The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Honor Nomadland


The Alliance of Women Film Journalists have announced that their pick for the best of 2020 is Nomadland.  Just as the AWFJ did with their nominations, they announced the winners in an exclusive for Variety.  Fear not, though — my picks for the best of 2020 will be released exclusively to this site.  Two can play at this game.

(I joke, of course.  Ever since Clayton Davis took over, Variety’s Oscar coverage has been wonderful and the AWFJ deserves a lot of credit for having categories that are a bit more interesting than the usual stuff.)

Anyway, here’s the winners!

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS

(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film

  • “Minari” (A24)
  • “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER

Best Actor

  • Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
  • Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress 

  • Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – WINNER
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role 

  • Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
  • Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
  • Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
  • Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24) – WINNER

Best Screenplay, Original 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
  • “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted

  • “First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film

  • “Over the Moon” (Netflix)
  • “Soul” (Pixar) – WINNER
  • “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography 

  • “Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards – WINNER
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing 

  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
  • “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao – WINNER
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary 

  • “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Athlete A” (Netflix)
  • “Crip Camp” (Netflix)
  • “The Painter and the Thief” (Neon) – WINNER (tie)
  • “Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film

  • “Another Round” – Denmark – WINNER
  • “Beanpole” – Russia
  • “The Mole Agent” – Chile
  • “The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

  • “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
  • “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin – WINNER (tie)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler – WINNER (tie)

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS

(These awards honor WOMEN only, excluding women who’ve won the category in the Best Of Awards.

Best Woman Director 

  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
  • Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
  • Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
  • Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
  • Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female 

  • “22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey – WINNER
  • “Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
  • “Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance 

  • Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
  • Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features) – WINNER
  • Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry 

  • All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
  • All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” The Glorias” and others. – WINNER
  • Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
  • Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.

  • Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
  • Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix) – WINNER
  • Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award 

  • “The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
  • “Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
  • “Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
  • “Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years) – WINNER

She Deserves A New Agent Award 

  • Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
  • Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
  • Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios) – WINNER

Most Daring Performance Award 

  • Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ (Amazon Studios) – WINNER
  • Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
  • Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
  • Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
  • Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award 

  • “The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
  • “Doolittle” (Universal Pictures) – WINNER
  • “Rebecca” (Netflix)

Here Are The 2020 Nominations of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists!


Earlier on Wednesday, the Alliance of Women Film Journalists announced their nominations for the best and the worst of 2020.  The nominations were announced in the pages of Variety and you can read more about them by clicking here.

Nomadland led with the most nominations which seems to be the way that the awards season is going to go.  Personally, when it comes to the AWFJ, I’m always more interested in the snarky nominations than in the serious ones.  For instance, the nominees for the She Deserves A New Agent award always leave me thinking.

The nominations are below.  The winners will be announced on January 4th.

AWFJ BEST OF AWARDS
(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration)

Best Film
“Minari” (A24)
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)

Best Actress
Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Bill Murray, “On the Rocks” (A24/Apple TV Plus)
Leslie Odom Jr, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix)
Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari” (A24)

Best Screenplay, Original
“Mank” (Netflix) – Jack Fincher
“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features) – Emerald Fennell
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Aaron Sorkin

Best Screenplay, Adapted
“First Cow” (A24) – Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kemp Powers

Best Animated Film
“Over the Moon” (Netflix)
“Soul” (Pixar)
“Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS)

Best Cinematography
“Mank” (Netflix) – Erik Messerschmidt
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Joshua James Richards
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tami Reiker

Best Editing
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Tariq Anwar
“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures) – Chloé Zhao
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Alan Baumgarten

Best Documentary
“All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios)
“Athlete A” (Netflix)
“Crip Camp” (Netflix)
“The Painter and the Thief” (Neon)
“Time” (Amazon Studios)

Best Non-English-Language Film
“Another Round” – Denmark
“Beanpole” – Russia
“The Mole Agent” – Chile
“The Painted Bird” – Czech Republic

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director
“Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) – Kim Coleman
“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios) – Kimberly Hardin
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Francine Maisler

EDA FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS
(These awards honor WOMEN only)

Best Woman Director
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Channing Godfrey Peoples, “Miss Juneteenth” (Vertical Entertainment)
Kelly Reichardt, “First Cow” (A24)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Woman Screenwriter
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Animated Female
“22” in “Soul” (Pixar) – portrayed by Tina Fey
“Mebh Óg MacTíre” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Eva Whittaker
“Robyn Goodfellowe” in “Wolfwalkers” (Apple TV Plus/GKIDS) – portrayed by Honor Kneafsey

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance
Radha Blank, “The Forty-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Sidney Flanigan, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (Focus Features)
Helena Zengel, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in the Film Industry
All female heads of film festivals who successfully transitioned from live to online events to sustain festival culture through the pandemic.
All indie female writers and directors who normalized abortion as a vital element in the cultural conversation in films such as “Saint Frances,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Sister of the Groom,” “Once Upon a River,” “The Glorias” and others.
Emerald Fennell for creating a film that forces empathy to put an end to the toxic sexist rape culture pervasive through modern history.
Sophia Loren for a brilliant comeback at age 86 in “The Life Ahead,” the latest in her record-setting career. Loren won a Best Actress Oscar in 1962 for “Two Women” and was the first actor to win for a foreign language movie. She was also nominated in 1965 for “Marriage Italian Style.” If she’s nominated in 2021, it will be a 56-year span between her two most recent nominations – the current record is held by Henry Fonda, who had a 41-year gap between nominations.

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

Grand Dame Award for defying ageism.
Ellen Burstyn, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Tsai Chin, “Lucky Grandma” (Good Deed Entertainment)
Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix)
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award
“The Burnt Orange Heresy” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Elizabeth Debicki and Claes Bang (23 years)
“The Devil All the Time” (Netflix) – Riley Keough and Jason Clarke (20 years)
“Mank” – Amanda Seyfried and Charles Dance (39 years), Gary Oldman (27 years)
“Tenet” – Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh (30 years)

She Deserves A New Agent Award
Rose Byrne, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Tiffany Haddish, “Like a Boss” (Paramount Pictures)
Katie Holmes, “Dare to Dream” (Gravitas Ventures)
Uma Thurman, “The War with Grandpa” (101 Studios)

Most Daring Performance Award
Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Haley Bennett, “Swallow” (IFC Films)
Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman” (Netflix)
Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award
“The Croods: A New Age” (DreamWorks Animation)
“Dolittle” (Universal Pictures)
“Rebecca” (Netflix)

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award
Shia LeBoeuf for his ongoing abusive behavior
Christopher Nolan for insisting that “Tenet” be screened exclusively in theaters during a pandemic.
Dallas Sonnier and Adam Donaghey at Cinestate for sexual harassment, abuse and cover-up.

Film Review: The House That Jack Built (dir by Lars von Trier)


(SPOILERS BELOW)

The other night, I watched 2018’s The House That Jack Built on Showtime and I have to say that, sitting here the morning afterwards, I kind of wish that I hadn’t.  It’s a well-made film and there’s a bit more going on underneath the surface that some other reviews might lead you to suspect but, at the same time, it’s also deeply unsettling and, even by the standards of Lars von Trier, disturbing.  It’s not a film to watch right before you go to bed, nor is it a film to watch at the beginning of a long week.  I’m still feeling the after effects of having watched this movie and I imagine I’ll probably be jumpy for the next few days.

The title character, Jack (Matt Dillon), is someone who loves to talk about himself.  He’s an engineer but he wishes he was an architect.  He thinks of himself as being an artist and an intellectual and he has no hesitation about informing you that he’s smarter than just about everyone else on the planet.  He’s annoyed that he’s not better-known.  He feels that his work is underappreciated.

The House that Jack Built runs two and a half hours and, as a result, we spent a lot of time listening to Jack talk.  One thing that quickly becomes apparent is that Jack knows a lot but he understand very little.  He spends a lot of time talking about Glenn Gould, Goethe, and Nazi architecture but his thoughts on them are rather shallow and predictable.  When we see flashbacks to Jack’s youth, we don’t see any signs of the intelligence that he claims to possess as an adult.  Instead, we just see a scowling country boy who used to abuse animals.  Jack may insist on calling himself “Mr. Sophistication” but there’s really nothing sophisticated about him and one gets the feeling that his faux intellectualism is something that he developed to justify the fact that he’s a sociopath and a serial killer.  Jack claims to have murdered at least 60 people and he also says that each murder was a work of art.  If art reflects the time and place in which it was made than how can we condemn Jack for reflecting the soullessness and cruelty of the real world in his own creations?  The answer, of course, is that we can very easily condemn Jack.  Jack uses the state of the world to justify his actions but that doesn’t mean we have to buy what he’s selling.

The House That Jack Built is built around a lengthy conversation between Jack and an enigmatic character named Verge (Bruno Ganz).  Jack shows Verge the “five incidents” that, over the course of 12 years, have defined who Jack is as a person and a serial killer.  The five incidents feature Jack killing everyone from a stranded motorist (Uma Thurman) and a grieving widow (Siobhan Fallon Hogan) to a terrified mother and her two sons.  Jack has a brief and toxic relationship with one of his victims (heart-breakingly played by Riley Keough) and it leads to an act of violence that’s so disturbing that I don’t even want to relive it long enough to write about it.  Throughout it all, Jack tries to justify himself while Verge continually calls him out on his bullshit.  Watching the film, I found myself very thankful for Verge.  The film would have been unbearable if it has just been Jack bragging on himself, unchallenged.  Verge not only calls out Jack but also anyone who would idolize someone like Jack.  At times, the film itself seems to be ridiculing the whole idea of the Hannibal Lecter-style serial killer.  There’s nothing suave or witty about Jack.  He’s just a loser with no soul.

Even though I was watching the R-rated version (as opposed to the unrated director’s cut), the murders were still disturbingly graphic.  But what really made the film unsettling was its peek into Jack’s nihilistic worldview.  As much as he may try to convince you otherwise, it soon becomes clear that there’s nothing going on inside of Jack’s head.  When Jack isn’t suffering from delusions of grandeur, he’s mired in self-pity.  (Listening to Jack, one is reminded of the infamous BTK Killer, who spent hours in court describing his murders without a hit of emotion but who later broke into tears when informed that he would be spending the rest of his life in prison.)  Unlike most movie serial killers, Jack doesn’t have a flamboyant origin story or any sort of trauma-related motive for his crimes.  He kills because he wants to.  Jack is capable of being superficially charming.  As a sociopath, he’s learned how to put people at ease.  But there’s nothing behind that charm.  When he performs some post-mortem surgery to give one of his victims a permanent smile, the results are grotesque because Jack has no idea what a real emotion looks like.  (Jack weakly waves at the body, as if he’s trying to teach himself how to act like a normal person.)

Throughout the film, we get a lot of stock footage.  (It’s justified by the fact that Jack is talking about art and history, two subjects about which he only has a surface knowledge.)  Interestingly enough, we also get several clips that were lifted from Von Trier’s previous films.  At one point, Jack passes a cabin that some viewers will recognize from Antichrist.  While Jack tries to dispose of a body, David Bowie’s Fame plays on the soundtrack and it’s hard not to be reminded of how Bowie’s Young Americans played over the closing credits of both Dogville and Manderlay.  We’re left to wonder if Jack is meant to be, in some way, a stand-in for Von Trier.  Much like Jack, Von Trier is often accused of using his own artistic pretensions to justify a nihilistic and misogynistic worldview.  It’s easy to imagine Verge as a stand-in for some of Von Trier’s fiercest critics.  What then are we to make of the fact that the film also portrays Verge as being correct and Jack as being (literally) bound for Hell?  Is Von Trier telling us that, as much as some people may dislike him and his work, at least he’s not a serial killer like Jack?  Is Von Trier attacking himself?  Or is Von Trier perhaps satirizing his own controversial persona?  Perhaps all three are correct.

By the film’s end, Jack is in Hell.  Interestingly enough, the portal to Hell is found in a house that’s made up of the bodies of Jack’s many victims.  Verge — short for Virgil, of course — gives him a tour.  When Jack sees a broken bridge, Virgil informs him that it once led to Heaven but it can’t be crossed now.  However, Jack is convinced that he can climb over a cliff and make his way to Heaven.  Virgil assures Jack that many have tried but none have succeeded.  Jack, of course, tries and, needless to say, he doesn’t make it.  In the end, redemption is impossible and yet you wonder how, in a world with Heaven and, one assumes, God, Jack even came to exist in the first place.  If Jack had channeled his sociopathic nature into something more productive than murder, would he have been allowed into Heaven?

As I said, it’s a well-made film but it’s also deeply unsettling.  I’m probably going to be jumping at my own shadow for at least a week or two.  At the very least, I’m not answering the door for anyone….

 

A Movie A Day #228: Johnny Be Good (1988, directed by Bud Smith)


Johnny Walker (Anthony Michael Hall) may be the best high school quarterback in the country but he has a difficult choice to make.  He promised his girlfriend, Georgia (Uma Thurman), that he would go to the local state college with her but every other university in the country wants him.  (Even legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell calls Johnny and advises him to go to an Ivy League college.)  As Johnny tours universities across the country, he faces every temptation.  By the time he makes his decision, will Johnny still be good?

The main problem with Johnny Be Good can be found in the first sentence of the above synopsis.  Anthony Michael Hall plays the best high school quarterback in the country.  By taking on the role of Johnny Walker, Hall was obviously attempting to prove that he was capable of more than just playing nerds for John Hughes.  But Hall is never convincing as a quarterback, much less the best in the country.  Though he bulked up for the role, it is impossible to imagine Hall in a huddle, coming up with the big play that wins the game.  It’s easier to imagine Johnny getting shoved in a locker and left there until the school year ends.  Hall seems to be lost in the role and the movie never seems to be sure who Johnny Walker is supposed to be.  (Two years later, Hall would again play a jock and give a far better performance in Edward Scissorhands.)

As for the rest of the cast, Robert Downey, Jr., who plays Johnny’s teammate and best friend, is even less convincing as a football player than Hall.  In the 1980s, Downey could play a quirky sidekick in his sleep but not a wide receiver.  Paul Gleason also shows up in the movie, basically playing the same role that he played in The Breakfast Club.  Uma Thurman is sweet and pretty in her film debut but it’s a nothing role.  Fans of Cannon Picture will want to keep an eye out for Steve James, in a small role as a coach.

Poorly written and slackly directed with few laughs, Johnny Be Good fails to take its own advice.

Musical Sequence of the Day: “You Never Can Tell” from Pulp Fiction


With the passing of Chuck Berry, today’s musical sequence of the day is a bit of a no-brainer.  This scene, from 1994’s Pulp Fiction, is already one of my favorite dance scenes and, today, it takes on a special poignance.

It’s funny.  Whenever there’s a montage of classic dance scenes, we always get at least a few seconds of John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing at Jack Rabbits Slim.  In fact, I’ve seen this dance featured in so many montages that it’s easy to forget which song they were originally dancing to.  I’ve seen this scene scored with everything from Sinatra to punk to Britney Spears to EDM.  And, every time, it’s worked beautifully.

But really, “You Never Can Tell” is the perfect song for this scene.  Pulp Fiction is so many thing that I think people sometimes forget that, at heart, it’s truly a celebration of Americana.  Seeing John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing to Chuck Berry serves to remind us of this fact.

Film Review: Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II (2013, dir. Lars Von Trier)


IMG_9689

I’ll try and keep this short, unlike the movie, which if you watch the director’s cut as I did, comes out to about five and a half hours. Once you’ve sat through something like Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 (1971), which comes out to a little over twelve hours, this isn’t much. Also, despite what I’m going to say about it, it’s problems don’t come from it’s length. A lot of movies damage themselves by going past two hours, but not this one. The length really wasn’t an issue for me.

I’m also not going to pick out all the little stupid things like you see me do with Hallmark movies. Yes, Stellan Skarsgard says the Christian church split up in 1054 into Roman Catholic and Orthodox, but it actually fractured a long time before that break. Or the onscreen text, which you would expect in a Godard film. Especially when Skarsgard brings up Fibonacci numbers. That probably only ticked me off because I went through about nine years of college level computer science and really don’t want to hear about Fibonacci numbers ever again. Also, there’s a scene where she makes one attempt to have sex with black guys. It kind of reminded me of that “documentary” from the early 1970’s called Black Love. It’s there to mention that men are homophobic, but she is implicitly homophobic since sex with a woman is never brought up in this sex addict film. Von Trier also whips out the Two Kinds Of People In The World cliche, but it only makes sense if everyone is right handed. Well, let’s talk about the movie.

First, if you’re a fan of Lars Von Trier, then it’s a no brainer. This movie is for you. Don’t hesitate to watch it. If you are like me and love Breaking The Waves (1996), then this has similar material, but it’s not even remotely as moving. If you were offended by Dogville (2003) like I was, then don’t worry, this isn’t offensive stuff. It’s just boring.

The movie is about a girl named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who recounts her life as a self proclaimed nymphomaniac to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgad). The movie cuts back and forth between the actual story and then Seligman’s thoughts on it. Kind of like sitting in on a therapy session if it were being conducted by college students in a debate class. And that’s where this film’s biggest issue is for me. A lot of the analysis feels pedestrian or the kind of thing you would expect in a college paper written by a student who hopes the teacher will be impressed. And at times its almost like argument for arguments sake. Like when you’re in a class and a topic is tossed out for discussion. The topic may actually be rather simple, but people keep trying to throw things in to pad out the conversation to fill the class time. A lot of the dialogue feels like that sort of thing.

The story begins when she is a little girl and takes us up to the events that led Seligman to find her in the alley outside of his place at the beginning of the film. Her father is played by Christian Slater who I think does a good job. His British accent may be a problem for you, but it wasn’t for me. Neither was it a problem for me with Shia LaBeouf’s character who is a male presence in Joe’s life pretty much throughout the film. The accent was a problem for me with Uma Thurman’s character though.

There’s a point where Joe just starts referring to the men in her life by letters. She casually tosses them around. During one of these scenes, Uma Thurman shows up as the wife of one of the guys who’s there with Joe along with their kids in tow. The scene is supposed to start a little funny, then get really uncomfortable as it keeps going. Like when Thurman asks if she can show her kids the “whoring bed”. The problem for me was the accent. If they had just let her speak normally, then it would have worked, but it was a voice that at this point in her career is obviously not her’s and I can’t suspend disbelief. So the scene was just hilarious to me. Especially when she actually screams. That made me think of Julianne Moore in Map To The Stars (2014), which also had me laughing.

This film has been dismissed as porn or on the flip side, played up for showing so much. People especially like to mention that the sex is unsimulated. Well, it really doesn’t count in my book if that isn’t Shia LeBeouf’s penis, which it isn’t. They use CGI to graft porn actors genitalia onto some of the actors. So it’s not anything to brag about. Is it porn? Far from it. Anybody who tells you that has no idea what they are talking about. It probably comes closest to an exploitation movie at best in that department.

I said I wouldn’t pick out little flaws, but there’s a big one I have with the title and her consistently referring to herself as either a nymphomaniac or being addicted to sex. She’s not really addicted to sex. She’s addicted to sex like someone who only smokes Marlboro is addicted to cigarettes, but won’t smoke any other brand. She’s like that. She’ll take penetration by a penis, give a blow job, and poorly dabbles in S&M. That’s really it. She’s rather discriminating about what she’ll do. Another analogy is like when someone says they’re a cinephile, but that means to them that they love watching highly acclaimed foreign films. An addiction to something broad like movies or sex means you’re indiscriminate. However, I get why Von Trier sticks with the term nymphomaniac because the movie does have a reason to make sure the apparent love of sex and guilt about it is explicitly associated with a female character. The ending depends on it.

The only thing that was kind of noteworthy to me was how the way the movie is shot changes in the final part of the film. It’s divided into chapters and in the last one Von Trier either shot it to get film grain and over exposed lights or did it in post processing. I think it was probably a reference to a movement in film he was involved in back in the 1990’s called Dogme 95. You can watch something like Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998) and it will look similar.

Honestly, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s really for people who like Von Trier stuff. If you like his stuff, see it. If you don’t, definitely skip it. If you’re totally new, then don’t start here. Begin with Breaking The Waves and Europa (1991) before wading into films like The Idiots (1998), Dancer In The Dark (2000), Dogville, and beyond.

Embracing the Melodrama #37: Dangerous Liaisons (dir by Stephen Frears)


When watching a film like the 1988 best picture nominee Dangerous Liaisons, it helps to know something about history.  The film takes place in 18th century France and, even though it’s never specifically stated in the film, I watched it very much aware that the story was taking place just a few years before the French Revolution.  Even the aristocratic libertines who survive until the end of the film are probably destined to end up losing their lives at the guillotine.  Even though you don’t see anyone losing their head during Dangerous Liaisons (nor do you hear anyone say, “Let them eat cake.”), the film offers up such an atmosphere of decadence and manipulation that it leaves the viewer with little doubt as to why the people occasionally feel the need to rise up and destroy their social betters.

Dangerous Liaisons tells the story of the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) and the Marquise de Mertuil (Glenn Close), two amoral members of the aristocracy who deal with their boredom by playing games with the emotions of others.  Valmont is a notorious womanizer while Mertuil is obsessed with “dominating” the male sex and “avenging my own.”  At the start of the film, Mertuil has discovered that a former lover is planning on marrying the innocent Cecile (18 year-old Uma Thurman, stealing every scene that she appears in), who has basically spent her entire life in a convent.  Mertuil asks Valmont to seduce and take Cecile’s virginity before the wedding.  At first, Valmont says that Cecile is to easy of a challenge and declines.  Instead, Valmont has decided that he wants to seduce Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Phieffer), a married woman who is renowned for both her strong religious feelings and her virtuous character.  Mertuil agrees that she will sleep with Valmont if he can provide her with written proof that he’s managed to seduce Tourvel.

Tourvel is staying with Valmont’s aunt (Mildred Natwick), which gives Valmont — with the help of his servant, Azolan (Peter Capaldi) — several chances to try to trick Tourvel into believing that he’s a better man than everyone assumes him to be.  (With Azolan’s help, Valmont finds a poor family and donates money to them.  Of course, he makes sure that word of this gets back to Tourvel.)  However, Valmont then discovers that Cecile’s mother (Swoosie Kurtz) has been writing letters to Tourvel, warning her about Valmont’s lack of character.  To get revenge, Valmont agrees to seduce Cecile.

Dangerous Liaisons, which is based on a play that was based on a novel, is sumptuous costume drama.  If you’re like me and you love seeing how the rich and famous lived in past centuries, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Dangerous Liaisons.  With the elaborate costumes and the ornate sets, the film is a real visual feast.

The film is also a feast for those of us who enjoy good acting as well.  With the exception of a very young Keanu Reeves (who is oddly miscast as the poor music teacher who falls in love with Cecile), the entire film is perfectly cast, right down to the most minor of characters.  (I particularly enjoyed listening to Peter Capaldi, even if his Scottish accent occasionally did seem rather out-of-place in a film about the pre-Revolution France.)  For me, the biggest shock was John Malkovich.  Don’t get me wrong — I’ve always felt that Malkovich was a good character actor but he’s never been someone that I would think of as being sexy.  However, he gives close to a perfect performance as Valmont and, oddly enough, the fact that he’s not really conventionally handsome only serves to make Valmont all the more seductive.  Purring out his cynical dialogue and openly leering at every single woman in Paris, Malkovich turns Valmont into a familiar but all too appealing devil.

Dangerous Liaisons was later remade as Cruel Intentions, which is a film that I’ll be taking a look at very soon.

liaisons

Is It Too Late To Hate On Movie 43?


Originally,  I wasn’t planning on ever seeing Movie 43.

Remember Movie 43?  That’s the comedy with the huge ensemble cast that came out in January and stayed in theaters for about a week.  The trailers looked terrible, the commercials looked terrible, and finally, the reviews were terrible.  In fact, the reviews were so terrible (Richard Roeper called it the Citizen Kane of bad movies) that, at first, I was perfectly content never to see it.

However, as time passed, I continually heard Movie 43 referred to as being one of the worst films ever made.  Every 12 months, I post my picks for the 26 worst films of the year and I knew that Movie 43 was one of those films that would either appear on that list or, if it didn’t, I would have to be willing to defend the title’s absence.

I realized that before I could either defend or condemn, I would have to sit through the movie.  After all, I figured, it’s only 90 minutes of my life.

90 minutes that I’ll never get back, I might add.

Movie 43 is an anthology film in which 13 separate comedic sketches are loosely linked together by one overarching story.  For the most part, this is a film that was presumably made both for adolescent boys and for men who still think like adolescent boys.  Most of the humor is derived from bodily functions and there’s a real strain of misogyny running through the entire film.  However, the film’s problem is not that it’s crude and misogynistic but that it manages to be so dull about being crude and misogynistic.  If you think its hilarious when Meg is insulted on Family Guy or when Seth McFarlane smirks after making an anti-Semitic comment, you might enjoy Movie 43 but the rest of us are going to find far less to enjoy.

Oddly enough, there are actually two different versions of Movie 43 in circulation.  In the version that was released in U.S. theaters, the various vignettes are tied together by a story in which an insane director (Dennis Quaid) pitches scene after scene to a callous movie executive (Greg Kinnear).  In the version that was released in the UK, they’re linked together by a story about 3 teenagers searching for the most offensive film ever made.  To be honest, both versions are pretty stupid but I prefer the one about the 3 teenagers, if just because that way I can pretend that neither Dennis Quaid nor Greg Kinnear had anything to do with this movie.

As for the sketches themselves, there’s 13 of them and they are a mixed bag as far as both humor and quality are concerned:

1)      The Catch (dir by Peter Farrelly)

Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman go on a blind date.  Jackman has testicles hanging from his neck and only Winslet thinks this is an odd thing.  This skit goes on forever.

2)      Homeschooled (dir by Will Graham)

Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts explain how they’re making sure that their teenage son is getting the full high school experience despite the fact that he’s being homeschooled.  They do this through a combination of hazing and incest.  This skit worked pretty well, mostly because of the dedication that Schreiber and Watts brought to their absurd roles.

3)      The Proposition (dir by Steve Carr)

Uhmm…yeah.  So, this is the skit that opens with Anna Faris asking Chris Pratt to defecate on her.  I skipped over it because, quite frankly, life is too short.

4)      Veronica (dir by Griffin Dunne)

Neil (Kieran Culkin) is working the night shift at a depressing grocery store when his ex-girlfriend Veronica (Emma Stone) comes in.  They argue about who infected who with an STD.  Little do they realize that Neil has accidentally turned on the intercom and everyone in the store can hear them.  I actually kind of liked this short skit.  Culkin and Stone had a lot of chemistry and it was well-directed by Griffin Dunne.  Plus, it only lasted 2 minutes and, therefore, ended before the joke got old.

5)      iBabe (dir by Stephen Brill)

The iBabe is an MP3 player that happens to look like a life-size nude woman.  Unfortunately, a fan was built into the iBabe’s vagina and now, teenage boys are being dismembered while fingering and fucking iBabe.  Richard Gere plays the President of the company that makes iBabe.  I’ve never thought of Richard Gere as being a comedic actor and his performance here does nothing to change that.

6)      Superhero Speed Dating (directed by James Duffy)

Robin (Justin Long) goes speed dating and Batman (Jason Sudekis) tries to mess things up for him.  This skit – which also features (and wastes) Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, and Bobby Cannavale – is so incredibly bad that I don’t even know where to begin.  Between this film and his appearance in last year’s The Conspirator, I’m having to rethink my slight crush on Justin Long.

7)      Machine Kids (directed by Jonathan Von Tulleken)

This commercial parody asks us to consider the children who work inside copiers and vending machines and how they are effected when we criticize those machines for not accepting our dollar.  This was actually so weird that I couldn’t help but love it.

8)      Middleschool Date (dir by Elizabeth Banks)

7th grader Amanda (Chloe Moretz) is having her first “middle school” date with Nathan (Jimmy Bennett) when she starts her first period.  In response, Nathan and his older brother (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) panic.  Believe it or not, this was actually one of the better parts of Movie 43, if just because the scene’s humor comes not from Amanda getting her period but instead from how every male around her descends into histrionics as a result.   It helps that this was the only part of Movie 43 that was both written and directed by women.  It also helps that director Elizabeth Banks is so clearly on Amanda’s side.  The end result is one of the few moments in Movie 43 that doesn’t feel misogynistic. 

9)      Tampax (dir by Patrik Forsberg)

This is another fake commercial.  Two girls are at the beach.  One uses tampax tampons and the other doesn’t.  Guess which one gets eaten by a shark?  As opposed to the previous skit, this bit of menstrual humor was obviously written and directed by a man (and the message, not surprisingly, is “Ewww!  Girls are scary and dangerous!”) but I’m going to have to admit that this one made me laugh if just because, like Middleschool Date, it reminded me of some of the period horror stories that I used to hear (and believe) back when I was younger.  (Though I was raised to be more concerned about bears than sharks…)

10)  Happy Birthday (dir by that noted comedian, Brett Ratner)

Pete (Johnny Knoxville) kidnaps an angry leprechaun (Gerard Butler) and gives it to Brian (Seann William Scott).  The leprechaun’s equally angry brother (also played by Gerard Butler) shows up and violence ensues.  Watching this skit was like being told a joke by someone who has no sense of humor.

11)  Truth or Dare (dir by Peter Farelly and Patrik Forsberg)

Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant are on a first date and Merchant has testicles on his neck…oh wait.  Sorry, that was Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet’s skit.  In this skit, Berry challenges Merchant to game of truth or dare.  It escalates as the dares get continually more and more outrageous.  Whoops?  Did I say outrageous?  I meant to say stupid and oddly dull.  Watching this skit was like listening to a someone who has no sense of humor continue to tell a joke even though everyone else has already guessed the punchline.

12)  Victory’s Glory (dir by Rusty Cundieff)

In this parody of “inspirational” sports movies, Coach Jackson (Terrence Howard) speaks to his basketball team before they play their first game against an all-white team.  The gist of the speech is that Jackson’s team is going to win because they’re black and the other team is white.  This skit started out strong but, like a lot of Movie 43, it ran on for a bit too long.

13)  Beezel (dir by James Gunn)

This was actually my favorite part of Movie 43.  Unfortunately, since Beezel shows up in the middle of the end credits, I get the feeling that a lot of disappointed audience members had probably already walked out of the theater before it even began.  Beezel is a cartoon cat who has an unhealthy obsession with his owner (Josh Duhamel).  When Duhamel’s girlfriend (played by Elizabeth Banks) catches Beezel masturbating to pictures of Duhamel in a swimsuit, Beezel responds by plotting her demise.  Beezel was actually the only part of Movie 43 that truly felt edgy and unpredictable.  This is largely because this segment was directed by James Gunn, one of the few truly transgressive artists currently working in mainstream film.

So, here’s the question: is Movie 43 the worst film of 2013 as so many critics have claimed?  A few isolated moments aside, Movie 43 is pretty bad.  Even the parts of the film that do work can’t hope to compete with the pure horrifying incompetence of that parts that don’t.  However, thanks largely to James Gunn and Elizabeth Banks, it’s still a smidgen or so better than Tyler Perry’s Temptation.  (For all of its failings, Movie 43 never suggests that AIDS is God’s way of punishing wives who stray.  Nope, for that message, you have to go to Tyler Perry.)

Movie 43 is not the worst film of 2013.

It just seems like it.

The Daily Grindhouse: Kiss Daddy Goodnight (dir by Peter Ily Huemer)


To me, Uma Thurman will always be Kill Bill‘s Beatrix Kiddo and, for that reason, she will always be one of my favorite actresses.  Though we take that film and her performance in it for granted now, the fact of the matter is that Kill Bill, Volume 1 was one of the most important milestones in my evolution towards becoming a film fanatic.  I was a senior in high school when I first saw that movie and I had the same insecurities that every 17 year-old girl has.  However, when I watched the Kill Bill films, I felt like I could survive anything.  If Beatrix Kiddo (in the form of Uma Thurman) could survive being shot in the head and come out of her coma kicking ass, then I knew that I could certainly survive breaking up with my boyfriend or getting my period in gym class or waking up with a big zit in the middle of my forehead.

However, even Uma Thurman had to start somewhere and that somewhere, in her case, was with an obscure, low-budget film called Kiss Daddy Goodnight.  Kiss Daddy Goodnight, which also features Steve Buscemi in a small role, is one of those moody, atmosphere-drenched films that always seems to show up in cheap, 10-movie box sets.  I recently watched it as a part of the Night Chills box set and I discovered that it’s not really as terrible as many reviewers claim.

First released in 1987 and looking as if it was produced with a budget of about a $1,000, Kiss Daddy Goodnight  is another one of those oddly fascinating and pretentious grindhouse films that tries to mix art and exploitation.  Shot on location at some of the sleaziest locations in New York City, Kiss Daddy Goodnight is the ennui-drenched story of Laura (17 year-old Uma Thurman).  Laura is an actress who supplements her income by going out at night with a Louise Brooks wig on, picking up rich men, drugging them, and robbing them.  Laura steals an ornate dagger from one of her victims and makes plans to give it to her mom as a birthday present.

Kiss Daddy Goodnight is also the story of Sid (Paul Dillon), a friend of Laura’s who, having previously left for reasons unknown, returns to New York and announces that he’s looking for Laura’s ex-boyfriend, Johnny.  Sid wants to start a band.  Laura tells him that she doesn’t know where Johnny is but she allows Sid to crash at her apartment.  Sid spends most of the movie walking up to random people and asking if they’ve seen Johnny.  He also finds the time to go through Laura’s closet whenever Laura’s not at the apartment.  “Fucking bitch,” Sid randomly exclaims while looking at Laura’s dresses.

Kiss Daddy Goodnight also tells the story of William (Paul Richards), a courtly older man who lives in an apartment with a rabbit and who spends most of his time missing his daughter Lara, who wants nothing to do with him.  William becomes obsessed with Laura, who looks almost exactly like Lara.  We’re never quite sure what William does for a living but he’s rich enough to have a henchman who follows Laura whenever she leaves her apartment.

Finally, Kiss Daddy Goodnight is the story of Johnny who, once Sid does find him, turns out to be played by a very young Steve Buscemi.  Johnny is only on-screen for about 5 minutes but, since he’s played by Buscemi (who, as opposed to Dillon and Richards, can actually act), he becomes a major character by default.  Johnny is the only character in the film who seems to have a life outside of what we’re seeing on-screen.  When Sid says he wants to get the band together again, Johnny says he no longer plays.  When Sid says, “Laura says hello,” Johnny simply gives him a contemptuous stare and turns on the TV.  The camera zooms in on the TV and we spend a few minutes watching football players tackling each other in slow motion.

Yes, Kiss Daddy Goodnight is an odd little film.  While the film’s nominal plot is basically William pursuing Laura while Sid attempts to protect her, the film itself has a random, almost improvised feel to it.  The film is more interested in documenting the weird people around Laura and Sid than in Laura and Sid themselves.  When Sid applies for a job in a seafood place, the camera pans over to the two men in sitting in the booth behind him and we spend a minute listening to them talk about a friend who has been kicked out of a private school in Europe.  When Laura takes a taxi to her apartment, the driver discusses philosophy with her.  The phone number 559-8317 appears throughout the movie, cryptically scrawled on apparently every wall in New York.  No one calls the number or even seems to notice it but it’s there as evidence that Kiss Daddy Goodnight is far more concerned with preserving a specific time and place than with telling a traditional story.  When viewed as a  historic document, Kiss Daddy Goodnight is a success d’estime.

Kiss Daddy Goodnight has a pretty bad reputation.  One need only visit its page on the IMDb to see how little most people seem to think of Uma Thurman’s debut film.  I, however, found it to be a bit more interesting than its reputation would lead one to suspect.  Along with serving as a time capsule of New York City, the film proves that, even early in their respective careers, both Thurman and Buscemi had the talent and charisma necessary to become stars.  If nothing else, just the fact that Uma Turman could go from Kiss Daddy Goodnight to Kill Bill, should give us all hope for the future.

It’s just more evidence that anything is possible.

9 Favorite Revenge Films


Having recently seen Michael Caine’s revenge film Harry Brown I got to thinking about other revenge-themed films I’ve watched through the years and I realized that there were quite a bit of them. There’s something just primal and Old Testament about revenge flicks. It doesn’t matter whether they’re high-brow art-house films or the cheapest grindhouse flicks in the end it all boils down to one individual raining down their own version of Divine Wrath on those who wronged them.

Who hasn’t fantasized or thought about going all medieval on someone who just screwed them over. Maybe it was an infraction that was minor that one didn’t need to get overly upset over or something so heinous that only violence at its most basest was the only response. Going through with such thoughts usually stayed there: in one’s thoughts and imaginings. Revenge films seems to be quite popular because they allow even the meekest and most pacifist to secretly live vicariously through the revenge-minded leads in the film.

The list below is not the best revenge films out there but they definitely are my favorites…

Oldboy – This revenge film by South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook wasn’t just a blast to watch but also happens to be one of the best films of the past decade. It takes a simple plot of a man imprisoned against his will for 15 years with no explanation whatsoever that he literally goes insane and back to sane during his captivity. Revenge being the one thing which keeps him going and revenge he gets to inflict on all those he discovers were responsible. The mind-twisting last act in the film takes the revenge-theme right on it’s head as we find out that the main lead wasn’t the only one on a revenge train of thought.

I Spit On Your Grave aka Day of the Woman – This grindhouse classic from Meir Zarchi is the epitome of the rape victim turned revenge valkyrie. The film is not very easy to sit through since there’s nothing subtle about how filmmaker Meir Zarchi filmed every exploitative scene. From the prolonged gang rape sequence to each subsequent revenge act by Camille Keaton’s Jennifer character. Some critics have blasted the film as pandering to the lowest common denominator while others have hailed it as a post-modern feminist film. I like to think that both sides are correct and that the film lies somewhere in the middle. It definitely will put a scare on any group of men who are having thoughts of shenanigans.

Death Wish – When people hear revenge flick they almost always say this iconic film by Charles Bronson from the 70’s. The film was adapted from Brian Garfield’s 1072 novel of the same name and directed by Michael Winner. While critics had mixed reactions to the film with some calling it irresponsible filmmaking, the nation as a whole embraced the film. Here was a film which screamed to the nation that the rising crime-rate in the U.S. during the 1970’s wasn’t going to go unanswered. While some people may have seen the film as a blank check to actually commit vigilantism in the end it just helped a country sick and tired of the crime they see day in and day out. Again here was art becoming a driving force in changing a nation’s collective malaise into something more positive. It didn’t hurt that Bronson was badass as Paul Kersey.

Kill Bill: Volume 1-2 – Who else but the video clerk made good would make what I would consider the greatest genre mash-up film ever made. Quentin Tarantino’s ode to kung fu, spaghetti westerns and revenge flicks became so massive that he had to split the film into two volumes. I am talking about Kill Bill. Not his greatest film ever but I definitely consider it his most geek-friendly and most entertaining. Uma Thurman as The Bride tearing a bloody and witty path of revenge on those who failed to kill her created some of the most iconic fight sequences of the generation this film came out in. Every scene almost seemed to be inspired by other films of a similar theme and genre that film geeks everywhere must’ve exploded in their pants from all the awesomeness they were witnessing. Each volume had two great action sequences that were both fantastical and brutal.

Straw Dogs – One of the most controversial films in Sam Peckinpah’s controversy-filled directing career. Released in 1971 it told the story of how even the meekest person could be pushed into dealing out extreme violent justice on those who have wrong them and those they love. Seen by critics as quite misogynistic due to the nature of the rape scene of Susan George’s Amy character the film was banned for two decades in the UK for it’s unflinching look at violence. Being a huge fan of Sam Peckinpah I had to see it and when I did it automatically became one of my favorite films ever and not just a favorite revenge film. If there was ever a modern retelling of a Biblical-level fable it is this classic from Sam Peckinpah. Every revenge-fueled act by Dustin Hoffman literally oozes Old Testament justice. Just the way I like my revenge. 🙂

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Speaking of Biblical this first sequel in the Star Trek film franchise still considered by fans and non-fans alike as the best in the series. Hard to argue with them since it’s also an opinion I share. The sequel takes a popular episode from the original series and follows it up with all the cast of characters older and more seasoned. In the case of Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonian Singh quite seasoned and classy as smooth Corinthian leather. It’s a film with Shatner’s Kirk and Montalban’s Khan in an everending cycle of revenge which would culminate in what would be one of film’s most heartbreaking scenes. One could taste the revenge emanating from the two characters as age-won wisdom and genetically-engineered intellect fell by the wayside to feed the vengeance sought by Kirk and Khan. This revenge flick also has one of the most awesome death speeches by a character on film.

Carrie – Brian De Palma’s film adaptation of one of Stephen King’s better horror novels still seen by many as the best film adapt of a King novel. It combines the existential horror of being a girl and her body maturing in the dog-eat-dog world of high school and the horror said girl can inflict on those tormenting her. It’s high school bullying and revenge with a healthy dose of Stephen King shenanigans mixed in. Sissy Spacek was great as the titular character. One doesn’t have to be a high school girl to feel for Carrie and what she goes through. Her snapping in the last act and inflicting her psychokinetic-brand of revenge on her tormentors must’ve gotten more than a few “Hell yeah!” from some of the teens and adults who went through high school hell. It also has a classic line uttered by Carrie’s mother played by Piper Laurie: “I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.”

Orca – This film was to be producer Dino De Laurentiis’ attempt to capitalize on the success of Steven Spielberg’s classic man-versus-nature thriller, Jaws. Starring Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling and Bo Derek the film wasn’t a success when it first came out. While Spielberg’s film was a modern retelling of Moby Dick this killer whale version by director Michael Anderson was Death Wish on water with Paul Kersey as the killer whale. This was one of the first films where I realized none of the people on the screen were worth rooting for to survive. I was all for the killer whale who was on a warpath to avenge his mate and unborn wee killer whale who were killed by Harris and his crew. Shamu this killer whale was not and it always brought a smile to my face whenever the killer whale outsmarted the humans and killed each and everyone in inventive ways. I’m wondering if all the killer whales in all the aquatic parks are just biding their time before they too go all Orca on their handlers and the audience. I’d pay to see that!

Treevenge – Last but not least the greatest film ever made!