19 July 2012

Out with a Bang

Hi everyone. This is the end of the Phantasmagoria of Complaints. To explain why, in brief: I find that more and more I want to dedicate my time to pursuits that take me away from my desk chair during the months and moments when I'm not literally chained to it by school work. And so... my time as a mediocre, snarky, internet-based critic of the cinematic arts comes (perhaps mercifully?) to a close.

As a celebratory/conciliatory gesture, I will leave you with some reviews of movies I have seen since last posting ages and ages ago.

Here goes:

Magic Mike: WooWOOO!!!!! Weinerz lollllzzz ^_-

Brave: Meh. Disappointing for various reasons.

The Avengers: Meh... because I didn't care about any of the characters. Bonus points though for having a very reverent fan in the audience-- his drawn out yet quiet comment "goddamnit" when that one guy took a bullet for the team and died made the whole experience worth it.

Sherlock Homes 2: Actually really entertaining to me. I hear it was exactly the same as the first one, of which I didn't have anything resembling a high opinion. Perhaps I was just too distracted during the first one, the experience of which was ruined by a group of truly out of control teenagers who heckled a woman in the theater so much that she had to leave.

Underworld Awakening: Also surprisingly enjoyable. I like Kate Beckinsale, ever since /Cold Comfort Farm/ way back when. And, obviously, vampires and werewolves!

The Hangover 2: Literally exactly the same as Hangover 1. Although... I do have to admit that the photo series at the end of both movies made me want to write a (probably pitifully theoretically underdeveloped) essay on the role of tableaux (and phantasmagoria?) in the movie (and maybe others like it... though I couldn't name any off the top of my head). I can already hear the grad school adviser's voice in my head asking, deadpan, "So, where are you going with this idea?" I don't know. That's why I chose blogging (and now teaching) instead of academ-ing.

Moonrise Kingdom: Thank you, Wes Anderson, for finally making a movie that nears The Royal Tenenbaums in goodness (if not greatness). Bonus points for the excellent timing in the ear piercing scene.

Hugo: Uhhmmm... I failed to find anything redeeming in this silly, boring story. Am I the only one who though this was a total snooze? I thought I would love it due to its connection to early film history. I was wrong.

And with that, the Phantasmagoria fades to black. I have enjoyed writing reviews for the past however long it's been, but it's time for me to move on now. I will be leaving the blog up, however, because there are just too many people who visit to find the time stamp of the shitting scene in Severed Ways. I can't let them down. For that special group of people, this blog is practically a public service.

On a more sincere note. You can always call or email me if you want to hear me complain some more about movies or any other topic. I'll always have opinions and usually some zesty one-liners, just not the time to write that way I would like.

Thank you for reading.


06 February 2012


Hey Everyone,

I have on my list of reviews to write:
1) Hugo
2) Underworld: Awakening
3) the Hallmark movie "A Smile As Big As The Moon"

Here's what's on the to-do list above that stuff:

So I just wanted to say that there'll likely be ungainly, unprofessional, and unpleasantly long delays between posts from here until late May. When (not if, right guys?! heh..heh..hehhh..trails off, eyes glazed over staring in general direction of stack of books and papers) I do end up posting, I'll put a status update on the ol' facebook. So if you're into reading this blog, cast your errant eye on my page when you feel like it (or more likely when you don't feel like working) and you'll find out pretty quick if there's anything new for you to look at or not.

-the complainer

15 December 2011

Hesher (2010)

My preliminary response to watching this movie was teenager-text-message-esque. It went something like this:
OMG!! Whaaaaat the helllllll?????
And also a little like this:
awwwwwwwww. :(

Unfortunately, these thoughts, albeit stunningly poetic, do not a legitimate blog post make. An attempt at a slightly more elevated, articulated evaluation follows.

If you don't know already, Hesher is a movie about the harshly arbitrary realities of trying to get through everyday life while dealing with the loss of a loved one. In it, a middle school-ish aged boy named T.J. grapples not only with the untimely death of his mother, but also the subsequent loss of his father to an entirely crippling grief (played with eyebrow raising depth by Rainn Wilson). T.J. has to navigate the uncertain waters of "where to go from here" alone, until one day he encounters the extremely unpleasant, yet well meaning miscreant Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Hesher was one of those rare, artistically successful movies in which form and thematic content serve each other quite well. In other words, the overall aesthetic effect (editing, mise-en-scene, performances, pacing, etc) helped carry the central ideas of the movie across. Gordon-Levitt's character is a literal manifestation of the feelings of turmoil and lawlessness trauma can create for people who find their whole worlds destroyed overnight. Though some may argue that many of Hesher's antics, and indeed the movie's events overall are totally over the top, they do all serve the central purpose of illustrating how crazy the world can seem when it changes for you brutally and unexpectedly overnight.

Another success of Hesher is that it somehow manages to feel genuine yet fairytale-like, hyperbolic and understated. It never lets you feel predictable sentiments, yet the emotions it manages to convey are indisputably real.

I very much recommend this movie, but only if you are prepared to accept the unexpected.

06 December 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 (2011)

Dear Every Other Reviewer of Twilight,

Please stop complaining about the plot of the movies. Everyone knows the story is silly already-- we read the books. For those viewers of the movie who did not (or did not wish to) acknowledge how silly/terrible the plot is, and what a disgustingly distorted and unhappy relationship dynamic it represents, your review means nothing. They will simply say "haters gon' hate" and throw your review in the trash.

Kindly focus on the cinematic aspects of the movie that failed. They were nearly as catastrophic as the plot elements that you spent your precious word count critiquing. However, as stated above, the flaws of the story were already there in the book. Leave criticizing those up to the book critics.

Please see my review below for an example of an honest consideration of the film's strengths and weaknesses.

Cait (The Complainer)


This movie sucked and was majorly boring.

Hideously inept acting, extremely poor pacing, and ill timed and ill themed musical accompaniment soured the entire film experience overall. Little details like garish yellow contact lenses and unintentionally hilarious use of special effects kept everyone wondering why they paid to see to the movie in theaters. Lengthy "conversations" between snarling wolves and extremely corny love scenes provided handy moments for bathroom breaks. Taylor Lautner doing a laudable attempt at a crying breakdown, providing what was to be the only emotionally resonant moment of the film for me, served as a handy litmus test for just how bad the movie was overall.

I am still going to see the final installment. I have no justification as for why.

But please get a new editor or a new director or something. At least make me able to pretend I didn't waste my twelve bucks and 100 minutes.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

I want to preface this review by stating that the only reason I watched this movie was that it was the only thing in the house and I was desperate to avoid being productive for a time.

Why avoid the Pirates franchise, you ask? Well. I was already tired of the whole thing by the end of the second movie, and the third installment was so pointless to me that it actually made me angry. And yet! I set out to watch On Stranger Tides with some tiny, absurd grain of optimism. I believe I deserve a pat on the back for dredging up this speck of good will. Perhaps it sprung forth from the promise of mermaids and a hugely relieving lack of Kiera Knightley.

But let's not get too off topic. As you could probably predict, I was sadly disappointed yet again. Featuring a surprisingly uninteresting Penelope Cruz, an entirely indifferent Johnny Depp-- one small fraction of a bevy of other A-list actors who all appeared to be phoning it in-- the movie was another good example of how throwing money at a project will not and cannot make it entertaining.

It seemed the story was being made up by the director as the crew was dragged from overly elaborate set to unnecessarily exotic locale. Dialogue was entirely without merit. Performances were ho-hum, at best.

Cool special effects, unfortunate lack of any other aspect which deserves positive comment.

Blah. Don't waste your time.

13 November 2011

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

I rented this movie thinking it was another one I'd been looking for for a while, the source of an enigmatic image on a film art textbook from yesteryear. About five minutes into the movie I realized my error but decided to keep watching anyway based on the intriguing nature of the images and story unfolding.

Stranger Than Paradise was an interesting exercise in meandering (non)narrative structure, with the plot seeming to occur to the writer/director Jim Jarmusch spontaneously, bent to the will of the characters (or maybe the actors... or no, maybe the characters?).

Overall it piques the curiosity, semi-satisfies it, and then wanders away of it's own free will. Good for a patient viewer, not so great for people who crave a fully defined plot. It's up to you.

Wit (2001)

A bitter, poignant, and meaningful TV adaptation of a stage play about a professor who has terminal cancer and decides to submit herself to experimental (albeit doomed) treatment for research purposes.

Emma Thompson in the lead role makes you wonder why other actors even bother getting out of bed in the morning.

100% worth your afternoon or evening. Bring tissues and maybe a hint of masochism.

Profoundly moving. Entirely worthwhile.