“Sorry to Bother You” is an amazing film. It has elements of Terry Gilliam in how the reality that is presented is warped, giving scenes a surreal feel. This is Boots’s first major film and I love how he takes a surreal approach to everything. It follows the feel of a Gilliam film like “Brazil” or “The Fisher King,” where a character down on his luck is put through a warped hell and comes out of it transformed in some way. The pervasive sense of wrongness and fear that is always on the edges is another part of Gilliam’s films that “Sorry to Bother You” has emulated well. These aspects are essentially what happens here, but add analysis of race, class and privilege. It is Boots Riley’s first film (he also wrote as well as directed it) so I’m curious to see what he does in the future. If his other films are anything like this, I’ll be a fan. This is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
The story follows Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield), who takes a job as a telemarketer in order to pay the bills. He soon rises in the job when he adopts a “White Voice.” His bosses take advantage of the fact that his friends and girlfriend Detroit (Tess Thompson) are part of a protest group called “The Left Eye,” leaving him with a choice of joining his activist friends or becoming part of the greater conspiracy, which he soon discovers runs much deeper and is more twisted than he ever expected.
The Cinematography – This is a beautiful film. Color is used as a theme and from it there are many scenes that feel dreamlike when the colors are bright and vibrant. When there is danger or tension things go dark and the colors become muted or draped in a sickly pale light. This is how it is when Cash is among the wealthy in the WorryFree CEO’s home. The bright colors are muted and darkness covers everything. Doug Emmett did a great job.
Passing and Voice – A major theme of the film is the idea of passing and privilege. Cash moves up when he starts using the “White Voice.” In the film David Cross is dubbed over Lakeith Stanfield. He does this on the phone when telemarketing and the higher ups notice as the whole point of Telemarketing was finding people who could make the calls for war and exploitation on a global scale. The higher ups are nearly all white males illustrating privilege, and the only way Cash and other people of color can pass with the higher ups is speaking with their white voice. The way it is described by one of Cash’s coworker Langston (Danny Glover) is talk like you don’t have a care in the world. All your bills are paid and you don’t need the money, you’ve never been fired, only let go. It expressed privilege so well and the mentality behind the mindset of not having to care about anyone except yourself.
The Characters – The characters are what makes this film work the most. Cash is a guy who hasn’t had a successful job ever, so the temptation of moving up is easy to see him take. He’s in an existentialist crisis questioning what it means to live and who he is, and when the rat race of power is offered, it is easy to see why he would take it. Tessa Thompson’s Detroit is also shown to be more complicated than the revolutionary artist, as during her show she adopts a British “White Voice” among clients as she sells her work. Yeun’s character Squeeze is also amazing as well as the revolutionary who cares about Cash but is also trying to get with his girlfriend showing that his heart might be in the right place with the other Telemarketers and unionizing but he’s still a sleaze. I loved how they all played off each other and the Corporate bosses were fun in their obliviousness or sociopathy. Armie Shammer as the main antagonist and CEO of WorryFree is especially creepy in how he is charismatic and unhinged.
The Degrading Nature of Reality T.V. – One of the running realities of the world of “Sorry to Bother You,” is a show called “I Got the S#*@ Kicked Out of Me!” The show is in the style of Maury or any of the other countless competition shows where the contest gets humiliated in a physical and degrading way. Cassius goes through the show to reveal the conspiracy behind the corporation WorryFree that tricks people into lifetime contracts where they are provided food and shelter but have to work on site and have their freedom and agency given up. They are being used for more nefarious means that Cash finds when the CEO of the Corporation wants him to be their agent among the protests.
The Exploitation of Labor – Another core message of the film is that those with power and privilege don’t care about the workers, and there are systems in place to keep that it going. From the trap of the golden elevator and being able to “support” protests without ever having to join or speak up. Cash is offered this choice that he takes it. The conspiracy that is revealed is that the workers are being transformed into Horse People (equisapiens) so that they will be stronger more efficient workers. Cash is even turned into one when the CEO wants him to be their MLK and trick the species into following WorryFree’s will. The system doesn’t hold at the end after Cash free’s the equisapiens and the protestors are attacked by the police. At the end, we never see if the telemarketers ever got greater rights, tying the fight to modern day with the seeking of rights for workers and the fight against labor exploitation.
This is a film that I’d highly recommend. It is easily one of the best films of the year. I have a spot for surrealist films and films with a point. “Sorry to Bother You,” accomplishes both and is a beautiful film with complicated characters. I can’t wait to see what else Boots Riley creates, as he truly has an eye for cinema and is an extremely talented writer. I love a film with layers and depth that not only are entertaining but have something meaningful to say. Boots Riley is an activist and that comes out in this story, and he does it in a creative way that elevates the piece beyond more than just entertainment. I really enjoyed the final twist as well, which I will not spoil here. Seriously, check this film out.
Final Score: 9.8 / 10 Only reason it wasn’t perfect (though it gets close) is that the ending kind of tapers off and the transformation that Cash goes through from a man in crisis to high on privilege is a bit fast. If it had been a more gradual transformation the film would have been perfect.
I am a huge Coen Brothers fan. “Fargo,” “Blood Simple” and “The Big Lewbowski” are some of my favorite films of all time and I love the desolation and farcical nature that is brought to so many of their dramas. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is certainly up there with those films, but doesn’t quite reach their level of perfection. Lately they’ve been doing more collaborations but this is wholly a Coen Brothers film as they wrote, produced and directed this film.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is a Western anthology that follows the tales of the gunslinger, the thief, the conman, the prospector, the cowboy and the bounty hunter. Each story is haunted with tales of death and destruction as all are faced with choices told in a storybook fashion. The name of the anthology also is the name of the first story within the anthology itself.
I’m judging each story individually before an overall take on the whole, since though they are each connected in theme, it is still an anthology film.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is one of the happiest of the tales, as even though death and destruction happen, Buster Scruggs always has a song on his lips and his sheer joy rubs off on the events throughout the story. The story follows Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) the Gunslinger as he goes about from town to town, taking out people who challenge him. It finally all comes to a head when the Man in Black finds him and it is the duel he finally loses, that brings his story to an end. This one was great as a musical and I love Tim Blake Nelson’s energy as Buster Scruggs. He is fun and funny and even though is willing to kill always treats people as a good person first and always has a song on his lips. This is what makes his death tragic, but he does get to go to Heaven and gets angel wings, so his story isn’t entirely tragic…especially compared to the stories that come up later.
Score: 9.4 / 10. The cinematography is beautiful, the music is great and if we’d had more time with characters it could have been a perfect Musical Western.
This story is comparable to “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” in how absurd it is, though it differs in that it doesn’t have the joy of that story. This is a story of desperation and lack of luck where every situation leads to a worse one. The story follows a young cowboy (James Franco) who is attempting to rob an isolated bank. He fails and is about to be hung by local law enforcement, when some Native Americans attack and leave him to die. Another band of thieves takes him and and they are caught and brought to town to be hung. This is the young cowboy’s second hanging and the one where he finally dies. This was the story that made me wish we’d gotten the Native story in these tales. They are all from the perspective of the privileged old west, which does have intriguing stories, but the Natives are only ever antagonists or in the case of this story, indifferent. Some of that tribe’s story could have been explored in this but instead Franco’s character just takes the long way around to finally getting hung.
Score: 7.5 / 10
This story was by far the most haunting and probably my most favorite. There are two characters, the Impresario (Liam Neeson) and his actor Harrison (Harry Melling). Harrison doesn’t have arms or legs and performs speeches and Shakespeare as the Impresario travels through towns to make money. We don’t know how they came about together but we soon see how little the Impresario doesn’t care about Harrison at all leading into a tragic ending, where the Impresario buys a chicken who can do basic math and it is implied he drops Harrison into the river. This is after Harrison has stopped bringing in the money he once did. Liam Neeson plays the Impresario and is wonderfully creepy. He reminds me of a much worse version of Fagin from Dickens’ “Oliver” and seeing just how much he disregards Harrison is powerful as well as Harrison’s fear as Harrison only acts through his eyes and the acting he puts into the shows. This story is all about exploration and despair and how powerless the only good person (Harrison) is in a world that sees him as a burden or something to be exploited. It is a tragedy and easily the best story of the bunch.
Score: 10 / 10.
All Gold Canyon
“All Gold Canyon” is a film focused on the beauty of nature and the ravings of an old prospector (Tom Waits) searching for gold in the wilderness. I really enjoyed this story as so much of it is Man v Nature as the prospector goes through the process of finding gold flakes and eventually hitting the gold but finding himself attacked by a young man who was watching him as he is no longer facing the wilderness but facing the selfishness of humanity. He ends up killing the man after he outsmarts him and buries him in the small hole he created in his search for the gold. It is a really great story with the only problem being how distracting the CGI deer is. There was no reason not to use a real deer given how beautiful the landscape is and the owl looked real at least. If there hadn’t been the deer and bad CGI this story would have been perfect for what it was. I was rooting for the muttering prospector who talks to himself, I wanted him to find the gold and I was happy when he did and survived.
Final Score: 9.6 / 10
The Gal Who Got Rattled
“The Gal Who Got Rattled” is the weakest of the stories and brings everything else down. There are far too many characters, none of them are really likable or interesting and it has nothing profound to say and lacks a coherent point. The story follows Alice (Zoe Kazan) who is traveling west with her brother to marry. Her brother dies along the way and we learn she’s been conned and now doesn’t have any money. One of the cowboys falls in love with her and that goes nowhere, and later she is with her brother’s dog when they are attacked by Natives and she ends up killing herself when the leader of the caravan says she should do it cause it is a better fate than getting captured. This one has the same problems as “Near Algodones” in how the Native Americans only exist as a threat and also in that we never get to really know any of the characters. They are doing things but I couldn’t really tell you who they are. This story is cinematically beautiful, but when that is the only thing I’m saying as a pro, you kind of failed.
Final Score: 6 / 10
The Mortal Remains
“The Mortal Remains,” is also one of the best stories of the bunch. This is a story that has an element of magical surrealism to it as for a good portion of the film I thought all the characters might be dead. The story follows 5 characters in a carriage on their way to Fort Morgan in a stagecoach. The conversation unfolds as we learn about our characters and their relationships. From an old religious lady who is coming to see her husband, the Frenchman who says that her professor husband was probably cheating on her, a trapper who has no internal editor and is looked down on by the lady for how unclean he physically is and the Irishman and Englishman who we learn at the end are Bounty Hunters. There is an heir of foreboding through the entire conversation and outside it is dark and covered and mist, this made me think of the afterlife and if they were all being transported their. The fact that the carriage doesn’t stop until they reach Fort Morgan played into this. We see this theme in the hotel they stop at has a stairway of light leading up that the bounty hunters carry the dead body up and in the carriage driver whose face we never see and is always moving. My favorite characters were the bounty hunters as the others with them were a bit bland. We learn their backstory but they are more interesting in how they reacted to their situation and the bounty hunters. Their fear and not knowing what to do made them more compelling than the backstories they shared, which made the story work.
Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great. Would have been better with more interesting characters outside of the bounty hunters.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is well worth your time if you are a Coen Brothers or western fan. This film captures so much of what works and doesn’t work about westerns and I loved the absurdity, detachment and sorrow that the Coens bring to their films. This is a beautiful anthology and I would have watched more stories if it had been longer. When it is great it is perfect and when it is flawed it is still enjoyable. Not many anthology films can claim that, as average is easy. This was an amazing film and definitely one of my favorites, though it might not make my Top 5 at the end of the year. This year is a year of steep competition and the things that bring the anthology down are enough to keep it from landing higher up on the list of greats this year. Still, this is a film I highly recommend. Check it out.
Final Score: 9.6 / 10 The bad stories bring it down, though the great stories make this score still very high.
“Bojack Horseman” Season 3 is probably the weakest of the 3 seasons so far. It isn’t bad, by all means it is still great…but after the levels met in the last two seasons this one doesn’t cut it as it ends up suffering from a disjointed narrative and a strange end that feels slightly contrived and doesn’t answer any questions in regards to Bojack and the choices he made this season (or only in the vaguest sense answers those questions). There are some amazing stand alone episodes that are the best of the show so far (that I’ll talk about further down) but overall this season never reached the heights of last season.
The series was created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and is a Netflix original show…showing that only does Netflix get drama but it gets animation too as I’ve been watching this season for 3 seasons now and have yet to be dissapointed.
The main drama this season is Bojack’s destruction of his relationships and his pursuit to win an Oscar for “Secreteriat” all the while dealing with his own inner demons as his friends face theirs and deal with the new relationships in their lives and Bojack.
The Pros: The Animation – The animation is beautiful and is easily one of the things that keeps me coming back to the show. The visuals are smooth and there are a few episodes that illustrate this beautifully.
The Dark Comedy – The dark comedy is still fantastic as our characters are put into and put themselves into awkward situations that reveal their darker sides or the cynical hopeless world they are a part of.
The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this show and even though I found some character decisions that were chosen to be a little contrived, there was a lot of good especially for characters like Todd.
Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter deals with loss for the first time when his brother goes in for surgery, and his kindness finally pays off when a random idea he had of buying a bunch of strainers leads to him rescuing Ocean City and with it getting everything and being a hero in this world. (is next his fall like Bojack’s and Carolyn’s?)
Sextina Aquafina – Is more than just a quick talking pop star…in this we see her use the popularity of her getting an abortion (not really getting one but faking one, Diane Nguyen is the one who is getting one) and in the end when she gets pregnant we see she wants a kid. This character grew on me a lot. Also her music video is hilarious.
Princess Carolyn – Carolyn is pretty much running in circles this season but I like seeing her backstory and how it was in relation to Bojack that she first got inspired to be an agent and it is when he leaves her agency and their friendship ends that she starts it up again after it ends.
Emily – Emily is Todd’s friend and is wonderfully sarcastic and weird. I really like their dynamic as she is explorative and really like Todd and they are similar. You see why they are so close but also how they are so different. Emily has awareness, Todd doesn’t.
Todd – Todd finally calls Bojack out and leaves him after all of it (the last betrayal was sleeping with his best friend Emily) and we learn that he isn’t gay or straight and doesn’t know what he is (sex freaks him out). He is oblivious and overall pretty sweet in this.
Ana Spanikopita – Ana is a powerhouse who is only out for success but is also normal and vulnerable and it makes her relationship with Bojack interesting. She is good at letting go, where he can’t…
Diane Nguyen – Diane like Carolyn is shafted this season. I didn’t feel like she had an arc. Most of what she does is reacting to and being there for Bojack. I like that she helps Mr. Peanutbutter grow and that she shows she is great at social media…but we don’t really learn anything new about her. I still put her as a pro though, I like how she interacts with characters.
Sarah Lynn – In this we see Sarah Lynn’s fall as she eventually dies from a drug overdose after going on a drug and alcoholic rampage with Bojack. This season really showed how alone she was and that because of how popular she was so young…she never got the chance to form real relationships and in the end her only real friend was Bojack after he saw himself as having lost everything.
Bojack – Bojack hurts his friends and loses them and goes on a drug fueled rampage with Sarah Lynn leading to him reopening old wounds, living in his guilt and shame and finally running away. I liked it when he tried but I hate the spiral largely because it hasn’t ended…
You Can’t Fix Everything – Sarah Lynn stays an addict, Bojack regresses to where he was before, Princess Carolyn repeats and Diane treads water…all our characters are broken and can’t be fixed.
“Fish Out of Water” – This episode has no speaking in nearly the entire episode. Everything is told through music and sound and it is beautifully done as Bojack tries to make up with Kelsey for never talking to her after “Secreteriat” failing each time he tries to communicate.
“Brrap Brrap Pew Pew” – A fantastic abortion episode that reveals Sextina has more awareness than she’s given credit for and the power of music and humor to empower against fear as well as the power of narrative as it relates to media. One of my favorite episodes in this entire show.
“Stop the Presses” – This is a great episode exploring Bojack’s selfishness as he sleeps with Todd’s best friend Emily and we see how afraid he is to tell Todd and how that fear dominates him and how for him each new mistake and failure is tied to past ones and it is the reason why he’s forever digging his hole.
The Cons: The Ending – Bojack runs away after it is revealed he was never nominated for an Oscar. His possible daughter calls Carolyn’s new firm and Mr. Peanutbutter is a hero for saving Ocean City from a giant thing of pasta. T
The Way Things Fell Apart – Things seem to be going alright initially but he starts pushing people away after Princess Carolyn fails to get him one of the things he wants for future acting jobs…from here it just spiraled as he couldn’t answer the question of what he’d do after he won the Oscar…I get his guilt complex but this felt contrived.
Pacing and Focus – The pacing felt off this season as it felt like Bojack’s toxic choices didn’t make much sense given the characters around him helping to push him to focus (whether Ana or Carolyn) and even though he didn’t listen and was consumed by guilt…I felt more could have been done to show him doing the work. This felt like Season 1 Bojack and it made the pacing disjointed as it felt like they wanted focus wholly on Bojack or more focused on those around him.
This season had a lot more cons than the last few seasons of the show but once again, this is a show worth checking out and Season 3 is still gold in so many ways. If you’ve been here this long you’ve gotten to know the characters and some of the ways they change or deal with pain is fascinating as it reveals so much about them. This is also the season we get the most into Bojack’s head, which in many ways made the series weaker in my opinion, but I at least understand why…it’s just a shame that they’d undo all the progress he made last season to show how toxic he is. Much like Walter White or Francis Underwood…he’s a bad guy who has some level of good in him buried under so much bad that you just want him to capture that good and live it more than the bad…given the nature of this show, I don’t know if that will ever happen. I can’t wait to see how it ends though, this season is well worth your time.
Final Score: 8.4 / 10
“The Lobster” is a film that could have been a favorite film had it been more succinct, knew more clearly what it was trying to say and had cut some of it’s scenes down. It isn’t a bad film but the longer the film went on the less I liked it. It started out great and by the end was merely good. The whole idea of critiquing courtship, love and relationships is really cool, and there was so many ways this film could have worked. Non-spoiler thoughts, it is worth checking out, it just isn’t great, it is only good.
The film was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos who also was one of the writers and producers. The other co-writer was Ethymis Filippou and the other producers were Ed Guiney, Ceci Dempsey and Lee Magiday.
The film takes places in a dystopian future in which all people must be in a marriage or else they are transformed into animals. They also hunt the loners a rebel group who lives outside the hotel. The story follows David (Colin Farrell) who finds himself single when his wife leaves him for another man forcing him to find a partner in 45 days or else he’ll be transformed into the animal he chose, a lobster.
The Pros: The World – The world is cool and left me with questions…what lead the world to become only run so that marriage is what matters over all else? The idea that people could be transformed into animals is really cool as well and the film does a good job showing that presentation (and leaving the question open if the transformations ever really happened). So there is a lot to like about the world.
The Premise – A person having 45 days to find a partner is a fascist dsystopian world is an interesting one. There is so much you can do with it.
The Cinematography – The cinematography is a beautiful and does a great job giving the film a modern feel but also an older feel too, which is the nature of dystopia. This is the future but has reverted to a twisted version of the past.
The Characters – The characters are interesting and most of them manage to be 3 Dimensional even though their names present them as concepts.
Lisping Man – John C. Reilly is good at non-comedic roles! In this he plays the Lisping Man who is insecure because of his lisp and wants to fit in to the group. He is punished for masturbating at one point and has to put his hand in the toaster when it is turned on. It is implied he is changed into an animal as he would have been punished after David steals his stuff when he hunting David after David has become a loner.
Hotel Manager – Olivia Coleman makes a wonderful villain. She is empathetic and harsh and in the end meets her own tragic end when her husband claims to love her but shows he will shoot her if it means his survival, destroying their relationship which was the plot of the Loner’s Leader.
Heartless Woman – The Heartless Woman is a great antagonist as she kills David’s dog that belonged his brother and we see her cruel to all those around her. She is transformed at the end so is given a just end.
Loner Leader – The Loner Leader is driven to destroy all relationships (except her parents). I never got her motivation as it seems her and the Maid are together at one point, but then she kills her to keep control over the Short Sighted Woman…I liked her as a character but her lack of motivation was a con.
the Maid – I liked the Maid. She saves David from the Hotel and works with the Loners, even though their leader has the Short Sighted Woman kill her to keep control over the Short Sighted Woman. I got her motivation though, she was in an abusive relationship that society kept her in, the Loners were her out.
Short Sighted Woman – Rachel Weisz is a good actress and is pretty intense in this where she communicates in commands at first but grows to have communication through eyes and hand signals with David when they are getting around the Loner rules about no relationships. She is blinded by the Loner Leader at one point which leads David to rescuing. I hated that she had her agency taken away and never had a name as she was the one telling the story and is set up to be David’s equal.
David – Colin Farrell is a pretty fantastic actor. In this he is a bigger awkward guy who doesn’t get people but shows he will do anything to have connection and to survive…to a point. At the end we never know if he stabs his eyes with the butcher’s knife to stab his own eyes out so he and the Short Sighted Woman can be blind together.
When Commonality Leaves in Relationship – All the relationships are based on past commonality or false commonality (one person creates bloody noses on himself so he can be with a girl who actually has that problem). I think that is the need for connection and how commonality is that first step. This plays it to it’s absurdest conclusion.
The Awkwardness of Courtship – The awkward courtships show how people will work in any social environment no matter how unhealthy (the loners and the hotel) to find and be with someone and how it is awkward within the confines of communication allowed and on the dependence of commonality in order to communicate.
The Cons: The Pacing – The pacing was all over the place. Some scenes lingered way too long, at one point after the Hotel it feels like it should be over and other scenes are short like when the Short Sighted Woman and David get together. This film needed a better editor.
The Ending – Does he cut out his eyes or not? If they want to leave it ambiguous, why not when he escapes the Hotel since the Short Sighted Woman serves no purpose within her own agency.
The Narrator – The narrator interjections from the Short Sighted Woman were annoying at times. I kept looking for the character but she doesn’t actually appear for a long time.
The Short Sighted Woman’s Story and Dis-empowerment of a Lead – This character is made blind and everything she does is for David. At times it looks like she wants to escape because she has a desire to do so but that stops after she is blinded. She is someone who has been out in the wilderness a lot longer, she deserved to have more of an identity that didn’t revolve around David.
This was a good film but the cons eventually overwhelmed everything else. A more powerful concept film could have achieved the same purpose in a lot less time. A perfect ending would have been him escaping the hotel and leaving the rest up to mystery as even the Short Sighted Woman is never given name, even though she is the narrator and seems to be set up as a main character when we see that she is a loner and can give that perspective…that never happens though because she is more concerned telling David’s story, and as great of job as Colin Farrell does, detached characters can only give so much before they become boring. His character eventually suffers from this due to pacing. I would still recommend this film though, for what it is, it is worth checking out.
Final Score: 8.3 / 10
The Coen Brothers continue to make gold. This film is a really good satire that isn’t as great as some of their older films, but still would easily make my Top 10 Films of the Year (whether it’d make Top 5 remains to be seen). This is a film that captures the Coen Brothers’ humor, western feel and detachment that makes up so many of their films. It also does a great job illustrating the craft of making a film and all the art and messyness that goes into it as it explores it through the lens of Hollywood’s “Golden Era” during the 1950s.
The film was written, directed and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen with the other producers being Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.
The story involves Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) the head of Production at Capitol Pictures and the drama of the life he lives as his star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) of “Hail, Caesar” is kidnapped, the pregnancy of one of his star actresses DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) and two rival gossip column sisters Thora and Thessely (Tilda Swinton) which puts the choice Lockheed Martin is offering him as an out into perspective as he must make a choice to take the offer or stay with Capitol.
The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful as old style ways of filming are captured…whether it is the epic open shots of the Roman Epic “Hail, Caesar” or the small black and white of the comedy western Doyle is in, or the stark, sterile large rooms of a Laurence production. Roger Deakins truly does a fantastic job.
The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is amazing too. Just like with the cinematography all the different styles of 1950’s films are captured. From the epic trumpets of “Hail, Caesar” or the more action adventure of Doyle’s western. Carter Burwell did a great job once again.
The Writing – The Coen Brothers are great writers and though there is a narrator we never see narrating the life of Mannix, it never interferes with the story going on. We are shown and not told most of what happens and that is part of what makes the brothers so great at what they do, as the script is usually the strongest part of their films.
The Characters – The Characters are easily the strongest part of the film. This film was really well cast and each of the side characters has their moment to shine at different points.
Laurence Laurentz – Ralph Fiennes is wonderful as an uptight director doing Victorian style films who has to use Doyle, a cowboy with a very strong accent as the star of his show. Over the course of his scenes you see him slowly lose control of his calm nature and finally explode at Mannix before keeping Doyle to only two lines to make the film work. He really is a fun character.
Thora and Thessely – These two (both played by Swinton) are a lot of fun as they reveal the underbelly of everything and the drama. They have a relationship with Mannix too in that he does throw them bones to keep scandals from getting out of hand. I wish we could have seen what got them into the circuit as they are both extremely driven.
Baird Whitlock – George Clooney plays the naive star who gets kidnapped by a communist cell of writers and comes around to their way of thinking. He’s an example of the pseudo-intellectual (like many cell) except he’s largely an idiot and you get the idea he’s doing what he’s doing for the attention as him going on benders and getting into trouble is a huge part of his character. He gets his act back together though after Doyle rescues him and Mannix knocks some sense to him as we see that all he really wants is to be a star (and the attention that comes with it).
Hobie Doyle – Alden plays Doyle who was a rodeo guy who was picked up by Mannix and when he got the chance to sing became the star of westerns. He’s a kind and naive guy like Baird but also serious about his work. He doesn’t make it out of being in the westerns and he likes it that way as it gives him a chance to celebrate the western background he comes from. He’s the hero of the picture besides Mannix as he is the one who finds Whitlock and brings him back to the studio.
Joseph Silverman – Jonah Hill is awesome as the no-nonsence fixer who is a legal person so that Moran can get legal control over her child. They end up falling in love though as she’s tough and he fits what she wants in a man as they get married and leave the child behind and send it into foster care.
DeeAnna Moran – Johansson is awesome in this role and I wish we’d spent more time with her. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself and is a huge diva but in the end finds love with the most un-person person, showing that there is more to her too, though she is still extremely selfish and the character we’ve known all along as she has her child go into foster care rather than raising it. I wish we could have got more of her backstory. She steals every scene she’s in.
Eddie Mannix – Josh Brolin plays are main guy who is a rough manager facing a choice of stability with Lockheed or the chaos of the studios and making pictures. In the end he stays as he loves the challenge of it and feels he is main for it as he is made to be the Christ Figure as he is born in light (Film) and will live forever because of it. He is a smooth operator and is able to fix everything, which in the end we learn is why he likes to do it so much. It’s difficult but he’s good at it.
The Satire of Hollywood – The satire is in layers, whether it is the sisters focusing on stupid actor pairings and hookups, the communist cell intellectuals are aren’t changing anything and just hanging out in a vacationesque home and how every film we see captures the hammyness of those early productions where everything was big and overdramatic.
The Celebration of Hollywood – The very things that are being satired are celebrated too as the humanity of characters is shown. “Hail, Caesar” is a film I would watch as it has heart to it and the overdramaticness fits the film, same with the westerns that are played largely for comedy but find something more sometimes. In each thing being satired there is a celebration of the arts and film and this is shown the most when Mannix chooses Capitol Pictures of Lockheed (Where the guy kept insulting films as useless and a dying industry), making this one of the biggest love letters to the art of cinema and Hollywood’s past and present.
The Cons: Pacing – At times it goes really slow and this really hurts the overall quality of the production and keeps it from rising higher.
The Communist Cell – I felt that these guys weren’t explored as well as they could have been. They were a group of intellectuals who never got beyond that and that was a shame given that they kidnapped a person because of their beliefs.
More Character Exploration – If the script had been tighter we could have explored more of these characters more. In my opinion Manix is one of the weaker characters of the story and because the focus is on him we lose sight of the fascinating characters like Moran or the Sisters who had a lot more potential to be explored within the confines of the script.
This was a solidly great film and well worth checking out. It isn’t the greatest of the Coen Brothers films but it doesn’t need to be. Within the confines of the story it explores all the themes and characters it means to and it presents it beautifully through the soundtrack and cinematography. This is a film well worth your time and I’m glad that this was the film that kicks off my film reviews for the films of 2016.
Final Score: 9.2 / 10
“BoJack Horseman’ Season 2 is a masterpiece. The lack of focus during the first 1/3 of Season 1 isn’t there and all our characters have arcs and we get to know what motivates them more. The darkness in our characters never leaves either, but we get moments of hope that show the other side of being alive. It’s easily one of my favorite Seasons of a show and I am really excited to see what they do in Season 3. Raphael Bob-Waksberg really created an amazing show.
The story picks up with BoJack starring in “Secretariat” but in turn finding the ugly underbelly of making a film as well as his own demons rising to the surface as he plays a character so much like himself. Elsewhere an old flame comes back into Princess Carolyn’s life and Diane has the chance to take her writing around the world to help people. Throughout it all old phantoms return as characters discover they can’t go back to the way things were.
The Pros: The Animation – The animation continues to be top notch, especially in the scene that they show as a continuous shot before Mr. Peanutbutter begins his new show.
The Soundtrack – Jesse Novak continues to make a great soundtrack that so greatly expresses the sadness and intensity our characters are going through. It manages to be apathetic but let us feel at the same time.
The Writing – The writing is fantastic! The depths of our characters are explored and we get to know more of why they are the way they are. BoJack and the main cast get the best development but there are even some amazing minor characters whose motivations and desires we come to know and understand.
The Characters – Outside of the themes and writing, the characters have always been the strongest part of this show and this season does away with a lot of the references to actually explore our characters and really show what it is they want out of their situations.
Beatrice Horseman – Beatrice’s mom says she’s sorry. It doesn’t change how abusive she is but her having some level of responsibility is powerful (she calls BoJack after his book comes out). It’s powerful and she expresses the brokenness of BoJack and the cast so well as we see how broken she’s been her entire life as well. Wendie Malick did a fantastic job!
Rutabaga Rabbitowitz – Rutabaga is the highly ambitious character who doesn’t want to face consequences. He’s a smart and nice guy but he uses Princess Carolyn as a mistress and never divorces his wife even when he promised to do it when he and Carolyn would make their own Agency. He faces the consequences though as Carolyn sets down boundaries and leaves him leaving him to pick up the pieces of his own life.
J.D. Salinger – Salinger fakes his death in this universe and ends up being pulled into network television and it is awesome! He comes up with a reality show where celebrities are mocked and the depths of humanity can be explored which leads to BoJack and Mr. Peanutbutter fighting verbally and in turn revealing BoJack’s envy of him and his pride. Alan Arkin was perfectly cast for the voice actor.
Herb Kazzaz – Stanley Tucci gives a lot of life to this fascinating character who we see as the idealist man making a show, to screwed by the studio and BoJack and dying of cancer…but we see moments of joy with him, BoJack and Charlotte and when they were all young and hadn’t been eaten up by Hollywoo and changed or moved on from Hollywoo (Charlotte). His funeral is a major episode as it turns out his book he was writing sucked so his friends decide to keep it unpublished to save his legacy.
Wanda – Wanda is BoJack’s girlfriend for a while as she was in a coma for 30 years so she has no idea who he was so she treats him like she would anyone else. Things don’t go well though as she is committed and loves what she does while BoJack is listless and she is caring while he is always lashing out which eventually leads to her dumping him. She was a great character. She works in television and producing shows for the network and is an owl.
Kelsey Jannings – Kelsey is the director to “Secretariat” and she is awesome! She has no patience for BoJack but they actually do connect at times and we see she is a pretty great hardcore feminist and makes great art but when she tries to tell a great story with the film, the studio comes down on her and fires her. I hope we see her character again though, she helped BoJack face himself and to use his craft to grow.
Todd – Todd is Todd. He has more adventures in this, from making his own Disneyland and eventually leaving to join a Improv Group that is also a cult that he ends up being rescued from by BoJack as Todd is the one good part of BoJack’s life and the one time he did something good for someone else and it wasn’t for any ulterior reason.
Princess Carolyn – Princess Carolyn really gets her direction in this as we see her leave “Vincent Adultman” when his charade of being an adult stops working as he tries to be Vincent’s son and Vincent and after Rutabaga comes back into her life looks beyond her job where she’s under appreciated. Her arc is complete when she prevents Rutabaga from doing the same things and kicks him out of the new agency when his emotional blackmail tendencies become apparent to her and the fact that he isn’t going to leave his wife for her and never planned on doing so. Amy Sedaris is great.
Charlotte – Olivia Wilde plays BoJack’s old friend who he was interested in but moved on and now has a family and life in New Mexico. When he tries to get with her she lays down the boundaries clearly and after kicks him out when BoJack tries to get with her daughter. She is tough in this and gives us some great wisdom too as she makes BoJack aware of the tar within himself and that we always carry that with us. You don’t mess with Charlotte and if BoJack contacts her or her family again, he’s dead.
Mr. Peanutbutter – Mr. Peanutbutter’s arc is really finding his self-respect as we see in flashbacks that his past wife was abusive. We also see how supportive he is too and even though he and Diane clash at times (he does things for her and for himself in regards to parties and big events and always goes big) but that at the end of the day he just wants to be with her and that the shows and things he does are just ways to keep busy, since for him life is pointless and we all die but if we keep things interesting it isn’t so bad. He also confronts BoJack over his kissing of Diane last season and forgives BoJack for his envy and the kiss. Mr. Peanutbutter really grows as a character and is shown to be one of the most stand up guys in the series along with Princess Carolyn and Kelsey Jennings.
Diane – Diane goes abroad to help in a war torn nation and tell an eccentric billionaire’s story after she isn’t used at all in the film “Secretariat” and finds that she it isn’t for her as the billionaire’s ego is too large and the events are way too traumatic. This leads to her living with BoJack and lying to Mr. Peanutbutter about what she’s doing. It’s sad and we see what happens when your dream isn’t what you expect. BoJack helps her get her life together though as when he returns to New Mexico he begins cleaning up his life and tells her she should too. We see her in her darkest here as she is drunk and high all the time watching “Horsin’ Around.” It’s sad but she gets out of it and finds a job working on the media side for Princess Carolyn.
BoJack – BoJack like Diane discovers “Secretariat” is not what he expected, especially when the Studio drastically changes the story and fires Diane, leading to him leaving the set, being dumped by Wanda for being a dick and going to New Mexico to try and get together with Charlotte as being with her was the last time he was happy. It doesn’t work and he messes up big when he takes advantage of her daughter by not setting boundaries and we see just how broken BoJack is. In the end he returns to Hollywoo and rescues Todd as he discovers Todd was the one person he did something nice for for no other reason than to be nice. He also starts working on himself and begins running and we’re left with the possibility that things can get easier. He is also being asked to be in a New York play from someone he knows from his past.
Dreams are not Always What They Seem – For both Diane and BoJack the dreams they had where not what they expected. For Diane she found she wasn’t cut out to be abroad in war torn areas of the world and for BoJack he wanted to be in a story that was actually good, which wasn’t “Secretariat” after the studio changed it. He also discovers this again when his dream of being with Charlotte is shown to be a delusion that is only hurting himself and those around him. You can’t go back to what’s already happened.
You Can Never Go Back – This is a huge theme and really defines BoJack’s life in a big way as he tries to be friends with Herb after 20 years of no contact, he tries to get together with Charlotte and run away and finds that doesn’t work either. He is always trying to run backwards but it only leads to more pain because time didn’t stop, only he did.
Everyone Is Broken – Everyone on this show is broken, even Mr. Peanutbutter who has huge insecurities and has been in past abusive relationships (and can be super passive aggressive). The characters who are wise have made peace with this like Kesley or integrated it like Charlotte and Carolyn by the end. The rest are just trying to get by ignoring it or running from it.
Things Get Easier – The season ends with a runner telling a collapsed BoJack that it get’s easier. This is the bright moment in the series and shows that in all the brokenness and despair it can get easier to face and to deal.
This is one of the best seasons of television and I’m really excited to see what Netflix does for Season 3. If you like dark and powerful shows, this is the show for you. The characters are complex and interesting and feel real. There weren’t really any cons this season since enough minor characters were major in regards to the plot and explored that they balanced out the joke characters. The themes are also powerful and timeless too and show even in things being difficult and hard and dreams not being all they are cracked up to be, that things get easier. Living gets easier, and sometimes that’s enough.
Final Score: 10 / 10
“The Wedding Squanchers” is a powerful ending to a good season. In this we get to know a lot of the characters and have one of the most powerful endings to any animated show. Next season feels so far away. I also finished watching this on the same date in the future that The Doc and Marty traveled to in “Back to the Future Part 2” it just took a while for me to have the time to update the reviews. “Back to Future” inspired this show as Morty is like a younger and less innocent Marty and Rick is very much a more unhinged sociopathic Doc Brown.
The story involves the wedding of Bird Person and Tammy and all that comes out of it when it is revealed that Tammy is an agent sent to bring down Bird Person, Rick and all his friend’s the Federation considers terrorists. The Smiths must make their escape.
The Pros: The Wedding – The Wedding is wonderful and all of Bird Person’s colorful friends are present. The wedding ends in tragedy though revealing Rick once again being right on Weddings being just like a funeral.
Tammy – Tammy reveals she’s been an undercover agent the entire time and even manages to nearly capture Rick. It is only Squanchy getting Squanched that manages to defeat her but we still don’t know if she’s dead or not. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she is still alive.
Bird Person – Bird Person has been through some heavy stuff and was a pretty lonely guy. I think that is how Tammy was able to take advantage of him in the first place as it was at a party where everyone was getting drunk and Bird Person was probably dealing with some major PTSD from all he’d been through. R.I.P. Bird Person. You will be missed.
Squanchy – Squanchy rocks! In this we see him get Squanched and help save the Smith’s. The Wedding takes place on his world too. The guy is a major stand up guy. I hope he survived Tammy’s betrayal.
Beth – Beth is going through a lot of loss in this as we see how Rick leaving her has left her broken and selfish to the point that she isn’t able to listen to Bird Person sharing some pretty traumatic stuff. By the end of the episode she is broken as Rick is gone from her life again.
Morty – Morty is pretty aware in this as we see him reach out for Rick to stay since he knows how it will affect Beth as well as himself. He is really great in this even though he isn’t core except for the end.
Rick – Rick is a good guy in this…he goes to his friend’s wedding and loses him and we see why is so detached and bitter…and in the end he turns himself in to save his family…showing that at the end of the day Rick has good. Free Rick!
The Ending – Nine Inch Nails’s song “Hurt” plays over Rick turning himself in and being put in a high security cell. It is so sad as Morty and Beth are especially feeling the pain of Rick being gone while Jerry is happy to be given a government issued job and Summer is numb.
Jerry and Summer – These two are just victims and don’t really do anything to help or hinder Rick’s choices as in the end we see that his decision came from love and not guilt.
This was a great episode and easily the best episode of the season. Rick turning himself in and the death of Bird Person were actually sad events…our time with these characters has made us care about them and we still get wonderful dark comedy and action inbetween. This is part of why this show is so great.
Final Score: 9.6 / 10