The artist formerly known as Prairie

The OA

Creators: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling

 

Like…where do I even?

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You wonder how high they must have been to actually think of this. You actually wonder.I tried so hard to explain this to someone earlier, and I kept sounding like I was making shit up. Literally as though I was pulling random story lines out of thin air and adding them onto a more elaborate story to make it seem all Christopher Nolany and mind-fucky. I wasn’t though. I was genuinely doing my up most to stick to a simple description, which turned into a lengthy, convoluted, and agonizing run down  of one of the weirdest shows in the history of netflix.

And I still can’t decide if I liked it or not. Eight bizarre hours later.

So a. spoiler alert, and b. I’m not here to knock this show. I appreciate that the OA has now built an army of loyal fans who will hex my first born child if i say anything bad, so that’s not exclusively my aim. I just want to talk about it, you know? because I need to. I need to vocalise some of this shit before attempting to watch anything else on Netflix, because why should I suffer alone?

So the ‘premise’, in the simplest way possible: The show starts with a woman who jumps off a bridge, which we later find out had been missing for the best part of seven years and used to be blind. Now she’s back and she can see, (and by blind I mean actually blind, i’m not talking about it in a biblical context or anything).

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Are we happy with this so far?

So this lady is called Prairie, but she keeps calling herself The OA, which is weird and kinda hilarious. Like… who the hell calls themselves ‘the’ anything? Aside from ‘the exorcist’ or ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’ who ended up abbreviating it anyway because he realised it made him sound like a massive douche.

The OAs parents (i feel dumb just saying it) are a whole heap of ‘wtf’ about everything, partly due to the name change, partly due to the seven year absence (which she refuses to explain), and partly due to the fact that she isn’t blind anymore and doesn’t wanna discuss it.

The OA befriends a group of local teenagers via a weird video she posts on youtube (please stay with me), so they all start meeting at an abandoned house every night to hear her tell her story about what the fuck happened to her. She seems really cool to tell them the story, but literally noone else. Not even the FBI, who you would assume would be the first port of call.

Her story goes something like this (again, stay with me)…She was born to a wealthy Russian Oligarch in the 80s and had a near death experience on her way to school. She came back from the dead without her sight, but a whole bunch of odd stuff happened to her after the near death experience; lucid dreams, premonitions and an amazing ability to play the violin. This is all totally fine so far, so I’m all like yea ok…I can run with this. But then..

Then she moves to America, lives with her aunt in a brothel after her father dies, gets found by a nice couple who visit said brothel in the search of illegal kids, and goes to live with them.

The rest then involves a psycho scientist, who kidnaps her and locks her in a basement (a la Josef Fritzl), a bunch of near death experience survivors used as test subjects, interpretive dance, and an Arabic gatekeeper of the universe called ‘khtum’.

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Oh yea, and they’re all using mystical tai chi to try and move across dimensions and escape this fucked up dungeon they’ve been in for seven years.

That’s a whole lot of tai chi.

If The OA, was about maybe 1 thing…or even 5 things, then it would be absolutely perfect. No-one on earth is expecting a sci-fi to be believable or realistic, so that’s not my beef with this in any way. My beef is that there is literally SO much going on, all at once, in a short space of time, that you’re just like..’I don’t believe you bruh.’

 

For example, I really don’t get why these kids are so invested…SUPER INVESTED, in the OA. Call me a pessimistic prick, but your story requires some type of cut out or you tube link to make me buy it. All they have is imagination and dim lighting. Its not enough hun.

Then you have all these separate side stories involving the kids. The one with the anger issues who’s face is always red, the overachieving Mexican kid who’s mum is a drunk hot mess. Then there’s the emo skater one whose entire family is dead apart from his sister who literally smokes weed all day. Too much going on.

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Then you have the OA herself who is single handedly the most irritating character to ever grace my laptop screen. Why does she speak in hushed tones? Why are her roots so immaculate? Why does she look like the ZARA 2003 autumn/winter model? Where did she buy her foil jacket? Then it turns out she might have been lying the ENTIRE TIME (????!!!!!!!) erm……ok, that was a waste of everyone’s time. Luckily the poorest ending known to man, clarifies that maybe she isn’t lying, so leaves us with a set of pointless questions, to add to the plethora of questions we had already armed ourselves with. Fab.

Is it a sci-fi? is is a drama? Is it a teen thriller? Is it a pisstake? who knows. Its like Donnie Darko meets The Breakfast Club but not even remotely in a cool way. The general pace reminds me of one of those Scandinavian crime shows like The Killing, mad amounts of grey scale tones and bad weather. But then you have the flashbacks, which are super high saturation and vivid, and then randomly Riz Ahmed pops up as the FBI guidance councilor and that made me happy.

Sadly however, the ending is such trash it actually manages to ruin everything. Watch it for the interpretive dance and general confusion.

Don’t watch it if you think its gonna be better than Stranger Things

 

 

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Enfield. Not North London

Dir: James Wan

2016

 

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Let’s just start with a couple of basics right here right now. Enfield is in EN which therefore means its not in London, can I get there by tube? Is it in zones 1-4? Do they even have Uber? I think we can all agree that anything outside of zone 4 really doesn’t count as London.  And whilst I totally apreesh what James Wan is doing, and in the iconic words of Kanye West imma let him finish, Enfield is literally NOT in London.

So that’s that, and lets really just clear that up before any form of advancement is made.

NB. Sorry if you’re from Enfield and feel like I’m being unjust. It’s literally Middlesex, you can’t argue with geography.

Ok so, the story is set in Enfield MIDDLESEX, in the 70’s and it documents another one of Ed and Lorraine’s infamous cases of demons causing a lot of aggro to yet another family who literally just need a good nights sleep. Like all the other films about Ed and Lorraine, it is based on a ‘true’ story (lets say inspired by true events), so you can google the Hodgson family, and their house on Green street and even look at how much its selling for on Zoopla (I do this a lot with homes that were inhabited by serial killers or ghosts, worth knowing if affects market price). The original recordings, can be found at: Real footage from Enfield Haunting, plus there’s like a ton of shows about the house, so if you fancy weighing up how accurate Wan was, it’s all there on the fantastic world wide web for you to draw your own conclusions.

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I personally don’t really care, it might have been true, yada yada yada who knows? Is anything true? Are we even here? I could get into this kind of low level existentialism all day, but that’s not really the scary part. What disturbed me more than anything were the massive fluctuations is English accents courtesy of the ‘actors’ who were chosen to play the Hodgson family. Why did the mum sound like Pat Butcher but her kids sound like the cast of Oliver? The overdone ‘cockney’ accents, combined with Billy and his biscuits were really eye rolling. I half expected a shoe shine boy to pop up and get involved. Give them one English accent for continuity as opposed to five. We know what English people sound like thanks, and don’t actually need an entire family covering all of the London boroughs under one roof.

So the film. Well the Enfield house is basically like most of the houses we grew up in in London; two up, two down, not very glam, with bad wall paper, dire need of paint and Starsky and Hutch on the walls, just a standard regular house. It wasn’t a huge mansion, or even particularly nice, which is proof that ghosts aren’t picky. One minute its Amytiville, and the next its some estate in Shadwell. Be careful out there.

Things escalate pretty damn quickly. One minute Janet is messing about with a makeshift Ouji board made out of shit she found in the art room at school and then BOOM demon from hell, in your home. Classic Janet.

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Would’ve been great if Ed and Lorraine didn’t take their sweet time getting to Enfield. It’s literally Christmas and one whole hour into the (really unnecessarily long) film before they even say London. Meanwhile they’re dealing with their own fallout from Amytiville; Lorraine keeps seeing a Marylin Mansonesque nun in her visions, and then casually walking around her house. Doesn’t help when she wakes up one sunny morning and her husband has drawn a GIGANTIC painting of the thing on canvas ‘I just couldn’t sleep Lorraine’ he muses, ‘So i thought i’d draw what was in my dream’ oh yea….just draw the demon that traumatized your wife in Amytiville, and then proceed to HANG IT UP IN YOUR OFFICE.

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My favourite bit was Ed doing an Elvis impersonation and playing the guitar. If there was ever a time for the Demon to throw some mad shade, it should’ve been there and then. Whip that guitar out of his claws and club him over the head with it. Fuck you Ed, don’t come into a haunted house with your Christianity and big sideburns and patronize everyone by singing. Time and a place mate.

Despite all of the above, surprisingly enjoyed it.

And i’m sure you will.

 

 

Simon’s Bullshit

The Gift (2015)
Dir: Joel Edgerton

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When Joel Edgerton sat down and made this film did he literally just think “Hmm….how random and absurd could one plot twist be? Let’s find something a bit far fetched, roll with that for a bit, and then, right at the end… lets just fuck shit up completely”

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Don’t get me wrong, I love and have a lot of time for Joel. To begin with I think he’s pretty hot (normally…definitely NOT in this). Not that its a prerequisite to what makes a good film (it helps), he’s also an incredible actor, and credit where it’s due, it’s actually a very well written movie.

But man did this escalate…quickly.

Bless Robyn

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Robyn, “the wife”, is so painfully awkward, and middle class that watching her glazed and slightly delayed interactions on screen was a disclaimer in itself. Robyn had the misfortune of marrying an absolute douchebag (spoiler alert) which she miraculously failed to spot for years, and now she just exists, goes jogging and just exists. You desperately wish she would grow some balls and leave her narcisstic excuse for a spouse, (you grow to wish, Simon tricked me at the start too, sneaky fuck), but obviously she doesn’t. She just sits and wonders what having a kid would be like, and jogs, and drinks electrolyte water and jogs some more. All the while you sit there in frustration knowing that if she did just leave him, she would never have to deal with any of his shit ever again. Which essentially is what this film is about…Simons bullshit.

Ladies be carefully who you marry, run a full CRB check, speak to some people he went to school with, contact his doctor, contact his priest, speak to the local authorities DO YOUR DAMN RESEARCH or you’ll end up with a nasty piece of shit like Simon. This isn’t even a horror movie about a stalker, it’s a cautionary tale about marrying an arsehole.  Unfortunately for poor Robyn, she did marry an arsehole, and had to forever live with his unfinished business ruining her otherwise placid existence.

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When Gordo turns up (Joel Edgerton),  Simon acts like he doesn’t know him; acts like he’s some creep from school who’s somehow obsessed with him. For about half an hour I was like “Ok, maybe this guy is just a recluse who’s into forced friendships”, but then it slowly dawns one you that the situation is making Simon feel way too angry for it to be “some dude”.  Then you wonder WHY Simon would entertain it. Here’s a guy you went to school with, claim you barely know, and yet here you are again having another passive aggressive dinner with him. What’s up Si? got something you wanna share?

Now I’m starting to worry less about Gordo (let’s face it psychos are everywhere), and more about Simon and why he’s being mad shady. At this point I’m getting a little angry because I know I’m being lied to and I don’t like it.

And I was right.

Gordo stops being the issue, and shady husbands do. Although this film does top the OTT factor in more ways than one, (bringing in complex storylines that date back to prom night 1925), the message is clear.

Sometimes the bad guy, isn’t really the bad guy. He’s just the messenger.

oh and heres a pic of what Joel Edgerton really looks like…

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Lobster Claw

The Lobster (2015)
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos

I’ve been banging on about this film for weeks because it’s very rare I get REALLY excited about something, and basically force everyone around me to watch it like a woman possessed.

“Have you seen it yet?” I hissed at my colleagues this morning. I could actually SEE their thought process as they politely tried to tell me to fuck off. NO WE HAVEN’T SEEN THAT WEIRD FILM ABOUT SINGLE PEOPLE BEING TURNED INTO ANIMALS BECAUSE WE’RE NOT ALL PSYCHOPATHS LIKE YOU.

Next it will be be that Josef Fritzel film (which no doubt I’ll probably really enjoy), but luckily I haven’t gotten round to that yet so you’ll just have to hear about how groundbreaking i thought this was instead.

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The premise, of what is essentially a very simple film, is life in a horrifying modern dystopia, which enforces  traditional values down all their citizens throat in the most bizarre fashion.

Citizens of “The City” are punished by law for failing to be part of a couple. There is a time limit on how long you’re “allowed” to be single, and once you have failed to find a partner on your own, you are then forced to check into a hotel where you have forty five days to find someone. Think very extreme version of “take me out” meets Wuthering Heights. Thats the vibe.

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The hotel itself is similar to a care home or even a school, in its regimented, clinical and militant approach to matching up its guests. The process is very mathematical, practical and unbelievably depressing. Should you, the single man or woman, fail to find someone within the forty five day time frame you are turned into an animal of your choice (yes, animal), and sent into the woods to live the rest of your life as the waste of air that society now deems you. No pressure.

The powers that be (in this weird modern world) essentially require you to fulfil your basic human duty to find companionship and live as part of a couple. If you don’t, you basically die being left to fend for yourself.

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Now, I really enjoyed this, even though hands down… bleak as fuck. Bleak, as i often try and explain, is actually good sometimes; it’s often required to balance out all Netflix originals, Taylor Swift songs and American Idol auditions constantly rammed down our throats. It’s like a much needed reflection of the shit world we live in, that we should never really forget.

Selling it?

ok, so you have to remember that this is a surrealist film… ACTUALLY a surrealist film, not just like a bit of an odd movie. For starters Colin Farel isn’t his usually sexy self; he’s weedy, asexual and a bit pathetic. He sports a creepy paedo tash and awkwardly fumbles everywhere, making him kind of unbearable to watch. The dialogue and interactions between the characters is eerily calm, unnatural and bizarre, and the resounding oddness of the whole situation is given to the viewer in a very “matter of fact” way which makes it all the more bizarre. If this film were an elephant in a room it would be a florescent elephant in a basement flat at 2am.

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The setting is familiar, there’s nothing Sci fi or other worldly about the aesthetic whatsoever. In fact the aesthetic is actually very dreary and grey. Nothing futuristic, no flo mo technology, no flying, no hovercrafts.

I won’t ruin it by telling you anything else apart from the fact that it’s probably one of the most chilling films I’ve seen in recent years. There are scenes which made me actually wince, and considering I wrote my uni thesis on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it’s pretty hard to make me wince.

Highly recommend

Sara

Vice Docs gone wrong

The Sacrament  (2013)
Dir: Ti West

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Three flannel wearing, New York hipsters who work for Vice (stay with me), go to the middle of nowhere to find some dude’s sister (“Patrick” being dude in question). In short she joined a cult dressed up as a rehab center, found God, and sent her brother a letter about it, which raised some alarm bells.

Patrick, Vice’s very nonchalant fashion photographer, hasn’t seen said sister (Caroline) in years. Contrary to what the film intends to convey, he actually seems highly inconvienanced by the idea of making such an elaborate journey to check on her safety, because it involves going all the way to Africa, and not hanging out with models in LA as he is used to. Great guy

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In the letter he’s given a non specific place in Africa to fly to, (maybe because TI West didn’t feel a geographical context was necessary), to then get picked up by a random guy in a helicopter and head to a secret location which he and his friends may or may not die in.

Cue another found footage movie.

At this stage you’ve gotta question how forced this initial interaction is. Now before anyone slams me with the “true story/Jonestown speech” I am perfectly aware that it’s based on the Jonestown Incident THANKS (click Jonestown Massacre if  you are unaware of the incident and for whatever reason and want to depress yourself and ruin your day with some nasty historical trivia). For the sake of simple narrative its just their basis for the journey and sudden concern over Caroline’s safety which remains a total mystery to me.
If I had a sister who turned into a junkie and went to rehab in Mississipi I may call in every now and again to check in on her progress, because it’s a bit extreme to move from NY to Mississipi in the first place. Then it might occur to me to possibly visit if I haven’t spoken to her in a while, like on a flexible quarterly basis (like a gas bill). What I wouldn’t do is just WAIT until I randomly  got a letter one day inviting me to an undisclosed location on the opposite side of the world before I thought “oh yea….my sister.”
If it’s gone THAT far without a visit, an email is sufficient…maybe Skype on a special occasion.

On their way to the location,  which we later find out is called “Eden Parish” we get the feeling that they’re really not fully comprehending  this whole “danger” thing. The people responsible for picking them up and dropping them off begin the pleasant exchange by pulling out a gun and threatening to shoot them if they carry on filming. Luckily super chirpy Caroline pops up to let everyone know it’s just a precaution because of where they are, and it’s all peace and love and they’re in Paradise now.

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Caroline then takes them on a very anti climatic guided tour of the “grounds”, which looks more like a handful of scattered shacks then paradise, and explains that Eden Parish is lead by “Father”. Father is a man who “saved” her, and seemingly did the same for dozens of other people living there. She tells them in a highly exaggerated charles manson-esque monologue that everything was built from scratch and they are the happiest people on earth.. BUT it wouldn’t have been possible without some level of secrecy.

And this is when the questions start….

I don’t really need to bore you with a spoiler alert, because you know what happens in Jonestown and that’s literally what happens here (sorry kids). Theres no axe welding killer in the commute,  no satanic worship, no supernatural forces, just some old creep who’s sadly managed to rob and manipulate a bunch of people and successfully detach them from all contact with the outside world.

There are times where his rhetoric and vision actually seems quite socialist and profound. Like a slightly nutty more religious left wing leader, but then you remember he’s literally just an opportunistic mentalist who’s using people for money, sex and to stroke his ego. Like a political leader, but with cyanide.

There are points where it’s slow, and a bit “where the fuck is this going” (basically like a Vice documentary), but then it gets really good when they have a one-on-one with father, and he manages to shit all over Sam’s questions. I don’t know why I found that so satisfying, guess I obviously like rooting for the bad guy.

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I will admit when I initially heard “Hi I’m Sam Turner….Vice….Williamsburg…Brooklyn…beard….fashion photographer….ginger beard…” I was like ok I hope you die soon.

Sadly you’ll have to watch the film to find out

Official Trailer

Black Mess

Black Mass (2015)
Dir: Scott Cooper

Slightly off topic, (mainly because there aren’t enough horror movies around to warrant an hour of thought), I’ve opted for Johnny Depp horrifying us all with his rotton front tooth and deeply dehydrated skin.

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Theres been more gangster biopics lately then we’ve had in a while. After Legend I think we were all ready for a further exploration into the criminal mind, Depp hasn’t done anything that hasn’t involved LSD or chocolate since Donnie Brasco, so many have really been looking forward to it.

The film tells the tale of one of the FBIs most wanted men, the infamous Whitey Bulger leader of Boston Mob “the winter hill” gang. The almost unrecognisable Depp plays a chilling Bulger and really gets into his role. Lots of killing, teaching people lessons, burying bodies under bridges, highly loaded yet ambiguous gangster threats (please refer to scene at the dinner table, which has forever changed my opinion on soy sauce and garlic powder), the usual. Apparently the purpose of the film was to chronicle the rise of Whitey Bulger and his relationship with the FBI. Sadly what we were presented with (sorry Guardian film page) was a flimsy script, and a disjointed picture of how and why Bulger goes from small time criminal to FBIs most wanted.

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We see so much of Bulger being a total douche, without really understanding what actually makes this guy tick, that this lack of context ends up creating a widening bridge between him and the viewer as we can never truly immerse ourselves in his world. Allegedly the real Whitey Bulger also didnt care, so much so that he refused to cooperate with Depp et al regarding characterisation; this was highly apparent in the end product.

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So much revolved Bulger’s relationship with FBI agent Johnny Connelly, that it almost felt like “Stand by Me”. This relationship alone should have been the focus of the film, rather than trying to cram in 30 years of activity. No other characters really mattered, it starts with a promising intro and then solely becomes about Bulger and Connelly, and essentially how obsessed Connelly was in pleasing him. Everything and everyone else just felt like they were there for decoration.

Why even BOTHER with any female characters? They literally serve no purpose to the plot, literally zero. Bulger’s wife? Pointless fifteen minutes of airtime. Why cast such a great actress if you’re just going to give her a  one minute scene in a hospital and never explain where she went afterwards?

In fact where do any of the women go? Are there any women in Boston in the 1970s? What the hell happened to Connelly’s wife? Did she get over Bulger’s psycho medical speech in her house? Did she buy another pair of satin flares? Does she leave Boston? I really would’ve liked a resolve to that situation.

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Essentially my primary beef with this film is the utter disinterest in developing any of the other characters. Take Benedict Cumberpatch for example (I wish this was the start of a sherlock joke), he played a powerful political figure, whose brother was a mob kingpin, THAT SHIT IS INTERESTING GODDAMIT!! Couldn’t we perhaps have a bit more development there? So there was absolutely no issues with the fact that this was a real situation? It was skimmed over at best, which was super infuriating and yet again a reflection of a poor script. Soz.

Having no emotional involvement with anyone in the film whatsoever does also make a film feel considerably longer than it should. Just a casual FYI.

Johnny Depp, aside from looking tired,  doesn’t do enough with the complexity of Bulger’s character to make me care. His mannerisms, fucked vibe in general, yes. Why this guy is so fucked up? no idea. Take Ray Liotta and his portrayal of Henry Hill; he brings me in, involves me in his world, and therefore I get him, appreciating his intentions and actually feeling bad for him when things start to unravel in his life.

This guy Bulger…don’t get it, I don’t understand why that whole bit with his wife and kid was put in, I don’t get how and why he got into organised crime, I don’t hate him enough to feel sickened by what he does, don’t like him enough to feel pity for him.

The one thing that entertained me more than it should was John Connolly. Joel Edgerton plays him so brilliantly as a FBI wannabe mobster that it makes you recoil. He’s that guy in college who does shit to impressive the popular crew, it’s pretty painful to watch. He goes out of his way for Bulger in a way which is confusing and seems to have very little gain (aside from financial) for him. Subsequently he ends up doing one of the longest sentences out of anyone, which makes it all the more pitiful.

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Watch it for the violence and sexy accents.

Don’t watch it if you’re tired 

Revisited: Orphan

Well…what can I say.

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Round of applause to the guy that made this. YOU sir, deserve a drink.

like…where do I even begin? I’ve spend the past hour shouting profanities at my laptop and wanting a 9 year old dead so badly (even though she’s really 33…we’ll get there), that my brain is actually overwhelmed with emotions.

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I first watched this amazing car crash of a film when I was like 23 and thought I knew everything. I was so pretentious and full of shit  at the time that I categorically refused to finish it deeming it “ridiculous”. man I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to lighten the fuck up. I missed out BIG time with this one. No amount of fellini will ever give me the same joy that an escaped lunatic from Estonia with dwarfism can.

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The layers to this film are stupendous; you literally don’t know who to hate more. It gets to a stage where you basically want everyone to die because their middle class problems are more frustrating then the psycho dwarf in the tutu.

So you have the ex alcoholic mum, who has been dealing with a lot of issues since having a stillbirth  (understandable). She’s seeing a councillor (Dr. Bobby) who, it emerges, seems to know jack shit about her job ( nice, wildly inaccurate, observation of Esther… keep up the good work there buddy). Karen drives a lexus, lives in a beautiful house has a tense relationship with her husband and plays the piano to compensate her alcoholism. Fantastic

Then you have the passive aggressive cheating husband who obviously can’t spot a psycho dwarf when he sees one. he. He’s one of those annoying men who tries to act totally chilled about the fact that his wife doesn’t wanna sleep with him anymore, but you basically suss out that that’s potentially what lead him cheating on her in the first place…possibly, I’m just brainstorming here.  

Then you have the crazy lunatic posing as a 9 year old when she’s actually a grown ass woman who escaped from an asylum (SO brilliant)

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So they decide to adopt, (which it later materialises was a really bad idea). Said adopted child categorically ruines their already pretty unstable lives, and does so in the most manipulative and cinematically epic way possible.

In true “yuppie thriller” fashion (think the hand that rocks the cradle, fatal attraction) we see the husband and wife turn on each other and (surprise surprise) Karen looks like the crazy one for thinking that there’s something wrong with the creepy kid.

I won’t ruin the good bits by telling you all the amazing shit this crazy bitch does… but it is MIND BLOWING.

watch this with a loved one. they’ll appreciate you more.