The best Call Me By Your Name moment was the first viewing, nine months ago at the Sundance Film Festival. The second time was nearly as good but less special. The third time less so. But it’s always like that. I wish it wasn’t.
As ultra-violent prison dramas go, Steven Craig Zahler‘s Brawl in Cell Block 99 pushes the envelope and really wails in a crazy caveman sort of way. The most rancid bad guys pay for their awfulness in the worst way when their arms and legs are snapped like twigs and their heads are pounded upon and opened up with all kinds of glistening brain matter spilling out. Somebody called it “a grade-A piece of meathead cinema.” I’ll go along with that.
It gets really hardcore in the third act. I mean really hardcore. I was watching it last night on Amazon and going “Jesus H. Christ…this is fetishy!” A lot of bruising hand-to-hand action. Fisticuffs, beatdowns, bone-snappings, eye-gougings.
And it’s a very right-wing thing. Zahler and Vaughn are serious righties (i.e., libertarians) in the Mel Gibson vein but not, as far as I know, Trumpies. And boy, are they into idolizing and protecting mothers and unborn children! I only know that the more a movie idolizes a loyal pregnant wife and the more the pregnant wife is threatened by sadistic villains, the more right-wing it is. Protect the pregnant mom with a big club! Protect the children, protect the bloodline!
The thing is that Brawl in Cell Block 99 is exceptionally well-made, and as uncomfortable as I am with head-squashing movies I have to at least convey respect for Zahler’s craft.
On top of which it establishes Vince Vaughn as the reigning right-wing action hero of the moment — a six-foot-five Mr. Clean who speaks quietly and politely with a gentle Southern accent and who thoroughly thinks things over before pounding guys and squashing skulls. It’s not really my kind of movie, but it’s kind of Zen in its approach to character and payoff. It takes its time, takes its time. Liam “paycheck” Neeson has announced that he’s finished with this kind of film. Vaughn is the right-wing heir apparent, a kind of successor to Clint Eastwood.
If anyone wants to make a new series of 21st Century Harry Callahan movies, a new manifestation of a right-wing rogue cop or soldier of fortune who despises p.c. lefties but plays it straight and clear on a personal basis, Vaughn is the guy.
It just needs to be understood that Zahler knows how to apply the right kind of discipline in the making of this kind of film, and that Vaughn knows how to play it cool and steady as he waits for the inevitable bad shit to happen. Badass bone-snapper! I will make you whine and beg for death.
Paul Koestner‘s pant-worthy 35mm capturings have already sold me on Louis C.K.‘s I Love You, Daddy (The Orchard, 11.17). I’m obviously aware of the aggregate scores (69% on Metacritic, 57% on Rotten Tomatoes) but I’m not overly concerned.
From Sara Stewart’s N.Y. Post review: “Artistically, it’s gorgeous, with a soaring original orchestral score and the look of an old Hollywood classic. But its barbed screenplay is unapologetically filthy, with scenes like a comedian (Charlie Day) furiously pantomime-masturbating as CK’s TV-writer character Glen Topher talks to a famous actress (Rose Byrne) on the phone, or Chloe Grace Moretz, as Glen’s spoiled 17-year-old daughter China, sitting on Glen’s lap cooing the film’s title phrase and lounging around the house in a bikini.”
Sidenote: Chloe Grace Moretz is only 20 years old. (21 on 2.10.18.) She’s always seemed physically unexceptional to me, and so I was puzzled when I read Moretz’s complaint about having been fat-shamed by a costar when she was 15. (Her remarks appeared in Elizabeth Wagmeister’s Variety interview, posted on 8.8.17.) The ghost of Maximilien Robespierre has never seemed more threatening than it is right now, so it’s probably safer to not express a thought that came to mind when I watched this trailer.
“Donald Trump, after one relatively mild response to the Harvey Weinstein story, has more or less ignored it, and the reason why is obvious. It raises the spectre of his own egregious misbehavior: the Access Hollywood tape, the rank misogyny of his attacks on Megyn Kelly, and the on-the-record allegations of harassment by multiple women — all of which, when it first occurred, a lot of people were sure was going to cost Trump the election.
“It should be shocking, even in hindsight, that it didn’t, yet as we all know, the definition of the Trump era is that yesterday’s shock value is today’s shrug, and the more the cycle of shock/adjustment/new normal takes place, the more it leaves the public — I almost said the audience — numb.” — from Owen Gleiberman‘s “Are Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump the Same Person?,” a 10.18 Variety essay.
Jett is visiting Los Angeles for three or four days. Last night we sat down at an Indian place on Montana. We spoke at one point about how quickly the Las Vegas massacre has already evaporated. Blood, horror, carnage, brain matter, dead tissue…the ultimate expression of U.S. gun insanity, and it’s already gone away. Yesterday’s shock is today’s “hey, remember that awful thing that everyone was so upset about…?”
Criterion’s forthcoming Breakfast Club Bluray (1.2.18) feels like a cultural curio. Like their 2008 Armageddon DVD, it’s one of their gesture releases — an attempt to persuade the physical-media-owning world that Criterion product isn’t entirely about catering to elitist Richard Brody-level dweeb favorites and sensibilities, and that it has a populist bone or two in its body. Criterion understands, in short, that every so often mainstream popularity actually counts for something or other.
Everyone regards this John Hughes high-school dramedy (released on 2.15.85) as some kind of Brat Pack or Reagan-era landmark event. It is that, I suppose. An ’80s fetish thing. If you were to give me 15 minutes to list the most culturally significant films of the ’80s, I would probably include The Breakfast Club on the lower third of the list. Risky Business would be in the upper third, and in fact near the top. Don’t even think about mentioning these two films in the same breath.
The Breakfast Club was decently shot by Thomas Del Ruth, but it’s not like Del Ruth set the world on fire with what he captured. (I’m sure he’s a nice guy but his no-great-shakes resume speaks for itself.) It looks fine but calm down. Plus it was re-released theatrically and offered as a Universal Home Video 30th Anniversary Bluray two years ago. Criterion’s Bluray comes from a new “4K restoration,” but you and I know it won’t look all that different from the 2015 version.
One of the reasons Criterion is putting out a Breakfast Club Bluray, at least in part, is that last year it was “selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’,” blah blah.
In the HE realm the final measure of quality or importance is whether I, Jeffrey Wells of West Hollywood, have ever re-watched The Breakfast Club since I attended a Westwood all-media screening 32 and 3/4 years ago. The answer is “no, I have not.” And that includes ignoring the 30th anni re-release, the Universal Bluray and the streaming opportunities.
My reasons can be summed up as “it’s an okay, moderately winning film but let’s not get too excited…it’s just a clever, occasionally on-target Hughes slider that accurately reflects certain modes of alienation known to the ’80s high-school mindset ….zeitgeisty and conceptually catchy as far as it went, okay, and yes, it launched or re-enforced the careers of Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy (but not Judd Nelson‘s), and…I don’t know, is there anything else?