Tag Archives: Netflix

The Other Side of the Wind (2018, Review)

Orson Welles directed a handful of the most influential and important films in history. Despite his personal and professional failings, of which there were many, Welles remains a great artist. We should give any work of his the benefit of the doubt.

I tried to do that. Really, I did. But The Other Side of the Wind is a train wreck.

It’s not without its charms. I thought it interesting how Welles makes fun of the pompous “cineasts” who follow Jake Hannaford (John Huston) around. It’s not without irony – those nerds are the primary reason people still care about Welles today. Even so, the movie overall is a slog to get through.

Let’s start with the obvious. This movie is essentially two hours of obnoxious people rambling about nothing intercut with scenes from what looks like a pretty crappy movie.

My biggest issue with the movie is that it’s basically a lesser version of 8 1/2 (1963). I don’t know if this was intentional, but the movie just isn’t funny enough to work as satire. It’s like Welles saw Fellini’s masterpiece and thought to himself, “I can do that!” [Ron Howard voice – he couldn’t.]

Then there’s the “Where’s Poochie?” quality. Ninety percent of the dialogue involves people talking about Hannaford. But Hannaford barely has any lines. We learn a lot about what the characters think of Hannaford, but little about the characters themselves.

I didn’t get a good sense of why these characters are so obsessed with Hannaford anyway. The only reason we know he’s a good or important director is because no one will shut up about it. The film within a film certainly doesn’t showcase the workings of a genius.

That brings me to the film within the film. Is it supposed to be a knockoff of risqué arthouse movies of the 60’s or part of the brief mainstream porno period of the 70’s? It certainly feels more like the latter, only weirder.

It’s not even a good example of film within a film. Take HBO’s “The Deuce.” The film within a film on the show, Red Hot, makes sense. We see why it’s good too, through the energy of the making-of scenes. We know Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and we understand her motivations and passions. We aren’t just made to think it’s good because the characters won’t stop talking about how good it is.

Maybe, maybe, if Welles supervised the final cut of The Other Side of the Wind, it wouldn’t be such a mess. Who knows? That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a bad movie.

You might like The Other Side of the Wind if you’re an Orson Welles completist. Otherwise, you can probably skip this one.

(c) 2018 D.G. McCabe

Starnger Things: What’s Next

So I finished Stranger Things Season Two this weekend.  Before I get into my thoughts on where the show goes from here, here’s your standard spoiler warning.  The article continues after the trailer.

Season two of Stranger things was a lot of fun.  Eight of the nine episodes were nearly flawless.  The other one introduced some interesting world-building that could be used to make season three something a bit different.  That’s what I’d like to write about, where the show goes from here.

While the last scene threatened another round of our heroes versus “the upside down,” I kind of hope that the seeds of season three are contained in episode seven of season two.  While some ink has been spilled by critics about why the “El/Jane goes to the Chicago” episode is the weakest of the season, I think that’s a function of the fact that it isn’t given the room to breathe that the rest of the series is granted.  It also occurs in the middle of a cliffhanger, which throws off the rhythm of other eight episodes.

As an aside, with some notable exceptions (Thor, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer) the most powerful characters in Marvel comics are typically X-Men and other “mutant” characters.  Arguably, the most powerful is Jean Grey – who among other things can manipulate all matter with her mind.    Sound familiar?

As we know from episode seven, El/Jane isn’t the only super-powered being out there.  At least one of her siblings is roaming the country dispensing vigilante justice.  There are at least nine others, whose powers and whereabouts haven’t been revealed.

Now, El/Jane with her Jean Grey powers might have an advantage over the others.  A well worn comic book trope, however, is that this power also makes her a target.  For season three I’d like to see her have to protect her friends against her rogue “siblings,” while the Mind Flayer licks its wounds and somehow returns for season 4.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe


Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (With Spoilers)

Netflix has spawned a cottage industry of reunion and revival events.  The latest is the return of Gilmore Girls, probably the best received of the late 90’s/early 2000’s WB/CW lineup (although Dawson’s Creek got much more high school water-cooler buzz at the time).

A Year in the Life contains its share of reunion show gimmicks (celebrity cameos, one-off character returns, re-hashing old plotlines), but succeeds as a satisfying continuation of the story of Emily, Lorelei, and Rory Gilmore.  By combining strong characters with lovable quirks, the revival successfully…blah blah blah.

It’s good.  There.  Now let’s talk about a far more interesting topic.  Rory Gilmore is a train wreck.  I’ve noticed that pointing this out on the internet has become a cliché, up there with “Kirk vs. Picard” debates.  But man, is she interesting.

I mean, A Year in the Life has satisfying conclusions and arcs for Lorelei, Emily, Luke, and even Michel.  Satisfaction though, is well tread and boring territory. What separates A Year in the Life from the dull, box checking reunion events of yesteryear is that all of this satisfaction is overshadowed by the atmospheric event known as Hurricane Rory.

Let’s take a look at her career.  She thinks she can make it as a professional writer but has no patience for the grind of that profession.  Everyone warns her that the British woman she’s working with is high maintenance, yet she ignores her and treats her with contempt.  Sure that crazy website lady has been bugging her for months, but Rory comes into that meeting with no ideas.  She won’t write the “lines” story because she thinks it’s beneath her.  Her best idea is a personal memoir, because the market isn’t already bursting at the seams with those.

She’s also surrounded by enablers.  The townspeople have always been in awe of her, and her modest success has given them continued justifications for it.  Getting published in Slate is not very impressive, they ran a story by a crackhead once, but the New Yorker and Atlantic have a lot of cache, so maybe that’s understandable.  She has Lorelei and Emily wrapped around her little finger, providing her a safety net of unearned emotional support and money.  Paris sticks by her because no one else can stand her. Lane sticks by her because Rory is the one person that won’t call her out on living like a teenager well into her thirties.

The unearned adoration combined with the veil of bookishness gives Rory the ability to treat people like crap without consequences.  Praise is such a default reaction to her that she doesn’t seem to understand that compassion is a two-way street.  As a result, she’s cold and dismissive towards Jesse, Logan, the 30-something gang, and pretty much anyone who’s not Lane, Paris, or her family (although she’s plenty dismissive to them too).

Rory, however, isn’t a bad person.  She’s been playing a certain game successfully, after all.  School came relatively easy to her, it appeared she was working hard but when you’re a natural at something you have less incentive to really challenge yourself.  She majors in journalism and tries her hand a professional writing because she’s always been good at research and writing essays. She gets some articles published in well-regarded magazines.  The next step is getting a regular gig or a book deal, so she writes a book.  At no point has she had to re-evaluate what she’s doing or how she treats people.

She’s pregnant now, which is one of the few things that could happen to her that could make her re-evaluate her life.  It represents a new beginning and the failure of her master life plan.  If we get another season, it’ll be interesting to see if she changes or continues on the same path of destruction she’s been on all of these years.

(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe


2015 Year in Review

Well we’re down to the last few hours of 2015.  It’s been an interesting year in Hollywood. Some movies and TV shows were good, some were the second season of True Detective.  Anyway, let’s get moving with our annual tradition:

2015 Was a Good Year to Be:

1) Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer had a good year.  A really good year.  Her Comedy Central series has been popular for a couple of years, but this year she became a movie star and got an HBO special.  It certainly hasn’t been perfect, but no one on this list had a perfect year.

2) Netflix

Sure Amazon and Hulu have arguably better content.  Sure there have been a few flops among its original programming.  But when Netflix hits on an original show, it changes the conversation on how we consume media.  And 2015 was its best year so far, with strong debuts (Master of None, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Daredevil, Jessica Jones) sitting alongside proven properties (Orange is the New Black, House of Cards).

3) Disney

The Empire of the Mouse is once again on our list.  Three of the top five movies of the year (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Inside Out, and Avengers: Age of Ultron) were made by Disney.  Ant-Man and Cinderella outperformed expectations.  Daredevil and Jessica Jones were well received on Netflix.  Although the ratings on ABC aren’t what they used to be, it still has strong performers in Scandal, Modern Family, and How to Get Away with Murder.  The only negative for Team Mickey?  Tomorrowland was an embarrassing flop.

2015 Was a Bad Year to Be:

1) Adam Sandler

With the box office flop of Pixels and the failure of his Netflix series to do anything except anger people, can Mr. Sandler finally retire to enjoy his giant pile of money and stop bothering us?

2) Josh Trank

He directed the worst comic book adaptation in years (Fantastic Four) and got fired from directing a Star Wars movie before a script was even done.  Full stop.

3) The DC Cinematic Universe

Has anyone seen the Batman v. Superman trailers and said, “Wow, that doesn’t look like hot dumpster fire at all!”?  It’s good that the DC Television Universe is already well received, so maybe Warner Brothers can blow everything up in one of their infamous “Crisis” events and start over.

Best Movies

1) Best Blockbuster – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2) Best Artistic Movie – Brooklyn

3) Best Animated Movie – Inside Out

Dispatches from the Great Ale House in the Sky

The King is playing for us tonight, as in B.B. King.  His blues guitar sets the mood for our patrons this evening, and what a crowd it is.  In the front row is James Horner, getting ideas for his next great score.  Near the back, Maureen O’Hara and Omar Sharif look around and see a dozen of the other Golden Age leading actors.  Both think on the fact that there aren’t many more coming to join them.

Meanwhile, at the bar Christopher Lee and Wes Craven are comparing notes on how to terrify people.  They consider coming back as actual ghosts to haunt a house or two, but decide against it.  The King’s blues are just too smooth to leave.

At a window booth, Fred Thompson is having a good chat with Ronald Reagan on the pros and cons of leaving Hollywood to become a politician.  In the end, the conversation is a bit silly since there are no politics in the Great Ale House in the Sky.

Conspicuously absent tonight is Leonard Nimoy.  He’s busy exploring the galaxy with chief medical officer DeForest Kelley and chief engineer James Doohan.

Live long and prosper everyone.

(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe