Playing Catch-Up: Autumn in New York, Griffin & Phoenix, Harry & Son, The Life of David Gale


So, this year I am making a sincere effort to review every film that I see.  I know I say that every year but this time, I really mean it.

So, in an effort to catch up, here are four quick reviews of some of the movies that I watched over the past few weeks!

  • Autumn in New York
  • Released: 2000
  • Directed by Joan Chen
  • Starring Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, Vera Farmiga, Sherry Stringfield, Jill Hennessy, J.K. Simmons, Sam Trammell, Mary Beth Hurt

Richard Gere is Will, a fabulously wealthy New Yorker, who has had many girlfriends but who has never been able to find the one.  He owns a restaurant and appears on the cover of New York Magazine.  He loves food because, according to him, “Food is the only beautiful thing that truly nourishes.”

Winona Ryder is Charlotte, a hat designer who is always happy and cheerful and full of life.  She’s the type who dresses up like Emily Dickinson for Christmas and recites poetry to children, though you get the feeling that, if they ever somehow met in real life, Emily would probably get annoyed with Charlotte fairly quickly.  Actually, Charlotte might soon get to meet  Emily because she has one of those rare diseases that kills you in a year while still allowing you to look healthy and beautiful.

One night, Will and Charlotte meet and, together, they solve crimes!

No, actually, they fall in love.  This is one of those films where a young woman teaches an old man how to live again but then promptly dies so it’s not like he actually has to make a huge commitment or anything.  The film does, at least, acknowledge that Will is a lot older than Charlotte but it still doesn’t make it any less weird that Charlotte would want to spend her last year on Earth dealing with a self-centered, emotionally remote man who is old enough to be her father.  (To be honest, when it was revealed that Charlotte was the daughter of a woman who Will had previously dated, I was briefly worried that Autumn in New York was going to take an even stranger turn….)

On the positive side, the films features some pretty shots of New York and there is actually a pretty nice subplot, in which Will tries to connect with the daughter (Vera Farmiga) that he never knew he had.  Maybe if Farmiga and Ryder had switched roles, Autumn in New York would have worked out better.

  • Griffin & Phoenix
  • Released: 2006
  • Directed by Ed Stone
  • Starring Dermot Mulroney, Amanda Peet, Blair Brown, and Sarah Paulson

His name is Henry Griffin (Dermot Mulroney).

Her name is Sarah Phoenix (Amanda Peet).

Because they both have highly symbolic last names, we know that they’re meant to be together.

They both have cancer.  They’ve both been given a year to live.  Of course, they don’t realize that when they first meet and fall in love.  In fact, when Phoenix comes across several books that Griffin has purchased about dealing with being terminally ill, she assumes that Griffin bought them to try to fool her into falling in love with him.  Once they realize that they only have a year to be together, Griffin and Phoenix set out to make every moment count…

It’s a sweet-natured and unabashedly sentimental movie but, unfortunately, Dermot Mulroney and Amanda Peet have little romantic chemistry and the film is never quite as successful at inspiring tears as it should be.  When Mulroney finally allows himself to get mad and deals with his anger by vandalizing a bunch of cars, it’s not a cathartic moment.  Instead, you just find yourself wondering how Mulroney could so easily get away with destroying a stranger’s windshield in broad daylight.

  • Harry & Son
  • Released: 1986
  • Directed by Paul Newman
  • Starring Paul Newman, Robby Benson, Ellen Barkin, Wilford Brimley, Judith Ivey, Ossie Davis, Morgan Freeman, Katherine Borowitz, Maury Chaykin, Joanne Woodward

Morgan Freeman makes an early film appearance in Harry & Son, though his role is a tiny one.  He plays a factory foreman named Siemanowski who, in quick order, gets angry with and then fires a new employee named Howard Keach (Robby Benson).  Howard is the son in Harry & Son and he’s such an annoying character that you’re happy when Freeman shows up and starts yelling at the little twit.  As I said, Freeman’s role is a small one.  Freeman’s only on screen for a few minutes.  But, in that time, he calls Howard an idiot and it’s hard not to feel that he has a point.

Of course, the problem is that we’re not supposed to view Howard as being an idiot.  Instead, we’re supposed to be on Howard’s side.  Howard has ambitions to be the next Ernest Hemingway.  However, his blue-collar father, Harry (Paul Newman, who also directed), demands that Howard get a job.  Maybe, like us, he realizes how silly Howard looks whenever he gets hunched over his typewriter.  (Robby Benson tries to pull off these “deep thought” facial expressions that simply have to be seen to be believed.)  There’s actually two problems with Howard.  First off, we never believe that he could possibly come up with anything worth reading.  Secondly, it’s impossible to believe that Paul Newman could ever be the father of such an annoying little creep.

Harry, of course, has problems of his own.  He’s just lost his construction job.  He’s having to deal with the fact that he’s getting older.  Fortunately, his son introduces him to a nymphomaniac (Judith Ivey).  Eventually, it all ends with moments of triumph and tragedy, as these things often do.

As always, Newman is believable as a blue-collar guy who believes in hard work and cold beer.  The film actually gets off to a good start, with Newman using a wrecking ball to take down an old building.  But then Robby Benson shows up, hunched over that typewriter, and the film just becomes unbearable.  At least Morgan Freeman’s around to yell at the annoying little jerk.

  • The Life of David Gale
  • Released: 2003
  • Directed by Alan Parker
  • Starring Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Rhona Mitra, Leon Rippy, Matt Craven, Jim Beaver, Melissa McCarthy

For the record, while I won’t shed any tears whenever Dzhokahr Tsarnaev is finally executed, I’m against the death penalty.  I think that once we accept the idea that the state has the right to execute people, it becomes a lot easier to accept the idea that the state has the right to do a lot of other things.  Plus, there’s always the danger of innocent people being sent to die.  The Life of David Gale also claims to be against the death penalty but it’s so obnoxious and self-righteous that I doubt it changed anyone’s mind.

David Gale (Kevin Spacey) used to the head of the philosophy department at the University of Texas.  He used to be a nationally renowned activist against the death penalty.  But then he was arrested for and convicted of the murder of another activist, Constance Harraway (Laura Linney) and now David Gale is sitting on death row himself.  With his execution approaching, journalist Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) is convinced that Gale was framed and she finds herself racing against time to prevent Texas from executing an innocent man…

There’s a lot of things wrong with The Life of David Gale.  First off, it was made during the Bush administration, so the whole film is basically just a hate letter to the state of Texas.  Never have I heard so many inauthentic accents in one film.  Secondly, only in a truly bad movie, can someone have a name like Bitsey Bloom.  Third, the whole film ends with this big twist that makes absolutely no sense and which nearly inspired me to throw a shoe at the TV.

Of course, the main problem with the film is that we’re asked to sympathize with a character played by Kevin Spacey.  Even before Kevin Spacey was revealed to be a sleazy perv, he was never a particularly sympathetic or really even that versatile of an actor.  (Both American Beauty and House of Cards tried to disguise this fact by surrounding him with cartoonish caricatures.)  Spacey’s so snarky and condescending as Gale that, even if he is innocent of murder, it’s hard not to feel that maybe David Gale should be executed for crimes against likability.

A Movie A Day #173: Great Balls of Fire! (1989, directed by Jim McBride)


In the 1950s, Jerry Lee Lewis (Dennis Quaid) plays what his cousin, Jimmy Swaggart (Alec Baldwin), calls the devil’s music.  After signing a contract with Sam Phillips (Trey Wilson), Jerry becomes a star with his wild man persona and crazed piano playing.  When Elvis is drafted, it appears that Jerry is destined to take over as the new King of Rock and Roll.  But, then, while touring England, the press discovers that Jerry is married to his 13 year-old cousin, Myra (Winona Ryder).  When Jerry refuses to apologize for his private life, his career falls apart.

The real Jerry Lew Lewis has stated many times that he hates this musical biopic and that it has very little in common with his actual life.  Jerry has a point.  Great Balls of Fire is a highly stylized film, one that greatly sanitizes both the life of Jerry Lee Lewis and the early days of rock and roll.  In the film, there’s no struggle or even hard work on the road to becoming a star.  Jerry just drops off a recording of himself playing piano and viola! He’s a star!  Soon, teenagers are dancing around his convertible, both civil rights protestors and white Southern cops start dancing whenever they see him driving down the street, the local radio DJ waves whenever he sees them, and Jerry’s sneaking into Mississippi so that he can marry his thirteen year-old cousin.

Great Balls of Fire! takes a superficially mater of fact approach to Jerry’s marriage to Myra, neither condemning nor excusing, though it does cheat by casting the 18 year-old Winona Ryder as the 13 year-old Myra.  (If the film had cast an actress who was closer to Myra’s actual age, Great Balls of Fire! would never have been released.)  Fortunately, history helped the movie out by making Jimmy Swaggart into Jerry’s main critic.  Alec Baldwin’s performance as Jimmy Swaggart makes his interpretation of Donald Trump look subtle, nuanced, and award-worthy.

Dennis Quaid, at the height of his 80s stardom, is ideally cast as Jerry Lee Lewis, giving a good if broad performance and doing a convincing job lip-syncing to the music.  Quaid has said that he was struggling with an addiction to cocaine while filming Great Balls of Fire! and that might have made him the perfect actor to play the always conflicted and always wild Jerry Lee Lewis.  The best thing about the film is that Jerry Lee Lewis provided the music, re-recording his best known songs.  While the movie may not tell the true story of Jerry Lee Lewis, it does feature enough of his music that it is obvious why Jerry Lee Lewis nearly became the king of rock and roll.

 

The SAG Nominations are here and … Hello there, Captain Fantastic!


captain-fantasticEarlier the year, I choose not to see Captain Fantastic.  Every bit of advertising that I saw for it led me to believe that Captain Fantastic was basically just Wes Anderson-lite and, as we all know, only Wes Anderson can successfully duplicate Wes Anderson.

Well, I think I may have made a mistake because Viggo Mortensen is definitely in the hunt for best actor.  Though most of the precursor awards (so far) have gone to Casey Affleck for Manchester By The Sea, Mortensen still seems like a likely nominee.

Just consider this: he got a SAG nomination!  And so did Captain Fantastic, itself!  It was nominated for best ensemble, which is the SAG equivalent of best picture…

Actually, maybe you shouldn’t spend too much time fixating on that.  People like me always talk about how the SAG awards are an obvious precursor for the Oscars.  Our logic is that the Actor’s Branch is the largest voting bloc in the Academy and the members of the Actor’s Branch are among those who also vote for the SAG awards.

Of course, we always forget that the majority of SAG members are themselves not a part of the Academy.  So, while enough members of SAG may have liked Captain Fantastic for it to get an unexpected ensemble nomination, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those voters are also members of the Academy.

I mean, let’s consider what happened last year.  Beasts of No Nation picked up an ensemble nomination.   So did Straight Outta Compton.  So did Trumbo.  None of those films proved to be an Oscar powerhouse.  In fact, Beasts of No Nation received a grand total of zero Oscar nominations.

So, let’s put it like this — it’s a good sign for a film or a performer to get a SAG nomination.  But there’s still no guarantee that it will translate into Oscar recognition. Captain Fantastic may have been nominated and La La Land was snubbed (for ensemble).  But I imagine that the reverse will happen when the Oscar noms are announced in January.

With all that in mind, here are the SAG nominations!

FILM

Best Film Ensemble
“Captain Fantastic”
“Fences”
“Hidden Figures”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight”

Best Actor
Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Best Actress
Amy Adams, “Arrival”
Emily Blunt, “The Girl on the Train”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”
Hugh Grant, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Stunt Ensemble
“Captain America: Civil War”
“Doctor Strange”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Jason Bourne”
“Nocturnal Animals”

TV

Best Comedy Ensemble
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Black-ish”
“Modern Family”
“Orange is the New Black”
“Veep”

Best Comedy Actor
Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
Titus Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

Best Comedy Actress
Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”
Jane Fonda, “Grace & Frankie”
Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Lily Tomlin, “Grace & Frankie”

Best Drama Ensemble
“The Crown”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“Stranger Things”
“Westworld”

Best Drama Actor
Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
John Lithgow, “The Crown”
Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”

Best Drama Actress
Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”
Claire Foy, “The Crown”
Thandie Newton, “Westworld”
Winona Ryder, “Stranger Things”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

Best Movie/Miniseries Actor
Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”
Sterling K. Brown, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”
Bryan Cranston, “All The Way”
John Turturro, “The Night Of”
Courtney B Vance, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”

Best Movie/Miniseries Actress
Bryce Dallas Howard, “Black Mirror”
Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”
Audra McDonald, “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”
Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”
Kerry Washington, “Confirmation”

Best Stunt Ensemble
“Game of Thrones”
“Daredevil”
“Luke Cage”
“The Walking Dead”
“Westworld”

Stranger Things: Season 1, Episode 8: The Upside Down, ALT Title: Hop’s Redemption


stranger things titles

Cold Open:  Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  Joyce is screaming and Evil Modine enters.  He conveys with cold calm that six people were taken this week and tries to bully Joyce like he did Karen.  Joyce isn’t having it.  Henchwoman is having people taser Hop … A LOT!  He tells them that he knows everything about they did.  They propose to have him overdose.  He counters that they arm him and let him and Joyce go.  How does Hop fit into his pants with balls that big?!

High school:  The boys are at the school and restless.  They realize that Nancy and Creeper are gone.

Joyce’s House: They set up several booby traps and the xmas lights, which sets up an inconsistency in the storytelling.

Evil Modine comes to Hop.  Hop convinces Evil Modine to to arm him, release him AND Joyce, and allow him to pursue the monster.  He offers to forget about him and their project and he’ll tell him where El is, if he agrees to his terms.

Hop and Joyce get spacesuited up and enter into the belching gate to the Upside Down.

ROLL CREDITS:

The Upside Down: Hop and Joyce are looking for Will.  The respirator noise causes Hop to Flash to happier times.

Hop is in the past… clean-shaven, with his wife and daughter, and happy.  His daughter starts to wheeze.

The Upside Down:  Nancy and Creeper cut themselves to draw out the Postmodern Vampire.  She wonders how she will know when the monster will be coming, which brings us to the story hole: Why would she be screwing the lights back in before if she didn’t know that they had a purpose? Steve bangs at the door and forces himself into the house. They both try to get him to leave and Nancy even pulls a gun on him, but then the lights flicker, the monster appears, and Steve’s brain breaks a little.  They run to Will’s room.

The Upside Down:  Hop sees the destroyed Castle Byers and a teddy bear causes him to FLASH.

Hospital Room:  He is reading to his daughter who is bald from cancer.  When he’s done reading, he goes into the hospital stairwell and sobs.  Poor Hop.

Joyce’s House: Steve freaks out and runs to his car, but he sees the lights flickering and decides to become a hero.  The monster appears behind Nancy and Creeper.  Steve jumps in and starts hitting the monster with an upgraded baseball bat.  The monster gets trapped in the bear trap.  They set the monster on fire and it disappears.  There is smoldering monster blood in the trap.  My best guess of what smoldering Vampire Monster smells like is anything on the Arby’s menu.  

The Upside Down:  Hop and Joyce are in her home and they see the blood from the monster.  The lights start turning on in Joyce’s house.

High School: Dustin finds pudding. We get it; he’s the fat kid!  Mike talks to El about how his family will quasi-adopt her. Jibber Jabber Jibber Jabber, they kiss.  Then, Evil Modine and his Goons arrive to retrieve El.  The boys and El run.   They make it into a hallway and are cutoff with ….Goons to the Left and Goons to the Right and she’s the only El in town! [Sung]

El uses her mojo and melts/explodes the brains and eyes of the Henchwoman and several goons.  This brings us to bad ideas: New Coke, The Edsel, Qwikster, The Zune, Grease 2, and cornering a pissed off teenager with lethal mental Superpowers.  Hop and Joyce pursue the monster and follow its bloodtrail to the library where Hop has looked for love.

High school: The boys get grabbed by goons and El is passed out from mental exertion. Evil Modine hugs her and promises to make everything better to make her better.   The lights flash.  Mike sees the blood, the monster breaks through the wall, and envelops Evil Modine.  Once again, it’s a monster, who hunts at night, and searches for blood.   NOSFERATU!!!!!

The Library:  Joyce and Hop are in the public library.  They see skulls everywhere and viney gooeyness.  Lastly, they see Will with a monster snake attached to his mouth.

Flash to Hop’s daughter’s Hospital Room:  We see his daughter intubated and dying.  She flatlines.  The scene is intercut with Hop watching his daughter dying and him removing Will’s monster snake from him.

High school:  The goons are fighting the monster and losing.  The monster enters the room where the boys are hiding and Lucas tries to kill the monster with the slingshot for some reason.  The monster is flung and pinned against the wall.  El is awake with red eyes and is really pissed.  She looks back at the one boy she ever loved, says good bye, and then using her mind – she creates a bright LIGHT ….AHEM … A Bright Light like the Sun and destroys the monster by disintegrating both herself and it.

Hop and Joyce:  Hop is doing CPR on Will with Joyce’s help to revive Will.  In saving Will, he will have also released himself from the prison of his grief. We flash to the Hop’s dying daughter with doctors failing to save her and we see the beginning of his beard.  However, in the Upside Down, Hop is able to save Will and, in doing so, himself as well.

High school: Karen arrives and hugs her son.

The Hospital:  Will awakens to his family.

The Waiting Room:  Everyone is waiting for Will to wake up in the hospital.  The tragedy has brought them together as one community, one tribe.  When the boys hear that Will is awake, they run in and jibber jabber a bit.  Hop goes outside and is picked up by goons, but in a friendly way.

ONE MONTH LATER:

Snow has begun.  The boys are playing D&D again.  Creeper picks up Will and gets a present from Nancy, but we rapidly see that she isn’t his girlfriend.  It’s a camera. HMMMMM, not sure if that will improve Creeper’s prospects of staying out of handcuffs. 

Hop Goes to the station and gets some food and makes some wise cracks.  He drops off some eggos in a dead drop, which is presumably for El.

Joyce’s House: It’s all fixed up because the town must have pitched in together.  Will heads to the bathroom and barfs up a slug monster, flashes into the Upside Down, and doesn’t tell anyone because I guess mash potatoes were all he could think about at that time.

ROLL CREDITS

This has been so much fun!  Demand more with all your might!!!

 

 

Stranger Things: The Bathtub Season 1, Episode 7; ALT Title: Modine, Evil Modine.


stranger things titles

Cold Open:  Mike cleans off El’s face.  She touches her head where the wig once was; the wig that made her a little normal and not a lab rat.  “Still pretty?” She asks.  Mike, “Really pretty.”  They are about to kiss when Dustin interrupts.  At least it wasn’t because he found a unopened box of Twinkies.  They hear shouting on the walkie talkie.  It’s Lucas.  Lucas has decided F-This.  How did I end up in this situation?! And, how come we never see my or Dustin’s parents? Did the monster eat them?  Lucas is peddling as fast as he can … If he’s smart, to Iowa and away from this horrible situation.  Lucas continues to shout into the walkie and finally warns his friends.  The boys see the Hawkins vans outside of Mike’s house and decide to flee.

El sees her “Papa” Evil Modine approach Mike’s home.  They bike in a hurry to escape and immediately run into Lucas.  They are together and cornered- vans in front, vans behind them.  Pro tip: Nobody puts El in a corner because she will f#cking kill you.  El’s response to being cornered is launching the Hawkings van into the air and hurling it toward the pursuers behind her.  They escape to the junkyard and everyone makes up.

Roll Credits:

Hop and Joyce arrive at the station. Joyce is hysterical.  The deputies tell Hop that they need to show him something.  They show Hop Creeper’s trunk. It is filled with monster hunting stuff.  Hop confronts Creeper and Creeper tries to give Hop some lip.  Really, Creeper?! Really?!  Chief Hopper makes Jason Bourne look like Rick Moranis.  

Mike’s House:  Karen is looking for Mike and finds what looks like a kid’s nest.  Then, she finds a tuft of long blonde hair, which must cause her to wonder- Are all of my kids having sex in my house?!  Doorbell rings.  It’s Modine, Evil Modine!  He proceeds to home invade Karen’s home without a warrant.  Henchlady tries to question Karen and fails.  Nebish Dad uses this time to call his son a wuss.  Evil Modine uses his eeeeeeevil powers of persuasion to get Karen cooperate.  When he says, “Will you trust me?” I got the heebie jeebies.  Shudders.

At the station, Hop learns from Nancy and Creeper that the creature is drawn by blood. The World Smallest Bully’s mom demands an apology.  Hop learns that El is with the boys and is all kinds of superpowered.

Convenience Store: Steve loses his shitty friends and we learn it was his awful guy friend who did the spray painting.

Nancy and Hop are overlooking her home.  She wants to confront Evil Modine.  Hop shows Nancy that the government hasn’t found the boys yet because helicopters are still circling. Creeper tells them that he might be able to communicate with the boys.  They go to Joyce’s house and Nancy is the first to look at the lights and say- WHOA!  Yep, we’re in Crazytown, Indiana.  Hop gets the boys to give up their location.

The Vandalized Movie Theater: Steve’s heart grows three sizes that day and he tries to make amends by cleaning off the marquee his friend defaced.

Junkyard:  Modine’s goons approach the bus that is hiding the boys and El.  Hop quickly dispatches them.

Joyce’s house: The Boys, El, Hop, Joyce, and Creeper are all together discussing their next move as one tribe.  El tries and fails to use her mojo to find Will.  They decide to make a bathtub deprivation tank.

Mr. Clark’s house: He is watching a cinematic masterpiece, The Thing, with a waaaay Hot Asian Lady.  Mr. Clark, I tip my hat to you Sir. You be you.  Dustin calls Mr. Clark- the most patient man alive- pumps him for DIY sensory deprivation tank information and then hangs up.  Dustin, you’re being a dick.

They get the bath ready and El goes into the black world of the Inbetween.  She finds a rotting Barb with monster slugs leaving her.  Dear Everyone in the World, stop asking about Barb.  She’s a rotting incubator for Vampire Monsters.  That is all.  El finds Castle Byers in the upside down.  She comforts Will.

Hop and Joyce go off to Evil Modine’s Government Facility and are rapidly captured.

The Upside Down: The Monster destroys Castle Byers and takes Will to turn him into an incubator for monsters.

ROLL CREDITS!!!!  If you enjoy these, please tell my Boss- Lisa Bowman! Also, suggest other shows or movies that you would like me to review. Cheers!

 

 

Stranger Things- Season 1, Episode 6 – The Monster; ALT Title: Are you there God? It’s me, El.


stranger things titles

Cold Open: Creeper is calling for Nancy. She is lost in the Shadow World.  In her haste, Nancy is has passed the exit and his alone in the with the monster.  Creeper sees the tree portal, then Nancy’s outstretched arm, and pulls the love of his life back into the Light World like a forceps baby.  The tree’s portal closes.

Roll Credits.

Steve is driving with his crew all worried about Nancy.  He uses his much improved Ninja Skills to go up to Nancy’s bedroom, but is frozen with shock and rage at the sight of Creeper comforting Nancy on her bed.

Joyce’s House:  Hop is mentally exhausted, but pushes through it.  He explains that he saw Will’s room because there was a kid’s bed and kid’s drawing on the wall.  However, when Joyce asks, “Was [the drawing] good?”  Hop describes it as a kid’s drawing.  She shows Hop an example of Will’s very good artwork.  Hop realizes that all this time that he’s been looking for another kid.  David Harbour plays this scene with a mix of realization and rage that they did this to yet another kid.  I haven’t seen acting this good since the Robert Mitchum or Gary Cooper.  In five years, he’ll be holding an Oscar.  

Mike’s house:  Nancy showers off her evil goo.  She has Creeper sleep in her bed.  Maybe, he’ll take some photos of her when she sleeps? You two deserve each other. 

Hop and Joyce:  They go on a quest to find El’s mom, using his library research.  Given that was a trolling ground for Hop, I didn’t mean to have that previous sentence to read vaguely dirty.

Nancy’s Room:  Nancy Nancy Drews (sorry had to go there) a theory that the monster is a predator, who hunts at night, and detects blood.  HMMMMMMM, whatever could it be????  They decide to set a trap.

Mr. Clark’s house:  He is visited by Evil Modine’s Blonde Henchwoman and is duped into revealing the boys’ identities with promises of nerdy tech programs for promising youths.

Flash to El: Evil Modine brings El a one-dollar Target store plant because he wants to her to make contact and he’s obviously cheap.

El wakes in the woods.  She puts her wig on to become a normal girl again.  She looks into the water seeing herself as a freak, a monster, an ersatz girl.  El tosses the wig and screams her energy into the lake.

Mike’s House:  Karen uses her bobby pin to gain access to Nancy’s room, expecting to find a sleeping kid.  Instead, she sees an empty bed and the indications that a boy spent the night.

Lucas’ House:  The boys try to make up. It’s a bit corny, but in a good way.  Lucas is determined to find Will on his own and he’s convinced that El is a traitor.  Dustin insists that it was pretty awesome; she threw him  into the air with her mind.  Lucas’ face says it all- that’s why she sucks, SHE’S NOT HUMAN!

El decides to go shopping for some Eggos.  She’s dirty, she’s weird, and the villagers are scared.  FLASH to the Evil Bathtub:  El is being submerged into the dark world -the in between space that separates our world and the Shadow World a membrane that acts a terrible bridge.  Back to the store where once again, we find a dickish manager.  She calls the manager a Mouth Breather; it’s pretty awesome.  He tries to stop El because she’s leaving the store without paying and El’s like – LEGGO MY EGGO! BOOM- The sliding glass doors explode.

Hop and Joyce:  They arrive at Terry Ives’ home to ask her about her daughter.  She is catatonic.

Lucas: We see him leaving to find Will.  He sees a white Hawkins Power and Light van. Dustin and Mike, separated from Lucas, discuss why Lucas is upset.  Dustin explains that Lucas is jealous because he’s being replaced by El.

We learn from Terry’s sister that she got into MK Ultra in college.  They gave Terry loads of LSD, put her in the salt water tank, but she was pregnant.   This gave her baby enhanced superpowers.  This is an obvious nod to Dean Herbert’s Dune, when Lady Jessica takes the Water of Life when she was pregnant; thereby, giving her daughter Alia superpowers. Yep, I just laid some nerd knowledge on you! Boom!  Terry’s sister explains that Terry believed she would have telekinetic and other badass powers; we flash to El’s mojo badassery throughout the series.  All the while she describes this, there is baby music playing in the background that is extra creepy.

Lucas uses his compass and arrives at Evil Modine’s Government Facility.

Nancy and Creeper find supplies to set their trap.  When they go outside, she sees the movie theater marquee – All The Right Moves Starring – Spray Painted – Nancy the Slut Wheeler.  She’s mortified.  She hears spray paint cans being used and finds Steve and his cohorts.  She slaps him.  Steve starts insulting Creeper and Creeper kicks Steve’s ass.  The cops arrive and in a funny accidental assault on a police officer, Creeper is arrested.

Hop and Joyce: She’s devastated that it’s been 12 years since Terry saw her daughter, meaning she may never see Will again. Hop explains that there’s still a chance.  He explains that he’s been through what she’s going through, but his daughter was taken permanently, but he will get Will back to her.  People in pain will sometimes lash out because a person tries to share their pain, thinking that the sharer is trying to make it about themselves.  WRONG! Don’t be that way! Pain is not unique.  There’s sympathy and empathy.  Sympathy- wow, that sucks.  Empathy- I felt your kind of pain because this happened to me.  This is a vulnerable act of sharing, creating intimacy and intimacy is the bedrock of any relationship. 

Hop gets a call that Creeper was arrested.

Back at the Police Station, Nancy brings Creeper some ice for his candid photo taking hands.

Lucas:   He sees a bunch of Hawkins Power and Light vans.  Lucas realizes that the government is on to them.

The Bullies find Dustin and Mike at the Quarry.  The World’s Smallest Bully (WSB) catches Dustin and threatens to cut out Dustin’s baby teeth, if Mike doesn’t jump into the quarry. The tension builds and he jumps.  The boys run to see a likely dead Mike; instead, Mike is suspended in mid-air and hoisted back to the top of the cliff.  We cut to El who has her signature bloody nose.  She shoves one bully into the air and breaks the WSB’s arm.  El says, GO!  The bullies do.

Flash to In between dark room: She sees the monster and approaches.  She reaches out to it’s scaly skin and touches the creature.  It shrieks at her with a head full of teeth.  El’s terror is so great that she releases a huge energy burst that tears a hole in our dimension, linking our world to the shadow world and the Monster.

Back to the quarry, El confesses she opened the gate; therefore, she is the monster.  Mike eschews that notion- You saved me El. They all hug.

Dustin, Mike, and El have return to Mike’s house and the Hawkins Power and Light Van is waiting for them.

 

Stranger Things- Season 1 Episode 5- The Flea and The Acrobat; ALT Title: Hop is my Spirit Animal.


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Cold Open:

Evil Modine’s Government Facility: Hop is being a total badass and sneaks into the facility. He sneaks around the facility and hides in rooms as evil scientists go by in the halls.  He goes through biohazard plastic and is about to head to the entrance to find Will.  Hop runs into the shittiest security chief ever and kicks his ass and the ass of a Military Policeman. Hop – you win the badass award of 1983.

Joyce’s house: Lonnie is getting Joyce liquored up and generally trying to take over her life. Lonnie – who might be one of the earliest Mansplainers – tries to convince Joyce that all of this in her head.  This show is really good at showing people’s reaction to grief and potential mental illness. The people are marginalized, ignored, and bossed around. It’s especially poignant because the show is postmodern gothic horror and the way “normal characters” deal with the people they can’t understand is truly medieval.  

Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  Hop continues to search for Will.  He finds a room with a kid-sized bed and a drawing of two stick figures and a cat- a call back to where Evil Modine tried to harness El’s powers to diminish the local feline population.  Hop’s face is cool rage.  He’s certain that they have Will.

The director intercuts the boys’ discussion and Hop’s search for Will. The intercut between the boys’ discussion and Hop’s search is truly gooseflesh inducing. El is completely drained.  The boys are going over what was said on the AV equipment.  Lucas emotes that he is really tired of this shit.  Hop has his pistol drawn and is being pursued by Evil Modine’s goons.  The boy’s describe the World of the veil of shadows.  Hop finds the elevator that leads down to the gate to the shadow world.  Hop enters a hallway that the boys describe as – out of phase.  There is evil snow coming down around Hop.  Hop enters the room with the main portal to the shadow world and is grabbed and drugged.  This story really grabs at the ancient themes of storytelling- Hop is the sullied knight on Crusade looking for redemption and he plays it perfectly!  Fade to Black.

Roll Credits:

Joyce’s House:  Creeper arrives home to see his Mom drinking and generally hanging out with Lonnie.  Poor Creeper.

Funeral:  Lonnie holds Court and shakes a lot of hands as if he is the man of the family and not a human-turd.

Hop’s Home:  Hop wakes with sweat stains and surrounded by pills and booze.  Hop tears his place apart like he’s looking for Rebel Plans of the Death Star.  After much destruction, Hop finds what he’s been looking for- a listening device in his light fixture.

Evil Modine’s Government Facility:  Evil Modine has decided that the monster is hanging around Will’s home.

Post Funeral:  Nancy and Creeper are making plans to hunt down and kill the Monster.  He gets a pistol out of his father’s glove box.

High school: A fake AV Club Repairman investigates the equipment that was fried by El.

The Wake:  The boys go up to Mr. Clark and they have him lay some science down on them.  Are there alternative universes? You bet! Does Mr. Clark know about Dungeons and Dragons? Right again!  Does he explain that someone would have to create immense power to create a tear into another dimension much like the plot of Bioshock Infinite? OH YEAH!!!  BTW, this tear could destroy us all and wonks up compasses as well.

Hop’s House:  The deputies arrive and talk to Hop.  They think he’s a bit nutty and we find out that Barb’s car was found at a bus station.

Joyce’s House:  Lonnie talks about the Statler Corporation and how they need to be held accountable as he does some pretty shitty home repair.  This gives Joyce a moment of clarity that perhaps Lonnie is infact a dirtbag.

Mike’s House:  Dustin is experimenting with the compasses.  He explains to his friends that the compass is not facing True North; instead, they must be pointing to the Evil Gate.

Joyce’s House:  While Lonnie is showering, Joyce snoops in Lonnie’s stuff and discovers a personal injury attorney’s flyer.

Mike’s House: Nancy talks to Steve.  It’s boring.

Joyce’s House:  Joyce fights with Lonnie and tosses his ass out of her house.

Hop’s House: Hop is exhausted and calls his estranged wife.  We learn that after their child’s death, she left, and now has a new family.  Poor Hop.

The boys are trying to get to the portal via the local railroad tracks.  El flashes to Evil Modine.  He has her focus on a Commie.  To accomplish this task, she must get into a scary bathtub with a helmet on her.  Huh? The boys notice that El is acting stranger.

 Nancy and Creeper are walking through the woods hunting for the Monster.  They argue about her and Steve. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Joyce’s House:  Joyce hears banging at her door and thinks it’s Lonnie.  In fact, it’s Hop holding up a sign for her to be quiet.  He looks at all of the lights that are up in her home that he must now check for listening devices and says, “Oh Jesus”.  I have had to inspect Christmas Lights a time or two and it is a pain in the ass!

Junkyard:  Dustin realizes the compasses are not leading them to the gate.  Lucas discerns that it was El misleading them using her powers, discovering fresh nose-blood on her sleeve.  She explains that [the gate] is not safe.

Joyce’s House:  Hop’s finished checking the lights.  He explains to Joyce that they bugged his place, they took Will, Will’s body was a fake, and she was right all along.

Lucas emotes that El likely opened the gate and that she might be the monster!  Lucas and Mike fight and El launches Lucas into the air.  El flashes to the evil bathtub.  She goes to a totally black room with water in it that looks identical to the kill room in “Under the Skin”.  Under the Skin is a must watch!  She hears the commie talking and goes up to him.  He can’t see her.  While she is broadcasting the commie’s speech, she hears something horrible.  A monster using sonar.  She flees.  We return to the Junkyard and Lucas comes to and storms off.  El has also disappeared.

The Woods:  Nancy and Creeper come upon a dying deer.  They decide to put it down.  In an act of knight-like chivalry (AHEM), Creeper attempts to shoot the deer.  It is pulled into the darkness.  Creeper and Nancy split up to look for the deer.  Nancy sees a hole in a tree that is covered with evil slime and decides to go inside it alone and without any weapons because she’s really really smart.  Nancy enters the shadow world and sees the Monster crouched and feeding on the deer.  She attempts to back away and crushes a branch. The Monster turns and it’s face opens in four quadrants to reveal nothing but teeth and rage!

Roll Credits!

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