Thursday, August 06, 2020

Do You Like To Laugh

This post's title is dedicated to those poor sods who would harass people on street corners with that question -- "Do you like to laugh?" -- in order to get them inside of Comedy Clubs here in the pre-COVID Days of NYC. This pandemic's got me down enough that I sort of miss them! Anyway true story I seem to have become nightmarishly picky when it comes to Comedy. I have lots of old stand-by favorites from my more innocent, less jaded youth that I go back to time and time again -- Soapdish! Dirty Rotten Scoundrels! -- but it's not a genre I actively seek out very often anymore.

Truth be told I can be snobbish and weird about the genre. I guess I like Smart Dumb Comedy -- I don't mind a poop joke but you've got to give me something new and exciting with your poop joke. (Side-note: you oughta read MNPP pal Michael's terrific recent piece on the art of the poop joke with regards to Bridesmaids over at TFE.) I am simply incapable of sitting down and enjoying an episode of something as braying and needy as say The Big Bang Theory. It physically pains me, that sort of thing. 

Of course this pandemic has really put that snobbishness to the test -- we need a good belly laugh, an emphatic guffaw, now and then amid these darkest of days. And so in a fit of want I tweeted out the above question last week, and in return I got a million and a half fun responses that I appreciated a whole bunch. Then naturally I just ended up re-watching Christopher Guest's Best in Show for the thousandth time...

... but I've got a Go-To Laugh List for when I need it now. And if anyone has any further suggestions please do give them in the comments. That said I forward all of this to say make it clear that I have actively been thinking a lot about my weird relationship with comedy -- how I'll almost always if I want to laugh put on a bad horror flick or something Campy like Showgirls before I'll even think to put on an actual trying-to-make-me-laugh Comedy Film -- when lo, behold, a trailer for a new Comedy Series should appear.

That's the trailer for Mapleworth Murders, which stars former SNL writer Paula Pell as a Murder She Wrote type Older Lady Sleuth, and which will feature cameos from lots of Smart Dumb Comedy Now people like Wanda Sykes, Chris Parnell, Nicole Byer, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Jack McBrayer, Annie Mumolo... I have a really good friend who's a Comedy Fiend and she loves Pell -- I think a lot of Comedy Fiends do. My only interaction with Pell was in the Netflix comedy Wine Country...

... which is a good example of a recent comedy that left me totally and thoroughly cold. Except for Pell, who was its highlight I thought. But with a cast like Wine Country had -- Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer! -- I should've been in Chuckle Heaven! So I guess what I am getting at with all of this is... I am dead inside, right? I'm just dead inside. Mapleworth Murders premieres on Quibi on August 10th!

Which Is Hotter?

One of my last In Theater Experiences before all this shit went down was in February seeing a collection of short films called "Queer Before Stonewall" at MoMA, which included Andy Warhol's 1965 flick My Hustler, which isn't technically a short at 76 minutes... but in spirit it is, since per Andy's usual nothing really happens. The plot description is short! Two homosexual men and one straight woman leer at Paul America (seen above) for a long time on the beach, and then they leer at him inside, the end. 

He's worth the time spent leering! Anyway since today would have been Andy Warhol's 92nd birthday it seemed an opportune moment to revisit that and drag Joe Dallesandro into the mess while we're at it because I don't know about you but I can't talk about Andy without also wanting to talk about (or leer at anyway) Little Joe...

bike tracks

Two Helpings of QuarHor Come Home

You could close your eyes and randomly point at a thousand horror films and I bet you that more than half of them would be considered "Quarantine Horror" -- and as a side-note I am really gunning for the term "QuarHor" (pronounced "Core Whore") to happen because its ugliness delights me, so let's work on that. How important has loneliness and isolation been to the genre since Day Uno? How many Nicole Kidmans have been trapped in their houses staring at their sad reflections as plague invaders rummage around their attics since time began? 

It's why we've been able to snatch up several horror movies that were made before the coronavirus turned 2020 into its own horror movie and scream, "Oh this one speaks to our moment!" Look at the really marvelous Relic (which I reviewed a few weeks back) -- that played at Sundance before the world shut down, but a couple months later we're all vibing hard on its tale of three women stuck in a house closing in around them. Or Romola Garai's film Amulet from two weeks back (reviewed here), which... is about people trapped inside a house that's closing in around them. See also The Rental, and The Beach House, or heck even The Pool with the hot dude trapped inside the swimming pool with the crocodile. More like "COVID-ile" am I right? (Sorry.)

Well now we can add one more "made before the plague but fits right in with our moment" Horror Movie to the QuarHor heap -- over on Shudder today comes a new spin on the old folk-tale called La llorona, this one from the Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante. If Bustamante's name is familiar to you perhaps its because his phenomenally disquieting coming out film Temblores got some play here in the US over the last year -- it played at NewFest last fall which was where I saw it and it's stuck with me ever since; enough that I realized halfway through La llorona was from the same director without having to look that fact up. Both films exist in the same stiflingly airless aristocratic world, where wealth smothers and snuffs out humanity, individuality and personality, done dead.

Temblores was a horror film in its own way but La llarona is such explicitly, tackling the legendary ghost story -- a ghost story which I went into pretty extensive detail about a few months ago over here after I went onto a little bender with its many filmic iterations towards the start of quarantine. The story of La llorona aka "The Crying Woman" has been turned into numerous films over the decades, but I think I have a new favorite with Bustamente's politically-charged version. His film sets the ancient score-settler loose on the cloistered family of an elderly former general, who's just gotten the little charge of "Genocide" overturned thanks to the corrupt court system and his connections.

Enrique (Julio Diaz), with echoes of Harvey Weinstein's walker, play-acts frailty and helplessness for the angry crowds that have come to lynch him, but the second he's out of sight he lights up a cigarette, breathes calmly, lost in troubles that seem to be more about his legacy than any attack of conscience. His family -- alongside a security guard played by Temblores' leading man Juan Pablo Olyslager -- has gathered at his side to show support, but even they seem unsure of Enrique's true history and what he might have been capable of doing... although it seems to mostly be learned ignorance from them. They didn't want to see.

But now they're all trapped in a mansion with a protesting mob at their doorstep, unable to escape from the truths they've been avoiding. And in like a wisp slips a new maid called Valeriana (María Telón), with eyes so big and watchful that everything liquifies before them. Including the floors, the walls, and everyone's nerves.

The ghosts of Enrique's horrors seem to rise from up the floorboards -- the palatial backyard and pool becomes damp, overgrown, swarmed with bleating frogs. The jungles where this bad man committed his atrocities are no longer okay with keeping their place -- like the house from Parasite (which feels like it had to be an influence) the rains will come, and keep on coming, until even their dreams drip with them. You can throw up all the walls you want -- we carry our poisons, our ruinations, inside of us, beating fast and deep. Our wickedness will always worm its way in. Or out.

La llorona was made in 2019 before COVID struck, but I also recommend our very first post-COVID shocker -- seriously just bless the Horror Genre, which is always so satisfactorily there taking the world's temperature at every single moment -- called Host, which hit Shudder last week after being filmed mid-lockdown, and which has already proven itself a popular meme-maker. A found-footage spooker akin to Searching with John Cho or the Unfriended films -- meaning it's set entirely on computer screens -- Host exploits our current communal quarantine Zoom experiences to great creepy relentlessly-jumpy effect. I haven't leapt this far off my couch since I heard there were Clorox Wipes at the local Dollar Store.

A collection of six-ish friends more or less (don't ask me to differentiate them too far, this isn't that kind of movie save the broadest of strokes) gather on the social-networking app to chat and stuff -- seems like this time they're gonna do something special to goose their bored Pandemic Days, and invite on a Medium one's friendly with, for a seance type situation. And before you think this sounds far fetched let me tell you that the subject of Tarot Card readings came up on my weekly Friend Zooms on more than one occasion, and this all felt on point.

Naturally this all goes horribly wrong and the friends let something -- something like The Devil!!!! -- into their chatroom, and all Hell -- yes Hell!!! -- breaks loose. Host might be far less serious and political about its intentions than La llorona was but it's also sinisterly unsettling, expertly playing with where we are looking when, and with making the most out of the platform's glitches and quirks -- you'll never look at a Zoom Background or Facial Recognition Software the same way again!

And it's just in general busy with being a hell of a fun, scary ride. I'd say it's the sort of movie you'd want to watch with a bunch of friends but that would clearly miss the point! Perhaps you can watch it with friends on Zoom? Now that'd be something to tweet home about.

John David Washington Four Times



Today's Fanboys Delusion

Today I'd rather be...

... having a blow party with Tom Mercier.

(via) Pay close attention to where those
first two bubbles go. Those bubbles get it.
39 days until We Are What We Are premieres...

5 Off My Head: Queen Charlize

Tomorrow the queen called Charlize will be turning 45 years awesome, and since I won't be online tomorrow -- Summer Fridays dontcha know -- I feel like celebrating her today. I've watched three Charlize movies during quarantine -- a re-watch of Mad Max Fury Road (yup still kicks all kinds of unholy arse) plus first-time viewings of her new Netflix joint The Old Guard (which I totally dug) and last year's political rom-com Long Shot with Seth Rogen, which was far funnier than I anticipated. I should've known those two wouldn't shovel shit in my face and tell me to smile. Anyway I was a little shocked after a cursory glance through our archives told me I've never done this before but there's no time like the present...

My 5 Favorite Charlize Performances

Aileen Wuornos, Monster (2003)
"I always wanted to be in the movies."
Furiosa, Mad Max Fury Road (2015)
"Out here everything hurts."
Marlo, Tully (2018)
"People used to eat flour back then."
Lorraine Broughton, Atomic Blonde (2017)
"I'm my own bitch now!"
Mavis Gary, Young Adult (2011)
"Theater fag is an expression, Buddy."

What's your fave Charlize?

Five Frames From ?


What movie is this?

What Did You Say

Sure enough I couldn't help myself and I watched the trailer for the new Charlie Kaufman movie I'm Thinking of Ending Things this morning, even though -- who needs convincing? I don't need convincing. I was on-board with this movie not just when I posted the poster and new images yesterday, not just when it was announced way back, not just when Charlie Kaufman slipped out of his mother's insides -- I was convinced I would see this movie when the first atom split in two. 

That's a very Charlie Kaufman thing of me to say, especially in regards to the through-line of this trailer, which is all about time slippage -- not that I don't think this movie will still surprise and astound me but I sort of wish they'd kept their more Kaufman-esque cards closer to their vest; this could've been sold as a more straightforward thriller about going home with a boyfriend to meet his parents who turn out to be weirdos.

What I am saying is they might alienate some rubes with all the flights of intellectual fancy already on display here? Stuff those heart pills into the dog-food and trick them rubes, Netflix! It's good for them to see things they don't expect, be challenged, every once in awhile. They'll more than likely hate it but they'll remember it, and some will be changed for the better.

I'm Thinking of Ending Things drops September 4th.

Good Morning, World

We are always here for it when Transit actor Franz Rogowski shows up naked -- technically we're always here for it when Franz shows up, period, but seeing as how he's almost always taking his clothes off when he does this has thankfully never become an either/or conundrum for us. Anyway these two snaps of Franz come from his forthcoming movie Black Milk (via MNPP pal Mat on Twitter who was kind enough to share) -- calling it his movie is apparently a stretch, according to Mat he's in it for all of a couple minutes, but you see? He still manages to show his bottom. He's a good egg, that Franz Rogowski. We dig the Rogowski.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Pics of the Day

I was nosing around the press site for Charlie Kaufman's upcoming Netflix movie I'm Thinking of Ending Things just now -- if you missed it earlier I showed y'all the poster, along with the news that we're seeing our first trailer tomorrow! -- when I stumbled upon these two photos which are new to me, what a thrill! And when I say "What a thrill" what I am really talking about is the sight of Toni Collette just below -- I don't know what good deeds I've done to deserve getting Toni Collette in a Charlie Kaufman movie at last but having survived through this much of 2020 (so far) I will accept it, gladly. Make sure you come back for the trailer tomorrow! The movie is out on September 4th! Less than a month to go!

The Paul Mescal Collection

Well it looks like The World went and took my advice and no one has told Normal People actor Paul Mescal about Pants -- Good work, World! We did it! We finally got one right! In celebration of our accomplishment -- and also in celebration of the fact that I cannot seem to form any coherent thoughts worth sharing today -- I have gathered up for us a gallery of photos of Paul and his Perfect Legs running around London in short shorts over the past few months, huzzah! (That said these don't include the most important shots of all, which I'd already posted back in May.) Hit the jump for several dozen photos that'll make this brown day blue...

I'm Thinking of Beginning Things

Netflix has just shared with us the first poster for Charlie Kaufman's upcoming movie I'm Thinking of Ending Things -- and yeah okay by "us" I mean "everyone on Twitter" whatever -- and the thrilling news that the first trailer for the movie will be arriving tomorrow! Read my previous posts on the film here -- it stars Jess(i)es Plemons & Buckley, plus Toni Collette and David Thewlis, and is hitting the streamer on September 4th! That's so super soon! 

I don't even know if I'll be done with Charlie Kaufman's book Antkind by then, and I've been working on that for weeks and weeks. It's so great, you guys. So funny -- I only read it at night in bed and I keep waking up the boyfriend because I am laughing so hard. I limit myself to about five to ten pages a night because I want to make it last as long as I can, but I'm down to about the last hundred. I will have maybe timed it perfectly, and I'll finish the book just as the movie hits. A day without Charlie is a day not delighted.

Five Frames From ?


What movie is this?

Good Morning, World

Noted actor and speedo enthusiast Luke Evans had himself a lil' whiff of a nude scene on this past week's latest episode of The Alienist, but since it contains a spoiler I'll make sure I toss the spoiler (which actually includes the "nude" part of the "nude scene" of course) down below. Avert your eyes if you're inclined to not know what is happening this season and aren't yet caught up! I have my issues with the show here and there, like...

... but I also kind of love it, too?

Mixed feelings are fine -- any feelings are fine! As long as I am feeling something! Wow sorry that emotional outburst came out of nowhere. You know. 2020. Anyway the actor playing the villain this season is super entertaining and I really do like the show's leads, especially Daniel Brühl and to my surprise Luke -- I know I have posted a lot about Mr. Evans over the years but it's been more out of fascination with his personal choices than it has been about the work so much, and so to find myself really enamored with the delicate sweetness he's displaying here has really come at me out of nowhere. Good work, Luke! Those kind words out of the way now we can thankfully hit the jump for his (spoilery) butt...

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Everything You Ever Need To Know About Life...

... you can learn from:

Rear Window (1954)

Stella: Intelligence. Nothing has caused the 
human race so much trouble as intelligence.

Even when I was a kid this quote from Thelma Ritter's character annoyed me. (Yes I was a nerd, why do you ask?) It makes perfect sense for her character, crammed full of folksy anti-intellectual colloquialisms, but that's a strain that runs through Hitchcock that I've never cottoned to myself. It makes him a very American film-maker though! It's part of why I will always consider him, for all his Britishness, a quintessentially American storyteller. He really believed and bought into the Dream of this place. I mean who else threw the bad guys off of the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore?

Anyway I'm not sure why I am going off on that tangent -- I mean okay yes clearly given the state of the world, it makes sense why I've got American anti-intellectualism on my mind. But I'm really just here to wish my favorite Hitchcock movie (not to mention my sometimes Favorite Movie of All The Movies) Rear Window a happy 66th birthday!

The movie premiered here in New York City at the no-longer-standing Rivoli Theatre at 1620 Broadway on the night of August 4th, 1954 -- the premiere was actually a benefit for the American–Korean Foundation hosted by the U.N. for some reason, I don't know. The Korean War had just ended, I guess. Anyway the film was beloved from the get-go, getting rave reviews from basically everybody, but that wasn't too weird for him circa the mid-50s, at least until he cashed in his chips with Vertigo in '58. Sandwiched as it was in the center of his three movies with Grace Kelly this was clearly a very happy time for the director.

In related news this is one of the four films getting dropped in a fancy new 4K blu-ray boxed-set next month -- "The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection" contains brand-new updates of Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho and The Birds, and streets on September 8th. The most exciting content on this set is the inclusion of the "uncut" version of Psycho, which includes itty bitty bits of footage that Hitchcock had to cut in 1960 for the censors. I'm not convinced the film needs these extra snippets of prurience as I don't know if you noticed by it works just fine already! But from a historical standpoint it'll be interesting to see. Here's a video about the "uncut" version: