Late to the Party: Hollywoodland

Nearly 10 years ago to the day, Hollywoodland came out. I remember wanting to see it, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen and it promptly fell off my radar for an actual fucking decade. Joke’s on me. But thanks to the modern miracle of everything being available on Netflix/HBOgo/Hulu, I’ve been able to catch up on movies and TV I simply never got around to seeing.

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image courtesy of Uproxx

So, though I am freakishly late to the party, I wanted to put some words down about Hollywoodland. I really dug it. Early oughts Bennifer-era Affleck is pretty great, though around 2006 he was semi-fresh off the trash barge trio of Jersey Girl, Gigli, and Daredevil. Affleck brings out the allure and magic in George Reeves along with sharp vulnerability. There’s also his crushing, deep-seated disappointment just under the surface, whiling away and ready to explode.

Hollywoodland is a dramatised version of the rise and mysterious death of George Reeves, TV’s Superman. The movie starts with Reeves’ bloody suicide and works its way backwards with Affleck playing Reeves via flashbacks. Fictional washed up PI Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) tries to piece everything together. It’s a love letter to noir, a vintage hard boiled crime drama. And thankfully it’s not all shallow junk either, there’s facets to the characters and their surroundings, right down to the soundtrack.

On a sidenote, is there such a thing as a NON-washed up PI? TV and movie detectives are never not a piping hot mess. Always just on the verge of full blown alcoholism, drowning in cigarettes and stains, weathered hair.. they’re all fucked up. Someone name me a detective who has their shit together, please. The closest one I can think of is Val Kilmer’s Gay Perry from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but even that’s a bit of a reach.. anyway.

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hey, these guys KINDA have their shit together.. image courtesy of Vanity Fair

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…..ah, fuck. image courtesy of Tumblr

Reeves is a man who’s at a bit of a slump in his career, but he appears unflappable. The first time we see him as a non-corpse, he’s hunting down A-list tables at a club and cleverly inserting himself into paparazzi photos. This is how he meets glam 40-something Toni Mannix, and ultimately how his path veers to that tragic ending.

The characters in Hollywoodland all want something tantalizingly just out of reach. Boozed up Simo is grasping at the idea of the whole thing being a murder/conspiracy, if not only to resurrect his flagging PI career but to look admirable in the eyes of his young son, who was devastated at the death of Superman himself. We watch him turn from doing PI work as a means to an end to instead giving a damn about what he’s doing, and what it means for the greater good and his estranged family.

Toni, wife to MGM studio head Eddie Mannix, wants to keep Reeves in a box that’s only for her. She laps up his attention like so many Gibsons, and flips the fuck out when he breaks things off with her to be with a younger woman. Could she have ordered a hit?

Eddie Mannix, hypnotically portrayed by the late great Bob Hoskins, is one of those guys who has it all, yet has the stones to yearn for more. He’s got brass balls, bringing his non-English speaking mistress out to dinner with the wife and Reeves. This dinner is like being in fucking bizarro land.. Toni floats the idea of buying a house on Benedict Canyon for Reeves and Mannix is like “whatevs”. Shortly after Reeves’ death, Mannix tries to have a nice moment with Toni before their lavish anniversary party, but ends up firmly reminding her that she is his. Lends some gravity to the idea that perhaps he had Reeves killed in order to keep Toni in her box..

And the ambitious Reeves, grateful for the paycheck and stunned at the fame from TV, is profoundly vexed with where he’s ended up. He’s resentful and fraying at the edges. Think about it for a second – here’s a guy who had a goddamned speaking role in Gone With The Wind, and now he’s wearing a washed out Superman costume, turned into a cartoon of a man doing cringeworthy public appearances. He wanted so much more from his life and career, yet here he is in a house that Toni bought, with a fiancée who’s rapidly losing interest in him due to his waning career prospects.

Reeves’ true frustration is on display in the final minutes of the film, when Simo views a demo reel from Reeves’ manager. He’s showing off some fighting moves for a wrestling gig, but you can see on his face that he’s just done. Totally defeated, doughy, with a pained expression going through the motions. At that moment, Simo believes (along with myself) that maybe Reeves had committed suicide after all.

Hollywoodland is well worth a spin. Great performances, an intriguing story, wonderful music. I found it to be a more charismatic L.A. Confidential.

Thanks for reading!

The Movies of 2014

Holy shit, remember when I had a blog? Me neither. Sorry for the radio silence – lots of Real Life(TM) nonsense went on on including moving, hustling, getting engaged, getting a full time job, Christmas in NJ, planning a goddamned wedding, the whole nine. I was reading on Facebook earlier about how disappointing the Oscar noms are and figured I could slap my thoughts about my faves of 2014 in here rather than blow up a Facebook status. Sound good? OK!

Those of you lucky souls who follow me on Instagram have probably noticed that between photos of booze and cats, I post a photo of every ticket stub for movies I see in the theatre. This is due to a couple of reasons – the constant deluge “of the now” realness that social media has enforced is slowly seeping into my brain, but it’s also utilitarian in a way; it allows me to keep track of the movies I see because I can’t remember anything that happened more than a week and a half ago. In short, I very much enjoyed in no particular order; Gone Girl, Top Five, Nightcrawler, The Gambler, Interstellar, The Judge, The Disappearance of Elanor Rigby Her/Him, The November Man, XMen Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I’ll elaborate a little more on some of these along with the flagrant disappointments of 2014 in a bit.

FAUX AWARDS;
Best Achievement in Throwing a Goddamned Horse: The Rock in Hercules.
Most Eraserhead Realness Served in terms of Uncomfortable/Cold Feeling Homes: The Double.
Most Lewd Fun had in a Theatre: Filth.
Best Fun Sci-Fi Flick with a Female Character who shockingly wasn’t Made of Fucking Cardboard: Edge of Tomorrow.
Most Realistic Horrifying Gritty Violence: Blue Ruin.
Best Non-Ironic Nicolas Cage Performance: Joe.

THE GOOD;

  • Nightcrawler. Probably my favourite flick of 2014. This movie is written absurdly well, with Gyllenhaal as this bizarre misanthrope antihero with no real character arc and it STILL works. He’s an absolute fucking lunatic with LA as the co-star, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this movie once I saw it. It’s just a solid movie, a type that I didn’t think was made anymore. Truly enjoyable and tight.
  • The Disappearance of Elanor Rigby. This movie was originally intended to be two separate back to back experiences, one strictly from His POV and the other from Her POV. Thanks to the fucking Weinstein Company, we got some mangled slapdash ‘Them’ cut first before the original Her/Him versions were released in theatres here.. needless to say, this movie should be enjoyed in its original form. There’s so much depth to these characters and their experiences that the edited/combined version just misses the mark. The performances are fantastic and the story is heartbreaking, but ultimately satisfying, gripping, and real. These movies have stayed with me for months. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain play really well off of one another, and I believe them existing as a couple.
  • Gone Girl. Jesus, this movie is fucking fantastic. I struggle to recall any movie that has ever improved upon the novel as source material; I enjoyed the hell out of Flynn’s book, and read it in about three days flat mostly on a flight back from Ireland in June. The casting of Ben Affleck opposite Rosamund Pike could not have been more perfect, and Fincher just makes this whole movie work. It’s sinister and upsetting, the dialogue and action are taut, and Reznor/Ross’ score is delightfully creepy. Plus.. it has an orange cat named Cheeto deftly playing the role of Nick and Amy’s cat. Aaaaand you see Affleck’s dick. Not bad!
  • Edge of Tomorrow. If you haven’t seen this movie, DO IT RIGHT NOW. It’s fantastic, it’s fun, it’s funny without being gimmicky, and the story is really great.
  • The November Man. Pierce Brosnan is always a delight, and I’m not just saying that because I grew up watching Remington Steele with my mom. It’s an action flick and is of course a little predictable, but still a totally fun experience that surprised me with how much I got into it. Brosnan’s still got it, and Cobra Commander from the fantastically awful GI Joe sequel plays opposite him so whatevs. Totally unexpected fun romp, complete with miscellaneously Eastern European villains.
  • Interstellar. Now, in case you haven’t noticed the inalienable truth, I’ll reiterate it here; the Nolans are not good writers. McConaughey does the heavy lifting and brings the relatable human touch to the Nolans’ otherwise typically sterile characters, and Hathaway manages to not be completely intolerable so there’s that. The robots steal the show, which says all you need to know about the Nolans. The movie is not flawfree, but the strange thing here is that I liked it more and more upon reading/thinking about it and a couple of additional viewings. This movie really grew on me. It’s also worth noting that the Hans Zimmer score is fucking MAGICAL.. I haven’t stopped listening to it.
  • Top Five. Chris Rock wrote and directed this movie, and it’s really, actually, funny with heart.
  • Joe. Every now and then, I am reminded that Nicolas Cage is an actor, and a great one at that. This movie is nuanced and stripped down, and he gives a hell of a performance. It was the first movie I wrote about on this blog, in fact!
  • Jersey Boys. Now, before you all think I have brain damage, this movie isn’t actually good; I know that. It’s camp and totally absurd, but it sure is fun. Sometimes I want a fun movie to take me out of reality for a couple of hours, and Jersey Boys is the movie for that. And I love the music! I feel the same way about the 2008’s Mamma Mia; it’s genuinely terrible, but still manages to be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

 

THE BLAND;

  • God’s Pocket. I had some high hopes for this one, considering John Slattery directed it and Philip Seymour Hoffman headlined, but it was just another one of those forgettable “THIS IS MY NEIGHBOURHOOD AND YOU’LL NEVER BELONG BECAUSE YOU’RE DIFFERENT” steaming piles of nothing.
  • The Drop, another steaming pile of nothing, for a movie I hoped would be great. The late great James Gandolfini puts in a wonderful performance in this otherwise banal movie that I really cannot recall much about; it was just sort of.. there.
  • Birdman. Unpopular opinion, I know. Performances aside, this movie was a goddamned mess. I went into it with high expectations, had read so much positive critical acclaim, and it was just one of those blowhard Faux Arthaus shitpiles trying too hard to be edgy and artsy. Don’t even get me started on the fact that this movie’s “score” was nominated for a Golden Globe, a score that as far as I could tell had someone strap a drumstick and cymbal to a couple of dogs.
  • A Most Wanted Man. I couldn’t tell you a goddamned thing about this movie other than the fact that PSH had a German accent.
  • Snowpiercer. Eh. I enjoyed it while watching it, and then never thought about it again.

 

THE CONFUSINGLY AWFUL;

  • Inherent Vice. Holy shit what a letdown this was. Now, I am mostly hit or miss on Paul Thomas Anderson flicks because I think they’re lazily referred to as ‘character studies’ when they should really be categorised as ’roundabout messes’. I was genuinely hoping this would be another Boogie Nights (which is the only PTA movie I actually enjoy, come to think of it), but IV is inconsistent, rambling, and nonsensical. At least it wasn’t as horrendous as The Master, which gave me an actual migraine. The styling of everything in IV is great though, so at least there’s that. What an abject disappointment.
  • The Theory of Everything. This movie is not only awful, it is aggressively awful. It is infuriating. Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s take Stephen Hawking’s story, strip it of any and all actual character, feeling, and science,  throw it into the Romantical Story(TM) garbage disposal with a love interest who manages to look constipated for the entire two hours she’s on the screen, and you get this fucking movie. Not really an actual spoiler, but that ending: where he’s next to his estranged wife and looks at their children frolicking around a fountain at fucking Buckingham Palace and has his computer say LOOK AT WHAT WE MADE I wanted to hurl my rocks glass at the wall.
  • Locke. What in the goddamned world was this movie? It just didn’t work for me. Everyone was shitting themselves over how wonderful and visionary it was, and all I could think was, did these people all have lobotomies? Dafuq?
  • Hercules. Aside from The Rock throwing the aforementioned horse, this movie was a mess AND it was boring. There’s nothing worse than an action movie that’s incredibly dull. How in the fresh hell does that even happen? It’s the worst combination.
  • Noah. Speaking of boring, THIS fucking movie. Granted, I would never have seen it had Nick not wanted to, but HOLY FUCKING HELL IT WAS BORING. Mind-numbingly awful. And one of the characters was named Ham, so I kept thinking about ham. That’s really all you need to know.

 

SO, that’s about all I have to say about 2014 movies. And hey, Mad Men is back on April 5th, so look forward to more content on here in the near future. Rock n’roll.