My Top Two Favorite (minor) Movies From 2016

Let’s start the new year off right.

"I'm in."

“I’m in.”

These are my two favorite movies from last year. Well not out of everything. I loved Civil War and Rogue One and Doctor Strange and I still haven’t seen Arrival and Captain Fantastic and Nocturnal Animals. But those movies are on everybody’s lists. I call these two “minor” movies because no one is really screaming about how good they both are. Maybe nobody liked them as much as me. I don’t know. They ARE different.

And I fucking loved them both.

I’m talking about Zoom (2015) and The Neon Demon.

…..

“What an amazing movie. I loved it profusely.” he wrote, striking the keys with an almost electric intent. “Zoom is phenomenal. I’ve watched it three times already.”

CUT!!!

“Do you really need to add ‘already?’ Isn’t it enough to say you watched it three times?”

*Crumple*

He tossed the words into the trash.

*Swish*

Nothing but net.

"What does any of that even mean?" "I don't know. I think he's trying to be clever. Read it again."

“What does any of that shit even mean?” “I don’t know. I think he’s trying to be clever. Let’s read it again.” “YOU read it again.”

…..

While the second film, The Neon Demon, takes well-experienced shots at the modeling industry with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Yet you know, as weird as the movie is (it’s weird), that it’s probably just a step over the absurd line. That the movie depiction isn’t so far off (not hard to swallow, so to speak) from the harsh reality. It’s as though all of a young aspiring model’s screwed-up experiences are condensed into our hero’s crazy cinematic and outrageous drug-trip of one.

the-neon-demon

“Aspiring or Expiring?” What is the expiration date on an aspiring model anyway?

These aren’t reviews so much as raves.

So let’s get right to it.

Rave on…

Zoom 2015 (Elevation Pictures)

zoom-poster

Directed by Pedro Morelli

Written by Matthew Hansen

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal as Edward Deacon, Alison Pill as Emma Boyles, Mariana Ximenes as Michelle, Tyler Labine as Bob, Jason Priestley as Dale, Don McKellar as Horowitz, Claudia Ohana as Alice & Jennifer Irwin as Marisa

I can’t even put into words how much I loved Zoom (I say that a lot don’t I? And then I go on to do exactly what I say I can’t do). Because it’s not something to be described with words or drawings or pictures. It needs to be seen. Zoom is a little movie from late 2015, but as always these things take a while to get to my brain pan. The most artistic and creative film I’ve experienced since the phenomenal Room last year. It’s been a long time since I wanted to marry a movie. I want to marry this movie.

"This is not technically a movie but more like a mind fuck."

“This is not technically a movie, more like a mind fuck. But I will be your best man.”

It’s hard to know where to start when talking about the story, so I’ll start with Alison Pill because I’ve loved her since forever. Zoom is about a comic book artist creating a graphic novel about a film-maker. (I used to draw my own comic books when I was a kid) Wait. Let me start over. Zoom is about a film-maker, Gael Garcia Bernal (from Mozart in the Jungle), making a movie about a writer. (And that was my second love… film-making, my major in college) One more time. I can do this. Zoom is about a novelist writing a book about a comic book artist. Actually it’s all three. And you guys know how much I love circles. I love circles.

"Who doesn't love circles. I love circles." "Everybody loves circles."

“Who doesn’t love circles? I love circles too.” “Everybody loves circles, Jason.”

Zoom is about an artist, drawing a story about a director, making a movie about a writer, writing a book about an artist. Every character is a character in another character’s work. And it’s not just a clever premise. It’s extremely well done. Zoom is like a religious experience. I loved this movie so much.

zoom

“I wonder if Mel realizes that you can’t actually marry a movie.” she thought trying not to picture the handsome blogger naked. “I wasn’t actually thinking that.” she said aloud.

Zoom is like Richard Linklater making a movie about Robert Rodriguez making a movie about Woody Allen making a movie about Linklater. It’s like if Vladimir Nabokov wrote a book about Charles Bukowski who in turn was writing about Samuel Delany writing about… you guys get it. It’s like Pale Fire meets Dhalgren meets Bukowski’s Women. I want this movie injected directly into my blood stream.

But maybe I’m over selling it a bit.

Next up…

The Neon Demon (Amazon Studios)

neon-demon-poster

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Written by Mary Laws, Nicolas Winding Refn and Polly Stenham

Starring Elle FanningKarl GlusmanJena MaloneBella HeathcoteAbbey LeeChristina Hendricks & Keanu Reeves

The Neon Demon is a sensational movie about the modeling industry. A good movie to watch stoned. No seriously. This is a great thriller and it’s great by itself. Perhaps a little too trippy at times if your’re totally straight. It reminded me of Kubrick and Coppola (the good one… Sofia) with large helpings of Tarsem Singh (you know with all the colors and shit). But if you’re nicely toasted, it is a fun and beautifully filmed and trippy and disturbingly surreal and strange and strange and ugly and beautiful film depiction of a messy business. And a total surprise.

Jena Malone is quietly becoming one of my favorite actresses

Jena Malone is quietly becoming one of my favorite actresses. She does great work.

The Neon Demon isn’t any where close to what you might expect. The film takes turns for the disturbingly awesome along the way. With twisted twists and stomach turning turns. It can become hard to watch at times. Being ugly and beautiful at once.

the-neon-demon-elle-fanning

Cattle Call… Tall Teenagers Wanted.

Elle Fanning plays a girl straight off the bus but blessed genetically and a young threat to the only slightly older other girls. The movie is twisted and goes well off the deep end toward the finale. Into the mouth of madness for sure. I’m not giving anything away just be prepared. (I wasn’t and I nearly swallowed my tongue)

the-neon-demon

What are they feeding these Fanning girls? They are both so fucking talented.

But Elle Fanning is spectacular as always. And The Neon Demon is creepy and upsetting and unsettling. But also really really good. The Neon Demon is entertaining and I recommend it highly if you don’t mind being a little disturbed. It’s disturbing in a bunch of ways and one huge way. It’s sensational.

But maybe I’m over selling it just a little.

…………

Both these films can be found if you try hard enough. I think one is on Amazon and the other is on Netflix. But if you’re looking for something to watch stoned in 2017, either of these movies will enhance your buzz.

demon-models

…or drive you over the edge.

I can never be sure.

More movies to come,

– Mel

Social Encounter X

Hey.

Hey?

Hey. I’m talking to you.
Excuse me!!!
What now?
How is this new person going to hate me?
How is this encounter with a total stranger going to go wrong?
How will I be misunderstood and hated forever?
Hey.
It’s just a word. I can ignore it.
It is my right as an American to not respond.
I have the right to remain silent.
It says so in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Excuse me. I know you can hear me.
I don’t want to know what happens next
How this new person will dislike me.
Find me incredibly annoying.
It’s too painful.
Excuse me?
How is this going to end?
How will they misinterpret my silence as a rejection and resent me
Resent me until I can’t stand to look at myself.
HOW WILL THIS RANDOM PERSON HURT ME TODAY?
Hey.
How will this next encounter hurt me?
Will they make me fall in love with them and then disappoint me horribly?
Or will they fall for me too hard, too fast and make me fear them. Fear their “love”???

You ever have an ex… yes I’m talking to you… You ever have an ex who uses every pause in a conversation to tell you how much they “love” you? Not a current. An ex. Well I have.

(in the middle of telling a joke or a story) “…And then the dog took this big dump on the grass.” (stops talking to drink because, you know, your throat gets dry)

“I LOVE YOU…. (long awkward pause) You don’t have to say it back.”

“Yeah yeah but I’m sort of in the middle of telling a joke about dog poop right now.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to say it. (another pause and then a quick) loveyou!”
Heeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy!!!!!!
That’s not love. If you loved me I wouldn’t fear you, if you loved me.
That’s not love.
You wanna be with me.
You don’t want me to be with other people.
You want to fuck me.
I don’t know what that is
But
That’s not love.
Hey. I know for a fact that you can hear me.
Oh come on.
Now what.
Are they gonna flirt with me?
Make me feel attractive… wanted… sexy
Am I going to laugh?
Blush?

Or am I going to turn around and try to flirt with them
Only to find out that I’m standing on a scarf or something?
How is this human encounter going to ruin my self-esteem today?

How the hell will this random human interaction reshape my world view?
HOW WILL I OBSESS ABOUT THE MANY WAYS I WILL MIS-HANDLE THIS SOCIAL SITUATION UNTIL THE DAY I DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT AND… I DON’T KNOW… FOOD POISONING… RICKETS
Come on. I can tell you hear me. I know you can see me. What’s wrong with you?
Oh god. I have to say something. I have to say something. I have to say something. I have to say something.

(Turns head around and says sweetly) Yes?

(Long pause breathing harder and harder in anticipation and fear)

What. Whatdoyouwant? WHAT? WHAT? whaaat?

(Now crying) What?

(Pleading) whaaaaat.

(Wipes tears and straightens, composes self then turns head back around and says calmly) What is it?

 

No not you. I was trying to get THEIR attention.

– Mel

To All My Friends (Who’ve Wondered Where I’ve Been)

I know I haven’t been around much lately. Too much anger. Didn’t really want to get it on you. I have a tendency to spew hate when I’m angry. I hate it when the bad guys win… I’ve been experiencing a what-the-fuck few weeks. The American election was hacked and I’m surrounded on all sides by people waiting for their chance to say “I told you so.”

“I told you so.” Among the bodies of the dead.

“I told you so.” Brought to you by the makers of Pepsi and Xanax.

“I told you so.” Translated from the original Russian. (actually, little known fact, it was in German before it was in Russian)

I’ve reached a point in my life where more people are younger than me than older. I’m surrounded on all sides by the children of the damned. Social media misfits more concerned with likes and dislikes. Trolls without bridges. History books unopened. But mouths that will not stay shut.

chinese-farmer

I haven’t been around much lately because I know me. The thoughts racing through my head should not be shared with anyone. My doctor doesn’t want to know. My lawyer doesn’t want to know. The fake twitter accounts of Russian trolls, who successfully influence the tired liberals into hopelessness and fits of screaming, don’t want to know.

For one misguided instant I considered self-immolation as a form of protest. Nothing else, it seems, can penetrate the walls of the corporate pay-to-play media and so-called social media’s cavernous, echo-amplifying, bottomless pits of ego and frustration. Setting myself on fire in front of some monument to our fallen democracy seemed like a good idea at the time… for like, literally, a second. For like one scary second.

So I’ve been away.

And I apologize. I figure there’s like 25 or 30 people who read my blog. And I love you guys. And I’m going to post some good stuff. Life goes on no matter how dire. I know my friend Alex misses my movie reviews. New shows, some of the best stuff I’ve seen on TV, came and went. Anybody watch Atlanta? That was amazing. Donald Glover is knocking it out of the park on the daily. Speaking of which, my list of the best albums from this year includes more genres than you can shake your rump at. Who knew I’d like Trap Music. OMG I like Trap Music.

Music, Movies, TV, the third chapter of my novel… but politics, fucking politics, pissed me off to such an extent that I couldn’t write but scream. I couldn’t think but scream. I could not talk because all the screaming made me lose my voice.

So I went away. Started meditating again. Got back to temple. Working out. Stopped doing the few remaining vices I’d allowed myself over the past decade. Pizza, Beer, Porn, Masturbation. It’s about time I stopped living like a 13 year boy without adult supervision. I’m gonna be 50 next year. And the US president is going to be Donald J. Tr… I can’t even say it.

The pounds flew off since I stopped eating garbage. It’s amazing how much more money I have in my budget since I stopped drinking. And the energy. The sexual energy. The mental energy. The spiritual energy… it’s through the roof. And now being channeled into less selfish endeavors.

thats-great-maybe

Doing yoga everyday. Getting to the temple at least three times a week. Working on my compassion and my mindfulness and my body. I will require these things to make it through the next few weeks. Let alone the next few years of protests and civil (and uncivil) disobedience. Gotta build my stamina for all the marching and demonstrating. Because, as you know, Donald J. Tr… I still can’t say it.

I’ll never be able to say it.

What is the true nature of reality? We see things as we want them or don’t want them to be. Sometimes a fantasy. And sometimes as our worst fears realized. We label situations and phenomena as good or bad. As helpful or unhelpful. As progress and advancement or… as the… the nightmarish, back-sliding, hateful, racist hell-scape that I can’t seem to wake up from. Somebody please wake me up.

WAKE ME UP!!!

I meditate to find love for the seemingly unlovable. I meditate to find focus amidst the din of unchecked voices (un-fact-checked and un-verified). I meditate to find the me that can help and not just criticize. That can pull his weight and not just pull his dick. That can be a calm in the storm and not just more destruction and distraction.

Because it’s looking more and more like we’re going to have to violently overthrow the US government. And I don’t say that lightly. People are going to die. People are going to die because they’ve lost their healthcare and can’t afford their treatments. Because they’ve lost their government jobs as the agencies that protect us, from emotionless and compassion-less corporations, are shuttered one after another. People are going to die because they’ve lost their minds after too many deployments in some foreign distraction called another war. People are going to die.

thats-awful-maybe

And we can’t just sit around waiting for a miracle. Like that one time that one guy resigned from being pope because he realized he was too evil and stuff to be pope so he let the cool guy be pope. We can’t wait for that. We can’t wait for lightning to strike his ostentatiously disgusting jet plane as it floats on a cloud of ego or one of his fucking hotels to collapse under the weight of his hubris. We can’t wait for that. And we can’t sit around watching our neighbors die from treatable diseases or complications from dangerous pregnancies or malnutrition. Fucking malnutrition in the 21st century.

So yeah. We need to violently overthrow the US government… but with love. Out of compassion for our fellow human beings these people have to go… on both sides. I will not be governed by hate. And also I will not be governed by hate. So that really no one has to die for idiotic and preventable reasons.

We’ve been hacked. Our election. Our government. Hacked.

And respectfully, the only course of action, after you’ve been hacked, after they infiltrated your system, installed their malware, their trojans, their porn, the only course of action is to unplug the damn computer, and reinstall the operating system.

I went away.

But I’m back.

I’m going to see Rogue One tomorrow. So I’ll let you guys know how I like it. I’m going to post all my reviews and stuff over the holiday season. There’s a lot. You know I didn’t even realize it was the holidays. This is usually my least favorite time of year (except for the Doctor Who special). Because I’m alone and everything about this time is geared toward family and friends and stuff. But ever since I’ve rediscovered my faith, going to temple and Dharma classes and meditation, I don’t feel so alone.

I feel great actually. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. The healthiest I’ve been mentally, spiritually and physically. The best.

And to think, I owe it all to the rigged, hacked, fraudulent and fucked up election of Donald J. Tr… you know what, I still can’t say it.

You guys thank him for me.

See ya tomorrow after Rogue One (unless I’m too hyped to post anything but OMG OMG OMG OMG then I’ll post on Saturday after Dharma class)

Now watch this 2 minute video.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Reviews: The End of the Tour

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

The End of the Tour (A24 Films)

The End of the Tour-poster

Directed by James Ponsoldt

Written by Donald Margulies  Based on Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky

Starring Jason SegelJesse EisenbergRon LivingstonAnna ChlumskyJoan CusackMickey SumnerMamie Gummer & Becky Ann Baker

An interview with author David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest), The End of the Tour is a love song to the writer. The lonely writer. The exposed writer. The insecure writer. An epic conversation. Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel play writers at different stages of success and different degrees of mental stability. I don’t know. I liked the movie. It is very well-written. Most movies about writers are. But I found myself thinking, time and again while it was running, about how good this movie would have been with better actors. How this was incredible writing and directing but the acting was just… passing. It became an obsession really. Don’t get me wrong. Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel are very good. But this movie deserved… this writing deserved… these characters deserved… these people deserved… better. But still I liked it.

Verdict: SPARED

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel

“Oh good. Here comes the mental masturbation.”

Regular readers of my blog may know that I have an affinity for films about writers. I love the written word (and writers) and hope to some day put down my penis long enough to write. But I’m also a big fan of movies. So, the combination (writers on film) is for me like the memory of a wonderfully comfortable three-way with two people you trust, a three-way with two people who you know are more into you than each other. Something that really puts the me in ménage à trois. The End of the Tour.

Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace

“I love it when he gets like this.”

Here is a movie that has added several new titles to my reading list (thanks for that). Here is a movie that makes me wish the penis in my hand were shorter (sorry). Shorter by two letters. Then at least it would serve a higher purpose right along with making me temporarily happy. David Foster Wallace, the subject of the interview, and the book about the interview, and the movie about the book about the interview, is an addict and a recluse and an exposed nerve, just like me. But I couldn’t see myself in him.

Epic Conversation

“Trust me. This could be good if he stops talking about his penis.”

Unlike me, he is fully capable of writing it all down. Unlike me, he doesn’t just form sentences in the air and pat himself on the back for his cleverness. Unlike me, he doesn’t just talk about writing. He writes it. And I get this. And I get it all from a movie where he spends the entire time talking about writing. But he gets it too. He gets to because he forces it onto the page and it’s good. He actually puts in the work. Unlike me.

end-of-the-tour-mic-photo

“First time listener. Long time caller and I’d like to make a request.” “What’s on your mind?” “I’d like for Mel to write something and stop complaining about not writing.” “Wouldn’t we all.”

In The End of the Tour, David Lipsky is the writer writing about the writer. Interviewing the writer. The conductor of this grand conversation. This duel between unequals. Writers at different levels of popularity. Minds at different levels of unrest. But who stands above whom is for the viewers to decide. Because I still don’t think the writers themselves knew. Or that they knew themselves beyond their fragility and sensitivity and stretches of brilliance and paranoia. I really liked this movie, if you can’t tell.

David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace

“Could you tell?” “No. I still can’t tell.”

However, I couldn’t help but wish there were two other actors on the screen. Two other astronauts in the shuttle. Mission control had done their jobs well. The book is great. The screenplay is great. And the film is very well-directed. All the minds were in place. The science is sound. I just couldn’t feel anything. And I wanted to feel something. It was all cerebral and I wanted more of the physical. I loved the characters. I wanted to love the actors. But I didn’t. (Houston, we have a problem)

Epic Conversation 2

“I get it now. He likes us. He just doesn’t like US.” ” Fuck him.” “Yeah.” “Go write something, Melvin. Go write something and then get back to us.” “Yeah.”

Yet still, The End of the Tour is a good movie. While Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel do good jobs as David and David, with better actors, I think, I would be calling this one of the best films of the year. As it is, it’s just a good one. A good one for people who like stories about writers and who don’t mind watching a movie where it’s mostly just two intense and creative smart guys talking to each other for an hour and a half. A truly epic conversation.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I need to go write something.

– Mel

The Real David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (and one of his dogs) in happier times.

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Mr. Holmes

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Mr. Holmes (MiramaxRoadside Attractions)

Mr. Holmes

Directed by Bill Condon

Written by Jeffrey Hatcher  Based on A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin

Starring Ian McKellenLaura LinneyHiroyuki Sanada & Milo Parker

Mr. Holmes is a beautiful movie about Sherlock Holmes at the end of his life. He is in his nineties and long retired. Suffering from Arthritis and Alzheimer’s some time after the second world war. It is a lovely meditative drama about his friendship with the young son of his housekeeper. A fantastic movie with an astonishingly poignant performance by Sir Ian McKellen. Well-directed and acted and beautifully written. I liked it a lot.

Verdict: SPARED

Mr. Holmes and Roger

I don’t know if you know this about me but you should, I’m a big fan of sports. We root for a team or for an athlete and when they do well, we call them heroes. I call them heroes. Yet they’re not heroes in any real sense. Not healers or warriors or leaders. They are fictional heroes. Heroes of the game. Only slightly more real than superheroes or heroes from literature. Sherlock Holmes is one of my literary heroes. My fictional hero. My first actually. But when you’re a fan of a player of any sport, one of the key developing dynamics of that hero-worship, in fact, that athletes greatest opponent, is the passing of time. Watching a… watching your heroes age and their skills diminish is something that they don’t tell you about when you sign up to be a sports fan. However our literary heroes, for the most part, don’t grow old before our eyes. We are spared that.

Ian McKellen as Mr. Holmes

In Mr. Holmes, our hero, my hero, is frail and sickly. A shadow of himself. And it’s painful to watch. His memory and concentration are not just waning. They’re almost gone. Alzheimer’s takes so much of you. For we are merely a collection of events and memories and thoughts. A wondrous stream of thoughts  And my own fear of losing those things in myself made the viewing even more disturbing. I don’t know if you know this about me but I fear losing my thoughts. Losing my words. Losing myself.

Ian McKellen and Laura Linney

But what we have in Mr. Holmes is a beautifully told story about Sherlock’s relationship to time. About his relationship to his memory and to his housekeeper and to his bees and to his mortality and to his fictional image and to the young boy who helps him to remember what it was that he was trying to forget so much that he ran away from his life and his career. Helps him to remember what he was trying to forget before his advanced age forced him to forget.

mr-holmes

I loved this movie. I don’t know if you know this about me but I start to wax poetic when I see something I like. However I plan to stop myself before it gets out of hand. But honestly, what a beautiful story. It tumbles slowly across the screen like the beautiful hills on the countryside where most of it is set. It plays with time and space and memory and jumps from the recent past to the distant past. Never telling us more than Sherlock himself remembers. So we too are trapped in the fog of unknowing, remembering or mis-remembering our hero in better and more cognitive times.

mr-holmes-ian-mckellen

And before I do get carried away I will leave you with this. I don’t know if you know this about me, but those things and people and movies and whatever it may be, those moments in life and art that make me want to write. That fill me with the urge to put pen to paper, fingertip to keys, they are my favorite things in this world. Mr. Holmes, a film about my first hero fighting his way through old age and mental deterioration to chronicle the story of his last case, to write, to write, to write it down. well that… passionately, makes me want to write… right now.

Sherlock Holmes

And for that I will love it forever.

– Mel