Sundance Film Review: I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore (dir by Macon Blair)


(With the Sundance Film Festival currently taking place in Colorado, I am currently reviewing films that originally made a splash at Sundance!)

This is a sad story.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore created quite a stir when it premiered at Sundance last year.  It may be hard to believe but, for a brief while, this film has just as much Sundance buzz as both Mudbound and Get Out.  It even won the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, which has helped to launch many independent films into the public consciousness.

So, why isn’t I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore a better known film?

Unfortunately, the distribution rights for this film were purchased by Netflix.  With very little fanfare and, as far as I can tell, not even the briefest of theatrical releases, Netflix started streaming I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore on February 24th.  With Netflix putting most of its promotional muscle behind Mudbound, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore has been somewhat overlooked.  You can watch it, of course.  You can go on Netflix and you’ll find it sitting there with Sandy Wexler and maybe a Uwe Boll dragon movie.  Obviously, some distribution is better than no distribution and I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is probably too quirky of a movie to have ever set the box office on fire but still, it’s hard not to feel that this movie deserved better.

It tells the story of Ruth (Melanie Lynesky), a nursing assistant who is having a bad day.  One her patients dies.  She has to deal with an elderly racist.  She gets stuck in traffic and can only watch helplessly as a truck spews toxic exhaust into the environment.  When she stops off at a bar and tries to read book, a stranger casually tells her how the it ends.  As you can guess from the film’s title, this is not the world in which Ruth wants to live.  While she’s not the type to demand perfection, would it kill people to be just a little bit considerate?

Things get even worse when Ruth returns home and discovers that someone has broken into her house.  Whoever it was didn’t get away with much, just some medication, some silverware, and Ruth’s laptop.  The police are indifferent and basically blame Ruth, telling her that it’s her own fault for leaving her door unlocked.  Her neighbors are even less helpful, all claiming that they didn’t see anyone breaking into Ruth’s house.  No one seems to care.

No one but Tony.

Tony (who is played by Elijah Wood) is one of Ruth’s neighbors.  He likes to listen to heavy metal music.  He likes to work out.  He claims to be an expert in martial arts.  We’ve all known someone like Tony.  However, it turns out that Tony is the only person as upset about the break-in as Ruth is.

Tony and Ruth work together to try to track down Ruth’s stuff.  It starts out fairly simple but then gets progressively more complicated (and violent) as things go on.  Ruth and Tony become unlikely heroes.  (In one of the film’s more memorable moments, Ruth witnesses a sudden burst of violence and reacts by throwing up.)  The world may tell Ruth and Tony that they should just accept things the way that they are but Ruth and Tony aren’t willing to do that…

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore was directed by Macon Blair, who previously starred in the thematically similar Blue Ruin.  It’s not a perfect film, of course.  There are a few uneven moments but, overall, the film is strong enough that I can’t wait to see what Blair follows it up with.  The best thing about the film is that it provides lead roles to Melanie Lynesky and Elijah Wood, two quirky and appealing actors who rarely seem to get the parts that they really deserve.  As played by Lynesky and Wood, both Ruth and Tony are so likable and sincere in their desire to make the world a better place that you can’t help but wish the best for both of them.

I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore is a good film and definitely one that deserves more attention than it’s received.  It’s on Netflix so, the next time you’re trying to decide what to watch, why not take a chance on it?

Previous Sundance Film Reviews:

  1. Blood Simple
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2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks for the 26 Best Films Of The Year


Well, it’s time for the list that everyone’s been waiting for!  Today, I finish up my look back at the previous year by listing my 26 favorite films of 2017!

(Why 26?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers!)

Now, I should make clear that I haven’t seen every film that was released in 2017.  Are you looking at this list and asking yourself, “What about I, Tonya?  Phantom Thread? Call Me By Your Name?  The Post?”  The sad truth of the matter is that, largely due to bad weather and a severe cold that I’m still recovering from, I haven’t seen those films yet.  (And, to be honest, everything that I’ve heard about The Post makes me suspect that it’s not going to be for me.)  I’ll probably see all of those films next week but the thing is, there’s only so long that a film blogger can put off posting their best-of-the-year post.  This is the end of the third week of January.  I supposed I could have waited until February but, by that point, who would care?

As I see those films that I still need to see, I’ll modify this list as necessary.  That said, I find it hard to believe that I’ll see any more 2017 films that I like more than the films in my current top ten.

(Unfortunately, because the previous year was a bit chaotic, I’m way behind in my reviewing.  So, I haven’t posted reviews for all the films on my list.  Hopefully, over the upcoming week, I’ll be able to catch up with that!  And, fear not, my resolution for 2018 is not to get any further behind in my reviewing and I plan to stick to that.)

  1. A Ghost Story
  2. Lady Bird
  3. Wonder Woman
  4. Kedi
  5. The Big Sick
  6. Baby Driver
  7. It
  8. The Disaster Artist
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  10. The Meyerowitz Stories
  11. Logan
  12. Dunkirk
  13. Get Out
  14. Raw
  15. Maudie
  16. It Comes At Night
  17. Megan Leavey
  18. Beauty and the Beast
  19. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  20. Thor: Ragnorak
  21. The LEGO Batman Movie
  22. Ingrid Goes West
  23. Before I Fall
  24. Colossal
  25. The Beguiled
  26. Detroit

(Want to see my previous picks?  Click here for 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010!)

Previous entries in the TSL’s Look Back at 2017:

  1. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Single Issues by Ryan C
  2. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Series by Ryan C
  3. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Edition (Contemporary) by Ryan C
  4. 2017 In Review: Top Ten Collected Editions (Vintage) by Ryan C
  5. 2017 in Review: Top Ten Graphic Novels By Ryan C
  6. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I saw in 2017 by Valerie Troutman
  7. My Top 15 Albums of 2017 by Necromoonyeti
  8. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Picks For the 16 Worst Films of 2017
  9. 2017 In Review: Lisa Marie’s Final Post About Twin Peaks: The Return (for now)
  10. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 14 Favorite Songs of 2017
  11. 2017 in Review: The Best of SyFy by Lisa Marie Bowman
  12. 2017 in Review: 10 Good Things that Lisa Marie Saw On Television in 2017
  13. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 12 Favorite Novels of 2017
  14. 2017 in Review: Lisa Marie’s 10 Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2017
  15. 2017 in Review: The Best of Lifetime by Lisa Marie Bowman

Film Review: The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (dir by Harry Lachman)


I have to admit that the 1942 film, The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, turned out to be far different from what I was expecting.

Just based on the title, I was expecting it would be a highly fictionalized, borderline silly film about Edgar Allan Poe defeating his romantic rivals and winning the hand of the woman he loved while still finding time to write The Raven.  I figured that there would be at least a few gentlemanly fisticuffs, with Poe portrayed as a combination of Rhett Butler and Cary Grant.  Looking at the title, it was easy for me to imagine the film closing with Poe kissing his future wife and then looking straight at the camera.  “Quoth the Raven!” he would say and wink while romantic music swelled in the background…

But no.  The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe is actually a very conventional biopic.  With a running time of only 67 minutes, the movie often feels rather rushed but it still manages to include most of the better known details of Edgar Allan Poe’s short but eventful life.  (An ever-present narrator is always ready to fill us in on every thing that happens off-screen.)  The film doesn’t spend much time on what initially inspired Poe’s macabre imagination.  There’s a scene of Poe, as a child, standing on a desolate hill and looking at a raven perched in a dead tree.  With the exception of an extended section that deals with Annabel Lee, that’s about as deep as the movie is willing to get as far as Poe’s art is concerned.

When Poe grows up, he’s played by actor Sheppard Strudwick, who has a good mustache but never exactly comes across as being the type of tortured genius who would eventually end up both revolutionizing literature and drinking himself to death.  The majority of the film deals with Poe’s advocacy for copyright reform, which is an important issue but not exactly the most cinematic of concerns.  Poe survives college.  Poe tries to sell The Raven for $25.  Eventually, Poe marries Virginia Clemm (Linda Darnell) and her subsequent sickness and death leads to not only Poe’s greatest work but also his own tragic end.

Along the way, Poe meets both Thomas Jefferson and Charles Dickens.  Jefferson shows up long enough to tell a young Poe that he’s a good writer and that he needs to stop gambling.  Dickens meets Poe and encourages him to continue to advocate for better copyright laws.

It is known that Poe and Dickens actually did meet but did Poe also meet Thomas Jefferson?  Legend says that he did but no one knows for sure.   Here’s what we do know:

Poe attended the University of Virginia in 1826.  The University’s founder, former President Thomas Jefferson, was still alive in 1826 and would often invite promising students to Monticello.  Whether Jefferson was still doing that when Poe enrolled at the University of Virginia is questionable.  Jefferson died five months after Poe started his studies.

As for Dickens, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe admired each other’s writing and they met in Philadelphia during Dickens’s 1842 tour of North America.  No record has been kept of what they discussed, though some think that Dickens told Poe about his pet raven and perhaps inspired Poe’s best-remembered poem.  In the movie, they discuss copyright laws, which is nowhere near as much fun.

(When it comes to Poe’s meetings with both Jefferson and Dickens, it is perhaps best to remember the lesson of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and print the legend.)

The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe is a very short film and an obviously low-budget one as well.  When the presence of that somewhat pedantic narrator, The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe feels more like an educational special than a real movie.  It’s an okay introduction to Poe’s life but, ultimately, the best way to get to know Edgar Allan Poe is to sit down and start reading.

Music Video of the Day: Old Black Clown by Edgar Allan Poets (2012, dir by ????)


Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday!  If he were still alive today, he would be 209 years old.  He would probably be the oldest man on the planet.  Certainly, I think we would all be rather amazed at his vitality.  Unfortunately, Poe is no longer with us.  He was only forty years old when he died but his influence lives on.

You would think that there would be a hundred music videos based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.  Well, you would be wrong.  While Poe’s work has inspired countless musicians (and there have been several songs based on his work), there aren’t many “official” music videos of those songs.

(There’s plenty of unofficial and amateur videos, of course.  But, for music video of the day, I know that Val preferred to use only official videos and, while I’m filling in for her, I’m going to abide by her rules.)

However, there is a band that was not only influenced by Poe but which proudly displays that influence.  Edgar Allan Poets is a Los Angeles band that lists its two greatest influences as being Poe and Hitchcock.  Their music has a haunting, rather dream-like feel to it.

This video is for their song Old Black Clown.

Enjoy!

Sundance Film Review: Blood Simple (dir by Joel Coen)


(The 2018 Sundance Film Festival opens tonight!  Over the years, Sundance has become the premiere festival for independent film.  Not only have some of the best American films ever made premiered at Sundance, but it’s become the first stop in many a successful Oscar campaign.  Manchester By The Sea, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Beasts of the Southern Wild: all of them started their journey to a best picture nomination at Sundance.  For the duration of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, from today to the 28th, I’ll be reviewing films that first made a splash at Sundance.)

Blood Simple is an essential film.

If you love American movies, this is a movie that you have to see.  A delirious tribute to film noir, it’s a film that takes place in the darkest corners of America.  This is a film that shows that stories of love, betrayal, and murder can be just as complicated in the middle of America as in California and New York.

If you’re fascinated by the history of indie cinema, Blood Simple is a film that you have to see.  Joel and Ethan Coen, at a time when they were best known for their work with director Sam Raimi, created a trailer for Blood Simple long before they shot the actual movie.  They used this trailer to raise the film’s small budget.  Blood Simple was not only their directorial debut (though only Joel received a directorial credit, while the screenplay was credited to Ethan) but it was also both the feature debut of Frances McDormand and cinematographer (and future director) Barry Sonnenfeld’s first major credit as well.

If, like me, you love films about Texas, Blood Simple is an essential.  Long before they made No Country For Old Men, the Coens filmed Blood Simple in Texas.  Texas is as much a character in Blood Simple as Minnesota and the Dakotas were in Fargo.  Along with their twisty crime plots, Fargo, No Country, and Blood Simple all share a similarly cynical and fatalistic view of human nature, one that is perfectly reflected by the bleak locations where their stories take place.  Watching Blood Simple, it’s easy to imagine that, once the film ended, it fell to No Country‘s Sheriff Ed Tom Bell to laconically look over the carnage and try to figure out what the Hell just happened.

Like many Coen Brothers films, Blood Simple starts out simply and then gets progressively more and more complicated.  Almost all of those complications are due to a combination of human stupidity and greed.  Abby (Frances McDormand) and Ray (John Getz) are having an affair.  Abby’s husband, Marty (Dan Hedaya), owns the bar where Ray works as a bartender.  Marty hires a sleazy private detective named Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh) to kill Abby and Ray.  Visser has other plans.  By the end of the movie, almost everyone is dead but no one’s sure why.

The film largely serves as a showcase for Walsh, so much so that McDormand, Hedaya and Getz run the risk of getting lost in the shuffle.  That’s a shame, because all three give excellent performances.  McDormand brings strength and determination to the role of Abby.  Meanwhile, both Getz and Hedaya play two very familiar types.  Anyone who has spent any time in Texas will immediately recognize the characters played by Getz and Hedaya.  Ray may not be the smartest guy in the world but he’ll keep your car running and your glass full.  He’s probably never going to amount too much but he’s what is universally known as a good guy.  On the other hand, Marty, as played by Hedaya, is perhaps one of the most pathetic characters to ever appear in an American film.  Film noirs are full of betrayed husbands but it’s hard to think of a bigger loser than Marty.  Marty is the guy who tries to act tough but even he secretly knows that no one will ever take him seriously.  With the combination of his northern accent and his pathetic attempts to dress “western,” Marty is an outsider in Texas, one who is too stupid to realize just how far outside he actually is.

That said, the film is dominated by M. Emmett Walsh.  As played by Walsh, Loren Visser is one half sleazy redneck and one half demon from Hell.  Speaking in a sarcastic drawl and seemingly amused by all the chaos he has created, Walsh turns Visser into a truly fascinating villain.  He may be evil but you can’t stop watching him.  Walsh’s best moment is also his last in the film, a sarcastic one-liner that suggests that everything that has happened was caused more for his own amusement than anything else.  Visser is clever but not even he can escape the random whims of fate.

Violent and, as is typical for the Coens, darkly humorous, Blood Simple won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival.  Though it was only a modest box office success, it not only launched the careers of the Coen Brothers but continues to be on the most influential independent films ever made.  The film remains impressive today.  Whenever I see it, I’m always stunned to see how, even with their first film, the Coens had already developed their own very unique aesthetic.

Blood Simple is an essential film.

TV Review: The X-Files 11.3 “Plus One” (dir by Kevin Hooks)


It’s time for a creepy twin episode!

If there’s anything that I’ve learned from television and the movies, it’s that twins always have special powers and that those powers often lead to people dying.  I’ve also learned that, roughly 75% of the time, one twin will be saintly while the other will be a total jerk.  I have to admit that, whenever I meet twins in real life, it’s always a bit of a let down when it turns out that they’re not planning on taking over the world or opening up some sort of soul-sucking vortex.

In this case, the twins are Judy and Chucky Poundstone (both played by Karin Konoval).  Judy is in a mental hospital.  Chucky is a hoarder.  Both Judy and Chuck are also inhabited by Demon Judy and Demon Chucky, which could be a sign of either multiple personalities or demonic possession, depending on what you believe in.  All four of them are constantly playing a telepathic game of hangman, spelling out the names of the people who have annoyed them.  (Chucky, in particular, has a judgmental streak.)  Early on, it’s mentioned that their parents both hanged themselves.  Look at their old hangman games and you’ll see drawings of both “Mom” and “Dad.”

People are dying.  The authorities say that they’re all committing suicide but almost all of them, before dying, claimed that they were being pursued by a doppelgänger.  When one man manages to survive being attacked by his doppelgänger, that’s all it takes to get Mulder interested in the case.  Scully, of course, is skeptical about whether or not people are actually being murdered by their doppelgängers.  Not Mulder, though.  He has Twin Peaks experience, after all.  He knows better than to laugh off talk of doppelgängers.

This was a stand-alone episode of The X-Files, a monster of the week episode.  There was no talk of conspiracies or the Cigarette Smoking Man or William or anything else.  Judging from the reaction on twitter, a lot of people were happy about that.  Myself, I found it a bit jarring to go from the paranoia of This to the relatively straight forward investigation featured in Plus One.  I guess I’m just always surprised to discover that Mulder and Scully are not only still working for the FBI but they still take their jobs seriously.  Speaking for myself, if I had been through half of what they’ve been through, I’d probably end up fleeing the country and living off the grid in Canada.

That’s not to say that Plus One wasn’t a good episode.  I didn’t like it quite as much as everyone else did but, at the same time, it did have its share of creepy moments.  To be honest, anything involving a doppelgänger is going to be creepy.  I also enjoyed the deliberately absurd scene where the lawyer attempted to suicide-proof his house.  How many guns and swords does one attorney need?  For some reason, the fact that Mulder and Scully didn’t really seem to care that much about any of the “innocent” people who were killed amused me to no end.  I don’t know if that was deliberate or not but there was just something very amusing about the way both of them just shrugged at the idea of the lawyer chopping off his own head.  Eh, they seemed to be saying, we’ve seen worse.  Karin Konoval played both Chucky and Judy.  She was great as Judy but a bit less convincing as Chucky.  (In all fairness, the scenes between Mulder and Chucky featured the episode’s clunkiest dialogue.)

One final question raised by tonight’s episode, what is the current status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship?  Judging from tonight’s episode, I would say that they’re friends with benefits.

Music Video of the Day: Better Than Yesterday by HollySiz (2014, dir by ????)


HollySiz is the stage name use by the French actress and singer, Cécile Cassel.

As for this video, it’s a journey through not only the history of dance but the history of film as well.

(On personal note, I currently have “better than yesterday” stuck in my head and I look forward to driving everyone crazy today by using that phrase every chance that I get.)

Enjoy!