Thursday, November 14, 2019

Amazon Prime Binge

Movies: High Life, Lake Mungo, First Reformed

Catching up on some movies available on streaming...

High Life

Claire Denis' science-fiction film about a group of criminals serving as guinea pigs for experiments in space is...a lot. The film opens with a single man, Monte (Robert Pattinson), and a baby alone on a spaceship and flashes back and forth between how they got there and where they are now. Basically, Monte is part of a crew of criminals who were serving life sentences on earth and were offered the chance to go to outer space to search for a renewable source of energy as an alternative to their sentences.


What they didn't sign up for is a doctor on board (Juliette Binoche) who is obsessed with reproductive technology and is constantly impregnating the female crew against their wishes. Also, there's this thing called the "fuck box"--basically, a mastubatorium where crew go to jerk off. I have a lot of issues with the fuck box (for example, the fuck box has a dildo attached to a padded seat...and that's all. I mean, I don't judge others for how they get off, but personally, I'd be pretty disappointed if I went into a fuck box and that was all that was in there).

High Life is a weird and, in my opinion, pretty pointless movie. I guess you could make the argument that it shows how once a person has a child, they are able to face anything in spite of insurmountable odds, or that human connection is stronger than anything in the universe. But really I think this movie is just about the fuck box.

Grade: C

Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo is an inventive, Blair Witch style horror film that expertly winds the audience up, scares them, relieves them, and then scares the fuck out of them again.

Filmed in documentary style, Lake Mungo is about a 16 year old girl, Alice Palmer, who drowns during a family holiday in Australia. Not long after the girl is buried, weird things start happening around the house: noises, doors opening and closing on their own...typical spooky shit. The Palmer family believe they are being haunted by their daughter's ghost. And when they set up cameras around the house, they find what appears to be evidence of a haunting.

But of course, there's to the footage than meets the eye...


Lake Mungo genuinely scared me, which is a rare feat. There are some Paranormal Activity-type jump scares where the audience is forced to watch grainy footage *knowing* that something spooky is going to happen, but not when or in which corner of the screen. This is an incredibly effective technique because you can't look away, but you know you're about to jump out of your seat. There's a particularly effective scare near the end of the film that made me scream (which, in turn, scared the fuck outta my cat).

Lake Mungo was a wonderful little surprise and it stuck with me days after. Highly recommended for horror buffs.

Grade: A-

First Reformed

Directed by Paul Schrader, First Reformed is an incredibly powerful and beautiful film about faith, hope, and despair. Ethan Hawke, doing great work here, plays Reverend Toller, the pastor at a "tourist church" called First Reformed. Very few people actually attend services at the church, but the 250 year old building is kept open as a tourist attraction and is soon to be the location of a reconsecration ceremony overseen by the pastor of a local megachurch called Abundant Life Ministries. Cedric Kyles (better known as Cedric the Entertainer) plays Pastor Jeffers and serves as a nice contrast to Hawke's Toller. Where Toller is nearly as self-abnegating as a monk (with the exception for his fondness for booze), Jeffers is charismatic, friendly, and knows how to make money.



One day, a couple shows up at First Reformed. Mary (Amanda Seyfried) and Michael (Phillip Ettinger) are going through a tough time--Michael is an environmental activist who is losing hope in the future of the earth every day. Mary is pregnant, and Michael wants her to get an abortion because he believes it is wrong to bring a child into a world soon to be plunged into chaos. Mary urges Toller to speak to her husband, but in doing so, Toller begins to question his own faith and his own sense of right and wrong.

I'll leave it at that, though there is MUCH more to the plot. First Reformed asks a lot of questions, from the relatively small (should you support a church that receives money from possibly corrupt businessmen?) to the enormously huge (Is it a sin to bring a child into a dying world? Will God forgive us for what we've done to His creation? How does one go on when there appears to be no hope?). You don't need to be a religious person to grapple with these questions because, as Toller points out, the "blackness" within the human soul has always been there and is in us all.

First Reformed is more art than entertainment, though I found it incredibly compelling and immediately wanted to watch it a second time once it was over. Highly recommended for people who like a little existential philosophy with their movies.

Grade: A

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Naz-Twee Party

Movies: Jojo Rabbit

Man, I really wanted to like this one. The concept of a 10 year old German boy who wants to be an upstanding member of the Hitler youth during the final days of the Third Reich and whose imaginary friend is der Fuhrer himself, played with childlike whimsy by Taika Waititi (who also directed the film), sounds like it could be delightfully edgy and satirical in the tradition of Chaplin's The Great Dictator and Brooks' The Producers. Alas, Jojo Rabbit doesn't know what it wants to be. It's both not edgy enough and too dark at the same time. It's both too saccharine to be about as serious a subject as Nazi Germany and too upsetting to commit fully to its heartwarming anti-hate message. It tries to be everything to everyone and ends up being nothing to no one.

The opening sequence of Jojo is by far the strongest part of the film: young Jojo is putting on his Hitler youth attire with pride while Waititi-as-Adolf psyches him up, encouraging him to "Heil me! You can heil better than that!" leading Jojo to run through the streets screaming "Heil Hitler" with the exuberance only a 10 year old can muster. He then goes to a training camp where Sam Rockwell (a highlight of the movie) plays Captain Klenzendorf, a one-eyed, heavy-drinking former soldier who has been demoted to training children and couldn't give a fuck. Rebel Wilson and Alfie Allen play Captain K's lackeys.

The training camp part of the film was genuinely funny--imagine Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom but with children burning books, playing with grenades, and learning that Jews have scales and forked tongues. Now, I know this might sound incredibly disgusting and upsetting, but I hope if you choose to see this movie you understand that Waititi is *mocking* Nazis, not endorsing them. I mean, it's pretty fucking clear, but if you don't find Nazis and Hitler funny at all, you'd best skip this film.



The clearly satirical portions of the film are the strongest...but instead of sticking to straightforward comedy, Waititi introduces drama in the form of a Jewish girl living in Jojo's attic. Turns out, Jojo's mom, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson, whom I've decided I don't like), is part of the resistance. As Jojo begins to develop a friendship with Elsa (played by Thomasin McKenzie) he--get this--realizes that Jews are people too.

Here's my issue with Jojo Rabbit: I didn't buy the sweet, maudlin aspects of the film. There are a ton of scenes with Jojo and his mama, just playing and dancing and being sweet. It didn't match the earlier scenes in the movie. And then, partway through, there is a twist that is absolutely devastating and just seemed really fucking out of place. The tone is all over the goddamn place: Is this movie Life is Beautiful? Is it Inglourious Basterds? PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK THIS MOVIE IS?!

I can tell you that Jojo Rabbit's greatest sin is that for long lengths of the film, it is simply boring. There are entire portions that go by with no jokes, or really terrible jokes. There are also weirdly lazy stereotypes. For example, it is heavily suggested that Captain K. and Alfie Allen's Finkel are gay (the gay Nazi stereotype is as old as, well, the original Nazi party). So many talents are wasted here. Rebel Wilson is reduced to a fat fraulein role. There's honestly not nearly enough of Waititi's imaginary Hitler.

However, I do appreciate that Waititi took a chance on a project that is unusual and risky. I personally feel that he did not hit the mark, but the thing about Jojo Rabbit is that a lot of people *love* it. You might be one of those people! I'm glad I saw it because I didn't know which side I'd fall on and now I know.

So I'm going to give Jojo Rabbit a solid, semi-respectable C grade. It has its moments. Overall, I didn't like it that much and would not watch again, but I can see how others would enjoy the film more than me.

Grade: C

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Water Water Everywhere

Movies: The Lighthouse

Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse is a difficult film to write a review about because the plot is pretty simple: a man goes absolutely apeshit in a lighthouse.

But this movie is so much more than that too. Eggers follows up his first film, the much beloved The VVitch, with another atmospheric, often difficult to understand (literally--I really would have appreciated subtitles) semi-horror story that just shrouds the audience in dread from start to finish. Filmed in rich black and white and at a 1:33 aspect ratio, The Lighthouse feels like a relic of cinema past.

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are Thomas Wake and Ephraim Winslow, respectively. For four weeks Winslow is to be under the tutelage of Wake, learning to be a wikie (lighthouse keeper), before he is assigned his own post. Wake gives Winslow all the back-breaking, shitty (literally) chores and generally treats Winslow like an indentured servant and Winslow puts up with it. This *is* the 1890s after all, and there aren't a ton of options for work. But over the weeks, the two men grow closer and develop a fondness for one another.

That is, until a storm hits the "rock" they're stuck on. Winslow is due to be fetched from his post and when the boat to retrieve him never arrives, seagull poo hits the fan very quickly.

The first hour of the film sets up the hierarchy between Winslow and Wake nicely, while the final 40 minutes effectively destroy any and all sense of hierarchy, rules, logic, and grasp on reality. There's a turning point in the film when Wake mentions rations to Winslow and Winslow replies "it's only been one day" (as in, one day since the boat that was supposed to ferry him away failed to show up). Wake chillingly replies that they've been stuck for weeks past the boat's due date and he's sick of Winslow's willful ignorance of that fact.



Things get more intense and more insane from there on out. The film is from Winslow's perspective but he's a hella unreliable narrator. He goes from a quiet, slightly annoyed lad to a raging lunatic, fantasizing about mermaid vaginas and confessing to watching a friend die at his previous post and only wanting a cigarette after.

Did I say "mermaid vagina"? The Lighthouse, in addition to being spooky and batshit insane, is also very funny, with fart jokes and jack-off jokes galore. The grandiose banter between the old salt and the pup are the stuff Oscar clips are made of as well.

This is just a good movie, guys, The visuals are stunning--the black and white imagery with shadows playing on Dafoe and Pattinson's haunted faces is mesmerizing. The acting is insanely good. Dafoe is a known quantity as a crusty ol' stereotype come to life and Pattinson once again proves he is no longer Edward Cullen in this terrifying and electric role.

My personal theory about this movie is that The Lighthouse is either purgatory or Hell. Given Pattison's sins revealed partway through the film, as well as the fudging of linear time, it makes sense that this place is a place of punishment for this man.

My advice is to not think too much and just see the movie and appreciate it for its beauty and weirdness. Like The VVitch, The Lighthouse is not an easy film to watch, but it's a worthwhile one.

Grade: A-

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Shake Your Money Maker

Movies: Hustlers

Hustlers is a female-written and directed (Lorene Scafaria) film that centers on women in the sex work industry (stripping, specifically). Based on a true story, which was captured in the an article titled "The Hustlers of Scores" by Jessica Pressler, Hustlers is about a small group of strippers who started drugging the men they danced for and running up their credit cards in order to give themselves a bigger payday.

It was very refreshing to see a film with well-known female actresses (Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, and Julia Stiles--with cameos by Cardi B and Lizzo, among others) and basically no recognizable male actors. How often does that happen!? Similarly, the movie is ethnically diverse out the wazoo and presents the women (and their criminal actions) as complicated and three-dimensional. Hustlers has its feminist bona fides for sure.

The movie is also just plain fun, with a bangin' soundtrack, sexy stripteases, and women drugging and stealing from rich, white guys. This movie is the lovechild of Magic Mike and Robin Hood.

But the film is careful to never fully condone the actions of the women involved in the scam. It *explains* their actions, but it also shows the consequences, both practical (having to haul a nude, passed out man into a Hummer) and emotional (having to deal with a crying man begging for his money back over the phone). And anyone who read the article above knows how the story ends.

Hustlers focuses on Destiny, played by Constance Wu. The film opens in 2007. Destiny is a stripper at a well-heeled club called "Moves" in New York City, but she is still learning the ropes. An older, wiser stripper, Ramona (a radiant boss bitch Jennifer Lopez), takes Destiny under her wing and--in my favorite scene of the film--shows her a variety of moves on the poll. The two bond very quickly and make bank. After all, it's 2007 and the economy is great. What could possibly go wrong?

A whole bunch, actually. For one, the recession hits in late 2008, and the rich dudes who frequent the club start drying up. I guess, given the stock market, they decide to spend their money on their dumb wives and kids or whatever. Then, Destiny gets pregnant. After she has her baby, she dumps her boyfriend and struggles to find work. She decides to go back to stripping even though she'd really prefer not to. However, one benefit of going back to the club is that she reunites with Ramona, who is as hot and successful as ever--and who has come up with a scheme to make a lot of money real fast.

The plan: chat up a rich-looking dude at a bar and get him drunk (be sure to surreptitiously throw your drink over your shoulder while he drinks so you remain sober and clear-headed). Then, the other girls (Ramona has recruited two other women--Mercedes [Keke Palmer] and Annabelle [Lili Reinhart]--to be part of the scheme) will show up and convince the dude to take them to Moves to hang out in the champagne room. At some point in the evening, one of the girls will slip a mixture of MDMA and ketamine into the dude's drink--the drug is meant to make the guy both suggestible, but also impair his memory. Once at the club, they "get permission" from the guy to borrow his credit card to pay for drinks, and essentially empty out his bank account.

The ethical reasoning behind this scam is that because these men are so wealthy, they'll barely miss that $10,000 from their bank account. Besides, the women tell themselves, these men are pigs. They're the 1%. Misogynists. Pervs. They asked for it.

Ah man, my heart rate is up just thinking about how these women fucked over these rich assholes. Eat the fuckin' rich, amirite? This is a better solution than the guillotine, amirite? Well, sadly, life isn't a feminist fairytale and, eventually, the women get caught. Surprisingly, their sentences are pretty light--Ramona, the ringleader, doesn't even serve jail time, just 5 years probation. Destiny takes a plea deal.

Hustlers is about two things: female relationships and the American Dream. And it considers the limits of both. In many ways, these women were only doing to men what the men were doing to others--stealing other peoples' money to make themselves rich. It's not like Wall Street traders and investment bankers are angels--they do shady, barely legal (if not flat-out illegal) shit all the time. And they get away with it because they are at the top of the food chain. Although the women's actions were indeed illegal and indeed hurt some (relatively) innocent people, it's hard to blame them for just trying to get by in a tough world that values getting bread by any means necessary. Likewise, the movie looks at relationships between women--the good and the bad. Ramona and Destiny's friendship is complex--they have a bit of a mother/daughter (or teacher/student) dynamic, and also a girl crush dynamic, and, eventually, a frenemies dynamic. Their friendship can't withstand Ramona's hubris.

Hustlers is a fun movie with a complex moral center. It really is like the first Magic Mike movie, which was a tale about relationships between men hiding underneath a line-up of sculpted man-ass. Likewise, this movie serves up Britney Spears and stripper poles alongside some truly difficult questions about how people are supposed to survive during times of economic crisis. And also, the concept of wealth and privilege--maybe some people deserve to have money taken from them if they don't willingly put it back into society where it could go to people who need it more.

Grade: B+




Sunday, September 1, 2019

Strap You Hands 'Cross These Engines

Movies: Blinded by the Light

In 2002, Gurinder Chadha directed Bend It Like Beckham, which became an arthouse hit. Audiences loved the comedy to be found in an Indian girl living in the UK and straddling both the traditional world of her Asian parents and the modern world of her English peers. By the end of the film, her strict parents have come to understand and admire Jess's (Parminder Nagra) talent on the soccer field and Jess, in turn, has a new level of respect for her hand-working parents.

Blinded by the Light, also directed by Chadha, follows nearly the exact same formula, with sadly diminishing returns. The film follow Javed (Viveik Kalra), a 16 year old Pakistani kid living 1987 Britain. Javed loves to write, especially poetry, but his super old-school dad finds no value in writing. He expects Javed to work and hand over his wages (the backdrop of Margaret Thatcher's recession-plagued Britain is one of the best aspects of the film) to help support the family, and also prepare to enter college--not to follow his passions, but so that he can get a good job and eventually marry (a woman his father will choose, naturally).

Like Jess, Javed is stuck between two worlds. His English peers try hard to get him to rebel a little: they invite him to parties and encourage his writing. But Javed is, generally speaking, a meek and obedient young man. That is, until his Sikh buddy from school gets him turned on to the Boss.

Hearing the music of Bruce Springsteen for the first time is no less than a revelation for Javed. Springsteen's music, which is basically about "getting out this dump", speaks to him in a way nothing else has before. It's not long before he becomes obsessed.



On the one hand, Javed's newfound passion ignites his writing, gives him the courage to ask out a girl in his class, and lets him push back against his father's strict rules. On the other hand, Javed becomes kind of a dick. He makes fun of his best friend from childhood for listening to synth music, demands that an article about his love of the Boss be published in the school newspaper, and even leaves in the middle of his sister's wedding celebration to buy tix to see Springsteen.


But by the end of the movie, all is well--he wins a prize for his Springsteen essay and his parents come to see him read it and he ends up improvising a little speech about how Springsteen and his dad would get each other--they both came from poor backgrounds and worked hard to succeed. Javed makes up with his friend, gets into the college program of his choice (for writing, NOT economics as his dad prefers), and has a new level of respect for his hard-working parents.

Sounds familiar, right? Blinded by the Light almost feels like Chadha plagiarized her own work--even down to a pivotal scene that takes place during a character's sister's wedding. Both Jess and Javed's parents are pretty two-dimensional: they are strict, no-nonsense first generation immigrants who have secret hearts of gold underneath their old-school exteriors.

Blinded by the Light feels like a movie the should have come out 15 years ago. There's even a throwaway line about how people in America are less racist/more open to different cultures than Britain than made me chuckle darkly. The optimism in the film feels practically naive. Granted, it's a PG-13, family-friendly film. It's a safe, comforting popcorn movie where *hard work* actually gets you where you want to go. But to me, it felt too by-the-numbers.

My mom loves Bruce Springsteen, and fans of his music will greatly appreciate the film (which is inspired by a true story, by the way. There are pics of the real Javed with Springsteen at the end). There are definitely some joyous moments, as when Javed, Roops--Javed's Springsteen-obsessed pal, and Eliza--Javed's girlfriend, run through the town singing "Born to Run". "Born to Run" is a fucking great song. But it's not enough to save the movie from its cheesy, cringe-y moments.

Overall, imma give Blinded by the Light a B-. It's not a bad movie, and it definitely tugs your heart strings. But it feels so similar to Chadha's previous (and better) work that there is a touch of disappointment in how predictable it is. Families, those looking for a comforting, happy flick, and fans of the Boss will likely enjoy it more than I did.

Grade: B-



Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Boring Stories to Tell in the Dark

Movies: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Y'all, I am sad to report that Andre Ovredal's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the beloved books by Alvin Schwartz is boorrrrrrring.

Now. This may just be because I am a horror veteran who has an *extremely* high tolerance for spookiness. But I don't think that's it. It may be that this film is a mere PG-13, but I don't think that's it either, because Insidious, one of the scariest movies of all time is PG-13 too. I just think SSTTITD is not a good movie.

SSTTITD takes place in 1968. On Halloween, horror fan Stella, her friends Auggie and Chuck, and drifter Ramon break into a "haunted" house that belonged to the Bellows' family. The family was infamous for supposedly locking away their daughter, Sarah, who liked to write scary stories. Stella discovers Sarah's hand-written book of scary stories and takes it with her.



After reading a story written about the town bully, Tommy, and realizing it coincides with Tommy's real-life disappearance (the story in question is "Harold", which fans of the book will recognize as the story with the killer scarecrow), Stella figures out that Sarah is still writing stories from beyond the grave that actually result in people's deaths. This is confirmed when her friend Auggie falls prey to a story in which a corpse is looking for his missing toe (which Auggie has accidentally eaten in a stew).

From there, Stella and Ramon try to figure out exactly how to get Sarah to stop killing from beyond the grave. The movie is a slog that I barely have the patience to explain. Fans of the books will recognize one of the most iconic images from Alvin Schwartz's books during the sequence where Chuck is hunted down by an obese, pale, stringy-haired ghoul in "The Dream"--one of the only truly scary scenes in the entire film.

The film comes to...a conclusion. Stella is able to confront Sarah and convince her to stop writing her stories, But Auggie and Chuck remain missing, which sucks because neither character did anything to deserve their fate (unlike the bully Tommy). So,  a scary movie with a central theme of justice doesn't actually...give our characters justice in the end. What a waste.

While Alvin Schwartz's books remain absolutely iconic, especially with the original illustrations by Stephen Gammell, the movie based on these books is aggressively mediocre. There's no way around it: save your money and buy a copy of the original books, which are still sure to give you a tingle and raise the hairs on your neck.

Grade: D

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Of Cults and Cowboys

Movies: Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino is a director I love to hate (or hate to love?). He's an asshole in real life, having put Uma Thurman in a situation on the set of Kill Bill where she nearly became paralyzed and having defended Roman Polanski on Howard Stern in 2003 suggesting that Polanski's rape of a drugged 13 year old was consensual sex (he has since apologized for saying this, but I don't buy it).

People often ask if one can separate art from artist, and I suppose it's possible, but if you actually watch/read art by assholes and predators, their sickness sometimes seeps through the screen or book. Consider Woody Allen's obsession with younger actresses and "May/December romances" and Louis CK's jokes about men being sexually out of control. Art, it seems, imitates life.

While I have given Tarantino many passes because he is, I believe, a truly great director, it is becoming increasingly difficult to watch his work and not see his misogynist and racist beliefs play out in front of you. While Tarantino has always reveled in violence and shocking the audience, his recent work (everything post-Inglourious Basterds, I'd argue) is becoming less interesting and truly provocative and more and more "edgelord".

All this said, his talent as a storyteller as well as his ability to really set the scene and submerge the audience in time and place (Los Angeles in 1969 in this case) is still top notch. I liked Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, but I didn't love it. Not the way I loved Inglourious Basterds, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill Vol. 1.

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood has a story at the center and a story on the periphery and in the final act of the film the two stories meet (yes, this review will have spoilers, but I'll put a warning beforehand). The central story is that of Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio, bringing his excellent acting game)--a middle-aged actor who still drinks like he's in his 20's and has moved on from his glory days as the hero of a TV Western, Bounty Law, to playing "the heavy" in various shows and movies which, as Dalton's agent (played by Al Pacino) warns, is not a good idea because it gives the spotlight to younger, upcoming actors in the hero role and subtly encourages viewers to hate Rick.

Rick whines that he is officially a "has been" to his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, playing an alpha male in all the worst and best ways here). While Dalton still has a career, as well as a nice car (that he can't drive since he had his license revoked after too many DUIs) and a beautiful home on Cielo Drive, right next to Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, Booth has a shitty car and shitty trailer where he lives with his pitbull and eats mac n' cheese out of a box every night. While one might feel bad for Booth and the way Dalton takes advantage of him, Booth is a loose cannon. He's a man who doesn't shy away from a fistfight (even against Bruce Lee) and is said to have killed his wife and gotten away with it.

While Dalton is trying to get his shit together on set, Booth picks up a young, flirty hippie chick (played by Margaret Qualley) and drives her "home" to the Spahn Ranch where he discovers dozens of skinny, dirty hippie girls living in squalor. This is where the two stories meet, and where history meets fiction. The Spahn Ranch was a real place where members of the Manson Family camped out in the months leading up to their infamous murders. Booth interacts with real-life Manson Family cult members Tex Watson and Squeaky Fromme (played by Austin Butler and Dakota Fanning, respectively) as well as 80-year-old, blind-as-a bat-George Spahn (Bruce Dern), the owner of the ranch. He also beats the shit out of a hippie. It was at this point when I started to realize what was going to happen at the end of the film...

Warning! Spoilers ahead!




***

If you've seen Inglourious Basterds, you know that half the fun of the film is its historical revision in which a group of Jewish Americans machine gun and burn a bunch of Nazis to death (in fact, one of Rick Dalton's films, The 14 Fists of McCluskey, pays homage to IG). At some point in Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood I realized that ol' QT was going to pull the same stunt again. And I was weirdly dreading it. Sure enough, in *this* timeline of 1969 Los Angeles, three Manson Family members break into Rick Dalton's home on Cielo Drive instead of the neighbors, where a very pregnant Sharon Tate is hanging out with friends. Unfortunately for Tex, Sadie, and Patricia, Cliff Booth is hanging out, having just smoked a cigarette dipped in acid, with his pitbull, Randy (or Brandy? I didn't quite catch the 'bull's name).

After a few witty remarks, Tarantino-style, Booth sics the dog on Tex and throws a can of dog food at Sadie's face. A fight ensues in which Brad Pitt beats the ever-loving shit out of a teenage girl and a dog mauls a bunch of people. But it's not over! That same girl stumbles outside and into Dalton's swimming pool, freaking out Dalton who is drunk as a skunk. He goes and grabs his flamethrower and torches the girl (like ya do). Once all three Manson hippies are dead, Cliff ends up going to the hospital and Dalton wanders over to the Tate-Polanski residence where he is invited inside to hang out. Ob-la-dee, ob-la-dah, life goes on, wah.

So here is where I have my issues with this movie. I get that these hippies, including the teenage girls, are "the bad guys" who in actuality brutally murdered a 8-months pregnant woman and four of her friends. So why didn't I feel the same elation as when a Jewish "inglourious basterd" machine-gunned Hitler in the face? Maybe because seeing a Jewish adult male kill a Nazi is more fun and cathartic than seeing a grown-ass man smash a young girl's face against a telephone until it's a bloody pulp? Maybe because I thought it was disrespectful to the memory of Sharon Tate? Maybe because I *know* Quentin Tarantino is a misogynist, so having the alpha male "win", even against a bad person, doesn't feel right knowing the sentiment behind it.

The movie seems to say "if there were any justice in the world, jacked, white men like Brad Pitt would be putting women, skinny long-haired dudes, and Asians and Mexicans in their place where they belong" (there's also a scene where Cliff Booth nearly defeats Bruce Lee in a fight). And I'm not alone in thinking that. It's not just me, the humorless feminist.

At the same time, the movie--and that scene in particular--still has QT's signature sick humor. The audience was laughing, me along with them. But what was lacking in me was a sense of satisfaction. This violence didn't seem "earned". It just seemed...gross and cheap.

***

End Spoilers!

So how to grade this movie? At 2 hours and 40 minutes, it was overly long and not much happened. But it was funny and well-acted and the dialogue was good. I'm going to give it a B. It's not close to being Tarantino's best, but I can't actually say it was a "bad movie". I just wish Tarantino would use his considerable talent and vision for something truly interesting and provocative. At the rate he's going, he will be Rick Dalton eventually--a sad, old drunk yelling at himself in the mirror of a makeup trailer.

Grade: B

PS: yes, there are FEET