RIP Anton Yelchin

Anton Viktorovich Yelchin was an American film actor best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek film franchise. He died yesterday morning in a freak car accident in Studio City, California. He was 27 years old.

Anton was born on March 11th, 1989 in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. (now Saint Petersberg, Russia) His parents are gifted and very well-known figure skaters that qualified for the 1972 Olympics, but were not allowed to participate “…because they were Jewish or because the KGB didn’t want them to travel…” The Yelchins moved to the United States when Anton was six months old after receiving asylum from the United States government.

Anton began acting at the age of nine with a role in the independent film A Man Is Mostly Water. He won a Young Artists Award in 2001 for a film called Hearts in AtlantisIn 2007, he had the starring role in the crime drama Alpha Dog. His character was partially based off of real kidnap and murder victim Nicholas Markowitz. USA Today called Yelchin’s performance “heartbreakingly endearing” and Markowitz’s mother praised Yelchin’s portrayal.

Following Alpha Dog, Yelchin landed his most well-known role as the 17-year-old Russian whiz kid and navigator Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek films. Acting as the comic relief in the 2009 film and the sequel Into Darkness, Yelchin successfully pulls off being actually smart, helpful, and funny, instead of useless and insufferably annoying like some Hollywood blockbuster sidekicks.

I dare say that Yelchin is one of the better actors in these films. I do not hate them, but they are extremely flawed. Yelchin and the character of Chekov are unequivocally enjoyable, though.

Yelchin later starred in films such as Charlie Bartlett in 2007 and Fright Night in 2011. His performance in Fright Night, as well as the movie itself, received very positive reviews.Yelchin’s performance in Charlie Bartlett is noted as the best part of an otherwise mediocre movie.He also starred in the vampire romance film Only Lovers Left Alive. He played the lead role in the 2013 supernatural thriller film Odd Thomas. Based upon the series of novels by Dean Koontz, the film received mixed to negative reception, but is building a cult following after the film recently popped up on Netflix.

Anton recently came to attention for the critically acclaimed independent horror film Green Room. In the film, Yelchin has the starring role as the 20-something frontman of a punk rocker band. The band is unknowingly booked to play a gig for a group of neo-Nazis led by Patrick Stewart. The gig goes well, but after discovering the body of a dead woman in the green room, the group is threatened, held against their will, killed off in spectacularly gory fashion, etc. Released on May 13th, it would not surprise me if this film receives accolades come next awards season.

Yelchin also had musical ambitions and was once the frontman of an actual punk band called the Hammerheads. The group has since disbanded. He is quoted as saying playing the guitar “gives him a lot of fulfillment.” He was a fan of acoustic blues movement. Yelchin is known as, and seemed to be, a very personable, down to Earth, nice guy with talents and aspirations.

Yelchin was not a household name, maybe he was never meant to be one. I enjoy every performance I have seen him in, and he seemed to be a young man brimming with personality and, by all accounts, overwhelming kindness. Maybe Green Room would’ve put the kid on the radar. 2016 seems to like killing people, for some reason. I dunno why it gunned for this guy. RIP March 11th, 1989-May 19th, 2016.

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There Will Be Blood – Review

I haven’t got around to reviewing this film myself yet, but this very well-written review from another blogger perfectly encapsulates my feelings concerning this film.

owenhermanfilm

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is an intense drama focused on the conflict between ruthless capitalist Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) and egotistical preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). On the surface the film is about an early 20th century oil prospector building his wealth in Southern California. However the film’s themes and subplots go far deeper, exposing a highly complex story about family, business, religion and human nature. It is a thought provoking masterpiece of filmmaking that stayed with me after the end credits and seemed to improve the more I considered and reflected on it.

The most striking and obvious talking point of the film is Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance, which rightfully won him an Oscar. His manages to shift from terrifyingly intense to unnervingly quiet from scene to scene. Day-Lewis brings the most out of Anderson’s writing with expert delivery packed with emotion. He also brings an…

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The Social Network

The Social Network is a 2010 biographical drama film directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. It is an adaptation of the novel The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, Armie Hammer as the Wrinklevoss Twins, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. The Social Network tells the story of the creation of the popular social media website Facebook and the legal trouble that later ensues.

David Fincher is one of today’s best directors. His filmography reads like a list of the top 10 thrillers of the past 25 years. He first got his start on Alien 3 in 1992. It was a box office bomb and critical failure due to the studio meddling in the film’s production. Fincher’s experience was so terrible he swore off Hollywood. Alas, a director’s cut was eventually released that was awesome by all accounts. Fincher did not swear off Hollywood and returned to direct the legendary psychological thriller Seven in 1995, the underrated The Game in 1997, the still-controversial Fight Club in 1999, Panic Room in 2002, the biographical mystery film Zodiac in 2007, the romantic drama film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008, this film in 2010, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2011, and Gone Girl in 2014. He also serves as executive producer on Netflix’s critically acclaimed American remake of the House of Cards series, and served as director for the series’ first two episodes. The two thematic outliers in Fincher’s filmography are this film and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is obvious that Fincher idolizes Alfred Hitchcock.  He skillfully and lovingly emulates his idol to great effect, creating highly disturbing yet highly entertaining films that fill the void left by the Master of Suspense himself. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button can be explained by Fincher wanting to break out of his comfort zone (he won Best Director, so good on him), but why would he, who has been directly labeled “The Modern Day Alfred Hitchcock,” direct a movie about Facebook?

Watching this film, it is actually rather obvious to see why. This is a story about revolution in an industry, but this is definitely not Moneyball. I know House of Cards is a remake of a British show that came out long before The Social Network, but Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg feels like Frank Underwood: The Early Years. I decided to watch this film after many people disappointed in Eisenberg’s god-awful portrayal of Lex Luthor in Batman vs. Superman (as I was) suggested that it would’ve been much better if Eisenberg played Luthor like he does here with Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg, much like Frank Underwood, is a jerk from the outset, but for some reason, you can’t help but root for him.Kevin Spacey also served as the film’s executive producer, in a bizarre coincidence.

After the break up, a very upset Zuckerberg writes a very insulting post about Erica and posts it on the internet. He experiences emotional distress because Erica (played by future House of Cards player Rooney Mara) insulted his intelligence and bruised his ego. Zuckerberg, as portrayed in this film, is a anal retentive jerk with extremely narcissistic tendencies.While intoxicated, Zuckerberg hacks Harvard’s network and makes a website where you rate female Harvard students.

It gets 22,000 hits in two hours and crashes the system.

The Wrinklevoss Twins are very impressed and ask him to help create an exclusive social network for Harvard students. He strings them along and uses their idea to create Facebook, a huge success, which results in a lawsuit. Nobody in this film is very nice, I would say, with the exception being Eduardo. This is not a “nice” movie and does, in fact, have several of Fincher’s distinct trademarks. The cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth, was the man behind the camera for Fight Club, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl. His signature dimly-lit, atmospherically unsettling style is very prevalent here. Cronenweth has stated that he uses low depth of field when shooting to keep the audience focused on what they are meant to see. This style that seems more suited for a horror film than a biopic actually makes the film work on surprising levels. Fincher and Cronenweth, like Zuckerberg, demand your attention not out of beauty, but out of a strange sort of intimidation and uncomfortability, further heightened by a score composed by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and his friend Atticus Ross. Reznor and Fincher are actually very close friends. The heavy metal artist composed the scores for this film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl. The pounding, bassy score provides a creepy feeling throughout the film, not exactly of the “serial killer” variety, but more of a “super freakin’ sketchy” vibe. There’s a scene with former Disney starlet Brenda Song that is really sketchy, and that’s weird, mainly because London Tipton makes out with a former Spider-Man.

It is an uncomfortable movie in the vein of Gone Girl, but instead of the sociopathic blonde black widow, here we deal with a borderline autistic, abrasive nerd who makes a lot of money screwing people over.

Onto that subject, Jesse Eisenberg is amazing in this role. Mark Zuckerberg is not Peter Parker. He’s a jerk. Plain and simple. He’s got friends who treat him well and he tries to treat them well, except for the fact that he’s more socially stunted than Sheldon Cooper.  He doesn’t give a crap about anyone but himself. He wants power and he wants money; he wants to be somebody and will do whatever he has to in order get it, with no exceptions. This type of character is a fixture in Fincher’s work; John Doe in Seven, Frank Underwood in House of Cards, and Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, to name a few.

Zuckerberg is not crazy or a psycho, though. He doesn’t want to shed blood. But he is definitely a narcissist and definitely a dick. Zuckerberg is, in some ways, worse than John Doe. In Seven, John Doe is a nutcase who believes he is the right hand of God himself, committing gruesome murders in the styles of the seven deadly sins found in the Bible. When Detective Mills asks who Doe is, the response is “It doesn’t matter who I am. Who I am means absolutely nothing.” To him, he is nothing but a lowly servant of the Lord. Zuckerberg, though not in a delusional sense, believes himself to be God; he as all the power and he holds all the cards. The empire that is Facebook would not exist without him, and he never lets anyone forget that.

He is a worm and an irredeemable jerk who, unlike Frank Underwood, I can easily take. I can’t say what parts actually happened or what parts are creative liberty at work, but the whole “hack Stanford and rate girls because why not” is true, and that alone is deplorable.

I feel super bad for Andrew Garfield, both his character in the movie and Garfield in real-life. The Not-So Amazing Spider-Man is a brilliant actor who got roped into Sony’s desperate need to hold on to the rights for Spider-Man (which didn’t work out well, anyway). Both Spidey films (the first of which premiered in 2012, two years after this movie) bombed and the poor guy has yet to make a comeback. He needs to, though, because the guy is freaking great.

Poor ol’ Armie Hammer can’t catch a break, either. He gives a phenomenal performance as the Wrinklevoss Brothers. Like most of the characters, they are entitled, elite jerks with their own hyperbaric chamber apparently.

Following the box office bomb The Lone Ranger, the only thing Hammer has been in of note was last year’s disappointingly overlooked spy thriller The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Now that I think about it, this film is full of actors who got screwed over by the system, which is a really, really weird and coincidental parallel.

Justin Timberlake is a pretty good actor. His scenes as Sean Parker were very effective in showing the start of the rift between Mark and Eduardo. Sean is an arrogant bigshot with too much charisma who is… paranoid. He has a lot of money; Mark likes him, Eduardo does not.

I found that a lot of this film is fiction. That’s actually fine by me, because it’s a really freaking good movie. Aaron Sorkin actually said so. To go a bit further upon that, unlike Unbroken, which was purported to be based upon a true story, The Social Network makes no such claim. The synopsis reads:

David Fincher’s The Social Network is the stunning tale of a new breed of cultural insurgent: a punk genius who sparked a revolution and changed the face of human interaction for a generation, and perhaps forever. Shot through with emotional brutality and unexpected humor, this superbly crafted film chronicles the formation of Facebook and the battles over ownership that followed upon the website’s unfathomable success. With a complex, incisive screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and a brilliant cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, The Social Network bears witness to the birth of an idea that rewove the fabric of society even as it unraveled the friendship of its creators.

The real Eduardo Savin is quoted as saying “[…] the movie was clearly intended to be entertainment and not a fact-based documentary.” Yes, yes it was Eduardo. If it was a fact-based documentary, it would be so. The accuracy of this film ginned up more controversy than is normal, but I guess that is to be expected when dealing with Harvard billionaires.

Mark Zuckerberg is probably not a dick (probably!), Eduardo and Mark don’t hate each other anymore, apparently. Regardless, The Social Network is a brilliantly directed, brilliantly acted, and brilliantly written drama that is both entertaining and interesting, and is definitely worth a watch.

Moneyball

Moneyball is a 2011 biographical sports film directed by Bennett Miller and featuring a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian. It stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, and Casey Bond. The film is a true story based upon the 2003 nonfiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Pitt plays Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane. Beane is upset at the shape of the Oakland team following the 2001 postseason. With the help of young Yale graduate Peter Brand (a composite character based on Paul DePodesta), Beane begins to apply statistical analysis to scouting and drafting new players, revolutionizing the way modern scouting is conducted.

Moneyball combines two things in this world I have no interest in whatsoever. My math skills in every imaginable area are atrocious and I find baseball quite boring. When this film came out in 2011, despite positive word of mouth and multiple award nominations, I never saw it. I decided to watch it for the first time after recently completing a “Sports in Modern Society” course. For a film with subject matter that doesn’t interest me in the least, it is very good.

I know nothing about the politics of sports, but before Billy Beane, it was STUPID!!! Before 2002, when Beane and DePodesta started thinking statistically, baseball scouts wasted millions and millions of dollars on a day’s worth of observation. It apparently wasn’t viewed as a numbers game, but isn’t baseball the most statistical professional sport by design? Bad players can have great days, and good players can have bad days. You can’t just observe. That just seems illogical to me. As Peter Brand states in the film “Baseball thinking is medieval.”

Yes, it was. Therein lays the conflict. The scouts of Oakland do not take to this revolutionary method very well because it is so drastically different from the way things are done.

Moneyball is a drama film, and a very good one.What I didn’t understand at 15 is that Moneyball isn’t about sports or the numbers. It is about adversity. “It won’t work.” “I want Billy Beane gone.” This is about proving everyone wrong.

One thing the film does an excellent job of is setting up inner conflict. I don’t care about baseball. I care about Billy Beane, though. Billy Beane was scouted out of high school to play in the Major Leagues.They told him and his parents he was going to be the next big thing. He had a horrible career in the Majors and dropped to become a scout and later a General Manager. He gave up a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University in order to play the Majors. Everyone in the film thinks Beane’s work with Peter is part of some vendetta against the scouts because they got it wrong all those years ago. Beane tellingly never flat out denies this.If he does have a vendetta, I can’t say I blame the guy.

Sorkin and Zallian’s script is filled with moments of empathy and what I can only describe as heroism in the face of adversity. This is bolstered by excellent performances from the cast. Brad Pitt is never not a good actor. Even in bad/mediocre movies like World War Z, he as an individual cast member is great. I like serious Jonah Hill better than funny Jonah Hill, to be honest. He is a good serious actor who should really be doing more roles like Peter Brand than stupid stoner comedies like The  Interview.

The cinematographer behind this film was Wally Pfister, known for his frequent collaborations with Christopher Nolan. Pfister’s cinematography is focused and razor-sharp, like most of the elements in this film. His diverse use of camera techniques and angles makes Moneyball a very visually pleasing film, to boot.

Moneyball is a story about human beings working in baseball, not about baseball itself. It is a very emotional and human driven narrative that had me invested the entire time, and I am, in fact, an adamant detractor of the sport of baseball. Watching this film taught me to keep an open mind. I skipped this film when I was 16, and I really shouldn’t have. The subject matter does not make a good movie. A good movie makes a good movie You will enjoy this film no matter how much you may detest baseball, and chances are you will fall in love with this film if you are a person that loves baseball.

The Newsroom

The Newsroom is a television series aired on HBO from 2012 to 2014. The series stars Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Allison Pill, Olivia Munn, Thomas Sadowski, Dev Patel, and Sam Waterston. The series was created by Aaron Sorkin. The Newsroom follows Will McAvoy’s attempts to return to the cable news business after a two week leave following a very public meltdown of sorts at a university speaking engagement, which is where the show begins. It is extremely likely you have seen this before, because the supremely well-written rant became a mild viral sensation, and deservedly so.

What is cut out from the clips that pop up on Facebook is the fact that McAvoy begins ranting because he sees his old flame, Mackenzie “Mac” McHale, in the audience. McAvoy assumes he is hallucinating, but takes the advice Mac had. Will returns after two weeks to find most of his staff left. Don, his executive producer, decides to leave News Night for a new time slot. His new EP is none other than Mackenzie McHale. He is furious for reasons I will leave ambiguous for now. Charlie Skinner, played by Waterston (the Law and Order mainstay is uncharacteristically funny and endearing here), hired McHale over Will’s break because he knew their history would spark something inside of Will. Will made a reputation as an anchor that refuses to offend anyone. News Night had sagging ratings, so something needed to be done. Mac does exactly what she should have, and News Night returns triumphant. The series follows the day to day lives of those working in the Newsroom with Will.

Aaron Sorkin is probably the best screenwriter in the business, period. He is the creator of the award-winning play A Few Good Men and wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. Yes, he is the man you can thank for one of the most famous lines (and hands down the best rant) in film history.

Sorkin is also the writer of great films such as Moneyball, The Social Network, and Steve Jobs (Fassbender, not Kutcher). Sorkin’s crowning and arguably most well-known achievement, though, the NBC series The West WingThe West Wing aired from 1999 from 2oo6. While The Newsroom follows those working in the newsroom, The West Wing follows a colorful cast of staffers working under President Jeb Bartlet in the West Wing of The White House. Notable cast members included Martin Sheen as Bartlet, Dule Hill (Gus from Psych), Rob Lowe, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, and Queen Allison Janey. (Obscure Key and Peele reference FTW) Over it’s run, The West Wing received 118 awards, including 26 Emmy Awards.It is still to this very day the best written TV show to air, in terms of dialogue.

I don’t think I can talk about The Newsroom without a quick tangent about The West Wing. Sorkin is known for poignant, cutting, intricate and well-crafted dialogue. Nowhere else is the dialogue more poignant in The West Wing than the season two finale. President Bartlet was forced to admit to the public that he has MS. The American people’s faith in him plummeted and he and his staff are facing prosecution concerning this information. His beloved secretary, Mrs. Landingham, died in a car accident after purchasing her first new car. What follows is a meltdown of Biblical proportions.

The show ended its run after seven seasons and did not falter once, in my opinion.

The Newsroom has more great Sorkin moments, and at times exceeds the peak of West Wing. This next clip is from the third episode of the series. As a somewhat disgruntled journalism major, this one really resonated with me.

The Newsroom came under a lot of fire over its three-year run for being “too preachy.” Sorkin actually apologized. He shouldn’t have. Yes, The Newsroom as an entity is overt about its views and political standings, ironically, moreso than The West Wing was. That isn’t a bad thing. Will McAvoy’s initial problem is that “he’s popular because he refuses to offend anyone.” By Sorkin, and by proxy, the character of Will, picking a side, doesn’t that make him a better anchor? I certainly believe so. I can only imagine the outcry led to the show’s downfall. In case nobody realizes this, entertainment is made by people. People have thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Some of these feelings… people may not agree with. Every piece of fiction, whether it be books, television, movies, whatever, they all have a message. The message may be political, or it may be personal. It may be overt and obvious, or it might be subtle. It’s there, though. It’s always there. You should not fault a piece of entertainment for expressing the opinions of the person who made it. In other words, if stuff in The Newsroom disagrees with you, GET OVER IT BECAUSE IT’S DARN GOOD TELEVISION! And guess what, when Will gets off the air, Sorkin gets off his soapbox. Deal with it and you get great TV scenes like this…

You can leave if you don’t like my opinion that you can’t blame someone for expressing their opinions via something they created…

Here’s something I never thought I would say. Jeff Daniels is brilliant. His acting is top notch and he really gets into character. He embodies the Sorkin dialogue so perfectly it’s awesome.

The Newsroom is not all full of serious stuff. One thing Sorkin does excellently in both this series and The West Wing is a good measure of truly hilarious humor.

The Newsroom is an excellent spirtual successor to The West Wing. It’s a show about a man with opinions that was unfairly criticized and brought down for having an opinion. I watched all three of the really short seasons in one week. I recommend this show for anyone looking for an engaging, intelligent, and thought-provoking piece of television.

A History of Violence

A History of Violence is a 2005 drama-thriller film based off of the graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke. The film was directed by David Cronenberg and written by Josh Olson. The film stars Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall/Joey Cusack. Joey was a gangster from Philadelphia who killed for both business and pleasure along with his sociopathic brother Ritchie, played by William Hurt. Joey eventually wishes to escape his criminal ways, leaves Philadelphia, and becomes Tom Stall.

Tom meets and marries a woman named Edie, played by Maria Bello. Edie and Tom move to the small town of Millbrook, Indiana and have two children, Jack and Sarah. Tom owns a diner in Millbrook and enjoys a pleasant, loving relationship with his family.

One night, two thugs attempt to rob the diner. Tom kills both the robbers with swift precision, much to the surprise of the diner’s patrons and workers. Tom is hailed as a hero and makes national news for bravely saving everyone’s lives.

This heroic feat comes to the attention of Fogarty, played by Ed Harris. Fogarty is a member of the Irish Mob who had dealings with Joey back in the day. Fogarty tracks Tom down and insists that he return to Philidelphia. Fogarty threatens the Stall Family multiple times, and Tom continues to claim that he is not the man Fogarty is looking for. Eventually, Jack is taken hostage in an attempt to get Tom to go with him. Tom kills Fogarty and his men with the same precision shown at the diner.

After the death of Fogarty, Tom is forced to admit his past to his family. This leads to the deterioration of all of Tom’s personal relationships. This is the film’s main theme. The action and violence featured in this film is awesome and few and far in between. This is John Wick by way of an emotional family drama. It is a very personal story. Tom Stall is afraid of his past, a lot of people today. He lied to Edie and basically everyone in his life because he hated the man he once was. He didn’t lie for fear of prosecution, he lied out of fear of persecution. Everyone has at some point or another. “What would people think about me if they knew I did this or said this?” When we start thinking that way, we hide, just like Tom.

I’m not going to deny that, in this movie, Tom can get scary. Joey Cusack, as Tom admits in the film, killed for both business and pleasure. He enjoys violence. In the scene in which Fogarty and his men are killed, I kinda get the feeling that Tom enjoys this stuff. He never smiles or says anything like “I’m looking forward to this.” That would be cheesy and too obvious. The cadence in which “Get in the house, Jack.” is delivered seems to me like a sort of “Let’s do this, guys.”

Tom is scared of himself. It’s never really explained why he left his life behind, but he changed his name and totally reinvented himself. He ran away from Joey; all the way to Indiana. He detests his violent nature. Throughout the film, he begins to once again embrace that violence. This film is has a lot more layers than one might originally think. Several deep themes are explored at length. You can’t hide from your past, you can’t deny your true nature, lying makes everything worse, the list goes on. That second one is the main focus of the film. Tom has a history of violence. He did a lot of bad things. He had a change of heart somewhere along the line; he considered himself a monster. He didn’t want to do bad things anymore, but that history of violence is still there. Nothing can change that. After killing Fogarty, Tom is forced to deal with his brother Ritchie, and he does not mess around.Tom goes from repressing his past to accepting it rather wholeheartedly.

On the other hand, Tom’s family and friends may never trust him again. Edie loves Tom at a profound level at the beginning of the film. The family is literally picture perfect. It’s one that any person would want. Like most things, it turns out too good to be true. Edie and Tom’s entire relationship is built upon a lie, and the eventual discovery of that lie destroys the family. Edie grows to despise Tom, so does Jack. The trust they had is now broken.The moral of this part of the story is if you used to be a ruthless mobster, let your wife know.

Most of the actors involved give amazing performances. Ed Harris is sufficiently creepy and Viggo Mortensen is just perfect. These are two of the most criminally underrated actors in Hollywood. Maria Bello is extremely sympathetic. William Hurt’s performance is too over-the-top for a somewhat grounded film such as this, though, and child actors will be child actors. Despite the minor pitfalls, it’s still a great film.

A History of Violence is a hidden gem that I feel more people should know about. Viggo Mortensen considers this film to be the best he has ever worked on. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, while discussing his collaborations with Cronenberg…

He praised their 2005 film A History of Violence. “If not the best, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever been in. There’s no such thing as a perfect movie, but in the way that that script was handled, the way it was shot … it’s a perfect film noir movie, or it’s close to perfect I should say.”

While I don’t consider it a cinematic masterpiece, A History of Violence is a great film that is a whole lot deeper than it lets on.

UHF

UHF is a 1988 comedy film starring Weird Al Yankovic, David Bowe (not Bowie), Michael Richards (Kramer), Victoria Jackson, and Fran Drescher, featuring Gedde Watanabe and Trinidad Silva. It was written and directed by Weird Al himself. I watched this film with my best friend and his roomate, who thankfully introduced us to this majestic piece of poop.

The distributor of the film, Orion Pictures, was facing serious financial trouble. It was believed at Orion that UHF would be a huge financial success that would save the company. For obvious reasons which I will discuss, it was not. I feel bad, because Orion literally treated him like he was a prophecy fulfilled. It was a critical and failure upon release, and its modest success did not save Orion, but it has since garnered a cult following on home video, and it will be quite obvious to see why.

This might be the most difficult film I will ever have to review. From almost every analytical perspective of good filmmaking, UHF is a massive failure. Weird Al is a horrible director who uses very standard cinematographic techniques. He uses close ups quite often, I’m not really sure why that is but hey. The film is full of continuity errors; it’ll be daylight in one scene but evening the next (the scene will take place across town soon after the other scene). Nobody in this movie wants to be here except for Richards and Al himself. This movie is hilarious because Al takes nothing seriously while everyone else considers themselves to be above a Weird Al movie.

Victoria Jackson plays Terri, George’s girlfriend who breaks up with him after he accidentally forgets her birthday and stands her up.Jackson’s performance, like the majority in this film, is awful, which makes it great. After they break up, George leaves a voicemail, and although Jackson, like the majority of the cast, probably raised her nose at the thought of being in a dumb comedy movie…

she can’t not laugh. The three of us couldn’t not laugh at this scene. I actually know a few people who despise Weird Al, and I dare them to watch UHF and not laugh once.

The plot concerns Weird Al as a everyman, down-on-his-luck, daydreaming, well-meaning screw-up George Newman. George is gifted the deed to Channel 62, a low-budget local UHF station that nobody watches or cares about because it sucks. George is determined to make something of himself and decides to try at Channel 62. While visiting the big-budget affiliate station, George, for reasons not entirely clear, draws the ire of narcissistic and mean company head R.J. Fletcher.  He also meets the  recently-fired company janitor Stanley Spadowski, a mentally-impaired but enthusiastic man who loves mops. Together with his best friend Bob, the trio take Channel 62 to #1, beating out Fletcher’s station with creative new programming engineered by the imaginative George. R.J. is furious and makes multiple attempts to sabotage and destroy the station because antagonist.

Yankovic is a brilliant satirist and comedian who is much smarter than he will ever get credit for. Seriously, the guy is actually extremely smart. His first hit song came out in 1979. It was a parody of My Sharona by the Knack called My Bologna.

Al’s humor is not complex. It’s actually quite stupid…. and brilliant. It’s intelligent idiocy, and that contradiction works wonderfully and has done so for Weird Al for 30+ years. I read a comment once that stated “Weird AL has managed to stay culturally relevant far longer than some of the subjects he has parodied.” That’s the truth.

UHF is an achievement. It may very well be the stupidest thing Weird Al has had a hand in. This movie is a trainwreck. With the exception of Yankovic, Richards, Watanabe, and Silva, nobody wants to be in this movie. They were probably bitter about having to work with a dork like Al, but the thing is, Al knows how to have some fun. It is a poorly directed and edited film with stale acting and a disjointed screenplay which makes null sense, and it is freaking amazing. Yankovic, I think, went for garbage on purpose, he knew exactly what he was doing, he’s smart enough to have made UHF a more cohesive, better film, but, like that stupid-brilliant contradiction that serves him so very well, by making a terrible film, he made a great film. It’s not self-aware, it’s not trying to be bad on purpose like the Sharknado sequels that suck and don’t work. It isn’t The Room. Nothing in this film works on any level, and because of that, it works on every level. The nonsensical and poorly made nature of this film work to it’s advantage. Throughout the film, there are non-sequitur, SNL-like skits of programming featured on Channel 62. These sequences do not advance the plot or aid the film in any way except for the fact that they almost made me cry from laughing. In order to save viewing enjoyment, I will only put one of these amazing sequences in.

This is probably the least funny out of all of them.

Really, this clip just sums everything up. UHF is the weirdest film I have ever had to review. From every critical perspective, it is garbage. It seriously has the makings of one of the worst films of all time, and it is brilliant. I don’t really know what else to say. UHF is a majestic, brilliant, stupid, idiotic, borderline racially offensive, steaming pile of garbage that you simply must watch. It is the best garbage movie you will ever see. Reviewing it as a guy who enjoys the study of film has my brain going full Green Goblin.

Just go watch it.