Author - Logan Benedict

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Andy Warhol’s Filmography

While some may be quick to criticize Warhol’s films and call them “boring” or “dull,” it must be considered the time period of their creation. Film and television in the sixties wasn’t like the uproarious, explicit media we are so accustomed to consuming. Neither profanity nor nudity were common practice, so for Warhol’s bold films to exist in such a tame time was revolutionary. For Warhol to show half of the subject matters he did was groundbreaking for cinema, regardless of how underground his projects were.1964’s “Blowjob” showed a tight shot of a man’s face while he received oral sex while 1969’s “Blue” was the first sexually explicit, pornographic film in the U.S. to receive a wide theatrical release. The latter went on to inspire Bernardo Bertolucci’s Marlon Brandon-starring “Last Tango in Paris” and Gerard Damiano’s “Deep Throat” with Linda Lovelace.

Warhol’s films are an acquired taste, and some are concretely hit or miss. His filmography is littered with improvised movies of his friends standing around and rambling about nothing, never really pushing the plot into any action and never really serving any purpose. But it is to be remembered that Warhol was a pioneer in not only the art world, but also within the independent film industry. His experimental films broke ground by flirting with societal taboos like homosexuality, drugs, and sex which wasn’t being discussed in the mainstream media.

Without further ado, let’s discuss Warhol’s filmography from best to worst.

 

Women in Revolt (1971)

“Don’t you know there’s something more beautiful than that thing between your legs? Have you heard of women’s liberation?” This satirical examination of women’s liberation three years after radical feminist and author Valerie Solanas attempted to murder Andy Warhol by shooting him in the chest. Solanas is known for her novel, SCUM Manifesto which proposed that women should form a society for cutting up men. “Women in Revolt” plays on the idea of extremist feminism and misandry and stars three trans actresses, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn that form their own political group, PIG – politically involved girls. These three women received an X-rating for its depiction of sex and assault, but easily stands out amongst Warhol’s filmography for its hilariously ironic plot.

5/5: It’s a laugh riot.

 

Andy Warhol’s Bad (1977)

Warhol succeeded in his job of making a film “about evil women and incompetent men” with his last film, 1977’s “Bad.” This X-rated, low budget, slightly tacky soap opera film revolves around a grandmother who uses her beauty salon business as a covert murder-for-hire home, well-equipped with sadistic hitwomen troublemakers who do nothing but cause a stir in the New York City streets. While Warhol may have been a key member of the Pop Art movement, his films are much less abstract than you’d imagine coming from the man who made millions off simple soup can paintings. Warhol’s obsession with commercialism and consumerism pokes its way through “Bad,” and not a scene goes by without some sort of American branding hidden in the frame, whether it be Wonder Bread or Coca-Cola. Throughout the hour and 45 minutes of debauchery on screen, we witness car crashes, toilet-clogging, dog stabbings, and even a baby thrown out of a window in brutal detail, splashing blood onto the face of a passerby civilian. While this campy, borderline pointless film may not be the most polished, the vandalism it depicts does make for a semi-entertaining pastime. Warhol’s style may not be for everyone, but within even the most absurd of technique comes some sort of statement and in this case, some sort of warning of the dangers of greed and vanity.

4/5: It’s kinda bad…ass.

 

The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound (1966)

Here we see the famed 60s band The Velvet Underground, led by singer Lou Red, rehearsing and performing for an hour. Consisting entirely of instrumental music with no sung word, this film acts as a pseudo-documentary and encapsulates the genius of the band during their heyday. It makes for perfect background music to rock along to and provides a perfect portrait of one of the greatest bands in history.

4/5: It’s rocking.

 

 

Kiss (1963)

Just as the title suggests, this piece of avant garde cinema is a compilation of various couples kissing for about an hour. Tender and romantic, yes, but a worthwhile film to watch in the theaters, maybe not. This is the beginning of Warhol’s dabbling in film and in the same vein as “Sleep,” “Eat,” and “Blow Job,” each consisting of a long-running take of their title’s action, focusing rather on the emotional and physical response to the task being executed. The couples on screen vary from straight relationships to gay ones – woman on woman, man on man – and it does make for a progressive piece of cinema for its period. “This is my favorite theme in movie making – just watching something happening for two hours or so. Hollywood movies are uncaring. We’re pop people,” the famed artist once told the press about his method.

3/5: Too much tongue.

 

Sleep (1963)

On the more experimental side of Warhol’s filmography is “Sleep,” a five-hour “anti-film” of Warhol’s then-lover John Giorno doing just that: sleeping. While unrealistic for the average viewer to indulge in five hours of cinema in any subject matter, the ambition of this film is what matters. Warhol not only watched Giorno sleep for five hours but stayed awake to record the entire thing without the slightest hint of boredom. This is the pinnacle of avant-garde cinema, despite how simple or dull it appears to be, it is extremely influential for a film of its time. Nowadays with live-streamed television shows like “Big Brother” quite literally showing houseguests sleeping and airs it on national television, it doesn’t seem like Warhol’s vision was too far off. “Sleep” was also the first film Warhol had ever shot.

2/5: It’s okay to sleep on this one.

 

Blue Movie (1969)

Here’s one of Warhol films that transcended the art world and found success in the porn industry. The plot was simply just a man and a woman in bed talking, kissing, and copulating unsimulated. It doesn’t have a lot to it, which is very true to Warhol’s agenda, and was shot in New York City with a $3000 budget. “Blue” made history for being the first widely released theatrical film to include actual explicit sex, and went on to usher in the Golden Age of Porn in the seventies in which pornography and its stars were at an all-time high in Hollywood.

2/5: A lack of action on screen may leave you feeling kinda blue.

 

The Chelsea Girls (1966)

Warhol found his first commercial success in this split-screen style movie. Running as a three-hour film with two different events unfolding at the same time side-by-side on screen, the unique format is meant to contrast the good and evil depicted on screen. Instead, the doubled video and audio tracks only make for a haphazard, confusing experience with no plot structure to follow. A film like this would be perfectly displayed at an art museum like the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (and it was last year), but for a typical theatrical release it makes no sense. While a lot is unfolding for the viewing audience to watch, not much progress or any conclusions are reached, and you will only leave the theater with a headache and confusion.

2/5: These girls provide a splitting performance.

 

Flesh (1968)

Humorous with its trashy moments, this film follows the mundane life of a male hustler looking to save up enough money to fund his girlfriend’s abortion. There’s not too much happening on screen, but again, that’s Warhol’s style, and its sexual content made it revolutionary for its era. Much like Warhol’s 1970 film “Trash” and 1972’s “Heat,” it’s a whole lot of nothing coupled with tons of nudity and drug use that contributes virtually nothing to its appeal or intrigue. And while the budget and shooting is very commercial and has potential for theater release, the films run too long without any major plot to hold on to.

2/5: Not as much skin as you’d think.

 

I, A Man (1967)

Released as a response to popular Scandinavian movie “I, a Woman” from two years prior, the film centers around a man and his sex life. When famed critic Roger Ebert wrote of the film, “[It’s] not dirty, or even funny, or even anything but a very long and pointless home movie,” he was right. It seems as if Warhol’s signature technique of ad-libbed dialogue and nudity without reason didn’t score so high with this release.

2/5: I, a man, am bored.

Lonesome Cowboys (1968)

Opening the film with an explicit sex scene sure is one way to grip your audience. Unfortunately, the rest of the film falls flat and fails to prove any purpose or have any concrete plot.

1/5: Skip this rodeo.

 

Vinyl (1965)

A dull black-and-white rendition of Anthony Burgess’ classic A Clockwork Orange comes up short and delivers a bad excuse for the experimental film genre.  There is absolutely nothing remarkable or visually appealing about this horribly acted, lazy attempt at abstract cinema. “Vinyl” plays out like bad high school theater, set on a ten-foot stage too small to hold all seven of its actors. The film itself was recorded spontaneously one day in Warhol’s famed Factory and such spontaneity is evident in its unrehearsed, amateurish quality that is cheap cinema at its worst. Borrowing heavy influence from the gay S&M scene, the weight-lifting, leather-clad, bleached-blonde, cigarette-smoking leading man has as much stage presence as a can of soup. You’d be better off watching Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel, at least there is tons of visual stimuli, albeit shocking and controversial, to keep you interested.

1/5: Hard Brillo-pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Queer Eye” is Television We Need Today

Since 2013, streaming service giant Netflix has released 141 forms of original television content ranging from docu-series (“Making a Murderer”) to comedy (“Orange is the New Black”) to crime (“Narcos”) to action (“Jessica Jones.”) Netflix also produces children’s content and exclusive movies, some of which have won Emmy’s (“13th”) based on their groundbreaking concepts. All of this is not bad for a company that opened its doors in 1997 with movie rentals.

Now while this endless sea of great programming and opportunities for viewing is great and all, it’s easy for viewers to get lost or feel unsure about what to watch. But among it all is the lighthearted, family friendly “Queer Eye” that stands above the rest.

A modern riff on the Carson Kressley and Ted Allen starring Bravo series, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the show focuses on transforming everyday people into more confident visions of themselves. Whereas the original series heavily relied on physical makeovers and superficiality to make their point, this new batch of fresh-faced, all-knowing gay men offer a lot more to the table.

The five elements of a “Queer Eye” transformation includes fashion, culture, design, grooming, and food and wine handled by Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, and Antoni Porowski respectively.

Tan France, an English Pakistani Muslim, studied fashion at Doncaster College in South Yorkshire, London and founded his own clothing line in 2011. His knowledge of style lends a helpful gaze to the guys in the direction of what not to wear. France is the most reasonable of the bunch and his levelheadedness keeps the whole crew above water.

The team’s designated culture guru is Karamo Brown, who has quite an eclectic resume. A practicing psychotherapist, Brown’s past ranges from co-founding educational HIV organization 6in10.org, producing video content for The Huffington Post, appearing in the 15th season of MTV’s reality show “The Real World” in 2004 as an openly gay person of color, and even being an extra in 2001’s “The Princess Diaries” behind Anne Hathaway. Brown is the guy with the best advice and the biggest heart, offering important tidbits to all the guys undergoing transformations from the inside out.

Small town born and raised interior designer Bobby Berk started his career when he moved to New York City in 2003 with only $100 to his name and found work at a home furnishing store. He worked his way up the corporate ladder to become creative director of furniture brand Portico before founding his own high end interior design store, Bobby Berk Home. His store has since grown from an online retailer to having retail stores in New York, Miami and Georgia. While Berk may be the quietest in the group, that’s only because he’s with four other crazy queer queens.

Fan favorite Jonathan Van Ness started in Los Angeles as a personal assistant at a hair salon after flunking out of college because he would regularly skip class to watch “The Golden Girls” reruns. He was the first male cheerleader at his high school and from his work at Sally Hershberger Salon got him started producing content for Funny or Die in the form of sketch comedy series “Gay of Thrones” which parodied “Game of Thrones.” He has also been hosting his own podcast since 2015 and still works at a salon in L.A. It’s Van Ness that provides the show with the spunk and the sass that has infiltrated popular culture, it’s him that’s to thank for all the gloriously gay GIFs and hysterical one-liners.

Canadian heart throb Antoni Porowski was the personal chef to one of the original “Queer Eye” guys, Ted Allen, and is a self-taught cook inspired by his grandmother. He is also a model and actor, having appeared in six movies plus an upcoming role in Josh Boone’s (“The Fault in Our Stars”) new film set for a 2019 release. Porowski is in the middle of writing his own cookbook and opening his own restaurant in New York City. He’s the eye candy of the group and constantly has “Queer Eye” fans drooling over his thirst-trapping Instagram posts.

This spectacular group of guys brings a cheery ease, a breath of fresh air to the series from the 2000s. The original series’ New York City location was swapped out for Atlanta in this reboot, offering a Southern kick of wide-ranging personalities and spice.

Much different than its predecessor, “Queer Eye” spends more time creating naturally pure moments of inward reinvention and less time creating a spectacle. The journey is spiritual in a way, bringing the viewer along as this new Fab 5 share tips and tricks on how to improve the quality of life through simple self-care. Viewers have grown to love the Fab 5 because of their honesty and good intentions, focusing more on inward beauty than a drastic, outward change. The guys spend less one-on-one time with the men they’re transforming and instead, work as cohesive group to make sure all things just keep getting better.

With a fresh new cast, location, and direction, “Queer Eye” contributes wonders to Netflix and proves the impact of the streaming service’s ability to change lives. It’s like a pseudo-self-help show and audiences worldwide can’t help but become engrossed in the boisterous shenanigans of these five gay men looking to make the world a better place, one “Yas queen!” at a time.

We need “Queer Eye” in 2018 because we need change. Rather than rolling up in the fetal position and giving in to the societal pressures and political collapse of democracy, we need more loud, vocal, proud gay people in the public eye to let their existence be known. The era of hiding is over, and queer visibility is demanded before it’s too late. By coming out of the closet and prancing into the spotlight, queer individuals like the Fab 5 of “Queer Eye” are proving that America needs to be made gay again.

“Queer Eye” seasons one and two are available for streaming now on Netflix.

10 Still Series #3: “Heathers”

1988’s teen comedy “Heathers” didn’t make an impact upon its release 30 years ago, but now remains a cult classic of 80’s black comedy. Starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as two teenagers spiraling into trouble and murder, it has since gone on to inspire a musical and even an ill-fated television series.

“Heathers” was truly ahead of its time and even provides a satirical viewpoint on the hotbed issue of gun control and its impact on school shooting sprees. Join us here on At The Movies Online as we discuss ten stills from the film and discuss their importance for the viewer and to cinema as a whole.

Winona Ryder’s character, Veronica Sawyer, belongs to the most popular clique in school, so why is she so unhappy? Well for one, her friends are mean girls who like to rule the school with an iron fist. It’s evident from the start that Sawyer is nothing like the girls she hangs around, proved here by her walking through the halls of school like a ghost. She’s out of place and unhappy with her place in the world, a feeling many audience members can relate to at that age.

Sawyer falls in love with bad boy J.D. (Christian Slater) and become their high school’s new Bonnie & Clyde figures – except, instead of robberies it’s teenage murders…

…Like the killing of Sawyer’s friend and most popular girl in school, Heather Chandler, through poisoning. What began as a sick joke to get Chandler in control actually became a full-fledged murder. Chandler consumed liquid drain cleaner and collapses to the floor, falling through her glass table in the process. Sawyer and J.D. stage her death as a suicide to evade responsibility and conviction for the crime.

The couple then kills their school’s star football players, Ram and Kurt, and again, stage it as a suicide. Except this time, it’s posed as a gay suicide pact because their love was too taboo to pursue amidst their popularity. The blue tones used on screen provide a dark underbelly to the suburbia common in melancholy coming-of-age films like “The Virgin Suicides.”

Sawyer is falling further into trouble and J.D. is nothing but happy about it. The day after Ram and Kurt’s murders, the two sleep in her car and she willingly burns herself in the center of the palm to symbolize a Christ-like martyrdom. J.D. proceeds to use her burn to light his cigarette. These absolutely absurd, comical yet crude scenes perfectly epitomize their violent relationship and Sawyer’s desires to escape it – alive.

When Sawyer’s fellow popular friend, Heather McNamara, attempts a drug overdose in the bathroom during class one day, Sawyer stops and saves her life. While its technically a comedy, the events on screen of “Heathers” bare a lot of weight in real life, as posed here as the threat of suicidal tendencies. McNamara is grieving the loss of her best friend, whether she was evil and manipulative or not, and we are witnessing her struggle with death here.

With Heather Chandler dead, Heather Duke utilizes the opportunity to take her spot as most popular girl in school. Here she is basking in the sunlight of this new opportunity to abuse her newfound power.

In a dream sequence, Sawyer is visited by the late Chandler dressed in Beetlejuice-esque goth couture. Sawyer is plagued by the responsibility of having a role in three deaths thus far, and her inner conscious is using her dreams as a way of coping with this stress and guilt.

Sawyer fakes a suicide by hanging in order to get J.D. to leave her alone. With her out of the picture, J.D. would have to continue in his criminal spree alone, without further implicating Sawyer as his righthand. Sawyer keeps the acting tight until her mother walks in the room and announces it’s dinner time.

In the final act, J.D. attempts to blow up the school but Sawyer saves the day. Instead, J.D. commits suicide by strapping the bomb to himself and exploding in front of their high school whilst standing in a Christ position. Now this time, Sawyer has a cigarette in her mouth and uses his death to light it whereas previously he used her burn wound to light his. It’s these subtle references to the story of Jesus Christ that gives the film a second, more biblical significance. And thus the film comes to a close.

Trans Author Janet Mock Makes History with Directorial Debut

TV genius and mastermind of “American Horror Story,” Ryan Murphy has made headlines for his new flamboyant series chronicling the underground drag balls of the 1980s, “Pose.” And Janet Mock, transgender activist, author, and good friends with actress Laverne Cox (“Orange is the New Black”) recently directed her own episode for the show, making history in the process.

Mock told Entertainment Weekly after the episode’s airing, “It feels like a coronation! Like the king is giving me a crown. This show was the greatest surprise of my life but also probably one of the most challenging things I’ve had to do career-wise. It just all felt very organic and now to see that our partnership and love and admiration has produced this piece and that it’s being so well-received. My world has opened up in this way.”

Her contribution to the show marks the very first time a trans woman of color has directed, produced, and written an episode of any television show ever.

The show sees the uprising of the vogue scene in New York City, as shown popular in the documentary “Paris is Burning” and focuses on the queer people of color that made the underground scene a hit.

“Pose” is on FX every Sunday night at 9 PM.

Late 2018 Releases to Look Out For

“Peppermint” (September 7)

In perhaps actress Jennifer Garner’s (“13 Going on 30”) most ambitiously transformative role, she plays average-mom-turned-guerilla-soldier on a rampage to avenge her husband and daughter who were murdered at the hands of a drug cartel who walked away innocent under the law’s eye. Directed by Pierre Morel (“Taken”), the film also casts John Gallagher Jr. (“Hush”), John Ortiz (“Fast & Furious”), singer Tyson Ritter (“Parenthood”) and Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man (“The Wire”). The film is produced by Academy Award-winning Tom B. Rosenberg (“Million Dollar Baby”). Hopefully “Peppermint” will cement Garner as a Hollywood action hero contender, like 2010’s “Salt” did for Angelina Jolie.

“White Boy Rick” (September 14)

Based upon the wild but true story of Detroit native Richard Wersche Jr, who at 14 years old became the youngest FBI informant in history. Wershe, nicknamed White Boy Rick, was jailed in the eighties during the war on drugs after the FBI no longer needed his services. In the line-up of actors is Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Jennifer Jason Leigh (“The Hateful Eight”), Bruce Dern (“Nebraska”), Rory Cochrane (“Argo”) and Piper Laurie (“Carrie”) as well as rappers YG and Danny Brown.

“Venom” (October 5)

This Spider-Man spin-off film has been in the works for over a decade. Originally penned by CEO of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad, this Tom Hardy-starring movie is directed by Ruben Samuel Fleischer whose feature film debut “Zombieland” grossed over $100 million. Hardy stars as Eddie Brock, a disgraced journal visited by aliens who transitions into an angry, anti-hero out for revenge. The character first appeared in a 1986 comic book in the “Spider-Man” series. This is Hardy’s second comic book-adapted film after he starred in 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” as villain Bane. The trailer for “Venom” became the quickest, most viewed superhero trailer in history, scoring over 60 million views within the first day, doubling itself after a week. Acting alongside Hardy will be Golden Globe winning Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”), Woody Harrelson (“Natural Born Killers”), Jenny Slate (“Bob’s Burgers”) and Emmy-winning rapper Riz Ahmed (“The Night Of”).

“Suspiria” (November 2)

A grisly remake of the 40-year old cult Italian cult classic horror film by Dario Argento, this fresh American reworking stars Dakota Johnson (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) as a ballet dancer shocked by the gruesome murders happening at the dance academy she attends. Academy Award winning Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) and Chloë Grace Moretz (“If I Stay”) also star.

“Widows” (November 16)

When four robbers die during a heist, their widowed wives step up to get the job done. Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) directs this ensemble cast of Viola Davis (“How to Get Away With Murder”), Michelle Rodriguez (“The Fast and the Furious”), Elizabeth Debicki (“The Great Gatsby”), Colin Farrell (“Total Recall”), Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”), Robert Duvall (“Apocalypse Now”) and Liam Neeson (“Taken”).

 

Welcome to Marwen” (December 21)

After Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carrell) wakes up from a coma with no memory of his life, he must relearn everything at 38 years old. Hogancamp was a victim of a brutal hate crime that led him to feeling alone and isolated from the world. He began crafting a miniature figurine world, Marwencol, for him to escape to and create as a coping mechanism against his past traumas. He staged small WW2 scenes outside his trailer home in New York.

The Glaring Issues with the New Freddie Mercury Biopic

When the trailer for the new Freddie Mercury of Queen biopic directed by Bryan Singer premiered in May, there was something very significant that was noticeably missing: Mercury’s homosexuality.

While Mercury’s sexuality was kept a secret in public, his death in 1991 from AIDs brought his personal life to light. Three years later, his boyfriend/life partner Jim Hutton released Mercury and Me, a memoir chronicling his loving times with Mercury. The two had met at a gay club in the eighties and Hutton moved in to Mercury’s multi-million-dollar mansion two years later. They both wore wedding bands every day to show their commitment to each other.

Hutton is also entirely missing from the film trailer.

While the film’s tagline reads “The only thing more extraordinary than their music is his story,” it’s clear that the story that will be depicted on the big screen isn’t the complete one. By sweeping Mercury’s sexual orientation and serious, same-sex relationship under the rug, you’re putting him back into the closet and watering down his struggles as a queer man.

Hutton was by Mercury’s side during the end of his life and passing from AIDS. He was the one sitting at Mercury’s bedside every day, changing his underwear when he didn’t have control of his bodily functions, when he was high on morphine to fight the pain of the disease overtaking his body. It’s these intimate moments that play a huge role in Mercury’s rise and fall, and without them being shown on screen, it’s easy to erase facets of his identity that were so taboo at the time.

Writer and producer Bryan Fuller was quick to call out the trailer’s dismissal of Mercury’s sexuality and AIDS diagnosis. “Anyone else mildly annoyed that the trailer features gay/bi superstar Freddie Mercury flirting with and twirling with a woman but no indication of his love of men? […] Dear 20th Century Fox: Yes, it was a life-threatening illness, but more specifically it was AIDS from having gay sex with men. Do better.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” plans to tell the story of Freddie Mercury from the formation of Queen up until their iconic 1985 Live Aid performance which saw over 70,000 audience members scream along to the band’s twenty-minute set as well as 1.9 billion people watch from the comfort of their own homes. This live performance isn’t where Mercury’s career or life ends, but that’s what the movie will make you believe.

In fact, time kept moving after 1985. A year later the band embarked on The Magic Tour, but was forced to cancel it months later due to Mercury’s worsening condition. Queen released three more albums in the following years and Mercury himself released two solo albums. Contrary to Singer’s on-screen timeline, Live Aid did not mark the end for the band, it only brought about further success.

The fall of a beloved star like Freddie Mercury is tragic, yes, but the suppression of Mercury’s queer sexuality in the media, especially within a huge-scale, blockbuster movie like “Bohemian Rhapsody” is nothing short of a disappointment to the LGBTQIA+ community that looked up to Mercury. Millions of fans will flock to theaters to see this film, yet none will get the full picture of a successful gay man who was another victim of the 80’s AIDS epidemic.

Silencing a queer person of color’s voice and stifling his story is one thing, but further damaging this film is that it is directed by Bryan Singer.

Singer has directed huge budget action flicks like 2000’s “X-Men” and 2006’s “Superman Returns” but both dull in comparison to the controversies he has been involved in offscreen.

Singer has faced three civil suits in the past two decades of minors claiming they were sexually assaulted and date raped by the director. Similarly, he was sued for filming an underage boy naked without permission for his film “Apt Pupil” in 1997. Then in 2002, Singer along with business partner Marc Collins-Rector were arrested with possession of “an enormous collection of child porn,” over 8,000 images. as well as coverage in documentary “An Open Secret” about the normalized culture of pedophilia and abuse in Hollywood.

Needless to say, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not a film anybody should be spending their money to go and see. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement, we should know better than to be supporting cinema from known alleged predators. Freddie Mercury deserves more than this, and Queen fans deserve more than a flashy, big-budget movie that fails to address the real truth surrounding Mercury’s life and subsequent death from AIDS.

 

“I Feel Pretty” is Semi-Attractive

In Amy Schumer’s third leading role since 2015, “I Feel Pretty” sees the popular comedian as an insecure woman working a dreadful job in a basement for a cosmetics company’s website. During a biking class at Soul Cycle, Schumer sustains a head injury and wakes up suddenly confident and spiritually awakened.

Now, with a sense of superior self-esteem, Schumer goes out into the world to chase her dreams and create a better life for herself. Along the journey, Schumer’s character falls in love, becomes estranged from her best friends due to her newfound vanity, and gets a huge promotion at the cosmetics company she works at.

“I Feel Pretty” is a slightly cheesy comedy with a unique premise that is very important in this modern day and age where self-presentation and beauty means everything. While the film promised a quirky journey of one woman’s journey to delusional confidence, it instead delivered an average comedy that instead acts as one long infomercial for the power of Soul Cycle.

Schumer’s newest venture into acting isn’t awful, but it isn’t spectacular. It grossed over $80 million on its $30 million, but critics were less than impressed with her role. Many believed the film inappropriately targets and panders to plus sized woman and persuades them to change their bodies (through Soul Cycle) in order to achieve inner peace.

Chicago Tribune writer said, “[The film] succumbs to all the wrong Hollywood contrivances. It’s just not funny or fresh enough, and that has everything to do with the material and how it’s handled visually, and nothing to do with the people on screen.”

Aside from Schumer’s role, the film also stars funny ladies Aidy Bryant (“Saturday Night Live”) and Busy Philipps (“Freaks and Geeks”) and even Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”) as an airheaded rich CEO.

If you’re looking for groundbreaking comedy, head elsewhere. If you’re looking for a laugh or two, stick around. If you’re looking for an increase in your confidence levels, head to Soul Cycle.

6 Music Videos That Are Also Fine Short Films

While music videos typically are released to garner attention and radio play for a singer’s newest single, they can also be a platform for cinematic, movie theater experiences. Occasionally, some singers and artists go above and beyond when shooting their music videos to craft theatrical experiences for public consumption. These are singers who used their music videos as an art piece or piece of cinema for the viewer to enjoy whether on their laptop or on the big screen.

 

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

This one is a given. Arguably the most famous music video of all time, this 14-minute masterpiece blends cheesy 80s horror movie tropes with the biggest pop star of the time. The video was so successful that it was the first and only music video ever to be preserved by the Library of Congress in their National Film Registry in 2009 due to it being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant. “Thriller” enlists “An American Werewolf in London” makeup artist Rick Baker and director John Landis, as well as a spoken word monologue from horror film legend Vincent Price and model Ola Ray playing Jackson’s girlfriend.

 

“Marry the Night” by Lady Gaga

While it may seem controversial to list Lady Gaga directly under Michael Jackson, Gaga has proven herself to be a maven for the short film music video. Through elaborate set designs and high fashion ensembles, she proves she is much more than an ordinary pop star mouthing the words on screen in typical music video fashion. Lady Gaga goes above and beyond to make her videos visual-rich visions of glamour and real-life struggles. Through “Marry the Night,” Lady Gaga takes us into her past which is ridden with rape, bulimia, and musical failures. We watch as she is dropped from her record label and spirals into oblivion, only to rebuild herself and paint on a smile to keep fighting to make her dreams a reality. Gaga’s honesty and openness when it comes to her harrowing past and mental health is not only applaudable, but also is delivered on screen in beautifully painful detail. Despite being known for her larger than life antics and flamboyant fashion throughout the years, Gaga is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to commitment to her art and her fans.

 

“All is Full of Love” by Björk

Icelandic sweetheart Björk silenced the world with her breathtaking music video for 1999’s “All is Full of Love” from her third studio album. The video, directed by Chris Cunningham, sees two robots being created by machines and then copulating softly as Björk’s voice whisper sings. Following her 2015 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the music video and its real robots were added to the museum’s permanent collection. Not only was the video groundbreaking at the time for its advanced use of computer animation, it also serves as an example of when a music video transcends into art.

 

“Borders” by M.I.A.

Sri Lankan singer and rapper M.I.A. is known for taking a stand, so it should come as no surprise when she released her music video for her song “Borders” in 2016 which takes a shocking look at refugee crisis. In the video, shot in India, M.I.A. stands in crowds of refugees and sings lines like “Borders, what’s up with that? Your privilege, what’s up with that?” The song and its accompanying video are harsh criticisms of 2015’s European migrant crisis which saw refugees forced out of their homes with nowhere to go. All the hundreds of men in the video are actual refugees who live in tents since their displacement post-immigration. “Borders” humanizes the immigrants so often covered in the media, and by M.I.A. directing hordes of them hanging onto a huge fence at the border, it’s a chilling image of reality for many immigrants who are forcefully relocated yet barred from equal opportunities. Towards the end of the video, M.I.A. wears a t-shirt riffing on popular football club Fly Emirates with the words “Fly Pirates,” giving a pro-immigration stance.

 

“Haunted” by Beyoncé

As part of Beyoncé’s first visual album release, “Haunted” sees the legend walking down the hallways of an eerie hotel filled with sadism, horror, sex, sin and the occult. The singer, dressed in menswear with a short curled, 1920s haircut, indulges in the debauchery herself and dances in one room scantily clad and surrounded by dancers. Artistic videos like these prove her genius and provide stunning backdrops for her talented vocals.

 

“Ride” by Lana Del Rey

Here’s a video that’s so cinematic that it actually premiered in movie theaters. This ten-minute short sees Lana del Rey roam the desert like a nomad with cutoff denim shorts on the back of a motorcycle. Del Rey begins as a prostitute, romantically linking up with various brawny bikers during her hitchhiking adventure but soon runs away from home to live her life on the open road. She lives in motels, sings in bars and sells herself on street corners until one night a love affair turns sour turns Del Rey into a killer. She declares at the end, “I am crazy, but I am free.”

 

“You Were Never Really Here” Showcases Joaquin Phoenix’s Acting Abilities

2017’s gritty thriller “You Were Never Really Here” with lead Joaquin Phoenix adds a notable film to the actor’s already impressive resume. Rather than going the typical route of the genre and focusing on utter madness and horrifying jump scares, “You Were Never Really Here” instead takes an understated, moodier, arthouse approach to crime and the battle for justice.

Phoenix plays Joe, a hitman who rescues young girls stuck in the sleazy human trafficking industry and uses his brute force to kill those who held them captive. Joe is a war veteran, a grizzly, rough-and-tug type of man with beefy biceps and a long beard. One look at him and you know he plays for real.

Joe’s past is littered with childhood abuse from his father and gruesome acts he was involved in during his years serving in the military. An emotional yet outwardly strong man, he is plagued by his past which frequently surfaces during spouts of PTSD. While upon initial viewing it seems like Joe is the bad guy, it’s later in the film that you realize he’s the one saving the day. Or in this case, saving minors from the traumas of coerced sex work.

Set in New York City, the blurs of nighttime lights and street chatter contribute a dramatic element to the otherwise quiet film. Unlike how other high-action, crime thrillers of modern day rely heavily on loud gunshots and pulsating rap music during their fight scenes, “You Were Never Really Here” barely features any audio at all aside from Joe’s dialogue and natural sounds like foot steps and traffic. It’s this almost poetic nature that sets the film apart from its contenders, standing out amongst ultraviolent gorefests popular of today. Also, its intensity is hardly contained within its 90-minute length.

Phoenix’s previous hit roles include Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic “Gladiator,” M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” and “The Village” respectively, and Spike Jonze’s 2013 sci-fi love story “Her.” Phoenix went on a hiatus after his 2010 rap mockumentary “I’m Still Here” failed to make any impact or receive any acclaim from critics. He returned in 2012 and has since starred in ten feature films.

The importance of “You Were Never Really Here” in addition to Phoenix’s acting resume provides a more complex, sensitive role than he has played in the past. While he did sappily fall in love with his computer in “Her” and play another WWII vet in “The Master,” neither shed insight on the scope of his true abilities.

By playing Joe, Phoenix sheds his skin and underwent not only a buffing of his physical appearance, but also stripped down to his bare emotional spectrum to understand the delicacy in which to play hitman Joe. More than just a hitman, he plays a savior to these young girls enslaved in the sex trade whilst remaining brawny and vulnerable, achieving a complexity unpracticed by most Hollywood heavyweights.

Is Youtube Premium on its Way to Dominate Streaming?

Youtube’s venture into premium digital streaming which debuted in 2014 with just music has recently rebranded itself in late June 2018 under a new name, Youtube Premium. Formerly Youtube Red, the service offers ad-free viewing of typical Youtube videos as well as the ability to download content offline for later viewing, access to Google Play Music and exclusive, original series and films.

The service costs $11.99 a month, not bad compared to Hulu’s $7.99 programming that includes commercial interruptions and Netflix’s $8 standard definition streaming.

Youtube itself ranks in 1.5 billion viewers a month to its platform, meaning a staggering 20% of the world population is tuning in. By capitalizing on this huge audience, Youtube is attracting more viewers to their site with their new unique programming.

Youtube Premium is available in 17 countries and hosts 62 original television series, films, and programs ranging in genre from drama to comedy to documentary mainly attracting the millennial audience. Big hits from the service thus far include documentaries with singers Katy Perry and Demi Lovato as well as transgender internet personality Gigi Gorgeous, a 2016 reality competition series hosted by Youtuber Joey Graceffa titled “Escape the Night,” and drama series “Impulse” which has an impressive 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. It has 15 more projects in the works for the upcoming future.

“Cobra Kai,” their spin on the “Karate Kid” franchise, received more buzz during its release than Netflix teen favorite “13 Reasons Why” did, making it Youtube Premium’s highest rating series ever.

Netflix has 125 million subscribers as of April 2018 and Hulu has 54 million. Youtube Red had 1.5 million by summer 2016 and has yet to disclose new statistics.

Youtube seems very serious about producing their own original television and films and it’s only due time until they join the ranks of marketing monoliths like Netflix.