REVIEW: Wise Blood (1979)

Flannery O’Connor’s style is cinematic, dripping with desolate atmosphere and moral quandaries, however, few visual adaptations exist. John Houston’s Wise Blood comes close to getting it right. Brad Dourif is the ideal actor for Hazel Motes bringing intensity to the character’s directionlessness. His eyes have that searching quality even though we know he’ll never find any answers. The supporting cast does great work including an underused Harry Dean Stanton as the blind preacher who’s the subject of Hazel’s obsession. 

Huston follows the book’s plot closely but he lacks the moral gravity that O’Conner places in every sentence. Overall if you are unfamiliar with Flannery O’Conner this is a good starting point as it does include all of her trademarks like racial and religious commentary, Southern setting, and desperate characters. 

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REVIEW: Joker

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Months before even a trailer, everyone (involved and observers) was comparing Joker to Scorsese classics, Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. A movie should stand on its own terms no matter how indebted to homage but Joker tries to fashion itself as an entry into the “troubled man on the fringes of society” canon so it’s impossible not to view the film’s success contingent on if it can measure up to the standard set by its predecessors. 

What’s unique about King of Comedy and Taxi Driver is their structure: psychological character studies that show their subjects just existing, in almost banal fashion until their resentment to the world at large, builds and builds to an explosion of violence. I call this genre “Gas Leak Drama” because that’s what it feels like… a palpable dread that begins unnoticed but keep getting worse and worse until there’s no escape. The genre isn’t only owned by Marty, 2017 had two great films existing in these parameters: Taxi Driver’s screenwriter, Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, which changes setting from urban decay to a historic church and Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here (also starring Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled man who lives with his mother). Joker really wants to be in this club, it almost got Scorsese on board as a producer and casting DeNiro in a meta talk show role, calling back to his King of Comedy character, Rupert Pupkin. 

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REVIEW: IGOR by Tyler, The Creator

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Frank Zappa (avant garde musician/ALLEGED thief of my grandfather’s tools) once described his album Hot Rats as “a movie for your ears.”  Tyler, the Creator is a disciple to this principal with each of his releases being rooted in sonic concept. With his latest, IGOR, Tyler has created his most consistent and immersive project yet by utilizing elements from each of his previous releases with a bold new sound that has the potential to alter the entire pop landscape. I’m not being hyperbolic… IGOR could be the next 808s and Heartbreaks or Low. IGOR isn’t just another Tyler release, but the sum of all the musicians unique parts fully meshing together and taking the listener into territories unexplored.

The movie opens with a synth that sounds like the THX sound scraped against a cheese grater. Immediately, you are hit in the face with the audacity of this record- it’s like the opening to Yeezus: a big fuck you to anything you expected with the invitation to jump in or get out. The story of IGOR details a potentially (almost certainly) queer relationship that never was formalized- even if the feelings were authentic, albeit mostly one-sided. Tyler takes you through every traditional step: falling in love, jealousy, desperation to the point of self loss (the pleading of “I’m your puppet” in “PUPPET” got to me), acceptance, until he’s finally alone trying to hold onto any last emotional scrap asking again and again, “Are we still friends?”

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REVIEW: Arrested Development Season 5

*****EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is narrated. Any line’s in The Narrator’s Voice are displayed in royal, “Howard Red.” ******

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Sometimes to truly demonstrate patriotism, you need to speak out against the country you love. So is the case with myself and Arrested Development’s latest incarnation. Seasons 1-3 were a huge part of my formative years; I didn’t see this sense of humor on other sitcoms… comedy which relied on puns, wordplay, and absurdity as the delivery system for satire that skewered white privilege and classism. Arrested Development broke ground in both its Fox and Netflix incarnations: the original for pushing the boundaries of a traditional structure and then years later establishing a storytelling style on a new medium. No matter how divisive AD has been, the innovation is indisputable with a complex, self-referential narrative told through frantic, cut-heavy editing. In Season 5, these virtues turn to crutches.

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REVIEW: Sam France (Foxygen)/ Fascist Records Live Debut

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Foxygen’s press release for their upcoming album alludes to the band “living every rock cliche in a year.” The scope of this statement is too small: they’ve been a rock n roll cliche from day one,  driven by the charisma and instability of their frontman, Sam France. Foxygen has checked off all the career highlight boxes of the legends they pay homage to (and occasionally transcend). The only ground left to cover is going solo…

On February 19 at the Bootleg Theater, Sam France took that next step by unveiling his record label, Fascist Records to the world in a complete breakdown involving self-mutilation, rants and incredible new music. If this was performance art or a public cry for help remains unclear. Regardless, Sam France and Fascist Records’ debut felt dangerous and unforgettable. Continue reading “REVIEW: Sam France (Foxygen)/ Fascist Records Live Debut”

REVIEW: Magnolia (1999)

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Magnolia has obvious flaws… it’s over three hours when it shouldn’t be, some of its most compelling characters are forgotten about in the second half, and lands on a conclusion that is both heavy handed and opaque. The flaws of Magnolia would be tough to ignore if they weren’t in the service of a work so interesting.

Paul Thomas Anderson (or PT Anderson as he’s occasionally credited or PTA for people who are in so much of a hurry to finish writing that they can’t type three names) was fresh off a huge hit, Boogie Nights, when New Line told him he can make any kind of film he wants, carte blanche. He looks them in the eye and says “It’s going to be a three hour familial drama with nine leads set in the San Fernando Valley culminating in a storm of frogs.”

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SHORT STORY: Judge Grotesque

Judge Andrew Whitehead sat in a small wooden chair. The seat was large by the standards of any common individual but underneath his mass it shrunk. Not even functioning as a place for him to sit; instead merely the space where his daunting figure happened to presently occupy. His size went beyond body type or even voice (his baritone was a honey drip). On the bench or in the street, a glance from that puffy face with eyes that were canyons could stop the most disengaged passerby. Everyone listened to Judge Whitehead. Everyone gave him the time of day. His presence was big and resonant. He once even talked down a bankrobber mid-act. The Judge assured everything would be okay if he walked away now he hadn’t committed any crimes yet- just a minor disturbance- nothing that could get you in any kind of serious trouble.

He didn’t feel bad about that lie. Regret only came from the experience ending too early. Though he did not know, Judge Whitehead feels better with his life in danger. Actually entertained. If he thought hard enough about this need it would explain why he asks his wife to do what she does when they go to bed (once a month). But he didn’t do much thinking. Even on the bench. He just goes through the motions hoping something will happen that can rise him from prolonged coasting.

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REVIEW: Crimetown (Podcast)

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The Best Gangster Movie You’ve Ever Heard

A thief turned drug lord named Charles Kennedy owns multiple wolves. He loved them deeply, even grew fond of their howls throughout the twilight hours. One night, a wolf disappears. Seconds later he hears gunshots. “They got her,” Charles says stoically. In the distance, the sound of violins wail cinematically.

Now, I’ve never sat in the same room as anybody from the Providence, Rhode Island cosa nostra but I’ve heard them talk. And they’re not afraid to spill their guts.

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