no less a turn-off that this film feels every moment of its ninety minute run-time. Much like Enter the Void, that aching plod might prevent me from ever taking this one on again. That, and if I never touch another glass of sangria it will be too soon.

Slacker [1990]

"Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death." There's a rhythm here that I don't recall picking up on before. It's been so long since I've seen Slacker that I'd forgotten every detail—which isn't to comment on the state of consciousness I may have been in the first time around—but I went in without a trace of expectation. What I got out wasn't entirely different from what I continue to take away from Waking Life. The dialog of armchair quarterbacking is, at times, a firehose of conceptual static which can either be filtered through or let go completely. Eventually I took the latter position so as to avoid getting caught up in the characters who are merely regurgitating "bits and pieces from [their own] authoritative sources," as one accused another of doing. Before shifting gears like that the film felt like a hollow first try for what would follow with his 2001 feature, but like I said, I eventually fell victim to the flow of the dance, taking Linklater's lead and giving in to the waves of dialog, each rising and crashing like little waves breaking across a coastline. A piece of me wishes I was in Austin in 1990, a participant of that moment in time, while another is glad I never had the chance as it would have likely swallowed me whole.

Madeline’s Madeline [2018]

I don't believe I'll be able to express what this film touched in me, but here goes... By her own explanation, director and writer Josephine Decker looked to use Madeline's Madeline to explore mental health issues within the context of a problematic domestic environment, showing the almost-seventeen year old Madeline dealing with a mental health disorder while also having it held over her head by her mother. In that space, theater is Madeline's safe space, her outlet, and she excels, but there her director's motives come into question over the exploitive nature of her use of Madeline (and Madeline's story).

The story is wonderfully told and it yields a captivating depiction of mental illness, but there's that thing it touched on within me... How much of art is a reflection or projection of actual existence, and when it's done well that art—real art, passionate art, art that makes you feel—evokes a reaction when it says something true. But why doesn't that same thing, that same "truth," elicit the same reaction in the wild, in its real life form? Films like this and Mommy frame mental health in a way that humanizes. Maybe that's part of it. In real life it's easier to not always see a person as a living, breathing individual, unique to their situation and trying to overcome their lot in life. I see a good amount of that in my work, but never do I have the reaction that films like these bring me.

(Unrelated to all that, Helena Howard is stellar in the lead role and it tickled me that this was released as a production of Cat Ladies, LLC.—that last point made much more wonderful by the director's memorable appearance in one of my favorite documentaries.)

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood [2019]

The highlight of the entire film comes with Leo DiCaprio's on-set meltdown scenes, projecting a past-his-prime actor struggling to balance his ego with his drinking problem. In that, his amplified emotional reactions are on point—his overly sentimental teary eyed responses clashing with empty threats of self-harm hit the mark; he really nailed it. The scene that might make the film comes between DiCaprio's Rick Dalton and his ten year old co-star (Julia Butters), who whispers words of encouragement in his ear after a well-executed scene together. But here's the thing: Why spend so much time lingering on their relationship when it's almost immediately forgotten? And why does the rest of the film meander so much to try to include so many different threads of plot when they're all discarded in the end for a single violent payoff (the slapstick brutality of which felt so incredibly out of place within the rest of the film) that spins a once-was tragedy into would-be comic relief?

One of the arguments I'm reading in favor of the film touches on the going-with-the-flow of it all—just kicking back and watching the story unfold and enjoying the rides each of the characters take. But why are they taking that ride? What does taking the ride in the way they did communicate? And further, how do those "rides" reconcile with the film as a whole? If the character Rick Dalton is challenged by his director to step outside of his image and truly act, why are we stuck with a lengthy list of cameos which add little beyond inserting familiar images to the already bloated story? (Because: Hollywood? I guess?) But if that's the case, why bother with little odes to Tarantino's past by inserting the likes of Michael Madsen when the film seems dead set on shoe-horning actors like Lena Dunham into roles so that actors like Lena Dunham could be in roles and not because they're particularly well suited for those roles? I don't know, I really didn't enjoy this. Maybe I'm just salty because they did Bruce Lee so cold in this one... Good lord, did they ever make a joke of him.

Do the Right Thing [1989]

The "right" thing? The nerve isn't even a deep one that this film taps in to—it's right below the surface. So much has happened since 1989, but what comes to my mind is still Ferguson. The pain and confusion and fear of that was so incredible, and to have that turn into what we have today... How? Just how? How does any of this happen? I remember that year, going into the house of my girlfriend's best friend for Thanksgiving and hearing the n-word at the dinner table. I went from zero to ten in my head, not knowing how to start or where. What do I do here? Why is there so much anger? Why do I suddenly feel like it's me against a room full of people? The only thing that came to mind was to reflexively walk away, gnashing my teeth, full of impotent rage. These were supposed to be safe people. How could my girlfriend be friends with them, I thought? What was I doing there? Yet that feeling of helplessness, and that momentary feeling of self-imposed plight, was just a grain of sand compared to the cultural wasteland that millions navigate every single day. Even now though, I am far richer in platitudes than I am in genuine understanding of what it feels like to be victimized for the crime of just trying to be myself. Maybe all I can do is shut up and keep trying to listen. It won't be in the time that I'm alive that this happens, but the day will come when the dessert will undoubtedly be reclaimed by the sea. Maybe then, with it, a little bit of justice.

Under the Skin [2013]

This is going to be one of those “no one’s going to appreciate this but me” kinda “reviews”… But sometimes you just have to write the thoughts out to try and make sense of them...

Indie Wire just named Under the Skin the second best film of the 2010's, and while I didn't set out with the goal of doing so, I ended up watching the movie twice this past night. What a strange piece of work. It got me thinking about so many things, ranging from nature to identity to the sometimes-ambiguous reasons why I give one film a second chance over another.

To be frank, when it comes to heady works like this, more often than not I feel like I miss the point. I miss the intention of the art, and I overlook what's to be made of such high-minded work. Low-brow is in my DNA, but there are plenty of times when "deep," ambiguous works resonate with me in a way that little else does. Tarkovsky's Stalker is a good example of that... But I hardly “understand” the majority of it, beyond what I have prescribed my own meaning to. (Or is that the point?) Here, this film got me to thinking about why that sense of appreciation for the abstract is so hard to nail down. Why do I commit to some films but reject others, while they’re critically viewed as equally worthwhile? Take a look at the rest of that Indie Wire list, for example. There are numerous works that obscure any intended meaning, instead leaving consensus definition of their intention up for debate: Among them are the likes of The Tree of Life and Holy Motors (which I love), or Uncle Boonmee and Burning (which I appreciate, despite neither resonating deeply with me). The latter pair I might never watch again despite recognizing that a second viewing is almost mandatory to grasp a sense for what the films are actually trying to communicate. So why do I not give them another go while a film like Under the Skin gets two watches in a single night? A whim? There's gotta be more to it than that.

One film that failed to make that list altogether was Upstream Color . For the longest time I really wanted to be the kind of person who would appreciate that film, until one day I was. But what is it that I’m searching for with that sort of feeling? A longing to be taken “seriously”? A desire to be understood as someone who “gets it”? I don’t know exactly, but somewhere along the way my relationship to films like that (and this) began to change from aspirational to genuine. For whatever reason that came to the surface the first time around watching Under the Skin.

Part of why I started thinking about that line of thinking was because I had such a strong a reaction to something I couldn’t place while watching the film, while also internally feeling what many of the negative reviews on this site had to say about it. Mark Kermode called the film “partly successful but wholly ambitious.” I agreed with that the first time around, but I still felt (still feel!) like there’s more to it than that (I mean, what would make this "more successful"?). Even with the story being as basic as it is, maybe it’s the visual storytelling which touched something inside of me? Many times what we’re seeing is alien, but so often what shows up on screen depicts nature, portraying it on a near-spiritual plane of existence. Practically the only thing I know about naturalism is how to spell Ralph Waldo Emerson, but the second time around with the film I was struck by how much nature was connected (if not blended) with the extraterrestrial.

I continue to have so many questions about this film, but maybe Stalker is an appropriate lens through which to define my appreciation for it for now. It’s slow cinema, tonally positioned as sci-fi but clearly grounded in the mundane. It speaks to universal questions, but seems to elaborate with certainty on none of them. Whatever it is, it’s got me. And maybe that’s all the more sense I’m likely to make of it.

The Skin I Live In [2011]

While the pacing of this thing was tedious, The Skin I Live In becomes slightly more interesting when following the online commentary surrounding the film, where opinions swing between polar opposites, either celebrating or demonizing it. Granted, I have zero experience with Almodóvar's other work, which leaves me little historical context from which to base my reaction. That, and I believe I first learned of this film's existence several years ago from a list of must-see "shocking" movies (which sets the stage for my expectations of it). But here's the thing: It was neither shocking, amazing, or wretched. Oafishly vulgar at times? Certainly. And "daring," I suppose. But the aimless direction of it all, contrasted by the airy romantic visuals and misguided plot (and, oh my, the twists!) loudly proclaimed the film to be an extension of soap opera culture, rather than something to be taken seriously.

Lords of Chaos [2018]

Lords of Chaos is only as complicated a film as the viewer makes it out to be, and by the look of the Letterboxd comments and reviews, those whose opinions are overly complicated are also those who have a history with the subject matter. On top of that, one's appreciation for the film seems to be inversely related to their appreciation of black metal... Which is also to say that if you were at all familiar with Mayhem prior to watching the movie, your reaction is likely to be mixed. If not, you're far more likely to enjoy it at face value. By the length of my rambling alone, it's probably evident which group I land in.

Purely approaching Lords of Chaos as entertainment, it's totally watchable and I understand (and agree with some of) the positions shared through positive reviews of the film. But even in attempting to distance myself from my own personal knowledge of the source material, the movie felt like it wasn't ever sure what it was trying to be. As a result, things never felt quite right—such as the casting which seemed to rely on fresh faces rather than actors who more closely portrayed the subject matter's menacing themes. Approaching the film from that angle, I tried to let go of any hope that this was made for the truest fans of true Norwegian black metal (or even metal fans in general), because Lords of Chaos was clearly never that. Director Jonas Åkerlund never wanted this thing to breathe reality, which is why he made sure the film didn't feature Norwegian actors, the dialog wasn't in Norwegian (or even with Norwegian accents), and film ended up focusing very little on the music in favor of the drama that surrounded it. Instead of a biopic or a true crime story, what we're left with is a story true to the film's tagline: "Based on truth, lies... and what actually happened."

Unfortunately what comes out of the director's mission to introduce the story (or at least the underlying story that inspired the film) to a wider audience leaves the film trying to be too many things to too many different people. There's shocking self-mutilation and gore in one scene and Sigur Rós playing during a(n oddly gentle) sex scene in another. There's newsreel footage balanced by ridiculous fictitious voice-overs ("All this evil and dark crap was supposed to be fun"). By the film's finale, Rory Culkin's narration does less to bring closure to the story than it does to allow the film's lead "character" to relay a post-mortem mission statement which neatly encapsulates everything that actually happened in the movie (from Per Ohlin's suicide to Kristian "Varg" Vikernes' church burnings) as being part of Øystein Aarseth's calculated mission statement.

Which might be understandable if so much of this wasn't actually grounded in "what actually happened."

Vikernes, for example, is (and was) a vile human being, who resented Aarseth over a clash of ideologies before eventually murdering the man. Here he's portrayed as a poseur turned sex idol who just happened to commit acts of terrorism in the name of darkness before clumsily revealing his hand to authorities. (The interview scene makes him out to be an absolute idiot, which I don't believe fairly portrays how poisonous the man's beliefs actually are.) There in part is why I think naming the film after Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind's 1998 book documenting "The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground" makes little sense. Åkerlund, himself, has explained how he doesn't care much for the book, so why not call it something like "True Norwegian Black Metal" (though it would then have to compete with the late-2000s [and highly superior] Gorgoroth documentary of the same name produced by Vice). In naming the film after the book it just feels like this is trying to shoehorn one man's distinct creative agenda into the mold of a work that clearly had different intentions. (Which is another reason why this feels so all over the place to me.)

CJ's review does well to expand on the problematic nature of using this source material in the way it was portrayed, and I recommend reading that review for more on the matter, but I will add that in approaching Lords of Chaos as a work of fiction, reality, or even something in between: It was still ultimately a let down. I don't claim to be a "fan" of the band, and while you can count the number of Mayhem songs I've listened to this past decade on two hands, I did see Mayhem play live about a decade ago. While I'm (now, at least) entirely conflicted over seeing a group (albeit one with a pretty high rate of turnover among its band members) with such a violent and repulsive history, I was also drawn to it for those very same reasons... There's a magnetism to the spectacle of it all, and as as a twenty-five year old I was more than happy to see such a notorious group up close and personal. I mean, several years prior I read Lords of Chaos, and to this day I still hold an odd reverence for the mythology that's grown out of the scene portrayed in this film. Maybe as a result of having made all this as complicated as I have do I find myself disappointed by how it came across, feeling like the story at the heart of the matter was given little more than a watered down I, Tonya treatment.

Enemy [2013]

It's tempting to lean on the several YouTube videos I just watched dissecting Enemy to reveal its would-be meaning, or focus my opinions toward the numerous great reviews of the film here on Letterboxd, but I'm gonna be real with you: Near the end, when Adam and that dude were riding up the elevator and the guy mentions about how he has to go back, I had entirely forgotten about the sex club scene at the beginning and thought this might be a twist revealing a wrinkle of time travel to the movie. Like the dude needs to go back, like back in time, revealing numerous threads which have become entangled, leaving Adam and Anthony in the same timeline. Apparently this is not a good movie to be "dozing off" to.

I don't see Enemy's opaqueness as a cop-out, as one review I read claimed. But instead I look forward to watching this again knowing what I know now, to try to piece together the larger picture of what Denis Villeneuve is trying to convey, for myself. And spoiler alert, for my future self: It has nothing to do with time travel, you idiot.

Motel Hell [1980]

Despite being a murderous, cannibalistic, sister-puncher, I still think the most cruel thing Farmer Vincent did in this movie was to put his bumper sticker on that family's car without asking first.

Ghostwatch [1992]

I will say this about the rotten bucket of dumpster juice that is Grave Encounters: Without it I'd have never been turned on to Ghostwatch (or more specifically, without this review of Grave Encounters, I'd have never been turned on to Ghostwatch). That aside, how did I not already know about Ghostwatch?!
For Halloween 1992, the BBC decides to broadcast an investigation into the supernatural, hosted by TV chat-show legend Michael Parkinson. Parky (ably assisted by Mike Smith, Sarah Greene & Craig Charles) and a camera crew attempt to discover the truth behind the most haunted house in Britain. This ground-breaking live television experiment does not go as planned, however…
An early-'90s made-for-TV British haunt flick angled as reality for an unsuspecting audience is in itself a cool enough premise to merit a watch... But beyond pre-dating the found footage fest spawned by The Blair Witch by several years, Ghostwatch is also worth the while due to the clever hand by which it reveals itself.

Bloody Disgusting has a good article which sums up Ghostwatch, but it also points out where in the movie the ghost actually appears. And that's by necessity as it's so damn subtle that I missed all but one of the moments without the article's aid. The tone is brooding, yet the delivery is so much more intriguing due to the lingering sense of dread that accompanies the general dearth of shock. This, opposed to something like that of Grave Encounters which vomits up every last drop of mystery, leaving only an aftertaste of hair gel, Monster energy drinks and regret. Ghostwatch is definitely worth checking out for those who get a kick out of ghosts, found footage, or simply knowing that thousands of Brits went to bed one night not knowing if the BBC had exposed them to an unholy world of darkness, or if someone was merely just taking the piss outta them.

Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore [1996]

I would love to know how something like this film would have sat with me twenty years ago. In the headspace I was in at the time I was just warming to the frame of mind required to appreciate Kevin Smith's early movies, including Clerks which is so often referred to as a lesser version of Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore. (It is.) And, while this is only the first time I've seen the latter, I still love it infinitely more than Clerks the last time I watched it.

For me, the Clerks comparison comes because of the day in the life type focus on blossoming adulthood (plus: video store vs. movie theater), but its humor comes at the expense of relatability... Not to mention the nonchalant exclusion of an entire gender. But that's the thing: I didn't realize any of that at the time that I was first exposed to Clerks. I just liked how it felt edgy and it seemed funny and adult in the way that people in their twenties seem when you're a teenager.

There are a bunch of great one-liners in here that made me laugh (bite it like beef jerky, the Eraserhead score line, etc.) but Mary Jane still seems far too authentic in its cool to have been something I'd have picked up when I was of the age where it could have had its greatest influence on me. In my Clerks viewing years I was still a ways off from being introduced to the Dead Kennedys (so Jello Biafra's amazing cameo would have been lost on me) and when I did fall in love with AFI it was with The Art of Drowning, a few years removed from Davey Havok (and co.'s) shift away from their East Bay origins. I guess that's just who I was/am: The kid who gravitated toward Pearl Jam instead of Babes in Toyland. All that said, it could be worse: I could have never watched Mary Jane in the first place.

Excision [2012]

Excision is a little uneven, but there are so many aspects to it that I appreciate which would lead me to watching it again: The small one liners and the awkward cool of AnnaLynne McCord's Pauline clashing with the suburban frustration of Traci Lords' Phyllis to name just a couple. Pauline swayed between incredibly self-aware and insane, which detracted from her character some, but what would be expected of a psychopathic high schooler if not a little inconsistency? The gory body horror scenes felt a little out of place at times while also creating a through-line that helped sew the larger story together in the end. As a whole, Excision was surprisingly appealing given its rather simple concept.

Bodied [2017]

Bodied is such a strange movie. I like the fact that it was made, if only because there aren't many cinematic options focusing on rap that don't devolve into Malibu's Most Wanted-level of stereotype... And damn, some of those rhymes are entertaining. But then again, how far off is it, really?

When it comes to focusing on the subject matter of lyricists and how to reconcile the irrefutably problematic issues of using rap as cover for otherwise hateful, prejudiced and homophobic language... I like the idea, but Bodied drifts in and out of even having a point beyond paper-thin reminders that words carry weight even when used in a context that attempts qualify an alternative intent.

There are moments like that of the scene where Behn Grymm's wife gets frustrated at Adam when he tries to explain his racial sensitivity by adding that, yeah, maybe sometimes all white people need is just a black person to explain to them how certain things look from the perspective of someone who's not white... to which she responds by telling him how insane it is that he thinks it's her job to dissect the nuances of racism for him so he can feel like he's not an absolute shitheel. A number of reviews compare Bodied to something of a Scott Pilgrim/8 Mile crossover, but it's more like a far-too-drawn-out episode of South Park, all the way to its finish. (After all, Adam's last name is the term for a public hair wig, so tell why I'm crazy?)

I mean, what's the intention of it all and how does the conclusion speak to the vision? What am I supposed to feel in the last battle scene when dramatic music swoops in and the bloodied up white kid gets his hand raised like Rocky by his opponent? The feels, maybe? Happy because he proved that some people have a snapping point, while he stayed true to his limited interpretation of what rap battles are in remaining immune to showing a shred of sensitivity because it's all just part of battling?

And to follow that up with the scene of his return to the campus that exiled him due to the racist and homophobic language he used in his first battle video, where he seems to have learned nothing from trespassing upon his friendship with Behn, why the school did what it did, or even what his girlfriend dumped him over seems insane unless re-contextualized as that South Park episode. And in the closing scene Adam sits there with an altogether-too-tilted straight brim hat (tell me he's not Jamie Kennedy's character, 15 years removed) watching himself on his phone, please by himself and planning how to market his next move. You mean the whole movie was to then conclude that to Adam it was all worth it because viral lives matter more than just being a decent human being? Even ironically, you're telling me that's the point? Cue theme song.

Paths of Glory [1957]

My mind is swirling with another puzzle piece now added to the cinematic wartime mosaic building in my mind. Paths of Glory is the Kubrickian slight to the caste system of wartime "leadership," yet I can't help but feel a sense of defeat in its wake. In the end the violence remains, the war rages on. In the end the audacity of the system remains unchecked. Just as the courtroom scene spoke to the absurdity of believing one man could charge a battlefield by himself, so too is audacious to think one man's challenge of the system would create change of any sort. Sometimes courage has nothing to do with reality.

Still only a few months removed from watching Come and See, my mind is stuck on that film's vision of war as a balance to this. That vision of depraved brutality. That vision of senselessness, nearly as punishing visually as it is thematically. Then to think about how the decisions behind wartime actions are sometimes made by men like those portrayed here. It's sickening, but normal. Its normalization is sickening. This line by SirFolmarv sums Paths of Glory up nicely: "The film doesn't even take an easy path of showing these themes simply through violence. It chooses to use apathy, selfishness, cowardice, and the complete lack of human understanding." From a technical perspective, having recently watched the "Kubrick // One-Point Perspective" short, the symmetry of the court room scene caught my eye, specifically. There was so much captured so effortlessly throughout the film that it was easy to overlook the skill behind the shots. Beautiful or not though, the veneer of civility washed over the gross undercurrent of inhumanity is what remains.

Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers [2018]

The story here is fascinating at times, but it's pointlessly diluted by the filmmaker's desire to create a new narrative of Bob's history that includes himself. This isn't a matter of a filmmaker putting their experience into a film—that's nothing new—but what's supposed to be compelling about seeing Corbell discussing select talking points over speakerphone from (what's presumably) his brightly lit, luxuriously furnished home when the conversations themselves hardly push a narrative forward? Why choose to focus on Crate and Barrel aesthetic over a more detailed history about who Lazar is (or even the work that's already been done in covering this saga)?

One scene captures Lazar being pushed by Corbell to defend his story, as if the staged tension (inflated by editing choices) adds a valuable sense of drama to the story. It doesn't. Constantly refocusing the camera on subjects is a stylistic choice, but what is it adding here? What does having Mickey Rourke (of all people) do scattered voiceover add? What's it supposed to communicate? I've only seen parts of Lazar and Corbell's podcast with Joe Rogan, but it's curious that a publicity tour spot does a better job at getting to the heart of the conversation than the work, itself, does.

Bad Times at the El Royale [2018]

Going in blind, any expectations I had centered around the Bad Times at the El Royale poster, the film's badass title, and a few stray observations I read or heard likening it to a Tarantino film. Cool. But from the set up forward, the entire plot revolved around the device of: and then this other thing happens. That really annoyed me.

From the establishing scene in the hotel, I felt distant from everything that was happening. OK, yes, this is happening, but why do we care? What is the importance of the thing you're detailing? Is there any? Visually well made to the argument of no one, this film is beautifully produced, but at no point did I actually care about the story, its characters (aided in part by incredibly dry acting from just about everyone), or the consequences of the danger that barely registered as tensions were depicted on screen.

And then another thing happened. And then this happened. And what's going on over here? Don't worry, we'll find out an hour from now, because why else would this plot thread consume so much screen time? And then flashback. More and thens. And then this fuckin' guy shows up because vintage aesthetic and abs. And then the characters are connected because of flashback. And then surprise. And then danger. And then that character helps. And then they have money. And then that character sings. And then that character watches. And then the end.

Before Sunset [2004]

My heart will stay yours until I die. Never have I met a Jesse or Céline, but there exists a select few who I might do just about anything for just to see them sashay across the floor. This isn't just a preferable brand of cereal—this is sustenance itself. If I ever get the chance, I wonder if it'd even possible to love them the way they need to be loved? Can anything ever truly be enough? Continuing to live life with the door open probably confirms itself to be every bit the question as it is the answer.

Before Sunrise [1995]

To take that risk... Telling the select few you decide to meet that you were in the midst of an anonymous journey—yet so very eager to tell anyone of it—hoping they'd notice you and notice the value of such a mission statement. You see her cue but don't see it for what it is. The ideal self you attempt to project is dwarfed by the person you could be if you just stopped trying so hard. Very few at that age get it. Very few at any age get it. Underneath the cynicism, below the self-concern, might be the thing she seeks, the thing she desires, so you try... Half believing she would never say no, you're still surprised when she says yes. She joins you as you exit the train together. For as long as you both shall live.

Solaris [2002]

Part of me wishes I saw this version before Tarkovsky's, as Soderbergh's version begins to create space for the themes that are explored in the 1972 original. On the other side of that, I couldn't fully give myself into Soderbergh's vision of the story as I kept comparing it to Tarkovsky's, and in the process I kept comparing it to what it wasn't, or maybe just what it didn't make me feel. The lack of "feeling," maybe, is what seemed most vacant about this film.

Obviously, with the original running at almost twice the length of this version, it's going to create space to explore the essence of the story with more nuance. And in that space, concepts percolate and blossom... that's what led me to feeling what I felt about the original once it had ended. Let's not forget that also means Tarkovsky's version is boring as hell at times (which isn't as much a presentation flaw as it is a structural technique). This version avoids all of that, but in doing so it fails to stew conceptually. In doing so this version struck me as much more focused on the physical than emotional (forgetting the moments of exposition which spell out a lot of what Tarkovsky's version only ever hints at).

The physical is where I think this version gets stuck... which says something (though I'm not fully sure what it says) about what Soderbergh's aim was. At one point Gordon's dialog focused on why Rheya was the *physical* embodiment of Chris' memory, which influenced the importance of tactile memory over feelings—this felt really important to me in association with showing multiple scenes of Chris and Rheya in nude embrace. Besides cashing in on an opportunity showcase George Clooney's ass a couple time on screen, it felt like the action was aimed at connecting memory (and failed memories) back to a sense of touch rather than feel. This brings me back to the top, where I wish I would have watched this version first because of how Soderbergh's focus might have prepared me for what was to come with the original. It opens the door to concepts that can be explored in greater depth in the original's near three-hour run time, but when watched in the opposite order, seems only to amputate and confine them to a much more accessible (and limiting) state.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum [2019]

Within five minutes of sitting down, the guy next to me in the theater chirped his phone (yep, a chirp... remember those?) and growled instructions into it to "Keep the fluids." No context. No nothing. I have no idea what he meant. It doesn't matter. From that moment on though I knew I was in for a ride, and neither he nor this film disappointed. I particularly enjoyed the parts where they were fighting.

Mandy [2018]

First, just a quick shout out to Cheddar Goblin, which has a backstory that's even more impressive than most everything going on in Mandy. Maybe I appreciate the little snippet because it encapsulates the insanity which is generally attributed Mandy better than much of the rest of the film does. I'm a Nicolas Cage guy insofar as I think 8mm is an underrated movie, but beyond that, installing him as a backbone to a film like this doesn't add anything to it for me. The entire time I wanted to see a performance which Cage was never afforded given how aesthetic drove the film (it reminded me a lot of Only God Forgives at times because of that)... though even if there was something more to this film, I don't know that he is the right guy to put it over the top. Did his performance breathe life into the character? It felt like forced spectacle to have him there in the first place. Then there are added lines that throw the tone of the film off (like... his wife was just burned alive in front of him, but he gets shook because his favorite shirt is ruined?) that are meant to feed the ironic Nicolas Cage-ness of the film, or whatever, but it plays out as pointlessly goofy. Chop this thing down by about three quarters and go full-on doom metal with the soundtrack and it could have been one of the coolest music videos ever. As is, however, it's mostly just Cheddar Goblin and a chainsaw fight.

Revenge [2017]

I have no idea what writer/director Coralie Fargeat was aiming for, but I just can't buy that the sum of Revenge is what it appears to be on the surface (just another rape/revenge story). And I really don't think that I'm forcing meaning here to justify appreciation for a film that might otherwise be viewed as painting a fresh coat of paint on such a trite storyline.

Not once have I seen Rambo, but all throughout this movie I kept thinking this is what I would expect to see a character like John Rambo pull off: Physically assaulted then legitimately murdered only to literally rise from literal ashes (literally!) and seek vengeance against the so-obviously-dislikable villains that the audience has no choice but to cheer on this clearly one-dimensional character as she transforms into a super hero right before our eyes. I don't see Revenge as just a matter of portraying an action-movie-type character and joking about how it's doing so though, but rather as focusing on this type of character as a statement about how twisted expectations have become (especially in light of this sort of story).

The level of disbelief that's required to view this story as "real" is high, which seems like a barrier to entry for a lot of people watching it based on reviews: A woman is left for dead in the middle of nowhere with a life-threatening wound, only to miraculously stabilize herself, cauterize her wounds (in the process branding herself with a phoenix... really), before then exerting a superhuman level of resiliency to wreak havoc on the men who collectively abused her and left her for dead. Yeah, it's silly, this idea of a petite, barely clothed woman, walking barefoot in rocky badlands, operating firearms she has no understanding of in terrain that she's unfamiliar... but what if John fucking Rambo were in that same position? Even if it wouldn't be probable—despite it being equally as absurd that Rambo would be able to survive a single second after being skewered on a tree like a human kabob—it would at least be understandable that the character's cartoonish masculinity would lend itself to escaping death's icy grip to seek a satisfying resolution.

There are other defining characteristics which I also consider aligned with this intent on lampooning the genre: In not even showing it, Jen's rape isn't the focus so much as the reaction (or non-reaction) to it by the men who could have intervened or helped her after the fact is. That alone is enough to distance it from the likes of its exploitative predecessors (from I Spit On Your Grave to Irreversible) which lingered on the needlessly excessive sexual violence as a blunt method of showing cruelty, without ever commenting on the enabling factors that surrounded the act. And while Jen is at first portrayed as a textbook image of basic eye candy at the beginning of the film, it's the man she's in an affair with who's needlessly nude on screen for the vast majority of the film's final scene. There are obviously numerous ways to interpret Revenge and I'm barely just touching on talking points that are worth elaborating on, but its ability to challenge expectations is really incredible.

Repo Man [1984]

At times Repo Man almost feels like it's trying to say something, but it never quite stays on message. A crew of slightly above the board car thieves living off of generically branded food and drink—that says something, right? Maybe? What's to be made of Harry Dean Stanton's character finding hope derived from a dream of doing his same shit job, only under his own management rather than someone else's? All of it adds up to an experience that validates its cult following (Emilio Estevez drinking by himself babbling the lyrics to "TV Party" seems relevant as hell for the time that the movie was released). There were some silly smirk-inducing one-liners, but seeing the Circle Jerks as a lounge act might still be the highlight of the movie for me.

Punch-Drunk Love [2002]

This is the second film in as many days that has affected me in this way; Eternal Sunshine being the other. Barry, what are you going to do when the bottom falls out on this feeling, man? "I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine." I feel like I've been there. Maybe without all the furious rage and destructive behavior, but I've been there. Kind of. And it's not sustainable. Oh, Barry, it really is not sustainable. I have vague memories of floating through a dorm room in college that was playing Punch-Drunk Love and it didn't click for me. It was too "weird." When was that? Sixteen years ago, maybe? So much has changed since, and how much of that change has included brief and extended Barry-isms? Like Sunshine this opens a door into a big dark space. Also like Sunshine, it's masterfully acted and produced, but I don't think I'm ever going to revisit it.

Cannibal Holocaust [1980]

I'm of a few minds here, but primarily I feel the means by which this film's points were made obscure the positive value of any message it's attempting to communicate. Cannibal Holocaust is ambitious in its aim, and is rightly notorious. But it's also vile. It's also hollow. It might be one of the "best" of its kind, but for the most part it feels like little more than a box to check.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind [2004]

It's been forever since I've watched this—putting it off due to some lingering feeling about it that lived within me. Not a thought, but a feeling. The feeling is an extension of the thinking there's no pleasure that is greater than the pain of losing it. This film is biographical, examining different parts of each of those who watch it. Timing shifts the perspective some, and I don't feel what I did the last time I watched it because I don't see what I did the last time I watched it because I'm not who I was the last time I watched it. But that feeling still lingers. It's bleak. It makes me want to escape, but every avenue out of it feels like a trap. Still, I don't think I understand the depths of this thing. I'm not even really sure I feel them.

UHF [1989]

Bumping up the rating specifically for the commentary with "Weird Al" and director Jay Levey, which is both genius and extraordinarily thorough with production detail. (It's got my vote for the greatest commentary track of all time. @ me if you've got a better one in mind.) This movie is an absolute guilty pleasure that I've been watching since I was in grade school when my friend Jeremy introduced me to it. We laughed so hard we couldn't breathe, and it has been part of my DNA ever since. This is the first viewing of the Shout Factory Blu-ray, which is a pretty fantastic visual upgrade from the VHS copy I first owned maybe 25 years (!?!?) ago.

The Last House on the Left [1972]

My mind might forever have married The Last House on the Left with I Spit on Your Grave, and on the surface I feel like Wes Craven's debut should be the better of the two pictures. Should. But despite the ultimately-pointless depravity-for-depravity's-sake buffoonery of I Spit on Your Grave, it still overshadows this mess. The Last House on the Left starts off so promising, the story a realistic enough vehicle by which to welcome a crash of cultures between innocent enough youth and a group of miscreants. From there, however, it's all downhill. It's not just that the acting is bad (it is), that the effects are lame (they are), or that the pacing is tired (it is), but on top of all of that is the fact that there isn't a shred of cohesion holding this thing together. The police officers are about as base level an excuse for comedic relief as I've ever seen (and why a movie about the rape and murder of a pair of young women needs comedic relief is beyond me), and the music swings between the movie's sulky theme and some over-the-top kitschy nonsense that sounds better suited for a Music Inspired by Smokey and the Bandit bargain bin compilation. This is one of the rare instances where a remake outperforms the original.

The Entity [1982]

Catherine Stebbins’ review does a fantastic job at digging into the meaning of The Entity, and I’d recommend reading it above anything I have to say about the film. There aren’t any shocking scares here, but The Entity isn’t exactly that kind of horror movie. The scene where the demon/spirit attacks Barbara Hershey’s Carla on the couch in front of her helpless children might be the most shocking, though the other moments where we can see the invisible hand molesting her breast were also unsettling. By in large the value of the film comes from its portrayal of sexual abuse from a clinical perspective, which is rare when looking at horror films that delve into this sort of subject matter. In doing so, the film lends a critique of rape culture, specifically portraying the many faces of victim blaming in society (for more on that, read Catherine’s review).

The line that stung the deepest from Carla was when, after repeated efforts from the clinical staff to portray her as delusional, she said she was done struggling against “the entity.” Her life will go on, and she’ll try to take care of herself and her children as best she can without anyone’s help because, as she said, she was “going to cooperate with it.” When you have no one in a position of power to go to who believes you and no way of protecting yourself, what other conclusion is there in that moment? Brutal. (And fuck Jerry for ditching her in her time of need, by the way.) The paranormal activity manifesting in bolts of electric energy and pretty much everything about the final laboratory scene are a little hokey, but it did well in communicating the story. A supplemental short film called The Entity Files accompanied the DVD, which dug into the story that inspired the book and ultimately the film. In it one of the admissions that the lead paranormal researcher (Dr. Barry Taff) made revealed that the instances of paranormal activity coincided with times where Doris Bither (the real name of the woman who the Carla character was based on) was drinking. That seems like such a fundamental part of the story, and certainly one which would have coincided with the aim of Carla’s victimization: That being to pin her own assaults on her. Of course she’s making it up, I can imagine the clinical staff arguing: She’s drunk. What a missed opportunity to really hammer the point home.

I Spit on Your Grave [1978]

I Spit on Your Grave was made by director Meir Zarchi as a response to a victim of sexual violence he knew, and the injustice of the details surrounding the crimes committed against her. While that's the jumping off point, as he explained in a supplemental interview on the DVD, I'm still not sure what the actual point was with it. Breaking down any and every angle of the sexual violence on display in the movie doesn't seem to lend any satisfying insight into why certain decisions were made with the story, including what Zarachi wanted the audience to feel when watching it. (Which is spoken to in Roger Ebert's legendary take down of the film.)

The leading role was filled by Camille Keaton (who married Zarchi shortly after the film's release, which has little to do with anything here other than being a point I find interesting), who is dehumanized by her perpetrators, only to then lean further away from her humanity and seek wildly fantastical revenge. And in the end I guess she's OK because... revenge? (Trauma just sort of working itself out isn't specific to this movie, but is more of a general problem in horror as a genre.)

On the surface, I guess an audience could cheer the comeuppance, but at what cost? Keaton's character was nearly murdered at the hands of the group who raped her, and the light at the end of the tunnel came by the means through which she took to kill her assailants. Sure, but why then was her pain so real, her situation so life-like, while the men's murders were so absurd (one character didn't realize a noose was being slipped around his neck mid-coitus, only to be lifted up and hanged from a tree branch by a woman who couldn't have weighed much more than a hundred pounds). The contrast leaves a strange taste of imbalance, and one that doesn't bring a shred of clarity to how this relates to the crime that inspired the story, other than it made for reasonable exploitation film fodder.

Turistas [2006]

To say this movie paints Brazilians in a negative light isn't much of a stretch, so I had to laugh when reading about how director John Stockwell responded to boycotts and negative press by essentially saying, "Uh, you think this is bad? Haven't you even heard of City of God?" Beyond that, it really doesn't take much to improve on the Hostel model for a movie, does it?

Lady Bird [2017]

Played this one through with commentary by Greta Gerwig and cinematographer Sam Levy. There was so much heart put into this film... a series of interconnected love stories: Love of family, friends, herself, her city. One of the comments Gerwig made in the Realizing Lady Bird featurette (which accompanies the film) revolved around the theme of growing up, denying where you're from, and "realizing two minutes too late that it was great." I feel that. For so much of my life I've been searching, always elsewhere, never comfortable enough with myself to recognize the value in being where I was. I really appreciate how Lady Bird brings that feeling to life.

Prowl [2010]

Even considering the force-fed backstory here, this one had some good moments. That said, the vampires (and to some degree, the gore) would have been more enjoyable if the visuals didn't reek so hard of 30 Days of Night.

The Midnight Meat Train [2008]

The premise is interesting enough, but I just can't get past Bradley Cooper and the character he plays. When uber-powerful art broker Brooke Shields (because, sure) challenges Cooper on his photography, he responds to her softball of "what inspires you" by clapping back "The city. Because no one's ever captured it. Not the way it really is." From that point on I only ever wanted to see this guy fail... which is a damn shame, because as it turns out, he eventually utilizes the power of his art to springboard him into becoming an action hero and stabbing vampire Vinnie Jones to death. So, good for him, I guess.

Overlord [2018]

Reviews by Steve G and Mike D'Angelo both draw a comparison between Overlord and The Descent in recognizing the movie's focus on establishing itself as an adventure movie before welcoming any horror elements. That makes a sense to me, but it reminded me far more of (the admittedly little bit I actually recall of) Captain America though. Overlord isn't quite a super hero film, but it is an action film and Pilou Asbæk's Wafner had something of a Red Skull flavor to his villainy. (I was a little tired of lens flares by the end, which also gave this a super hero-y feel.) Maybe it's just a matter of expectations crippling my experience, or simply being the wrong audience for this one, but action with a hint of (incredibly greasy) horror isn't what I was hoping to see here. It's good for what it is though.

The Exterminating Angel [1962]

A few days ago rsq2000 introduced me to The Next Picture Show podcast, which pairs a new(er) release with a complementary film from the past. The first pair of episodes I listened to contrasted The Exterminating Angel with mother!, which led me here. Though I had a tepid reaction to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, to be blunt: the podcast made Angel's dramatic satire sound interesting in a ways that Bourgeoisie didn't translate for me.

I'll echo Jonathan as I, too, wish I'd seen Angel first, as that might have allowed me to ease into the director's style and the tone of these two films. With a decade's worth of distance between the two, it does feel like Angel dabbles in obviousness which allowed me to get a better feel for where Buñuel might be coming from. While that's perhaps a mark against my own intellectualism, I'll gladly take it because it allowed me to actually enjoy the film. As for understanding it, that's probably not going to come from a single sitting with this thing, no matter who you are.

Decades after Angel's release, actress Silvia Pinal spoke in an interview about how the film essentially stood as a precursor to reality television, which offers an interesting view through which to try to understand its themes. What caught my eye most, though, related to a point raised by TNPS podcast, dealing with Buñuel's restraint with the characters. The character defects are ample, but at no point did I look to any of the characters on screen and see downright terrible people. And maybe because of that, I started to think about how boxed off I am from other people, or ways of thinking. I'm not trying to make myself sound like I'm on the road to enlightenment, but it's not a leap to look at this and think about what self-defined rules are keeping me in a self-imposed lockdown? What are my own delusions preventing me from experiencing? And under which circumstances do I believe I'm allowed to walk freely from such restraints? This film's meaning isn't exactly universal (at one point the bear was considered to represent Communism, for crying out loud), but what settles in best with me is related in film scholar Marsha Kinder's conclusions on the movie.
"Like the guests, we long for a rational explanation that will free us from the anxiety aroused by such disturbing behavior. This cognitive struggle is dramatized in the plot as one of the guests (nicknamed the Valkyrie and the Virgin) commands everyone to stand still, for she “perceives” that they are all positioned in precisely the same spot as when this strange condition first emerged. But how could they all be in the same place when some of them have already died? Nevertheless, through a communal “faith” in this absurd narrative premise, the guests are miraculously released from the living room, only to have the same kind of entrapment reimposed in another setting. Just as the guests have been trained by their culture to pursue ritual and narrative coherence, we spectators have been trained by earlier sequences that repetition is the key. As in Las hurdes, though the insiders at first seem to be the only ones who are trapped, the film eventually reveals that the trap extends outward to encompass outsiders (including us spectators), who are all caught in the same network of bourgeois corruption, but on a much larger scale."

The Descent [2005]

Having just watched Overlord, several reviews of that movie raised a point on how it was similar to The Descent in that it's well-established as an adventure film before it unveils any horror elements. This is true, but I think they're vastly different movies. And one is also entirely more enjoyable than the other. I'm draw to the adventure side of The Descent as it pulls the viewer in. Add to it that the setting is increasingly claustrophobic, enhancing the sense of tension that already exists due to the questionable motivations that led the spelunkers to that particular cave. Then there's the horror reveal, which quickly forces to the surface any deep-seated resentments, adding a layer of interpersonal tension to the pre-existing anxiety. Even if there were no monsters, and all that happened once the pack of friends made their way into the depths of the cavern was a catastrophic injury, that wouldn't have made for a bad film. The monsters simply draw to the surface feelings that are already there...

And speaking to the under-dwellers, even through today's eyes, the monsters of The Descent are solid. The frights aren't anything new, and the movie isn't without its jump scares, but they seem fairly defensible here. The monsters are able to creep up on people. They're predators. That's what they do. It's no wonder that no one hears them coming at first, because why would they? They're all alone trapped in the depths of a cave far below the surface of the Earth. Desperate, alone, trapped with no one to save them (from themselves) but themselves.

Tootsie [1982]

On one hand, it looks like my parents got a stab at curating the Criterion Collection. On the other, Tootsie isn't exactly undeserving of the inclusion. In recently watching Midnight Cowboy for the first time, I was especially moved by Dustin Hoffman's performance in that film, which seems to have carried over for me here. While brilliant as playing Dorothy, Hoffman's Michael is downright insufferable at times—I was really impressed by both sides of that coin though. Add to it that every scene Bill Murray was in made me light up (I don't even remember him even being in this movie from when I last saw it as a kid on my parents' VHS copy... like I said, they're fans) and I really enjoyed this... but I'm still stuck on what Tootie's enduring message is supposed to be...

n its conclusion, Tootsie suggests that Michael grows as a person through his role as Dorothy, but it's sort of a weird anti-message in that a man's gain comes as a result of a woman's ultimate demise. While Jessica Lange's Julie seems to accept Michael in the closing scene, that's such a strange finale to me. Throughout the entire film Michael had to hide his true self (or at least his identity) from those who accepted and celebrated him as Dorothy. By the end though, despite he himself being aware of what he was doing the entire time, he also feels he's built a relationship with Julie even though he was only able to learn anything about her under the pretense that he was someone who he's not. Julie was hurt by the revelation that Dorothy was really Michael (because how could she not be?!), and when he continued to hound her, she told him that she missed her friend. Her friend Dorothy. Not her friend Dorothy who was actually a male actor. So if Michael had actually grown as a person through this experience, could he have seen that pursuing Julie still (even as "just a friend") puts her in an impossible position of trying to reconcile that her friend is now a ghost living on through a strange man's body? And how gross and weird that is? Or is that part of the point: That even in the end, men are only ever concerned with what they want?