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Everybody Must Get Stoned- Inherent Vice (2014)

12 Jan

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Part Big Lebowski, part Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, part Boogie Nights. Sound intriguing? Read on.

When I saw the ad for Inherent Vice, I was like “meh, probably not for me.” That is until the very end when I read the fine print: “Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Based on the book by Thomas Pynchon.” I pulled a complete 180 on my apprehensions about the movie and dove in, head first, on the second day of its nationwide theatrical release. I haven’t done that in quite some time, and I am ashamed to admit that although I have this (rarely updated) movie blog, I prefer to wait until the movie comes out on Netflix.

PT Anderson is the architect for such movies as There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, and my personal favorite, Magnolia (among others). In fact, my last review here was on his other most recent film, The Master, which, like Inherent Vice, starred Joaquin Phoenix as the protagonist. And like The Master, I don’t think that Inherent Vice quite hit the mark of those past films for me. I did like it much more than The Master, with the once exception being that I am sad it didn’t/couldn’t include Phillip Seymour Hoffman, for obvious reasons.

docThe good parts:
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Doc Sportello, a perma-stoned Private Investigator in 1970’s SoCal, following a breadcrumb trail of several different cases that twist and turn and intertwine in unexpected and comically unbelievable ways. Doc is the most lovable Joaquin Phoenix that I have ever experienced, so that is the a plus. Because of his permanently stoned state, Doc finds it just as incredulous as the viewer that all of these cases so coincidentally cross paths. His intoxication- mostly all of the joints in the tri-state area, along with an occasional nitrous tank or bump of heroin- is absolutely contagious. As a viewer your eyes will turn red, your perception will become hazy, your sense of humor will sharpen, and you will experience this ridiculous journey almost as stoned as Doc is. It’s truly unexplainable, and worth viewing the movie for that entertaining aspect. In addition, my beloved Joanna Newsom is an inspired choice for the narrator of the film (with occasional physical appearances). The star-studded cast is also a delight, and you never know who is going to make an appearance next (unless you ruin it by reading the cast list ahead of time).

Joanna Newsome as Sortilège. Swoon

Joanna Newsome as Sortilège. Swoon

The bad parts:
Although I am sure it is simply preserving the old school sentiments of 77-year old author of the novel, Thomas Pynchon, I cannot help but detest the sexist nature of this movie. The female characters are neither complex nor do they seem to act as agents of their own desires, but rather they exist as objects for the male gaze. (Although Joanna Newsom’s character, Sortilège, is actually rather sage and omnipotent, the only female character represented thusly). I find this incredibly frustrating, because I tend to like controversial movies that many people would find uncomfortable or that pushes boundaries of human decency, but I am somehow unable to get past this part of Inherent Vice, as much as I wish I could just ignore it. I am just sick of seeing movies that are so obviously written for men and by men without much consideration for women other than as some kind of accessory to the far more important male characters. This is my complaint with two of Wes Anderson’s recent movies as well: Darjeeling Limited and Grand Budapest Hotel.

Inherent-Vice_612x380I’ll give the movie a B, because I still found it wildly entertaining, and it is an uncomfortable movie. And as I mentioned, I am always a fan of those. Just like when I went to the theater to see Life Aquatic, I found myself laughing aloud a little more often than the rest of the moviegoers. Joaquin Phoenix and his constant high confusion kept me in a state of trying-to-hold-back-giggles throughout the movie, and although it was 2 and a half hours long, it didn’t feel as painfully long as I thought it might (thinking back to There Will Be Blood).

Spring Breakers (2013)

12 Apr

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One more bucket list item completed: To see movies by my favorite and most-beloved directors in the theater when they come out. I dove into the finish line with this one, because I didn’t expect theaters in Asheville, NC to stop playing it in its third week running. When I went to look up the weekend showtimes yesterday, I discovered that it would be showing in first-run theaters one last time, last night. So for the spring-breakers-IGN-poster-debut-610x903first time since Moonrise Kingdom, I shelled out the ridiculous rate of $20.50 for two movie tickets. Perhaps what is more ridiculous is that I have a movie blog but don’t pay full-price very often to see new movies, but that shit ‘spensive, y’all. I am happy that maybe two dollars out of that ridiculous sum made its way into Harmony Korine’s hands, because Spring Breakers did not disappoint me in the least.

When I say that Spring Breakers is Korine’s most accessible film, I do not mean to condemn him for “selling out,” nor do I mean to say that most mainstream Americans could stomach this movie or pick up on its subtle message(s). This film occupies an uncomfortable limbo that I love that is between mainstream and totally “out there.” And I want everyone to see it. But then again, I still want everyone to see Gummo and that movie is certainly not conventional or remotely comfortable for 98% of the population. This movie is so much like Gummo, but because it is more accessible, I think it is more easily digested. When I say it’s like Gummo, what I mean this: Korine is famous for presenting uncomfortable or unbelievable characters, but believe me you, these EXACT people exist. In the hundreds. From

My favorite Spring Breakers promo material, snagged off of lostinthemultiplex.com, but I can't seem to find the original artist.

My favorite Spring Breakers promo material, snagged off of lostinthemultiplex.com, but I can’t seem to find the original artist.

Xenia, OH (Gummo); from weird-ass St. Petersburg, Florida (Spring Breakers); yeah, they’re real.

I avoided reviews of this little gem before seeing it, because I wanted it to be fresh when I finally caught it in the theater. I had read some murmurings on Facebook from friends whose opinions I respect that it was a fantastic movie, so that eased the doubts I had after seeing the trailer some months ago. These doubts may have returned in the first few minutes of the film, which were filled with beer-soaked, bouncing, spring break titties and lines of irritating dialogue from college coeds about how much their lives would suck if they didn’t go on the adventure of a lifetime by going on spring break. But I soon realized the underlying message of all of the “annoying” parts of the movie (like James Franco’s character, Alien, whom I couldn’t stand at first but then I learned to absolutely love him), and I turned to embrace this ironic commentary.

Riff Raff on the left, Franco to the right

Riff Raff on the left, who was the inspiration for Alien (Franco) on the right. (Source: animalnewyork.com)

No spoilers from me -like I said, I benefited from coming at the movie with a fresh outlook. But even from the trailer you’ll know that four Disney starlets (technically three plus Korine’s wife) go on spring break and get into some unsavory activities unbefitting of their reputations. They meet Allen, a.k.a. Alien, who is James Franco’s hilarious rendition of a Florida gangsta white boy, (inspired by this guy) and they all get into some more shenanigans. I laughed a ton throughout this movie, mostly at Alien’s antics and because he reminds me of someone I know (I’ll never tell…)

Please go see this movie in any capacity you can. Keep an open mind and try to put your annoyance at the beginning of the movie on the back burner. While I don’t condone the actions of these spring breakers, I kind of want to jump up and down on a bed in my bikini wielding a gun after seeing the movie. I think I’ll settle for finally getting to read some other reviews, starting with our dearly departed Roger Ebert, though just maybe I’ll go fill my pink squirt gun with some rum. Spring break 4ever bitches.