F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 4, 2014)

4 07 2014

sTabloidOn the occasion of the United States’ 238th birthday, why not celebrate a lesser-trumpeted American fascination? (Not that freedom, liberty, and equality aren’t nice.). This is a value we share with pretty much the whole world, and we might have even invented it.

The concept to which I’m referring, if you haven’t caught on by now, is celebrity culture and our seemingly insatiable desire for every salacious detail of their lives. Incisive documentarian Errol Morris explored this predilection in his 2011 film “Tabloid,” a compulsively entertaining tale that played out in cheap, gossipy newspapers in the 1970s. It gets my pick as the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” because of the way it provides non-stop ridiculous fun even while posing some peculiarly perplexing issues to ponder.

It was described as “a story with something for everyone,” and they weren’t kidding.  Joyce McKinney’s rise to tabloid infamy had all the bizarre elements of a Hollywood movie: sex, cults, brainwashing, kidnapping … and maybe love, depending on who you ask.  After falling in love with the devoutly Mormon man Kurt, Joyce refuses to let their relationship be torn apart by the customary mission.  She organizes a team to go extract him from England, and crazy hijinks ensue that give Joyce an unusually bright-shining 15 minutes of fame.

Morris lets McKinney tell her own story on her terms, but he certainly doesn’t take it at face value.  He amasses a whole host of other subjects with their own ties to the events, be they participants or the tabloid reporters that made her and then destroyed her.  “Tabloid” provides a fascinating tussle for the truth; we’re never quite sure who to believe or trust.  Everyone has their own motive for spinning the narrative their own way.  Who can say if we’ll ever know what actually happened or why people acted in the way they did.

The film clips along thanks to Morris’ quite literally ripped-from-the-headlines aesthetic.  (Newspaper clippings abound, dispersed throughout the interviews and the archival footage.)  For people like me who weren’t alive in that era, “Tabloid” serves as a reminder that E! and the reality TV phenomenon didn’t just come out of nowhere; our culture has a rich history of using whatever the predominant news media is to elevate the average citizen to superhuman status only to bring them right back down to earth.

WTLFT: July 2011

8 06 2011

Yeah, I shortened the name.  It’s a lot more palatable.  This post will tell you What To Look Forward To in the month of July.  We have transformers, captains, teen stars, teen wizards, sex friends, zoo friends, hellish bosses, honey bears, and smurfs – just to name a few.  Here they all are; you can make up your mind if any of these actually appeal to you.

July 1

Cheating- “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” actually comes out on June 29, and, if you want to get really technical, June 28 at 9:00 in IMAX 3D and RealD 3D.  So while you curse me for my horrific crimes against nature, humanity, and blogging, watch the trailer and decide for yourself whether or not you want to subject yourself to Shia LaBeouf and a lot of loud noises orchestrated by Michael Bay.

On the quieter side of things, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts plan to use their star power to fill seats at “Larry Crowne,” which looks like perfectly middle-of-the-road rom-com territory.  On the louder side of things again – and by louder, I mean girlish screams and constantly ringing cell phones – “Monte Carlo” gives young girls what they need during the summer.  A nice helping of Selena Gomez, Katie Cassidy, and Leighton Meester should have the tweeners saying “OMG!” until the next season of “Wizards of Waverly Place” hits the small screen. (There’s also a creepy thriller called “The Perfect Host” starring David Hyde Pierce, which I feel obliged to mention since it’s the only indie offering amidst these studio genre pics.)

July 8

Fingers crossed that “Horrible Bosses” will be funny!  I remember reading a piece on a blog for The Los Angeles Times well before the movie started production that praised it, so hopefully it stuck to the script.  If it’s a hit, I motion for Jennifer Aniston to stop doing horrible rom-com fare and stick to raunchy comedy; I chuckle every time I watch the trailer and hear her say, “Shabbat shalom; someone’s circumcised!”

As for “Zookeeper” … well, I hope the kids enjoy it.

I’ve definitely been going through a documentary phase ever since last year’s “Inside Job” rocked my world, and Michael Rappaport’s “Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” could feed my obsession quite well.  It follows the titular hip-hop group (known as A Tribe Called Quest if you are as clueless as I was) from formation to fame.  Best case scenario it provides a fascinating expose of the craft of rapping much like “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” did for standup comedy last summer.  Worst case scenario I get to see some of my favorite artists talking about a group I’ve never heard of before.

Another interesting documentary (that I can only PRAY makes it to Houston sometime before I leave for college) is “Project Nim,” the story of a chimpanzee experiment.  I’ve always been interested in stories where lines and boundaries we once thought clear are exposed and shown to be more porous and relative than we thought, and this looks to deliver on a big scale.

July 15

Some tiny little series ends on screen.  It’s no big deal, it’s not like these movies define my youth.  It’s not like it’s a worldwide phenomenon.  But in all seriousness, I’m not going to cry.  “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” – BRING IT ON!

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