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Letterboxd Film Diary, September 2018

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Letterboxd Film Diary Reviews

9/15/2018 Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, 2001 (Rating: 1/5)

My assumption was that this would be the last time I’d watch this movie – the first time was when it was released in 2001, and I probably haven’t seen it in a decade or so. I picked it up in a lot of DVDs off eBay a few months ago and figured I’d be trading it in after bearing with the first few minutes of self-referential Kevin Smith movie universe nods. Then again, that’s what drew me to it when it was released – I got the references then, and the whole premise of the movie is self-reference on a level of “I can’t believe this is actually a thing.” It was crazy when it was released, and the version of me who was in his late-teens at that point felt like he was in on the joke.

Most of those jokes fall flat now (especially the “we’re being homophobic, but we totally get that we’re being homophobic so it can’t actually be homophobic” stuff), but the humor does find its moments, largely with Chris Rock and Will Ferrell’s parts. As a whole, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back comes off as a movie written by adults for teenager versions of themselves. Joey Lawrence Adams’ line in the closing scene bookends most of what contributes to that feeling, saying, “That was just another paean to male adolescence and its refusal to grow up.”


9/15/2018 Out Cold, 2001 (Rating: 1.5/5)

There’s a scene where Zach Galifianakis’ character passes out and his friends place him in the driver’s seat of a car, then (as the roads are covered in ice) they spin the car, get in, and start screaming as if Zach had passed out while driving them home. Zach wakes up and frantically trying to make sense of what’s happening while he cranks the steering wheel, trying to regain control of the car. The first time I saw that scene it killed me – I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s still funny now.

There’s nothing incredible about “Out Cold” – I mean, it’s a Millennium-era snowboarding comedy ripe with T&A jokes and adolescent humor. But so many of the jokes land and do so with (at least a little bit of) charm… Take, for instance, this exchange – which occurs a few days after the bartender character, Lance, reluctantly comes out:

Lance: Hey! Hot sluts with tits.
Rick: Lance, you don’t need to do that anymore, remember?
Lance: Oh yeah. Sorry. Old habits die hard. Oh what the hell – I LOVE MEN. Who wants me?
Rick: Well you don’t need to do that either…

It’s stupid, but not mean spirited, and the jokes don’t linger – they’re allowed to just blow by, and if you aren’t paying much attention it’s easy to miss some of the gems. Late in the movie, David Koechner’s drunken tall-tales-telling mountain man patriarch character is helping with the plan to “save the mountain” and shouts from a distance, “Rick! I’m your father!” Rick, just keeps on with his business, noting “OK” before things move to the next scene. I love it.


9/15/2018 Police Academy, 1984 (Rating: 1.5/5)

At some point when I was a kid my family had taped a VHS copy of Police Academy off the TV, and I cannot tell you how many times I watched it. I loved it so much. (What that tells you about the maturity level of many of the jokes should be obvious.) But the thing was, the version I knew was an approved for TV edit…

I think the first time I watched the original cut was in college and my friends and I couldn’t believe some of the more racist and homophobic lines that were used to build tension between the characters. It’s so interesting watching something like this movie as social norms continue to change. I don’t know where to go with that other than to just mention how some of this movie provokes feelings now that I could have never understood had I been confronted by them the first time I’d seen the movie when i was a kid.

So much of Police Academy still hits for me though – the individual characters are so fully unique and many of the jokes that hit me one way when I was younger land with a completely different (yet still funny) angle now. The Blue Oyster scene was amusing then because of the novelty of seeing two men dancing in a silly way, but now…

“Well, men, what took place in there?”

“Dancing, sir. Mostly dancing.”

It still has its charms.


9/16/2018 Bridesmaids, 2011 (Rating: 2/5)

The outrageousness of “Bridesmaids” feels a little dull a few years removed from the movie’s original release. The shining star of the whole production remains Kristen Wiig’s performance, even amid a strong ensemble cast. The catch is that the charm of her screen presence stands out more than the romantic storyline or any of the jokes.


9/17/2018 Gone in Sixty Seconds, 2000 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Thinking back, I’m fairly sure I saw “Gone in 60 Seconds” in the theater, and I’m also fairly sure I spent an ungodly amount of money on buying the DVD when it first came out. I have a soft spot in my heart for it because of that, but the movie itself doesn’t really hold up almost two decades later. The whole time watching it I was thinking: I should really be caring about Nic Cage by now, or whether his crew gets away with this great car theft caper, or whether or not Giovanni Ribisi’s character dies – but at no point did any of that ever seem to matter. I remember “Gone in 60 Seconds” being more fun, but I also remember Angelina Jolie’s faux dreadlocks to be far sexier. Bad electronica, bad hair, nice cars: That’s the movie in a nutshell.


9/18/2018 Uncle Buck, 1989 (Rating: 2/5)

When I was a freshman in college I was held up in a dorm room with a football player from Texas who brought with him a large trunk full of VHS tapes. This has nothing to do with “Uncle Buck,” John Candy, or anything movie-related, but he constantly used Nair on his chest and body – the smell still lingers in my memory. Bringing us back on track, all throughout that first year he insisted on falling asleep while watching a movie, which usually landed on either “Forrest Gump” or “Uncle Buck.” At least he gave me that much: An appreciation of John Candy to accompany the ungodly scent of burning man hair. The first half of this movie has stuck with me as one of my favorites, and between Candy and Macaulay Culkin’s characters, the one-liners are endless gold. “Uncle Buck” has since become a bedtime go-to for me, though it still holds up even when I’m not halfway asleep.


9/19/2018 Drive, 2011 (Rating: 3/5)

The veneer as substance aesthetic to “Drive” is scribbled about critically as its main drawback, but that’s what I most enjoy about it. Enjoy is unsettling here, now that I think about that scene where Ryan Gosling’s character stomps the face off a hitman, but enjoy is still the word I’m sticking with. Online criticism seems to challenge the director’s — and in some instances Gosling’s — professional and artistic intent, but none of that really matters to me. The final product does, and in “Drive,” respect is shown as cold between its characters, affection is always distant, and the colors always soft. Emotions are surface level, molded around a hollow plot, and that’s what strikes deepest: the emptiness of it all. Therein lies what I take away as the point.


9/20/2018 This Is the End, 2013 (Rating: 2.5/5)

Danny McBride is everything in “This Is the End.” The first apocalyptic sequence makes me want to hate everything that is this movie, but somehow painting the most enjoyable guy of the lot as the least likable works: His lines are hilarious and all add a sharper element to some of the more two dimensional performances (Seth Rogan’s, Jay Baruchel’s). With “Bridesmaids” still fresh in my mind, having just recently re-watched it, there’s an interesting relationship between time and memory going on between these two comedies: I remember “Bridesmaids” to be far funnier than it was this time around, a few years removed from that original viewing, while “This Is the End” plays as the opposite… I don’t remember taking much away from it the first time around when I saw it in the theater, while now it felt full of laugh-out-loud dialog, and even had a few points worth rewinding to watch a second time. The plot is worthless, of course, but “This Is the End” succeeds as a gag-reel topped with absurd visuals and ceaselessly novel cameos.


9/21/2018 Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, 1996 (Rating: 1/5)

There’s one hilarious scene in “Don’t Be a Menace” that still cracks me up, where the Crazy Legs character (who’s wheelchair-bound, with tiny deformed legs) daydreams about dancing on stage to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” marionette-style. Being a satire of the times, “Don’t Be a Menace” is full of references that lock it into a very distinct time period, but unfortunately the dated references get no better than that. Even looking back through a lens of nostalgia finds it translating as flat.


9/22/2018 Enter the Void, 2009 (Rating: 3.5/5)

To this point in my life I’ve never experienced anything like “Enter the Void.” I first viewed it several years ago, on my laptop… it’s an entirely different experience on a larger screen. The message has yet to sink in, and the plot is the opposite of linear, but the themes blended consistently and I’m excited to learn more about whatever the fuck it was I just watched. The director’s cut is a marathon, coming in at nearly three hours, but it’s only the lightweight in me that wants to criticize over a creatively indulgent run time. “Enter the Void” is an original. There’s nothing like it.


9/23/2018 They Came Together, 2014 (Rating: 2/5)

“They Came Together” follows the same wry sense of humor from director David Wain’s comedy troupe Stella, with Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black – which I generally love. It bears the same awkward appeal as “Wet Hot American Summer,” which Wain also wrote and directed, this time crassly satirizing romantic comedies by mocking cliches and outing routine plot points.


9/23/2018 Blades of Glory, 2007 (Rating: 2/5)

I tend to forget about “Blades of Glory” when considering my favorite Will Ferrell movies, but it is a really funny movie. It’s got plenty of solid comedic moments throughout, though it just seems to lack the quotable one-liners on par with “Step Brothers” or “Anchorman.” This isn’t to downplay the work of Jon Heder (who takes up his best role outside of “Napoleon Dynamite” here), Will Arnett, or Amy Poehler – who are all great, as well.


9/23/2018 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989 (Rating: 2/5)

There are so many angles to how this movie has influenced me over my lifetime. We had a taped VHS copy of it from the time I was in early grade school, and I’m pretty sure it inspired my appreciation for time travel (I love movies like “Primer” and “Timecrimes”), Van Halen, and maybe even George Carlin. (Few have had as big an impact on my philosophical leanings as that man.)

That said, there are some sketchy aspects of the movie which leave me questioning why I was allowed to watch it on repeat as a kid growing up, like Bill & Ted’s casual homophobia, Bill’s dad being a bit of a pervert, and “69, dudes.”

Elsewhere, there are plenty of funny moments I could never have picked up on as a kid, which I appreciate now, like when Bill turns down Sigmund Freud’s offer for for psychoanalysis, saying no thanks, “just got a minor Oedipal complex.” “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is just one of those movies that I’ll love forever.


9/23/2018 Inglourious Basterds, 2009 (Rating: 3.5/5)

I seem to recall seeing this movie when it premiered in theaters, but the Blu-ray transfer is far more beautiful than anything I remember. I’ve seen it at least once or twice since then, but the brutality of Inglourious Basterds has failed to stick with my memory of the movie. Even compared to my memories of the more graphic scenes from Kill Bill or The Hateful Eight, this movie outdoes the best of ’em. The characters in Quentin Tarantino’s work do tend to be caricatures, and that holds true here as well, but they’re just so damn good.


9/26/2018 Friday, 1995 (Rating: 2/5)

It’s easy to forget how fantastic Chris Tucker is in “Friday” — his energy is phenomenal, I love John Witherspoon, Bernie Mac is great for the split-second he’s actually in the movie, and Ice Cube isn’t half bad, either. I recall “Friday” to be more of a comedy, but what helps it stand apart is its heart. I never anticipated that being the lasting sentiment I’d take away from the movie. I’m not even fully sure what contributes to it, given the ridiculous context of how “Friday” ends.


9/27/2018 Next Friday, 2000 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Just as Chris Tucker’s sidekick character “Smokey” kept “Friday” afloat, Mike Epps was the highlight of “Next Friday,” playing the supporting role of “Day-Day.” I’m slightly embarrassed by how many lines from the movie I still remembered, but it holds up as far weaker than the original.


9/27/2018 Friday After Next, 2002 (Rating: 1/5)

A friend in college worked at a video store one summer and came back to campus with a bunch of posters which we plastered the walls with. He gave me the poster for “Friday After Next,” and we connected over quotes from the first movie in the series. I still have fond memories of that poster. The movie? Not so much. And you know this, maaan.


9/28/2018 Enter the Dragon, 1973 (Rating: 1.5/5)

“Enter the Dragon” exists in a strange place for me, with barely-there thoughts of watching the VHS as a kid lingering in my memory, while my interest in the movie now is driven primarily by a much more recent reintroduction to Bruce Lee’s philosophy. What’s striking this time around, having not seen “Enter the Dragon” in (probably close to) two decades, is the general bore of the plot. No matter how influential they may be, the action scenes feel lethargic compared to the hyper-aggression of modern cinema. This isn’t a “bad” thing, but without a mindful eye for the details of his craft, the unhurried pacing does tend to obscure Lee’s scenes. Considering he’s the lone reason to watch this movie now, therein lies a problem.


9/28/2018 House of 1000 Corpses, 2003 (Rating: 1.5/5)

The backwoods psychopath aesthetic of “House of 1000 Corpses” isn’t without its charms, but it’s improved upon with several of Rob Zombie’s subsequent movies. The visuals and plot become more extreme with each release, as well. It has its moments, but this movie feels like a first film from someone who didn’t seem to anticipate making a second, packing in as much as possible, leaving the final cut just shy of feeling entirely incongruous.


9/30/2018 Garden State, 2004 (Rating: 2/5)

I’m trying to sort out what sort of strange influence “Garden State” has had on me, and who’s to say for certain, but having just finished watching it for the first time in at least a decade I’m not liking what I’m feeling.

“For the first time let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are.” Lines like that, spoken from Zach Braff’s character “Andrew” to his father, had an impact on me when the movie was released. They had to. I was in my early twenties then. They’re presented dramatically, and sound so empathetic and insightful.

For good or bad, movies have the potential to teach us things about life and ourselves, and when watching “Garden State” as twenty year old it resonated because it reinforced a way of feeling that felt “right” to me. It’s only in hindsight that I’m seeing what that feeling was.

The entire movie is shot from Andrew’s perspective, and from that perspective, no one exists when Andrew isn’t present. It’s his decision to leave Portman’s “Sam” at the airport, only to return to her, that makes her feelings about him real. It’s his single action that somehow confirms everything she’s been through with him to that point. Hell, the last scene in the airport there really aren’t any other people, save for one person walking off in the distance. The rest of the world is on pause because it doesn’t involve him. While it wasn’t his decision to be sent away from his family and friends as a child, one he was, they stopped existing to him as people.

Again, who’s to say, and maybe there’s no connection at all here, but that sure sounds like my twenties.


09/30/2018 V for Vendetta, 2008 (Rating: 3/5)