Friday, October 30, 2020

The Daisy Chain - autism stereotypes meet Irish superstition

Happy Halloween, commies!

Halloween has a noticeable connection to the Celtic pagan tradition, so this year's pick is an Irish horror movie The Daisy Chain. I am not a huge fan of it for a number of reasons outlined below, but it doesn't mean that you won't enjoy it.


The very nature of evil drives this chilling psychological thriller. Martha and Tomas are a grieving couple who move to a remote Irish village in the wake of their baby daughter's death. Touched by a traumatized, autistic girl whose entire family has perished in tragic accidents, they open their home to young Daisy. Martha believes that with her love, she can help Daisy...

My thoughts:

Sounds like a perfect recipe - insulting, inaccurately executed autism stereotypes are wed to Irish superstition. That's what the world of horror needs: another creepy kid movie. Every known cliche has been utilized: the string of accidents, the clingy foster parent with a tragic past. A touch of "The Omen" and "Rosemary's Baby". Since this flick is made in Ireland and actually uses elements of Irish folklore, so it must be "artsy". I cannot say that the acting is atrocious. There is nothing for an actor to do. Generic, stereotypical one-dimensional characters, predictable plot twists. One thing I don't understand. If the foster parents suspect they have a murderous supernatural entity under their roof, why do they keep going about their business? Shouldn't they be a bit more vigilant?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Borat 2: a much needed laugh

Greetings, commies!

Are you ready to take a break from righteous indignation and laugh at everything that's wrong with this world? Borat 2 is out! Same fake Kazakh language, sane fake folk tunes. Same stitch-popping vulgar humor. Just what the doctor ordered to help your lungs rebuild after Covid!


Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

My thoughts:

Seriously, do not watch this movie alone. If you choke on your popcorn, you want to have someone there to save your life. And if you like to drink beer while watching comedy, get your Depends on, seriously. You will pee yourself! I feel off the couch a few times. I am of Russian descent, so I got all the messages in Cyrillic. If you speak Russian, it adds another layer of hilarity. This movie came out at the perfect time. It's sooooo insulting to the snowflake crowd. Really pulls no punches, doesn't hold back. Just what we need! I bet many viewers will complain that it "trivializes human trafficking and Covid". It totally does! And that's why it makes it so hilarious.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Pretty Persuasion: deliciously evil and misogynistic

Greetings, commies!

Evan Rachel Wood was born to play mean girls! The meanest girls are not always blond cheerleaders. Wood is brilliant at subtle sociopathy. Frankly, I am surprised that Pretty Persuasion got made and released into the mainstream. Of course, it's 15 years old. No way it would have gotten made in 2020, not with all the touchy snowflakes who are offended by the way someone sneezes. 


Kimberly Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood), an outwardly friendly but inwardly cold and manipulative teenager who attends an exclusive private school in Beverly Hills, incites chaos among her friends, and a media frenzy when she accuses her drama teacher of sexual harassment.

My thoughts:

With so much censorship and squeamishness in the world of filmmaking nowadays, with so much paranoia and so many taboos, it's amazing this venomous gem got made in the first place. I have a pretty strong stomach for teenage sociopathy, but this movie made me wince a few times. The world has changed a lot in 15 years. Now filmmakers tiptoe around the topics of school shooters and sexual harassment of minors. If you are having a bad day, if you are angry at the world, consider watching this flick.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Beanpole: a WWII movie - not for prudes or purists


Hello commies! 

We have two very spooky events coming up: Halloween and the Election. Hope you are holding up and not reading too much fake news. I have an amazing iconoclastic film to recommend. Most WWII movies that reach American audiences are about the Western front. I am glad to see The Beanpole with subtitles. It highlights the Russian/Soviet experience. We need more of those movies made available to international audiences. 


1945, Leningrad. World War II has devastated the city, demolishing its buildings and leaving its citizens in tatters, physically and mentally. Two young women, Iya and Masha, search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins.

My thoughts:

I am fortunate enough to speak Russian, so I read some reviews of this film on various Russian sites. I noticed, there was a group of viewers who considered it blasphemous. I read comments like, "My great grandfather, who fought in the Patriotic War, is flipping in his grave!" Indeed, the movie depicts certain episodes from post-war Leningrad life that does not jive with the spirit of victory and patriotism. Indeed, patriotism comes with a certain element of prudishness: "Not in OUR country." It's a bitter pill of swallow. Nobody wants to think of military doctors conducting assisted suicide. It's not very Soviet, is it? Just as it's not very Soviet for two women to be in a sexual relationship. Not in THAT country, for which their great grandfathers had fought. 

Some reviewers pointed out that the city does not look very much like 1945 Leningrad. The whole air is anachronistic. And I agree, the film breaks every dogma of portraying that era. The way people talk, the way they move - it's very different from what you are used to seeing in WWII movies from the 1960-1980s era. It's like you are in a parallel dimension. I assume, it's not because the director did not know any better. It's not like he did not do his homework. The casting choices and some of the directorial moves were deliberate. 

One reviewer actually pointed out that the two female characters borrow each other's clothes. One favors red, and the other favors green, and sometimes they swap cardigans, which symbolizes a sort of symbiosis established between them. They have so much pain and anger tying them together, they cannot separate and move on with their lives. And they don't give a damn what happens around them, if it's Leningrad or Berlin. They are stuck in their own personal hell. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Portrait of a Lady On Fire - low budget cosplay

Greetings, commies!

Those of you who have the misfortune of knowing me personally, will attest that I like ridiculing and trashing things that many people find appealing. It's my guilty pleasure to go against the grain. This is why today I am posting a review for the art house Euro flick Portrait of a Lady on Fire. This movie got rave reviews, but I personally find so many things wrong with it.


Marianne is hired to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse. As the women orbit each other, intimacy and attraction grow as they share Héloïse's first moments of freedom.

My thoughts:

The manager of Party City wants the costumes back. Seriously, you'd expect better quality from community theater. And what's with Marianne's mahogany highlights and Heloise's dark roots. This is not a period piece. This is pretentious cosplay. You have two sociology professors dressed in pseudo-period costumes, acting out love scenes in what looks like a warehouse with a conference room attached to it. My favorite part was the apparent lack of social boundaries. The privileged heiress and the hired painter enjoy some girl bonding while hand-holding the mentally deficient servant through an herb-induced abortion. They take her to a shady den and then try to cheer her up with some art therapy. The highlight of the movie was the rapping session around the bonfire. The dialogue ... don't get me started. The predictable whining about "not having a choice". Oh, buttercup ... Not to me misogynistic, but this is what happens when female directors make movies about "female" issues. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Song for a Raggy Boy - a distressingly illustrative true story

Greetings, commies

Regardless of where you stand in terms of religious beliefs and your views on institutionalized spirituality, you will find Song for a Raggy Boy deeply disturbing and moving. 


Against the wishes of the Bishop, Father Damian (Alan Devlin), the principal of St. Jude's Reformatory School, appoints William Franklin (Aidan Quinn) the only lay teacher among a staff of Catholic Brothers.

My thoughts

There is a reason why the Catholic church has taken such a fall in Ireland. There are many accounts and movies about the Magdalene laundries that depict the plight of the vulnerable young women in Ireland. This movie shows the plight of young men. It's not that all Catholic priests are rapists and monsters, but the Catholic church due to its vastness and power, had attracted some rather vicious characters over the centuries. I don't believe that these men had ever sought God. They had always viewed the church as an opportunity to indulge their lust and greed for power. It's not like they started off as idealistic novices and then became corrupt. No, they went in fully aware of the opportunities for indulgence. In terms of the narrative style, what makes the movie chilling is the fact that scenes of abuse and violence are interspersed with scenes of childish joy. You see kids running around the city in the snow on Christmas eve, laughing and playing. That makes the subsequent scenes all the more horrifying.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Bye Bye Blackbird - a glimpse into early 20th century circus

Greetings, commies!

What makes this film unique is the juxtaposition of decorated acting veterans like Derek Jakobi and performers who are dancers/acrobats but not really actors (and it shows). This is what happens when you place a really great Actor with a capital A next to those for whom acting is a peripheral discipline, like Izabella Miko. I was intrigued by the setting of Bye Bye Blackbird - early 20th century England ... circus .. industrial workers. 


A period drama set in the early years of the twentieth century. Josef, a former construction worker who delighted in dancing on girders high above the city, who now sweeps up at the circus. Once the big top's owner spots the young roustabout defying gravity on the trapeze, however, he endeavors to pair Josef with his aerialist daughter Alice in a perilous sky-high pas de deux. Offers a romantic view of big top life, with a moth-eaten angel in his feathered, tattered costume.

My thoughts:

I had such high hopes for this film. It could have been a visual masterpiece. A wistful Bohemian setting in early 1900s - what's not to love? A makeshift family consisting of social misfits. An ethereal aerial performer. A day laborer who becomes an acrobat. A manipulative patriarch/ringmaster who has a way of bending his fiercely loyal performers to his will. The burgeoning love triangle. If you have a romantic/Bohemian bone, the concept should hit every major nerve. And this is where the bliss ends. The bud never opens. What could have been a great storyline quickly devolves into absurdity. The producer must have run out of money and found a quick way to wrap the story up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

White Lies: the many colors of savagery

Greetings, commies!

Racial relations seem to be a hot topic.  The lot of the Maori people in New Zealand is not frequently explored in literature and film. At least it's not on the radar for American audiences who deal with conflicts of their own. I really hope you take the time to watch this great historical film White Lies.


White Lies is a story about the nature of identity: those who deny it and those who strive to protect it. Paraiti (Whirimako Black) is a medicine woman. She is the healer and midwife of her rural, tribal people - she believes in life, but new laws prohibit unlicensed healers. On a rare trip to the city, she is approached by Maraea (Rachel House), the servant of a wealthy woman, Rebecca (Antonia Prebble), who seeks her knowledge and assistance to hide a secret that could destroy Rebecca's position in European settler society. If the secret is uncovered, a life may be lost, but hiding it may also have fatal consequences. Paraiti, Maraea and Rebecca thus become players in a head on clash of beliefs, deception and ultimate salvation.

My thoughts: 

I hope you have the patience and restraint to sit through this movie. Resist the temptation to draw conclusions and make judgments on the characters as they appear in the first 20 minutes of the film. I have a pretty strong stomach, and I will say that I was very tempted to abandon the film. The reason for it was fear of the film turning into a tear-jerker that demonizes the collective Westerner. I am glad I did not walk away. One of the most intriguing moments about this movie is that the main Bad Guy - the infamous white colonial man - never makes a stage entrance. After the opening scene with the soldiers you never really see the "patriarchal tyrant". Mr. Vickers, whose rage Rebecca dreads, never shows his face. That makes the viewer wonder if he was truly as horrible as the Rebecca's servant portrayed him. I thought it was wise on behalf of the director to keep him behind the curtain. A little bit of mystery and ambiguity only add to the overall air of dread. Mr. Vickers almost becomes a boogeyman. I also applaud the writer for highlighting that tyranny, in this case male and western, is not possible without compliance and participation from women. In this particular situation, a working class Maori woman, serves as the guardian of that toxic regime. She internalizes her sense of social and racial inferiority and somehow turns it into weapon.