1. Disgusting But Important. Confession: I’m dreading catching up with “Wetlands,” as I have a low, low tolerance for body waste humor (less because of snobbery, more because ew). Yet I’m thrilled that the movie exists, not just because of the boundary-pushing gross-out material, but because of how the film toys with romantic-comedy conventions and discomfort with bodies. Judy Berman of Flavorwire explains:
Helen throws what little nurturing instinct she has into the care of a few sprouting avocado pits, and in one scene, her masturbation fantasy gives rise to a vision of an avocado plant growing from her vagina. It’s an effective visual shorthand for the novel’s frustration with our terror at our own bodies and sexual impulses — with everything we invent to keep us at a remove from those things, which are so essential to our humanity. Read more.
2. Typecasting and Taking Chances. Bill Hader is one of the most versatile comic performers working today, yet he hasn’t had the chance to show his dramatic chops until recently with the upcoming “The Skeleton Twins.” The film gives Hader a chance to throw off being typecast for his “weird insanity” and dive deep (along with fellow “Saturday Night Live” alum Kristen Wiig) into darker territory. Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly spoke to Hader about the process of making the film and going from comedy to drama like Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey before him.
The difference is Hader never meant to be a comic at all…The younger Hader moved to Los Angeles and resolved to write and direct “the kind of movies that would play at Sundance.” Movies a lot like The Skeleton Twins, which veers from Hader and Wiig tentatively rebuilding their relationship to the pair lip-synching to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” to a blowout argument that the long-term friends — practically siblings themselves — were gutted to shoot. “I’d never seen her angry before,” Hader says. “It really affected me. I knew I’d hurt her. That was an awful scene. Kristen couldn’t do it after a while. She was like, ‘I don’t want to yell at Bill anymore. I can’t do this.'” So it’s funny when people tell Hader he’s gotta step it up now that he’s actually acting. If anything, he’s simply reverting to the original plan, only now on the other side of the camera. Read more.
3. Sex and Suckers in “The Lady Eve.” One of the greatest comedies of all time, Preston Sturges’s “The Lady Eve” has all of the trademarks of a great screwball comedy: sharp dialogue and pratfalls, romance-comedy as farce and as genuine romance, a childlike male lead (Henry Fonda) and a wiser, more cynical woman (Barbara Stanwyck) falling in love. It’s The Dissolve’s Movie of the Week, and Scott Tobias got into how the film looks at how sex makes suckers out of everyone.
Poor Charles, earnest and a little slow on the uptake, is simply overpowered by her; in the film’s most celebrated shot, she nestles him in her arms, puts her cheek against his, strokes his ear with her right hand, and paralyzes him like the venom of one of his Amazon snakes. In his defense, few mortals could withstand one of the cinema’s most virtuosic displays of sexual confidence. But Charles, in his simple decency and guilelessness, proves just as intoxicating to Jean, who immediately (and hilariously) defends him against her father’s devious sleight-of-hand, and stands on that moonlit deck ready to make a deal. Read more.
4. These Words Are Hereby Banned From Reviews. Sometimes it’s easy to fall back on shorthand words to describe why a movie’s not working for us, but there are some words and phrases that are so overused in reviews that they should be banned from reviews altogether. Michael Guarnieri of The Solute wrote a short but sweet article on the words he never wants to see in a review again.
They are words that are either overused to the point where the word or phrase has no real meaning, or so vague that they never had any meaning, or are just words that rely on a bunch of false assumptions, which are the anathema of strong criticism. Without further ado, here is my personal Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the official list of condemned Words I Never Want to See in a Review* At Least Until We Figure Out What They TRULY Mean: “Twee”…”Pretentious”…”Dumb”… Read more.
5. Comic Book Movies That Thankfully Never Happened. A lot of us are still bummed that “Ant-Man” won’t be directed by Edgar Wright, given that he planned the project long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe started. But some comic book movies are better left dead, and Vulture’s Graeme McMillan assembled a list of films that thankfully never came to be. The list includes no-brainers like Tim Burton and Nicolas Cage’s “Superman Lives” and the planned third Joel Schumacher Batman movie, but here’s another one that sounds just as misbegotten.
“Dazzler” (1980): In 2014, we think of Marvel Studios as the go-to name for quality superhero movies, but things could have easily turned out differently had the publisher’s original plans for its first motion-picture venture taken off. At one point, Marvel was actually trying to make a movie featuring the then-brand-new character Dazzler — a disco diva who turns sound into light while fighting crime in roller-boots — with none other than Bo Derek attached to star. Unfortunately, Derek’s insistence that her husband direct the project prevented the movie from ever happening. The whole story can be found here, but suffice it to say, we all owe the movie studios of the late 1970s many thanks for passing on this one. Read more.