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FILM
Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo
January 2018

 Image © Argos Films 

Image © Argos Films 

The films reviewed in Captain Canada’s Movie Rodeo are pulled from a list of films that was started when the column started. The list covers everything I’ve seen for the first time between 2012 and the present. 

What do I predict for film in 2018? Well, as far as Hollywood is concerned, I’m pretty confident that you’re going to see a whole more burning of men who should have been put on trial a very long time ago. I’m not entirely optimistic that we are going to see long-lasting, positive changes in an industry that was built on evils that make Game of Thrones look like a particularly bratty episode of Caillou. I suppose we’ll see. I hope so. Personally, I’m tired of Hollywood’s perpetual state of stagnation and peculiar blend of arrogance and self-loathing. Sure, I can go to international cinema, and I can focus on the remarkable independent films that are still being made by voices from a range of backgrounds (although indie film in North America is still in desperate need of a shot of diversity).

But I want the American film industry to do better. I want blockbuster films to do better. I want to see the full potential of the industry. It doesn’t shock me that two of the most impressive films of 2017 were horror. If I had to guess, I’d say the horror genre will embrace the push for more varied stories and storytellers before just about anyone else. You can already see examples of that, if you look to releases over the past couple of years.

Meanwhile, more men are going to burn for the shit they’ve been pulling. I’m okay with that. Maybe, it’s just the fact that virtually none of these accusations have surprised me. I came close with Jeffrey Tambor. Even then, it just seems plausible that most men are capable of casual/aggressive monstrosities against women, as well as other men. And yes, guys, I know there are female abusers out there. I know there are liars out there, too. That’s not the main issue at play right now. We’re not debating on whether or not people who aren’t generally white, powerful men are capable of small or great evils. We’re focusing on the fact that so many men in one industry in particular have had such behaviors and actions largely unchecked for so long. I don’t understand why it’s so fucking hard for some people to accept that.

More TV shows will be cancelled. More movies will be cancelled, recast, or relegated to some form of obscurity. I’m okay with all of that. Fuck you, if you somehow think House of Cards, or whatever the case may be, is something that is more important than the safety of women, young men, or anyone else who is targeted by these shitty walking egos with their pitiful, entitled little peckers. I loved House of Cards. Nothing really changes that fact on its own. I’m just not prepared to let my enjoyment of a film, TV show, or music album come at the expense of someone who has been suffering in silence for any amount of time. I don’t say any of this with a smug grin on my face. I’m sorry if something you really enjoyed was fucked over by an evil man doing evil shit. Get mad at the guy who committed the crimes. Don’t get mad at the studio or network for making the call to shut it down.

And if you’re getting mad at those who have come forward with their allegations, solely because it means your favorite series or movie is being cancelled/shelved, then I would cordially invite you to fuck yourself with a parking cone. Really, anything that will keep you from filling the internet with your laughably pathetic negativity is just ducky with me.

Burn it down. Build something better.

Oh, and I didn’t feel like putting forth an actual argument, but technically, Twin Peaks: The Return was my favorite movie of 2017.

Just in case anyone was curious.

REVIEWS 

Amarcord (1973): B+

 Image © Warner Bros. 

Image © Warner Bros. 

My longwinded, weird little journey with Federico Fellini continues. While I’ve enjoyed the films of his that I’ve seen over the years (8 ½ is good, while Ginger and Fred might just be my favorite Fellini movie thus far), I’ve never had the emotional connection to his work that I know a lot of other people get. I only mention this because I sometimes feel as though I’m missing out on something.

Amarcord, which Fellini released in 1973, is a good example of this thought. It is a celebrated staple in the Criterion Collection. You can currently explore the entire Criterion edition through the FilmStruck streaming service. I would certainly recommend checking it out. This half-autobiographical/half-satire/fantasy of the highest deranged order tells the story of a young boy named Titta, but it’s really just Fellini going after some notable targets. The attacks on Fascism, the Catholic Church, and the arrested development of small town people with small town minds are numerous, and intensely enjoyable at times. Titta’s is sad and lovely, but it’s mostly sad. The same can be said for the various eccentrics who make up the small village of Borgo San Giuliano. The blind accordion player (played by Domenica Pertica) might be my favorite, but virtually of the characters in Fellini’s distorted, frantic, and often cruel world are compelling on one level or another.

Still, a basic understanding of the social backdrop that influenced this film can be helpful, in terms of enjoying it on every level. If you don’t want to take things quite that far, you can still enjoy Amarcord as a character study in people who are ultimately hopeless. Fellini judges them, but he also includes himself in all of this, which is where the autobiographical element comes in.

I appreciate all of this. For the most part, I enjoyed the long whirlwind that is generally the norm with Federico Fellini. I just don’t feel the wave of emotions that seem to come for many of Fellini’s admirers—many of whom became celebrated artists in their own right. I’m almost always entertained, but I’ve never been left with the feeling that my world has just become a little more remarkable. As far as Fellini and I are concerned, I guess the journey continues.

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014): A+ 

 Image © CBS/FOX Home Video 

Image © CBS/FOX Home Video 

Twin Peaks, as well as David Lynch, have been a fixture in this column for the past few months. If you’re a fan of Twin Peaks in general, you understand where I’m coming from. If you were overwhelmed in particular by Twin Peaks Season 3/Twin Peaks: The Return, then you really get my need to pour over all things related to that bewildering, endlessly beautiful and terrifying little town. Part of that experience on my part included re-watching the intensely reviled, controversial 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

As the recent third season of Twin Peaks was largely celebrated as one of the finest pieces of television in recent history (or it’s the most extraordinary 18-hour movie ever made, depending on your opinion), people came back to Fire Walk with Me, which is a prequel that takes us through the last wretched days of Laura Palmer. The film had gained a cult status over the years, but it has garnered much more than that during the past year. Reception to the film has changed dramatically, over the course of the past twenty-five years. It is now seen as a difficult, but essential masterpiece. I couldn’t agree more.

I also had the chance at long last to sit down with The Missing Pieces. Really, it’s just a long collection of deleted/extended scenes from Fire Walk with Me. Yet it has been presented as something of a film unto itself. That is fine by me. I can’t recommend this film to anyone who isn’t very, very familiar with the world of Twin Peaks. However, if you are new to all of this, or if you just haven’t gotten around to The Missing Pieces, try to change that in the near future. This is going to be one of the last things you should watch, if you are a new fan. If it all possible, pair this up with Fire Walk with Me, and then dive into season 3. Even if you saw The Return recently. The deleted Special Agent Phillip Jeffries (played by David Bowie) in particular must be seen to be believed.

Fantastic Planet (1973): A+ 

 Image © Argos Films 

Image © Argos Films 

Based on the 1957 Stefan Wul novel Oms en série, the animated, deeply surreal Fantastic Planet is the kind of movie your pot dealer might make you watch, if you guys are close like that. The movie plays with themes of racism, nationalism, and the cruelty that humans/aliens can be capable of achieving, without even really realizing it. There are a number of disturbing elements and themes to Fantastic Planet’s story, in which giant beings known as Draags interact with the humans (known as Oms) who were brought their world a number of years prior to the start of the film. Perhaps, the most horrific theme would be the concept of normalization.

For the most part, the Draags are not overtly cruel. They just can’t begin to envision the idea that the Oms are deserving of dignity and ethical treatment. That doesn’t make them any less evil. Their complicity doesn’t let them off the hook, simply because their beliefs are just so intensely established into the DNA of their lives. What we watch in Fantastic Planet, whose dated animation is nonetheless enthralling, is the concept of normalization in action. It gives the film a chilling component that makes it worth watching in 2018.

However, to be fair, there a lot of ways to interpret this journey of an Om named Terr, as he fights to wake up his fellow humans to the bleakness of their existence. You can take Fantastic Planet in any fashion that you wish. Just make sure you watch it, and pray that no one decides to remake it in the near future. Fantastic Planet also offers the possibility that technology and knowledge are not inherently the paths to enlightenment, or to being the best possible example of your species. You need empathy. As you watch this, consider how far human beings still have to go in 2018.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017): A- 

 Image © Disney 

Image © Disney 

As we careen with exhausted, slightly cynical joy to Marvel’s Infinity War, it seems reasonable to see Thor: Ragnarok as one of Marvel Studios most impressive achievements to date. A big part of that is the commitment from director Taika Waititi, the screenwriters, composer Mark Mothersbaugh, and the cast to completely flip the way Thor’s solo cinematic ventures have been presented thus far. The result is a loss for those who may have liked Thor and Thor: The Dark World. For anyone else, Ragnarok is proof that changing the tone of a franchise isn’t just possible, but is sometimes essential.

At the same time, Ragnarok isn’t just a treat because we see Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, and Jeff Goldblum act like ridiculous, generally brilliant idiots (okay, not so much idiocy from Cate as Hela, one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe villains to date). It’s a treat because Waititi finds new ways for us to connect to these characters. The tone of the film is a reminder that superhero movies can evolve, or become more complex in their stories, without losing their fundamental, unique appeal. Ragnarok is also a success as the bridge that brings us to Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and the entire other half of this ever-expanding universe. Thanks to a movie like this, which only seems simple at times, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to make sense. That is a bigger achievement than you might think.


Justice League (2017): C-

 Image © Warner Bros. 

Image © Warner Bros. 

On the other side of the superhero blockbuster coin, we have DC Comics, and their repeated, depressing efforts to replicate what Marvel has accomplished. Justice League should not have been yet another critical failure, made even worse by the fact that the movie is barely a box office success. There is certainly nothing about this movie, directed mostly by Zach Snyder (until Joss Whedon stepped in, apparently adding very little to Justice League that’s worth getting excited about), that DC/Warner Bros should be pleased about.

Yet again, it didn’t have to be that way. Wonder Woman gave DC/Warner Bros a little momentum, and proof that DC’s icons can be relevant, serious, and entertaining in equal measures. Over a story that involves Batman (Affleck has nothing to be embarrassed about in his turn with the cape and cowl) hastily assembling a bland Justice League to fight a boring villain virtually no one could possibly care about, Justice League is a tedious reminder of what I felt after Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad. The elements for a good movie were in both of those releases. With Batman v. Superman, Snyder’s mediocrity and shitty imagination, combined with the purported nightmare that has become a creative relationship with DC and Warner Bros, were the elements that killed any potential that movie ever had. Suicide Squad is a mess of creative tampering, indecision, and lazy storytelling. Those feelings swell throughout Justice League, which should have at least been entertaining. The movie gets closer to that than almost any other DC/Warner Bros release thus far, but we still ultimately get a desperate clusterfuck of style and little substance. Affleck (who I would have liked to see in a solo Batman film) and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman are the movie’s only bright spots, beyond a few stylistic touches that are likely to wake you from the stupor this movie creates. The movie’s fumbling efforts at humor are, by and large, so inept, they deserve an entire essay of their own.

Those bright spots, combined with the movie’s (relatively) short running time, pull Justice League slightly above the dregs of most DC Comics live-action films. That’s fine, but that’s also pretty fucking miserable. The first live-action/big-screen adaptation of one of the greatest superhero teams in comic book history should have done a whole lot better than “fine.”


Gabriel Ricard writes, edits, and occasionally acts. He is a columnist with Drunk Monkeys and Cultured Vultures. His books Bondage Night and Clouds of Hungry Dogs are available at Amazon.com and through their respective publishers. He is also a writer and performer with Belligerent Prom Queen Productions. He lives on Long Island.