Red Army: Slap Shot-esque Stokholm Syndrome

I knew I liked Gabe Polsky’s quirky documentary on Russian hockey player Viacheslav Fetisov for a reason. He’s got that Werner Herzog idiosyncratic eye and ear that captures the odd ball in us all.

Red Army traces Viacheslav’s rise from Russian youth hockey to the Olympics and beyond. When he requests to play for the NHL, well, let’s just say they didn’t grant him a send off celebration.

One of the endearing off beat scenes was of a former Soviet Union government official whose 5 year old grand daughter steals the scene with her impish antics and ice cream cone infatuation. Another was of Viacheslav’s attempts to stay in shape having been banned from all hockey rinks in Russia. His carrying his former coach’s daughter on his back, running and wielding his hockey stick on grass show how passionate he was as a true athlete.

If you like Red Army, check out Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans which Polsky helped produce. Bad Lieutenant is probably the coolest movie Nicholas Cage did since Leaving Las Vegas.

While there aren’t Newmanesque leather pants nor Hanson twins; as a true story, Red Army’s resolution is astonishing to say the least. Let’s just say that when Broad City’s Abbi Abrams (2/4 episode) asks her date to change positions, the end result is similarly shocking. Vlach

Wild Tales, my subtitle: It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

The Oscars and Time Magazine agreed, nominating Wild Tales for best foreign film and claiming it as one of 2014’s best movies respectively.

I don’t disagree though I have a tough time with gratuitous man on man violence. I just can’t bear to watch or listen to the punching, hitting, etc. In Wild Tales, one scene in particular went on way too long, not only for my sensitive psyche, but also for basic principles of reality.

Here’s where you shout, “It’s only a movie!”

That being said, while “Wild Tales” was difficult to watch, the after taste was delicious.

The six tales were each uniquely spectacular and all hinged on the concept of vengeance. The final score on the movie message of revenge resulting in a positive outcome was closer than the NCAA Kentucky/Notre Dame game, meaning a dead even tie. The old saying, ‘the best revenge is living well is probably still best practice. Karma seems to take care of us all (for better or worse) in the end.

The six mini stories were:

1. jilted lover and bully revenge (-)
2. familial honor vengeance (+)
3. stranger road rage payback (-)
4. revenge against vehicular carelessness (-)
5. bureaucratic justice (+)
6. jilted lover revenge (+)

Wild Tales was visually stunning. The cinematography was gorgeous from the desolation of a rural arid landscape, to the extravagance of an expensive wedding. Two scenes in particular in which a man in beige sweater and khakis stares out a sliding window of a similarly hued house and an evening highrise rooftop backdrop to bride and a chef in innocent white were particularly appealing.

Aurally the film ruled as well. Bobby Womack’s Fly Me to the Moon? Heaven!
Fly Me to the Moon

Bravo to Damián Szifron for a fun joy ride.

What We Do in the Shadows

Rhys Darby

Probably “What We Do in the Shadows” is the most obscure title of all time, as it gives no hint that it’s a mockumentary about Vampires. “Stakes” would have even been better. (*when one of the writer’s last names has the funny words of wait titi, there’s no excuse for an unfunny title:)

But that’s nagging, as this is a cute fluffy piece written by Jermaine Clement, so funny in the HBO series Flight of the Concords. My favorite line (the movie co-written by his co-star Taiki Waititi*) of the film is elicited by the Alpha male in the werewolves gang, Rhys Darby, when he chides his fellow wolves, “We’re werewolves, we’re not swearwolves!” Priceless.

After finishing a rather depressing New Yorker article about our apathy re. financial inequality “Richer and Poorer” by Jill Lepore March 16, 2015 (‘fun fact’ from the article, our f.i. is “greater than in any other developed democracy is not much disputed”(26), the only real choice these days is comedy.

As a culture, there doesn’t seem to be any personal responsibility any longer (also mentioned in Lepore’s article), hence most dramas seem absurdest to anyone with a moral high ground and common sense. Watching House of Cards seems to be simply acknowledging how dystopic our political system has become. Kevin Spacey admitted so much on Charlie Rose recently, saying that after a show had been shot and life was imitating art, that he thought for sure someone would accuse them of simply writing non-fiction.

Even Jon Stewart has given up on satire making any difference.

Life ain’t a cabaret old chum, it’s pure absurd comedy. Thank you to Clement and Waititi for allowing me to escape briefly to grab a giggle.

Leviathan, tis the season

I was thinking how depressing a movie Leviathan (direcetd by Andrey Zvyagintsev) is, not depressing in the, ‘Boy do I feel melancholia!”, but more of a super realist/pragmatist life reference.

Yet, isn’t that what our pre-Easter/mid lent period is all about? Suffering and self-denial leading up to the…ta-da!- resurrection.

But I digress. Leviathan was up for an Academy Award for a very good reason; it resonates like a deep headache, reverberating for days after the initial onset.

Think Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead only in Russian. There’s no literal brother vs. brother feuds, but certainly the Ruskies don’t mind offing another fellow man. While I’m now against giving any awards to antagonist figures (sorry JK, enough of your types), I will give a prop to this Putinesque mayor, portrayed by Roman Madyanov.

For me, the stand out performance was by the long suffering Job-like figure of Kolya, played by a David Letterman look alike named Aleksey Serebryakov Aleksey who did win the Russian Guild of Film Critics Award. His distressed vodka swigging persona is no stereotype. His pain and suffering injustice is palpable.

And isn’t it true, that the world can be a horribly cruel place to be, if one does not avoid negativity at all costs, which includes relationships and residences? Isn’t the Buddhist existence of zero expectations a much much more satisfying way to live?
If you struggle with this existential dilemma, see Leviathan. I guarantee you’ll lead a more pure life at least until the reverberations fade away.

Peaks and Valleys: The Imitation Game and 50 Shades of Grey

There’s no connection between these two films. Though my opinion going in was reversed in both cases.

I thought The Imitation Game would be maudlin historical fiction, but due to Benedict Cumberbatch’s genuine portrayal and Kiera Knightley fantastic as his beard, I was truly moved. I don’t, however, think it was best picture worthy and here’s why: the beginning scared me with its super math and technology relates and I worried this was going to be “Tinker Taylor Soldier Closet Hanger” where I was left confused and bewildered. Fortunately, the movie kicked into a character study, instead of physics and math lessons.

As for 50 Shades of Grey, I thought how bad can a movie about kinky sex be? I had seen the Rotten Tomatoes percentage at 29%, but held off reading reviews in order to form my own opinion. I now get it: it’s 29% because that’s how hot the movie was. I saw more action in Laggies (an on demand feature starring Sam Rockwell and Kiera Knightley). 50 Shades was a feel good movie, though, as I breathed a sigh of relief that any physicality I’ve experienced is ten times as satisfying. As Marc Maron said on his WTF podcast (#580 Kevin Allsion) recently, “I feel good just being able to come well.” Here, here.

Oscar Comments and New Domain Name Coming Soon

The comment I like best about the best picture Oscar going to Birdman is, “it’s a shallow movie attempting to be deep.’ And as stated in my blog on Birdman, the movie could have been a triumph for Michael Keaton, surely an aging man (or woman) in crisis is worthy of dramatic rendering. But, instead, we had to be fed Action Flick pyrotechnics in order to entice the dullards to the theater, too.

And I’ll reiterate my favorite movie of the year (for MILES TELLER, not JK Simmons): Whiplash. Can we stop giving the Oscar to the guy who played the biggest dirtbag (for ex. Javier Barden in No Country for Old Men, instead of Tommy Lee, Josh Brolin, Woody Harreson; the good guys, you know?? What does that say about what our culture values?

My new domain name coming soon is, much simpler AND if the technology Gods are with me, I’ll sign up for mail chimp, so that you can subscribe and get my reviews once a week.