Archive | February, 2015

But He Was Such a Nice Guy… Jack Black Evokes My Sympathy for a Killer in Bernie (2011)

24 Feb
Bernie-Movie-4

Such a nice guy… Jack Black as Bernie Tiede

Last month I heard a story on NPR about convicted murderer Bernie Tiede, who continued to be loved by his entire community in Carthage, (East- very important!) Texas, even after he admitted to murdering an elderly widow and keeping her in a deep freezer in the garage for nine months. In the NPR story, they spent some time talking about Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy/mockumentary about the man, aptly titled Bernie. It’s the Best in Show of murder movies.

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

The real Bernie Tiede (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Jack Black is absolutely amazing in this movie. He plays Tiede in such an endearing way, you can’t help but side with the many townspeople who also saw past Bernie’s horrific actions. As they put it, Marjorie Nugent, Tiede’s victim, was a total bitch. Shirley MacLaine, who portrays Nugent in the movie does a good job of letting us feel that she kind of had it coming. Whether that is true in real life is only truly known by Tiede himself, but I’m inclined to believe it. In addition to Black’s killer (ha!) performance, the vignettes of the townspeople, exhibited through mock interviews, are also just priceless.

Last year, Tiede’s attorney began to present new evidence in the case that alleges that Tiede was sexually abused as a child, and the emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of Nugent prior to her death drove him to a “dissociative episode,” which led him to kill her. I don’t want to ruin the surprise that is what became of Bernie Tiede and where he is today, so be sure to Google him only after you have seen this delightful movie.

I give it an A.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from the movie, about the differences between the regions of Texas.

And here is a great scene of Jack Black playing Bernie

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“He Lives in a Horde of His Own Personal Peculiarities” Burt’s Buzz (2013)

22 Feb
Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt's Bees

Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt’s Bees

I’ve been using Burt’s Bees products for as long as I can remember, but until I saw the documentary Burt’s Buzz, I had no idea that Burt was a real person. This documentary takes an intimate look into Burt Shavitz’s life as the poster “boy” of Burt’s Bees products. He travels all over the world, passing out samples and meeting superfans (yep, he has those). He is just as rustic as the photo to the left suggests.

Some Burt's Bees superfans in Taiwan

Some Burt’s Bees superfans in Taiwan

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

Trevor Folsom is known as “The Majordomo,” aka Burt’s handler, who makes sure he gets his packing in order and to his appointments on time, but mostly he helps Burt with things around his house and in his life on a daily basis. He is the darling of the documentary, in my opinion; he made me laugh until I cried. Folsom’s deadpan sarcasm and obvious annoyance with the one man pony show that is Burt would put April Ludgate (Dwyer) to shame. In the first shot in which he faces the camera, interview style, he states, “Burt’s a very interesting guy that I spend every day with. And sometimes I wanna throttle him,” and later he delivers my favorite lines, “He lives in a horde of his own personal peculiarities…He does not have the range of conception that allows him to see what he has become…He’s like Colonel Sanders, and he simply does not understand that.”

I will always love documentaries about peculiar people. They are uplifting alternatives to the depressing docs I watch about climate change, religious extremists, and hegemonic US international policy-making. Burt’s Buzz is one of the best I have seen in some time, although there is a bit of a sad twist to his story as well.

My favorite scene from the doc at the end of the following video: https://thescene.com/watch/presents/burt-s-buzz-meet-burt-and-his-majordomo-trevor

I’m Gettin’ too Old for This Shit – Happy Christmas (2014)

18 Feb

I can be into Mumblecore movies, depending on my mood. Today was a snow day, a slow day, and an alone day, so I was

Mumblecore Poster Child Mark Duplass. (Not in the movie... but worth mentioning)

Mumblecore Poster Child Mark Duplass. (Not in the movie… but worth mentioning)

down for an onslaught of slow-moving plots that seem to go nowhere, meandering dialogue, and amateurish camera angles. Enter: Happy Christmas, a title that is one of the biggest misnomers I have come across in a movie. Sure, it takes place during Christmas time, but it’s more of an afterthought than a focal point. If anything, it is just there to add to the ambiance of a stagnant and frigid Chicago winter.

Lena Dunham fans rejoice, she makes several appearances in the movie as Jenny's friend Carson.

Lena Dunham fans rejoice, she makes several appearances in the movie as Jenny’s friend Carson.

Jenny (Anna Kendrick) has just broken up with her boyfriend, and has decided to start over again in Chicago. She has returned to live with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg), his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), and their baby while she looks for her own apartment. Jeff and Kelly set Jenny up in their tiki-themed bar basement while she relives the reality of living with a parent once again, complete with adolescent behaviors such as coming home wasted in the middle of the night, passing out drunk while a frozen pizza burns in the oven, and sneaking bowls downstairs while online shopping for Christmas presents.

Hangover city in the tiki basement

Hangover city in the tiki basement

One thing I like about this movie is that Jenny never wallows in the breakup that she left behind, and she doesn’t spend half of the movie complaining about the ups and downs of relationships. She’s just 27 years old, a bit directionless, and in a strange limbo between post-college and post-post-college, that awkward time when society takes a look at you, one foot tapping, saying, “you are really supposed to have your shit together by now,” but you don’t. This is why the film is so relatable to me. I barely have my shit together now, but at 27 I was really at a crossroads of the social discomfort and hangovers that I was supposed to have grown out of by then.

Carson and Jenny and Baby Jude

Carson and Jenny and Baby Jude

Full of discursive and improvisational dialogue, this movie shows people being people and having conversations in an unscripted way that I usually like. It feels a little overdone at times, but I appreciate a movie that captures realistic human interaction just as much as I enjoy beautifully prosaic scripts handcrafted by a room full of professional writers. It is exactly this kind of movie that I become more and more uncomfortable viewing in the company of others, for whatever reason. So many people want movies to have a point, a big and obvious breakthrough or resolution. Happy Christmas doesn’t really have one of those big messages at the end, but it’s relatable, and I really like that about this movie.

So if you ever felt a little lost and irresponsible while in your mid- to late-20’s; if you have found yourself a part of the boomerang generation that moves back in with family members or at least back to some semblance of the “home” from whence you once came; if you have ever woken up at noon, hungover, and thinking to yourself, “I’m getting too old for this shit;” and if you don’t mind reliving all of these uncomfortable moments just once more, you will like Happy Christmas, in spite of its hideous title.

Grade: B.