Thursday, July 10, 2014

My intention was to review the movie We Are What We Are - This has become Part One of that review.

In high school, for me, there were books and movies and music. Books were my allowed form of escape during school. Between classes I could read, and should we be given a break, I’d read. A book a week I tore through Robert R. McCammon, Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz (I even got into the Fletch books and a lot of the Dragonlance books) at home though the books were traded for movies and music. I remember when the Bravo channel first came to cable, it would show weird artistic stuff like ballet and stuff I wasn’t too into – then one day I stumbled upon Hal Hartley’s Trust, and it all changed for me. My passion for the blockbuster was forced to make room for the independent movies that I’d never ever considered interesting – hell, I probably didn’t even know they existed. I had a passion for movies but I knew no one who shared my passion. My brothers and parents would go to movies with me but never really helped fine-tune my interest. I hate to consider what my life – high school life as well as future life – would have turned out had I never become interested in independent movies – had I never discovered Trust.

What movies do you wish Netflix had streaming?

            Sure there are a number of blockbuster movies I wish it had streaming now (Pacific Rim, Prometheus (and yes I pick those two to irritate those of you who hate those movies – I freaking loved them so suck it)), but I’ll be honest – I would love to see some of Hal Hartley’s earlier movies streaming. I wish for this not for my own benefit – well, not entirely – because I own Trust on VHS, as well as The Unbelievable Truth and Surviving Desire (I will never get rid of those movies), but I don’t own Amateur, and have not seen it since I rented it when it was released years ago, and I would love to see it (we only have streaming Netflix, my desire apparently does have a monetary limit at the moment) – I wish for these movies to be streaming for those who have not seen them, because everyone in the world should see his early movies.

            I think his movies worked because of the writer / director / musician, but also because of the actors he got to work with, and since I am a red blooded American male I must put Adrienne Shelly at the top of the list of the best thing about his movies. She’s not in all of his, so at that point I must admit to my die-hard love for Martin Donovan, and then finally to Bill Sage – who brought all of this about, but more on that in a minute.

            The following is a review I wrote on Amazon for a soundtrack I bought:

            2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A guy from Kansas loves this music., December 2, 1998
Joshua Hampel (Wichita, Kansas.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: True Fiction Pictures: Music From The Films Of Hal Hartley (Audio CD)
Ever since I caught Trust late at night on Bravo, I fell in love with Adrienne Shelly (who wouldn't?) and I was also introduced to Hal Hartley. The music accompanying the last shot was so (for the lack of a better word) cool, that I watched the credits to catch who did the music. After years of looking for this Ned Rifle guy, Hal released Amateur, and I got that soundtrack, and it was awesome. Now I just got this soundtrack, and it's twice as good. With the themes for Simple Men, the Unbelievable Truth, as well as Trust, this is a must have for any Hal Hartley (or Adrienne Shelly) fan.
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Dream Girl
            So I obviously had a crush on Adrienne Shelly, but seriously, how could you not. She was the indie it girl before that was even a thing. Before Parker Posey there was Adrienne Shelly – before the whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl had a title or was a thing worth putting a title on, there was Adrienne Shelly. But I wouldn’t define her as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl exactly – she’s not an empty shell of a person who is there for the sole purpose of making a male character understand life and its lessons – or whatever a MPDG is supposed to be. She is the opposite; she is the main character herself, a strong girl with drive and intelligence who just happens to be in love with a guy who doesn’t understand the sort of things life is throwing at him. She helps him, sure, but as evident in Trust, he helps her as well. Adrienne Shelly’s characters were more the Manic Pixie Dream Girlfriend, she wasn’t a girl who was there to help the male character and then fade into the background, she was there for the long haul, she was there to help but needed help herself and if the other main character could handle the work then things would end well. Unfortunately in Trust, Martin Donovan was unable to handle it (at least that’s my interpretation of it), which brings me to the man himself.

Just another reason this man is my idol.
            Martin Donovan was my idol in high school. I’d say his character in Trust was my idol but in the Hartley films – no matter the character – he seemed to always be of the same mentality so I go with the belief that the man Martin Donovan was – and still is – my idol. Of course as he moved on to play more characters he grew and changed and became a very diverse actor, but he will always be those characters he was playing in the Hartley films. To a teenage Josh whose friends consisted of characters from books and movies, Martin Donovan seemed like the perfect guy to strive to be – a guy who lives by his own rules and though he may not get the girl, he’s still ends up looking as cool as anyone could wish to be. Of course it is Harley’s writing that makes him so cool, but the writing alone wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Martin Donovan’s delivery and presence that made every word he says and every action he performs a thing of defiance and bitterness that comes across as nothing short of style.

Know why this guy is so cool?
Bill Sage was also a recurring character that stood out during the Hartley films. He was a youthful guy that took center stage in Simple Men, and though he often popped up in other Hartley films, it was always in the background, but even then he stood out as a memorable guy. Bill Sage exemplified another reason the Hartley films were always so entertaining. Hal Hartley used the same actors in one aspect or another throughout his movies and it was always nice to see the same faces through different movies. They were people I was beginning to recognize and to a lonely kid they were friends that I could go back and hang out with whenever I wanted and unlike real people, the people in the Hartley films didn’t get on my nerves and were cool.

            Through out the years I enjoyed seeing Martin Donovan pop up in unexpected places. The Silent Hill sequel, Kelsey Grammar series Boss, The Dead Zone (I think, I stopped watching towards the end but I think I saw him in a few episodes? Maybe it was The 4400); all of it was just that much more enjoyable because I got to see an old friend when I was least expecting him (Jesus that sounds pathetic).

What an amazing person looks like.
           I realize that none of these people knew that I existed, nor did they care, but I still liked them and enjoyed the company that their work gave me, and when I heard of Adrienne Shelley’s murder I was shocked – obviously – but it affected me in a way I hadn’t expected. It was like my memories were changed. Now when I think back to the first time I saw Trust, and the first time I saw Adrienne Shelley, it’s all different because no matter how sweet and awesome and strong and intelligent she seemed (and yes I’m going off of her acting and the character she was playing as a guide to the person – but I think it safe to assume that she was a pretty cool person in real life) someone murdered her:

"You stalked and brutally attacked my wife, silenced her screams with your hand until you rendered her unconscious and then, in a brutal and gruesome act of cowardice, took a bedsheet and strangled her to death," Ostroy said. "You tied her up and hung her the way you strung up pigs back in Ecuador."

Shelly's death was initially thought to be suicide: The 40-year-old was found dangling from a bedsheet tied to a shower rod. Cops zeroed in on Pillco after investigators found his dusty boot prints on the edge of Shelly's bathtub.

Pillco, 20, confessed to attacking the acclaimed actress-director when she caught him pilfering her purse; he pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month.

and though I don’t give that less than a person who took her life a thought, it’s just the fact that she is gone that makes it different.

            Billy Sage was an actor that I seemed to be missing out on. I saw him in American Psycho but it took me awhile to realize that was the same guy from the Hartley films. He still had that youthful face but just something about his ability to go deep into his characters that made him one of those actors that you see and don’t realize until later that you’d seen him in a bunch of movies. From most of the movies that I’d seen him in he wasn’t ever the main character, he was always a supporting guy – which is cool – but it was like he was always lost to both the character as well as the background, and he seemed totally fine and comfortable with where he was.

This is why.
            Now there may be dozens of movies where he’s the main character and I just haven’t seen them, and if there are good movies with him that I’m not aware of, let me know and I will check them out. This is just my impression of him and he seems to not get or take many main character roles. This was my impression of him, and also the fact that I hadn’t thought of any of Hartley’s movies for a while, is why when I saw We Are What We Are I had the strange feeling that I knew the dad in the movie but he did not look like anyone I knew, but that voice, man did that voice sound familiar . . . 

Monday, July 7, 2014

I don't mention it below but I'd be unable to forgive myself should I not mention Jess Weixler. She is an amazing and eclectic actress, and I may honestly be in love with her more than any of the men and women I declare my love for in the below thoughts.

I may be in love with Tyler Labine. I’m not talking like the hardcore gay sex kind of love that I feel and would totally be open for when talking about Steve Buscemi (I plan on starting a blog to share my fan-fiction of Mr. Buscemi and me, so keep an eye out for that); no, I’m talking about how he seems like a cool guy to meet and hang out with. He’s probably not, he’s probably a horribly mean person who wouldn’t hang out with me – much like I fear that Mr. Buscemi would not be into making love to me – and since I will never meet either man I cling to the fantasy that both are cool guys.

            The first movie I recall seeing Tyler Labine in was Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and that movie was perfectly executed, though it may take a bit at the start to get going, once it does it is well worth the ride. Anyone tired of slasher movies, and anyone tired of those movies that “cleverly” poke fun at the slasher movies – TD vs E is the perfect movie for you, a chaotic mess of gore and comedy that works because the people in the movie are all into it. It’s like all the actors are tracking with the tone of the movie and it shows, the whole movie is a homerun of comedic timing, good acting and good directing and all of it based on a strong script.

            The next movie I saw him in was Cottage Country, and I’ve already reviewed that movie so all I can do now is reiterate how perfect an example that movie is for one to see and understand what a dark comedy movie is all about and how it should look. It was that movie, Cottage Country, when I first saw Lucy Punch, a girl I fell in love with because though she was in the movie only briefly she stood out as one of the best / funniest things about the whole movie.

            So when I saw that both Tyler and Lucy were in the movie Someone Marry Barry I had to check it out. From the beginning, with TD vs E, my wife had been with me and had enjoyed every movie Tyler had been in – and then we saw this movie.

            Someone Marry Barry was like a very long episode of a stupid TV show – take your pick of any situational comedy show – crossed with a romantic comedy movie.

TV show with rom-com a movie that my wife and I will enjoy does not make.

            I thought the movie was pointless, but funny – and around halfway through it I fell asleep. I was laughing and the movie wasn’t horrible, it was just dull. My wife did not like Tyler’s character – which was kind of the point, but she found him too annoying and was unable to see anything redeeming about him. From the start she was not at all interested in his finding happiness, and to me from the start Barry was funny and his friends were not. I think Someone Marry Barry is proof that Tyler – though a great comedic actor, as he has proven in previous movies – cannot carry a movie on his own. The other characters in this movie were just not strong enough to help Tyler support the movie and carry it into something that was better than just “meh”.

            I woke up at the end of the movie and didn’t even ask my wife how it was. I could tell she didn’t like it, though when I was awake she laughed at parts, but for the most part it wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t too interested in finding out how it ended (I’m guessing I’ve seen enough movies to have a good idea of how things worked out for everyone) so Someone Marry Barry was a giant stumble during our journey through Tyler’s streaming film history.

The next night we watched was Best Man Down. I talked about it briefly in a previous blog post stating simply:

            I did not plan on liking Best Man Down, which may be why I loved it. It is a quiet, slow movie that relies heavily on the acting. The story is very basic and is probably why I did not think the movie looked good at all when I saw the preview. I put it on my list even though I never intended to watch it (that’s how I roll, and one reason why my wife was near ecstatic when Netflix offered profiles. Her movie list is a piece of artistic minimalism while mine is pretty much a pile of movies that appeal to my left brain / right brain extremism) and after our run of Tyler movies it seemed fitting that we would check this one out. My wife had no idea what it was about, just that it had the Barry guy in it and at the start it was like a sequel to the Barry movie. My wife asked if he ever played any character other than the drunk and rude and obnoxious guy.

            By the time the Best Man Down movie had ended my wife and I were very near in tears (I mean my wife was very near in tears, I was never near tears – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever cried, so there). No matter how bad any other movie Tyler does, all you need to do is check this movie out to see that the man can act.

            The movie Best Man Down was powerful because of the mother daughter relationship going on with the young girl who at first seems to have nothing in common with the main plot until we find out that she does. Actually, the main characters – the couple getting married – feel secondary to the story of the best man and his relationship with the girl, which takes up probably just a little less than half the movie – but it feels bigger. When we’re following the newlyweds, we’re waiting to find out the connection between the girl and the best man, and then the mystery of how they came to know each other is layered in such a way that it keeps you waiting and wanting to know the full story.
            I said the story of Best Man Down is nothing special, and it’s not, but it’s the way people involved make it special, and interesting, and it’s the acting that makes it powerful and emotional.

            By the end of Best Man Down my wife and I felt emotionally wrecked and on a whim I played the first episode of a series called Sons of Tuscon which also starred Tyler. It apparently ran for only one season back in 2010, and the first episode was pretty dang funny, but again it wasn’t solely on Tyler, the kids he’s paired up with were good enough actors, and the situation they’re in is interesting (not at all believable but only for a TV show, which was good because that’s what we were watching).

            We haven’t watched any more of the series, but plan on it, and because of Best Man Down we look forward to checking out more movies that have Tyler Labine.