Music Video of the Day: Hurt Feelings by Flight of the Conchords (2009, dir by James Bobin)


Way back in 2009, this music video premiered during my favorite episode of Flight of the Conchords, The Tough Brets.  That’s the episode where Bret performs a controversial rap, in which he attacks several other rappers.  (“Snoop Dogg is not very good.  Ice Cube in not very good….”)  When Murray suggests that Bret may have hurt the feelings of the rappers that he called out, Bret forms a gang for protection.

Or, at very least, Bret tries to form a gang.  It doesn’t go particularly well, though character actor Seymour Cassel does join up at the one point.)

However, before forming the gang, Bret and Jermaine perform an entire song about hurt feelings.  This song is also known as Tears of a Rapper and there’s actually several different versions of it floating around.  For instance, in a more recent version, the Maid in Manhattan reference is replaced with a joke about how much Bret loves Zac Efron.  One thing that always remains the same is that Jermaine’s family forgot to wish him a happy birthday.  Poor Jermaine!

Anyway, I like this music video.  I like the fact that when Bret sees that his friends have gone to see Maid in Manhattan without him, Jermaine just happens to be there, trying to hide his face.  For the record, Maid in Manhattan is actually a perfect reference because it’s the type of bland film that you would be embarrassed to discover someone had specifically gone out of their way not to see with you.  It’s the one where Jennifer Lopez plays a maid and Ralph Fiennes plays a politician.  At one point, Jennifer Lopez nearly sits down on a magazine that’s got a picture of Ralph Fiennes on the cover and she tells him, “Whoops, I nearly sat on your face.”

Add to that, everyone’s had hurt feelings at some point in their life and therefore, everyone can relate to this song.  For instance, I’ve recently been making an effort to obey all posted traffic laws.  Would it kill someone to say, “Wow, Lisa, you actually stopped for that red light!  We’re proud of you!?”

I’ve got hurt feelings …. I’ve got hurt feelings….

For the record, I also love Murray’s comment at the end of this clip.  “All good examples.”

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: Inner City Pressure by Flight of the Conchords (2007, dir by James Bobin)


I used to love watching Flight of the Conchords on HBO.  The adventures of Bret, Jermaine, and Murray (can’t forget, Murray!) helped me get through some very dark times.  No matter how down I felt during the week, I knew that I’d have a reason to laugh during the weekend.

I guess that’s why it makes me a bit sad to know that Jermaine and Bret apparently didn’t enjoy the experience of working for HBO.  When the show didn’t return for a third season, there was a lot of speculation about what happened.  At the time, Jermaine said that the show took up a lot of time and that neither one of them was happy with the pressure to constantly come up with new songs and material.  In a 2016 interview, Bret explained that the show “basically stopped being fun. It really wasn’t a decision about money. It was definitely a decision about enjoying our lives.”

I can actually understand the feeling and I am kind of glad that Flight of the Conchords ended on a good note.  I mean, the show only lasted two seasons but those were two GREAT seasons!

Of course, you can’t talk about Flight of the Conchords without talking about the music videos that aired during the show.  For instance, today’s music video of the day originally aired during the second episode of Flight of the Conchords.  In the episode, Bret and Jermaine have to figure out how to live in New York City despite having absolutely no money.  (I forget how they manage to pull it off.)  In this song and video, they describe what it’s like to live under inner city pressure.

Why does this work for me?  It’s both serious and funny.  The video strikes the right balance between parody and earnestness.

Enjoy!

 

Playing Catch-Up: The BFG (dir by Steven Spielberg)


the_bfg_poster

I heard so many negative things about Steven Spielberg’s latest film, The BFG, that I was really expecting it to be terrible.  When it came out this summer, a lot of critics seemed to take an almost perverse delight in talking about its flaws and some people actually seemed to be thrilled over the fact that it flopped at the box office.

And I have to admit that the commercials that I had seen didn’t really fill me with much desire to actually sit through the movie.  Mark Rylance looked vaguely grotesque as the giant.  Add to that, I spent several months convinced that BFG stood for “Big Fucking Giant.”  Once I was reminded that he was actually a Big Friendly Giant, I was kinda like, “But wouldn’t my way be more fun?”

But anyway, I finally watched The BFG last night and it’s actually not terrible.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not great.  In many ways, this movie is Spielberg at his most sentimental.  Imagine if every triumphant musical cue in Lincoln was stretched out for two hours and you might have an idea as to how he approaches The BFG.  At times, I had a hard time following the film’s storyline, largely because the pacing was totally off.  As a director, Spielberg never seems to be quite sure if he’s making a film exclusively for kids or if he’s trying to make a film that adults can appreciate with their children.  It’s a tonal mess.

And yet, for all those weaknesses, The BFG has enough sweet moments that it feels a little bit churlish to be too critical of it.  Spielberg’s heart seems to be in the right place, even if he is struggling to figure out how to express himself.  As I watched the film, I felt bad about being so dismissive of what I had seen of Rylance’s performance in the commercials leading up the actual film.  Rylance gives a heartfelt and warm performance, playing a giant who, because he is so nice, is bullied by even bigger giants.

As I said, I struggled to follow the film’s story.  I knew that BFG had been forced to abduct an orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) because she saw him and he couldn’t risk her accidentally revealing his existence to the rest of the world.  I also understood that BFG also had protect her from the other giants because the last child he befriended was eaten by those other giants.  But then there was all this stuff about dream time and eventually, Queen Elizabeth II showed up and declared war on the evil giants and I was just so confused.  For once, Spielberg’s skills as a story-teller fail him.  It’s hard to believe that they same director who did the simple and economical Duel also did The BFG.

To be honest, the folks at Pixar, with their trademark mix of sentiment and subversion, would have been the ideal team to take on The BFG.  Spielberg’s instincts are so resolutely mainstream that he doesn’t seem to understand how to best approach some of the story’s more “out there” elements.  But that said, The BFG isn’t terrible.  Mark Rylance does a really good job as the giant and, as you would expect from any Spielberg film, the film is undeniably visually impressive.

The BFG may not be great but it’s not awful.

Film Review: Moana (dir by Ron Clements and John Musker)


Look, I get it.

Everyone’s depressed right now.

You’re depressed.

He’s depressed.

She’s depressed.

That random guy over there is depressed.

Your cat’s depressed because you’re so depressed that you’re probably not feeding him on time.

I’m not depressed but I’m currently pretending that I am in order to show solidarity for the people.

Everyone’s depressed!

But you know what?  No matter how depressed you are, don’t take it out on the movies.  I actually had someone tell me recently that he didn’t see how I could worry about movies with so many terrible things happening in the world!  Well, listen up — the world may be a terrible movie but movies help to make it a lot more bearable.

For instance, there’s Moana.  Moana is the latest Disney film and it is a burst of pure joy, a wonderfully entertaining animated adventure that also carries with it an important, timely, and welcome message of empowerment.  Some day, when I have a daughter, Moana is one of the many films that I look forward to watching with her.  We’ll watch Moana and then we’ll watch Brave.  And then we’ll close things out with Frozen.  I can’t wait!

moana

Now, I’ll be honest.  The film’s plot, in many ways, sounds like almost every other Disney princess film.  Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) is the headstrong daughter of the chief of a Polynesian tribe.  Moana dreams of sailing to the ends of the Earth but her loving but protective father refuses to allow her to go beyond the reef.  However, when a force of darkness threatens to consume the island that Moana calls home, she defies her father and sets sail with her pet rooster.  The only way to stop the darkness is to track down a demigod named Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and go with him to return a sacred stone to Te Fiti, the island Goddess.  (The stone is Te Fiti’s heart.)

Now, that may all sound like typical Disney fare but the brilliant thing about Moana is that it realizes that the plot sounds like typical Disney fare.  When Moana finds Maui, he asks her where he animal sidekick is because all princesses travel with an animal sidekick.  Moana argues that she’s not a princess but then realizes that, as the chief’s daughter, she kind of is.  Moano is full of self-referential humor, the type that tells the audience that we’re all in this together.

Maui himself is a brilliantly animated, written, and voiced parody of the type of muscle-bound character who, in the past, would have automatically been this film’s main character.  Dwayne Johnson has always been willing to have fun with his persona and he continues to do that with Maui.  For that matter, Heihei the Rooster also pokes fun at the typical Disney animal sidekick.  As opposed to the usual all-knowing, often snarky sidekick that we’ve come to expect from Disney, Heihei spends most of his time searching for something to eat.  It doesn’t matter if it’s edible or not.  He’ll eat it.  As a result, Heihei doesn’t really do much to help Moana on her journey but he’s still adorable.

But ultimately, this film is all about Moana and what a wonderful character she is!  Strong, independent, intelligent, and occasionally just a little unsure of herself, Moana is perhaps the most 3-dimensional Disney character since Brave‘s Merida.  It’s her character (and  Auli’i Cravalho’s voicework) that brings the film its humanity and makes it a truly special viewing experience.

Moana is wonderfully animated and if you don’t fall in love with the coconut pirates then there is no hope for you.  (Is this film worth seeing in 3D?  I would say that it is.)  The insanely catchy songs are provided by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i and I’m looking forward to the inevitable Broadway adaptation.

So, seriously — stop feeling sorry for yourself for two hours and go see Moana!  You’ll be glad you did.

Here Are The Confusing San Diego Film Critics Society Nominations!


The San Diego Film Critics Society announced their nominees for the best of 2015 and … well, there’s a little bit of confusion.  As Paddy Mulholland of Screen on Screen points out, the San Diego film critics did not list their nominees alphabetically.  But, at the same time, the SFDC hasn’t acknowledged that the nominees were listed as a ranked slate either.  So, when they list Ex Machina as their first nominee for Best Picture and Brooklyn as their second, were they announcing that Ex Machina was their pick for best picture and Brooklyn was the runner up?  Or did they just decided to randomly list the nominees?

The official winners will be announced on December 14th, at which point we will have clarity!

Anyway, here are the San Diego nominees.  And again, h/t on this goes to Screen on Screen:

Best Picture
1. Ex Machina
2. Brooklyn
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Room
5. Spotlight

Best Director
1. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
2. John Crowley (Brooklyn)
3. Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
4. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
5. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant)

Best Actor, Male
1. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
2. Jason Segel (The End of the Tour)
3. Matt Damon (The Martian)
4. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
5. Jacob Tremblay (Room)

Best Actor, Female
1. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
2. Brie Larson (Room)
3. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
4. Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
5. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

Best Supporting Actor, Male
1. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
2. Tom Noonan (Anomalisa)
3. Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)
4. Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
5. R. J. Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)

Best Supporting Actor, Female
1. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
2. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
3. Helen Mirren (Trumbo)
4. Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria)
5. Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)

Best Original Screenplay
1. Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig (Mistress America)
2. Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
3. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows)
4. Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
5. Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Spotlight)

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)
2. Emma Donoghue (Room)
3. Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa)
4. Donald Margulies (The End of the Tour)
5. Drew Goddard and Andy Weir (The Martian)

Best Cinematography
1. Roger Deakins (Sicario)
2. Yves Belanger (Brooklyn)
3. Dariusz Wolski (The Martian)
4. John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)
5. Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)

Best Editing
1. Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road)
2. Joe Walker (Sicario)
3. Pietro Scalia (The Martian)
4. Michael Kahn (Bridge of Spies)
5. Nathan Nugent (Room)
6. Stephen Mirrione (The Revenant

Best Production Design
1. Colin Gibson (Mad Max: Fury Road)
2. Mark Digby (Ex Machina)
3. Arthur Max (The Martian)
4. Francois Seguin (Brooklyn)
5. Adam Stockhausen (Bridge of Spies)

Best Sound Design
1. The Martian
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Ex Machina
4. Sicario
5. Love & Mercy

Best Visual Effects
1. The Martian
2. Ex Machina
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. The Walk
5. Jurassic World

Best Use of Music in a Film
1. The Hateful Eight
2. Love & Mercy
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Sicario
5. Straight Outta Compton

Best Ensemble
1. Spotlight
2. The Hateful Eight
3. Straight Outta Compton
4. Inside Out
5. The Big Short
6. What We Do in the Shadows

Best Animated Film
1. Inside Out
2. Anomalisa
3. Shaun the Sheep Movie
4. The Good Dinosaur
5. The Peanuts Movie

Best Documentary
1. Amy
2. He Named Me Malala
3. Cartel Land
4. Meru
5. The Wrecking Crew

Best Foreign Language Film
1. Phoenix
2. Taxi
3. White God
4. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
5. Goodnight Mommy

Best Breakthrough Artist
1. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl / Ex Machina)
2. Jacob Tremblay (Room)
3. Emory Cohen (Brooklyn)
4. Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation)
5. Sean Baker (Tangerine)

 

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Men In Black 3 (dir. by Barry Sonnenfeld)


Men In Black 3, which was released into theaters last month, is an unexpected surprise, a genuinely entertaining film that breathes some new life into an old franchise. 

If you’ve seen the trailer then you pretty much know the plot of Men In Black 3.  An alien war criminal named Boris (played, in wonderfully over-the-top fashion, by Jermaine Clement) escapes from imprisonment on the moon.  He goes back to the year 1969 and kills the man who originally imprisoned him, Agent K.  In the present day, Agent K (played, of course, by Tommy Lee Jones) vanishes from existence.  The only person who remembers him is his longtime partner, Agent J (Will Smith).  Agent J and Agent O (played by Emma Thompson) quickly figure out what has happened (one of the best things about Men In Black 3 is that everything happens quickly — there’s very little padding) and J is sent back to 1969 where he ends up teaming up with the young Agent K (now played by Josh Brolin).  Together, J and K attempt to prevent Boris from changing history.

As I hinted at earlier, I wasn’t really expecting much from Men In Black 3.  Yes, the trailer was cute and I was looking forward to seeing Josh Brolin’s impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones but otherwise, I had no reason to suspect that this film would be anything more than a somewhat disheartening collection of CGI and superstar egos.

But you know what?

Men In Black 3 isn’t half-bad. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Men In Black 3 doesn’t rewrite the rules of a familiar genre (like Cabin In The Woods).  And it’s certainly not an idiosyncratic expression of one man’s personal artistic vision (like Moonrise Kingdom).  No, Men In Black 3 is pure Hollywood entertainment but, at the very least, it’s a well-made example of pure Hollywood entertainment.  This is the type of film that could easily have been made (and watched) on autopilot but director Barry Sonnenfeld and his talented cast have actually made the effort to make an entertaining film and they’ve succeeded.

Both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have reached a point where they could play their roles in their sleep (and, in other movies, that’s what they both often seem to be doing) but both of them seem to be having fun in Men in Black 3 and they’ve got such a strong chemistry that they’re enjoyable to watch.  Jones even brings a sense of reality to his character’s world-weary resignation and, if Will Smith’s main talent seems to be the fact that he’s likable, he still does likeable pretty well.  The new additions to the cast — Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, Alice Eve, and especially Michael Stuhlbarg and Bill Hader — are all fun and interesting to watch.  The film, however, is truly stolen by Josh Brolin, who not only perfectly captures Tommy Lee Jones’ voice and mannerisms but also manages to hint at his sense of gravitas as well.  Sonnenfeld keeps the story moving quickly and, for once, the impressive CGI is used in the service of the story as opposed to just providing an excuse for that story to exist.

As usually seems to happen with franchise films, the whole thing ends on a sentimental note and, I have to admit, it actually brought tears to my eyes.

Then again, I’ve been told that I cry at anything.

Regardless of whether my tears were honestly earned or if they were just a Pavlovian response, Men In Black 3 is an entertaining film and I’m glad I saw it.

A Belated Trailer: Men in Black 3


Yes, this trailer has been out there for a while and quite frankly, I’m not expecting this film to be that good (I get the feeling that the best moments are probably in the trailer) but still, I always smile whenever I see the trailer for Men in Black 3.  Why?  Well, there’s really only one reason and it’s not Will Smith being all Will Smith-like.  And, no, it’s not Tommy Lee Jones because, even in the trailer, Jones looks absolutely miserable and ennui-stricken.  And it’s not Jermaine Clement because, while he’s apparently in the film, he’s not in the trailer.

No, for me, this trailer — and probably the entire film — is all about Josh Brolin’s next-to-perfect imitation of Tommy Lee Jones.