Category Archives: Netflix Instant Classic

Netflix Instant Classic: 13 Assassins

Genre: Foreign, Action, Samurai Western

What’s it about? A ragtag group of samurais launch a suicide attack on an evil nobleman and his retinue  of armed guards.

Who’s in it? Bunch of crazy Japanese dudes.

You’ll like it if… You like Westerns, Japanese culture, and bloody sword fights. Compares to Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven.

I’m gonna be straight up with you here: This movie is badass.

It’s a typical guy movie in that it’s dark, violent, and deals with the highfalutin concept of honor.

The latter is most important, as this movie is about samurai warriors – which are pretty much honor personified.

In fact, the movie opens with a dude committing seppuku/harakiri right on the steps of a palace courtyard. He does this as a form of protest against the shogun’s half-brother Lord Naritsugu – an absolutely grotesque individual born with a “vicious nature.”

And so the question of honor is raised right from the start.

Principally, we are asked to contemplate exactly what it is to be honorable.

To hear Lord Naritsugu tell it, honor means a strict adherence to tradition. When his top advisor, Handbei, finds him torturing a family, Naritsugu reminds him that the samurai code stresses honor and duty above all, and that it is a master’s duty to punish his servants.

“Dying for one’s master is the way of the samurai,” he says. “Dying for one’s husband is the way of women. “

Of course, it’s not clear that Naritsugu actually believes this. It looks more like he’s using “duty” as transparent and cynical cover to legitimize his brutality.

In fact, Naritsugu’s misdeeds actually threaten to upset the peace that’s reigned for many years prior to his ascendance. And that seems to be exactly what he wants.

Hanbei, on the other hand, does believe in honor and duty. For better or worse, he has pledged fealty to Naritsugu, and he will die before he disavows that pledge.

Shimada Shinzaemon, the assassin enlisted to deal with Naritsugu, is also pledged to service. But for him honor is something more than strict adherence to the social order.

Shinza isn’t just interested in doing his master’s bidding. He’s looking to mete out some samurai justice.

Dude was just chillin’ out fishing before being summoned to his task. But when he sees the results of Naritsugu’s handiwork firsthand, his mission morphs into a personal quest.

“As a samurai, I’ll do what must be done for the people,” he tells Hanbei.

Hanbei’s reply: “A samurai must do but one thing: Serve his master.”

And so the stage is set.  Shimada Shinzaemon and ragtag group of assassins set out to kill Naritsugu, even if it means dying themselves.

In fact, their own deaths are almost pre-requisite. The only death for a samurai is an honorable death – either by your enemy’s hand, or by your own.

And so death comes to dominate the story. The last 45 minutes (out of a total 2 hours) are devoted to a wild battle scene, in which the confrontation plays out to its bloody conclusion.

It’s thirteen versus two-hundred. Elaborate traps are set and sprung. Hails of arrows are launched. Swords are swung in the samurai ballet.  And heads roll. Literally.

Netflix Instant Classic: The Babadook

Genre: Horror, Independent, Foreign

What’s it about? A mother and her son are haunted by a mysterious monster, and perhaps something more.

Who’s in it? Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, The Babadook

You’ll like it if… You like psychological horror. This isn’t a slasher. There are no cheap scares. It’s suspense driven. Compares to The Innocents and the Amityville Horror.

“Ba-Ba-Ba… DOOK! DOOK! DOOK!”

That’s the sound of the Babadook knocking.  It’s a shadowy figure that fills the room with its presence, donning a large tattered cape and brandishing razor sharp fingers.

Spawned from a wicked children’s book, this monster torments a single mother, Amelia, and her six-year-old son.

At first, only the child, Samuel, can see it or sense its presence. For that reason the first part of the movie relies on a pretty tired trope of the haunted child and frustrated/exasperated parent (a la Henry Miller’s classic ghost fable “The Turn of the Screw,” its film adaptation “The Innocents,” and Steven King’s The Shining).

Thankfully, the plot soon evolves beyond that, as the Babadook shifts its attention from Samuel to Amelia.

Furthermore, as the movie goes on, it becomes clearer that the Babadook may not be an outside invader at all, but rather the spawn of Amelia’s own subconscious – an amalgam of grief, guilt, and anger wrought by the untimely death of her husband, Oskar.

You see, Oskar was killed on the same day Samuel was born. Nearly seven years later, Amelia is still struggling to cope. There’s a terrible loneliness inside of her, and as much as she loves her son, it seems that at least a tiny part of her blames Samuel for Oskar’s death.

Samuel’s eccentricities don’t help matters, either. He’s pretty irritating early on. So much so that I found it really hard to sympathize with him. Though to be fair, his tantrums are at least somewhat validated by the appearance of an actual monster.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what exactly the Babadook is, except to say that some demons can’t be killed. Sometimes, you just have to learn to live with them.

Also, one more note about the Babadook…

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Babadook does look rather minstrel. It reminds me of the infamous British “Golliwog.”

Golliwog

The fact that this movie is Australian is pertinent here, as the country has a history of minstrel shows and blackface that’s as long and sordid as that of the United States.

In fact, it might even be worse. While blackface is overwhelmingly regarded as inappropriate and offensive in the United States, it’s not such a huge deal in Australia – something Harry Connick Jr. found out a few years ago…

To be clear, I don’t think there was any intention of referencing blackface. But I do see some similarities to what one might call a “voodoo” or “witch doctor” archetype. And those references appeared to be echoed in a very brief, and creepy television scene that represents Amelia’s descent into madness.

Just sayin.

In any case, the Babadook is pretty good. It’s dark and gritty. It’s gotten a lot of favorable reviews, and they’re well deserved.

Netflix Instant Classic: Atari: Game Over

If you have some time to kill, or just want to take a stroll down memory lane, head over to Atari.com and play some of the games.

They’re nothing special in the context of today’s entertainment, but it’s easy to see the appeal, especially to someone back in 1972.

Atari didn’t invent the home video game system, but it was certainly a pioneer. It brought a vivid imagination and programming innovation to a fledgling industry.

Yet, somehow, it doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves. Nintendo gets far more credit, even though it was really just standing on Atari’s shoulders.

I think that’s largely because of the video game crash of 1983. A collapse as spectacular as Atari’s tends to come with a loss of credibility.

Age could have something to do with it, too. My fondest gaming memories are Nintendo-based. I’m not sure if we even had an Atari when I was small. (We actually had an Intellivision.)

So the Atari 2600 is rather mythic to me. I’m familiar with the games, but I’ve never really played them.

As a result, I’ve never played E.T. – the video game, which has legendarily won the title of “Worst. Video Game. Ever.”

Though, that’s exactly the reputation “Atari: Game Over” seeks to confront.

Screenwriter and film-maker Zak Penn travels to Alamogordo, New Mexico in search of the fabled Atari El Dorado.

That is, legend has it, that dragged under by the abysmal failure of E.T. the video game, the dying company, with its last gasp, dumped millions of unsold cartridges in a landfill. They did this in secret, under the cover of night, like top-secret government agents burying a defunct nuclear warhead.

Penn isn’t the only one interested in such lore. He’s aided in his journey by Joe Lewandowski, a former employee at the Alamogordo dump, who has spent years investigating the alleged dump site and convincing the local government to let him excavate it.

Why?

…Closure?

I honestly don’t know. But whatever the reason, the Atari generation clearly felt strongly about this. Hundreds of Gen-Xers travelled out into the middle of nowhere, braving desert heat and a Dust Bowl-level sandstorm just to watch construction equipment dig up trash.

The catharsis of the event is most palpably felt by Howard Scott Warshaw, Atari’s ace engineer and the genius behind the E.T. game.

I’m not being sarcastic when I say genius, either. While many video game players panned E.T.’s playability, its formulation was a stunning technical achievement.

Bound by an absurd deadline, Warshaw was tasked with creating Atari’s flagship game in a matter of weeks. Even with modern technology video games take months, and even years, to design, code, craft and polish. Warshaw had just weeks.

It’s hard to blame Warshaw under those conditions. After all, he’s not the one that told Atari to spend a rumored $22 million for the rights to license Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie and then rush to get it out by Christmas.

Yet, that’s precisely what happened.

Howard Scott Warshaw, who was probably the greatest video game designer of the era, unquestionably a pioneer in the field, took the fall not just for game, but the collapse of Atari as a whole.

The poor bastard. He’s not even a game designer anymore. He’s a psychologist that works exclusively with other computer geeks in Silicon Valley.

How sadly fitting…

So for me, the emotional thrust of this movie wasn’t in the nostalgia it dredged up for games I played as a kid, it was Warshaw tearing up at the sight of his past literally being dug out of dump and laid before him.

But unlike the ignominious burial, this event was celebrated by the gaming community his art touched so deeply.

Indeed, sometimes, making the very worst of something is an achievement in its own right.

Netflix Instant Classic: A Touch of Sin

Genre: Foreign, Action, Drama, Indepenent

What’s it about? People grappling with varying forms of corruption in China.

Who’s in it? Wu Jiang, Baoqiang Wang, Tao Zhao

You’ll like it if… you can handle subtitles and moderate violence. If you’re curious about China. And if you like good movies.

China has always been a mysterious country. Whether it’s behind a great wall, within the confines of a forbidden palace, or cloaked in the shroud of bureaucracy, China’s inner-workings are always obscured from view.

Centuries of invasion and exploitation have left the country notoriously distrustful of outsiders. China is decidedly introverted – a characteristic that’s been exacerbated by its autocratic leadership.

So it’s fascinating, and in a sense comforting, to see the kind of vulnerability laid bare by A Touch of Sin.

The movie’s brooding atmosphere, violent and sexual overtones, and critical view of public policy got it banned on the Mainland.

But its rich characters, robust storylines, and forceful direction got it nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, with director Jia Zhangke winning the award for Best Screenplay. (Both the movie and Jia could have won an Oscar, too, but it wasn’t eligible since China banned its official release.)

 I didn’t know it before I saw this movie, but Jia is a big deal.

Another one of his films, Still Life, won the top award at the Venice Film Festival. He’s a subversive force China, a country that takes its censorship very seriously.

Rather than present an idealized version of China that Beijing wants people to see, Jia focuses on a more authentic depiction of life in the world’s fastest developing economy – specifically the alienation and disorientation felt by so many Chinese people.

A Touch of Sin divides its focus among four main characters, all of which are driven to violent acts, and in some cases, ends. They’re mini-tragedies that play out against the grim backdrop of a rapidly industrializing nation. (All of them are based on real-life incidents.)

At a small coal-mining village in Shanxi, the air is rife with both soot and corruption. Government officials operate on a plane separate from the local workers. They fly high in private jets, soaring over motorcycle taxis and train wrecks.

In Dongguan, wealthy businessmen choose from a buffet of high-priced prostitutes, while factory workers down the road churn out cheap clothes and iPhones.

In each case, the gears of cold, mechanical progress grind on, lubricated by human blood.

It may not sound like there’s much in common with the U.S. experience, but in truth, the stories are eerily familiar. If it were cast with white, English-speaking actors, it would be easy to picture these stories unfolding in the United States or Europe, as opposed to China – a country that is considered an ascending power that will inevitably challenge Western hegemony.

At its core, this movie is about a country whose social and political structures struggle to keep pace with the evolving desires of its people. It’s about a population of farmers-turned-factory workers-turned consumers. It’s about people overwhelmed by the stress, indulgences, extravagance, disparity, and violence that money can bring.

It’s about the high human cost of wealth.

These stories play out so graphically, with such humanity and vulnerability, that by the end, China doesn’t seem so mysterious at all.

It seems shockingly, disturbingly familiar.

Netflix Instant Classic: Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis

Genre: Silent, Rock Opera, 1980s

What’s it about? A rich kid finds out the super-city his father presides over owes its existence to the exploitation of an underclass of workers. Trouble ensues when a mad scientist sends a robot woman to lead a rebellion.

Who’s in it? The pertinent figure here is three-time Academy Award-winning composer Giorgio Moroder. It’s he who spent three years restoring this German film, a large portion of which was lost. It also features music from such 80s luminaries as Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, and Adam Ant.

You’ll like it if… You’ve been waiting for someone to mash H.G. Wells’s Time Machine up with George Orwell’s 1984 and lay a rad 80s soundtrack over it.

Time. This movie is all about time – the past, present, and future.

It was originally made in 1926, it’s set in the year 2026, and it was updated and restored in 1984.

That’s right. This is a silent film set to a modern soundtrack (modern in the 80s that is).

So how does that translate exactly?

Amazingly well.

One way I’d describe it is to say it’s a lot like watching the Wizard of Oz while playing Dark Side of the Moon.

Old-timey visuals – visuals whose ambition and imagination far exceeded the technical capabilities of their day – are mashed up with a modern soundtrack that is far more appropriate to the content than it has any right to be.

Another way to describe it would be as a rock opera of sorts, along the lines of The Who’s Tommy, or Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Basically it’s like a 1980s music video that transcended its purpose as a promotional tool to establish itself as art its own right. (They were a rarity but they existed.)

However, that has far more to do with the movie itself, rather than the score. After watching this version of Metropolis I looked the original up on Youtube.

The original score lends the film far more gravitas. That is, it’s tempting to call Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis campy, but I think that goes a bit too far.

Suffice to say, there are a few parts where the music doesn’t quite fit the film’s aesthetic. Still, I found such disconnects more amusing than distracting.

It’s also more entertaining. No doubt, the original Metropolis is a masterpiece. But it’s also nearly a century old, so it’s a bit of an adjustment for the modern viewer. If the modern score is campy, the original is tedious and archaic.

The music notwithstanding, the acting, though silent, is remarkable and the story is timeless.

It’s a good movie.

So if you’re in the mood for something different, give it a shot. You have to be open-minded though… or high.

Netflix Instant Classic: Let the Right One In

Genre: Foreign, Independent

What’s it about? An old man and young girl (a vampire) move into a small Swedish community and immediately start offing people.

Who’s in it? Buncha Swedes.

You’ll like it if… You are interested in vampires that aren’t brooding teenagers. You can handle subtitles (more on that below). You can appreciate cinematography and direction (They’re fantastic in this movie). You have crush on Sweden.

Let the Right One In isn’t just one of my favorite horror movies, it’s one of my favorite movies, period.

The story, acting, and visuals are absolutely captivating.

Set in Stockholm, circa 1982, the environment is dominated by darkness. Days are gray and nights are black. Just looking at the sparse, snow-covered landscape, its dense forests and empty streets stretching out into frigid oblivion, is enough to give you chills.

But then there’s the shroud of death.

An old man moves into an apartment complex with a young girl, presumably a relation. It soon becomes apparent that the little girl is a vampire and they must harvest blood to sustain her.

In the meantime, she befriends a local boy, who’s besieged by strife at home and bullies at school.

The story builds from there, and it’s as original as it is tragic.

Its characters test the boundaries of love, devotion, and even sexuality. They’re forced to weigh their own lives against the lives of other innocent people. They are marginalized as outcasts, and yet, they’re inexcorably chained together.

The sense of desolation – both physical and spiritual – is palpable as these characters are driven to extremes. The climate is unforgiving, and so are they.

I really would recommend this movie to anyone. It is technically a horror, and violence is obviously a part of that, but it’s really not that bad. There’s nothing in here that couldn’t be shown on cable. (i.e. Game of Thrones-level)

Of course, you might also be turned off by the subtitles. Again, they’re really not that bad – mostly because there isn’t very much talking in the film.

I’ve watched foreign movies before, and it’s aggravating when you spend so much time speed-reading dialogue that you miss the action onscreen. This movie doesn’t have that problem.

It’s very easy to follow.

Still, if you can’t handle it, then you might consider the American remake: Let Me In, which features Chloe Grace Moretz.

Obviously, it’s not as good, but the story is pretty much the same. (They’re both based on the same novel.)

You really should watch the original, though. It’s packed with the dark chill of a cold winter’s night and the burning sting of frostbite.

Netflix Instant Classic: Dirty Wars

Genre: Documentary, Political

Who’s in it? Jeremy Scahill

You’ll like it if… You have reservations about the War on Terror, you just want to see some real reporting for a change.

I woke up this morning and started watching “Meet the Press.” The topics were tabloid, the panelists were petty, and the discussion was shallow.

And this is the high end of mainstream political discourse in the United States.

So, it’s refreshing to watch a movie like Dirty Wars, written and produced by a journalist who went where he wasn’t supposed to go, and asked questions he wasn’t supposed to ask.

Jeremy Scahill is a legitimate journalist – a rare thing to find in the “information” age.

In 1998 he want to  Nigeria, where he investigated Chevron’s role in killing two environmental activists. A year later, he traveled to Belgrade to report firsthand on the war in Kosovo.   And throughout the 2000s, he ventured to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he covered the U.S. war effort.

His first book,  Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, was an international best-seller that detailed the private military contractor’s role in the Iraq war .

However, it’s his second book, Dirty Wars: The Word Is a Battlefield, that forms the basis of this movie.

Dirty Wars starts in Afghanistan where a nighttime raid conducted by U.S. special forces goes terribly wrong.

Believing some 50 Taliban members are present, U.S. troops crash a wedding of Afghani civilians, shooting one innocent man (a high-ranking member of the U.S.-trained security force at that) and two pregnant women.

After attempting to cover up the crime the soldiers flee, leaving a broken family in their wake.

Alone, this incident would be tragic enough. But, as Scahill finds, similar incidents are occurring all around the globe, many in countries where the United States isn’t officially conducting military operations.

In Yemen, a U.S. cruise missile, ostensibly targeting supposed terrorists, kills more civilians. And in Somalia, warlords discreetly acknowledge taking money and arms from U.S. suppliers to fight as proxies.

As the movie unfolds it becomes clear that the U.S. government has given its special ops unit, JSOC, carte blanche to kill whomever it deems a threat to national security.

Ultimately, this raises two important concerns:

1) A secretive branch of the military has become the judge, jury and executioner for an ever-expanding list of suspected terrorists.

2) The the number of civilian deaths (essentially murders committed by the U.S. government)  is rising along with the scope of the raids.

These are very real concerns.

It’s now estimated that three civilians are killed for every one person of interest targeted in a special forces strike. That fact is not only brutal, it’s dangerous. It’s damaging to the reputation and credibility of the United States, and it’s creating more terrorists, as the family members of the fallen seek retribution.

This is highlighted by Scahill’s visit to the family in Afghanistan, whose surviving members weep over pictures of their dead family members and swear revenge against the “American Taliban.”

Equally disturbing is that these operations are all the work of a single specialized unit. There’s no transparency or accountability,  just an ever expanding list of targets.

Indeed, since the start of the Iraq war the list of  JSOC’s “terrorist” targets has grown from 55, to 200, to more than 2,000.

That includes one American citizen whose only crime is speaking out against and inciting violence toward the United States.

Given that, it’s easy to see why Scahill is nervous. Civilian deaths aside, he worries that these targeted assassinations – which are rapidly expanding in both number and reach – contradict America’s founding principles and corrode to our moral core.

Yet, as Scahill notes, it’s JSOC that hunts down and kills Osama bin Laden. And that’s where the debate comes in.

No doubt, Scahill’s critique is valid. His criticisms of JSOC can’t be dismissed, but neither can the threat of legitimate terrorists like Osama bin Laden.

So the questions linger…

What degree of injustice abroad will the American public tolerate for the sake of domestic security?

Should the unit behind these operations continue to operate with no oversight or accountability?

Will these missions ever end or will they go on in perpetuity?

Are we creating more terrorists than we’re killing?

Is there a chance, however small, that the practice of preemptively killing American “terrorists” overseas one day comes home?

These are difficult questions and they may not have any answers at all – much less clean-cut ones.

But at least Jeremy Scahill is asking them. That’s more than I can say for David Gregory, Meet the Press, and the rest of mainstream American media.

So if you have the stomach for it, give it a watch and make up your own mind.

Note: The trailer for this movie sucks, so here’s Jeremy Scahill talking about it on Real Time.

Netflix Instant Classic: Out of the Furnace

Genre: Gritty Thriller

What’s it about? Hill people literally duking it out for money and their lives.

Who’s in it? Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Willem Defoe, Casey Affleck, and Forest Whitaker

You’ll like it if… You like movies like Winter’s Bone and A History of Violence. (If those two movies had a baby it would be Out of the Furnace.)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Big Brother flies straight. He’s a wise, hard worker who follows in his father’s footsteps.

Little Brother is a wild child. Determined to break the mold – and a tradition of perceived failure – he desperately tries to punch is way out of poverty and into a better life.

But instead of finding fortune, Little Brother is confronted with the moral destitution that comes with his own poor life choices. He gets in over his head and Big Brother has to come bail him out… If it’s not too late, that is.

Either way, things are bound to get messy.

It’s one of Hollywood’s favorite formulas and it is very much at work in “Out of the Furnace.”

Of course, I wouldn’t be reviewing this movie if it didn’t do a damn good job. (It’s worth noting Out of the Furnace was produced by Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio, which accounts for the star power and strong direction.)

Just look at the cast. It’s fucking loaded.

And in addition to being well-acted, it’s well shot.

Set in primarily in Pennsyltucky, we also get a look at New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains. Both locations are desolate.  The two regions are portrayed as being more than just poor areas – they’re lawless lands governed by the insular silence of their close-knit  and clannish townsfolk.

In fact, some of the locals took exception to being portrayed as drug-addled “inbreds,” even going so far as to file suit against the filmmakers.

It’s actually fitting that the movie should prove so contentious, because there’s a lot of fighting onscreen, as well.

Russell Baze (Big Brother) is fighting to walk the line. He’s a diligent worker fighting to keep his head up in a dying steel town.  He fights his emotions.  He fights the impulse to drink. And most of all, he fights for his family, especially his little brother, Rodney.

Sometimes he wins sometimes he loses.  But the struggle, as the kids say, is real.

Rodney fights, too. He’s an Army man that gets deployed overseas to fight Iraqis. When he gets back home he fights the memories. He also fights people.

That is, Rodney participates in a bare-knuckle boxing ring on behalf of the local sleaze merchant.

And, as I said, things get messy.

I’m not going to go into anymore detail regarding the plot, because one of this movie’s strengths is that it keeps things interesting, even while clinging to a tired form.

The one twist I do feel comfortable revealing, however, is that it’s Forest Whitaker who usurps the infamous “Batman voice” from Christian Bale.

That, and maybe one other thing…

I didn’t understand the final shot of the film – the very, very end. So I looked it up and found an explanation here [SPOILER ALERT, obviously]. So if you do watch it, and you’re confused like I was, there’s your answer.

Here’s the trailer…

Netflix Instant Classic: Thelma and Louise

Genre: Early 90s Action

What’s it about?  Two women with no real responsibility prove that they deserve no real responsibility by setting out on a vacation that quickly devolves into a crime spree.

Who’s in it? Shooter McGavin, Dottie “Queen of Diamonds” Hinson,  Susan Sarandon, The psycho from Reservoir Dogs, and Brad Pitt’s abs.

You’ll like it if… You like domineering/submissive women, old cars, big sunglasses, and random early-90s actor cameos. Or if you hate men, rationality, and consistent plotlines.

I know that you know what Thelma and Louise is.

Even if you haven’t seen it, we all know how it ends.

But there are 128 more minutes in this film, and I do think they’re worth exploring.

So here it goes…

First off, my favorite character in the film wasn’t Thelma or Louise. It was Darryl, Thelma’s brutish, misogynist, philandering, deadbeat husband.

He’s a scumbag, no doubt, but he’s played by Christopher McDonald, who we all know better as Shooter McGavin.

If you’ve seen Happy Gilmore you know how much McDonald excels at playing a douchebag. Well, in this movie, he takes his schtick from the country club to the country – small-town Arkansas to be precise.

Darryl has the look and charm of Kenny Powers and the small-town Regional Manager-pride of Michael Scott.  He drives Camaro with a T-top that just screams “You’re fuckin out!”

Christopher-McDonald-Thelma-and-Louise

That McDonald is fun to watch makes up for the fact that his character exists only to engender sympathy for wife Thelma, when she finally flips her shit.

Sure, she could just leave him or file for a divorce, but she’s the submissive type. She’ll put up with any amount of shit from anyone.

And so enters Louise.

It’s kind of funny that Louise is clearly supposed to be the force that liberates Thelma from her overbearing husband, but in actuality, she’s just as domineering as Darryl is.

Louise bosses Thelma around throughout the movie, eventually making her an accessory to murder, and by the end, costing her her life.

That’s the kind of friend Louise is, a psychotic one (though it is Thelma who puts the hand gun her purse as the two prepare for their “fishing” trip).

And so these two powder kegs pile their shit into a convertible, take a polaroid selfie, and speed off.

Of course, they get hungry and have to stop off for a bite to eat. For a reason only God knows, that means swinging into some honky-tonk, country-trucker rube-fest with a band fronted by (I shit you not ) Matt Dillon with a two foot long pony tail.

(Editor’s Note: Since I wrote this review four years ago people Googling “Is Matt Dillon in Thelma and Louise?” have accounted for maybe 90% of my tiny little blog’s traffic. If you’re looking for an answer to that question, the truth is I don’t know for sure but I’ve freeze framed it multiple times and I don’t think that’s him. Sorry.)

It’s here where we meet Harlan – the second sleezebag man to manipulate Thelma.

He’s trying to get it and Thelma is trying to have a good time. And so, after some alcohol and line dancing we find ourselves in the parking lot, where Harlan attempts to rape Thelma.

He almost succeeds, but Louise shows up with Thelma’s gun.

Now, shooting Harlan for trying to rape Thelma would have been fine in my book, or even if he’d made an aggressive move to assault Louise, making a justifiable case for self-defense.

That’s not what happens, though.

Harlan’s busted and he stops. All Thelma and Louise have to do is walk away. But then Harlan makes the fatal mistake of calling Louise a bitch and saying a few other unsavory things.

That’s when she shoots him. It’s a dumb but necessary plot twist. Obviously, if it were a clear-cut case of self-defense, Thelma and Louise have nothing to do but call the cops and wait. End of movie.

But the fact that Louise blows Harlan away in cold blood means they have to book it, which is what they do.

Thelma immediately suggests they go to the cops, and Louise tells her to shut up. In fact, Louise even tries to pin the blame on Thelma for getting caught up with Harlan in the first place.

This is what I mean about Louise being just as bad as Darryl, and it really undermines the whole notion of liberation and sisterhood.

The fact is, Louise really is a bitch. We find out later that she, herself, was the victim of sexual assault years earlier. But that doesn’t justify her hostility towards men or towards Thelma.

Still, that doesn’t make it a bad movie. It’s okay. It moves along well enough and the carousel of celebrity cameos keeps things somewhat interesting.

I was just surprised to learn this movie won an Oscar for best original screenplay.

Especially with lines like: “I may be the outlaw but you’re the one stealin’ my heart,” which comes courtesy of Brad Pitt.

05 THELMA E LOUISE

The acting isn’t bad though. Both McDonald and Pitt have a lot of fun with two detestable characters, and both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon were nominated for Oscars. (They lost to Jodie Foster who won for Silence of the Lambs.)

Taken lightly, it has plenty of camp value, and its place in pop culture pretty much demands at least one viewing.

If I was a little disappointed it’s because I expected to see two women pushed over the edge by an oppressive patriarchy; what I got was two brats on a poorly planned (albeit entertaining) crime spree.

Netflix Instant Classic: Wayne’s World

Sometimes people ask me what my favorite movie is…

I just about always answer Wayne’s World.

Most people just laugh. And they should.

But I’m also dead serious.

Here’s why…

First off, Mike Myers is an extremely underrated comedic talent. He’s more famous for Austin Powers, which is understandable but also kind of a shame.  Because  (while insanely funny)  Austin Powers was a parody – and one that wore out its welcome, at that.

Myers would have been smart to stop after the second movie. And he would have been even smarter to not pursue The Love Guru at all.

The latter abomination notwithstanding, Austin Powers overshadowed Myers work on Saturday Night Live. I loved watching early 90s SNL growing up. The cast was fantastic and Mike Myers was one of the highlights with characters like Simon, Lothar, and of course, Wayne Campbell.

If you’re not a member of Generation X – which I’m not, either – then you’ve probably forgotten how popular Wayne’s World was. It debuted at No. 1 at the box office and grossed over $121 million, which was huge at that time. It also spawned a sequel and even a video game for SNES.

Everyone tells those “That’s what she said…” jokes with Michael Scott in mind… But it was Wayne Campbell that got there first.

There were other one-line wonders and catchphrases too, like the less durable “Schwing” and “Not!” and the more subtle and better-aged “Excellent,” “Party on,” and “Game on.”

It’s not just those flippant phrases I crack up at when I watch the movie, though.

I think my favorite scene is early on, when Wayne’s ex-girlfriend gets him a gun rack for a present.

He says: “Stacy, I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.”

That was the first time I ever heard the word “necessitate”and it was because Wayne Campbell was smart enough to use it.

You see, while on the surface they seemed to embody the Gen-X slacker mentality of the time, Wayne and Garth were intelligent, polite and industrious.

Which brings me to the heart of the movie…

The reason I love Wayne’s World so much is because it’s almost a fairy tale re-imagining of the grunge era.

Characters wear grungy clothes but they still look relatively clean. We see background actors drinking, but we almost never see the main characters imbibe (Just once when Wayne shares a rooftop Champagne with Benjamin).

Obviously, there’s no heroin, either, despite its prevalence at the time, particularly among grunge-era musicians.

Indeed, it would have been easy to set this movie in Seattle, where grittier grunge cliches were running amok, but they didn’t.

Wayne and Garth are suburbanites from Aurora, Illinois. They more or less revolve around the cultural epicenter of Chicago, without being absorbed into it.

As a result, they’re the product  of a cleaner, safer environment, where they’re insulated from the dangers of the city and that era.

But whereas Beavis and Butthead spent their slow suburban nights on the couch watching TV, Wayne and Garth spent their time on the couch making TV.

And good TV at that. If Wayne’s World were a real show, I’d watch it every week. Everyone would. It was funny, absolutely, but also joyous and sincere. And its production represents another cultural meme of the time – anti-corp., grass roots, do-it-yourself artistic expression.

The grunge era was all about not selling out and there Wayne and Garth were every Saturday night on public access.

They do of course, sell out in the movie, but only for the chance to make their hobby and passion their full-time job. And when the sponsor attempts to force change on the show, sapping it of its integrity, Wayne walks out.

That’s grunge.

And that’s Wayne’s World.

There’s escapism, naivete, and earnestness in what Wayne and Garth do. They love music and they love entertaining. They embody all of the child-like ethos of the era, and none of the grim alienation or cynicism.

They go to grunge clubs and loft parties, sure.  But most of the time, you can find them munching on donuts at Stan Makita’s, playing hockey in the street, or just lying on the hood of Garth’s car watching planes take off at the airport.

And that’s really what makes me wish Wayne’s World was my world, too.