cartographers

The paper crinkled in the wind as it was raised up, a beam of warm, still sunlight creeping through the tears. Zachariah squinted, with his open eye he traced over the coloured lines and roads, unable to distinguish between new, correct paths and the old, half-erased ones. He nodded, speaking as if trying to convince himself,

“There should be a coast here.”

He lowered the map, locking eyes with Sethory standing some metres in front of him, whose eyes were wide with bubbling anger. He tightened his lips and waved his hands above him in frustration.

“What?” he spat. Zachariah cleared his throat, and spoke in the tone of a wizard trying to make something appear in front of him,

“Here, there should be a coast.”

They stood in the centre of a large field, gentle lolling up and down over crests and dips, Corn and grain stretched as far as the eye could see, spats of trees and bushes waving gently in the mild breeze that lessened the heat of the sun. Still, sweat dripped down from Sethory’s forehead, heaving his shoulders so the heavy rucksack that peaked above his head rose up and down in shudders.

“I have had it!” he roared, causing some anxious birds to take their leave skywards.

“We are going – “

“I have fucking had it!”

“To recalculate.”

“We’re done, Zach! I am done with you!”

Zach dropped the map to his side, the various folds and sections taped on at random angles flopped out, brushing against the tall grass. He threw up his free hand, open in question,

“Well what do you want me to do? Make a coast? We just need to – have a fresh start, then we can – ”

“A fresh start?

“No-one else is making this map, Seth! I never said it would be easy!”

“That is exactly what you said,” Sethory jabbed his finger in Zach’s direction. “And you fucking know it.”

“We just need to retrace our steps.” Zach said, slowly. “We’re the only ones daring enough to attempt to map this planet, Seth. Just imagine what glories will be in store for us!”

“ What the hell is wrong with you? Where there were lakes, you said there would be a castle, and where you said there were lakes, there were forests, or deserts, you put roads through clouds, and land has been swept away by fires, even though you swear there were meant to be fucking cities! Either you are the worst cartographer in existence, or this planet really does not want to be mapped.”

“Think of all the people we could help, open up trade and commerce, our names will be in history books, “The First World Map of Glamu!”

“I don’t care! I don’t give a shit about maps! It’s impossible to figure out where everything is, why can’t we just – look at things in the distance and go ‘Fuckin’ A, there’s a castle, I’ll just live around here, cos I’m not a muppet who likes to wander into the arse-end of nowhere where I’ll obviously die, because no-one has lived here before!”

Zachariah nodded, narrowing his eyes dismissively, “I get it, you want to pack it in cos it’s getting tough, after all we’ve been through, everything we’ve seen, all the people we’ve discovered.”

Seth pointed energetically with every syllable, “It’s day three! And we discovered a rabbit, moron, it’s already been discovered. By the person who discovered rabbits!

“You are intimidated by greatness, my friend. Our world is a wild, untameable beast. I’m sorry for wanting a little logic, a bit of continuity, some method to the madness.” Zach shrugged, flapping up the fabric of the map, Seth’s dumbfounded expression appearing in a neat round hole.

“Fuck you. I’m going home. Putting some soup on.”

He stormed off the way they came, not hearing the faint but unmistakable lap of waves against a small rocky beach from over the steep crest in the hill just a way over.

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Dazed and Confused

1993’s Dazed and Confused is a staple of the ensemble high-school coming-of-age genre. On the last day of term in an Austin high school, summer of ’76, a band of characters, equally loveable and irritating, weave their way through the looming changes to their world and relationships. The movie reeks of a 70s heat and freedom; our characters’ lives are devoid of limitations and obstructions to a fault, letting them wreak havoc for what feels like the last time, whether they know it or not. Richard Linklater, director of –

[INSERT GHOST]

oh shit.

eh, when did this ghost get here?
did anyone see it –
like come in?

bit odd.

I’ll need to talk to someone about this ghost being here.
unexpectedly.

But right, eh – Richard Linklater made this movie. And, oh yeah, that’s it, this is a really good ‘hang-out’ movie, where like you’re chilling, maybe drinking, and you’re chatting over most of it, but there’s no real plot, you just watch the fun bits. It’s a nice atmospheric background type of thing.

just waiting there

in the background.

[INSERT GHOST, BIGGER]

in the background.

hi ghost.
can you give me a minute?
I’m trying to talk to the people reading this review
of this movie I like a lot.

have you seen it, ghost man?

he seems to have nipped off.

um, lots of famous people are in this movie, like before they became stars and stuff. Matthew Mahogany is the one people remember a lot, which is weird cos he’s like barely in the film. Ben Affleck is there. Apparently so is renee zellwegger but I don’t

remember seeing her, so

see I know he’s there, that’s the problem. got that picture in my head of him.

alright hang on, let’s take a breather from this for a second.

just having an off day.
I said, I’m just having an off day everyone!

they heard.

just a bit more anxious than usual.

they know, you always tell them.

that’s not true.

take a look for yourself, scroll up your messages, you’re just complaining and they can’t do anything and you keep doing that and they think you’re not helping yourself.

I’m trying to help myself.

no you’re not.

no I’m not.

go to therapy.

I will.

when?

there’s a scene in this film where –

why are you so scared of going?

cos I don’t want to say anything, alright?

why not?

cos it’s scary. it’s really terrifying. and I’ve been putting it off but I just thought it would go away but it hasn’t. the thoughts.

Let’s kick this up a notch.

HEY KIDS. WHAT ARE

T H O U G H T S ?

Thoughts are basically the mind trying to get in your way as much as possible like a real dickhead.

[GHOST]

Shit, I thought about the ghost again. Do ghosts have thoughts? Or are they thoughts themselves, everything left over when the body dies?

OH.

OH BABY.

THAT’S IT. YOU CRACKED IT. GENIUS. YOU’RE A TALENTED, THOUGH-PROVOKING, GENUINELY WORTHWHILE CREATIVE CONTRIBUTOR.

okay enough.

I’d like to present to Rory Doggerty this award for smartest and best writer, he spouts garbage every day like a champ.

oKAY. i just

[insert ghost, angrier]

that’s one Overtly Creepy Demon. don’t like him being here.

stop thinking about him.

it’s not like this is the first time he’s been in my head.

the ghost?

the bad thoughts.

oh?

shut up you know what they are.

enlighten me.

the OCD thoughts. the scary intrusive stuff. the fears and fixations. obsessions and deliberations.

what about them is scary?

it’s very very difficult to try being a real person.

this is self-pitying. you’re very good at that.

I don’t want pity.
I don’t want pity, it’s not good for me.
You don’t want people to dislike you because of this.

alright let’s talk about the pity thing for a minute.
you don’t want any and yet you won’t shut up about how shitty you feel.

it’s good to be open about your feelings.

what if you had a friend who only complained about how awful they felt and all you felt like was someone they vented to without any requirement of your sympathy or empathy?

i’m pretty sure i don’t do that.

think about it.

no i don’t want to thank you very much.

i’d like to talk about Dazed and Confused.

I last watched this film with 5 very close friends, after a couple weeks of filming, we laughed and chatted, getting accidentally drunk and having a great time.

[INSERT GHOST]

what do they think about you?

stop it.

do you think they like you?

of course they do.

what about these thoughts:

[INSERT LOTS OF GHOSTS]

here’s a reason for every one of them not liking you.

yeah i was already aware of them. pretty sure most of them aren’t real.

fancy thinking about them all over again?

do i have a choice?

image.jpg

thanks. i didn’t enjoy thinking about all that stuff again.

do they hate you?

i can’t tell. i wouldn’t be surprised.

what about all those other thoughts you keep having?

stop saying ‘having’, it makes it look like i have a choice.

some of your thoughts are really scary, aren’t they?

yeah. and i can’t get rid of them. therapist said we can just remove the intensity of them. stop analysing them and attributing meaning to them.

we get thoughts all the time. can’t control them coming in and out of our heads. and we don’t need every one of them to be genuine and meaningful and indicative of who we are as a person. especially if you’re not a monster anyway.

that ghost is just like a presence and he’s always there but he’s fading and he’s not real. MAKE LONGER AND BETTER

score, i solved it.

i think we’re missing some pretty obvious symbolism.

that may be intentional, i hate obvious symbolism.

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

“Woah, you’re a master Vic!”

“I’m gonna go fondle my sweaters.”

“I said no!”

The reason why I’m starting this recommendation with a bunch of quotes, cos that’s what you’re gonna be doing for the next few months.

Wet Hot American Summer from the strange, brilliant minds of David Wain and Michael Showalter takes the already bizarre and baffling summer camp films of the 80s such as Sleepaway Camp and The Burning and injects pitch-perfect parodies of characters, conventions and clichés. Set entirely on the last day of camp, the film captures a hilarious and sweet sense of nostalgic celebration of youth (by casting 30 year-olds as children). You’ll be signing up for Camp America within minutes of finishing the film. You know, if you’re one of those pricks. The film is an incredible time capsule in so many brilliant actors’ lives; Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler – the list goes on and on. Also available on Netflix is the documentary Hurricane of Fun, showing the wonderful, tumultuous shoot on an actual summer camp. Everyone looks like they’re having an absolute blast, and it translates so wonderfully on screen. This film feels like the blooper reel would be seven hours long.

I will pay so much money to see all of it.

Along with their incredible rom-com farce They Came Together, Wain and Showalter have crafted my favourite style of comedy – absolute absurdist nonsense. To parody a cliche, they elevate it to extremes. Profane and bizarre lines come out of nowhere, character twists and traits are over-the-top and nonsensical – they are committed to make every single moment funny in whatever way they can. In fact, the weaker parts of this movie are the scenes which rely on a more conventional style of comedy, you’re just eagerly waiting for something stupid and ridiculous to be thrown in your face.

It’s a bit weird parodying something that never took itself seriously one bit. Camp movies themselves are weird, confused pieces of junk; strangely exploitative, completely trashy and the worst time-capsule of 80s America. The obsessions with sex, sports and pranks are hyper-charged with absurdity, and they so clearly enjoy mocking them to brilliant results. But Wain and Showalter evidently adore these films – and want to celebrate their absurdities, gleefully mocking them by elevating their stupid nature to new brilliant heights. Almost as if they are giving them a new breath of life.

The costumes are superb, the hairstyles are embarrassing, the music is brilliant. Highlights include the most terrifyingly absurd stand-up set captured on film, an action-packed white-water raft rescue scene, and the most exasperated tidying Paul Rudd has ever done. At a tight 97 minutes, this film just will not stop giving you jokes. Some of them aren’t even jokes. They’re just strange noises and funny faces.

Like me.

So, settle down, tuck yourself in, get comfortable, grab some friends, grab some food, grab some drinks, and laugh your head off. And once you’ve finished, sit in content that you’ve watched all that Wain and Showalter have to offer.

Or have you?

Fifteen years later, the Netflix original series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp was released, with every cast member returning to throw themselves back into the brilliant weirdness everyone, including themselves, fell in love with over the years. What’s even more perfect is that it’s a prequel hat makes no effort to hide how everyone has aged fifteen years, so now we have 40 year olds playing children. It’s four hours of hilarious, absurd characters and ridiculously convoluted plot-lines, broadening its horizons to tackle more of the fascinations of the 80s; rock-and-roll legends, corporations crushing the small guy, Reagan era nuclear power, and most importantly an electronic-synth original musical. All of the craziness is back, bigger than ever, and although it doesn’t exactly capture the sweetness of the original, it successfully enough revisits what we loved about it.

So after you watch that, you’ve watched all Wet Hot American Summer has to offer.

Or have you?

August 4th. Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later. Make it your beeswax to be there.

Blue Velvet (1986)

That’s right. It’s on Netflix now. Instantly accessible to all you dickheads. So there are literally no excuses not to watch it. Now when I aggressively accost you with lavish praise for David Lynch, I know it’s in your power to actually watch his shit. And honestly, there’s no better place to start than his best film.

Blue Velvet.

Arguably his most accessible, even though The Elephant Man is completely void of his trademark surreal visuals (but not lacking the overwhelming gut-wrenching emotional blows that punctuate his work), Blue Velvet is classic Lynch – the line between the playfully, charmingly quirky and the disgustingly, unsettling is blurred a thousand times over. Everything great about his filmography is present; engaging yet emotionally distant performances, characters of pure evil, an unbearable and unrelenting tension pulsing through the film.

When Jeffrey (played excellently by Kyle ‘he can do no wrong’ McLachlan) swings by his father’s picturesque town plucked straight from 50s Pleasantville America, he discovers an ear in a field, sans the head it belongs to. Along with high-school charmer Laura Dern, they start unravelling the mystery, venturing deep down a twisted, scary rabbit hole of kidnapping, blackmail and the most distressing use of a dress and oxygen mask captured on film.

I don’t know how he does it, but Lynch brings out the best in every actor. There’s no such thing as a bad performance in his films, everything feels so raw, genuine – not natural in the sense of imitating real life flawlessly, but in the sense that every performance seems to have been ripped straight from the actor’s heart, baring them, exposing their talents, never actually over-the-top or wooden.

At the heart of Blue Velvet there are two unforgettable characters, Isabella Rossilini as Dorothy – the kidnapped quasi-sex slave to Dennis Hopper’s Frank. Jeffrey effectively takes a back seat, overpowered with a naive helplessness and confusion as he is thrust into the dark underworld of crime – but Lynch stresses how it all centres around one individual, Frank. In a performance so iconic Dennis Hopper has only really been cast as a villain since, pure evil and terror seizes the screen, everyone is completely helpless to his twisted will. Blue Velvet is obviously about the dangers of nostalgic, romanticized ignorance of American society – but crucially is about those who are trapped; scared and lost within the tumultuous grip of those dark people. There’s one shot from Jeffrey and Dorothy’s perspective in the back of Frank’s car, and the stare that he gives the two of them is the most terrifying thing in the film, as he pierces through the camera and into you, you are overpowered with the sense of danger and fear that surrounds him.

As a creepy, thin man mouths along to Roy Orbison for an emotional Frank and his group of degenerates, with Jeffrey being held hostage; you’re being led further down the confusing rabbit hole, deeper through the earth and worms into the dank, seedy undergrowth. David Lynch is inviting you to get lost in it, with a few scenes taken up by his impeccable soundtrack choice – with one static shot of someone singing and dancing. You’re glued to the screen, unable to escape Frank’s grasp, forced to take a look into his demented mind – at what makes him excited, emotional and calm. And none of them make any sense.

It seems pointless to analyse and specifically pick apart the various brilliant surreal, dream-like scenes. Lynch films are an experience, it feels like a brilliantly, meticulously-crafted mess. You’re confused, shocked, scared – and no-one can provoke such strong but base reactions and emotions like David Lynch can. It’s slow-paced, burning away, leaving you on tenterhooks as you implore for more information, the answers, the motivations – the truth. But he’s not going to give it to you.

“Wow Rory, you must be a film critic, cos that sounds like complete wanky pretentious shite!”

 

Well, be that as it may dad, it’s how I honestly react to Lynch. I can’t help it. It’s weird and gorgeous and terrifying. There’s no-one else like him. And I’ll keep talking about him, and as soon as Netflix adds Eraserhead, and Fire Walk With Me, and Mulholland Drive – I’ll talk about them too.

So if somebody could tell David Lynch I love him, that would be just swell.

Panic Room (2002)

David Fincher knows how to make a movie.

Like no other filmmaker working today, David Fincher consistently constructs stylish, gripping films – filled with fantastic energy and superb performances. He is a complete master of the craft – he succeeds at becoming completely invisible, letting the viewer become glued to the screen without a moment of disengagement.

That’s not to say he doesn’t have a distinctive visual style; his films are dripping with sleek camera movements, layered dynamics and precise edits. Everything feels deliberate; every cut, every pan, every slight nuance from his actors. Having begun his career filming unique and dynamic music videos, it’s impossible to deny his directorial stamp. He’s directed 9 feature films, and written none of them – leading to a huge variety in tones and content. He seems to elevate the source material of his films; adapting two best-selling mystery novels (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl – both available on Netflix) into something much more than tropey, popular page-turners, which is exactly what they could feel like in the hands of a lesser filmmaker.

Having just completed his epic Fight Club (available on Netflix), Fincher wanted to tackle something a lot smaller; a cat and mouse thriller locking a mother and her daughter (Jodie Foster and Kirsten Stewart) in their impenetrable panic room when three opportunistic burglars come looking to rob them. I adore one-location films; the lack of jarring scene changes  means the energy is constantly being heightened, there is a palpable sense of dread and tension as the characters try to one-up each other using only the means they have immediately to hand. Fincher moves the camera as if there was nobody behind it; his style of smooth, locked-down angles is fluid and effortless. He utilises several ‘impossible’ shots, where the camera pans and drifts through tiny gaps or heights, using the claustrophobic space to its advantage.

The film therefore becomes a five-hander; we see the strained relationship between mother and daughter develop as they struggle not to be overcome by their terror, but more interestingly we witness the fragile union of burglars (including Forest Whitaker and an incredibly irritating Jared Leto). Their dynamics are always changing, bouncing off each other in increasingly angry outbursts. David Koepp’s script – by revealing more of their individual motivations – moves us from simply engaging to actually sympathising. The film is filled with small but important character moments, as each of the criminals’ panic sets in, we see their more reckless, psychopathic and instinctive choices – leaving our protagonists in a much more dangerous situation than they started out in.

I’m a fan of thrillers where the audience, along with the characters, have a growing sense of familiarity with the location, and thus are along for the ride as the protagonists use their location to their advantage. A movie should always be two steps ahead of the audience; every reveal and development should be properly set up but not obviously so. Fincher is a master of information; whether through twists or simple exposition, he knows exactly how to cinematically reveal information that completely reshapes our understanding of the situation. Every important detail in the house is clearly signposted, but subtly so – a credit to Fincher’s impeccable direction; his shots don’t pander to an audience, lingering on something that’s significant later in the film.

The power dynamics are fascinating in the film, especially as it revolves around our protagonists locked in a room they’re supposed to be completely safe in. Yet Fincher squeezes every bit of tension out of the premise, and every time the burglars try to break in, or every time Meg (Jodie Foster) dares to enter out – you’re glued to the screen, and Fincher knows it. He’s so aware of how to illicit tension and dread, it seems effortless. Like any good thriller, the movie is engaging and tense when our characters are struggling to stay safe, but when they take command and fight back, it’s incredibly satisfying.

There are four David Fincher films available on Netflix; Panic Room, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fight Club and Gone Girl – and although I highly recommend all four, of these ones Panic Room is my favourite. It feels like a genre B-movie elevated to something much more stylish and meticulous, but doesn’t give up on gripping you until the last moment. If you like this film, please check out Fincher’s filmography – especially my favourites Se7en and The Social Network. David Fincher is my favourite director and there’s no way I’ve done him and his fantastic work justice.

The Invitation (2015)

The Invitation takes the ordinary premise of a dinner party and puts its own nice little horror spin on it. Like the sci-fi mind-bender Coherence, a standard situation like this is the perfect place for the abnormal, allowing for a brilliant build-up of tension as bit by bit things turn substantially creepy. Logan Marshall-Green stars as Will, a grieving man visiting his ex-wife Eden for a dinner party, reuniting with his friends for the first time in ages. His ex has been mysterious absent for a couple of years since a tragic accident separated them, and he’s immediately distrustful of her new life, boyfriend, and friends which eerily populate his old house.

This film masters creepy in a way that only a few others achieve. From the moment Will walks inside, there’s something off; the faux beaming welcome that he receives, the confusing rhetoric his hosts are spouting about their new outlook on life after their ‘trip to Mexico’. Director Karyn Kusama effortlessly brings out the bubbling friendship of her ensemble cast, with charismatic supporting performances populating the single location of the isolated, modern LA house. We feel their awkwardness so intensely every time they collectively notice something is a bit weird, and internally scream as they surrender themselves to a situation which we can just feel is oozing sinister vibes. The minimalistic but effective score sets the tone; dread seeps into every scene – but equally the film knows when to hold back, let the silence speak for itself; so it’s more effective when the low, creepy notes do rise up.

The Invitation is agonisingly slow-building; the first two acts are pretty much entirely streams of natural, character-building dialogue as well follow Will through his developing suspicions. The script is punctuated with short bursts of his confusion and anger towards the unsettling nature of Eden and her cultish friends, and by the time we’re aware that something properly sinister is going on, we feel trapped – like the characters, we are being coerced into staying at the party, unable to look away as the tension gnaws away at us. There’s nothing overtly wrong happening; which prompts us to pay more attention, analyse every line Eden and her friends say, trying to figure out what’s behind their faux niceties and sickly politeness.

Again, I don’t want to spend too long on the actual plot because I want you to enjoy the film as much as you can – but when things inevitably get pushed over the edge, The Invitation brutally puts the seventy minutes of gripping tension to good use – giving an unrelenting third act that traps you in the stylish location, glued to the screen. But the most interesting thing about The Invitation isn’t what twisted horrors our antagonists enact, but how they got there; what’s happened in their past and how they’ve been manipulated into thinking what they’re doing is right.

Some pretty heavy shit, amiright?

Mean Creek (2004)

Coming-of-age movies can be tricky. Unless you’re a very skilled writer, creating the interactions between kids usually ends in awkward, inaccurate and cringe-inducing dialogue. John Hughes mastered this in the 80s, effortlessly writing slick dialogue that kids wished they could be saying. Mean Creek manages to subvert every trope of the traditional coming-of-age drama, offering us a dark, twisted and heart-breaking insight into the mistakes and tribulations of youth, about what happens when irresponsible children are forced to be responsible for their actions.

Rory Culkin (one of a seemingly endless number of Culkin siblings) plays Sam, a young introvert whose older teenage brother decides with his friends to stage a birthday boat trip on the local creek. However, it’s all a ruse to enact revenge on a school bully, George (Josh Peck), who’s been tormenting Sam. It’s a cruel idea, and Sam basically takes a back seat in the whole scheme. The revenge seems enticing and thrilling in concept, with the young characters finding joy in taking back control in their twisted justice; but as their plan comes closer and closer to happening, doubt seeps in and the actual thought of taking action seems more and more scary. Writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes probes into these kids’ psyche; why do they see it fit that they right the wrongs committed against their young friend?

The ensemble of young actors easily carries the film, their strong performances and chemistry mixes well with the natural dialogue, which is packed with the normal, ludicrous obscenities and immaturity of childhood, but never feels forced or awkward. The older teenagers deceive George, providing an unsettling tension as their boat trip progresses further and further into the wilderness of Oregon, away from the help and supervision of the adult world. In fact, adults are almost completely absent from the film, leaving us with a confused sense of dread – who’s going to make sure these kids don’t do anything stupid?

Despite writing an in-depth review of this film, I heartily recommend you go into this film knowing as little as possible about it. I don’t want to spoil anything beyond the premise, because the gripping tension can’t be experienced in the best way if you know too much of the plot. I don’t like doing spoiler reviews because the point of this blog is to recommend films and there’s not much point recommending something that you know the whole plot to. But from the minute they conceive their plan, you get a sense that something is going to go wrong, one of the oddball, unscrewed characters is going to be pushed over the edge – and by the time the third act rolls on, our characters are immediately forced to deal with their actions, hammering home the central theme of taking responsibility for our mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes as kids. Everyone learned, usually the hard way, that our actions have consequences. But when you’re so charged with a sense of entitlement, with the ability to cause harm and humiliation, and especially when you think your cruelty is just; then the mistakes you make are more destructive, the consequences are more damaging. Mean Creek is gripping, quietly twisted and darkly comic, but undeniably sad; the judgement of children and young adults is certainly less insightful than that of adults, but that doesn’t mean responsibility can be passed onto others. If we don’t take responsibility for our actions, how are we supposed to grow up?

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

The Diary of a Teenage Girl focuses on Minnie, a 15 year old girl living in 1970s San Francisco who starts a sexual relationship with her mother’s boyfriend. Director Marianne Heller balances a tight, funny and honest script with a superb ensemble cast, led by stand-out Bel Powley (who was in the first season of the terrible, terrible CBBC show M.I. High). The crucial change in Minnie’s life unfolds across a background of liberation, and she reflects on these changes through recording her titular diary, allowing an insight into her immediate opinions and views about herself and her first sexual relationships. We see Minnie’s journey through her own eyes, immediately drawing us in and connecting us to the trials and tribulations of her experiences.

Supporting Powley is Kristen Wiig as her empowering, liberating and undeniably 70s mother, as well as Alexander Skarsgard as the sleazy boyfriend Munroe who Minnie finds herself involved with. Their strong performances bolster the film, populating it with well-rounded and engaging characters influencing Minnie.

Minnie is fascinated with how she is changing, having a picture taken of her immediately after she first has sex to see how she has changed. Minnie is swept up with the idea that, through sex, she becomes an adult, and somehow this is what defines her. Initially, she is plagued with anxieties about herself, unsure of how to act in her developing sexuality. Minnie’s self-consciousness and naivety leads her to be easily manipulated by the much older Munroe. He is obviously just using her, he at one point unironically screams in anger, “You’re manipulating me!” when in fact the opposite is true. Munroe is an undeniably twisted, slimy person; and Minnie flits back and forth between being completely infatuated and utterly disgusted by him. The screen literally pops with gorgeous kaleidoscopic animation, brightening up the drab 70s Californian scenery. Minnie’s love of cartooning adds unique and dazzling visuals, showing her creative mind and allowing another brilliant mode of expression for our central character.

The ups and downs of Minnie’s life are heart-breaking, the audience is so deeply connected with her story and journey that we feel overjoyed at her moments of self-empowerment and anxious at whatever mistakes she makes. But Heller’s message is clear – we are not to judge Minnie. The film is so open and honest, sharing a unique story about one young woman’s development and early sexual experiences. Minnie does not have the luxury of hindsight for her actions, but it doesn’t really matter – it is only up to her how she chooses to act, and whatever decisions she makes are her own.

The film is packed with humour and brilliant feminist messages like these as Minnie learns to not let the opinions and criticisms of others define how she acts. Undeniably there is something leering and unsettling about how Munroe so willingly develops a full-on sexual relationship with a 15 year old girl – but all the script cares about is Minnie. The film is a fascinating story of self-empowerment, a learning process which is Minnie’s and Minnie’s alone.

I highly, highly recommend this entirely unique and brilliant film, its wonderful character portrait is incredibly fun and touching. If there’s one thing we can all learn from it, it’s that whenever we shake someone’s hand, you look into their eyes and think:

“I’m better than you, you son of a bitch.”

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine (2014)

“Why can’t I give my opinion?”
“Do you have to give it so loud, I mean aren’t you ashamed to pontificate like that?”

  • Annie Hall

Every time Netflix comes up in conversation, somebody complains about how shit it is. Which is fair; it’s hard not to get jealous at the plethora of shows and films just waiting to be watched by those using the US version, and day by day it seems like our selection is being whittled down. Removing The Office was a step too far.

I get asked time and time again how I manage to watch so many movies. The answer is pretty simple; I’m lazy and hate the real world so I distract  myself as much as possible. Over the past couple years, the amount of films I’ve watched has skyrocketed, and personally I think Netflix is pretty good for watching smaller more obscure films that I’m interested in. So, in order that people stop endlessly re-watching Gilmore Girls in lieu of something new and different, I decided to start this review blog, recommending what I think are pretty good films out there on your local streaming service.

I already hear you clamoring, “But Rory, we don’t want to hear your opinions!”, “Stop being such a snobbish asshole!”, “No-one likes you!”, “Get out of my house!”, “I didn’t kill my wife!”. But who cares, you don’t need to read this. Nobody needs to read this. Nobody is reading this.

Hello?

Is anyone out there?

Let’s dive straight into the deep end with a horrendously, heart-wrenching documentary, Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 22 year old gay student was lured into the wilderness of Wyoming, beaten and left to die by two attackers. The subsequent trial and media coverage focused mainly on the homophobic motive for the terrible crime, prompting new legislation that expanded the hate crime to include crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

The film however focuses on the smaller, human story; directed by Matt’s close friend Michele Josue, it examines Matt’s tortured life leading up to his death. This is undeniably the unique aspect of this documentary; Josue comes from such a close position of love for Matt, and his family and friends evidently still struggle to come to terms with how tragically Matt was ripped away from them. The joy and vibrancy Matt brought into life is equaled by his own sadness, and Josue uses the film as a personal journey trying to understand how genuinely damaged her friend was. Various traumatic incidents led to intense depression and distancing himself from those who loved him. He struggled intensely with his developing sexuality, constantly afraid and wary of a society that he felt judged and rejected him. He at one points writes, ‘Why did we grow apart – Me and the rest of the world?’

Forgiveness is a key theme in the film, it’s incredible difficult for Matt’s loved ones to ever feel closure from the horrific crime that robbed him of his life despite the rallying from media and government. Heart-breaking interviews in the film explore to what extent can people be forgiven, especially if the damage can never be undone.

I cried frequently and intensely at this film, it’s heart-breaking to see such a vivid character portrait of someone so loved yet so broken. For anyone who’s suffered depression or trauma, it’s easy to empathize – but more importantly the film is focused on friends; how difficult and heart-breaking it can be for someone not to feel your love for them, and how much you wish you could reach out. I watched this film at a fairly difficult time in my life, and immediately after finishing it I reached out to those I loved, and let them know how much I valued them.

I wish I could have done something for Matt. I think anyone who watches this film will feel the same way. And people did do something; in 2009 Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, several plays, documentaries and books have been published on the subject, spreading his story. But this film is unique in telling the history of Matt Shepard, by those who love him and will never, ever forget him.

If you do check this film out, and enjoy it, I also recommend on Netflix Newtown (2016), a documentary about the families who lost their children in the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

I hope people like this new thing I’m trying out, I promise a more cheery film to watch next time.

Much love to you all.