Postmodern Media, Post Modern Analysis, Share, & Repeat

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

White Lie (2021)

White Lie is about a student who fakes a cancer diagnosis for the attention and financial gain, and then struggles to keep up with that lie. It stars, among others, Kacey Rohl, Amber Anderson, Martin Donovan, Thomas Olajide, Connor Jessup, and Sharon Lewis. It is written and directed by Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas, and Thomas also acted as cinematographer. The music is by Lev Lewis, and that's as good a place as any to start things. 

After an opening of Katie Arenson (Rohl) shaving her head and giving the audience an idea of what this movie might be, the music kicks things off with a quick pace that mostly confirms it. That pace is accompanied by the opening credits and Katie hugging students, accepting donations, and living the lie with ease and grace. Within that all that though, there are this drum beat and guitar riff hinting at the pressure of maintaining everything. That, maintaining everything, and Katie's character is where the movie could fall apart at a moment's notice, but it remarkably doesn't. 

White Lie's greatest strength, aside from an exceptional cast, is in its script. Lewis and Thomas have thought of every aspect of what goes into not just performing fraud like this, but also how many different parties it can involve, all the costs, the different avenues it can take, and most importantly the best way to confront someone who's faking an illness and how someone's who's faking can deflect that confrontation. So, an as example, Katie has a medical resident, Dr. Jabari Jordan (Olajide)  help her forge medical records from the ground up, so a complete medical history starting from her diagnosis is necessary. In most movies, this stops at "what kind of cancer do you have?" White Lie keeps this moment going, "what type of melanoma do you have?" And they use someone else's actual records that can match up with the chemotherapy regimen she told people she had. 

Still from White Lie
Crowdfunding and cash donations each play a significant role in maintaining the illusion | Property of Rock Salt Releasing

Lewis and Thomas were interviewed by Karen Benardello at the Toronto International Film Festival during the film's release. They said "When you start doing research into people who fake cancer, a lot of the stories are pretty carbon copy...We did do a lot of research with lawyers and doctors, to help make the story feel real..." Even with a clear roadmap, it's not an easy thing to depict in a movie, especially one that doesn't show that roadmap ahead of time and has the audience as in-the-moment as the main character. 

Keeping scenes going a little longer than expected and keeping everything in the moment are a very naturalistic approach to filmmaking and letting this story unfold, and that's what really stuck with me during the movie. An example of this would be how someone who doubts the story comes into play. It's the big third act bombshell in front of a crowd or even a couple people. It's a Facebook post on the fundraiser/event page. As true to life as it gets, with all the right follow-through to a plot like that.  A result of this is there's so much we don't know because the filmmakers don't waste their runtime or want to force exposition dumps on us or their actors. This leads to some notable moments like when Katie's father, Doug (Martin Donovan), gets the name of Katie's partner, Jennifer (Amber Anderson), wrong and is quickly corrected. It may have been intentional, it may have been something that just worked out on-screen, but either way it works and fits this tone. There's only one moment when the movie isn't like this, and it's more noticeable than it would be in any other film. It's just one cut during a "pivotal reveal." It seems like a better take just had to be used, but if the camera was still rolling, maybe that didn't have to be the case? It was just oddly jarring because of everything onscreen before and since. 

Jennifer (Amber Anderson) | Property of Rock Salt Releasing

Finally, I want to talk about the character of Katie herself. She is where it's easy to step away from the technical aspects of the movie and get into something more. It seems like the filmmakers researched people as thoroughly as the intricacies of their actions. At least up to a point, I didn't not feel forced to judge her, and that's a surprising feeling others may encounter, too. There's sympathy somewhere in her story, and it is what sets the movie apart from anything else like it, although it's possible, based on a different interview "no one had made a film about faking cancer for personal gain." That's as far as they know. So that's another reason why research was key. Something everyone involved really seemed to nail is how people react to this pressure. Katie is able to deflect, project, and think fast, but in the end there's are still some signs, still some missteps. It was something I heard on a podcast. Now please, please take this with a grain of salt because everyone is different, and this is highly subjective. It just happens to fit this piece of fiction well. When accused, those who are telling the truth get angry, and the liars will cry and double down with these "convincing statements." She's not a master manipulator, she just is lucky that a lot of people need to hold on to what they believe. It's all incredibly well shown through Rohl, as she portrays confidence, that in this situation hints at someone mentally and/or emotionally unbalanced. It's a really tough role to pull off, especially with the genuine warmth trapped behind the lie.  

So, with all that said, this is an incredibly engaging film. Please give it a shot. 
 
4/5

A screener of this movie was provided to me by TriCoast and Rock Salt Releasing. I was not compensated for this review. 

White Lie will be available for pre-order on 12/20 and Rock Salt Releasing will release it on various digital streaming platforms on 1/5/2021 (DirecTV, Amazon, InDemand, iTunes, FlixFling, AT&T, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, Fandango & Google Play).
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Sunday, December 27, 2020

Harley Quinn: Season 2 (2020)

One complaint I had about the first season of Harley Quinn is that "some episode endings seemed a little rushed so that they could save pieces of an arc for the rest of the season." With the show established that's no longer an issue, and it's able to go into the second season expanding on what it does best. Story arcs are written tighter, many characters from the year before are given additional depth, some new ones are given fantastic introductions, and the jokes just keep coming. Unfortunately, some characters feel sidelined at best, and at worst others are just painfully underwritten. The action and animation is still largely the same and feels like it's on the lower-end, but that's not a real problem. It's a mixed bag, if you dig through it too much, but odds are you're going to really like what you see. 

This season is cleanly divided into a couple neat stories. There's Harley (Kayley Cuoco) taking control of a divided Gotham, one villain-controlled territory at a time, and then there's the fallout from the volatile shifts in power. The first part is pretty clear roadmap to get people back into the swing of things, as each villain takedown gets an episode. Personally, I really needed this since binging shows can leave the details of the previous season a little fuzzy. A season recap, even as a bonus extra on the show page, would've been even better, but we're all just counting our blessings this year.

Harley Quinn Season 2 Promo Image
Harley's Progress (Season 2 Promo Image) | Copyright 2020 Warner Media

Old characters are fleshed out, new ones get proper intros, and the show is able to experiment even more with just about everyone. It's not everyday that Nora Fries (Rachel Dratch) is given the opportunity to have character outside of her husband (Alfred Molina), let alone...move or talk. In fact, the "additional story," in Arkham Knight may be the only other example. Other great examples include Christopher Meloni's Jim Gordon. As much as I loved him last season "flipping the Bat Signal on-and-off [for emotional support]," seeing him actually get some of that support through his daughter (Brianna Cuoco, Kayley's sister) was even better. He even cleans himself up, albeit too quickly, "in a montage where we skip past the hard parts of beating an alcohol addiction." Taking a little more time with Jim's journey would've been great, but still, it honestly was unexpected either way, since characters outside of the main ensemble are not treated seriously all that much in the first place. It may be growth from the creators, and it holds a lot of promise of things to come. I still believe this particular Gordon and Batman (Diedrich Bader) should have more time to shine, but Harley Quinn isn't the place for it. Some characters have a long way to go, in this regard. This version of Two Face (Andy Daly) is a serious letdown, thanks to shallow characterization in a mostly filler episode. 

This is my main black mark on the season. "All the Best Inmates Have Daddy Issues" is midway through the season, and it's about Harley's time in Arkham as a psychiatrist, and it does something I had a problem with in Solo: A Star Wars Story. "Some of these references unnecessarily setup the original trilogy, or foreshadow it in a way that's more like fortune-telling." And with characters many know very well already from other media, it just doesn't feel like it's doing anything really new with them. All these interpretations may have just backed the writers into a corner, and that's understandable, but in that case a less-is-more approach would've done the trick. Joker, who is very well-crafted by Alan Tudyk, asks "You wanna know how I got these emotional scars?" It'll make people either chuckle or groan, but at least it's just one line. This unscarred Harvey Dent constantly refers to the citizens of Gotham as voters, and it gets old quick. Making him one dimensional is one thing, but at least give him some kind of creativity to go along with it. It's like that acid also kicked the vocabulary section of his brain into action, too. On the bright side, Poison Ivy (Lake Bell) revealing why she thinks so little of humanity does a lot for her as a character and propels her, Harley, and the show to a fantastic rest of the season. 

The action and animation could still use a touchup, and that might've actually happened in the last couple episodes. Starting out though, there's just stupid little errors I noticed, like someone drinking something, but then the same amount is in the glass in the next shot. Toward the end though, there are some fun arena-type fights. The GCPD taking on Darkseid's (Michael Ironside) parademons, for this show, is a matchup made in heaven. The highlight, however, has to be Batman getting his own version of Tony Stark's Extremis armor, complete with his own J.A.R.V.I. S-like companion. First, it gives Alfred (Tom Hollander...so, so close) a much-needed break from Bruce's shenanigans. Second, it leads to a fight with Bane (James Adomian) and some thugs that includes flight and lightning punches, and those are always great things. Still, even if that flash was throughout the season, it wouldn't compete with the show's humor. 

Harley and Ivy looking like regular people
Remember, they both had to put a ton of makeup on to achieve this look. It's a great detail | Copyright 2020 Warner Media

For last season, I said "the jokes had a certain South Park quality to them, and that's not just due to the MA rating of the series. It's in the little things, too." That actually might just be strong sitcom humor in general, since I ran across Josh Weinstein's study of Simpsons jokes, recently. Whatever the case, for me, that off-the-cuff clean humor feels like Harley's secret weapon. Stuff like Bane going for one of the open cushy office chairs, now that other villains are incapacitated, and then being shut down for "honorary purposes" and forced to sit on a crappy folding chair. Last time, I said it was just a good way to break up the more mature material. This time, with that joke sowing the seeds of Bane's rivalry with other villains, I'm calling it character-building. This quickly found its identity. With it knowing exactly what it is, and a confirmation of a third season, it feels like it can run straight ahead into what's next. There's just some tiny bumps along the way to smooth out. 

So, there's a lot that's not being covered in this review for plot reasons. Look forward to the shakeups that'll be explored further in the future.  Instead of that, and because the basic circumstances leading to this review. There's just a couple little things to add as a wrap-up. This character, and her associates, was one of the major pieces of fiction I kept coming back to during this horrible fucking year. There's three other posts here (1, also linked above) (2) (3), plus a little something just two paragraphs down. Maybe it's because of the (almost) guaranteed humor, because Birds of Prey might've been the last thing I saw in an (indoor) theatre, or because that movie helped me grow as a hobbyist video editor? It could be a combo of these things, but whatever the case, she and her cronies helped a lot. Knowing that this review is how I may have wanted to cap off 2020 was something to hold onto through quarantine and recovering from fucking heart surgery (valve replacement in March). 

So, with all that said, I'm giving this season a 4/5.

Similar to last time, HBO Max may still be doing some kind of free trial or starting discount to help promote Wonder Woman 1984. So if you can watch the season, and Zendaya's show Euphoria because I just want to throw that out there, without a major financial commitment, definitely go for it. Finally, there's one last thing. Doing a full write up on it is a little tough because I have trouble smoothly jumping back and forth between all these interpretations of the characters sometimes, and reconciling them with each other, but if you love the character in general, please check out the graphic novel Harleen by Stjepan Sejic. This is a version of Dr. Quinzel, emphasis on doctor, and the clown you've probably never seen before, and the slow burn approach to Harley's transformation builds upon the wonderful introduction from character creators Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Hearing Harley in your head without the resonance of Cuoco, Strong, Sorkin, or Robbie may not sound "right," but I promise you the voice Sejic gives her is a long time in coming, and it doesn't take away from those wonderful portrayals in the slightest.

Harleen Graphic Novel
Harleen Cover | Copyright 2019-2020 Warner Media

And give Sejic's other work a shot too, but just keep in mind it's usually made with a mature audience in mind, and discretion is advised. 

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Sunday, December 13, 2020

Agent 47: The Silent Assassin (fan trailer for the 2015 Hitman movie)

Last post, I said "I'm definitely taking a break from videos after this. I need to get back to basics" and reviews. And then...


If Hollywood can crank out remakes, why can't we? For reference, please go here to watch my fan trailer for the 2007 Hitman movie. And reviews for both movies are here (2007) and here (2015). If you'd like to know more about this rehash, and the personal value I felt in putting it together, please keep reading. 

In all honesty, I'm out of fresh trailer ideas for the time being. What I figured instead was that I could give Hitman: Agent 47 the same treatment I gave the original movie, but with some technical and visual upgrades thanks to switching from Blender to Final Cut Pro and additional editing experience since the summer. However, that also made me a bit conflicted, as someone who always says that everyone should at least try free and open-source software first, and not shell out money unless it's absolutely necessary. So, Blender was used for the text, that Fox logo is someone else's (beautiful) Blender model, and that scramble effect is not something I would've figured out in Final Cut. Quick sidenote, unless it wasn't allowed for some reason, I'm really surprised 20th Century didn't do something special with the searchlights in movie's actual opening. Felt like a missed opportunity. 

For a ridiculous concept, as far as copying something I did earlier in the year, I ended up going all out and getting good editing practice in with this project. I did a lot more sound work than usual, and I have my main process/pipeline pretty much down at this point. As someone who's mostly self-taught and regularly flailing through these, feeling like I was successfully following some kind of checklist for this one flattened the uphill battle of getting this movie to pretend it's faithful to its source material. (One day stealth will be its own tv and film genre...but today, unfortunately, is not that day.) My first complete draft of a trailer is usually much rougher, but what I initially showed people really felt like 80 or 90% there. So, I'm getting better at this, and it's a nice thing to celebrate. Still, I'm really glad they got a first glance at the video before it went public. 

Like I always say, these wouldn't come out as well as they do without the screen tests with the FanTrailer community. TheMarvelStark and Will Wallberg gave me some great notes on finishing touches. Sound design was improved further under their direction, and they found an area where one more mechanic of the games could be shown, disguises! Please check out their wonderful work and other projects that people are doing, too.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Emancipation of Harley Quinn | Birds of Prey Horror Style Trailer

Update: Winners of the Halloween/Horror contest can be seen here. Sadly, I didn't place, but there's always next time. These guys, really all of us, did fantastic work. The whole community, on and off reddit, always does. 


I'm definitely taking a break from videos after this. I need to get back to basics. 

At the end of my Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) review, I said there was "a depth given to Harley Quinn that hasn't been seen since her beginnings on Batman The Animated Series." What made me think of that was her abuse by The Joker and the fear that a breakup in this movie would lead her to replacing him with Roman Sionis. It's definitely a viable option for the character and film, and the filmmakers demonstrate that it could literally be triggered by a slap. At least, that's where my mind immediately went in the theatre. Please read more for a bit more info on how this was cut together and a "Thank You" section.

Thanks, once again, to the FanTrailer community, I got to explore that for their Halloween/Horror contest. And thanks to the Blender community on reddit and their contests, 3d models I made of Harley's weapons were thrown in for good measure. Animation was added just for this though. If you're curious about Blender or 3d art, please leave a comment or message if you'd like help getting started. Same goes with editing, of course, especially since Blender is one of many free editors out there...although this was done with Final Cut Pro. 

Speaking of the theatre, I'm so glad this was one of the last ones I got to see before all hell broke loose. If Hollywood immediately halted all production and releases in March, this would probably be in the Top 5 of 2020.

While it worked for me, the movie and actual marketing for it were both a bit all over the place. So, besides creating this "romantic" abusive relationship between Harley and Roman, I also wanted to try to re-focus everything a bit. The diamond weirdly wasn't mentioned in the official trailers, so it became a trailer plot point, and this largely replaced the focus on The Birds of Prey. That's why the title change happened, too. Probably not the right move for WB to make, but that's why this community exists, to play with fun ideas. 

Joining in for the fun this time are Harrison and, once again, TheMarvelStark. Harrison made sure the music, which I really just put down and didn't edit to this time (thank goodness) had a huge impact on the overall video. Based on his work, incorporating music well appears to be his specialty. TheMarvelStark gave me a full workup of technical improvements and suggestions. They're both great editors, please check out their channels!
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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Booksmart: Teenage Dirtbag TV Spot (Fan Made)

Update: Please check out Riptide Fugitive's work. They saw this and decided to use the song for their own Alita: Battle Angel video. They're also just an awesome person!

I ended my review of Booksmart saying "One more thing, before or after seeing it, I recommend listening to this cover of Teenage Dirtbag [by Jax]. They match up together pretty well." To put that to the test, I made a short ad powered by the song. Read more for a tiny bit more background and a "Thank You" section.

Two of the greatest gifts of college (SUNY New Paltz) was swing dance lessons and a re-introduction to the music. Specifically swing covers of non-swing songs, like this. Before that, it was mainly the soundtrack to The Mask. It just opened up a whole new world, and not just instrument-wise. Whenever a song went from a male singer to a female singer, or vice-versa, they usually wouldn't adjust the lyrics. So gay relationships were finally being "talked" about the same way straight ones have been forever. That's what Booksmart does, too, with Amy (Kaitlyn Dever). Something about that, mixed with the universal relatability of surviving high school, and the personal relatability of not partying until college, struck a chord, made me actually tear up a little, and made the idea more than worth pursuing. Adding onto that, I wanted to replace the raunchiness and wackiness in the real marketing with sweetness that's also more relatable to all of us. And it may have helped lessen the Superbad comparisons.


Plus, while this has been in my head for over a year, I really wanted a quick bounce back after being told about the issues in The Devil's Advocate trailer. You shouldn't sweat the small stuff, but sometimes you just can't help yourself.

Again, the FanTrailer community on Discord and Reddit was a huge help. This time, William Eklöf took the lead and gave me fantastic advice about how to add some more shots and give the spot more life. His work can be found here. Additional feedback from TheMarvelStark and, again, Will Walberg.
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Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Devil's Advocate Fan Trailer - Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Style



First, it's hard to believe Theron is misspelled in the cast listing. I thought for sure I'd screw up Nielsen or Matarazzo. A lesson learned for next time, run through everything again and again. Sound off/on and video off/on. Lessons to lookup, how to handle audio popping. Most importantly, check the FPS of the project and videos. Changed project settings afterwards, and each one after this was perfectly synched from start to finish. No more adjusting and matching dialogue manually!
  
Read more for additional info on how I made this, the benefits of the errors mentioned above, and a "Thank You" section.

To continue getting this out of the way, for myself more than anyone, a reason I'm not fixing the errors I made is because Why We Watch should be a bit unpolished. I told my brother and professor medium-quality/semi-professional was the brand. The purpose of that was so that others who came across videos like this would feel encouraged to at least give content creation, whatever the medium, a shot. If the creativity and fun of making stuff like this is clear, everything else people see is just a bonus. This'll hopefully show that there's nowhere to go but up

So, Al Pacino being in both movies is what made the idea come up and be worth trying. Once I really got into editing,  it was not as hard as it could've been. Thank goodness for that. The Devil's Advocate, if you don't look at the actual marketing beyond the DVD cover, initially appears to be a conventional courtroom drama. It's not, for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is the already bouncy editing and visuals I had to work with. Another is the eccentricity of Pacino's John Milton. So, the goal was to put that fun into a more modern trailer, avoid spoilers (even if the movie is over 20 years old), and, above all, put together a concept people haven't tried yet. Of course, that last part can only go so far when you're also inspired by a Revenge of the Sith trailer in the same style. The creator of that also helped me out and made sure I had the song names I needed and placed them in the right order.

This is my first big project with Final Cut Pro, and the workflow was incredible. Blender has better A/V sync, in that you can instantly tell if it's off or not, but it runs very slow as an editor and also needs a magnetic timeline. Hopefully, that happens in the next 5-10 years. 

Also, a little funny part of this whole project is the pickup shot that had to be grabbed from somewhere else. The subway is from The Amazing Spider-Man. Putting that movie into an editor is always a treat.

A big thanks the FanTrailer community on Discord and Reddit for early feedback. Thank you especially to one of the mods (Will Walberg), whose YouTube channel is here, for offering a lot of support. 
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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Young Adult (2011)


The first time I watched Young Adult, the ending was so frustrating that I went back to the box office to watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as a palate cleanser. While taking in a second show certainly wasn't a mistake, discounting more than Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt's phenomenal performances and the careful depiction of a disorder called Trichotillomania in Young Adult was.

It's better if this starts with what Trichotillomania (Trich) is because it's what prompted this review. So, Trich is a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) that causes people to compulsively pull out their hair. Other BFRBs include skin picking (Dermatillomania), nail biting (Onychophagia), lip and cheek biting, compulsive nose picking, compulsive hair cutting and shaving (Trichotemnomania), and hair eating (Trichophagia), among others. It's often triggered, as depicted in this movie, by stress or anxiety, but some people with Trich pull without realizing they're doing it. It's believed that 2-3% of people have it, and a significant percentage of those people are women. How that affects Young Adult's main character, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), is more prominent than I even remember, but it's still subtle. Trich is clearly something that she has, not who she is. I'll go more into that toward the end.

The movie's summary from Vudu is "Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, a 37-year old former prom queen, and current writer of young adult novels, who returns home to relive her glory days and win back her now-married high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). When she finds her homecoming more challenging than expected, Mavis forms an unusual bond with a former classmate, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), and both must face the harsh realities of growing up in this brilliant and bittersweet story." It is directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diabolo Cody.

I'm not sure there's anything that can be added about Theron and Oswalt that hasn't already been said. Still, on rewatch, what did stick out to me is the moments Theron has of vulnerability and clearheadedness as Mavis. In a way that works and feels rewarding, those moments feel so different from the character we get to know. So, when they quickly vanish toward the end of the movie, you may want to shout at the screen or, like I did, reach for silver-screen-colored mouthwash. That didn't happen this time around, and I may know why.

Anti-hero led tv shows are huge now, and it's not just The Sopranos anymore. The best comparison I can make to Mavis is Bojack Horseman. The worst comparison is to other YA authors, so let's get that out of the way first. YA is a diverse genre full of more than high school drama and romance, and even if it wasn't, and these writers have to become part of that world, a lot of them still know how to "turn it off" when it comes to business and just interacting with people. This movie reminded me of a video (here) about Twilight's Stephanie Meyers, and how she is in fact an adult, treats fans and non-fans with respect, is the exact opposite of Fifty Shades of Grey's E.L James and Harry Potter's J.K Rowling in that regard, and should at the bare minimum be recognized for not being a narcissist. Mavis, especially as a ghostwriter of a declining series, falls into this mix on a sliding scale. While she's an adult, she tends to slip down as she struggles at times to maintain that role. She's the type that would stir the pot if Twitter had been as prolific in 2011 as it is now.

Back to the Bojack comparisons, whenever he tries to make big changes all at once, he backslides hard. Mavis is kind of the same way; a long week in her hometown isn't going to do much, if anything, as far making substantial changes. Plus, this isn't a Lifetime movie where the hometown is full of the nicest souls in the world. Mercury, Minnesota is just a regular, albeit fictitious, town. Which brings us to Buddy Slade, a regular guy in this regular town.

Patrick Wilson has gotten better with age and is sinking into more exciting roles, like Ocean Master in Aquaman. At the time though, he was taking these love interest roles that, to me, didn't seem right and needed an actor who was a little more eccentric in some way. Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl in Watchmen is kind of in-between because it's about finding that spark again. Anyway, Wilson is a great fit as Buddy Slade, playing the stable husband and new father perfectly. And it's not like it's a boring role either. It's easy to imagine him getting his dad jokes ready for after the baby's first words. His wife even has the drum set and rimshot he needs. The only issue with Buddy is that he seems a little too civil to Mavis and allows her to take her plans for him a little too far. He doesn't lead her on whatsoever, but he brushes off her reminiscing and going into intimate recollections a little too easily and often. She may be the same person, but he's not, and there are things I've seen floating around social media now that make that topic perfect to bring up.

One small thing about Oswalt's character that gets better with age is how they handle his high school bullying since the U.S. is taking bullying much more seriously these days. Honestly, the whole movie gets better with age, much like Matt's home-brewed bourbon. This is still Oswalt's best performance. He said that he consulted with an acting coach and physical therapist for the role, and it shows in more than just how his character walks. Here's hoping he returns to more dramatic roles, or at least collaborations with Theron, Reitman, or Cody, soon.

The recent expression online is something like "if you knew me in high school, no you didn't." Mavis didn't grow up, but most people around her did, at least to some extent. Matt may make action figures as a hobby, but he also does bookkeeping and accounts payable work for a bar. Meanwhile, Mavis is an author who regularly blows off her publisher.

Actions like that, social media in general, and the concept of "adulting" make Young Adult perfect for now. Although it’s not exactly social media, Mavis is borrowing lines she overhears from people in stores and restaurants and parroting them as dialogue and thoughts for characters in her book. And as far as "adulting" goes, she lives like a recent college grad who's just scraping by, and honestly there's nothing wrong with that even for a 37-year-old. It happens, especially in the real world in 2020. The problem is that she doesn’t have the emotional maturity she should at that age.

As I mentioned, Mercury is a fictional town, but it's very far from an unbelievable one. It's a place that's just starting to get some big name restaurants and stores, and Reitman and Cody's way of showing that is similar to how Theron is shown. Some people don't change, they just appear to change. The same thing goes for some old, rural towns. The place doesn't look great, but it's not supposed to. So, strictly visually, the best visuals come from the awesome opening credits and seeing the inner workings of a cassette player. Anyway, getting a combination KFC-Taco Bell-Pizza Hut isn't a real milestone (although it's a first lesson in corporate consolidation) if the school mascot is still a Native American and the school team is still called The Indians. Although, the movie does note that it's a step up from Injun, and that's true, and this was 2011. Baby steps can still be steps. And this movie was a big step forward when it comes to Trichotillomania.

Young Adult, Example of Trichotillomania from Mavis
Mavis (Charlize Theron), a fellow Tricher, and her parents, who are well-intentioned but uninformed on Trich | Copyright 2011 ViacomCBS 

When looking for other writers who covered that angle of the movie, there wasn't a lot, unfortunately, but something interesting did stick out. Mavis is the first character in a mainstream movie, that I've seen, to clearly have Trich. Based on what I’ve seen on forums, like here and here, some people in the BFRB community take issue with that because they think others will think only people like her have it or that you can't recover from it. It's very clear though, that she just pulls when stressed or anxious, and it's separate from who she is. It's also clear from the clip-on hairpieces and hairstyles she wears that people involved in that aspect of the movie either did their research or have first-hand experience (we have no way of knowing which).

The first time I saw her pull and the glimpse of a bald spot felt like real milestones on their own. I’m a man, so I saw myself represented by someone who doesn’t look like me, and the impact of that is unexplainable. The moment her parents (Jill Eikenberry and Richard Bekins) brought up her pulling really brought it home. This is the clip, and it is EXACTLY what so many uninformed parents, close friends, significant others, or even teachers (who are some of the worst triggers just, at best, because of the nature of school and test taking) have said to so many kids and others with Trich and other BFRBs. "You're not still pulling it are you?" and "it's just that your hair is so beautiful." That scene is brief, but just imagine it over eighteen years, or a lifetime. Even people, usually men, who don't mind being bald, hear it sometimes, and they just want the constant badgering, guilt, and shame to stop. Add wanting to feel beautiful and being a woman on top of that, and it's unimaginable. So for a better perspective on that, I have some recommendations to share.

My friend Abby Andrew has a YouTube channel where she talks about, among other things, alopecia, which is an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss. She's done some videos about how bald women are represented in popular media. Please check her stuff out, too. For more information on BFRBs, please go to The TLC Foundation for BFRBs and The Canadian BFRB Support Network. For Trichotillomania specifically, there are a lot of YouTubers out there now who are talking about it openly, and they're just a quick search away. There is also a wonderful documentary called Trichster on Amazon Prime and VHX. It is directed by Jillian Corsie and features one of the more prominent YouTubers with Trich, Rebecca Brown.

As for Young Adult itself, 5/5! Even someone who's not approaching the movie that personally can find a lot to appreciate about it.

Note: This review was edited by Laura A. Barton of the Canadian BFRB Support Network (CBSN).








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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Devil All The Time (2020) [Short Review]

The Devil All The Time is by Antonio and Paulo Campos, and IMDB’s summary of it is “Sinister characters converge around a young man (Tom Holland) devoted time protecting those he lives in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.”

That’s really just one of several stories being told, actually. It’s great that everyone gets a complete follow-through, but if I was to write a headline for a (longer) review it’d be like “Choose your own adventure, and stick with your favorite.” This movie may have better presented as a miniseries. Every story and character reaches a satisfying conclusion, but it still doesn't feel like enough either. 

I liked the multifaceted takes on religion, good, bad, and ugly. The bad has a lot of dimensions, as we have people who are just misguided by their strong faith, and they’re much more than simply using God to fulfill acts of greed and lust. Some of that is present too, but seeing them all together keeps the movie’s voice at least somewhat new. That, along with the setting, gave me a There Will Be Blood vibe, in a good way. It probably helps that There Will Be Blood is actually (finally!) a recent watch.

The cast was very good. Robert Pattinson, of course, stood out. Sebastian Stan did too. Tom Holland was great, but Marvel is just really hard to shake off. This doesn’t help, but he’ll be fantastic in an “Alien Costume” adaptation, when the time comes. The biggest surprise is Harry Melling (Dudley in Harry Potter) as one of the preachers. His energy, similar to Pattinson’s in this, is absolutely infectious.

Since some of us are starved for the theatre experience, that definitely is influencing things. I put this on without hesitation because I just turned in my laptop for repairs. This is being typed out on a goddamn phone. Still, The Devil All The Time will keep audiences engrossed in its story, as it seamlessly jumps back and forth in time, and I will be looking forward to the next project from The Campos.

3.75/5, and at least 4 if it was a miniseries.

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