Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Do Sheep Really Go to Heaven (And If So, Is It Worth It)?; or, Why Taste Still Matters (Yes, Again)

Posted by CinemaPsycho on June 23, 2013

“I don’t watch TV any more. What am I going to watch, bachelor crocodiles in a storage unit? I can’t watch that.” – Jerry Seinfeld on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

OK, I’m warning you guys now, this is going to be a big rant. Huge, ginormous, epic rant. It may even offend some people, and if it does, too bad. Don’t expect an apology. So if you don’t want to read a rant, turn back now. But I’ve reached a point where I feel like this has to be said, and no one else is saying it. So here goes.

I’m just wondering if anyone else feels like everyone around them is turning into pod people. Is anyone else having that experience? I don’t know, maybe everyone you know is smart and sophisticated. Lucky you. I don’t have that luxury. I pride myself on having taste, or at least trying to have taste. I make an attempt, anyway. But it’s gotten to the point where a trip to my family’s house is like being bombarded with the absolute worst that the media and pop culture has to offer. (Not to worry, my family isn’t aware that I write this blog.) My mother watches brainless, superficial reality shows night and day, and honestly, I despise the people who create the brain-damaged sewage they call “reality TV”, which is neither reality nor television. My father, once a lifelong Democrat, has taken to watching Fox Opinions (excuse me, Fox “News”, cough) and listening to a fat drug addict deliver hate speech on the radio. My niece watches terrible children’s shows on Disney Channel night and day and listens to horrendous pop music that sounds like robot farts. I was recently introduced through other relatives to something called Baby Daddy, a truly atrocious sitcom that is about exactly what it sounds like. I don’t object to the show on moral grounds, mind you (though I find it ironic that it airs on the same network that gives us The 700 Club); I object to it because it’s awful and profoundly unfunny, and makes the likes of Whitney look like classic comedy. Baby Daddy wouldn’t even pass muster in the primetime lineup of a major network, but put it on basic cable and somehow people love it. I’m sure the cast and crew of the show are all nice people who really need their paychecks, but really, have they considered the porn industry?

What is going on? Have people lost all sense of taste? Is everybody just willing to eat whatever shit they are shovel-fed by the media now? Doesn’t anyone ever feel like their intelligence is being insulted any more? Are we that far gone as a culture that we’re willing to eat shit and like it? Is Idiocracy right around the corner? What are we doing to ourselves???

Yes, there have always been stupid people and ignorant people and people who don’t make their own choices. I grew up around people like that, and I’ve never understood them. I’ve never understood how people can’t differentiate quality entertainment from crap entertainment. It’s not something you can explain – it’s something you just know. It’s like you can’t explain to people why Nickelback are a shitty band – they just are. If you don’t hear the difference between Nirvana and Nickelback, you will never understand it, OK? You can’t explain why Bob Dylan is a great artist – you either hear it or you don’t. You can’t explain The Beatles and the Stones, or The Ramones and The Clash. You can’t explain Iggy Pop or Elvis Costello. You have to hear it and go, “oh, of course.” It has to make sense to you right away, or you will never get it. You’re stuck with the robot farts.

That’s what having taste is. It’s the same with movies, television, pretty much anything. You either get why The Twilight Zone is a classic show or you don’t. You get why The Simpsons is funny or you don’t. And conversely, you either get why Keeping Up With the Kardashians is utterly brainless, wealth-worshipping dog vomit or you don’t. And if you don’t, there’s no help for you. You’ve become one of the sheep. You’re a pod person. There’s no rehab program that will save you.

Look, I was never one to buy into all that Marshall McLuhan “opiate of the masses” stuff, but lately I’m really starting to wonder. Sure, I watched crappy shows like Different Strokes and The Facts of Life when I was a kid. But they weren’t being piped into the house 24 hours a mother fucking DAY. OK? I mean, Jesus Christ people, look around. Look at the pathetic level of discourse in this country. People can’t even watch the news and process the basic facts without injecting their own bullshit into it. I’ve got a brother who thinks we should “nuke all the A-rabs” and a sister-in-law who actually thinks Christians are being persecuted in America (by whom, she has no idea). I don’t bother to argue with them, because you can’t argue with people who don’t know anything about the world they live in. Do you really think there’s no connection between the mindless garbage that’s being constantly shoved into people’s brains and the population’s lack of knowledge about the world around them? Let’s get real here. When people stop making choices, they stop thinking. When they stop thinking, they stop learning. And when they stop learning, they live with a skewed, ignorant view of the world where opinions are more important than facts.

It’s long past time for a taste revolution in this country. South Park did a great episode last season about “raising the bar”, and frankly, the bar needs to be raised much, much higher than it is now. People need to demand better entertainment and better news. Make better choices for yourselves. Take responsibility for what you watch and listen to. Don’t just consume something “because it’s there”. Demand a certain level of intelligence and reject anything that doesn’t meet that level. Reject bad TV, bad movies and bad music. BE SMARTER. Paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Danny Glover and say, I’m too smart for this shit. Embrace talent and quality again and we’ll all be better off for it.

Look at what we’re facing here. Do we really want a future in which the majority believes that crap is gold and garbage is entertainment? We need to turn this thing around and we need to do it now. If we don’t, we’re going to have a population who believes that opinions are news, science isn’t real, history never happened and facts don’t matter. Because if we’re willing to watch anything and listen to anything, we’ll probably also believe anything as well.

Posted in Psycho Therapy | 2 Comments »

Survival of the Living; or, We Do Need Another Hero

Posted by CinemaPsycho on May 19, 2013

Wow, time flies, doesn’t it? Yeah. I’ve been a little busy lately. And being sick hasn’t helped either. I’ve really been meaning to post more often, it’s just kind of gotten away from me. But, as movie trailers used to say in the 80’s, I’m baaaaaack…

Before I get to my main subject, can someone tell me why people have such a problem with Kickstarter? I think it’s a great way for fans to help get the movies made that they want to see. But no one’s forcing anyone to give money to any project. If you don’t want to give a single dime to Veronica Mars or Zach Braff, well, you don’t have to. So don’t. Go about your business. I gave $25 to the Veronica Mars people, because I loved the show and I’d like to see the movie get made. I’m glad I could contribute in some small way. If you don’t feel the same way, fine. Don’t give them any money. I wasn’t forced to, and no one’s forcing you to. Yeah, it’d be nice if Warner Brothers would pony up $5 million to make the movie, but they’re clearly not going to do that. So the producers took an alternate route. They didn’t put a gun to anyone’s head and force them to give them money to make the movie. The fans wanted to give them money because they loved the show. It’s something they were passionate about. What’s so bad about that? I probably would have just spent that $25 on something else anyway. I’m glad the fans weren’t apathetic about something that they loved. I think that’s great. Kickstarter is just another way to make your voice heard. When I was a kid, I would’ve loved to be able to help keep Square Pegs on the air (wow, that dates me) or get a cool movie made that wouldn’t be made otherwise. Why do people have such a problem with that? Do you really like having corporations make all the decisions about your entertainment choices? If so, I will never understand you.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand. The recent escape/rescue of those girls in Cleveland from that lunatic’s basement brought to mind something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now (just so we’re clear, I am very pro-sex, but only consensual sex, so what this guy did is very uncool with me). Recently I’ve been thinking about the whole debate over violent horror films, thrillers, etc., which I’ve talked about before on this blog. I often think that maybe both sides are kind of missing the point. And sometimes it doesn’t help that the movies themselves kinda miss the point.

Let me explain. You see, I can only speak for myself as an individual audience member. And I’ve never watched horror movies to watch people die. No. That’s not the point. I watch horror movies to watch people survive.

ap061016031280-d89cf482f535577c5dbf441ad745f7806dab8712-s6-c10.jpg

John Carpenter said something awhile back in an interview I read on Dread Central, and I wish I had the exact quote here, but I don’t, so I’m paraphrasing. He basically said that the point of horror/thrillers is for the audience to transfer themselves and their fears, wishes and hopes into the characters they’re watching on screen, so that they basically become the lead character and root for them to survive and achieve their goals. In other words, we identify with the survivor, not the killer. When I read that, I thought, yes, exactly. When I watch Carpenter’s seminal Halloween (one of my all-time favorite horror films), it is Laurie Strode I identify with, not Michael Myers. I like Laurie Strode, I admire her, I think she is smart and strong and awesome. That is why she survives, I have always believed – not because she is a virgin but because she is the strongest of her group. She is us, or who we wish we were. OK, it doesn’t take much strength to hide in the damn closet, admittedly (it was 1978), and she has some help from Dr. Loomis, but still, I believe the point of Halloween is that Laurie Strode is a survivor. Not that everyone else dies. She even survives Halloween II, and is much more proactive in doing so. (As far as Laurie’s “death” in Halloween: Resurrection goes, I prefer to think that entire shitty movie doesn’t even exist, canon or no canon.) Michael Myers is the embodiment of pure evil – we’re not supposed to identify with him. Those who do are missing the damn point. (I know, what about Rob Zombie’s remake? Well, to me that’s a different thing, with a different aesthetic. In Zombie’s film, clearly we are meant to identify with Michael, at least for the first half. But again, that’s not Carpenter’s film.) When I watch Halloween, I’m watching it to watch Laurie Strode survive. That’s the point of the movie. It’s not a feminist thing, it’s a human thing. I like her as a person and I want her to survive. She does. And that’s awesome.

I don’t know how many of you have seen Brad Anderson’s recent thriller The Call. OK, it’s not a horror film per se, but hear me out. The critics really missed the boat on this one, so if you’re one of those people who only goes to see movies with a high Rotten Tomatoes rating, you probably didn’t see it. You missed out. It’s a really smartly written thriller about a 911 call center worker (played by Halle Berry) who helps a kidnapped teenager (Abigail Breslin) escape from a psychopath. It’s more complicated than that, obviously, but that’s the basic idea. I was really impressed by it, both by the clever script by Richard D’Ovidio and the tight direction from Anderson (a very underrated talent). What really struck me about the film was how invested I and the rest of the audience got in both of these characters’ well-being. The script and the performances are very smart about how much they make you care about these people, and that’s why it works so well. OK, obviously you know going in that the girl’s probably not going to die horribly, but it’s how she survives that matters. I loved watching both of them fight backthat’s what I want to see. I didn’t want to see them die.

call-trailer-02212013-135925.jpg

I wanted to see them fight to survive. And I loved that they did. That was awesome. I fucking loved that. When Berry says to Breslin over the phone, “we’re fighters, you and me” – I’m not ashamed to say that moment made me tear up. Yes. That’s what I want to see. That’s what this is about. I want this girl to survive. I want you to kick this motherfucker’s ass. I want you to be a hero. That’s what The Call is about, and that’s why I loved the hell out of it. I loved it for the same reason I loved that those girls in Cleveland escaped that basement. As far as I’m concerned, those girls are heroes. They got away. They survived. Fuck yeah.

You see, I don’t watch these movies to see evil win. I want evil to be vanquished. I want someone to rise up and kick evil’s ass. I realize that’s not always possible or realistic. It’s not always going to happen. But man, do I love it when it does. It’s the same reason I loved Mia’s “fuck-you” chainsaw moment in the Evil Dead remake (which I loved, actually) – it was just like, YEAH. She fucking earned that. “You know what, I’m tired of this shit.” Great line. I’ve never understood people who watch horror films and root for Jason, Freddy and Michael. I just don’t think they get it. And too many horror films cater to them, like the miserable, godawful, execrable Wrong Turn 5. Yeah, I’m done with that series once and for all. Somewhere along the line, it took a “wrong turn” and became about how “awesome” these raping, murdering, inbred cannibals are. Declan O’Brien, the writer/director of the shitty experience that is Wrong Turn 5, deserves a seriously hard kick in the nuts. And I actually saw the edited version on the Sci-Fi Channel. I can’t imagine what the unedited version is like. Fuck That Nonsense. Just trust me, don’t ever, ever, ever watch Wrong Turn 5. Whatever mistakes you make in life, don’t make that one.

“But wait a minute”, I hear some of you saying, “aren’t you the guy who championed the torture-porn films not too long ago?”
OK, hold up a second there. I wouldn’t exactly say I championed them. I said I thought they were an interesting phenomenon. I think some of those films are fascinating, and I think a lot of them are a sociopolitical reaction to what was going on at the time (Abu Grahib, anyone?). But I don’t want every horror film to be like them. Hell no. I think there’s a place for extremely dark films, just like I think there’s a place for death metal, but I don’t want to listen to it 24-7. As I said at the time, I like a good old-fashioned haunted-house movie too. And I like other things that have nothing to do with horror whatsoever.

I just strongly dispute this idea (even held among some horror fans) that horror has to be all about death, and watching people die, and die in horrible ways, and let’s find new and creative ways to kill people on screen, and all that jazz. For me, and for a lot of other people, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the exact opposite of that mentality. If being sick for the last several months has taught me anything, it’s that life is a little too short to spend it obsessed with death. A great horror film should be a rollercoaster ride, and we should come out at the end of it exhilarated, a little frightened, and most of all, glad to be alive. Because that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Posted in Psycho Therapy | 1 Comment »

I’m OK, You Suck: Why People Are Allowed to Like Different Things Than You

Posted by CinemaPsycho on March 17, 2013

There seems to be a virus going around. I call it a “virus” because I think that’s the best way to describe it: it gets inside you and once you’ve got it, it’s a bitch to get rid of. It’s also contagious and potentially harmful to one’s general well-being. I call it the “I’m OK, You Suck” virus (named after the famous psychotherapy book “I’m OK, You’re OK”, if you didn’t get the reference), in which people seem to think that their taste and only their taste is valid, and no one else is allowed to have different taste than theirs. This is a virus that’s been going around for a long, long time now, and some professional critics have had it for decades and still haven’t kicked it. But it’s gone even beyond that now, to the point where people are questioning why certain genres even exist, and berating audiences for enjoying them. This is something I don’t understand, and I’m trying to figure out the mentality behind it. Where does this come from? Why can’t people just, you know… ignore things they don’t like?

I first encountered a strain of this particular virus in film school in the early 90’s, where I was informed by the film snobs that I wasn’t allowed to like movies like Die Hard. Really. That just wasn’t cool. OK, I get that John McTiernan isn’t exactly considered an auteur, and I get the whole anti-Hollywood thing. But I always figured, when Hollywood actually does something right, why not reward them for it? Nope, unacceptable. Never mind that I also liked Woody Allen, Wim Wenders and Pedro Almodovar. I just liked good movies, period, and I did not give a damn where they came from. But it seems if you like this thing, you can’t possibly like anything else. Never understood that kind of thinking. Some people never got where I was coming from. Some people came around, and we’re still friends to this day. But I never understood the virus. (Never mind that the new Die Hard sequel is barely even a Die Hard movie at all; that’s a separate issue, and one not even worth discussing.)bd0a1a272a8edd801c096158410f6a522cedb846b182e37e748fa8d0.jpg

But some people have to make a statement all the time; they can’t just like what they like, and let others like what they like. For some reason, that’s difficult for them. I don’t feel guilty about my guilty pleasures, and I see no reason why I should. Should I feel ashamed that I have Clueless in my DVD collection? I don’t see why. It’s a funny movie. I enjoy watching it. If you can resist the charms of Alicia Silverstone, that’s your problem, buddy. I own the “Whatever!” Edition, and I feel no shame. Look, I never had any grand illusions (or delusions) about bringing down the system. The system’s still there, last time I checked. I never thought it would be otherwise. If you refuse to watch anything made by Hollywood, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great stuff. And there are just as many awful indie and foreign films as there are awful Hollywood films. I know, because I’ve seen them. The great irony is, when you really get to know the film snobs, you find out they grew up on Spielberg and Lucas just like everybody else in the world. And they cried at the end of E.T. too. I just wasn’t bullshitting anybody about it.

This new strain of the virus is even more insidious, because some people apparently don’t even know they have it. But they’re exhibiting symptoms nonetheless. It’s gotten to the point where people aren’t just criticizing individual films any more, they’re actually questioning the existence of entire genres and asking, “why does Hollywood keep making these films?” In other words, why do these movies exist? Well, if you’re going to get all existential and whatnot, you could ask why anything exists. I’m not a philosophy professor, so I really can’t help you with that. But in general, genre movies exist because people like them. Therefore, they keep buying tickets, therefore the studios make money, therefore more genre movies are made. Seems pretty obvious to me. If you don’t understand that, I don’t know what to tell you. Like any other business, Hollywood makes a product that people buy. Variations on a theme. If something works, they keep doing it. If there’s an audience for something, they keep serving that audience, because that’s how they make money. What don’t you understand?

Here’s the basic comment I keep reading over and over again: I don’t know why they keep making movies like this and I think you people are stupid for watching them over and over again and I’m so tired of these movies and you people suck for watching them and you must be idiots for paying to see them and Hollywood sucks for making them and blah blah blah…

Well, I’ve got an easy solution for you, buddy… stop watching them.

That’s right. It’s that simple. No one is forcing you to watch anything. Where is this proverbial “gun to your head” that is forcing you to watch any movie? It doesn’t exist. It is your choice to watch something. No one is strapping you to a chair and prying your eyes open like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. That doesn’t happen. When you watch a movie, you are making a choice and making an effort to watch that movie. Whether it’s in a theater, at home, wherever, nothing is being forced in front of your eyes. So if you don’t want to watch something, just ignore it and move on with your life.

That’s all you have to do. If you don’t like horror films, don’t watch them. That’s all. You don’t have to berate others for watching them. That’s their choice. Worry about your own choices, not other people’s choices. Move on with your life. If you’re tired of superhero movies, stop seeing them. No one is forcing you to see them. Do what you want, and let other people do what they want. If you don’t like raunchy comedies, you don’t have to see them. Just DON’T GO. There’s no gun to your head. Know your own taste and watch what you like to watch. Or watch nothing at all. I don’t care. No one cares. NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO BUY A TICKET.

Why don’t people understand this? I really don’t know. Look, it’s one thing to criticize an individual movie that you’ve watched as being bad. Everyone has the right to do that, of course (provided you can back it up with actual criticism). It’s another thing to take an entire genre as a whole and say, “this has no right to exist”. Bullshit. Of course it does. Even if it’s something I don’t particularly like myself, it still has the right to exist. There’s no argument there. I might think a genre is total bullshit, and I might not want to watch films of that genre. But it still has the right to exist. I would never point to any filmmaker and say, “the films you make should not exist.” Except for child porn. Obviously. What about hardcore porn, amongst consenting adults? Yep. You may not like it or watch it, but I can’t say it has no right to exist. If adults consented to do it, that’s their choice. It’s not my place to say they have no right to do it. If you don’t want to watch A Serbian Film, then don’t watch it. But you don’t have to be upset that it exists. Just don’t watch it. But don’t try to take away other people’s right to watch it, as long as they’re adults. Why is this so difficult to understand?

Believe it or not, it’s even possible to criticize individual films within a genre without hating the entire genre as a whole. For example, I think the Final Destination movies are basically just mean-spirited death porn without point or purpose. But I don’t write off the entire horror genre because of them. Do you see the difference? I’m not stupid enough to say, “I don’t like those movies, therefore I hate all horror movies.” But lots of people seem to think that way. Even some so-called critics. You have to be smart enough to look at films as individual pieces of work, made by different people with different intentions. If you look at an entire genre as being one thing and one thing only, then you are missing the various individual films within that genre and how they differ from each other. That goes for horror films, action films, spaghetti Westerns, 60’s biker films, pretty much any genre you want to put in there. It’s like saying Flash Gordon and Solaris are the same film because they’re both science fiction. Obviously they are not the same film. But some people seem to paint with those kind of broad strokes. Are Love and Death and Fletch the same film? No, of course not. They’re both comedies, but they’re extremely different films. I happen to really enjoy both of them. I imagine you get my point by now?

I keep telling people – get Netflix. You can choose from thousands of movies on streaming and DVD. You no longer have to rely on what your local cineplex is playing. If you want Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr, you can have that. If you want Strippers vs. Werewolves, you can have that too. Or you can have both, and everything in between. Netflix doesn’t judge. You can choose what you want to watch, when you want to watch it. You don’t have to care what other people are watching. If there’s nothing playing at your local theaters that you want to see, you don’t have to go. You don’t have to see Michael Bay’s Giant Shiny Metal Boxes Fight Each Other Part 5: This Time It’s Personal just because it’s the only thing playing. You’re allowed to stay home. No one is forcing you to see anything you don’t want to see. Watch something you like instead. It’s like, I don’t listen to Justin Bieber because I’m not a 12-year-old girl. But I’m not bothered by the existence of Justin Bieber. I just listen to the music that I like, and I move on with my life. Why waste my time hating something that I can’t do anything about? What other people listen to is not my business, and it’s not something I have any control over. I just spend my time enjoying the music that I love. That’s what makes me happy. If I went around lecturing people about their taste all the time, that would just be a wasted effort and everyone would think I was an asshole. What’s the point?

If I’ve learned anything in my time on this planet, I’ve learned that people are going to like what they want to like. And you have to accept that. And you should accept that. Stop worrying about what other people are doing. Worry about what you are doing. Believe in your own taste and love the things you love. I always encourage people to try new things, to go outside their boxes and sample whatever might interest them, whatever genre or subject matter it may happen to be in. Expand your own tastes and experiences with cinema. I still do that all the time, and I’m often surprised in what I end up liking. But the truth is, we all have our own comfort foods and guilty pleasures, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We wouldn’t want people judging us for the movies we love, so why judge others for the movies they love? Just acknowledge, accept and move on.

And remember what I always say – your least favorite film is someone else’s all-time favorite film. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. Someone out there loves that piece of shit. Don’t bother to ask why. They just do.

Posted in Psycho Therapy | Leave a Comment »

Oscars 2013: The Year of the Shrug

Posted by CinemaPsycho on February 25, 2013

Maybe it’s just me, but does it seem to anyone else like no one really cared about the Oscars this year? Am I the only one who got that impression? Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick lately and I’ve been preoccupied with that, so I haven’t been paying the kind of attention that I normally would be. But usually it seems like there’s months and months of Oscar hype before the event, and this year I didn’t see much of that. Even on the internet. Maybe I just didn’t go to the right places. I didn’t see much argument or discussion about it, except for the usual “the whole thing is bullshit” ranting from certain corners. I don’t know, maybe I was the only one who paid attention all along and I never realized it until now. Hey, guess what, your life is a Twilight Zone episode. Didn’t you know?

Seriously though, people can argue about the importance and relevance of the Oscars until kingdom come, but the bottom line is, Hollywood is a business. Without the Oscars, they have no motivation to focus on quality. Period. Without these awards, mainstream filmmaking becomes all about money and making drivel for the lowest common denominator. It becomes about making crap like Battleship and nothing but crap like Battleship. Maybe there’s some idiot out there who wants that, but I don’t. That’s what matters, not who wins and who loses. It’s the big picture that matters. Maybe people like Ethan Hawke don’t understand that, but some of us do.

Oscars-2013-Wallpaper.jpgAs for last night’s show… ugh. I find no fault whatsoever with the winners, and I sincerely congratulate them all. I was particularly happy to see Jennifer Lawrence and Christoph Waltz win, as they gave two of my personal favorite performances of the year. Lawrence seemed incredibly shocked to have won, and I think she was the only person on Earth who didn’t know she was going to win. Anyone who thinks she didn’t earn it with that performance can go fuck themselves, as far as I’m concerned. Ang Lee winning Best Director was a nice surprise. While Life of Pi didn’t make my Top 10, I did like the film and I thought it was very well directed. I am an Ang Lee fan in general (going way back), so it was nice to see him recognized. I still haven’t seen Les Miserables, but everyone seems unanimous that Anne Hathaway is fantastic in the film (whatever its faults may be), so I can’t argue with that one. I wasn’t a huge fan of Lincoln as a film, but I can’t argue that Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance wasn’t great, nor would I be foolish enough to attempt to do so. Not me, brother.

The show itself, however, I thought was a giant disaster from start to finish. It’s almost like they were trying to do the worst possible show they could, full of gaffes and mistakes and really bad jokes. It made me nostalgic for Whoopi Goldberg as host. I thought from the beginning that Seth McFarlane was a terrible choice for host, and last night sadly confirmed it. I don’t hate the guy (though I don’t like his shows), he seems smart and funny in interviews, but his sense of humor was all wrong for the Oscars. The Academy Awards are supposed to be a classy event. The classiest. McFarlane crossed the bad-taste line early on and never looked back. The Oscars are not the place for comedy routines you can research on Mr. Skin. And the whole “we did it, but we didn’t really do it” thing is a bullshit cop-out. The Lincoln joke had to be the all-time low point in the history of the Oscars. And yes, I saw the Rob Lowe/Snow White dance number. Just awful. What’s in store for us next year Seth, dead baby jokes? Oh right, there’s not going to be a next year for you.

What bothers me most about the show is how little attention was paid to what they’re supposed to be they’re for – the movies. Remember them? “We’re celebrating music this year” – WHY?? If you want to celebrate music, watch the Grammys. This is supposed to be an event that celebrates movies. What happened to that? Why was so little of the show spent celebrating the year’s best movies and the people who made them? Why do we need so many useless songs and musical numbers? I’ve really grown to despise the whole “red carpet fashion show” aspect of the pre-show. It’s useless and idiotic. If they would actually do it in a way that’s glamorous and cool, that would be different. But no, they do it in the most visually drab and boring way possible. I can’t imagine anyone sitting at home going, “wow, Amanda Seyfried looks really fucking hot in that dress!” Even if she does. Because they shoot it in the most boring possible way. Why can’t they actually get some photographers on the red carpet who know how to shoot these people properly? Just walking up to them and saying, “what are you wearing?” is boring and stupid. Nobody cares what they’re wearing, it’s what they look like that matters, you nimrods.

But what I really, really hate the most is when they play people off before they finish their speeches. They did that last night to Bill Westenhofer, Life of Pi’s Visual Effects Supervisor, after he spoke for a whole 43 seconds. I’m sorry, that’s fucking bullshit. The whole point of the show is to celebrate these people and the work they have done. This is THEIR NIGHT. This is THEIR MOMENT. Let them finish their speeches, you apes. Give them a goddamn minute.

I don’t really care that the show goes long. I just wish they would focus on what matters, or at least what’s supposed to matter about this event. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: if you really want to fix the Oscars, here’s what you do. Hire a host with class who gives a shit about movies. Then start the show at 8:00. An hour is long enough for the fashion show. Do the opening monologue and dance number at 8:00. Then spend the rest of the show focusing on what matters – the nominations, the awards, the MOVIES. Give the winners 3 minutes each to speak. Only do songs and musical numbers that relate to this year’s nominated movies. Get the presenters to actually rehearse. Then you’ll finish by 11:30 and everybody’s happy.

And for God’s sake, remember, the show is about the MOVIES. Nothing else. Forget that at your peril.

Posted in Psycho Therapy | Leave a Comment »

My Top 10 Movies of 2012

Posted by CinemaPsycho on February 3, 2013

Greetings everybody! So here it is, it’s finally time to get this done. If you haven’t read my Top 10 Pre-Ramble, please scroll way down and read that first. I will say that I thought 2012 was a great year for movies, if you knew where to look. Some years, I really have to stretch to even find 10 movies that I liked enough to list here. This year, there were tons of contenders for the list! I had to make some really tough choices and drop some films that I thought would make it when I first saw them. The order of the films really solidified about a week ago, but were constantly changing up until then. I’m actually really happy with the list the way it is now, and I’m sure some people will be surprised at some of the inclusions and omissions here. But again, keep in mind, this is a list of personal favorites, and all opinions are just that. Nothing more, nothing less. So with that in mind, let’s get started:

10) The Loved Ones – Damn I loved this movie. Writer/director Sean Byrne’s crazy/brilliant little gem was filmed in Australia in 2009, but didn’t hit our shores until 2012, so it counts. It’s basically the twisted little story of a teenage boy who’s been kidnapped by an extremely disturbed female classmate who has a crush on him. Needless to say, things get complicated. There’s also a hysterically funny subplot about his buddy who goes on the weirdest prom date imaginable. I’ve been very critical of indie horror films lately, but movies like The Loved Ones give me hope for the future. This is how you do it. Everything you need to know is right there on the screen, with plenty of twists and surprises that make logical sense. Robin McLeavy gives a tour de force performance as the increasingly unhinged Lola, but the entire cast is terrific. Byrne has really pulled off something special here, and he’s a name I will definitely notice in the future. The film has already started to develop a cult following among the horror crowd, but if you like dark, twisted teen comedies like Heathers, this is right up your alley as well. I see a lot of horror films, but I’m rarely as impressed by them as I was by this one. Because there’s nothing wrong with a little melody, son. Available on DVD/Blu.

9) ParaNorman – Sometimes I need a reminder that animated films can be awesome. ParaNorman was my reminder for 2012. Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell (Butler also wrote the screenplay) have crafted both a loving and affectionate tribute to horror films and a moving story about the way people treat those who are “different” as well as the power of forgiveness. Oh, and did I mention it’s funny as hell? Funnier than most live-action comedies I’ve seen in the past year? Because it totally is. Can you go wrong with this movie? You can not. It’s a film that both kids and adults will be legitimately entertained by, and maybe also learn something from. Not to mention the animation itself is kick-ass work. So yeah, it’s a cartoon. It’s also one of the best movies of the year in my book. Available on DVD/Blu.

8) The Master – Well, Paul Thomas Anderson really threw people for a loop with this one, didn’t he? Instead of the expose on Scientology that everyone expected, he basically gave us a mysterious puzzle box and said, “Here. Play with this for awhile.” I found the results to be fascinating, a kind of cinematic Rorschach test. What’s it about? What do you think it’s about? What happens in it? What do you think happens? And so on. My personal theory, which I haven’t heard anyone else espouse, is that Freddie is “The Master” because whatever mental illness he suffers from prevents him from completely succumbing to Lancaster Dodd’s religion/cult (or his mind control, if you prefer). He eventually gets out and continues to live his life his way, serving no master but his own desires. Freddie is The Master. That’s my theory, anyway. I’m sure there are many others. But I think it’s a terrific, mesmerizing film full of great acting and thought-provoking ideas. And whether that was the film you expected to see or not, that’s not the kind of film I turn up my nose at. Available on DVD/Blu Feb. 26.

7) Cabin in the Woods – You know why people keep saying this movie “dropped the mic”? Because it totally did. Much has already been written about how Cabin dropped a nuclear bomb on horror films and all their tricks, so no need to drag all that up again. But what most people neglect to mention is that the film was smart enough to make us care about its characters and the situation they were in at the exact same time they were pulling back the curtain on that situation. Director/co-writer Drew Goddard and producer/co-writer Joss Whedon didn’t just make a clever genre exercise that pulled a “wink wink nudge nudge” on the audience; no, they created a world in which explaining the rules of horror films in general is actually part of the storyline. They thought big and swung for the fences, and pulled it off. That’s huge. Now, do I think this film will put an end to all stereotypical, cliched horror films? Of course not. But it’s telling the people who make those films, we’re on to you. Time to come up with something new, buddy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of Cabin while watching a horror film in the months since it came out. I can’t be the only one. The brilliance of Cabin in the Woods is that, to borrow a phrase from another film on this list, it’s not just smart, it’s fucking smart. Available on DVD/Blu.

6) Argo – You know, I’ve never disliked Ben Affleck. Really. Even when he was with J-Lo (yeah, like you wouldn’t) and starring in stuff like Surviving Christmas, I never had a problem with the guy. Always thought he was a decent actor who just had a run of bad luck. Never understood the vitriol towards him. So it’s been interesting to see his comeback these last few years as an auteur. I think he’s made two really good movies as director, and now Argo is his home run, the one that proves it once and for all. You can’t deny the guy now. It’s based on the true story of how CIA specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) got a group of US embassy workers out of Iran with the help of Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (the great John Goodman) and film producer Lester Siegel (the great Alan Arkin) in 1979. Siegel is a composite character; Chambers is not. It’s a strange juxtaposition of worlds, the Middle East and Hollywood showbiz, but Affleck balances the two skillfully. It’s a real movie movie, the kind where you’re on the edge of your seat and really rooting for them to pull it off, but it’s not about superheroes who rush in and save the day either. Chuck Norris doesn’t come in with a bazooka and blow the bad guys away. That’s not how real life works. It is, however, a political story that I think everybody can root for, and boy do we need that now more than ever. If you can’t get behind that, well, Argo fuck yourself. Available on DVD/Blu Feb. 19.

5) Looper – Rian Johnson is a talented guy whose films never really connected with me personally until this one. Looper was the film that made me go, “oh… now I get it.” Part futuristic sci-fi, part film noir, part love story, part supernatural horror film, part crazy action movie, and all fantastic. There’s some terrific storytelling going on here – it’s the kind of movie that is constantly surprising you and raising new questions, yet by the end it all makes sense and you leave totally satisfied. I’ve seen some people pick apart the logic of it all, but I think they’re missing the whole point. How do you know what people are going to do in the future? Have you been there? Oh that’s right, you haven’t. None of us have. You can pick apart pretty much every time-travel movie ever made if you really want to. That doesn’t mean Back to the Future or Terminator isn’t a great movie just because you found a logic flaw. Get over yourself. I think Bruce Willis gives his best performance in years here, and the rest of the cast is similarly invested to do great work. Love Jeff Daniels as the philosophical mob boss. Wonderfully creative and tremendously entertaining movie. Available on DVD/Blu.

4) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Yes, I know I’m in the minority. Ask me if I care. (Spoiler alert: I don’t.) Peter Jackson’s first installment of his trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel was every bit the film I wanted and expected it to be and then some. I had a great, rollicking time with it, as did the audience I saw it with. I had no problems with the pacing or the story. I knew it would be a long movie going in and I prepared myself for that. What’s the problem? Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies were all long and no one bitched about it. Who cares how long the book is? It’s a journey, people. See, it’s right there in the title. A journey isn’t supposed to be over in 90 minutes. I mean, let me get this straight: you bought a ticket to a three-hour movie and then complained that it was too long? Sorry, does not compute. You know you didn’t have to go, right? No one forced you, did they? I don’t understand. For me, it was The Hobbit put on screen by a master filmmaker who knows this world inside and out, and I loved every single minute of it. It’s different than LOTR. Some of the characters are the same, yes, but the story is different, the world is somewhat different, the feel of it is going to be different. You have to adjust. Think of it as Godfather II rather than the original Godfather. Some would argue that Godfather II isn’t really necessary. I would argue that it’s an excellent movie and I’m glad it exists, necessary or not. Same principle goes here. If you don’t want to see this story, then you don’t have to see the movie. I wanted to see this story, and I’m glad I did. Currently in theaters.

3) Zero Dark Thirty – “Hey, aren’t you the guy who didn’t like The Hurt Locker?” Yep, I’m that guy. And Zero Dark Thirty genuinely impressed the hell out of me. So you know I’m for real when I put it this high on my list. Kathryn Bigelow’s account of the tracking and capture of Osama bin Laden is the kind of film I wanted and expected Hurt Locker to be – a razor-sharp thriller that’s completely gripping for the entirety of its running time. It’s a political thriller on a grand scale and a fascinating portrait of single-minded dedication. Jessica Chastain is fierce and compelling in the role of Maya, the lead intelligence operative who spends a decade tracking down bin Laden. But we don’t simply admire her because she’s a “strong woman” (movies and TV are full of those these days); we admire her for the specific individual person that she is. Then there’s the torture issue, which has been discussed ad nauseum. I honestly don’t believe the film either condones or condemns torture; I think it simply says, “here’s what happened” and lets you make up your own mind. If you want to believe one way or the other, then you probably will. But the torture scenes are not fun or enjoyable to sit through, nor should they be. They did not inspire the audience I saw it with to cheer. They are brutal, because torture is brutal. To ignore that is to ignore reality. I don’t think Zero Dark Thirty is a film about providing answers; I think it is about raising questions that no film can answer. Perhaps that is what makes it so valuable. Currently in theaters.

2) Django Unchained – Literally any other year, Quentin Tarantino’s poke in the eye to institutionalized racism would’ve been my #1 film. I do love it to death and will likely watch it many times over the years. I’ve already discussed it at length, so I won’t go into it much here. I think if you can handle the subject matter, it’s an enormously entertaining film that provides plenty of rewards for the audience, like pretty much everything Tarantino has done. But there’s also the added bonus that the film is really about an important social issue, whether people choose to acknowledge that or not, and that’s something we really haven’t gotten from Quentin before. Yes, Inglorious Basterds is set during WWII, but it didn’t deal directly with the Holocaust, if you get my meaning. So that’s kind of new and confrontational, and an exciting direction for him. While the entire cast is terrific, I feel that Christoph Waltz’s performance hasn’t gotten enough attention. He’s so damn good in this. You just want to hug the guy every time he’s on screen. I want to see Tarantino make an entire series of films with Waltz playing major roles in them. They work so well together that it would be a crime for that not to happen. Until then, we have Basterds and Django, and for now that is more than enough. Currently in theaters.

And my favorite film of 2012 is…. (drumroll please)

1) Silver Linings Playbook – Surprised? So was I. Really. I thought Django was going to be my #1 film, hands down, case closed. Then I saw this. And it destroyed me. Devastated me. Laid me out like a sheet. KO punch. Boom. When that happens, that’s not an accident. That happens because of excellent, top-shelf acting, writing and directing, and I for one do not take those things for granted. As a moviegoer, those are the things I value. If you did not react to the film the same way, then you simply saw a completely different film than I did. It is pointless to argue about it. All I can do is tell you about the film that I saw. That’s what I intend to do.

Most films about mental illness are incredibly fucking depressing. This one is the exact opposite. David O. Russell’s film (his best, in my opinion) is full of heart and humor and life and love and pain and sorrow and music and dancing and family and friendship and, most of all, hope. It is a film about real people who live real lives, not Hollywood cardboard cutouts who find a screenwriter’s superficial version of happiness. Maybe that’s what throws people off – they’re not used to seeing people who resemble actual human beings on the screen. Or maybe they just don’t know any. But anyone who thinks this is a “romantic comedy” has missed the point completely. I despise most romantic comedies. This isn’t that. There is nothing “light” about this. Katherine Heigl shouldn’t be allowed to even see this movie. It’s far smarter and deeper than any of that.

Since so many people seem to “not get it”, what I’m going to do is explain the movie to you. I’m going to tell you what the movie is about. That means there will be SPOILERS from here on in. So if you haven’t seen the film and you don’t want any spoilers about it, even mild ones, you should stop reading here, at this paragraph. Just know that you should see it, assuming that you have a functioning mind and heart. If you are a douche or an idiot, like some of the so-called critics who have done a piss-poor job of “reviewing” the film, then stay home and let Honey Boo Boo turn your brain into mush. Your call.

Still with me? OK. The film is a sensitive and understanding portrayal of mental illness, and I admire it for that. But that is not the entire story or subject matter. Let’s start with the characters. Pat is a guy who has lost everything because the person he loved the most betrayed him and he could not control his reaction to that. He has dedicated himself to getting it all back, especially her. He cannot see that it may not be possible. It is the goal he has been living for, surviving for, and failure is not something he can accept. He will do anything to make it happen. When he meets Tiffany, he initially sees her as an obstacle to that goal. Circumstances gradually force him to see her differently. Practicing the dance routine with her eventually makes him see that he has to make the choice that will really make him happy, even if it means letting go of the goal that has kept him going for so long. The more we watch and listen to him, the more we understand. Tiffany has lost her husband and the life she thought she was going to have. She has reacted very badly to that. She is still angry and she lashes out at people when she feels hurt. She sleeps around in a vain search for any kind of a connection. When she meets Pat by chance, she thinks she has met the one person in her world who might understand and accept and maybe even love her. If only he wasn’t fixated on getting back his cheating bitch wife, that is. But he frustrates her too. She can’t “read him” the way she can so many other men. She has to test him, provoke him, get him to see her for who she really is. She knows he’s attracted to her – she just has to get him to admit it to himself. It’s important to her because he’s the only one who sees her as a person and not “Tiffany the crazy slut”. The more we watch and listen to her, the more we understand.

This is what the film is about – it is about two people who have been knocked down, hard, and find in each other a reason to get up again. They find a love and understanding that they can’t find in anyone else. They find a life that makes sense to them. They hear the right song in their heads and they crank it up. Fuck anyone who doesn’t hear it too. Russell’s last film was called The Fighter, but to me Pat and Tiffany are the real fighters. No, their problems are not going to magically disappear. No one is saying that. But in each other, they have found a reason to keep fighting. They are able to let go of the pain and the fear and the anger of their pasts and just choose to love each other. What could be more beautiful, more honest, more real than that?

The performances are just outstanding. Bradley Cooper does the kind of acting that can redefine a career. I’ve seen this guy in a lot of films and TV shows, but I’ve never seen him give a performance on this level. This guy is clearly not just the Hangover guy. Pat screws up, he makes mistakes, he gets in his own way, and we feel so much for him because of it. Cooper takes us inside his head, makes him sympathetic and understandable. It’s as if we are seeing this actor for the first time. Jennifer Lawrence – WOW. Holy shit. I thought I knew about Jennifer Lawrence, but I guess I didn’t know. She is truly incredible here, and at the risk of sounding like James Lipton, Jennifer Lawrence gives the best performance I’ve seen all year of anyone in anything. Tiffany is no teenager, and she’s certainly no Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s flawed and awesome, contradictory and kick-ass. Sometimes she fucks up, and you want to yell at her to get her shit together. Then other times she’s brilliant and you love her to death. In other words, she’s a human being. Why don’t we see more of that in movies? Anyone who can’t see how great she is in this needs a seeing-eye dog to walk across the street. Jennifer Lawrence is my new favorite actress, and if you’re smart she’s yours too. Damn right she beat Meryl! Jennifer Lawrence is the future. Sign up now. Robert De Niro is an acting god in this film playing Pat’s father. He’s not falling back on his usual tricks here. He’s playing a simple man who loves his son deeply but doesn’t know how to help him. He doesn’t know what to do. Their mutual love of football is the only way they can connect, and he feels that slipping away because of Tiffany. That scares him. He says so much with just a few sentences, a word, a look. Again, the more we watch and listen, the more we understand. But you have to be smart enough to watch and listen.

All I can tell you is that this movie felt like real life to me. I don’t live in Philadelphia, but I recognize these people. I understand the world they live in. I relate to the struggles they have gone through. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you live in some other world that I’m not aware of. Maybe you’re too young. Or maybe you just haven’t dealt with anything like what these characters have in your own life. Maybe you have never lost something or someone that was important to you. Maybe your life never fell apart because of it. And maybe you never found that one thing, that one out-of-the-blue miracle that made life worth living again. But that’s real life. If that hasn’t happened to you, let me tell you something. Watch out, because sooner or later life finds a way. Trust me on that. But I’m not going to waste my time arguing about it. I’m so done arguing with people who “don’t get it”. People who like to argue must live really long lives, because mine is just too damn short. Here’s my argument from now on: be smarter. That’s right. If you don’t get it, be smarter. Boom. End of argument. Now shut your pie hole.

I loved this film. If you didn’t, that’s your problem, not mine. Some people buy a ticket to a movie and choose not to let the movie do its job. I think that’s rather silly, don’t you? That’s like going to a comedy and stifling your own laughter. Movies are supposed to provoke reactions – to make us feel things. That’s the point. Silver Linings Playbook did that for me. It’s a movie that grabbed me by the collar, pounded on my heart and yelled, “feel something, motherfucker!! FEEL SOMETHING.”

FEEL SOMETHING.

THAT’S WHAT MOVIES ARE SUPPOSED TO DO.

Thank you, David O. Russell, for reminding me of that. Thank you for my favorite movie of the year. To quote your own movie, I’ve got nothing but love for you, my brother. Currently in theaters.

So that’s it. And I’m finally done with 2012. On to 2013 and all the cinematic delights it has to offer. Thanks to everyone for reading all of this. If you haven’t seen some of the films on this list, I sincerely hope you will give them a shot. I don’t think you will be disappointed. Talk to you later.

Posted in Film Reviews | Leave a Comment »