A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Hesher (dir. by Spencer Susser)


I’ve been told that guys don’t seem to appreciate being called “adorable” by girls.  They consider it a back-handed compliment and seriously, how insecure can you be?  Okay, I understand that most guys want to us to think that they’re dangerous and I’ll admit right now that all that stuff you’ve heard about girls liking bad boys — well, it’s true.  But adorable is no longer just a back-handed compliment.  Why?  Because Joseph Gordon-Levitt has made adorable sexy.

I first really noticed Joseph Gordon-Levitt when I saw him as the lead in 2007’s overlooked crime thriller The Lookout but he truly won my heart when I first saw him dancing to You Make My Dreams in (500) Days of Summer.  And then came Inception.  Some people will tell you that film was about Leonardo DiCaprio entering other people’s dreams to find himself.  Nope, sorry, not true.  As far as I’m concerned, Inception was a movie about Joseph Gordon-Levitt getting all dressed up and floating through the halls of that dream hotel and beating up every single person who tried to get in his way.    What did all three of these roles have in common?  Nothing except for the utterly adorable hotness of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

It was this adorable hotness that led me to see Gordon-Levitt’s latest film, Hesher.  Despite the fact that the film is massively (perhaps fatally) flawed, this is also the film that proves that, as an actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt can be something more than just an adorable fantasy boyfriend.

Directed by Spencer Sussman and co-written by Animal Kingdom director David Michod, Hesher opens with 12 year-old T.J. (Devin Brochu) struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of his mother and his family’s subsequent collapse.  T.J. and his father (a bear-like Rainn Wilson) have moved in with their grandmother (a perfectly poignant performance from Piper Laurie) who is showing the beginning signs of senility.  T.J. spends his days obsessing on the remains of the family car (which was totaled in the accident that killed his mother), trying to avoid local bullies, and dealing with a hopeless crush that he’s developed on a cashier (Natalie Portman) at the local grocery store.

When T.J. first meets Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Hesher is squatting in an abandoned construction site.  T.J. accidentally leads a security guard to Hesher’s temporary home.  Hesher responds by lighting a molotov cocktail and blowing the place up while T.J. runs away.  Suddenly, T.J. starts to see Hesher wandering around the hallways of his school.  Walking home from school, T.J. sees Hesher following behind him in what can only be described as a “rape van.”  And then, just as suddenly, Hesher has moved in to T.J.;s house and made himself into a part of the family.  Hesher quickly becomes a mentor of sorts to T.J. though his lessons primarily consist of doing things like blowing up a bully’s car and then running off, leaving T.J. to deal with the consequences.

Hesher is hardly a role that you’d expect to find Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing.  With long, unwashed hair and an extended middle finger tattooed across his back, Hesher isn’t so much an outsider as he’s just a sociopath, the type of guy who you try not to make eye contact out of fear that he’ll respond by shooting you first.  How scary a guy is Hesher?  He’s so scary that just saying his name causes the film’s soundtrack to explode with a burst of heavy metal.  That’s how scary he is.  The Joseph Gordon-Levitt that we all know and love (or at least the one that I know and love) is pretty much impossible to find and yet, Gordon-Levitt still gives a great performance here.  Without ignoring any of Hesher’s rough edges or trying to reveal any sort of inner decency, both the film and Gordon-Levitt make Hesher into a frustratingly attractive character.  This is probably the best performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career so far.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t really live up to Gordon-Levitt’s performance.  It starts out well and, for quite some time, we’re encouraged to believe that Hesher might just be a product of T.J.’s imagination, a projection of his own anger and depression.  That’s an interesting idea and would have made for a far more effective film.  Unfortunately, Hesher then suddenly moves in wit T.J. and suddenly, he’s interacting with Wilson and befriending Piper Laurie and, worst of all, he starts to reveal a little bit about his past.  In other words, he goes from being a symbol of unrestrained ID to just being another white trash rapist.  Once the film makes it clear that Hesher is an actual character then suddenly, you realize that the filmmakers haven’t given you any credible reason why both Wilson and Laurie (not to mention the cops who start to regularly drop by the house as Hesher blows stuff up around the neighborhood) would so easily accept the idea of living with him.  Finally, the movie concludes with a sequence at a funeral that just feels so simultaneously wrong, heavy-handed, and maudlin that, at first, I was convinced that it had to be some sort of satirical comment on the clichéd nature of the scene.  But no, the rest of the film makes clear that we’re supposed to take this sequence seriously.  It’s such a wrong-headed move that it cheapens everything that came before it.  The movie ends with a lot of loud music and the credits are decorated with obscene graffiti but it doesn’t make any difference.  The film has already revealed that, at heart, it’s hardly rebellious enough to be worthy of a character like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Hesher.

In the end, Hesher fails as a movie but its partially redeemed for revealing that there’s more to Joseph Gordon-Levitt than just adorable cuteness.

6 of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Cinematic Dances


As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always loved to dance.  Before I embraced the movies, my life was about dancing.  I was going to be Prima Ballerina and my mom paid for several years of ballet class to help me reach that goal.  I obsessed on it the way that I obsess, today, on Lucio Fulci and Jean Rollin.  However, my brilliant career was cut short by two things — 1) I’m about as graceful as a Clydesdale and 2) I ended up tumbling down a flight of stairs when I was 17 and essentially shattering my ankle.  Actually, I guess those two things might be connected.  Anyway, I can’t complain because giving up my affected love of ballet allowed me to discover my very true love of film.  I was never really a great dancer (though I was, and am, very enthusiastic) but I’m very good at watching movies.

However, I still love to dance and I still love movies — even mainstream movies — that feature dancing.  That’s why I’m so looking forward to seeing Black Swan next month.  Until then, here’s 6 of my favorite dance scenes from the movies.

1) Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Lorraine De Selle in The House On The Edge of the Park

Let’s start off with one of my favorite “dance” scenes of all time, my man Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Lorraine De Selle breaking it down in Ruggero Deodato’s The House On The Edge of the Park.  The man in yellow is David Hess.

2) Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer

If anyone’s ever wondered why I was crushing on Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception (as opposed to Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, or Leonardo DiCaprio), it was largely because of this scene from (500) Days Of Summer.

3) The Cast of Murder Rock

Murder Rock is kinda sorta like my own personal Holy Grail — it’s a grindhouse dance movie directed by Lucio Fulci!  Plus, it costars Christian Borremeo, who co-starred in The House on the Edge Of The Park and Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.

4) The Metropolis Dance Sequence

From Fritz Lang’s silent, expressionistic classic, here’s the infamous dance.

5) Kate Hudson in Nine

Okay, so I think Nine was definitely the worst the movie of 2009.  Yes, even worse than Avatar.  However, I love this scene and I love the song featured in it, Cinema Italiano.  Yes, technically, it’s a really terrible song that displays an astounding ignorance of Italian cinema.  If anything, the lyrics appear to be describing the French New Wave.  True, the song do make reference to “neo-realism” but you get the feeling no one involved with Nine ever saw Open City or The Bicycle Thief.  But the thing is do damn catchy that I still find myself singing it in the shower.  Like me, Kate Hudson is obviously not much of a singer or a dancer but she’s very enthusiastic.

6) Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman

An Unmarried Woman was apparently very groundbreaking in 1978.  Seen now, it seems like a better title for it would be An Unmarried Woman Who Can Still Afford A Penthouse Apartment In New York City.  Still, the late, great Jill Clayburgh’s performance holds up well and I like the film if just because it’s still one of the few movies out there that’s willing to acknowledge that an unmarried woman can still be a sensual, happy woman.  The scene below captures perfectly the exhilarating joy of just surrendering to the music and dancing.  Plus, for me, this is one of those “Hey, I do that too!” scenes.  In fact, my ankle is still hurting as a result of rewatching this film last Friday.

 

10 Movies I’m Looking Foward To and 5 That I Am Not And 1 That I’m Kinda Sorta Undecided On


I had all six of my wisdom teeth extracted on Tuesday.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Not only where my all my wisdom teeth impacted but I had two extra ones as well.  I was passed out during the operation and, to be honest, I wish I could be passed out for the recovery as well.  I’m bruised, puffy, and it hurts to talk.  In short, even with a healthy supply of Vicodin, I am miserable.  Boo hoo.

However, one thing never fails to cheer me up and that’s watching, discussing, thinking about, and writing about film.  Since Tuesday, I’ve had a lot of extra time to think about some of the films that are due to come out during this year.  Below, I’ve listed 16 of them.  Ten of them are movies that I’m looking forward to seeing, five are movies that I know I’m going to end up seeing and hating, and finally, one is a movie that I’m genuinely undecided on.

The Ten I’m Looking Forward To:

1) Iron Man 2 — Iron Man 2 is opening tomorrow and I’m exciting for several reasons.  First off, I loved the first movie.  Super hero adaptations usually bore me to tears but the first Iron Man was actually a lot of fun.  Traditionally, sequels are disappointing but most of the people behind the 1st movie — director Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwynneth Paltrow — are returning.  As well, you’ve got Mickey Rourke chewing the scenery and blowing things up, Sam Rockwell (who I love! love!  love! — go and rent Moon if you haven’t seen it!) as a villain, and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation is one of my all time favorite movies) kicking ass in black leather.  

On a personal note, my friend Jeff once referred to me as “the Black Widow.”  At first, I was a little taken back because I thought he was suggesting that I devoured my mates but fortunately for him, he then explained he was referring to a comic book character who, like me, has red hair.  Anyway, for the longest time, that’s been an inside joke between the two of us.  I’ve always been the Black Widow even though I have no idea who she actually is.  So, imagine my delight when I found out that this is apparently the same character that Scarlett Johansson is playing in Iron Man 2!  For that reason alone, I have to see this movie. 

Finally, when I’m not obsessing on films, I work as a receptionist/secretary/file clerk/personal assistant and there are times when I’m sitting bored at my desk and I start to think about myself as if I were the character played by Gwynneth Paltrow.  I’ll sit there and wonder if maybe my boss is secretly a costumed super hero.  (I’m fairly sure that he’s not.)  Strange as it may seem, Iron Man has become the fuel for my fantasies. (Release Date: May 7th, 2010 — T0morrow!) 

2) Robin Hood — When it comes to English folklore, I tend to gravitate towards stories involving King Arthur accidentally sleeping with his half-sister and thousands of cocky knights vainly searching for the Holy Grail and getting killed in various macabre ways as a result.  As a result, I really don’t know much about Robin Hood beyond the basics.  I know that he was apparently some sort of socialist and that he liked to hang out in the forest with a bunch of “merry” men.  To be honest, the whole idea of Robin Hood has always struck me as being childish and the character bores me.  But I’m still looking forward to this latest Robin Hood film and I can explain it in 2 words: Russell Crowe.  If anyone can make Robin Hood into an interesting — even compelling character — it would be Crowe.  Director Ridley Scott also seems to be the ideal director for this movie and then toss in some speeches about taxation without representation and you’ve got the potential for the perfect Libertarian film. (Release Date: May 14th, 2010)

3) The Expendables — Yes, I am usually not a huge fan of action films and I’ve never quite understood how Sylvester Stallone ever became a star but I’m still looking forward to this movie.  Why?  Just judging from the trailer, every actor on the planet appears to have a role in the this film.  I find Jason Stathan to be about as appealing as Sylvester Stallone but Jet Li and Mickey Rourke should both be fun to watch and who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see Eric Roberts play yet another villain? (Release Date: August 13th, 2010)

4) Splice — I nearly included Splice on my list of films that I’m not looking forward to because, I swear to God, the trailer for Splice is so dull that it could be used to torture prisoners at Gitmo.  Add to that, I’ve never quite seen the appeal that Adrien Brody supposedly possesses as an actor.  However, I’m willing to take a chance on Splice because 1) it also stars one of my personal role models, the wonderful actress, director, and activist Sarah Polley and 2) director Vincenzo Natali has promised to take a very European approach to the film’s horrors (i.e. lots of casual sex with the monster serving as a symbol for something deeper than just box office receipts).  I’m looking forward to seeing if Splice can overcome Adrien Brody and live up to that promise. (Release date: June 4th, 2010)

5) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One — Okay, I admit it.   I’m a fan.  Don’t judge me.  (Though I will also say that I think J.K. Rowling needs to get over herself in a major way.)   It’ll be interesting to see what Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson do with themselves now that their indentured servitude is done with.  Radcliffe, in particular, is capable of playing a lot more than just Harry Potter.  (Release Date: November 19th, 2010)

6) Howl — James Franco as the late poet Allen Ginsberg?  Strangely enough, I think the idea might work.  (Release Date: September 24th, 2010)

7) Machete — Robert Rodriguez finally makes a film for someone other than his kids.  How can you not be excited about the chance to see Robert De Niro and Jeff Fahey on-screen together?  Plus, Lindsay Lohan (who really should just be allowed to live her life) gets a chance to remake her image playing a socialite with a gun.  My hope is that if Machete finds success at the box office, Eli Roth will make Thanksgiving.  (Release Date: September 3rd, 2010)

8 ) My Soul To Take — Wes Craven has had an odd career and, to be honest, I struggle sometimes with whether he’s truly a great horror filmmaker or if he’s just a journeyman director who has occasionally gotten lucky.  Looking at his career, it’s hard not to wonder how the same guy who made the original Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes could also be responsible for something like Cursed?  Regardless of how the actual film turns out, My Soul To Take will add another piece to the puzzle.  This will be the first film to be both written and directed by Craven in 16 years.  Hopefully, as in the majority of his better movies, Craven will be able to balance his commercial side with his sadistic side. (Release Date: October 29th, 2010)

9) Inception — My tastes usually run more towards horror than sci-fi but I find myself growing more excited about Inception with each passing day.  Not only does the plot sound like it could have easily come from a long-lost book by Philip K. Dick (one of the few sci-fi writers that I enjoy reading, A Scanner Darkly being my personal favorite) but the film is being directed by Christopher Nolan who proved with Momento that he can make the surreal compelling.  And just check out that cast — Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who I’ve been crushing on ever since (500) Days of Summer). (Release date: July 16th, 2010.)

10) Salt — I love it when girls get to kick ass in the movies and, when she’s at her best, nobody kicks ass like Angelina Jolie.  (Release Date: July 23rd, 2010)

One That I’m Kinda Looking Forward To But I’m Kinda Not

1) Sex and the City 2 — Why are they in the desert?  How exactly can you have Sex without the City?    (Release date: May 27th, 2010) 

The Five I Am Not Looking Forward To

1) The A-Team — Yay!  It’s an action movie based on a show I’ve never heard of.  I love Liam Neeson and it’s good to see that Sharlto Copley’s underrated performance in District 9 has led to him getting more work but, sorry, I think I’ll pass. (Release Date: June 11th, 2010)

2) The Social Network — I know a lot of people are looking forward to this movie about the founding of Facebook and it is true that it’s being directed by David Fincher.  However, there are a few things that lead me to fear that this is not going to be the movie that so many people think it will be.  First off, it was written by Aaron Sorkin who is probably one of the most overrated screenwriters working today.  He may be best known for The West Wing but most of Sorkin’s work resembles the heavy-handed sermonizing of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.  Remember how Sorkin reacted when a few bloggers criticized his show?  This is not a guy who is comfortable with the Internet.  Secondly, the film is being produced by Kevin Spacey, another overrated talent who doesn’t so much act as much as he smugly pretends to act.  Third, and most important, The Social Network has got to be one of the worst titles I’ve heard in a long time.  Everything about this movie just screams “misfire.” (Release date: October 1st, 2010)

3) Paranormal Activity 2 — Because, you know, the first one was so good. (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)

4) Twelve — I loved Nick McDonnell’s novel and I usually enjoy movies about decadent rich kids destroying themselves with lots of drugs and promiscuity.  I mean, if you’re going to self-destruct, you should at least look good doing it.  Unfortunately, Twelve is directed by the American Umberto Lenzi, Joel Schumacher.  Schumacher’s films aren’t even enjoyably bad.  They’re just bad.  Interestingly enough, Joel Schumacher tends to turn up in just about every movie star biography and Hollywood history book that I own.  He’s someone who has obviously been around for a very long time and who has cultivated a lot of friends.  I imagine he must be very likable in person.  But, seriously, isn’t it time to revoke his DGA membership? (Release Date: July 2, 2010)

5) Saw VII — Sorry, I got bored with the Jigsaw Killer about five movies ago.   The film’s in 3D so I’m sure we’ll get to see a severed limb fly directly at the camera.  (Release Date: October 22nd, 2010)